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Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Oh well, it's easier to find people willing to play games in the winter anyway.

I just hit my first yard sale of the season hours before my last post. It looked like summer was around the corner. Sigh, ain't been nuthin' but snow since my last post. More snow in the forecast, at least through tomorrow.

Hammer of the Scots- Finally won a few games, and resoundingly I might add. I did play the English, though. Looking forward to adding the schiltrom rules to give the Scots a boost.

Mare Nostrum- Brief review

Mare Nostrum is a game of acquiring resources, expanding your influence, warfare, trading, and building your empire. Various buildings, military units, heros, wonders, etc, cost 3, 6, 9, or 12 resources or taxes to buy. There are 12 different resources available in the game in addition to taxes. In order to turn in a set of resources the set must contain no matching resources. Players gain resources by: first gaining influence in a territory, then placing a caravan marker on the resource(s) in the territory or placing a city on the city space to obtain tax cards. All unspent resources are discarded from a player's hand from round to round. Two tax cards can be held from round to round.

Markets and temples (cost 6) double the resources or tax cards collected from that territory each round. With caravan and city markers being very limited in the game it is important to build temples and markets ASAP. Without temples and markets it will be nearly impossible to obtain the cards that cost 9. The 9 cards grant your empire a certain advantage and if you manage buy three of the 9 cards you win the game. Also, if you build the Pyramids (Cost 12) you instantly win the game.

After receiving resources and taxes players trade. The player with the most caravans and markets is the commerce director. He states a number. Each player places that many resource cards in front of himself and players alternate choosing cards from other players to add to their own hand.

Is it an innovative or clumsy trading mechanic? As a born liar I must say that I prefer trading through negotiation. This system of trading must have been dreamed up by someone who got screwed too many times by people like me. There are also people who think the trading phase of a game makes it last too long. This system fixes that complaint.

After the trading phase is the building phase. The player with the most cities and temples chooses the order players build. This is an important position when there are few tokens left to buy.

After building players move their military units. The player with the most military units is the military leader, he chooses the order players move. War is an option that must be considered in Mare Nostrum, it is unlikely you will win without stepping on a few toes. For one thing, city and caravan markers are limited. The number varies slightly depending on the number of players, but there are 5 or 6 caravans per player (on average), between 2 and 3 cities for each player, just over 2 markets and 1 temple per player. If all are evenly split there is not enough for one player to gain a decisive advantage. One must go get the resources and cities he needs to win from the other players.

War units (legions and triremes) are limited also. This makes war attractive to the Greek and Roman players. Consider this; the Greek player can buy triremes for 2 and the Roman player buys legions for 2 each. With only 5 triremes at their disposal the Greek player, for example, quickly finds himself in a use it or lose it situation. Since resource cards are discarded at the end of a round it behooves each player to spend them. If the Greek player has 2 resources that he can't spend he spends them on triremes. Hence, he can lose his triremes in war and buy them back by only using extra resources. The net result is that he hurts his opponents much more than himself.

As I explained in a previous post, Carthage's special ability is +1 with legions in battle. If there is no war, Carthage's ability is moot, and civilizations must utilize their ability in order to win the game.

I had some reservations after reading the rules. I still think the trading aspect is clumsy, but Mare Nostrum shines and is easily an upper tier game. I wouldn't call it a Civ clone, it is a good game in its own right.

Good gaming,

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