Full disclosure: A review copy of Venice Connection was provided by Nice Game Shop.
And they say I never review older games. This game came out before I was born! Sure, it’s since been reprinted, and it’s been published in a few new places, and it got an expansion last year, and … well, needless to say, there’re many reasons why I might look at any particular game, and this one’s number is up. Let’s dive right in and check out Venice Connection.
In Venice Connection, you’re looking to … make a connection, in Venice. It’s helpful when games are named that way, I suppose. However, this connection is much more practical than it is romantic; specifically, you’re trying to connect a canal and create a cycle so that you can sail some gondolas. As you do. As you build, your opponent may also build, but once the cycle is complete, whoever placed the last piece wins. Be careful! Will you be able to build out the perfect canal?
None required. Place the tiles in a stack:
They also have corners on the back side:
Choose a player to go first.
Have you ever played Nim? No? Well, it’s similar, even though that doesn’t help. Your goal is to make a single, fully-connected canal. One circuit. Unfortunately, that’s your opponent’s goal, too. Whoever completes the canal that you’re building together first wins!
On your turn, you may play 1 / 2 / 3 tiles. These must be placed adjacent to each other, in a straight line, but they don’t have to be along the same path! You just can’t place them such that the canal on one runs into a non-canal part of another. Non-canal touching non-canal is fine, as you can see above.
If, at any point, your opponent makes a move such that the circuit cannot be completed, you may say, “Impossible!”. This means that they may use the remaining tiles to attempt to complete the canal however they would like. They cannot move or change existing tiles, however. If they cannot complete the circuit, they lose. If they can, they immediately win the game!
Take turns playing tiles until one player completes the circuit. That player immediately wins!
Player Count Differences
- Count. You need to keep track of how many tiles are left in the pile pretty much consistently, and you should specifically never not know how many are left. Most of the game depends on that.
- Try to play erratically. You should not play predictably, because the more predictably that you play, the easier it is for your opponent to figure out what your plan is and ultimately work around it. That’s, as you might guess, not great for you. If they can predict you perfectly, then they’ll win every time, so try to do some off-the-wall moves. Just make sure you never do anything so off-the-wall that it becomes unwinnable.
- Don’t play impossible moves. Again, if your opponent is keeping track of the tiles and planning ahead, they’ll know exactly when you cross the red line of “this game cannot be completed”. If you don’t think they’re paying attention, it might be worth trying to bluff it, but if you want to play a two-player bluffing game I’d recommend considering Cake Duel instead.
- Verify every turn. You should make sure after every play that the board can still be solved. If you forget, then you might forget to call Impossible on your opponent, which means they’ll call it on you as soon as you play anything. Again, not ideal for you.
- Split long runs. If you have long empty gaps between two tiles, place tiles there such that two tiles are required to complete that run and they’re not adjacent. This will force your opponent to play one and you can take the other spot for the win. Just make sure they don’t do that to you, first.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Super short. The game might take five or ten minutes; it’s a truly quick little game.
- Very pretty. I actually really love the art! It would make a really nice shadowbox. The black and white contrasts on the tiles make the canal really stand out in a very pretty way.
- Very easy to transport. You can just take out the 16 tiles and place them in your pocket or a tiny bag or a Quiver; you should pretty much be able to take this anywhere, if you want to.
- I have no idea why the box is the way it is. It’s just hard to open in a weird way and the inside of the box gets caught when you open it. I kind of understand why they didn’t design it for an expansion, since the expansion arrived 20 years later, but that would have also been nice.
- It’s pretty countable. And you should, really. There’s no better way to win than just counting it out and waiting for your opponent to lose the game. Hopefully they do.
- You know when you’ve lost, usually. It can be a bit before the game ends, but it’s still a bit annoying.
- It’s really a game of “who can make a mistake first”. I think that’s what mostly makes me irritated about it. There’s not really anything dynamic to the game, in that sense. You just kinda play until one person goofs. Maybe the goof is making it impossible, maybe it’s making it winnable for you, maybe it’s just setting too many tiles too close together; either way, whichever person makes an egregious mistake first loses. That tends to make the game take longer with the wrong crowd since players are now overthinking all their decisions, which isn’t super fun to watch, honestly. This may not be true if you’re a massive fan of Nim, though. Then it’s just a pretty version of that.
Overall: 5.5 / 10
Yeah, overall, I wanted to like Venice Connection more than I did, apparently. Happens, sometimes. I think I’m a bit positive on it just because it’s extremely short and it’s got really nice art, but, the whole “wait until one player makes a mistake” isn’t the most satisfying game, for me? That said, I actually like the expansion a fair bit, so it might still be worth me writing up that review. In the meantime, the core problems I have with it is that I don’t think it ever really hits a point where it’s … super interesting to me. The space of available choices isn’t large enough that a player can’t just compute them out, and whichever player does a better job with that is just the player that wins. There’s very little to this that’s like, variable; Nim, its core game, has already been solved, and I imagine it’s possible to solve this one, too, but I haven’t spent any time really thinking about it. But, if you like that kind of game, I do think this is a strict upgrade over Nim; it’s very pretty, even if you end up losing. Beyond that, though, it’s not going to hold my interest long-term.