Well, I finally managed to get a game of Marco Polo.
My initial thoughts were of mega confusion, because the rules weren’t clear to me, and I am not a fan of the aesthetic, just seemed…a bit cartoonish or amateurish. I’m referring to the art work of the rulebook and the board.
It took a while to set up but I perservered. Obvious, as with all boardgames, having someone who knows the game is a huge boost, instead of 2 Marco Polo virgins trying to set it up.
It didn’t help that the game I played before that was Istanbul, which is very clearly laid out, easy to set up, easy to follow and easy to see what the opponent is doing.
However, glad I am that persevered I did.
Game is fun.
I lost, quite miserably, because my innate lucrephilia (have I just invented a word?!!!) took over and I was trying to maximise coinage available, before realising halfway through the game that victory points gain the win, not the gold, and that the gold is just a tool (I have played a tonne of Merchants and Marauders, so hard habit to get rid of).
Plus I didn’t quite get the purpose of the goal cards and so I didn’t start moving around the board until round 2. Given that there are 5 rounds…
I started catching up though once I saw how to convert dice into resources to fulfil conracts, gain gold and use said gold (and dice) to move around.
Then I got hooked. At some point in round 3 I could see that I had already lost (my opponent didn’t) but I played on, trying to find optimal pathways.
I have to say, we only played as Rashid something or other and Marco Polo, so I am only acquainted with those 2 characters but their powers are awesome. Assuming everyone gets a similarly powerful ability (like Kublai Khan, starting in Beijing- I can see that being incredibly useful as it gets you to Sumatra fast, which has 3 ability cards. That’s not the correct name, but I am referring to the cards you have in city spots where you can place a die to use that ability, once you build a trading post there, which is why you need to/ought to move around the board, movement being quite expensive though. I had one card which gave me 2 gold for every completed contract. I had 6 completed contracts and was playing as Rashid, so I could, at will, put a 6 down there, and give myself 12 gold every round) then I can see myself playing this game a hell of a lot!
Rashid’s power is that he chooses the dice number, but Marco Polo gets a contract for free every round (costs a minimum of 1 die otherwise, and you only get 5 dice) and gets a free white die (so he starts with 6 dice, but has to actually roll them).
If we hadn’t both been a bit tired post game, we would have definitely played again.
I can recommend this, with a cup of coffee and an example game to understand game flow, before shifting into a “real” game.
One thing I have to say I am looking forward to is the random distribution of the ability cards, which limits canned strategies. No point building a strategy around the gold-for-contracts- cards I mentioned earlier because it might not show up in any particular playthrough.
Plus, even if it does, it will likely be in another city.
Awesome game. Will play again.