Mr. Maksimov’s Manor Game Review

maksimov-top

The Basics:

  • For ages 8 and up (publisher suggests 14+)
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • Approximately 15 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management
  • Bidding

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Possession is nine-tenths of the law

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek rejected!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

Your Uncle Maksimov was an eccentric man. He only remembered you on your birthday when he would send a card with a scribbled note mentioning something about the futility of youth. Upon his death, his lawyer summoned you to the reading of the Will, where your inheritance was announced. Everything else is up for grabs and the town is hungry to acquire what you believe is yours. Greed and grief are powerful motivators.

Mr. Maksimov’s Manor, designed by Dustin Vance and published by Captive Publishing, is comprised of 40 Bid tokens (in 4 different colors, 10 per color), 2 “Neutral” Bid tokens, 32 Item cards, and 1 bag (where the tokens are placed during the game). The cards are as thick and as durable as your standard playing card, but are about half the size. The tokens are made of plastic. If you know what a “wink” is, that is what the tokens are. The artwork by Kiwibear, Dustin Vance and Chris Vosler capture the oddities the late Mr. Maksimov collected, but not to a degree where it makes or breaks the game.

The Reading of the Will

To set up the game, first give each player 10 Bid tokens of the same color. These are placed in front of the player and will remain visible for the duration of the game. Any colored Bid tokens not used are returned to the game box. Leave the 2 “Neutral” (white) Bid tokens out.

Second, shuffle the Item cards and deal 3, face-down, to each player. These represent the 3 items that belonged to the late Mr. Maksimov that were promised to the player upon his death. Players should keep these 3 cards a secret until the end of the game.

Third, place the remaining Item cards face-down to create the draw deck.

That’s it for game set up. Time to see how much loot you can grab from the dearly departed Mr. Maksimov’s dead hands! Determine who will control the bid first and begin.

One Heck of an Estate Sale

Mr. Maksimov’s Manor is played in 4 rounds. Each round is comprised of several sequential steps. A single game round is summarized here.

Step 1: Reveal the Bid Offering

Draw the top 5 cards from the draw deck and place them face-up in a row. The order in which they are placed does not matter. These are the only items available during the round.

Step 2: Secretly Determine Bid Interest

All players now take any number of Bid tokens they have not yet used and secretly place them in one hand, making certain that none of the player’s opponents can see how many they selected. All players should be aware that the Bid tokens they select will be out of the game after the round is over. The number of Bid tokens taken by the player represents the total number of possible times they can take a face-up Item card, but only for this round.

Step 3: Reveal Bids and Shake Bag

On the count of three, each player reveals their selected number of Bid tokens and then all of them are placed in the bag, along with the 2 “Neutral” Bid tokens. The player controlling the Bid for the round shakes the bag, ensuring a random distribution.

Step 4: Reveal Bid

The player controlling the Bid now draws 1 Bid token from the bag, revealing it to all the players. The owner of the Bid token must now select 1 face-up Item card, placing it face-down in front of them. This is mandatory, meaning a player might have to pick an Item card that does not help them, or worse yet, actually reduces points. The revealed player Bid token is out for the duration of the game.

If a “Neutral” Bid token is revealed, the player controlling the bid must select 1 face-up Item card. This means the player controlling the bid has an opportunity to take an Item card if their colored Bid token is drawn or a “Neutral” Bid token is drawn. Unlike player Bid tokens, drawn “Neutral” Bid tokens are temporarily set aside and will return to the game.

Step 5: Continuing and Ending the Round

The player controlling the Bid continues to draw 1 token at a time, allowing the owning player to select 1 card from the dwindling supply of available items. The round ends when all the tokens have been drawn from the bag or there are no more face-up Item cards. Any remaining face-up Item cards or colored player Bid tokens in the bag are removed for the duration of the game. Again, the “Neutral” Bid tokens remain in play.

This ends the round. the bag is passed to the next player in turn order sequence who will control the bid during the next round.

Between Bidding Sessions

After a round has been completed, each player, starting with the player who was controlling the bid for the round, may play 1 (and only 1) Item card for its effect. Played Item cards are removed from the game as soon as they are resolved.

maksimov-effect

Players can also pay 2 Bid tokens to remove 1 card from their hand. This is particularly handy if the player was forced to take an Item card during the bidding that reduced points. Although it will weaken their bidding power for the duration of the game, it does allow them, fairly cheaply, to remove an obvious deficit.

Cards played, tokens spent, and cards dropped from the player’s collection are removed for the duration of the game.

Continuing the Game and Final Scoring

The game ends after the 4th round is completed. All players now reveal their cards and organize them into sets to score points. Some cards will cost the player points, as well, so it might be worthwhile to allow players to use a pen or pencil and some paper, as the score values can fluctuate a great deal. In addition to the points earned (and lost) by cards, each player is awarded 1 point for each Bid token they did not spend.

maksimov-score

After the scores have been determined, the player with the most points wins the game. It’s difficult to say if Mr. Maksimov would have been proud or not.

