Bayou Tech: Lorenzo il Magnifico

Lorenzo il Magnifico is one of the most popular euro games played in the Gumbo over the last few years. Since CMON introduced Lorenzo to American gamers in 2016, I have played it a couple of times and have enjoyed the puzzle of the card play and been frustrated by the cruelty of the faith track. Based on discussions with the group since we first played it, the only reason Lorenzo did not make the Gumbo’s top ten games of 2019 is because we had not played it when we compiled that list.

But not surprisingly, big meaty euros do not get played every week at Gumbo Game Night. It is hard to keep up with all the new game that seem to come out every month! What to do, what to do….

Enter: Bayou Tech, your guide to games that you can play at home right on your computer. No need to wait for your game group to set up that favorite game of yours each week. Instead, fire up your home computer and play a solo game or take on friends and strangers from around the world.

First up, how about playing Lorenzo il Magnifico on Steam? Let’s dive right in.

Lorenzo il Magnifico is popular not only because of its mechanics, but also because of the pedigree of its game designers. Virgino Gigli, Flaminia Brasini, and Simone Luciani are part of that Italian group of designers who keep coming up with fresh takes on familiar euro mechanics: Egezia, Coimbra, Newton, Grand Austria Hotel, the list goes on and on.

In the case of Lorenzo, the use of dice as your workers, utilizing the strength of the pips as the strength of the actions you can take in purchasing cards from the “tower”, producing goods from your buildings, or harvesting your resources, is a diabolical mechanic. Couple that with the ever looming threat of excommunication if you do not use at least some of your dice on “faith points”, and a very tight board with little margin for error, and you have one of the best euros out there.

Cranio Digital employed graphic design and artwork from noted artist, Klemen Franz (Agricola, La Havre, etc.) along with Ruslan Raudio and Roberto Grasso, all edited by Giuliano Aquati, to release an early opening of Lorenzo on Steam, and graciously gave us a review key. If I am reading the credits correctly as they quickly scroll by, Studio Clangore handled the programming of this app. In a nice touch, every single person who backed the project on Kickstarter was mentioned as a producer.

This review is for those already familiar with the board game version, so that I can get right to the game experience. (For written reviews of the game and its game play, click here.)

Downloading from Steam was a snap. A familiar Florentine skyline greets you as you open up the game.

The main screen has choices for setting up a new game or looking at the credits. Clicking on the hot button marked “Play offline” takes you to a screen with two choices: “new game” or “tutorial”. I went through the entire tutorial, and it does an excellent job of walking you through the game. I had not played Lorenzo since December 17, 2017 (yay, Board Game Stats App!), so I was pretty rusty on the rules.

The tutorial not only quickly gets you up to speed on how to manage the computer controls for the game, but also takes you step by step through the game mechanics in a friendly fashion. I loved the examples and the button pushing, because it reinforced the steps. Downside? Since it is in early access, I found quite a few typos here and there in the text that is included in the tutorial. I have been assured by the developer that this is not a final release and that they are accepting feedback on typos as they work toward the final build.

Back to the My Games screen, you can click on “New Game” to enter a screen showing play counts, and whether you want to play with leaders or basic income. On the opponents, since this is early access, there appears only choices to play with AI. I’ve played on easy and on medium, and while the easy was…well…easy to beat, the medium gave me a good challenge and actually beat me by one point. (The members of my game group will be quick to say that you should not use my loss as a good barometer for the strength of the AI, however.)

After you set up the parameters of the game, clicking a very excited “Play!” button takes you quickly into the action. From there, the controls are intuitive. Pick a spot in the “city” — production, harvesting, the church, the tower, etc. — and the computer walks you through the steps to acquire the card or harvest the resources. There is a beautiful play area at the bottom of the screen which fills up with the colored books as you purchase them from the tower market. The effect is very impressive as you go through the game — you really feel like you are building the knowledge you need to win.

The AI is very quick, so turns fly by when you are playing. I’ve played games in less than 30 minutes easily. I really like the animations of the game. Resources and coins all fly across the screen, and each time you purchase a card, a hand with a scroll appears and “seals the deal.” Each era is made up of two full turns, consisting of playing all of your dice, and I love the contrast the designers have used between “day” and “night” in the effects on the board. For some reason, that emphasizes the march of time in the game, and really “plusses” up the board. Seeing Brunelleschi’s dome (the “Duomo” drawing I have on my office wall is one of my favorite souvenirs from Firenze) light up at night with the stars shining around is really cool indeed, and a nice touch by the graphic designers.

I also really like the way that the final scoring is handled. You watch as a point graph builds up between yourself and your opponents. In most of my games, especially on the medium level, the race is neck and neck and it is fun to watch the power bars go up. The two bars will also battle each other as the computer cycles through all of the categories. The bars slide up there, almost in race fashion. It’s like a better version of those weird races you see on the big jumbotrons at sporting events, but this time you are emotionally invested in which one wins.

What really excites me is the expectation to play other people. While that is not ready in this particular build, I will be watching this closely after the game is launched. I have had a lot of joy playing games on some of the board game online sites, but you do sacrifice some of the “pretty” aspects of a board game.

All in all, I have enjoyed my solo plays of Lorenzo il Magnifico on Steam. It took me about a half a game to get used to the layout and the iconography, and I’ve really enjoyed the animations and the difference between the “night” and “day” graphics for the two turns of each era.

On the downside, I think big euros deserve amazing graphics, and some of the backgrounds feel a little lackluster. Even the menus and choices are fairly plain, especially for something with the art, culture, and history of Florence as the background setting. There’s still time for the studio to fine tune the animations and icons, and to clean up any typos before the big release, but I like what I’ve seen so far. If you like Lorenzo il Magnifico the board game, I have no doubt you will like playing the app version especially once multiplayer capability comes online.

Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!

-BJ @boardgamegumbo

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