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Subject: There Are Many Decisions To Be Made Playing Ming Dynastie rss

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David G. Cox Esq.
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Ming Dynastie


An Area-control Game for Two-to-four Players
Designed by Robert Watson (robbirob)
Published by Rio Grande Games



I had hoped to be the first Geek to post a review on Ming Dynastie but my hopes have been thwarted by only a few hours. Nevertheless, I have decided to post this review anyway as it presents quite a different point of view regarding the game.

I bought the game because I have made several purchases from the designer when he was selling games online. I always found him to be helpful and honest and enjoyed the communication with him as I made each purchase.

The game is an Area-control game but with quite a few important decisions to be made throughout the game. It may be wise, at this stage, to run through how the game is played.


Playing the Game

Scoring Points: the game runs for six turns and points are scored at the end of turns 2, 4 and 6. There are three ways to score points. Occupying a cloister will score you four points per cloister – Cheeples (Chinese Meeples) in a cloister are not available to collect Province Tiles. Trading in a complete set of six different Province Tiles – each set is worth 28 points at the end of turn 2, 24 points at the end of turn 4 and 20 points at the end of turn 6. Cheeples left in a city at the end of a scoring turn score extra points (4 points at the end of turn two and 3 points at the end of turn 4) – however, they will be removed from the game and be unavailable to collect more Province Tiles later in the game.

Placing Cheeples in Province Boxes:
at the start of each turn each player takes 5 cheeples from their supply and place them, one at a time, and in order, in one of the six province boxes which are located on the edge of the map. Their placement determines which movement cards may be selected and which provinces they may be placed in later.


Drawing Movement Cards: drawing one card at a time and in player order, players draw cards until they either have five cards in their hand or until they have drawn a Dragon Card (wild card). Next to each province box (where the cheeples are placed during the previous phase of the game) is a movement card (each movement card has one of six different icons – each icon matches an icon on a border between two areas on the map) – if a player has a cheeple in the adjacent province box they may draw that card into their hand – the card taken will be replaced with another card from the deck. When they have five cards in their hand they may draw no more. A player may draw a Dragon Card but if they do so they may draw no more AND one of their cheeples is taken from a province box and removed from the game.


Moving Princes and Deploying Cheeples:
to move a prince the player must play a card – each prince may be moved up to five times during this phase. Each prince is moved once and then the next player may move their prince once and so on, until all players pass and/or run out of movement cards. Each time a Prince moves they may deploy up to three cheeples from the same coloured province box as the province they are currently located in. One of the cheeples may be placed in the cloister. During movement a prince may be moved through an area containing an other player’s prince but may not remain there at the end of its movement. Players may use more than one movement card to allow the prince piece to move more than one area.

Scoring: occurs at the end of turns 2, 4 and 6. In each area the player with the most cheeples will occupy two of the city spaces and the player with the second highest number of cheeples will occupy one of the city spaces (cheeples in cloisters do not count for control of an area). For each city space you occupy you collect a tile of the colour matching the province containing the city. After this takes place players may move their cheeples back to the non-city part of the area where they can be used again during the next scoring round OR left in the city to pick up extra points (four per cheeple PLUS an extra four for the person with the most cheeples still in cities in each province) but these if left in the city they will be removed from the game at the end of the scoring.
Round End: the round marker is advanced and the starting player marker is moved to the left.


Components:

The game is extremely attractive. It has a map which is divided into six different provinces – each province has three areas and each area has one cloister and three cities – each province has a pile of matching province tiles (one of the main objectives of the game is to receive these tiles by occupying the cities of each area). There are four sets of wooden pieces (one prince and 31 family members, also known as ‘Cheeples’ or ‘Chinese Meeples’). There are four sets of cards: 18 Dragon Cards (jokers), 16 Return Cards (four for each player), 54 Movement Cards and 4 Play Summary Cards. The components are all good quality and typical of the very best of Rio Grande Games.


