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Subject: Some Advice to First Time Players rss

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Michael Carpenter
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After hearing a lot of positive things about The Voyages of Marco Polo I anxiously sought out the game. I played the game with 2-players and was left with an odd opinion of the game. After a few months I returned to the game because while I didn't enjoy the game as much as I had hoped I would, I did not dislike the game and felt I should try it again. I again played the game with two players and had a much more enjoyable time with the game. This has occurred with other games but something about Marco Polo makes me feel inclined to put some info out for those who are curious about this game.

First, it is very likely that you will feel like money is too tight or that traveling is too expensive.

Second, there is a possibility that this game will approach strategy differently than most games you have played before (depending on your tastes and preferences for strategy games of course).

Third, the characters are more balanced than you may initially believe.

Fourth, you may walk away from the game feeling underwhelmed due to a poor performance.


Elaborating on these points...

If you feel money is too tight or traveling is too expensive, I suggest you double check all rules that are associated with money to make sure you are not doing something slightly wrong.

- You may take multiple bonus actions at the "Coin Bag" location on the board.
- You don't have to pay the additional cost of your die amount when placing at the Khan's Favor.

*These are well explained in the rules but missing either or any other rule associated with generating money can really choke your money flow.

I am by NO means an expert on this game but from the first play to the second I could tell there is plenty of opportunity to generate sufficient funds if you are left with the impression that you can't after your first play.


There are numerous games with player powers but there is a decent chance you will not have played a game with player powers that feel as unbalanced as the powers in Marco Polo. This has been addressed in several threads but I want to address the gameplay feel I think these player powers create. Often you will look at your player ability and have a more defined approach to a game but if you do not stick to this "suggestion" you can still do pretty well. I may be wrong, but it seems as though the powers in Marco Polo create a situation that forces you to maximize the strengths of your characters or you likely will not be able to compete (assuming other players do stick to their strengths). I don't believe this is a bad thing at all, but it will create a sense of frustration when you believe you are putting together plays that fit the broad sense of what the game is asking you to do, but are not enhanced by your player power. This may sound obvious but until you experience the gameplay it is hard to know exactly how this interaction of broad objectives (like the contracts) and your player powers can work. I personally have not played a game in which such a large impact (the player powers influence) is hidden so much behind the ease of achieving clearly visible tasks. Now with all that said, you are going to look at your player power the first time and have an idea of what to do with it during the game... but I promise you will be enticed to stray from that strategy and that can be punishing in this game.


One thing you see about this game everywhere you look is how unbalanced and powerful the player powers seem... This is certainly true. Every power feels game-breaking, but this isn't my advice to you, My advice would be that you definitely stick to the characters the rules suggest for your first play (at least with 2 players) because the two suggested characters, while powerful, will not push you to create a strategy that revolves around traveling unless you feel you have a good grasp on how to travel effectively and efficiently. In my opinion efficient and effective traveling is not intuitive in this game and having to make a strategy around it in your first play could be discouraging. This leads me into the original point, some of the traveling oriented characters may make you feel like you're at a disadvantage but it is feasible to compete with them and becomes much easier with multiple plays.


I'll finish by addressing my last point. The Voyages of Marco Polo MAY leave you wondering why it is so highly praised when you finish your first play. My suggestion would be to stop and consider if you really maximized your character's power. This is the kind of game which will present you with what may seem like the optimal move, but there is likely a better move somewhere in the city cards or somewhere else on the board. Don't assume that the game doesn't deliver a punch if you perform poorly in your first go at it. You will very likely begin to peel away some of the layers of clutter masking efficient play with multiple plays of this game.


Please keep in mind that I have only played this game twice so far (waiting on a copy to arrive) and that I am not suggesting any breaks/flaws in the game, nor am I suggesting a dominant strategy or even claiming the game is good or bad. I simply mean to give some advice to those who are seeking this game out because there is a chance you will have an unexpected experience with this game that may not be as enjoyable as you would expect heading into it. I also do not mean to suggest that because I played poorly in my first game and had a bit of an underwhelming experience that everyone will.
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alan beaumont
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More than decent 2 player game, excellent 4 player one.
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Andreu P.
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I recently bought a copy of the game and I've only played a couple of times so far, but I REALLY liked it from the very beginning.

Money is indeed tight in this game, but in additiom it may become easier or harder to get enough income depending on the board setup. That's something that I really like, since you have to adapt to the particular circumstances of the board every time you play. That said, as long as you stick to the standard setup for small cities (which you'll generally do for your first plays), money shouldn't be a big problem. A 5 coins per turn income bonus awaits just three steps away from Venice...
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Michael Carpenter
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DarkVaati wrote:
I recently bought a copy of the game and I've only played a couple of times so far, but I REALLY liked it from the very beginning.

Money is indeed tight in this game, but in additiom it may become easier or harder to get enough income depending on the board setup. That's something that I really like, since you have to adapt to the particular circumstances of the board every time you play. That said, as long as you stick to the standard setup for small cities (which you'll generally do for your first plays), money shouldn't be a big problem. A 5 coins per turn income bonus awaits just three steps away from Venice...


You are definitely correct, but I would not be surprised to see a player struggle for money if they do not anticipate the tight nature of the cash flow. The complexity of this game is not mind-boggling, but it really is a game that requires strong play. With that said, I am improving and really enjoy that the game is rewarding my effort to learn to play the game better.
 
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Curtis Frantz
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MariettaTennis wrote:
First, it is very likely that you will feel like money is too tight or that traveling is too expensive.


