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Subject: The Cardboard Herald Reviews - The Voyages of Marco Polo rss

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Jack Eddy
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(To view this review with pictures, please visit The Cardboard Herald)

The Voyages of Marco Polo
Designed by Simone Luciani & Daniele Tascini
Publisher Z-Man Games (English Edition) - 2015
Players: 2-4 - Time: 2 hours

Every now and then something comes along that seems perfectly tailored to my exquisite tastes. Maybe it’s a band that sounds like Led Zeppelin meets Queens of the Stone Age, or it’s a show that somehow combines the whimsical fairytale storytelling of The Princess Bride with boisterous showtunes. Maybe it’s even a game that combines asymmetric player powers with dice-worker placement all complemented by adorable tiny wooden camels! As I write this, I’m chomping at the bit for all of these heavenly concoctions. Tragically though, it’s these perfectly crafted amalgams that can occasionally lead to the greatest of disappointments.

Who are you? (Who, who. Who, who?):

Off the bat, players draft characters cards that will dictate how you play the game. These cards give you fantastic and unique game breaking powers, the kind that most asymmetric games only dream of, each wildly different than the rest. You really feel like you can lean into these abilities and craft a strategy unique to that character, yet the powers feel carefully planned, elegant and simple. This is the true achievement of Marco Polo, maintaining a delicate balance while managing a huge variety of character powers.

Setup continues with some relatively meaningless secret objectives that grant points if you visit certain locations on the map. I don’t mean that they are worthless, those points can be valuable, but this is one system that feels tacked on and arbitrary, as if the designer knew that players would be aimless throughout the game if they didn’t have some reward for traveling. It’s a startling contradiction to the deeply satisfying and thematic game powers I mentioned above.

From Soho down to Brighton:

Each round, players roll their dice and alternate assigning them to use actions on the board. Like most worker placement, if you take up a spot, others can’t freely go there. In many circumstances you can go to an occupied spot by paying money, but again, it's so expensive that even when necessary, the cost is discouraging. Most actions are more powerful with higher numbered dice, other actions require multiple dice placed at once to activate. The main flow of the game is collecting resources that allow you to move to new cities or fulfill orders, which give you **rewards!™** (points, resources, orders, movement, etc...) allowing you to do it again. As your merchant lands on new locations, you may gain access to new actions or receive more **rewards!™** on this future turns, which lets you move… and fulfill more orders… for more **rewards!™**.

Since it is unlikely that you will visit every location on the board, you are frequently deciding which path to take. Not only does the movement action cost resources, but most paths on the board have additional costs, making it prohibitively expensive to journey across. Do you spend your whole turn scraping together the resources to get where you want to go, or just change plans and go somewhere else or fulfill some orders because you have the resources available?

That’s the challenge of Marco Polo, constantly deciding if it’s even worth it to stick to a long term plan. If you want to make it to the other side of the board, you need to have tons of camels, money, gold, sponges*, poops**, high rolls, and the action spaces to be available at just the right time. Every action must result in a small but meaningful advancement toward your goals; goals that may or may not materialize because the game did not line up perfectly. Everything is part of a sequence of events leading to a much greater but also at the same time disappointing payoff, because it rarely feels like you are investing in anything, you are just gaining money to spend money, getting a few points along the way.

Speaking of money, there are several currencies in this game that are necessary to manage if you want to accomplish anything. Every turn is an exercise in measuring immediate costs and rewards, and careful calculation of the various resources is the most critical key to success.As you struggle to have exactly enough of each type of resource without waste, you will soon “see through the matrix”, and each chit, token, pawn, and hut might as well become variables in equations to get points. It’s unfortunate, because the game really does have a beautiful art direction with fun, thematic components.

