Condotierre is one of my new favorite games though the game itself isn't new - it was created and designed by Dominique Ehrhard and Duccio Vitale in 1995. Though it is categorized as a strategy game, I think it involves social gaming as well, probably why I like it so much, as social deception or social deduction games like the Resistance, Werewolf, and Salem are my my absolute favorites to play, pretty much all the time.
In this 'social strategy' game, if you are playing with 4+ players, (it plays between 2-6) every one is dealt 10 cards from the deck. The object of the game is to capture and conquer city-states during the Renaissance in Italy, e.g. unite regions on the board such as Firenze, Siena, Bologna, or Roma during this divided time and embroiled era. If you can conquer 5 regions or 3 adjacent regions in Italy, you win! Though, this is no easy task as the OTHER Condotierre armies are AMBITIOUS as well.
To play, players more or less 'bid' for the region in play. The starting player selects a region, and the game begins from here. Players battle with each other using their cards, and the player with the highest total sum of cards or "strength" at the end of the battle wins the territory. For example, if I have 18 total strength while my other opponent only has 12, I would win the territory. Though this seems simple enough, what makes the game more complicated is that there are multiple battles per round of play. Let's say the region up for grabs was Florence, and you win the battle. It might have cost you 5 out of your 10 cards. That's OK except that now the battle for the next region continues, and this is part of what makes the game fun. Do you have enough strength to battle for the next region, say Bocca, as well? Bocca is next to Florence so it would be best if you won this adjacent territory but you may not have enough strength. Should you play to help another player win? Should you save your cards for the 3rd battle of the round? There are of course a few other cards, plays, and factors to consider, such as, winning the Condotierre token, which allows you to choose the region where the next battle will be fought. What is your strategy here? Do you place the token on a region you want to win or on a region you know another army wants to win, forcing him or her to play their strength/cards in this battle?
The playing deck is comprised of 2 types of cards - Mercenary cards and Special cards. Mercenary cards are your typical soldiers ranging in strength from 1-10. Special cards provide unique abilities such as the "Winter" card. When the Winter card is played, every Mercenary card turns into a 1. Let's say you were winning the battle with a 6 Mercenary and a 10 Mercenary for a total of 16 total strength. Now, because of the Winter card, you have a strength of 2. Or, let's say a player uses the "Bishop" Card. Now the highest strength Mercenaries are discarded. Did you use a 10 Mercenary? Perhaps two 10 Mercenaries? Say good bye to both once the Bishop card is played. Not all cards have negative effects, though; play the "Drummer" card, and the total strength of your army doubles. You were at 8? Following the Drummer you are 16 total strength. There are many other factors, outcomes, tactics, and devious plays to be made - and the game is high in fun, challenge, tactics, strategy, stealth, and social maneuvering.
See this link for the full set of rules to Condotierre.