Council of Four
"The Empire, formed by three Kingdoms, has a period of wealth and prosperity. Each Kingdom is governed by a council of four nobles. The members of six influential families sit around in the councils and lead the Kingdoms. Players hold the roles of rich merchants who seek to obtain permits to build their own Emporium inside the cities of the three kingdoms. Whoever take more permits, while also placing their Emporium in the best places, will be the most famous merchant and will win the game. But pay attention to the King, he can allow you to build without permits"
The aim of the game is to score the most victory points, this is acheived by building Emporiums in the cities on the board, clever placement and strategy will prevail.
Council of Four has a staggered set up, the first player starts with less money, and less assistants (these are the guys who are needed for many of the games extra actions), as soon as i read this in a game, i am wary, has the balance been truly worked out? is there really a need? I found in Council of Four it did work, there was no real disadvantage to going first, and the bonuses of being last player didnt unbalance the game at all.
The game is played in rounds, during which each player first draws a card, and then must perform a main action, followed by the opportunity to perform a quick action if they so wish. The cards are called political cards, and these are represented by different colours, 13 of each of Pink, White, Black, Purple, Orange and Blue, and 12 wildcards that count as any colour. Players have 10 Emporiums in their chosen colour, along with tokens to track wealth, victory points and the rank among the nobility. Once you draw a card you then have a choice of one of four main actions; 1) Add a noble to one of the council tracks, this also has the effect of knocking the last noble in the track off the end (there can only be 4 nobles to a track at any time), this also generates four gold coins for you. 2) Play cards from your hand that match any number of nobles in one of the three tracks to collect a building permit (permits have an instant effect such as bonus coin or victory points) which will allow for the building of one of your emporiums at a later stage. 3) Play cards from your hand that match the nobles in the fourth track, these nobles represent the king, and allow you to instantly move the king along the roads between cities (at a cost) and build without a permit. Or finally, 4) Build one of your emporiums in a city you have previously gained a permit for, again this will give instant benefit in the form of money, vp etc..
After performing your main action, you may then play a quick action. These actions help you throughout the game, but at a cost. Assistants help you with various tasks, you must pay one assistant per Emporium already built in a city for example, these are the currency of quick actions. You can pay an assistant to add a noble, pay one to change the current building permits, and even pay three to have a second main action! There are bonus points to be scored, the first player to build one emporium in each city in a region, or the first to build in every city of a single colour take bonus tiles with extra vp on them. The nobility track adds another dimension to the game, as you progress along it, you gain small bonuses, but at the end of the game there are points to be had for the two players farthest along it.
When you build an emporium, you not only gain the coins/vp etc. in that city, but also in every city you can connect to it in an unbroken path, this means as the game goes on, bonuses get ever larger, and that 100 point score track suddenly dosen't look far too big.
We found the game played smoothly with four players, with little downtime between turns, and flowed along nicely. Definately one to play again, and a great little game to have on the shelf.