original German edition
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Medina is an old Islamic city in northern Africa with interconnected buildings, colorful domes, narrow streets, and a mighty city wall.
The year is 1822. After years of being tortured by sun, wind and sand, Medina, the great city set at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, looks a bit shabby and rundown and needs to be rebuilt. As the players work together to rebuild the majestic palaces and the crumbling city wall, the cobbled streets once again carry the running feet of small children as their elders stroll through the markets filled with exotic goods from all over the world. Thus, life returns slowly to the old city as it again becomes the great city of Medina.
Medina--a treat for all! The beautiful components and simple rules belie the interesting strategies the game provides. Players will want to play Medina over and over for the joy of participating in the rebuilding of this beautiful city and for the challenges the game's strategies provide.
Having played this game over 30 times, with 3 and 4 players, and even with 2 players using the official variant, I think it is about time I wrote a review for what I now consider to be one of the best games I have ever played.
The premise is simple enough: all players are working together to rebuild the ancient city of Medina from scratch. The board is a beautifully illustrated desertscape that has a square-grid overlaid in the center of it where the pieces will be played. Each player is given the same distribution of pieces as the other players which he then hides behind a screen: an equal number of palace blocks in 4 colors, wall pieces (which award bonus tokens AND blnus points for palaces that touch walls), 'meeple' / marketperson pieces (which give bonus points for each meeple that touches a palace), stables (the only way to expand a palace after the palace has been claimed), and 4 roofs in the player's color.
Now the game begins. Your turn couldn't be more simple: place any two pieces. But, as with any tile-placement game worth its weight, this game is fraught with difficult and important decisions throughout! First of all, you may only claim 4 palaces. And there are 4 colors, so each player must claim one palace of each color. Each block the palace is one point for the owner. The catch is that there are also bonuses for have the largest palace in a color, with different colors haveing different values and therefore creating oft-fierce competition for say, orange (4 bonus points for largest), and little competition for gray (1 pt for largest.)
Walls are simple: you may place a wall next to any other previously wall piece (all walls start at the corner watchtower pieces), but walls from different corners may never join -- they must always have a 'gate' (one space between them.) Every wall piece that touches your palace gives you an extra point. There are bonus point tiles avalble for walls too (the idea being the prestige for being the person entrusted with watchtower duties), with varying values which makes some corners much more important than others. Who gets those tiles? Whichever palace was the most recent one to touch the wall from that corner (and each building may only claim it once.) This means that having palaces on the edge, but away from the corners, makes for the best, but also most risky positions to score bonus points from. Also, walls are often used to waste time while trying to see what your opponents will do with their pieces.
'Meeple' aka marketpeople aka 'conga line' are little wooden men that form one continuous line in the city representing the busyness of commerce. Like walls, each meeple touching your palace gives you an extra point -- but that doesn't mean you can use the line to try and curtail an opponent's expansion plans, or to ensure that the conga line stays far away from their building and meaders next to all of yours!
But the main part of the game revolves around the placement, expansion, and possession of the 'palaces'. Palaces are constructed with good size wooden pieces that give the board a very pleasing visual as the game progresses. A palace is a collection of orthogonally connected palace pices of the same color. The only rule for placing palace pieces is that once a certain color palace has been started on the board, all further palace blocks of that color must be added to that palace until that palace is either claimed by one of the players or has no more room to expand.
So when is it wise to claim a palace? Well, that all depends. On what? On everything! On how much space is left on the board, on what palaces your opponents have claimed, on whether or not you (or they) have palace pieces), whether or not that palace can be expanded with stables, whether by claiming the palace you can ensure the starting position of that color's next palace (make sure it's lousy so they can't get many points from it!)
So you see a good sized brown palace (5 blocks = 5 points) and so you decide to claim it. For the rest of the game, you are not allowed to claim any more brown palaces. So you are going to try and make sure that your opponents' borwn palaces are smaller, allowing you to have the bonus tile for largest brown building. That is, unless you want then to use their time and space to try and steal the brown bonus from you so that you can save your blocks and stables for to take the orange bonus points. Or maybe you don't care so much about largest building bonuses -- maybe you'll try and pull in extra points by try to claim the wall watchtower bonuses, and by using the walls and marketline to generate more points for yourself. The best part is that you are going to have to stay flexible and react to things that are happening on the board. Are the other players fighting for largest orange? Let them, while you focus on developing other parts of the board or work on making expansion difficult for them.
