Oaxaca – Undine Studios – Review

Oaxaca: Crafts of a Culture is a very cleverly built game. 

Theme and What is it?

One of the features of the Oaxaca (pronounced WA-HA-KA) region are the handicrafts made there.  As a craftsman from this region, you will be making some of these items to display in your market stall.

The player who can display the most exquisite expertise will be distinguished among their peers while the rest will be deemed as common.

Gameplay Mechanics

Each round, players will roll their dice and plan what to do with the results.  They can use the dice to gather supplies (cards of the given symbol type) or to work on all the crafts in their workshop of that type.  Players work until they finish their projects and put them on display in their market stall.  While on display, crafts gain access to their special abilities.

Finished pottery projects make it easier to work on all future projects.  Textiles will give more flexibility and general utility.  Tin art will give extra dice manipulation powers or make the dice more useful.

Woodcarvings focus on giving player interaction.  Some interaction is positive (gain something great and everyone else gets some too) while others are negative (benefit yours while hurting theirs). Jewelry focuses purely on end game scoring.

Initial Impressions

The card backs and specialized dice have a great table presence.  The artwork invokes a warm comfortable feel for the game.  All games with dice have the chance for poor luck to hurt things.  Many projects give the dice more flexibility and you can pair the dice to lose an action in favor of any one action you need at the time.  This makes the game more strategic than luck based despite the presence of so much dice driven action.

Game Build Quality

There are a bunch of different decks for the game.  5 types of crafts, tourists, and the taste of Oaxaca modular expansion deck make for a very colorful spread on the table.

The player mats for card and dice organization are really great.  They give all the key information right in front of the players.  There are also components for a perfectly serviceable solo game.  It has an extra player card and different woodcarving cards to replace the ones that wouldn’t make sense solo.

Artistic Direction

The box and craft art are cute yet detailed.  They have a very friendly and welcoming feel.  This is particularly appropriate for a game based on a tourist destination that needs to draw people in with their visual appeal.

Fun Factor

Oaxaca is a relatively short game.  With only 3 rounds of play, each game will be quite different as players will explore using abilities from different crafting decks.  If you can roll well enough, just going for jewelry points might be enough to win.

But it can be quite powerful to snag a little dice manipulation or making all workshop projects easier before trying to just maximize final scoring.  Games can easily be finished in under half an hour.  We find ourselves just going again a few times while it is already on the table.

Age Range & Weight

10+ is a solid age rating.  I wouldn’t adjust it at all.  The game is quite easy to learn and get into.  The player interaction can be as minimal or as large as the players choose based on how much they hit the woodcarving deck.  Even the most harmful effects are rarely bad enough to cause any hurt feelings.

Conclusions

Oaxaca: Crafts of a Culture is a very cleverly built game.  It gives players critical choices on how to work with what dice rolls they get at the start of the round but offers lots of ways to manipulate results or spend as wilds.

The game is short enough that one player having a huge spurt of luck wont let them beat everyone else upside the head with their crafted powers.  It is just long enough that you need to take full advantage of the crafts you put in your stall.