House Rules

The players found several issues with the game that they were able to easily solve by injecting their own creativity and rules. They are shared here for you to use if you so wish. They are not part of the original rule set and should not be considered part of the game by default.

Fix for Three Player Game

The game has a nasty flaw that makes it a poor offering as a 3-player game. Since there are 4 rounds, a 3-player game gives 1 player an unfair advantage of controlling the bid twice. The rules have nothing to provide in the way of guidance, but the obvious course of action is to only allow the use of the “Neutral” Bid tokens once per player. When a player takes their second turn to control the bid (the 4th and final bid), the “Neutral” Bid tokens are removed from the bag. No other changes to the bidding are necessary.

Pass Bidding Control

This house rule allows the continued use of the “Neutral” Bid tokens regardless of the number of players in the game. Players take turns drawing 1 Bid tokens during the round. The current player with the bag draws a Bid token, the owning player takes an Item card, and then the bag is passed to the next player in turn order sequence. If a “Neutral” Bid token is drawn during the player’s turn, it allows them to select an Item card, but is NOT removed from the bag. Once the Item card is selected, the “Neutral” Bid token is placed back in the bag. This gives all players a small opportunity to be able to take an Item card, regardless of the number of tokens they placed in the bag.

Bid Minimum

The bid minimum is 1 token. If the player is unable to bid at least 1 token, they are out for the duration of the game until the final score is calculated.

To learn more, visit the game’s web page.

Final Word

The Child Geeks found a lot of fun in the game. I think it was the thrill of picking an Item card their opponent wanted that drove them to add so many Bid tokens in the bag. It was common for the younger and less experienced players to put in way too many Bid tokens up front, reducing their ability to bid on anything during the second half of the game. They quickly learned to be more prudent. What we did not see a lot of was usage of cards as effects and not once did any of the Child Geeks take advantage of dropping negative cards. According to one Child Geek, “Bidding tokens are too important to use on such nonsense.” Nonsense or not, the Child Geeks had other plans for the tokens. As one Child Geek put it, “If you have the chips, you can really control a lot of the game, but not always.” When the auction was over, the Child Geeks gave Mr. Maksimov’s Manor their full approval.

maksimov-play

My son carefully considers his options as he reviews the current items being offered in the auction

The Parent Geeks were also most pleased with the game. According to one Parent Geek, “A simple game to teach and a fun game to play. I like that it take so little time to get to the table and enjoy. I think I found my new go-to game when the relatives are here.” Another Parent Geek said, “It’s not the most elegant bidding and auctioning game I have ever played, but what it lacks in finesse it more than makes up for in enjoyment.” What the Parent Geeks liked the most was the player’s ability to control their own luck to a certain degree, but the price was a reduced level of effectiveness later in the game. This balancing act was seen as a great challenge and an enjoyable endeavor. All the Parent Geeks voted to approve the game.

The Gamer Geeks found Mr. Maksimov’s Manor to be flawed. According to one Gamer Geek, “A bidding game should allow a player to control their own fate with a diminishing return. This game does not do that. It puts too much luck into the equation.” Another Gamer Geek said, “The neutral chips are the worst thing in the world. Why would the person controlling the bidding get a better chance of getting cards than the others? That doesn’t make any sense and really introduces a lot of unbalance.” The Gamer Geeks had several suggestions on how the game could be improved (see House Rules), but even then they didn’t see much point to the game. The damage, it seemed, had been done. All the Gamer Geeks voted to reject the game, finding it to be a weak entry into the world of fast playing bidding games.

Mr. Maksimov’s Mansion is most enjoyed by those who just want to play a quick game, where their level of influence over possible outcomes is somewhat in their control. This left the Parent and Child Geeks feeling very happy with the game and the Gamer Geeks terribly underwhelmed. It all comes down to personal taste, I believe. There are some bidding games where who gets what is driven by luck as much as resource expenditures. There are also bidding games where the individual who controls their assets the smartest walks away with the win. I would say that Mr. Maksimov’s Mansion is somewhat in the middle, albeit leaning towards the imbalance that luck often provides.

A player’s initial hand of cards (their inheritance, if you will) is the single most influential aspect of the game. While it does not fully set the stage for what Item cards the player should select, it does a great deal to determine which Item cards the player will want to focus on first. The Luck of the Draw, or lack thereof, will give the player a significant start or a terrible setback. In either case, the player knows exactly where they stand from the very start, removing any need to guess how to go forward. This was very well received by our players, but not fully. No one liked it when they were given negative cards, which felt like it put the player in a hole right from the start. A hole they could climb out of, but not easily. As such, those who were dealt poor cards felt the other players had an unfair advantage.

Mr. Maksimov’s Manor is not the end all be all bidding game, but nor is it trying to be. It’s fast, it’s small, and it’s easy to play. It’s a game designed to be perfect for family play or as a game filler, but those who like to take their bidding seriously will feel slighted. This is not a game that requires a great deal of thought, but you must focus in when it’s your turn. Risk versus reward is ever-present, but offset by a little luck. Mr. Maksimov’s Manor is a hodgepodge of a game and it works. Do try it to see if it makes a big impact.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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