Stables are invaluable in that they are the only way to expand a palace after you have claimed it. For this reason alone they would be precious, but also because, like everything else in this game, they can be used to limit your opponents expansion plans.
Do you like colorful wooden bits? Check. A game requiring flexible strategy? Check. Beautiful illustrations? Check. Simple ruleset? Check. A game that requires all players to play well? Check. Manageable duration, say 45-60 minutes? Check. For me, there is nothing to dislike or even be indifferent about with this title. It is wonderful. There is a huge element of chicken involved as players try and feel out how many pieces their palaces will need to be the largest, and there are times in the game where you are desperate for your turn not to come, not wanting to have to decide if a 5 unit orange palace is good enough to claim or if you should focus on anything else and let the next guy grab it.
This game is tense. And tight. And tough. And tricky. And I enjoy it immensely. I play this things so much I think I may want to grab a second copy. This is a gem of a game that seemed to get lost in the shuffle (though it won 2nd place for the DeutscheSpiele Priese!) Honestly, the first time I played, I wasn't really wowed. It tooks a few playing to really understand how well this game played and how rich the payoff is for playing it. And slowly but surely, all my friends are coming around to it and enjoying it as much as I do (even my non-gamers friends and my mother!) The amazing visual presentation sure helps a lot in this regard. Get one quick before they are gone!
Medina earns a five star rating on several fronts. First off, the components are excellent. Wooden palaces, walls, stables, domes, and 'inhabitants' as well as thick colorful cardboard scoring tiles come in a hefty box, and all are well done.
Next, the game itself is very simple to grasp, much harder to play well. You must choose two wooden pieces each turn to play onto the board, representing the rebuilding of Medina. Four colors of palaces, plus the other choices of walls, stables, and inhabitants. If you want to claim a certain palace, you must play one of your 4 colored domes. You can only claim one palace of each color.
The trick is knowing when to claim a palace, as all players can (and usually do) help build palaces, regardless of whether they have claimed a particular palace color not. As long as you have the pieces, you can play them. Indeed, at times you may have no choice but to play pieces that add to a palace, which in turn may help another player claim a larger palace than your own!
Needless to say, the game is intense at times, requires guile and skill, and the ability to plan ahead. No luck in this game either. It's all up to you, the player.
Points are awarded for largest palace in each color, adjancency to walls, stables and 'inhabitants' (which represent markets), as well as who has the palace connecting last to a corner tower which have varying point values.
Medina plays fairly quickly and is sure to entice you into playing it again and again. Each game is very different from another, it has no luck involved at all, and you get quality components too!
No doubt Medina will rank near the top of my favorites list for a long time.
Get the game, build a city, and you will certainly be glad you did!
Five stars, well deserved.
The visual appearance of a game, I think, is exceedingly important. Occasionally a good game can get away with plain, ordinary components, but its always better when a game looks as good (or better) than it plays. For one reason, it helps draw people into the hobby. Seeing a fantastic game being played can often bring a crowd, and its good for the hobby. Fantastic components often also help with the theme of the game. I bought Medina (Rio Grande Games, 2001 Stefan Dorra) based solely on the components one hundred sixty-nine wooden building pieces.
Is Medina as good as its components suggest? I found it a fun game, with a slight poker-type element. Others dont like it as much because of the lack of instant gratification when playing. Ill have to explain a bit more, starting with the details of game play.
Medina is a three to four player game. Each player, at the start of the game, receives a screen in their color (yellow, blue, red, or green), and fifty wooden pieces (three players) or forty-one pieces (four players). These pieces include 4 domes, of that players color, 20 or 24 palace pieces in four colors (brown, gray, orange, and black), 8 or 10 wall pieces, 6 or 8 inhabitant pieces, and 3 or 4 stable pieces. A board is set up in the middle of the table. The board represents a city and is composed of a square grid that is 11 x 16 squares. Fifty-eight rectangles (wall spaces) surround this grid giving the board a total of 234 spaces. Four palace tokens, with values from one to four, and four tower tokens, also with values one to four, are placed next to the board. Each player hides their pieces behind their screen, except for their domes, which are kept in the open in front of their screen. The youngest player places one of the extra inhabitants on a space on the board, then takes his first turn. Each player takes a turn following in clockwise order.
