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Subject: Theme-Heavy [Political?] Strategy rss

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Steven Mitchell
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Hey all,

Primarily a wargamer, I also dive often into other waters. Unfortunately, the wishlist of games I built a while back has diminished as I've gradually bought everything on it. So I need to fill that wishlist back up again, and am calling on BGG to help me do that!

My preferences are for what I would call 'theme-heavy Euro games' or 'Ameritrash with a lot of strategy'. To define that better, the games I like the most are those which have deep strategy but the mechanics of which are tightly defined by the game's theme.

I'm also a sucker for political games. I don't necessarily mean political theme, but political mechanics: negotiation, backstabbing, support-mustering, and social influence.

Below are a few of the games I've purchased in the past couple years — or which are currently on my list — which help describe these preferences. (One other thing you might notice is that I don't shy away from randomness. Being a wargamer first, I value planning for things beyond any player's control and the consequences thereof.)

Die Macher: One of my all-time favorites. Deep strategy, a perfect pairing of theme and mechanics, and a theme I can love.
The Republic of Rome: Another all-time favorite for the same reasons as Die Macher, but with more explicitly political mechanics.
Article 27, Panic on Wall Street!, The Resistance: I think of these together as strong examples of theme-driven games where the deep strategy comes from social interaction, rather than precise manipulation of variables.
A Game of Thrones & Rex: A pairing of games which I think best combine the on-board strategy and the off-board social strategy.
Dominant Species: Direct conflict is good, especially when the theme really calls for it.
Tzolk'in: I must say that I think the wheels were a stroke of genius. A fantastic variation on worker placement while giving thematic rational for the novelty.
Urban Sprawl: I'm hard-pressed to think of a deep strategy game whose mechanics are more intimately related to its theme.
Prêt-à-Porter: A recent acquisition. While I'm ambivalent about the actual theme, the degree to which the theme gives variation to the standard worker placement mechanic is nice.
Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game: A more theme-y combination of on-board and off-board strategies. My take on it is that it's The Resistance with more chrome (pun intended).

Liberté: For me, this is probably on the extreme low-theme end of the spectrum. But the actual content of the theme — political revolution — gives it a boost. Agricola is another game I enjoy which is on this end.
Arkham Horror: Arkham is an example of an outlier. The strategy isn't deep, but it's made up for by its immersive quality. I don't want too many of these, but if you have a really outstanding example of this, recommend away!

Bios: Megafauna: Not yet played; though I expect I would love this game, it's been at the bottom of my list due to not having many good descriptions of gameplay out there (no video review?!)
CO₂: This one is about to be ordered.

So what would you suggest next?
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Jeff Dougan
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Re: Theme-Heavy Strategy
Have you tried Titan?
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Pasi Ojala
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Get the Imperial Assault Campaign module for Vassal from http://www.vassalengine.org/wiki/Module:Star_Wars:_Imperial_Assault
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Re: Theme-Heavy Strategy
patton1138 wrote:
Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game: A more theme-y combination of on-board and off-board strategies. My take on it is that it's The Resistance with more chrome (pun intended).


There are layers and sub-parts in the game. You're playing an euro+theme part when trying to stretch the valuable and non-replenishable resources, a space war when dealing with cylon attacks, and putting small hints together to figure out who your enemies and friends are. Before the sleeper you may have a strategy to help humans a little as possible and being in good position if you turn cylon. Or you may go all-out in the assumption you will stay human.

Anyway, as a wargamer you probably are not afraid of long games, so check out Android for 2-5 players.

The theme is excellent, with a beautiful board and with a lot of flavor text on the cards (you can decide yourself how much to read it during the game). There are a lot of ways to get victory points in the game. All characters are unique with some of their own character-specific rules, personal storylines to finish during the game (happy endings give victory points), and their own demons to avoid when solving what has happened in the murder case. There are many different murder cases to play. There is a great atmosphere, and although the board and the sheer number of tokens may at first intimidate you, the game mechanisms are actually quite simple when you have played once. Each game takes a long time (5+ hours for your first 2-player game), so stay clear of this game, if that is a problem for you.


Another game that in my mind marries the mechanics very well to the theme is Core Worlds for 2-5 players (~90min with 3).

Core Worlds is a deckbuilder that does not feel like deckbuilder (I'm not a fan of Dominion, but I love Core Worlds). Core Worlds combines the theme with the game mechanisms perfectly. You draft cards into your deck from a common pool, but you also have to use your limited amount of actions and growing amounts of energy to deploy troops into your warzone before they can attack and conquer the worlds that you come across. You never have quite enough resources to do what you'd like, which keeps giving you hard choices to make for the whole game. The last worlds you reach are the Core Worlds that give the most bonus points.

You always have a different game, and minor mistakes do not immediately spiral you into defeat.

The expansion Galactic Orders adds more units, worlds, and tactic cards and hard decisions in the form of events, but also ways to work around your energy and action limitations.
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Sean Boyll
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Re: Theme-Heavy Strategy
Chaos in the Old World: Needs all four players.
Cyclades: Not for 3 players.
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Les Marshall
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Re: Theme-Heavy Strategy
Not really Ameritrash or Euro, still I would suggest you check out "Age of Renaissance" by Avalon Hill. The only 10 in my collection and it plays 3-6 people with a board that scales to accomodate. Essentially a civ type game with brilliant concepts. Hard to find but, worth the visit.

A more traditional Euro is "Serenissima". Recently rereleased, the player purchase ships and ply the waters of the Med transporting goods and filling warehouses, at least until someone goes pirate and starts sinking things.

Also fun and appropriate weight is "Merchants and Marauders". Good balance of picking fights and just trying to score VP off of bounty and reputation events.

Given your penchant for wargames, you might also want to check out "Struggle of Empires" from Wargfrog. Colonial expansion game with some very interesting mechanics for building resources and manipulating who fights who each turn. Pretty good example of Euro Wargame.
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Zigi Hogan
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Re: Theme-Heavy Strategy
Dungeon Petz

That is my one and only reccomendation for this thread. This game has loads of theme and loads of strategy. It also has a bit of bidding and some blocking strategy (like Agricola, etc. just block the space another player wanted).

It is a fairly complex game but the theme really makes this intuitive. I have never played any other Vlaada Chvatil games but I have heard they aren't quite as easy to pick up as this (Galaxy Trucker not withstanding) but this is my current goto game.

Good Luck!
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Adria D
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Re: Theme-Heavy Strategy
For a 'theme-heavy Euro', I'd suggest Mage Knight Board Game. It plays 1-4 (5 with expansion), and can go quite long. It has RPG elements (creating your own story, leveling up you character), but can be quite a brain burner.

For an 'Ameritrash with a lot of strategy' game, I'd suggest Twilight Imperium (Third Edition). It's long (6+ hours) and requires a decent amount of people (we like 6 players), but it's worth it if you can get it to the table.
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Re: Theme-Heavy [Political] Strategy
Junta: Viva el Presidente!
Diplomacy
Twilight Imperium (Third Edition)
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Will E.
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Re: Theme-Heavy [Political] Strategy
Eclipse? With a lot of players, it can have a lot of political interactions and is pretty theme heavy in my book.
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Shane Larsen
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Re: Theme-Heavy [Political] Strategy
Civilization w/ Advanced Civilization

This one alone should do it.

If not, look into something newer:

Archipelago
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Gabriel Perez
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Re: Theme-Heavy [Political] Strategy
Conquest of the Empire, Warrior Knights
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Black Bart
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Re: Theme-Heavy [Political] Strategy
Here's another Phil Eklund game for you: Pax Porfiriana
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Steven Mitchell
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Thanks for all the recommendations so far! There are definitely some titles here that interest me. Some I had known about; they just need to make the jump to my list. Others are completely new to me.

A few response comments to help narrow down the list a bit and maybe jog some other people's minds:

Quote:
Titan
I had this but sold it as soon as I read the inexplicably arbitrary movement rules.
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Core Worlds
This I'll have to look into further. Like you, I'm thrown off by the deck-building aspect, but if it makes sense, it may be worthwhile acquiring.
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Android
I actually just bought this but haven't had a chance to pull it out and start messing with it yet. Maybe I'll give it a quick solo spin this evening...
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Chaos in the Old World, Cyclades, Dungeon Petz, Mage Knight, Warrior Knights
To be perfectly honest, I can't stand fantasy. But I suspect if some of the ideas in these games weren't in a fantasy setting, they might be interesting.
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Age of Renaissance
I actually took a look at this one, oh, a decade ago, and it caught my interest. I had virtually forgotten about it.
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Serenissima, Merchants and Marauders, Struggle of Empires
The latter I've played and enjoyed. The former two I've not. I'll put all three on my list of games to consider.
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Twilight Imperium, Eclipse
I'm not really big on 4X games, but if done right I can enjoy them. Eclipse I've heard mixed things about, but haven't yet played. TI would be completely new to me, but has appeal for certain.
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Britannia
This strikes me as a really good suggestion. How does the new version compare to the old?
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Junta
I gotta be honest that the cartoony art threw me off on this one, but the gameplay is probably right up my alley.
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Archipelago
This one was completely unknown to me, but if you're going to list it along with the great AdvCiv, I must check it out!
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Conquest of the Empire
At first glance, I wonder how much strategy is actually involved here. But that's entirely judging a game by its cover art. Convince me otherwise!
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Pax Porfiriana
This one I love. If this is an exemplar of Eklund, then I'll definitely have to bump Megafauna up on my list.
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Twilight Struggle
If it's GMT, I probably already own it :-) But actually TS is a good example of what I don't necessarily mean by political: the theme is political in nature, but none of the mechanics really line up with that theme. Nothing that the players actually do is political. That said, a political theme is still a draw, but not as much as one that has political gameplay. Virgin Queen or Andean Abyss are good counter-examples, given the degree of diplomacy and interaction that is necessary for success.
 
