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Subject: Should I Bother? - Macao rss

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Ben Pinchback
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So I'm a sucker for Blue. I'll admit it. It's my favorite. Everyone I play with knows to just hand over the blue pieces whenever they're available. So I see this top 200 game with a shiny new blue box and all this pretty blue water on the board, I was sold. I had to own it. Then I read about the cool way the dice were used to generate the resource pool and overall I couldn't have been more excited to try Macao. So, should this unique game of resources, cards, and shipping goods make it into your collection? Short answer: (sadly) NO

Components
Just as attractive and quality as I had hoped. There's a great looking board, a billion resource cubes, little boats, player mat things, cardboard heptagons, colored dice, and lots of little cardboard chits. It's all done well and stacks up nicely against pretty much any other Euro I own. There's no blue boat, which was too bad, but that's because blue is one of the resource colors and that would have been confusing. I'm issuing a free pass here.

Play
I'll cut to the chase here. The best part is the 6 colored dice with the matching resource cubes. Your heptagon has a "this turn" arrow and then six more sides labled 1 trough 6. Each turn the 6 dice are rolled and you pick two. This is how you get cubes and it's fun. If you choose say a red 5, then you put 5 red cubes next to the 5 on your heptagon. Hence, you have 5 red cubes coming your way once the heptagon rotates its way to that pile. There it is. The heptagon rotates once a turn, so you pick your resources trying to plan ahead. All of this is a cool and fun gimmic. What do you do with cubes though? Here's where everything starts going south. First off, you can claim part of the city. This also gives you a good. Now you can also move your boat to go ship that good. No problems yet, we are still having fun. What is annoying though, is the meat of the game. Every freaking turn you have to pick one card from a revealed offering. These cards cost cubes to get out, and you get penalized for not getting them out. This is not fun. It isn't. It's just not a good game mechanic. Sure, the cards come with buffs, but you find yourself most times just trying to pick a card you think you can afford based on your banked cubes coming in future turns rather than actually caring what the buff is. Ya, once in awhile a good buff matches up with your cubes and that's great but.....It's not fun. I can't explain it any other way. Aaaaaaaand AP players beware. The stress of getting these cards out gets to players and we had guys just sitting there staring for minutes on end consternating what to do. Sure, there's a way to spend cubes to advance along "the wall" to be the starting player and hence first choice of cards, but still, it's not fun. Someone redesign this game without the cards. Please. Oh, and I like cards. Don't get me wrong. Just not these cards.

Verdict
Rolling the dice and picking cubes was just as fun as I expected. Claiming city squares and moving your ship around to ship goods was also fun. All of this was submarined by the over-riding theme of the game, pick a card every turn and struggle to get them all out. Stress about that while you root for a black 2 to roll, then maybe a black 1 next turn, and nooooo, you get a minus 3 marker. Wahhhh wahhhhhhh. Maybe if the game played quickly I would look past this, but add AP on top and this game is getting buried deep into the depths of the game armoire.

Macao - Should I Bother? - NO Unless you absolutely must experience all cool new dice gimmics. But don't forget, I warned you.
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Marc Drebing
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I own the game, but became frustrated with the ships' slow movements around the board and the inability of putting the cards into action. I loved the theme, the artwork, the dice, and the many many cubes, but always felt upset that I couldn't make a lot of progress in the game.
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Jefferson Krogh
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Totally disagree -- this is a great mechanic, and the tension is very entertaining.
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Ken Thibodeau
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Wow. Exactly my exact opposite thoughts. This game is a heck of fun. Yeah you struggle, but I like to bite my nails with tough decisions and the occasional bad luck. Fun is such a subjective word.

I don't quite know what you consider a long or short game, but ours never go beyond 1h15 in length.

Hey, I'm not trying to convince you. I just wanted to point out that your review doesn't echo everyone's verdict.

Peace
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Jack Francisco
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This review is off-base as far as I am concerned. Macao forces you to make tough decisions. Do you risk taking the card with the great bonus but requires 4 different colors to get out or do you play it safe? Do you take more cubes later that you don't have an apparent use for or less cubes now? The game is filled with all sorts of difficult choices and that's what makes it great, not a weakness. If there was a thumbs down to give to a review, this one would get it. thumbsdown
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Thanks for this review. I think you manage to capture very well how playing this game feels to you, which - I think - is something we don't see nearly enough of in reviews.
Based upon my research into this game I suspect I'd personally like it, and your review doesn't really change my mind on that. But it certainly affirms the conclusion I was already reaching, namely that most of the people in my group would hate this game.

