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Michael Frost

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Of course, this is entirely subjective and just my own personal opinion. Your opinion may vary. But...

Played a 3-player game yesterday with 2 other experienced gamers, each of us with significant heavy Euro-game experience. I really wanted to like it. But almost from the get go, this was just plain boring. Doing things to do them. With a painful card use/deck building mechanism. Limited initial resources so everything is difficult. And a point salad mechanism that implies more points outside stocks than I think it can deliver. (Beware too much bookkeeping or diamond mining!)

When I consider how long it took to set up, teach, play, and put back (well over 4 hours!), this game just wasn't interesting enough. You mainly just did things to do things. And the theme? I just didn't really feel it. Get helmut cards and play them to put out huts on sub-Saharan Africa. When it is mainly an economic/stock game.

It was the first game for two of us. The other player who taught us had played it a few times. He started teaching at about 1319. He got done teaching at about 1410. So brutal teaching time. I didn't even count the minutes of set up or take down. But those added a lot of time. He had a special medical/pill-related plastic holder for the plethora of pieces. That made set up and take down shorter, but still substantial. Then 3 boring hours of play. Boring round after boring round.

We each tried a different strategy. C went with the stock strategy. He maxed out two stocks, tied to Cairo and Mombasa. His total was nearly the total of mine and the other player's combined. His stock score alone beat the teacher. My diamond strategy put me in a distant second. Even though I earned 50 diamond points and had done significant exploration and stock activity with St. Louis. I, too, had zero bookkeeping points. The teacher did a bit of everything. Getting some bookkeeping points and diamond points (each 15), some Mombasa stock, etc. But he was crushed.

The winner had zero diamond points and zero bookkeeping points. Neither of those really mattered. And no points for either of the other two stocks. He just raced up those two stock tracks and put out the huts for Cairo and Mombassa to max out the points for those stocks. Presto, nearly 100 for just one stock alone! I put out a lot of white huts and tried to get the shares, but couldn't do that and do diamonds. Even played 3 diamond cards, and the special diamond collector I bought for 2 pounds the round before, on last round to put me just short of 60 diamond points. But that wasn't even close.

What can I say? If I'm going to spend 4 hours playing a game, then I want a fun one. If I'm going to play a heavy or heavy-ish game, I want heavy fun. Give me Wallenstein/Shogun! Or Kemet. Or Terra Mystica. Or Bora Bora. Or Tzolk'in. Or Panamax. Or Quebec. Or Carson City. Those games are just plain fun. This game... a dry, dreary slog around Africa and African markets. Chasing cotton, bananas, and coffee. To get stocks. Oh boy...

Though I guess in its defense, it was less painful than Le Havre. Or Kanban. So not quite the most painful or least interesting heavy game.
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Jack
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4 hours? Really? You must have been doing something wrong. For me, I enjoyed it less and less with each successive play. That got it passed on. I found certain tracks to be WAY better than others and the fact that you could TOTALLY ignore certain elements of the game, i.e. bookkeeping and still win handily was annoying to me.
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Siegfried Steurer
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you actually describe why my group is loving this game so much: you neither win by focusing on just one strategy nor by diversing in all directions ...

4 hours? wow ... we usually play about 90 minutes and wish it was longer ... ("already round 7? impossible ...")

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Jack
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Yeah, but the fact that you can ignore bookkeeping in many different scenarios makes it extraneous. I don't think I saw one time where the person that pounded the bookkeeping won.
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David Janik-Jones
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senorcoo wrote:
For me, I enjoyed it less and less with each successive play. That got it passed on. I found certain tracks to be WAY better than others and the fact that you could TOTALLY ignore certain elements of the game, i.e. bookkeeping and still win handily was annoying to me.

Same here. Already out of the collection in a purge and not missed.

MPMelanchthon wrote:
Though I guess in its defense, it was less painful than ... Kanban.

Definitely. But I find all of Vital's designs to be dreadful slogs (confusing complexity for depth).
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David G. Cox Esq.
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I respect the right of people not to enjoy games that I delight in.

I really enjoy Mombasa. It takes only a little over an hour to play and I find it a lot of fun...but I tend to enjoy 'heavier than average' games.
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Adam P
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I've read somewhere that you can win on bookkeeping.
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Mathue Faulk
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adamredwoods wrote:
I've read somewhere that you can win on bookkeeping.

You can. I've done it...but's it's harder than it should be. The 'books' need to align.
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Jack
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DaveyJJ wrote:
Definitely. But I find all of Vital's designs to be dreadful slogs (confusing complexity for depth).


