Medici is published by Amigo Spiele, and is in similar box format as Tutanchamun. The artist is also the same, and he has done a very nice job. Contents consist of a very attractive board, a deck of cards, also well designed, and thirty six wooden markers.
Medici is a game of trading and is played over three rounds. Players have imaginary ships, containing five holds, each of which they are aiming to fill with their purchases. Available for purchase are cards, depicting one of five commodities. The board shows five columns, representing the commodities. Each player puts a coloured marker at the base of each column, and a larger score marker on the score track, which constitutes the border. At the beginning of each round, the 36 card deck is shuffled. Enough cards are then taken from this to provide six for each player. This forms the deck for the round, and the rest are discarded.
On a player's turn, he may expose one, two, or three cards from the top of the deck. These are then auctioned, amongst all the players. The successful bidder pays, by moving their score marker anti-clockwise, and put the cards in front of them. The deck is then passed to the next player, who does the same. This continues until either all holds are full, or the cards run out. Scoring then takes place. Each card shows a value, from 0 to 5, in one of the commodities: metal, porcelain, colours, cloth and spices. In addition, there is one `neutral' card valued at 10. Players have two ways of scoring. Firstly, the highest value cargoes score each round. Secondly, points are awarded for players who purchased the highest number of cards in each commodity. This is cumulative, over the three rounds, and those who reach the top of each column gain a potentially vital bonus.
In a five player game the scoring goes like this:
This dual scoring should come as no surprise to those of you who know Reiner's games already, as it means you have to think carefully about every potential purchase. Even 0 value cards are worth having, if you are attempting to collect that particular commodity. But it won't help you win points for highest value cargoes. So how much is it worth? Do you want to specialise, aiming for the bonus, or should you diversify, hoping to pick up more ten and five point awards. Another problem is that the lots are sold as complete batches. You have to take all of them. This often means there is a mix of cards you want, and others you don't. Of course, opponents may either want the same cards, or the other parts of the lot. This can lead to some pretty cut-throat bidding.
If you don't have sufficient empty holds, you can't bid for the goods. Should you buy a set of three early, as it will then exclude you from any further three card auctions? If only one player can take a lot, they can buy it for one credit. Even better, if all other ships are full, the remaining player fills their holds for free. A great situation to be in. Except, they are drawn randomly from the top of the deck, and they may end up with a free cargo of ballast. Worse still, if all the cards are gone, that's it! This may happen, because if no-one wants to bid for a set of cards, they are discarded.
Medici has something of Modern Art about it, where assessing the value of the goods on offer involves a lot of thought. There are many implications, including the potential gain to another player. However everything you buy uses valuable hold space. Medici has one avantage over Modern Art. It is easier to explain the concepts. This means you are more likely to get beginners to play. Easier though the concepts may be, I haven't yet won Medici.