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Subject: Do I have to optimize the rondel? A negative review! rss

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ozgur ozubek
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last week I played Trajan and that was my last session.

despite the 7.9 rating here, I realized that it's not only me who disliked the game (to the verge of rage quitting) and decided to write this negative review.

What's Trajan?

It's futile attempt to resurrect Mancala system into a collection of mini solitaire games which the designer tried to glue together with a theme that is not simply there! yet like a novice necromancer work, the resurrected Mancala corpse falls apart piece by piece.

What's that Rondel thing?

during the game, your utmost task is to optimize the mancala rondel and that's it. 80% of the game time is spent on rondel by calculating the future distribution of colorful cubes on the sections of the rondel which will determine your future move and its effectiveness.

after a couple of turns, different colored cubes on the rondel gets jammed up, increasing the complexity and burden of the rondel. in time you will be mastering the rondel yet having mastered that complexity provides you no joy but time-energy drain.

what about the rest of the game?

rondel being the center of the game (actually it's the game) the remaining sections of the board only serves you place to put the zillion tokens on the oversized map. they have nothing to do with the rondel nor the game itself. they are just means to shower you with throngs of victory points.

theme
simply there is no theme at all. as another reviewer mentioned, this game might have taken place on the moon, or inside a waste bin. in the middle of painful rondel optimization, you understand that it has nothing to do with Romans, nor the conquest, nor the gladiator fights, not the famine, etc.

conclusion:
It's a super abstract, pure rondel optimization game without any theme flavor. at the end spending so much time/energy with rondel, all left behind is a sour metallic taste of nothingness in your mouth.

out there, there are marvelous games which manages to incorporate different turn selection mechanisms into thrilling themes. I strongly urge you to save your money to buy one of that one.
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Joshua Miller
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
I have yet to try Trajan, but your review exactly matches my expectation for the game based on reading the rules and other reviews, and based on my experiences with this designer's other games.

I feel like I have some sort of vague responsibility to try it (in preparation for my annual Spiel des Josh awards - coming soon), but I keep putting it off.
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Ken Thibodeau
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
While I agree that the theme is really pasted on, I disagree about the game being 80% about the roundel. It's a game about optimization and timing, both on the board and on the roundel. You have to get the right tokens at the right time in order to get VPs. This is accomplished by managing the roundel the best way you can. In other words, the roundel is the mean to get the tokens you need to maximize your VP income. Not the other way around. After all, you win by having the most VPs.
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Paulo Soledade
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
I agree with you on almost everything in this review. The difference here is that I spend a good time playing against me using the rondel. That's what I mainly like about the game. The theme is not there, I agree, the game has 10 different mechanics that blend into a solid set of different games that could have provided, 10 different titles.
Stefan Feld's games are thematic free usually, and they also provide more mechanisms than gaming experiences but in this case, Trajan, doesn't feel like a bad game but rather a Feld kind of game that you may like or dislike depending on your personal taste. I like it enough to play it accasionally.

Nice review.
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Tadeu Zubaran
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
Not the best review since it look quite emotional and not too objective. The only information I could get is that the game is lacking in theme, which I think is correct and a well known problem. I think you do have a point that if you need a strong theme this is a game you should skip, I like strong themes but I do enjoy many games with pasted themes so it is not a problem for me.


wintermute wrote:
last week I played Trajan and that was my last session.

despite the 7.9 rating here, I realized that it's not only me who disliked the game (to the point of rage quitting) and decided to write this negative review.

What's Trajan?

It's futile attempt to resurrect Mancala system into a collection of mini solitaire games which the designer tried to glue together with a theme that is not simply there! yet like a novice necromancer work, the resurrected Mancala corpse falls apart piece by piece.

What's that Roundel thing?

during the game, your utmost task is to optimize the mancala roundel and that's it. 80% of the game time is spent on roundel by calculating the future distribution of colorful cubes on the sections of the roundel which will determine your future move and its effectiveness.

after a couple of turns, different colored cubes on the roundel gets jammed up, increasing the complexity and burden of the roundel. in time you will be mastering the roundel yet having mastered that complexity provides you no joy but time-energy drain.

what about the rest of the game?

roundel being the center of the game (actually it's the game) the remaining sections of the board only serves you place to put the zillion tokens on the oversized map. they have nothing to do with the roundel nor the game itself. they are just means to shower you with throngs of victory points.

theme
simply there is no theme at all. as another reviewer mentioned, this game might have taken place on the moon, or inside a waste bin. in the middle of painful roundel optimization, you understand that it has nothing to do with Romans, nor the conquest, nor the gladiator fights, not the famine, etc.

conclusion:
It's a super abstract, pure roundel optimization game without any theme flavor. at the end spending so much time/energy with roundel, all left behind is a sour metallic taste of nothingness in your mouth.

out there, there are marvelous games which manages to incorporate different turn selection mechanisms into thrilling themes. I strongly urge you to save your money to buy one of that one.
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Garry Rice
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
It's a Feld game...you expected theme?

