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Subject: 3 Player Playtest (Many Pictures) Report rss

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Adam Ruzzo
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Disclaimer: This is a session report using the playtest version of the game. Components and artwork is NOT final.

About this Report

I'm going to avoid a long discussion of the rules and components because anthony did a great job of it here. Instead, I'm going to try to give you insight into the strategic decisions made in the game and focus on how it plays. So lets jump into it shall we?

A New World

Blue was played by myself, and I have had 2 games under my belt before this one.

Red and Green were both new to the game, but had played Sid Meyer's Civilization with me in the past. It took less than 20 minutes to explain the rules and they both agreed that Clash of Cultures felt easier to learn. My hypothesis is that CoC seems to be internally consistent and feels like a single entity, whereas Sid Meyer's Civ (dispite being a great game) feels like 3 or 4 systems stuck together with crazy glue and duct tape. It (SM Civ) is still a great game and I'm happy to own it, but CoC has some distinct advantages which I will cover later.

The early game unfolds slowly as players decide how they want to proceed with the game based upon the revealed territory and the objective cards in their hands. Terrain with lots of mountains lends itself to troop production (ore and food are required to build army units), whereas if you have ample supply of wood you might look to a more naval strategy. You may also decide to go for early temples if you have an objective card that rewards you for having the most temples at the end of the turn.

All of this changes from game to game and produces a very dynamic experience where your choices will feel fresh each time based upon the map and your first few objectives.


The board at the end of turn 2

By the end of turn two all players are pretty even. Blue has chosen to develop his cities (adding a port to each one) making them size 2 cities. The larger cities get to collect more resources and produce more units per action, so city size is important. Your city size is tied to the number of cities you have, so expansion is necessary in order to have bigger cities.

Red has managed to get both of his cities happy, which means you get to treat them as if they were 1 size larger than they are. Although he doesn't get the benefit of the expanded city (ports let you build navies, forts provide defensive bonuses, temples keep cities happy, and academies give you resources for research), he can collect resources and build units just as efficiently as blue.

Green managed to get 3 cities on the map because he took "Sanitation" early which gave him a free settler.

At this point lets take a look at the technology choices of each player up to the end of turn 2:


Red Player (10 advances) - End of turn 2

Red started by going after the science advances which allow him to get other advances for free. This worked well for him, because he had an objective that gave him victory points if he ended a turn with all of the construction technologies. So he grabbed mathematics and then was able to get engineering and roads for free. When he started exploring, however, he found barbarians nearby! He decided to quickly switch to a military strategy to proactively exterminate them. When you capture a barbarian city you get gold (plunder!) and you get to keep the city. So he sacrificed building up his original two cities to build military and take the barbarian's cities.

Red is also the only one with a Government tech by this point, which tend to be more powerful advances. They also are more difficult to get to and each tree focuses on a different type of play.


Green Player (10 advances) - End of Turn 2

Green also started out with mathematics but quickly saw the benefit of the "education" tree, which give you free things throughout the game when performing certain actions. He also took advantage of the "Sanitation" advance in the Construction tree that gives you a free settler and is the only player on the board at this point with 3 cities. He also has quite a few resources and is in a position to start developing his cities to larger sizes (giving him more efficient actions).



Blue Player (6 advances) (me) - End of Turn 2

Blue (me) has chosen a very different strategy from the other two players. I decided to go for a trading strategy from the start of the game. My early techs went straight down the "economies" tree. Bartering lets you offer trades to other players (objective cards, resources, and action cards). Trade routes gives you 1 food every round for each settler/ship you can pair with a foreign city within 2 spaces. Currency allows you to take gold instead of food for these trade routes. You'll notice I have a settler built and in position to get me 1 gold at the start of the next round. I've also built ports so I can get ships which will let me establish trade routes with foreign cities further away.

You'll notice I have no happy cities and a lot fewer technologies than the other players (6 vs. 10 and 10). I made a mistake when building my ports and couldn't pay my happiness upkeep (small rule ensuring that you pay 1 mood token per city piece to keep a city happy). I made this mistake twice (doh!). I felt so stupid afterwards, but it did put a little handicap on me having played the game twice already.

