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Subject: Carl's First Review: Macao rss

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Carl Garber
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Hi all! I've decided to finally attempt a review and thought I'd start with the newest apple of my eye: Macao.

For those of you that like to know what is to come this will be the format of my reviews:

1) explanation of the game as if I was teaching it before playing it.
2) basic breakdown and strategy of the game.
3) personal thoughts and feelings.

1) EXPLANATION

The object of this game is, like most games, to get the most points by the end of the game. The game ends after 12 rounds of play.

There are 4 ways to get points throughout the game:
a) buying points with Gold Coins (GC)
b) shipping goods
c) activating certain cards
d) 2 points for each city quarter in your longest string of city quarters.

There are two currencies in this game: cubes and coins.
Coins are only used to buy points.
Cubes (AC) are used for everything else.

You start off with 5 coins and get more only through cards that you will activate throughout the game.

You get cubes through the roll of these 6 colored dice. You roll these 6 dice and all of us will pick 2 dice and take the corresponding cubes and place them in their corresponding places on this rondel. For example, If you picked the green dice that was rolled as a 5 as one of your 2 dice you would grab 5 green cubes and place them next to the 5 rondel spot. Each turn this rondel rotates towards this arrow, on any given round you use only the cubes that this arrow points at.

Cubes can be used to buy a variety of things:

Cubes can be used to buy city quarters, the cost of the quarters are shown here. Remember, the longest string of these is worth 2 points each at the end of the game.

When you buy a city quarter you also get a good. You can use cubes (any color) one per square to move your ships to deliver your goods. When you buy a city quarter and get a good it is put on your ship wherever your ship is, you don't have to go back to pick it up or anything like that.

You can use any color of cubes to move up the wall, every round it costs 1 cube to move up one space and two additional cubes to move up farther during that same round.

Lastly you can use cubes to buy cards. This is what the wall is for, whoever is highest on the wall gets to pick their card first each round.

Every round we will all pick a card. When you pick a card it goes on your table. You are able to use the abilities on these cards only if you pay the cube price on the top of the card. when you pay this price the card goes into your player area and you can use the ability on the card once per round.

Every round, two of the possible cards to pick will be these office cards. These office cards all say the same thing but just have different costs. These are mainly how you get coins. basically you trade in the color of the cube on the card for a coin. Every round there will be a different coins/points ratio where we can use our coins to buy points. The average ratio is a difference of 3 between points and coins.

The other cards are either people or building cards. They give you various abilities that help you buy things cheaper or trade goods for more points or simply give you points for meeting certain criteria.

Every turn goes like this:
1) lay out cards, set coin/points ratio, pick cards starting with highest person on the wall and place selected cards on table.
2) roll dice. pick 2 dice and add cubes to rondel. rotate rondel towards arrow.
3) starting with highest player on the wall each player uses their cubes that the arrow is pointing at to buy city quarters, activate cards, move ship, or move up on the wall.

In this game you also have to watch out not to get negative points. You get negative 3 points if you turn your rondel and have no cubes where the arrow is pointing. You also get negative 3 points if your table is full and you need to draw another card. You then draw a card, take a minus 3 marker then choose a card to discard. Lastly, at the end of the game you get minus 3 for every card left on your table.

Clarifications:

1) When you buy Joker tiles you can use them whenever you want to get either 3 coins or to grab a cube of your choice.
2) When you move up on the wall you go to the top of the stack that is in front of you, this way turn order will always change if everyone only pays one cube a round.
3) it doesn't cost cubes to drop off goods.
4) you can only buy one city quarter a round.


2) BREAKDOWN

Each person's game will be quite different depending on what cards they pick. However, as a general rule you will need to do decently in the three main areas: coins to points, shipping, and endgame scoring. For myself I expect to get 40 points from the points track, 30 from shipping, and 20 from game end cards/longest city string. Depending on my cards these amounts will vary, but I feel aiming for 90 points is generally neccessary to win.

It is often easier to choose big dice (say two 6's) and then see what cards you can activate with them than the other way around of choosing a card and hoping for certain dice to be rolled. Of course, you will have to make decisions both ways throughout the game.

Office cards seem the most boring but are essential for getting coins for the points track as well as getting cards off your table -they are the easiest cards to activate because they are all the same color. Take a look at which office cards are coming up when picking cubes. If you can't decide between a couple of dice, take the color that has office cards matching it coming up.

