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MYKERINOS

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Ystari Games, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 30-60 minutes; $29.95)

 

Ystari Games has been making a name for itself with its maiden and subsequent releases. Ys (featured in the Winter 2005 GA REPORT and one of my favorite releases of that year) followed by Caylus (Winter 2006 GA REPORT) already established Ystari as a company to be reckoned with. With Mykerinos, their reputation has been enhanced.

Mykerinos, a creation from first time designer Nicholas Oury, puts players in the role of archeologists exploring ancient Egypt, all the while trying to gather support from certain museum “patrons” along the way.mykerinos

The archeological digs are displayed as four pairs of cards. These cards are divided by a grid into six equal sections. In the center of each card is a symbol (representing one of the five museum patrons) and, sometimes, a number. The playing board shows portraits of the 5 patrons (along with icons that explain what each patron’s favor can do for you) as well as a floor plan of the museum and a scoring track along the perimeter. Rounding out the components are colored wooden cubes and sets of three circular tokens in four colors.

Players begin with all three circular tokens and 8 cubes in their chosen color. (The tokens are used to chart your score on the scoring track, mark when you pass on your turn and identify which color you’re playing for the benefit of other players). On a turn, a player may begin an archeological dig by placing one cube in any section. (Generally speaking, he may NOT place a cube on a section marked by a pyramid.) On subsequent turns, he may expand his dig by placing TWO cubes in adjacent sections OR begin a new dig by placing one cube in a new section. Although the digs will be scored in their sets of two, as far as placement is concerned, digs “spill over” into adjacent digs so players can easily infiltrate other areas. A player may decide not to play cubes (saving some for the next round) and pass, placing one of his tokens in the “passing row”. After all players have passed, spoils from the digs are given out.

The player with the MOST cubes on each pair of digs has a choice. He may take one of the two cards making up that dig, place it in front of him and flip it over. On the flip side of the card is a portrait of the patron whose symbol appeared on the “digs” side. If a number appears on the chosen card, he will score that number of Victory Points immediately as well. OR the player may decide to place a cube in the museum.

On the edges of the museum, symbols of the five patrons are randomly placed. Within the museum, the floor plan is divided into areas marked with a 2, 3 and 5, the two bordering 2 patrons while the 3 and 5 bordering just one. In placing cubes, a player must first place a cube in a 2 or 3 area before claiming a 5 space. These spaces indicate your influence with a particular patron, something that will be crucial by game’s end.

Once the first player has made his decision, the player with the second most cubes in the dig has the same choice. Should there be a third or fourth player present at the dig, they may, in order, take one of the digs cards (if one remains). Third or fourth place players, however, do NOT have the museum placement option and may NOT place a cube there. After all four digs have been scored, a new set of four digs is set up, players receive 8 more cubes from the supply and the second round begins. But this time, patrons can come into play.Mykerinospcs

On a turn, players may “tap” any Patron card in their possession and use the special power such patronage bestows. Powers vary and include being able to place a cube of your color FROM THE STOCK (not your holdings) in the museum, start a dig with TWO cubes instead of 1, expand a dig with THREE cubes instead of two, place cubes on pyramids and place a cube FROM THE STOCK and not your holdings onto the digs. Again when all players have passed, the digs are scored. There are four rounds to the game but on the final round, SIX digs (12 cards) are up for grabs and when the last of these is scored, the final tally is done.

All patron cards in a player’s possession are worth at least 1 point. However, players who have claimed spaces in the museum multiply the value of each card of that patron they hold by either 2, 3 or 5. (You only multiply by the highest value of influence you claim.) You also get an additional 5 VPs for each set of the five different patrons you have managed to accumulate. These points are added to those already garnered from claimed cards. The player with the most VPs wins!

Mykerinos is at a lower level of complexity than Ys or, especially, Caylus. But that doesn’t mean that the game doesn’t have its own set of challenges. Of course, you have to consider where to place your cubes, cleverly using pyramids to block an opponent’s ability to enter into your perceived territory. But you also have to consider when to stop cube placement. Having additional cubes to place in the next round can be the deciding factor in picking up valuable patron cards. And those patron cards present another dimension to consider.

Patron cards serve a dual purpose. Their special powers enable players to bend the rules to their advantage but timing is important. Knowing when to pull the trigger on a power can be more important than the power itself! But they also are the source for the bulk of your Victory Points. Sometimes, you have to give up a patron card so you can place a cube in the museum. If you neglect that phase, your cards may only score 1 point while your competitors can bury you with cards worth 2, 3 or 5 points each! It’s deciding when to claim or forego a patron card that gives the game more tense moments. (This can lead to a sort of “group think” during play. If EVERYONE is claiming museum areas, then you will feel compelled to claim some museum areas for yourself. If card claiming is the way the game goes, then the museum will stay open longer and your strategy can reflect that development too.)

Mykerinos uses the same dark artwork and miniscule rules type as in the previous Ystari releases. But the biggest problem (or curiosity) is the size of the board. It is way too small! For one thing, the scoring track is too large for the tokens! How did they miss that in playtesting? (We opted to use the colored cubes as scoring markers.) For another, the museum floor plan seems cramped. If a bigger board was out of the question, these problems could have been easily solved by eliminating the pictures of the patrons on the board (simple printed play aids would have served just as well) and expanding the size of the score track and the museum floor plan.

Despite minor cosmetic flaws, Mykerinos packs a lot of decision making in a small package. This is the third solid design from Ystari which solidifies its reputation as a company on the rise. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


 

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