If you haven't tried CO2, you should. I think it's his best and clearest.
 
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Arthur Rutyna
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Just my opinion (I know most things here are). The problem isn't the game. It is the fact that the rules took close to an hour to explain. It is my experience, with all the games you mentioned in your post, that they should take at MOST 30 minutes, probably more like 20 minutes to explain.
Teaching a game properly is critical to getting enjoyment out of it. If the teacher is prepared (this is key) it makes the game play that much more smooth and enjoyable. There is NO WAY this game should have taken over 4 hours (3 hours tops), may be the reason for your unhappiness.

I know I'm reading a lot into what you wrote, but I just had a similar experience with City of Iron (although I enjoyed the game). The teacher was not prepared (an hour to get through the rules), and with the game a total 4 hour play time. From here on out I REFUSE to play games with people who are not prepared to teach. It is rude and annoying as hell. I got better things to do than having someone thumbing through the rule book reading it quickly to us.
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Jack
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That's exactly why I started making game aids - so I could prep myself to teach. I didn't want to be THAT guy.
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Mathue Faulk
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senorcoo wrote:
DaveyJJ wrote:
Definitely. But I find all of Vital's designs to be dreadful slogs (confusing complexity for depth).


If you haven't tried CO2, you should. I think it's his best and clearest.

Ugh. CO2 completely turned me off from all of Vital's designs....but we'll always have Macao.
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Michael Frost

Iowa
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Having been taught games like Wallenstein, Terra Mystica, La Havre, Kanban, etc., I've sat through my fair share of lengthy pre-game teaching. In this case, my "teacher" had taught me a few other games before (both light and heavy). He is thorough. He goes over it all.

So he went over every aspect of this game. Every spot on the board that had meaning. All the cards. All the books. Symbols. Etc. Not that I truly understood it all, since I hadn't seen it played, but I knew what it was all about. There is just so much here. Too much, I think. And so much that just seems superfluous. Like ALL of the books/bookkeeping. Giant waste of time and space and effort.
 
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Jack
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mfaulk80 wrote:
senorcoo wrote:
DaveyJJ wrote:
Definitely. But I find all of Vital's designs to be dreadful slogs (confusing complexity for depth).


If you haven't tried CO2, you should. I think it's his best and clearest.

Ugh. CO2 completely turned me off from all of Vital's designs....but we'll always have Macao.


Haha! We will. I've encountered that some people who had a bad initial experience with CO2 and then played with me had a much better experience as they had not been taught the game properly the first time around. Your experience may be different, but not being taught the game correctly would definitely negatively impact your enjoyment of it.
 
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Arthur Rutyna
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senorcoo wrote:
That's exactly why I started making game aids - so I could prep myself to teach. I didn't want to be THAT guy.


Jack, you and I are on the same page. I use the player aids people post on the geek 90% of the time. And if they don't exist I create it. Makes teaching much easier, and the other players always have a quick reference of the game flow.
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Arthur Rutyna
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Quote:
..., but not being taught the game correctly would definitely negatively impact your enjoyment of it.

Once again, totally agree. With me, it was Caylus. Had to read the rules myself, to understand what I was missing the first 3 times I played it. And then of course printed out player aids for it
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Fraser
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If my first game of Mombasa had been four hours (or three hours + teaching) I possibly would have been put off too. However I am pretty sure our first game including teaching came in around the two hour mark and following games were quicker. It's a definite keeper at our house.
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AD .
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If a company is getting maxed out, and you're not involved; there's an answer -- either get on board, or crash the company using hats. This is what happens in most of our games.

A guy raises ahead, getting his houses down -- then suddenly, boom: a player just wipes the value of the shares by force crashing the houses back in.

I think the rules explanation can be a killer and I think reading up on rules, watching videos, anything to expedite the process would help in future.
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mike berk
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Really surprised to hear the comments on how long t took to teach and play. This is a game I taught my wife, who usually only likes light to light medium games. Didn't take long and just takes a little over an hour to play. One of our favorites. Although I agree the book track is a little weak comaparitively to other paths.
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Armand
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If you don't mind a handful of unsolicited advice...

Never let anyone drone on for an hour. You know you're not absorbing anything after ten minutes so cut that sh*t short!

"Let's just start and we'll ask questions as we go. If we absolutely need to wipe it and restart after t1, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

Or words to that effect...

I understand after a horrible experience like that you'll never want to look at the game again, but trust me, you haven't actually played Mombasa.

