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Subject: A game that will get better with every play... rss

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Mike Chapman
Wales
Aberthin
Vale of Glamorgan
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I have played three 4 player games and with that experience I would like to add to the discussion this game has produced.

Firstly, production values are excellent, the artwork is beautifully detailed and throws you into the theme. The box, cleverly, is used in the game. The set up is quick. The rules are tricky on the first play but the mechanics are pretty intuitive.

There is some controversy over the theme. The exploitation of the New World in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is historical fact. If you have a problem with that I assume that you do not play the Germans in Memoirs as this shows support of Nazism.

To the game itself. The group you are playing with must buy into the philosophy of the game. It is all about balance. you strive for you own overall victory but must be prepared to support the others in beating the game. The fact that every 4 games or so a spoiler in the form of a separatist is thrown in adds just the right amount of paranoia to make negotiation a little tense. The hidden victory conditions work for me. They mean that a balanced strategy is required with the one public victory condition driving the whole game. In our third game temples were required. There was a lot of competition over a few stone resource spaces and a lot of hard negotiating required.

Some people have said that the island never goes into rebellion and everyone loses. This is where buying into the balance of the game is essential. I agree that if everyone is too cautious the archipelago should remain peaceful but the players will have no resources to trade or build with. If everyone is selfish then then the trading and building will be plentiful until the game ends with everyone losing... game theory. I learned by game 3 bidding for turn order was important. You do not want to play last and be responsible for the suppression of rebellion (unless of course you are the separatist when false promises of your intentions will see you win the game!).

The joy of a good game is that it does not lay itself bare on the first play. There should be layers that are discovered on multiple plays. I have by no means discovered them all yet but I have found that money is more important than I thought. You need cash at the end of the round to buy a progress card. Even though none of our games have used the market much I think that next time I will attempt to raise cash this way. I lost game 2 and 3 through not buying cards. Exploration while risky is essential and the benefits are highly rewarding. Some people have suggested that losing a turn is too extreme for failed explore. I say not at all. Exploration should be about a calculated risk.

Another thing I have found, do not play the short game. It does not allow the game to show itself at all and develop. I could argue the same for the medium game but as long as all the players keep all the ending conditions in mind this again is a clever mechanic. In game 2 everyone went hell for leather on population growth. The game finished quickly but only one player truly benefited as the rest of us were on longer term objectives. Again it is about balance.

Game 1 had little discussion or negotiation as we were learning the game. Two members of the group finished saying they would not play again. Having persuaded them to try again our confidence in the game mechanics meant that negotiation played a bigger part and inter-player trading was common and added greatly to the gamimg experience. I suspect that a cash rich player would do well here. The lure of florins will drive many a deal.

In all there is a lot to this game. It is not an easy learn but beginners could compete with seasoned players. More so than say Agricola or Puerto Rico. There is enough motivation to take risks and gambles. The player interaction is fun and the paranoia of the separatist involvement prevents the kingmaker scenario. For me Archipelago is a great way to spend a couple of hours with like minded players. If someone wants to trash your game I would query why they are at your table anyway.
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Snowball
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Gender: pot*ato. My opinion is an opinion.
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Because it can only get better with every play
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Gerald Rüscher
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MikeC71 wrote:
If someone wants to trash your game I would query why they are at your table anyway.

We've played Archipelago twice yesterday and found the semi-cooperative aspect more or less dysfunctional. I see it this way: when playing fully cooperative like in Pandemic or Arkham Horror I'll do EVERYTHING to help my buddies even if this means to sacrifice my character or - worse yet - have a boring evening. When playing competetively, I'll do everything to win the game and if I cannot win, I'll do everything to get the best possible score. Plus, I consider a draw better than a loss.

But semi-cooperative? In Archipelago I see three possible outcomes: (A) win with the highest score, (B) lose because I have not the highest score or (C) lose alltogether with the players. If you compare the latter two outcomes, there are IMHO two different philosophies:

1. Some players prefer (B) over (C) because they see everybody as a winner, with the slight drawback of not being the "best" winner.

2. Other players prefer (C) over (B) because in (B) they feel defeated while in (C) everyone has the same (virtual) score of zero, so it feels like a draw.

Maybe this isn't too popular but I more or less subscribe to philosophy #2. Call me whatever you like but I'm pretty sure that they are a LOT of other players who are quite similar. And for this type of gamer, Archipelago simply does not work.
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Mike Chapman
Wales
Aberthin
Vale of Glamorgan
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As I said you need to buy into the game philosophy. To me the important word is balance. It is possible to play very safe and prevent rebellion by throwing resources at the crisis as they occur. However if a balance is sought by the players and a tightrope walked the tension will ratchet up. Also betting on turn order is vital. Dare you play as the penultimate player and trust the final player to stick to a deal? Can you force a resource rich player to throw in his resources to keep the game going? Can you look suitably upset at playing last and then duck out of deal that causes rebellion when you are the separatist? It is the paranoia of not trusting everyone that makes the game work. Give it another go Gerald!
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Paul Imboden
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Evanston
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gruescher wrote:
Maybe this isn't too popular but I more or less subscribe to philosophy #2. Call me whatever you like but I'm pretty sure that they are a LOT of other players who are quite similar. And for this type of gamer, Archipelago simply does not work.


I'm coming at Archipelago through the eyes of The Republic of Rome, another game where everyone needs to work together in order to have any chance of winning... but only one person will come out victorious. And like Archipelago, many times players will form coalitions and attempt to sandbag Rome if it looks like they won't stand a chance of winning.

If your game group would rather angrily fiddle and let Rome burn -- and there's nothing wrong with that choice -- then I agree with your sentiment. Archipelago will not be a good fit for you.

