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Subject: Amerigo: Discover a New Land with Feld? rss

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Dan Wojciechowski
United States
Aurora
Illinois
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(This is really a review, not a preview.)

I recently got a chance to play the recently Kickstarted Stephan Feld game, Amerigo, with 3 Stephan Feld game fans. So, what is it like? Is it good? Should you buy it? I can't tell you whether you should buy the game, but I can tell you what I thought of it.

"A man walks down the street with a box like that, you know he's not afraid of any game."

Talk about first impressions. Wow. That is one impressive box. I don't think I've ever seen a Eurogame in such a large box. Let's remember that Amerigo is published by Queen Games, who are known both for their really functional inserts, and for the resulting significantly over sized boxes. This is no exception. The insert has nice slots for everything, but that does mean a lot of extra space in the box. Of course this means the cube tower comes pre-assembled.

"Wait, what? A cube tower? Has Feld designed *another* unique core mechanism?"

If you've heard of this game, you are probably aware that it does indeed use a "cube tower" as its central mechanism. Whether you are a fan of Mr. Feld's work, or not, you must admit that he continues to create games built around a single, unusual core mechanism. Amerigo is no exception. This time, there is a circle of 7 actions. There are 7 action cubes for each action. The tower is seeded by pouring cubes through it, and then the remaining cubes are arranged on the circle. Once around the circle completes 1 of the 5 turns in the game. The cubes from the appropriate space on the circle are poured through the tower. The cubes that come out represent the actions available for each player to take during that phase. The largest number of cubes of any one action (color) determines the number of actions that can be taken for *any* of the available actions. Every player can use the number of actions for any one of the available choices. So, 3 red, 2 blue, 5 green, means that a player can choose to take 5 red actions, or 5 blue actions, or 5 green actions.

In practice, we were a little skeptical of the tower. It seemed that most of the cubes poured into the tower seemed to come out. Still this usually meant about 3 choices of actions during each phase. We did have a few phases with only 1 choice, which seemed disappointing, since everyone pretty much had to do the same thing, but generally, there seemed to be enough choices for us all to pursue our own plans. There also seemed to generally be multiple chances at the same action during a single pass around the circle, supporting focus on a particular "strategy". Personally, I liked the cube tower. Since it was a "choose what to do now" mechanism (unlike the Macao "choose an action for the future" mechanism), I found I could begin to create a plan and a strategy, even in my first game.

"Enough with the cube tower. Is there a (mmmm...tasty, tasty) point salad or not?"

I suppose that all depends on how much you like your salads. In Amerigo, a primary part of the game is the "sail/survey/settle" process used to occupy islands for points. (These are the blue/red/green actions from the phase circle.) First to settle an island gets points. Settlements score points. Private settlements are cheaper but score less. Shared settlements are more expensive but score more. Finishing an island scores points. Everyone who participated in settling an island scores points as well. Settling an island allows grabbing goods, which score end-game points. You get the idea. Settle good. Ugh.

Independent of the "sail/survey/settle" there are also a number of "tracks". Progress track. Turn Order track. Cannon track. (brown/white/black action phases) Gold track. Progress and Turn Order score end game points for discrete progress levels, such as 1, 3, 5, 10, and 15. The Gold track scores end game points for every space. The Cannon track doesn't score. Significant points can be scored on these tracks completely independent of island settling. The Progress track also lets the player take tiles which can enhance actions or give bonuses. The Turn Order track lets the player use a different action in place of the white, Turn Order, actions. Excess progress on some tracks give Gold track advances. Excess progress on the Gold track gives points. So, quite a few moving pieces, but I found the parts of the machine to be simpler and easier to control than, say Bora Bora, more like The Castles of Burgundy.

"Wait, did you say cannons? Sailing, and islands, and settlements, and cannons... Is the Theme strong with this one, Master?"

I find Feld themes to be pleasant, even useful, but not strongly related to game play. I don't think Amerigo is any exception. Sailing and settling seems to fit well. The "tracks" and tower, not so much. Oh, and those cannons. Well, apparently there is a (perhaps - this is supposed to be Amerigo Vespucci, after all) non-historically accurate Pirate threat that grows throughout the game. Cannons are used to "fight off" the Pirate threat. I take this to be a "punishment" mechanic, like those in Macao, though much easier to prevent. While it is one more piece of the machine, it does feel like the most tacked-on piece. Sailing is movement via a grid. The boarders of the map are also sailing spaces, but because of their large size, they allow much faster movement than through the map. This may be a big tactical consideration, but is hardly "thematic".

"Is the map to scale? Can I use it while on vacation in the Caribbean?" That's a little in joke for Macao fans, so sue me.

The modular board changes size with the number of players, which is quite nice. It does take up quite a bit of space for 4 player, and the random islands don't ever really look like the Caribbean Sea. It didn't bother me at all, but your mileage may vary. The map looked nice. I liked the "ship-eeples". The player boards were useful and *not* overwhelming like Bora Bora. The tower is cardboard, reasonably attractive, and came pre-assembled. The Turn Order track sent a shudder through me because it vaguely reminded me of Candyland. I already mentioned the big, (huge? massive? What?! Is someone compensating?) box. All in all, perfectly good component quality.

"Get to the point. Is Amerigo good for the long haul, or not?"

I'm not sure that concentrating completely on the "tracks" will score enough to beat a "settle/goods" approach, but based on my early play, it can come close. Sailing and Settling allows for a lot of tactical play. Plant one port on an island or try to get them all? Use the expensive/slower "shared" settlements or the cheaper/faster "private" settlements? Expand for goods or expand with "private" settlements to cut off rival expansion? Ignore pirates or plan for them? Use which tracks to expedite which plans? Do the random island layouts really make for different games? I can't say definitively, yet, but I'm betting there is plenty of variety to support differing approaches and many plays.

Is Amerigo really any different than other Feld games? Obviously, that is a personal opinion. If you think Macao/Bora Bora/Castles of Burgundy feel different enough to warrant collecting them all, then you will want Amerigo as well. Amerigo clearly "feels" more like these games than some of Stephan Feld's other designs, like Notre Dame. (Whatever I really mean by *that*.)

"Sorry, I fell asleep paragraphs ago. How about just a number?"

Alright. In summary:
8/10 is pretty good, given I'm not really a "Feld Fan". I like his games and look forward to playing them, but I doubt I'll own too many.
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François + Daphné
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Great review! I like the structure of your article : it is pleasant to read!
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Mark Raciborski
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danwojciechowski wrote:


"Is the map to scale? Can I use it while on vacation in the Caribbean?"


Well, that is the deal breaker for me if the answer is no, if it will cause the sailboat to run aground.

Good to know it leans more to TCoB than BB. TCoB is a very good game but BB looks like too much of a good thing from the reviews I have seen, you know like TCoB if it had 10 expansions.
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Jarek Szczepanik
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Thank you for your review. I also enjoyed it. When you played the game, did you have a problem with AP? I've heard there may be a problem with that in Amerigo.
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Dan Wojciechowski
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Analyis Paralysis was not a problem in our group. It might be with some groups, but consider this: while there are a lot of actions and choices, we generally saw about 3 choices per phase. Unlike Bora Bora, where all actions tend to be initially available for dice placement, in each phase of Amerigo, we generally only needed to assess about 3 things to do out of the whole set. Consider the way the dice reduce the choices in Castles of Burgundy each turn, the cube tower does the same in Amerigo. Amerigo has some mechanisms to expand the available choices, but not nearly to the extent that using workers can expand the choices in Castles of Burgundy.

I hoped that helped.
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