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Stefan Feld - Euro Master

My first play of Trajan inspired a sense of De javu - at first a tremendous sense of excitement at the cleverness of the Mancala/Rondel core mechanic, a sense of frustration at trying to string together a set of actions, and lastly a little disconnect with the game - all the same feelings I have had about Macao and Die Burgen von Burgen, though with both of these it took multiple plays to get there. Feld is the master of the clever core action selection mechanic - the dice in Macao/Die Burgen and now the Mancala/Rondel. These three games also share the need to be efficient in use of actions, and each turn is best spent trying to put together two or three engine building/spoint scoring opportunities. They also share a wealth of ways to score points. They are all great designs - and all ones that I don't see myself playing very often. Why? I like my Euros to have a little bit more connection between theme and mechanics. The other problem I have is that with the myriad scoring paths and the resulting high scores it's not easy to have a sense of why I came first or last in close games. In my last game of Burgen three of us scored about 250 points with four points separating us - the post game analysis could not identify if an why one player had won and another last. The journey to that point was pleasant enough and required a lot brain power but the after taste was a bit bland.

Stuart Dagger, the editor of Counter Magazine, recently made an impassioned defence of Feld's lack of theme, saying that the game play made his games every bit as good as Martin Wallace's. However, its a connection that I can't quite make and therefore Feld's recent games are ones I am always keen to try but not ones I am going to seek repeat plays of. My favourite of his games is 'In the year of the dragon' - and I like it because the game is much tighter than recent offerings, is interactive and also there is, for me at least, a strong connection between the theme and the way the game is played. I am always intrigued by new Feld designs; and I hope that a future release might be theme lead and integrate Feld's wonderful gaming ideas into a strong story.

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