Marco Polo II: In the Service of the Khan is a dice-worker placement game with a heavy contract fulfillment component.
The game is played over 5 rounds. Each player will roll their own 5 dice at beginning of the round, then use 1 or more dice to activate various action spaces available on the board -- 1 action per turn, until their dice are all used. (Some black dice can be purchased to give extra actions for that round only.)
Players will accumulate and spend resources: coins, camels, black pepper, silk bundles, gold bars, and jade. The pepper, silk, and gold (in order of increasing value) are primarily used to fulfill contracts, while the other resources have multiple uses. For example, camels and coins are often spent to facilitate movement, and jade often used to get better resource income when using the books (market) actions. Jade can be used in place of a coin or a camel when you're desperate!
All players begin with their meeple(s) in Beijing, in the upper right-hand corner of the board, and move around (leaving a trading post in each new city) in order to gain access to more contracts (5 cities provide them), more action spaces (8 cities provide them), and collect shield icons (particularly those shown on your goal card!), which give you points at the end of the game. Travel along the paths costs coins, camels, and/or jade, as indicated -- and the blue paths require in addition that the player possess a guild seal of the indicated type.
At the beginning of the game each player will choose a character card and a goal card. These are all unique. Each character has special rules that break some rule of the game.
The goal cards specify private goals you can achieve for extra points, divided into two sections. The top section shows which cities have the indicated shields, you should try to visit one of each shield. The more shields you collect, the more points you will score at the end. The ones on your card will count double, if you get them. (There is no benefit to visiting more than one city with the same shield icon.) The bottom section of the goal card indicates which guild seals you should try to get, and then improve, to score the indicated points.
On their turn, a player will select one (or more, as necessary) die and choose a single action space on the board to activate.
If an action space fits more than one die, the action requires that many.
Action spaces either have a blue or tan background.
- - The tan background indicates that the space cannot be used more than once per round -- once any player has used it, it's no longer available for anyone.
- - The blue background, in contrast, means that "stacking" is permitted: once a die is placed there, another die (or 2 or 3, whatever is required at that space) may be played there if:
- -- the color of the new die is NOT the same as any previous die played, or is black. That is, only black dice can be used in the same space multiple times, all other colors can only appear in the stack once.
- -- the player pays coins equal to the (lowest) value of the new die (dice) being used.
Some action spaces require a minimum value. For spaces that require multiple dice, both dice must meet the value requirement.
Action spaces at the bottom of the board (clockwise, roughly) allow the players to spend dice in order to:
- - acquire a guild seal (2 dice)
- - Travel (move your meeple on the board) (1, 2, or 3 dice)
- - gain new contracts (from cities with your trading posts present) (a single die)
- - Books: gain resources (along bottom center of board, for 1 die)
- - Khan's favor: gain 2 camels and 4 coins (a single die)
- - two special action spaces that change every round (1 die each)
Each of these are covered in more detail, below.
Alternatively, you may use dice to activate an action space in a city where you have a trading post. Most of the randomized city action spaces allow you to convert one resource into another. The die value used on the action space indicates how many times you can do that conversion.
The action space to take a guild seal requires two dice. There are four different guild seals that can be acquired: farmer, spicer, tailor, and jeweler. Each player can get them all. Benefits of a guild seal:
- - immediately take 0-3 jade, depending on the seal
- - blue routes on the game board can only be traveled if you possess the correct seal. All but the farmer's seal give access to some blue routes.
- - acquired seals can be improved by spending some resources, to gain an immediate and ongoing benefit (indicated the exclamation point icon)
- - special cities (Hormuz, Balkh, Baghdad) provide additional bonus for improved seals
- - bottom section of most goal cards provides end-game points for improved seals
- - each of the 3 travel action spaces requires a different number of dice, and shows the number of spaces you can move:
- -- 1 die to move 1 space
- -- 2 dice to move up to 3 spaces
- -- 3 dice to move up to 6 spaces
- - the lowest-valued die of those used is the maximum number of spaces you can move; e.g. to move 4 spaces, you must put 3 dice in the top space, all with value 4 or higher.