Just like real life...
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Chef Kevin
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I always look at the board before beginning to see how I can generate some sort of income. Pending on how the cards come out, it can make for a high or low currency game, which either To me is an interesting game. It does help to know the game, but I love having to filter the action spaces with your character selection to start thinking of a path. Such a masterpiece.
 
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Trevor Taylor
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Honestly, every resource is tight in this game. Even if there are loads of money making locations on the board, not everyone can use them. At the end of every game of this I've played (lots online on top of physical plays) most players bemoan being 1 x short of being able to do y. I feel this is a sign of how good the game is. But, some people don't like a game that is so tight. It's not a bad game and they're not wrong, they just have different tastes. As I love the game however, I'm all for encouraging people to give this game a second go.

PS. Teaching others this game is difficult, not for the rules, but because it's really hard to not beat someone new to the game. So I tend to attempt a new strategy (however crazy) when playing new people as for some players, a major loss can be disheartening enough to never go back to it.
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Justin Rizzo
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MariettaTennis wrote:


You may take multiple bonus actions at the "Coin Bag" location on the board.

----

I'll finish by addressing my last point. The Voyages of Marco Polo MAY leave you wondering why it is so highly praised when you finish your first play. My suggestion would be to stop and consider if you really maximized your character's power.


Spending an entire die for 3 measly coins, in a game where you don't make a ton of actions, is more punishing than it is helpful. You will likely have to "run the bag" multiple times, and suck up a lot of turn potential to do so, especially if playing with more than 2P (since you will need the coins to make moves).

----

The game is, in my opinion, too tight and too short. It's difficult to accomplish more than one thing, which is unsatisfying, and it's generally super expensive to do so.

I personally hate games that have fixed number of turns/rounds, especially when they are low numbers. I'm not sure why the gaming community, and designers, are fixated on this. I have kept Tzolkin and Castles of Burgundy because they offer *just* enough turns per game to satisfy me. Lorenzo has stayed because we house-rule the 2P board, and because again, with 24+ actions, it just barely eeks out satisfaction AND it has a fascinating use of dice.

With VOMP, you get 5 rounds and 5 dice. The problem is that this does not equate to 25 actions, which would be great. If you opt to travel or use the bazaar each round, that equates to less than 20 moves per game, even if you buy black dice. Blech! And the "use your lowest die number" rule is repulsive, no one I played with like it. Paying the lower number is fine, but USING the lower number is not "fun".

It might sound like I hate this game. But in reality, I really loved so much about it and was almost desperate to keep it. However, the restrictions, the brevity, and the punishing design choices really soiled it for the wife and I. Thankfully the designers have other titles which have allowed us to fill the void. I can't wait for the expansion for Lorenzo.
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Curtis Frantz
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JustinRRizzo wrote:
I personally hate games that have fixed number of turns/rounds, especially when they are low numbers. I'm not sure why the gaming community, and designers, are fixated on this.


Probably to keep the game relatively medium-length. Even with the limited actions and brevity, a 4p game generally takes about 90 minutes.

JustinRRizzo wrote:
Thankfully the designers have other titles which have allowed us to fill the void. I can't wait for the expansion for Lorenzo.


Don't you only take 3x6=18 actions in a game of Lorenzo? It's been a while since I played, but the brevity and number of actions seems very similar in these two games.
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clovis chan
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imo, it's good the game does not allow you to easily do everything. It then forces you to prioritise - am I going full cities to get that 5 + 10 VP? Do I just stop a bit after Beijing so I farm the efficient cities I pass through?

the point of 'use the lowest die' is to create a sharper distinction between good and bad rolls. I won't say I like it, but I will not go as far as to say it's unfun since I know the rationale.

but of course, this is all just personal game preference and nothing against you.
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Justin Rizzo
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tribefan07 wrote:
JustinRRizzo wrote:
I personally hate games that have fixed number of turns/rounds, especially when they are low numbers. I'm not sure why the gaming community, and designers, are fixated on this.


Probably to keep the game relatively medium-length. Even with the limited actions and brevity, a 4p game generally takes about 90 minutes.

JustinRRizzo wrote:
Thankfully the designers have other titles which have allowed us to fill the void. I can't wait for the expansion for Lorenzo.


Don't you only take 3x6=18 actions in a game of Lorenzo? It's been a while since I played, but the brevity and number of actions seems very similar in these two games.


Yes in Lorenzo it's 4x6 (three color die and one neutral) for 24 actions, and several of the cards you acquire give you a freebie action. I typically end a game with 26 actions. Just barely enough to satisfy.

FWIW, we played our first learning 2P game of Marco in under 40 minutes. Our second game was 30 minutes.

I think Z-Man games in general develops games that really draw me in with fantastic mechanics, but ultimately disappoint me with their brevity of choices per game. I prefer to make lots of tough choices, instead of just a few excruciating choies. I have retained Glass Road (for now), Saint Petersburg (forever, since the players define the pace), Troyes (for now). Recent acquisitions that I'm nearly ready to purge after one play include Helios and First Class. Helios has wonderful mechanics, but static setup and a super low number of turns per game (I think it was 18), both big turn offs. We just played our 2P learning game of FC in under 25 minutes. 5 minutes setup, 5 minutes explanation, 5 minutes tear-down for 25 minutes of game play? No thanks. You only get 18 actions in FC as well, but at least there are some bonus options. Still, too short, too tight, I want more gameplay per game.
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Jérôme
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JustinRRizzo wrote:
I think Z-Man games in general develops games that really draw me in with fantastic mechanics, but ultimately disappoint me with their brevity of choices per game.


The Voyages of Marco Polo was developed by Hans im Glück.
I don’t know what Z-man did, other than translate the rules.
And publish on the American market, obviously.
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