Updated: Mar 31, 2020
Taiwan-based publishers Moaideas have built a reputation in recent years for high quality slightly idiosyncratic games. Symphony No 9 follows in the same tradition. Designed by Frank Liu and Hung-Yang Shen, Symphony No 9 first created a stir at last year’s International Spieltage (Essen) but it’s only now beginning to appear on retail shelves. It has an attractive theme, and tho’ the rules are not complex, it offers surprising depth as players (ideally 3 or 4) jockey for victory point scoring opportunities.
As is hinted at by the name, Symphony No 9 is themed around the lives and careers of well-known 17th and 18th Century classical composers. Players are taking cubes from the career tracks of the six composers (five if you play with only 2 or 3 players), representing their sponsorship of those composers. Two cubes are taken for free but players need to decide whether or not to buy a further cube at a cost of $4 and another for $8. Usually it is a good idea to spend on acquiring the extra cubes. In each of six rounds, the majority investor (ie: player with the most cubes) for each composer takes a tile representing a composition by that composer. These tiles will affect your victory points score at the end of the game, but the scoring tiles for each composer vary with every game and so therefore will the ways in which the composition tiles interact with each other and with the other game components.
After each round of cube acquisition, there is a royal concert. Here the composers are ranked according to their current popularity (affected by the cubes taken in this and previous rounds). Players then make a blind bid for how much they will contribute to the cost of the concert. The total revealed determines whether the performance will be of high, medium or low rank composers, or if there is no performance at all. If the concert takes place, everyone with at least one cube in that composer’s colour will earn a reward, with an extra reward for the player that contributed the most cash to the concert. There are penalties for the lowest bidder if the bidding is insufficient to fund even a concert of low rank composers, and for the highest bidder there may be a penalty for too much extravagance.
The depth in Symphony No 9 comes from the myriad of ways in which all the different elements of the game interact with each other. Money can be tight so you may even be tempted to sell the furniture to pay for that extra cube or to enable you to make a contribution to the royal concert. (Yes, each player starts the game with three pieces of furniture: tiles that are worth money if cashed in but are more valuable as victory points if you still have them at the end of the game).
Moaideas have done their usual great job in the production of this game. There’s a lot in this relatively compact box, including money chests that enable players to keep their assets concealed. There is no punchboard to grapple with – all the components are pre-punched. Sure, like most board games, Symphony No 9 is an abstract game with a pasted on theme, but there’s enough charm here to transport you at least part of the way into believing you are an 18th Century music patron.