Session Report: GSG on Tour at James Torr's, 4/1/03.
The Torr/Tour thing was amusing in the 2nd grade and it still is
Games played: Reiner Knizia's Star Wars, Mare Nostrum
Reiner Knizia's Star Wars
Players were Phil, Brian, Dave C., Berna, and myself. Mark e-mailed
me in the afternoon that he would have to call in sick. We were
hoping that maybe he was April fooling and would show anyway, but no
such luck. (Hope you're feeling better Mark!)
This left us with 5 players. Brian had brought the new Reiner Knizia
Star Wars game and I requested that we open with that.
By the way, the name of the game is simply Star Wars, much like RK's
Lord of the Rings game is simply Lord of the Rings. I nevertheless
found the simple name odd the characters on the cards are all
from "Attack of the Clones," and, considering that there are 5 Star
Wars movies and lots of Star Wars themed games, I would've thought
that the game should have a more distinctive title.
Anyhoo, as many people know the game is a retheming/tweaking of
Zirkus Flochati. Zirkus Flochati has been a popular GSG filler since
Phil first introduced it back at TotalCon, so we were all eager to
try this new version. Well, not all of us I think Dave was put off
by the theme and feared he was in for a bad movie tie-in children's
In Zirkus Flochati there are 10 suits of cards, with each suit
representing different acts in a flea circus. In the Star Wars game
the 10 suits are different characters Anikin, Yoda, Obi-Wan,
Senator Palpatine, Jar-Jar, R2, C3PO, etc. There was at least one
character, Jamillia(?), that we didn't all immediately recognize.
Gameplay is much the same as in Zirkus Flochati try to collect the
highest cards in each suit, while also making a few melds of 3 cards
of the same rank. On your turn you can take a card that is already on
the board or flip a card from the deck, which you can then either
take into your hand or put on the board and keep flipping; if you
flip a color that is already on the board, your turn ends. Your score
at the end is the sum of your highest-ranking cards in each suit,
plus 10 points for each meld you make. There's also a 10-point bonus
for "going out" first by collecting 1 card of each suit. (See the
Geek for a more detailed description of the mechanics.)
The big differences in the Star Wars game are:
1) A couple of the "special action" cards are different. In Zirkus
Flochati there are 3 types of special action cards. I think in the
Star Wars game there are 4 or 5, and our general feeling was that at
least one of them was not really a very beneficial card to draw.
2) Clone Trooper cards. There are 16 of these in the deck. If you
pull one on your turn, you simply get to keep it and continue your
turn. 3 Clone Trooper cards gives you 10 points just like any other
meld, but they have no value other than that. Essentially the Clone
Trooper cards served as an added bonus to those who employ the "press
your luck" strategy of turning over lots of cards on your turn.
3) The most significant change is the addition of "mission" tokens.
These tokens are labeled 0 through 4. If you make a meld of 0s, for
example, you've "completed" the 0 mission and you get to take a 0
token. If you can collect all 5 tokens (by completing the 5 different-
ranked melds), you get an extra 20 points at the end of the game. If
you don't complete all the missions you get no bonus at all. Just as
the clone trooper cards reward the "press your luck" player, the
missions cards reward the "play it safe and just make lots of melds"
player (which is usually my preferred strategy).
The big change here is that, in order for the mission-tokens mechanic
to work, the game is played over 3 rounds. (You keep your mission
tokens from round to round.) This makes the game just a bit longer
than I think most of us would have liked. Perhaps it's because we had
played Zirkus Flochati first that game seemed to me to be the
perfect length for what it is.
So the obvious criticism of the Star Wars game are that it adds
chrome and length to the simpler and quicker Zirkus Flochati. On the
other hand, the Star Wars theme was kind of fun, and the missions did
add an interesting element.
By the third round, only Berna had completed the 4 mission (that is,
made a meld of cards ranked 4). The rest of us had completed 4 of the
missions, but not the crucial 5th mission, which was 4 for all of us.
(Got that?) With only 10 suits, clearly all 4 of us could not
complete the 4 mission. Mad pressing of luck ensued as we all tried
to collect 4s. Phil and Brian were successful; Dave and I were not.
Meanwhile, Berna sat back and played it safe.
In the end, Phil won, followed closely by Berna. Brian and I were in
the middle of the pack with only a 2 point difference between us
(with Brian in the lead). Dave was in the basement, likely
reinforcing his initial view that this was not his game.
I'd be interested to see whether the race-to-complete-the-missions
tension we experienced will be present in future playings of the
game, and whether the ability to deny crucial mission cards to others
in the last round will add a significant new strategy to the game.
(My guess is probably not much, but I'd be interested in finding
My view on the game is that I like the theme better than Zirkus
Flochati, and based on future playings I may purchase it and just
play by "Zirkus Flochati" rules (play only 1 round, ignore the
missions, maybe take out the Clone Trooper cards) in much the same
way that I sometimes play Battle Line without the Tactics cards or
Santa Fe Rails using the original Santa Fe rules. On the other hand,
considering that the Star Wars game is ony available in the UK (and
now Canada, Phil said), I may just wait for the English version of
The Star Wars game went longer than expected, and after the rules
summary for Mare Nostrum (only Brian had played before), I think we
actually started Mare Nostrum at 8:30. We ended up calling it quits
at about 11:15, at which point it seemed that Berna (playing Egypt)
would take the win maybe within the next hour (or maybe not of we all
The mechanics of this game have been much-discussed elsewhere so I'll
limit this SR to my impressions of the game.
I was Greece, Dave was Babylon, Berna was Egypt, Phil was Rome, and
Brian was Carthage.
I have never played Civ or Advanced Civ. so I cannot compare MN to
those games. To me Mare Nostrum seemed like a flat-out wargame, but I
was in the minority in this view. Berna, for example, commented that
the game felt like "Settlers with combat" to her, since mostly what
she did was defend her borders, gather commodity cards, and build
I was the Greeks, so boats were cheap for me to build. Dave's special
power was that he could expand his influence more quickly then the
other players. So I embarked on strategy of convoying armies over to
try and take over Dave's stuff, and never looked back.
I never really got a good feel for the trading phase. This was partly
because at no point in the game did I have redundant commodities so
I never wanted to trade. Other players (notable Phil and Brian) were
very concerned about trading, I suspect because their starting
commodities and special powers made that part of their optimal
I was military leader pretty much the entire time, Dave was director
of commerce almost the entire time (despite Phil's attempts to take
over the position), and Berna was the political leader I think the
entire game. Brian did say that in his previous game these cards
changed hands much more.
So anyway, I attacked Dave. Brian attacked Berna, but then shifted
gears to attack Phil. This seemed to pave the way for Berna to buy
monuments while the rest of us bought troops, and so when we called
it quits Berna was at 3 monuments/leaders (4 is a win) while I think
Phil and possibly Brian had 2.
So my initial perception of the game was that it was a classic case
of bash the leader and "the player who gets attacked the least wins."
Now, of course in a multiplayer wargame it's unavoidable that the
player who's attacked least will win. Plus this was our first game,
we had several rules misunderstandings, and we didn't finish, so my
assessment is definitely very preliminary. Most of all, I think I
treated MN too much as a wargame. I didn't buy much besides military
units, which is no doubt while the game seemed a bit one-dimensional
Mare Nostrum has IMO a very nice look and feel to it. I'd gladly play
again and will try to employ a less warlike strategy next time I do.