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Subject: Triumph of Mechanics rss

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dan schnake
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I love good games with theme. Somehow, a good theme can make a game rise above a gameplay snag of two, capturing our imagination, and make a memorable experience.

Macao is an awfully good counter-argument. Ridiculously good. Mechanics trump the theme and I've yet to find a gamer who doesn't love this game.

The alleged theme is the hackneyed port city thing. The colored cubes are just cubes, it's not even worth pretending they're something else. You got city spaces, and a little wooden ship to sail off to various destinations, but c'mon. You can and will pick up goods while your ship is at sea... never fear, they can be delivered.

I could go over the city spaces (buying goods, area control), the shipping (delivering goods -- hopefully before others do), the gold track (variable cost victory point buying), and the city wall (player order determination), but these are just solid supporting actors in this production.

No, let's talk about the two stars. The rondel and the cards.

The cards are your engine building pieces, and they're extremely well done. A couple of card choices are shown in advance. The others are drawn from a deck. In player order, you select a card and pass the remaining choices to the next player. The cards allow you to do something helpful... change a cube color, draw an extra cube, move your ship further, score extra VP for certain things, all kinds of cool engine stuff. But the cards come with a problem... you only have space for 6 of them on your player board, and if you can't "activate" them quickly enough, penalities ensue. So you don't necessarily want the supercool cards because they tend to be difficult to activate, some merely pretty cool ones can help get that engine going. But there are temptations....

The other star is the rondel, with its six sections. The brilliant, unique part of Macao is that there is a community dice roll every turn with colored dice. You get to use any two dice (other players may use the same dice as you, or not). So if the blue die rolls a 3, you can put 3 blue cubes outside the 3 section of your rondel -- to be used 3 turns from now. Being greedy, you'd naturally like to take the high dice rolls, but there's problems with that. One, you don't get to use those cubes for a long time. Two, you're penalized if you have a turn without cubes... pretty harshly. Three, for those extra cool cards, you need to get various colors of cubes coming on the same turn.

It all works beautifully.

I like engine building games, but one issue I have with some of them, such as Endeavor, is that I feel like the game ends just as I get the beast fired up. Macao lets the beast roar for a while, it can do this because the beast always needs some cube fuel, and that fluctuates. If you too like engine building, RUN out to get this game.

Macao is in my top 5 games all time. Doesn't mean it's flawless. The wording on the cards sometimes invites misinterpretation. It uses weird abbreviations for stuff that should be simpler. I'm not sure if it was a translation problem, or what, but Macao should have taken a lesson or two from the consistent terminology in modern CCG's. Finally, the production values are merely competent.

But in the end, Macao is a masterpiece.


PS My remark about Endeavor sounds negative, but it's a very good game. Just sayin' about the engine....

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Brad N
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danman wrote:
Mechanics trump the theme and I've yet to find a gamer who doesn't love this game.

Nice review. I think it describes how Macao actually does work despite the themelessness. I find the mechanics very well put together. However, I have found a few gamers who don't like the game. It seems to be a love it or hate it game and, certainly, a lot more people I' ve played the game with love it versus not.
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Corin A. Friesen
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danman wrote:
Macao is in my top 5 games all time. Doesn't mean it's flawless. The wording on the cards sometimes invites misinterpretation. It uses weird abbreviations for stuff that should be simpler. I'm not sure if it was a translation problem, or what, but Macao should have taken a lesson or two from the consistent terminology in modern CCG's. Finally, the production values are merely competent.

I don't get this. First you're saying that the game is mechanically brilliant, and then you say that it's negatives are in the components? This is a mixed analysis: components don't affect the perfection of mechanics, and therefore should not be compared to them, especially when your review's premise is Macao's brilliant and beautiful mechanics.

... unless you meant to juxtapose those two categories, in which case I am corrected.

By the way, nice review.
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dan schnake
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Ambrose wrote:
I don't get this. First you're saying that the game is mechanically brilliant, and then you say that it's negatives are in the components? This is a mixed analysis: components don't affect the perfection of mechanics, and therefore should not be compared to them, especially when your review's premise is Macao's brilliant and beautiful mechanics.

... unless you meant to juxtapose those two categories, in which case I am corrected.

By the way, nice review.


Didn't mean to mix up the points -- juxtapose is right. I tend to focus on certain parts of a game in a review, and I'm obviously smitten with Macao. I just thought it was worth mentioning that there are a couple drawbacks.

 
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Johan Rising
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danman wrote:
No, let's talk about the two stars. The rondel and the cards.


More reviewers should do this. Instead of explaining every little thing about a game, just tell me about the really interesting stuff.

Great review.
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Julio

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I also think this is a great review. Im in the process of deciding to buy Macao or not. My wife has a very strong AP problem with all games, including simple ones as Alhambra, so Im concern she will make Macao to drag a lot, is this game highly subject to AP? On the other hand she really loves Puerto Rico and she is really willing to play it anytime. PR and Macao has some similar aspects that she would like (at least the theme is similar).
 
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dan schnake
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Macao is vulnerable to AP. For a new players most of all... The decision about which card to take, which dice to take, how to spend cubes... Lots of agonizing choices.

You might try the first few games as 2 player affairs. A little familiarity helps a lot.
 
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Corin A. Friesen
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jrescan wrote:
I also think this is a great review. Im in the process of deciding to buy Macao or not. My wife has a very strong AP problem with all games, including simple ones as Alhambra, so Im concern she will make Macao to drag a lot, is this game highly subject to AP? On the other hand she really loves Puerto Rico and she is really willing to play it anytime. PR and Macao has some similar aspects that she would like (at least the theme is similar).

I'd say: AP shouldn't be a consideration since she'll have AP in whatever game you buy. Therefore, you should order Macao right now.
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Julio

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Ambrose wrote:
jrescan wrote:
I also think this is a great review. Im in the process of deciding to buy Macao or not. My wife has a very strong AP problem with all games, including simple ones as Alhambra, so Im concern she will make Macao to drag a lot, is this game highly subject to AP? On the other hand she really loves Puerto Rico and she is really willing to play it anytime. PR and Macao has some similar aspects that she would like (at least the theme is similar).

I'd say: AP shouldn't be a consideration since she'll have AP in whatever game you buy. Therefore, you should order Macao right now.


Good point laugh
 
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