When cloth finishers and merchants still ruled the world. A Calimala board game preview

“Arte di Calimala” the guild of cloth finishers and merchants during the late Middle Ages. Through their arrogance (call it dedication), sense for artwork and skills in trading & fabrication, they grow to become one of the biggest elites of those times within the Florence region and went far beyond those borders with their influence. To set the stage right, for the youngsters out there, that was without Internet, YouTube viral video possibilities, Google AdWords or not even black & white television (yes those were a thing also kids) advertisement. And known that we have an easy way of life nowadays and can achieve everything we want, if we still have heart to work for it though and that is the still present common ground, working hard is still the key.

Calimala and being more than a just another “eurogame”

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You hate it or you love it. You think it thematic or you think it childish. For us it looks pleasant and we can appreciate Harald’s art.

This obviously is “just” an another euro game in every fiber of it’s being, so how do you set yourself apart from the masses? Some choose to go big on artwork, some go with stellar overproduced components and some go with a big hitter designer or coöperation between some. None is really present in this case, but still this game went on to set’s it selves apart from a lot of other eurogame which released last year with the earlier mentioned obvious ways. Not to say those aren’t working (hello, some Jamey guy went a very long way with his games on that fact), but sometimes it overshadows other way’s and not all the glitter is real gold right? We do believe in these golden ages of board games, a game can have both, but it doesn’t mean there can’t be exceptions? Lets see what these fine folks bring us, ADC Blackfire, Harald Lieske and Fabio Lopiano

So why?

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The game board with the different zones

The game board is one we see a lot, a lot of beige tints and there is a scoretrack around it. But, here we already see a glimpse of why it may be just a little different from a lot of competitors out there. See those empty spaces? Weird right…..we will come back on that and why that highly matters.

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Try to get influence on the various tracks and in the different buildings by placing out goods on the corresponding goods tracks. Majority matters, a lot. Not just first place, but scoring points all game on second or third places can help out winning the game. Don’t ignore that fact. Scoring points with just one or two goods is a good thing.

First let’s give a short outline of the game and what you will try to achieve. We won’t do a rules break down or extended how to play. There is enough content out there on it, where we can recommend the teach & play through by the Heavy Cardboard crew. Edward taught us the game at Spiel 2017 and Fabio Lupiano was there too rocking his game, we have some posts on our Essen Spiel 2017! adventures.

Through placing your worker disks out on the streets of Florence (the big white part of the board), you will take both actions adjacent to the disk and everybody below your disk can follow your action. When the fourth disk is put onto the given stack, there will be a scoring round and the lowest disk will be bumped out on to the scoring track for majority in the council. This bumping will happen fifteen times, because there are that many different scoring possibilities and timing is crucial of that. Make sure you have influence there (region, building, goods, etc.) and if possible your disk is the one kicked to gain influence on the council too. That’s important for tie breakers and gaining those needed extra points.

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The different action spaces you randomly set-up on the main board to get a different experience every game. You will couple actions and some are more powerful or useful in a given situation.
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Extra action cards and score cards per city, good or building.

The actions are quite straightforward stuff like building warehouses, gain goods, ship or transport those goods, donate goods to the various palaces and make ships to get those goods out in the different places of course. Aside from those standard actions you can double up actions with placing a white disk and you can play hand cards with extra actions. Making combinations of these actions can be quite satisfying and here also again, timing is important.

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All the scoring titles, which you will set-up randomly every game. This game won’t change in how you play it, but the way you will score and go at it will vary every single game

After fifteen scoring rounds the game will end. At first the game will feel like a slow process with scoring not happening not that often, but don’t be tricked, the stacking will go on more and more, and so will be the scoring later in the game. It can trigger than on every round and the game can end in minutes. Again, be watchful and plan for it.

They who have the most points at the end, read has done the best with gaining influence on the right times during the game and have figured out what other players their secret goal is, will win the game.

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Playerboards with a fantastic player aid on it. We love that, function and form a big plus.
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Components may seem very general, but they are very functional and serve the gameplay a lot. They go from goods into influence within seconds. To the eye of a thematic gamer they may seem blend, and they wish for a Scythe kind of components at least, but that would make board game even more expensive.
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Player aid and game functions on the player board. Very clever design by Fabio.

Highlights

star Timing is very key in almost every choice you make.
star Scores high on variability with the various ways of the set-up of 
scoring tiles, action tiles and the end game scoring cards.
star Simple rule set, but a lot of tactical depth and 
player driven experience. Play's very fast too.
star Player interaction is present and the game suits 
a variety of levels gamers very well. Great area majority/influence game.

Fire In the end it is a euro game through and through, theme is present, but
you will have to enjoy cube pushing in the end.
Fire Less strategic, while it is there, you will have to react to other 
players and keep a tactical eye.

The criteria on which we base most of our opinions, but isn’t the end all and be all.

d10-1 Does it play good with 2?
Sadly no it doesn’t, but that does makes sense with it being an area influence driven game. There are variants on BoardGameGeek, but it isn’t designed as a two player experience. No problem there, with thousands of games, there are enough great two player games.

d10-2 Does it suit one of our game groups (D&D, Heavy games, thematic games, etc.) or can I bring non gamers in or take it to others? At the Heavy Cardboard herd we were very pleasantly surprised with it being such a wonderful medium-weight game. It may not suit my d&d group for being far to dry, but it does suit my family game nights very well. People grog the game very quick and can compete in winning their first game if they have a little experience in modern board games.

d10-3 Does it come with a solo variant? Nope.

d10-4 How is theme and mechanics tied in together?
Tricky one, but we would say eventually, yes it does that. But it depends a little on the hat we are wearing. Eurogamer: You do get the sense of building out your little workshop into a mighty company who fares the seas to gain influence around europe and become an elite of Florence. You can build a nice engine and time your ultimate combinations to the scoring of the various places. Thematic gamer: Wait what? This cube went from being something on my player board, to just something else called influence on the main board? Where is the miniature or where is the cloth shaped meeple thingy? Yugh, cube pusher. But, well, it does feel like I am fighting with you on the board for control and I do like that….so if I can imagine being a Troll in the woods selling apples to a Orc, can I imagine myself being a hipster clothmaker selling of my wears to noble English folks?

d10-5 Does my collection needs this? What stands out?
(New mechanics? better integration of x? new theme? etc.) Definitely, it’s even one of our favorite games from 2017. We didn’t own a real euro game which was based around area control/influence, but still feeling like an engine builder.

d10-6 And how is the rsp?
We bought the game against regular price in Essen, which was around 45 euros. It is a reasonable price, but fairly said we were also a little sceptical on what you will get for that components wise in comparison to some other games out there. But the very good gameplay, read development & design time, make up for that in spades.

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This dark figure is just here to make sure you will pay attention to the game and not just judge the game by its cover. It’s set in an italian setting….so you don’t want it to come by at those dark & lonely nights, right? Go seek out a copy to play or buy at your (o)flgs, if you like a good euro and one which is for a broad spectrum of players, this one could be a solid choice.

Any conclusion yet? Yes, we really like this game and want to play it a whole lot more. Will it be forever in our collection? That’s debatable, but for now this is really a gem of a game which stands out in our collection on its gameplay, looks (yes we do like Harald his stuff) and the prospect we can get it to the table with a host of different people.

And to be honest, a game about making stuff more beautiful, donating it to good causes (okay, this can be a reach and self-interest), create more stuff and fight over it with each other on those merits? That does sound more like positive fun, than all those darker themes which arose lately.

Thanks for your time and let us know what YOUR thoughts are on Calimala!

5 star rating ABGL

 

 

 

 

 

blackfire

~ Marlon

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