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Hands in the Sea» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Quick solo play (first game) rss

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C Sandifer
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(originally posted on Fortress Ameritrash)

I carefully read the Hands in the Sea rulebook and ran through a full solo game to work out the bugs.

Comments:

I had my nose in the rules quite a bit, but even then the game ran much longer than expected. 4+ hours, I think? If I can't get playtime down to 2 or 2.5 hours, this won't hit the table much.

The game ended on prestige, with one side hitting 8 prestige on Turn 10 (out of a possible 12). Strangely enough, Carthage was the side that hit 8 prestige (successful defense against a Roman attack), even though they ultimately lost the game.

The rulebook could use work. E.g., the terms "round" and "turn" are reversed (compared to any other game that I've ever played), which is confusing. The designers should have used "action phases" or "turns" for player turns and "year" for what they call turns. A player turn should never be called a "round", even if it consists of multiple actions.

Some strategy cards are really powerful.* Rome happened to snag the Greek Allies card (+2 dice to naval combat) on the very first play of the game, and by the halfway point Carthage had lost its navy entirely. (Though Rome had to keep rebuilding its warships due to the painful "Storms at Sea" events.) Even though Carthage had fully settled Sardinia and Corsica, all those location cards were useless (and the VPs didn't score during Campaign scoring) because the islands were fully out of supply. Worse, Rome could pillage at will and steal Carthage's money (= half # of warships per pillage; Rome was at 8 ships!). So Carthage was dead in the water (ha) at that point, since no money = no recruiting, no additional warships, and no more use of the reserve.

Rome should conquer Syracuse asap, or Sicilian expansion can't happen due to supply issues.

I always thought that the "draw 3" card in A Few Acres of Snow was severely undercosted at 5 silver, so I'm disappointed that the cost is exactly the same in HitS.

I suck at deck-thinning in AFAoS, and I'm even worse here - particularly since the game is longer. There were too many turns where I sat staring at my cards (both sides) with nothing interesting to do. The issue is that the board gets fully settled pretty quickly, and it's difficult to get a proper deck ratio of location cards (money/transportation) to military cards (great for bolstering an attack/defense, but pretty useless without transportation to *initiate* an attack). As Carthage, I would occasionally have a handful of military might, just hoping to be attacked so I could play out my military cards and draw replacements.

AFAoS can be dull and uneventful if it is played peacefully. That can't really happen in HiTS, I don't think, which is to its benefit.

Final score: 74 to 61. Rome wins. In its final state, Sicily was split in half, and Italy proper was never invaded by Carthage. Carthage came close to ending the game by running out of towns (a rare occurrence, I hear), but that would have guaranteed a loss so Carthage switched over to development.

I look forward to playing against a real human next time, particularly since I forgot some key rules (e.g., combined arms bonus). I enjoyed playing, and in almost every sense Hands in the Sea is superior to AFAoS - though naval warfare can be extremely punishing.



*I imagine that the cumulative upkeep variant helps with overpowered strategy cards. I'll try that variant eventually.
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Judd Vance
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Actually 5 for the Senatorial Support is about right. Put it in relation to the other cards. The only cards that cost more are the siege engines (3 swords), double-sword leaders (2 swords + free action), and cards that provide 2 swords on both offense and defense. It costs more than every strategy card in the deck (with maintenance costs, which is the only way I play).

At 5 silver, I find it a very difficult card to draft early on, and I never draft as early as I want to.

There is always plenty to do -- knowing the options helps, and if you have a crap hand, do a massive discard action (1 silver for each action beyond the first) or use the action to send cards back to the empire deck and thin it out, or move them to the reserves.

When you understand the game, it can be played in that time slot. I do it regularly, so don't despair.

If you want to play on Vassal by e-mail, I'll play you, because I've always found your game comments so amusing (especially High Frontier).
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C Sandifer
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airjudden wrote:
Actually 5 for the Senatorial Support is about right. Put it in relation to the other cards.


I imagine we're hopelessly naive, but - in our Few Acres games - the "draw three" card is nearly always each player's first purchase. At the very latest, the card is purchased just before the first shuffle. In HiTS, I think Senatorial Support should minimally be priced outside of the starting money for each player (i.e., more than $6) - especially since it's a free action - but I'm happy to be wrong if we're too high on card-drawing.

