Die Magier von Pangea
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Players try to gather five amulets into their citadel. There are fifteen regions spread around the sea. Players produce amulets on these tiles, sell them to other players and buy amulets for themselves from other players. During the game, amulets become more and more expensive. Production also suffers from a limit: Each region can only carry so many people, when there are more in a region, production stops completely. Magic can be used to switch regions around or to move neutral playing pieces, either to use them for one's own production or the remove them from the influence of other players. The amount of magic that a player can use depends on the amount of amulets he owns.
Players: 2 - 4
Time: 60 minutes
Ages: 10 and up
Weight: 1,018 grams
Language Requirements: Game components contain some foreign text, possibly requiring occasional reference to rules translation. An English translation of the rules is provided.
Average Rating: 5 in 4 reviews
The rules are easy.
The strategy is built in,just add two or three devious friends and the game flows.
No dice rolling takes out a lot of luck.
Actions during your turn can be spent so many different ways that it can keep you thinking about moves you could have done two days later.
A must have for any strategy game player.
I've developed an unhealthy addiction.. I've been systematically buying the majority of the games that appear on the top 1-50 list of this site and slowly introducing them to my family and gaming groups with little to no regret. Most notable choices were Settlers, Acquire and Elfenland.
Based on the already well written reviews and the interesting description of this title I ordered it and was floored by the production quality of this game - the wooden bits are top rate, the tiles are easily as thick as those in Carcasonne and there's a cloth bag for each player.. in short, excellent bits. The only downside was that the board is like most boards, cut and creased in multiple directions to allow for collapsing to fit a small box which lends to a less-than-perfectly flat board despite physical coaxings.
The rules are a quick read as the game mechanics are extremely simple which belies Pangea's incredible depth. You'll be performing mental cartwheels with the wealth of options in no time as the game is about getting the amulets you need, producing goods with your minions all the while preventing your opponents from doing the same. The ability to shift the land tiles around is what tops the cake. You'll feel the tension as folks jockey the land tiles about the board which is mostly preventable by your 'lock-down' spell but you're limited to only an empty water space or single tile and there's almost always more than one way to prevent that player from getting another amulet back to their tower.
Pangea also adds to the strategy by making each player's minions capable of producing goods on only three of the five terrain types which promotes commerce between all the players. Minions produce goods on their native terrain types and any player can buy from any other player's minions so long as they are active on their native terrain. A minion can be inactive if there are a total number of minions on that tile that exceed the tile's labeled capacity.
With the three victory conditions and excellent play balance ( NO DICE!!! ) the end score is always close and the game always plays out differently. Any collector or even initiate of European board games would be well served to pick this one up.
A while back, when this game first came out, I heard a bit about it and it intrigued me. True, the 'wizards and spells' theme is nearly done to death, but I heard that the 'earth' (the board) was made up of land tiles that were arranged differently every play (like Settlers of Catan), and that, during the course of the game, players could actually slide the land masses around! Now I didn't know too much more about it than that, but it certainly piqued my curiousity. So I waited to hear the great response to the game... and it never came. There were one or two rather indifferent comments and that was about it. I was surprised, but perhaps the execution of the game wasn't that good.
Well, flash forward several months. I'd asked around to see if it was going to be released in English by Rio Grande, but apprently Jay decided to pass on it. I kept my eye on the game hoping to hear some good press, and the more I read about it, the more I was sure I'd like it. But the game was published by Queen--a smaller publisher in Germany--and seemed doomed never to be purchased by anyone in our group. But at last one member picked it up. When I walked into his house and saw it, I couldn't take my eyes off it. We played several games that night, but Pangea was the one I was waiting for. One guy left early leaving me and my friend, and I asked him if he would mind if we played it with two players. He agreed.
We pulled out the components and admired the very pretty bits--one of the best looking games I have played, right up there with Tikal and Elfenland. The instructions took a couple of careful readings, but actually were less complicated than they sounded. We got going on the game and what unfolded was very sweet indeed! Basically, on your turn you get one special action for every amulet you possess (minimum 1 action, even if you have no amulets). There are several actions to choose from, all very basic--produce a new minion, move a land mass, etc. You proceed thru six phases, each person particpating in each phase, then you repeat until the game ends. The phases are very simple to do and take very little time--indeed, the game flies by--but one great part of the game is the winning conditions. There are three different ways to win: get 5 amulets, get 4 amulets and 10 goods, or get 3 amulets and 20 goods. Getting 5 amulets seems more glorious, but it is very difficult to accomplish.
