Friday, July 16, 2010

Ships & Shipping (Cyclades, Macao)

Very late on this one.

We played Cyclades and Macao.


I take back everything I said about Cyclades and Risk. I hope no one actually read this and used that comparison to make a purchasing decision (highly unlikely, I know). I was trying to communicate that it was an approachable and simple conquest game but I took the comparison too far. The game is simple enough, there is rolling of dice and the theme is conquest, but the gameplay is all about auctions, timing and combos.

We've now played three times, and have each tried the three different starting positions. They seem balanced enough. Kozure surprised us all and was within one round of winning quite quickly (having built a metropolis and owning three philosopher cards). He won the bid for Athena and built the last metropolis... but could he make it to the end of the round intact?


Shemp won Mars and swept in to steal one of Kozure's metropolises. In a subsequent turn, I stole the other (leaving Kozure with none). I was able to sneak in and build my last building for the win.. Since I was last, no one could stop me and won.

This is a great game. For the first half, players are trying to get their income going and get into position. Then, suddenly everyone is on the verge of winning and all players must carefully keep an eye on each other, the order that the gods are coming up and the creatures which are available. Some pretty crafty sequences can be pulled off, and much of the fun I have with the game is derived from this aspect. As an example, this is how I played my last turn for the win (more or less, it's been a while):

I had no metropolises, and only three buildings. I bid on Aries. I purchased the Griffon to steal half of Shemp's gold (which was a lot), I then used Polyphemus to "scare" my boats away from an island, allowing me to create a chain of ships to an island containing a metropolis. I purchased a number of units, crossed to the other island and conquered it. I purchased the red building, but it was not the one I needed to get my second metropolis so I used the Chimera to activate Cyclops's ability to change a building's colour, giving me the second metropolis for the win. That was fun.


Another game about timing and combos, Macao has seen a lot of table time recently (which is fine by me). I snagged a couple of ware doublers early on and made it my goal to gain the lion's share of my points this way. I was a distant first place for much of the game, but I suffered a late game stall as I ran out of things to deliver. I only had a few other activated buildings, a couple of baronesses, so I was not sure what to do. Shemp was coming on strong and on my last turn I simply took a quick delivery and the game was over. As bonus points were tallied, Shemp overtook me by +/- 10 points for the win (AGAIN). He then pointed out that a different move would have won me the game! (I could have built a different building, thus given me a different ware, which would have truncated his chain in the city and robbed him of some points in his last delivery. I guess he got me back for pointing out a similar missed opportunity in Cyclades a few months ago!

Another great game. This and Cyclades could very well be my picks for best games this year.

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