Review: Ventura – ancient families on the brink of war
War is evil and uncompromising woman. Most of the troops set off to battle with laughter and joy on their faces. They are just boys, who think of war is just like a chance to gain fame and favor of women. These same men leave the battlefield in surprisingly resigned and quiet way. At least those, who avoided all the arrow piercing through hearts or whose neck was hidden from all hungry sword edges.
There are fewer of them, more experienced and only now they are true warriors. There is no trace in their eyes for a desire to become famous. It is gone. Their life is more valuable to them, than all the heroic songs of the world. And next time they hear battle trumpets? Will they set off against the enemy again? Certainly. In the name of love, loyalty and pride, they will come again and risk their lives…
Ventura is a game by the Italian publisher Giochi Uniti. Its authors are also Italian: Alberto Menoncin and Silvio Negri Clementi. Developed game was so interesting, that Fantasy Flight Games decided to release the final version under its brand. And this is the box, we received in our office, with graphics decorated by Demis Savini and Maichol Quinto.
Box is decorated with illustrations reminiscent of medieval paintings, corresponding to a time fourteenth-fifteenth century time period, when the game’s story takes place. It was at that time, when four families were struggling for dominance over Italy – Este, Gonzaga, Medici and Visconti – both in economic sphere and in the supremacy over individual domains.
Ventura conceals under the lid everything, what you would need to relive the battle and see about six hundred years into the past. As is the custom of Fantasy Flight Games, you’ll find a pile of sheets inside the box, waiting to be punched out. Of these pieces, you get fourty territories, whose six edges remind us of Settlers of Catan (review available only in Czech). Also here, they have illustration on them according to different environment like mountains, lakes or fields. Among the forty pieces, there are also specific four made in colors of individual families representing their cities. That is the home of players at the start of the match.
In addition to these major cardboard pieces, you can also find smaller tiles with florin money of two types and tokens in the shape of a shield for noting wounds to your troops with printed number -1 on it. In addition, you will also discover three other boards – one for recording the victory points, while the other two are battle boards. They remain aside and have meaning only during a conflict between players, which will eventually be inevitable. Ventura is like that.
The rest of the paper parts are not cardboard. The largest of these are family boards, which are used to manage your army, but also as a reminder of sequence of the turn. There are also cards of three different types – garrison cards for the defense of the city, conscription containing ordinary recruits and finally Ventura cards with names of important personalities of the time. These can be picked by players as commanders of part of their army.
And now we move forward onto the analysis to the last group of components, which are made of plastic. And there is a lot of them. Let’s start with the ones from which each player has only one piece – it has the flag on top and a low base to stand on and is used to track points. Like other plastic pieces, their color corresponds to family, which the player chooses at the beginning of the game.
The other three tiles are found inside the game in multiple copies – indicators of dominance over the different territories of the land are first in line. Players will put them on the board on individual tiles to indicate, that this piece is controlled by their family. The other two types account both for the military – they have stands with a number from one to five (five of both types) and different types vary only by symbol on the top. Ventura distinguishes between two types of armies – one is made only from one company. Each group can be assigned a commander (captain of fortune), which are cards representing officers with specific names. That is the moment, when they become armies. Under one army flag (one pawn), there can be hidden up to five companies and one captain of fortune.
It is these colorful pieces of plastic, that players get first, when they choose one of the participating families at beginning of the match. They bear this color throughout the war, and they certainly believe, that they hold the victorious one. On top of these colored pieces, players get also one territory (hexagon in their colors) representing their starting location – their one and only city.
Now we prepare the whole game – players set aside the papal territories, which will be used in each game. Besides it, all other hexes must be classified according to their preparatory values given in the upper left corner of the tiles. This figure determines the number of players, when you should use this tile. As soon as you have chosen all suitable tiles for the game, you create a drawing deck out of it. Every player draws four territories from there right now.
