Players: 2 to 5
Game Length: 90 minutes
Best enjoyed: With 3-5 players who want a unique Euro-style game that uses a wide range of gameplay mechanisms
Notre Dame is a game by Stefan Feld, a designer noted for blending together a wide range of gameplay mechanisms to make well-balanced and compelling Euro-style games that reward good planning and optimal use of in-game actions.
In Notre Dame, each player is responsible for a borough in medieval Paris, and must accrue the most prestige points to achieve victory. This can be done in a variety of ways, but will generally be performed through the placement of citizens within their borough using a deck of nine action cards. Each turn, players will draft three of these – that is, they will draw three of their cards, choose one and pass the leftover cards for a neighbour to choose, until each player has three cards. Players may then choose two of their three drafted cards to play on their turn, which involve placing a citizen on one of the sectors in their borough, and receiving a payout that generally increases the more citizens are placed on that sector.
As you play the game, you’ll need to pay careful attention to your opponents – if one opponent has lots of citizens in a particular sector, you may want to avoid giving her a card for that region. You’ll need to watch your health level too – the Black Plague is about and if you let infection run rampant you’ll lose citizens and prestige points.
Notre Dame has a lot of small rules to learn and the game will start with a fairly lengthy explanation, explaining elements such as the carriages, the Trusted Friend piece, the Person cards, not to mention the eponymous cathedral itself. Once the rules are understood the game is fairly straightforward, however, and the iconography on the various cards is easy to understand – perhaps needing an explanation the first time a new symbol is seen, but otherwise being straightforward.
Despite there being a lot of small rules, Notre Dame plays quite smoothly, with very little downtime. As you only get a limited number of choices at any one point, individual turns shouldn’t take too long. Still, if you want to win, you’ll need to pay careful attention to the board state, and clever play will trump luck every time.
Notre Dame makes an excellent medium-weight Euro-style game for players who want an interesting game with a unique blend of gameplay mechanisms.