Cards, Blades and Detection Rolls: A Review of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood of Venice
As an Assassin Apprentice, you have been picked by the great Assassin, Ezio Auditore to help prepare a defense against the Templar Order led by Cesare Borgia. Ezio has tasked you with rescuing the four key members of his new Bureau in Venice while he hunts down his adversary in Navarra, Spain. Equipped with nothing but a parachute and the help of fellow apprentices, you must break the Assassins out of the Templar prison and escape without being detected. Can you answer your mentor’s call, or will you fall to the sword of the Templar?
This is a description of the first level titled “Prisoners” in the new tabletop RPG, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood of Venice (BoV) by Triton Noir, in association with Ubisoft. From this board game comes a new way to experience Assassin’s Creed with the use of a tile constructed map and dice based combat system. With a combination of skill cards, abilities, weapons, and allies players must work together to help build the Brotherhood of Venice from nothing. A task that will be littered with a rogues gallery of enemies, familiar faces, and secrets of the past and future. 1 - 4 players can play the game, and levels are quoted to last 30 - 45 minutes each.
Due to the content of the game, it is advised that players are at least 14 years old to play.
Released initially as a Kickstarter, BoV was successful at reaching its initial goal by raising nearly CA $1.4M via nearly 6,800 backers. After its initial campaign, Triton Noir opened its offerings via their website where I was able to order the base game, expansions, and some additional gameplay items for a hefty price tag (nearly $500 USD). After a few months of production, I received my copy of BoV and began my adventure into a continuation of the Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood story, starting alongside the final mission of the PC and Console release title.
The base game for Brotherhood of Venice is offered as a Collector’s Edition on www.triton-noir.com for $239 USD. Recently, the company announced that a retail edition would be released next year at a lower price. This would remove the included figurines for cardboard game pieces and a smaller packaging to allow more players access to their game.
Within the collector’s edition, players will find highly detailed plastic minifigures, map tiles and boards, playing cards, custom dice, tokens and counters, sticker sheets, and game booklets. When you first open the box, you will find perforated sheets that contain the tiles, player boards, compass, and game pieces alongside the Rulebook and Campaign Booklet. Once you have released the pieces from their frame, you will be greeted with a detailed sheet that shows the contents of the first tray of 140+ minifigures so that you know exactly where to store each piece when you finish your session.
A second tray of figures and visual guide follow and then the final tray rests at the bottom with the mission envelopes, game piece storage, and a plethora of hidden figure boxes that are not to be opened until the campaign tells you too. The sheer amount of content found within these trays is exciting and a bit intimidating for someone that has never played a figure based a tabletop game before.
Both the Rulebook and Campaign Booklet are filled with wonderful original artworks to mentally put you in the mindset of an Assassin in Venice. From the Contents page in the Rulebook, players will find images and counts of each component of the game so that they can verify what they should have and know the names of each piece that will be used multiple times during their campaign (additional rulebook revisions have been released and are available on Triton Noir’s website).
The Introduction pages, starting with Rule 0 give an overview of the game as well as steps on how to learn to play this intricate game. The players have two options, “Learning Through Play” and “Reading All the Rules Before Playing”. The first option will have you read the rule points on the page, a glossary, and how to set up your player board with a generic male or female Assassin Apprentice (Note: Players that are playing a solo game must play two assassins for the game to work properly). From here, players are directed to the Campaign Booklet to start playing. Those that choose to read the full rulebook can do so at this point and start gameplay afterwards.
Each level is divided within the Campaign Book by Sequence and Memory number, much like the Genetic Memory strands in the videogame. Starting with Sequence 0, Memory 0.1 “Prisoners” players are provided a synapsis of the level for the story element and any additional gameplay notes that need to be provided before the 4 - 5 step setup. By providing an organized breakdown, players can follow at their own pace and learn the rhythm of the game before and after play.
With the first step, players are provided a list of tiles to gather from the gamebox to build the grid based map that the level will take place. These tiles will layout roofs, streets, indoor rooms, and large set piece maps that can house towers, canals, and other environments. The images on the tiles vary but are easy to determine what they are considered for the map so each level can have a different feel in its corner of Venice, from grassy streets to fountains, dungeons to lavish offices and the various tiled roofs of the city. Once the map is laid out per the provided picture, players will add additional items such as objective tokens and bases, starting enemies, and reminder pieces that will be used alongside rules or conditions of the mission; for example, for this first mission, three reminder tokens are used to help remember to roll a Detection Test when entering a tile that contains a Templar Crossbowman. Lastly players set to the side of the map an Alert State token (the guard alarm in the videogame), and red dice that are used for the detection tests noted earlier.
