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Q: Are we not men?
So I helped Ian with an online (here on BGG) playtest a while back, but didn't get to play the actual game till last night (a buddy brought back a set from GenCon).
4 players, myself (just played a playtest once), Ben and Matt (both played a couple times), and a new guy whose name I don't remember who had never played this or Quartermaster before. We figured out the rules pretty quickly, and started game 1. Due to some wacky shenanagins that I don't remember exactly, Sparta killed Athens' only city on T2 or T3. IIRC, on his first turn, he played a status that allowed him to Battle right after Mustering a hoplite (Bias for Hoplites?), and through some Prepare interplay, Athens was essentially wiped out by the end of T3. He kept a Trireme on the map for a few turns with bribery tokens, but after we spent a lot of effort trying to figure out if he could get back in the game with some fetched prepare cards (didn't seem likely) or something, we just gave up and restarted the game after a couple turns.
Game 2 went much better, with everyone doing stuff and building guys and killing things, and at the end of T12 scoring round, team Sparta/Cornith (I was Cornith) had a +11VP lead which ended the game with us winning. I managed to get a city in Syracuse and the Status which game me +2VP for having a city in Syracuse, which racked up points fast.
In the first, aborted game, it seemed like the Spartans got super lucky and had the exact right cards to whack Athens instantly, but it was also essentially the first time two of us were playing, and Athens was the brand newest guy. There were probably cards in his opening hand that could have prevented his city from getting demolished on T3, but didn't realize it was something he needed to worry about.
Of all the 4 empires (? city-states?), the Delian League seems hard to do things with--both games, Matt, who was the Delian League (and had used them in previous games, and had the same sense from them), kind of struggled to be useful either fight wise or VP wise; it seems like they have a lot of cards that revolve around having stuff in or near Lesbos, but, well, Corinth has an Event card that says "Blow up a thing in Lesbos". But perhaps we are just not really understanding what the Delian League is supposed to be doing.
The game is really pretty. I like that Nick decided to indicate the locations on the cards that refer to locations. We'll play more.
We played five games yesterday. All four players are experienced war gamers but not everyone has played the original Quartermaster before.
The first two games we played with the basic Emergency Provisioning rule, while the remaining three games with the Advanced rule.
We played rather quickly and played these five games under five hours (the last game ended in sudden death victory so it took only less than half an hour).
The first four games were won by the Oligarch (Sparta and Corinth) in which Athens fell in game 1 and 3. The last game the Demo had some scoring Status cards on the table while the Oligarch failed to have any, so after the third scoring round, the Demo led by 12 VPs and won the game.
Although the result is 4 to 1 Oligarch wins, we are not certain if there is any balancing issue because all five games are played with the same players on the two teams (though Sparta and Corinth have switched roles between games 2 and 3) and we were just learning the strategy. I would try to play with more different players and most importantly try to switch teams with the same group of players to see the results.
Played 7 times with a variety of people in August, with 3 wins to the Demos and 4 to the Oligarchs.
All but two went to turn 15 - a Demos win t12, and a Demos concession t9 after Athens had fallen.
One Oligarch win nearly went the other way, with Athens burning its cards fast to get the Demos 8 points up at t12. One Demos win was by one point only (plus the tiebreak).
I don't yet see a balance issue.