No one knows what it’s like to be the bad man:

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the game is bad, it’s just a type of game that undermines my favorite aspect of it. I want the character powers to make me feel powerful, like I can really dig in and work toward a longterm strategy; yet throughout the game I always feel disempowered and unable to get the things I want. Almost always I’d settle for the easiest and most immediate way to get points, and it usually results in a higher standing at the end of the game. The far off cities on the end of the map, which seemed so welcoming and adventurous at the beginning of the game, just become dreams of the past as I settle for mediocrity. By the end of the game, my merchant is a jaded vagabond, occasionally roving from town to town, scooping up whatever opportunities he can before wandering on.

I will say this for the game, it’s a tight ship. There are so many ways of getting resources and mitigating unlucky rolls that the dice are rarely the problem. The player powers and victory point cards given at the beginning of the game line out a direction for you to go in. It’s just that everything is prohibitively expensive, I never feel like I get to play how I want to play. I never feel like I’m building an engine that makes it easier as I go. In life we work towards goals that may be challenging, but we hope that what we gain will assist us to meet even more challenging goals. In Marco Polo, you will struggle from beginning to end, and your rewards seldom ease the pain as you start all over again. There was no arc, and that just isn’t fun to me.

There are people who will love this game; it’s a heavy euro that somehow got squished down into a mid-weight form. The production value is excellent: the artwork is evocative, the symbology is pretty clear, and the components are great (especially those camels!). The game feels very competitive and balanced, which is an accomplishment considering how varied and game-breaking the player powers are. It is a meaty brain-burner of a game, with critical decisions to make, but by making everything so costly that you can’t truly lean into your role, it just never inspired me to enjoy the struggle.

**Note** When this review was originally posted, it had been a few months since I had played the game. I described some rules wrong and have since played the game again to correct those issues. My feelings toward the game game remain unchanged but I'm glad I got to play again. Thank you to everyone in this thread, this has been a learning experience for sure!

If you enjoyed this review, please check out other reviews on our site, www.cardboardherald.com.
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Matt D
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Hi Jack,

I always like to read well thought out reviews, but in reading your review I can't help but wonder if you were playing the game correctly, because s number of referenced here appear to be incorrect:

1. Characters are chosen by draft at the start - it's not a "deal two to each player and they pick one". The draft is a key part of strategy as your choice of character should be influenced by both the board and the other choices available (or already chosen)

2. After the basic game, the city actions and bonuses should be randomized. I didn't know if you did this since it sounds like you are saying that you are building across to get more powerful actions.

3. At no time do you ever "bump" another player's dice, and with the exception of the city spaces that you drop a trading post at and one boars pot, you can ALWAYS take the same action as another player regardless of your die totals if you can pay the cost (which is based on lowest pip - so in theory you can do it paying 1 coin. And coins are not impossible to get as a resource). The ONLY place that requires a larger die roll is one spot, the Khan's Favor, where you don't even pay the penalty for placing second, it just has a limited spot.

I mention these because from your intro it sounds like you really wanted this game to work, but the review makes a number of statements about riled which are incorrect and you seem to omit several points of strategy (how start player changes, how characters are selected) that I wonder if it's just that you were incorrect on some rules.

Certainly this game isn't for everybody, but if you were playing with incorrect interpretations of some rules it may have caused some of the dissatisfaction you had with the game.
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WD Yoga
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I think this is the first time that someone thinks Marco Polo as a heavy game. Personally, I think Dungeon Petz is heavier than Marco Polo, but ymmv.

There are several things I'd like to comment on, though:

jeddy lee wrote:

Setup continues with some relatively meaningless secret objectives that grant points if you visit certain locations on the map.


I am not sure why you think that players would be aimless. At the very least, players should try to place a trading post in Beijing. So, choosing the travel cards with cities en route to Beijing is like getting two benefits at once.

jeddy lee wrote:

Each round, players roll their dice and alternate assigning them to use actions on the board. Like most worker placement, if you take up a spot, others can’t go there. In some circumstances you can bump other players, but it requires higher numbered dice and costs valuable resources so it’s rarely worth it.


