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The Voyages of Marco Polo» Forums » Variants

Subject: playing without special characters rss

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Mihir Shah
United States
Austin
Texas
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After a few plays with random set ups, our gaming group of 4 feels that if we play without these special characters per player then the game would be more even for all players.

What do you all think, would it disturb the game balance ?
 
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Sarandongo
United States
MADISON
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You could play without special powers, or even with the same city cards and small city bonuses every game. But would it be fun? I think one of the strengths of this game is a variability that allows for an almost infinite replayability.

Addressing your concern: I think the characters are very well balanced. It might be true that some of them are better or worse depending on the number of players (I wouldn't pick Beke Khan when playing with 2). Play some games in Yucata and you'll see that any character can win.
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Aernout Casier
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All players would be doing roughly the same. Only one strategy would work. Whoever is luckiest wins. I would on any opportunity to plat the game this way. On top of that, you'd run the risk of making the game feel too samey to warrant repetitive play.
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Riku Riekkinen
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I think it would be ok and better for balance between players. Only danger is that current characters get about 1 small city bonus worth of extra stuff every turn. So it would be a lot harder to accomplish things in the game. Meaning mostly that getting from contracts to succesful travel strategy would need even more skill (somwtimes rookies win by just doing contracts). And contracts game is dull in my opinion.

So yeah it would make game more balanced between players, but definately more dull (at least for me). And has a danger element of making the even more dull (if contracts beat travel). Of course you could give everyone same power, for example "get extra use of ?-small city every turn (even if you are not there yet and twice if you are there)".
 
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Max
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Characters draft is the biggest source of long term strategy in the game. Why would you want to get rid of that? Remember, you choose the character after looking the bonus tiles and cards on the map, it's important to select one you can plan your whole game around them.

And yes, they are balanced. Really.
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Matt D
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Peachtree corners
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jalwaaa wrote:
After a few plays with random set ups, our gaming group of 4 feels that if we play without these special characters per player then the game would be more even for all players.

What do you all think, would it disturb the game balance ?


I think it would be horrible, IMO, especially for a 4 player game. Mostly because the board would be very cramped.

In a four player game with the powers you'll typically end up with someone who is shooting out beyond the initial few cities (either Kublai Khan who starts there or Johannes Caprini who can teleport, or one of the other characters that can more easily travel longer distances at first). Without this benefit, you'll find players competing early on for the closer cities in a lot of cases.

So not only will you be competing for the same small bonus, you'll be competing for the city actions as well.

I can tell you in the few games that I have played where no one has used one of the big movers for some reason, they have been very tight, cramped, and at least some of the players involved have been very frustrated because they can't do anything.

The key (IMO) to making Marco Polo a good game is that it isn't really about players being blocked and you making a player unable to do something they want to do, it's about optimizing your own moves. At the end of a game, I've almost always been able to do what I want -- it's a question of whether the other players doing what they wanted accrued more points. That's an interesting twist on the worker placement style mechanic, where it is often just as useful to you to prevent an opponent from doing something as it is to do it yourself.

Taking out the powers and making everyone equal in my opinion takes this charm out of the game for more than just the inherent "unbalance" of the powers. It makes half of the board difficult to access until late in the game.

The end result is a game of Marco Polo that would feel more like that traditional cutthroat limited resources worker placement style of game -- which is the exact thing that the game was designed to NOT emulate.

If you feel that you have to strip the powers from the characters to enjoy the experience, I'd suggest that you find a different game to play that more mirrors what you are looking for out of your games. Not to be insulting or anything, but you are trying to fit a round peg into a square hole, and you are likely better off just trying to find a square peg.
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Mihir Shah
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Wow, appreciate all your thoughts and comments.
This is exactly the kind of opinions/analysis i wanted to hear.

This should probably help us get some confusion straightened going further with the game.

For our group, the random set up of small and big cities is enough to get enough replayability out of this game. Starting as an even playing field for all players and then figuring out the puzzle for the best strategy is the right kind of depth that we look for, as our group is not totally in heavy games.

We just wanted to hear and know if that could possibly disturb the other areas of the game or no? and from all the comments above it is clear that it does not affect the game balance at all, i understand it will be hard to travel quickly but that is ok for us as it is the same for everyone while playing without characters.
 
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Helena Hovancova
Slovakia
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I think the game would lose much of its magic by omitting your superpowers... More I play, more I think that the characters are really very balanced!

When I compare my first games hardly gaining 50 pts and hardly fullfilling 1 travel card, I can say that I have come a long way! We now score 100s pts regularly and it's wonderful to see it all come together - travel goals, city bonus actions & character powers in well orchestrated, almost miraculous rounds! How different from where we struggled to achieve 1 travel per round & game felt it played against us!

Do not give up, well worth the initial hurdles!
 
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