On the face of it, Marco Polo isn’t all that pretty a game. Sure, it looks practical in a sense but graphically it sits alongside Ticket to Ride or Catan. It’s a game that doesn’t rely on strong imagery or storytelling. A game about collecting points to declare the victor over 5 relatively short turns as you best try place your worker dice on areas that will best benefit you in the future, Marco Polo is very unique to say the least.
What do you get?
Included with Marco Polo is a big playing board, several character cards, location objectives, bits of coloured wood, nice wooden resources and lots of dice. Honestly, the price tag on Marco Polo is a little steep for what you get so there is a large emphasis on the game rules and interactions.
How does it work?
Marco Polo has the usual first player followed by clockwise rotation gameplay. Starting your turn you roll you 5 dice and then the game begins with a lot of head scratching. Honestly, even though there are only so many actions you can take there are so many ramifications and justifications for doing any of them. Moving, placing dice or bonus actions all require a great deal of thought before acting. Typically the first half of the game is spent gathering resources and the second half is about maximising your points score.
Is it any good?
This game is the ultimate self-indulgence. Once you begin playing you can feel isolated from the world with your thoughts on what should be your next move. The worst/best part is nothing is a wrong decision but the game branches into optimised turns. Marco Polo is not especially social but that’s okay, because it really challenges your mind.
It’s a casual game in the same sense as Ticket to Ride and Catan but it has more strategy in it, less lucky card draws and dice rolls. Sure, there is dice rolling in Marco Polo but rolling a 6 is not always good. There are some clever mechanics at play to suggest low numbers are also in demand.
Marco Polo may be one of the best casual games out there. The game length feels about right and there is enough included in the box to guarantee every game is radically different. It’s a very finely crafted game that oozes with smart game design. If you took away any of the elements it would really be a shallow form of itself. There is an expansion out for it that looks very interesting and for the hard-core players adds several layers of strategy to an already well balanced game.
Marco Polo is a far better game than it deserves to be. If you get a chance to play it, we highly recommend you do to see if it’s worth buying for your own gaming group.