Mall World: A little known Rio Grande game thats growing on me.

My husband and I found this game at a thrift store approximately a year ago.  It was a Rio Grande game with all of its pieces, and so we snapped up that treasure in a heartbeat.  When we got it home, it took a few weeks before we were able to get people to play it with us, and when we finally did we only got halfway through the game before the others lost interest and we switched to something else.

Nearly a year later, and with this game sitting on the shelf taunting me, I finally talked a small group into playing it with me.  It took a little while to get through the rules, as they are a bit robust.  This time, however, we were victorious:  we managed to get all the way through the game.

A game of Mall World in progress. Each of the colored tiles on the board represents a certain type of store (such as hobby, sport, clothing, or food). Each of the colored face chips on top of them adds a layer of complexity. Is it a clothing store for men, women, children, or teens?

Mall World is a game in which players take on the role of contractors for a new mall.  It’s their job to build stores and then rent them to different types of clients, all in an effort to complete their given set of work orders, while inhibiting their fellow contractors from doing the same.

A turn is divided into three major steps:

  1. Take work orders that you think you can complete, for a small fee.
  2. Confirm an order you have completed, or work towards completing an order by auctioning off cards that allow you to place stores in the mall.
  3. Pick up new cards that will allow you to place stores on another turn.

The strategy behind these steps was not immediately clear to many of us playing.  It wasn’t until about 3/4 of the way through the game that the light bulbs started going on.  What to do (the basic rules) were the easy part.  Why to do something (the strategy) was much much more difficult to grasp.

An example of the cards used in the game. The top cards illustrates that you can place a purple store next to a green store, or vice versa. Optionally, you could place a purple "man" face on a green store, or a green "woman" face on a purple store.

So we played it again…

The second time through was with half of the people from the previous game, and half of the people being brand new.  This means we had to go through the process of explaining the game again, and once again the light bulbs didn’t start going on for new players until the game was nearly over. The experienced players, however,  were out of the gate pretty quickly.  The game took on all sorts of new interest, as we could plot and struggle, trying to outdo each other.

After the game, as always, I asked everyone what they thought.  I like getting lots of outside perspectives.  I was given a resounding “There is a lot going on! It’s hard to keep track of it all in your head!”. That really seems to be the heart and soul of the problem with this game, but also why I am looking forward to playing it again.   It’s complex.  There is no one winning strategy, and the strategy changes frequently based upon the board and the cards available.

The complexity in strategy of this game reminds me of other complicated war games, however, there is one distinct advantage here that those games do not have:  Play time.  Each game of Mall World was firmly under 2 hours long.  This allowed for great replay value.

I wouldn’t recommend this game for a family looking for something idle to do on a Friday night, the learning curve is just too steep for that.  I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good deal of strategy but disdains losing entire weekends at a time to the pursuit.

This entry was posted by The_Null_Entry on Saturday, January 15th, 2011 at 9:48 am and is filed under Board Game Reviews, Resource Management Games . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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