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Game Review: Oltre Mare

2015 January 26
by Michael Schroeder

Don’t let the serious face on the box cover scare you, Oltre Mare is more fun than he let’s on.

Oltre Mare

Oltre Mare

Designer: Emanuele Ornella

Number of players: 2-5

Age: 10+

Time: 60 minutes

What’s the game about?

A description from the publisher…

Are you the best Merchant of Venice?
Sailing along the courses of ancient Venetians in Oltre Mare, the unknown lands of Barbaria. Looking for the most precious wares and the richest stocks; exchanging wares with other merchants, loading your ship and selling at the market; but at the same time trying to escape the ever-present pirates…. Oltre Mare – Merchants of Venice is an engaging voyage through the Mediterranean Sea, in the golden Age of Sail.

Basic idea in my own words…

Oltre Mare is a set collection game where you’re trying to gather different types of resources such as jewels, olives, salt, etc. and have these resources be your freight. In the middle of the game and at the end of the game, you are going to “deliver” your freight to get ducats. The more consecutive matching freight cards you have, the more money you can obtain, to a point.

Throughout the game, you are going to be trading cars with other players, sailing some cool 3-D ships and making tough decisions about what cards to play.

Oltre Mare by Eagle Games

Oltre Mare by Eagle Games

Setup:

  • Lay the board down in the center of all the players and place one circular harbor marker in each city on the board, face-down. When all harbor tokens are placed, turn them over
  • Each player selects a color and takes the boat of that color as well as takes the respective color cube in their color and places it on the 11 on the ducat/score track
  • Shuffle the wares cards and deal out 4 to each player
  • To determine each player’s starting city, flip over the top cards of the wares deck until a card with a city name is drawn and for that player, place their ship in that city; take the harbor marker on that city and remove it from the game. Take the card with the city name on it and place it face-up in front of you, this starts your freight deck
  • Take the single Venice card and place it in the middle of the wares deck
  • Shuffle the wares deck again and place the deck next to the board, it’s time to begin the game; randomly determine the start player and place the starting player marker in front of that player

How do you play?

The topmost card in your freight deck shows you two important items. The hand-limit and the number of actions you must take.

 

Oltre Mare Game Board

Oltre Mare Game Board

On your turn…

  1. Check the hand limit – Look at the number in the winged-lion on the top of the card in your freight deck, this is the hand-limit. At the beginning of your turn, if you are above the hand-limit, you must select the excess cards and discard them into your pirate deck. The pirate deck is another deck which lies in front of you, but these cards are face-down and they are not good. At the end of the game, each card in your pirate deck will deduct 1 ducat.
  2. Trading – You may freely trade ducats and cards from other players as much as you wish during step 2. If another player “gifts” or trades with you however, they shall receive 1 prestige marker. Opponents can only receive 1 trade marker for trading with the active player. The active player, never received a prestige marker. The trading phase isa integral part of the game. This is because you don’t want too many cards in your hand by the time your next turn comes. If this happens, you may be above the hand-limit.
    1. You may also purchase cards off the wares deck and/or your own pirate deck. Buying cards off of your pirate deck is a handy way to get the size of the pirate deck down. To buy a card, it costs 3 ducats. You may buy cards if you are at 0 ducats and below, but each card will cost 4 ducats. If you are below 0 on the ducat track, take a minus marker. As soon as you reach 0 again, you can put the marker back. The minus marker just shows that are are below 0.
  3. Actions – You must play cards equal to the freight images at the bottom of your showing freight card. If you cannot play a card, you must perform the trades step.
    1. The spaces on the left of the cards will show 2 out of 4 icons. These icons represent different types of resources you can receive, sail your ship or put cards in your pirate deck.
      1. Ducats – 1 showing ducat = 1 ducat; 2 ducats = 3 ducats; 3+ ducats = 6 ducats
      2. Pirates – the same count as above, but you must put cards into your pirate deck
      3. Market – Same number as ducats and pirates, but you take cards into your hand from the wares deck
      4. Sailing – 1,2,3 and 4, you must move your ship that number of ports, no more, no less. When you land on a port, if it has a harbor bonus marker, you take it and leave it face-up in front of you; if you have any markers in front of you currently, put them face-down. You can only have 1 active harbor bonus marker at a time. See below for harbor market bonuses.
  4. Cargo Phase – Take the cards you played this turn and place them in a stack on top of your existing freight deck; you get to decide the order of the cards. This is where the crux of the game is, you want to have cards in your freight deck to be the same type in groups. For instance, you want to have 4 wheat cards together, instead of 1 wheat, 1 olive, 1 jewel and another wheat. In addition, you must be careful about the card you leave on top of the freight deck. The new card will give you your new hand-limit and the number of cards you must play on your next turn.
Wares Cards and Freight Deck

