Mosaic is a fine civilisation themed game that fits nicely in the middle between the heavier civilisation epics and the lighter weight civ-themed games with a nice area control element.
In Mosaic you are building a civilisation. Players take it in turns to take an action. This is typically to gather resources or currency, buying a card which can be a technology or city project, a city or town, or increasing your population. Players can recruit armed forces and build wonders and can collect achievement cards to represent civilisation advancement and domination. Victory is gained by scoring the most victory points at the end.
Building Your Civilisation
As is often the case in civilisation games, you are building and expanding your civilisation. Mosaic is no different in terms of this basic concept, but it does do some things differently.
Normally, civilisations tend to expand from a capital. In Mosaic you can place cities pretty much anywhere as you seek to gain influence and dominance in the different regions. There is a map reflecting the ancient Mediterranean area and as you place your cities, you are also looking to have either the most presence and therefore influence in an area or come second. In this way you will score victory points. You can boost your influence, by building wonders, recruiting military units and building towns that expand from your cities.
As you place you place your settlements, you also acquire bonus trade goods which can be used to score additional victory points at the end of the game. Military units whilst increasing your influence, only impact on a region rather than being tied to a specific city, but they can be a way to help not just increase your presence, but help remove your opponents’ units, or in the case of siege engines, cancel the influence of enemy cities.
Key Concept Of Influence
There are several ways to score victory points and presence is a key area. It also gives you that feeling of expansion as you have a map to build and units around on. It does feel a little artificial and unrealistic that your ‘empire’ grows in what can be a rather haphazard way, but it does lead to interesting results as players compete for dominance over regions.
At various points in the game, you will reveal from different card decks, an Empire scoring card. This triggers a scoring event part way through the game for victory points based of map influence, and like area control games generally you are likely to want to be the lead influence in at least one area with presence in several others to maximise the points you collect.
Influence shifts during Mosaic as players build cities and towns, recruit units and build wonders, so it’s best not to be too precious over trying to control too many areas, but then there are other ways to score victory points.
Various Score Paths
In addition to influence on the map, you will have the opportunity to build projects, develop technology and acquire a variety of cards during the game. You’ll notice that cards have an icon at the lower right of the cards. These icons are important to note because as well as helping you collect enough to meet pre-requisites for other cards, they also help you accumulate victory points.
These victory points include those from Golden Age cards eg the first to acquire six military icons as well as those from Civilisation Achievements eg 15 Idea production. You can also gain points from building wonders and there is also unrest which essentially comes from tax and tariff. These are negative victory points and will count against your score at the end, although there are ways to negate them eg through building specific wonders.
It is a strength of the game that there are varied ways to score victory points. It would be recommended not to ignore any of them, but it is likely you’ll focus on a few stronger paths based on what opportunities arise in game. Even if you don’t score well from the map, you can still build your path to victory by gaining a number of achievements, building wonders and city project and collecting cards with the necessary icons to score from.
I really like the various way to score points. The options are both thematic and whilst there is an abstract nature to the game it does reflect aspects of empire growth and dominance nicely. In some games you are so restricted in options it can feel like you’re getting stuck, but in Mosaic I feel I have a fair degree of control and options for scoring.
The map is nice, the artwork thematic and there is a sense of expansion. However, I didn’t get the same feeling of an expanding empire as with other civilisation games. Not a game changer, just my opinion. I’ll still play Mosaic and enjoy it, bearing in mind what the game is trying to do.
The game could do with a good player aid to help learners and the map doesn’t have a victory points scoring track and a good scoring grid, but these are not essential to play, rather they would just be a nice addition. It is a game calling for miniatures too, which didn’t come with the game, but again, not essential.
The reference to currency referring to stone, food and ideas, odd and unhelpful in contrast to the mechanic of tax and tariff which are separate.
Mosaic is a nice game. I’d recommend it for those times you don’t want to play or don’t have the time to play an epic, but you still want that civ feel.