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Subject: For the Meeple, by the Meeple (Mafia de Cuba) rss

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Michael Carpenter
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BOX ART



The Godfather suspects some of his henchmen aren't so loyal. Can you determine who is loyal and who is a thief?



QUICK FACTS:
Style of Game: Party
Play Time: 10 to 20 minutes
Theme: Mafia
Number of Players: 6-12
Main Mechanics: Partnerships, Role Playing, Variable Player Powers
Components: Nice
Weight: Light


THEME AND MECHANISMS:
I think the mechanisms do a great job of matching up with the theme in this game. The thing to mention about this is that you could almost just read the theme and know how to play the game. The only thing that would keep you from doing that are the roles and win conditions. These spice up the game.


GAMEPLAY OVERVIEW:
A Godfather should be chosen then the game will be played in two phases. The first phase will be the Diamond Theft. The second phase will be the Investigation. It is important to mention that the game box is a major component of the game that will be passed around the table. From here forward when mentioning the box that is what I will be referencing. Before the round begins the Godfather may choose to remove 0-5 diamonds from the box to help confuse the players.

During the Diamond Theft phase the player to the left of the Godfather (The First Player) will start with the box and a felt bag. The first player may remove a role from the box and place it in the felt bag to help confuse the players even more. The box will contain diamonds and poker chips (the poker chips represent roles in the game). Some groups also put random items in the box to help disguise the sound of the pieces being moved around in the box. I would suggest doing this. When a player has the box, he or she must do two things. First, the player must examine the items that are in the box when he or she receives it. Second, the player must take as many diamonds as they wish from the box (minimum 1) or take 1 character role (poker chip). Once the player has taken what they want, they pass the box to the player on the left. This will continue, with each player performing both tasks, until all players have had an opportunity to receive the box. Once the box makes its way back to the Godfather the game will move into the second phase (The Investigation).

Special Cases
*As the round begins the first player may dismiss 1 character role (poker chip) to the bag (provided) to help confuse the other players.

*Each player that gets a totally empty box becomes a Street Urchin (explained in the rule book).

*The last player may choose not to take anything and become a Street Urchin but should pretend to take something.


During the Investigation phase the Godfather will take the box and examine what items still remain in the box. He or she is then free to interrogate the other players. The other players may answer honestly, lie, choose not to answer, or talk among themselves. The Godfather's goal is to deduce enough information to determine which players have stolen diamonds. When the Godfather thinks a player has stolen diamonds from the box, he or she accuses that player. If the player is a Thief (has stolen diamonds) that player surrenders the diamonds to the Godfather and is eliminated from the game. That player may not talk anymore. If the player is not a Thief, the Godfather must give that player a Joker role. If the Godfather must ever provide a Joker role to a falsely accused player and does not have one to provide, the Godfather is eliminated and the investigation ends. The investigation continues until one of the end game conditions are triggered.

The end game win conditions vary for each of the roles and will be assessed as soon as the investigation phase ends.

At the end of the investigation phase.
- If the Godfather has recovered all of his or her diamonds, the Godfather and all the loyal henchmen win the game.
- If the Godfather accuses an FBI or CIA agent, that player wins the game alone.
- If the Godfather is eliminated all remaining thieves reveal what they have stolen and the player that as stolen the most diamonds win the game, as well as all the street urchins.
- The driver wins if the player to his right is one of the winners.




ASSESSMENT


My assessment of board games is broken into three core areas: Depth of Strategy, Quality of Design, and Replayability.

Depth of Strategy

As this is a party game, I am not going to address depth of strategy too much, nor am I going to hold it's lack of depth against it too much. Mafia de Cuba does allow for some decision-making. There are smarter choices to make as your receive the box but I would consider it more tactical because it is difficult to know what will be available to you on your turn. The exception to this is when you are the first player. When you are the first player you can manipulate the game by removing a specific role and then taking a role that may make things easier on you. As the first player you also have MUCH more information than all the other players as to the dynamics of the round. Being the first player is arguably the most exciting position in the game because you have a better opportunity to spot lies made by the other players during the investigation.

The Godfather also offers you quite a bit of engagement. Not exactly from a strategical stand point, but you are definitely trying to solve the question of who is lying to you and who is telling you the truth.


Depth of Strategy:
2.0 = The game offers what looks like strategy but is more tactical.




