When I was a kid, I used to play a game called Kerplunk. When I visited my friend down the street, we used to play Don’t Break the Ice. When I was in college, it was all the rage to play Jenga. All of these games had one thing in common. They all involved things falling down. Their technical name is Things are going to fall down games.
Things are going to fall down games have an obvious loser. Someone is going to make the tower, the ice, the marbles, the salami, or whatever fall down and everyone will go “Ooooh” or “Aaaaah” or make some other loud vowel sound noise, which is better than a loud bowel sound noise. Come on, you thought that too when you read it. Villa Paletti is a things are going to fall down game for gamers.
Villa Paletti was designed by Bill Payne and published by Zoch Verlag in 2001. The game won a few awards including the Spiel des Jahres in 2002, the 2001 Tric Trac d’Or, and the 2002 Best Peanut Butter Cookie. Okay, I made that last one up. The game is for 2 – 4 players of ages 8+.
The concept behind Villa Paletti is that you create a multi-level structure by moving columns from the bottom floor to a new floor at a higher level. Each player has a number of columns in their color and the floors are cut into strange curvy shapes. It’s a very good looking game. It wouldn’t be nearly as fun if the colors weren’t so vibrant.
The game also comes with a base on which to build, and a little hook that you can use to slide out a column if it’s too difficult to grab with your fingers. You also get a block of wood called the Master-Builder seal. You also get a thin book called the Rules. The Rules describe in detail how you take turns moving your columns from the bottom floors, building up the tower, trying to get control of the Master-Builder seal, until someone makes the tower fall down.
I asked for some feedback on Villa Paletti and this is what Jonathan Degann had to say, “A natural problem is that such a game will have an obvious loser, but needs to contort itself to find a winner. So, you just have to accept that it’s the game first and the correctness of the game mechanics second.” I think that’s a valid point. The fight for control of the Master-Builder seal seems a bit wonky.
Mark Johnson said, “I like these games to be short, and not worry that there’s one loser. We all laugh and try again.” Mark was talking about Things are going to fall down games in general, I believe. I think he’s right. These games should be short. Nobody wants to spend 45 minutes building a tower that’s going to fall down at some point. Well, yeah, there’s that guy, but most people want these games to be quick.
It’s tempting to play Villa Paletti as a simple fall down game, where you play until only one person hasn’t knocked down the structure, but I think it’s a mistake to ignore the actual rules, or at least what you think are the actual rules. We didn’t realize that you could only move your own columns. We had fun anyway.
I don’t think Villa Paletti is too hard to find. There are a few knock-offs out there, but if you keep your eye out, you can probably find a copy somewhere. I enjoyed it quite a bit. There are a few other Things are going to fall down games out there that I enjoy a bit more, like Riff Raff and Animal Upon Animal, but Villa Paletti is still a very fun and family friendly game.
This is part of my Spiel des Jahres winner series. If you would like to comment on the 2002 winner, Villa Paletti, then please do so on this post. If you would like to discuss or comment on the Spiel des Jahres award in general, please do so on the Spiel des Jahres series post.