Mykerinos

Played a game yesterday; here’s the review of Mykerinos in Finnish. Session report coming up!

Mykerinos is the latest game from Ystari and the most recent Finnish release from Lautapelit.fi. It’s nice to see Finnish companies teaming up with foreign publishers to get games released in Finland the same time they’re published abroad.

Designed by otherwise unknown Nicolas Oury, Mykerinos is an area control game set in the world of archeology. Players claim archeological digs in the name of their patron and try to reserve the best halls in the museum’s Egyptological collection. If you’re wondering where the name comes from, Mykerinos is Greek for Men-Kau-Re, a fourth dynasty pharao whose pyramid lies in Giza.

Influencing Egypt

The theme is rather non-existential. The board, representing Egypt, is built of four two-card lots. Players place influence cubes on the lots, trying to gain majorities to score cards and positions in the museum.

Of course there are limitations on playing the cubes. There are two alternatives: start a new dig anywhere with one cube, or extend a previous dig with two cubes. Each card has six squares and each square can hold a single cube, unless it has a pyramid (in which case it holds no cubes). Pyramids and cubes from other players can prevent players from extending their digs, so time can be of essence.

Once everybody is happy with their cubes (there’s a limited supply of about ten each turn; unused cubes can be stored for next round), the lots are scored. The two players with most cubes get a choice of either taking one of the cards or placing a cube in the museum. Possible other participants get to take a card, if there are any left.

Patrons and museum wings

Cards represent the patrons. There are five different patrons, with different special abilities (basically boosts for the basic moves). Each patron card is worth one point (museum boosts that; more on that later) and a full set of five patrons is five points. Some patron cards also give immediate points.

Museum has five wings, one for each patron. Each wing has two rooms, five and three point rooms, and there’s also rooms between the wings worth two points. These boost the patron cards, so if I have a cube in yellow patron’s five-point room, my yellow cards are worth five points.

Museum can have just one cube per room and to get to a five-point room you must go through the weaker rooms, so time is very critical here as well. The resources players are competing for are scarce, which is a source for many tough decisions in the game.

The game lasts for four rounds, after which there’s the final scoring. To score well, you need a wide array of patrons and cubes in the good rooms of the museum so your most numerous patron cards score well. That’s quite tough to do when other players are trying to achieve the same, particularly when you must pass taking a patron card to play a cube in the museum.

Overview

The game has several good ideas (like having passing order break ties when scoring the lots: first player to pass wins ties) applied to the basic area influence formula. The restrictions on playing the influence work well and create interesting challenges.

My first instinct is to compare this game to Louis XIV. Both are clever and fresh area influence games. I’m not crazy about either, as I’m a bit bored with the whole area influence genre, but Mykerinos beats Louis for me, because it’s much shorter (30-60 minutes).

All in all I’d say Mykerinos is a pretty nice, tight package. Even though the game isn’t ground-breakingly novel, it packs several fresh and interesting ideas in a small, fast game. The theme isn’t totally convincing and the game could look better, but still — it’s a decent game, and the fans of the area control genre should enjoy it a lot.

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