House of Borgia – Gamelyn Games – Review

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A fun game with interestign decisions.

Steve Mayne

MeepleGamers 8.5/10 Publisher: Gamelyn Games Publisher: Talon Strikes Studios Designer: Scott Almes Artist: Ian Rosenthaler Artist: Benjamin Shulman Initial Year of Release: 2017 Age Range: 14+ Expected Playtime: 30 minutes Number of Players: 2-6 Game Type: Dice Rolling, Bidding, Bluffing House of Borgia - Gamelyn Games - Review 1

Theme and What is it?

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*Note* Copy of game provided by publisher for review.

It is 1492 and the Conclave has been called to determine the next Pope. You have a week before the meeting. Unfortunately, your reputation is too sullied to ever be elected Pope.

However, there is power behind the throne. You have a puppet in the running who will listen to you and follow your orders. If you could maneuver them into the position of Pope it would be as good as having the title.

House of Borgia is a dice rolling bidding game that is a variant of Liars Dice. You’ll need to bid on different actions represented by the sides of the dice in hopes of maneuvering your chosen candidate to become Pope. However, if you’re discovered and the other players figure out who you’re attempting to get elected then you’ll be cast out and lose. House of Borgia - Gamelyn Games - Review 2House of Borgia - Gamelyn Games - Review 3

Gameplay Mechanics

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House of Borgia is a Liar’s Dice variant. Every turn you’ll roll your dice behind a screen. You’ll then bid how many of a particular symbol is found among all the dice held by every player. After a player bids their action then the other players have a chance to challenge their bid.

If no one calls your bid then you take the action and the player on your left may make a bid. However, they have to bid more than you. If you bid three bribes then they have to bid at least four of whatever action they want to take.

However, if a bid is challenged then all players reveal their dice. You add up every dice symbol that shows the action you wish to take and any wild symbols. If the number of total symbols is equal to or greater than your bid then they get to take the action. The player who challenged loses a dice. If the total is less than you bid then you lose the action and a dice is removed from your pool.

After a player loses a dice then everyone rolls their dice. The player who lost a dice places the first bid. This continues until one player is out of dice. These are the basic mechanics of the game. They aren’t the meat of it though.

Mostly of the game will deal with manipulating the cardinal row in the center of the table. This row represents the five cardinals most likely to be elected Pope. You are given a card that shows which one you are supporting at the beginning of the game. Each cardinal starts with two influence on them and in the end the Cardinal with the most influence will be elected Pope.


The actions you can take will mostly add, remove, and move influence from one cardinal to another. Additionally you can change a cardinal’s position in the row. At the end of every round the cardinals at the top of the row gain additional influence. You can also mark one of the cardinals as the anti-pope, which will prevent them from gaining influence in the end. The final action you can take is to start a rumor about a cardinal’s connection to one of the other players. If you correctly connect a puppet to a player that player can’t win at the end of the game.

Once the game ends the cardinal with the most influence is elected Pope and the player who’s been supporting him is declared the winner. Unless of course he’s been linked to that cardinal by a rumor. It’s also possible for no one to win if the new Pope has no connection to any of the players. House of Borgia - Gamelyn Games - Review 4

Initial Impressions

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When going through the rules I had an incorrect opinion of this game. I saw that it was a Liars Dice variant and dismissed it. I had decided that it wouldn’t matter very much. I decided it would be disposable. Of course, I didn’t know how wrong I was. House of Borgia - Gamelyn Games - Review 5

Game Build Quality

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I think the quality is pretty good. All of the cards have a nice finish. Cardinal cards have a nice thickness that makes moving them around with tokens on them easy.

The dice are all solid quality. Though, I wish they’d been a bit bigger. Wooden disks used to track the amount of influence each Cardinal has are fine quality. House of Borgia - Gamelyn Games - Review 6

Artistic Direction

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I like the art. The cardinal’s have a jovial quality that feels a step away from being cartoony. The different player screens depict various parts of the conclave and all look very nice. House of Borgia - Gamelyn Games - Review 7

Fun Factor

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This is a more strategic bluffing game. Not only are you going to be trying to lie your way through each round, you’ll also need to figure out what symbols to use for your next bid. It’s a quick game that encourages multiple plays.House of Borgia - Gamelyn Games - Review 8

Age Range & Weight

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The box says 14+ and I think that might be a little high and also just right. Where complexity is concerned 14 is a bit high. The basic rules for the game are pretty simple. I don’t think younger players will have much of a problem learning how to play

Thematically however, 14 might just be the right age. In this game you’re going after political figures. You’re using bribes, rumors, and intrigue to get your way and put a puppet into a major political position. For younger players that may not be a great message. House of Borgia - Gamelyn Games - Review 9


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In the end I had a fun with this game. I enjoyed the back and forth and the mix of misdirection and pushing your luck. There are also good decisions to be made here. It’s possible to start the bid low in order to ensure you get your action but you can jump up a bit to try and prevent other people from getting theirs.

You have to pay attention to how other people bid as well. Part of bidding is not only trying to figure out which symbols someone else has but also remembering that one of the symbols is wild. Knowing that some of the dice will meet a requirement for everyone adds an entire new level to this game.

It’s not perfect. There were moments of indecision, you really need more players. I’d say this game works best at the higher layer counts. There are rules for two players but they’re not really that good.

An additional bonus, the rulebook has a brief bit of information on all of the real world cardinals that are portrayed in the game. I always enjoy a game that has a little bit of education and history in it.

All told, I think the game was pretty fun with some good decisions. I enjoyed playing it and wouldn’t turn down another match in the future.

As always, try before you buy. Hit up your local game store or convention and give it a go. I think you might find it to be a good bit of fun. House of Borgia - Gamelyn Games - Review 10

Parting Words

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Thanks for stopping by friends. I hope you’re taking care of yourselves. We have a lot of demands on our time and attention and I want to remind you to take a couple of minutes to put yourself first. Take some time today and give yourself a small gift. Be it a walk in the park, lunch outside in the sun, a really good cup of coffee. Take time to treat yourself. Your happiness is important to your well-being and mental health can never be underestimated.

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