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Reviewer: Tedmiami from Essex
The Voyages of MARCO POLO: the Basic Game
A German Game of the Year for 2-4 Players Aged 12 +
Daniele Tascini & Simone Luciani for Hans im Glück
The Voyages of MARCO POLO is a resource management boardgame where the players are competing to gain the most Victory Points through clever use and manipulation of the goods available to them. This review is of the Basic game with mention of how it may change when all players are familiar with the game mechanics.
For your first few games it is also suggested that you use the characters prescribed in the rules, thus Player 1 has Raschid ad-Din Sinan who never rolls his dice but instead chooses the desired number(s) when required; quite powerful you may think. Player 2 has one extra coin, making his tally 8, and the character Matteo Polo who has an additional die to roll each turn and can take a free Contract each turn if required and space allows. Player 3 is Berke Khan who can occupy already occupied spaces outside of the City without paying the generally assigned cost, and finally Player 4, Mercator ex Tabriz (there are specific cards of this character depending on the number of players) who gains one resource every time someone else (another character) visits the Marketplace, though it has to be the same resource as taken by the opponent.
In my opinion and experience the setup game is biased and unbalanced, but it does do what you want it to do. It whets your appetite to play again using some of the other characters available and it opens your eyes to the possibilities of the game and how to understand and utilise the mechanics to your best interest. The game changes quite considerably, although obviously the mechanics are the same, when you introduce new characters.
The Voyages of Marco Polo is a game with a lot of options but it is also about gaining the most points and to do this you need to obtain as many of the extra bonuses as you can. It is not usually a good idea to go head down after one specific possibility but on the other hand if you spread your actions too wide you will also struggle. You need to find that often mentioned happy medium which in some games leads you to discovering a routine which when followed almost undoubtedly brings success. If there is such a routine/tactic/strategy for The Voyages of Marco Polo we have yet to find it, other than as previously mentioned, the Mercator start character in the suggested game start setup.
The Voyages of Marco Polo is an excellent game with enough possibilities to ensure it is enjoyed each time it is played, with no “going through the motions” about it whatsoever. Highly recommended. Just one note of caution if you buy the German version (I believe Z-Man have the rights to the English language version) you can find the rules online but they will use a lot of your colour toner or ink as they are quite bright and colourful, rather like the game actually.