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Subject: Five Point Palm Exploding Britannia Review rss

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Alex

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Components

The Fantasy Flight Games edition of Britannia (which is the one I have and the only one I ever played) is wonderful. You get basically four things: a splendid, hard-mounted board which depicts the island of Great Britain, 17 “people cards” that account for all the points your different nations can make, a truckload of victory points tokens and even more army tokens. The cards and the armies feature great artwork that looks historically believable, but still cartoony enough to be exciting. They also feature a symbol, such as a shield or axe, the help you to tell your different people apart on the map. All the components are of utmost quality, but I have two complains: first, there is a very annoying mistake on the board itself, in the playing order chart. The Saxons are listed as playing after the Jutes, when in fact, it’s the opposite. But it is possible to fix it, just look at the files for the game… Another point that is a little annoying is that the army tokens are made of flat cardboard rather that from the threaded cardboard used in many games. That makes them look better, yes, but a little less durable. Especially beware of your fingernails when setting a unit on the map.

Theme

I am not a history buff by any means, but I have to say that Dark Age Britain is without a doubt my favorite period in history. My fascination for the subject began with the tales of King Arthur and other Celtic myths and evolved into an interest for all the peoples that fought so hard for the possession of the island. When I learned that FFG were reprinting a classic “wargame” (which I didn’t know of before) that covered exactly that time period, I knew I had to get it. And let me say that I wasn’t disappointed! The theme is wonderfully integrated here, and each little weird or seemingly unnecessary rule makes absolute sense when taken into context.

Fun

For a 4-hour game, it is surprisingly fast-paced! Each nation has relatively little to do on their respective turn and there is not much downtime. Three points make it especially great for me: 1) the constant ebb and flow of nations mean that you will get a chance to rock sooner or later. For example, as the Blue player, even if your Belgea, Picts and Angles had a hard time, you know that, towards the end, your mighty Normans will surge from France and smash your enemies in the south! 2) You earn victory points by having units in certain regions in certain times, and those points can never be taken away from you! That is a satisfying feeling, especially compared to games like Risk, where you can lose all your game in a round. 3) Each nation plays differently. They have different goals; they arrive at different times, have a different number of armies, and most importantly, play a different role. Take the Red player: his Brigantes must be protected, his Saxons have to maneuver for the best regions and play a flexible style to strive for kingship, and his Irish and Norsemen are mostly there to annoy other players!

Strategy

There is a lot of chance in this game; all combats are resolved by rolling dice, and a very lucky player has a big advantage! But there is a lot to think about too. The pre-scripted line of events, while a strange idea for the newcomer (won’t every game be the same?) is a really great way to implement strategy. While in games like War of the Ring, where you don’t know what Event cards your enemy will play, there is always a way to think forward in Britannia. The different interactions are well-planned and will always be interesting, as opposed to cards. And every game is different and offer new challenges; I think my game will see many, many more plays. There is a little concern about the balance of the different clans, but there is a clever way to fix this (auctions), if this becomes a problem for your game group.

Overall

There you go; you can easily tell I picked a game I loved for my first “real” review, but I think it is not without reason that Britannia withstood the test of time (it was originally published 20 years ago). It is a compelling, brilliant game, which really lasts four hours (not 6 or 8!) and could teach you a thing or two about history. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got an island to defend…
 
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Darrell Hanning
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Alexandre, based on what your like about Britannia, I think you'd really enjoy History of the World.

Nice review.
 
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dave boulton
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nice review Alexandre for a very great game

second off what the hell is your avatar anyways it looks liek some weird latex glove full of ice or something it all ways unerves me alittle whenever i see it yuk

ive played teh original (tea cloth) version of history of teh world and i agree it does bare similarities plus it plays with 8 ifn you ahve them!
 
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Alex

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Quote:
second off what the hell is your avatar anyways it looks liek some weird latex glove full of ice or something it all ways unerves me alittle whenever i see it


It's actually full of water. See my profile for the full picture. If you dare... goo
 
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bestia immonda
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4 hours to play Britannia?? Lucky you!!
U sure have fast paced turns!!
 
