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Vasa Regalis: The Maiden Voyage» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Vasa Regalis - a shipyard leader's dilemma rss

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Nicholas Hjelmberg
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(Designer's own review)

The first impression of Vasa Regalis is another role-based game, where the players have to analyse myriads of options given by a certain role. However, in Vasa Regalis you have very limited options: procure, improve and build. There are four roles for the procurement (wood, sculptures, cloth and iron) and two roles for the improvement (craftsman for wood and sculptures and tailor/blacksmith for cloth and iron). Improvement enables a player to exchange goods into higher values (1-3). The limited number of goods and the rule that the last player in a given turn gets no benefit at all from a chosen role provide some opportunities for tactical choices that interrupts the other players' strategies. Nevertheless, the options are considerably fewer than in comparable games.

So which are the unique challenges of this game? The first is that all cards acquired are kept secret. The options may be few but you have to remember which cards the other players have acquired to be able to maximize your benefits and minimize the others' benefits. Secondly and most important, it is the sum of all players' actions that determine the victory conditions. If players place a lot on the ship, it will succeed but it is the player placing LEAST on the ship (and keeping cards on the hand instead) that will win. If, on the other hand, players place little on the ship, it will fail and the player placing MOST on the ship will win. This means that it is not enough to select the right role at the right time, you must also correctly guess how much the other players place on the ship and adapt to that.

Is this a pure guessing game then? No, by paying attention to small details, you can deduce the other players' strategies:

1. The limited number of goods means that each player have limited options of what to build on the ship
2. The rule that any player can call for a build of any good means that you can force the players to build when they only have one option at hand
3. The (advanced) rule that the players can exchange cards with each other gives further opportunities to deduce (or bluff) a hand
4. Special actions allow you to look at one other players' build and adjust one previous build

The game has a pasted on theme where the the ship could just as well have been a castle, a city or a space rocket. The rules and components are traced back to historical facts but the game is nevertheless abstract. However, the image of a ship that sinks if not properly built works very well and the fact that the real Vasa Regalis sank (too little wood?) adds a certain atmosphere to the game.

The ambigiuous victory conditions of Vasa Regalis is what really makes the game unique and ensures that it is open until the very last game turn. A player may choose to put as much as possible on the ship, hoping that the other players will be greedy and cause it sink. Another player may choose to keep the goods for herself, hoping that the others will pay for the ship. The winning strategy will not be disclosed until the game is over and all cards turned face up.

If you enjoy maximizing role benefits, you may be disappointed losing it all in the poker-style end game. On the other hand, if you like the challenge of deducing other players' hands and actions and are into bluffing and gambling, Vasa Regalis may be the game you are looking for.

Vasa Regalis is recommended to anyone enjoying a mental and interactive challenge.

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