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Long-awaited update to the amazing original 2-player version, Isi. With better production and a rules update, Morisi now accomodates 2, 3 or 4 players.
In the land 'Morisi' the players try to connect cities (tiles) by their trade routes. These routes go through 5 types of land (tiles). Before players can build trade routes, they must acquire knowledge about the trade in the different types of land (symbolized by coloured blocks). To get that knowledge, the players travel through Morisi. Players can use this knowledge to build trade routes (symbolized by sticks in your colour). By connecting cities by trade routes players get more power in these cities (symbolized by the player's colour houses). The goal is to get the most houses in the biggest cities and to have houses in many different cities."
I played Morisi at Essen and I really enjoyed the game. No luck element, short playing time (no more than 45 minutes) and a good replay value due to the 'Catan-style' board. I do not rate it five stars because there is maybe not enough player interaction. But if you like this kind of little entertaining game that plays well at 2, 3 or 4 players, you will appreciate this one.
Morisi plays even better (smoother) than Isi, even with two players. Basically the rules are the same. The biggest change is the terrain: hexagons instead of squares. There are more ways to build your roads (two or more roads along the way are allowed at extra costs), so you make a long term planning. And now you can play this wonderful game with more players too. Don't miss this one.
At a glance, Morisi looks like a simplified, abstract version of Settlers of Catan. There is a variable board of hexagons of six different colors, the colors representing five kinds of countryside plus cities. Unlike Settlers, the overall configuration of the land does not have to be a hexagon. Players' pawns race around the board acquiring knowledge of the land, represented by colored wooden cubes placed on the hexes during setup. With that knowledge the players build trade routes between cities, and in doing so earn houses within the cities. The trade routes are little wooden sticks similar to the road pieces in Settlers, though in Morisi the routes go through the centers of hexes, not on the edges. It is with the houses that the winner is determined at the end of the game.
The game play is an interesting mix of racing and building. It also has a puzzle-like aspect to it: you must plan out your pawn's career so as to get the appropriately-colored cubes for your routes more efficiently than your opponents. It is in one's best interest to act quickly, because the person who lays his trade routes down first has an advantage--in the 3- and 4-player game, it is more expensive to lay down parallel trade routes, and in the 2-player game it is forbidden.
The variable board is a good feature, though it can be a drawback too. It is certainly possible for all the cities to end up clumped together in a corner. It can also happen that routes through one particular land type will be in such demand that the game will end prematurely (once all cubes of one color have been looted, the game is over). Of course, one can edit the starting setup by switching a few hexes so that there is a more even distribution.
Morisi is attractive to look at, moves quickly, and is fairly engaging. I like the game, but I must say that if one were feeling uncharitable, there are some things about it that might draw complaints.
-- Trade routes will spread over each other and crisscross, so there is no real pleasure of having 'territory.' By the end of the game the board is usually a homogenous mess.
-- Beating your opponents to a useful bit of real estate or just generally getting in their way is the extent of player interaction.
-- The scoring system is relatively involved for an abstract game. This situation is made worse by a clumsy translation into English. I am tempted to write a translation of the English translation.
-- Once everyone is up to speed on the strategy (see the Counter review), ties are not rare.
It also must be mentioned that while workable, the 2-player game is a little unsatisfying. After a few plays it loses its charm. The game really needs 3 or 4 players.
Overall, however, if you are intrigued by the concept and the presentation, Morisi is worth getting.
Morisi has nine cities, and five colors of terrain initially filled with blocks of matching color. Choose your pawn's starting space wisely. It moves to an adjacent vacant space each turn, earning you a block, which is then removed from the board. Removing the last block of a color ends the game. You can spend blocks to place sticks in your color, starting either in cities or at other sticks, and ending in adjacent terrain of the block's color. Connect cities with lines of sticks to form trade routes, which score points at the end; cities with the most routes are rewarded handsomely. "More" is never enough in this gentle but immensely challenging game.
It is inevitable that games from big companies attract more attention than games from little ones. We might like to kid ourselves that merit is the sole factor in determining what we buy and play, but we are wrong. Marketing, distribution and the lure of pretty bits all have a major effect on sales figures and consequently on deciding which games get the most attention. It is then from among the games that have been getting the most attention that the prize winners will emerge. This makes Cwali's achievements in the Gamers' Choice awards all the more impressive. Last year their 2-player game Isi made the nominations list in the 2-player section and this year its multi-player follow-up, Morisi, did the same in the main one.
Morisi is a network building game played on a board which the players create at the start by pushing together a collection of "Siedler-type" hexagons into whatever shape they fancy. Nine of these hexagons are grey and represent cities; the other thirty (6 in each of 5 colours) are to be thought of as various types of countryside. The "land" is built with the hexagons face down and the only rule is that by the time it is finished, each hexagon must have at least three of its sides in contact with other hexagons. Experience suggests that slightly elongated shapes play better than those that are too round and also that having one or two "holes" in the interior adds to the interest. When the land is complete, the tiles are turned face up and at that point it is often a good idea to do a little "editing" so as to get the cities reasonably evenly distributed.
The aim is to build "trade routes" between as many pairs of cities as you can and for this purpose each player has a collection of sticks. Placing a stick through the adjacent sides of a pair of hexagons creates a section of road between the two. A trade route is then a chain of such links stretching from one city to another. When a player succeeds in building a trade route, they place a house in each of the two cities. (Claims that Corné did not use his Siedler set when creating this game will not be entertained, but it is pleasing to see that he found a good use for it. More than I ever did.) These houses will form the basis for the scoring at the end.
Building roads costs "money" in the form of wooden blocks, which players move round the board collecting. They come in the same five colours as the countryside hexagons and at the start of the game each such hexagon will contain between 1 and 3 blocks in its own colour.
On your turn you begin by moving your playing piece to an adjacent hexagon (unless there is someone else already there, in which case you skip over them to the hexagon beyond). If there is one or more blocks on the tile you have moved to, you take one and add it to your store. You then have the option of creating a trade route. This, as stated before, is a chain of sticks and it must do one of three things:
The basic cost of placing a stick is one cube of the colour you are building into, but this is increased if someone else has already place a stick across the hex side.
The game ends when either all the blocks of one colour have been removed from the board or when one player has placed all their houses. You then score one point for each house you have in the three most populous cities plus four points for each city where you have at least one house. So the twin aims are to have as many cities as you can in your network and to be big in the cities which end up as the most important.
The game, as you can imagine, involves a lot of racing about as you try to collect the blocks you need to build in key positions before your rivals do. Doing a lot of building in the same area as another player is not a good idea because of the extra building costs -- unless, of course, you get there first, in which case it is a tremendous one. The best general approach seems to be to establish a "hub" in open countryside near several cities and then to connect them all through it. This delivers the best ratio of number of routes established to number of blocks spent. (You can't use the cities themselves as hubs, because routes only score if they are direct. At least, that is my reading of the rules.)
The game is very simple to learn, gives everyone plenty to think about (or if you prefer worrying to thinking, you can do that instead) and speeds along to a conclusion in a time that is perfect for its content. The game components -- standard German wooden bits plus sturdy and nicely illustrated hexagons -- are to the same high standard as the game design itself. The rule book is in but not native speaker English and this will cause you a few double takes where the writer's ambition exceeds his reach, but there is nothing you can't cope with and the game comes with a sheet of clearly illustrated examples to help you. This is a first class game and package. Recommended.