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Mundus Novus

Game Review: Mundus Novus

Do you want to make money by plundering the New World from the comfort of your gaming table? Do you have a head good head for card trading and hand management? Want a trading game, which takes 2-6 players and ends in just over 1 hour? Then this might be the game for you.

Stuff and things or Bits and bobs:

Upon opening the box you’ll find rule books in 5 different languages (these are nicely laid out and the rules very clear with good examples), some nice and thick card board gold coins, a few extra tokens to help you remember the events taking place during the game and 2 decks of cards (development cards and resource cards).

First thing is that the cards, tokens and rule book are really pretty, really really pretty. I find this always helps getting the game back onto the table, a dull looking game that plays well is always trickier to get replayed than a good looking game which plays well in my experience.

Looking closely at the cards, once you get past the great art work, you’ll find that the cards are very high quality for a game at this price less than £20 in the UK. They are thick, white bordered so that nicks won’t spoil them too much. Best of all they are fibre backed, now I do like a fibre backed card, mainly because they feel right in my hands and have a tendency to last for ages especially as I feel sleaving cards is pointless (other than for CCG tournaments to prevent cheating).

Finally the entire game is language independent, and colour blind friendly, with all the icons needed nice and clear and unlike some games (cough Race for the Galaxy cough) simple to understand.

“How do I win?” or playing the game:

You win by managing to do one of the following:
Have more than75 gold (VPs) at the end of a round.
Have all 9 resources and an Incan treasure card in hand, revealing them with a smug grin, especially as you start the game with only 5 cards in hand.
When the development card queue cannot be refilled; you have the most gold (VPs).

So how do I manage one of these feats? That is the hard bit. The game is played over a number of rounds until someone wins by trading resources with other players, acquiring development cards then selling resources to make money. The development cards are rules breakers which will allow you to get more cards, change the value of cards and so on. A round is made up of 4 phases: Event, Supply, Trade and Progression.

Event phase: If there is an event icon on the bottom left and corner of the first development card in the queue then until the end of the round the card is bought that event takes place. Then at the beginning of the next round a new event will take place. The events vary from making it harder to buy development cards, stopping you use your warehouses or ships giving you access to fewer cards for that round, making gold harder to acquire and so on. Keeping an eye on these events is a must, because how they affect other players is just as important as how they affect you, for example, in one game, when I was the last to buy a development card for the round, I had the choice of two cards to buy and bought the wrong one; losing the chance to burn down another players warehouse and give me the turn I needed to win when he was going for a 10 resource victory, costing me victory.

Supply phase: 5 resource cards are dealt to each player. Then for each ship (one of the many development cards) add a resource card to the table face up. Then depending on who owns which ship those players choose the card that they want; thus giving the rest of the players a small clue to their plans for this round.

Trade phase: This is the meat of the game. The master trader decides whether 2, 3 or 4 cards will be traded this round. Then all the players select that number of cards from their hand to trade, placing them face down on the table in front of them. Once everybody has chosen, the cards are revealed. The first thing that happens is the person with the highest value of resources for trade becomes the new master trader. Next the trading begins.

The master trader takes a resource from one of the players face up cards and puts it into their hand or they take another player’s resource and swap it with a resource in the market. The player who had their resource taken is the next to trade and so on. The rules state that you cannot trade with the same person twice in a row (other than in a two player game) meaning that choosing the pick orders of the offers is important. Once all the resources have been traded it is on to the progression phase.

Progression phase: In this phase you can do as many of the following options as you have cards for. This happens in turn order starting with the master trader.

Buy a development card by collecting sets of the same resource. Depending on the type of resource (some are rarer than others, and Incan treasure cards act as any resource card) the number of resource cards needed to buy a development card varies.

Sell a number of different resource cards to get gold. The minimum number of cards you can sell is 4, and the amount of gold you get is on a sliding scale the more cards the more money. No Incan treasure can be sold this way.

Sell Incan treasure. The more treasure you sell the more gold you get again this is on a sliding scale. This is the most efficient way to gain gold.

Once you have done as many of these as possible any cards you have left in your hand are discarded, or if you have any warehouses (a type of development card) stored in them.

Once everybody has bought and sold, a new round begins.

Is it any good?

Short answer:

Yes. Very.

Long answer:

I think that this is one of the best trading games in ages, the last great one in my opinion was Before the Wind. All the games I have played have been close, hard fought with plenty of tough decisions. I have seen all the different victory conditions win making it well balanced. It scales very well with player numbers as well, taking up to 6 is great especially for my gaming group, where we tend to get either 6 or 8 players turn up and we prefer to play a 6 player game over 2x3 player games for some reason. The quick play time is a big bonus as it never really out stays its welcome.

The hand management side of the game really makes it shine. The fight between needing sets of cards to buy development cards and runs of different resources to get gold means is really important. This means that making the best of what’s on the table in the trading phase crucial. This means that having good offers for trade so people will choose your goods so you can trade early to get what you need. As you can see you there is a lot going on in a game which is made up of 2 decks of cards.

The only slight negatives to the game is that the events phase is a bit fiddly, even with the tokens provided it is easy to forget that the event still occurs until the end of the round, this has lead to people being able to use ships, warehouses, get to much gold etc when they shouldn’t of. Now that we have played it enough times now for this not to happen but the first couple of games we really suffered. A couple of player aid cards would have been great addition too.

Go and plunder the New World you won’t regret it, you might even end up richer in the gaming sense.