Lisboa Review by Eric Booth
Designed by: Vital Lacerda
Art by: Ian O'Toole
Published by: Eagle Gryphon Games
Just imagine. The year is 1755 and you and your lover are looking out over the lovely city of Lisboa. Relaxing after the celebration of All Saints Day. When the earth starts to violently shake as if the Gods themselves have fallen to the earth to release their fury upon mankind. You and your lover jump to your feet and look down onto the city to see it being reduced to rubble and fire. Buildings fall like those shaky card towers you used to build as a child. Fires start spreading from building to building consuming everything in it's wake like a hungry serpent from the depths of hell. As you look at the shore you notice the water itself is receding from the city as a rat retreating from a sinking ship. To only be followed by a wall of water like Moses parting the Dead Sea. You think this must be the end and the Gods have decided to put and end to this era of man and start again. For three days the only place you've ever known has been reduced to nothing but heaps of burnt, soggy rubble.
After a little over a month of debate and damage assessment, the King and Prime Minister decide to rebuild this once glorious city into something even more spectacular on the recommendation of Manuel da Maia. Under the supervision of Architects Santos and Carlos the city was reborn like the Phoenix rising from the ashes. This is where you come in. It's up to you to help rebuild the city through clever card play, resource management, area control, shipping, bribes, fulfilling decrees, and influence with the King and Nobels.
What is Lisboa? It's a heavy, crunchy, euro that is surprisingly dripping with theme that melds all the different actions you take all together into something that is extremely enjoyable to play. There's only two things you can do on your turn. You either “Tuck” a noble or “Visit a Nobel”. Both of which present you with various actions that will be requirements for other actions you will be taking later in the game. Lisboa hits all the buttons for me. This game is Thee definition of the much maligned descriptor of “Point Salad”. Most of these points aka “Wigs” won't be earned during the game but at the end during “end game scoring”. This is where you will come to the realization that you forgot all about those oh so precious Decree cards. These are cards that will give you Wigs depending on various conditions that need to be met at the end of the game. You are the only person who will score from these cards. Another aspect of the game you don't want to underestimate is “Meeting the Cardinal” Some of these Cardinal tiles can be extremely powerful. Plus when the “Church Scoring” happens you have the potential to earn a ton of influence and Wigs. The game also has a follow mechanic that can unexpectedly turn the tide of the game. But you can only follow an action if you have the appropriate “Royal Favor” with the Noble the active player is visiting.
This only touches on a fraction of what Lisboa has to offer in the way of game play. Now let's get my opinion on what I think of the game. I love it. Now I've only played with 2 players and I feel it scales very very well for 2. I will say that the games I've played have been with people who already knew how to play and this really helped in getting setup and jumping headlong into play. This is not the kind of game you would want to bring to an Open Game night if you haven't already set up a session that takes into account the ½ hour to 45 minutes of teaching that the game is going to require on top of the 3-4 hours of game play depending on how many players you have and how much said players want to min/max everything. I must admit that on my first play my head was spinning as is usual with most heavy, crunchy, euro style games. But second play went way smoother and I had a much better grasp of what I had to do and what needed to be done. This game really, and I can't stress this enough, needs more than one play. There's a lot of little rules that can be overlooked and this is where thee best player aid ever in a game comes into play. When you take and action it is highly recommended on your first couple plays to follow the steps in the aid to make sure you're not missing anything and you are getting the most out of the action you are taking. Don't be afraid to use the player aid as everyone will be using it. Trust me. It is invaluable during the game.
This brings me to components. As per most games from Eagle Gryphon the components are incredible. The cardboard components are thick making it easy for people with meat hook fingers, like me, to easily pick them up from the board. The card stock is amazing. I feel no need to sleeve the cards and I'm usually a sleeving maniac. I only have a couple niggling complaints on the components. One is the player boards can become a bit warped depending on the humidity in your area. And I'm not a fan at all of the money in the game. Which I've replaced with metal coins cause, metal coins.
Now my final thoughts. My latest play of Lisboa had me smiling the whole 2 ½ hours of playing. I will play this anytime I can get it to the table or when anyone requests it. I give Lisboa two rubble collecting, noble bribing, card tucking, store building, ship sailing, thumbs up. If you like heavy Euros with tightly integrated theme, Lisboa might just be for you.