The reason I have fewer technologies is that I invested in developing my cities to size two instead of relying on happiness. Each city piece on the board (of your color) grants you a victory point at the end of the game, so even though a size 2 city is functionally similar to a happy size 1 city, it gave me a small jump on victory points. The result of spending actions to collect resources and develop my cities was that I had fewer resources and actions to spend on research. I also chose technologies that would provide a large benefit long term (trade routes/currency) rather than a small benefit over time (science/education advances).



End of Turn 3

Wow! A lot has happened in one turn. Blue now has a 2nd settler and 2 ships, all of which are able to be paired with a unique foreign settlement. As a result blue is now getting 4 free gold per turn, which is starting to make up for being so far behind in the technology race. We also had a number of barbarian events throughout this turn, which resulted in barbarians spawning next to Blue's capitol and in force too!

Red also had issues with barbarians. He had 3 MORE barbarian settlements spawn near him, but since he was already militarized he took them over one by one and there is only one left left unconquered at this point (next to his capitol). He used the gold from the barbarians to fuel his technology progression.

Green didn't do too much on the map during this part, as he was spending much of his time buying advances and teching up. He did manage to get an academy on his capitol which would generate ideas whenever he collected resources there. He was going for a tech rush strategy, as the technology advances are worth 1/2 VP at the end of the game, and provide a lot of good bonuses during the game as well.



End of turn 4

Blue has managed to conquer the large barbarian uprising next to his capitol. He has continued to develop his cities and now has a level 3, a level 2, and a level 1 city. You may notice his soldiers and ships are knocked over, that's not a mechanical system, I just forgot to stand them up before the picture after someone knocked the table

Red has finished conquering barbarians and is now massing his troops on the border spoiling for a fight. Blue noticed this, and is well defended behind a fort with 3 army units. Green, on the other hand, is only defended by settlers (which is to say, no defense at all). You may also notice that for some reason the fort in Red's settlement is now blue! This is a result of the Cultural Influence action in the game, which lets you influence cities which are close enough and convert their pieces to yours. This has no effect on the city except that now those pieces are worth points for you at the end of the game. Red can try to win his piece back over, but it often costs cultural tokens and the larger your city the more likely you are to succeed.

It may look like Green has been doing almost nothing for the last few turns, but I should point out that he got hit with an earthquake event which destroyed the center city. He rebuilt it and it was destroyed by another earthquake!. He rebuilt it a 3rd time, and the board now looks as you see it. These events can be bad, but the upside is that any pieces removed due to an earthquake are worth 2 VP at the end of the game (history never forgets such tragedies; Pompeii for example). So he has been advancing, building up his capitol, and rebuilding his center settlement. He's also going to go first next turn which is the only thing that will help him stop the coming onslaught of Red!

Halfway Done! where are we in history?
One of the things I like about this game is that the theme and the advances track history from the ancient age up through the middle ages. One of the problems with all civ games is that in order to properly model the effect of technology since the industrial revolution systems often get very quirky. Air travel and the internal combustion engine make movement so much faster that it looks ridiculous on a map which is designed for slow movements. Christian neatly side-steps the compression problem by not getting past the middle ages. It works extremely well, as the most fun I ever have with any civ game (board or computer) is before the industrial revolution.

Lets check back in on the tech race shall we?


Red Player (18 advances) - End of turn 4

Red has used the plunder from his barbarian conquests to fuel his technology advancements. He now has 18 advances, far more than either of the other players. He saw how well the trade routes were working for me, so he decided to jump into that game as well as the education advances that were working so well for Green.


Green Player (15 advances) - End of turn 4

Green also saw the wisdom of trade routes and spent some advances unlocking those as well. He decided to go with Democracy as his government and unlocked "Economic Liberty" which is a powerful free collect every round with the caveat that you cannot collect again in the same round without paying mood tokens.



Blue Player (10 advances) (me) - End of Turn 4

Blue is still behind in the tech race at this point, still focusing on the improvement of my cities and building defenses against Red. I purchased Tactics and Myths which now allow me to further develop my cities with Fortresses and Temples. Engineering lets me have a size 4 city, even though I only has 3 total cities, and sanitation grants a mood token as well as a free settler and immunity to some bad events.