On a turn, a player must place two of their pieces on the board. Each piece has some restrictions in placement and benefits for placing it.
- Palace pieces: The first palace piece of each color may be placed anywhere in the city, as long as it does not touch orthogonally or diagonally on any other palace piece. Once the first palace piece of a color has been placed all remaining palace pieces of that color must be placed adjacent to the same color, until the palace is finished. Once the palace is finished, another palace of the same color must be placed elsewhere in the city.
- Domes: A dome may be placed on top of one of the pieces of a palace. The player who places the dome owns that palace and will score points for it at the end of the game. Once a dome is in place, the palace is finished.
- Stables: Stables may be placed adjacent to any palace piece, becoming part of that palace. Once placed, no other palace piece may be put down that is adjacent to that stable.
- Inhabitants: The inhabitant on the board at the start of the game is the market. Any inhabitants added during the game must be put at either end of the market, adjacent to only one other inhabitant piece on the board. If there are no legal spaces for inhabitants, then a new market may be formed by a player placing an inhabitant on any empty city space on the board.
- City walls: These are the only pieces that may be placed on the outskirts of the city. Any city wall must be placed either adjacent to a tower, or another city wall. Also, at least one space on each side of the city must be left open to form a gate.
Whenever a player completes a palace of a color, they get the matching palace tile of that color. They only receive this tile if their palace is the largest of that color (obviously the first person gets it easily). Whenever a player completes a palace that is adjacent to a city wall, that player claims the matching tower tile, even if another player holds it, regardless of whose palace is larger. Once a player cannot place any longer or runs out of pieces, they are finished with the game. When all the players are finished, the game is over, and scoring occurs.
Each palace scores its owner one point for every piece in the palace. Also, each stable attached to that palace adds one point. If a palace (or stable in the palace) is orthogonally adjacent to a wall, one point is scored for each wall piece touching in this way. Inhabitants are scored the same way as walls, but may score points for more than one palace. Each player adds up their points for their four palaces plus the number on any tiles they have, and gets their final score. Whoever has the most points is the winner! (Ties are not broken)
Some comments on the game:
1). Components: As stated earlier, components are what caused me to buy the game. Folks, there is a lot of wood in this game, more than any other game I own (except Carabande). And once the game is finished, the completed city looks absolutely fabulous. The pieces are simple, but look good, and are very easy to handle. I especially liked how the four palace colors clashed well with the four dome colors, eliminating any confusion between colors. The board is nicely decorated, and certainly gives the view of a city in the desert.
2). Rules: Fabulous rules are included in the game. As with any good rule set, this eight-page color booklet includes a listing of components, with pictures of each. Also included is a picture of initial setup, showing what each player should have behind their screen, etc. The rules are very, very thorough, especially on the rules for placement, but they are not very complicated. The game is very easy to teach and learn, although I found that the strategy to playing was not picked up that easily by beginners.
3). Strategy: There is absolutely no luck in this game. This usually causes me to dislike a game, as I like a little element of randomness in most of the games I play. A player is presented with quite a few choices on their turn, but the choices arent so excruciating that turns take a long time, except
4). Bluffing: Its very hard to determine when a player should claim a palace. Should they do it quickly, before anyone else grabs it, or should they wait it out, hoping to get a huge palace with many points. I found that waiting too long caused me to get an extremely poor palace at the end of the game (one piece!). So there is an element of bluffing here. How many pieces should I add to a palace, to make it worthwhile to me on a future turn, but not so worthwhile that an opponent will claim it. Some players have found this frustrating. They do not like setting up a palace, only to have another person claim it. And in a four-player game, six pieces will be placed between each of your turns. Thats quite a few pieces, and that means the board will change quite a bit before a player can place again. I found this an endearing feature of the game. Others, however, found this intensely annoying.
5). Fun Factor: I will admit that theres not a lot of joyous fun in the game, however. The theme is there, but its mostly just layered on top of a nice tile-laying game. The ideas are unique and interesting, but the game is so strategic as to stifle a lot of table talk. Games seem to be extremely quiet, with each player so intently studying the board that they dont talk much. I had fun playing the game, but it was really only from the bluffing aspect.
6). Time: The game isnt very long, and can be finished in an hour or so. If some players determine in their hearts that they will drag it out until all players reach retirement age, the game could slow down, but I found that it moved fairly quickly. Placing only two pieces a turn helped speed things along, and a player doesnt have to wait too terribly long until their next turn.
I have to recommend Medina, for it is a game that I enjoyed. However, I do not recommend it to those who like a smattering of luck, or a lot of theme. The way palaces are placed means that players usually have to place pieces and hope that later it will bring them great gain. Then later, all the work theyve put towards building a palace may go to waste when somebody claims it. This is an edgy feature, and not one that everybody enjoys. But for those who like a little risk, and dont need the instant gratification of placing big things each turn will really enjoy this game!
We have played Medina with casual gamers and everyone had a good time. One of the keys in the game is that not all locations are created equal. Capturing palaces from the corners and sides is generally better than those in the middle ... but because of this they will often be capped sooner meaning that the ones in the middle can grow larger and be more valuable ... unless you've run out of room to build up the palace ... or until someone runs out of pieces and the game ends. In essence a game of choices (or in many cases weighing immediate choices against future potential).
I could see where playing with people who were excessively serious about the whole thing could be frustrating as more than half the pieces you play can feel like a difficult and meaningful decision. But this is the sign of a well-balanced game where individual moves do matter.
One variation we have used is to have each player place one piece at a time (rather than the 2 in the rules). This will slow things down, but changes the flavour of the decision making in an interesting way.
Finally, great components. I'm sure this is enhances the appeal of the game for the casual player.
Bottom line: I would recommend this one.
I play this game after I played Torres for many times. When I first heard the rules explination from my friend, I think this game is something similar to Torres.
Before the game, each player will get the same number of blocks, and during each turn each player can only place two blocks into the board. The game ends when all the player completes all the four building, or no extra building can be built. When the game ends, players count their building and sum the score. The one gets the most score is the winner.
Torres, in some situations, similar to this game. First, players gets equal number of blocks, and every turn, players can only place two blocks, with some action points given. Torres plays with three turns, but this game plays in one tur, so there is some difference between this two games.
If you enjoy Torres, I suggest you to buy this game as their game system is very similar. If haven't play Torres before, I also suggest you to buy this game for its simple play method and very attractive component.
Medina has a certain 'chicken' element built in. When do you cap your buildings? Do you add one more block and then someone else caps it? That is fun, but very unnerving. And since you only get to place two pieces, do you extend the people chain, and can you control where it goes? And when do you extend the walls, since the last one touching it gets all the points? The game looks like a joke, but it's really hard to optimize.
By mistake, we misread a rule during our maiden game, and had whoever capped a colour throw out the rest of tiles in that colour. It was fabulous, though not an approved game variant that we know of. The game is fun with either rule interpretation.
Why only 4 stars then? It can be dry. It can stress you out. It won't appeal to a wide audience. You won't play it over and over again. It may give you a headache. :-) But it's very well designed, and you get a real sense of accomplishment when you pull something off. A gamer's game.
I had the pleasure of playing this new Steffan Dorra game twice at the recent Gathering of Friends convention in Columbus, Ohio. I immediately pre-ordered a copy as I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Medina is, at its heart, a tile placement game, but instead of flat, 2-dimensional tiles, the game uses impressive three-dimensional wooden pieces to represent the palaces, roofs, walls, towers, and people. This really makes a tremendous difference in the overall experience and enjoyment level. It also creates quite a spectacle at the conclusion of the game when you step back and survey the completed city.
The theme is the rebuilding of the worn and tattered desert city of Medina. Somehow, the city has been wiped clean by the harsh, blowing sands of the desert, so players are starting from scratch. Each player receives palace pieces in four different colors (the number of pieces varies depending upon the number of players): wall pieces, stables, roofs (one in each color to match the palaces) and 'meeples' (little appendage-challenged people).