Before continuing to the second step, players are directed to return to the Rulebook and read rule points 2 - 5 to learn about Game Turns, divided into Event, Assassin, Enemy, and End of Turn Phases. These phases will help understand how event cards work, how an assassin can use their three action cubes (each), how the enemies enter the map via reinforcements and move or enter combat, and how to wrap up the turn so that the next one can begin.
Next, the Assassins will open the labeled envelope for the current memory and follow the steps within. When an envelope is opened, players are greeted with a large red card to provide warning of the contents. Each mission requires reading the red card in detail to set up the Event and Equipment decks for the game without spoiling things like rewards and discoveries. For this first mission, players are asked to reveal the 4 small Equipment cards and split them between the Assassins Apprentices that are playing. These starting cards are the consumable item “Parachute” which include a new rule point (#24) to learn about Equipment cards and the differences between single use items and gear (such as weapons and armor). After the equipment deck is ready, players shuffle the included 5 Event cards and set them face down next to the map. These cards provide special circumstances for a game turn. Lastly, players are informed to leave the 5 small Reward cards in the envelope without revealing them.
Last but not Least, players are given final rules and notes, sometimes Codex entries about key characters or locations of the game. For Memory 0.1, players are directed back to the Rulebook to learn about Stealth. Incognito, Exposed, Detection Tests, and Alert State are all explained in fine detail. Additionally rule point 15 teaches how to use a Fast Travel Station to enter and exit the map and end the mission. At the end of the Memory page within the Campaign Booklet, an “Important!” label is posted informing players not to turn the page until the memory is completed. If you read further, spoilers for the story and following level information will be seen which can ruin the surprise for everyone.
Now that the map and decks are ready, players can turn the red card from the envelope for a cheat sheet to remind them how gameplay turns are ordered and what they can do with their action cubes.Once you have completed the memory, you can turn the Campaign Booklet page to learn how the story progresses, receive your reward cards (weapons or blueprints), and learn how to fill out your “Diary of Memories”; a checklist at the back of the Campaign Book to track XP gained and objectives met. Sheets of stickers are provided in the game box as physical trophies of your accomplishments. Seeing your XP raise as you move towards higher levels and fill out your objectives is very satisfying and a great way to motivate you to play another memory.
With the first mission completed, players are able to choose one of the four Assassins from the game and start training their character to be a Master Assassin. The cast of characters are diverse and each has their own specialties. Alessandra, the tank of the group, has the ability to boost her attack strength and heal during missions without additional medicine. Bastiano is a master of stealth and has the ability to avoid Detection Tests and remain incognito during missions that would start the player in an exposed state. Claudio is a cunning and swift Assassin with abilities that allow him free use of his Hidden Blade and to draw enemies away from objectives. Lastly, Daria with her abilities to gain extra action cubes can help boost the duration of the Assassin Phase and accomplish mission objectives faster.
The freed Assassins return to their Villa to recuperate and prepare for the next memory. The Campaign Book will direct again to the Rulebook so that you can choose to save your game and learn how to store your game for the next session.
Returning back to the Game Turn, I will explain more about how a level is played. Players start by turning over an Event card and reading the details printed upon it. For Event “Dark Night” one time only during this turn, players can ignore the results of 1 Detection Test and reroll any of the red dice that landed on an Exposed Eye (sets off alarm) or Exposed Alarm Eye (only exposed if alarm is active) side. This could save the Assassin from combat and allow them an extra chance to dispatch a guard or continue towards their objective. No two are the same with these cards and each replay of the memory will be different from the time before.
In the Assassin Phase, actions are able to be made freely between the Assassins on the board and a player does not have to use all three of their actions before the next player can go. Players should plan out and talk with each other about what they want to do, how they want to divide objectives and how to reach their end goal. Player movement, combat, and use of skills and equipment are performed during this phase. In my first playthrough of “Prisoners, I divided my two Apprentices to the West and East of the map, each one moving to release two Assassins, using rooftops and their parachutes to take out guards without being seen and escape the map within a few turns.”
