So in my spare time, other then playing many, many board games, I also like to paint. The first paintings I created was mandala’s. They are often very colorful and have a few rules to follow which makes them great in learning how to paint. So even seeing the box of Mandala stones made me already very happy. I couldn’t wait to start playing to see what colorful patterns we would create together!
How to Play.
The setup is very simple and fast. Place the mandala board on the table, give each player a player board, two random objective cards, a reference card and place a scoring marker on the mandala space on the mandala board. Also place the main board on the table and randomly draw stones from the cotton bag to place on each mandala space of the main board. Keep going until there is a stack of four stones high on each space and lastly play the four artists randomly on each of the four spaces shown in the rulebook. Now you are ready to create a mandala.
On your turn you can choose on of two actions. You can either pick or score. If you choose to pick, choose one of the artists and move it to a different position of your choice. Then take all the top stones from the four adjacent spaces with the same pattern as the artist. The stones with a different pattern, or adjacent to another artist, stays on the board. Once you know what stones you have to take, choose what stone you get first and proceed to take the other stones clockwise, forming a stack so the first stone is on the bottom. You cannot skip any stones you are allowed to take and you can’t change the order once you have chosen your first stone. After collecting the stones, place the stack on an empty space on your player board to end your turn. If you cannot choose the action pick because of the placement of stones and artists on the main board, you have to score.
If you choose to score instead, you can either score a color, or score any top stones from the stacks you have created. If you want to score a color, select a color shared by the top stones of at least two stacks or more on your player board. If you choose a color, all stacks where the top stones matches the color, will participate in the scoring. If you have five stacks on your player board, where one stack has a blue top stone, one stack a pink top stone and three stacks have a yellow top stone, you can only choose yellow since there have to be at least two stacks participating. All three yellow top stones from the stacks will then be scored. Each spot on your player board has a different way of scoring. This could be the current height position for the top stone, the height difference between the stacks on you player board, or the amount of different colors in a stack for example. After scoring the color, advance your marker on your player board to gain the victory points you have gained, then remove all the top stones of the stacks that scored and place them on the mandala board. Start by the empty spaces in the middle on the mandala board and follow the trail to the outer side of the board. If you place a stone on a +1 or +2, gain that many victory points on your player board. If you cannot score, you have to pick.
If you choose to score any top stones instead, you can select any number of stones from the top of each stack and score one victory point per stone. This can be very helpful to get rid of unwanted colors in order to score more in another round. Once scored, place the stones on the mandala board and advance your tracker. The game will end if a stone is placed on the mandala board on a space showing the same amount of hands as players (note that each player always gets the same amount of turns in the game), or if a player is unable to take a pick or score action. When the game ends, each player reveals their objective cards and add the victory points together in order to calculate the final score. The player with the most victory points is the winner.
Playthrough of the game.
Reading the rules was easy, but once we started playing we noticed that picking wasn’t as easy as the rulebook had made it look. You want the same colors as much as possible, but there are always unwanted stones providing you with colors you don’t want. Tomasz and I had very different coping strategies for this. While Tomasz’s coping strategy was to stare intensely to the main board, looking for an opening and eventually accepting the unwanted stones that he picked. I was trying to get as many stones as possible and using the score action for any top stones to get rid of unwanted colors, rather then to choose impossible stones. I would then score as many stacks as possible if I had them in the same color. This provided me with more victory points in the beginning, but Tomasz quickly caught up by scoring multiple stacks from the same color. He even gained a pretty big head start. But all that thinking with the main board, made him forget his objective cards. At the end of the game, he was six points ahead of me. But he did not complete his objective cards, while I managed to complete both of them. This provided me with another 13 points making me win the game. He will hear this of course for a very long time.
This game has a lot of replayability since you place the stone during the set up randomly. The quality of the stones are also very good and we love that almost everything is grey except for those stones that scream with bright colors. The pattern you create during each game on the mandala board is nice to see evolve. We think that the game is well designed and balanced since it’s so easy to explain and start playing, but once you’re in the game it provides you with enough challenge. The objective cards can also give you a great amount of points which can make you an unexpected winner in the end.
Mandala Stones is an abstract strategy game where the main goal is to score the most victory points by collecting the right stones from the main board. We had a lot of fun with this game. It is easy to learn with a well written rulebook, fast to set up and explain, but the game itself also doesn’t take to long. If you like colors, Mandala Stones also has enough to offer since you create a beautiful pattern on the mandala board along the way. But the game also has a lot of replayability since each stone is randomly placed during the set up. No pattern will be the same in this game, which provides you with a nice surprise at the end of each game. If you lose, you at least do it with a nice view!