Friday, June 04, 2010

Popular opinion wins (Mare Nostrum: Mythlogy expansion, Galaxy Trucker)

Last week, there was a brief exchange in the comments section about other games that might be better points of comparison for Cyclades than RISK. Although the commenter suggested Antike, I felt that ultimately it was Mare Nostrum w/ mythology expansion. Mare Nostrum is a game that was well liked when we played it a few times in the fall, but now with only three players it wasn’t getting any table time. For the sake of comparison and contrast, I suggested we try it out despite BGG’s unanimous warnings against it.
Mare Nostrum: Mythology expansion
On the surface, Mare Nostrum with the Mythology expansion is extremely similar to Cyclades. They are both wargame and euro hybrids, both set in the Mediterranean and both concerning themselves with the gods and mythological creatures of that era. The similarities end there, however… the ways the games are treated make quite a difference (of course, I could list many games set in renaissance Italy about trading goods and managing resources too).
We had never actually played the mythlogy expansion, so even though I was aware the game might not work that well with three players, I WAS looking forward to giving the new stuff a test drive. The mythology expansion adds four main things to the game:
1) The Atlantis faction for a 6th player, along with an add-on board to accommodate it (not used in our game).
2) A new Role card, the Priest, and +/- 8 gods. The Priest adds a new step to each round where players can choose to make an offering to a single god that will give them a one time use power that round. The cost is a 3 card set.
3) New military units: Mythological creatures. Each faction has a specific mythological creature that can be purchased and placed on the board like any other military unit. It always rolls 6s in combat, and grants an additional ability depending on the creature. The cost is a 6 card set.
4) New heroes. There is a huge variety of heroes in this expansion. In fact, there are so many that I ignored them because it was too much reading to know what they all did.
I liked the mythological creatures. They are a simple addition that further differentiates the factions. I hope that the game doesn’t become too focused on them, but that’s just a worry… I have no specific reason to think they would.
I liked the Priest role and the associated gods as well, but as Kozure pointed out there is a very real possibility that they would grind the game to a halt. They have abilities like “destroy any City on the Board” , which seems quite powerful considering the effort that needs to be expended to do the same thing using the military route. Although it’s true that there is a god that exists solely to defend yourself against the other gods, it means spending a 3 card set every time and that would extend the game as well.
The session we played demonstrated why Mare Nostrum is not recommended with 3 players. Without the crowded board, it’s too easy for all three players to just keep exploring until one of them wins the game. Trading is wonky, too.
I was Carthage, Shemp was Greece and Kozure was Babylon. As we explored and grew our empires, it became clear that Shemp’s engine was winding up faster than ours. I purchased a behemoth and went after him just as he was about to win. Although he made my life difficult crossing the sea, I did get to Athens and took his richest province. Problem was, going after Shemp in this way simultaneously weakened me and therefore the victory was handed to Kozure (who had spread out to form a monstrously large empire in the meantime). Unfortunately, I don’t think this was an isolated incident… it’s just not meant to be played with three players.

Galaxy Trucker
We finished the evening with Galalxy Trucker. We tried the “Evil Machinations” expansion for the first time. The idea is that each player is dealt four cards at the start of the game. Each card is a particularly nasty/powerful event , and players must choose one to go into each event deck. In other words, each player knows about one of the bad things that is going to happen, and can therefore plan for it. I had been holding back on this one because it sounded particularly nasty, but having played it now… it seems easier than the Rough Road expansion.
One thing that happened: Shemp’s ship got hit by large cannon fire in such a way that the ship broke into three pieces!
Maybe next time, we’ll try with Rough Roads AND Evil Machinations… Galaxy Trucker is more fun when things go wrong anyway! This game has legs. Lots of fun.

No comments:

Post a Comment