I think you misunderstand the rule? You can use any numbered die/dice to use already claimed spots. You do have to pay coins as many as the pips on the die/dice but you can use any numbered die. This is what makes Marco Polo interesting in my opinion. Higher numbered dice are more powerful but they are more expensive to use in already claimed spot. Lower numbered dice are often more worthwhile in this regards.

If you play as the character who does not need to pay for using a claimed spot, then higher die/dice will become more powerful. He can save you lots of money and allowing you flexibilities in planning your moves. Which makes your following statement is contentious:

jeddy lee wrote:
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the game is bad, it’s just a type of game that undermines my favorite aspect of it. I want the character powers to make me feel powerful, like I can really dig in and work toward a longterm strategy; yet throughout the game I always feel disempowered and unable to get the things I want.


If any, I think the characters' special abilities are powerful and game-changing. They break the game in very unique and interesting way. A character who can change his dice without rolling in a dice placement game? A character who starts with extra die? A character who starts in Beijing, giving you 10 points lead? A character who can place trade posts without stopping on a city? These are strong in their own way. You just have to use them according to their strength.
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Kevin B. Smith
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jeddy lee wrote:
The far off cities on the end of the map, which seemed so welcoming and adventurous at the beginning of the game, just become dreams of the past as I settle for mediocrity. By the end of the game, my merchant is a jaded vagabond, occasionally roving from town to town, scooping up whatever opportunities he can before wandering on.

That's a pretty typical feeling after the first game or two. Traveling seems so expensive that it must be more productive to just sit in place and complete contracts. Contractors win, and travelers lose. Groups can get stuck in that thinking even after multiple games.

The truth is that you can only get mediocre scores that way (60, say). In order to score higher (perhaps 90), you almost always have to travel. A lot. And for most of us, that requires practice. Traveling also builds up a small engine of sorts (from the small cities, and gaining access to some powerful large city actions).

I don't know if knowing that will help you enjoy the game more. It's quite possible that it really just isn't your type of game, and that's fine.
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Jack Eddy
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Esvath wrote:


jeddy lee wrote:

Each round, players roll their dice and alternate assigning them to use actions on the board. Like most worker placement, if you take up a spot, others can’t go there. In some circumstances you can bump other players, but it requires higher numbered dice and costs valuable resources so it’s rarely worth it.


I think you misunderstand the rule? You can use any numbered die/dice to use already claimed spots. You do have to pay coins as many as the pips on the die/dice but you can use any numbered die. This is what makes Marco Polo interesting in my opinion. Higher numbered dice are more powerful but they are more expensive to use in already claimed spot. Lower numbered dice are often more worthwhile in this regards.


You are totally right. I meant to say at high cost. I've fixed it now. I appreciate your feedback. I know that this is going against the popular opinion of this game, but after several games it was just too exhausting to enjoy. I do think it's a well built game, but not a fun one, for me at least. I'm glad you enjoy it and thank you for reading! Your feedback and thoughtful response is much appreciated.
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Matt D
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jeddy lee wrote:
I know that this is going against the popular opinion of this game, but after several games it was just too exhausting to enjoy. I do think it's a well built game, but not a fun one, for me at least. I'm glad you enjoy it and thank you for reading! Your feedback and thoughtful response is much appreciated.


That's fine, I don't think anyone would object to you having an "unpopular opinion" about a game. We would just rather confirm that it is based on a correct playing of the game, because incorrectly playing a game can absolutely impact enjoyment. I would hate to have someone decide not to play or buy this game based on a review that isn't accurate to the actual gameplay. As I noted in my post (which you haven't replied to, but that's ok) you made several statements in your review that seem to indicate an incorrect knowledge of the rules, beyond just the one also referenced about the coins to take the spot.