I find the game quite enjoyable and would have to agree with Ken (above). Ideally, you keep your mancala set up so that it gives you as much flexibility as possible so you can grab the right action at the right time.
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Andrew Foerster
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
Does every negative review need to flag itself as a negative review? I mean, dissenting opinions are useful but you can just put the review out there. Rant.

Additionally, Trajan is as much an attempt to "resurrect" Mancala as, say, Kingsburg would be an attempt to resurrect Yahtzee. By that I mean that the most core element of Mancala (capturing the stones) is missing (just as in the key dice-scoring is missing in Kingsburg). In the case of Trajan and Kingsburg, the "mancala" (more of a rondel) or the dice is simply a mechanism to generate and use resources, and that's it (a difference being that you can optimize your mancala much more easily than you can optimize dice rolling). The mancala is just one (albeit somewhat significant) element of the game, and attributing it as much more is misleading.
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Steve Duff
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
wintermute wrote:
conclusion:
It's a super abstract, pure roundel optimization game without any theme flavor. at the end spending so much time/energy with roundel, all left behind is a sour metallic taste of nothingness in your mouth.

out there, there are marvelous games which manages to incorporate different turn selection mechanisms into thrilling themes. I strongly urge you to save your money to buy one of that one.


This review seems overly harsh and out of character, given that Caylus and Tigris & Euphrates are two of your top games. Trajan has just as much theme as almost every other euro you enjoy.

Personally, I don't get the complaints about theme in games. Pretty much every game in existence can be re-skinned to "being on the moon or in a garbage bin". Including the so-called thematic games like Arkham Horror.
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Andrew Foerster
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
UnknownParkerBrother wrote:
wintermute wrote:
conclusion:
It's a super abstract, pure roundel optimization game without any theme flavor. at the end spending so much time/energy with roundel, all left behind is a sour metallic taste of nothingness in your mouth.

out there, there are marvelous games which manages to incorporate different turn selection mechanisms into thrilling themes. I strongly urge you to save your money to buy one of that one.


This review seems overly harsh and out of character, given that Caylus and Tigris & Euphrates are two of your top games. Trajan has just as much theme as almost every other euro you enjoy.

Personally, I don't get the complaints about theme in games. Pretty much every game in existence can be re-skinned to "being on the moon or in a garbage bin". Including the so-called thematic games like Arkham Horror.


Theme never matters until it does.

It's salt. Good food has little need for salt (though often a little brings out some flavor), but bad food can sometimes be saved with liberal amounts of salt.
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M. Shanmugasundaram
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
For the love of whatever, it's RONDEL.
Roundel is for poetry.


I am the only one in my group enamored of this game.

I disagree with the OP: it's not just about the rondel. Getting bunched up on the rondel is a matter of greed management for individual players. I was there once. I'm better now, but it's tough to avoid bunching up markers because you want to do the same thing again.

There's a delicate balance in gaining and taking advantage of Trajan tiles, and actually playing the board to maximize rewards at any particular moment in time without painting yourself into a corner (bunching up on the rondel).

There's also a time management issue, where the length of the game is at the mercy of other players. I've never felt the problem of the "first player advantage," but I do recognize it might be an issue.

I feel there are also long-term strategy opportunities, but I haven't been able to determine if that's illusory.
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Tadeu Zubaran
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
rumble wrote:
For the love of whatever, it's RONDEL.
Roundel is for poetry.

Do you speak better Turkish than he does English?
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Matthew Jeffery
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
tkzubaran wrote:
rumble wrote:
For the love of whatever, it's RONDEL.
Roundel is for poetry.

Do you speak better Turkish than he does English?


