On Saturday night I played Tigris & Euphrates again, this time with two friends, A and G. Both were completely new to the game, and this was my second game, so we were all fairly inexperienced.
A word about A and G:
A is a nice fellow, a gentle bloke who... has an immense strategic mind. He picks up on the concept and strategies of games very quickly and will, I think, become a formidable opponent as he migrates away from games like Risk, to Tigris & Euphrates, Twilight Struggle (which we also played) and others.
G is less strategically minded, but very competitive. He doesn't like to lose, and while he sometimes suffers from Analysis Paralysis when he is behind in a game, generally he is very good.
What I am trying to make clear here is that I knew we would have a tremendous and exciting game full of conflict.
Part I - Beginnings
A and I began in the South area of the map, rather close to each other, but not overly hostile. G began in the North on his own, focusing on Blue tiles.
A and I both placed our Black Kings on the board and gradually expanded our bases. At first we didn't go to war as our tiles were reasonably matched. An early revolution occurred, instigated by A, which he won, but this was more to see how they worked. I managed to win a revolution on my next turn which left our part of the board mostly unchanged.
A short while later, with G focusing on Blue tiles still, I won a revolution and supplanted his Blue Leader by stealthily creating a Red tile cross with an empty place in the middle.
Part II - Strengthening
A steadily and slowly expanded his kingdom to the West while I strengthened mine to the East. We both built monuments and, after a while, connected our kingdoms peacefully. We spent a bit of time after that going back and forth revolting for the monuments, but then we settled into a comfortable equilibrium and focused our attentions on G, who was having trouble completing his Blue tile monument (and kind of flailing about a bit).
After a while, I began to really concentrate on G, going to war with his (ill-built) kingdom and taking control of key areas. For a little while after that, he seemed lost at sea, but then he started placing catastrophes and connected G's two kingdoms together, and then connected them both to me - which was a disaster.
This was a key moment in the game. Both A and I had been treating G as a punching bag, forgetting that he, too, could disrupt our plans. Both A and I had strong kingdoms that were well-balanced in terms of tiles, which meant that a war would be difficult to predict. But when G began to shift the momentum of the kingdoms, we both became unbalanced and pretty soon our kingdoms were exploding. It was a great tactic, and one that I should have paid more attention to while we were playing.
Part III - Decline
The final phase of the game became clear fairly quickly after the big wars which decimated our kingdoms. G managed to take hold of a monument, but I was able to strengthen G's old kingdom in the North and complete two monuments and receive points that way. A, however, hadn't been as damaged as me during the wars and was able to fight away G's attempts. After a bit of tussling, my Black King was removed and A was in complete control of the southern kingdom, which had two monuments and a huge amount of tiles in all colours, with A's leaders very well protected.
A won handily. Up to about halfway through the game, A and I were evenly matched, but we became lazy due to an unspoken truce. G shook up that equilibrium and, though he didn't win (and was never going to), he forced a good deal more conflict than perhaps we were prepared for, which eventually gave A the win.
(The game technically finished when the third last wildcard cube was taken. That, again, was G's doing, as he knew ending early would help keep the disruption level high, and ending late would allow a new equilibrium to establish itself.
Keep in mind this is only my second Tigris & Euphrates game, but - I am rapidly falling for this game. The possibilities for conflict and destruction are becoming clearer, and the game really became more immediate, tense and significant with three players instead of two. By now, I feel comfortable with the mechanics of the game, but the strategies of it, and the possibilities of it, are starting to open up to me.
I definitely learned that uneasy truces may be good for the people involved, but a clever player can very easily throw a spanner into the work. I was definitely better at shifting from kingdom to kingdom in order to maximise points and control, but I still need to work on disassociating myself from the idea of "my kingdom". It is only mine while it's useful, and not a turn more - else I will lose.
I think the game overwhelmed G's sense of strategy early on, but he was able to see weaknesses in the late game and exploit them to the detriment of the other two players. A was, from early on, quite strong at the game, and it was clear that he understood well the concepts of protecting himself from both revolutions and war.
It was a great game, very tense, complex, strategically deep and interesting. We all loved it.