Leo Colovini





With the release of HANS IM GLÜCK`s newest game Mauer Bauer, Leo Colovini once again has proven his lucky hand in creating abstract games with new twists and well-structured playing mechanisms. This time he takes the players to an area of three fictional kingdoms where they try to score by placing walls, towers, houses and palaces on the map and creating cities from these elements...

The gameboard itself is an area of triangular land-spaces, and on the far left and right boundaries this land area is bordered by the sea. The whole area is subdivided into the mentioned three kingdoms, each of them having the identical size of 15 land spaces. During the game, the players will place the walls along the outer border of a land-space, the towers at the edges of the land spaces and the houses and palaces into the land spaces. The only preparation needed for starting the game is that each player receives a hand of six randomly drawn guild-cards, and these cards he will use during the game to score victory points.

During his turn, a player first has to place one wall at a free space on the gamboard. Then he adds towers at both ends of the wall (provided that both edged are still free), and while the colour of one of these towers is determined by the roll of a special "tower dice", the player may chose the colour of the other tower freely from the three available colours. Finally, the player adds two houses (one on each side of the wall, provided it has not bee placed along the outer edge of the gameboard), and once again the colour of both houses is determined by the roll of two special "house dice". However, the player may roll of "joker" with each of the dice, and for each joker rolled he may freely chose the colour of one house from one of the five available house-colours. With these actions finished, a player`s turn usually ends.

As you can see, a player`s turn is not too difficult to outline, but you will have to understand the scoring mechanism of the game in order to grasp how far a player`s choice where to place and which colours to take are influenced by his strategy. Thus, whenever a player`s actions have led to the completion of a city by surrounding a complete area with walls, a scoring takes place in which each player may exchange one or two guild-cards from his hand for victory-points. However, just before the scoring the complete city is checked for houses of the same colour and each two houses of the same colour will be removed and substituted by a likewise coloured palace.

The deck of guild-cards is composed of many different scoring possibilities, so that a player may score for houses or towers of a certain colour being included in the just finished city, for a special size of the city, for houses and palaces of different colours etc. However, the scoring cards are not restricted to the just finished city, and there also exist cards which score for houses or towers of a particular colour outside a particular city, for towers standing next to the sea, for all houses in a particular kingdom and so on. As can be seen, there is a lot of different scoring options, and here a player has to check which card(s) he should possibly play in this scoring. Thus, his strategy when choosing where and which walls, towers and houses to play is influenced by the guild-cards he has at hand.

An additional level of depth is added through the rule that cities unite and get bigger. Thus, whenever a just finished city uses a part of walls belonging to one or more already existing cities, that city will be joined with one of these neighbouring cities through the removal of the dividing walls. This joining of cities offers an even wider scale for the following scoring, so that a player constantly will need to keep an eye whether such a joining would be beneficial for him.

A final twist is the fact that a player will need to chose carefully how many and which guild-cards he wants to play during a scoring. Even if he plays two cards he will only receive one replacement, and furthermore the player with fewest victory points will be allowed to exchange as many cards from his hand as he desires for new cards. Thus, a player must ask himself whether it is actually wise to take a lead ahead with many victory points, or to stay in the tight field of players and hope for a possibility to get even better cards.

The game comes to its end when the either the last wall, tower, house or palace has been used, and then a final scoring takes place with each player being allowed to score for a city of his choice. As always, the player with most victory points will have won the game.

At first sight, Mauer Bauer seems to be one of the most strategic games released in the recent past, but some closer scrutiny reveals an element of luck which may not be underestimated. The random drawing of the guild-cards and the rolling of the tower- and house-dice has a tangible influence on the progress of the game, since a player`s tactical options are somewhat limited because he has to roll the right colours at the right moment. However, this interplay of luck and tactics gives the game its unique touch, appealing especially to fans of tactical games with some random elements as a counterbalance. As indicated, Leo Colovini has succeeded in creating a game with some nice twists, and here foremost the scoring mechanism through the guild-cards was of my taste, since it allows each player to follow his own agenda and to score on his own guild-cards - an uncommon variant to all those games with common scoring mechanisms.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany