Not Just a War Game
Are you one for high levels of authenticity when you’re choosing a board-based game to play? You could look for decades and still not find a game that covers as specific a period as that recreated in The Great Italian Wars. This is card-based game that can be used with miniatures of your choosing. Designed for 4 players, The Great Italian Wars focuses on battles and other events taking place in the late Italian renaissance period. You can expect to recreate various scenarios, with battles being just one possible outcome of the ruleset that the box contains upon arrival. It can be quite a thrilling affair to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the Italian renaissance, and the way in which this game goes about it is quite innovative as you’ll read in the review below.
The Great Italian Wars is a card-based game that focuses on the period of the late Italian Renaissance, focusing in detail on various events and scenarios (not just battles) taking place between the years 1494 and 1527. This period of 33 years may be a short one compared to the thousands of years of Italian history that can be studied, but this is an eventful 33 years that saw a number of conflicts – often known as the Habsburg-Valois wars or by the game’s title, The Great Italian Wars – as well as social and political unrest in the country.
This isn’t a game that’s focused solely on conflict however. In fact, the official tagline for the game displayed in the rulebook as “Intrigue, treaties, battles, weddings, and arts in the Italian Renaissance”. From this tagline it should be obvious that this isn’t a straight-up battle-centric boardgame of the likes of those you’ll find on Naval War Simulations’ website. Instead you’ll be experiencing battles as a very minimum, with the game attempting to recreate the social and political atmosphere of the time through various non-conflict events like weddings, political sagas, and even the demonstration of then-contemporary artwork through the game’s cards.
The period covered here is 1494-1527. The game is designed for between two and six players in an ideal situation, with gameplay lasting between one and two hours with a fairly forgiving difficulty. Gameplay attempts to recreate five of the eight conflicts that took place during the time period specified above. The components of the pack include character cards, action cards, event cards, place cards, turn cards, control tiles, artwork tiles, and crown tiles.
This game’s tendency to focus not just on military battles (as is the case with many games focusing on the early modern period such as Wellington’s Victory) but also on the wider aspects of the Italian Renaissance is further supported by the game’s format. Usually in card games like these, each player would align themselves with a certain faction represented by the cards that they hold, but this is not the case here. Instead your aim is to progress your very own real-life character (through the character cards) through the trials and tribulations of life during late-renaissance Italy. The character cards are modelled on real-life figures and therefore can be played by history buffs looking for a truly authentic experience.
The unusual format of the game and its focus not purely battles but on the wider social, political, military, and even cultural aspects of the Italian renaissance makes it an incredibly rich and authentic experience. It’s an easy game to play with a very easy-to-understand ruleset. It’s a shame there aren’t any miniatures included but the game can easily be customised to include such figures and a game board could easily be drawn up by the truly dedicated player. This is a very specific time period and as such will likely appeal to those interested in this period of Italian history, but its easy-to-learn gameplay allows the game to be enjoyed by most.