Game Buzz: Maracaibo

Though Alexander Pfister’s first published game was in 2008, he really started becoming a big name in the industry in 2015 with the publication of Oh My Goods!, Mombasa, Broom Service, and Isle of Skye (the last two of which won the Kennerspiel des Jahres). 2016’s Great Western Trail solidified him as one of the most popular designers out there. Now he’s got a new one called

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Maracaibo is a game by Pfister, jointly published in German by dlp games, and in English by Capstone Games. This 1-4 player game is set in the Caribbean during the 17th century. Over the course of four rounds, you’ll be sailing around the map and trying to become the greatest seafarer.

There are a number of shuffled displays that go with the main board – quest tiles, story tiles, project cards, and prestige buildings. Additionally, each player has their own ship board, which shows a number of action spaces that are seeded with discs. Players also set their victory points to zero, put their ship in Havana, put their explorer on the explorer track, set their influence for each nation to zero, set their own personal combat track to one, set their doubloon income to eight, and set their victory point income to zero. Each player gets 8-11 doubloons, depending on player order, as well as two figures of their color and two career cards. You also decide whether or not you want to play a campaign, and set up accordingly.

image by BGG user Raedwulf

Maracaibo takes place over the course of four rounds. On your turn, you perform three steps: move your ship, perform a main action, and draw cards.

MOVE YOUR SHIP: You can move your ship forward at least one space, and possibly up to seven spaces. Each location is marked with a circle containing a number. You always follow the arrows, though sometimes you can choose a path to take. You can stop at a location already containing another ship. Whenever you see a red hand, you have to stop.

PERFORM A MAIN ACTION: The location you stop at will determine what you can do. You can only do one action per turn.

  • At a city, you may first deliver a good to the market (if there’s an empty space), then take the indicated city action. City actions include combat (increasing influence with a nation), exploring (moving your explorer up on the exploration track), or other smaller actions like just gaining influence, gaining combat points, gaining money, or scoring points.
  • At a village, you can either discard all cards in your hand in exchange for two doubloons, or take one doubloon, or buy a card from your hand or planning area (using its effects immediately), or buy a prestige building. If you used 4-6 movement to get to the village, you can do two village actions, and if you used all 7, you can do three. Other village actions will open up as you remove discs from your board, and cards will open some up as well.
  • In a location where there is a quest, you can pay the cost and claim the tile, which then goes on your board in the designated area after you gain your reward. Fulfill four quests and get 3 points. Every one you fulfill after that will get you another 2 points. Story tiles have quests on them, and advance the story forward.
  • Different cards that you buy will allow you to place that assistant in a specific location, and when you arrive at that location, you can take the assistant action as indicated. This can include gaining money, points, opening new village actions, gaining influence, gaining combat points, and moving your explorer.
  • In a homeward bound space, you must stop. The first one will have you perform a combat action or move your explorer up two spaces. The second gives you three VP and has you perform an interim scoring. The third scores you five VP and sends you to final scoring. You’ll only hit the third one in the fourth round.

DRAW CARDS: After completing your action for the turn, draw back up to your hand limit.

When a player triggers the interim scoring, players can either buy a project card from their hand or score two points. You then get income according to where you are on the doubloon and VP income tracks. Delivered goods are removed from the board, all face cards are removed and replaced, new prestige buildings are revealed, and story cards should be checked to see if they have been fulfilled. All ships are returned to Havana, and the next player in clockwise order begins the next round.

The final scoring at the end of the fourth round is similar, except you also score points for project cards in front of you and prestige buildings. The player with the most influence for each nation scores three points each, and noble ranks are also scored. After this, the player with the most points wins.

image by BGG user henk.rolleman

Alexander Pfister games are interesting because it’s almost impossible to tell exactly what they’ll be like from just reading the rules. This one has a little bit of a race element to it, but at the same time, that’s not the only thing going on. There are a lot of moving parts to what’s going on. Just keeping track of what actions you can do is probably the biggest difficulty in the game. It looks very interesting, and something that would probably need to be explored more. I’m curious about how the campaign works.

That’s it for today – thanks for reading!

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