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Subject: Questions about some of the perceived "flaws" in the game design rss

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Houserule Jay
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I just seen this game for the first time yesterday, and got very very interested in it for a few reasons. I am a huge fan of CDW, Hannibal and Strike of the Eagle are both in my top 10, and it sounds like it really covers the War well.

So I was reading through the comments, and now have some concerns before I potentially take the plunge on this one. I apologize in advance for any inaccuracies or outright mistakes I have made here, I have not played and just trying to understand the potential cons from what I have read.

- It sounds like the peace track is heavily influenced by event cards, and the track is weighted heavily in who wins. So I think the complaint here is that who is going to win is largely (not totally) decided by the randomness of the events cards, rather than anything clever they did in play. This seems to be the big one (and I wonder if its tweakable if someone thinks this is indeed the case, like lessen the amount of cards that influence the track or how much they influence it. Also one user mentions that the land battles and such have too little effect on the peace track and again I wonder about tweaking this since it would also help alleviate the first issue mentioned)

- I have to directly quote one user here, it sounds like the peace track can be exploited/abused by the British and can't be defended against
djberg96 wrote:
The IF that eventually shows up is hugely swingy for the British in terms of Peace Track adjustments. The problem is that there's not a damn thing the Americans can do about it, and they can do it repeatedly. Historically there were what, 4 invasions spread over several months? Here you can do 8+, and in the span of weeks.

- Sounds like the Napoleon track and invasion force mechanic might carry too much weight and could outweigh anything you really do on the lakes or in Canada. Also:

- I Have to quote someone again as it sounds like if/when Napoleon gets defeated, the game really degrades from that point but I could be wrong, and it seems that is random and not at all controllable (and he came up with some ways to script the whole Napoleon role to try and stop the "blitzkrieg")
Gryfon wrote:
I can't imagine a reasonable set of circumstances that has any other outcome than minor victory/inconclusive draw, the exact detail determined by when Napoleon falls (late = US marginal, early = British marginal, in-between = inconclusive draw)

- Sounds like it could be more of an "experience game" overall, due to the above elements as the card viability is so large and they have such big effects.
Herr Dr wrote:
. It is not that strategies can't be worked, but, you're in for a ride determined by the whims of the card gods - and the variability is HUGE. Consequently, your success will be determined how you maximize those hands vs. say a Paths of Glory (working a plan and using whatever cards you get to make that plan happen) and whatever the system randomly dishes out.

TIA - I do realize that these comments could be after only one playing, so just hoping to spark some interesting discussion here and make up my own mind on these points. I also hope no one minds me quoting them, afterall the comments are made public so don't see the harm in reposting
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Andrew MacLeod
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And when, exactly, are we playing Churchill again?
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I was just about to go to bed after a game of AtA, and caught your post, Jay!

jayjonbeach wrote:


- It sounds like the peace track is heavily influenced by event cards, and the track is weighted heavily in who wins. So I think the complaint here is that who is going to win is largely (not totally) decided by the randomness of the events cards, rather than anything clever they did in play. This seems to be the big one (and I wonder if its tweakable if someone thinks this is indeed the case, like lessen the amount of cards that influence the track or how much they influence it. Also one user mentions that the land battles and such have too little effect on the peace track and again I wonder about tweaking this since it would also help alleviate the first issue mentioned)


Actually, the game is decided by the Peace Track, and nothing but! Everything translates into Peace Track moves: event cards, battles, the British blockade and control of the lakes. As for land battles not having much effect on the Peace Track: well, a single battle has the potential to gain you up to four Peace Track moves....which is more than any event card can do (the most they can get you is two moves, and that's rare).

jayjonbeach wrote:
- I have to directly quote one user here, it sounds like the peace track can be exploited/abused by the British and can't be defended against
djberg96 wrote:
The IF that eventually shows up is hugely swingy for the British in terms of Peace Track adjustments. The problem is that there's not a damn thing the Americans can do about it, and they can do it repeatedly. Historically there were what, 4 invasions spread over several months? Here you can do 8+, and in the span of weeks.

