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Maria is a...
Maria is a unique gaming experience, there is no alternative to what this game offers to players. It is a game of diplomacy and negotiation, of aggressive battles and frustrating retreats. Since deals are binding, it means a deal struck with an enemy must be carefully structured and thought through. I love the major game-state changes that can occur through France's reduction of Military Objectives and Prussia's annexation of Silesia. These looming threats put a lot of pressure on the 3-player triangulation, and shift incentives from the obvious narrative setup (Austria is at war with France and Prussia) to form a subtle and challenging metagame that I love so much. Since Austria cannot compete if it tries to fend off both enemies, Austria needs to work out a solution to lessen the pressure one one front. This means the France and Prussia should be fighting to woo political favor with Austria. The biggest challenge to Maria is the pace and high attention demand required from its players. Action stages are quite slow as players count spaces to ensure generals are in supply while maintaining smart levels of maneuvering to position for attacks and defense. Personally, I don't mind as there is so much to think about on a turn-to-turn basis (especially for the Prussian player who acts on two consecutive Action stages every single turn). But this game can certainly burn a player out because of the demands required. A full 12-turn game can easily go 5 hours, but it's rare for a game to go the distance 7-9 turns is much more likely. Regardless, Maria is everything I want out of a game. I would play it every week if I had the willing partners.