From the erroneous assumption that there are 'different paths' (This is not a modern Euro. Alex has been sitting on the design for 20 years. The only 'path' is to keep one eye on your opponent and swiftly react.), to the misunderstanding of bookkeeping, which is absolutely essential to beat an experienced player, to the idea that there is a 'stock strategy' in a game where $=VP, I have to wonder...

WTF did dude find to talk about for an hour?

Certainly not anything that mattered!

At least don't rule out Alex Pfister, who is the most consistently exciting game designer in the world right now. Get Broom Service, Isle of Skye, Oh My Goods! or Great Western Trail - and read the rules and teach the thing yourself!

Better luck next time!
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Alexander Pfister
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Michael, sorry to hear you did not have a good time with Mombasa. Of course as a game designer I want everybody to like my games. As a gamer I know this is impossible
I also totally understand that 4h is too much. Have fun with your next/other games!
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Mat FR
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This reads as a complaint about a session, not the game. If my first game had taken four hours, I would be unlikely to return to it too, but I don't think I would be able to fairly judge the game at the centre of it.
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John Fortune
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Our group loves this game. The first three player game we had took maybe 2 hours including rules explanation. We now play in about 60 to 90 minutes. We recently had a four player game where only the 4th player was new, that game took about 2 hours for setup, explanation and game play.

We really enjoy all the elements this game combines - the card play, area controls, stock track, diamond track. We also find it interesting that you can ignore or focus on various areas of the game - your strategy isn't railroaded.

Although the game has plenty of flavor for me - I could see someone who wants a ton of theme in their games would find this to be boring. There is no monster fighting and no miniatures in this game. Also, no story telling or narrative. But for our group, it is a fun puzzle.

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Michael Frost

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If any of you think I didn't like the game because of the teaching time, then you are entirely wrong. This "teacher" has taught me many games. He is always thorough and comprehensive. This is a detailed game. He, rightly, went over all the details. I remember one part of the game when the eventual winner tried to do something with the bookkeeping but couldn't because he'd gotten some rule mixed up. But I pointed out that the teacher had told us to do that you had to first play a bookkeeper card and then have another one to do that something. The player only had one. But he'd been taught.

And I realized by the end of the game that there really is only one "strategy" to this game: you have to max out the right stocks and make sure the company has their huts out. But that meant that there really aren't other paths to victory. My diamond strategy bombed (even though I had the most white stock and had put out most of the white huts and controlled nearly all the diamond mines on the map). The teacher's balanced strategy bombed. Maxing out two other stocks almost scored more points than our two totals combined! His over 150 to my 88 and the teacher's 76 (if memory serves me).

And there is no catch-up mechanism, so the game brutally punishes any early or late mistake.

I knew it was going to be a brutal punishing game when we started with just 1 pound. Which economically at that time makes no sense. Since the companies had to have capital. And the various nations did what they could to provide assistance and resources (whether Belgium, France, Germany, or Great Britain). So why not start with 5 pounds each, so players have some money to do something? Nope, you start off broke and had better figure some way to make the few pounds per round until your breakout strategy later in the game rewards you with a lot of money one round.

I think any critic of my impression is missing one key word: "fun". This is NOT a fun game. It is work. It is deliberately designed to be complex and demanding. It rewards those who know quickly how to work its difficult mechanisms (e.g., the use of the cards). It punishes everyone else. It creates false hope that a diamond or bookkeeping strategy might pan out. When all those can really do is provide some help to the players fighting it out in the stock markets and in the placing of huts.

When it comes to the fun factor alone, complex games like Bora Bora and Wallenstein have it. And both of them also have no catch-up mechanisms and punish mistakes (with Wallenstein having some "luck" in the combat mechanism). We laugh and smile and have fun, even when losing. I love Wallenstein even when I'm crushed and my peasants have revolted all over against me. Both games allow for completely different paths/strategies to victory. No one guarantees a win.

Mombasa doesn't have any innate sense of fun. You just slog it out. Round after round. Doing the same stuff each round (if you want to win)just because you have to. But if you don't need fun and want demanding competition, then it may be your game. Just not mine.
 
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Tucker Taylor
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MPMelanchthon wrote:
And I realized by the end of the game that there really is only one "strategy" to this game: you have to max out the right stocks and make sure the company has their huts out.

Or work to sink stocks / keep them all roughly even, so the people who spent time & effort maxing out one company aren't doing so well, while you grab points from diamonds (or, harder, books).

Quote:
I think any critic of my impression is missing one key word: "fun". This is NOT a fun game. It is work. It is deliberately designed to be complex and demanding.

No lie, that sounds like fun to me.
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