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Game review: R&R Games' Mombasa is a masterpiece at the heart of Africa
In Mombasa, players acquire shares of chartered companies based in Mombasa, Cape Town, Saint-Louis and Cairo and propagate trading posts of these companies throughout the African continent in order to earn the most money. - photo by Ryan Morgenegg
Africa has often been called the undiscovered country. From the 15th to the 20th century, expeditions to Africa created opportunities to exploit the resources of the land. It was a time of adventure, trading, diamonds and expansion. Mombasa is a strategy board game by R&R Games that captures this time period in Africa in a magnificent manner, and it's fun to play!

The game works with two to four players and lasts anywhere from 75 to 150 minutes, depending on player count. Setup for the game can be quite involved with several bits and pieces that need to be placed in the correct areas on and around the board. However the excellent written rules walk gamers through every detail, resulting in a clear and concise setup.

In Mombasa, players represent investors in Africa trying to accumulate the most wealth by gathering shares of companies, acquiring diamonds, being a good bookkeeper and stashing away cash. This is accomplished in a variety of ways.

To begin, each player receives some money, a set of action cards and a player board to track diamonds and bookkeeping. Every turn a player has the opportunity to take advantage of several different actions. These actions are tied mainly to the action cards that a player possesses. These cards will change as the game progresses, and each player's deck will be personally customized with additional cards.

It's important to note that many of the actions allow a person to advance their player marker further along a track that opens more and more bonuses to that player. Possible actions each turn include using cards to purchase new and improved action cards or advance stock holdings in four different companies exploring Africa by moving on a track.

Cards can also be used for exploration by expanding one of the four companies into Africa gathering bonuses along the way. Other types of action cards can help individual players advance on their diamond tracks or purchase books to advance the bookkeeping track on their player boards.

Another action open to players comes by placing a bonus token on several different places on the board. Those who possess a majority of a certain type of good or are willing to spend money may gain a bonus action the next round. The sheer number of options in this game is amazing and will keep things fresh and exciting as players try new strategies each time they play.

The game board itself contains multiple parts that affect the game. There is a map of Africa separated into various regions, each containing a bonus when a player expands onto it. Players can purchase books to progress on their own personal bookkeeping tracks. There is a place for new action cards that can be collected by each player to customize their card decks and bonus spots activated by those who collect sets of cards or are willing to part with cash for special powers next turn.

A unique aspect to the action cards in the game is a rotating system by which a player uses a set of cards one turn and gets back a different set for use on later turns. A player must use strategy to play and get back the best action cards at the right time by placing them in the correct pile, all while planning for future turns.

Play continues for seven rounds, at which time points are tallied for money, stock holdings, diamond holdings and progression along the bookkeeping tracks. The farther a player progresses on a track, the more he or she will score. The game comes down to the principle that there simply isn't enough time to do all the things possible before the game ends, so players must plan wisely.

Mombasa gives players a real sense of accomplishment as everyone tries to progress in a variety of ways with action cards, investing in companies, acquiring land in Africa, gathering diamonds or being the most clever bookkeeper. Gameplay is fun and involved and actually feels like the role of an investor.

This game is a great example of very good game design. How all the different parts operate together is amazing. It is a definite purchase for strategy gamers who enjoy the Africa theme and are looking for a game with high replayability. The components are excellent quality and add to the gameplay vision. At a retail price of $50, the game will not only teach investment but also return an investment of fun unmatched by many things of equal value.
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