English language edition
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2500 years ago, Greek traders and adventurers traveled to southern Italy to settle and develop the area. They called the region Magna Grecia. The development of the area led to a era of rapid cultural and economic growth. Before the arrival of the Greeks, the region was populated by only a few small isolated villages. The region's rich soil, navigable rivers, great forests, and bronze and silver mines offered the Greeks enormous development potential. In time, the Greeks built great cities such as Tarantum, Syrakusai, Katane, Locri, and Naxos. There were also numerous small villages, many of which have disappeared or were swallowed whole by the growing cities. They built a dense network of roads to support trade and the prosperous markets in the cities. With success came strong rivalries among the cities, especially as they competed for the attentions of the oracles for the fame they offered.
This is a very good tactical game with enough happening in it to keep you constantly assessing the board and your plans, but it plays quickly. The scoring rules can be tricky so ready them carefully. If you like building road/track on a hex board, balancing your spending with your anticipated income, and a little bit of interfering in others' plans, then this is my recommendation for a quick, tactical game.
A two-player game of Magna Grecia should not work well, but it did. As my friend and I read the rules, we noted how important oracles and markets were in the game.
The solution to decent Grecia playing is to build roads carefully and use two of three actions with caution:
1. When you draw the tile for turn sequence, you may build roads or cities (depending on the numbers).
2. You may also draw from supply to replenish your roads and cities.
Constantly, the rules admonished the two of us to remember how expensive cities were. On the Internet reviews I had read how bland the colors are on the board. That didn't seem to interfere with the game; we played the German version, but the cards in German did not cause a play slowdown. We each built our road network from two different sides of the board, North and South, if you will.
Our plan was to meet in the middle. I like the feature of the game of building one city and receiving a market free. It soon became apparent my player friend had six markets, while I had five. Four oracles were controlled by me, but the middle-of-the-board oracle appeared threatened by my friend.
We soon discovered the road supply was not endless. We were left with mainly straight roads, while all the curves and winding pieces had been used by both sides. That made the last road network to the oracles and more villages hard to build.
Suddenly, my friend announced he had more markets and cities facing my oracle in the middle of the board. At the beginning of the game, you can scatter in a two-player game the five oracles in any patterns you wish. All players begin the game with a green hex village where they can build one of their first cities. A city costs one point on the point chart. The city must control an oracle. This threatening at this game moment meant I was going to lose the oracle that had taken three road hexes to reach.
Ah, the vagaries of game play. Each oracle is scored at the end of the game with four points, and the markets are scored with the number of villages and cities that intersect (direct connections) a particular market. You could, for example, receive three points for one market that had numerous intersections(direct connections).
The final scores became 35 and 22. I wasted three road hexes trying to reach a village and an oracle instead of using those precious hexes for short building. As my friend commented, if we had been smarter, we could have built to three village hexes in the middle of the board and, eventually, controlled more markets.
All in all, this game kept one thinking about the numerous possibilities of road building and market creation. I am happy to announce neither the Brown nor the Yellow (my friend) player had to sell markets to replenish the number of points allotted in the game. I would play the game again; however, with at least four players, the cutthroat competition to secure oracles would be considerably intensified.
A rockin' tune from the Eagles 'Long Run', Magna Grecia unites two designers with rockin' track records, Leo Colovini and Michael Schacht. Its a civilization building game using a tile-laying mechanism.
2 - 4 players have 12 turns to build cities, connect them with roads, establish markets and attract the 'Oracles'. Players all begin on the coastal perimeters of the board (green villages) and work inward towards the Oracles. On a player's turn, you may take two of three actions; lay city tiles, lay road tiles, add tiles to your supply. The turn sequence system limits the amount you may do of each. You may increase this number by doing only one of the three actions. Players also have a limited budget that keeps uncontrolled growth in check. Players establish markets in cities/villages to gain victory points at the end of the game. The more cities/villages a market is directly connected to, the more VP's it is worth. Players also connect roads to the 7 / 9 Oracles, randomly placed on the board. Each Oracle is worth a set 4 VP's. Oracles favor the cities with the most cities/villages/Oracles directly connected to it. All play is geared towards the end game scoring. After the twelfth turn, game ends, points totaled, highest score wins.
