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Subject: It's Not Easy To Be A Chinese Warlord rss

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David G. Cox Esq.
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If You Like Risk (Well, Even If You Don’t), You Will Fall In Love With

‘The Emperor of China’


Dynamic Games released ‘Emperor of China’ (EoC) in 1972. I started playing wargames in 1980 and first became acquainted with EoC in 1985. It was a strange first meeting – I had been involved with serious wargames and my initial reaction to EoC was that it was not for adults; it was too simple; it really wasn’t what I was looking for in a game. Anyway, I had played Risk (which I don’t like very much) and this smelt a bit like Risk – and Risk is only a kids game anyway.

WRONG!

While having some superficial similarity to Risk in some of the mechanics EoC has an elegance that Risk lacks.

Brief Overview
The object of the game is to become the Emperor of China by eliminating all other players (unlikely) or by controlling (either by physical occupation or by “inference”) 15 of the 21 provinces (unlikely). Failing this, the game will end after 32 turns (each turn will only take a couple of minutes) and victory will be determined by scoring points for the size and wealth of each players dominions.

Let’s Look At How It Plays
The map of China contains 21 provinces. Some have defensive benefits such as being behind a rather large wall, or being adjacent to a river, or even being separated from the mainland by a sea. Each player will select a starting province and place three markers in this province. Location is important – you need to look for a location that is both easily defensible and yet still allows you the possibility of expansion. Because you can control a province by “inference” (i.e. surrounding it) the starting province is quite important.

Each player turn you will add population (three markers regardless of the size of your holdings – although, some provinces may have wealth markers added during the game to give a few extra markers to some players). You then get to move your markers to an adjacent province.

At this time you are ready to Expand, either by negotiation or by conflict. Players may merge with their neighbours if they wish to, and thus avoid unnecessary conflict and violence. Should negotiation fail, as it usually does, we go to conflict. The attacker rolls dice based on the size of his army. On odd number roll destroy attacking troops while even number roll will destroy defending troops.

At the very end of your turn you will draw a Yin card (bad stuff) and a Yang card (good stuff).


Components
The first impression is one of solid components of good quality. The box is made of thick carboard with a Chinese style painting of the Emperor in the lid. The box is compartmentalized to aid the setting up of the game. The map is mounted and measures 17” square – it has a glossy map which is done is tasteful colours and has Chinese-style script. There are 125 plastic markers (25 in each of 5 colours) as well as 12 wealth markers and dice. The rules are 5 pages long with a further 3 pages of historical information and a suggested bibliography. There are Yin & Yang 65 cards (the cards are a touch ordinary but appropriate for 1972 technology- I have covered my cards with clear vinyl adhesive to protect them from wear and tear). Overall, the whole package looks professional.

Playability
The game moves quickly and should take less than an hour to complete. Because each player starts with only three markers in a single province the early stages of the game move very quickly as players try to take control of strategically important locations. To cross some geographic barriers (such as The Great Wall or Rivers) Yang cards are required. The Yang cards you gain and see others use will have a bearing on your strategy. The game has a great feel of positioning your forces to deliver the ‘coups de grace’ (or whatever the Chinese equivalent is to that expression). One of the nice features is that no-one needs to be eliminated for the game to reach its natural conclusion. There are 32 Yin cards and 33 Yang cards – the game finishes both decks have been exhausted. This means that with 5 players there will be 6 complete rounds of play. With 4 players there will be 8 complete rounds of play.

Fun
Yes: it is fun! The theme works. You feel insidious as you make your decisions. Most often players will adopt Chinese accents and make references to Confucius. It is actually a lot easier to picture yourself as a Chinese Warlord trying to become Emperor than it is to picture yourself taking over the world as you would in a game of Risk.

At the time of writing this review there are two copies of Emperor of China available on the BGG Marketplace. If I were you I would consider going out and buying one of them. You can’t have mine because it’s not for sale.

da pyrate arrrh
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marc lecours
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I still have my copy from my childhood. It has a few advantages over risk:
1. There is a bit more theme.
2. It has a time limit. ROughly going once through the deck of cards.
3. There is less die rolling and there are less battles, so each battle takes on more importance.

One problem I have with the map is that it is not always clear whether there is amountain range between two provinces.

One problem I have with combat is that only one player rolls a die. NOt satisfying. So I prefer having both players roll a die . Lowest roll loses a unit.

