Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Sailing Toward Osiris (Daily Magic Games)

The Pharaoh has passed on, and is making the long journey down the Nile to his permanent resting place. Once he reaches here, he will stand before Osiris and be judged. Unfortunately for him, he produced no heir, so the local governors must build monuments to memorialize his glory. This task isn't altruistic though. The governors know that whoever pays the greatest tribute to their fallen deity will become to the new pharaoh. This is Sailing Toward OsirisSailing Toward Osiris is a game for 2-5 players, age 14+. It takes between 60 and 90 minutes to play and can be yours for a Kickstarter pledge of $56 Standard or $66 Deluxe.

Setup - For this setup, a "governor" is a player and a "regent" is the player in charge this season.
1. Lay out the board and put the resources of grain, brick and stone nearby. (To determine the number of each resource, use the formula 5x + 5, where x is the number of players.)
2. Have each governor pick a player color and give them the following in their color: one screen, one camel, four sphinxes, three obelisks, two pylons, and five boon cards. Also give them two of each resource from step one.
3. Shuffle the city cards and deal one to each governor. Then, place the remaining deck nearby.
4. Place every governor's score marker on zero. Then, place the Pharaoh's Barge on the right side of the board, where the river rapids mark separates the first two river segments.
5. Take three Master Laborer tokens (one of each color) and twelve Regular Laborer tokens (four of each color) in the bag.
6. Pick a random governor to be Regent for the first season.

Game Play - The game takes place over four seasons. In each season, the following occurs:
1. Obtain Laborers - The Regent randomly draw Laborers from the bag, (Two in 4-5 player game and three in a 2-3 player game) and place them behind their screen. The bag is passed to the next person, and this action is repeated until all governors have done so. Then, the Regent draws out all but two of the remaining Laborers and puts them in the Labor Pool Cartouche. The Regent may then look in the bag to see what is left, and therefore have knowledge this turn that other players do not have.
2. Perform Many Actions - The Regent may perform one of ten actions below. Then, play passes left. This continues until all the governors have performed as many actions as possible/desired.
a. Harvest Resources - Place a Laborer on a space and gain the resources
b. Visit a City - Place a Laborer on a city and draw two City cards. Keep one and give one to an opponent.
c. Start/Join a Caravan - Place a Laborer on a Caravan space and gain the resources. (Note: If you are first to do this at a space, you put your camel there too to signify you are the leader.) If you place a Laborer where someone is leading a Caravan, you gain the resources, but must pay one to the leader.
d. Hire an Extra Laborer - Hire a Laborer from the Labor Pool Cartouche paying any two resources.
e. Plan a Monument - Select one of the Planning Cartouches; pay the resources; and place the appropriate monument token on the Cartouche.
f. Build a Monument - Move your monument token to a valid position on the map, remembering that you can't build in a space where a Laborer is, where another monument already is, and each type of monument can only be built on terrain sections with a certain number of resource icons. (Note: If you plan to build a monument, but can't before the end of the season, no points are scored and the monument is removed from the game.)
g. Trade at the Market - Make a trade by paying one of the resource sets noted on the Market Cartouche to receive the corresponding resource set.
h. Play a City Card - Play a city card to either receive the resources or perform its special action.
i. Play a Boon Card - A governor may play one of their boon cards once per season, as long as it doesn't match another governor's boon card. At the end of the season, the cards played are removed from the game.
j. Withdraw from the Season - When you are unable or unwilling to take anymore actions, you withdraw. The first governor to withdraw is the next regent and receives a bonus from the Regent Cartouche.
3. Haggle with other Governors - A governor may haggle with another governor at any time in the game for any items in their control. It is not an action, and a promise of a future action is not enforceable.
4. The Season Ends - The current regent steps down and a new regent takes his place. Pharaoh's Barge advances to the next river segment. Camels are returned to their governors. All resources in the market and labor pool are returned to the supply. All laborers are returned to the bag. Played boon cards and planned monuments not built are removed from the game.
5. Pharaoh's Barge Reaches the Temple of Osiris - The game ends and and bonus points are awarded based on their monument configurations. Highest score wins!

Review
Daily Magic Games has a strong history of light to medium weight Kickstarter projects with great art and quality art/components. Therefore, that's exactly what I expected from this game. Well, I was wrong...in a good way. The art and component quality are still top notch (I was blown away by just the prototype!), but the game has a bit more depth and meat to it. Looking at the game play section, you have ten different actions you can take on a given turn...TEN! This creates a difficult decision every turn you take. There's a Master Laborer in the Labor Pool, do I hire him before my opponent does? What about my Boon Cards? There is one I can play this turn, but I want to do other things first, but if I do those things first someone else might play that Boon Card so I can't. ARG! And then there's the City Cards. I need a new city card, but then I have to give one to my opponent. I want both cards. Which one do I pick? I don't want to give this other card to my opponent! So many good difficult decisions can lead to analysis paralysis, but they also make for an excellent game.

Another aspect I love about this game is the way it scales. There are plenty of games out there that play two to five players. Very few of them play every player count well. This game plays just as well at two players, as it does at five players. From the starting number of resources to the amount of spaces available at different player counts, the game designer (W. David MacKenzie) has done an outstanding job to ensure that every player count not only works, but works well. The only thing I would say that doesn't work as well at a two player count would be haggling, because it feels a bit like a zero-sum game, but my game group didn't haggle much at higher player counts the first couple of games anyhow.

The last thing I would like to praise about this game is the theme. I love Egypt, and I hope to visit there one day, so with this theme, I was going to eventually want to try this game. It was just lucky for me that I got to try it early on. From the meeple shapes, to the cartouches on the board, to the actual journey that the barge made, everything immersed you into the game and also provided you a sense of history. This is a great game with a simple depth to it that will bring you back time and time again. Highly recommended!