Magna Grecia is a fine collaboration of its two designers. The semi-random turn sequence that establishes who goes first every turn keeps the game fresh. Players must be constantly vigilant over where everyone else is developing. Getting your markets into new cities before it has a chance to expand gets you maximum return for your investment. While it is a tile-laying game, it really is a business/investment game at heart. Your limited budget has you constantly deciding where can you get the most VP's while spending the least (perfect capitalism!). The game does allow players to 'sell' a market to add back points into your budget, but at a cost to your final scoring. Players MUST establish themselves with both the variable market scoring and the set oracle scoring .As road connections determine the value of everything in the game, NEVER run out of them. Concentrating on just one scoring mechanism (markets vs. Oracles) has yet to yield a victory for a BGoR player (exception: 2 player game) . You can feel to power struggle influence of Colovini (Carolus Magnus) mixing with the road networking of Schacht (Paris Paris) seamlessly. The 'fiddly bits' player aid chart at boardgamegeek is quite helpful with the German version. Enough has been said about the poor color choices (what were they thinking?!?) in the German version, so wait for Rio Grande's English version to clean that up. Toward the end game, the analysis paralysis syndrome can become an issue, so as we say at BGoR, 'Be bold...MAKE A MOVE!'
A solid 4 from BGoR, barring the poor color scheme of the German version. We look forward to more from these two designers.
Magna Grecia comes from the initially surprising team of Leo Colovini and Michael Schacht. Surprising, because I had thought of Signore Colovini (Carolus Magnus & Doge) and Herr Schacht (Mogul & Web of Power) as very much solo designers. However, both have in fact worked with other designers before - most recently on Vabanque and Fist of Dragonstones respectively. The common factor in both those cases is Bruno Faidutti - which makes me wonder about the existence of some sort of European Game Designers' Club (a very classy social scene I would imagine, in order to match Monsieur Faidutti's dinner-jacketed image).
In any case it is interesting to speculate whether Magna Grecia is part of what appears to be an increasing trend towards joint designs (following the path taken by Wolfgang Kramer and Alan Moon - to the extent that a 'solo' game from either is a relative rarity these days) or whether this is simply a one-off collaboration. While it would be interesting to know who contributed which parts of the design, what probably concerns you more is whether there are any very visible 'joins'. There the answer is no - this is very much a whole rather than two half games bolted together.
Previous games from both Colovini (e.g. Clans & Meridian) and Schacht (e.g. Don & Isis and Osiris) have shown a tendency towards the abstract and Magna Grecia is well towards that end of the spectrum - though no more so than, say, Tigris & Euphrates. On the plus side this means that it isn't loaded down with 'chrome' but neither is it over-endowed with atmosphere of time and place. While the theme of road and city building is carried through to the mechanics the supposed setting (the Greek colonisation of Southern Italy) is pretty irrelevant. Nevertheless, there is enough of a theme here for me to hop on board and enjoy the ride - and I am someone who doesn't much like abstract games.
But what about the game and how does it play? Well, despite this being a big box game the components are fairly straightforward. Each player is given a victory points marker, some wooden markets and a supply of road and city tiles. In addition there are a number of 'Oracles' (placed on the board at the start of the game) and some Player Order cards.
The size of the box is explained by the board, which unfolds to reveal a large hex-grid map, with scattered village sites where markets can be established and cities built. The objective of the game is to build networks of roads and cities which will let you score the most points from the cities you control and the markets you establish in other players' cities. In both cases your score is determined by the number of places the cities are directly connected to by road. While these will provide your bread and butter points, there is also some interesting jam in the form of the Oracles - which score a fixed four points each but are controlled by the most important (i.e. best connected) city directly connected to them. Unlike cities, control of the Oracles usually switches back and forth during the course of the game (the Oracles are arrow shaped and are rotated to point to their current controlling city - a nice touch) so you need to keep a close eye on your opponents' moves as well as planning your own strategy.
At the start of the game, the Oracles are placed in village sites of the players' choice. These sites will then become the target of players' attentions, although they can no longer be used for markets or city building. Players then take turns to build across the virgin landscape in the sequence determined by the Player Order cards. Central villages are usually more profitable but players must start in one of the specially marked villages around the edge of the board. In subsequent turns players may extend their own network or build from another starting village or another player's city (an important rule, which keeps the game very 'open' and makes it impossible to shut someone out of the game) so it takes a few turns to get to the more central village sites - which are likely to have the potential for links to a number of Oracles.
