Stefan Feld

alea 2007




G@mebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

In the new ALEA-game Notre Dame the players fight for prestige and wealth in the area around the famous cathedral of Paris. The game takes place in the time of the 14th century, and ALEA has outfitted the game a delicious design and quite luxurious game material. So it is really fun to open the box and set up the game for the first time. As a result, the game has a nice atmosphere that embraces the players right from the beginning and emphasises the high quality standard of ALEA...


At the beginning, the board is set up out of one Notre Dame tile in the middle of the table and adjacent to this one district of Paris is placed for each player. Thus, depending on the number of players, the complete board always looks a little bit different. This effect is intensified by the existence of four different Notre Dame tiles, forcing the players to connect the districts with different sides, too.

The game lasts 3x3 rounds, each of these rounds consisting of five phases.

The first phase of each round is the drawing of three Personality cards, who all have special abilities an can be bribed by the players in phase IV of a round. This early exposure of the Personality cards gives the players the possibility to plan their decisions for the next phases, so that they can use the special ability of a Personality in the best way.

After that the players take three cards of their own stack of action cards. Two of these cards are passed to their left neighbour and simultaneously a player gets two cards from his right neighbour. From these two cards he then chooses one card and gives the last card to his left neighbour again, receiving once again a card from his right neighbour. In this way each player gets three action cards from different opponents.

The playing of these action cards dominates the next phase and the major part of the game, phase III. Beginning with the start player, everybody plays one of his cards and does the action that is shown on the card. After each player has done his first action, a second action card is played in the same way. The third card on the hand of the players is not played, but put aside with the rest of the cards, unseen from all other players. Thus, although each player started out with an identical deck of action cards, this procedure makes it more difficult to predict which cards are still in play for the other players. The action cards are the most important factor in the game, since they give the players the possibility to place Influence stones into the different buildings of their district or in the middle of the board, into Notre Dame. There are seven different building types in each district, and all have different effects if the player has placed a stone into them.


Also, all building-effects are strengthened by a higher number of Influence stones. So, for example, by placing an Influence stone into the Monastery School, a player gets as many new Influence stones as there are Influence stones in this building. Other buildings will produce the important Prestige points which the players need to win the game. By this method each player can find his own strategy of spreading his Influence stones in hope to win the game. Indeed, there are some moves that are really necessary during the game (e.g. you need money to bribe the Personalities and you best get money by placing Influence stones into the Bank); but there are usually several ways to get a desired result (so money can also be earned in the Inn, although the sum you get will be smaller). However, overall the player will feel a constant lack of Influence stones at the desired buildings, so that there always is a decision to make where the Influence should be placed to make most use of it at a particular situation in the game.

In the fourth phase each player can bribe one of the Personalities, and these will guarantee him more money, Prestige points or new Influence. The amount of this Influence depends in most cases on the sum and the diversion of the Influence stones in the district of the player. So it is a good advice to look after the effects of the Personality cards that come into play at the beginning of the round, so that the new Influence stones can be placed to make most use of a Personalities' abilities.

Last but not least in a round the Plague of Rats is determined for each of the districts. For this purpose a specific rat counter on each district is put forward by as many fields as are shown on the revealed Personality cards. Some buildings can weaken the effect of the Plague if there are enough influence stones in these buildings. Also, action cards and Personalities can reduce the rat counter again. One should be very careful not to let the counter come over 9, because otherwise Prestige points and Influence stones are lost to the Plague and must be removed by the player.

At the end of each round a scoring for Influences stones in Notre Dame takes place. Depending on the number of players a specific amount of Prestige points is divided between the players who have Influence stones in the cathedral, with the number of points each player receives depending on the number of Influence stones he has placed at Notre Dame. This is sometimes the best strategy to get Prestige, but it depends on the actions and reactions of the other players. In the end, after the ninth round, the player with the most Prestige points wins the game.


In my opinion Notre Dame fits well in the ALEA range of products. It is well balanced, and with some minor changes to the rules it makes a lot of fun even with two players. In comparison to some other games of ALEA, luck plays a major role in the game whereas the interaction between the players is limited to the passing of the cards in phase II and the fight for influence in Notre Dame. What is really nice for a lot of players is the fact that different strategies can lead you to success and you can't really do anything wrong. On the other hand it is quite hard to predict who is in lead during the game. In fact I was really surprised one time that I collected the most Prestige and won the game despite another player seeming to be in the leading position. Furthermore it is nearly impossible to pledge an alliance against a better player or to do some harm anyway. This is to my mind is a weaker point of the game, but on the other hand some players love exactly this. So I will leave you to make your own choice. As far as the game concept, design and the rest of the game is concerned, Notre Dame is surely one of the stronger games form the Nürnberg convention.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2007 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany