I love strategy games, and I love card games. Rio Grande’s Renaissance Man is a masterful mix of both. The goal is to create a “master.” In order to do so, you must stack 14 supporting workers (from level one of 5, level two of 4, and so on) underneath the final, game-winning master placed at the top of the pyramid. Sounds easy? Not quite. In order to stack a worker, you practically need to align the stars.
The two symbols at the bottom corners of the one card must match perfectly with the symbols at the top of the supporting workers below. Thus, you may have access to any number of workers, but that “right one” will only appear every so often. Then, another player may fight you for it! And it gets more and more difficult the further up the pyramid you climb (four different options quickly turns to three then two then just one!). One way to counteract the difficulty of collecting the right worker is to build a Renaissance Man (i.e., a wild card). In order to build him, four workers (one of each kind) must be turned in for each of four types. But there’s a downside to using a Renaissance Man: he doesn’t provide any actions and, in fact, eliminates the two available actions from the characters below him!
There are four possible actions to take: a Merchant allows you to hire a worker (i.e., place on your pyramid), a Baker allows you to barter (i.e., save an action token for later use), a Teacher allows you to teach (i.e., placing a token to build a Renaissance Man), and a Knight allows you to Recruit (i.e., place a knight piece on the recruit board to “bid” for one of three workers). One major component of the game is the ability to remove any visible worker at any time (without using an action) thus freeing up actions. I found myself needing to backtrack several times which seems like a waste (which it is!) but is sometimes necessary.
I really enjoy the unique nature of Renaissance Man. It’s not the typical “set or run” card game and integrates a great strategic component. It’s a relatively quick game, but requires a hefty level of mental engagement (which I like!). I did find myself getting frustrated at how long it can take for that right card to appear. I compare it to soccer (very few goals scored in a game, but the excitement is sky high when it happens). I love the Renaissance theme and how the game ties the type of worker with the associated action. The artwork is fantastic, the quality of the cards and boards is great, and overall, this is a great game well worth the investment.
Disclaimer: I received this game for free in exchange for my review, but believe me, I post authentic reviews every time and will be brazenly blunt if needs be.