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Subject: Macao as a 2 player game rss

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Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
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Macao is listed as 2-4 on the box, but how well does it really scale? This review is part of my review series looking at how well multiplayer games scale down to just two players - for the full list see: My 2 player game reviews.

Rules - how are they different in a 2 player game?

There are no special rules with just two, the only rule that is different is just a scaling rule - you always draw 4 cards from the top of the deck each turn, but when playing with less than 4 you discard some (1 with 3, 2 with 2), so that their numbers are counted for buying VPs, but they are not available to buy.

How is the game different with 2?

For this I am going to compare the 2 player game with the 4 player game, as this is where you notice the biggest differences. The 3 player game falls somewhere between the two.

Macao maintains much of the same feel with 2 as with 4 in terms of actual gameplay - there are no rules differences, you still have the same issues with getting cubes and trying desperately to make good use of them to convert to VPs by various means. The differences as you reduce the number of players are subtle differences, in terms of valuing cards, and blocking.

The cards in Macao are very variable in value anyway, and some are equally valuable at any player count, but some, in particular ones that require you to have other cards, are much more valuable with either 2 or 4 players. Any card that gains benefits from scrolls is at its most valuable with 2 players, as with 2 scrolls and only 2 other cards each turn, it's much easier to get scrolls - not to mention that there's only one player trying to stop you. However, cards that require other cards from the deck are generally much less valuable, as you're so much less likely to see the pair, as you see half as many cards as in the 4 player game.

Blocking, particularly in the town, is the other major difference between the 2 and 4 player game. With 4 players it's very hard to get a large scoring region in the town at end-game - you might manage to get 5 or 6 of your regions to join up, if you're very lucky, but mostly players get less than this, and any large regions are rapidly blocked by the other three players. With just 2 players it's much harder to block, and there's also less incentive to do so - often both players built up very large regions in the township, and if one player neglects these points it can be very costly for them. There is also more blocking in a four player game in both acquiring and selling commodities - this has a lesser effect, but can make quite a difference when doublers and other bonuses come into effect.

The last major difference in the 2 player game has more to do with the ratio of tiles - as you tend to get more scrolls, as a higher percentage of cards available are scrolls, money tends to be more plentiful, and cubes are more often sold for money. In a 4 player game these cubes are more likely to be used in the battle for position on the wall - in a 2 player game the battle often doesn't escalate as much - 2nd choice of 4 cards is much better than 4th choice of 6 cards in this game!!

The last difference, which can be important in some groups, is downtime. Macao can have quite a lot of downtime between turns, as players make decisions on what cubes to take, and then what to do with their huge pile of cubes - and then have to recalculate as the player in front of them messes with their plans. In the 2 player game, with only own player to wait for, the game does seem to move rather faster!

Verdict

Macao scales very well from 2 to 4 players, with very little change in the game. In fact I like it best with 3 players, as I find it keeps the best aspects of both the extremes that way, but I'll happily play with 2 or 4 if asked.
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Arthur Rutyna
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I was actually quite surprised / pleased at how well it played with 2.
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Bill Kunes
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I just picked this game up a couple of weeks ago and our initial four 2p games have been insightful and enjoyable. I didn't see anything (yet) that would contradict what you shared about the 2p experience.

I'm curious to see how it feels with 3-4p. I suspect, it will be similar to Castles of Burgundy, Trajan, Troyes, or Saint Petersburg--it changes the dynamics a bit, but certainly not in a bad way, thus scaling well for all player levels offering fun, yet different, gaming experiences.

Nice review. Subscribing to your review series (I didn't know it existed).

meeple Keep playing...
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Ben Bateson
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The good news about playing with two is that it doesn't take anywhere near as long as 3-4 player games. I can certainly tolerate Macao in the face-to-face version.
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C. Rexford
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Bremerton
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I play Macao primarily with two and it never fails.

Good review!
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Matthew Bearden
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i love it two players, it is the main way we play it!
great review!
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Jack Francisco
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It is a GREAT 2p game, especially if the 2 players are of similar skill levels. The reason it's my #1 game is partially due to it being as good with 2p as it is with 4p (if not better).
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David B
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sa266 wrote:
For this I am going to compare the 2 player game with the 4 player game, as this is where you notice the biggest differences. The 3 player game falls somewhere between the two.
3 is somewhere between 2 and 4? Who knew?
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Łukasz Małecki
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pfctsqr wrote:
sa266 wrote:
For this I am going to compare the 2 player game with the 4 player game, as this is where you notice the biggest differences. The 3 player game falls somewhere between the two.
3 is somewhere between 2 and 4? Who knew?
The reviewer did.
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Dan C
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I like 2p because it is less than 3 or 4. But then again, 4p is more than 2 and 3. So I don't know which is better.
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Kevin W
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Had our first game of Macao 2p yesterday. My SO loves CoB so this was seen as a natural progression for us, the game seems a lot complex than CoB. You really really really need to plan ahead and be able to work it out. But after one play I know it is going to be great.
 
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Jack Francisco
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The more you play, the more depth you'll discover. It's truly wonderful.
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Roland Wood
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It seems like with 2p when you discard the two cards that simulates those cards being picked by two ghost players. This means its like the two actual players are always 3rd and 4th in turn order. It might be more realistic and easier to get card combos if you cycle through discarding no cards, then 1 card, then 2 cards. Or you could roll one of the dice and on 1-2 no discard 3-4 discard 1 card 5-6 discard 2 cards to make it variable. It is still not perfect since the wall is not really accounted for those ghost players but it would make getting good combos more possible and in my opinion better than just relegated the two actual players permanently to 3rd and 4th place in turn order.
 
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Roland Wood
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jedimusic wrote:
I like 2p because it is less than 3 or 4. But then again, 4p is more than 2 and 3. So I don't know which is better.
Holy Hand Grenade! wow
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