- Sounds like the Napoleon track and invasion force mechanic might carry too much weight and could outweigh anything you really do on the lakes or in Canada.


What you quoted, Jay, is a tad inaccurate. Yes, with very good luck and planning, the British can get a lot of invasions in; but it's over the space of several months, not weeks. Plus, the British don't have an invasion fleet until after Napoleon is defeated; and it's completely unpredictable if and when that will happen.

jayjonbeach wrote:
Also:

- I Have to quote someone again as it sounds like if/when Napoleon gets defeated, the game really degrades from that point but I could be wrong, and it seems that is random and not at all controllable (and he came up with some ways to script the whole Napoleon role to try and stop the "blitzkrieg")
Gryfon wrote:
I can't imagine a reasonable set of circumstances that has any other outcome than minor victory/inconclusive draw, the exact detail determined by when Napoleon falls (late = US marginal, early = British marginal, in-between = inconclusive draw)


IMO, the game favours the British, just as it was in the real war! The British are certainly capable of some overwhelming victories. The Americans can win (they did tonight), but crushing American victories are, indeed, rare.


jayjonbeach wrote:
- Sounds like it could be more of an "experience game" overall, due to the above elements as the card viability is so large and they have such big effects.
Herr Dr wrote:
. It is not that strategies can't be worked, but, you're in for a ride determined by the whims of the card gods - and the variability is HUGE. Consequently, your success will be determined how you maximize those hands vs. say a Paths of Glory (working a plan and using whatever cards you get to make that plan happen) and whatever the system randomly dishes out.


What Herr Dr said is largely true: which makes for an extremely challenging game! I love it because it is so realistic: you just can't assume that your brilliant strategy will work, especially because you have so little knowledge of what the opponent actually has; and I'm not talking about his cards, but about his troops! The fog of war in this game is the heaviest I've ever seen (apart from Kriegspiel, natch).
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Mike Szarka
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Fron your own profile:

jayjonbeach wrote:
I really enjoy a deep taxing Euro where strategizing and skillful tactical play are awarded and yet I also have loads of fun playing good party games with the right groups. A little luck is usually fine but I'm not usually a fan of randomness or chaos yuk (a bit of a control freak yes ) and prefer to play those where skill determines the winner and whether you lose or win you can point to WHY.


This leads me to suggest that this may not be the game for you. There is plenty of chaos, and indeed some of the card sequencing can have a significant impact on game balance.

That said, I rate the game a "10" because there is so much richness in terms of options, strategy, and scope. There is lots of unpredictability due to the huge card deck and the lack of scripting. It does reward skilful play, and it definitely takes a few games to understand the means of moving the Peace Track most effectively (hint: winning small border skirmishes don't help much). Some games will focus a lot on subduing rebellious Indians. Some games will focus a lot on the naval war on the lakes, or the blockades and invasions. Some games will feature major thrusts across Niagara or along Champlain. Sometimes both players will feel too weak or be too poorly led to attack, and there will be long pauses of buildup and reorganization.

This is a fantastic game, even though occasionally you may feel you got disadvantaged by the cards. But the "experience" will always be great.

The Napoleon cards are the biggest factor, and you could probably work out a way of "seeding" the deck so that he falls right on schedule. But to me that would take away some of the delicious unpredictability.
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Paul Borchers
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Card driven games definitely have their chaos. Some I like, others I don't like. This happens to be one that I really enjoy.

My suggestion would be to got through some of the session reports here on BGG and then decide if this game is for you. I think some of what you've read to this point is fairly distorted reports about the game. Some people are sore losers if they don't like some randomness or they can't control every aspect of the game (or they think they can't control it because they haven't figured out the strategy yet).
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Chris Montgomery
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mr_peabody wrote:
Card driven games definitely have their chaos. Some I like, others I don't like. This happens to be one that I really enjoy.

My suggestion would be to got through some of the session reports here on BGG and then decide if this game is for you. I think some of what you've read to this point is fairly distorted reports about the game. Some people are sore losers if they don't like some randomness or they can't control every aspect of the game (or they think they can't control it because they haven't figured out the strategy yet).