If you like playing with that edge, though, Archipelago can be wonderful.
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Clwe
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Essex
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gruescher wrote:
But semi-cooperative? In Archipelago I see three possible outcomes: (A) win with the highest score, (B) lose because I have not the highest score or (C) lose alltogether with the players. If you compare the latter two outcomes, there are IMHO two different philosophies:

1. Some players prefer (B) over (C) because they see everybody as a winner, with the slight drawback of not being the "best" winner.

2. Other players prefer (C) over (B) because in (B) they feel defeated while in (C) everyone has the same (virtual) score of zero, so it feels like a draw.

Maybe this isn't too popular but I more or less subscribe to philosophy #2. Call me whatever you like but I'm pretty sure that they are a LOT of other players who are quite similar. And for this type of gamer, Archipelago simply does not work.


I hear this argument being put forward a lot with Archipelago, but how can you be so sure you're not going to win halfway through a game? Particularly on your first couple of plays, when you'll probably have enough to think about without trying to guess what the other players secret objectives are?

Also...have you tried negotiating with the other players when you think you're falling behind, instead of trying to cause a rebellion? (and quite possibly hand the game to the seperatist card owner). If the other players are smart, they'll negotiate more often with you than a perceived runaway leader (perhaps even if you offer a lot less) because it'll stall said leader.

Anyhow, the bottom line is that if people are unwilling to trade and/or bargain for turn order, then the game will end up feeling flat and pretty random. Archipelago requires players to make educated guesses as to what the others might be going for, and to actively wheel 'n' deal in order to prevent someone from running away with the game too much (or indeed, trying to cause a rebellion as the separatist).
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David Chiu
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gruescher wrote:
MikeC71 wrote:
If someone wants to trash your game I would query why they are at your table anyway.

We've played Archipelago twice yesterday and found the semi-cooperative aspect more or less dysfunctional. I see it this way: when playing fully cooperative like in Pandemic or Arkham Horror I'll do EVERYTHING to help my buddies even if this means to sacrifice my character or - worse yet - have a boring evening. When playing competetively, I'll do everything to win the game and if I cannot win, I'll do everything to get the best possible score. Plus, I consider a draw better than a loss.

But semi-cooperative? In Archipelago I see three possible outcomes: (A) win with the highest score, (B) lose because I have not the highest score or (C) lose alltogether with the players. If you compare the latter two outcomes, there are IMHO two different philosophies:

1. Some players prefer (B) over (C) because they see everybody as a winner, with the slight drawback of not being the "best" winner.

2. Other players prefer (C) over (B) because in (B) they feel defeated while in (C) everyone has the same (virtual) score of zero, so it feels like a draw.

Maybe this isn't too popular but I more or less subscribe to philosophy #2. Call me whatever you like but I'm pretty sure that they are a LOT of other players who are quite similar. And for this type of gamer, Archipelago simply does not work.


I've suggested this elsewhere before. If you really feel the "everyone loses" ending doesn't work for your group but you really like the rest of the game, try this simple variant.

Benefactor Wins on Rebellion Variant.
Use the Benefactor Variant in the rulebook.
Only change is if the Rebellion happens the leading Benefactor/s wins. Everyone else loses.

Removes the nuclear option from the your #2 players.

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John Perry
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gruescher wrote:

2. Other players prefer (C) over (B) because in (B) they feel defeated while in (C) everyone has the same (virtual) score of zero, so it feels like a draw.


Think of it this way. Do you think Dwayne Wade was unhappy to win an NBA championship last season because LeBron got the MVP of the finals?

Just because there is one MVP, doesn't mean that the team didn't create the win. The MVP's win was DEPENDANT on the team.
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Curt Carpenter
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Seattle
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LibMats wrote:
Think of it this way. Do you think Dwayne Wade was unhappy to win an NBA championship last season because LeBron got the MVP of the finals?

Just because there is one MVP, doesn't mean that the team didn't create the win. The MVP's win was DEPENDANT on the team.

If I made half as much as Dwayne Wade or LeBron James, I would be ok with anyone receiving the MVP.

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Hertzog van Heerden
South Africa
Johannesburg
Gauteng
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Fancy a BSG PBF Gayme!
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Thanks very much for your write-up of the game. I've been looking at it for ages, and think it could be a good fit for my group. I was very excited at seeing the designer interviewed with his game, only to find discouraging reviews from that point on. Until now, at least.


We've played literally dozens of games of BSG over the last few years, so treachery, limited cooperation and healthy doses of metagaming are familiar to the group. And we love it!


I know it's more accurate to compare Archipelago to the Republic of Rome, but since we haven't tried that yet, how does the 'feel' of Archipelago match up to that of BSG? We do own tROR, but haven't managed to crack the mysterious code that is the rule book yet...


PS My group is also getting to grips with Eclipse - a game some are comparing Archipelago to. And we love that as well. Is there a reasonable comparison to be made between the two games?

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Tom
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Plainfield
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The funny thing about this game is anyone who thinks they have automatically lost so they are going to tank the game needs to rethink the game.

1) Tanking the game might in fact let someone win if they have the correct card where they win if there is a rebellion...so in effect they become king maker instead of party crasher. Let the player understand the take my football and go home attitude might be helping another player so if they really want everyone to loose, forcing a rebellion may not be the best idea. Might as well give their cash to player C to help them win...same silly behavior.

2) Since there are hidden objectives, I ended up winning twice when I thought for sure I lost and one particular person had one. It turned that I was in second place in many of the end game rewards cards and first in a few others others which still allowed me to win. You really can't be sure you have lost this game until all the points are counted (unless you are just way behind because of some bad luck/play).
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