Maracaibo: A Short Solo Review

Hi all,

I had posted last week that I was really enjoying #Maracaibo solo and asked if I was going to do a little write up on it.  I've never really done something like that before but I figured it might be something I could try.

I've played Maracaibo 5 times solo and once multiplayer so I'm nowhere near an expert but I can do some contrast between solo play and the multiplayer play.  

I will be assuming you generally know how to play the game as I'm just focuing on the solo aspects in this write up.

So let's get started.

Setup

Setting up the game for solo isn't too tricky.  There are few extra steps outside of the usual rules.

The official solo rules allows for one additional player using the flip side of one of the player boards:

Here you see the upgrade disks, a spot for the solo players quests, a spot for the solo players combat tokens, and the rules around their scoring during and at the end of the game.

I found a variant for the game that easily allows for multiplayer automa players as well which I prefer but I thought I'd keep this reviiew strictly textbook.

You also need to pick the automa difficulty by shuffling different action cards together to make the automa deck.  The A level cards are more basic with lower rewards while B and C get progressively better for the automa.  I found Very Easy to be too easy and Medium could go either way so I'd say they are calibrated pretty well.

That's really the big differences for setup. 

Gameplay

The player always goes first and plays as usual.

For the automa you flip over one card from their action decks

The top row of their action cards determines how many moves the automa will make.  However, they only care about city and quest spaces!  This means that depending on the board state the automa can move around the board in 3 turns sometimes.

Then if they stopped on a quest space they pick it up and their turn is done or if is a city they will either place a disc down on it (taken from the automa board) or take a card from the offering.  After that they take the action below regardless of what space they are on.  (The sample cards I have here show get one influence, move the explorer 2 spaces, and take a combat action.)

Scoring

When a boat reaches the scoring section the automa scores the victory point shown on their last uncovered spot on the disc track, and one victory point for each card they have acquired.

At the end of the game they score 5 victory points for each quest they received and also score the influence track as normal.  It also scores extra points if it gets ahead of you on the upgrades or the explorer track.

Story/Legacy Mode

The automa does work with the story mode.  You'll need to be careful to read the rules around how it interacts with some of the legacy mode tiles though.  It ignores some of them but not all.  It does always pick up story quests which can be handy.  I did feel it is a bit fiddly on the story tile aspect and I am pretty sure I have run it incorrectly once or twice.

Difficulty of Running the Automa

Actually running the automa during the game isn't super difficult.  It doesn't worry about money or cards so it keeps it quite simple.

I did find myself looking up things quite a bit initally and it was especially unclear to me how things worked when it hit the stop spaces at the end of the route.  I definitely think the rule book could have been a bit more clear. 

However, after my first game, a bit of rules looking up online and then my second game I now feel just fine with how it operates.  That initial hump to overcome was maybe a bit steeper than it could have been but it wasn't too bad.

Overall Solo Impression

Overall I enjoy the solo mode with a couple of caveats:

1) The automa really whips around the board.  It is more than possible for the automa to reach the end of the run in 3 turns.  This is especially true if you are working with the starting board state.  Now this does mean the games go faster but for me it also feels that I am missing out on being able to build up a good set of cards and tactics.  (I can get a game in in an hour and a half including setup using the 2 automa variant no problem.)

2) The penalties for not keeping up with the automa on the explorer or upgrade track feel high to me.  You really can't afford to focus on one area and neglect either of those two areas unless you can find a way to get a LOT of points in it.  The good news is that, at least at the difficulty I am using, it's not too hard to keep up but I could see it feeling constraining.

The one multiplayer game I played definitely felt better as I had a bit of room to breath and really enjoy the possibilities of the game.  (I had to actually try to unlearn some of my solo habits as paying attention to the other players tableaus and strategies was important and I had time to build up a good tableau of my own.)  

However, I am not a big solo gamer and I have already played it 5 times in just over a week.  I think the big reason for that is the story mode.  Sure, the story isn't the best but it introduces new quest locations and tiles that create interesting tweaks to the board.  I could really see just randomizing the tiles for a regular game even as some of them add a lot of variety to the board and just freshen it up a bit.

Recommendation as a Solo Game Purchase

While I definitely prefer this as a multiplayer game and highly rate it for multiplayer I do recommend this as a solo game purchase.  Doubly so if you like a tight game that will really force you to eek out every little bit of value in your turns.  Triply so if the thought of making small adjustments to the board between games makes you excited to give it another go to see what difference it makes in the next game!



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38 days ago

Very enjoyable review, thanks!

Supporter37 days ago

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

38 days ago

For never doing a write up before you sure are pretty good at it! I especially liked your inclusion of pictures throughout. Glad to know it works well solo once you get over that initial hump learning the rules. Would love to give this a try someday. Thanks for the write up!

