09 August 2021
War, what is it good for? Devotion, apparently.
Would you like to be a God, even for a little while? To feel the pulsing power over tiny ant-sized humans down below, scurrying around to do your bidding; to see your decisions influence the tides of wars and lives. In Mezo, an area control game inspired by Myan mythology, you get to be that God for about two hours doing exactly that. But even while in possession of all your powers, don’t expect this to be an easy job. Other Gods, as strong and as cunning as you are, are also vying for the same territories.
Mezo has all the main staples of an area-control game. The game board is divided into territories, which players will aim to control to gain victory points throughout the game’s three ages. Each player selects a tribe and places their warriors, shamans, heroes, glyphs and pyramids in different territories to exact their influence. Despite some theme-appropriate terminology, so far this sounds like a very by-the-book area control game. What elevates Mezo beyond the expected and acts as pièce de résistance of the whole game are the Gods.
Gods do not only physically loom over the board, as huge, intricately designed miniatures, but they also influence the style of gameplay that players will adapt during the game. After everyone’s soldiers have been assigned to different territories at the start of a round, players perform actions using their God’s custom deck. The actions are attuned to the Gods’ nature. Kukulcan, a War Serpent, favours the warriors, giving them extra abilities and mobility around the map. Whereas Ah Puch, God of Death, is particularly good at smiting units, sending them straight to Xibalba, the underworld, from where return is… complicated. The God’s deck is not big – only five cards – however, there are three actions on each card offering some gameplay flexibility.
While the Gods’ individuality is a big part of its appeal, what brings Mezo down is the lack of the feeling of progression. All three ages play relatively the same: you re-distribute the figures on the map, perform a Godly power, reveal and resolve an area using God’s card actions, get rewards, rinse and repeat. The board gets cleared every age and only a couple of players’ decisions make a permanent impact. The only real change from round to round is how far player’s victory point markers moved around the board.
On its own, this point would feel like a very minor misstep, however, it is amplified by Mezo’s larger problem: out of twelve Gods (so far) designed for the game, the base box offering comes with… four. Other gods are spread between various expansion packs, which – if you have seen the size and detail of those minis – you can expect to pay a precious penny. If the enjoyment of the game did not rely as much on the individuality of looks and gameplay of its Gods, this would be less of a sticking point. As it stands, once you have played with the four Gods in the base game, you have very little reason to return to the game. Overall, this makes the base game feel like an expensive teaser.
Mezo is a beautiful offering. From its theme to artwork to an impressive table presence with God minis towering above it all in their glorious detail, it is a feast for eyes. It is those Gods that entice you into the game, with their beautiful design and fun abilities, that feel powerful and tricky to master at the same time. It is only a shame that the biggest part of what makes Mezo unique and exciting is gatekept behind additional expansions.
PLAY IT? PROBABLY
Having found a great balance between feeling like an-all powerful God and maintaining the overall challenge, Mezo is let down by its semi-feeling gameplay and limited number of Gods available in the base game.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED BLOOD RAGE...
Mezo shares a lot of similarities mechanically with Blood Rage, but has less in-game progression and customisation, although the Gods offer a lot more individuality in their gameplay.
Designer: John Clowdus
Publisher: Kolossal Games
Time: 60-120 minutes
WHATS IN THE BOX
- 4 God figures
- 68 Human tribe figures
- 24 Tarot-sized god cards
- 1 Double-sided game board
- 4 Player boards
- 44 Pyramid pieces
- 9 Wrathful god tiles
- 6 Conflict tiles
- 24 Player glyphs
- 68 Additional tokens & markers
This article originally appeared in issue 46 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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