27 February 2023
Not Quite a Classic
There is such an unalloyed joy in simplicity. A simplicity that gives birth to profundity is even better. It’s alchemy. You can see all of the component parts laid out before you but when they’re combined something else emerges. Something bamboozling and joyful. Something delicious. Very much like spag bol.
No one holds to this credo in board games more than Reiner Knizia. A designer that refuses to bow to the modern trend of whack as much in as possible and see if it works. His designs are always crystal clean but there is this indefinable something, some ludological bay leaf that transforms his simple ideas into magic.
That’s when he’s at his best. He’s not at his best with Mille Fiori. He’s close but I think he’s forgotten to add that little bit of sugar to round out the dish.
The simplicity is there though. The board is divided into six areas, each one with spaces for the players’ transparent, rhomboid markers. When a marker is placed different scoring will occur depending on the area and if further unique conditions are met players can earn bonus actions that, eventually, will start to chain resulting in even more actions.
Your tokens get on the board by use of a drafting system that anyone who’s played Seven Wonders will be familiar with. You take the card you want, play it and pass the rest of your hand on.
This is a game that highlights why Knizia is such a strange beast in today’s gaming world. While the other big designers seek to complicate their designs, Knizia still trammels a path of profound simplicity and while this game isn’t quite as simple as his underrated classic, Blue Lagoon, Mille Fiori is a game that can be taught in five minutes but is a real challenge to be good at.
Also, Knizia designs thrive on player interaction. Like Blue Lagoon, so many of your best laid plans can be scuppered by the interference of those inconsiderate so and sos around the table. That is why you need to be able to clamber into the minds of your opponents and try to divine what they want to do, not so much to mess up their plans but ensure they don’t mess up yours. Like so many of his games, a lot of the complexity lives above the table, not on it.
This is not a perfect game though. My biggest issue with it is the drafting system. It feels like it’s been bolted on to the game and you can see the join. The biggest issue is that this kind of drafting hugely advantages those with better memories and if you had a youth as misspent as mine then your short term memory will betray you every time. Also, when you’re drawing from such a large deck of cards you simply might not draw the cards you need which can result in much under the breath mumbling.
Also, if spatial acuity isn’t your thing then this game can feel frustrating. I found myself always limping at the back of the scoring track simply because my pattern recognition isn’t good. Also, I’m terrifically bad at games.
That is why I’m cautious about Mille Fiori. It is a game that leverages certain innate skills in people and that’s why it probably isn’t for everyone.
As a result I admire this game but I don’t love it. This might be down to my own shortcomings but your own shortcomings are always something to dwell on when choosing your leisure activities.
Mille Fiori is a good game from a great designer who doesn’t look like he’s slowing down anytime soon and while I’m happy to sit down at the table and spoon it into my face I can’t help but feel that he’s burned the garlic a bit.
PLAY IT? MAYBE
Its reliance on innate human skills might make it a frustrating play for those that don’t possess them.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED Blue Lagoon
A Knizia game that is even simpler than this but, somehow, deeper and more rewarding.
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Publisher: Schmidt Spiele
Time: 60-80 minutes
What’s in the box?
- Game board
- 110 Cards
- 120 Transparent rhomboid pieces
- 4 Ship pieces
- 4 Scoring markers
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This review came from Tabletop Gaming Magazine, which is home to all of the latest and greatest tabletop goodness. Whether you're a board gamer, card gamer, wargamer, RPG player or all of the above, find your copy here.Get your magazine here
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