English language edition of Mauerbauer
List Price: $39.95
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(Worth 3,195 Funagain Points!)
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In medieval times, famous masons competed to build the most beautiful and impressive cities. As we can see from what they left behind, they were perfectionists, but each had his own ideas about the best ways to design cities. Stately government buildings stand next to noble palaces with massive walls and guard towers surrounding the city to protect it from its enemies.
In this beautiful game, the players take the rules of these master masons of old. At the beginning of the game, the board is empty, but quickly fills with houses, palaces, towers, and walls. The guild cards help guide the masons in their building and the special dice offer them the materials they need. Each player decides where to build his houses and palaces. Whenever walls enclose a city, it is scored.
The game will determine which mason makes the best use of his materials and guild cards. But that will not be known until the final scoring, when the final scoring is complete and the players learn which of them has scored the most points to earn the victory as the greatest mason! At least for this game!
Masons -- no walls, no power!
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I have over 200 games and Masons has stormed into my esteemed list of top 10 games. If you want a game that feels light and fun but has plenty of depth and strategy then look no further: Mason's is one of the best you are likely to buy.
It's so easy for any beginner to pick up. I have one friend who has refused to play any of my board games. He liked the look of the components in Masons and I somehow managed to coax him into playing it for 5 minutes. Amasingly, he stayed to finish the game and beat me by 3 points. Eureka!
I've now played over 15 games and I can honestly say that Masons is a game that both beginners and serious game players will enjoy. So what's so good about the game? Heaps!
The object of the game is to build cities and score points from playing one or two scoring cards for Towers, Walls and buildings that are (1) part of the City just built or (2) in the open. 110 - 130 is a typical winning score.
The components are high quality: 33 solid wood walls, 30 great looking wooden towers (in black, grey and white) 12 houses in each of 5 colours (blue, red, green yellow and pink, yes pink and you do get used it), 3 larger wooden palaces in each of the 5 colours, 60 small sized scoring cards with clearly understandable graphics (though you will have to read the card manifest at the back of the rules at least once), a rather nice looking board and 3 special dice.
The board represents a land mass made up of 45 triangles placed in a 9 by 5 grid. It is divided into 3 regions of 15 triangles each. The left and the right sides of the land border the sea. Each intersection in the triangle is designed to hold one tower and the edge of each triangle is where you place the wall.
To begin with each player receives 6 scoring cards from a stack of 60. Half the deck has a white background and relates to scoring points for Towers and buildings in the City just built. The other half of the deck has a green background and relates to points that can be scored for Towers, walls and houses in the open and not part of any City. There are two of every card and 13 different types of cards that you can score with:
City Area Cards
1 pt per Tower of any colour in the City wall
2 pts per Tower of a specified colour in the City wall
3 pts per Palace and 1 point per house of a specified colour in the City
1 pt per Palace of any colour in the City
6,7,8 or 9 pts for a City area of exactly 1, 2, 3 or 7 or more
4 or 7 pts for a City that contains 2-3 or 4-5 differnt coloured buildings
Open Area Cards
1 pts per Tower of any colour in the open
2 pts per Tower of a specified colour in the open
1 pt per house of a specified colour not in any City
1 pt per house of any colour in one of the three Regions
2 pts for any Tower on one of the 12 coastal Tower spots
1 pt per wall not part of a City
1 pt for every City built
On your turn you place a wall on any free triangle edge. You then roll the three dice that tell you what coloured tower to place at either end of the wall and what two coloured houses that you must place at either side of the wall. Also, if the other end of the wall has an open tower space you may choose a second tower, of any colour to place there. Finally, you pass the dice to the next player on your left and so the game continues. All good, simple, fun with fast evolving and stunningly visual cities.
So can this much simple fascinating fun also include a cleverly versatile and strategic game to match? Absolutely!
Eventually, a player will place a wall that completely surrounds an area; a City is formed and a scoring round takes place. Before scoring takes place, any pair of the same coloured houses in the City are replaced with a Palace of the same colour. Thus you replace two 1 point houses with a 3 point Palace, if you have the right card. Once the City is built all the players then have the opportunity to play 1 or 2 scoring cards; total any points earned and move their marker up the scoring track.
There are a few great features of the game to note here:
Firstly, when a player completes a City they have the option to score the City as created, or they can remove the wall(s) to any one adjacent City and everyone then scores based everything contained in the new larger merged City. This is a very simple yet thought provoking aspect to the game. You need to consider whether you would be better placed by not merging the City or, if is more than one adjacent City, which of the existing Cities you should merge with. It’s likely that all these options will produce very different scores for each player. To help guide your decision, you can often get a broad feel for what cards the other players may have based on their earlier placements. Have they been playing lots of blue houses, black towers, trying to build larger or small Cities etc?
Another great feature of the game is that your hand size changes depending on whether you play 0, 1 or 2 cards. If you play 1 or 2 cards you still only pick up 1 replacement card. So playing two cards scores you more but reduces your hand size by 1. You can also opt not to play any cards. In this case, you must discard a card but then you get to pick up two cards which increases your hand size by 1. Once again you must weigh the longer term advantage of discarding one low scoring card now for two potentially better cards which could net you a bigger overall return in a later scoring round.
Thirdly, there is the game balancing mechanism to consider. The player(s) who are last after a scoring round get to discard and replace any of their cards. This mechanism can be used very effectively in such a way that a player refuses to score for a City and in doing so: gains a card and, if they are last, get to replace any of their weaker cards. In close games this techniques can be used very effectively to catapult a player into the lead in a later scoring round. But be warned you need to time your run from the back very carefully to make it succeed.
The game finishes when one of the building components runs out: Towers, Palaces, walls or houses, and usually in that order. Another wonderful aspect of this game is that collectively, players can control when the game ends. The game could end in as little as 15 turns if every player placed a wall and two towers. Conversely, I’ve seen many games where players were able to keep the game alive by building Cities around a disappearing resource so that the resource: tower or wall etc got returned to stock.
So as you may have gathered, I’m totally in awe of this game. No two games ever seem alike. Sure there are games out there with much deeper strategy in the vein of Caylus. But given how light and fun this game feels there is a surprisingly large number of factors for you to analyse and control. If I were to sum Masons up in two words they would be fun and versatile. Don’t miss out!
P.S. I honestly think the game is far better if you roll the dice before you place the wall. That way you get to place the wall with the full knowledge of the towers and houses that you will be placing around it. The standard procedure of rolling the dice after you place the wall leaves this game open to the criticism of being more luck based.
Mason's is a good game, not a great game. But that being said, I've discovered it strikes a perfect balance between providing enough strategy to keep serious gamers interested and yet is easy enough to learn to play that casual gamers also enjoy it.
The playing mechanism uses luck with the roll of the dice and random draw of scoring cards. But there is strategy involved in knowing how to place walls, towers, houses, when to create cities and when to score your cards.
New players that I've introduced to the game have all had a positive response to it. It will never rank up there with Puerto Rico or Settlers, but is easily as good as Carcassonne for an enjoyable gaming night.