Game Night: Medici

This post is part of the once monthly Game Night Blog Carnival, where RPG bloggers take a break from talking about RPGs to review some of their favorite board games. If you would like to join the carnival, check out the carnival home link at the end of this article.

Imagine yourself in Renaissance age Italy, a member of the merchant class.  You spend your time at the warehouses near the docks bidding on goods to ship to exotic locales.  Of course, you are not the only game in town.  Other merchants would like to buy goods to ship as well.  A bidding war ensues.  Will you be able to keep your cool and bid to return a profit? Or will you get caught in the heat of the moment and overbid for goods that won’t return on their price?

Welcome to the world of Medici.  Medici, at its very core, is a bidding game.  The object is to end the game with the most victory points, but in order to buy goods (the source of victory points), you have to spend those same points bidding.  The game becomes a delicate balancing act of not over bidding for commodities and not getting caught up in a bidding war.

Each player begins the game with a ship that has five holds.  On a player’s turn, they draw up to three commodity tiles out of a bag, and players bid to take those tiles onto their ship.  Players are only allowed to bid once, so there is a great deal of strategy that goes into bidding, even if you don’t want the lot of commodities.  There are various rewards for players who “specialize” in one of the five types of commodities as well as players who can garner what we call “the biggest ship.”  For example, on my turn, I may draw three tiles out of the bag.  I draw a wheat tile that has a zero on it, another wheat tile that has a one on it, and a fur tile with a five on it.  The numbers add to the “size” of my ship, but do nothing towards helping me specialize in a commodity (and vice versa).  If I’ve been collecting wheat, I have a difficult decision – do I try and take the tiles to further my wheat collection, or do I let the tiles pass because the numbers don’t do enough for the size of my ship?  And, more importantly, how much should I be willing to bid before it becomes a losing proposition?  My opponents see that I’ve been collecting wheat, and perhaps try to inflate the price with their bids in order to get me to pay too much (even if they themselves don’t care for the lot of tiles).

The tile drawing and bidding passes from player to player until everyone’s ship is full, or there are no more tiles in the bag.  The round is scored, the ships are emptied, and play resumes again from the beginning.  There are three rounds (called “days”) like this in the game.

There are several reasons I like this game.  First, it plays fairly quickly (provided you don’t have someone in your group who ponders their bid too much).  Second, I enjoy the bidding aspect of the game.  It’s always interesting to see people try and inflate a price, overstep, and then get stuck with a lot of tiles that they really didn’t want.  Or better yet, watch your opponents overbid on a commodity because two of them are collecting the same thing.  Finally, the aspect of valuation appeals to me.  You not only have to decide what types of commodities you will be collecting, but whether a certain lot is worth what you’re paying, looking at the game as a whole (what will buying this ultimately return to me?).  In fact, the idea of bidding and valuation is so strong in this game that it could certainly be used by educators in a college setting.

For some people, the fact that your strategy could easily be fouled up by the random draws of the tiles could be a turn off.  I certainly see the appeal of a game that has few, if any, random elements, especially if it’s a strategy game.  For me, however, the random mechanic adds to the game, requiring me to plan and adapt for an unknown element, much as in real world valuation (e.g., stocks). 

In short, this is a fun bidding game that will appeal to math minded strategists and anyone who enjoys a good auction.

  • Game: Medici
  • Players: 3-6
  • Play Time: Approx 45 min – 1 hour
  • Type: Strategy

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