Replayability

Mafia de Cuba offers replayability in a way that most party games offer replayability. When you get the game out, you'll play it multiple times in one sitting. Unfortunately, you only get the game out in appropriate situations and there are many situations when you simply CANNOT play the game. With the 6-12 player counts available I think it is fair to say that it plays a group well. Unfortunately, unless you have at least 6 players (yes, there is a 5 player variant available) often, you probably won't be playing this game very much.

My other concern with this game's replayability is that the discussion in this game requires more deduction skills than a lot of social deduction games, in my opinion. I'm not saying it is unique in its way of implementing the mechanism. It just feels like the information each player has to start the investigation phase is limited and requires a skilled player of social deduction games to really get the discussion going. The first time we played this game it felt as though the discussion was forced or uneventful. Partially because some of the players didn't know what to say to be misleading other than they didn't steal any diamonds or they were loyal henchmen. The game does offer you a direction to head, in regard to discussion, but I could see this game falling flat with certain groups pretty easily.

A lot of the gameplay relies on the Godfather doing a good job of keeping the interrogation flowing smoothly. That to me, makes the game a little fragile. You can avoid this issue by knowing your players, but it is something to note.


Replayability:
2.5 = Fans of the genre will likely enjoy this game often.




Quality of Design


Partnerships: I find it difficult to give this mechanism any credit. Mostly from a literal interpretation of partnerships. Other than the Godfather, no one knows who is who in this game. After that everyone is trying to convince the Godfather of their identity. I feel like I know who my partner is, but they have no idea if I am their partner... It just seems like a mechanism that contradicts the gameplay. Maybe I am wrong here. Maybe you can consider the fact that you know who you should be helping and it dictates your actions to be a representation of your partnership with someone. The gameplay is enjoyable. Calling this a partnership mechanism is weird to me.

Role Playing: I see the attempt at creating role playing in this game but it doesn't come out in huge amounts during game play. It is hard to represent a particular role and it seems as though the only time someone claims a particular role is the Loyal Henchmen... You can accuse other people of being other roles but that doesn't really mean they are representing that role.

Variable Player Powers: Again, this just seems like a mechanisms that is represented by the roles in the game but not allowed to shine in the game play all that much. Yes, the roles dictate how you approach the discussion and the gameplay but at the end of the day the gameplay literally molds everyone into the same appearance. As with the partnerships... I know the mechanism is there, but it seems to be buried under the gameplay.

*I just want to say that I'm not arguing that the mechanisms aren't present in the game, just that I don't really enjoy how the game executes the mechanisms. Maybe I am bad at the game or my group doesn't "get it".



Quality of Design:
2.5 = No major break in the game but the gameplay just isn't that engaging.


FINAL THOUGHTS:
Mafia de Cuba really doesn't fall that short from being one of my favorite Social Deduction games. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite sit right with me and it keeps it from being a game I truly enjoy. The way the gameplay buries all the mechanisms annoys me. I seldom feel like I can do much to execute my role in this game. Although, there are times when someone manages to play their role well and score an impressive win as the Agent or Driver.

Something I haven't commented on yet that bothers me is how the roles don't seem balanced. If I am the driver I am very dependent on how the guy to my right plays, but if I am the Agent I am completely self-dependent. The Street Urchin role isn't that exciting and players are often stuck with it. Now, the game is short enough that none of this would hurt the game too much by itself but when I mix it with the other things I find undesirable it makes for a game I'm not too keen on.

The partnership mechanism isn't implemented in a way I enjoy either. I like being able to scheme with another player, not just for the other player. It's not a bad way of designing a game or mechanism. I just don't prefer it over true partnerships.

Plus, at the end of the day it feels like everyone is trying to portray the Loyal Henchmen role and convince the Godfather of their loyalty. Now, this fits the theme entirely. It just isn't fun for me. I can appreciate the idea of portraying one thing while hiding your intentions but it seems less doable than I would like to see it be.

Mafia de Cuba offers an enticing concept but at the end of the day I think it doesn't quite execute the concept well enough. Oddly enough though, even with all my complaints I will play this game if a group really wants to try it because I can recognize that other people may like the way it approaches social deduction.

Overall Rating -
Mafia de Cuba has potential, but it barely misses being really good.



If you enjoy my reviews please recommend and check out my geeklist For the Meeple, by the Meeple

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