Topic of the Week: The Italian Collective

Similar to last week but a bit more sprawled and focused at the same time.

If you aren’t aware, there is a group of Italians who freely slip in and out of designer partnerships. You’ve probably heard of some of them but not all of them, and may be surprised by what games are connected by this spiderweb. Here, I haven’t listed all of them as many only appear on 2 or 3 games… but if you go to BGG to search for any of these games that only have one designer on my table, you’ll likely find another collaborator there.

Starter questions:

  1. Do you have a favorite designer or favorite team here?
  2. Do you think these partnerships are spawning more quality and innovation? Or driving needless duplication of mechanics into other people’s games?
  3. These are surely the biggest names in Italian boardgaming. Can you tell what makes an “Italian” game? Vs a German, French, American game? Maybe another topic there. Maybe we can just discuss it here!
Game Year Rank Luciani Tascini Gigli Brasini Luperto Tinto
King Up 2004 3110 L
Leonardo da Vinci 2006 1841 G B L T
Comuni 2008 3511 G B L T
Egizia 2009 616 G B L T
Tzolk’in 2012 59 L T
Sheepland 2012 4315 L T
Urbania 2012 5704 L
Grand Austria Hotel 2015 64 L G
Voyages of Marco Polo 2015 89 L T
Council of 4 2015 1295 L T
Lorenzo Il Magnifico 2016 108 L G B
A Tale of Pirates 2017 3106 T
Teotihuacan 2018 85 T
Coimbra 2018 229 G B
Newton 2018 396 L
Barrage 2019 37 L
Marco Polo II 2019 170 L T
Trismegistus 2019 773 T
Terramara 2019 1892 G B L T
Tekhenu 2020 368 T
Alma Mater 2020 1081 G B L T
Golem 2021 690 L G B
Tabannusi: Builders of Ur 2021 1717 T
Tiletum 2022 316 L T
First Rat 2022 750 G
Darwin’s Journey 2023 139 L
Nucleum 2023 314 L
Rats of Wistar 2023 2125 L
Anunnaki: Dawn of the Gods 2023 4059 L

I’d also just like to shout out to Brasini. You look at a list of top designers and it’s an utter sausage fest. Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini are, in fact, dudes, lest you get excited by the English take on “Simone” and “Daniele.” Flaminia Brasini is an honest-to-goodness woman with a hugely respected portfolio spanning a few decades.

You’ve got your years and ranks mixed up on some entries. That or you are a time traveler and know things from up to 2000 years in the future. Which is it?

Out of these games, I’ve only played TZolk’in once, so again a topic which I do not have much to contribute. It was good?

1 Like


(edit: fixed)

Probably my favourite ones from the collection are Tzolkin (with the expansion) and Sheepland. The latter is very SICS-y, where you bet which land would be the most valuable (i.e. which land has the most sheep)

Teotihuacan is a good Euro as well, but not my fave. The others, I’m not interested on playing nor wowed when played.

Teotihuacan is fine, but not that interesting after a few plays. Tekhenu I just don’t think I like. Both of them I associate more with Turzci for some reason, even though both him and Tascini are credited. Both feel like a whole bunch of mechanics obtusely linked where your actions are restricted and even if you wanted to do everything there’s not enough time. So all you do is work out the most efficient way to do the one thing that will get you the most points. Tzolkin I bloody love however.

1 Like

I really like First Rat and Tzolk’in. Have played Teotihiuacan and Coimbra, which are both ok, although I prefer the former to the latter.

Side comment, just noting how many duds people have to produce to create a few hits. There’s only two exceptions - designers like Rosenburg, Lehmann, or Leacock who stick to familiar tropes to keep on safe ground, or Vital Lacerda.

Maybe Rosenburg, too. His games are all related but fall into at least a few genres and archetypes.

Lacerda, though. I don’t think he’s the best out there, but his average hit rate is remarkable.

Maybe a topic for another week?

I got my designers who have excellent batting average (for my taste, obviously) - surprisingly, Knizia isn’t one of them

1 Like

We’re already having an interesting discussion on “complexity.” I did want to tee up “who is the best designer and what is the best criteria” after we’d talked about most of the big names, so that’s close.

And then “what makes a game French? American? Japanese? German? Italian? Scandinavian?” Or anything else, I can’t think of any other locality that has enough marquee games that I could start triangulating.

I know about most of these, have seen them at SPIEL and at least evaluated them for interest and dismissed most of them for there being other games that interested me more at the time.

I‘ve played

  • Tzolkin: 2 times on BGA I think, I almost bought it after that
  • Teotihuacan : I owned this, tried to learn it, felt I wasn‘t getting along with at all and sold it on
  • Barrage: one very confusing game on BGA. It felt like it would be fascinating if I grokked it enough to formulate a strategy. Felt very opaque.
  • Darwin‘s Journey: backed while half asleep on KS, played 2 learning games, didn‘t like it then. But many months later I feel like it might be better than I gave it credit for at first and so I plan to go back eventually.
  • Nucleum: bought recently as FLGS tax. Played a solo game that took a very long time. But I think I like this one and want to keep it and play again. More accessible than Barrage. Comes together smoother than Darwin‘s Journey.

I swear there should be more games from this design collective but I might be confusing them with some other designers.

The games I know and have played or the ones I have evaluated are always on the more complex euro side. Somewhat convoluted, sometimes with too many moving pieces—literally in the case of Tzolkin. Tzolkin is probably the best of those I played for me subjectively. It had the least superfluous pieces. Barrage is probably the better game, but I didn‘t grok it. Also it is way too beige.

I feel these designers tend to baroque flourishes of systems and rules that I do not appreciate for the most part. Always dangerously close or beyond the red line of „too much“… Darwin‘s Journey felt like that. Nucleum almost went over the line. If you look at my reports on both I was definitely complaining about Darwin‘s Journey that I wanted to cut some subsystems.

I am still very interested in trying out Tiletum. I don‘t know something about the map and the board speaks to me. When I come across a really cheap copy I might jump.

1 Like

That doesn’t surprise me at all.

The guys got volume, and the survivot bias is real.


On topic, all the kind of games I don’t like largely. I enjoyed Council of 4 and T’zolkin breaks my brain but is a masterpiece of design for the board.

Most of the others I’ve played just don’t grab me.


I’m again surprised at how little interest there is for this collection. I’ll blurb each one at some point, but Tzolk’in (generally positive), Grand Austria, Lorenzo, and Teotihuacan at least I thought would be common favorites.

I do think these people peaked at some point (Tzolk’in to Marco Polo II?) and what came before and after has been derivative and overcomplicated.


Oh wow. I forgot about Marco Polo!! This was one of my fave Euros back when i was into Euro games, and this game is still pretty swell in my eyes. Rather simple mid-weight game, but the efficiency game is tight and strategic decisions are decisive. The characters are also very good.

In hindsight, I don’t understand SUSD’s take on trying to shoe-horn in theme on a drab Euro game in their review, but I think that was one of their burnout years.

Other than this and what I mentioned above, I’m not really into Euros. I find these games highly discouraging to pick up as they are so “complicated but shallow”. They often don’t survive repeated plays.

Tzolkin is a design that requires discipline, and I am very surprised to see how the duo didn’t screwed up Tzolkin. Euro game designers, by default, lacks discipline.

I have tried Barrage a few more, but can confirm Wyvern’s inital impression that the worker placement to be scripted. When people say that Barrage is great because the worker placement is tight, that’s a highly suspicious take on how often they play a game (cough SVWAG cough). The dam infrastructure game I initially liked a lot, again, due to its shared incentive properties, but found that to be so mute since the requirement to setup a dam leans the players hard on self-efficiency like your standard Euro. It got very boring ot play after.


