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Thinking Out Loud

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Mesopotamia >> Initial Thoughts

I got one last night of gaming in to tide me over for the rest of the month, and was able to try Mesopotamia, Klaus-J├╝rgen "Carcassonne" Wrede's new game from Phalanx/Mayfair. I'm curious if any of you blog readers have had a chance to play it yet...

Here's my initial reaction of the game after that one play:

Interesting game with superficial similarities to Tikal. Another game of having to maximize turn efficiency, as you get very few actions per turn to accomplish a lot of things.

The action cards seem a bit unwieldy and out of balance with the value of other actions, but that could just be based on how our game panned out. My action cards were always useful to my current plans, while others got cards that were more or less wasted (such as some of the exploration cards later in the game).

I wanted to like the game more, but it seemed that there was far more indirect conflict and interaction than direct (at least, efficient and direct) means to really interfere with the plans of other players.

It felt like it was missing something -- a mechanic, a scoring element,a turn option -- to jack up the level of immersion. I think there's a definite potential for players to have turns that benefit other players more than themselves (such as in Hansa, by virtue of the final position of the boat), but it may be so subtle that it's hard to spot or evaluate. Sometimes this may be through poor play, but with the random nature of the action cards and exploration, it could very well be through good planning stymied by bad luck.

I rarely spent actions exploring, never built a temple (or whatever you call the piece where your workers can gain mana) and basically used the same approach I use with Torres -- get as many guys onto the board as possible as early as you can, grab action cards, and remain flexible.

I ended up winning our first game, with 2 other novices and 1 experienced player. I was only targeted once by others' action cards (such as stealing my mana, which is required to pay for your sacrifices), which could have hamstrung me more if I had been heavily targeted. But I still ended up winning.

However, I don't think I necessarily made better or more efficient decisions... Though perhaps, for a learning game, I did make better decisions based on early comprehension and sticking with my initial Torres-style plan -- plans and decisiont that simply wouldn't hold up against more experienced players. From that regard, it's really hard to judge the game based on just this one play.

The Bottom Line: I'd play itagain, but unless something reveals itself after another game or two, I don't think Mesopotamia would go much higher than a 6/10 rating in my book.

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