End of Turn 5

Oh the Humanity! A size 2 Green city has fallen to the red menace! Red now gets the 2 victory points for the city and got some gold for conquering it. Blue now has 4 ships on the board (and the objective for naval superiority), all but one of which are collecting gold for trade routes. With the ships next to his capitol, he's theatening an invasion of Red's primary city on the water.

And what's that? Green has built a wonder! Each player gets an objective card ever round and it has 2 conditions you can fulfill. If you fulfill them you can claim the objective. One of the conditions is usually military based, and the other is usually developmental based. However, among the objective deck are 7 wonders, which give you even more victory points than a standard objective card and also bestow some unique bonus. They cost a lot of resources and cultural tokens, but can often represent a 15-20% boost to VPs at the end of the game! You'd better protect it though, because if someone takes the city where the wonder is located, they get the VPs instead!



GAME OVER!

What you didn't see is over the last turn, Green managed to take their city back and then Red took it back again. He was able to leverage the "Absolute Power" advance to take some extra actions at the cost of mood tokens, which let him rebuild a new army and take back Green's city.

I had a sneaky plan for the last round of the last turn, where I would sail my armies from my capitol around the outside of the map (with navigation advance), land in Red's backfield, walk in, and capture his cities with no resistance! Unfortunately for me, he spotted this possible trick, and played a "negotiations" action card on me that prevented me from attacking him on the last round! Curses!

Final Score:
Green: 31 and 1/2
Blue: 32
Red: 33

Not shown in any of the pictures is the objective cards that each player achieved over the course of the game. Red had a few military objectives, I had one called "despot" for getting all the autocracy achievements (got it on the last turn), and green had his wonder plus some smaller objectives and the two cities he lost from the earthquake (each city was worth 2 points).

We had a lot of good feedback from this game which has prompted some adjustments to make long range movement easier among other things.


Final Thoughts

So far in my 3 games I am really enjoying this game. Moreso than other civ games it feels like you really can switch gears and pursue another avenue to victory whenever you want without too much of a penalty. It also plays in a shorter time (I would guess 45 mins per experienced player).

Some observations:

The play time feels good, but sometimes I just want one...more...turn...! There's a varient on the back of the rulebook that allows you to have either another full turn, or use a variable end game condition. I will give this a try sometime in the future.

Rules all feel very consistent and intuitive. Christian has worked hard to keep everything within a consistant, single systemic framework


Edit: added the rest of the post, it got stripped out by accident.
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Douglas Glisson
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Daddy want so much!!! zombiezombiezombie


Kraken Fan #69
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Adam Ruzzo
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oh crap, didn't realize it stripped out the last 2/3 of my post until now. Luckily I had it saved, so I've restored it now
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Daniel Hammond
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Great job, thanks for the post. I can't wait to purchase and play this game.
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Nicolai Broen Thorning
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Excellent session report and very interesting to see photos of the game, even if only in prototype version. It helps give a feel for the game.

Thank you.
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Christian Marcussen
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Great, great report Adam. It really gives a good sense of what the game is like to play. Wonderful work
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Victor Caminha
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And so it begins...
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I'd love to pick this one at Essen, but it will only be released at 2012, right?
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David Reeves
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Thanks for the play report. I've also noticed similar odd things about FFG: Civ that either are limiting or distract from the thematic feel. It seems like CoC is a game that I want to absolutely have.
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Martin Butcher
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Excellent session report. Really looking forward to playing this one.

At the end of turn 2 you say that you couldn't pay your 1 mood / turn maintenance to keep you city happy. Has this been removed from the final rules as I have read those online many times and still can't find this
 
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Christian Marcussen
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mcb1962 wrote:
Excellent session report. Really looking forward to playing this one.

At the end of turn 2 you say that you couldn't pay your 1 mood / turn maintenance to keep you city happy. Has this been removed from the final rules as I have read those online many times and still can't find this


Wow, impressive. Yes, that has been removed for simplicity of play and teaching. When you have a rule even the designer forgets to enforce and teach, then you know it's got to go
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