The Rules

My initial reaction to the rules was fairly negative. Having worked through them and played the game they are now better than they were initially. The rules are actually fairly clear but some of the rules are implied rather than stated and consequently it may be necessary to go over the rule three or even four times before picking up on the subtlety of the rules and their meaning. The rules actually have a two page summary sheet and four pages of more detailed rules. Part of the problem with the rules is that some mechanisms are clarified only in the rules while other mechanisms are only clarified in the summary sheet. This means that you really need to jump from one to the other as you are first reading the rules to make sense of it all. The game is actually fairly simple and the rules give complete and unambiguous instructions.

One of the examples of rules not being explicit is that it doesn't say anywhere in the rules that princes have multiple moves in a single phase and can deploy family at the end of each move. But if you read all of the rules to do with movement and deployment AND put all of it together it makes sense that you can. Making the rules more explicit would avoid angst from weary, stressed gamers.


Interesting Decisions That Have To Be Made During The Game

1. Placing Cheeples During Phase 1 – putting them into multiple province boxes increases the choice you have regarding picking up movement cards BUT reduces the number of cheeples available to place in a particular province.

2. Choosing Movement Cards
– you may select a Dragon Card (wild card) each turn which widens your movement options BUT you lose a cheeple each time which reduces the number of cheeples available to place in provinces.

3. Moving Your Prince
– Moving him rapidly from the start of the game gives you the chance to pick up Province Tiles quickly which will score higher points BUT as you don’t have many cheeples available at the start of the game you will have to revisit the spaces to put in extra cheeples later.

4. Deploying Cheeples – putting cheeples into a cloister gives you extra points (4 points per cloister) BUT reduces the number of Province Tiles you may collect.

5. Scoring – leaving cheeples in cities gives extra points BUT reduces the number of cheeples available for area control during the next scoring turn.

6. More Deployment Issues - early in the game it is good to get as many cheeples on the map as possible BUT leaving some undeployed is useful as it increases the range of potential movement cards you can pick up in your next turn.


I like the game. It presents interesting challenges as you try to work out the most efficient way to move your prince and deploy cheeples in order to pick up as many Province Tiles as possible in as time effective manner as possible. Even the movement process is interesting as you look for alternative routes using the available cards should you be blocked by other princes. The process of picking up extra points at the loss of cheeples involves some thought and calculation as, towards the end of the game, you are looking at the tiles you have and try to work out the best way to maximise your tile sets.

The main feature of the game, IMHO, is that all the way through each turn you are confronted with a plethora of choices and options and the beauty of the game is that you are continually weighing up the pros and the cons of each action that you may undertake. Another interesting aspect of the game is that scoring points early can reduce the ability to score later in the game and visa versa. This game really is all about weighing up your various opportunities.

All things considered I feel that this is a fascinating game which is spoilt by rules that are not adquately explicit. If only the designer had asked me to read over the rules before it was published it may have been even but better.

But despite this I say, "Robert Watson, well done sir!!!"


arrrh “Dead Men Tell No Tales!”

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Sean Shaw
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Quote:

Moving Princes and Deploying Cheeples: to move a prince the player must play a card – each prince may be moved up to five times during this phase. Each prince is moved once and then the next player may move their prince once and so on, until all players pass and/or run out of movement cards. Each time a Prince moves they may deploy up to three cheeples from the same coloured province box as the province they are currently located in. One of the cheeples may be placed in the cloister. During movement a prince may be moved through an area containing an other player’s prince but may not remain there at the end of its movement. Players may use more than one movement card to allow the prince piece to move more than one area.


So if I understand you houseruled in a similar way to us as that's what made sense. However, the move once and deploy seems to clash with the following.

The rules state

Quote:

Beginning with the starting player, each plaeyr must first move his prince. The player can move his prince as far as he likes, but for each border the prince crosses, he must play an appropriate movement card from his hand. After moveing his prince, the player can move from 0 to 3 family members from the correspondign province space into the district where the prince ended his movement.



Never states alternating players at all, and in fact seems to imply that a player must complee al movement. In the extended rules after it talks about moving the prince, in the same way as above it also states in bold.


Quote:

"After a player finishes moving his prince, he may deploy up to 3 family members."



Quote:
One of the examples of rules not being explicit is that it doesn't say anywhere in the rules that princes have multiple moves in a single phase and can deploy family at the end of each move. But if you read all of the rules to do with movement and deployment AND put all of it together it makes sense that you can. Making the rules more explicit would avoid angst from weary, stressed gamers.


I COMPLETELY agree. Wish they'd come out with a faq or someone official would come and explain just how it is supposed to be done.

Your method seems to make sense to tell the truth.

Nice review, glad that people had a better experience than we did.

Quote:

All things considered I feel that this is a fascinating game which is spoilt by rules that are not adquately explicit. If only the designer had asked me to read over the rules before it was published it may have been even but better.


I will say we should have looked at the rules before buying as well. The rules have been posted for a whil however, here

http://www.riograndegames.com/uploads/Game/Game_233_gameRule...

We should have really read the rules before buying (actually I did, but didn't put one and one together until we got the board and the pieces).

However, I completely agree that it probably would have helped to have others read over the rules and do a better pretest of the game before release.

Great review, I think if we adopt your houserules as more of the official way to play (in absence of a faq of course) it will make the game far better. Thanks for your groups clarifications! It is greatly appreciated!
 
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David G. Cox Esq.
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Hi and thanks for the kind comments.

I don't believe I am using house rules - I believe I am playing the game the way the rules say that it should be played.

The following is a quote from Robert Watson in a review of his game (it is linked at the bottom of the BGG Ming Dynastie page).

http://www.boardgame.de/reviews/mingdyn.htm

"The next phase is the most interest one, the since the Princes come into play. When setting up at the start of the game, each player puts his Prince on one of the regions on the board as a starting point. From this point the Prince may move on the board to other regions. This is done with the help of the movement cards. The means of transport on the cards must correspond to the symbol between the regions. So, means of transport can be a carriage, a boat, a horse or some other. Here it proves that it is extremely important to think ahead in the first phase and to choose the right movement cards. Otherwise it can happen that a player's Prince will be stuck for a round! Princes can block each other since only one Prince per region is allowed. That gives the players some chance for interference. It is allowed to move a Prince one or several steps (with the right cards). Wherever the Prince stops, the player may put up to three of his family tokens from the same coloured special province field, either in the region itself or in the monastery of this region. This phase goes on until all players passed. So it is possible to move a Prince to several regions in one round and to put family tokens in all of the regions where the Prince stops."

I hope you will give the game another go using the correct rules - they make a big difference.

When I first read the rules I interpretted them the same way that you did. I felt that things just didn't work properly. It was then that I read the rules several times, jumping from rules pages to summary sheet and back. The rules are correct but badly worded and require you to draw conclusions from the informatoin without actually specifically telling you what you can do in a clear manner.
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Sean Shaw
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Thanks! We had a particularly bad experience with the game, but I will try to convince them to give it another go, or if not them, there are other times when I play occasionally with other groups that might give it a try as well.

Thanks again.
 
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Jon Ben
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I just read the rules for the first time and I don't think they're really as bad as people are making them out to be. It's true that they are not as explicit as some games but they are pretty clear... maybe I wouldn't trust a non-gamer to read them properly but for veterans it shouldn't be too bad, if a modicum of care is taken.

For example if you could only move your prince once per round then at the end of the second round (i.e. the fist scoring round) you could have at most 3 different province tiles, which makes the reward of 28 points for a set of six agonizingly difficult to achieve. I think it's obvious from this consequence that something is wrong if you've misinterpreted the rules in this way.

