Monday, May 1, 2017

The upcoming Marco Polo expansion

Hello again gamers! I have gone a bit silent for the duration of the week, but this thread made me think a lot, and today I will share most interesting thoughts with you and highlight some of the best suggestions mentioned here by other users.But let me answer the big question: What is this about?
Boardgamegeek shared some info about brand new expansion of one of my personal favourite games, The Voyages of Marco Polo. They were quite sparse on details, so we do not know if it's just another miniexpansion or a full-scale big boxed addition to the game.


First of all, let me clarify one thing. I do not believe that this game needs an expansion. I love the miniexpansion and I wouldn't mind adding even more characters, but I think it has little to no mistakes as it stands, as well as awesome replayability. I just do not really see what else could they add in terms of new mechanics to imrpove the experience. However, as always, some people actually came with things worth thinking about. Here they are with a comentary from a Marco Polo enthusiast.

Adding a new map, maybe focusing on China
BGG user flott suggested exactly this and I think it is one of very possible things we might get in the expansion. Game wise, it is an option to introduce new mechanics, which would otherwise prove difficult due to the original map being printed in certain way. I doubt they would just take the original and modify it to suit the expansion better.The theme of China only might seem bad, but the real Marco in fact stayed there for quite some time. Maybe Japan could get involved too, after all, someone was planning an invasion of Japan around 1270, right Kublai? And the arrival of MP is dated somewhere around 1273. Would just make sense.

With a new map in play, I imagine they might make oasis do something, include a minor bonus for arriving there (like take 2 coins, gain 1 victory point, get a camel...) or they could even introduce a separate deck of Oasis cards, which could give you more locations to go to, or even serve as an alternative to contracts, give you a single-use city-like action or maybe just sit there and do nothing as they did in the basic game. I mean, it totally makes sense for an Oasis to be useless, but on the other hand, it might be the only place to get water in the middle of the desert and therefore being a good place to get to or be at. Maybe some kind of bonus in a form of card providing you with minor ability for as long as stay in the particular oasis, then you discard that card (having left the oasis to face the hostile desert once again). I can imagine they might just try to give some real meaning to those mostly worhtless parts of the map. It might still be wrong to travel anywhere else but to a city, however especially the "as long as you stay" bonus could shuffle your priorities while performing certain actions and make poor Johanes Carprini a bit more viable option.

Last but not least, a new map would probably be a good way to introduce the next point to this game.

5-player game thanks to the expansion
A lot of people mentioned this and I thought it was a total nonsense. Then I thought about the new map which could bring a bigger market, more options for travel and other adjustments generally making it less crowded. I really do not have a clue how could that work, as I already feel pretty bad when I go last, even though picking a character first makes up for combined with more money at the start of the game. Bigger problem would be the really crowded map. I know they would probably make more space in the market, but let me just imagine the current map with 5 players. Berke Khan pretty much becomes the single best character, not to mention how strong he is now. Getting camels becomes tougher. Getting money also becomes a bit tougher job, but they are more needed now, as more spaces tend to be occupied. I would love to be proven wrong once this is released, but I do not think this game could work as a 5-player one. Not to mention a neccesity to adjust Mercator or at least make a note of him in the rules (probably a very minor concern tho).

New city tiles, new contracts, new quests
This one comes to mind quite quickly. The contracts could bring a bit more variety to the game, but not really too much (still, making the game less hard to play by introducing some more quite easy to complete yet rewarding contracts, or doing the exact opposite thing might be quite an itriguing idea). New city action could be modifications of existing ones (victory points trade for resources for example), but I would really love to see some new, creative ones, because too often I feel like there are two big cities on the map that include a useful action and everything else seems to either be a complete garbage or an end-game one-timer. To see more contest for the city actions could make it even more fun and could encourage people to travel and stop trying the boring "contract-only strategy" that doesn't work anyway.

The last thing they could introduce are new travel quests. I can imagine something pretty crazy (3 cities a quest for example), but for the most part I think they would only bring new quests to work with a new map. Other than that, there isn't much to add about this.

Variable turn order
Do not know what exactly joeeoj010 had in mind when he posted this on the forum, but I assume he was addressing a long-time problem with this game. If you travel last in a round, you go first in the round after that. Pretty clear, quite fair, isn't it? But what happens if there is a player sitting to your left, therefore playing always after you, who doesn't even travel at all, doesn't try to contest the travel action with his dice. Assuming you always travel last and therefore go first, that inactive player will always go second without any effort, being essentially rewarded for "correct" seating next to you. Player to your right might be regulary fighting for the last spot, travel around the map and so on, but he always goes last. Many games include this and have some kind of an initiative tracker, that makes the order clear and not neccesarily clockwise. This system is the case in Signoria or Egizia and it makes you feel rewarded for at least trying to improve your position over time in both games. I would love to see that in Marco Polo, too, even though this changes the way the game plays a bit.

Those were my thoughts on your thoughts about the upcoming expansion. Now let's just wait to see if some of your predictions turn real in the expansion. Can't wait to see it! :D

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