Mottainai is a complex card game that strongly resembles the successful Glory to Rome by the same author. The game takes place in a Buddhist temple. The players take on the role of an apprentice monk who tries to make himself as useful as possible by producing objects for the monastery of different kinds of materials.
The complexity of this game is caused by the fact that each card has three different functions. Each card contains a role (which gives the right to perform certain actions), if it is a resource (of a certain kind, for example stone or paper) and also if it is a product you can build (for example a fan or a kite). Each product you build also gives you an extra advantage (once or sometimes even every round). So you have to think carefully about what you use each card for because each card can only be used once and so you don’t use two of the three features.
A turn consists of three phases (morning, afternoon, evening) in which different things happen. Luckily, the game comes with some useful memory cards to help you perform the different steps in the right order. The most important thing of each round is that you select one card from your hand that indicates which role (with the corresponding task) you are going to perform. For example, the clerk helps you to produce products for sale and with the potter you can get extra material to produce products. However, you can also choose to pray (draw cards) or craft (make products in the same color as your roll with material cards from your hand) instead of the standard action.
A role becomes more effective if you have already recruited helpers (by means of the monk) in the same color in advance (each helper gives you the right to perform the action associated with that role an additional time). And if you have also made products in the color of your helper and placed them next to the helpers, a helper becomes twice as productive, which is very nice.
By the way, you not only perform your own role, but you can also always perform the role that the other player(s) has (have) chosen. And your helpers (whether supported by the correct finished products, or not) then all count as well. So it may be that you (with the right help) benefit more from an action than the player who chooses it. And that might be a reason for that person to do something else. So choose wisely!
Unfortunately, helpers don’t score points (the products you’ve made do, by the way). To score points you have to produce “sales” (by first stockpiling resources with the potter and then using the clerk to convert them into “sales”). But “sales” only score points when you made a product in the same color and placed it next to the “sales”. This is pretty complicated at first. Your previous actions influence your options later on in different ways and that makes it difficult to think about what you’re going to do. Even the rules of the game admit that this is a complex game. But after a few rounds you will get the hang of it.
There are two versions of this game for sale, the Mini version and the Deluxe version. The Deluxe version contains two decks of cards and two extra player boards so you can play it with up to 5 players. The Mini Edition contains only one deck of cards and player boards for up to 3 players.
Mottainai has both soul and style!
As I wrote at the beginning Mottainai looks very much like Glory to Rome. The big difference is that there are a few more rules added which makes it a bit more complicated. So it really takes some time to get used to the complex systems and rules. But after that, it turns out to be a very interesting card game. You try to get the most out of your hand cards and look for interesting combos of products that offer you nice extras. You have to continuously consider whether you are going to try to make future actions more efficient by making helpers, whether you are investing in replenishing your resource supply or whether you prefer to go for points directly (and in what way). And then you also have to make sure that you have enough cards in your hands by making timely use of the tailor or by praying.
The small box contains a pack of cards, the rules and some cardboard boards. The game material is beautifully made. And that’s all you need to make a fun, interesting game full of difficult choices!