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Jeff Goldsmith
United States
Pasadena
California
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This isn't so much a review as a "what's right and what's wrong with the game." Cutting directly to the chase: Mamoonia has some neat mechanics, but as yet, it's not a functional game. The rules are at version 1.2 so far, so there is some hope that version 2.0 will be a good game. It has some potential. It's not there now.

Mamoonia is a quest game in a typical swords-and-sorcery fantasy world. ...which is why I bought it; I like quest games and S&S worlds are fun. There's something to like in Mamoonia---it has a few interesting mechanics and the components are nice. It's not too long, there is a tradeoff between cooperation in order to beat evil vs. competing to win. It could even be played totally cooperatively if the players were so inclined. Problem is, several of the core mechanisms just don't work.

Every time you gain a level (players have to gain levels in S&S worlds, of course), your combat skills increase by one pip on a D12. But so do all the monsters you face! All encounters are soft-keyed exactly to the player's level, so the levels really have no effect on combat.
The economy is busted. At the beginning, the players are totally broke, but shortly they get so much money that
the game runs out of gold counters. And there's nothing to spend it on. Once you have an axe (mandatory), you just need 5GP every so often to heal a wound.
The core of the movement system is the teleport spell. It's cute in that the board changes for each game. There are 12 magic "islands" which are placed in 12 spots on the board. They are shuffled before the game, so the configuration is different each time. They are numbered 1-12...but not on the islands themselves! They all have names like "Dome of Shield" or the like, and to find the number, one has to look up the island on a chart on the side of the board. OK, that's a pain...so to make it take longer, the chart is staggered above and below another display, making it even harder to read. The islands always allow teleportation to the same numbers...but not in order...that is, 3 doesn't allow teleportation to 2 and 4, but to two others...yes, listed on another chart. This is
just a simple foolishness, though; it can be fixed by writing the island number and its teleport-adjacent islands on the islands themselves. That might cut half an hour off the game time, too.
The rules were obviously written by someone who doesn't speak much English. The writer seems to assume some understanding of the game which took me awhile to guess. I'm still not sure I have it all right.
The goal of the game is to figure out which four pieces out of 12 amulet pieces are not in play. There is no clever way to do this; you simply have to look at all 12 islands to find them. Yes, that's 16. Four blanks are shuffled in after the four are removed from play. If you are lucky, you might leave a blank for #12. Probably not.
There is sufficient time to look at all 12 islands, but you are constrained by movement. Movement is D12+3 spaces per turn (some spaces count two). That variance is pretty large; 2D6+3 would probably make for a better game. There may be some magic items to increase your speed, but they are not common. Levels don't help. Worse still, one of the few things one can spend money on is armor. Armor slows you down. In a race game, which this essentially is, slowing down is just not effective. So armor seems like a trade-off, but it isn't---it's just bad.


Another cute mechanic is the movement of the encounters. Encounters appear every 12 hours (game time, not real time). They appear randomly on the board (via a die roll and a card draw---numbering the hexes on the board would simplify this a lot so that dice could be used). Then they move. On alternating turns, they move D6 spaces in a random direction. If they hit a place of power or go off the board, they disappear. On the other turns, however, they head toward players. On those turns, don't get hit by them. Before they hit you, they do something randomly nasty. Like make you lose a few turns. Or steal D6 gold pieces (which is totally trivial; players have 50).

There's a bit to like here, but the game just isn't ready. Some of these problems can be fixed easily, but some will take a bit more effort. I'm looking forward to the next major rules release. If/when that happens, it'd be nice to see a little bit more variety in the quests themselves. Most are simply "go to a random space and then go to another random space." Usually the spaces are not totally random---they are generally about two turns apart. But there's nothing more than that---just go here, then there.
So what?

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