I hope you'll get more replies along the vein of fardoche's, explaining how the game feels to them, and less replies attacking the review just because it's offering a contrary opinion!
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Randolph Bookman
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+2
 
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Jack Francisco
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I call Macao the ultimate crisis management game. Plus, if you throw yourself into it, the theme is believable as well.
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Ben Pinchback
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berensdad wrote:
fardoche wrote:
Wow. Exactly my exact opposite thoughts. This game is a heck of fun. Yeah you struggle, but I like to bite my nails with tough decisions and the occasional bad luck. Fun is such a subjective word.

I don't quite know what you consider a long or short game, but ours never go beyond 1h15 in length.

Hey, I'm not trying to convince you. I just wanted to point out that your review doesn't echo everyone's verdict.

Peace


+1 to this.
Also, I agree with the post that a review of what the game feels like to you can be very beneficial, when the reasons for the feeling are explained well (which I think the OP did).

When I introduce this game to new players, I actually try to shape their expectations a little bit - encouraging them to approach the game as an exercise in managing chaos, or making the most out of each situation given to you. Now for those who are always looking to build up the powerful card combos (which can happen, but not always), this may not sound fun, but for others it is. Either way, I think it helps going in to adjust expectations by knowing what the typical flow of the game might be like.


+3 to all of this. I think it's ok that some people like games and others don't. There's no rule that every review has to be in favor of the game. I can absolutely see how some people would like the "make the best of a tough situation" aspect of this game, and usually I like that too, but not this time. It just seems like a design flaw when 80% of the time I'm less interested in what the card actually does for me vs if I can just pick one I'll be able to afford. So, your endgame engine is built by a series of cards you could afford, not really the ones whose buffs you wanted to go out and get, which is cool, just not for me.
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Jay Sachs
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Despite your hope, there is not even any inherent symbolism; gravity is simply a coincidence.
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Actually, I find that it's best to not fear the "punishment markers" (what a terrible name, btw), and aim more for what you want -- similar to not fearing the rats in Feld's Notre Dame.
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Andrew Miller
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I can sympathize with some of the OP's complaints.

In my first game I tried to do everything and got VERY frustrated with moving my ship about the board to deliver my goods. As such, in my second game I decided to forego goods and shipping entirely and focus on cards that comboed. That way I never took a punishment marker. It was much less stressful, and I ended up winning (albeit not by much since my opponents were able to have free rein on goods).

Trying to do everything is frustrating because, barring supremely lucky dice rolls, you just can't. You have to pick your battles ("Do I want a lot of conjoined city spaces or do I want to pick up a group of goods that'll be easy to ship to one area?" "Do I want to get these cards that combo or do I want turn order?") or just straight up ignore a section of the game (high risk, high reward).

So while I can understand the OP's complaints, the game itself is VERY solid and I enjoy it quite a bit.

--ElSoy
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Miguel
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Personally, I love this game. You have to pick a combination of cards you can get played and cards that combo well. You have to plan your resources so that the cards you need to get out, get out. There is always an early game of marking out your territory in the city followed by long voyages across the board in the 2nd half (but you can't wait too long or else you miss that crucial first good in each city!).

I love that the cards you get are so different from one game to the next that the game experience is different each time.

Ultimate disaster management game? I'd still give that one to a coop (ghost stories, probably) or even In the Year of the Dragon also by Feld, but either way it's a great game in my opinion.
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Very Stout
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senorcoo wrote:
I call Macao the ultimate crisis management game. Plus, if you throw yourself into it, the theme is believable as well.


Well, for me, the ultimate crisis management game is still In the Year of the Dragon.

But I like Macao. I think letting the ships move a bit faster would help focus the game. House ruled.
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mojo shivers
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Actually, getting fast shipping is something I try to work on a lot in Macao. I usually try to get one card to help shipping every game.

Not that it happens every game, but yesterday when I played, I got the card that let you move your ship for free 2 spaces every round. Later I got the card that you let you move your ship 4 spaces for one gold and the card that let you get one gold for trading one action cube in. So for the last 7 or 8 turns I was moving my ship 6 spaces for one cube basically every turn... and then adding all excess cubes to sail more.

