An intermediary step in complexity between the brutally basic HAMURABI and more sophisticated modern titles such as Civilization, Santa Paravia and Fiumaccio ushers you into a Merchant Prince setting, governing over a 15th-century Italian city-state, competing with the savage forces of nature and against up to 5 (7 in some later versions) other players in the hot-seat, seeing who can rise through the ranks to claim titles from COUNT, to MARQUIS, GRAND DUKE (and, finally, H.R.H. KING.)
At its heart the game is, as are its predecessors, about bean-counting -- weighing your current reserves of grain (measured in steres) against your population's food demands, wondering how many gold florins the market price for your surplus will net, and how many hectares of land that'll permit you to purchase... and whether that investment will come back to haunt you the following turn if the weather shifts from feast to famine, when you have plenty of dirt and nothing growing in it to feed your grumbling populace. However, the game cleans up real nice, and cute graphical depictions may help you to forget that your debauched Renaissance rule largely consists of moving debits and credits back and forth across a virtual ledger.
Varying difficulty levels help you find your own comfort zone in which to engage bad harvest conditions, worse real-estate prices and, worst of all, the endless appetites of what must amount to hundreds of thousands of rats, endlessly nibbling at your reserves. Surplus capital can be sunk into blue-chip investments such as marketplaces and mills, palaces, cathedrals and private armies. If, after commissioning them all, you find you don't have so much surplus capital after all, you can always cook the books by adjusting several different flavours of taxes, tariffs and customs fees... but tamper too much and your local economy will be stifled!
Nearly every downturn in this game has an equal and opposite check, or at least a balance, to keep it from demolishing your estate in a single swoop... however, early versions of this game, as with many titles of its era, may cruelly and arbitrarily cut your rule short with a random death. All the more reason to carpe diem and do the best with what you've got, while you've got it.
Probably one of Keypunch's best releases, Santa Paravia and Fumaccio is a fun empire management game with a strong emphasis on economics. Up to 8 players compete against each other in a bid to become the best ruler of a fictional Renaissance country. Gameplay is turn-based, with a very strong boardgame flavor. Each player takes turns issuing commands in different "phases," deciding on policies ranging from economic (e.g. how much grain to sell and release into public consumption, when to build marketplaces), military (e.g. when to buy additional forts and raise more platoons), and civil (e.g. how harsh a justice you want to dispense to your citizens). Lack of dynamic screens may make the game too "dry" for most gamers, but anyone who likes a thoughtful, statistics-based business game will probably find it interesting.
Lack of save game feature makes the game ideal as a quick multiplayer business game a la Monopoly that anyone who is interested in medieval business will enjoy, if he/she can get friends to join a game. Those who are looking for a more authentic Renaissance experience would do well to skip this one, and play Holistic Design's Machiavelli The Prince instead.
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