The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Mottainai Review

At the Gathering, I heard rumblings of a new Carl Chudyk (yes!) game that streamlined Glory to Rome (yes, yes!). Still, I didn’t play it. It was a prototype, and I don’t really do that anymore. And despite my admiration for the designer, I’ve found a fair number of his works to be noble failures. Still, a $15 price point made this an easy purchase.

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery 

Most of G2R is here. You have sales (the vault), helpers (clients), craft bench (stockpile), buildings, the floor (pool). The deck is only 1/3rd the size, though, but each card is unique. A nice touch. The style on the card is minimalistic, but rather charming. I find that the aesthetic design rather matches the theme of craftsmen at a Buddhist Temple. (I happened to like G2Rs garish colours, but let’s not call it great art).

What is gone? Well, the lead-follow mechanism. If you lead, everyone will get to use that task, on their turn. Having each player’s turn be isolated speeds the game up considerably. The removal of Jacks also speeds things up, because one of the key decisions in G2R is when to spend your Jack following. None of that here. If your opponent leads a Monk, you’ll get a Monk action on your turn. You can use it to either:

  1. Take the Monk action — Equivalent to Patron,
  2. Pray — Draw a card (that you can use next turn),
  3. Craft — Build a building from hand that matches the Monk material (stone) displaying additional materials from handCorrection — For crafting you need to have (but not spend) supplies from your craft bench (Stockpile in G2R).

If your opponent played a Smith instead, you could take the Smith action (Architect Again, I had this backwards. Smith is like Craftsman, you show but do not spend cards from hand), Pray, or craft a metal building, since Smiths are on Metal, not stone. Additionally, instead of adding materials one at a time, you need them all at build time, but the building itself counts as 1 material and the other 0-2 must simply be displayed, they aren’t consumed by building.

Buildings are placed in one of two wings, one side makes your clients better, the other side enables some materials in your sales (value) to score. Basically each building in the appropriate wing turns on a number of helpers/sales as its value (but if you have more, then all of them are ‘turned off’). Helpers that are turned on get two actions instead of one. Sales that are not turned on are worthless, except for backorders, which are the equivalent of the 3 point chip for most sales.

The game ends when one player gets five buildings in either wing.

What’s removed? There’s no influence limit or foundations.

A big difference is how passing (praying) works. You no longer draw back up to your hand limit, you just draw a card. So in G2R, spending 4-5 cards and then passing was a great way. Here, if you play down to 0-1 cards, you may spend  a lot of time drawing back up, and the game may be over. To make up for that, the tailor action lets you discard cards and then draw until you have five. But you don’t get the drawn cards until the end of your turn.

This, I should add, is a wonderful mechanism. You have to discard down to hand max at the start of your turn, but by then you should have had time to examine your hand and come up with a plan. A simple rule to speed things up.

Right now my biggest complaint against Mottainai reverses the comment by the Emperor to Mozart in Amadeus:

Too few notes (– Me)

In Glory to Rome, you need to start six buildings (per player) to end it. But you can start a few more (out of town sites) and players naturally want to finish buildings because of the points they give and to increase influence. Because 5 buildings in a wing ends it and players will often want to put them into sales (to increase score) and buildings take no time to complete, the number of turns in Mottainai is lower. A player with a smith client can easily drop two paper buildings (which cost no support) in a single action, and that’s 40% of the way to completion. If you gain a small lead and get the correct hand, you can lock it in. The 15-30 minutes per game listed on the box seems high. I don’t think I’ve had one go past 20. (On the other hand, as I play more often, you begin to recognize these situations and try to make sure that you are ahead if the other player threatens that).

A common complaint against Race for the Galaxy is that it ends just when it’s getting good. I never felt that way then, but I do here. I’ve had games where it felt like whoever went out first wins (as with G2R, the game ends instantly). Perhaps that’s just new-ness talking, but there you have it. We’ll see if the feeling continues.

I’ll also note that I’ve exclusively played the 2 player game. Perhaps I should play the extended game (6th building), but I’ll try a few more of the standard game.

So, right now Mottainai is at least a noble failure and appears great. But just as Civilization does not compress, I suspect that Glory to Rome’s greatness could be stored in that hideous clamshell, but not Mottainai’s smaller box.

Rating — Suggest, but we’ll see.

PS — I am much more pleased that I should be that the I am the first result for googling “Civilization does not compress,” and if this is just the result of local cookies I don’t want to hear about it.


Written by taogaming

October 9, 2015 at 4:35 pm

Posted in Reviews

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