Saturday, June 28, 2014

Game Review: Saint Malo published by Alea

Saint Malo designed by Inka and Markus Brand published by Alea

Saint Malo is a port town on the English Channel coast of France. It is a walled medieval city that was home to both pirates and legitimate sea merchants. In this game, each player builds up the city by constructing walls, churches, and houses and by recruiting various citizens. Each player starts with three coins, two logs, and some crates in their city, which is represented by individual dry erase boards.

Game components

The main mechanic of the game is rolling five dice with six different symbols--log, crate, wall, church, person, and pirate.

The dice--you guess what the symbols mean!

All are useful except the pirate. The player may re-roll as many dice as he or she likes two times, trying to keep enough of an individual symbol to get something really valuable. The player can only trade in one symbol to add something to the city. If the five dice show two walls, two persons, and a church, the player can either (1) add two walls to their city or (2) choose between a soldier and a priest (either costs two persons) or (3) build a simple church. The player then draws symbols on the individual dry erase board to show their choice. Placement is important.

A very built up city (click to enlarge)

The rules about what players can do is a little complicated because of the five different symbols and how many dice came up with the symbol. Walls, crates, and logs are straightforward--players add one to their board for every dice rolled (logs have the additional requirement of paying two coins for delivery). Churches are built with different values (from one to five) written inside them. Many different people can be recruited depending on how many dice are rolled. Luckily, the main board provides a "cheat sheet" listing who can be chosen.

Main board, with the pirate section on top and people purchasing below (click to enlarge)

The main board also tracks how many pirates are rolled. Once a row is filled, the pirates attack and any city that doesn't have enough defenses (measured in how many soldiers and full walls the city has) loses one of the cannons at the top of the city, which is negative five points at the end of the game per cannon.

The game ends when the first player completely fills his or her city's area. Everyone gets an equal number of turns so a few more players could have a last chance to finish their city. Scores are totaled and whoever has the most points wins.

The game is fun but play can feel a bit like solitaire. Interaction is minimal though a player might try to rush the game to an end before everyone else is ready. Even if you don't win, it's fun to look at what's been built over the game. The game is a little too complicated for J and L, but in a couple of years J will be eight and ready to go.

Family game night

Zombie Apocalypse Appropriateness: The game is a set of dice, some small boards, and dry erase markers. Like I said, the game is a bit like multiple solitaire so it could be played solo but a player would have to worry about the availability of dry erase markers and cloths to wipe the boards clean. On the other hand, it would be nice to practice rebuilding society and creating a walled town seems like a good choice for keeping zombies out.

No comments:

Post a Comment