Publisher: Eagle-Gryphon Games
Designer: Vital Lacerda
Players: 1 – 4
Time: 60-120 min
Lisboa is an economic, political city builder about the reconstruction of Lisbon after the great earthquake of 1755.
In the Box
If you’re familiar with Eagle-Gryphon Games, the component quality needs no introduction. However, for those of you who are not, Eagle-Gryphon is lauded for their quality and Lisboa is no exception. There are far too many components to single each one out, but I’ll highlight 3 of my favorites.
1. The board
Incredibly beautiful illustrations that mirror historical context. Lacerda went as far as to keep the street layout historically accurate.
2. Player Boards
Recessed to hold cubes, State officials, houses and portfolio cards.
3. Political Cards
Linen finished and beautifully illustrated depicting XVIII century Portuguese tiles.
The rulebook also deserves an honorable mention. It is well laid out, thorough and includes historical context behind the devastation of Lisbon. Not only are you getting a beautiful game in the box but also a history lesson as well!
Lisboa is the heaviest of the “heavy weight” genre I’ve played and reviewed. Unfortunately, I’ve not played any of Lacerda’s other games so I was honestly intimidated at first. I took time to watch play-throughs and to read the rules multiple times before attempting to play. I decided to play 2 solo games before attempting to teach my group and it was an excellent decision. Thankfully, Lisboa includes player reference books.
If you are familiar with Lisboa, you can jump to my Final Thoughts; if you’re interested in learning the basics, continue reading!
Turn Sequence: Choose 1 of 5 cards in your hand and take 1 of 4 actions:
- Play any card into your portfolio (i.e. your player tableau).
- Play a Noble card to the Royal Court.
- Play a Treasury Card to the Royal Court.
- Discard a card for 1 Gold Good.
At the end of your turn, draw the top card from 1 political deck: Builder, Minister, King or Treasury.
4th Wall Break: What sets Lisboa apart is the way the 4 actions multiply into chain effects that lead to more decisions. I call this, “The Decision Tree from Hell.” Alright, it isn’t quite THAT complex, though it is a brain burner.
Below, I will summarize each of the 4 actions.
Play any card into your portfolio.
- If the card you’ve played is a Noble, tuck it into the top of your board and resolve the reward or penalty.
- If it is a Treasury Card, tuck it into the bottom of your board, earn money equal to the current Treasury marker and then move the Treasury marker down one space.
4th Wall Break: After you play a card into your portfolio, YOU MUST be able to sell goods or trade with the Nobles. If you cannot do either of those, you cannot play a card into your portfolio.
- Sell Goods: Take 1 or more goods from your portfolio and choose 1 docked ship of any player. Move a good token (Gold, Books, Cloth or Tools) onto an empty dock below the ship and receive money for that good equal to the current market price. You can sell any number of goods to any Ship(s) until they are full.
4th Wall Break: If the number of goods on the dock is equal to the ship’s hull, that ship is full and will set sail. On that player’s next turn, he will earn Wigs for each docked good. Be careful not to give your opponents to much of the upper hand!
- Trade with the Nobles: When you trade, take 1 or 2 goods from your portfolio and select one of the six State actions that is not currently covered with a good and perform that action. Every Noble can be bribed with Gold but each one also accepts 1 specific good. The Builder requires Tools, the Minister requires Books and the King requires Cloth. The six actions are:
- Recruit Two State Officials – Move 2 of your State Officials from your portfolio to two different Nobles’ offices.
- Acquire a Plan – Take either the Blue or Green plan. These are required to build Public Buildings.
- Build a Ship – Pay the number of different goods equal to the hull size of the Ship. Select an open slot at the top of your board and tuck it under, move the Treasury marker up 1 space and then gain Influence depicted on all your Nobles and Ships in your portfolio.
- Produce Goods – For each store you own, take 1 of that Goods type. Each type that is produced drops the Market price track by 1 space.
- Meet the Cardinal – Advance the Cardinal meeple 1 or 2 spaces clockwise and take an adjacent clergy tile. If the Cardinal landed on or passes over the Treasury or Influence icon, move the Treasury marker up 1 space or trigger Church scoring at the end of the turn. During Church Scoring, a player may discard any Clergy tiles they own, gain the Wigs on the back and gain Influence from the cards in their portfolio.
- Get a Royal Favor – Take any type of Royal Favor you do not already have.
Play a Noble to the Royal Court and visit that Noble.
- Choose a Noble card from your hand and play it to the Royal Court on the game board and place your Courtier meeple on top.
- Spend influence to visit the Noble on the card you played.
- Optionally, may perform one of that Noble’s State actions for free.
- You MUST take the Noble’s action. If you cannot, then you may not visit a Noble.