Laughed out loud at that one... ninja

How does the rondel compare in this game to the one in Ora & Labora?
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Ari
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
Red_Sounding wrote:
How does the rondel compare in this game to the one in Ora & Labora?


It doesn't compare well at all. Trajan has a personal rondel for every player which determines what action you can take.

I like it a lot and enjoy planning out what I need to do to stay competitive. The game has a steep learning curve because of this. Once you figure out how to use the rondel you can then worry about how to win the game. Before that is only frustration.

The rondel in ora et labora only determines how much of a good you will get and tracks the game rounds.

Both are good games. I like trajan a little bit better quite a bit more due to the extra brain burn and puzzle aspect.
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Left Hand Reviews
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
I appreciate negative reviews, but it's hard to take seriously the views of "rage quitters". I have played plenty of games that i didn't like or even hated (anything Fluxx), but never rage quit.

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Tiago Perretto
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
UnknownParkerBrother wrote:
Personally, I don't get the complaints about theme in games. Pretty much every game in existence can be re-skinned to "being on the moon or in a garbage bin". Including the so-called thematic games like Arkham Horror.


Sure!

I believe that to see how strongly attached to a theme a game is, is necessary to think: "how much work would take to transform the theme?".

Let's see for Arkham Horror:

- Almost 100% of all the cards;

- Almost every character (going from minor changes to a full makeover);

- Almost every GOO(going from minor changes to a full makeover) - though, considering, the garbage bin theme, the "goo" could still be an opponent;

- The board could mantain the same layout, only changing the names/functions if necessary.

There are other things, but I will cut this short.

Now let's see, for example, Caylus:

- Call the King a Lady and that you need to please her and her father by making her best town for her to live and also is necessary to give her presents. Done, new theme.

So, yes, all games can be be re-skinned, just some require more work than others.

Regards,
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Jabagi K
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
Haha.. I was one of the two players who taught Ozgur the game and he really was about to quit around round 4 and he only stayed out of respect for us. He was bugging the other new player until round 4 because he was being too slow but then Ozgur noticed that he had been playing the mancala wrong until then and he had to apologize to the other player and he swore some more at the game.. (For those that care, Ozgur thought that in order to activate a Trajan tile, you only had to bring one of the colors on the tile which made planning future moves much much easier )

BTW, Ozgur really likes Luna and he actually has a signed copy..

As for my opinion of Trajan, it's a novelty. The points will come pouring no matter what you did but you win by optimizing. I rated it at 6 and might play it every other month or so but we have better games to play more frequently.
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Tadeu Zubaran
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
Trajan has much better components as well.

But KissaTaikuri's comments are all correct

Ora's rondel is just a way of controlling offer and demand, like in Agricola or Le Havre but instead of stacking resources in the offer space you turn the wheel to see how many of that particular resource is available.

In Trajan each player has his own rondel and you don't select your actions directly, but instead you act on the rondel and it says which action you will take.

KissaTaikuri wrote:
Red_Sounding wrote:
How does the rondel compare in this game to the one in Ora & Labora?


It doesn't compare well at all. Trajan has a personal rondel for every player which determines what action you can take.

I like it a lot and enjoy planning out what I need to do to stay competitive. The game has a steep learning curve because of this. Once you figure out how to use the rondel you can then worry about how to win the game. Before that is only frustration.

The rondel in ora et labora only determines how much of a good you will get and tracks the game rounds.

Both are good games. I like trajan a little bit better quite a bit more due to the extra brain burn and puzzle aspect.
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Ubergeek
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
The review was totally incoherent so I ran it through Babelfish and it rendered the following translation:

Quote:
last week I played Trajan and that was not my last session.

despite the 7.9 rating here, I realized that it's not only me who loves the game (to the point of rage raving) and decided to write this positive review.

What's Trajan?

it's a brilliant attempt to resurrect Mancala system into a collection of mini solitaire games which the designer cleverly glued together with a theme that is simply there! yet like a novice necromancer work, the resurrected Mancala corpse evolves piece by piece.

what's that Roundel thing?

during the game, your utmost task is to optimize the mancala roundel. 80% of the game time is spent on roundel by calculating the future distribution of colorful cubes on the sections of the roundel which will determine your future move and its effectiveness.

after a couple of turns, different colored cubes on the roundel gets jammed up, increasing the complexity and burden of the roundel. in time you will be mastering the roundel yet having mastered that complexity provides you brain burning joy that will energy drain you.

