The Popularity of Dice Based Games
In recent years games based on dice placement have surged in popularity.
We are talking about those games in which the players’ actions are chosen based on a dice instead of being selected from a group of “fixed” actions.
It is true, that the dice-based mechanics have diversified in the last few years but a lot of them tend to feel the same.
Enter Signorie a Competitive Dice Game
This Gem from 2015 Themed in Italy during the 15th century was a country full of intrigue and magnificence. The tumultuous political conditions created the perfect breeding ground for the birth of a new form of government (called Signoria) and the rise of the most ambitious noble families. After having acted in the dark for a long time, the time has finally come for them to take control of the cities and shape Italy’s future. Their stories will go down in history.
From a thematic point of view, the game largely respects the realities of the Italian Renaissance.
The players have large families trying to ally with 6 of the influential families in Italy. Women get married and receive dowries that turn into VPs, men are educated in politics, army or religion and then sent to work for the 6 families.
Increasing levels of specialisation are required as the game progresses, as the demands for women’s dowry steadily increase.
Each player has a personalised alliance plan. One woman can be sent to each of the 6 influential houses, and the men can only work in certain families.
In each of the seven rounds a limited number of tiles for alliances (6-8-10 for 2-3-4 players), and their value in VPs is between 2 and 5 points.
So in each round, we will have to decide what alliances we will make or if we are still waiting for tiles or if we prefer to increase the level of education of men to receive more points (between 1 and 13, depending on the level). The icing on the cake is that these tiles will be scored at the end only if we gathered at least 3 in each of the 4 groups.
This is the first group of decisions.
The main actions available are 5 in number and correspond to a colour for which dice equal to the number of players are rolled in each round. With yellow we receive money, with red we marry a woman, with purple, we increase the number of family members, with grey we hire a man, and with blue we educate him. Each colour also offers the possibility of hiring help on the board or choosing an assignment similar to the main action, but which is paid for by family members.
Each player will be able to perform a maximum of 4 actions in each round, each of a different colour.
So when we take a dice we have to decide both the colour and which of the 3 actions is the most profitable at that moment. Along with the main action, we will be able to execute the secondary actions for which we have hired aid. This is the second group of decisions.
The value of the dice is reflected in two ways. On the one hand, we will have to pay when we take a dice if its value is less than the default colour value: yellow = 1, red = 2, purple = 3, grey = 4, blue = 5.
Due to how little money there is and how difficult it is to obtain, we will be tempted to take the higher value dice – all the more so as some side actions have a direct effect proportional to the number on the dice. On the other hand, in each round, there is a bonus: resources, money and benefits in the first 5 rounds, VPs in the last two.
Only players who have accumulated dice with a cumulative value of less than 13 will be able to get these bonuses – but this 13 can be increased to 16-19-22 with an assignment. This is the third group of decisions.
Players will therefore have to juggle several decisions related to Money: needed for small dice, women’s dowry and hiring helpers. Educating men or sending them to work or choosing small dice for bonus or big dice for effective actions.
Signorie is one of those games where the long-term strategy combines perfectly with the tactical choices in each round.
The order of choosing the dice is because the helpers are always committed to the colour on the left, not the current one.
And these decisions must be taken in almost every one of the maximum 28 actions available.
Both money and men’s progress can be obtained from several sources: main actions, assignments, and secondary actions.
The same goes for getting married, sending men, or getting extra family members.
The order in turn will be critical. On the one hand, we want flexibility in choosing the dice in the pool. On the other hand, we want to be the first to select that tile 4 or 5 pointFinally, you can get between 2 and 9 VPs in each round if you climb high enough on the 10 steps of track.
But when we choose to progress in turn order, we will probably make a sacrifice elsewhere. We will choose a bigger dice than we would have liked or we will select one action before another or we will reduce one man’s school.
Many times I had the impression that I was overwhelmed by the situation, that I did not know what the optimal action was or whether to choose yellow before grey.
Many times the game pushed me into analysis paralysis causing me to try to calculate 3 moves in advance and take into account both what I want to do at that moment and whether it is worth fighting for the round bonus or how to maximise my score from the bonus of the last two rounds or, and more importantly: if I want to participate in that bonus. But as these bonuses can bring 20 points, it is difficult to identify the actions that can supplement that advantage.
Signorie is defiantly not very difficult to learn, but it is very difficult to play it well and win in a competitive environment.
In the game can leave players feeling punished, by the mechanics in the first few plays as it is one of those games that requires a few plays to learn how to plan everything efficiently. Once players learn to appreciate the value of each choice it becomes easier knowing that it is detrimental to pay 2 men for 4 money, other times it is very effective to give up 2 women to marry the third.
Sometimes it makes sense to wait and gather more resources, other times it is good to act immediately. In the first 3 rounds it is recommended to focus as much as you can on the recruitment of aid, but do not lose sight of those rare tiles of 4-5 VPs.
The end-of-round bonuses are very good because they bring money and other benefits, but also brides for your family members, which means that the family growth action will be even more effective – you can beat some VPs if you marry all the men in the family. On the other hand, if you don’t have the financial resources to select the small dice or you are the last in the round and you have nowhere to choose or by rolling only big numbers came out… bad luck. Adapt to the given situation, take a deep breath and recalculate your moves, focusing on something else.
Signorie is one of those games where the long-term strategy combines perfectly with the tactical choices in each round. An extremely competitive and tough game, with few resources and difficult to obtain, with various strategies and reversals. A game recommended for 4 players, with the mention that it scales well and in smaller numbers, but the tension decreases.