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Subject: Play this good game. But only play it if............. rss

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Keith Rapley
United Kingdom
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Warning !!! – Do NOT play this game using solely the rules published in the box. There are serious errors that affect game play. There are also important clarifications still needed before the game is playable. (message dated 12th July 2006. These clarifications now exist on the publishers web site and it appears that the game is being sold in the UK with corrections included in the box alongside the original rules. (msg dated 24th October 2006)

There is a great deal to like about this game and now that the problems with the published rules have been fixed it has turned into a really good game with some interesting features.

However if you play by the printed rules in the box then…..

Your first problem will arise in the set up in which you build a “starting hand” of 5 cards. In the section on game play everything takes place on the table top and at no point in the rules does it explain how you get cards from your hand to the table top. This is clarified in the Q&As on the publisher’s web site and it turns out you can play any number of cards from your hand to your sanctum at any time as free actions.

The game is supplied with 60 vis tokens. In a 5 player game these are all distributed in the set up. Until items and spells are activated / installed then no vis are available to be taken with the extract or gather actions. It turns out that the limit of 60 was not intended by the designers. From the Q&As on the publisher’s wewb site, it isn’t entirely clear but I think that the supply of vis should be infinite – i.e. not limiting. This has a major effect on game play!

The rule state that the players receive 12 vis at the start of every tribunal. This is completely wrong! The web site makes it clear that players receive 12 vis at the start of the game and none at any later time unless the actions extract vis and gather vis are chosen. This error has a major effect on game play!

Another problem arises if one of the decks runs out of cards during play. This happened to us at the end of the second tribunal when the spell deck reached nil with just a few cards in the discard. The rules say to use the discards at this point but play in the third tribunal would have quickly used up the stock. The rules are silent on what to do then.

The basic premise of the game is interesting. Making up the best and most powerful magic item from a variety of components some of which you are tempted to use to disrupt your opponents’ plans could make for a great game. But I do have a number of reservations even making allowances that our first playing had some of the rules wrong! In the first tribunal there is a race to make active a powerful item. To do this you have 10 actions available and several of these will be used up placing your starting vis on spells and items. This leaves very few actions left for making sure that you get a set of cards that work well together, that you are in a good defensive position if someone launches a spell on you and that you are gathering more vis for the second tribunal etc. The scoring is biased heavily in favour of the winners in the tribunal voting. Our 5 player scores at the end of the first tribunal were 36,24,18,6 and 5. I have a strong suspicion that, when the rules have been clarified and tightened up, the game may play akin to Princes of Florence in that you have a limited number of actions in which to obtain a set of cards that really work well together to maximise your score. But even if it does reach its potential this game will not be as good as Princes of Florence!! And until the rules have been sorted out my strong advice is avoid it!!
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Darrell Pavitt
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Re: Warning !!! – do NOT play this game….
Ouch!
And people complain about Eagle and FFG...
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Chris Milne
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Re: Warning !!! – do NOT play this game….
Well, we just played our first game with the rules out of the box, and we still had a good time. It did take a while to grasp the rules as written (let alone as intended) as after reading them it was no clearer how the game actually plays.

We dealt with the issues noted above without too many problems - all cards went straight to the sanctum. We did have a surfeit of vis thanks to the extra 12 each tribunal, but that just meant we could afford to spend plenty on activating items and spells. And we just found some other tokens to use as extra vis.

I wouldn't say the game was broken. No doubt it didn't play as intended, but everyone was still on a level playing ground and it was still enjoyable and certainly playable. It seems to me that the fixes you mention are already available; in fact when we discussed the game during and after play everyone agreed that those are the right fixes to make (without looking online).

It's disappointing that the game was shipped with such glaring errors in the rules, but no one in my group regretted playing the game and we're looking forward to the next game.
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Keith Rapley
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Re: Warning !!! – do NOT play this game….
I am pretty sure (from queries on the publishers web site) that whilst the initial cards can be played to the table top that the intention is that you keep them in your hand until such time as you choose to play them to the table top. I am also pretty sure that you do not get 12 vis at the start of every tribunal. And this rule makes a huge difference to game play.

Some games are remarkably robust to playing with incorrect rules - look at all the variants to carcassonne for example. But other games are very sensitive and must be played with the correct rules. For example, try playing Power Grid without all the card replacement rules in place. The end game is usually pretty hopeless.

In the case of Grand Tribunal, it is not yet at all clear what the intended rules are. And the game play is sensitive to the interpretations being made.

I guess I am happy to modify my advice to :
if you are happy playing games with uncertain, incorrect and missing rules then go ahead and try grand Tribunal. But avoid this game if you are like me and prefer to at least start with the correct rules from publisher/ designer.

 
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Phil Chase
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Re: Warning !!! – do NOT play this game….
Keith,

You're right in your observations, but be patient; the problems will be resolved. Give it another chance using the errata and variants.

Phil
 
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Chris Milne
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Re: Warning !!! – do NOT play this game….
I suspect there's a difference in approach as well - I play a lot of wargames, and so am used to looking around for errata before I play a game. The game page here on BGG has a link to the Atlas site, where the FAQ are available.

Not an ideal situation, but problem solved for me, without too much difficulty.
 
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Neil Sorenson
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Re: Warning !!! – do NOT play this game….
Wow... I just bought this game and spent the last hour staring dumbly at the rules, trying desperately to make sense of the thing. So many omissions, so many vague bits... I thought it was just me.
 
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