This game will bring you to a mansion with many rooms you can explore. Most rooms are decorated with paintings of admired figures of the centuries. You are going to be the art patrons who sponsor renewed artists and commission artworks in order to raise your position in the social hierarchy. Yes, definitely what the typical bourgeoisie was depicted during the 1600s. Let’s play La Stanza and speak during the game with a plum in your mouth!
La Stanza has two major mechanics. The first one is, of course, area movement; you’ll move your piece in a circuit to gather the renowned figures in many disciplines. The second one is the set collection: you’ll need to have a set of these iconic chaps in order to get the best possible output to win the game, whether it be Prestige Points or any other benefits.
To learn the complete rule, you can read it here. After setting up the board in the middle and distributing the player boards, tokens, and money to the player, the first player will start to move his/her figurine on the middle board 1-4 spaces ahead (starting from the blue room) to take the painting of his/her liking. The empty and/or occupied spaces are not counted during the movement, though. After taking this painting, it will be placed on the Recruitment track on the player board. Then, the player may pass, gain money, or activate a discipline.
Anyway, the game revolves mostly in the discipline activations. You can activate the discipline based on the room your figurine is in! However, you can by-pass this requirement by spending one Meeple that matches the colour of the discipline’s room (you can activate that discipline even though you are in another room). Then, you must hire at least one character of the appropriate discipline to your worker track.
The round concludes when there are two empty rooms. All paintings will be replenished and the round marker will be advanced to the next round. At the end of the last round, each player will get three turns before the game ends. Afterwards, we can start to count all Prestige Points the players have gathered. Whoever gets the most points wins the game. There are several tie-breaker, too!
After a few gameplay involving all player counts, I would say that La Stanza exceeds my expectation. In general, expect the game to last for approximately 60 minutes. The game is designed for 2-4 players and La Stanza is enjoyable in all player counts but I prefer to play this game with all 4 players.
The artwork & components
A disclaimer: my La Stanza I own is a deluxe edition so this one might vary if you have the retail one. I don’t have the retail one but I think it would not be really giving any difference, though. The box is pretty thick and all the boards as well. They are pretty robust and you would feel the weight, too. The components are massive especially the first player marker. Everything is okay and I do like them so much. Coins are made of metal. They have weight and I really love it.
The art style is really typical euro game. It’s classical and simple. They illustrated the paintings with realism and it sure fits the theme. The colour palettes are vibrant enough to please your sight.
I didn’t find any major difficulty while reading La Stanza’s rulebook. It explains in a constructed manner and you’ll get the whole idea of the game after reading it once. There are several illustrations on how to set up, what to do in each room, how the game ends, and how to calculate Prestige Points.
However, they missed explaining what are the A, B, and C spaces for. Turns out they are to track the last three turns each player gets after all rounds are concluded. I think they still should have mentioned otherwise such a minor mistake might escalate to major confusion. Anyway, that’s the only complaint I had.
La Stanza is really enjoyable. You’ll be surprised by what they have packed inside this blue box.
It’s a light euro, trust me!
Don’t let La Stanza’s appearance fool you. It may look intimidating with the huge box and abundant components but La Stanza is much more friendly than that. Yes, it is still a euro game but trust me, it’s not that complicated to play. In fact, I feel that it’s quite light and pretty quick to play! This game may even be a gateway game to other circuit kinds of game. Perhaps you can bring it on the table before you introduce something like Teotihuacan.
You have to be flexible
La Stanza is pretty much fluid between strategy and tactic. You can devise your plan for the next few steps but it really depends on which paintings are available. Don’t forget that you can only move up to 4 spaces ahead and this does not include empty painting spaces and the spaces your opponents occupy. That would change quickly when someone triggers the end of the round and all empty spaces start to get replenished. It’s like, “Oopsies, now you can’t go that far because there are more available paintings in front of you.”
Once you feel that you cannot achieve what you want, you can start planning in the other direction. This creates a balance between how you should plan and how should you react mid-game.
The importance of not being an atheist in this game…
The tile restriction on your player board also pushes you to utilise the Religion room. I mean, you will not be able to craft the ‘masterpiece’ in each room if you only depend on the tiles you have on your board. With only 5 available tile spaces and you need at least 6 Strengths plus 1 Strength from other Discipline, you have to rely on the Religion to give additional Strengths to reach the requirement. Neat, I might be a believer once more.
Money is important, or not…?
While in many euro games you can convert your excess money/resources into victory points, it is not the case with La Stanza. Yes, money plays an important role in the game to recruit the icons to be your workers, but that’s it. You really have to be careful when you want to generate the Florins (currency in this game) because you have to swipe the Financier tile to the right, making the available space for workers to be more expensive. When it reaches the rightmost space, you can flip the Financier tile and put it back to the leftmost space but it will give you -5 Prestige Points at the end of the game.
So… Is it worth it? Well, the answer is: it depends. Just be careful managing the Florins!
With randomised paintings on each room and randomised Bonus tiles we use during each gaming session, La Stanza offers different things. I really wish they have more Bonus tiles so we can explore more gameplay and strategy, though.
La Stanza has neat mechanics and a solid design. It is definitely light and a fast-paced game. Its blitz nature does not mean this game is meant to be a filler, though. It has depth with the balance between strategy and tactic that catches your opponent off-guard. Is it enjoyable as a family game? I would say yes because I think even the most casual players can enjoy this game so much.