Machiavelli (board game)

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Designer(s)S. Craig Taylor and James B. Wood
Publication date1977
Setup time5-10 minutes
Playing time4-12 hours
Random chanceNone-Low
Skill(s) requiredTactics

Machiavelli is a strategic board game created by S. Craig Taylor and James B. Wood, and released commercially in 1977 by Battleline Publications, later taken over in 1980 by Avalon Hill, who are currently owned by Hasbro. Set in Renaissance Italy, the board is controlled by the Republic of Florence, the Republic of Venice, the Duchy of Milan, the Kingdom of Naples, the Papacy, Valois France, Habsburg Austria, and the Ottoman Turks.

The game shares most of the basic rules of its predecessor Diplomacy, and introduces many new rules such as money, bribery, three seasons per year, garrisons, and random events such as plague and famine. It features scenarios tailored for as little as four and as many as eight players.


Machiavelli is designed to be played by a group of 4 to 8 players. However, the official scenarios are best played with 6 or 8 players. Each one of the players controls one of the available powers.

The game board is a map of the Italian Peninsula and its nearby countries, including the southeast of France, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, the coasts of the Adriatic Sea, Tunis, and the mediterranean islands Corsica and Sardinia. The board is divided in 73 different areas. There are two types of areas: provinces and seas. Some of the provinces have a city, that in some cases can be fortified. Some of these fortified cities have a port.

Each player has a set of tokens that represent three types of military units: armies, fleets and garrisons. All of a player's tokens have the same colour. Also, the game includes other tokens, such as assassination tokens, rebellion tokens, famine tokens and ducats, the coinage in Machiavelli.

Machiavelli includes two 6-sided dice that are used only with some optional or advanced rules, such as natural disasters or assassinations.

The game includes a rulebook and eight cheatsheets, one for each player.

Playing the game[edit]

To win a game of Machiavelli, a player must get the control of a certain number of provinces before the other players. Usually, the game ends when a player gets the control of 15 provinces, though a longer game can be agreed in which the winner needs to control half of the provinces (i.e. 23 provinces).

A game is divided in years and each year in three seasons (spring, summer and fall). Each season is, in fact, a game turn. The turns of all the players are played simultaneously; they must secretly write down their orders and these orders are read aloud when all the players have finished. This system makes Machiavelli a suitable game to play by mail.

The rule book describes four official scenarios that explain the initial setup of the military units of each player.

In the basic game, in which no advanced or optional rules are applied, every year is played by the following sequence:

  1. Spring
    1. Update the control of provinces
    2. Adjust military units
    3. Diplomacy
    4. Orders writing
    5. Conflict resolution
    6. Retreats
  2. Summer
    1. Diplomacy
    2. Orders writing
    3. Conflict resolution
    4. Retreats
  3. Fall
    1. Diplomacy
    2. Orders writing
    3. Conflict resolution
    4. Retreats

In the orders writing phase, the player can assign an order to each one of his units. The available orders are Hold, Advance, Besiege, Support and Convoy.

The advanced game adds the following rules:

  • Finances
  • Expenses, including bribes
  • Rebellions
  • Assassinations

Also there are some optional rules to make the game more fun and add some randomness:

  • Excommunication (1995 edition only)
  • Natural disasters (famine and plague)
  • Special units
  • Strategic movement (1995 edition only)
  • Money lenders
  • Conquest


Mike Breault comments: "With all this depth, richness, and historical context, Machiavelli's gameplay still flows smoothly and swiftly along. It's a tribute to its outstanding design and development that Machiavelli works so well on so many levels. From a basic rule set that itself surpasses any other game of its type, multiple gameplay-enhancing layers can be added as desired, to weave a tapestry of intrigue and interaction unrivaled in hobby games."[1]


  1. ^ Breault, Mike (2007). "Machiavelli". In Lowder, James (ed.). Hobby Games: The 100 Best. Green Ronin Publishing. pp. 188–191. ISBN 978-1-932442-96-0.

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