Games Played at Epsom Games Club 13/11/14
Gordon Watson
United Kingdom
Banstead
Surrey - United Kingdom
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ASL - other tactical wargames call it Sir.
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A goodish turnout despite some regular faces being missing - T101 James, Russell, Capt Chris, Gordon, 'Nearly diceless' Nick, Jo, Ragnar Steve, Andrew 007, Andrew B2, Roy, Alex, Matt, Gareth and 3BS Dave


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1. Board Game: Byzantium [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:1533]
Gordon Watson
United Kingdom
Banstead
Surrey - United Kingdom
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Played by: Chris, James, Russell and Gordon.

Having played this a couple of weeks back, albeit with a couple of fairly significant rules wrong, I was keen to play this again, and even though I got stomped on this second outing I would be keen to play it again soon, which is encouraging.

Byzantium is set in the period 600 to around 1000 which sees the well established Byzantium Empire about to be beset by the new kids on the block in the form of the Islamic Arabs, and both get to fight over the remnants of the once great Persian empire. Being a Wallace game it engages well with the theme and there are sieges, field battles, the dominance of the Byzantine fleet is reflected and there are churches to be built, civil wars to fight and all the while the Bulgars threaten Constantinople in the North. The interesting kink in the design is that the players play as both sides, competing for influence and scoring points as both the Byzantines and the Arabs, with the winner being the player who has the biggest combined score - unless Constantinople falls in which case only your Arab points count.

The game is only played over three rounds but the players get to take a number of actions per turn and have quite a bit of flexibility as to strategy they will pursue. Our game saw Russell lead out strongly with the Byzantines and Chris establishing himself in a couple of key Arab locations. Jim and I stayed balanced but, either through teachers curse or a wrong lesson learned from my previous game, I passed too early and missed out on occupying additional Byzantine cities, which crippled my income for turn two.

Turn two saw James build up a strong lead in Arab points with a spearpoint thrust at Constantinople, which was halted at Nicae by Russell's levied militia, before launching the Bulgars at Constantinople - the walls of Theodisias held firm however and the Bulgars slunk away thoroughly chastened - but they were back on turn three, when James tried the same tactic again, but once again they failed.

Points were getting extremely hard to come by at this stage as many cities had been worn down and field armies were out of position. Chris and I exchanged a few cities but the most points left were coming from church/mosque building which I just didn't have the money for.

Final scores

James 73 [7.5]
Chris 70 [7 or 8]
Russell 65 [7.5]
Gordon 59 [8]
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2. Board Game: Patchistory [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:788]
Roy B
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This game went on all evening and we didn't finish it. That I think is more to do with the learning curve than the actual time t play the game which is claimed to be 2 hours. Certainly the second era seemed to zip along a bit compared to the first era.

We made a couple of errors in the rules.
d10-1 not to much impact. Seas can be paced over over tiles just not under them.
d10-2 HUGE impact mia culpa. Heros and Wonders only pay for maintenance at the end of the era not every round. This is what caused the first era to be so tough very very sorry guys.

The steep learning curve stems I think from the variety of actions possible rather than the complexity of actions performed. Basically the game has 4 steps

An auction for land tiles (1 per player) and place them
Spend your political points
Move your guys
collect income/spend maintenance.

The auction is straight forward, though deciding on which tile you want can be tricky. Move your guys is quick and simple. Income/ maintenance is pretty standard though with the 8 resources to keep track of and income levels changing every turn some care is needed.

That leaves 'Spend your political points'. The problem here is that there are 12 possible actions. Once you know them build/exchange/birth/trade... they are simple enough but until you know them you have to struggle with the player aid to try and remember them, and the player aid is about as useful as the icons in Race for The Galaxy, only useful when you know them already. Also the player aid is on the card shielding your hoard of goodies from prying eyes which makes it awkward to check.

The other problem with the learning curve is that there is a lot going on. There are eight resources paraphrasing a bit these are shields/daggers/politics/transport/food/coal/money and culture. They all interact quite strongly and assimilating how they interact takes a bit of time.

Having said all that I really like the mechanics. Its a bit like Nations with more interactions and decisions. Fitting together your tiles is tricky and raises problems form the start. Put the tile down where it maximises my short term income but gives me long term problems? Sacrifice my food for politics ? Live with that sea in an awkward place to get some military? The choice run down the whole turn since you can recover a suspect tile placement by spending political points to build/reclaim but them you don't get to campaign or maybe trade or go to war.

What happened in our game? Matt , Andrew and Alex formed an economic pact with some powerful trade routes. I built up my military and used it to nick culture off Matt. Which also slowed down the traders block a bit as they built up defences with one eye on all my daggers. Andrew was the trade king with alliances everywhere . Alex turned on his friends when he picked up the powerful Kremlin land tile but never really got to see the benefits of it as we ran out of time. Interestingly the end of era scoring was a significant leveller for those who surged ahead building income engines during the era without gathering 'votes' for the scoring.

Its definitely my sort of game. My rules reading error about the maintenance cost definitely made this game hard and I hope I haven't killed its chances of coming out again.

I'll give it a7 though I expect an 8 in its next play.
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3. Board Game: Warhammer 40,000: Conquest [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:601]
Gareth H
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Played by: Gareth & Dave

Completely unrefined learning games using the entirety of the available cards for single factions. The first game saw the newly renamed 'Astra Militarum' (they wouldn't let Games Workshop copyright 'Imperial Guard' apparently) fighting the vile forces of Chaos. The second had The Dark Eldar facing The Space Marines (Both factions dominating the recent world championships). I lost both games (Imperial Guard and Dark Eldar) but feel I know more about how to play as and against each. Also made it abundantly clear that one has to properly construct a deck instead of throwing together a load of cards because they're the same colour.
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