“Paris in the Spring……It’s grand, it’s new; It’s me, it’s you…..”

Ok, so we can’t exactly hop over to Paris right now. But it is Spring, we are together (virtually at least), and Paris: La Cité De La Lumière is indeed both grand and new to Saggyhead! So I’m channelling some upbeat Ray Noble big band chipperness in the intro to round #3 of our Ace V Apprentice challenge! 

Question is, did Saggyhead light up when placing her Parisienne polyominoes, or did she slink into the shadows, tripping over as she danced around in the dark?

Let’s get into the ring and find out!  

Year: 2019

Publisher: DEVIR Games 

Designer: Jose Antonio Abascal

Artist: Oriol Hernandez

Player Count: 2

Publisher Recommended Age: 8+

Time: 30/40 mins

Light flyweight: Saggyhead aka “the Illuminati”

Heavyweight: Favouritefoe aka “the Lamplighter”

Favouritefoe: Cheese, wine, baguettes……I know, Saggyhead; I’m totally spoiling you. 

Imagine the nose-tickling smells of the bijou bistros. Shut your eyes and transport yourself to the café at the top of La Tour Eiffel as you sit at your checkered cloth bedecked table, ready to tuck in. Zoink! Not really. 

There is neither a fragrant fromage, plummy pinot noir, nor crispy croissant anywhere in this game. And you won’t be playing it 125m up in the air. Buuuut, have no fear fothis is one pretty delicious portion of two player puzzle nonetheless! Plus, as you’re a master at matching edible goodies to games anyway, I’m not nervous……..much. 

Published by DEVIR, Paris: La Cité De La Lumière  is a strategic game from designer José Antonio Abascal. With gorgeous artwork by Oriol Hernandez, this game takes us into the dark cobbled streets of 19th century Paris with the goal of lighting up as many of the City’s buildings as possible, using that new-fangled technology; electricity! 

A combination of tile laying and area control, Paris: La Cité De La Lumière  consists of two phases and……get ready for this…….is played inside.the.box. Yup. You read that right, Saggyhead, old chum, old pal; the box is the board! I don’t know about you, but that little nugget of novelty lit my face up like a candle in a match factory! 

Now, having played Paris: La Cité De La Lumière  a number of times since November last year, I do like the fact that this is a game of two halves and continuous trade-offs. Indeed, it is tough decision making from the first turn because, before the board has even been constructed, you have to start selecting which buildings you are going to take from the shared pool in order to score in phase 2. Oh La La! 

Sounds “ezzzeeeeee” mon ami until you realise that your buildings can only be placed on those cobbled street spaces matching your own colour (and/or the neutral purple spaces). Plus, you have to stomach sacrificing laying a street tile to extend your territory if you do in fact want to bag a building on your turn. 

Oh, and that is before you have considered how the building will actually fit into your area in relation to the lamps which are located on some, but not all, of the street tiles. Which are, of course, the only way to score points in this game! Zut Alors! 

With the buildings bagged and the cobbled streets all set out, phase then 2 begins apace, and the trade-offs are now even more tense as the board layout has been set in, well, stone! Choosing between laying down a building in order to secure a prized spot on the board (and potentially denying your opponent some much needed neutral spaces), and taking one of the 8 randomly chosen unique special bonus actions (which could reap considerable points bonuses or help to mitigate losses) is an exercise in cold calculation. 

On that point, and thinking about balance, I do think there are a few special actions which have the potential to make the game quite swingy in terms of points due to their significant power – Monsieur Le Peintrebeing one – but it is for each player to balance the risk against the reward. And you do still need to know what to do in order to capitalize on the bonus boosters if they are to swing the game in your favour! 

Overall, I like the compact crunch that Paris: La Cité De La Lumière  offers in the time it takes to warm your baguettes up in the oven – it is a tight, two player game with plenty of opportunities for hate drafting and take that which are elements I actively hunt out in games to play with my brave Bearded Moon! 

In truth, I was disappointed that the designer used an almost exclusively blue, purple, and orange pallet making it difficult for players with colour vision deficiency to play. I am conscious that industry best practice is an evolutionary process (unless you’re Saggyhead – she was born A*!), however, and some simple DIY sticker embellishments can mitigate the challenge should the need arise. Nevertheless, it would have been better to have factored these needs in at the design stage. 

For me, Paris: La Cité De La Lumière  is a 7.5/10 – it is surprisingly strategic and playing inside the box means it is always going to be somewhere I enjoy battling it out!

For my full review of Paris from November 2020, please click here 

Ding-ding-ding, all hail the Illuminati as she enters the ring

Saggyhead; I’ve gone back and forth on Paris: La Cité De La Lumière quite a bit. I love the fact it is played inside the box, it makes it so much easier, I also like that it isn’t an oversized box. Small box, big think as Favouritefoe said. 

I also enjoyed the gameplay although I did think that the way some things were unable to score made me feel a bit unsatisfied, even though I get that that is the point of it. 

Something that Favouritefoe also picked up on was that the colours chosen were kind of odd choices. Considering one was orange and one was blue, it didn’t feel like it was hugely easy to tell the different colours apart at a glance. Some of that might have been because of the shadows in the room I was playing and it being inside the box. It wasn’t damaging for my gameplay, just something that annoyed me as it wasn’t immediately obvious. 

The game comes with a hefty dose of “take that” which I know Favouritefoe and her “favourite foe” ShadowMeeple are big fans of. I feel like I flip-flop with this mechanic. I cannot abide hate-drafting, it never seems to really benefit the player who does it all that much, and games can feel closed down by this kind of play.  I love two-player Hero Realms and Unmatched which is simply a duel against each other but I HATE these at higher player counts. It feels like you are victimising one player and I am very anti that. 

Even though Paris is a two-player specific game, it did feel like you were messing with your opponent intentionally in a hate-drafting way which I do not enjoy. That isn’t to say I don’t appreciate Paris: La Cité De La Lumière as it is. 

I like the brain burn of this game, I like the drafting of tiles and special abilities and the race to get the pieces you want onto the board before that spot is taken by your opponent. It is thinky and unlike any other game. 

I enjoy playing Paris: La Cité De La Lumière, but I think I need to be in the right frame of mind in order to fully enjoy it. 

For me, this game gets a 7/10, I enjoy it enough that it would squeak an A if it were an essay, but it’s not in the A* or A** range for me. 

Well, there you go….it had to happen at some point – a different score from one corner of the ring to the other. Not a knock-out blow, mind you, but fights have been won and lost on less than a half-point differential! 

Is this divergence of opinion going to be the status quo from now on or was this a mere blip in the road for Ace and Apprentice? 

Catch next month’s instalment in the form of Round #4 to find out what we each think Barenpark!