Topic of the Week: Vital Lacerda

An idea here: we spend a lot of time catching up on the same things (which is great) - what we’re buying, playing, reading, writing, and how we’re doing. Side topics come up from time to time like how @yashima can’t eat cherries?

But if people don’t mind I thought I’d launch an experiment. Just toss a topic out there each week to spark conversations in different directions or hear peoples’ thoughts in areas that haven’t come up? Most my topic ideas are gaming related (designers, publishers, eras, mechanics, production) but no reason it has to be.

We can modify or kill anytime.

For a trial, though, Vital Lacerda

Love? Hate? Experiences? Sessions?

2009: Age of Steam - Portugal
2010 / 2016: Vinhos / Deluxe
2012 / 2018: CO2 / Second Chance
2014 / 2021: Kanban / EV
2015: The Gallerist
2017: Lisboa
2019: Escape Plan
2019: Dragon Keepers
2019: Railways of Portugal
2020: On Mars
2021: Mercado de Lisboa (hey, this is on BGA)
2022: Weather Machine
2023: Bot Factory (Kanban Lite??)


Just from typing that list I’m noticing the patterns. Looks like we should expect The Gallerist 2 in the next year or two, followed by The Gallerist Lite.

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I have only played On Mars.
I wanted to have 1 of his games after watching a bunch of reviews and it was my “I need all the Mars games phase”.

On Mars is great. I would love to have the brainspace to play it more often.
It is beautiful and once you understand the rules it has a got a nice flow.
But I think it is a bit over-engineered rules-wise. Does it need all that rules-complexity or would a simpler ruleset have delivered a better flow while having a similarly complex game experience?

Too many flourishes.

Like when I write code that uses too much abstraction and while it might be efficient code that is–in theory–easy to extend, it usually turns out that it is so hard to grasp what to do, that people make mistakes or just go an entirely different route.

I think I should have gone with my first hunch: The Gallerist. I remember seeing people carry around bags with it at SPIEL and was wondering why so many people had such a huge box of a game I had never heard of by a designer I also had never heard of. As far as I am aware it has a simpler ruleset while retaining the gameplay complexity?

I am also still interested in trying CO^2 if it ever happens to be on a table near me. I doubt that.

I was initially somewhat interested in Bot Factory and would totally play if someone put it in front of me.

I wouldn’t mind a new iteration on that one :slight_smile:


Despite owning several, I’ve only actually played Kanban EV after hearing its praise by a good friend who claims it’s one of his favorite games of all time. I recall seeing, years ago when I was first entering the hobby, Rahdo’s runthrough of the original Kanban and thinking, “uh, no, I don’t need any of that in my life”. My tastes have changed, for certain, since then.

I looked briefly into Weather Machine when pre-orders were coming around for it, but decided it was “too much of the same” for me to need to look any further.

On my shelf of opportunity:

  • Vinhos Deluxe
  • The Gallerist
  • Lisboa

I also looked very hard at Bot Factory; it looked like a great “schoolnight Kanban EV”. But I think the general consensus that I’ve seen is that it doesn’t bring enough to the table to warrant a second box on your shelf.


For most of my gaming life I thought Lacerda and Luciani were the same person. When I realized they weren’t, I wrote Lacerda off. Most warm bodies I can play with don’t tolerate anything over a “3” for complexity.

Sometime in the last few months I was craving something really solid to work through. Reddit directed me toward Kanban, Gallerist, or Lisboa as the best places to start.


Lisboa was the second game I backed after Arcadia Quest. I really liked it for a long time. My tastes have changed which I think is the biggest killer for my enthusiasm but I also felt as time went on there were a few too many position relative to other players issues that cropped up so I sold it. That being said I think there’s much that’s positive about the design. It manages to have a solid core of simplicity on which the complexity on. You play a card and do it’s things is an over simplification but is the door in to which you access your turn which makes it much more learnable than many. Another thing I like is the focussed scoring. There’s a lot to juggle but you do need to mainly focus on the area majority section around the buildings. I think I’m trying to say it,s focussed so the complexity works and isn’t there for it’s own sake. However there are a few bits of randomness that I’m not a fan of, particularly the scoring cards it just falls down so it removes a bit of the fun and satisfaction that is so nearly in reach of the game. I’d say that sums up pretty much all of his I’ve played. As a result I’ve ignored everything after receiving On Mars.

Also are the games elevated hugely by the wonderful presentation from EGG?


Absolutely. If On Mars weren‘t as solid with art and component and insert, I think I might have dismissed it before I finished learning the rules (well the Mars-SF theme helps as well).