The Enemy Phase continues the turn by having the player flip the Reinforcement Deck’s top card to reveal how many ranged and melee enemies enter the map, and from which entrances they enter from. The number of enemies is determined based on the number of Assassins on the map and if the alarm is in an active or inactive state. If a mission has too many enemies on the map to the point that additional guards cannot be added, the mission is considered a failure and the Assassins must start over. Once enemies have entered the map, the Event Card instructs which direction the guards will move. Each guard can move one space in the direction of the compass (unless hindered by walls or roofs with no ladder access). When you finish moving the guards, enemy combat will take place using the black dice of the game which have two icons on their sides, Attack and Defend. These determine a collective amount of damage dealt to or blocked by the Assassin. The rule points will help understand how to divide damage amongst multiple Assassins or Guards based on who is attacking. If an Assassin is brought to critical health, they have one more turn to recover via skills or healing items or be placed in the hospital for the next memory, replaced by an Assassin Apprentice (who have lesser abilities).
My Thoughts on BoV
I played Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood of Venice over the course of four months, starting in November of 2021. My overall playtime was somewhere between 50 - 100 hours total as I had to restart a few times due to not reading the rules correctly which resulted in hard stops because I broke the game. During my first playthrough I didn’t notice I had to play as two Assassins for a solo game and after my first sequence I realized I could not complete the 100% objective as I had no reinforcement deck and no enemies to fight. My second time I learned I was not using a mechanic correctly and had completely destroyed my progress thus far due to that error. I don’t remember what the issue was at the time but I was learning as I went and was able to finish after that second restart. In addition, my playtime was lengthened as I took photos and notated them with “Madden” style lines to share on my Twitter playthrough thread (available to all via my LinkTree pinned on my profile).
Each session took me about 1 - 3 hours depending on my attention level and how I was feeling that night. Having played a few levels in a separate game with a friend, I learned that solo play can be boring at times or just a lot to manage when you have a flood of enemies surrounding you, low health, and an objective on the brink of failure. I learned how to plan my turns more and more to the point that I would nearly script my turns before rolling any dice or making any movement. Towards the middle of the story where the focus is directed towards building your Brotherhood and recruiting members, I found my desire to play to dwindle. The game was enjoyable, but the work I had to put into setting up, breaking down, and actually playing the game was time consuming. It wasn’t like the video games where I could burn through missions or entire sequences within a few hours, I had to actually build my maps and station enemies and objective points. However, once I pushed past my own hindrances and made it to the second half of the sequences, where the secret boxes were opened and new characters and environments were introduced, I fell in love with the game again. Fighting huge bosses and using weapons from other entries in the Assassin’s Creed universe, uncovering secrets and seeing fan favorites make their debut was exhilarating.
I played with Alessandra and Claudio as my two characters. They had awesome artwork on both their player cards and miniatures. Alessandra’s ability to rush into a group of guards and take them all out without damage was awesome and the fact that they made her the tank compared to the hulking male that you would normally see was a breath of fresh air. Claudio was a suave swordsman similar to Edward Kenway, and has an awesome companion that he can unlock at his highest level that I won’t spoil. Seeing these two rise in level and learn new skills, finding new outfits, and being the embodiment of Ezio’s vision was the missing half of AC: Brotherhood that I wish I could have played; the half where you are the Assassin in training under Ezio and not the Master Assassin.
Gameplay and story go hand in hand as I enjoyed both aspects of the game. I loved the freedom to do what I wanted on the map but from a different perspective. The rewarding snippets of story at the end of each mission fueled my desire to play and learn more about the characters and canonical story in the Assassin’s Creed lore. I did find the luck of the dice roll to be very difficult at times to the point where I was reminded of my time playing “Neverwinter” and not hitting an enemy that I was standing next to. Yet, this wasn’t bad enough to where I wanted to give up.
The quality of the miniatures are fantastic in their detail, seeing the beard on Ezio’s face or the folds in the fabric of the courtesans were beautiful, but manufacturing and most likely heat during shipping warped a few pieces to the point that my Crossbowman look like they are in a Michael Jackson video, leaning forward on a crooked base, ladders that are almost twisted in a helix, and swords that are bent towards the tips of their blade. Removing the colored bases for my main characters which provide color identifiers to their unpainted figures (as I haven’t painted my figures), would begin to wear to the point that I worry they may split in half. I take very good care of my pieces but I can see where replacements would need to be ordered in the future, something that I am unaware of their being an option for outside of eBay or secondhand marketplaces.