Supporter38 days ago

That was pretty enjoyable to do although it's been a long time since I took an English course so my clarity probably needs some work.  

I definitely find that photos help quite a bit.  I learn best through reading but supporting visuals help a lot.

Thanks for giving me the push!

38 days ago

Nice write up!  I enjoy this game quite a bit and the legacy tiles added more to the game than I initially thought they would.  I would like to get through the full campaign someday with a group.

Supporter38 days ago

I definitely agree on the legacy tiles.  I thought they would be just gimmicky but I was unaware that they actually adjusted the game board and that seems to have made all the difference to me.  

My group has a LOT of games so I'm not sure we would necessarily play through a whole campaign but now that we have the initial game under our belts I could see just playing a game setting up with whatever point I'm at in the story.

Thanks for your input!

38 days ago

I think one of the things I liked about the legacy tiles was being able to set up the one's I liked and not feeling like I HAD to stick witht the main story or anything.  The next game I play we will probably set up a few of the city and towns we like the most and play that way.

 

Supporter38 days ago

That is very true.  You could refine it down to a favourite setup or make it completely random or somewhere in between.

I do think that having more stops on the board might improve my "being rushed" feeling.  Maybe after I finish the story line I am doing I'll start tossing some stuff in.

Supporter36 days ago

Thanks for the write-up!

Even though they're different games, how would you rate this vs. #Great Western Trail? Also, where would you place this against a lot of the other euros you've played? (I see lots of great ones on your play logs :D)

Supporter36 days ago

Good question. 

It obviously has some parallels with GWT.  In both games you are moving around a rondel.  In both games you have a side track (railroad or explorer) that is separate from the main track.  In both games you have a hand of cards and you can use those cards to activate places you land on.  In both games you take discs off your player board to give yourself new powers.

But there are major differences in how those things work and how tightly they integrate in to the other systems.

Looking at it overall I would say that GWT is a lot tighter than Maracaibo.  At the start of GWT you can decide to try a strategy and generally speaking you will be able to follow it.  In Maracaibo the strategy you follow will depend a lot on the board state but mostly the cards in your hand.  You can try to get the cards you want by cycling through cards...if you get the cards that let you do that...but for the most part you are going to get the cards you are going to get.  There is a 60ish (?) card starting deck you always play with and then 40 cards are added to it from the 100ish or so extra cards.  Every card you need for a strategy you would like to try might not even be in the game.  The cities are also randomized so you can't be sure which city "powers" you will able to activate during the game.   When you fight you can't be sure which country will be the best bet for you as it depends on the fight chit you pull.

So to play optimally you need to take in to account the cards in your hand, the city powers on the board, and what the other players are trying to do as well.   It's a lot more tactical and wide open.

So to rate the two of them I think I enjoy GWT more multiplayer.  I like the tighter aspect. #Great Western Trail: Rails to the North balances out all of the strategies really well.  For solo play I like Maracaibo better because every game is its own thing and I love to see how all the bits and pieces come together.  The story mode helps with that too.  (It's not shakespeare but it works.)

Now for all the other euros I have played lately.  That's a tough one.

If I had to rank the euros I have played in the last month for multiplayer I'd probably go with:

  1. #Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun
  2. #Gaia Project
  3. #Maracaibo
  4. #Tawantinsuyu: The Inca Empire

Remembering that I've only played Maracaibo, Tawantinsuyu, and Tekhenu multiplayer once each. 

I've only played Tekhenu and Maracaibo solo and I think I like Maracaibo more but it's pretty close. 

 

Supporter35 days ago

Thanks for the detailed reply, I see that you also love those hard to pronounce games from Tascini/Turczi :)

I'd like to try some of these games with my wife but each of them have looked intimidating from at least one angle, whether it's high complexity, possibly long setup or long gameplay, fiddliness/lots of moving parts, etc. I tend to appreciate games that nail simplicity in gameplay/flow that are still deep in decision making, so I'm not sure which of those games would go the best for me and my wife (I haven't looked far into any of those, except Gaia Project). I've also been eyeing on #Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar

Supporter35 days ago

It's kind of hard to say what would work best.  I love all kinds of games so I'm up for anything and I've played enough that I am comfortable knowing I'll get how to play...eventually.

I think #Teotihuacan: City of Gods is my favourite out of all the "T" games but it's also quite fiddly on initial play. #Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun, #Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar, and #Tawantinsuyu: The Inca Empire all have their fiddly bits.  

I think your instincts are correct in that the play of Tzolkin is probably the least fiddly so it's a good place to start 

Supporter34 days ago

I made the order yesterday! We're going to make content around me painting up those gears. Then of course, do a playthrough and review

Supporter31 days ago

Very cool!  Yeah some people really do up the gears hard core.  I'm probably going to leave them be to be honest.  Too many other things to paint right now!

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