Lacrimosa – Requiem for a Game
“My Constanze is the virtuous, honourable, discreet, and faithful darling of her honest and kindly-disposed Mozart.”Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
After his death, Mozart’s widow Costanze sought to bring light to her late husband’s work. In Lacrimosa from Devir Games, you are a patron, sought by Costanze to finance the completion of Mozart’s Requiem with his disciples and privileged students. Meet with Costanze to record memories of Mozart, recall the trips you took together, commission new works, and, of course, complete the great Requiem.
This meaty game by Gerard Ascensi and Ferran Renalias supports up to four players and is best for teens and adults. Experienced groups can play a game of Lacrimosa in about 90 minutes.
The nearly 20-step setup process for Lacrimosa fits into a beautiful two-page spread in the rulebook. During setup, you’ll be choosing random bonus tiles for each of the five periods of Mozart’s life, selecting two composers for the Requiem, and choosing a random Costanze card to make minor changes to the Requiem board. There are a few other randomization steps you’ll take to make the game a little bit unique with every playthrough.
Everyone takes their player board, starting cards, Requiem Markers, and Story Markers. You’ll complete setup by taking your starting Ducats.
Lacrimosa is a five-round game. Each round corresponds to a period of Mozart’s life.
On a player’s turn they must select two cards from their hand. They put one into the slot at the top of their board (Experiences) and one into the bottom (Story). The Experiences card determines what action(s) they’ll do that turn. The Story card indicates Story Points and other rewards to gain at the end of the round.
Players take the actions on the Experiences card, then draw back to four cards to finish their turn. In their next turn, the player will slot cards into the second slots on the Experiences and Story sections, etcetera. After four turns, each player will only have one card left in their hand,
Each Experience icon correlates with an action. Players may Document Memories, Commission an Opus, Perform or Sell Music, Travel, or Add to the Requiem.
Here, players choose one Memory card from the track at the top of the main board. Pay the cost in Story Points and/or ducats between the bottom of the card and the card’s position in the track. Then, replace the card they played into the Story section of their player board with this new Memory. Discard the old card.
Commission an Opus
Commissioning an Opus is very similar to Documenting a Memory, but Opus cards are shifted down on the market spaces, potentially revealing an added cost above them. Players must select a card and pay its cost to put the Opus card in front of them. They can later play a card into the Experience section to perform or sell this Opus.
Perform or Sell Music
Believe me, I do not like idleness but work.Mozart
A player can Perform an Opus to take a small amount of ducats (listed on the card). If their needs are greater, players may elect to sell a piece of music. This yields a higher amount of money, but they must then discard the Opus.
A man of ordinary talent will always be ordinary, whether he travels or not; but a man of superior talent will go to pieces if he remains forever in the same place.
The Mozart’s Journeys token begins the game in Salzburg. Throughout the game, players may use the Travel action to move this token. The player may move the token as far as they wish, as long as they pay the cumulative ducat cost for each route. Then, the player may additionally pay the cost (in Travel points) for the tile in their destination city. These tiles offer various benefits or bonuses.
Add to the Requiem
At last, the Requiem. If a player plays a Requiem card into the Experiences section, they move one of their Requiem Markers from their player board to a matching instrument icon in the Requiem track of the central board. They choose one of the two composers and pay the cost shown on the top tile for that composer.
Finally, collect the reward on the taken tile and the reward indicated on the player board for the chosen instrument.
The Requiem track scores at the end of the game via a unique area control mechanic.
Once all players have taken their four turns, everyone cleans up. Players get new Story points, money, and other perks according to what they’ve put on their player boards, then remove all the Memory cards and shuffle for the next round.
Opus and Memory cards become more powerful (and more expensive!) for the next period, and the Travel area is refilled.
After five rounds, the game ends.
Players gain victory points throughout the game, but they can earn extra points for certain end game perks. Royal Court tiles (bought while Traveling) reward points for sets of Opuses or Requiem movements. Finally, players score the Requiem.
For each section of the Requiem, count the composer markers. Whichever composer has more markers in that section scores the higher victory point value for each marker with their symbol. Note: those symbols are for a composer, not a player.
Players score the corresponding victory points for each of their markers in those sections. This is a very unique strategic element that can have a profound effect on final scoring in the game.
Once everyone has scored their Royal Tiles and Requiem points, whoever has the highest point total wins!
Wow. This game is gorgeous. The visually arresting box art for Lacrimosa is the most memorable box I’ve seen in the last five years. Thankfully, the artistic touch doesn’t end there. Devir spared no expense in the quality of the components in Lacrimosa, to the point where it is simply a pleasure to play. I get endless (probably too much) pleasure in the player board, which actually allows you to slide the cards inside it and stops them perfectly in place.
Less Complex Than It Seems
Lacrimosa can be overwhelming when setting it up for the first time. Once you’ve processed all of it (or had someone explain it to you), it makes a lot of sense and flows well.
There are two elements in Lacrimosa that seem to trip people – the iconography and the area majority scoring for the Requiem. The icons for Documenting a Memory and Commissioning an Opus both focus on writing. They were similar enough that most players got them confused at least once.
The area majority in the Requiem was confusing too – but I think it is a case of a unique twist on a familiar mechanic. I love that the area majority is controlled by a combination of player efforts. What a great twist; choose to join with a composer who already has a presence in the Agnus Dei, or play the contrarian and potentially cost other players, who have sponsored the other composer, some points.
There are so many different ways to play Lacrimosa that we haven’t yet settled on any primary strategy. Players may seem to be surging ahead with their tactful acquisition, performance, and sale of music, or they could be charging around Germany, visiting city after city. Players could be building progressively more powerful memory cards and leaning on period bonuses or Royal Tiles, or they could be banking on contributing the most to the Requiem, and scoring huge end-game points.
Regrettably, this is not a game our kids were terribly interested in playing. This isn’t really a surprise to us, as the theme is a bit more adult, and it is on the complex side. I do think a game savvy 12-year-old can play this game mechanically without issue. But it takes a special kid to be interested in composers from the Classic period.
Lacrimosa allows for a solo mode, in which you compete against Schikaneder, a friend of the Mozart family. To play Schikaneder, take two cards off the special solist deck. The first slots into Experiences and the second into Story. The Story card determines how he takes an action (which Opus to take or “sell”, which Memory card to activate, how far he Travels, or where to place a token on the Requiem).
The soloist mode is functional and encourages a player to consider tradeoffs. But as with many automatas, it wasn’t as satisfying as playing with a group.
If only the whole world could feel the power of harmony.
Lacrimosa is a glorious tribute to an imitable genius. It is steeped in its theme, and you can feel how your decisions relate to the various aspects of Mozart’s life. Though some of the mechanics are similar to other games, this is a game that beautifully blends mechanics with its unique theme.
Lacrimosa shines for those gamers who appreciate the Classical period, but it is a strong enough game that any serious gamer will appreciate its contributions to the hobby. I’m delighted to have it in our collection where it will stay for a long time.
And let’s face it, there is no better background music than compositions from the master of the period, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Devir Games provided The Family Gamers with a promotional copy of Lacrimosa for this review.
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Lacrimosa - Requiem for a Game
Age Range: 14+
Playtime: at least 90 minutes