at the table: Peter, Hans, Loredana, Moritz
on the table: Fürsten von Florenz, Titan – The Arena, Bluff
It was interesting to play this game again, after Peter and me had thoroughly "overplayed" it while training for the German boardgame championships two years ago. Peter's big shock came when his supposedly foolproof tactic of playing with the "Gaukler" strategy was successfully countered with an astonishingly flexible and unforeseeable strategy by the winning the player in the championship.
"Fuersten" has been a bit out of the spotlight after a similar but perhaps slightly superior game, "Puerto Rico", has appeared on the scene. In both games the fascination lies in the joy of developing a purposely "unbeatable" superior strategy, only to discover that there is no valid basic strategy, as any successful strategy has to be adaptable to the circumstances. In both games you have only relatively few actions available in the game, and the player who most successfully uses these few actions to his own benefit will be the winner, not the player who stays with his strategy no matter what happens.
In "Fuersten" the "Gaukler" tactic is, theoretically, foolproof. You buy a lot of entertainers at the beginning of the game, as well as "Abwerbekarten" and additional "Personenkarten", to shock every other player with a barrage of successfully accomplished works in the last 3 rounds (usually going for around 8 works in the whole game). But if the other players know this tactic, they will make you pay dearly for your entertainers, and beyond a certain sum (1.200 Fl. in our opinion), they simply don't become viable anymore, as you'll end up having serious money problems (in our game, by the way, this tactic DID work, and gave Peter the victory).
We also speculated about a "Baumeister" strategy, which successfully carries through what many players try to do unsuccessfully in their first game, buying three "Baumeisters" and plastering your court with 7 or more buildings for additional victory points, also buying as many bonus cards and prestige cards as possible to achieve 2-3 monster works for additional benefits. These two strategies have a good chance of winning when playing with players who have a disorganized approach to the game. The "Baumeister" strategy could even coexist with the "Gaukler" strategy - both players would follow completely different goals and not even once conflict in the bidding phase.
But they stand no chance against the "organized disorganized" approach, which simply means doing what costs you least and benefits you the most (which is admittedly not always easy to fathom). Everything you do depends on the other player's actions - and, in the end, this is the true social aspect of gaming which we all love, otherwise we would be content with average and automated computer AI's (which, in the end, we aren't).
Although "Titan - the Arena" - this wonderful American variation on a design by Reiner Knizia - is by no means a pure strategy game (the luck of the draw DOES play a huge role), there are some obvious strategies and tactics that will help your bets to survive.
Of course all this is theory, as you simply might not have the cards that will enable you to do all of the above in the right situations. But following these guidelines as closely as possible will ensure you a good place at the end of the game, even if it's not number one.