It often takes until the second half of the game to get your goods to their cities, so be patient. Because there are only a limited amount of goods you don't have to worry about getting nothing for your goods. If you get all three of the same kind of good you never have to worry about how fast you get your ship there.

3) PERSONAL THOUGHT

Macao is a peculiar game: there is no luck as everyone picks from the same pool of dice and pool of cards. But it is full of luck as depending on what cards you pick the dice you will need will vary greatly.

You will not like this game if you like total control and predictability in your games. You will not like this game if you do not deal well with adversity.

You will probably like this game if you like puzzles in your games. This is a hard game to determine what is your best move. Everything is so up in the air -"what cards will come up next?" "what dice will be rolled?" "what will the exchange rate be?". If you like weighing probabilities and then seeing what happens this is probably a game for you. Some people hate dice, but I personally love them. It's fun to make an educated choice and seeing if things work out for you. Life doesn't always go your way so why should a game? When it does its just that much sweeter!

I love Settlers and this game gives me a similar yet different feeling. The game play is totally different but this remains the same: If I play my best I will have a good chance to win, but ultimately it will depend on the dice somewhat. Some people hate this; I embrace it for 2 reasons. First of all, it helps me let go of perfectionism. I can't control everything in this game or life so I'll do my best and see what happens. Secondly, I game more than those I often play with so these aspects of chance give others an opportunity to win instead of me all the time. No one likes losing all the time.

As for each aspect of the game I offer a few comments:

The Rondel:

puzzle lovers dream! forces you to plan ahead and make the most of what you are given.

The Cards:

I love "special abilities" but hate lots of text. I initially was concerned by the cards but then found that they fell into a few categories (for example, the 24 office cards all do the same thing, there are 8 different cards that give you double points for each of the eight goods, etc.). This made the learning curve for the cards shorter. Some people get disappointed that the best cards are hard to activate. I view the cards in a different light: They are there to get me negatives, I need to avoid these; the abilities they give me are a bonus that I work with to this end. If you are a big fan of card combos this is probably not for you. If you want to see what kind of combos you can pull off in the context of the game play you'll love this game! It throws another puzzle into the mix, "the odds of me activating this sweet card in time is low, do I go for it anyways?" Or "I need to activate this card by turn 9 for it to be worth anything to me and I'll need to get gray rolled in the next two turns for me for that to happen....if it does I could potentially get 12 points!....hrmmmm". Also, you only use a little over half of the deck each game so you never know what will come up.

The Shipping:

I love that you can't get completely screwed over. I love that you actually deliver goods to certain ports in this game. I love that you can lock up a port by getting all three goods of that kind.

The City Quarters:

This is usually not a focus of my game as I focus on goods and try to get city quarters connected as a secondary concern. However, I love that this is an area I can explore further. There are two cards; one gives you a point for each city quarter you own, the other lets you buy more than one city quarter per round. with one or both of these cards one could score a ton of points in the city quarters alone!

The Engines:

There seems to be two main engines in this game: Economic and Trading. Usually your cards will push you towards a focus in one of those two areas. However, there are also a bunch of mini engines in the game that are quite enjoyable. For example, there are 4 cards of each office type, for each of these types there is a card that lets you score a point for each one you have activated every round. If you activate this card along with 3 of that office type you can roll those points in!

CONCLUSION

I love this game for three main reasons:

1) Lots of decisions to make in a lot of different areas that are all not easily quantifiable.
2) Simplicity of learning all these different areas.
3) The anticipation of seeing if well made plans will come to fruition/ making the most of what gets dealt you.

If these things appeal to you, you'll probably enjoy this game too!


Well, that's my review. Please let me know what you think of it. It seems kind of long. I am especially curious what people think of the explanation section, is it helpful or is it pretty much the same as reading a rulesbook?

I did this review because Macao is the first game to really hit the sweet spot since I started getting seriously into boardgaming. I played Settlers for half a decade and was excited to look for games that I would enjoy just as much. I have discovered a few amazing games along the way, particularly Puerto Rico, Stone Age, and El Grande. However, Puerto Rico started feeling too similar after a while as there are no random elements. Stone Age felt a bit too simple. El Grande is amazing but those that I game with just didn't really love it. While these three games are all among my favorites, Macao has given me my first full gaming experience since Settlers, a game both me and my friends can get excited about!

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CarlG wrote:

EXPLANATION

The object of this game is, like most games, to get the most points by the end of the game. The game ends after 12 rounds of play.