Similar to the miniatures, the envelopes have a light layer of glue holding them together and upon opening a few of them for the first time, I would rip them or watch them unfold due to the glue failing. There are protective sleeves that are sold separately for the cards and I purchased a pack for the large cards and the smaller cards, but learned once I opened my game that I didn’t have enough for all of them and would only be able to sleeve them once the envelope had been opened in the game or spoil the contents for myself. I decided not to use these sleeves but may order additional quantities to protect my cards later on.
I purchased the color coded dice that are sold separately so that each Assassin has their own set of four dice that match the color of their miniature base and give more personality than the base white and gold dice that come with the game. All the dice are great to the touch and roll smoothly with no issues of figuring out what you rolled.
The game pieces such as objective tokens and entrance labels are made with a good quality cardboard and I haven’t had any issue with peeling or scratches on them. The health and action cubes are a nice plastic and look very clean, but can be hard to find if you drop them on the floor. I would turn the flashlight on my phone to reflect them under my table easier.
That brings me to another point, the space required to play the game can be very large. I have a circular table from IKEA that is 103 cm and at times when playing with a dual map set up, miniatures, and two player boards would be completely covered by the game. I made it work but that in itself required its own planning.
Overall I think this is a great entry to the Assassin’s Creed Universe and builds on the story of the legendary Ezio Auditore in a way that doesn’t glamorize the character. I love the world building of the game and the references to the older games and mechanics of the video games. While the entry cost for this game was high, luckily there is going to be a cheaper option for those that couldn’t throw down the money required for this detailed and wonderful game.
Where and What to Buy
I stated earlier that the Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood of Venice game could be purchased from Triton Noir’s website for $230 USD in English or French. Additional language packs for Spanish, Italian, and German can be purchased for $59 USD each and include the Rulebook, Campaign Book, Booklets for the 3 expansion packs, and all the playing cards both large and small for the core game and expansions (849 cards total). Card sleeves to protect these cards are sold based on size in packs of 100 each for $6 - $10 USD. The character color coded dice I mentioned earlier are available for $19.00 USD and if you want to beef up your maps you can buy the Crows’ Nest tower for $56 USD which comes with a detailed tower and hay cart to perform your Leaps of Faith into.
Lastly are the expansion packs. There are three in total that take place after the core game story, and require the core game box to play as they mix old game pieces and cards with new tiles and miniatures.
The “Roma” expansion takes the players to Rome where Claudia Auditore is building another bureau for the Brotherhood and needs your help to stop the Followers of Romulus while searching for another artifact.
In “Creed vs Crows” players can enter a PVP multiplayer format where the Assassins fight the elusive Crows of Cesare Borgia.
“Tokyo XXI” has players take control of Modern Day Assassins like Layla Hassan and Rebecca Crane against the powerful Abstergo.
Each expansion pack is available for $71 USD and adds a lot of new content and gameplay.
I would advise those that want to get started with the game to purchase the Collector’s Edition first, or if you are into painting miniatures as there are over 140 of them in the box. The Crows’ Nest is a great element to have on the board and looks awesome when you have your Assassin perched on its sync point. The dice and protectors are nice to have but not needed and due to the price of the expansions, I would advise to play the main game first before purchasing, just in case you find you don’t like it and due to the time it takes to finish the main game (estimated 50 hours). Plus, with the retail edition of the core game releasing, there could be announcements for the expansions at a cheaper price.
The retail edition is stated to have all the same gameplay and mechanics as the CE but with only the main Assassins and Ezio having figurines. All other character pieces will be standees and the secret boxes will be converted to envelopes. Make sure to keep an eye out on this as I will for an easier way to get into this game.
While I struggled to finish my solo playthrough of this game, I still very much enjoy Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood of Venice and would suggest that any fan of the series should purchase this game. I would highly recommend finding at least one other person to play with to make the game move quicker and have someone to uncover secrets and accomplish goals with. I plan on finishing my co-op campaign with my friend in the future while I play the expansions on the side.
If you are a fan of the series, RPGs, miniatures, or board games in general, I would recommend this game. The passion and care that was put into the game by the Triton Noir team is very visible (such as the hidden message in Arabic under the lid) in this product and I look forward to seeing more from them in the future and may check out some of their non-AC titles at some point.
About the Author
Mike Smith is a collector of all things Assassin's Creed and a major supporter for the transmedia platform for the series. With nearly a full library of Assassin's Creed media, he is exploring the universe in order of Genetic Memory and waiting eagerly for the next story to be released.
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