So I can explain my „lack“ of interest. A lot of my personal game buying decisions (and realistically nobody around me would buy this type of game so I only get to play what I buy) are via reviews, crowdfunding or SPIEL and these designers i mostly encounter via SPIEL. At SPIEL there is a lot of competition for my attention and these are hard to sit down and play a full game of so unless they are at the top of my list already the games won‘t make the cut.

Here are some of my SPIEL impressions of these games:

  • Terramara: looked a little on the boring side. 2019 had: The Crew, Paladins of the WK, Wingspan, Clank! Legacy → and that‘s just the games from that year that I got around that time, it was a strong year and a bland looking game from them
  • Trismegistus: one look at the board had me running, just so busy.
  • Golem: too dark looking
  • Alma Mater: discussions about depiction of women in games vs historic accuracy that put the game in a bad light for me before I ever got to see it at SPIEL
  • Coimbra was 2018. Games I played at SPIEL included Architects of the WK, Solenia, Spirits of the Forest and Treasure Island that year. The German version of Spirit Island was out that year I think and that was at the top of my hype list. Coimbra was on my list but way below the cut…
  • Egizia in 2009 had Smallworld, Jaipur and The Resistance as contemporaries (and CaH but we don‘t talk about CaH). I remember seeing it at SPIEL but nothing beyond that.
  • Marco Polo was 2015 and I was busy adoring Codenames, The Bloody Inn, Pandemic Legacy 1 (!!!), Barony, 504 and even Rattle Battle Grab the Loot. There was no time for a plain old Euro. That was a good SPIEL year.

I have heard that Tzolk’in has a “broken” strategy, which I think you can toggle on BGA to disallow it. However, I’ve never managed to stumble upon it so perhaps that’s one that you discover by playing one game obsessively :person_shrugging:

It took a while for me to promote Coimbra from “bad” to “okay”. I think because of the art? I remember finding it very busy the first time I played

Edit: perhaps the yellow table didn’t do it any favours :laughing:


Fwiw I think Coimbra is gorgeous. It seemed to pop up everywhere last year for under 20 quid.

There’s a lot of games here that I think me from a few years ago would have loved. Teo was the first game I ever sold, but I know people who love it. Marco Polo was fun but got lost in in the time when I was buying too many games.

I have a friend who loves T’zolkin. I’d like to try Barrage but don’t want to learn it async on BGA.

A lot of these are on BGA which has made them very accessible.

I don’t think this group can be discussed without mentioning that a friend of mine flat out refuses to play anything by Tascini because he has said some highly racist things in the past.


Like a lot of games, I haven’t played many. Partly becuase my gaming time is restricted and most of these games just make me groan. I don’t really have many people championing them localy to get me interested, apart from someone I know loves Grand Austria Hotel.

They all look like rules heavy, upfront complexity games which I don’t have the inclination to play.


Then there are the Italians who collaborate mostly with each other:

  • Gabriele Mari, Gianluca Santopietro (Letters from Wihtechapel, Whitehall Mystery)
  • Roberto Di Meglio, Marco Maggi, Francesco Nepitello (War of the Ring, Battle of Five Armies, Age of Conan, Marvel Heroes)

I like Marvel Heroes: one of those “story” games for me that I can enjoy solo or two-handly and gets more game time for me than other Marvel/superhero titles.

My inital thought was Paolo Mori of Ethnos, Libertalia, Blitzkrieg!, Caesar and Pandemic: Fall of Rome fame (among others)


Would you look at that! I, at one point, was digging into different designers and I was surprised to find that “Bruno Faidutti” was French. “Bruno Cathala” as well. For some reason I was convinced that Mori was also one of these fake Italians but you’re right, he’s real-life Italian.

I’m surprised I forgot Ares games, they’re the real deal. I at one point knew Whitehall was Italian as well but that one I can believe forgetting!