There are certain undeniable truths in this world. At one point, you will have tried on a hat, and thought you looked amazing in it, but balked at the thought of buying the hat as your couldn’t fully justify the occasions where you would wear such an item. Secondly, you will at some point have played a civilisation game and used it as a way to peacefully pass the time, as you laid waste to your enemies and dragged your empire towards the modern world. Most Civilisation games I have played seem to be extreme bedfellows with the original solo playing Sid Meier videogame. I wonder if that is because as you grow as a nation then the mere act of housekeeping your population and development can take a growing amount of time. Downtime itself can become something that kills the chance of playing well with others, and it’s one of the reason that I ended up walking away from a game of Through The Ages, as it was apparent that this was going to be something that required hours to reach a conclusion, and being brutally honest, I wasn’t in the mood to spend time on something that I was struggling to see as being fun. I know Through the Ages is a good game, but I was hankering for a light lunch rather than a Sunday Roast, and so I decided to grab a sandwich instead.
Glenn Drover from Forbidden Games is trying to give you some of the taste of civilisation without the stodge. The portions are smaller and more bite sized. You could almost say that this is more Tapas that Turkey, more about building in smaller bites and chunks than committing to a four course meal. You guide your own civilisation with the aim being to generate the largest number of Victory Points at the end of the game. Build cities, ports and wonders. Enlist the help of armies, develop a government, tax your citizens and build your own technology engine to help you grow over time. You could put this in the camp of being a Euro style game, where the aim is to take actions that will result in you winning through points rather than domination or conquest, which is often the aim in other similar games.
Once you set up the board, add all the tokens, give everyone their own set up, select their leaders and place their first cities, you’ll then start on the main actions of the game. I almost wonder if the Mosaic name actually came partly from how you play the game, as you only take one action per turn, building up your empire one little piece at a time, almost as if you are adding to your own mosaic. Actions take place either on or off of the main board, where you are either purchasing one of the cards or tiles that sit on the edges of the board or alternatively carry out work on your own individual player board or bring new technologies into play as you gain Pillars of Civilisation that are used to activate technologies that offer even more newer Pillars of Civilisation. You’ll be wanting to add more cities to the various regions around the map, as they in turn allow you to collect resources that can increase production but also give you influence that become important during the empire scoring phases. Ideally you’re wanting to balance building the overall engine, so that when you do produce stone, food or ideas, the amount you make is enough to consider purchasing bigger and better things. Push yourself and you’ll be building wonders, projects and grabbing civilisation achievements that will help you gain points at the end of the game. Considering the sheer size of the board, and the number of actions available, the game flows pretty smoothly as you’ll have a good idea of where you want to aim for on your next move. As the game progresses and cards are drawn to fill up spaces, then the Empire Scoring cards will appear and at that point, the game pauses to take stock and award Victory Points. Once the third Empire Scoring card is revealed or two thirds of the Wonders, Acheivements and Golden Ages have been claimed, then the game ends after one final turn.
After the final round is played after the endgame is triggered, and the last round is played, then all the victory points are tallied up and the winner is decided from who had the highest score. It would be nice to know where the scores stand, but we’ll get into that later.
Mosaic does quite well in how it teaches you to play, with a rulebook that explains the different aspects of the game very well, and the information on the board providing good reminders as you play. Iconography helps with the learning and how quickly players are going to grasp the main mechanics. It’s going to be one of those games that is better to play through a couple of mock rounds so players understand the full range of actions they can play. The reference card is a very handy tool to remind players the different costs involved for the actions on offer. Mosaic is less complicated than it appears on first glance.
Put aside a couple of hours for the first few games that you play, and only because you’ll be referring to the rules on a regular basis at the beginning based on the number of actions on offer. The play time will increase based on the number of players, but unlike some civilisation games, the Empire Scoring card mechanic makes sure that Mosaic doesn’t become a drag as it enters into it’s final stages. Be aware that the set up can take a bit of time on the first couple of play throughs, unless you make sure that you organise the player components into separate bags per player which is highly recommended. There’s not a lot of downtime between players thanks to the limited actions each player can take.
Mosaic approaches the civilisation genre with a light touch, which is interesting considering the sheer size of the board and the number of tiles, components and cards you’ll have on the table. What seems like a daunting task at first soon unveils itself as a surprisingly simplistic resource engine and points builder, mixed in with some light area control. There’s elements that you’ll find familiar from other games but what Mosaic tries to do is to streamline processes that normally would take several turns. Instead of slow earned climbs up the technology tree, you have a more concentrated effort through the Pillars of Civilisation. You can climb up several steps through a single turn, giving you the feeling of progress in leaps and bounds which in turn will add to your ability to grace the map with more of your presence. While it might feel daunting to have so many technology cards on the table in front of you, the majority of the effects are normally recorded on the player boards and so you don’t really need to refer to them unless you are purchasing another technology to bring into your control. Combat is non existent and completely downplayed to the part it plays in this part of history, with the military units only serving to be counted as influence within the countries on the map. You’ll never be taking over territory from other players, and in most cases the only direct interaction you’ll have is when you manage to swipe the cards they were looking to buy for their turn which may frustrate those who are looking for a game where conquering is one of the main tactics. It turns Mosaic into a race between gathering resources and building structures on the land itself. Most turns you’ll finish feeling like you’ve achieved something to help yourself climb up the victory points ladder, even though as I’ve said, the lack of a score tracker is highly frustrating considering how scoring takes place during the game. Mosaic is much simpler game than its appearance portrays, and this may frustrate those who are looking for something to match the amount of house keeping you see in the likes of Through the Ages. It will of course delight those who are looking for something of a similar theme who don’t want to spend hours finding out if they could have built Rome in a day, because with Mosaic, you’ll probably have that sorted out by lunchtime and still have time for tea.
A mixture of technology and building means that you’ll gather resources quickly but also maximise your rewards when you carry out the Work action.
You can find out more by visiting https://www.forbiddengames.net/games/mosaic/
Designer – Glenn Drover
Graphic Design Jacoby O’Connor
Cover Artwork – Annie Stegg Gerard
Map Artwork – Jared Blando
This review is based on the retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.
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