EDIT:
In fact the rules (Rio Grande English) are very explicit on this point! When describing phase 3 they state:

Quote:
On his [sic] turn, a player must choose 1 of the following 3 actions:
-3.1 Move his [sic] prince
-3.2 Leave the prince where it stands, or
-3.3 Pass.
When a player has carried out one of the three possible actions, the next player in clockwise order takes his [sic] turn. This continues until all players have passed.


The statement that this continues until all players have passed is unambiguous. They go on to describe the sub-actions in detail including what one does when they end the princes movement in 3.1. The fact that several movements are possible is highlighted again when describing sub-action 3.3:

Quote:
If a player cannot or does not want to play a card, he [sic] can pass and then sit out the rest of the phase. The player does not have to play a card to pass, but he [sic] does not get to deploy any family members either.
The remaining players continue the round, taking turns and skipping any players who have already passed.


Again it is explicit that more than one opportunity to move the prince is given, since play continues until all players have passed. I don't feel there is anyway to arrive at the conclusion that players can only move the prince once, unless one misreads the rules.

I'm not saying that the rules are perfect as is... for example they should mention that the provinces are scored in numerical order... and I do understand how a quick read through could leave people confused. The rules are a bit more academic than many other games, but they are, for the most part, clear and unambiguous, which is more than can be said of some other rule books.
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Alan Rqthstar
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JonBen wrote:
misuse of [sic]

It's perfectly good English grammar to use "his" in place of "his or hers," and passive-aggressive use of [sic] is pretty silly.
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Paul Catley
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da pyrate wrote:

When they have five cards in their hand they may draw no more. A player may draw a Dragon Card but if they do so they may draw no more AND one of their cheeples is taken from a province box and removed from the game.


Sorry, I realise I'm 3 years late, but I've just acquired the game!

I can't find anything in the rules that says you may draw no more cards that round after drawing a dragon card, only that you must remove a cheeple from a province space and return it to the box. How did you come to that conclusion?


 
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David G. Cox Esq.
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Moose Malloy wrote:
da pyrate wrote:

When they have five cards in their hand they may draw no more. A player may draw a Dragon Card but if they do so they may draw no more AND one of their cheeples is taken from a province box and removed from the game.


Sorry, I realise I'm 3 years late, but I've just acquired the game!

I can't find anything in the rules that says you may draw no more cards that round after drawing a dragon card, only that you must remove a cheeple from a province space and return it to the box. How did you come to that conclusion?




That's a really good question.

As it was three years ago I can't remember exactly but, after looking at the rules again, I suspect it was either imagination or creativity.


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Paul Catley
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Well, I can see the rules allow room for creativity in places I think they are generally well defined, but you have to hop about looking at the two rules sheets, and they don't go out of their way to explain what is actually supposed to happen.

I think I've got a grasp of them now, but I haven't played it yet so time will tell.
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Lloyd Nikolas
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I consider myself to be a very experienced gamer. I own two large Ikea shelving units full of games. I tried Ming Dynasty today, and after struggling to understand it for some while, put it away again without getting as far as the second turn. The rules are appallingly written. For a start, they are spread across two separate documents, neither of which has the complete rules.

Like many others, I was completely baffled by the rule that stated that one gained 28 points for a set of 6 province tiles after the 2nd round. How could this be possible when only one province could be populated per round? Having now read this and other threads on BGG, I understand that a prince could conceivably move more than once per round, but this was very far from clear. Even so, what the hell does "after the second round" mean? Is the fifth round after the second? It must be, so if I cash in a set in the fifth round, how many points do I get? I'm guessing 24 (from "after the 4th round"), but this is not the literal meaning of the rules. Being literal, I would claim 28 for being after the 2nd round and another 24 for being after the 4th. If I were to cash in a set during the fourth round, I'd be confused. My guess is that I should get 24 points, but the literal meaning of the rules is that I'd get 28. As for "after the 6th round" this makes no sense since there are only 6 rounds, so "after the sixth round" is impossible.

