mutilingual edition remake of Moderne Zeiten
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Beautiful sunsets, a foreign animal- and plant-world, the scent of fine spices is in the air. The Far East has always magically attracted adventurers, soldiers of fortune, and explorers as well as traders and merchants.
For about 400 years merchants in different countries organized themselves into companies in order to send large shipping fleets to the Far East.
They expected rich profits from these trips, because spices such as pepper and nutmeg were worth their weight in gold.
Batavia takes the players to the Golden Age of the East India companies. Whoever can travel to the stations with the most lucrative goods can get the best varieties and rake in the gold by the end of the game.
Moderne Zeiten is another one of those German games that manages to wrap a tremendous amount of tough decisions and tension into a simple set of rules -- from the card auction to the scoring -- and a cleverly designed gameboard. From beginning to end, players must plot their card display and movement very carefully in order to pursue their strategy, and remain mindful of sudden opportunites and alternative strategies as play progresses. There are sneaky little 'gotcha' tactics for safe guarding your follow-on moves or denying an opponent an important location on the matrix. Usually, the decision by a player to trigger or not to trigger a stock market crash not only makes a difference on that turn, but has impact on future turns as well.
All this puts a tremendous importance on the auction phase. Since the high bid wins all the cards up for auction (1-6 cards, depending on the die roll), it is sometimes worth winning the auction to deny cards to an opponent more than procuring those cards for yourself.
And I've found at least one make-or-break auction in every game where I had to commit heavily in order to be competitive. I once bid $15 million of my $16 million on hand in order to get 4 cards, but after winning with that bid, I was able to trigger a market crash (knocking out my majority in automobile shares), and with my new majority in the shipping industry, I secured both that industry on the matrix (3 victory points) and the majority in the city of Paris (4 victory points), and ultimately won the game by a single point.
It's fun, plays in less than an hour, and the components are outstanding, right down to the little zeppelin markers.
I am more than pleased with Moderne Zeiten, and it has already become one of my favorite games after just four playings.
We had a mixed group playing this one, both casual gamers and strategists. Moderne Zieten (Modern Times) was a hit with all of us. The rules are easily learned in ten minutes or less, but despite the deceptively simple mechanics there are a lot of things to keep track of here. We sort of bumbled through the first session, catching on to many of the strategies by the end of the game. For example, one at first would think that the primary benefit of winning the bidding round would be to acquire optimal stock options, but it's soon apparent that winning the right to move first (also bestowed on the highest bidder) can be even more important.
We found the game to be best with four, very good with three, and a bit too fast with five. The quality of the components are excellent, the rules are easy to understand, the game appeals to both casual and hard core gamers, and MT can be played in less than an hour. In other words, all the ingredients for a five-star game. Hopefully this one will be picked up by an American publisher soon to lower the cost a bit.
I was instantly hooked by the 'bits factor', I must confess, having a weakness for art-deco posterwork and Zeppelins, but the game itself is a nice little number too.
It's easy to explain the mechanics and it plays nice and quickly so it can easily slot in to a spare chunk of an evening. The actual play is one of those examples where you think, 'is that *it*?' in a 'why did I spend money on *this*?' way, but subsequently find out there's a great deal more to think about than you first noticed. First run through it's difficult to see quite what you should be doing, but some sort of strategy should pop into your head soon so it doesn't need long in play before it's any fun (and I'm quite sure the strategic depth is deeper than I've plumbed to date, so it shouldn't wear out too quickly either).
Nothing in the mechanics is especially novel or obviously screaming out how clever it is, but it all slots together very well and is highly playable. The good feelings in play are enhanced by yet another good art job from Franz Vohwinkel, capturing the energy and optimism of the 'Modern Times' very well. And anything with Zeppelins for playing pieces is clearly ahead of the pack!
I've 'only' given it 4 stars because though it's a fine game IMHO I see it as more of an exquisite aperitif rather than a solid main course. But theer's nothing wrong with that!
Each board space represents one of six cities and one of five industries. Everyone starts with eight shares, plus $15. A die roll determines the number of Share cards revealed for auction. Highest bidder wins and distributes his bid money to the other players. Players continue the round with one turn each to draw two Shares or to lay faceup any number of Shares. Control an industry by displaying more of its shares than your rivals can. Permanently claim a City/Industry space by moving your pawn to the next unclaimed space showing an industry you control. A Market Crash occurs when too many shares have been laid: Discard all cards of the Industry leading in Shares, and restart the count.
Play ends when someone reaches Finish. Earn points for ending play, for Industries you control, for the highest monetary total, for having claimed most of a city's five Industries, and for holding a majority in each Industry. Highest score wins. Tough decisions and plenty of stress make this game truly suited for modern times!
