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Subject: A Brief Look at Furstenfeld rss

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Huzonfirst
United States
Manassas
Virginia
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The women's national team pulls off a stunning victory at the World Cup! U-S-A!!!
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I've played this twice, one time with the Basic game and one time with the Advanced game. My experience with the Basic game was quite poor (money was far from scarce, so it was just a matter of seeing who got to their Palace cards once they had made their stash). I was told, however, that the Advanced game was the proper way to play, so I agreed to try it that way before swearing the game off. And it is definitely an improvement. By the end of the game, I saw glimmers of how things can be manipulated. So this is a game I’d be willing to play again. But right now, I’m not terribly enthusiastic. I think it may well come down to good fortune, but for reasons different than those I've seen mentioned elsewhere. For example, I don’t think the opening cards are that crucial; in both games, one player got off to a terribly slow start, but one won and the other barely lost in a tiebreaker. There are quite a few ways of acquiring the money you need to build your palace, and while it’s nice that there are multiple paths to victory, the fact that they seem to work almost equally well means that small things can determine the outcome. For example, in my last game, the winner benefited because the other players were forced to cover up the production cards of the kind he was still producing. So he was able to get top dollar for his crops each turn, simply because of the way his opponent’s Palace cards came up. I don’t think anyone felt cheated and the winner played a solid game, but it was a little dissatisfying that that provided the margin of victory.

Another criticism I've seen is that the markets don’t drop significantly throughout the game and that doesn't match my experience. Of course, it may come down to the definition of “significant”: this is an efficiency game, so a price drop of $1 per unit could well prove to be significant in the right situation. In my first game, there was a lot of good screwage, as players were able to take advantage of their warehouses and manipulate turn order to their advantage. It may have helped that the three crops were a bit unbalanced, so there were natural shortages and surpluses. As it turned out, I, the winning player, had some good banks in play, which gave me money regardless of my production, so I was able to work around this. But the market still had an effect. In my second game, the winning player went with a huge production strategy, so there were some big swings. There was also a couple of Market buildings in play, which allow you to convert up to three of one type of crop to another before selling; obviously, that can lead to big swings. So I think the market mechanism works, but it’s just one of many ways of making cash.

It’s a sound game and there’s a goodly number of decisions. But I’m unconvinced if those decisions are the biggest factor in determining who wins. The game has some very enthusiastic fans, so that, along with my respect for Friese’s design abilities, leads me to suspect that with more plays, I’d be able to navigate things better. However, at this time, the game isn’t really enjoyable enough to warrant those extra plays. I might be missing out, but there’s only so much game time and right now, I’d prefer to devote it to other titles.
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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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Santa Clarita
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I was put off by the game because of the memory element. Apparently if you can remember your own cards (!) then you have an advantage. I don't care for these types of games. Did you find the memory element to have an impact on the game?
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Huzonfirst
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Manassas
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The women's national team pulls off a stunning victory at the World Cup! U-S-A!!!
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Only with regard to the Castle cards, Jennifer. Remembering the order they came up would be pretty important. I can see where a good memory might help you in other ways, but I didn't even pursue those. I suspect you could play well without taxing your memory too much, but with my limited experience with the game, it's kind of hard to say for sure.
 
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Holger Hannemann
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Upper Heyford
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We play with the Advanced rules but without keeping order of our palace tiles. This way the memory element is almost non-existent, in fact you only need to remember one indicator card where you started sorting your deck at the beginning.
This game is not as luck-dependent as it seems on the first 2 or 3 plays. Each card you build has a HUGE effect on your gameplay. Do I monopolize on one resource and rake in tons of money or won't I take the risk to bleed the market dry of money by doing so? Do I just build boith Banks and have a steady income or will I run a risk-reward strategy? Do I run through my deck as quickly as possible or do I shrink my deck for the second run-through? All those strategies are equally viable, and the game changes very much by adding an extra player once in a while. The game really shines with 4 players.
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