Billabong Boardgamers

Dolce Vita

Publisher: Hans im Glueck
Players: 3-5
Reviewed by Debbie Pickett
Reproduced here with kind permission from Funagain Games.

The essentials of life - at $100,000 and up

Dolce Vita is a game for those who like to think rich. You and your fellow players are trying to get the best collection of some of the basic essentials of living: a mansion, a fancy holiday, a yacht, a watch, some fine jewellery, a thoroughbred racehorse and a holiday for when you have to get away from the daily grind.

There are seven of each of these assets, worth a grand $700,000 down to a paltry $100,000, plus a little cash to be had, at $100,000 or $200,000 a pop. Each of these appears on its own card, with all of these asset cards being laid out in seven columns and nine rows. Now you and your fellow players must try to obtain the best assets.

How you do this is play one of six influence cards (numbered 1 to 6) below one of the seven columns of asset cards. By having the greatest influence in a column you are entitled to the top card of that column. The playing of influence cards goes around the table until everyone has played all but one of their influence cards. You are allowed to put more than one influence card on a column.

Now the columns of assets are distributed to the players, starting with the leftmost column. Each player totals his or her influence in this column. Any players who tie are removed before the asset cards are distributed. (This makes it pointless for two players to go after the one item, because the second player can always equal the first player's influence.) Then the player with the highest influence takes the top card of the column, the next-highest player gets the next card, and so on.

Here's the catch. You can only keep one of each kind of asset. Say you already have a yacht worth $500,000. In one column there is a watch worth $600,000, and below it a yacht worth $100,000. You want the watch, but unfortunately someone else wants it more and beats your influence. They take the watch and you get the miserable $100,000 scow, even though you already had one worth five times as much. Worse still, you have to discard your $500,000 yacht and keep the $100,000 dinghy you just earned! Cash, fortunately, is exempt from this uniqueness rule, so it is always fine to collect cash, even though it may not be worth as much.

This continues for a set number of rounds, and then at the end of the game, you total your assets and cash. The player with the highest total wins.

This is a very simple game to learn - we managed to figure it out from the German rules with no fuss - yet it provides great potential for player interaction. Not only do you need to keep an eye out for the good assets, but you need to know what your opponents want, as often what you want is the third card down in a column. In this case, you have to play the influence card that you hope will be beaten by exactly two other players, unless one of those two players is watching your assets and deliberately undercuts you, forcing you to replace a valuable asset with a less-valuable one. This back-and-forth of bluff and attack makes the game a joy to play (except perhaps when you lose your $700,000 racehorse).

Dolce Vita is beautifully illustrated by long-time artist Doris Matthäus, and it feels very much like a game by that 'other' Reiner of the gaming world, Reiner Knizia. Plenty of fun, and lots of opportunity to get into the character of a rich snob sneering at just another $100,000 cash. Now bring me a martini.

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