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Subject: Review of "China" rss

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Mike Compton
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*Note: This review has been revised from its original version.

Overview of Rules and Game Play

China is a quasi-territorial control game involving component placement through card usage. With regards to scoring, there are in-game and end-game scoring mechanisms. Here's how it breaks down:

The board is a map of China divided into 9 regions. Each of these regions if of one of five colors. So, two regions are yellow, two are green, two are red, two are orange, and the largest territory is purple. Any two regions of the same color do not border each other on the map. There is also a "great wall" of China scoring track which is fun as it reinforces the theme quite well. The board is also double sided with a different setup on each side.

Each player starts off with three cards in their hand. Each card is of a single color corresponding to one of the five region colors and each card has listed on it the names of the territory or territories it can be used for. When a player plays a card, it allows that player to place either a "house" or an "emissary" in a region. A player may place up to two pieces on their turn (their cards permitting) but they may only do so in a single region. The rule books provides an easy way to remember this with the 3-2-1 idea:

Three cards may be used to place up to two pieces in one region.

When placing pieces, if you have two cards of the same color, they may both be played as a "wild" - allowing you to place a piece in any region you wish. Thus, a player may use all three cards in their hand on their turn.

At the beginning of the game, after everyone has their cards, the top four cards from the draw deck are layed out. After placing their pieces each player replenishes their hand back up to three at the end of their turn by selecting cards from either the four that are layed out, blindly off the top of the draw pile, or both. After replenishing their hand, any empty spots left by cards taken from the four that were layed out are filled again off the top of the draw pile. The card replenishment is important because going through the draw deck twice triggers the end of the game.

In placing pieces on the board, one of the interesting rules is that no player may place two pieces in a region that doesn't have any pieces in it already. What this creates is a situation where some of the players are hesitent to place a piece in a new region because all of the other players would then have a chance to place multiple pieces in that same region on their turns.

Houses

There are a specific number of spots in each region for a house and there are roads connecting these spots. You may place a house on any spot in a region that you wish (if you have played the appopriate card or cards to allow you to do so). Once any region fills up, the scoring works in descending order like so:

The first place player (the player with the majority of houses) gets a number of victory points equal to the total number of houses in the region regardless of who placed them. The second place player gets a number of victory points equal to the total number of houses in that region placed by the first place player. The third place player gets a number of vp's equal to the number of houses placed by the second place player and so forth. Ex:

Player one plays 4 houses in the purple region
Player two plays 3 houses in the purple region
Player three plays 1 house in the purple region

Player one would get 4+3+1=8
Player two would get 4 points
Player three would get 3 points

What this creates is the interesting dynamic of trying to get others to help you out. 8 and 4 is a fair amount of distance between a first and second place player with only one extra house placed by the first place player. However, if a smaller provice broke down like this:

Player one plays 4 houses in the red region
Player two plays 1 house in the red region

Player one gets 4+1=5 points
Player two gets 4 points

In this example, player one did all the work and player two, with only one piece, got only 1 point less than player one.

Roads

As I mentioned, there are roads that connect the housing spots. If a player connects four of their houses in a row or more along a road (regardless of whether those houses are all in the same region or not) that player gets a number of victory points at the end of the game equal to the total number of consecutive houses on the road.

Emissaries

Emissaries can be placed on a region in a black circular symbol in the middle of each region. The total number of emissaries that can be played in a region (regardless of who plays them) is always less than or equal to the total number of houses in the majority in that region. For example, if a region has two houses from player one in it and one house from player two, then that region can only hold two emissaries in it because two is the number of houses in the majority in that region at that time. Emissaries can by played by anyone. They do not have to be played by the majority player.

Between each region is a small black spot with a number on it. There is a black game piece that represents the emperor and, at the end of the game, the emperor piece starts out on the spot labeled "1" and continues through until he gets to spot "15" - at each spot "checking the relationship" between each region. In a given relationship, there is only scoring if one person has a majority of emissaries in both regions of the relationship and that player gets a total number of points equal to the total number of emissaries in those two regions regardless of who played them. So, if you choose to place an emissary in a region, you had better win the majority in that region or you're just handing more points to the eventual majority winner in the end game scoring.

