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Mare Balticum: The Fate of an Empire» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Mare Balticum - to trade or to fight? rss

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Nicholas Hjelmberg
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(Designer's own review)

Mare Balticum is a game of many layers. You have the classical production game, where your tokes produce different resources. You have the traditional trade game, where your resources may be used for building fleets, armies and forts. And you have the good old war game where you wage battles. However, unlike in many other games, the players do all this together. Several players may contribute to a fleet and several players, the same or others, may use the ship to cross the sea. So this is a cooperative game then? No, one of the challenges is that one strategy negatively affects another. If some players build a fleet, they want to engage in peaceful trade with the overseas provinces. However, the fleet allows armies to cross the sea and soon the trade of the fleet players will be lost as the players of the armies pillage the land. But that does not last either, the army paves the way for a fort to built, bringing taxes to the fort player on behalf of both the fleet and the army players.

However, the players are not alone around the Baltic Sea. There are three enemy powers - Denmark, Poland, and Russia - whose moves are simulated by the players themselves. This is accomplished by the players playing cards to select the enemy targets and whenever they coincide, the enemy attacks. This is a way to target the enemies towards the other players' spheres of interest but may also damage your own positions and in the worst case lead to the loss for all.

The way to battle the enemy is a special story. The players participating in the fleet, army or fort simply play cards to select whether to attack or defend. If all attack, all win, and if all defend, all lose. The problem is that if some players choose to attack and some to defend, the attacking players will lose and only the defending players will win. Will you trust your co-players to stand by your side in the battle?

The profit from the production, trade and war is used for investments, either in new fleets, armies and forts or in province titles that will determine the winner. However, province titles is not simply a way of accumulating victory points but they also come with a responsibility: if the province is lost to the enemy, so is the title. This adds a balancing mechanism to the game where the players must choose between investing in production or in provinces and where a leading player will be held back by having more to defend.

Overall, Mare Balticum offers a game play with limited resources and few choices at the time but where the impact is vast. The strategic considerations of cooperation vs competition, spending vs investment and peace vs war give innumerous strategic options and ensure a high degree of playability. Both traders and war mongers may find interesting paths across the Mare Balticum!

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lrs drn
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Nice overview. Perhaps it would be good (for objectivity's sake) to mention that you are the game designer, though.
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Nicholas Hjelmberg
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Indeed, review updated.
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