Oliver Richtberg's dextrous balancing game just got more skilful and more difficult and a lot more fun
You will need the components from MENARA to be able to play this edition. In all fairness, if ZOCH had included more Columns and Temple Floors this could have been an expansion and a stand-alone game. My personal opinion is that they should have taken that route because as it is they are depending on players to have already bought the original game, thus players seeing this as an expansion only and not having the original will think twice about purchasing it. On the Zoch zum Spielen website you can view these at €27.99 & €18.99
However, if you have MENARA already you will find more than enough differences in RITUALS & RUINS to make it a valuable asset to the base game. Above you can see the 5 peel-off stickers used to cover the minor printing error on one of the Temple Floor pieces. These stickers come with the game and do not in any way spoil the quality.
If you haven't got or played MENARA here is the Games Gazette review MENARA
MENARA is about building an ancient Temple using colourful wooden columns and quality, thick card, floors. These floors are all weird and wondrously shaped, each with a number of coloured spaces marked on them - these spaces are where you must place the same-colour columns. When all of the spaces on a floor are occupied by columns the game is halted - even if the player has more columns left to play on their turn - and the next Floor piece (taken from the top of the randomly assembled stack, pre-game) is balanced on it.
The floor pieces must not lean on or support any other floor pieces, though they may touch side to side. The height of the Temple must reach the necessary number of levels, excluding the base, so careful positioning of the Temple Floor tiles may allow you to legally narrow the building as it rises.
In the base game you build according to the chosen Construction cards - you can select Easy, Medium or Hard difficulty blueprints - taken from one of the three small stacks - your choice. Of course when a stack is exhausted you have to select from the other stacks. It is easy to make the mistake of quickly using the Easy and Medium stacks, leaving you just the Hard blueprints to follow; some of these are ridiculously hard.
Each game you have to construct a Temple of a pre-determined height. You can build beyond that height if necessary, and you may also expand the starting base (keeping to base playing rules).
RITUALS & RUINS uses all of the MENARA rules and components and then introduces more similar components as well as completely new pieces.
35 columns: 15 Yellow. 9 Red. 6 Black. 3 White. 2 Blue and 2 Gold which are shorter than the others and unique to Rituals & Ruins.
30 new Construction card.
26 Fate cards.
13 Ritual cards.
8 Temple floors. Light sides and Dark sides.
12 plastic gems (Tears of the Gods) 6 Blue and 6 Red.
The New Gameplay:
Although you need all of the original game components you can mix and match which, if any (including all), of the Rituals & Ruins pieces to play with.
Some of the Temple tiles have different building rules for their Light side to their Dark side. Construction cards determine whether the Light or Dark side of the Temple tiles is used. Rules page 11 explains the various building regulations.
The Golden Columns have been designed deliberately shorter than the basic columns so they can slip into spaces between floors without touching the ceiling/floor above them - they can be used as a replacement for any of the regular column colours.
New Construction cards develop some interesting new ways for positioning and using the columns.
Tears of the Gods: There are a dozen of these and if you include them in your game you have to collect and place all 12 before the game ends.
The RITUAL cards ensure, when involved, that there are 13 different possible game effects. One of these is selected/chosen (at random or by design) and is in play throughout the entirety of the game; the others are replaced in the box and unused.
The FATE cards are the most confusing inclusions to the game, being created I assume, for core board games players.
Page 15 of the RITUALS & RUINS booklet has predefined scenarios which, like the Fate cards, turn the game away from regular family play and more towards regular gamer play.
It is often the case with core/regular board games players to throw all the pieces/components of an expansion into play, especially if they are specifically knowledgeable of the rules for the base game. In the case of RITUALS & RUINS I would consider this an error to do as there are many options to vary the play by adding one or two, and mixing which one or two, as you play and learn. Each new inclusion turns MENARA into an almost different game; adding the entirety of the new components at once would be quite a shock to the system (the player's and the game's).
So my conclusions and opinions are as follows:
a). If you already own and like MENARA this expansion is more than worth getting. Definitely recommended.
b). The quality of the components is excellent. Wood and Card of good strengths.
c). The artwork is either clear and concise for the symbols or exquisite for the illustrative cards.
d). If you buy it from Zoch's shop online the cost is €47.98 (£42.87 / $58.29 US) and postage.
e). This is NOT one of the usual Zoch family games that I love to go on about, the one's where gamers can change the optics from kids & family to gamer & strategy; this is already a gamer's game.
f). The Rules booklet is very well designed, with Headers, illustrations (by Sébastien Caiveau) and explanations, but few examples as the pictures and rules are mostly self explanatory.
Overall this is an extremely clever and very well imagined balancing game. The inclusion of the new Floors and construction cards has added an extra level of skill, and the Fate and Rituals are tasty sugar-coated treats in the delectable pudding that is MENARA: RITUALS & RUINS.