Imagine a game of 1,000 flowers! That’s what Italian speakers might expect from a board game that calls itself Mille Fiori. It might surprise you then, that there are in fact zero flowers in this game. Of course the term reflects the glassmaking tradition, whereby rods of glass made mosaic affects that were later named ‘millefiori’ in 1849 by Apsley Parratt. These rods, did however still resemble flowers, unlike anything in this game!
Italy has a rich tradition of glassmaking with strong routes back to the islands around Venice, particularly on the island of Murano, which might’ve been a better name for this game! I can tell you’re itching to find out whether the gameplay won me over despite the lack of flowers… well I can answer that in the following review, that is, if you will do me the courtesy of reading on…
Unfold the board and give each player components in their chosen colour. Players will place their boat at the start of the boat track, scoring marker on zero and return three tiles to the bag, these may be used at the very end of the game. Shuffle the cards and deal nine or four cards face up to the market area depending on your player count. Then deal a further five cards to each player. Allocate a first player, giving them the relevant card, and set up is complete!
Players will be competing for the most points. You will be scoring oodles of them too! On your turn you will choose one of the cards in your hand to play, this represents an area on the board where you can lay a tile and score some points.
The board is divided up into different districts and each offer ways to get points and claim additional cards from the market. There will also be an objective of covering different symbols which offers up to 20 points if you are the first to race towards it. When you place a tile there is often a way of boosting your points, usually by placing next to another tile, but some may also grant your opponent points too. This may not be so bad, but you can tactically work out the pros and cons.
At any time you can choose to play a card to move your ship instead of placing a tile. This can be useful if your plans unravel because of other players’ choices. Which inevitably they will.
Play continues until you either cannot deal five cards to each player, or a player runs out of their tokens. In the latter, players will play round to the first player.
What it’s like
The joy of a point salad game is that whatever you do, you will score points. It’s maximising each opportunity that brings the strategy to the game. This makes Mille Fiori seem like it is a race for points. Yet, while points are important, building up point scoring combos, dominating areas if possible, and getting additional trips to the market is far more important than quick gains. Obviously racing towards the 20 point bonuses is also a great way to loop around the score track.
Despite the relative simplicity of playing a card and placing a tile, the complexity of the game develops as you attempt to pull off combo-tastic moves. These can be thwarted by turn order and so I am surprised that you may not get the same amount of turns being first player in three and four player games.
I have found that most people want or need a second game to really start to explore the strategies and more often, undo the mistakes that were made on their first play. That’s certainly how I felt anyway.
I have found the ship and harbour area are the hardest to comprehend but no aspect of the game is truly tricky – with the right rulebook!
Drafting games can fall a bit flat at two player, but I still enjoy Mille Fiori at two. It adds a different strategy as you know what you are passing and what is likely to come back to you. The expansion does add additional areas that help improve the two player experience. Just don’t get me started on the amount of air in that box!
The English Mille Fiori rulebook error
There is at least one error in my rulebook, I think due to poor translation but still a pity. How did I discover this? Well, I was fortunate enough to be taught this game based on the German rulebook. It seems to have been addressed and updated on the PDF version available on the Board Game Geek page for the English game.
In my rules, it states that I should add additional cards after each round to the market from the deck. If you do this you have an odd number of cards at the end of the game and a ridiculously bloated market! At the end of the round you only add the last card of each players’ hand, or the last two cards in a two player game.
My issue is that many people won’t know this is an error and I think the publishers or distributors should be adding a sticker with a QR code linking to the online rulebook and clearly stating that the rules have been updated.
If the lack of 1000 flowers isn’t enough, there is no blue player option. I don’t have a player colour so this doesn’t bother me. However, it is historically inaccurate as blue glass was big in the history of Venetian glass.
Aside from that, Mille Fiori is beautiful. The pieces are tactile, and their translucent quality means you are not losing the board underneath. The board is clear and nicely illustrated so it’s a good thing it doesn’t get hidden as you play.
As you will be lapping the board I was surprised there were no point markers for 100s. This has been addressed in the expansion: ‘The Masterpieces’, but these tokens are a little lack lustre and could’ve echoed the sparkly acrylic nature of the other components.
A big gripe is that there is a lot of air in the box as you can see in the photos below. I understand the board has to fit in, but even so, it could be half the depth and still have lots of air in it! The expansion is an even worse culprit. Super frustrating as my shelves are already too full of air! Shipping air around the world also has an environmental impact that should be considered.
Final thoughts on Mille Fiori
I am aware I can be a Knizia fanboy sometimes. That’s because I regularly like the games the doctor designs! Mille Fiori is a cracking example of the designers’ excellent ability of making a game that is easily accessible, in terms of learning how to play, but that offers a fantastic amount of strategy to investigate and uncover.
It is a pity the rulebook is incorrect otherwise, this game would’ve ranked even higher than it has, or at least if some sort of stickler drawing attention to it was on display.
The aesthetic goes a long way to making this game great. The tactile quality of the tiles really makes it a joy to play. Scoring every move can make it seem like people sprint ahead, but they can often be caught up in a cat and mouse way. It’s exciting seeing this play out on the score track during the game.
Number of players: 2 to 4
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 8+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 9+
Playing Time: 75 minutes
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 3 minutes
Designers: Reiner Knizia
Publisher: Schmidt Spiele
Mille Fiori is a gorgeous point salad game with layers of strategy to explore and unlock. I also like a game where you are scoring 100s of points and it is often still close at the end!
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Beautiful components
- High scoring point salad
- Easy to learn
- Expansion available
- The amount of air in the box
- Mistake in the rulebook
- The inevitable mistakes you will make on your first play!
- Lacking 1000 flowers!
Need more games?
If you already own Mille Fiori and enjoy it, or are looking for other inspiration, you might also like these similar games:
- Ganz Schon Clever
- Rajas of the Ganges
Buy Mille Fiori
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