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Game review: Global Mogul and The Witches offer high finance and comic adventure

By Cody Carlson

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Dec. 19 2013 5:22 p.m. MST

Two new board games from Mayfair Games have hit the shelves in recent weeks: Global Mogul, a heavy economic game, and The Witches, a light-hearted board game based upon the comic novels of Terry Pratchett.

Global Mogul

In Global Mogul, one to four players participate in the international bull market of the 1990s. Cards are placed around the play area denoting open markets and emerging markets around the world, government and private contracts that may be obtained, and various companies that can be purchased. Players will need to raise capital through grants, raising venture capital or the selling of resources in order to buy into the markets.

Investing in markets allows players to obtain resources such as gold, technology, blue- and white-collar workers and oil. Players can then collect contracts that resources can be spent to fulfill. Completed contracts offer victory points at the end of the game. Acquired companies offer bonuses that allow contracts to be more easily fulfilled.

Each player is limited to a number of actions each round as he has only a certain number of agent markers. Once the agents have been placed, that particular action cannot be repeated again until the following turn. Managing your agents and resources is key to success in Global Mogul.

After five complete game turns, victory points are added up. In addition to completed contracts, victory points are awarded for cash on hand at the end of the game, as well as for overall control of markets, control of markets in specific regions, and control of various companies. The victor will be the player who was best able to create a global corporate infrastructure.

The game includes a simpler base game and a more complex standard game. Additionally, there are rules for a solitaire option.

There is always a danger in heavy economic games that the experience will feel more like doing taxes than playing a game. To be sure, Global Mogul is not for everybody. For only 16 pages, the rulebook is surprisingly dense in content, and there is a very large learning curve here. A simple read-through of the rulebook will not be enough to really understand this game.

Once players lay out the cards and displays, however, the game really comes alive. What appear to be rather dry concepts in the rulebook make perfect sense in the context of the game, and real competition ensues. Players find themselves scrambling to buy into markets to gain the resources they need, only to see the contract they hoped to acquire gobbled up by one of their competitors. Likewise, wise players must always be on the lookout for that new company that will boost their abilities and lead to even more victory points.

Players willing to invest the time in learning this game will be richly rewarded in this competition of high finance, though many casual gamers may be turned off by its theme and relative complexity. Recommended for ages 14 and up, Global Mogul plays in about two hours.

The Witches

Based upon the comic novels of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, The Witches is a fun, whimsical journey through a colorful fantasy land. One to four players take on the role of one of four trainee witches sent to the land of Lancre. There, you must go around the realm solving problems and doing good deeds in order to hone your craft.

Players start the game by selecting one of four witches, each with unique abilities. Tiles are placed throughout a beautifully illustrated board containing various problems that the witches must overcome. Green tiles represent minor problems, like curing a sick pig, nursing someone with a fever, or mending a broken limb. Purple tiles indicate major problems like an elf attack, or the appearance of one of many evildoers in the realm.

On each turn, players must draw a card that indicates where the next tile is placed, and the game regulates the number of green and purple tiles coming onto the board. If a tile needs to be placed where a tile already exists, a Crisis counter is placed upon it, making that tile more difficult to deal with. Players move along the board toward the tiles and roll dice in an attempt to solve them. Players may roll up to four dice and may play cards to help their rolls. Defeated tiles are collected and offer victory points at the end of the game and also allow for a larger card hand size and positive modifiers for future dice rolls.

There is a danger, however, as each dice contains a Cackle symbol, which if rolled requires the witch to take a Cackle counter. If you acquire too many Cackle counters you will have to start drawing Black Aliss counters, which act as negative victory points at the end of the game.

The game ends when all the tiles are placed and victory points are added up. The witch with the most victory points wins. All the players can lose, however, if all the Crisis counters are played, or if three elves appear at once from the purple tiles.

If Global Mogul is an example of a relatively complex board game, then The Witches is an example of a simplistic one. That is not necessarily a bad thing. The Witches largely succeeds through simple mechanics married to a fun and engaging theme and a genuine balancing act of competition and cooperation. Only one player can win, but everybody can lose. This forces players to be on their toes and work together just enough to prevent disaster.

The core of this game is dice rolling and how well you can manipulate your rolls through cards and pushing your luck. This may indeed prove too simple for many gamers, though there is no denying that the whole package is undeniably a lot of fun. And it needs to be said again, the artwork, especially the game board map, is just amazing.

Fans of Pratchett's books will have a field day and those new to it will take great delight in discovering this fun and inventive world through an enjoyable game adventure. The game is recommended for ages 13 and up, though it is generally suitable for younger players as well, making The Witches a great family game.

The Witches plays in about 90 minutes.

Cody K. Carlson holds a master's degree in history from the University of Utah and currently teaches at SLCC. He has also appeared on many local stages including Hale Center Theater and Off Broadway Theater. Email: ckcarlson76@gmail.com

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