And to be completely honest, if you think that coins are so hard to get that the cost of taking an action after another player is "even when neccesary it it rarely worth it", I can 100% guarantee that you haven't played the game properly. Because player order after the first round is based on whoever was the last person to place their die on the travel location (paying with coins unless they are the character that doesn't have to). If you don't think player order is important in a game like this, then I seriously question the validity of any kind of review.

Note: There are two spots that will always yield coins - 3 coins per die as a free action, and 5 coins per die as a main action. If you are the first person to go there it's 5 coins except in a 2P game it starts out blocked. So placing a 1 there gets you a net of 4 coins, a 2 gets you 3 coins (and takes a main action, sometimes helpful), anything more you can just convert. And there are TONS of ways to get coins, including two (three if you count the wild) small city bonuses that are perpetual income, several large city actions, travel rewards, and tons of contracts.

This game is about efficiently using your resources; NO resource is hard or scarce. They may be easier to get in some board layouts then others, but never hard. It's just an issue of opportunity cost.

Look, I'm not trying to silence you as a reviewer because your review is negative. I personally much prefer to read negative reviews because they are generally more informative and speak to the gaps in a game, which I find more critical to determining whether I could live with the problems than what is great and excites me. But this review specifically states rules incorrectly, and produces assumptions about the game that seem fundamentally based around a lack of understanding of some of the general principles. You've already had two other people besides me indicate the same sort of thing.

If you don't like the game, that's fine. It's not your type of game. Cool. No big deal. Not everyone is going to like everything. But please reconsider whether you want to publish a harsh "review" of a game when you don't seem to fully understand the rules or the gameplay. Or, if you must, mention in your review that you didn't fully understand the rules and that they are complex. THAT is something worth saying -- this game is complex for the weight, and I totally accept that criticism of it.

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Jack Eddy
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Thank you everyone for your responses. I'm confident I played the game correctly the several times I played with different sized groups and players more experienced than me. A couple of times I won, and sometimes I fared worse. I don't think the rules are confusing at all, but the game didn't motivate me to try, and when I did, it didn't feel fun. Maybe the problem is with me, but I wanted to like the game, it just didn't do it for me.

This feedback is fantastic as it will help my writing. I want to be able to give as fair a review as i can while still being true to my experience.
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Adam P
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the game didn't motivate me to try, and when I did, it didn't feel fun.

Ah, that's very interesting. Yes, this is a resource conversion engine to the extreme, but I love it!
 
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Riku Riekkinen
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I think this review hits 2 negative points in this game.

1) Its not beginner friendly. Not travelling leads in my opinion to quite dull game or at least removes a major part from the game. The game could use a real beginner variant. Current makes travelling just harder as you can´t control your obejectives at all.

2) Travel obejectives are kind of just put on. I can evaluate the board and see good city combos and pick up a char that can use those. Then I get travel obectives and they basically say which route I have to take or give up 20VP.
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Matt D
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Riku Riekkinen wrote:
I think this review hits 2 negative points in this game.

1) Its not beginner friendly. Not travelling leads in my opinion to quite dull game or at least removes a major part from the game. The game could use a real beginner variant. Current makes travelling just harder as you can´t control your obejectives at all.

2) Travel obejectives are kind of just put on. I can evaluate the board and see good city combos and pick up a char that can use those. Then I get travel obectives and they basically say which route I have to take or give up 20VP.


I agree on point one. I think the game could benefit from a better beginner setup - maybe not a "Family Style" like Agricola has, but a better layout to start with or some such.

On 2, I think they are a necessary add-on. Rather than just being some bonus points, I think you need to give players some alternate goals otherwise if each player thought of an optimal route to Beijing and all pursue the same path, the game would get a bit jammed. More competition for the good city actions, and first to city bonuses. I think the goal of the travel objectives is to force the players apart, so an extent. While certainly some actions/bonuses work better for some characters than others, I don't know if that is enough to force divergence from the start. If all plays start along the path to Moscow and beyond...

