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Subject: Worth getting w/out the expansion? rss

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Michael Cheong
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Mare Nostrum has always sounded like the kinda game I want: civilisations, classical theme, 4-5 players. I've heard a lot abt balance issues though. Is it really imbalanced? I'd love to get this game but needing to get the expansion is likely to put it out of my price range; if getting the expansion is the only way to make the game really fun and fair then it's not worth it for me. What's the general consensus?
 
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Michael Barnes
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The game is only unbalanced if you play with folks who don't have a firm understanding of the game and the way it works. Most folks who've complained about it being unbalanced seem to have played only once or twice and never had a chance to learn simple truisms like "never let Egypt get tax cards". Admittedly, the Greek position is a little weak without the expansion but I've still seen the Greeks win and be very competitive without the additional abilities. Simple fact- it's a game that requires a few plays to really appreciate, unlike most Euros it has depth to it that isn't immediately apparent. All that being said, the expansion is highly recommended and really moves the game from "great" to "really f'n great".

If I had a nickel every time someone who lost a game said it was "unbalanced"...I'd be able to buy a copy of Full Metal Planete at Troll and Toad pricing.
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Maarten D. de Jong
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I think you read more into the 'imbalance' than there actually is. In its utmost basic setup, Greece is the weakest of the civilisations and can be a little tough to play; if you use the advanced setup (and some previous experience, of course) this is already mitigated a good deal, and if you add the very minor rule changes which somewhat restrict Rome's building capacity, and enhance Greece's naval ability, the game is plays just fine and is perfectly enjoyable. In fact, I dislike the truckload of cards and stuff the Expansion adds, although I've heard and read nothing but good about it.

The real problem is, as the previous poster already mentioned, figuring out the proper strategy and presenting a painful exterior to anyone desiring to muscle in on you without it draining your treasury. (And being an opportunistic bugger who weasels himself to victory---read my session report for an idea how that can occur.) This concept will take a few games to grasp properly, so don't give up after a game or two, three.
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Pierre Philippe Goyer
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I agree with the previous post.

HOWEVER, having played this game very often and also with the expansion, the original game is only good with 5 players. Anything less will seriously unbalance the game. This game is made for 5 players.
We have tried many combination for 4 and 3 players and almost every time the winner is the CIV that has a neutral neighbor.

With the expansion, this is much better. 3, 4 and 6 players can be played.

Owll
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Michael Barnes
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I agree with Pierre- it is definitely at its best (without expansion)with 5 and seems to be designed to be as such.
 
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Richard Young
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Just to underline what the previous posters have said - the game can seem unbalanced to novice players. Each empire has a chance but you need some experience to be able to determine what strategies work best with each. The use of trade as a weapon is particularly unintuitive and takes a lot of getting used to. And, if you are sticking with the basic game, you must incorporate the rule changes that were included in the expansion but which also apply to the basic five player configuration. I also agree that the basic game plays best with all five empires active.

Many multi-player empire building games discourage early aggression for example. Often, in games of this sort, a player is wise to focus on expanding without stepping on anyone's toes and biding his time hoping for a dust-up between two other players then swooping in to sift through the ashes (the "turtling" thing). And, since this is also a trading game, it is instinctive to be looking for win-win situations where you give up something another player wants to get something even better in return for yourself. Neither of these approaches will work here, and those who fall into using either will likely be the same ones who are convinced that there are serious imbalances in the game.

This is an excellent game but has to be taken entirely on its own and played often and seriously to fully appreciate its nuances. The basic game is fine with the caveats, but I like the expansion as it provides additional tools for each empire to enhance their advantages. The main point, as I see it, is this is first and foremost a wargame with some Euro trappings to broaden its appeal.
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Paul Schulzetenberg
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I've never played with the expansion, so I can't speak for the quality of that.

That said, I would definitely say that the base game is still a VERY good game. Our group has never had the imbalance issues that others complain about. We tend to gang up on anybody who is overly aggressive, so the main imbalance gripe of Rome vs. Greece never seems to come up.

Don't let the griping about imbalance deter you. Do yourself a favor and pick this game up.
 
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Eric Clark
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The base game is perfectly fine as long as you play with five serious players. A neighboring empire that never expands or retaliates is immensely beneficial to the players who have one and grossly unfair to the players who don't. And, although I love Mare Nostrum dearly, I don't think I've ever seen a game that was more prone to one inattentive player ruining the experience for everybody.
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Michael Cheong
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Thanks for all the replies! So it's not necessarily an imbalanced game but it needs strategy that is a bit...out of the ordinary? And the whole "Mare Nostrum is best played with 5" notion seems to say that the game a quite unplayable with anything less than 5 unless I have the expansion.

Numskull wrote:
And, although I love Mare Nostrum dearly, I don't think I've ever seen a game that was more prone to one inattentive player ruining the experience for everybody.


If you add the probability of one of my friends letting his mind drift to football every few turns or so angry then maybe Mare Nostrum isn't the game for my group until we can regularly play with 5 serious players who are accustomed to strategising a bit more creatively.
 
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Mark Buetow
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I really wanted to like Mare Nostrum. I've played it a few times with my daughters. Perhaps if I played with more "advanced" gamers it might be more interesting, but they do OK.

The game never really grabbed me. I can see how more plays would give more opportunities for "learning the ropes" and I've never played with five (and I don't have the expansion).

But then I came across Pax Romana! Take a look at that game! If your group would be up for something a bit more sophisticated (read: wargamish) then I urge you to try it. Although it only plays up to four. It's also much longer. And there's no trading of resources, though there is income and money.

It all depends what you're looking for in a game but for my tastes, something like Pax Romana is more interesting.
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