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The cards are kind of dumb--draw lots of tens (heroines especially) and drummers and you'll do well. That, and the way cards enter the game is kinda dumb. That, and the territory selection is also dumb and kingmaking. There are much better games of chicken available--Beowulf is my favourite, but I'd take most of them over this strangeness.
Tiny box game so it's portable and good for playing in a coffee shop. I like how you must choose between playing out your hand of cards in the current round vs holding some back for next time. Good opportunities for bluffing or forcing another player to play on and weaken their hand for a future round.
GAMEPLAY The setting is 14th Century Italy and players are mercenary captains, or the titular Condottiere, who are trying to capture various regions in Italy at any cost. Players are dealt 10 cards and, on their turn, can either play a card or pass, which effectively withdraws them from the battle in the region. When all but one player passes or when all players run out of cards, the battle ends and the player with the highest strength wrests control of the region where the Condottiere pawn is located. The Condottiere pawn is moved to a new region and players continue battling until one player gets control of a certain number of regions or a certain number of adjacent regions depending on the player count. Players do not get a new hand of cards until zero players or all but one player has no cards left in their hands. THOUGHTS Condottiere really hangs its hat on two design aspects: the redeal and the special cards. In terms of the former, if you got a new hand of cards after every battle, the game would just be about who got dealt the best hand. Instead, that old saw applies: players “gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em”, withdrawing quickly in one battle and letting opponents bloody each other’s noses and then giving uppercuts to any and all in the next battle. Now, the specialty cards? Oh, myyy are they good. You can see how there is opportunity for a lot of bluffing and clever play in these seven cards and the way they interact with one another. My only concern is that this game does have a bit of a rich get richer kind of feel with players who have won regions getting more cards every redeal. Given how quickly the game plays, I think this is a relatively small problem, and really it just forces opponents to play smarter. PROS -Incredibly compact game for what it offers. -It can be played with intense seriousness or as a pretzels-and-beer game, depending on the mood of the crowd. -Quick to teach & easy to grasp. -I’ve got the old FFG version but I think the art and board look great! -Hand mechanism and unique cards really make this game what it is. CONS -Maybe it goes on a bit long for what it offers. Turns feel samey too. -Rich get richer can be an issue. -I know they were trying to make it language independent but I think this game needed to come with a small player aid that explains what the specialty cards do or, better yet, put that info on the cards themselves. There’s too much “Please pass the rulebook” otherwise.
Fight wars over territories with a fun card mechanic and no wasted time. Some problems exist with the end game, as well as players who do well being rewarded with additional resources resulting in a runaway leader problem. My review of Condottiere can be found here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/378052
(8/16) 7. Very tight, very simple area control game that I really, really enjoy. (10/17) Rise to 8. Like "The King is Dead" so much game with sooooo few cards and components. I love super tight card games and this one is right up there. Also very confrontational which is also great.