Sunday, July 23, 2006

Review: Mykerinos

Mykerinos is a game for 2-4 players designed by Nicolas Oury and published by Ystari Games. Lately Ystari games has been making quite a name for itself. This is the same company that produced Caylus and Ys, both instant classics. Given the success of its predecessors, Mykerinos has some mighty big shoes to fill. Clocking in at under 60 minutes, Mykerinos is a much lighter game than Caylus or Ys but I'm happy to say that it's definitely a very worthy addition to a fine product line.


Mykerinos is set in the late nineteenth century. Europe has become fascinated with Egyptology and archeology. The players are archeologists, working for a European museum. They set out to explore the Egyptian sands in search of artifacts that they can bring back to the museum. Along the way, they seek the aid of wealthy patrons who can aid them. The winner will be the player who brings back the most prestigious artifacts and secures the most prestigious rooms in the museum in which to display them.

Like many euro-games, the theme is relatively thin, but it works well and the components do a fine job of supporting the theme.

Game Play

At its heart, Mykerinos is an area control game but with a twist. The game is played over four seasons. In each season a number of tiles is laid out on the table in a grid. Each tile is divided into six squares (2x3) and two tiles are combined to form each area. Areas are laid out in a grid pattern which forms the playing surface. The first three seasons have four areas. The final season has six.

At the beginning of each season, players receive an additional allotment of workers (cubes) and during the season, players distribute their workers on the tiles. At the end of the season, each area will be scored and those with a majority of their cubes in an area will be rewarded with their pick of tiles. Second place gets the remaining tile. Third and fourth place typically receive nothing.

One of the beauties of the game is the way that workers are played to the board. On each turn, a player may always place one cube on any unoccupied square. If that player already has a cube on the board then he may instead choose to "expand his expedition" by playing two cubes in adjacent unoccupied squares. Naturally, it's typically more efficient to expand. No square may have more than one cube in it and squares with pyramids are normally off limits. This makes placement quite strategic. Players can cut one another off and carve out territories in an effort to secure majorities.

Each tile is worth a number of points and each tile is also associated with one of the game's five patrons. In subsequent seasons, acquired tiles can be used once per season to invoke the special ability of its patron. Some let you play more cubes to the board, some let you play a cube on a pyramid square, and some let you place a cube into the museum instead of playing to the board.

The museum adds another interesting dimension. In lieu of taking a tile, a player can elect to place one of his cubes in the museum. Each wing of the museum is associated with one of the patrons. Each cube in the museum boosts the point value of tiles associated with that patron.


The inventive way cubes are played to secure tiles, the special abilities of the patrons, and the ability to alter the way the game is scored by playing into the museum, come together to create some very interesting strategic and tactical decisions. For such a simple game, there are a lot of different viable strategies. For instance, one strategy might be to focus on the tiles and attempt to gather as many high value tiles as possible. Another might be to get as many of a particular patron's tiles as possible and boost their value through play in the museum. Players may try to get as many cubes as possible on the board but perhaps a better strategy might be to play just a few cubes to the board in key positions, saving the extra cubes for a future round.

Since its release, this has become one of my very favorite games. I know of few other games that pack so much satisfying game play in such a small package. I highly recommend it.


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