Dale Yu: Review of Meduris

 

Meduris

In Meduris, players try to appease the Celtic gods around the sacred Mount Meduris by building their huts and temples in the right places (to score the most victory points, of course).  The mountain is depicted on the board with a ring of building sites around the outside.  These are grouped into areas that are associated with one of nine specific rune stones.

The center of the board is the resource generating “high plains” areas.  There are four different areas here, and each one makes one of the four things that you will need to build buildings and give offerings to the gods.  In a 4p game, each player starts with two workers, and they will be placed in different high plain areas.  There is a limit of three workers in any given plains area. Each player also starts with one of each of the four goods.  Each player has a screen and all goods tokens are kept hidden behind the screen.

There are also six bonus tiles which are scattered around the ring at the start of the game.  The druid starts in the corner of the board and he has a short path of stepping stones before he enters the regular ring of spaces.

Each player’s turn is broken into two parts.  First is the Small Yield – which is governed by a die roll.  A custom die is rolled which will either trigger production in one of the four high plains areas or it will allow players to gain or lose a resource of their choice.  If a high plain is triggered for production, each player with a worker in that specified field gains a resource for its owner.

Next, the player has the option of three different choices for the second part of his turn.  He can choose to take a Big Yield, Build a Hut or Build a Temple.

In a Big Yield, you first move one of your current workers from an area and put him at the top of the stack in any other area.  Your worker must move to a different area, and there is still a limit of only three workers in any area.  Then, in the area where the new worker was placed; each worker there produces goods – based on their position in the stack.  The lowest worker makes one good, the next up makes 2 goods, and if there is a third worker on top, that one would make 3 goods.  It is possible for a player to have multiple workers in an area, and therefore could get multiple payouts from that area.  Note that at any point in the game, you can trade in any three goods chips as a wild for any good.

To build a hut, you first choose any unoccupied space in the outer ring.  There are two goods pictured on the space, and these two goods are the base cost for the hut.  If the hut is built on its own, you simply pay the two goods and place your hut.  If the hut would be built in a settlement (two or more contiguously adjacent huts), then you pay a multiple of those goods equal to the total number of huts in the settlement.  If you choose a space with a bonus chip on it, you may get to build for free or you might get a victory point bonus for building there.   For example, if you would build a hut that is next to three other adjacent huts – you would be building the fourth hut in the settlement, and your build cost would be four of each of the goods pictured on your chosen space.  You then look and see which of the nine rune stones is associated with the space that you built on – and you take the rune stone that matches from the current owner.  Finally, you move the druid.

When you move the druid, the rules are different depending on where the druid happens to be.  If the druid is still in his starting corner or on the small stepping stone path in that corner (i.e. the first four builds in the game), you simply move the druid forward one space.  However, once the druid is in the outer ring of spaces, he will then move clockwise until he comes to the next hut.  The owner of this hut is then invited to make an offering to the gods.  If that player chooses to make an offering, he pays one or two of the goods shows on the space where the hut is.  If he pays one of the two goods, he scores 1 VP.  If he pays both goods, he scores as many points as there are huts in that settlement.  If he chooses to not make an offering, he loses 1 VP for angering the gods.  If your hut was built on a “Druid Offering” bonus chip, you can turn the bonus chip in to pay for the offering (without giving up any goods).  The druid will continue to move through the current settlement.  As soon as it comes across an empty space or a space with a temple, it stops moving for this turn.  If the druid ever crosses the great river (found near the corner where the Druid starts), there is an immediate interim rune scoring – players score 1VP for each rune stone they currently possess.

If you want to build a temple, you pick any empty field and pay the two goods shown on that space.  It does not matter what the temple is next to, the cost is always the same.  When you build a hut, note that you do NOT get a rune stone.  Finally, just as with building a hut, you move the Druid as noted above.

Courtesy of (Hasematzel) from BGG

The game end is triggered when a player has built his final structure (all huts and temples are built).  At this point, each other player gets one more turn and then the final scoring is done.  When everyone has finished their final turn, the current location of the druid is marked with the die. Then the druid makes one complete circle of the board (coming back to the space just before the die).  At each hut along the way, the owner is asked to make a final offering.  The scoring rules are unchanged EXCEPT that there is no rune interim scoring when the Druid passes the river on this final circuit.

There is a final rune stone scoring though – you score in an arithmetic progression for the rune stones that you have at the end of the game.  If you have 3 stones, you will score (1 + 2 + 3) = 6 points for them.  Temples are also scored at the end of the game.  They score one point for each hut in a directly adjacent settlement.

The winner is the player with the most VPs.  Ties are broken in favor of the player who has built more structures.

My thoughts on the game

Meduris is an enjoyable family game – one that could be used as a nice introduction to deeper strategy games.  It does tread an uncomfortable line trying to be both accessible to younger/less experienced gamer while retaining interest for veterans – though I believe this is really the goal of this entire line of games.  Karuba seemed to do this balancing act the best of the initial year’s games.   This year, the family games seems to be more firmly on the family side of the line.

