Parfum is a two- to four-player board game for ages 8 and up that plays in about 45 minutes. Designed by Marcel Süßelbeck and Marco Rukowski, this Queen Games title retails for a suggested price of $49.99 but can be found online for about $35.
Players take on the role of master perfumers, attempting to distill and combine the scents their customers want. The player who gains the most coins by the end of the game wins.
Can making perfume be fun? Maybe, if you get to throw dice.
How it works:
Each round, players bid on how early they will wake up, which translates to how many actions they’ll get to take. The first player gets fewer actions than the last. The exact number depends on how many people are playing.
Players can take water tokens from the well, which let them re-roll or change their die rolls. They can choose dice to roll that correspond to the perfumes they want to distill, and they can replenish the scents available to them by drawing new tiles out of a bag if there are empty spaces; those tiles also build the bottles of perfume. A small bottle needs only a top and a bottom; a large one also needs a middle.
Players roll any dice they chose. Flies make their roll unsuccessful, but water tokens can help them out. Success gives a player coins according to how difficult the distillation was to make.
If they’ve rolled successfully, they can build a perfume bottle, provided they have the right pieces.
After everyone has distilled their perfumes, players sell them to customers. The rarity and strength of a scent determine how much the customer will pay. Players can also sell their perfumes at bargain prices.
When all the final customer timer has been drawn or the last distillation tile has been placed, the final round begins.
Then players tally their points and declare a winner.
Why you might buy Parfum:
This game is beautiful, and the attention to detail makes it feel special, from little perfume bottles to individual storefronts. Each of the 25 customer tiles is unique, too.
The game is very easy to learn, and there is no hidden information, so it is easy to help new players learn the strategy.
The dice rolling and tile drawing adds randomness to what otherwise would be a dry, simple game.
That makes the game fun. It also makes it a perfect choice for families.
You can be quite far behind and still catch up, and often a player’s remaining water tokens (some of which have points on the back) can decide the game.
While you never attack another player, you can easily keep them from getting lots of points if you pay attention.
Why you might not buy Parfum:
This game looks like a more traditional Eurogame, one that doesn’t have much randomness, but it’s not. It’s simpler and less controllable. The best player won’t always win.
If the right distillations don’t get drawn, the game can become a bit punishing. (In our games, it seemed we were always short of bottoms for the bottles, although there are plenty in the bag.)
Sometimes the customers don’t want what you have. This creates an interesting dilemma. Do you sell cheap or try again? But it can be frustrating if someone is way ahead of you and there’s nothing you can do to catch them.
I love Parfum for its fun.
It’s the perfect family game. There’s enough strategy for older players, but there’s plenty of random elements for the younger crowd.
While you can be mean, you certainly don’t have to be, which is nice if you want to break this out with younger or newer players. You can beat up on the leader but leave someone who’s struggling alone.
It’s one of the most beautiful games I’ve seen, which is a bonus.
Because the game isn’t very taxing, it provides opportunity for players to talk and tell stories. That doesn’t mean they won’t be engaged, but they won’t have to stare at the board every second, either.
If you’re looking for a deep strategy game, this won’t do. But if you want a bit of fun with a visual feast that you can play with anyone, Parfum is a winner.
Full disclosure: I got a review copy of Parfum from Asmodee Editions. I was not required to write a positive review. These are my honest opinions.