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MEDURIS

Reviewed by Herb Levy

MEDURIS (HABA, 2- 4 players, ages 10 and up, 75 minutes; $49.99)

 

The Celtic gods demand their due. Players, as settlers of the fertile land at the foot of Mount Meduris, do their best to satisfy those demands by building huts and erecting temples in their honor – and present offerings as well – as they compete for the favor of the Druid gods and victory in the new game from Stefan Dorra and Ralf zur Linde: Meduris

The game board of Meduris shows an aerial view of the land. A circular track shows places where buildings or temples may be constructed and this track is divided into 9 regions, each region with its own designated rune stone. The center of the board serves as the supply center for the resources used in the game: copper (on the mine), stone (on the quarry). wood (on the forest) and wool (in the sheep pastures). All players begin with a number of workers (2 or 3 depending on the number of players) and a supply of huts (8 or 12 depending on player count) and 2 temples. They also start with 1 of each of the four resources and a screen (in their chosen color) which keeps resources out of view of the other players. With six bonus chips placed on spaces on that circular track and the druid piece placed on his temple in the corner of the board, players are ready to build.

On a turn, the active player rolls a special die. This six sided die will show a +1 (awarding EVERY player a resource of their choice), -1 (resulting in a LOSS of 1 resource for everybody) or a +1+1+! roll (with a side for each of the four resource colors) that grants 1 of that particular resource for the player who has workers in the area that produces that resource. (There is a 3 worker limit in each area.) After that roll, the player takes his regular turn and may do one of three things.

The first option is to gather resources. This is done by taking one of your workers, from off the board or from another resource area, and moving it to the new area. If other workers are there, the new worker is placed ON TOP of the workers already at the space making a sort of “tower”. No tower may exceed three workers but you may have more than one of your workers as part of a tower. The player whose worker is on the bottom of the tower receives one resource, the worker on top of that worker receives two and, if there is a third worker on top of him, the player who controls that worker gets 3. (In the family friendly nature of play, ANY worker, even one at the bottom of a stack, may be moved. Nobody is “trapped”.) Or a player may build.

Each space on the circular track (called a “field”) displays icons for two resources. These are the materials necessary to build a hut in that space. A hut may be taken from a player’s supply and, by returning those two resources to their supply areas on the board, place a hut on that space. (If you are stuck without a needed resource, you can hand in THREE of another resource to take the place of the missing one.) A hut placed all alone just costs those two indicated resources. But as spaces fill and huts begin to crowd, the cost for building goes up. If a proposed build is adjacent to another hut, then the cost goes to 2 each of the indicated resources. Would this be the third in a chain? Then it will cost 3 each of those resources and so on.  (If you build on a space with a bonus tile, you will get, depending on the tile, 2 VPs immediately OR the ability to build a hut for free OR be able to make an “offering” to the druid without spending any resources. More on that below.)

Every time a hut is built, the player doing the building gets the rune tile for that area even if it is held by another player. Building sets into motion a few other things as well. First, as a bonus, building a hut in an area allows you to take the rune stone for that area. Second, the druid moves ahead.

At the start of the game, each time a hut is built, the druid advances one space on his path. By the time the third hut is built, the druid has emerged onto the circular track. From that point on, when a hut is built, the druid will advanced to the next hut (or settlement – which is a collection of huts adjacent to each other) and “ask for offerings”.

An offering consists of handing in 1 or more of the resources noted on that particular space. If the player who owns the hut hands in 1 of the 2 noted resources, he received 1 Victory Point. If he hands in both, he receives Victory Points equal to the number of huts in the settlement. (So, for example, if a player’s hut is in a chain of four huts – and they can be owned by ANY player – that player would score 4 VPs in exchange for his two resources.) But, if unable (or unwilling) to make an offering, that player LOSES 1 VP. (Points are charted on the perimeter scoring track.)

The third option available on a turn is build a temple. Temples are placed on any vacant space at the cost of 1 of the each of the resources noted on that space (and this doesn’t change no matter how many huts are adjacent.). No Victory Points are scored when they are placed but they have the potential for a large score at game’s end. Because this is a build, the druid will advance and ask for offerings at the next hut/settlement in its path. When the druid makes a full circuit, an interim scoring occurs with players receiving 1 VP for every rune tile they currently have.

Once someone has built all of his huts and temples, that round is finished and then the final round occurs. At that point, the die is placed at the druid’s current position. From that point, the druid stops at every hut in every settlement asking for offerings. As before, players score 1 VP if offering a single required resource and lose 1 VP is unable to do so and score the value of the entire settlement that that hut is part of is they turn in both. In addition, temples score the value of BOTH settlements on either side of them. For example, if a temple is situated between a settlement of five huts and one of six huts, that temple will score 11 VPs for the owning player. Finally, runes are scored again only, this time, their value increases as the first rune is worth 1 VP, the second 2 VPs, the third, 3 VPs and so on. The player with the highest Victory Points total wins!

While the use of a die roll is often a red flag in games targeted for a more mature audience, this is not the case here. This method addresses the issue of keeping resources flowing and, although this could have been handled in a variety of ways, the die works well to accomplish this with the luck element adding just enough uncertainty to make this game family friendly. The different scoring possibilities work very well too, Offerings score immediately but temple placement can be key. It is not unusual for each temple to score 6 or more points at a time so it is good to hold them in reserve until a space remains that seems to be an ideal link between two large settlements. But temples can also be used defensively, cutting off another player’s potentially large connection to prevent an opponent from getting that big score.

As the game unfolds, players can be tempted to rush to get their huts and temples to the board, dazzled by large amounts of VPs to be had through temple builds (at final scoring) and hut offerings. But it is those hut offerings that can slam you hard in the final analysis in two ways. When the druid makes its final circuit, players are faced with having to make offerings for EVERY hut they have. With insufficient resources, the result is dwindling VP totals. More significantly though is that those final offerings have the potential for huge amounts of VPs gained if not for you, then for your well stocked opponents, an alarming situation that can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory!

Graphically, the huts are large as are the workers with colors used easy to discern and very stackable. It might have been nice to have temple pieces (which are two pieces of cardboard slid together) up to the same quality but this is a minor nit. The board tends to run a bit “dark” and regions, although delineated with borders, are a bit hard to see. Lighter colors might have been helpful in discerning the nine regions more easily. On the other hand, the rules fold out to create a sort of “flow chart” for each potential action which is a brilliant way of presenting all options to players and greatly reduces the learning curve.

Building upon its enviable reputation for games for children, HABA with the release of Karuba and Adventure Land (both featured in the Spring 2016 GA Report) has moved into games for adults. Meduris is the latest – and most welcome – addition to that line. With its solid gameplay, Meduris is yet another winner from and for HABA.  – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


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