The game is really rather simple. On their turn, a player simply places two pieces onto the board... no more, no less (unless they can't legally play a piece, which is VERY rare). The restrictions on placement are actually fairly easy to learn:
1) Palace pieces: A palace piece can be placed just about anywhere on the interior of the board (NOT on the wall spaces) IF a palace of that color has not already been started. If that color palace is already under construction and has not yet been claimed, then any other piece of that color MUST be placed adjacent to that palace (adjacent is considered orthogonal and NOT diagonal... this is important!). The only exception to this is that if the 'under construction' palace is completely hemmed-in and cannot expand any further, then a new palace of the same color may be started elsewhere in the city.
2) Roof pieces: When a player wishes to claim a palace that is under construction, he simply places the appropriately colored roof piece from his supply onto the palace. No further palace pieces may be added to a 'claimed' palace. A player may only claim one palace of each color during the course of the game, so players must exercise caution and proper timing when electing to claim a palace.
3) Wall pieces: As mentioned, the town was swept clean by the blowing desert sands. Well... not quite. The four corner towers were left intact. Wall pieces must begin at these four towers and expand outward, attempting to eventually surround the town. An opening must be left on each side of the town to serve as a gate. Other than that, the placement of wall pieces is very straightforward and easy.
4) Stables: Each player only possesses 3 stables. These must be placed so that they are adjacent to a palace, preferably one you have already claimed. They ultimately add to the value of a palace and make connections to the wall and/or the Conga line of meeples easier. These are the only pieces which can be used to expand the size of a palace once it has been claimed.
5) Meeples (aka, the Conga line): One lonely meeple begins the game in the city. He represents the marketplace. New meeples must be placed on either end of the existing line of meeples in a fashion reminiscent of Big City. This line can twist, turn and weave around palaces, but the two ends must never meet, kinda like a Brazilian Conga line. Only if both ends of the line terminate may a new conga line be started.
So what are you trying to do with these placements? Score points, of course! Points are only tallied at the end of the game, and are scored in several fashions:
1) Palaces: Players score 1 point for each piece in their four palaces. One point is added for each stable connected to a palace and each wall piece that a palace touches. Plus, each meeple which touches a palace piece (again, orthogonal, not diagonal) scores an additional point. Thus, it is wise to steer the Conga line so that it wraps around your buildings. It is also wise to build palaces next to a section of wall. Combine the two and you have a rich palace, indeed!
2) Largest Palace: This works sort of like the Longest Road in Settlers of Catan. The first player to claim a palace of a particular color receives a token worth 1 - 4 points, depending upon the color of the palace. A player loses that token if a larger palace is eventually constructed and claimed. The player who possesses the largest palace of a color at the end of the game earns the indicated number of points.
3) Tower Bonuses: Towers, too, carry a value of 1 - 4. The first player to connect to the wall section receives the appropriate tower token. However, this token is easy to lose, for the next player to connect to that wall section steals the token from that player. This token can change hands several times during the course of a game. Ultimately, the LAST person in possession of the token receives the points.
Other than some rules which help prevent weird circumstances from occurring, that's about it. The game is easy to learn and easy to play. Still, there are lots of tough choices to be made along the way, most of which involve a question of timing. 'Do I claim that orange palace now, or hope that a larger one will develop later in the game?' 'I want to steer the Conga line towards my building, but if I place meeples, then Jim might place a stable and steal the red largest palace token from me.' 'Do I go ahead and connect to the wall now, or wait until later in the game and try to be the last one to connect to it?' Players are faced with these and similar dilemmas throughout the game. I've said it a thousand times, but it is this constant avalanche of tough questions and dilemmas which usually endear a game to me. Medina possesses these questions in bunches.
Still, the game does have its potential flaws. For one, it can easily suffer from the Weakest Link syndrome (also known as Fossil-itis). It is VERY easy to take advantage of placements made by the player on your right. So, if that player isn't careful, you can easily swoop in and make some very advantageous placements. Thus, it is a game wherein experienced players may have a bit of an advantage over newbies, so if you are playing with a group with mixed experience, pay careful attention to the seating order AND give advice freely to the newbies in the early stages of the game. Make it a 'learning' game.
Second, and I don't necessarily see this as a flaw, but some do: as the game progresses, it often becomes one of exercising 'delaying' tactics. Often, you are simply trying to place pieces which will help your opponents the least. Some have complained about this, but I find it an interesting twist which requires a you to plan for this potentiality. Again, planning and proper timing are essential.
I guess you can tell I like the game, can't you? I do. I'm finding that the recent Nrnberg crop is the best in a long time. Wyatt Earp, San Marco, Capitol, Medina... all have been to my liking, while many others I have not yet tried are beginning to hit the shores of the U.S. and are receiving decent reactions. My biggest problem is that ALL of these games are designed for 4 players, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to get 4-player games to the table due to the number of attendees at our weekly sessions!
Still, even with this purely personal problem, the game was a must-buy for me. It offers challenges and choices which are not readily present in many other games. It somehow feels 'new'... which is a good thing!
This game has lots of solid, well-made, colorful wooden pieces. It is a joy to open up and has a heft factor in the same league as Roads & Boats. Great components. (Although my favorite recent game in terms of components is still Schrille Stille.)
The game itself is pretty much an abstract strategy game of placing and claiming. As such, it is a pretty good game; and if I were more enthralled with abstract strategy games, I would probably have given this game a three star rating. Please adjust the rating according to your own tastes.
This game has kind of the same feel as [page scan/se=0170/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Manhattan, as you build up structures and claim them for points. But whereas in Manhattan you have to participate in the building in order to claim a high scoring structure, in Medina you can just look at a palace that everyone else has built, and claim it. It's yours now, for good.
And that's pretty much how it goes. If the player before you has built enough for a palace to reach critical mass--where you think it is at least as big and high scoring as any other palaces of that color that will be built in the future--you add one more piece and claim it. If you carefully choose who you are sitting to the left of, you can get some very good palaces.
It's an interesting game--slightly long for what it is--and I will play it some more. But the lack of control, especially in a four player game, results in it not being one of my favorites.
The first thing you notice about this latest game from Stefan Dorra is that it contains the biggest and best collection of wooden bits to come your way since the building bricks that kept you quiet when you were a toddler. "Viel Holzmaterial" it proclaims on all four edges of the box and "lots of wooden pieces" is certainly what you get. They represent palace buildings, sections of city wall, roofs, goatsheds & people and with them the players rebuild the city of Medina.
The board shows a 16 by 11 grid surrounded by a border, which will be the site of the new city wall. On the grid itself the buildings will be grouped to form palaces, some of which will have goatsheds as outbuildings. The people will be placed to form the market area and the roofs used to denote ownership of the various palaces.
Palace buildings come in four colours and each palace will consist of buildings in just one colour. By the end of the game, each player will own a palace in each colour. The palaces will then score points according to size, number of outbuildings, adjacency to the city wall and adjacency to the market. There will also be bonuses for the largest palace in each colour and for the "wardenships" of the four towers at the corners of the city wall. The player with the most points is then the winner.
At the start, each player has four roofs in their colour (blue, green, red, or yellow), buildings in each of the four palace colours (black, brown, grey and orange) plus walls, goatsheds and people. Everyone has the same initial selection. On your turn you play two pieces on to the board and this is where we have the first major departure from what is the norm for such games: building is a communal activity. Once on the board, palace buildings don't belong to anybody, leastways not to begin with. They pass into ownership when one of the players decides that a palace is now valuable enough to be worth having and places one of their roofs on to it. No further buildings may then be added to the palace, though goatsheds still may. The problem posed by the game is therefore how to ensure that you end up with the desirable residences and it is not an easy one to solve. You are only allowed to own one palace of each colour and only one palace of each colour can be under construction at any one time. The second palace in, say, orange will not be started until the first one has been claimed. When do you make your bid for ownership? Leave it too late and someone else will step in before you; move too early and you will be stuck with a palace less valuable than ones that will be built later (and which you will be forced to help build).
