Anna's been way too busy to play a game with me (whether it's Viticulture or this) so I decided to crack it open and get familiar with the gameplay!
First, for those who are unfamiliar with this, it's a dice worker placement game where players take on the role of Marco Polo (or any of his associates) to establish trades across the Silk Road. Here are my impressions after playing through a few rounds by myself (will be borrowing @Skurvy5's format in his thoughts on Everdell):
(+) The rulebook was overall easy to follow. It probably helped a lot that I'd watched Rahdo's runthrough on this before though.
(+) The theme is attractive. It's a voyage where you travel across the lands visiting different cities, establish trading posts, and acquire goods from the Bazaar in order to fulfill your contracts. My wife likes games that leave you with a sense of accomplishment and I think this will do just that.
(+) The travel mechanisms all seem very tight and I enjoy the tactical challenge to scrape every action available to gather up your resources to go on your journey.
(+) I like playing with dice :D
(+) There are a number of ways to mitigate a "bad roll". For example, if a player wants to place a worker on an already occupied space, that player must pay a cost associated with the number of pips on that worker. So while high value dice are typically better for traveling far, getting better goods from the Bazaar, and etc, lower value dice can also come in handy.
(+) Variable player powers. That's always a plus for me and while it is nowhere near the level of "chaos within order" kind of craziness in #Root's asymmetric warfare, Marco Polo features characters that are all borderline OP to help mix up the gameplay each time. For example, one of the recommended starting characters never have to roll dice, and can hand-pick the value of the dice as he sees fit. There's also another character that's basically like Poseidon in #Santorini, with crazy mobility potential.
(-) Not a fan of the box art. I think the art direction works well for the map and the rest of the components though. But even with the map, it could've been pushed further so that the cities have different designs to them instead of making them all identical. The little details can go miles and sell the theme.
(-) The components for the resources such as camels, gold, etc. come in two different sizes--a smaller size that represents value of 1, and an identically shaped but slightly larger size for a value of 3. Maybe I'll get used to it, but it's hard to distinguish between them when you're grabbing for more. I believe Marco Polo II addressed this by giving 3 humps to the larger camel pieces :)
(-) I can't help but compare Marco Polo to some of the more recent games with higher production value such as #Viticulture: Essential Edition and #Wingspan. They're both games that spoil you to death with component quality (and are at similar price points), and Marco Polo is a bit disappointing in that regard. (Edit: To clarify, my main qualm is with poor manufacturing quality. The box cover/top is flimsy and was already ripped along one of the corners. The main board for the map is also poor in quality and when I fold it, I can easily see the slight splitting of the cardboard layers. It's easy to imagine it falling apart in the near future).
Overall, I'm looking forward to seeing how this goes with Anna and I have a feeling we'll be giving this lots of plays in the future!