Needless to say I focused on shipping and managed to reach all ports I had goods for first except for one. I scored almost 30 from shipping alone--I think I only missed picking up a good twice (one because I couldn't afford a city quarter and one where I picked up a wild tile).

And just to add onto this strategy I picked up the card that let you buy city quarters for one cube cheaper.

I still came in third, but was only behind second place by two spots. I think my biggest weakness was that I only bought from the tribute table twice for a total of 13 points, while the other three players bought at least three times and one player five times. Also, we let the second player manage to string together a 9-city group in the city quarter (but he did have the card that let him buy two city quarters a turn).

My boat was like a modern-day speedboat the way I was zipping around the high seas. LOL
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Evan Stegman
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bno70_1 wrote:
...
All of this was submarined by the over-riding theme of the game, pick a card every turn and struggle to get them all out. Stress about that while you root for a black 2 to roll, then maybe a black 1 next turn, and nooooo, you get a minus 3 marker. Wahhhh wahhhhhhh.

...[/size]


With experience, that happens less and less.

New players often approach it as they would a card drafting game: take the coolest, most powerful card when it's your turn to pick. Then they hope the dice go their way and end up frustrated in the way described above.

Experienced players learn that you can't just look at what the most powerful card is, but also should look at what you are set up (at least partially) to bring in. Often it is better to pass up a really good card that will be difficult to bring in and take a lesser card (there are no bad cards) you are sure to be able activate (particularly in the later rounds when the end of the game is nearing).

That is part of learning how to play the game. I have played this game a lot and activate all my cards in probably 3 out of every 4 games. And the times I don't are usually from a conscious decision to take a gamble on a card even though I am not set up for it. I don't blame the game for that. It was my choice.
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Jack Francisco
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You can't get hung up on moving the ship right away. That's what getting piles of cubes later is for. Also - remember if you get all three goods of something, there is no rush to deliver them as no one can beat you there since you have all of them.

To the poster who said Year of the Dragon is the best crisis management game, I would like to disagree. In that game, the crises can pass and you don't have to worry about them anymore. Once the 2nd war has passed, you can let your military disappear, for example. In Macao, if you are last on the wall, and you get stuck with a bad card, you can be in big trouble - and that can happen from turn 1 all the way to turn 12.
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Steve Dupree
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After many plays I have found that we (my regular playing companions and myself) have somehow gotten better at building our cards, such that it doesn't feel as limiting as it did when we first started playing. So, now we can focus on strategies as well as tactics.

One tip is that it only takes 3 colors to build a 4 color card if you pick up a joker tile with some of the cubes. any four color card matches at least one dark city quarter.

Of course sometimes the dice do come up in such a way that we're all struggling to build cards, but then the winner is the one who makes the best of a bad situation.
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Matt Riddle
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Good thread so far. I am with reviewer (who in full disclosure I game with)in that I find the game more frustrating than fun. The dice mechanic is cute, but once that wears off there was not much there I liked. It is a good loking game, nice components, but it is not a game I feel like I want to play again anytime soon. I spent most of the time throwing large cube piles in 5 & 6 hoping to make sets later and it worked. I only took one penalty marker. But I do not like a lot of HOPING in my game, not at this time commitment and depth level.
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Ben Pinchback
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EvanMinn wrote:
bno70_1 wrote:
...
All of this was submarined by the over-riding theme of the game, pick a card every turn and struggle to get them all out. Stress about that while you root for a black 2 to roll, then maybe a black 1 next turn, and nooooo, you get a minus 3 marker. Wahhhh wahhhhhhh.

...[/size]


With experience, that happens less and less.

New players often approach it as they would a card drafting game: take the coolest, most powerful card when it's your turn to pick. Then they hope the dice go their way and end up frustrated in the way described above.

Experienced players learn that you can't just look at what the most powerful card is, but also should look at what you are set up (at least partially) to bring in. Often it is better to pass up a really good card that will be difficult to bring in and take a lesser card (there are no bad cards) you are sure to be able activate (particularly in the later rounds when the end of the game is nearing).

That is part of learning how to play the game. I have played this game a lot and activate all my cards in probably 3 out of every 4 games. And the times I don't are usually from a conscious decision to take a gamble on a card even though I am not set up for it. I don't blame the game for that. It was my choice.


