Thursday, 22 March 2012


Plays: 2Px1.

I played Mondo with Michelle during our recent visit to Meeples Cafe. This one we didn't play with the children, since I couldn't think of a good way to handicap ourselves to give them a sufficient advantage. So they played The Kids of Catan by themselves.

The Game

Mondo is a real-time game where everyone simultaneously tries to place tiles to fill up his player board. There is a timer, and when it runs out, the round ends, and players do scoring. A tile can have one to three different types of landscapes (water, desert, grassland or forest). It may have an animal, and it may have an active or a dormant volcano. When you place a tile, you should try to make sure the sides match with the board and with other already-placed tiles. It is not mandatory, just that you get penalised for every mismatch. You want as many animals as possible, because each scores 1 point. You want as few volcanoes as possible, because the player with the most volcanoes gets penalised based on the number of volcanoes he has. You only have 7 minutes to fill up your board. If you finish early, you can grab a bonus tile. Naturally the first to grab such a tile gets the one with the highest value. Once time runs out, you do scoring.

You gain points for animals and for every correctly enclosed landscape. You are penalised for empty spots, mismatched sides and volcanoes. In more advanced variants, there are additional scoring methods you need to think about, e.g. needing to fulfill certain criteria, or having the most of a certain animal.

This is the basic side of the player board, where the world is surrounded by water. Here I have 5 correctly-enclosed landscapes, the 3 forests, and the desert in the centre and the desert on the right.

This is the advanced side of the player board, where the world is surrounded by 4 different landscape types. I have 7 correctly-enclosed landscapes here, 2 forests, 2 grasslands and 3 deserts. Only the desert and the forest on the right contain mistakes.

You play 3 rounds, and the player with the highest score after 3 rounds wins. There is one mechanism which tries to disadvantage the current leader. Before the 2nd and 3rd rounds start, a volcano marker is given to the leader at the time, so that in the upcoming round, dormant volcanoes are treated as active volcanoes only for this player. The volcano mechanism is interesting, because you need not try to have no volcano at all, you just need to have fewer than one other player. So there is a game of chicken here in how far you dare to go in using tiles with volcanoes. Sometimes it may be worthwhile taking the penalty, because volcano tiles are often good tiles.

The Play

Michelle and I only played the basic game. I quickly discovered the angst of whether to take tiles with volcanoes. In order to complete more correctly-enclosed landscapes, I needed tiles with more landscape types, but such tiles usually come with volcanoes. At first both of us were wary about taking volcano tiles, but after the first round, in which I scored higher than Michelle, I decided to not worry too much about taking volcanoes, as long as I wasn't taking too many of them. This helped me a lot in completing correctly-enclosed landscapes. Michelle was a bit too conservative about taking volcano tiles, which hampered her. In the end I managed to outscore her despite the volcano penalties from all 3 rounds.

Unlike Galaxy Trucker where tiles are one-sided and start face-down, Mondo tiles are double-sided and are all available when a round starts. You can easily scan the piles of tiles on the table for the combination you want. However it can still be hard to look for specific tiles you want. The more specific your requirement, the harder it is, e.g. you need three different landscape types in a particular configuration, you prefer tiles with animals, you prefer tiles with no volcanoes.

The Thoughts

Mondo is quick and pleasant. It's hard to avoid comparison with Galaxy Trucker, but I wouldn't call it just a simplified version of Galaxy Trucker. Despite the real-time side-matching and tile-placing, it somehow feels different. I'm not sure why. Mondo is much quicker to set up. There is no surviving-a-space-flight phase after each round - you score immediately based on how you have constructed your world. There are a number of considerations when you build your world, but they are not as complex as those in Galaxy Trucker. What surprises me is despite the similarities, they feel different enough that I think it's OK to own both, unlike Power Grid and Power Grid: The First Sparks which I think you only need to own one (I prefer the more mathy original).

Mondo is straight-forward fun. A little solitairish because you can't meddle with others' worlds, but with the more advanced rules (which I have not yet tried) there will be more competition. The game is suitable for non-gamers and casual gamers, but you probably want to stick to the basic game. It's a good family game too. At the same time it's a game that hardcore gamers can enjoy and don't need to tolerate just to be able to play with children or non-gamers. There are multiple ways to handicap more experienced (or stronger) players, if required.

Michelle gave this her seal of approval. Should I buy it?


Damien (leoskyangel) said...

If the pictures you took come from your very first play, then I'm really impressed :P

The first time I played the game, I didn't even have a clue of what shape/size that I should/plan to make (since that you score more if you have more terrains).

But now that I've played it plenty of times, I tend to stick with 9 diamond shape layout everytime. If I can't, especially in a 4 players game, I just make some terrains a little bigger, that's all.

I actually purchased the game, but was a little upset when M. Sacht released a different version of Mondo, called Mondo Sapiens. I should have known this, cuz he's a guy that tends to release a lot of XPs and different version of the same game.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

yes, these photos were from my first game. i guess having played Galaxy Trucker before helped me in learning Mondo. i didn't really plan the shapes of my terrain though. i just tried to close landscapes off and to close them perfectly as often as i could, and i tried to minimise volcanoes and maximise animals.

wow! you have a general plan for 9 diamond shapes to fill up your board! i have not thought of that strategy.

indeed michael schacht released lots of small expansions for his games. how does Mondo Sapiens work? i took a look at BGG and it looks more complicated.

Damien (leoskyangel)(dtroy_de_rapcore) said...

Probably not by a mile, but I think it's more or less the same now. The theme is now about people, and you're trying to create a world of some sorts. One of the new addition is to build roads.

But I guess, Mondo fits better with your kids.

The designer released an online solo version of Mondo Sapiens here.
I haven't try it yet.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Thanks for the link. I gave it a try. The online implementation is very different from the actual game. The online solo games are puzzles where you need to swap tiles within a limited number of moves to make all edges match perfectly. Not as interesting as the boardgame in my opinion. I'm curious to find out how Mondo Sapiens the boardgame version works.