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George Van Voorn
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Quote:
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got an island to defend…


That suggests you already own it devil

Quote:
Another point that is a little annoying is that the army tokens are made of flat cardboard rather that from the threaded cardboard used in many games. That makes them look better, yes, but a little less durable. Especially beware of your fingernails when setting a unit on the map.


I've never encountered that particular problem. Instead I think the unit counters are quite OK. They're thick enough to grap at the sides.
 
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Lewis Pulsipher
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Thanks for the kind words.

For what my opinions are worth--and recalling that I had nothing to do with the game for about 18 years, in a way it was all new to me even though I designed it:

I think the pieces are very "tactile", reminding me more of plaques or chips from a casino than cardboard, somehow. I find myself using the Brit pieces instead of the plastic figures and plastic blocks I was using to solo playtest game prototypes.

The game encourages planning ahead much more than reacting to circumstances. WOTR encourages the latter more than the former.

While about 20% of players think there is too much chance in the combat, the others do not. If there was less chance, I'm not sure we'd have people who have played five hundred times (who curse the dice and then say "let's play again").

As I think I've said before, I have three alternative combat methods (one used cards instead of dice), all of which seem to work in playtesting. Do you think it's worth posting one on FFG's Brit site? The problem could be that less chance might favor one color over another.

Lew Pulsipher
 
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Alex

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I have no problem with chance in games, but I know some do, so it would be interesting to see this variant!

That said, I have a friend that hates luck to the utmost degree. He will still play games that have a lot of dice rolling, but he will curse, whine and get mad over the dice (he is also exceptionnaly unlucky; maybe the two are linked?). And he sometimes does that in Britannia, but, interestingly, he never complained that there is too much chance in Brit.

Ironically, it is him that got the most insane streak of luck I have ever seen in a Britannia game.

I play the Romans, he plays the Welsh. Round 1.
I have 3 Romans in Cornwall and Devon.
He's got 1 unit in each region.
After 2 turns of combat, I ended up retreating after 2 of my units were killed in each combat.
He was unscathed.
You figure out the odds. surprise
 
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Lewis Pulsipher
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Let's see, his chance of missing in two attacks was 25 in 36 (5/6 times 5/6), so he had 11 in 36 chances of hitting (30.5%). Your chances of missing in 6 attacks was about 33% (5/6 to the sixth power). So overall chance in one fight was around 10%. Oops, that would be for him hitting once and you not hitting at all. For him hitting twice... 1 chance in 36, times 5/6 to the fifth power (one of your units was dead) or 40+%. 1.16%, I think. That's for one occurrence. For both it would be something like 1 onehundreth of one percent. Wow.

Assuming I haven't botch the calculations, I'm not a probability wiz.

These wild occurrences just wouldn't be possible with the alternative combat systems I have in mind. Whether that's good or not is another question.

Lew


 
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Blue Jackal
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lewpuls wrote:


As I think I've said before, I have three alternative combat methods (one used cards instead of dice), all of which seem to work in playtesting. Do you think it's worth posting one on FFG's Brit site? The problem could be that less chance might favor one color over another.

Lew Pulsipher


Certainly post them on the FFG site.

I saw the dice element and frowned a teeny bit... and I'm a big fan of A Game of Thrones, which uses a card mechanic. Dice may work better, but I'm sure some people would prefer deterministic battles.

More options are always good. You can always lay your reservations out so players know what they're getting into.
 
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Derek H
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BlueJackal wrote:
lewpuls wrote:
As I think I've said before, I have three alternative combat methods (one used cards instead of dice), all of which seem to work in playtesting. Do you think it's worth posting one on FFG's Brit site? The problem could be that less chance might favor one color over another.

Certainly post them on the FFG site.

Not sure about FFG, but I found these on Lew's site:
http://www.pulsipher.net/britannia/CardDeckDice.htm
http://www.pulsipher.net/britannia/VariantCombatSystems.htm
 
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