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Subject: Kreta, surprisingly good for a area-majority game! rss

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Phillip Schwarzmann
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Stefan Dorra shows us once again that he is one of the top designers in the board game world. This is a tense, solid game, and I'm surprised to have seen just mediocre remarks so far.

I usually dread majority games, but this one I really enjoyed. In a nutshell, Kreta is Australia and Maharaja combined. I has Australia's mechanic where you can place a piece which gives influence to multiple regions, and Maharaja's mechanic where you know which couple regions will be scored next. But a few nice twists to seperate this from the others.

On your turn you play a card and perform the action. Everyone has the same 8 cards, once you play a card you can't play it again until someone initiates a scoring round, then everyone gets all their cards back - very similar to Flandern 1302. The cards mostly let you move your pieces around the board.

Your pieces are villagers, which you have 5 of and can move around the board relatively quickly. Villages, which you have 4 of, but they can't move once they are placed, however they give you 2 influence instead of the normal 1. Forts, which you get 4 of and can't be moved, they give you influence in multiple regions (just like Australia). Two boats, which can travel anywhere in the board, but only at harbors. One Abbot, which instill peace into the region so no opposing player can move their posse into the region unless they have an abbot of their own. You also have a King card whic allows you to perform an action you've already performed - this is very handy.

Then there is a card which initiates scoring, each scoring round has 2-4 regions that will be scored. First place gets 2-6 VPs depending on the region, second place gets half rounded down. The next area card is flipped over which tells players what area will be scored in the following round (but not the current round), so there are always 2 area cards face up. The player who initiated the scoring has the choice to scrap the new area card and replace it with a random one if he wishes. After 11 areas are scored, the game is over, most VPs win.

There's another way to score VPs, your farmer can harvest crops which are scattered around the board at the beginning. For the first of one type you get 1 point immediately, the next of a type you can 2 more points immediately, the third you get 3 etc.. - It's a very subtle way to score which can make the difference in a tight scoring game.

Kreta is the gamer's version of Australia, the rules are easy and it's simple to learn, but you have a LOT to think about on each turn if you expect to win. It's a nice blend of quick tactics mixed in with some relatively short/mid-term strategy - not only do you want to concentrate on the regions being scored this round, you need to be mindful of the next region as well, while also thinking about crops to harvest before they're snagged by others.

On your turn you've got a bunch of things you want to do, but only one action - and as soon as you perform that action, your opponent can neutralize you immediately, this can be very agonizing.

People have complained about the scoring mechanic where any player can score at anytime. If players wanted to, they could end the game within 10 minutes, but that won't happen if you want to win. You don't want to score on every turn, if you're doing that you'll either lose or if you're winning, your opponents don't know how to play the game. So I'm not quite sure about this "variant" that some have suggested.

Others have also complained that it has the "runaway leader" problem, I dunno about that either. In our first game we had the leader go ahead but we caught right up on the last scoring round. There's really not too much luck in this game, so if the leader is running away - he's just that good, or you suck really bad. :-)

The components are standard quality, quite a few wooden pieces, the board is quite bright and colorful which is nice - although the illustration of the island looks like it was "beveled and embossed" in Photoshop (look at the shadow around the coastline). My strong guess is that it's optimal with 3 players, although should work fine with 2 or 4. A good 60 minutes game length for 3 thinking players, analysis paralysis could be an issue for some. Tense, easy to learn, packed alot of action and strategy into relatively short game.

I give it a solid 8.
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Andre Oliveira
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Great review. Thanks!
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David Nichols
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A solid, thoughtful review. I agree about the quality of the components - the colorfulness of the board is one of Kreta's attractions. You're correct that it plays best with three people (IMHO).
 
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