The people will be placed on the board in a long ribbon representing a market lane and the obvious aim is to have it running past your palaces. Each person that is adjacent to one of your palace buildings or one of your goatsheds is worth a point at the end of the game. The same is true of wall pieces and so if your palace is on a site that touches the edge of the grid, you will want the rebuilt wall to reach it. The wall rebuilding starts from the four corner towers and there are only enough pieces to get it just over half finished. So even if you have a palace on an edge site, the wall won't automatically reach it; if you want it to get there, you will have to use your wall pieces to extend it far enough.
When everyone has a palace of a particular colour, buildings of that colour which have not yet been placed are unplayable and are removed from the game. Otherwise players continue to place pieces until they have none left, even though this will probably make for an uneven finish and may mean that you are placing pieces that will boost another player's score and not your own. Working out how best to deal with that is one of the problems which you have to solve. Palaces score 1 point for each building they contain, 1 for each adjoining goatshed and 1 for each adjacent market figure and piece of city wall. There are also eight bonuses to be allocated. Four are for the largest palace in each colour, where for this purpose "largest" means the greatest number of buildings plus goatsheds. The allocation of these is handled using tiles. The owner of the first palace to be completed in the colour receives the tile initially and then keeps it until someone else builds a bigger one, a process that tends to favour the earlier completions. The tiles are worth between 1 and 4 points and the four colours are not equal. Similar tiles go to the "wardens of the towers". There is a tower at each of the four corners of the city wall and the rebuilding of the wall proceeds outwards from these. As soon as a palace becomes joined to a tower by the growing wall, its owner becomes the warden of that tower. The wardenship passes if subsequently another palace comes into contact with the section. So this time the bias is towards later buildings.
Medina is thus an abstract building game, but one where most of the edge is taken off the abstraction by a combination of very attractive components and a scoring system that meshes well with the theme. Abstract games don't normally grow from a theme, but it would be easy to believe that this one did. It is restricted in its number of players to 3 or 4 and plays noticeably differently with the two numbers. The total number of pieces to go on the board is the same in the two versions, but the number of palaces to be constructed is not and this matters, because the building rules require space for a "lane" between any two palaces. This means that the last palaces to be constructed in the 4-player version are more likely to find good sites hard to come by. I think that the 3-player version is better, but I have seen the contrary opinion expressed.
Is it one to buy? Difficult to say, because it seems to be one of those games that appeals strongly to some but is a big turn-off for others. It is still early days, but the "boring" and "fascinating" banners are both already up. From what I have seen so far, the latter camp is larger but those who do dislike the game dislike it a lot. I think that it is very good: a clever game where simple, logical rules produce interesting and delicately balanced situations. My one worry is that it may, in the hands of experienced and overly thoughtful players, turn out to be too dominated by what chess players call "zugzwang". This is the term they use for positions which would be sound if only the player wasn't obliged to move. In a game of Medina, goatsheds, people and walls are pieces that you wish to defer playing until you own palaces which they can benefit. So in the early stages most of the pieces that are played will be buildings. In this situation there must come a point at which someone is forced to play the piece that will turn one of the palaces from "almost worth claiming" to "definitely worth claiming". This puts them in zugzwang. The next player now adds a building and roof to whichever palace has been tipped over the edge and gains not only a palace but extra placement options (goatsheds and the like) for the future. It is an advantage; the question is how much and how permanent. Also, will the future course of the game be just an inching from one zugzwang position to the next? If it is, the game could become tedious. However, this is just instinct and speculation and if you like this sort of game, you will get a lot of fun from exploring the tactical and strategic options that Medina has to offer before deciding that I'm right, even if I am.
And if my fears do turn out to be justified in the long term, you could always try adding a rule to the effect that on a turn on which they claim a palace, a player must play a third piece. This must be after they place the roof and must be the addition of a building to a palace that is unowned and already contains at least one building. (If no such palace exists, the third piece is not played.). This would mean that a player can't just play "building, roof" and then sit back; they have to advance the overall position in a way that is likely to benefit the next player. This won't stop the zugzwang forming, but it will stop it being stable and will mean that not all the advantage from it goes to the one player.