Yep, we figured it out. That's why I wrote this:
"Sure, the cards come with buffs, but you find yourself most times just trying to pick a card you think you can afford based on your banked cubes coming in future turns rather than actually caring what the buff is."
That is one of my major complaints. Picking cards with buffs based not on the buff but on what I can afford isn't a part of the game I enjoy. I generally enjoy engine building, not coping. Case in point, I hate co-ops. Well, I hate co-ops for many other reasons too, but coping just isn't my idea of a fun game. I'm glad so many others like it though.
 
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Evan Stegman
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bno70_1 wrote:
EvanMinn wrote:
bno70_1 wrote:
...
All of this was submarined by the over-riding theme of the game, pick a card every turn and struggle to get them all out. Stress about that while you root for a black 2 to roll, then maybe a black 1 next turn, and nooooo, you get a minus 3 marker. Wahhhh wahhhhhhh.

...[/size]


With experience, that happens less and less.

New players often approach it as they would a card drafting game: take the coolest, most powerful card when it's your turn to pick. Then they hope the dice go their way and end up frustrated in the way described above.

Experienced players learn that you can't just look at what the most powerful card is, but also should look at what you are set up (at least partially) to bring in. Often it is better to pass up a really good card that will be difficult to bring in and take a lesser card (there are no bad cards) you are sure to be able activate (particularly in the later rounds when the end of the game is nearing).

That is part of learning how to play the game. I have played this game a lot and activate all my cards in probably 3 out of every 4 games. And the times I don't are usually from a conscious decision to take a gamble on a card even though I am not set up for it. I don't blame the game for that. It was my choice.


Yep, we figured it out. That's why I wrote this:
"Sure, the cards come with buffs, but you find yourself most times just trying to pick a card you think you can afford based on your banked cubes coming in future turns rather than actually caring what the buff is."
That is one of my major complaints. Picking cards with buffs based not on the buff but on what I can afford isn't a part of the game I enjoy. I generally enjoy engine building, not coping. Case in point, I hate co-ops. Well, I hate co-ops for many other reasons too, but coping just isn't my idea of a fun game. I'm glad so many others like it though.


Well, then that should minimize the "hoping" you complain about.

And you are taking it to an extreme ("based not on what I can afford"): that you pick the cards solely based on what you are sure you will be able to afford. That's not quite what I was saying. I was just pointing out how to minimize the "hoping".

That is just one of the factors. It is a question of weighing ease of affordability vs functionality. Playing well usually means knowing when affordability should outweigh functionality and when you are ripe for going for best functionality. It's about balance. When I see someone take mostly three or four color cards, I would bet against them winning the game. Getting the right mix of easy to build cards that work with your powerful cards goes a long way towards having a good game. Don't choose your cards well and you can give up on winning regardless of what dice come up.

But you are right: it is a game about coping. There are no guarantees of what resources or cards will be available in the game and it is usually won by who can deal with what comes up in the game best. I just played Troyes for the first time this weekend and I found there was a lot of that same feel.

Whether that is pleasurable or not is, as you say, a matter of taste but I posted because some of your complaints are the complaints that I hear from people that don't play the game well and then cite taste ("hoping", "stressing" about -3 markers (they are not that big of a deal. Try to avoid them but you can still win with them).

I can understand how that is not some peoples' cup of tea but I like that no one can go into either of those games with a set strategy but instead have to deal with what randomly comes up.
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Jack Francisco
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I love games that force you to adapt your strategy on the fly. That happens in Macao especially in a 2p game when the 2 office cards are 4 cubes each (of a color you don't have) and the two drawn cards are each 3 or 4 different colors.
 
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Brian Pihl
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They really should have created a basic game with obtainable cards. Then create an advanced game with more difficult and complicated cards. Agricola words great with a family and advanced game.
 
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Jack Francisco
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bkpihl wrote:
They really should have created a basic game with obtainable cards.


They are all obtainable...with the right planning.
 
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Ben Pinchback
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senorcoo wrote:
bkpihl wrote:
They really should have created a basic game with obtainable cards.


They are all obtainable...with the right planning.

And dice rolls.
 
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Shayne Gray
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I find Macao to be a great game. I got it for a friend for last Christmas and now I've got it on order for myself!
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