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Subject: 5 Things I Like About Macao (You might too!) rss

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Adam Daulton
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I like the Alea Big Box series as a whole. It has a few great games, a lot of good ones, and only 1 or 2 that I'd consider not so good. Thanks to some pushing by my wife, we actually own all of them, so when Macao came out recently in English it was a must buy to continue the set. Here are 5 things I like about it.

1. The dice management of the game. I've played Kingsburg and Stone Age, two games that use dice management and are relatively popular, but neither do as good as a job as Macao. Macao makes the players manage the diversity of the action cubes they receive from the dice and how many action cubes they receive. This is done in a unique way by using the
wind rose to show what action cubes (which you receive from the dice) you will have available on the upcoming turns. I like making the agonizing decision of taking 2 gray cubes ensuring I have some action cubes in a couple turns or taking the 6 blue cubes increasing the number of actions I can do, but leaving myself open to receiving punishment markers (see number 3).

2. The card combinations. I like the different card combinations that can come from the 100+ cards in the game. For instance in a later turn I might be able to get a free blue cube, return it for a gold coin, then receive and additional gold coin because I received at least one gold coin. These combinations make for some fun combos if you can get them out. Which leads me to my next point.

3. Punishment markers. Even though I've played in games where a player makes it through the whole game without receiving a punishment marker, they still impact that players game, because avoiding a punishment marker is a good thing. So perhaps instead of taking that excellent card that requires 3 different colored cubes, a player might take a card that doesn't even help them that only requires 1 color of cubes. Also, as mentioned above, they might force someone to "play it safe" and take one of the dice showing only 2 pips rather than getting one of the larger
numbered dice.

4. The multi-layered reasons for going into a specific city ward. Each city ward can cost between 1 and 4 action cubes and the wards with joker tiles in them cost 2 cubes of one color and 2 cubes of the other. Each ward that you take control of can do several things. First, you need wards that are connected for game end scoring. Second, you need to choose between taking control of a joker ward or a goods ward. Third, you need to try and get the same type of good to make your shipping more efficient.

5. The many paths to victory. Macao leaves me feeling that I can when in a variety of ways. I can focus on shipping, I can focus on getting all my wards connected, I can focus on getting a lot of money and buying victory points through the tribute, or I can focus on getting the right game end cards to really increase my scoring.

Overall, I think Macao is an great game that is much deeper than I originally thought it would be. If you want a game that takes about 2 hours with 4 players, where there are plenty of card combinations and each game rewards a variety of strategies, Macao should be one that you try.

P.S. For those Alea Big Box fans out there, I'd place Macao behind Ra, Puerto Rico, and In the Year of the Dragon on my All Time Alea Big Box Games list. It would be a toss up for 4th place between Macao & Princes of Florence.
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Corin A. Friesen
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Yes, Macao is great fun! But I would like to comment on a couple things. First, sometimes it is worth it to take a punish marker, let's not forget that. Second, I think Princes of Florence is the better game as a whole, but may not be better depending on your game group or types of mechanics you like.
In the Year of the Dragon is still Stefan Feld's gem, but Macao is a very worthy item in his arsenal!
 
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Adam Daulton
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Ambrose wrote:
But I would like to comment on a couple things. First, sometimes it is worth it to take a punish marker, let's not forget that.


Probably there are times it is worth taking a punishment marker, such as ensuring you get a second baroness or getting the first delivery to a city, but those times seem few and far between.

PoF has lost some of my favor, simply because I feel that the best strategy far above others is jesters. I know, it is an auction game and my opponents shouldn't let the jesters go cheap, but so far at least I don't feel in Macao there is a dominant strategy. Maybe my feelings will change once I've played it more.
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ooogene wrote:

PoF has lost some of my favor, simply because I feel that the best strategy far above others is jesters.


Unlike more recent games, Princes of Florence wasn't really designed to scale well across player counts. It was designed as a 5-player game with no regard to other player counts. At that scale it is well balanced and there are different strategies to pursue. With less players the opportunity to play more professions overall increases the value of the jesters.

Re: Macao, I really like it. I agree with most of what has been said. The comment that Macao is fun rings true with me- there are enough little levers around and the excitement of the dice really come together to make this a genuinely fun game.
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Me and my friends can't seem to get enough of Macao. I love the unusual dice mechanic and there are so many different paths to victory. It's especially nice when we play with someone outside our typical group. We've developed a "group-think" where we tend to leave the shipping element to the late stages of the game. Bring in someone new, and they force you to react to their aggression.

It's also fun to watch the new person's face as the recognition settles in that no, you can't hold onto your cubes and carry them into the next round. Suddenly, they "get" the challenge that lies ahead.

I would be perfectly happy playing Florence or Dragon, but I think there's a reason we keep gravitating toward Macao. With so many cards and changing variables, the immense replay value is a huge plus.

My three tiny nitpicks are the usual ones: The card language is inconsistent at times, it would be nice to have a fancier wind rose that wasn't awkward to turn and the rice ware icon and soup/tea/?? ware icon are too similar. Don't ship to the wrong location!

That being said, if you haven't tried this game yet, make the time! Lots of fun and quite interesting.
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Adam Daulton
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kinghenrik wrote:
The card language is inconsistent at times


Yes! It would have been nice to have some kind of icon that indicates whether a card can be used multiple times or is a single-use card. Some of them are obvious, others aren't. I've got this thread quicklinked in case any questions come up during a game: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/4634768#4634768.

 
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Joseph Cochran
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ooogene wrote:
1. The dice management of the game. I've played Kingsburg and Stone Age, two games that use dice management and are relatively popular, but neither do as good as a job as Macao.


I really do like Macao, and am having a great time with it, but on this point I thought that I'd also mention Yspahan: since you mention the dice management mechanic, I thought I'd point that one out as another one that uses dice in an interesting and unique way to generate your options on a turn.

Okay, back to Macao now.
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Todd McCorkle
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ooogene wrote:
kinghenrik wrote:
The card language is inconsistent at times


Yes! It would have been nice to have some kind of icon that indicates whether a card can be used multiple times or is a single-use card. Some of them are obvious, others aren't. I've got this thread quicklinked in case any questions come up during a game: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/4634768#4634768.


but... but... but...

You hate icons!
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Bill Norton
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Uh-Oh better get Macao.
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Dvonn Yinsh
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ooogene wrote:


PoF has lost some of my favor, simply because I feel that the best strategy far above others is jesters. I know, it is an auction game and my opponents shouldn't let the jesters go cheap, but so far at least I don't feel in Macao there is a dominant strategy. Maybe my feelings will change once I've played it more.


Please give PoF a try with The Princess and Muse expansion. It really adds a great level of play to the game. And the jester is quite devalued compared to vanilla PoF. I have seen jesters go for 200 florins in Round 1.
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Adam Daulton
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I will do that! Thanks for the tip.
 
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