I agree that it isn't the best solution, but I don't know offhand what is a better solution to encourage that.
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hestiansun wrote:
That's fine, I don't think anyone would object to you having an "unpopular opinion" about a game. We would just rather confirm that it is based on a correct playing of the game, because incorrectly playing a game can absolutely impact enjoyment. I would hate to have someone decide not to play or buy this game based on a review that isn't accurate to the actual gameplay. As I noted in my post (which you haven't replied to, but that's ok) you made several statements in your review that seem to indicate an incorrect knowledge of the rules, beyond just the one also referenced about the coins to take the spot.

...

If you don't like the game, that's fine. It's not your type of game. Cool. No big deal. Not everyone is going to like everything. But please reconsider whether you want to publish a harsh "review" of a game when you don't seem to fully understand the rules or the gameplay. Or, if you must, mention in your review that you didn't fully understand the rules and that they are complex. THAT is something worth saying -- this game is complex for the weight, and I totally accept that criticism of it.

I've always thought this is a mistaken way to look at reviews. First of all, if a person has been playing rules wrong the entire time, and assumed they were correct, and never double checked on them because they didn't think they were doing anything wrong, how are they supposed to know to NOT publish a review? They don't know they have the rules wrong.

Second, sometimes a rules mistake IS NOT going to make a difference in a person's opinion of a game. (granted you did say "can" affect enjoyment) The lesser the rules mistake the more likely it won't make a difference in their opinion. The only mistake in the unedited review seemed to be the "higher dice" comment, which the OP has clarified that he did understand correctly, but phrased incorrectly in the initial review. The way you have phrased your comments make it seem like you are more concerned that the OP didn't "get" the strategy of the game. And that isn't a rules misunderstanding.
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Matt D
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Legend5555 wrote:

I've always thought this is a mistaken way to look at reviews. First of all, if a person has been playing rules wrong the entire time, and assumed they were correct, and never double checked on them because they didn't think they were doing anything wrong, how are they supposed to know to NOT publish a review? They don't know they have the rules wrong.


I absolutely agree. There is no way to know that the review is based around a flawed reading of the rules until the review is published. It doesn't mean the review shouldn't be published -- it does, however, IMO mean that the review, if based upon an incorrect interpretation of rules, should either be revised or withdrawn if that is the case. And not just clarifying how the rule is referenced in the review, because that's like changing one aspect of a scientific experiment after you have results, and not re-running the experiment. It leads to wrong data.

Legend5555 wrote:

Second, sometimes a rules mistake IS NOT going to make a difference in a person's opinion of a game.


This is also true. But as I noted, there were several (not just the one that he admitted to - he still has yet to comment AT ALL about the other rules issues that I stated, and has actually gone out of his way to avoid responding to any of my comments aside from saying that he played with "experienced players", so it's not possible there were any mistakes made. If you've ever watched an episode of Wil Wheaton's show, you know how problematic that logic can be).

Legend5555 wrote:

The lesser the rules mistake the more likely it won't make a difference in their opinion. The only mistake in the unedited review seemed to be the "higher dice" comment, which the OP has clarified that he did understand correctly, but phrased incorrectly in the initial review. The way you have phrased your comments make it seem like you are more concerned that the OP didn't "get" the strategy of the game. And that isn't a rules misunderstanding.


So, let me rephrase my comments see they seemed to have been misinterpreted.

Based around how the OP is describing the game, he misplayed several rules. Some of his specific criticisms of the game are issues that are corrected by those precise rules that he misplayed.

That is like publishing a review of Agricola and saying that you thought the game wasn't that great because you felt really limited by only having one type of crop you could grow and one type of animal you could raise.

I'm sorry that you seem to have issue with the fact that I am "reviewing" a "review", and I'm not trying to squelch anyone's opinion. But it really bothers me when I read a "review" of something that is so deeply flawed because the reviewer flat out played it wrong. Maybe he'd like it if he played it correctly, maybe he wouldn't. But that's not the point.