There are 4 ways to get points throughout the game:
a) buying points with Gold Coins (GC)
b) shipping goods
c) activating certain cards
d) 2 points for each city quarter in your longest string of city quarters.

There are two currencies in this game: cubes and coins.
Coins are only used to buy points.
Cubes (AC) are used for everything else.

You start off with 5 coins and get more only through cards that you will activate throughout the game.

You get cubes through the roll of these 6 colored dice. You roll these 6 dice and all of us will pick 2 dice and take the corresponding cubes and place them in their corresponding places on this rondel. For example, If you picked the green dice that was rolled as a 5 as one of your 2 dice you would grab 5 green cubes and place them next to the 5 rondel spot. Each turn this rondel rotates towards this arrow, on any given round you use only the cubes that this arrow points at.

Cubes can be used to buy a variety of things:

Cubes can be used to buy city quarters, the cost of the quarters are shown here. Remember, the longest string of these is worth 2 points each at the end of the game.

When you buy a city quarter you also get a good. You can use cubes (any color) one per square to move your ships to deliver your goods. When you buy a city quarter and get a good it is put on your ship wherever your ship is, you don't have to go back to pick it up or anything like that.

You can use any color of cubes to move up the wall, every round it costs 1 cube to move up one space and two additional cubes to move up farther during that same round.

Lastly you can use cubes to buy cards. This is what the wall is for, whoever is highest on the wall gets to pick their card first each round.

Every round we will all pick a card. When you pick a card it goes on your table. You are able to use the abilities on these cards only if you pay the cube price on the top of the card. when you pay this price the card goes into your player area and you can use the ability on the card once per round.

Every round, two of the possible cards to pick will be these office cards. These office cards all say the same thing but just have different costs. These are mainly how you get coins. basically you trade in the color of the cube on the card for a coin. Every round there will be a different coins/points ratio where we can use our coins to buy points. The average ratio is a difference of 3 between points and coins.

The other cards are either people or building cards. They give you various abilities that help you buy things cheaper or trade goods for more points or simply give you points for meeting certain criteria.

Every turn goes like this:
1) lay out cards, set coin/points ratio, pick cards starting with highest person on the wall and place selected cards on table.
2) roll dice. pick 2 dice and add cubes to rondel. rotate rondel towards arrow.
3) starting with highest player on the wall each player uses their cubes that the arrow is pointing at to buy city quarters, activate cards, move ship, or move up on the wall.

In this game you also have to watch out not to get negative points. You get negative 3 points if you turn your rondel and have no cubes where the arrow is pointing. You also get negative 3 points if your table is full and you need to draw another card. You then draw a card, take a minus 3 marker then choose a card to discard. Lastly, at the end of the game you get minus 3 for every card left on your table.

Clarifications:

1) When you buy Joker tiles you can use them whenever you want to get either 3 coins or to grab a cube of your choice.
2) When you move up on the wall you go to the top of the stack that is in front of you, this way turn order will always change if everyone only pays one cube a round.
3) it doesn't cost cubes to drop off goods.
4) you can only buy one city quarter a round.



AWESOME

Not only do I love this game as much as you do, I love it for the same reasons, and therefore try to spread it around as much as possible. As such, I've often considered making a custom teaching aid or writing a script to teach from. Turns out you did it for me, and you did it excellently.

The FIRST of TWO niggles I would have is that the luck isn't just the dice- the dice are resolved immediately so you feel like they might be, but I would argue that the cards are equally as random and game-making, and unlike the dice, their luck can be mitigated by wall position.


The SECOND of TWO niggles I have is that there are big card combos. Some combos can get pretty disgusting!
 
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Carl Garber
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I'm glad you enjoyed the Explanation. Yes, I have been trying to promote this game where possible. I honestly do not understand why this game is not ranked higher...but I am sure there are many fans of other games that feel the same way

What exactly is a niggle by the way? I think dice and cards are about equal in the luck category. Both can go your way or doom you (I may be overstating it a little bit there ). Yes there are some killer card combos, but what was that in response to? (It's late so I probably just missed something somewhere). Keep on spreading the Macao love!
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I actually think I didn't read the word "somewhat" and misread your statement to say that the dice were the be-all and end-all.
The second niggle (Noun: A trifling complaint, dispute, or criticism.) stands, as i think fans of big card combos will enjoy this game- it's not a game where you might draw the whole deck or OTK an opponent, but finding synergy between your cards can be really exciting, and speaks to the combo freak. I mean look at the guy on the box:

If you tried to draw the entire deck, he would shut you down cold, so I don't think anyone's expecting that.
 