The individual turns are pretty simple – roll the die and then pick one of three actions to do.  Early in the games that I’ve played, the bonus tokens act as a magnet, and the earliest builds almost always seem to be in those spaces seeing as you get a bonus in addition to your hut being placed.  Per the setup rules, this is a fairly decent way to start the game with six huts spread out around the board – this also distributes 6 of the rune stones right off the bat.  I suppose there is some question about balancing as the bonus stones are not evenly distributed in a four player game – but I haven’t really done the math to confirm nor deny that.  This is obviously not an issue in a two or three player game where the number divides evenly into the number of players.

Once this second round of setup is complete – the game begins.  Generally, the game board is filled with isolated huts – as the single costs generally prove to be attractive.  At some point, the board will become full enough that either villages start to be formed or people take the plunge to build a temple in a somewhat promising spot.  I like to try to get at least one temple down early because the mere presence of my temple usually stops people from building other temples nearby – for if they do, we will both end up scoring lower bonus scores for our temples.

The midgame is filled with interesting decisions of whether its better to take a juicy resource payoff and stock up for the future or to spend resources now to lock down a particular position on the board.  In many cases, the location of the Druid will influence your play as it is fairly rewarding to be able to build a hut in a good spot and then instantly get a nice payoff for a double good sacrifice!

As the game nears the end, there is a lot of resource grabbing – partly because you generally need fairly large multiples of costs in order to build near the end and partly in setup for the grand finale when you need to have lots of resources to pay for offerings as the druid makes a final circuit of the board.  In a 4p game, you have up to 8 huts which means that if you intend to score at every offering, you might need as many as 16 different resources to fully maximize your score.

And this is where the game falls apart with veteran gamers.  In all three of my recent plays, the game has stalled at the end.  The issue is that the costs are quite high to build a hut near the end of the game, and if all players only have huts left – there is nothing really forcing them to build.  In fact, the way the game ends seems to discourage building.  As the rules state, once a player triggers the game end – usually by building his final hut at a cost of 8, 10, 12 or more resources – each OTHER player gets one more turn.  The player who triggers the end has therefore built a very expensive hut costing many resources and now has no chance to gain more resources to pay off the Druid on the final lap.  So, the cost of missing out on some sacrifices must be at least balanced out by the bonus you get from this final rune stone.  What has happened is that the game stagnates into a situation where every player is trying to grab as many resources as he can, and only when a player has sufficient goods to not only build his final building AND pay for all his offerings will the game end be triggered.  There has actually been one game where no player could guarantee all the scoring, but all the goods were gone from the supply.  It is a somewhat unsatisfying midgame strategy that has played out in all of the recent games.

The rule book is written in an interesting format.  Each section of the game has its own “page” – but this page folds out in varying lengths depending on the length of rules needed for that section.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a rulebook with this sort of varying page width.  The cover of the rulebook clearly shows the different sections of the game with indexes for where to find that page.  While the arrangement is novel, it’s not the best setup for leafing back through and trying to find a particular piece of information – as you have to really scan the front and back of each folded leaf.  Furthermore, the confusingly complicated tangled flowchart they have used to try to explain the Big Yield action is a disaster.  I am truly surprised that an editor/developer saw this page of the rules and felt it was the best way to explain the crux of the game.  To their credit, there is a nice one page summary of all the important rules near the end of the rulebook, and once you play the game, this is really the only page you’d need to refresh your memory or answer any questions.

All that aside, taken at face value, the game is a simple enough family strategy game.  The basic rules are easy to learn (once somebody in the family deciphers the maddening flowchart in the rules), and the game tends to flow well.  When playing with non-gamers, the game doesn’t seem to “lock up” as much in the end game, and it is a good game for that audience.  Thus far, for more veteran gamers, it doesn’t seem to hold the same appeal.

 

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Joe Huber (1 play): I disagree strongly with Dale’s assertion that Meduris is an enjoyable family game.  In my experience, family games work best when the theme engages the players – and I doubt the theme of Meduris will be appealing to many families.  But the game itself is pleasant enough – if very abstract.  Not a bad choice for those who enjoy such games, but not one that stands out for me.

 

Craig V (1 play): Meduris has a really attractive table presence thanks to its colorful board, chunky wooden bits, and three dimensional cardboard components. The resource gathering, building, and offering mechanisms are interesting and work well together. Nothing is complex about the rules, but the game lasts too long overall and I strongly dislike the end game whereby the player that triggers the last round doesn’t get a final turn. This rule, combined with the lack of incentive that is sometimes associated with a similar end game condition in other games, frustrated me so much that I have no interest in playing Meduris again.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it.
  • Neutral. Dale Y, Joe H
  • Not for me… Craig V
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About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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