One disappointment I have with the rules is that they mention that intead of fighting until the end, one player may merge with a stronger faction. The weaker side becomes the junior partner and shares somehow in the victory. The problem is that this rule, altough intriguing, does not work in practice. I have never thought of a junior partner as any kind of winner.

But in the end it is just a variant of risk. THough I prefer it to risk.
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Mark Crocker
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Thanks for the reminder. This review caught the corner of my eye, and reminded me that this was a game I was looking for a few years back. I said to myself, "What the heck?" and looked over on ebay and voila!...there it was , as a "buy it now", for 10 bucks. I pulled the trigger on the deal.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Good game. I've still got the copy I bought when it first came out.
 
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John Reiners
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confusius say this game sucks.

We played this a few months ago, and it went over like a ton of bricks. THe problem with the game is its very hard to attack people because of the landscape on the board and because there are very few attack cards in the deck. There are really very litttle actual decisions to make in the game as all the card drawing is completely random. I got a ying card and have a mine, Got yang card and lose one unit to plague or whatever the text card is. Yay! What strategy!

In very few places do you actually do anything to produce a victory or loss. Its completely random. If you draw the good ying card you do well, if you draw the bad yang card you do badly. Want to cross the mountains and attack your neighbor to solidfy you position? Nope. Don't have a card to do it.

ITs as if Monopoly were played solely with Chance and Community Chest Cards. Hey I got ten dollars in a beauty contest. I win!


Good review, but the game leaves a lot to be desired.Then again, we did only play it once and perhaps we got a rule or two wrong (though I don't think so). And maybe the nuances come out more on repeated plays, I guess.
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David G. Cox Esq.
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everlong205 wrote:
confusius say this game sucks.

THe problem with the game is its very hard to attack people because of the landscape on the board and because there are very few attack cards in the deck. There are really very litttle actual decisions to make in the game as all the card drawing is completely random. I got a ying card and have a mine, Got yang card and lose one unit to plague or whatever the text card is. Yay! What strategy!

In very few places do you actually do anything to produce a victory or loss. Its completely random. If you draw the good ying card you do well, if you draw the bad yang card you do badly. Want to cross the mountains and attack your neighbor to solidfy you position? Nope. Don't have a card to do it.




Confusicus say "You guys playing the game with the wrong attitude."

Your point about landscape making it hard to attack people is true, if the people are behind mountains, rivers, walls, etc. This means that selecting your initial territory is an IMPORTANT decision as it can give you some protection or it may limit the attacks that you can make. I see this as a realistic aspect of the game - not all provinces are equal. Taken with the concept of "capture by inference" you need to look very closely where you intend to start and the benefits and negatives of this decision. The cards that you draw may call upon you to alter your strategy due to the geographic options that become available to you. Also, keep in mind that you can threaten to attack across a boundry for which you have no card and you can try to bluff the occupant to withdraw - see if you can make a deal - be insidious (in an oriental way).

In regards to the Yin & Yang cards, you know that one will be good and one will be bad. when you draw your cards you announce which province will be affected before looking at them. If you expect to lose a marker you decide whether to have it hit a province which is highly packed with troops, expecting than a marker less will have little impact OR you choose a province in the rear with only one marker, knowing that even if you lose it you will still control the province by inference.

In the games I have played, we have found the cards to be a tool that can be used. It adds variety to the game. It is certainly much more than "winning a beauty contest and collecting $10".
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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I agree with David - lots of interesting decisions to be made.

One example is after you've received a resource token, do you continue to take good cards in the same province? By concentrating resources, you have less area to defend but make a far more enticing target that every other player in the game will be after.

This is a good multi-player game, and in my experience the better players win on a regular basis. Anyone who thinks it is mostly luck has missed something.
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Andrew DiGregorio
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i have to agree with everlong on this one. With the one game i have played of this under my belt, i have to say i was underwhelmed.

Honestly, i'd take Risk with all its faults over this one any day of the week
 
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I suspect the people bagging on this game haven't played with five players. At the full complement, there is actually a strong incentive to merge, and that adds a fun diplomatic component to the game. There's plenty of strategy.

It's not Risk at all.
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Michael G
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I have a question about mergers. Paragraph 8 of the rules states that if a merger is agreed upon, "the population markers of the weaker party are replaced by an equal number of those of the stronger." This seems to imply that you can never have more population markers than the number you start with, rather than that you acquire a second set of population markers from the weaker player.

Is this correct? Is this a feature to force players to concentrate their markers at the front and hold more provinces by inference?
 
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