Having only played Hands once, though - and solo, at that - there's a good chance that I'm off my rocker.

However, there's a good reason why Ancestral Recall costs hundreds and hundreds of real dollars in the Magic the Gathering world. I'm just sayin'.

Quote:
There is always plenty to do -- knowing the options helps...use the action to send cards back to the empire deck and thin it out, or move them to the reserves.


Yes, I like that returning a card to the empire deck is a simple action. In Acres, I think deck thinning requires a card (Governor?).

Quote:
When you understand the game, it can be played in that time slot. I do it regularly, so don't despair.


Great - good news.

Quote:
If you want to play on Vassal by e-mail, I'll play you.


All my sessions are face to face, but if I ever dip into Vassal/Skype gaming I'll definitely send a message.

I would take this opportunity to blemish High Frontier's reputation one last time, but Phil Eklund has threatened to send me the game for free if I do it again, so I can't chance it.
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Federico
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wkover wrote:
airjudden wrote:
Actually 5 for the Senatorial Support is about right. Put it in relation to the other cards.


I imagine we're hopelessly naive, but - in our Few Acres games - the "draw three" card is nearly always each player's first purchase. At the very latest, the card is purchased just before the first shuffle.

I think in AFAoS for the British Home Support should be bought later, between the 3rd and 6th purchase, and definitely not in the first couple of deck shuffles. but it's a vital card for the French, who sometimes buy the Intendant just to be able to use 2 Home Supports in a deck shuffle.

But apart from this I agree that it costs too little. Not sure about HitS.
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Evil Bob
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Although still super useful, the "draw 3 cards" card has been slightly nerfed in HitS. If your draw deck becomes empty during the play of the card, you don't simply reshuffle your discard deck and continuing drawing up to 3. Timing when to use the card is now more important and playing the card as soon as it enters your hand is no longer a no-brainer as it was in AFAoS.
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Daniel Berger
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bbhalla wrote:
Although still super useful, the "draw 3 cards" card has been slightly nerfed in HitS. If your draw deck becomes empty during the play of the card, you don't simply reshuffle your discard deck and continuing drawing up to 3. Timing when to use the card is now more important and playing the card as soon as it enters your hand is no longer a no-brainer as it was in AFAoS.

Additionally, the card can be used to bribe or block a bribe. You might want to hang onto it for that.
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Federico
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bbhalla wrote:
Although still super useful, the "draw 3 cards" card has been slightly nerfed in HitS. If your draw deck becomes empty during the play of the card, you don't simply reshuffle your discard deck and continuing drawing up to 3.

Yes, this is the same mechanic used in AFAoS second edition, which is what I was referring to earlier.
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Judd Vance
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If Carthage makes that his first draft, then I, the Roman player, have won. The starting money for each side was not determined randomly.

My first Roman draft is magistrate, followed up by equites or assenci, but that's just me.

(I feel like I need a picture of Kermit the frog drinking tea).
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C Sandifer
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airjudden wrote:
If Carthage makes [Senatorial Support] his first draft, then I, the Roman player, have won. The starting money for each side was not determined randomly.


If I can lose as Carthage after my very first purchase, this may not be the game for me.
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Daniel Berger
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wkover wrote:
airjudden wrote:
If Carthage makes [Senatorial Support] his first draft, then I, the Roman player, have won. The starting money for each side was not determined randomly.


If I can lose as Carthage after my very first purchase, this may not be the game for me.

Nah, Judd's talking trash. Also keep in mind that he's played the game more than anyone else except me.
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Judd Vance
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Yeah, and I managed to pry the card that Carthage should draft first away from Dan and he still kicked my butt.

But I am stating that, yeah, Senatorial Support is not an overpowered/underpriced card. I find it most useful when I have some military built up and I am in a battle.
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Lawrence Hung
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Interestingly, it was me as the Roman being pillaged in Corsica as Roman with an early (perhaps too early) expansion into that island. God favours the Carthage as Storm at Sea strikes her fleet without any loss. Many other events turned out in Cathage favours also. I agree that the situation might become static a bit after both sides settled in and the frontline was established, especially when both sides digged up with fortifications. I find the limited number of fortifications odd in the span of time. But like others, I like the many ways to victory and thus numerous approaches to the game.
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