This is a continuation of my video review of the Japanese board game Amalfi.
While I love making video content, I prefer the precision of the spoken word. I also love the flexible power of editing. Editing and reposting an article takes nanoseconds compared to editing, exporting, and uploading a YouTube video.
I think I came off a little harsh in my review of Amalfi; to be clear, I think Amalfi is a good game—just not a great game.
That doesn’t mean it’s bad—it’s just incredibly straightforward, which, in my opinion, is a breath of fresh air. I really enjoy modern game design, but I do feel that a lot of designers throw too much into their games and mechanics become a bit too complicated and/or convoluted for my taste. It’s nice to play such a straightforward euro that allows you to plan out your turns and combos.
More importantly, Amalfi is fun and rewarding to play. There are a lot of combos that players can trigger off each other, and it does take skill to see those patterns.
However, at the end of game night, it’s still a multiplayer solitaire game, which can be divisive for players.
Rocinante’s art and the overall art direction of the game are quite simple but emotional and adventurous. The symbology is useful but not as intuitive as it desperately tried to be. Everything is crystal clear though—save all those little rules.
Yes, there are some rough edges though including lots of little easy-to-forget rules, nothing overtly new mechanic-wise, not much diversity in terms of race or gender on the character cards, and the use of words like “colony” and “settlement” that could have easily been substituted for something else (such as “trade post” or “annual bonus”).
I’ve had plenty of time to explore Amalfi, but I consistently scored under 120 points. It wasn’t until only recently that everything “clicked” and I was able to score well over 250 points.
And this is the biggest problem I have with Amalfi—there really is only one winning opening strategy. Buy chart cards and more boats early, or die. Everything revolves around those that I found that most players sacrificed round 1 just to build up to a more powerful round 2, 3, or 4.
If all players are constantly performing the same opening actions, perhaps it would be best if everyone had done those actions during setup. The simple solution would be for everyone to draw X chart cards at the beginning of the game and keep one. A better solution would be to have variable starting setups—similar to the Prelude expansion for Terraforming Mars. Each player could be a character from Amalfi and begin a combination of starting resources, more boats, more charts, more contracts, or whatever. This would add more replayability and give players something new to explore each game.
While I do think the multiplayer version is “combo-tacular” fun—albeit a little straightforward, I do think Amalfi shines best as a solo gaming experience. There aren’t many euros that can offer a rewarding experience and be on and off your table in under one hour—45 minutes if you know what you’re doing.
And that is why Amalfi joins Troyes, Calimala, Lorenzo il Magnifico, Hansa Teutonica, and Concordia on my cute little “dry euro” shelf. Oddly enough, if I’m getting rid of one of those soon, it’s going to be Lorenzo il Magnifico for a deluxe edition of Grand Austria Hotel—finding one has proven more difficult than hunting down a doujin game.