Goods are pretty easy to get. Each minion is 'home' on a different type of terrain. If they are on the type of land they like, they produce one good per turn; if not, they don't. Amulets are harder to come by. You see, you have to send out your minions all over the 'earth' to go purchase the amulets from other players' productive minions. And on your way back, you may find that the earth has split in two, or that your minion is suddenly on an island (due to the rather importune intervention of your opponents! =) On top of that, each land tile has a population limit, and if it is exceeded, all the creatures become unproductive, which means they can produce no goods and they can not sell amulets. Wait, I'm not done yet! No matter how many humans play, 5 'teams' are always on the board. In the action phase, one option is to move the neutral players' minions which can help you acquire amulets much more easily. But when you are trying to shift the earth, produce your own minions, and move neutral pawns, you find your action points drying up very quickly.
I've had a chance to play this game more lately and find it great with 2, 3, or 4 players. There is less interaction with two, but also less luck. Playing with more makes for more malice. The 3 different winning conditions mean that you must pay a lot of attention to what the other players are doing. Sometimes getting 3 amulets and 20 goods is a very viable strategy, which means piling minions onto tiles to render the other players' minions unproductive is often necessary. And to crown off the whole game, it plays with very little downtime in about 45 minutes! This game is tense, tricky, and a pleasure to play. I waited a long time to try it out, and the wait was worth it. This is one of the best games I have played, in fact, the best game I've played since [page scan/se=0899/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Princes of Florence, and I highly recommend it for those who want an uncomplicated but tense game. It sure will keep you on your toes.
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This precocious designer's enchanting first game was last year's Advanced Strategy Runner-Up. You must maneuver shifting land tiles through the ocean so that your minions can reach their native regions, where they produce goods. Minions sell goods for Amulets to competitors on the same tile. Amulets are yours only after the purchasing minions have carried them back to your Tower, often through bewildering mazes of tiles shifted by wicked opponents. The more Amulets you amass, the more tiles you can shift, and the farther you can move each turn. Win by delivering five Amulets, or fewer if you have acquired sufficient goods. Burkert's magic continues to enthrall us.
Wizards are fighting to control the Supercontinent. From their scattered towers, they summon armies of minions to roam in search of wealth, or cast spells to shift land tiles across the ocean. Minions produce wealth in their native terrain--mountains, swamps, etc. Wealth purchases magical amulets from other players' minions visited in their native terrains. Amulets are activated when carried back to a wizard's tower across ever-shifting land tiles. More amulets mean more power. By game's end, the tiles are skating around as in a frantic hockey game, with one crazy move following another until a winning combination of amulets and wealth is delivered to a player. This wizard of a designer's first game leaves us looking forward to more of his magical creations.
When I first heard about this game, two things occurred to me. Firstly, the name Burkert does not always provide a game that has been well received in this part of the world and secondly, Queen do not have as good a track record as many other German publishers. I'm pleased to say my scepticism was completely unjustified, as the game is good and the quality is well up to the better efforts of other German publishers.
The game is a race to reach one of three game ending targets. It is also a strategy game, as there are many ways to reach these targets. It provides a sufficient but not overwhelming range choice, so decisions are challenging but not mind blowing.
The setting for the game is a water area occupying a $6\times5$ square grid, with all four corners excluded. Fifteen land tiles feature five different landscapes and are placed face down on numbered squares on the board, leaving leave 11 squares as water and generating a randomly determined land. The types of landscape are mountain, grassland, swamp, desert and forest. These only have significance for production, not for movement.
Each player represents a magician who is trying to retrieve 5 amulets that are scattered about the land of Pangea. Assisting each magician are eight minions, who are drawn randomly from a quality cloth bag. Initially there are only three and each minion specialises in a particular landscape. Each magician only has specialists in three landscapes, but between all the magicians the different combinations of landscape are covered.
An unusual feature of this game is that there is always at least one non-player magician. This ensures that all of the minions can potentially be in play and that the game remains balanced for different numbers of players. I thought this feature worked well and showed that the designer had managed to find a system that created balance in the game, which is often one of the hardest features of game design to do well.
