Rococo

Louis Malz, Stefan Malz and Matthias Cramer

Publisher: Pegasus Spiele

Rococo means an ornamental style, art, decoration or architecture in the Baroque period. Stuffy if you ask me….. (Photo credits: Vittorioso@BGG)

Rococo has a trio of designers I enjoy. Kramer has Kraftwagen, Glenmore and Lancaster to his credits while the Malzs’ designed Edo, a game I own and constantly on my play list. So Rococo features the combined talent of all three designers. Only good things should happen, right?

To start, I am late to the Rococo party. This game came out 7 years back and even has a deluxe edition now. The game received rave reviews from some quarters but I knew going in, that the mid-heavy Euro didn’t necessarily introduced anything new.

The game lasts for 7 rounds with each round featuring at least 3 actions per player from a pool of 6 available actions. These action cards that you play are actually tailors that you recruit. Depending on the level of expertise, the master tailor is able to perform all actions on the board, followed by the journeyman and finally the apprentice who can only do 3 of the 6 actions. Most but not all cards feature a unique skill or bonus that can be triggered…… something familiar to all Euro gamers. Now, action cards are selected using a pseudo deck builder format. Unlike a strict deck builder, players can look at entire draw pile to select actions. Any actions you don’t select will presumably come back to you as the draw pile thins. Moreover, when the draw deck is depleted, players can shuffle entire discard pile and select from new shuffle. In this way, the deck builder aspect is a lot “looser” and players have more control of where and when to play cards. This is a good thing for Rococo.

For me at least, it is the purchase of action cards and not the playing of them that provides a novel experience. Most deck builders force you to place the newly purchased card into the discard pile. You won’t see that new card until at least the discards are reshuffled. In Rococo, the new card is simply added to your hand, thus you immediately gain an extra action for that round. It is tempting to buy a card just to gain an action regardless of quality of the card. Since the deck builder have fewer restrictions, the temptation is even stronger. Plus, one of the actions allow you to deputize your tailors (what does that even mean?) thus earning coin and thinning your deck. So you can buy more cards, but there is also a way to thin your deck. Overall, this is an excellent modification of a deck builder that gives more control back to players and is at least novel for me. I wonder what would happen if players are allowed to accumulate actions between rounds?

The rest of the game is very standard Euro affair. Your other actions allow you to buy cloth or sewing materials, make a dress and clothes the nobles or secure the queen’s favor to get money and start player status. The goal is to place these clothed nobles in various dance halls for an area majority contest and set collection. Each noble is worth 1-4 points. If your noble is on the terrace at the end of the game, they can get multipliers for scoring; If you have presence in each hall, you get bonus points; if you one of each color (4 to a set), you get points……you get the drill.

Money in the game is quite tight. To trigger bonuses or get tie breakers, you need money, lots of it. Finding out a way to reliably earn income is crucial. Instead of clothing nobles, one can rent out the clothes at the cost of not earning noble VPs’ at the end. A balance must be struck, of course, usually with late game income being more important to lay claim to bonuses and break ties.

Rococo is a solid Euro with very sound and time tested mechanism. There is a slight innovation in the deck builder but otherwise, the game should be familiar to most gamers. A few things to note: For some reason, the game can drag. It is way too long for what it is. Actions are slow as players may suffer from some AP at the first few runs. Another aspect which I found a flaw was the end-game VP cards that came out in the card purchase tableau in round 7. They are powerful when given a chance to plan ahead, which we did not. That makes grabbing the queen at Round 6 to start round 7 especially critical if you want those opportunistic bonus points. I managed to do that and scored an unexpected 9VP for no other reason than being start player. I think these long term VP cards should be made known at the start of the game and then it’s a fair scramble to see who can grab what they want in round 7.

I recommend Rococo to anyone who loves mid-heavy Euros as it is a solid entry in the genre.

Initial impressions: Good

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