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Macao - First Play...Thursday?

The Dave
United States
La Jolla
California
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Hey, I’ll take what I can get! The Wife’s sister Mikki was visiting this week, and she likes playing games. Even better, she’s usually up for a new game so on Thursday I proposed trying Macao. Since Macao was a last minute choice, I hadn’t read the rules earlier in the week, so we sat down to sort components and read/learn the rules together.

Before I review Macao, I’ll take a minute to state it has been a great gaming week for me. Tuesday Mikki and I played Carson City twice (session report), and I think I'm ready to give it a preliminary rating of an 8.

Wednesday I taught Mikki A Few Acres of Snow. I’ve only played 4 times – twice over Christmas (winning once as British and once as France) and twice online at Yucata.de (winning both as the British). She played as the French and I as the British. She rushed to settle all of her cubes, while I tried to develop all of my discs. She beat me by 7 points, as I just couldn’t get the cards I needed when I needed them. It probably didn’t help that I kept forgetting to place my new location cards in my discard pile – especially since I needed them to develop those locations! I also made the mistake of Governering my only Bateaux (St. Mary’s) back into my available cards. Bah…newbie mistakes.

Our second game, Mikki wanted to play as the French again. This time I tried a more militaristic approach, buying as much military as possible and slowly settling/besieging my way through Nova Scotia towards Quebec. The game ended after I successfully besieged Quebec. devil VENGEANCE!

Friday we played two new games, as well as sparred for a few games of JAB. Stay tuned for reports from Friday!

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I will now review Macao according to the following criteria. Keep in mind this is a review of the game after only one play.

Accessibility (1): How easy was the game to teach and learn? Is it complex and/or fiddly? Are the rules easy to understand and follow? How long did it take to go over the rules?

Fun (1): Is it fun? Included in this might be a theme-to-mechanics metric, or a player interaction metric.

Length of first play (1): Some games say 60-90 minutes, but the first play might take you 3 hours. Not included is length of rules explanation.

Desire to play again (1): Typically I would rather play a new game than play a game I’ve already played (with some exceptions). I know – I am crazy. This will be a good measure of how much I like the game.

Review:

Accessibility:

When I first started learning about Macao, I noticed a trend in reviews about how the abbreviations used were cumbersome (PP, GC, AC), but this didn’t really bother us. Nor did we have any problems deciphering the cards, although in a two player game we didn’t read more than half the deck, so we could have just missed the less-intuitive ones. For having not read the rules prior to opening the game, I would say Macao was pretty straightforward. Going over the rules probably took 20 minutes.

Score: .7

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Fun:

Eh, Macao was pretty dry, thematically speaking. Sure I’m a merchant (gulp or something) trying to make a name for myself. But even the pasted theme doesn’t work with some of the mechanics. How is it possible that my boat magically contains dishes if I take ownership of a city quarter with dishes in it? Wouldn’t I have to load the boat at some point? Also the wind rose is a nifty mechanic (as is the AC/Dice mechanic), and it is very challenging to keep it properly primed to avoid punish markers. However, how does that remotely fit with the theme? There is also almost zero player interaction.

Having said that, I did, you know, enjoy playing the game. It took awhile to “get it”, but once I did, the turns were engaging and the game is definitely full of delicious decisions (that’s the first time I’ve used that phrase in this blog, but I promise you it won’t be the last)

Score: .3

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Length of first play:

Very quick, maybe 75 minutes tops. This would probably creep up a bit if playing with 4 players for the first time, but I was pleasantly surprised with how quick the game went. Around round 3 I remember thinking “Hmm…I’m not sure if I like this game”. Then by Round 6 I was thinking “Awesome – I’ve got a really good AC engine going, I’ve got a couple cool combos with my activated cards and – wait – it’s round 10 already?!” Seriously, it felt like the game advanced 4 rounds by the time I finished that thought. Once those 6s and 5s started turning to 1s, I started hoping Mikki would be up for another game…

Score: .9

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Desire to play again:

I really wanted to play it again immediately after the first game, but eventually that glow faded a bit. I felt like the game ended too quickly, especially since it took a few rounds to figure out exactly what it was I should be doing. I can see how this game would grow better with repeated plays. I would easily recommend this with my gaming groups, but I would also be just as happy to wait until The Wife and I have a quiet evening and we’re looking for a quick, yet engaging game to play.

Score: .6

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OVERALL: 2.5/4

I’m a self-admitted Stefan Feld fanboy, so I can appreciate a soul-less euro with clever mechanics. I think that phrase sums up Macao pretty well. The AC/Dice mechanic is intriguing and begs to be explored further, and the windrose presents some difficulty in planning your strategy for later turns. I’m not sure I’ll put in the time required to really learn the game, but at the same time I don’t see this one being put up for sale/trade any time soon. I think it will get the most plays as a 2-player game. The theme does it no favors, so you really have to enjoy the mechanics to get enjoyment from the game. I enjoy the mechanics, so I think I enjoy Macao. I think.

Up Next: I first-play review Stronghold. I bet you can guess the Accessibility score for that one…
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