Marco Polo is a complex strategy game and has won the Deutsche Spielepreis in 2015. Especially the very asymetric characters contribute the strategic depth and popularity of the game. Thus, I want to share some really useful hints in this Marco Polo strategy guide.
Victory points (vps)
Generally speaking there are four main ways to score victory points:
- Getting to Beijing
- Meeting secret goals
- Fulfilling assignments
- Specific city actions
I consider 2. as the most important source of vps, slightly more important than 3. As a thumb of rule often the player who has most cities and fulfilled assignments wins.
With 2 players you will usually try to get to Beijing but it is not so important to rush there to be first. As a second player you still get 7 vps so it is not really worth to sacrifice other bonuses on the way in order to rush there.
With 4 players you should either try to get there first or second or actually consider not going to Beijing in the first place. Using two dice to travel there just to get a single vp is rarely worth it.
2. Meeting secret goals
Try to choose goals that are on a route (preferably a route that is easy to follow) and that differ. If this is not possible, choosing two goal cards that share one destination can be worthwile because it is much easier to achieve and and getting 6 vps for three different cities rather than 10 vps for four different cities is quite ok.
3. Fulfilling assignments
Assignments award money, goods, black dice, further assignements, movements and victory points. They are very important to win, also because the player with most assignments wins 7 additional vps.
Also they give players the opportunity to get more of a resource than possible via dice or move more often in a single round.
I personally dislike the ones that give you a random new assignment because you may end up with an assignment that does not fit your strategy at all.
In the early game try to get cheap assignments that require few resources and award money or goods. In the end game the big assignments that mostly give vps can be more interesting since you can fulfill them more easily than earlier in the game due to city actions.
4. Specific city actions
City actions like converting 1 camel into 1 vp can be really powerful. However, try to get and use them mostly in the last two rounds. Otherwise you sacrifice goods you might use or need for assignments or for traveling.
There are three main routes from Venezia towards Beijing:
- The most northern route via Moscow
- The route via Samarcanda
- The route via Ormuz
- The soutern route via Adana
Let’s look at the costs to get there. I use the ratio of 3 camels that are worth 5 cash approximately.
- 8 camels and 7 steps
- 14 camels and 7 steps
- 9 camels and 7 steps
- 21 camels and 7 steps
It is obvious that route 1. and 3. are by far the cheapest and the southern route 4. is by far the most expensive. I’d go as far to state that the northern route is actually most attractive because you need only three camels and three steps to get to one big and one small city.
The 2. route requires nine camels and four steps to get to one small and one big city.
Of course the city bonuses can make the difference: going for the second best route with little competition can be better than going for the best with a lot of competition.
Overall, most often you should try to go for the 1. or 3. route, though.
Analyze if there are city bonuses and city actions that have synergies. An example would be a city action that gives you tissue and another one that requires tissue to get money. Such synergies can be really strong worth the travel 😉
If you have a travel character you might need more money, so try to get city actions early that give you money. If you are not a travel character your focus will lie on assignments so city actions to get goods more cheaply will be important for you.
|preferred player #||Travel ch.?||not good w||good w||Rationale||Overall (1 weak to 3 strong)|
|1||Raschid ad-Din Sinan||2||n||3, 6, 4||Very flexible character, better with fewer players. Try to travel to good city actions because you can use them fully if uncontested.||3|
|2||Matteo Polo||2||n||1||3, 6||Dependent a lot on the random assignments. Stronger when there are less camels/black dice in the game and when there are good city actions.||1|
|3||Mercator ex Tabriz||4||n/y||5, 7, 8||1, 6||Dependent on goodwill of other players. Better with non-travel characters as they will have less city actions available. Does not have a special travel ability but should travel to big cities to not blockade the market oneself.||2|
|4||Kubilai Khan||4||n||5||7, 8||Is only attractive if 3. route or Sumatra are very attractive. Inferior to Johannes if both in play.||1|
|5||Johannes Caprini||2 to 3||y||6||4, 8, 6||Johannes will travel 3 to 4 steps frequently. Thus, you either want to travel first to save cash or travel last to go first next round. Berke often travels last so traveling first is easier for Johannes. If Johannes is next to Berke in the seating order, it is nice! You’ll need a lot of money so get money city actions.||2|
|6||Berke Khan||4||n||1, 3||2, 4,||The more players the more the benefit of Berke’s unique ability. Should try to travel last. Thus, it is important to get black dice to be able to travel last. Better with non-travel characters.||3|
|7||Niccolo and Marco Polo||2||y||8||4, 5||Try to move 3 to 4 steps each time and moving both pawns to cities as often as possible.||2|
|8||Wilhelm von Rubruk||2||y||5, 4||7||Pick Wilhem if the northern route is attractive. Try to get all 11 city tokens down to get the bonus points. Try to move several steps covering at least two cities. You’ll need a lot of money so get money city actions. Go for routes 1, 3, 2 and finally 4.||3|
The Voyages of Marco Polo is a deep yet elegant strategy game. Players need to remain flexible and adapt to dice rolls and their opponents’ tactics!