You’ve been invited to the Grand Ball of King Louis XV. Sounds like a good time… but what are you going to wear? Well fear not my lords and ladies, the tailors here on your tabletop will make sure you are well outfitted for the occasion.
And you are bound to get a good deal because we are all competing against each other to have the most folks donning our clothes at the ball. Apparently, we are fine with just making the exposure bucks in 18th century France.
In Rococo, your staff is represented by the cards in your deck. They may be masters, journeymen, or apprentices but you must utilize them wisely to maximize the number of your pieces being worn to the Grand Ball.
Unlike many deckbuilding games, at the beginning of each round you get to pick the three staff cards from your deck that you’d like to play. Literally any cards you like (so long as they aren’t in your discard). Players will then go around the table, play a card, and perform an action including:
- Acquire resources – buy a resource tile from a drawer, gaining cloth, lace, or thread.
- Tailor a garment – build a garment from the display by paying the needed resources.
- Hire a new employee – spend money to hire additional staff and add them directly to your hand
- Fund a decoration – Spend coins to add a decoration or musician to the ballrooms, increasing your income between round or end game scoring. You can also fund a firework that will allow you to multiply your points for some garments.
Some of these actions, like tailoring a garment cannot be performed by apprentices. Hiring an employee can only be done by a master. Others, like buying resources can be done by any staff member.
And after you choose and perform an action from the board you can also take the action on the staff card itself. Some of these simply give you coins or additional actions. They can also award you prestige points and additional end-game scoring opportunities.
When you tailor a garment, you can choose to sell it (and discard it) for an influx of cash or rent the garment to someone attending the ball. The latter doesn’t give you any additional spending money but is the key to earning those prestige points you are longing for. Once rented, you choose which ballroom to place the person in. Some spaces also reward bonuses when placed there.
After the round ends players get income, refill the garment display, available staff to hire, and resource drawers. Pick three new cards from your staff deck and repeat for the next round. After the seventh round, the game ends and each ballroom scores points for whoever has the most garments there.
In a way, Rococo is a pretty straightforward game. Cloth, thread, and lace are your resources. You turn those into garments and place them in ballrooms in what is essentially area control. But holy cow is it hard to do it well.
There are, of course, a variety of factors to consider. Some cloth, like the elusive orange, isn’t as common as standard blues and greens. Funding decorations can seem like an afterthought but getting additional income between rounds can be extremely valuable. There are decorations that give you more points for having a variety of colors represented at the ball. And the fireworks, if you fund them, multiply the value of your most impressive clothing.
Hiring staff can also be critical as a new employee goes directly to your hand, allowing you to play an additional action that round. But the cost to do so goes down as more staff is hired, so being first is more expensive than just taking whoever is left. Resource drawers work in a similar way. So, there is a constant push/pull from wanting to buy first and get the best selection versus taking the dregs for a substantial discount.
And which staff you hire can be game-changing. As each staff card has its own special ability or scoring, there are certainly times where paying extra is worth getting the first choice. I do wish there was some more variety in the game in general, and especially in the staff, as you’ll see the same options every play.
And there is also the matter of managing your staff. You can always “depute” a staff member when you play them, calling them up to serve the King. This gives you a bit of cash and takes them out of your deck completely, allowing you to turn over the better cards more quickly.
And if you ever feel like you’ve mastered Rococo, this deluxe package includes the Jewelry Box expansion. This gives you some new decorations to fund, the ability to train your staff from apprentice to master, and (obviously) jewelry to rent out with your clothing.
If a game designed 8 years ago is old enough to be considered classic, Rococo is it. It’s a deck builder that somehow manages to take all the luck out of the game. Your deck doesn’t shuffle. Each round the choice of which three cards to play is painstaking. But when you take the time to get rid of the dead weight on your staff you feel like there is something else you should be doing.
And this production, in standard Eagle-Gryphon Games fashion, is gorgeous. The art and graphic design in Rococo make it a breeze to learn. And, despite the huge box, it’s really a medium-weight euro that plays in under 90 minutes.
Final Score: 4.5 Stars – A classic euro in a beautiful package. Exactly what a resource conversion game should be.
• Deck management is key to success but eliminates the shuffling randomness.
• Variety of options to turn your actions into points and all feel perfectly viable.
• Wonderfully produced game from EGG.
• Little variety from game to game.