Which games has Michael Schacht designed that you probably have heard of, if not Patrician?
If you’ve played or at least researched these kinds of “designer” games, you’ve likely come across Web of Power, Coloretto (and the other -etto games, Zooloretto and Aquaretto), and China. Perhaps you are even aware of Hansa.
Patrician has the subtitle, Towering Glory. The “glory” part might be a bit overstated, but the “towering” factor is essential to the game. It’s a game about building towers.
Setting Up a Game of Patrician
You play Patrician (Amazon link) on a double-sided board. One side (not shown below) is for use only with 5 players. The setup shown here is apparently a 4-player game. There are black, white, red, and blue pieces already on the board, so this game has already started.
The deck of cards at the right, center of the board is sitting on a city that would be part of the game play in a 5-player game. You don’t use this city with 4 players or less.
Elsewhere around the board are 9 cities. Each has a face-up card nearby, 2 spaces for building towers, and 2 scoring tokens.
At the beginning of the game, you place a card in each of those spots and lay out the scoring tokens, which are color coded to match the cities. All tower spaces would be empty.
Each player gets 3 cards and will always have 3 cards during the game until the very end when cards begin to run out.
Taking a Turn in Patrician
The mechanics of your turn are very simple.
- Play a card from your hand (face up in front of you).
- Place (one or two) tower pieces in the city matching the card you played.
- Possibly take a special action, if your card allows it.
- Pick up the card next to the city where you placed your tower.
- Place the top card from the deck in the city that you emptied.
Most of the time, your turn will feel even simpler than that.
- Play a card.
- Place a tower.
- Pick a card and replace it.
Some of the cards show one color coded crest matching a city and the head of a patrician. If you play such a card, you just place 1 tower piece, called a floor. Towers will usually have several floors of more than one color before they are finished.
Some cards show 2 crests (and no patrician). Play one of these and you get to place 2 towers in the same city – either both on the same space or one on each.
Some cards show a crest and one of two special action symbols. In the setup above, notice the card next to the yellow city. It has a pink crest and the symbol of a card with a question mark. Playing this card lets you place a tower floor and then pick up a card from any city.
If you played a card like the one next to the pink city in the upper, right corner of the board, you can move the top floor from a tower in another city to the top of the other tower in that city. (You must have one of your own floors already in that city.)
How Do You Get Points in Patrician?
As in so many games, the winner of Patrician is the player with the most points.
There are 2 ways to get points in this game.
When the towers of a city are completed, you score it immediately. The towers are finished when the total number of floors equals the number on the highest scoring token by that city. The crests also show this number but in Roman numerals, so it’s easier to look at the scoring tokens.
Note that each city is complete when 5 or 7 or 9 floors have been built.
When finished, the player with the most floors in the higher tower gets the highest scoring token. The player with the most floors in the lower tower gets the other token.
In a game with more than 2 players, the third, fourth, or fifth player in a city gets nothing. If there is a tie, the player with a floor higher up in a tower gets the scoring token.
The other way to score points comes only at the end of the game. You look at the cards you have played. If you have a set of 3 of the same patrician, you get 6 points. You might have more than one set. If so, you get 6 points for each set.
Who Should Play Patrician?
I like area control games. My favorite game, El Grande, is all about area control. Patrician is also are control. Some people might say it’s also “tower building” (and it obviously is), but you build the towers to control an area.
Once you know the rules and have played a game or two, you could explain how to play in about 5 minutes. It’s that simple.
So virtually anyone could play this game, and I think most would enjoy it. I do. Once four of us even played two games back-to-back. That doesn’t happen very often. Something that helps is that a game only takes roughly 30 to 45 minutes start to finish.
One caveat: Keep small children and infants away from the board while you’re playing. Besides there being small pieces involved, the tower floors are quick slick. If the board is jostled and towers fall, you’re not likely to remember how they were constructed, thus ruining that play.
Give the kids some other toys to keep them occupied, and you’ll be just fine building your “towering glory”.