Paris Review

23 July 2022
Spend a pleasant couple of hours in Paris with all the sophistication and savoir faire

We shouldn’t see the effort. That’s the key. Whether it’s Gene Kelly gliding across the floor, defying gravity or Tiago Alcantara impudently switching play, it’s the result of the effort we see, not the effort itself. We don’t need to see the sweat and the setbacks, the self-doubt and despair. That is for the creator and not the consumer because that is the magic. Even though it’s far from it, to us, it seems effortless. See the guts of the machine and a part of the magic is lost.

Paris from Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling is an immaculately engineered machine, propelled forward by masterfully crafted pieces, expertly put together, a lot of sweat must have gone into honing this game. Honing what we see. We get the result of all of that work though. Even though it’s far from it, to us, it seems effortless.

It is also a game, and this is no surprise from such veteran designers, that harkens back to a tired old credo that is, nevertheless, at the heart of good gaming. It is almost criminally easy to learn but so deep that through a single play of Paris, different game states emerge, different strategies reveal themselves and at the end, as you’re totting up your points you can’t wait to dive back in because the design is so crystal clear that you can see what you’ve done wrong and you’re thirsty to rectify it.

Paris is like MSG drenched crisps or a pint that goes down just right on a summer day, irresistibly moreish.

In Paris, players take on the roles of property moguls seeking to get in on the ground floor of Parisian real estate and build themselves up into being the owners of the really decadent buildings.

The board starts empty with nothing to buy. Players, on their turn, will place a building on the board. Seeding the potential purchasing opportunities.

Players also start with a certain number of keys in their colour. As an action, after you’ve placed a building on the board, you can place a key onto a bank in one of Paris’s districts, this will yield you the money you need to enter the market but will tie that key to that district. Or you can place on the Arc de Triomphe, you won’t get any money for this but when you want to buy a building subsequently, you can go to any district on the board.

Your other option is to buy. All buildings have a numerical value and are placed in the corresponding space. To buy is simple, pay the value of the building and put your key on it. Later you can upgrade to higher value buildings by paying the difference between the two.

End game scoring in districts is a form of area control, with the player holding the higher value in buildings getting the majority of the points. Act ostentatiously though, and skip the lower value buildings and you’ll be skipping over the heart of the game – the bonus track.

In most games bonuses are just that, a petit bon-bon that puts a glaze on success or ameliorates failure but in this game they are the engine that whisks you through to the end.

You can go as far forward as you want on the bonus track but you can never go back and, of course, the bonuses get more juicy the further along you go. They include things like resources or money, but later on its huge scoring opportunities or extra keys which are incredibly valuable. Which poses the dilemma. Do I creep along the bonus track and hoover everything up but risk that juicy scoring tile being snaffled by someone else or do I just leap forward and leave all that money on the table? Also these tiles can mould your game and dictate your moves. They are a strategy guide built into the mechanisms of the game.

What is so astonishing though is how well these bonuses have been designed in relation to one another. So much work has been done for you here. The bonuses bounce off each other, ricochet across the board and knock your scoring marker up the track and the result of this is that you feel super clever.

There are zero rough edges in this game. It is carpentry of the first order. This is a game that would fit perfectly in the Sun King’s palace next to all of the Boulle Work. Also, I still can’t get away from the fact that, for all of the depth and complexity here there are only four pages of rules.

Every time I’ve played this game I’ve got to the end feeling exhilarated and satisfied. Paris is a game that gives you the intellectual stimulation of a discussion in a coffee house on the Rive Droite and all of the visceral excitement of a night on the Rive Gauche.

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This is a game of two top tier designers doing what they do best, doing all of the work and only showing us the result and even though it’s far from it, to us, it seems effortless.

Ben Maddox


This game is the quintessence of expert euro design. Criminally easy to pick up but so difficult to be good at. This is a game that reminds you what board games can do if they’re done right.


This has all of the passive aggressive meanness of area control but packages it in a way that doesn’t make you feel ganged up on.

Designer: Wolfgang Kramer & Michael Kiesling

Publisher: Game Brewer

Time: 90 minutes

Players: 2-4

Ages: 12+

Price: £50

What’s in the box?

  • Game board
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • 36 Building tiles
  • 8 Landmark tiles
  • 42 Bonus tiles
  • 12 End game tiles
  • 6 VP Tiles
  • 35 Francs
  • 18 Resource tokens
  • 18 Prestige tokens
  • 4 Player screens
  • 48 Keys
  • 4 Bonus meeples
  • 4 VP discs


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