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Market of Alturien Review - Game Articles - Pair O’ Dice Games

Market of Alturien Review

Market of Alturien box cover

Market of Alturien feels like a new twist on a familiar classic, sort of a more-skill-less-luck Monopoly if you will. After having played it several times I’ll provide a brief review of the game and how I feel about it.

Market of Alturien Overview

The basic mechanics of the game draw from Monopoly, with the twist that the pawns moving around the board are not you and your fellow players, but represent several customers who spend money in your shops, plus a thief who steals money. Instead of moving just your own pawn as in Monopoly, after rolling you can choose to move any pawn on the board, in an attempt to land customers on your businesses (and the thief on your rivals’ businesses).

Customers come in three levels: copper, silver, and gold, worth one, two, and three “Reels” (their unit of currency) respectively, leading players to compete for the higher-paying customers when they can.

Along with the fact that you’re moving customers, rather than a pawn representing you on the board, you’re allowed to buy any open space on the board when building businesses, but only one per turn. The board’s spaces are divided into colored groups, similar to Monopoly, but are all of the same value except for two attributes: when you have the most (at least two) businesses of a color, you become that color’s market leader, worth additional income when customers land on those spaces.

The second differentiator is that some spaces have dark gray squares and let you collect income every turn a customer stays on that space, while the more numerous ligth gray squares let your business on that space earn income only when a customer lands on that space. Since each player can move only one customer per turn there are plenty of chances for the other customers to hang around and pay out to businesses on spaces with dark squares.

The objective of the game is to purchase three prestige cards in order to win. Prestige cards are relatively expensive and must be purchased over time, as all players are limited to a single purchase (of any type) per turn. Thus the main goal, of course, is to make lots of money, as quickly as you can, to beat your opponents to the prestige cards.

Judging a Game by its Cover

I have to say that the fanciful and detailed box cover is what caught my attention and made me aware of this game (in the store, as I’m usually still a customer of brick-and-mortar shops when it comes to board games). The board and pieces inside are also quite nice to look at, including the distinctive metallic-looking copper, silver, and gold-colored customer pawns. The packaging and game materials really lend the game a nice feel, and help justify the premium price.

Rounding out the box contents are cloth drawstring bags to keep all the plastic trade houses and pawns together, and some nice summary cards which show investment costs and other info at a glance. I found we still had to refer to the rules at times to keep straight some rules for interaction with the thief, but the summary cards are appreciated.

Gameplay

Market of Alturien board, cards, and pieces

Market of Alturien trades the randomness of Monopoly’s “purchase or pay rent as you land” scheme for turns that still involve luck but add more strategy.

Roll, then survey your options by applying the die to any customer on the board. Increase your options with the ability to turn the customer down a side street of your choice when you come to an intersection. Add the ability to build a business on any unowned space and the movment of customers through the market starts to resemble the ebb and flow of the tide… the tide of money.

Moving customers, you must keep them going in the same direction until they reach an intersection. This keeps things from devolving into a straight tug-of-war, and helps keep them circulating through different sections of the city as different players take their turns trying to lure the customers with the fattest purses toward their own businesses.

Amidst the competition for the gold and silver customers, there’s the low-key sort of manuevering for copper customers and dark gray squares; by placing a less valuable customer on a space that will keep paying out to you without additional work, you may escape the high-profile struggle and earn more money in the long-term.

Then there’s the thief, who comes into play at about the beginning of the mid-game, when a player ends the turn with ten Reels on hand. He is effectively valued at negative one, and moving him onto one of your opponent’s spaces lets you pocket the money he pilfers. Plus moving the thief grants you a second roll (which you can use to move the thief again, or one of the customers).

Final Thoughts

On the whole I really like this game. Having grown up playing plenty of Monopoly, I’m glad to have a great-looking game that injects some strategy into the format and remains simple and very playable.

One thing I didn’t mention already is the advanced rules, which introduce some extra investments you can purchase to gain extra abilities. Two types are aimed at increasing your income, two more types give you better control over the dice, and you have to be choosy since you’re limited to owning no more than two of these cards. The basic game is good but felt just a tad too simple after several plays, but adding the advanced rules gives it just the right amount of variation and depth.

I think the weakest part of the game is the victory condition. Buying prestige cards, at 12 Reels, is something most players cannot do until mid-game. Yet because they offer no advantage in the game itself no one wants to buy them until they are making about 12 Reels per turn in income, and then the first prestige card purchase almost always signals the end of the game… the player who purchases the first one can usually go on to purchase two more in their next two turns to win, while the one-per-turn limit that prevents a single-turn win also prevents anyone else from catching up. End-game is often a bit anti-climactic.

Still, end-game aside, I find Market of Alturien to be reasonably fast-paced and a lot of fun. Highly recommended, a solid Play It rating.

  1.  
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    Joe Says:

    I agree with the Play It rating.
    I enjoy this game a lot when we play it. I agree with you on the anticlimax of game-end and wonder if there might be a way to house modify the game to make the end more interesting.
    I am sure that one of these days we will find a way to work that out.

    We always do!

  2.  
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    Mike Says:

    Thanks for buying this game for my birthday Scott, it was a great choice. I definitely agree with the ‘Play It’ rating, and also feel the endgame is kinda ‘blah’. We’ll need to tinker with some house rules.

    I’m still trying to figure out if, in the advanced option cards, changing dice rolls is equal in potential to the card that makes merchants worth 1 more. Hmmm…

  3.  

    I have found a few games recently where the end game mechanic kind of detracts from the actual play of the game. Power Grid and Star Craft are two that come to mind. In Power Grid you can sort of see the end coming but in my experience it just sort of happens and the player is like “I win…” and then it’s over and in Star Craft too often more than one player is about to win and the third player can just play king maker.

    The prestige cards sound a lot like luxuries from Filthy Rich. I kind of always had a problem with the way they were purchased as well.

  4.  

    You bet, Mike! As for the advanced rules investments, I’m not sure if the money-making cards are strictly better than the die-roll/movement cards. I doubt I’d ever want both movement cards, but having both money-making cards seemed to work well for Joe last time.

    Personally I like having some movement control since it’s kind of tough to always earn some income without it (and even then there’s no guarantee).

  5.  

    If we put some thought into it, we might land upon elegant ways to spruce up the end-game or modify the victory conditions, without turning it into a game that drags on. The one thing I have to say about Market of Alturien (with three players anyway) is I haven’t found it to ever go on so long that I’m really bored; even losing doesn’t take all that long 🙂

  6.  

    Josh- Filthy Rich’s luxuries are rather similar. In some ways they’re better, since they can reward players for buying them early and taking more risks, where the prestige cards of Market of Alturien are all priced the same and have no obvious drawbacks (other than being out 12 Reels and a turn’s purchase).

    Still, I’m not hugely concerned about the prestige cards here, because the game moves pretty quickly and while they’re not exciting they do not get in the way too much either. Any house rules to improve upon them would require real playtesting.

  7.  

    exterminators Infected Toe treatment

    Market of Alturien Review – Game Articles – Pair O? Dice Games