I’m continuing on my quest to read as many rulebooks as possible, and two really caught my eye last night; and both have immediately jumped onto my Essen watchlist. I have liked many of the games from MEBO (previously known as Mesa games) in the past – Panamax, Caravelas, and Arraial from last year’s fair.
So, a little about the games. Porto is succinctly described by the designer (and this is taken from BGG):
Porto, the iconic city in the north of Portugal, is known worldwide for Port wine and the beauty of its historical center.
Porto is a fast-playing, competitive tile-laying game driven by card play. On your turn, you either draw cards or build floors. If you draw cards, the total value of the drawn cards cannot exceed 3. (Cards have values between 1 and 3.)
If you build floors, you MUST play two cards from your hand. The number of one of the cards determines exactly how many floors you will build, and the color of the other card determines the color of those same floors. Thus, with only three cards in hand, you have six different possibilities for building; with more cards, your options increase even more! Building gives you the possibility of scoring points but also opens new possibilities for your opponents because buildings do not belong to any player. You might start a building that can be completed by other players, and it is this risk management that makes Porto a very interactive game in which paying attention to the moves of your opponents is crucial.
Build floors, gain bonus points by completing houses or by constructing in the most crucial spaces, fulfill public contracts by building at crucial moments and by chaining combos to make a very profitable turn, shape the city so that it complies with your private contracts in order to maximize them at the end of the game, but above all, capitalize on opportunities opened by your opponents on the board. That said, in Porto any missed opportunity will lead to a new array of possibilities.
The game end is triggered at the end of the round in which a certain number of buildings have been completed. The player with the most points wins.
—description from designer
So, from that, it sounds like a medium weight strategy game. What do I like about it so far?
1] The board art – sure it looks a little busy at first (and this picture from the publisher’s website maybe is a bit too zoomed out to see) – but the detailed artwork seems to embody the bustling harbor and the tall buildings on the water remind me of the beautiful sights I took in when I last visited the city – almost 20 years ago! Looking at the details in the rulebook, i’m looking forward to really getting a chance to examine the small things on the board – tourists, boats, graffiti – whatever the artist has managed to slip into the picturesque view.
Here is a picture of the actual view – which you can tell served as the inspiration for the tall buildings in the game that share a common wall…
2] Interesting card plays – the game itself looks to be elegantly simple. On a turn, you can either draw cards or play cards to build buildings. The cards have colors and number values from 1-3. When you draw, you can draw as many cards as you like so long as your total value of cards does not exceed 3. I think this will make for lots of interesting decisions. Then, when you play cards, you must play a pair of cards – one for the numerical value (which tells you how many stories you plan to build) and one for the color (which tells you on which building you will build those stories).
3] interesting scoring rules – in the example below which is pasted from the rulebook – I love the way that one single play has so many things to consider! Yes, I know that this might lead to potential AP, but I generally love this sort of puzzle – where you have to look at the conditions on the board to figure out how/where to best play, and then also having to take into consideration the public and my private goal cards!
4] A solo variant. I do like games that give you a chance to explore the game on your own, because sometimes it’s just you and a rainy afternoon, and it’s fun to challenge yourself with a game.
5] the art style – as i mentioned above, the board is beautiful. The other thing that I really love is the way the graphic designer has co-opted the traditional
The other release from MEBO that caught my eye was Carrossel. And, I’ll admit that this is in part to the alternate spelling of the title. Because my OCD brain keeps wanting to see it spelled Carousel. However, a bit of Google-fu has put me in my place, as this is simply the Portuguese word for a merry-go-round.
To use the description from the game’s page on BGG (which is unclear if it is from the publisher or from the hand of W. Eric Martin):
Four brothers own an old merry-go-round (carrossel) and are working together to sell as much tickets as possible while at the same time competing to see who sells the most tickets by the end of the day!
With charming components and artwork Carrossel aims to bring up to 4 players together around board that rotates between each play, and where everything is done simultaneously with and almost zero-downtime: Players choose, reveal, resolve and score everything single play at the same time without ever becoming chaotic.
Carrossel is a family abstract strategy game for up to four players. Players play on the side of the board that rotates to meet them each round. At the beginning of the game, client cards are drawn and placed in front of each ticket booth in sets of three. In each round, all players simultaneously choose and play one of their carrossel cards, numbered from 1 to 12, and one of their carrossel tiles that come in twelve tiles of four different colors/types, plus two wild tiles. The carrossel tiles are simultaneously placed on the spaces indicated by the carrossel cards. Players are looking to get three carrossel tiles in a row that match the three corresponding client cards. Whenever they achieve this, they place client stand-ups on each of them to show that those tickets have been sold and give the cards to the respective players who earned them (the owners of the carrossel tiles).
While it is possible to complete a sequence with only your own tiles, most sequences will be completed by using tiles from other players. Making sure you get more points out each sequence than any other player is a strong path to victory. Also there are 4 endgame objectives that will score additional points to those who complete them.
The game ends when either one player cannot perform a legal play or the client deck runs out. The player with the most total victory points (clients + objectives) wins.
So what’s so cool about this?
1] A rotating board! Yes, that’s right, there is a double sided board (one for 3p, one for 4p) that rotates around. Each turn, you will see two portions of the board. Is it a gimmick? Sure – but I’m a sucker for this sort of thing, and I think there could be some interesting strategic plays that come up from the rotating board.
2] nice puzzle in laying tiles – so the thing here is to try to get tiles on the board to match up to the cards in front of your screen. You have a limited set of numbered cards (which tell you in which numbered space you can play a tile) so you can’t always play where you want. However, you are allowed to use tiles laid in an opponents portion of the board, so there look to be plenty of strategic opportunities here
3] cards look to add the needed complexity in strategy – from reading the rules, the base rules seem quite simple. Simultaneously choose where to play, and then each player sees if they can score. Then, the cool part about the board rotating and then scoring again. If it were just trying to line up tiles in the right order, I think it would be simplistic. However, the added challenge of scoring bonus points for putting your own tiles in specific places or collecting specific client cards increases the difficulty. Furthermore, the client cards all have special abilities which can help you be a bit more flexible in your moves.
4] short game time – so, this looks to be a light to medium game, and the rules state that the average game time is 30 minutes. That sort of equation is right in my sweet spot as of late – I love games which give me enough to think about but can be played in the 30-45 minute range. Last year, The River was in this same range, and I adored it for the same reason. Of course, YMMV – but this seems to be the sort of game that goes over well with my various gaming groups at home.
So, both of these games are on my short, but ever growing, watch list for SPIEL 2019. I hope to take an early demo of them at the fair and then I can report back on how they play!
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor