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Famiglia

Background:
I often find myself sitting at a table with my future father in-law and the two of us deciding what two player game to play, or a game that plays well as a two player game. Also, I can't help but love card games, there is something about the format that I really enjoy, concealing your strategy and having multiple cards which has 'potentially' multiple actions on them is an excellent way to create a game around. Then, let's add a quality designer into the mix, in the rather standout green haired form of Friedmann Friese.

When I noticed this game through my online board game site ... board game guru, I looked it up and then instantly put it into the shopping basket. It seemed excellent value to play with a fellow gamer, and ticked the card game box for me.

Now, was it worth the impulse purchase ...


Theme:
This is a new section for my reviews, something that I've added to headings, because a theme can be a very important factor for purchasing and even though sometimes you know it's only skin deep. I've not got a problem with skin deep, I just like a scene to set the game within.

Firstly, what does Famiglia mean in English? It means Family and is Italian ... does anyone feel that there are some links to the mafia around here somewhere? No, ok, I'll proceed ...

So, in this game you play as one of two rival gangs and you are both looking to recruit new gang members from four possible gangs.


Components:
The game comes in a small filler style game box ...



In the image you can see the box and the cards (with the small rule sheet buried at the bottom of the box, it might also be noticeable in the photo but the cards are slightly higher than the box lid and the lid is very loose to the box. This is quite frustrating when transporting this game as a 'holiday' game or one to bring to a friends house. The lid quite often comes apart and the cards fall out all over the bag that it is usually in! Still, this really isn't the end of the world, just a small grip about some of the advantages of filler boxes/games!

Next are the components

There are 60 cards in the box, which are split into 4 families of 15 cards within each. The artwork on the cards is isn't that high, but they are by no means bad ... I think the word average springs to mind. Also, for anyone that likes to sleeve there cards (as the will be well used) is going to be slightly bamboozled by the shape of the cards within the game, they are narrow and longer than any other card I own in any other game. But if you did find a sleeve for them, then you will need to find another box (or get a large elastic band to put round the box!).

The four families are:

La Famiglia


The Accountants


The Brutes


The Mercenaries


During the game play section I'll look more closely at each family and the particular strengths/strategies they have.

And as well as the rule sheet, that is all that you get within the game.


Game play:
So, onto the game play ...

Firstly both players will get a hand of four identical cards



At this point it's time to setup the street from which you will both be selecting new gang members from.



The draw pile is shuffled and the top six cards are turned face up in a row. The game is ready to begin.

Choose a start player, and in this game it's chosen at random (instead of something bizarre, like, who ate pasta last!).

There are 4 parts to a turn.

1) Street setup
2) Use Accountant skills
3) Use Brute skills
4) Select a gang member to join your gang (or pass)

During the street setup, if there are no '0' value members in the six cards (which is illustrated above), you may discard on the the members on the street and then draw as many cards to add to the street as indicated on the card that was discarded.

Then you can use the accountant cards, this is a tricky skill to describe without going through the process of creating 'your area', so I'll come back to this skill/step in a bit.

Next you can use any brutes (the yellow cards) from value 1 to 4. As you start off with '0' cards at the start of the game, this is something you you will only use a few turns in once you have picked up the right card and put it in your hand. Again, I'll describe the brutes skill once the step of collecting a gang member from the street.

Finally you can select a gang member, the simplest way to collect a member is by choosing a level '0' member from the street and place it straight into your hand. Or you could choose a level 1 to 4 member from the street. to do this, you need two members of the same colour of the value one less than the one you want to recruit. A sample is shown in the image below.



In the image, two level '0' yellow cards have been laid and now the level 1 card can be taken and put it into your hand. Now, the two cards you laid, one you can place back into your hand and the other is then placed in your area.



In the image above you can see that your hand now has the level 1 card as well as one of the two level zero cards. Also your area now has one card in it. At this point it should now become clear that your hand is vital to contain cards to enable obtaining the best cards on the street and your area is a redundant space for your cards, be careful what you end up putting there!

Ok, back to the Brutes, Accountants, La Famiglia, and Mencenaries ... what are the advantages of choosing them from the street?

La Famiglia:
This gang has no ability but score you the most points.

Mercenaries:
These count as any coloured card for one less value than it's current level. So a level 2 mercenary can become a wildcard for a level 0 or 1 brute (for instance).

Accountants:
Remember, this action is used in the second part of the turn. You can move an account of level 1 to 4 from your hand, plus the amount of cards from your hand at the level of the accountant selected. Then pick up cards from your area and put it back into your hand equaling the accountants level. This is the only way you can get cards from your area back into your hand to use again.

Brutes:
You can play a brute (level 1 to 4) on any card in the street. This lowers the card costs by the value of the brute played and can reduce the card to '0' ... remember in stage four that you can pick up a '0' for free Once you've played a brute, that brute, plus an additional card (if two of the same level and coloured are played) both go into 'your area', so Brutes are one time 'hits'.

Once the pile of cards is empty any discarded cards are shuffled and made into a new deck. Then the deck is gone through once more. Once it is empty again the game ends and each player counts up the points on each card. The person with the most points wins.


Thoughts:
The game starts slowly, but then picks up depending on the combos and families you choose. The game plays out really differently and clever use and timing of combos is essential. Knowing when to use an accountant or a brute as actions needs careful timing. If you use up your card it is then discarded, so building up again to obtain a card of similar value takes time, which you may not have.

The mercenary ability on face value seems like the strongest route of victory, but clever use to timing with brutes can really dampen the mercenary strategy. Also, moving 'La Famiglia' cards (that are worth a lot of points) from your hand to your area is a very important strategy, as it's 'dead weight' in your hand. Remember that your hand needs to be an engine, so needs to have key action cards to manipulate moves to enable you to gain more and more powerful cards once they are revealed to the street.

This game is a very clever game where combos and hand management needs careful tailoring. Planning and timing are important words for this game and something you will understand with multiple players. I find beginners to this game go straight after red cards as they seem an easy way to gain victory points, but careful use of action cards will (or at least to date) overcome this strategy.

It's a great thinking game and will play in about 30 minutes (once rules and a couple of turns have been played through - for first timers)

Knowing how well you've done (or doing) is pretty much impossible, which is the only little criticism I have of this game.

Overall, I'm keen to get this to the table as much as possible. A great purchase and not expensive!
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