21 Oct 2013

First Time Playing: "Mascarade" & "Jamaica"

I got introduced to two games the same evening in my table top group, but since the first one was just a quick one, I've decided to do another double feature (despite the games not really having anything in common). The first game is a quick trickster game, where your agenda is to confuse the other players while also trying to make enough money to win the game. The other game I was introduced to is my first ever introduction to a racing game, which just happens to have fun pirate theme attached to it.

So, first game is not only quick, it's also pretty simple to learn and to play. You have a stack of role cards, and each player is openly dealt one. So, in the beginning of the game, everyone knows who everybody is. Then the cards are turned down, and the first four players have to choose another player to swap cards with. However, they don't need to actually swap cards if they don't want to. All that is necessary is to take the cards, put them under the table so that none of the other players can see which card ends up where. Once the first four players have (or pretended to have) done a swap, each following player gets to choose what action to take. This could be to either look at their own card, "swap" cards with another player, or claim to be a role and try to take that role's action.

Now, players may claim to be any role, and the only way to contest this is for another player to claim to have that role instead. When this happens both players have to reveal their role card. If neither player are that role, they both have to pay a fine to the bank, if one of the players are the role, they get to take that role's action while the other player pays a fine. Whoever gets to 13 coins first wins the game (you start the game with 6), unless your role's special ability is to have a lower winning criteria.

It's a quick, fun and very newcomer friendly game. A small reference sheet gives the players all the information they need to play as it quickly explains what each character do.

Having heard all the raving about this game on The Dice Tower, I just had to try it out when I got the chance. It's my very first introduction to racing games, and if more of them are like this one, then I'll get along with this genre just fine. The pirate theme is a definite bonus, and the game really incorporated the theme nicely. You play as a captain of a pirate ship, looking to balance out getting around the Caribbean and filling up your cargo hold with treasure and gold.

The way the game plays out is that the starting player gets to roll the two dice, the player then determines which of them to put on the day spot and which to put on the night spot. Then every player chooses from the three cards they have on their hand which card to play. The cards each have a day action and a night action. This can be movement either forwards or backwards (the arrow points out the direction), or it can be picking up cargo, like gold doubloons, food or cannons. The day action is done first, then the night action, and the number on the dice decides either how many spaces the ship moves or how much of the specific cargo the player gets. Cargo always have to go into an empty spot on the ship, so if the player has no empty cargo spots, they have to chuck out the cargo in one of their spots and replace it with the new cargo.

When moving, unless a player lands on a treasure space (marked with a skull token), they have to either feed their crew (if they land on spaces marked with little squares, each square representing a piece of food) or pay a fine (specified by a numbered gold doubloon). If they cannot pay the required amount, they need to first pay what they can, then move their ship backwards until they land on a spot where they can pay in full.

If they land on the treasure space and they are the first one to do so, they take the token and draws a treasure card (which either contains a player bonus in form of either extra firepower or cargo hold, or positive or negative points). Players who land on this spot afterwards don't need to pay anything, but they also don't get to draw a treasure card.

If a player lands on a spot already occupied by another player, they have to engage in battle. The attacking player goes first and chooses how many of their cannons they want to use (each cannon adds one firepower) and rolls the attack die. If the player rolls a star it's an automatic victory, if not they add up the total of the die and the number of cannons and the defending player gets to choose how many cannons they want to use. If it's a draw, nothing happens. If a player wins, they get to steal from the other player (either a treasure card or something from their cargo hold) or they can choose to pass a treasure card with negative points to the losing player. The combat always take place before a player pays whatever they need to pay for landing on that spot.

The game ends the turn a player makes all the way back to the start, then all players score according to their placement on the board. If you don't make it past a certain spot, you get five penalty points, if you do make it past it, you score according to the number you end up on (the start/finish spot is worth fifteen points). Then players add up points from their treasure cards, and count the number of gold doubloons in their cargo hold. Whatever player ends up with the most points wins the game.

So, how newcomer friendly do I consider this game to be? It was pretty easy to get into it for me, and I've never played a racing game before. I especially liked that it depended on your final score more than your final placement, which made it possible for me, despite my abysmal placement on the game board to still wind up on a shared second place thanks to the 20 gold doubloons in my cargo hold. It makes things more interesting and gives everyone a fair chance to make it.

The game is a lot of fun, looks stunning (very colourful and nicely done artwork on both the board and the cards), and definitely is one I intend to acquire for my own collection when I get the chance.

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