Author Topic: Current expansions review for The Voyages of Marco Polo  (Read 568 times)

Offline franks

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Current expansions review for The Voyages of Marco Polo
« on: May 07, 2018, 05:05:11 PM »
My previous CarcC review for The Voyages of Marco Polo was on Nov. 16th, 2017. Since then we’ve played 22 games and it’s obviously become a top favourite.

http://www.carcassonnecentral.com/community/index.php?topic=3631.msg53822#msg53822


Box cover of the base game.

What follows are impression-reviews and overview of the three separate expansions for the game. All the new aspects these bring into the base game are modular and can be combined as desired. I won’t go into an in depth descriptions or high analysis but I’ll highlight what has stood out for us.

The New Characters: (2015)
The first mini-promo - this should still be available at Cundco.com


BGG listing photo

This is a single punchboard sheet that contains:
•   4 New Characters
•   4 New Contracts
•   1 Small Town Bonus tile
•   15 Gift Markers

The stand out feature here, not surprisingly, is the new Characters. They vary in their ratings as to who are considered as the ‘best’ characters in the game and the added choices are a nice addition to the mix.

The new character, Gunj Kököchin*, is generally considered one of the stronger choices in the series so far. Her ability has two dice action spots on her player tile that only the owner can use. These give the abilities of gaining bonus resources and the even more powerful ability to travel one spot on the board without using a movement action space on the main board.

*A 13th-century Mongol princess, betrothed to an allied Khan in Persia, by the great Mongol Great Khan Kublai. The Khan she was to marry died before her arrival so married his son instead. Marco Polo gave an account of the princess’s travel to Persia.


Gunj Kököchin
This is one of my wife’s favourite characters to play and achieved her personal high score of 92 points.

This mini expansion also includes, The Gifts. These are little ‘treasure’ tokens of either, goods / resources and or bonuses that can be gained (from a pile or a draw bag) in various ways throughout the game. It’s had some criticism for its random element; one time likened to the Dice in Stone Age. I think these concerns are a bit hyperbolic. While it adds a bit of randomness, I quite like reaching into the bag of gifts/treasures not sure what you’ll get; they are usually helpful though not always an outstanding benefit. While the main game is exalted for its elegant and tight design there is still lots of innate randomness in the placement of the City and Town bonus cards. I’ve seen the random set up effect the game in favour of players that happen to need to be on a given path with a better combo of bonuses. Anyway enough about that, I like this little expansion all the way around.

 
 
‘Gifts’ tokens – draw bag not included

____________________________________________

Agents of Venice: (2017)
The first full - boxed expansion


As the 13th century draws to a close, Venice is known around the world for its famous bazaars

The main features of this boxed expansion are a new sideboard of Venice, (another way for players to explore) and the Companions Module, where players gain temporary benefits. On top of those two main features, the box includes components for a 5th player along with some added wood resources.

There are also 6 new contract tiles that have super high values. These are just shuffled with the tiles of the base game and of course there are a variety of new Characters, each with interesting abilities.


All available characters from the base game and expansions
There are now a total of 18 to choose from and an almost endless ways to explore the game. If your thing is variable player powers, this games for you.


The Venice board sits on the side of the main board and is easy to incorporate into the game; it’s also an easier way to get travel bonuses. I say ‘easy’ but this still takes one of your precious few action dice and in a 2-player game only one person is able to travel on this board in a turn, (barring a couple of specials abilities that can mitigate this).


Traversing the Venice board for bonuses

The other main feature of this expansion is the Companions. Special tiles are laid out at the bottom of the main board and are accessible to all players. To take a companion, a player would have to commit one of their die then chose one of the six available tiles. One can then use that ability but only on the turn in which it was taken.


Companion bonus tiles - publisher photo

Wanting to explore this aspect of the game and the expansion, I chose one of the included Characters, Papa Gregorio X*. His special ability is to take a new Companion of his choosing each round, (without needing an action). All players have access to Companions and its possible to have more than one companion in a round. The Companions give you temporary and fairly powerful specials abilities, like paying less to travel and a way to gain a good amount of Gold that otherwise doesn’t come as easy, (just to name a couple). With him I’ve been able to achieve some of my best scores in the game and finally broke the 100 pt mark. So far the Companion module seems to have the biggest impact in game play, in my mind, in a positive way.

* Papa Gregorio X - As soon as he was elected in 1271, Pope Gregory X received a letter from the Mongol, Great Khan Kublai, remitted by Niccolò and Matteo Polo, (also featured characters in the game), following their travels to his court in Mongolia. Kublai was asking for the dispatch of a hundred missionaries, and some oil from the lamp of the Holy Sepulcher. The new Pope could spare only two friars and some lamp oil. The friars turned back soon after the party left for Mongolia. The two Polos (this time accompanied by the young Marco Polo, who was then 17 years old) returned to the Mongol Empire and remitted the oil from the Pope to Kublai in 1275. (Wikipedia)

I’d especially recommend the ‘Agents’ expansion for players that are already familiar with the base game. It doesn’t add that much more complexity but it does add a fair bit more to consider on each turn. The game is prone to AP, (analysis paralysis); at the best of times and with the expansions this could be an issue.

I would also add, if you like or prefer the tight nature of original base game this might not be for you. So far we’ve found this expansion makes it a little easier to get points and resources, while giving you more to think about. While I love the original game, I don't mind easing the stress. For our play style I like addition of this expansion.

____________________________________________

The Secret Paths of Marco Polo: (2018)
Mini-expansion - Easter promo HiG, (Cundco)

•   16 Secret Path cards
•   One Character Card
•   One city bonus marker
•   Instruction cards


Publisher photo


Secret Paths my Photo
English rules are included, with great quality cards.


As a basic game play review, one of the main goals of the game is to traverse the map board to get destination bonuses and complete destination objectives. It takes precious time to get across the board to arrive at large and small city destinations.

When I first read the description of short cuts between routes I was concerned this could impede the integrity of the base game. These cards do give nominal short cuts that can improve your travels … IF … and only if the situations falls into place.


Both game boards, (base game and Venice), set up showing routes, small city bonus tiles and large city bonus cards.

The only way to get these cards is for the Secret Path bonus tile to appear randomly on the board. There are more bonus tiles than small cities at set up so it might not even show up in the game. The bonus tile that activates the Secret Paths could show up anywhere on the board and there are some far off destination where you might not even get to in a game.

If you are able to activate the bonus tile by visiting that city you are then able to draw one of the 16 available Secret Path cards at the start of each turn and at the beginning of each following round. You can use this Secret Path at anytime (still using an action) and there is no limit on the amount of these cards you can have in your possession.

Looking at the available cards, these ‘short cuts’ destinations tend to already be fairly close to each other. They might only save a few movement spaces but these can have impact in a tight game. As well, you can move back and forth between these destinations.

As you draw a card and depending where you are on the map board, the card you draw might not be of much use. The designers knowing this would likely be an issue, give you the option to sell cards to a discard pile for the resource shown at the top left of each card. This way you will get a bonus either way.


Sample Secret Path card and newest Character

We’ve only had a chance to play with this set a couple of times and while it didn’t affect my games at all, my wife was able to draw a number of the Secret Path cards throughout the game. She did use a couple of those cards for a helpful short cut and sold the other cards to get a good number of resources. With little experience this seems an innocuous inclusion to the game and Karen enjoyed the inclusion of the mini expansion.

A neat thing about all of these expansions, they come with Characters that incorporate the added features of the new aspects to the game. In this case, the newest character, Andrea De Longjumea* gets two Secret Path cards at the start of each round. He can keep one card, each round of the game. This might be the best way for this mini expansion to shine but with so many great characters already to choose from, he might only be worth the occasional novelty play. I did seen one post on BGG where the author thought that this was a useful character to play, (We have yet to try him out).

* Andrea De Longjumea – A 13th-century Dominican missionary and diplomat, one of the most active Occidental diplomats in the East, (from Wikipedia). Each of the, now 18 characters, are based on actual historical figures.

____________________________________________

To wrap this up!

I enjoy the immersive elements these expansions add to the game, so they are easy inclusion for us. The added variability gives new paths to explore and keeps the game fresh.

One point on the negative side, this is now a bit of a beast to set up. It takes a good 15 minutes, to get it all out on the table and slightly less to put it all away.


Full set up with some added flair

I’ve managed to get all the expansions in the base game box, except for a few components. Because we mostly play with two, I’ve taken the other player resources out of the main box and now store them in the Agents of Venice box. Of course I’m taking extra space in the base box with sleeved cards, metal coins and a few other pimps.


Custom resources I’ve added to the game

Once again, I recommend playing The Voyages of Marco Polo and if it’s a hit with you and your group, consider adding the expansions along the way!

Linkback: http://www.carcassonnecentral.com/community/index.php?topic=3948.0
Franks

Wanna play Carc? Can we add just one more expansion?

Offline Decar

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Re: Current expansions review for The Voyages of Marco Polo
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2018, 07:43:57 AM »
Been off of the forums for a few days - very busy with work and other commitments - great to see this article on my return.

I'll have to read it properly tonight though - Thanks a lot Franks!

Offline Decar

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Re: Current expansions review for The Voyages of Marco Polo
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2018, 11:52:15 PM »
Finally got to give you that long overdue merit!

A nice summary of all the expansions for Marco Polo. I would really like to give Marco a runthrough, for a traditional Euro it has always appealed. It sounds like these expansions don't damage the game and add to the decision making which is good to hear!


Thanks for taking the time franks!

Offline franks

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Re: Current expansions review for The Voyages of Marco Polo
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2018, 12:23:54 PM »
Decar, thanks for the recognition. I enjoy getting these thoughts down and crafting the final piece. It’s no secret I’m fond of HiG titles and recently played one of their latest releases, Valletta, (I might just give a short overview of that at some point).

Cheers,

Offline Decar

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Re: Current expansions review for The Voyages of Marco Polo
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2018, 12:28:26 PM »
Sorry it's taken me so long to reply!

There are a lot of HiG titles im interested in, but find it hard to know if theyll be enjoyed, so your insight is really helpful!  Valletta didn't get much coverage here in the UK but it was certainly intriguing.  I recently watched a playthrough of Majesty but thought it fell short on complexity vs luck - I hear the expansion helps this but I'm not sure expansions should fix games!

Offline franks

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Re: Current expansions review for The Voyages of Marco Polo
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2018, 01:15:14 PM »
No worries Decar   :)

BTW, nice report from UKGE!

In a nutshell, (and IMO) Valletta has some flaws but is miles better (for me), than Majesty. The later has gone over ok when our girls visit and we want a super light game but there was little there to keep my interest. The very base idea is good but it seriously needs an expansion out of the box.

HiG is an interesting publisher, I hope their better days aren't behind them!!

Edited to say, Majesty for the Realm doesn't have an expansion to date that I am aware of.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2018, 01:18:56 PM by franks, Reason: finish idea »


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