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Published by Zoch/Noris   Designed by Oliver Richtberg    Illustrated by Sébstien Caiveau
1-4 Players   aged  8+    Games take about 45 - 60 minutes    $28.00 - £28.00 online

There is a word in the description of MENARA the game that often puts players off, and that word is 'cooperative'. Well MENARA is cooperative but it has to be because it is another of Zoch's famous wooden pieces, balancing objects game. It is like VILLA PALLETTI, a game of balancing unusual card shapes on top of 4½ inch tall wooden columns. 


To begin with you lay the large tiles that complete the base on the flat surface and position a certain number (as directed) of columns onto the places marked, by colour, on the specific base formation as shown by the illustration in the rules. Then you shuffle all the floor pieces (quite difficult as they are really weird and odd shapes) so they end up in a random stack. From experience I will say that although you must have a fairly created random stack you MUST cheat a little by ensuring that none of the smaller roof pieces are within the top three pieces of the stack. Then throw all the columns into the black bag and shuffle them around, drawing out enough to fill the supply cart - a triangular shaped (sort of) device that looks like an antique knuckle-duster that you have assembled using several pieces of strong card.

Suggestions: Leave them to one side and then slip them in at random places, or shuffle the roof pieces flat on the table and randomly collect them up into a stack whilst making sure you don't pick the smaller pieces to begin with. Or you could just shuffle them up totally randomly and play them as they come - we did that on the first game we played and, this is why I am writing this now, the first roof piece was a small piece and it didn't fit onto any of the columns we had placed.


MENARA concerns the construction of the Temple of the Holy Tower [sic] possibly the Tower of the Holy Temple?
This is our last game step by step. We got the 3rd floor on successfully but unfortunately we had failed on a Construction card meaning we needed to build a fourth floor




Almost there



There are rules on how to play and place the columns. The first rule and main is that they have to be placed onto coloured spots on the roof tile that match the colour of the column. Roof tiles have to touch at least three columns when constructed unless you are extending the base level. Your mission is to build the Tower as high as required, generally beginning at a three floor (not counting the base) tall construction using the materials provided by the construction card drawn - you draw one at the beginning of your turn.

There are a number of rules about building, such as knowing where to place the columns, not allowing the roof pieces to extend past the base, using all of the materials and/or actions shown on the construction card chosen. These cards are set into three specific decks, each shuffled in their own sets according to the colour and icon on their flip side.

There is a supply of columns which are placed in and randomly drawn from the draw-string bag according to the card selected. There is also a 'camp' (shaped like a camouflaged stealth bomber) that can hold six columns, from which the players exchange pieces from their own randomly dealt hand (as much as you can randomly deal columns of coloured wood) so they can play columns as shown on the card and affect the building.

The game is unrelenting and unforgiving. If you cannot fulfill a Construction card totally then that card becomes another level that you have to build upwards, remembering that the Base counts as the Base not as a Level. In your turn you can carry out three turns in a specific order:
1. Exchange columns with the camp if you want to
2. Reveal a Construction plan card (flip over the top card from one of the three decks, Blue being easiest, mostly, Yellow are medium and Red are the most difficult; taking one of these is the Russian Roulette part of the game.
3. Build whatever the Construction card tells you to.
4. Replenish your columns up to your full account.

The roof pieces are Darker on one side than the other and each side generally has different column spaces, numbers and colours. Sometimes you can decide which side of the roof tile to place on the columns, other times there is no choice.

If you reach the number of floors with the Tower rising to or past the necessary height and all floors are of at least the correct (aka required) level then the players win. If you knock it over while building, you all lose. If you cannot complete a task you need to build another level and then another level every time you error.   

I really enjoy the series of ZOCH wooden-piece Construction games. Each of them is somewhat similar but with a specific twist that makes it good and different. MENARA fits in perfectly on the shelf alongside HAMSTER ROLLE, BAUSACK, RIFF-RAFF and the aforementioned VILLA PALLETTI. Playing any one of these stretches fun beyond any regular limits, but playing them one after another, especially with good friends and family, will almost guarantee tickling your funny-bone to breaking.

Some free advice for when you are packing MENARA away. The columns are safe in their draw-string bag and the floor pieces fit comfortably in the provided plastic bag. This only leaves the Construction cards for which I suggest you find a spare zip-loc bag to keep them safe. If you find buying zip-loc bags expensive (they can be if you get them from Office Supply Stores) try getting a pack/box of 'Food Fresh' bags. These are available in packs of 120 from Dime stores and places like Poundland, Aldi's, Lidl's etc for a little over a pound ($2.00) and have zip-loc tops. They may be larger than generally required but they easily fold without taking up any extra space (as long as you let the air out first) and because of their size they can also handle generously sized and awkwardly shaped game pieces.


© Chris Baylis 2011-2015