- - the bottom "move 1 space" action requires you to pay 2 coins.
- - you can move fewer spaces than you are able, if desired
- - you must pay the travel costs on the map for the route used: coins, camels, jade. A blue route requires that you possess the indicated guild seal, as well (it doesn't matter whether the seal has been improved).
Once at the end of your travel (not along the way):
- - if you haven't yet, place a trading post in the destination city, and
- -- if the city has contracts, you may take one from it (you must then discard one if you had more than two).
- - If the destination city contains a semi-circular "outpost bonus" tile above it, remove the tile and take the bonus (only the first player to visit gets this bonus).
- - If the destination city contains a rectangular "city bonus" tile (these have blue roof markings on the left and right, and a large exclamation point), take that bonus immediately, and at the beginning of every subsequent round.
Action space to take contracts requires 1 die. You then take 3 coins and up to two contracts from cities where you have a trading post. If you already have two contracts, you must discard an old one for each new one you take.
Across the center bottom of the board are three books, for acquiring goods. The left book is primarily for obtaining pepper, the center book for silk, and the right for gold. The minimum die value is different for each book (1, 3, and 5 respectively). Note: all action spaces require only 1 die; the right-most book has two separate action spaces.
When you place a die in the action space, you will be offered 2-4 possible sets of goods: the top two sets are always available. The bottom two sets have better rewards, but require you to spend 1 or 2 jade (and therefore can only be chosen if you have the jade to spend). These jade-enhanced sets change each round, and below the board you can see the sets that will be available in each spot the next round.
The Khan's favor track has four action spaces, each takes a single die. These have a tan background, meaning no stacking is permitted. Spaces are used left-to-right, and each successive die placed must be equal to or higher in value than the prior die, and cannot be the same color as any previous die (unless it is black). The player receives 4 coins and two camels for activating Khan's Favor.
Before or after their regular action, the player may also perform any number of these "bonus" actions on their turn, which do not require dice (except the money bag):
- - change value of one of their dice (1 camel to reroll, 2 camels to change its value by one)
- - purchase a black die for 3 camels
- - complete a contract
- - improve a guild seal - pay the indicated cost, and gain a benefit each round
- - place any die in the money bag and take one of: 3 coins, 2 camels, or 1 jade.
- - (caravans expansion) claim or complete a caravan (see below)
Starting a caravan
If your meeple is in a city whose shield matches one of the unclaimed caravan route tokens, and you do not already have an active caravan, you may claim a matching token and begin a caravan. Your caravan token will carry one or two goods (pepper, silk, or gold), taken from your inventory, and begins at a city with the other shield on the route token. Then, each time you take a Books action, you can move your caravan token 1, 2, or 3 spaces (for the respective books) on the map. You may move fewer spaces than permitted. The caravan does not need to pay route costs, and does not cause trading posts to be put down. The caravan may use a blue path if you have earned the appropriate guild seal.
Ending a caravan
Once if the caravan token ends its movement in the same location as your meeple, you may end it. For each good on the caravan, you may choose to either:
- - double the good and add them back to your inventory
- - upgrade the good (pepper to silk, silk to pepper; gold is not upgradeable)
- - discard the good for points (2, 4, or 6 points for pepper, silk, or gold)
Then discard the route token out of the game. You are now eligible to take a new route token.
End Game Scoring
- Each improved guild seal shown on your personal scoring card awards points.
- Each different shield on cities with your trading posts, score as shown on the shields track.
- Every 2 remaining goods (pepper silk gold and jade) is worth 1 point. Camels are not goods!
- Every 10 coins is worth 1 point.
- Player who completed the most contracts gets 8 points, second most 4 points. (But no points for second in a 2-player game.)
If playing with Caravans expansion:
- For any caravan still on the game board, you may sell all remaining goods for half of the usual points: a gold bar is worth 3 points, a silk 2 points, and a pepper 1 point.
Tie breaker goes to player with most camels.
Summary by: alephander