The theme of the game is Medici-era Florence, and the goal of the game is to gain the most prestige, which you get by building a magnificent Palazzo, with lots of buildings and landscapes, and by commissioning works from artisans, artists, and scholars.
Turns in the game consist of two phases, an auction phase and an action phase. In the auction phase, players bid to add landscapes to their Palazzo and hire architects and jesters. In the action phase, players build buildings and commission works. Each artisan, artist, and scholar has a preferred type of building to work in, a preferred type of landscape for recretation, and a preferred freedom (travel, opinion, or religion), which makes the works they produce more valuable.
There are three things about this game that make it one of my favorites.
First, the auction mechanic acts as a natural balancing mechanism for the game. There can be no consistent winning strategy for the game. If there were a winning strategy, everyone would pursue it in the auction phase, bidding up the value of the items. This would give an advantage to anyone not pursuing that strategy, since they could buy the items they need cheaply.
Second, the game appeals to the amateur economist in me, since it illustrates so well the concept of opportunity cost. Each player can only buy one item in each turn’s auction, so even if you get a good deal on, e.g., hiring a jester, you might have gotten a better deal on hiring an architect. The game is won by getting a better deal than everyone else at the auction.
Third, the goal of the game illustrates Aristotle’s virtue of magnificence. It’s good to earn money, but only because it lets you do great things with it.
If you live in the Memphis area and would like to play Princes of Florence or other strategy board games, you should sign up for the Memphis Strategy Board Gaming Community Yahoo group. We meet to play games at least twice a month, once in downtown or midtown, and once out east.