The first of my holiday season purchases which I have chosen to review is Ventura. I have to admit that this game wasn’t really on my radar until the sale, and its normal price of $80 would have been a bit steep for me to give it a try. However, being able to pick it up for $20, I was willing to give it a shot. The game is focused on the Italian revolution, and 2-4 players choose one of the families to lead to victory. So far, I have only played the 2 player game but it tends to take us (my 7-year old son and I) about an hour or so to get through a game.
As with most Fantasy Flight games, the exterior packing and artwork is well-done. However, also like many Fantasy Flight games, the interior uses their generic square box layout, which doesn’t accommodate the storage of the pieces very well. Also worth mentioning is that it is a bit taller than other FFG boxes. It’s not a big deal, but it did surprise me a bit.
The components for the game are excellent. The cards and tiles are vividly colored and clearly depict the information needed. Probably the best component (my opinion), is the player mat. You use it to organize your armies, but it also has the sequence of play detailed on it, which is great. It really makes it easier to learn the game, and to keep from forgetting things. Each family also has a set of colored playing pieces. The only complaint that I really have is that the number on each army is hard to read without picking it up. I plan to paint the numbers in a contrasting color to remedy this situation.
Winning the Game
There are two ways to win the game:
- Capture another player’s capital
- Accumulate 30 Victory Points
The board changes from game to game. Each player receives 4 tiles. The Papal tiles are placed next to each other, and then players alternate placing tiles. After all of those tiles have been placed, each player places their home tile and then claims 3 tiles by placing the “tower” markers on it to indicate the income.
Each tile has varying attributes. They each have an income value, movement required to move into, and might provide defense bonuses (ranged, melee, ignore wounds). In some instances, the tiles might receive bonuses depending on the tiles around them. This is generally represented with the 1+1x symbol. The Papal tiles are special since they are the only ones that award Victory Points.
During each turn, players alternate taking the actions depicted on the player mat.
- Buy victory points
- Take a tile/Ventura card
- Pay to take additional Ventura cards
- Claim territories
- Collect income/pay unit maintenance
- Place tile
- Buy Conscription cards
- Deploy units/armies
- Move units/armies & fight battles
Once you have played it once, you get the hang of it, with the player mat providing a handy reference of what happens next. Captains of Fortune are important because they allow you to have more than one unit in an army. Also, you can add units to the Captain’s army regardless of where it is located on the map. If you do not have a Captain of Fortune, all units must be recruited in a city.
The most involved portion of the turn involves the combats. Whenever a combat starts, there is a combat overlay that you place on your player mat. Only the units in the top row are involved in each round of combat. You place your units face down on the mat, until both players have finished. Then, you flip them over and resolve combat.
The first round is a ranged round (using the bow value on the cards). After that all of the subsequent rounds consist of melee (crossed swords). In some cases, you might be able to annihilate the opponent’s units before they reach you, or you might need to put some cheaper troops to soak up some wounds. The shield on each unit represents the number of wounds it can take. As each unit is destroyed, the remaining units are shifted up following the arrows on the combat overlay.
Scoring Victory Points
There are 3 main ways to accumulate victory points
- Pay Florins (varies on the amount paid)
- Control Papal tiles (2 per tile, per turn)
- Defeat the opponent’s army (5 points). It is only considered an army if it contains a Captain of Fortune.
Disclaimer: All of my games have been played with only 2 players.
I have mixed feelings about this game. At first I was extremely excited about playing it. It’s a lot of fun to get a good Captain of Fortune and an army that wins some tough combats. However, after playing it a few times, it does seem to have some flaws.
It seems that whoever emerges as the victor from the first battle usually ends up winning. If you have a decent army, you can march around capturing all of the income producing tiles, crippling your opponent’s ability to get back in the game. Also, you generally have a Captain of Fortune, so you can add more units to the army, to keep it competitive.
Often, the final turns are just a formality, as the person on the back foot can’t march out and claim anything, without the risk of being destroyed. Meanwhile, the dominant player is collecting a lot of money and can buy more units to assault the opponent’s home tile. with. Only one of our games has been won by victory points, and that was probably only because my son wasn’t paying attention to that (he is only 7, after all).
My son still likes to play it, though, so we will probably continue to play it from time to time. I might try to come up with some house rules for it.