Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Essen 2014 Roundup - Marchia Orientalis

With Essen nearing and the Essen 2014 list still not complete, in August I managed to slip in a game of Marchia Orientalis, or the Ostmark as the Germans would say these days. The Ostmark was on of the eastern border provinces of the medieval German empire, won at great cost from the Slav population. At Essen I bought the game based on the theme and the low price, considering that even if I didn’t know beforehand what the game would be like, at least I wouldn’t suffer much.

And while this not a bad game, it is also not very good. The low production values that result from the low price aren’t really a problem. The problem is that this game reuses mechanisms from other games, without adding anything interesting. There’s tile laying, with limitations on connecting tiles for which there are then some exceptions. There’s a central market, and some competition for different tiles, but in the end the amount of interaction is low. Worst of all is of course that it has nothing to do with the border struggles Middle Ages. The theme is just stuck on a bunch of mechanisms.

I’ll spare you the details of the rules. Suffice to say that there is an interesting puzzle in there which Gerard managed to maximize. I felt sorry a bit for Rob who had decided straight away that this was game was not worth his time. His plan to sabotage the game was foiled and the variable game ending drove the game to the extreme. But then again, I occasionally sacrifice myself in similar circumstances because others seem to enjoy a game.

The evening was not lost, however. Before and after Marchia Orientalis we played Port Royal, a simple card game that let’s you gamble on drawing a pirate ship type twice. On your turn you keep drawing cards from the deck until that event occurs, or you choose to stop yourself. You can then pick one of the cards and sell it for money or buy it for its special option. The whole game hinges on balancing your need for money, your long term strategy and opportunism. Surprisingly deep for 100+ cards and nothing else. And partially because of the gambling element, a lot of fun too. Recommended.

Anyway, Essen 2015 is on the doorstep and still one more to go. Problem is, it’s a four player game and we didn't have four players on any occasion in the last months. A luxury! So if that’s the reason why I won’t fulfill Essen 2014, well…

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