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  RIALTO:- 2-5 players (best 3-4) Aged 10+ (12+ is better) 45-60 minutes (10-15 minutes per player)

The first things you notice about the RIALTO boardgame are: a) the classy artwork,  b) the designer - Stefan Feld, and last but certainly not least, the publisher - Pegasus Spiele.

             Here are the Building Tiles.

Each Building Tile set is of 4 different Actions. They are colour coded to be used in the three phases, Green in the first, Yellow in the second phase and Blue in the third phase.
Each Tile has a different ability that can be activated in the correct phase - the Tiles are obtained by the playing of associated cards.

The Rialto Board (pic from online)

This shows the spaces for the Building Tiles (top left squares), the Doge Track (not to be confused with the Dog Track), the City of Venice split into 6 Districts, the Scoring Track (around the edge) and the Supply area (bottom left).
There is a little confusion with the colouring of the Districts. Two are Blue, one is Green, one is Tan, one is Copper and one is Gold. It would have been more logical, because of the scoring - whereby the first player to get at least one Councilman in each of the 3 Districts on either side of the Grand canal gains 5 VPs - if the Districts on each side matched, even if they were shaded slightly. As it is the outside Districts are Blue, Green and Tan and the inner Districts are Gold, Copper and Blue which is to my way of thinking a mite confusing.

The different cards. In order left to right from the top, they are:

1. Doge. This is the first phase of a Turn. Playing Doge cards moves your piece along the Doge Track, one space per card. Playing the most Doge cards gives a one space Bonus to the player.
2. Gold. Phase 2. This is how you get more Gold to spend. Gold is used to activate the Tiles you own.
3. Buildings. Play Building cards and you can "buy" a Building Tile of the value equal to the number of cards you play.
4. Bridge. Venice needs Bridges. Playing these cards gets you VPs, not playing Bridge cards loses you VPs.
5. Gondola. These cards allow you to move your Councilmen from the supply - very important.
6. Councilmen. These guys run the Districts. The player with the most Councilmen in a District wins the most VPs for the District.
7. Joker. The Joker cannot be played on its own but it can be played alongside any other cards. 2 Jokers played together = 1 card of any type. 1 Joker +1 selected "other" card = 2 of the same "other" cards.

RIALTO plays over 6 Turns. Each Turn represents one of the Districts, each District is only in play once per game. There are 6 markers, numbered 1 through 6 which are randomly placed on the Districts to determine the order in which the Districts are brought into play. At the end of the game these Districts are scored separately, the player controlling them scoring VPs, modified by the value of the Bridges placed on them.

Bridges have 2 values printed on them, one on each end. They score for the Districts they are connecting - the value of the Bridge is the number at the connecting end where it touches the District. Players obtain cards at the start of Phase 1 by selecting one of the sets of 6 cards laid out in rows, always one more row than there are players. The player going first has the first choice of sets and then play runs clockwise. The Doge Track determines first player and who goes after at times but generally play runs clockwise. There is also a round of counter clockwise play during the beginning of the game so make sure you know the rules inside out or at least have them close by and refer to them regularly.

RIALTO will play with up to 5 players taking about 10-15 minutes per player. There aren't too many decisions to make, mainly how many cards to play -  you may only have 7 in your hand (you get more at times but have to immediately reduce the number to 7) - for each Phase (obviously unless you have Jokers your choice is quite limited (holding 7 cards from a selection of 6 different types) and which Tiles to buy and during each phase whether to spend your Gold on activating previously bought tiles.

There are a few game balancers built in, such as the amount of start money each player gets - being first player seems to be a disadvantage until later in the game if you have played cautiously (it is quite hard to win from being first player in the first Turn) - and getting Building Tiles. I haven't discovered yet why the obtaining of Building Tiles is restricted. I can only surmise that at some time or other during play-testing it was realised that allowing all players a free choice made some difference to the play. Perhaps all players followed suit and took the same tile as the previous player, up until the 5th player felt left out. I don't know, but there has to be more of a reason than simply adding a mechanic for the sake of it. I have played quite a few games of RIALTO and actually enjoy playing it quite a lot so I am hoping that sooner rather than later the reasons behind these decisions becomes clear.

RIALTO is a card driven, resource balancing game that in my opinion plays well (in fact I thoroughly enjoy it) with 3 or 4 players, is a bit slower with 5 players and not particularly satisfying as a 2-player game. It is one I would recommend for board games players who like shorter, yet thoughtful games.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015