The Voyages of Marco Polo - First Impressions

Owner
Gameplay

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!

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15 months ago

It sounds like you really enjoyed the game itself, but it was the production that left you wanting. Did you have any qualms with the gameplay?

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Owner15 months ago

Yup, that's basically the sum up. I felt it even more after playing Tuscany again last night. Stonemaier Game is just leagues above most publishers in that regard. Just talking about the box and the main board alone, it feels like Viticulture's would last at least 2-3x longer when it comes to wear & tear.

But besides that, I like it and don't have any complaints yet! The gameplay is definitely a strong suit and it feels very well developed/streamlined. Will have to see how I'll feel about it after getting the full experience with my wife :)

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15 months ago

I respect that, Components are not what make or break a game for me, but if it will allow the game to last longer and see the table more I am for it. 

Excellent! It sounds similar to #The Castles of Burgundy with the dice rolling and manipulation but with more to do with them which is cool. 

Owner15 months ago

Huh, had some strange thing happen where it posted my comment three times so i deleted two of them (and looks like that didn't work out too well either haha)

And yes, it sure helps make the experience better but I'm good as long as the main thing delivers. Castles is one that I've looked into quite a bit--still want to give it a try some day but it seemed like Marco Polo would have more satisfying player interactions for my wife!

15 months ago

Always things to improve right??

Totally! I have found Castles to be a low interaction efficiency game for sure. There is some denying people of tiles or different majority tiles but it is a lot of multi-player solitaire...really fun solitaire but it functions that way for sure. Plus it is ugly lol, the artist in you will probably hate it lol. 

Owner15 months ago

Well... they certainly could've done better hahaha

I think I like the art direction on the app version I saw while googling. Looks more lively and inviting:


15 months ago

That definitely looks more vibrant! There is also a 20th anniversary edition that just came out thats much more colorful too, pretty cluttered though. https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/271320/castles-burgundy-20th-anniversary

Owner15 months ago

I remember seeing everyone hating on the new edition hahaha. It's still an improvement though!

15 months ago

Lol Yes, I have been seeing a lot of shade being thrown at it. Can't win them all!

Premium User15 months ago

Nice review. I like Marco Polo quite a bit. It offers a different strategies and I like the dice/worker placement mechanic as well.

Owner15 months ago

Have you upgraded anything on this one? I feel like I'll like this game more and more but my only complaint so far is the low manufacturing quality. The box cover is so thin that one of the corners already came ripped. And the map seems like it'll get their after repeated usage :(

I would've gone for Marco Polo II but it seemed a bit too much for our first game of this type and I wanted a purer/more streamlined game.

Premium User15 months ago

I haven't, but I don't find it to be as disappointing as you seem to find it. I thought it was fine.

That being said, I do have an extensive set of realistic resource tokens and different sets of metal coins that aren't assigned to a single game, but I pull out and replace as I play any random game I can use them in. It isn't quite as convenient, but it is cheaper than replacing tokens in every single game I have.

Owner15 months ago

That's handy! I'm curious, which of the games you've played/owned do you think had the most impressive quality of components?

Premium User15 months ago

When I look at my shelf, almost all the games I think have great bits are because I upgraded them. Here are some thoughts though.

A well made Crokinole board is probably the pinnacle of greatness. Beyond works of art like that, Pitchcar is pretty impressive. In more traditional board games, Ceopatra, with all of its pieces is pretty amazing, especially when it is painted (like mine). Another amazing game is Star Wars Queens Gambit. I have that one fully painted and it is really something else.

Most new deluxe games are impressive. Puerto Rico, Ticket to Ride 10th anniversary, Suburbia etc are all pretty impressive.

Owner15 months ago

I just had to look up every one of those games! They all look super impressive. Do deluxe/designer's editions tend to be mostly major boosts in visual/tactile/component quality?

I'd love to have a Crokinole board.

Premium User15 months ago

They do. Just look through Kickstarter and you can see. They also tend to include some or all of the expansions. And they are all expensive. And I can't seem to resist them in any meaningful way.

Supporter15 months ago

Thanks for the review and I think I'll be adopting the (+) (-) in the future.  Great idea @Skurvy5

I love rolling dice but also love the chance to mitigate bad rolls.  One of the reasons I don't like Catan is if the rolls don't go your way you can't play.  I don't mind losing and having bad luck in games as long as I can still try to adjust my strategy and actually play.

Owner15 months ago

As much as I like dice rolling, Catan's way of handling was pretty poor haha. Feels almost like a party style Euro where it gets everyone riled up. In addition to the mitigation I mentioned, you also have the option to (1) pay a camel to reroll one die, (2) pay two camels to change a die's value by +/- 1, and/or (3) pay three camels to hire a black die as an additional worker for that round.

Supporter15 months ago

That’s me! A pioneer in the field of board game reviews!

Supporter15 months ago

(+) Awesome formatting for reviews

(+) Reviews from those who are playing the games and aren't professional reviewers

I really like to see what the regular every day person has to say about it.  Because I'm one of them.

Supporter15 months ago

(+) Ignores all the fluff!

Supporter15 months ago

Also I like the format for the review! Seems familiar!

Owner15 months ago

Yup, came across a pretty good one so I had to use it! haha

Supporter15 months ago

Great review Phil! The game looks nice on the table. I love when there are OP player powers. That makes the game so fun!

Owner15 months ago

Thanks! There are 12 total and they're all vastly different (found this on a BGG thread):

  • Rashid (no dice rolling)
  • Matteo Polo (white die plus free contract)
  • Mercator (free resources)
  • Kubilai (start in Beijing)
  • Johannes (teleport from oasis to oasis)
  • Wilhelm (drop off trading posts while moving)
  • Nicolo and Marco (double meeple)
  • Berke (use occupied spaces without paying)
  • Altan Ord (resources for trading posts)
  • Fratre Nicolao (gifts)
  • Khan Arghun (6 city cards)
  • Gunj Kokochin (2 dice placement spots)

Supporter15 months ago

Glad to hear you mostly like it. I hear travel is really tight in this game, how do you feel about that? 

I think I would like this game, if for no other reason than the asymmetrical player powers. 

Owner15 months ago

I like a good challenge so it's a plus for me. Even if there happens to be a strategy that involves minimal traveling, I'd much rather enjoy the game and play it the way it's intended to be :)

Supporter15 months ago

Makes sense to me. 

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