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Subject: Balance for your Gods rss

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Peter Gorniak
Canada
Vancouver
British Columbia
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I posted this on our local boardgame store's site, thought I might as well copy it out here as well:

We laughed pretty hard the first time we played Mesopotamia, and subsequent plays have confirmed it to be a relatively quick yet nicely strategic game with a great theme, lots of opportunities for humour, and wonderful components.

The goal of the game is to be the first to have your tribes carry 4 offerings back to your god's temple in the middle of the board. To do so, you have to balance a set of interacting requirements: delivering tokens costs mana and tribes; generating mana requires worship places or stones, producing offerings and explanding tribes requires huts; constructing worship places requires stones; building huts requires wood. On top of those dependency chains, add a set of spatial requirements (most generation requires 2 tribes on the same tile, most enhancements can only be built on specific tile types) and limited resources (wood and stone are only spawned when new forest and quarry tiles are added) that can be carried by tribes one at a time, and you get a nicely complex planning problem with lots of pretty good choices. At the same time, there is enough interaction, competition and randomness to make it impossible to plan too far ahead.

Where the game shines is in its presentation: the tribes are quite abstract (small wooden pillars), but in contrast the stones are actual randomly shaped little pebbles, of a size that just barely balances on the tribes when they carry them. As tribes are very often carrying stones, wood or tokens, picking one out from a tile with several and moving it without dropping either its payload or that of other tribes can be a challenge. You may find this annoying, but we found it quite entertaining, and the whole design is a great mixture of abstraction with concrete elements that makes for a flavourful overall landscape yet leaves room for imagination. So do some of the rules - we couldn't help but adding an extra 'make the required sound' rule to the action of producing a new tribe from two tribes and a hut.

What's not to like? Not much, but a word of caution: There is some randomness during normal gameplay due to drawing random tiles and adding them to the board, which both changes the landscape and produces resources in a somewhat unpredictable fashion. Otherwise the game is deterministic and essentially constitutes a race with limited interaction (stealing resources from tribes is allowed under certain conditions, and there is competition for resources and space). The big exception are the cards. These can be bought one at a time from a shuffled deck at the cost of one action, and have random but sometimes powerful effects that can be used at any time during a player's turn. They are also one of only two hidden game state elements - the other being the values of the offerings until they are delivered, which is far less interesting and more deducible especially towards the end of the game. I've played several games where a card determined the winner in a neck-to-neck race as it let one player shorten two turns into one in some manner. Whether this element of randomness and blind investment in cards (you may draw ones that are useless to you) is a drawback or feature is up to your tastes. One can certainly imagine playing the game without the cards for a more deterministic puzzle style game.

Overall, I highly recommend this game. It has great components, concise and fun gameplay, and supports some humorous imagery. Plus, at locally $25 Canadian new, its value is rather unbeatable.
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Mathue Faulk
United States
Cedar Park
TX
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If anyone is interested, I have it up for trade. I haven't really added many games to my 'want in trade' list, but let me know if anyone is interested.

I don't dislike the game, but I've only played it once a long time ago and I don't see it coming to the table very often as my collection continues to grow. To be honest, I don't even remember much about the game...
 
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