Back to the game. Each magician has a tower and, having drawn the initial complement of minions, selects a land that is beneficial to them. For example, you might draw two minions whose specialism is mountain, so placing your tower in a mountain landscape might be sensible as this aids early production of goods. You also have to consider how close to be to your opponent's towers. Mainly you will choose a landscape with a high number as this makes it easier to produce goods.
During each round, minions who are present in their specialist landscape produce goods. This is the currency of Pangea, and is recorded on a player's chart that also records the number of amulets each player has. The goods are only used to buy amulets from the other players, but the more goods a magician can accumulate, the fewer amulets are required to meet a winning condition. So a player with 3 amulets needs 20 goods, 4 amulets needs 10 goods and 5 amulets needs no goods to make a winning formula.
Minions move one square (landscape) at a time, so it is useful to have lots of them to help you meet your goals, as all of them can move each turn and more minions means more options.
Each landscape also has a number, which represents the population limit and ranges from 2 to 4. If the population limit is exceeded, specialists cannot manufacture goods in that landscape. This is important as in order to collect amulets, one of your minions needs to be present in a landscape where a minion from another magician is matched to their specialist landscape. In the event that the population limit is exceeded, the foreign minion is not capable of producing goods and you are unable to claim an amulet of that type. When amulets are collected (from foreign minions who can produce goods), the minion receives an amulet of the appropriate type. Each landscape has a symbol on it (triangle, square, circle etc.) and the matching amulet marker is placed on the minion. This has to be walked back to your tower for it to count in scoring and you have to collect different amulets.
If the game were only about moving minions one square at a time on a fixed board, there would be little of interest. Where Pangea moves into a higher class of game is through the use of magic. Every amulet collected and then returned to the magician's tower increases the availability of magic. At the start of a player's turn, you can perform one magic action, even when you have no amulets at the beginning of the game. These include drawing an additional minion from your bag, from a neutral player's bag, moving a neutral minion and the best one -- shifting a land tile. This last one means that you can move a tile one square orthogonally and if this is pushed off the board, it wraps around to the other side of the board providing there is water at the other end. (This also means that minions can be transported additional squares and find themselves in a better or worse location on the map.) The world is therefore a sort of sphere, with movement options extended for minions too.
If you have more amulets, then any combination of these actions is possible, and with this number you can adjust the tiles significantly. Once again the designer has thought of a problem, which may have been highlighted in play testing. If two or more players have the ability to move the world around each turn, a situation could develop where it was not possible to win the game as the players ganged up on one another and a stalemate situation developed. The designer has a device to prevent this which I think is clever. Each player has a magic token that freezes the position of that tile and unfreezes at the beginning of a player's turn. As well as overcoming what I think may have been a problem, it is a great device for limiting options for other players. Unwittingly or not, placement of a magic token on some tiles causes other players to moan and groan about screwing up their move. (Or is this just game play?)
Having got your amulets back to your tower, you gain more power and the options for getting more minions out or moving more landscapes grow. If you reach a game winning position, the rules say that there is only one more round, during which your opponents can try to better your current position, as the winning conditions are higher for more amulets. I would suggest that you consider allowing a person to declare a winning combination, as this would permit a player to get more amulets before going into the last round.
If I had a criticism of the game, it is that the best bits of the game (the tile movement) do not last long. It's a bit like an 18XX game, when you get your first diesel, no-one has limited your route and you can just see a tremendous score coming in 3 turns time, when the money runs out. You want this game to go on for longer. The funny thing is it only lasts 60 minutes and this doesn't seem to vary much with the number of players. With two players, it is more tactical, but you play each move quicker; with four players you have limited down time but generally less to do.
As you might have gathered, I like this game a lot. The packaging is good -- not too much air in the box, good box cover and quality components. The game plays (too!) quickly, but this will suit many people who want to play a set of games in an evening. Although the options look daunting, I have found that most people play fairly quickly, as each minion can only do one or two things and you tend not to have many minions at first. Later in the game, when you have most of them out, often some of them are used to block production in a landscape, so the number of options does not require brain transplants. I would thoroughly recommend this game as an excellent one for strategy gamers and look forward to Ralf Burkert's next game. If it is half as good as this one, he will be carving himself quite a reputation!