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Where is Moldova?

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

I’m sure I’ve spied a more recent edition that has been quite literally cut down to size but this, the original edition from 2005, is gigantic. It comes in a box that is 25 inches long and around 20 inches wide. No folded playing board here: the board fills the box, as does the heavy steel map board designed to take players’ magnetic markers.

This was a game that the publishers, Seager Games, hoped would be the Next Big Thing following in the wake of Trivial Pursuit. It wasn’t to be. Cutting through the hyperbole on the box and in the rulebook, self-proclaiming this as 'a classic'', 'unique' and 'a brilliant new board game', this is a perfectly serviceable family game and had the potential of being a useful educational tool, but its mechanics were very old hat. It’s a roll and move game where players land on squares representing the various countries of Europe and its immediate neighbours. There is scope for some strategy as players can spend ‘strategy cards’ to alter their route around the board; in effect, allowing them to choose between two landing squares for their dice roll.

Players acquire countries (putting markers on the map) Monopoly-style by landing on their square and fulfilling the requirements to take that country. This will either be by rolling dice or answering a trivia question. Trivia questions are on cards – a dozen on each card, notionally ranked by difficulty – and the specific question to be asked can be determined by rolling a 12-sided die. The rules suggest that players can vary the difficulty by deciding whether or not to offer multiple choice options, except that several of the cards fail to set out multiple choice options.

As with all trivia games, there’s a risk that answers are out of date by the time you play. That could be true for some of the questions here; it’s certainly true of the map, which predates the changes to Moldova’s near neighbours in the Balkans. What feels most dated though is the gameplay. Despite its grandiose claims, Where is Moldova? uses mechanics that feel so old that it now seems surprising that the game was published as recently as 2005. This feels and plays much more like a game from the early 1980s.

The rules are poorly presented but the game is simple enough that this isn’t a fatal handicap: clumsily written rules notwithstanding, you’ll be up and playing in minutes. Although Where is Moldova? works as a light family game, this bulky edition is incredibly overproduced for what it is. And the seemingly random mishmash of question topics undermines what could have given this a worthwhile application in schools.

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