I had a good time last night at Keith's place playing Princes of Florence. It was my first time with this game, and although Trevor Les and Keith had played before they needed a detailed refresh. I was in the lead most of the way through but Keith overtook me at the very end because he had the foresight to acquire a Prestige card.
I very much enjoyed Princes of Florence, but at the same time the theme is at the very limit of whimsyness that I can tolerate. I mean when you look at it in the cold light of day, what exactly am I doing here? Building a lake in order to attract a poet??? Is that really how things worked in Renaissance Italy? I suspect that a more common approach was to contact the poet in question and make him an offer he couldn't refuse. And possibly assassinate his current employer as well!
So I am uneasy with games (like Princes of Florence) that have fairly detailed mechanisms simulating a process that doesn't make any sense to me. On the other hand I can tolerate a lot of abstraction - for example Knizia's Samurai doesn't bother me at all. I am happy to accept this as a highly abstracted story of a struggle for territorial dominance in medieval Japan. Whereas Through the Desert doesn't appeal to me at all, because building lines of camels across the wilderness doesn't seem to be connected to any kind of real or fictional world that makes sense to me.
Having said that, the interlocking systems of Princes of Florence are so interesting in their own right that perhaps I can live with the whimsyness in this case.