Inside the Box: Leonardo da Vinci

Inside the Box is an in-depth look at the contents of a board game. It covers the quality, quantity, and aesthetic value of what is found inside the game box.

The MSRP for Leonardo da Vinci is $45 but it was on sale for $10 !? I went to BoardGameGeek to check this game out. Leonardo da Vinci is a worker placement game where you compete with others to be the first to finish certain invetnions. The reviews were mostly favorable. The game images also looked interesting so I had to pick up a copy and check it out. It certainly wouldn’t be the worst $10 I’ve ever spent…

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

There’s an illustrated drawing of an inventor with some of Leonardo da Vinci’s more famous works on the front cover. The artwork catches the eye, but doesn’t offer any clues as to what the game is about. The back gives a brief description of the game and lists the game components. The box is a bit flimsy, not as thick as some of the other games I own, but adequate.

Leonardo da Vinci

A mistake? Nope, just the designers being clever.

After opening the box and pulling out some components I notice a manufacturing error… oops! Or so I thought. It seems the designers cleverly added a molding of the name “Leonardo” into the insert in mirror writing – just the way Leo would have actually signed it. Besides being clever, the insert does a good job of holding all of the components with a larger area to store all of the bits. Included are plastic bags to hold them, but only 3 bags. I added a few more to make 6: 1 each for the five player colors and 1 for the other bits used during play.

The game board is illustrated in the a similar style to the box cover and is interesting to look at. Unfortunately, all of the artwork is covered by boxes that hold the invention cards, resource cards, money cards (florins, of course), and other components. While playing the game you never get to look at the artwork. I’m sure the artist was a bit disappointed all his hard work would just be covered up.

The player tokens are fun. Each player gets one Master token and 9 Apprentices. The 9 apprentices remind me of meeples from Carcassonne, but with more pleasing, human-like proportions. The Master dwarfs his apprentices in size and wears a hat and robe. They are wood bits painted red, green, yellow, blue and purple. Not my ideal choice of colors, but they aren’t too difficult to distinguish. There are also some other plain cylindrical tokens (in the player colors and brown) for keeping track of things on the board.

The cardboard components are heavy duty – as thick as the game board. There are two laboratories for each player, two invention player aids, some mechanical men tokens, arrows markers, and a Leonardo token and a Lord of the City token with plastic stands. Each of these look nice and are very durable. The Leonardo token is held by the player that acts first each round and the Lord of the City token… well it isn’t mentioned other than in the set-up. An actual error. The token is supposed to be used to highlight which area of the board is being resolved.

The game also comes with 3 decks of cards: two mini-European sized decks that make up the money and resources and one standard-American sized deck for the inventions.

Leonardo da Vinci

Resource and Florin Cards

The resource cards are color coded and have symbols on them so they are easy to read. The Florin cards are adequate, but color coding these would have added a little more appeal to them. They did color code the 5 zero florin cards – one for each player to use for bluffing – so they had the ability and chose not to do the rest of the cards. The backs of both sets of cards have a self portrait of Leonardo, a nice touch.
Leonardo da Vinci

Invention Cards

The invention cards contain all the important information needed for the players: how many weeks it takes to invent, what resources are needed, the invention type and the value of the invention. I really like these cards. The backs have a sketch of Leo’s Vitruvian Man. Sketches of each invention on the card fronts are made to look like they were done by Leonardo. The name of the invention, which really isn’t important to game play, is written on the card in Italian. But I’m happy to say they have a list of the invention names in English in the instructions. I generally look these up so I can proudly announce when I’ve just finished work on the Automatic Hammer (top right) or Burning Mirror (bottom left).

Speaking of the instructions, I’m not sure if they were written poorly to begin with or much was lost in translation or some of both. I will give them credit for the illustrations and examples in the instructions as these which definitely helped my understanding of the game. However, it took me a couple of read throughs and a solo play to figure out the basic game play. After I played, I hit up Board Game Geek to find the answer to a couple of questions and found out I played incorrectly. The game is actually fairly straightforward, but the instructions just don’t quite convey the simple mechanic.

For example, in the Worker Rules in the Assignment Phase section, the rules state:

Your mechanical men can only be placed in the designate spaces of your laboratories

But in the Employment Phase:

Important: you cannot take a mechanical man and save it to place later!

So one section seems to imply the mechanical man is placed like a worker and another states the opposite. Fortunately the designers put out an FAQ which addresses this and other issues.

Overall, I felt like they paid extra attention to detail in some areas: insert, invention cards and card board quality, but missed the target on others: art on the game board, box quality and rules. However, I think the pros out weigh the cons for the components. Leonardo da Vinci is well worth the $10 I spent and not only for the components; the game is enjoyable too.


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