Friday, March 07, 2008

Mare Nostrum: I hardly knew thee

[This post has been edited. See the explanation here.]

MN on Mon Night

Monday night I brought Mare Nostrum. I knew getting it to the table would be an up-hill battle, but I set out with high hopes nevertheless.

After the appetizer of To Court the King, the group was deciding what to play next. Optimistically, I offered Mare Nostrum + expansion.

All-in-all, there was a lot of eye motion, fidgeting, and mumbling. Some rolled their eyes (in exasperation?); others averted their eyes (in embarrassment?); still others closed their eyes (but I think that guy was just sleeping...). Some one mumbled something about having played in the last year. Several others mumbled similar sentiments.

Some one raised the complaint that the last turn of the last game of MN took longer than 3 games of Race for the Galaxy. This statement is wild hyperbole, but it is true the last few turns took a long time.

Summarizing fidgeting, eye-motion, and accusations, Mare Nostrum was not played Monday evening.

MN in context

Extrapolating the furtiveness (to say nothing of direct challenges...), I do not see Mare Nostrum getting back to the table any time soon.

To be fair, I cannot blame anyone. A mighty river of games flows through the SABG, and any game showing the slightest flaw deserves to be quickly washed downstream to the math-trade delta. Why bother to play a game w/ any flaw when the world is saturated with untried games?

Our last game of MN took about ~4 hrs, and it had a...let me say "strange" ending. Speaking for myself, I enjoyed the last game quite a bit despite some issues. As Atlantis, I managed to build up my empire w/o being seriously attacked. There were land attacks, sea attacks, gods, trading, and more. MN provides some civ-like aspects, some military aspects, some diplomacy, some trading. There's some "attack the leader," but it's mitigated by the fact that a wonder/hero never goes away. To cap it all off, the different players have significantly different abilities. This kind of asymmetry is great when it is balanced, and MN seems to be reasonably well balanced.

While it took a while, it was also a learning game for almost everyone. I tried a variant to speed things up, but it was untested and caused a lot of confusion. People claim once the game is well known to the players it takes about 2-3 hours while still offering an epic, civ-like feeling.

While I enjoyed it a lot, it's true the game has some flaws. The ending can be strange, the trading mechanic is weird. I hear that a bad player can wreck the whole game, although in our one play that wasn't the case, IMO.

Woe is me

I enjoyed the game. A lot.

Those who didn't like the game have moved on to others.

Alas, it requires at least 4 players, and preferably 5-6. I doubt I will be able to muster this number ever again.

I suspect it will molder in my closet until I break down and consent to a trade.

Of such bitter moments is life built.

The King is dead; long live the King

Luckily, what the SABG taketh away, they also give. I doubt I can get this back to the table, but I know that many other games await me. Before Mon, I had never even heard of Fast Food, and it turned out to be a lot of fun.

Anyone want to play Combat Commander? I still want to try Thurn and Taxis. Then there's my (soon to be) painted BL set. Then there's the latest civ game out there: Through The Ages.

Summing up, I am left with but two parting words:

Game on!

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At 8:12 PM, March 07, 2008, Blogger seanp said...

Don't give up Ted. I like Mare Nostrum. There's a lot of game vetoing lately... I'll keep campaigning for games I enjoy.

At 8:49 PM, March 07, 2008, Blogger Mark said...

I enjoy Mare Nostrum as well. I wouldn't mind playing once work slows down.

At 9:47 PM, March 07, 2008, Blogger Ben said...

Its been far too long since we had a good rant.

At 10:11 PM, March 07, 2008, Blogger Chris said...

I agree that it is difficult to get enough people to want to play MN spontaneously, both because of the time commitment and the fact that not everyone enjoys the game. But this by no means makes it impossible to get it to the table.

Remember, you've already been successful in getting it to the table once, right? It just takes planning ahead. I think with games that take more than 2 hours, you'll have a lot more luck making a planning post and saying, Hey I want to play MN sometime soon, and I need 3-4 other people who want to play to join in with me. That way, you get commitments and people who like the game will be more likely to show up (and you'll know who they are), and they'll be more likely to play since they've verbally committed and have been thinking about it.

I agree, trying to spontaneously start what people consider a "long" game is always an uphill battle. Don't worry- we suggest plenty of games on Saturdays and most get turned down, especially any long ones that haven't been planned ahead.

Don't trade the game, just post that you want to play at some point in the future, find out which group members like your game, and then talk to them to find a time that works for everyone.

BTW, I like Mare Nostrum. Heck, I have a copy myself. So I'll look for MN planning posts.

At 11:55 PM, March 07, 2008, Blogger Raab said...

I have never played MN, so i really didnt have an opinion on that one. I would like to play it at least once. I will see if i can find a link to the rules....

At 9:09 AM, March 08, 2008, Blogger seanp said...

Hey, yeah - there's a strategy - rope in the newbies before they know better! :)

At 1:48 PM, March 08, 2008, Blogger Simon said...

Long games are always hard to table. I also find myself enjoying the shorter, medium to light fair more and more these days. I guess it all depends on that golden work to fun ratio.

Game on, indeed.

At 10:15 PM, March 08, 2008, Blogger Ted Kostek said...

Ben: I think of it more as a "whine" than a rant.

At 5:11 PM, March 09, 2008, Blogger Rob said...

Now I wish I had read the previous post (ie sans editing...).

Rock band killed the boardgaming star.

At 5:16 PM, March 09, 2008, Blogger Rob said...

You know...this reminds me...

I host a gaming session here at my place every tues or wed night. As usual, not everyone enjoys everything, so eventhough my games have priority (as I'm the host), I do play some of the stuff people bring over....even if I've tried them in the past, and KNOW I don't particularly enjoy some of them. Gotta keep 'em coming back you know...

The issue in this case not only involves particular game tastes, but also factors in game length. Re. the latter, I agree with what's been said already (See Chris above).


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