Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Giancarlo Fioretti


No. of Players:
2 - 5



Gamebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

Merchants running for public office, constructing impressive buildings, producing and shipping large amounts of goods, acquiring fame and influence - this all sounds familiar with you? Indeed, after a first glance at the rules of Constantinopolis, I felt strongly reminded of Puerto Rico. This time, however, the merchants attend to their businesses in Roman times. But is Constantinopolis really a match for the famous Puerto Rico? Does Constantinopolis have enough potentiality to defy the top dog? These questions are not easily answered and you will have to play Constantinopolis at least two to three times to find out. Only then will you be able to see through the subtle mechanisms and develop your own strategies to win the game.

Constantinopolis comes with rich gaming material, a large board and a lengthy but excellently written rulebook. However, some of the takers were pretty alarmed at the sight of the 32-pages booklet - this game must certainly be complex and highly strategic, make no mistake about it! Of course, there are some details to remember but the manual gives many examples and leaves no questions unanswered.


A round is divided into eight phases. First, players enter a bidding for profitable public offices. This means, each player chooses an office that provides him or her with a specific bonus for this round. For example, some offices offer additional incomes or a good for free. Other offices enable the players to buy special buildings or grant them a right of preemption which comes in handy during the buying phase. I think the bidding mechanism is quite interesting, but it taps its full potential only in case more than two players participate in the game. The mechanism favours the office-bearer and any other player who intends to take over from the incumbent must place his or her bid on the office. Then, the incumbent may decide to raise the bid or to assume the office formerly held by the other player for free.

The round continues with the movement of the ships. Ships at sea move one step ahead; in case they reach their destination, they may deliver the goods they carry and skim off profits. Later on, players may only reload their ships - with goods or with passengers - by use of contract cards. A contract card indicates how long a journey takes, depending on the ship type, and how high the award for the player is after delivering the goods. But players must also be in a position to load the ships with the adequate goods. Players can also purchase ships and choose amongst three different types.

During the next phase, each one of the players' production buildings produces the respective goods. The players start the game with only one production building. But this single building will not suffice for long, since this first building is only a small one which produces but one kind of goods. This means, players are compelled to purchase additional buildings very soon. There are five different types of buildings available in Constantinopolis. The large game board helps with keeping track of all the buildings and allows for sorting the buildings according to type and value. Production buildings are used to produce the five different types of goods. However, not only the high prices impede the purchase of these buildings; players also have to possess a class B building in order to buy a building belonging to a higher class (C). This means, players can not buy valuable buildings all at once but have to complete their purchase step by step. Commercial buildings may be used for selling goods or for donating them, thereby increasing the player's fame. Utility buildings grant credits during the buying or trading phase. Last but not least, city walls provide players with influence points at the end of the game, depending on the number of walls the players succeeded to buy. However, only the Praefectus Urbi is allowed to purchase the city walls.

It is also possible to trade goods at the market. During each round a new market opens which offers specific prices. It is important that players keep in mind that they may only purchase those goods they do not produce themselves. Although there seems to exist no reasonable explanation for this rule, players should better take it to heart in order to keep the game in balance (if the rule is ignored, a very high allocation of goods results).

Finally new contract cards, their number depending on the number of production buildings a player possesses, are drawn. Players may accept these contracts by loading their ships with the requested goods and setting sail. During this phase of the game, players may also buy new ships and conclude additional contracts. The round ends with replacing the current market with a new one; goods the players can not store or use are discarded. The game ends in case a player buys the last remaining public building or, alternatively, in case the markets are bought out for the second time. A final scoring is executed and the player who has accumulated the most influence is proclaimed the winner.

Constantinopolis really offers a great design. From the box to the buildings, players get extremely high quality gaming material. Moreover, the doubts I initially fostered as to Constantinopolis being a mere clone of Puerto Rico were not confirmed. However, if you compare both games, you will still find that they resemble each other in many respects. In my estimation, Constantinopolis runs slightly smoother whereas Puerto Rico offers a thrilling variety of strategies to win the game and a nice choice of different jobs.

If there is anything left to criticise about Constantinopolis, it is the ease with which players can cheat during the game. If more than one phase of the game is played simultaneously (as advised by the rulebook), it is no longer possible to control other players' actions. Even if you insist on playing with honest people exclusively (as everybody certainly will), there is still the chance that players will slip up unwittingly. Players have to memorize quite a bunch of rules and particularly during the first rounds, incorrect moves occur more or less frequently. Take the conditions for buying production buildings as an example: as already mentioned above, a player may only purchase a D building in case he or she already possesses a C building. In case players can afford the more expensive buildings, this rule is easily forgotten. Thus, I would advise not to play simultaneously if novices participate in the game even if the length of the game will inevitably increase - which leaves you on the horns of a dilemma.

Obviously, Constantinopolis is by no means a game for occasional gamers; you will need some time to internalize the rules and master the game. Also, a game with four players will easily keep you busy for more than two hours. But once you are familiar with the game, it offers a pleasant alternative to Puerto Rico with nicely devised rules and thrilling opportunities for figuring out the best winning strategies.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2008 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany