See also: Games of the Italian Renaissance
This is not really a review as I have only played the game once and that back in the early 1980's. Rather consider this a request for more information about a game which seems to have gone out of print and out of the minds of everyone, seemingly undeservedly so. Well, maybe not quite everyone as Reiner Knizia has chosen Medici and RA as titles for his two of his games, both of which were originally titles for Donadoni/International Team efforts. Coincidence? or does Reiner Knizia have a set of these games lying around inspiring to make a better game on the same subject? If so, for future reference, here is a list of other Donadoni titles: Leonardo, Oskor, Roma, Zargos.
What I seem to remember of the game is that it was for 4-6 players who represent the following powers of the XVthcentury: Holy Roman Emperor, Ottoman Turk Sultan, Pope, King of Spain, King of France and the head of the famous Medici family of Florence. The hardback board was nicely decorated including a nicely-rendered symbol of each of powers in their starting area. There was some nice period flourish illustration as well. The setup was hexagonal and each player had a path by which his pawns could visit his direct left and right neighbors. In addition, each side had a direct path to the center of the board. Players other than the direct neighbors could only be reached by traveling through the neighbors or the center.
Also included in the game were 6 domestic army pawns for each player, 36 mercenary pawns, 12 ambassador cards, 6 lady cards, 50 coins and 2 dice. At the beginning, each player receives the 6 domestic army pawns, 1 lady, 2 ambassadors and 3 coins.
I recall one of the players trying to collect as much money as possible. In the end, this did not give him the win however, partly because the amount of money in the game is countermix limited and no matter what your profit rate, if the bank is empty, you receive nothing. The game is actually won by eliminating all enemy domestic army pawns.
On his turn each player enters or breaks alliances or marriages; he purchases mercenary troops, moves as many pawns as the throw of the dice allows and settles any combats caused by his moves. Then the next player acts, etc. Movement is somewhat like Backgammon, but the player may move as many of his pawns as he wishes so long as he uses up all of the pips showing on the dice. Pawns may enter an enemy space but must stop unless allied, in which case they may not stop but must continue on. Combats are resolved without random chance by simple calculation of the difference between the number of pawns.
Income is provided to the player on the basis of the number of spaces occupied by a single domestic pawn. This provides one of the basic dilemmas of the game, whether to stack together to present a strong defense or spread out and gain more wealth. In any case, with the money thus earned, players may hire out mercenary troops at a rate of three coins per pawn, placing them in their capital, unless the capital is enemy-occupied, in which case they may not be hired at all. An interesting twist is that during combat, enemy mercenaries may be paid to simply go home and not fight at all. This is done at the same rate as hiring the troops in the first place so should not be done lightly, but may prove invaluable in a pinch.
Alliances were one of the more significant and novel subsystems. Each player may offer alliance to any player and if accepted, ambassadors are exchanged. Alliance permits joint attacks and unlike some other games, alliances are law: allies absolutely cannot attack one another. Alliances can be broken at the start of one's turn, but the breaker can not attack on that turn, while the offended party is fully able to attack on his next turn.
An even stronger form was the marriage alliance and yes, even non-Christian Turks and the celibate Papacy are permitted to marry (the pope's siblings and cousins, I suppose). In this form, the player making the proposal gives away his lady card along with a dowry of three coins. The significance of this form of alliance is that the proposer may never break it while the other party may break it, but to do so must return the lady as well as the dowry doubled, and again, gives the offended party one full turn of warning. It might seem like there is little reason to ever pursue this form of alliance, but as I recall these unions were actually quite frequent.
It is possible that the alliance may together achieve the game's victory conditions, in which case the affected players may break the alliance or simply agree to share the victory. An odd condition may thus result where for a few turns it is desireable to break the alliance, but the married partners cannot afford to return the dowries. Note also that because of the multiple alliance possibilities, there may be more than just two allied partners in this state and thus some jockeying to decide who leaves the alliance first.
Other drawbacks of the game are that players are knocked out before it is over and that it could go on for several hours before resolution or resignation.
I have no idea what happened to International Team or Donadoni for that matter as neither seem to have produced any games in more than a decade. I know of no International Team games after 1982 and Donadoni's last games seem to have been published in Germany (Donadoni is from Milan) as long ago as 1990.Update of February 4, 2003: Message from Andrés J. Voicu: If you are searching for recent games by Marco Donadoni, daVinci has presented his Tuchulcha at the Nürnberg fair (link below).