WBG Score: 8.5
Player Count: 2-4
Designed by: Reiner Knizia
By Steve Godfrey
This is a review copy. See our review policy here
When you visit a glassware shop as a parent you come to realise the great circle of life. When I was younger I’d always hear my parents telling me not to touch anything. I’d then shoot a look back with a disgusted expression of “I’m not gonna break anything”, I mean, do they really not trust me? Of course now as a parent I find myself doing the same with my kids because yeah, I absolutely don’t trust them. At the same time I still don’t trust myself so i still shuffle around them with my hands firmly in my pockets. Anyway, we should probably talk about this game about the cycle of glass! (You’re all singing the song from the Lion King now right?)
How to blow glass
During setup each player will be given diamonds in their chosen colour and have everyone set three of them aside, you may need these later. Then deal five cards from the deck to everyone. FYI they aren’t really diamonds unfortunately, I guess they’re saving those for the Swarovski edition. Place a number of cards face up next to the board depending on player count then pick a first player.
A turn will see players simultaneously choosing a card from their hand and placing it face down in front of them. In turn order players will reveal their card and place one of their diamonds in the area matching the card on the board and scoring some points. Once everyone has played, pass your remaining hand of cards to the player on your left and go again until all but one card has been played. The leftover cards are placed next to the board face up with the others. New cards will be dealt out, the first player marker rotates and everything goes again. The game will end when either all the cards have run out or a player places their last diamond token. In this instance that player finish their turn using the diamonds they set aside earlier if necessary, then any player with a face down card plays their turn then the game ends.
There are five areas on the board. Each one has its own way of scoring points and for the most part are easy enough to pick up. The harbour is probably the trickiest to get your head round of the five. I won’t go into how each one works but they all have a couple of things in common. Each one has an objective to complete which will net you an end game scoring bonus, which I’ll admit now, we always score during the game. For example, in one area, covering one of each symbol first will get you this bonus. The first to complete it gets twenty points, the second fifteen etc.
They all also have ways to get at those extra cards that were placed on the side of the board during setup. For example, if you surround a diamond symbol in the Workshops area. When this happens you get to take one of the cards from the side of the board and essentially have another turn immediately. Everything here stacks as well, so if you claim a bonus card then the action you take could lead to a second bonus card and so on.
The Circle of Glass
Even though it’s not billed as such, Mille Fiore immediately gave me major flip and write vibes when I first started playing it. The whole board seems to evoke that whole ethos of those types of game, most of all, Ganz Schon Clever with its different sections and combo scoring. Place a token here, get points and if you’ve planned well then you can chain together some bonuses for some really satisfying combos. The big difference here of course is that it’s not a flip and write and you’re not playing a multiplayer solitaire game. Nope, here you’re sharing the board with the whole table, so your best laid plans can easily be scuppered by any of the players before you. It's the equivalent of having someone else lean over and scribble on your paper.
The beauty of this shared board is the wonderful amount of interaction you gain. So often you’ll play a card and find an opponent glaring at you with that look of “how dare you” as you realise you’ve snapped up the space that was going to lead to their most epic scoring combo yet. I can easily see that frustrating some people but quite frankly, I love it. Aside from the fun banter it leads to, It also really adds to the tension as you wait, desperately hoping that no one steals that vital space.
Although your own plays are important, working out what your opponent's are up to will be just as important, and that’s where the drafting and the strategy really shine through. For example, the residences section is all about chaining numbers together. So someone getting their diamond on a space before you get your turn could be the difference between a ten point space and a one point space. I hope you’ve remembered what cards you passed and what’s been played because that could make or break your decision. Do you play it safe and try something else or do you risk it for a biscuit? It provides a really fun back and forth as you try and second guess what others are doing, all the while they're doing exactly the same as you.
Just as an FYI biscuit based bribery will usually work on me. I’m working out the loopholes on this in our review policy as you read this.
The great thing in Mille Fiore is that pretty much everything will get you points. It’s a huge point salad, but one that’s made of glass……please don’t eat glass salads, they make your mouth hurt, taste very samey and no amount of salad cream will help.
Getting a point or two when you put a tile down is nice, but it’s when you manage to rack up those big points on a turn that you really get that satisfying hit….and you just want more. Which makes those moments when someone takes that away from you feel like someone had let a rhino loose in your glassware shop (I’m sure there’s a better phrase for that somewhere).
Walking on broken glass
The theme gets pretty much lost when you're actually playing. In fact the rulebook doesn’t even try to give any explanation aside from giving names to the different areas. What wasn’t lost on me though is how pretty this game looks, especially as the game goes on and the board fills out. The coloured “glass” tiles really make the board pop. You’ll find yourself wanting to play this with the full four players just so you can see the board filled up with those wonderful colours. It’s one of those photogenic games that you’ll want to take as many photos of as you can before the sad task of packing it all away.
On the subject of packing it all away, this is a pretty easy task, since once you put everything in baggies, it all gets packed away in an unnecessarily big trench in the middle of the box which is way too big for its relatively small footprint. Yes the box needs to be that big to accommodate the board, but I can’t help but wonder if the box needed to be quite so deep.
Mille Fiori may not have the initial box cover appeal to draw you in the same way that a lot of recent titles, but it’s a game that you absolutely need to play if you have the opportunity. Even if it’s just to see the pretty colours on the board.