Or worse, IMHO, is pronouncing judgment on a game after a single play. I'm not saying the quoted posters above were like that, but frequently a single bad experience with a game can sour a player on further exploration of it. I've done it myself - but nearly always regretted it later.
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Paul Borchers
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I think Michael Resch touched on this with his latest game. Too often players want to know the optimal strategy now. They aren't willing to explore a variety of strategies or understand how the game might work, and so they jump to conclusions or run out of patience. I'm not saying that AtA is a perfect game - there is in fact no such thing - but I do think some of the criticism in unwarranted.
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Chris Montgomery
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Ironically enough, one of the games that I did exactly that with was his previous 1914 game, 1914: Twilight in the East.

The counter-point, of course, is: if you only validate criticism of games that are written by players who have played the game X number of times, you will be culling out lots of possibly valid criticism since most players who don't like a game won't keep playing it.

I am in the midst of my first game of AtA via PBEM right now, and I think it is perhaps the most period-specific beautiful game I have played. All the components are visually well-integrated into a unified graphic style. The game is much more enjoyable from that aspect alone.
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Kevin McPartland
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cmontgo2 wrote:
I think it is perhaps the most period-specific beautiful game I have played. All the components are visually well-integrated into a unified graphic style.

I heartily agree, and must say that Tim Schleif is an artistic genius! His graphic art for AtA is the best that I have seen for any wargame out there.

Certainly the game is not for everyone. If you like to play wargames to develop the perfect plan, that will work every time, you should look elsewhere. The game tries to put you in the shoes of the top commanders of the war, complete with the uncertainties that they faced! Will Napoleon continue to rampage across Europe, or will his fortunes continue to spiral downward to his defeat- and if so, when will it happen? What are the capabilities of my opponent? For that matter, what are the capabilities of my own forces and leaders- especially for the Americans? Will the Civilized Indians rebel, and if so, what tribes? Will I be able to gain control of the Great Lakes? Will attacks and raids spring up along the east coast? Will the skirmishes in the northwest wilderness suddenly gain new importance? The historic leaders did not know, so in the game, neither will you!

Kevin
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Houserule Jay
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Thanks all some great responses and things to think about here. I think the thing I am the most curious about now is the Nap Track, what exactly happens in the game once he is defeated? Does it become somewhat unfair for one player if this happens early?


mcszarka wrote:
Fron your own profile:
jayjonbeach wrote:
I really enjoy a deep taxing Euro where strategizing and skillful tactical play are awarded and yet I also have loads of fun playing good party games with the right groups. A little luck is usually fine but I'm not usually a fan of randomness or chaos yuk (a bit of a control freak yes ) and prefer to play those where skill determines the winner and whether you lose or win you can point to WHY.


This leads me to suggest that this may not be the game for you. There is plenty of chaos, and indeed some of the card sequencing can have a significant impact on game balance.


Ah yes, you caught me here modest and Andrew has me a little worried with that Fog of War comment, and then the "realistic" one as well...

Note here though, you left out part of my notes, I bolded the relevant parts
jayjonbeach wrote:
I have noticed that I am willing to play a 4 hour+ game with some luck with the wife (WOTR, DOA etc) but really abhor long and luck (or especially random/chaos) together in a 3+ multi-player game.


Truth is I've avoided War Games for many years, just due to most of them being 4+ hour highly strategic games, that resolve battles with often cruel dice! "Realism" is the most often reasoning for this, and its taken me a long time to try and warm up to this whole mentality of realism over playability/fairness, and I'm still trying (but note, I played CC:Europe and had enough fun that I bought it, and even though I knew full well what I was getting into, that was a bit of a breakthrough right there ).

Anyway I've dragged my baggage in here now and we're getting sidetracked. Here is an important question I usually want to consider:

- Will an experienced player beat someone who has only played 2-3 times?
- When you win, do you truly feel it was because you made good decisions?

You see what I am getting at here. I don't mind being kept on my toes, and lots of intrigue, games play out differently so need to stay flexible strategically, great!!!! But, in 4 games out of 5, will the player who made the better decisions win, assuming they are equal in skill/experience?