I'm not saying that you have to be a rules expert on a game before publishing a review. I'm not even saying that you need to have played the game multiple times to publish a review. A lot of people will publish a "first play" based review. And that's ok.

But for the love of Pete, when you criticize a SPECIFIC ASPECT of a game in your review, and someone points out that that SPECIFIC ASPECT you are criticizing is actually something you created by incorrectly playing a rule, own up to it and either fix your review or withdraw it. Or at least admit to it, so people who read your review in the future can at least understand that it isn't necessarily an accurate assessment.

I don't think that's an unreasonable stance.
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hestiansun wrote:
Hi Jack,

I always like to read well thought out reviews, but in reading your review I can't help but wonder if you were playing the game correctly, because s number of referenced here appear to be incorrect:

1. Characters are chosen by draft at the start - it's not a "deal two to each player and they pick one". The draft is a key part of strategy as your choice of character should be influenced by both the board and the other choices available (or already chosen)

2. After the basic game, the city actions and bonuses should be randomized. I didn't know if you did this since it sounds like you are saying that you are building across to get more powerful actions.

3. At no time do you ever "bump" another player's dice, and with the exception of the city spaces that you drop a trading post at and one boars pot, you can ALWAYS take the same action as another player regardless of your die totals if you can pay the cost (which is based on lowest pip - so in theory you can do it paying 1 coin. And coins are not impossible to get as a resource). The ONLY place that requires a larger die roll is one spot, the Khan's Favor, where you don't even pay the penalty for placing second, it just has a limited spot.

I mention these because from your intro it sounds like you really wanted this game to work, but the review makes a number of statements about riled which are incorrect and you seem to omit several points of strategy (how start player changes, how characters are selected) that I wonder if it's just that you were incorrect on some rules.

Certainly this game isn't for everybody, but if you were playing with incorrect interpretations of some rules it may have caused some of the dissatisfaction you had with the game.


1. I don't believe this would cause a large enough difference in how the game feels to play. This is more a strategic issue than a gameplay one. Hardly a rules misunderstanding that I think would impact an opinion on the play of the game. Besides, I think it takes more than 3-4 plays of this game to really understand how to evaluate a character's relevance to the board layout.

2. I don't know if this was edited out before I read the review, but I don't see this indicated anywhere. And even if it was, it could be that the later city actions are "more powerful" given what players think is important in the game.

3. I see no problem with the term "bump" as it is in effect what happens even though the rules say to stack. I don't always stack when I play, I "bump" dice to the side. I guess this is only a bad way to explain if someone were to interpret "bump" to mean the player "bumped" gets their dice back. But I imagine enough readers recognize that since this was labeled a worker placement game, that they would make the natural assumption that the dice wouldn't be reused. That is standard in most worker placement games, and making a contrary assumption is looking for zebras and not horses.

None of these seem like such egregious errors that I believe they cause the review to give a false impression of gameplay. Strategy? Sure. But not gameplay. Nor do I think they are so bad that they would significantly alter the OP's feeling on the game.
 
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Matt D
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Legend5555 wrote:

3. I see no problem with the term "bump" as it is in effect what happens even though the rules say to stack. I don't always stack when I play, I "bump" dice to the side. I guess this is only a bad way to explain if someone were to interpret "bump" to mean the player "bumped" gets their dice back. But I imagine enough readers recognize that since this was labeled a worker placement game, that they would make the natural assumption that the dice wouldn't be reused. That is standard in most worker placement games, and making a contrary assumption is looking for zebras and not horses.

None of these seem like such egregious errors that I believe they cause the review to give a false impression of gameplay. Strategy? Sure. But not gameplay. Nor do I think they are so bad that they would significantly alter the OP's feeling on the game.