In horse racing parlance this one is by Tutankhamun out of Acquire. Conjure up any mental pictures? I thought not, so let's begin with the heart of the scoring system. This is a 6x5 grid in which the rows correspond to internationally famous cities and the columns to important areas of industrial activity in the 1920s -- cars, ships, aircraft, etc. During the game players will place markers on the squares of this grid and at the end will score points for each row and column in which they are either first or first equal, and to make things a bit more interesting the different rows and columns are worth different numbers of points. That is the set of genes from Acquire. Those from Tutankhamun come from the fact that round this grid is a spiral of 30 spaces, one for each of the squares in the grid. Players move along this spiral and "claim" each square that they land on. Movement is always in the same direction and you can't land on a space which someone else has already claimed. Also, again much as in Tutankhamun, it is likely that by the end of the game not all the spaces will have been claimed and how quickly or slowly you move along will be an important part of your strategy.
Movement is determined by shareholdings in the various industries. You begin the game with 8 share cards, dealt from the deck, and during the game will have the opportunity to buy more at auction. However, this accumulation process isn't one way traffic, because whenever the total number of cards on display hits a certain limit, there will be a stock market crash and all open cards in one or more of the industries will be removed. Causing these crashes at times when other people will be hit harder than yourself is an important part of the tactics.
On your turn you may
If you do the first, that is all you do this turn and since that implies you won't be placing one of your markers on the scoring grid, this is very much the fall-back option, the one you choose when you can't usefully do anything else. Normally your choice will be the second one. With this you first have the opportunity of playing cards from your hand to add to the share holdings that you have displayed in front of you. You can play as many or as few cards as you wish and can play them in whichever industries you wish. For each card that you play, the marker on the track that records the total number of cards on display is advanced by one space. That done, you move your playing piece (an engaging model Zeppelin). Here your options are determined by the industries in which you have more shares on display than any of your rivals. If there is only one of these, your piece moves to the next vacant space on the spiral which displays the picture for that particular industry. You then place a large marker on the space you have arrived at (so that after you leave it people will know that it has already been claimed) and a smaller one on the corresponding position on the scoring grid. If you are the leader in more than one industry, you may move to the next space on the spiral for any of them.
If your card play has sent the stock market index past its limit, then, after you have placed your markers, the market will crash. At this point you count how many cards are on display for each of the industries and all those belonging to the industry which has the most disappear to the discard pile. In the event of a tie for first, all the industries involved in the tie lose their displayed cards. The stock market index is then reset to the new total, ready to start rising again towards the next crash.
When everyone has had a turn, the round ends and a new one begins. This starts with an auction in which a die is rolled and this number of shares put up for sale as a block. Bidding goes round the table until all players bar one have dropped out. This person takes the shares and becomes the start player for the new round. The money they have paid for the shares is distributed to their opponents -- much as it would be in Traumfabrik, save that the player just deals it out beginning with their left-hand opponent and continuing until there is none left.
The game ends when one player reaches the "all industries" space at the end of the spiral and then you score your points. The player with most money scores 3 points. For each industry, the player with the most tabelled shares scores 1 point, and 1 point also goes to the player who reached the last space. Then you look at the grid, where the columns correspond to individual industries and the rows to cities. Being sole leader in a column nets you 3 points and you get 1 if you are in a tie for the lead. The rows vary in value, from 1 for New Orleans up to 6 for New York, but the same principle applies. You get the points stated if you are the sole leader, but only 1 if you are only joint leader. The player with most points wins and there is no tiebreaker.
I like this game a lot and, while that wasn't a universal view in Essen, it was with the rest of our party in the hotel. It is just about the perfect length for its content and contains more subtleties than are apparent when it is first explained. These are partly the result of the differences in the scoring between sole leader and joint leader and partly down to what happens in the aftermath of a crash. A final score of 15 would almost certainly be enough to win and so picking up 6 for New York or 5 for London would put you well on your way. That gives you some initial targets and also some things that you need to stop your rivals achieving. However, getting majorities in a row or column on the grid isn't just a matter of banging down the markers. You have to gain the stock majorities and manoeuvre your way to the right positions on the track before you can put your marker where you want it. That, together with keeping an eye on and reacting to what the opposition is up to, gives you a fair amount to think about.
Then there are the crashes. It will be a few rounds before the first one occurs, but after that they are much more frequent. In many games of this "points for first place in a sector" variety, players can build up holdings which will either prevent or deter a challenge. That is not so here, because of the way shareholdings can be destroyed. This keeps things fluid and fluid implies interesting. After the first crash the next is never going to be far away and trying to ensure that it happens at a time and on terms that suit you is another thing that will keep you alert and occupied.
A lot of care and thought has gone into the development of this game and it shows, with the various ideas nicely balanced and with each of them pulling its weight. The result is fast moving and good fun. Plus, there are the Zeppelins.