what about the rest of the game?

roundel being the center of the game (actually it's just an action selection mechanism of the game) the remaining sections of the board only serves for you place to put the tokens on the oversized map giving you choices to agonize over. they have everything to do with the roundel and the game itself as you must use the rondel to get to those tokens. they are the means to shower you with throngs of victory points.

theme
simply there is no theme at all. as another reviewer mentioned, this game might have taken place on the moon, or inside a waste bin (but hey, it's a Euro so what did you expect). in the middle of joyful roundel optimization, you revel that it has nothing to do with Romans, nor the conquest, nor the gladiator fights, not the famine, etc. (but hey, it's a Stefan Feld Euro).

conclusion:
It's a super, roundel optimization game with flavor. at the end spending so much time/energy with roundel, all left behind is a sweet taste in your mouth wanting more.

out there, there are marvelous games which manages to incorporate different turn selection mechanisms into thrilling themes. I strongly urge you to save your money to buy this instead.
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Eric Brosius
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
This is (more or less) how I feel about the game also. There are few games whose rules work that I like less than Trajan. I find it hard to rate a game less than '3' unless I think there is an objective problem with it, but based on my subjective opinion, it's a solid '3'.

However, many in my usual gaming circles seem to like it.
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Tadeu Zubaran
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
You have a point there but their targets are different, Caylus is a mechanical masterpiece while Arkhan Horror is all theme and no mechanics. AH has lots and lots of rules and exception to those rules but manages to be shallow, the hallmark of a bad design IMO, also to the best of my knowledge AH is actually solved or very close to.

What I find very strange are the guys who complaint against Caylus' or Trajan's themes and sing songs about how thematic Lords of Waterdeep is. They got Caylus watered it down called the cubes adventurers and the game became highly thematic to a lot of people.

tiagoVIP wrote:
UnknownParkerBrother wrote:
Personally, I don't get the complaints about theme in games. Pretty much every game in existence can be re-skinned to "being on the moon or in a garbage bin". Including the so-called thematic games like Arkham Horror.


Sure!

I believe that to see how strongly attached to a theme a game is, is necessary to think: "how much work would take to transform the theme?".

Let's see for Arkham Horror:

- Almost 100% of all the cards;

- Almost every character (going from minor changes to a full makeover);

- Almost every GOO(going from minor changes to a full makeover) - though, considering, the garbage bin theme, the "goo" could still be an opponent;

- The board could mantain the same layout, only changing the names/functions if necessary.

There are other things, but I will cut this short.

Now let's see, for example, Caylus:

- Call the King a Lady and that you need to please her and her father by making her best town for her to live and also is necessary to give her presents. Done, new theme.

So, yes, all games can be be re-skinned, just some require more work than others.

Regards,
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M. Shanmugasundaram
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
tkzubaran wrote:
rumble wrote:
For the love of whatever, it's RONDEL.
Roundel is for poetry.

Do you speak better Turkish than he does English?


Alas, I'm a one-trick (language) pony. But it's a trick that puts food on the table.

I could get snarky with you, but that wouldn't accomplish much. Just trying to keep an error from propagating. Or propa-"grating," as it were.
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Richard Donato
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
I agree with the O.P. 100% I have played this game once and that was one too many times for me.
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ozgur ozubek
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Re: Do I have to optimize the roundel? A negative review!
due to the reactions (plus flames and trolls) received from the fans of the game or wanna-be-trolls, likely negative reviewers hesitate to post their opinion thus we end up with all-positive reviewers. Yet this frequently leads to frustrated purchases as the reality does not coincide with the reviews.

all I'm doing here he is not to satisfy the ego here but raise the banner and present a different opinion for the likely but suspecting buyer.

Thanks for all the comments and apologies for the typos, esp. for the rondel thing.



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M. Shanmugasundaram
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Your opinion is valuable, especially when grounded. That way, people can specifically disagree and share their own perspectives.

I'm under no illusions that this is a perfect game. Wish more of my group liked it.

As far as language goes, no worries. I recently discovered I've been mispronouncing "bifrost" for years. Yipes.



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Sick with hatred, sick with pain, / Strangling -- When shall we be slain? // When shall I be dead and rid / Of the wrong my father did? / How long, how long, till spade and hearse / Puts to sleep my mother's curse?
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"Help me Rondel / Help, help me, Rondel ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kN_t2gPpGDs
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