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Subject: An overlooked gem? Not sure, but worth a shot at current prices. rss

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Jon W
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Aurora
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My family has really enjoyed The Quest for El Dorado this winter break, and so I was on the hunt for other "overlooked" Knizia games. I just picked this up from Amazon for $16 shipped, and we played it twice yesterday (4p).

Pretty interesting game, very "old school" in feel, easy to learn and get the gist after one learning game. We did make an error the first game on the tie-break rules, which are actually a little tricky[1]. But other than that, it plays fast, has little downtime, and produces fairly constant tension.

On first blush, I'm not quite settled yet on how much luck is really present, and there were a non-trivial amount of ties in the bidding. But I'm looking forward to playing it a bunch more to really get to know it. The closed, shrinking economy is fascinating, and the blind bidding is fun and doesn't feel too punitive. It's fun to skate just under the high bid and get two placements "for nothing", or to correctly anticipate a high bid and snap up a huge amount of shells.

We had no play-affecting issues with the components. I gather there were two print runs, and I suspect we got the second, presumably better one. I mean, sure, the tiles should have a bit more contrast with the background, and the blue and green discs are too similar, and the shells wobble around a bit. But we had no trouble, playing in reasonably good lighting, and my family was surprised that the bits apparently soured people on this after Spiel 2014. We thought the components were nice and fun to handle.

I'm not sure it's a keeper (unlike The Quest for El Dorado, which we've played a ton already), but it's certainly a solid game, and well worth a look, esp. at these clearance prices. I hope the marketplace failure of this doesn't put Knizia and/or Ravensburger off creating more games of this sort. I get the zeitgeist around here, but I hope there's still a place for these old-school euros.


[1] To wit: it's a bit unclear if the amulet holder (winner of the last turn's bid) is first or last in the clockwise break (turns out the answer is last; the example in the rulebook is unhelpful). You also act in order from the new amulet holder, which also bit us a couple of times, as you evaluate the auction based on previous holder, but then act on current holder (this can affect the players tied for 3rd, with 1-marker to place).
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Luke Heidebrecht
Canada
Saskatoon
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Great little review!

This is a favourite around here and I agree, an over-looked, undervalued Knizia game.

Things I like:

- the blind bid tied to a shrinking economy - this creates so many decisions about how much to bid, depending on turn order, etc... you must factor in a general awareness of various players economic holdings and make wise timing decisions, sometimes giving up an immediately powerful geographic play in order to secure a long term economic advantage. I can't tell you how often players split the pot because they made the obvious and not the best decision.

- This game is MEAN. After a number of plays our groups meta shifted to a cut-off-your-knees kind of map play. The tiles that are drawn may create randomness - but its what you do with those random draws that becomes interesting - and tied in perfectly with the decision space in bidding - sometimes its worth screwing over an opponent and putting yourself in a tough spot simply because its a better move than the conservative option. Forcing the game to end on tile draws creates spaces for "small margin" victories. The map creates spaces for nasty forms of area control and resource stealing as well as what is more typical - building up your own little empire.

I hope you get to play it again soon and look forward to hearing more thoughts on it

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Jon W
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heidebrechtluke wrote:
- This game is MEAN. [...] The map creates spaces for nasty forms of area control and resource stealing as well as what is more typical - building up your own little empire.

Saw some success at stealing when there was an immediate score to be had (or a future link-up that was clearly never going to be contested), but speculative placements (all over the map for flexibility and opportunistic denial) seemed to punish the speculative player.

To us, the game felt weighted toward the auction and less about the board play. But then, two games in, and the first really just a learning game, so...plenty more to learn here.

Thanks for the comments!
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Dan Laursen
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Fort Myers
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waddball wrote:
I'm not sure it's a keeper ..., but it's certainly a solid game, and well worth a look, esp. at these clearance prices. I hope the marketplace failure of this doesn't put Knizia and/or Ravensburger off creating more games of this sort. I get the zeitgeist around here, but I hope there's still a place for these old-school euros.


Glad to see someone posting about it. I think it’s an excellent game, so consider me a zeitgeist buster.
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