Now mix the two decks (conscription and Ventura) and you can now take a little out of pile with florins. The starting player gets nothing, while other players gradually get one extra florin more. Papal territory now forms the center of the board. To this area, players gradually annex all four pieces, which they have drawn earlier. This is how the world of Ventura is created. In the end, every player places his last tile with his city.
Players now start placing their pieces – domain markers, which shows territories under their control. But first they put their pointer with flag on the number zero of victory points track. Then they take one garrison card (in their color) and place it beside their family board. This creates the first company and you should now place the corresponding figure with the number one in your capital. Now player place three more domain markers around to other neigbouring territories. They have to be connected at least with one side between each other and also with the city. This creates their starting area under control.
The preparation was long, but only in text form. In fact, it is not nearly as lengthy in reality. Now we can jump into the game itself. Ventura is an extensive and sophisticated game, so we will describe only fundamental concepts and we will not go into detail about specific rules.
Individual rounds consist of several phases, which are further divided into steps. Each step is play by every player given the player order before moving on to the next. No one waits for other players to complete their long turn and all players are constantly drawn into the game. A total of twelve tasks is waiting for you every turn. At the beginning of each round, you must determine the starting player (the one with least victory points). Players can also buy victory points for florins, acquire new territories from the drawing pile, and place them later, heal wounded units or obtain cards from the Ventura deck.
During the game players move their armies and companies and fight among themselves (we will get to the description how to fight later on). If you have units on territory, which is not yours, at the beginning of the turn, then you immediately take it for yourselves. If the place was unoccupied, then you can simply put your domain marker there and claim it for your family. If it was previously owned and contains other players domain marker, then you get victory point for capturing it!
Individual territories added income from taxes to players treasury. Each domain has its own income number in its left corner. But you do not get these money. Not yet. You must first cover expenditure on the military. Your profit in florins is calculated by subtracting expenses from revenues. If you are unable to pay some units, you must disband them.
Players still have not reached the point, where their units will move. Thus, they may now compose a new army (= add new pawn on the map). All figures on the board have number, which corresponds to one position on the family board. Cards placed at this site indicate, which units are part of that particular army. As we already wrote above, the player can have either a company or army made up of commander and up to five other company cards.
Now, after all players made personnel changes amongst their ranks, they may finally proceed to movement around the map. The units are moving at speed of the slowest part of the army. Their captains can add some speed here, as well as enhance their combat abilities.
Whenever the two armies of different families meet on the map, there is inevitably a battle. This is fundamental and most important phase of the Ventura game. Combat is handled in a great way, which really reminds preparing tactics on the battlefield. You will monitor its progress on two battle boards – each of them is intended for one of the participating players.
Players now take all card of this particular army and covertly prepare the order, in which will companies participate in battle. Both players then reveal their choice and put those cards on their battle board in two rows. As first, troops are lead by captain of fortune. Behind him players put two more companies, which will form the first wave of attack. Other units must wait until the next stages of the battle, before they get their share of fighting. And they will get their chance only in case, if any of the companies in front is scattered by the enemy.
Players will only shoot from a distance at each other in the first phase of battle. Then comes the second phase of the fight, which brings a battle of man against man. The battle continues like that with only melee attacks afterwards. Players always add up their forces of two companies at front, and report numbers of the given combat type to their rival. First unit in line will receive this amount of damage. Values thus are not compared or subtracted from each other. Opponents have hit each other. For each hit, you reduce resistance of your units. Once it drops to zero, this company is put out of action and the next will receive the remainder of the damage. Participants use wound tokens to guide them through injuries of their troops.
Any of armies can flee from battle at the end of the second phase (after the first melee fight) to neighboring fields, which have to be under their control. Winner of the battle remains in the territory and, if not attacked or beaten by someone else, he gets domination over this place for his family at least for the beginning of the next round. But that grants him the income and victory points, given there is a foreign domain marker.