Manuel da Maia (The Builder): Build a Store. Select an available city tile from the display. Select an empty land space touching the street that matches the tile you chose. Get the reward depicted on the land space and take 1 rubble cube from the row or column of the space you chose and place the rubble in your portfolio. Pay for the land and place the tile with 1 wooden house from your portfolio near the entrance (the notch in the tile). Optionally, you may earn Wigs for the store if a Public Building is in the same row or column.
Marquis de Pombal (The Minister): Take a Decree. These cards are used as end game goals. There is no limit to the number of Decrees you may own and only you may score for your decrees.
D. Jose I (The King): Open a Public Building. You must have a Plan from the architect who designed the building you want to open to take this action. Select a Public Construction site space on the game board, the outer ring of tiles to the West, North and East of downtown. Take the rubble cubes from the space and place them at the leftmost matching empty spaces on your portfolio then take the reward depicted on the space. Select and show all players the plan you are completing and then return the number of State Officials indicated on the plan from Nobles’ offices or plazas on the game board. If you do not have enough State Officials, you may hire them at the price indicated on the current location of the Treasury Marker. If you placed an East or West building, the owner of each store in the row earns Wigs if the store faces the street colors depicted on the Public Building. For a North building, the owner of each store facing the street of the new building earns Wigs.
4th Wall Break: When a player visits a Noble, each other player may follow that visit. Return the Royal Favor tile for the Noble toure visiting. Each player that follows, spends Influence to visit the Noble and then takes one of the 3 actions that Noble offers.
Play a Treasury Card to the Royal Court and Sponsor an Event
- Pay the cost in reis (currency) equal to the current Treasury value (the number to the right of the Treasury marker).
- Perform the action / receive the reward depicted in the center of the card.
Discard 1 Card for 1 Gold Good.
- This is a last resort. If you absolutely need 1 Gold good, you may discard any card from your hand. This is rarely a good idea and usually a player will have something better they can achieve.
End of the Turn
- Reveal a new Political Card.
- Refill the City Tile(s)
- Refill the Church Track
- Refill the Decrees Display
- Remove Goods from any State actions
End of Period
As soon as anyone completes their 2nd set of Rubble or 3 of the Political decks are empty, finish the current turn. Each player receives 3 Wigs for each complete set of Rubble then discard any Ship cards and refill the board with second period ships. Starting with the player who triggered the end of the period, each player may discard any number of cards from their hand. Each player earns the reward at the bottom of one of each type of Noble discarded, max of 3 rewards. Each player then draws back to 5 cards from the purple Political deck (1763-1768). Prepare the brown deck (1769-1777), separating the 4 decks into their stacks on the game board.
End of the Game
As soon as a player completes 4 sets of Rubble or once again, 3 Political decks are empty, finish the current round. Then, play one final round and then perform end game scoring.
4th Wall Break: This game is a points salad game. I’ve bored you with enough details. I’m not detailing how to score points; go play or buy this game and find out for yourself. :)
Positives and Negatives
- Player Aid is extremely helpful in reducing rules questions and helps learn the flow of the game.
- Beautiful art and illustrations.
- Top-notch component quality.
- Incredibly thematic for a Euro. Historical context permeates the game.
- A beautiful puzzle; gameplay will keep you thinking about the “what-ifs” for days.
- Solid player interaction. You can follow a visit to a noble, add workers to Nobles’ offices, create supply and demand for goods, sell goods to other player’s ships, and the stores you build and public buildings you open directly impact all players.
- Complexity is mitigated by turn action simplicity.
- Player colors are not color blind friendly. Specifically the Green/Orange.
- Each player begins with 1 random clergy tile. The strength differences of the tiles can be huge.
- Iconography on the board game can be lost in the illustrations.
- Too physically heavy to travel with easily.
It’s mindboggling to me that Lisboa was born from someone’s mind and that a game this elegant and “simple” can lead to intensely gratifying and challenging decisions. Each turn fits together like a piece of a puzzle starting to come together to build a work of art. The intricacies of each action build upon one another, weaving small actions and decisions into grander ones later in the game.
While Lisboa can lead to a “points salad” type experience, the greatest satisfaction is seeing the work of each player unfold as they collectively rebuild Lisbon. I’ve never played a more thematic Euro; you can see and feel the passion behind Vital Lacerda’s design. You’re transported back in time to feel the struggles of a post-apocalyptic 18th century Lisbon.
4th Wall Break: I’ll be honest, Lisboa is not for the faint of heart. Lisboa is a game for players who are willing to put in time and effort; to look past the surface complexity and dive into intricate details. It’s not a game that will reward one and done players but very few games will give you a more rewarding experience. Lisboa is art in board game form; an experience to ponder and digest the “what-ifs” of your decisions.
Lisboa is a simplistically complex albiet punishing game and earns 9 Wigs out of 10.
A copy of Lisboa Deluxe was provided for review.