I now presume that the rules should have said "in the second round" etc. But actually, this makes no sense either, because it says "A player who has collected a complete set of 6 different coloured province tiles immediately returns them to the general supply and moves his scoring markers [sic - doesn't each player have just one?] forwards as follows:" This wording very strongly suggests that if a player acquired the set in the third round, he could cash it in straight away for 28 points. So, regardless how I read it, I need to come up with a house rule to play the game.

Ah - no, wait... the rules do not state that province tiles are gained in turns 1, 3, and 5, so perhaps they can only be gained in 2, 4, and 6. So, this means that "in" the various rounds is presumably correct. Phew! Perhaps that clears that one up, but I got there only after fair bit of deductive reasoning, and long after packing the game away. Game design consists of two parts: coming up with rules that work, and coming up with an explanation of them that is clear to others. This game has definitely failed in the latter.

The placing of pieces in the province spaces was baffling. Since one can get cards only from those spaces, the logical thing to do is to place one in each of 5 spaces, for the maximum coverage. This made picking cards a bit of a lottery, since the face-up cards visible when placing the pieces soon disappeared. Later I twigged that one can only deploy family members from these spaces, and so putting 2 or three in one space was a good idea. Only much later did I infer (it says this nowhere in the rules) that any pieces left undeployed from the province spaces are left there for the following turn.

Robert A Watson is credited on the box, but not on the rules. Did he write the rules? A "Chinese translation" is credited. Were the rules originally written in Chinese? This might explain why they are so bewildering.
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Lloyd Nikolas
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I have now played my first game of Ming Dynasty, all the way through. I downloaded the one-page summary of the rules that was here in the files section. I then wrote in, pointing out some errors in it, and I now notice that it has disappeared from the file section. I wrote my own version, which perhaps I could upload one day, or perhaps the one I saw will return in corrected form.

Now, having with the help of BGG, having worked out the rules, and having played the game, I am in a much better position to judge it.

The game is fine. In the one I played, yellow took an early lead and looked near impossible to catch for a while, while red even after the second scoring round had hardly got off the mark. In the end, all the players scored within a few points of each other and red came second. This is good sign: the leader can be caught. There is not a huge advantage to being in front on points alone.

It is reasonably simple and quick, but for one thing. The phases of placing family members in the province spaces and then taking movement cards can be very slow. If each player pays heed to what all the other players are doing, and then runs through all the possible consequences of this, it can be an age before he can make an informed decision as to what he should do. All the players have to place five FMs and take up to five cards, so this can be painfully slow, or rather casual. It might be better, especially in the first few turns, to get each player to place all his markers in one go, and take all his cards in one too. For everyone this will speed up play, and for all but the most competitive it will not detract much from the skill of things.

The decision of whether to leave FMs in the towns, where they will earn immediate points, or whether to back them off so that they will remain on the board, is a very difficult one. This may put some people off, not least because one has to wait for all the players to make this decision before enacting it.

The score track around the outside has just fifty places on it, quite large and spaced out. In my game, we all went around the board at least three times, and came close to running out of the little 50 and 100-point tiles. Possibly this could have been designed a bit better.

I don't see it becoming a favourite, but I will certainly play it a few more times.

The main thing wrong with it, is that the rules are written so badly (see previous posting).
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Michael Flynn
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Jumping to 2016, the game is starting to appear for sale at a bargain price and quite an attractive one in some places, but I am not sure after reading all the above regarding poor rule writing that the game is worth a punt.
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Nicholas Hjelmberg
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Here is another voice from 2016. I've downloaded the rules and read them myself and frankly, I don't understand why people don't understand the rules. Perhaps they have been improved in later editions?

My main concern is whether Ming Dynastie scratches any new area control itches that other games don't. The interesting decisions listed in the review support this statement and I consider picking it up from a local sale.
 
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