Fortifications
A player may, on their turn, choose to play a fortification (represented by a small black square) in a housing spot for their first piece (remembering that they have to play a card or cards to do so) and then a house on top of that fortification as their second piece. Each player may only do this once in the game. The fortification piece doubles any scoring in which the house on which it is built is involved - meaning, region scoring with houses and any road scoring.


Thoughts

So, now that we've covered the rules, what about the game? Is it fun? How deep is it? Who would like it? etc. Well, I personally like the game. In spite of the lengthy dissertation I just made on the rules, it's not really a very deep game. In fact, even though I may play China occassionally with my gamer friends, I believe the game really shines as an "introduction" or "cross-over" game (what I mean by "cross-over" game is a game that has enough options to keep a genuine gamer interested but has enough of the right elements to appeal to a non-gamer.) Here's why:

-The board and the game components are colorful and visually appealing.

I know this may not sound like a big deal but non-gamers tend to need something more in a game's appearance to have a good time as they are probably not as interested in mechanics.

-The turns are short and the game moves quickly.

New players don't have to wait for a long time for it to be their turn to play again. Also, because the placement of pieces by the other players can affect multiple scoring opportunities, other players' turns are more interesting to watch.

-Even though there are multiple scoring options, what you do on your turn is pretty simple - play cards and place one of two types of pieces in a single region.

This element helps reduce "turn fear" on the part of newbies/non-gamers (you know, the idea of a person hating it when its their turn because they have no idea what to do).


Conclusion

If you are looking for a game to add to your collection that would appeal to your non-gamer friends yet is still fun to play on its own merits, then China just might work for you. I personally enjoy playing it.
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Brian S.
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Yup. That's what we need. Reviews of reviews. thumbsdown
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I got something out of this review. The "piling on" commentary is completely unnecessary.
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Mike Compton
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Okay, here's the story.

If you will notice, at the very beginning of my review, I specified how it has been updated from its original version. Originally, my review was much shorter and less detailed (which is what drew the ire of ekted). He posted his criticism above to which I responded defensively and he then posted his second post above to which I responded. However, after my initial defensiveness, I thought about his criticisms and concluded that, given the "standard" BGG has for reviews of games, my initial review was actually lacking and that his criticism had some merit to it.

So, in the interest of making sure that my participation here at BGG is on the up and up, I contacted one of the administrators - proposing that they take back the gg I had received for the review and that I would write a new review and submit it. To this was given the response that I simply edit the preexisting review to bring it up to standard - which I did. I also emailed ekted (since it was to his criticism that I was responding) and told him that I had updated my review.

After revising the review, the posts in the ensuing conversation between ekted and myself weren't relevant anymore as anyone else reading this thread after the fact would only see my revised review and wouldn't necessarily see how the criticism initially laid against me would relate to the new version. So, I deleted my comments in this respect but ekted has not deleted his - which creates the appearance of him "piling on" my review and which has unfortunately left me in the lingering position of having to still repond to the effects of his criticisms even after thouroughly heeding them and doing everything I could to rectify the situation.
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Mike Compton
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One key aspect of this game's continuing appeal is it's realively short overall time of play. Four people who know the game can finish it in about 30 minutes. It's quite popular at my FLGS, and it's currently the game we tend to break out at the store if we are looking for something quick to play and it's near the end of the evening.
 
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michael dorazio
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Now I get it. The updated review is excellent, and I thought the thumbs down reply was supposed to be sarcastic. It's just that the original review was significantly shorter. Makes more sense now. Great review. I am considering purchasing China, and your review answered my questions.
 
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Tim Myers
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I do not know what the original review looked like but thought that the current one looked good. I like the overview and your thoughts about China.

I just purchased it on Tanga and I appreciate your review.

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