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iPad Game Review: Medici

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Medici from Sage Board Games is an iPhone/iPad adaption of the board game created by Reiner Knizia that focuses on competitive trading. You play as a merchant and spend three days on a dock with other merchants.  Your job is to bid on six different types of products that are hidden in crates. The merchant with the most florins (money) at the end of three days wins.

Gameplay is turn-based. Each round of play starts with one person getting to select one to three unmarked crates from the dock, at which point the goods within those crates are revealed and there is a round of bidding to decide who wins the goods. The bidding round is done in clock-wise fashion and starts with the player next to the one who selected the crates. A player may bid as many florins as they wish, and then the next player bids. Once each player (except the one who selected the crates) has bid, the highest bid wins the goods, and those crates will be placed inside their ship. Then the next player gets the chance to select the crates. At the end of every day each merchant is awarded a certain amount of “bonus” florins — merchants that have more of one item than other merchants, for example, garner more florins.

The interface for Medici is much more colofrful than the drab board game version, but still offers a similar visual style and feel. The character portraits suit the game’s artwork as well, and offer a variety of faces to help you imagine yourself as the shrewd businesswoman, or cutthroat knave. Since there isn’t a lot to the actual gameplay, it’s good to see some effort put into additional animations like the textured waves of water that calmly pulse beneath the surface of the dock.

Unlike most iPhone games, the music that accompanies the gameplay is actually tolerable. Even so, in the event that you dislike the musical accompaniment, the game offers an option to play your own music in its place (perhaps you do your best trading to Aerosmith’s “Dream On”). The sound effects that go with crate selection and the delicious coin clink of money earned make each action a delightful process.

While it may initially frustrate you to not know the value of each trade item you will soon see, therein lies this game’s beauty. As the game progresses the value of each item is different to every player, and you must pay attention to who buys what, to know how to manipulate them later. For example, since each boat can only hold five crates, if it is your turn to select crates and you see your opponent only has space for one, you can pick two crates. Then you hope one of those crates has something they want and you can keep it from them. You can also use your bids to make goods more expensive should you know the next bidder needs them  Since the player with most of one item gets a daily bonus of florins, it is best to establish a monopoly on an item quickly.

One of the downsides to this version of the game is that it does not allow unsanctioned trading. In the board game you have the option of breaking the rules and trading openly with other members. Think of the insidious teamwork, the broken promises and wounded friendships you miss with structured gameplay.

For someone new to Medici, while the learning curve is higher than your typical iPhone/iPad game, the gameplay rewards surpass other games — many of which are deleted once beaten. Moreover, the iPad version represents a great step forward in board game ports for more serious board game fans.

Medici is not rated by the ESRB, but contains little, if any, objectionable material.

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  • I really like this trend of adapting some of the great European boardgames to the iPhone and iPad. I wish more of the adaptations were set up for networked multiplayer play.

    Also very excited that my fonts are going to be featured in the upcoming Carcassone adaptation for iPhone and iPad.