Game Buzz: Mondo

I really enjoy games with a real-time element.  Galaxy Trucker is one of my favorite games – half of the experience is the frantic race for ship parts.  Space Alert is a cooperative experience where players have to work together within a time limit to survive.  In Jungle Speed, you have to pay attention and be the first to grab the totem when a match comes up.  I’ve also been looking forward to trying some games that have real-time elements – Wok Star and JAB are two games I’ve had my eye on, and have covered on the blog.

Mondo - image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Mondo is one of the newest titles from German designer Michael Schacht.  Schacht designed one of my favorite games (Coloretto), the Spiel des Jahres winning Zooloretto, as well as Hansa, Web of Power, Valdora, and a number of other highly regarded games.  It seems that many of his designs don’t make it across the pond in wide distribution, but Mondo is being released by Z-Man later this year.  The game is for 2-4 players (with solo rules included) aged 8 and up, and takes 20 minutes.  In the game, you’ll be racing the clock to build a world.  You’ll be adding animals and landscapes, and trying to outdo your opponent.

Components - image by BGG user duchamp

The game comes with four two-sided world boards.  There are 5 score modifier tiles, 12 additional task tiles, 136 landscape tiles, a volcano chip, and four bonus chips (numbered 1-4).  There’s a score pad, and a spherical timer that will tell you how much longer you have in a round.

There are three different levels of play – beginner, advanced, and expert.  There are some differences between the three.  The beginner game consists of three rounds of seven minutes.  For advanced, the three rounds take six minutes each and you add scoring modifiers, which can add or deduct points based on certain features on your world.  Expert rounds take five minutes, and add additional tasks, which can add or deduct points if they are fulfilled.

Board - image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Gameplay is pretty simple.  There’s a pile of tiles in the middle.  They’re double sided, and it doesn’t matter which side is up.  Someone counts down “3-2-1-GO!” while players shuffle the tiles.  At the word “GO!”, players start looking for tiles to add to their board.  This image is the back side of the board, and is used with a more challenging variant.  The front side, which you’ll be using initially, is the same, but is surrounded by water.  When you grab a tile (using only one hand, and only grabbing one at a time), you place it in one of the squares on the board.  The first tile you place can go anywhere, but subsequent tiles must touch at least one edge of a previously placed tile.  You’ll be trying to match up land features.  It’s still legal to place unmatched land features, but it will cost you points for a misconnection.  You’re allowed to move tiles around and flip them over while they’re on the table (you can use either side), but you can’t move or rotate any tiles you have placed on the board already.

At any point, you can “jump out.”  To do this, you’ll take the topmost bonus chip from a pile created at the start of the round.  This will be worth 1-4 points to you, depending on the chip (4 is always on top).  Once you’ve jumped out, you’re done for the round.  Once all players have jumped out, the round ends.  If players have not jumped out when the timer runs out, you don’t get a bonus chip.

Now you score.  You get one point per animal on your board, and two points per surrounded and mistake free tile.  Bonus chips are worth the points on the chip.  Whoever has the most active volcanos loses one point per active volcano.  Empty spaces and misconnections lose one point each (empty spaces do not cause misconnections).  Scoring modifiers are added (or deducted) in the advanced and expert games, and additional task points are added (or deducted) in expert games.  The player who scores the most points in a round gets the volcano chip, which means their inactive volcanos in the next round will be scored like they were active.  After three rounds, the game ends, and the player with the most points wins.

In reading about this game, I am strongly reminded of Galaxy Trucker, minus the space theme and the general chaos.  In fact, Mondo seems a lot more Eurified – simultaneous play mixed with more abstracted mechanics.  It doesn’t seem like there’s a whole lot here in terms of strategy, but then, I haven’t seen many of the tiles.  I’m sure there will be some that are hotly contested, but I’m not sure that there won’t be more you could use.  There are 24 spaces on your board and 136 tiles.  This means that if all four players completely fill their boards, there will still be 40 tiles left over.  It really feels like some should be removed, especially with two players.  The timer might make things more desperate…in fact, I’m sure it will.  Still, it doesn’t seem like that tense of a game experience.

Several variants are included in the rules, including a solo play variant where you draw a few starting tiles and try to amass as few negative points as possible within a given time limit.  I wonder if using random starting tiles in the standard version might have been a good way to go.  It gives you a goal to work towards, rather than just starting to grab stuff.  I don’t know…again, I need to play it before forming a more concrete opinion.

In the end, am I interested to try this game?  Sure.  It seems very accessible – Michael Schacht is very good at designing games that are fairly easy to explain and play.  I doubt this will become a classic, but it might be an OK gateway game.  You could play this as a warmup, then pull out Galaxy Trucker.  I’ll keep my eyes out for it, definitely one to try first before adding to the collection.

Thanks for reading!

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