For me fairness I guess is important. The wife and I love War of the Ring for example, admittedly the theme is a huge draw, and the whole game can come down to a tile flip, lots of dice chucking etc. But out of the games I played, I don't think anyone ever lost because the system shafted them (at least that I noticed) so decisions all felt important in the win, even if a tile flip decided it (which admittedly makes THAT win feel, less meaningful, in the rare instance it happens ... goo )

Thanks again
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Mike Szarka
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I've played 3-4 times and I'm only beginning to grasp good strategy. Yes, a better player will win most of the time. The Napoleon track is important as there are three "Napoleon Suffers a setback" cards in the deck. Once such a card has been drawn three times Napoleon is defeated and the British player gets significant reinforcements and advantages. This usually happens in the last year of the war but may occur earlier or later, as a result of deck reshuffles or other luck of the draw. It certainly benefits the British if this happens early, and penalizes them if it happens late. But the uncertainty is part of the game.

So, random effects can make the game tougher for one player or the other each time you play. A better player will usually be able to overcome these deficits. But a game like this is really about the experience, and not so much about competition (in my view). At the end of every game regardless you can point to a whole bunch of decisions you made that might have been better or worse and tilted the odds. The other thing to note is that draws will not be uncommon as the Peace Track has a substantial "middle ground" where, as historically, neither side has seriously vanquished the other.
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Houserule Jay
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Thanks again for all the help, all. My local game store had a price I could not resist, so my shelf floor is now overflowing more than it already was.

It may be a little more unwieldy that what I prefer, but it sounds like tweaking it to preference would not be that tricky after a few plays if I thought I still wanted to, and the theme was a big draw for me, so looking forward to exploring this one!

Cheers and happy gaming
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I'm a good half-dozen plays in now, with several pbem matches ongoing, and this is clearly the best overall take on the war, and I don't think it's really all that close.

Thematically, pretty much everything works... from the perspective of a very avid student of the period, it's hard to fathom that anyone will top this as the definitive grand-strategic treatment of the entire conflict. I'll need to write down a lengthier review at some point, because there's a good deal to reflect on and discuss with this game.

Just really a home-run of a package... it was nominated for the design CSR for a reason (and probably should have won, due respect to Fontenoy). It's honestly hard to keep it off the table... I'm constantly reading something on the war for either work/leisure, and the map/components are just a fantastic reference/touchstone for investing some brain space in this time period.

As a competitive tournament-type game, though... it's not Washington's War, or Paths, or FtP. The "boundaries" of the game are very wide, which makes for a pretty darn engrossing experience... but it certainly doesn't feel balanced in the way some of those more "tourney-friendly" games are, and you can easily get "shafted" by a run of bad cards (or, more appropriately, an unfortunately-provident set of hands by your opponent).

To me, that's perfectly reasonable for a simulation of this particular war, at this scale... but I can appreciate the frustration some would have with the not-necessarily-level playing field.

An experienced player can tilt the playing field quite a bit... likely enough to overcome a poor card-draw distribution.

Speaking of online tourneys, AtA really needs/deserves one... so does Madison's War for that matter (which is far more conducive to that type of game environment, due to a much more focused, and scripted, system and significantly shorter game-length). The Vassal module for AtA is fantastic... granted, the fog-of-war might make it a little tough to run a non-moderated tourney (especially for newcomers to the game), but it did sound like it was a modest hit at WBC last year.
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Kevin McPartland
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Glad to hear you took the plunge, Jay; looking forward to hearing any feedback.

warmonark wrote:
I'll need to write down a lengthier review at some point, because there's a good deal to reflect on and discuss with this game.

Please do! I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Kevin
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Andrew MacLeod
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And when, exactly, are we playing Churchill again?
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warmonark wrote:


Thematically, pretty much everything works... from the perspective of a very avid student of the period, it's hard to fathom that anyone will top this as the definitive grand-strategic treatment of the entire conflict.


I think it could be improved...maybe thirty years from now, after significant overall design evolution in wargaming generally! But for now, and at the very least for decades to come, this is by far the best game on the War of 1812 ever made. Long may she reign!
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