I agree with what you are saying. The biggest issue I had at the time that I wrote that was in the original writing of the review (which has since been edited) he grossly misstated the entire mechanic of taking an action which another player has already taken. It is far more accurate now (although not 100% correct even as it stands). Given that that is one of the tent pole mechanics of the game both in terms of what makes it somewhat unique to other worker placements and its actual necessity to the game (that it plays a part in player order), I felt that a significantly incorrect understanding of that rule would be problematic to an effective rule.

From an architectural standpoint, IMO games have decorative walls and load bearing walls. You could pretty effectively play a game of Dominion if you shuffled your discard pile into your deck as soon as you had an empty draw pile instead of the first time that you need to draw a card and have none available, and it wouldn't impact the game much at all. If you were to play a game of Dominion where you didn't realize you could only purchase 1 card per turn unless you played a card with an addition +Buy, that would probably more dramatically impact the play.

I consider the "paying coins to re-use an action someone else took" mechanic one of the load bearing walls of this game, and confusion over that rule I think would cause the entire thing to collapse.
 
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Riku Riekkinen
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hestiansun wrote:
Riku Riekkinen wrote:
I think this review hits 2 negative points in this game.

2) Travel obejectives are kind of just put on. I can evaluate the board and see good city combos and pick up a char that can use those. Then I get travel obectives and they basically say which route I have to take or give up 20VP.


On 2, I think they are a necessary add-on. Rather than just being some bonus points, I think you need to give players some alternate goals otherwise if each player thought of an optimal route to Beijing and all pursue the same path, the game would get a bit jammed. More competition for the good city actions, and first to city bonuses. I think the goal of the travel objectives is to force the players apart, so an extent. While certainly some actions/bonuses work better for some characters than others, I don't know if that is enough to force divergence from the start. If all plays start along the path to Moscow and beyond...

I agree that it isn't the best solution, but I don't know offhand what is a better solution to encourage that.


I would prefer straight points for TPs. Or some system which would be like objective cards without them. So you could pair any big & small cities from different routes and get about the same VPs as now.

Now the system can

1) reward for the same route several (at least 7) VPs more depending on the cards.
2) jam non-optimal route. So 2 players can have objectives for non-optimal route, while 1 is taking optimal route without opposition. I would rather see competition for optimal route. Of course current system can also jam optimal route, but it isn´t even worst thing.
 
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Matt D
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Riku Riekkinen wrote:
hestiansun wrote:
Riku Riekkinen wrote:
I think this review hits 2 negative points in this game.

2) Travel obejectives are kind of just put on. I can evaluate the board and see good city combos and pick up a char that can use those. Then I get travel obectives and they basically say which route I have to take or give up 20VP.


On 2, I think they are a necessary add-on. Rather than just being some bonus points, I think you need to give players some alternate goals otherwise if each player thought of an optimal route to Beijing and all pursue the same path, the game would get a bit jammed. More competition for the good city actions, and first to city bonuses. I think the goal of the travel objectives is to force the players apart, so an extent. While certainly some actions/bonuses work better for some characters than others, I don't know if that is enough to force divergence from the start. If all plays start along the path to Moscow and beyond...

I agree that it isn't the best solution, but I don't know offhand what is a better solution to encourage that.


I would prefer straight points for TPs. Or some system which would be like objective cards without them. So you could pair any big & small cities from different routes and get about the same VPs as now.

Now the system can

1) reward for the same route several (at least 7) VPs more depending on the cards.
2) jam non-optimal route. So 2 players can have objectives for non-optimal route, while 1 is taking optimal route without opposition. I would rather see competition for optimal route. Of course current system can also jam optimal route, but it isn´t even worst thing.


Valid points. As I said, it's not perfect, but you're right that in a 3/4P game it could let 1P have the optimal route all alone. And definitely, much like TTR in a respect, if you are building a particular route, you might have another bonus along the way such that whatever you build is worth more than what someone else built.

It's not an easy fix, to be sure. If I had one, I'd be a mega-popular designer myself.
 
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