New acquistitions in July 2016 + a trip down the Silk Road

A LOOK AT THE CHARACTERS IN 'THE VOYAGES OF MARCO POLO', published by Hans im Glück

Marco Polo, not to be confused with his English half-brother Minto Polo, was a 13th century merchant who opened up China and the Far East for trade with the west. This game reflects his travels as players lbuild trading posts in important cities and smaller towns.

The Voyages of Marco Polo is one of the best games I now have in my collection. In some respects it is a typical Euro-game in that there are multitudinous ways to score victory points (VPs) but it knits together all these strands brilliantly.  In that regard the theming is very well done. You do feel you are slowly traveling the Silk Road to Beijing.

I will now gloss-over the detailed mechanics (you can find more about the game-play elsewhere on the internet). I am going to concentrate on just one of the unique features of the game, the characters in the game that the players will represent. There are 8 characters available but only 4 will be chosen in each game. One of the many unique mechanics in the game is that each character has an ability over and above the rules and when you read their skills you cannot help thinking that they offer such advantages as to make each one a dead cert to win. Not so, of course (or it would be a deadly dull game if it were so). Here is a brief summary of them:

Raschid ad-Din Sinan

The game is dice driven. You get 5 dice and you use them to take actions. Raschid does not throw dice at all. All his 5 dice can be any number he chooses. Unusually, in this game, low dice rolls can be very useful as high dice rolls.

Matteo Polo

He gets a white die for the whole game so he rolls six dice each round. He also is given a free contract at the start of each round. You have to use dice to draw new contracts so he rarely has to do that, leaving his coins to be spent on other areas that offer more possibilities,

Mercator ex Tabriz

Mercator takes a free good whenever another player goes to the market to acquire gold, silk, peppers or camels. Whatever the player buys, Mercator gets one for free. Therefore he can use his dice to make use of other ways to win.

Kubilai Khan

He starts at the other end of the world so-to-speak, in Beijing. Beijing confers victory points if you arrive there during the game but, as he starts there, he gets 10 VPs before the first round begins. Also he has less competition in the early stages as all the others have to start in Venice and it will take time to get there (note: You do not have to go to Beijing, in my experience no more than two players ever bother to go that far in their travels).

Berke Khan

During play, if a player wants to place a dice in an area where another player has placed a die or dice, he has to pay 1 coin for each pip on the die that he is using. This can make some options very expensive. Example – at the market, if you are the first to buy, say, six camels then you place a six on that place in the market. If another player also wants to buy camels after that, say they want 5, placing their 5 will cost them 5 coins. This rule is fundamental through the game so money is very important but Berke never has to pay money to place his dice.

Niccolo and Marco Polo

The player starts with two character playing pieces and can move either during the round in his turn. Thus his trading empire can more easily spread over the board. The player using Niccolo and Marco also receives one free camel at the start of each round. Amazingly, this character has never appeared in our games. I told you there were 8 characters. At the start of the game the character tiles are shuffled and five are revealed. Each player in order chooses one from those five and Niccolo and Marco have never appeared in the selection available.

Wilhelm von Rubruk

This character has several skills. He starts the game with two extra trading posts (as opposed to the usual 9 for other players. If he can build all 11 of his trading posts he will get 10 VPs. In addition, he may place a trading post in any town he passes through (other characters have to end a move in a city or town to place a trading post there. He is very interested in money and camels because travelling costs are high.

Johannes Caprini

On the paths to the cities and towns there can be also oases. They confer no benefit to the players. They just add extra spaces to be ‘navigated’ on some of the routes. Johannes can use these because he can move from any oasis on the board to any other oasis on the board (think of it as medieval teleporting!). This can sometimes skip the onerous cost of travelling. In addition he receives 3 coins at the start of each round.

 

Can a game be play-tested enough to make each character truly balanced? I doubt it but, as yet, we have not detected an imbalance. We already have our favourites of course (notably Berke Khan and Mercator ex Tabriz). I am the only player who chooses a character that I have never played before. When I have played all 8 I will be better placed to offer advice in that regard. I have purchased the Essen expansion but it hasn’t arrived yet. It promises 4 new characters and I can barely wait to use them.

Now to the games received this month……..

Mega Trucks

Ravensburger

2005

Key Harvest

R&D Games

2007

Dichter und Komponisten Quartett

Vereinigte Kunstanstalten Senkeisen

1920

Blumen

Piatnik

1980

Caylus

Ystari

2005

Tarot Universeal Major Arcana

Lo Scarabeo

2005

 

Car Tuning

Ravensburger

2005

Mystic Path

BBCK

2009

Prec

Tiere

Berliner

1978

Heitere Berufe

Piatnik

1980

Arabana-Ikibiti

Bambus

1997

Tomb Raider Into the Caves

Precedence

1999

Kreimhilds Rache

FX Schmid

1967

Antler Island

Fragor Games

2007

Lost Legacy

One Draw

2014

Dichter-Quartett

Gustav Weise

1910

Isla Dorada

Fun Forge

2010

Galactic Empires

Companion Games

1994

Deine Tabu Special-Edition!

Coca Cola

2009

Nanuuk!

Bambus

1998

Flugzeuge

Bielefelder

1980

Schiffe

Bielefelder

1978

Il Vecchio

Pegasus

2012

Make 'n' Break

Ravensburger

2008

 

Ozean Riesen

Ravensburger

2003

Ranina

Franckh

1987

Starke Flotte

Ravensburger

2008

Baba Yaga

IELLO

2013

Arabana-Ikibiti

Fun Again Games

2007

Loks

ASS

1980

Das Lustige Eselspiel

ASS

2010

Madame Ching

Hurrican

2013

Het Hoog Spel

Rangeela

1991

Exotische Tiere

Piatnik

1975

Dynasties Heirate & Herrsche

Hans im Glück

2016

Tiere

Pelikan

1978

Tabu

Parker

2002

Drachengold

Descartes Editeur

2001

Test

ASS

1971

Schwarzer Peter + Pferde Quartett

Bookmark

2008

Hör & Spiel Französisch!

Moses

1994

Frog Race

Spears

1973

 

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