The 12 Player Order cards (one for each game turn) are semi-randomly shuffled so each player will go first and last (and points in-between) an equal number of times over the course of the game (and within the first 4 turns, turns 5-8 and the last four turns). These cards are stacked face up so the order for next turn is always visible - which helps forward planning. Importantly, the Player Order cards also control the actions which players may take each turn. Each card has values for three actions - showing the number of tiles players may use for (1) road building (2) city building and (3) the number of replacement tiles players may take. The value of these actions vary from turn to turn, with some being good for road building, some for tile replacement etc. Players can chose only two of the three actions - or take a single action at a higher value.
Managing your supply of tiles is a critical aspect of the game - you start with only four each of your full supply of road and city tiles in your hand and you therefore need to replenish your stock of tiles at regular intervals - the timing of this is crucial. As with all good games, each turn leaves you with the feeling of wanting to do more and you need to plan ahead to be successful. It is therefore vital to keep an eye on the next Player Order Card to be sure you have enough tiles to make full use of your next turn - particularly if you want to be able to exploit the 'extra strength' single actions.
While road building is free, city building or expansion costs one victory point per tile used. While the obvious conclusion might be to build roads rather than expanding cities the tile supply is such that you will run out of roads before the end. Besides, a one-tile city can have a maximum of six connections while larger cities have the potential for more - and there are some nice tactical considerations because extending one of your cities can restrict others' options since opposing cities can't be built adjacent (there are also some nice road building tactics to restrict other players' expansion, but these tend to be more expensive in terms of the number of tiles needed as opposing roads can be built alongside each other).
The cost of city tiles also introduces a further delicate balancing act - while you start with a supply of victory points you need to keep an eye on them to ensure that you can expand your cities when you want. You can sell your markets (which are placed free of charge in each city you build) to gain more points (according to the number of connections it has), but only one can be sold, and only at the end of your turn, so again you'll need to plan ahead. Our experience has been that players need to do this at least once each game to stay solvent - obviously it's most profitable when a city has maxed-out its number of connections. An alternative to selling a market at the end of your turn is to buy one to place in one of your opponent's city sites. This costs one victory point more than your opponent will have paid for the city - so large cities with many connections will cost you more to establish a market there, but will pay off more at the end of the game. This can be a crucial way of making an extra few points and means that you might even want to avoid competing with an opposing city, if you've invested in a market there (particularly if you did so when the city is small, as you will get the benefit of additional connections gained as the city is expanded at your opponent's expense).
Overall then, a few simple rules give rise to a number of options and difficult decisions every turn - which will usually impact on the possibilities open to you next turn - so there is a fair amount to think about. The more we play Magna Grecia the more I enjoy it. It is a fairly deep, multifaceted, game - with each game we've seen new tactics and options opening up (for instance we've still to fully explore the tactics around initial placement of oracles) - and like a bottle of good red wine it improves with each tasting (and, even better, it feels like there's still plenty left before we'll get to the bottom of it).
Apart from our first attempt, our games have been pretty tight (with one 3 player game even ending in a 3-way tie - the winner being decided on the tie-breaker of most tiles left in hand) so each move is crucial. Despite this, we've found that Magna Grecia plays fairly quickly but, like all games of this nature, it could become bogged down by overly serious players attempting to maximise their score every turn by analysing every option. Perhaps there are some who think that is the 'proper' way to play it, but this would make the 'down time' between turns stretch enormously and would for my money totally kill the enjoyment factor by turning it into a purely abstract mental exercise. I would suggest a chorus of loud raspberries should you encounter the problem.
There has been some comment about the colouring of the map and player components - all in very subdued, autumnal shades. I have to say that it takes a little getting used to and is not a colour scheme which I would want to wrestle with in anything other than good lighting. However, this subtle approach is in keeping with the contemplative nature of the game and we rather liked it (and, unlike the rest of the game, it at least reflects the putative setting - invoking as it does the colours of the landscape of Southern Italy). While you may disagree on the aesthetics, whatever you do, don't let the absence of a garish colour scheme put you off an excellent game.