Wares Cards and Freight Deck

Mid-game scoring: During draws from the wares deck, once the Venice card is revealed, play immediately stops and it’s time for the mid-game scoring. First, count up each players prestige markers – whomever has the most, receives 6 ducats; second place is 3 ducats, and 3rd place receives 1 ducat; all of the other players receive no ducats. After the prestige marker scoring, each player removes the top freight “type” off of the top of their freight deck. This may be a single card or multiple cards. For example, if the first two cards are olives, set those aside and then look through the rest of your freight deck and keep all cards together of the same type – these represent sets. Look at the points on the cards to see how many ducats you receive for each set of cards, move your ducat marker accordingly. The player that revealed the Venice card now draws another card for himself, to replace the card he didn’t receive for drawing the Venice card, and play continues. remove the Venice card from the game.

Harbor Bonus Markers:

Compass – the compass marker will let you move your ship to any port when you sail, except for another port with a compass marker

Pirates – the pirate action takes no effect

Ducat – the player receives an extra ducat as an icon when collecting ducats, this does not blatantly mean you receive an extra ducat, but it counts as an extra ducat icon

Boat – You receive a ducat for each ship sailing icon on the cards you play

Winged Lion – 3 – At the beginning of your turn, you receive ducats equal to your hand-limit minus 3

Ducat/Cards – instead of paying full price for cards, you may pay 1 ducat for the first card, 2 for the 2nd, 3 for 3rd and 4 for 4th

Game End: The game end is triggered as soon as the final card has been drawn off the wares deck. All other players continue to play until the player to the right of the person that triggered the game end, gets to finish their turn.

Game end scoring consists of prestige scoring, again. Then scoring your freight deck. Then you must remove ducats equal to the number of cards in your pirate deck. Finally, players receive ducats for harbor bonus markers. Scoring is the same as prestige marker scoring.

The player with the most ducats, wins!

Oltre Mares cool boats!

Oltre Mares cool boats!

Breakdown

Components: 3/5

Components are a good quality but nothing stands out in particular. The board is a tad bland looking but the cards have nice illustrations on them. What I don’t understand is Rio Grande Games logo is on the box. I received this game from Eagle Games. I can only assume that Eagle Games bought out the remaining stock from Rio Grande, maybe after it was realized there was some errata on cards and in the rules…?

Theme: 3/5

I enjoy themes such as this – sailing around the Mediterranean and trading goods. I do have other games of the same theme and it starts to wear on me a bit, but I won’t turn away from the theme. The theme is safe for all ages but can be a bit too dry for many players that enjoy more fantasy games.

Luck Factor: 3/5

There’s a decent amount of luck in the game because of the random shuffling of the wares deck. Ultimately though, I think it’s up to you and how to play that will determine the winner.

Strategy: 4/5

For a game that is fairly light such as this, there’s some tough decisions to be made. The game’s decisions really center around deciding what card to leave on top of your freight deck.

Overall Feelings: 3.5/5

I enjoy Oltre Mare. I haven’t heard too much about this game over the years and I wonder why. I think it’s underrated. It’s certainly not in my top 10 or 20 but I rank it mid-high. It’s certainly for someone like me that enjoys more historically based, economic euro games.

Review copy kindly provided by Eagle Games.

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