Yeah, that’s an interesting thing. It’s not just Lacerda. It’s Lacerda-O’Toole-EagleGryphon. I do wonder, like Castles of Burgundy was $27 for years. What if these games were the same? Would they still be as good? Would they be less of a cult item? I mean, they look great but also they don’t fit on the shelf, so you need several of them in order to match up…

That said, a few years back I was in the “get everything on the wishlist as efficiently as possible” mode and had no time for deluxe versions. Now I’m in the “just get what you really like and get the nice version mode” so it is nice to have the insert and the finish and the art and the pieces. Yeah, I guess I’m a fan.


For many of the games I think the themes chosen help. The Gallerists is fairly unique I think, Vinhos is also an individual take on the subject. On Mars less so but there’s a spin on it that I liked.

Yeah, the presentation is so nice. The wooden components are all the right amount of detailed so they feel deluxe to the eye and good in the hand. The design of the boards does a lot to assist game play too, so nice looking and functional. A real winner. I think there’s enough that’s good about the design and the playable fun that I think a more standard presentation they’d still be fun and well regarded but maybe not have the same status as a collectable and almost separate genre of games.


Does everyone have a favorite? When shopping I was surprised that there really wasn’t any convergence here. Everyone’s favorite seemed to be all over the place.

Generally agreed, though, that Kanban is the most thematic/intuitive and Gallerist is the most accessible.

I’ve only played Kanban. This was recent, so I already wrote it up, but I really delighted in the realistic, dysfunctional workplace.

The company has a real goal, likely creating good cars that the market wants. Management has ideas on how that will happen. They give the staff micro goals which in theory are stepping stones toward actual success but in practice are a bit off the mark or presented without the necessary context. Employees are then torn between doing their actual job, which will get them credit in the long run, and shoring up defenses for this week’s meeting, which will keep them from getting fired in the short term.

In the game, this is actual value (making cars, upgrading car parts, getting trained) and Sandra’s weekly, arbitrary targets (have a car in garage # 2, get upgraded parts into black cars right now, etc.) Somehow I found this all funny and refreshing rather than PTSD…


If forced to do so, I would rank the ones I’ve played like so:

  1. Kanban EV.

Okay, so that wasn’t very informative to either me or you, dear listener reader.

Allow me to rank the ones I one but have not yet played in the order I am eager to try their solitaire modes:

  1. Lisboa
  2. Vinhos Deluxe Edition
  3. The Gallerist
  4. Mercado de Lisboa

I think I’ve heard mostly good things about peoples’ experiences with Lisboa; enough to think that, perhaps, it’s going to be worth the dense textbook-read.

Vinhos is oddly on my list because I think it has the highest chance of not being something I want to keep in my collection; the sooner I can play it and decide, the sooner it can become trade-fodder?

The Gallerist is the one I feel that I am most likely to get to the table with other people. And, as such, I am not in as much of a hurry to play it solo.

I was enthusiastic about Mercado de Lisboa during and following the crowdfunding campaign; but the chatter after fulfillment left me thinking that perhaps it was a waste of money. I really should get it played so it can either earn a permanent slot in my collection or get traded/sold – but knowing that the community is not too hot on it means my trade/sell likelihood is pretty low.


We have On Mars and Escape Plan. I suspect I’d like Escape Plan more if I got to play it with more than two players!

I’d really like to try Kanban to see how closely it resembles my actual workplace…

I think the presentation does a lot of the heavy lifting - they are really nice games - but the ones I’ve played are also enjoyable.


These are the three I’d be interested in (haven’t played any Lacerda) mostly because:

Lisboa has the biggest reputation for being an overwhelmingly huge and dense Euro containing totally nonsense levels of Euro nonsense
Vinhos has a theme I’m into
Gallerist seems to be genuinely popular with people


I have never been sufficiently interested to give any of them a try. Just recently though, the kind of “background buzz” on Discord and here that I think I use to gauge games seems to indicate that even the people who are highly critical of his games admit to enjoying some of them, so maybe it’s past time I give one a go.


I played the Gallerist once. I wasn’t sure about it when the game ended but then I kept thinking about it and strategies I could try instead for the next week or so. Would have loved getting back to it soon enough for all those thoughts to still be percolating. Now I’d need to completely relearn it.

Own On Mars. Enjoy it a decent amount. It’s one I like big picture but always feel like I’m forgetting some minor but important rule. I like the expansion that has co-op modules. My husband and I play co-ops a lot and he’s better at remembering the fiddly rules on this game so we strategize together and he can point out the details I’m forgetting.


Keep in mind that CO2, Vinhos and Kanban all had releases before Lacerda and EGG hooked up (and CO2 Second Chance isn’t EGG although thankfully it is still Ian O’Toole). I briefly owned the version of Kanban put out by Stronghold because there’d been no word of an EGG version at the time Stronghold did a reprint, and it was fairly hideous. But Kanban was a legend despite that. As were CO2 and Vinhos.

I aspirationally like Lacerda’s games. I’ve played only four: CO2 Second Chance, Vinhos 2016, The Gallerist, and Lisboa, and I really loved all of those plays (Gallerist most, but CO2 is coop, which is my usual preference). I haven’t managed to get more than one play of anything but CO2. And Escape Plan, On Mars (w/ expansion) and Weather Machine sit entirely unplayed. My problem is I only really have one friend who’s up for that sort of complicated Euro and I’m not very motivated by solo boardgaming in general. So I’m probably not gonna get any more unless I’m really into the theme, much as the collecting impulse urges me.

(The other friend that played with us was willing, as he is willing to try most stuff, but it’s not his sort of game and he really struggled every time.)


Lacerda is usually a designer whose games I’d love to play, but don’t love enough to own. I was on the verge with the Galllerists, but it was too Euroy for me when I have limited shelf space for games and genres I prefer playing. The Gallerist is easily my fave.

2010 / 2016: Vinhos / Deluxe

I only played the newer lighter version. It was alright. I need to play the older one.

2012 / 2018: CO2 / Second Chance

Blegh. CO2 Second Chance Competitive mode is awful. Turn order issue and significant Left-Right Binding issues that can screw somebody up just by sitting on someone’s right. The higher the player count, the more degenerate this game is. And I don’t usually play co-ops.

2014 / 2021: Kanban / EV
2015: The Gallerist
2017: Lisboa

Classic point-salad Lacerda but have opaque decision making. These are the fun ones for me.

2019: Railways of Portugal

I like this map. Very tight, even with 3 players. Railways of the World is easily one of my favourite games, especially with the new turn order rules.

2020: On Mars

Never played but I am super keen on this.

2021: Mercado de Lisboa (hey, this is on BGA)

Very old school in design that it’s enjoyable, but inferior to Knizia’s Kingdoms with the advanced variants.

2022: Weather Machine

This is confirmation of Lacerda’s downward spiral on modern Euro’s inherent problem of “mechanisms for the sake of mechanisms”. Lacks the charm of the 3 games I like above.

2023: Bot Factory (Kanban Lite??)

Shit. It has serious Left-Right Binding issues that, again, you can screw up someone significantly because they sit on your right. An experienced designer like him should have known by now. Especially when he is the more senior designer in this co-designed game.


Now I really want to try the Gallerist. This is the one that most appeals to me.
Ah well, but that would mean I have to buy it, because I know nobody here who would buy such games or I could play it on TTS.

I have the feeling that for many people Lacerda’s are aspirational games.

The rules for On Mars are quite intricate but they work (I’ve seen games crushed under the weight of their rules: Tindaya is the example that comes to mind and I would also like to comment on Darwin’s Journey in this regard but the latter still has a chance with me if I ever get a multiplayer to the table). Making such games and have them work or even sing is an incredible feat and that it was apparently replicated a few times (even if it starts failing with Weather Machine) speaks to Lacerda as a designer.

There is a niche in the hobby for such games. But it is a niche. High rankings on BGG just show that hobbyists enjoy those games.


I have owned CO2: Second Chance and Mercado de Lisboa. Have also played The Gallerist.

The production of CO2 was fantastic and I really enjoyed the theme. I love a co-op. It was good and in a world where Spirit Island didn’t exist I’d probably really it, but it’s just not Spirit Island.

Mercado de Lisboa isn’t really a Lacerda and isn’t very good!

I enjoyed The Gallerist, again the theme and production are fantastic.

What I found with The Gallerist and CO2 is that there is so much intertwining of decisions and pre planning that I just found it a bit of a battle. I think they’re really good and maybe in a different time I’d come back to them and enjoy them but right now, they’re not for me. Part of that is opportunity cost.

I’m enjoying heavier stuff again though - so if someone offered me a game of Lisboa or Vinhos then I’d definitely be up for it.

I agree with @yashima that they’re a niche. My feeling of the games we tend to talk about on here is that this group is not into that niche so we’re probably down Lacerda’s compared to other groups.


I’ve played Mercado, Kanban and Gallerist. I’m sure the latter two are good (I think the first of these is just hived off Lisboa and expanded/rounded).

The games are a lot and so involved that I barely felt I could see the line between my aims and the action I wanted to do - or where I could the intermediate phases were so far apart I didn’t feel satisfied. I think over the years my patience and stomach for complexity in the puzzle has really dwindled. It might be partly I just don’t really have the brains for it, eh I don’t mind, but even when I see good players crunching it doesn’t feel like an headspace I want to put effort into getting to anyway - it looks hard to me. Where I can, in addition to playing the game, get into the play of the space with my friends and opponents and I do t think complex games really allow that for me.

I can see a space where these complex games actually do fit into my choices but I think the games would then have to be the default and only game I play to a large extent and my chosen, more desired, pursuit of novelty and newness doesn’t give these chonk games the chance to breathe. I think if I could magic the rules into the brain for first plays that would be really useful - the first time playing a complex game is full of fumbles and follows a tiring act (either hearing or saying rules) which gives them a huge disadvantage there too.