So contines the game in many fights and tactical movements of troops, until one of the victory conditions is met. The player could conquer the opponent’s city. If there is no other family on the map at that moment, game ends in victory of this player. Many games will be much more balanced and only victory points would have to decide the winner. The player, who first gains 30 victory points, is the winner.
Ventura is an interesting game allowing you to experience medieval war turmoil. The game has an excellent atmosphere. Players have real control over the game development. Victory points are gathered for gaining supremacy over the individual territories, so the game forces constant battles for control.
It is in those battles, where lies the main interest of the game. Army is limited in size and there is no luck in combat. You play army cards on family board in a way, that always only the top is visible. Your opponents must then remember, what lies beneath or hope, that they are stronger. Sometimes you are not completely sure about the strength of opposing force. However, a significant influence on the outcome of the battle has the order, in which you send soldiers into combat.
As we mentioned earlier, there are lots of little rules and gadgets, we have not mentioned here. Thanks to them, Ventura is ultimately a quite complex game, but is still does not belong to those really complicated. For example, a particular army can recruit only at predetermined locations – only to be farmers in hilly territories. Do not be intimidated by the rules sixteen pages long – it’s all caused by the fact, that authors wanted to describe the game system really thoroughly. Many of the pages are covered with illustrated explanations, how the game works.
You can have a maximum of five armies. Some will have a different purpose than others. But you have to think twice, what to do in which turn. Recruiting of course cost money, as well as keeping units – each round of salary you pay them. And you can do only limited number of things during one round.
There are lots of ways to get the victory points. This means, that you also have different paths to victory alone. But you can be sure, that every way in Ventura will include battle and warfare. So if you do not like games, where you constantly attack your opponents, then this game probably is not for you. Yet Ventura is not strictly a fighting game and the fight is only part of the overall picture. Although you need to attack to achieve the result, you also have to think strategically and plan your moves.
With so many different phases, you may sometimes forget to take some action. So you have to be careful and above all really carefully learn, how phase go one after another. While they are clearly listed on your family board, the phases names are missing. On the other hand, text on cards refer to these stage names, it can really be a problem. We recommend to write a list of phases somewhere aside.
Yet the game has a few minor problems. At the beginning of the game, when players are placing their domain markers one after another, some players may be cut off and are unable to establish a regular four-region territories. This can be addressed only by agreement between players. Worse is the other fact. If some player becomes poor and is pushed into defense, it is difficult to recover and catch up. But war is like that.
Manufacturing value of the game is absolutely professional. Cards are well arranged and contain nice illustrations. And also the map pieces are nice, while their graphics contains unusual drawings. The game looks very well, when is unfolded on the table. Its very nice and colorful. The impact is drastically improved by the beautiful plastic miniatures, that represent the player armies in the game. Perhaps the only drawback is, that numbers on these figures are hard to read.
Ventura is excellent game, with a few minor shortcomings. It will surely attract fans of thoughtful board games full of battles and struggle for supremacy. Its balanced mix of combat and tactics. The great experience is expanded with beautiful workmanship. Ventura is unfortunately not very well known and we hope that our reviews will do a little change. Because this time, you will really want to experience the Middle Ages.
Review: Ventura – ancient families on the brink of war
Ventura is an excellent board game by Giochi Uniti for all advanced lovers of conflict games. Fight is the main medium to victory road in this game, although it has to be supported with lots of right tactical decisions. Players move their troops along the map and they are trying to sustain dominance over their domains. For every recapture of territory, and also for securing their family financially, they gain victory points. But they can be to no purpose in the end, if they lose their capital before collecting of 30 points. Experience can be ruined only by a few cosmetic flaws - you can block (not willingly) an opponent, while preparing the game. And the player, who will fail once, will struggle for the whole game. Ventura is no army game. But it is most certainly unjustly ignored game, which will offer great fun for all battleful players.
Reader Rating0 Votes
variable board according to player numbers
good design of cards and tiles
several ending conditions
you can block rival while preparing the game
it is really hard to comeback, when you become poor once