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Jack Francisco
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Macao is awesome. I think that the card combos can be more noticeable in a 2p game. In a 3p or 4p game, there are a couple of other players who might hate draft that Porcelain Storage once they see that you have 2 or 3 tiles of it.
 
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Carl Garber
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Thanks for the education! It's always good to expand the ol' vocabulary. I will trust your judgement on the card combos.I actually haven't played a lot of games that have them. I includes my take on combos because, besides dice and which cards came out, the biggest complaint was the inability to activate and use "cool" cards. I figure it is best to set expectations low and have people discover all the card combo possibilities than the other way around.

PS- because of our similar tastes I checked out your page. Thanks to you I will now be checking out Roma 2!
 
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Jack Francisco
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CarlG wrote:
Thanks for the education! It's always good to expand the ol' vocabulary. I will trust your judgement on the card combos.I actually haven't played a lot of games that have them. I includes my take on combos because, besides dice and which cards came out, the biggest complaint was the inability to activate and use "cool" cards. I figure it is best to set expectations low and have people discover all the card combo possibilities than the other way around.

PS- because of our similar tastes I checked out your page. Thanks to you I will now be checking out Roma 2!


No prob. The other things not to be underestimated are the value of the Ladies (that cost 4 cubes) as they produce 1 free cube EVERY round and the joker tiles. Those are big especially when you have a card that needs 4 different colors and the dice won't land with your group of 3 colors that you need.

Roma 2 is fun. I mixed it in with the first Roma, but I had to make paste-ups (located in the file section) as the icons were terrible. I think the publisher/designer figured that out, which is why Roma 2 has text. I am a sucker for pretty much everything Feld.
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Evgeni Liakhovich
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Really great review! There is something else in store for you - check out The Castles of Burgundy. It has some similarities with Macao, and these are my two favorite games.
 
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Taylor Nakamoto
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Glad8r wrote:
Really great review! There is something else in store for you - check out The Castles of Burgundy. It has some similarities with Macao, and these are my two favorite games.


Pssh. If you can find a copy. cry
 
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Carl Garber
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I am currently tracking Die Burgund...I'm going to wait probably another year to see how it fairs over the long haul. I'm also a little worried it will turn off the people I game with. Anyone else tracking Feld's new game Trajan?
 
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Jack Francisco
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Yup.
 
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Joe Pastuzyn
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Excellent review of a fine game. Another plus for me is how well written the rule book is. My wife and I played this first time at a con directly from the rules. We enjoyed it right away and purchased it.

Feld is a great designer, although some of his games can be quite brutal. I do like his game, Luna. I'm also looking forward to Trajan.
 
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Neil Christiansen
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See Joe, I like the brutal! Long live ND!
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Joe Pastuzyn
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Neil: Yes, you do. We should play In the Year of the Dragon with five and see if you can avoid the plague, drought and the barbarian hordes among other calamities.

chris1nd wrote:
See Joe, I like the brutal! Long live ND!
 
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Jack Francisco
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YotD is cool, but I don't like how the disasters pass and you are assured that a particular disaster will not return. Takes some of the suspense out of it for me.
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Carl Garber
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I was taking a serious look at In the Year of the Dragon....but then I realized you can't avoid people dying....and I think you actually choose their deaths in some cases? Anyways, I think that theme would turn off a lot of the people I game with.....*sigh*....thankfully Feld has many other games for me to pick from!!....They all just happened to be rated lower.........shake
 
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CarlG wrote:
I was taking a serious look at In the Year of the Dragon....but then I realized you can't avoid people dying....and I think you actually choose their deaths in some cases? Anyways, I think that theme would turn off a lot of the people I game with.....*sigh*....thankfully Feld has many other games for me to pick from!!....They all just happened to be rated lower.........shake


One way around that is to think of people being "released" from service. Ie, you don't have enough rice to feed your people in your palaces, so you have to let them go. When your people get sick via contagion event, they are no longer able to perform their duties, so you release them. Same goes for when you are unable to pay taxes.

To be completely honest, I've played the game quite a bit, and I've almost always thought of losing people in that respect, rather than them dying off.
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Carl Garber
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That actually might work for me, thanks!
 
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