Review: Mille Grazie

Posted by James (admin) on October 27th, 2010

In Mille Grazie, players take turns as Italian noblemen travelling between cities trying to avoid being robbed whilst all the other players play the role of the robbers.  The board shows cities connected by 24 roads, each starting with a different letter of the alphabet.  The noblemen are trying to fulfil route cards they hold which show where the nobleman holding that card has to reach and how many points they will receive if they do so.  Four cities have route cards on them at any one time and these can be picked up by any nobleman passing through that city.

First, the robbers select on which road that they will each lay in wait by selecting the road’s letter on their selection wheel.  Then, the nobleman player moves along 4 or 5 roads.  If the noblemen moves along a road that a robber selected, the robber scores 3 points and the nobleman player loses 1 to 3 of the routes they have in their hand (depending upon the colour of road on which they were robbed).  Before moving, a nobleman can choose to move 4 roads (rather than 5) and have an escort – this means they too select a road on their selection wheel and they will be completely protected from being robbed along this road.  The game ends as soon as a player reaches 30 points.

Mille Grazie is a simple and light game but delivers a very interactive and fun experience. It’s all about trying to read other players and trying not to be read.  Players start being more cunning with their routes and everyone starts second- and third-guessing each other.  ‘I think you’ll go this way but you know that I know that so you’ll change your mind, but I know that so…’  Well, if you’ve seen the poison goblet scene in the movie ‘The Princess Bride’ then you get the idea.  At one point early on in the game, I assumed everyone would think I was going to try to go a long  and indirect route so I just went the most direct route and no-one robbed me.  This tactic, of course, lasted just one round before the other players adapted.

Players start trying to fulfil the routes they have in their hand but soon realise they could collect new routes during a turn and could deliver those too.  In fact, just having routes in your hand is a good thing as the more scoring destinations you have, the more difficult it is for other players to know where you are likely to head.  Multiple routes in hand also means that, if you do get robbed, you have a chance of not losing the route you were trying to complete.

Escort use is interesting too.  The nobleman doesn’t have to declare if they will use as escort until the robbers have selected their routes.  Do you use an escort to protect your first move (as opponents know you have to leave your current city via one of its 3 or 4 routes) or do you assume robbers think you’ll protect that first move so won’t bother attacking you there?  This element adds further deduction and double-guessing.

When a route card is collected from the board (when a player passes through a city containing one), a new one is randomly selected and placed on its starting location.  As the nobleman is not committed to any route until they move, new route cards may make you change your original plan.  Robbers can discuss their moves but this has to be done in front of the nobleman player.

One negative we found was that the game ends on the turn when any player has 30 points or more.  As you can score a lot more points as the nobleman than as a robber, this is unfair for any players who have not had the same amount of turns as the players before them.  So, we will have a house rule in future that means all players will have an equal number of turns.

I really enjoyed Mille Grazie and was very pleased I noticed it in the run up to Spiel.  I think it’s great for light and serious gamers alike as it’s about reading the other player’s plans.  There’s a fair amount of luck involved and I expect it will be quite similar each time it is played, but this isn’t much of a negative for me as it’s a game that is short, light-hearted and more of a large filler.  Mille Grazie is really good fun and refreshing – great value at 18 euros too.


[Played with 4 players]

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