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Łukasz
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Few games come into my mind. Struggle of Empires, Perikles or Princes of the Renaissance (if you are lucky enough to find a low-priced copy), God's Playground. All by Martin Wallace, my favourite designer -- but since you mentioned Liberte, you may also find liking his other games.

There is also Game of Thrones, which I had a chance to play before it was cool: there are negotiations and backstabbing, as well as marching armies and cool order system. Recommended.

If you are to get just one game, maybe you may consider Revolution: The Dutch Revolt 1568-1648 -- a game I've never played, but always dreamt of having of group willing to give it a go.
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Moe45673
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Tammany Hall has a ton of interaction, alliances, and backstabbing. Political theme too Great game

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Caleb
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I enjoyed both my plays of Imperial 2030. though I'd more classify it as an economic game than a political one.
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Conquest the Empire is a strategy theme game dealing with Romans fighting for power by building cities, and armies.
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Steven Mitchell
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Moe45673 wrote:
Tammany Hall has a ton of interaction, alliances, and backstabbing. Political theme too Great game


So far this one appears to be the best fit to what I enjoy. After watching a couple review videos, this one jumped to the top of my wishlist. GG to you!

Keep the recommendations coming everyone!
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Gabriel Perez
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same era Five Points: Gangs of New York. I guess your group likes being a little cutthroat.
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Rulesjd wrote:
Not really Ameritrash or Euro, still I would suggest you check out "Age of Renaissance" by Avalon Hill. The only 10 in my collection and it plays 3-6 people with a board that scales to accomodate. Essentially a civ type game with brilliant concepts. Hard to find but, worth the visit.

A more traditional Euro is "Serenissima". Recently rereleased, the player purchase ships and ply the waters of the Med transporting goods and filling warehouses, at least until someone goes pirate and starts sinking things.

Also fun and appropriate weight is "Merchants and Marauders". Good balance of picking fights and just trying to score VP off of bounty and reputation events.

Given your penchant for wargames, you might also want to check out "Struggle of Empires" from Wargfrog. Colonial expansion game with some very interesting mechanics for building resources and manipulating who fights who each turn. Pretty good example of Euro Wargame.

+1 for Age of Renaissance. It was the first game I thought of reading the OP and also the only 10 in my own collection.
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Nagato Fujibayashi

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+1 Tammany Hall
+1 Imperial 2030

Struggle of Empires
After Pablo
Illuminati: Deluxe Edition

You might also enjoy Maria(amazing connection of politics/negotiations and warfare)and for a shorter scale and duration, Condottiere.

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You may want to check out Libertalia. It's on the lighter side of things, but it can be very difficult to plan an optimal turn, and the pirate theme is appropriate and interesting.

Also - I played Caylus just last night, and I was surprised by how particularly nasty it can get. Despite it being regarded as a classic Euro, there is a surprising amount of screwage and politicking in just moving the little Provost token around. The theme is not what I would describe as "rich" though: buy pink cube producing building with brown cube, etc.
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I didn't look over your games owned list so some of this is probably redundant, but this is one of my favorite kinds of games, so...

Andean Abyss: no restrictions on financial or military aid to other factions and asymmetrical win conditions virtually guarantee strange bedfellows.

Chicago Express: it's very rare to win this game without the help of a usually-unwitting coalition partner. Not negotiated over the table but every move you make is an implicit offer to someone. 18xx games have this implicit-alliance mechanic as well. So does Indonesia.

Maria: it's hard to fit political treachery in a 3-player game. Maria pulls it off.

Struggle of Empires: oh yes this. A good group for this one is always looking for ways to push the diplomacy in this one as far as it will go.
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Jonathan Challis
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Archipelago
Mare Nostrum (with expansion)
Conquest of the Empire
Struggle of Empires
 
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Shane Larsen
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I must +1 Struggle of Empires. I can't believe I didn't think of it since it's one of my favorite games. The political tug-of-war in this one is brilliant. Just wait until you learn how marvelously devilish the alliance phase is in this one. Brilliant game.
 
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