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Subject: Some thoughts on haberdashery accompanied by the occasional tangent rss

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Eoin Corrigan
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So, on Saturday evening my wife and two friends and I sat down for an inaugural game of Rococo.

Aside from a vague buzz I had limited knowledge of Rococo until its nomination for the 2014 Kennerspiel des Jahres, which caught my eye. I birthday gifted Rococo to myself, conscious of the degree to which my modest games collection is somewhat slewed in favour of games which involve the destruction of the lives, livelihoods and general environment of the populations of the European and Pacific Theatres from 1937 (more or less, give or take) to 1945, and correspondingly slewed against games which address the historically charged and controversial topic of rococo haberdashery and event organisation.

Rococo would make me a better, more rounded person.

A word on political sensitivities. Rococo depicts pre-revolutionary France festivities conducted by parasitic aristocrats; evil rentiers and class enemies. Mass guillotining, following an exhaustive juduicial process guaranteeing due process, is not an available action, sadly (I checked the rulebook twice). Nor it seems is donating all of your livres to the peasantry. This may offend the Bolsheviks among you, so, caveat emptor, comrade!

I should report that on the preceding Friday evening an abortive effort to play Rococo occurred, principally due to my utter inability to understand the scoring rules. This is no slur against Rococo’s rules document, which is actually concise and abundantly clear. The problem was a (i) a small brain, combined with (ii) heavy week of thinky-thinky type work (iii) following an ASL tournament in Italy the previous weekend.

(For those anxious about my performance at the ASL tournament, I am pleased to report that I did quite well, thank you very much. Despite a disastrous Friday in which I lost both games , I bounced back on Saturday and Sunday and swept all before me, ending in the top half of the participants. Some unsolicited advice: J157 Rage against the Machine is a very good scenario which you ought to play. What do you mean you don’t play ASL? Are you crazy?)

Back to making dresses for Madame la Duchesse.

On Saturday, having been chastised once by Rococo’s rulebook I rejoined battle, having reminded myself that I am one of the vanishingly small number of people in the history of the universe that not only understand ASL’s rules for rice paddies, but who also bear a grudging admiration for their author’s utter unwillingness to compromise his mad, crazy, Kubla Khan pleasure-dome vision of how little rice fields should be depicted by the premier tactical wargame.)

I set Rococo up. I displayed the board. I announced to my fellow players that the game is about making dresses and stuff. I began to explain the available actions and how scoring worked. As is typical, after about 217 seconds or so eyes glazed over, fingers began tapping, and my wife gently suggested that we might, you know, play and explain as we go.

Fine, but don’t blame me if you haven’t entirely appreciated the importance of musicians as tiebreakers for determining area control. Incidentally, during final scoring I was blamed for having provided an inadequate explanation of the importance of musicians as tiebreakers for determining area control. "You might have told us that at the beginning," remarked my wife. "I apologise, darling," I responded, "and of course I accept full responsibility." Not unlike an early Christian martyr, you might observe, and I’ll not disagree.

In fairness, my wife married an Irishman who plays ASL and we may therefore agree that she has, as we say in Ireland, ‘a difficult station’.

Back to making dresses. We played, in a pleasing blur of recruiting dressmakers, sourcing lace, renting dresses, sponsoring fireworks, jostling for position around Le Roi in the King’s Hall, and general one-upmanship. I found the gameplay pleasing. Area control is a favourite mechanic of mine, and the additional card drafting, action selection and resource accrual mechanics worked well for me.

Very well, in fact. A first play is always an exploration; sometimes the exercise is rewarding, sometimes not. I found Rococo intriguing. Having now seen all of the cards available to be drafted I’m beginning to understand the degree to which strategies can, and perhaps should, be based from the beginning of the game on drafting certain cards during the closing turns. I also enjoy that there are alternate strategies available to contesting area control; deploying sets of red-green-yellow-blue courtiers and purchasing statues is an obvious alternative, as is simply gaining a rapid presence in each Hall and then focussing on fireworks.

The role of the fountain is of interest. I erred early in the game by purchasing a spot in the upper tier of the fountain when I should have opted for the lower tier, which probably cost me about 20-25 livres over the course of the game. I can imagine stiff competition for lower tier fountain positions in the early games.

I very much like the mechanics associated with the manufacture of the dresses. Collecting the required fabric colours, lace and yarn, and the offering of available dresses and suits and the sliding scale of costs creates some delicious choices and dilemmas. And is, in and of itself, pleasing. There are also choices available; churn out low value inferior product or make a play for the high end of the market. I enjoy games which encourage opportunistic low cunning, which my friends will tell you is no simple coincidence, and the operation of the resource market provides plenty of scope to do so.

As regards the theme, well, it generally hangs well together although I’m not entirely sure why a dressmaking concern is bothering with the construction of fountains and the recruiting of musicians. However, that’s a minor criticism.

So, Rococo worked for me. I enjoyed the session and dig the game.

Nothing further occurs.
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Stephen Sanders
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As a former wargamer myself, I nominate this as Session of the Year for 2014.

You should mention, though, that there are also suits to sew in addition to the dresses, and the suits are (mostly) blue in color. Had I known this, I would have purchased the game sooner.
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J M
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Legend has it that the original theme for the game was a graveyard- I imagine artisan masons constructing fine tomb stones and such. The "sponsored decorations" are a bit of a sideways inclusion to the court party theme in that regard.
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Ralph H. Anderson
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The theme makes more sense if you imagine you are the employer of Masters, Journeymen and Apprentices that help you gain prestige by making this the grandest lavish ball ever through the creation of sumptuous women's gowns and men's coats, the impressive decorations and of course, the grand fire works finale!

Nevertheless, quite a fun read and helpful review!

Ralph
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Stefan Malz
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petercox wrote:
I must admit, as much as a I like the game, the theme is actually poorly implemented in some areas: particularly the areas on the board where you are hiring musicians and decorating statues and fountains.

Why is a dress maker doing that? And why does decorating a fountain or statue give you extra money depending on the kind of dress colour you make??


I already answered on that topic some time ago, please check my comments on Rahdo's runs through.

Best regards
Stefan Malz

www.malz-spiele.de
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Wayne Applewhite
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Very fun read on a delightful game. I must admit, on the first go of the game I also got one of the scoring mechanics wrong, but was quickly corrected and no harm no foul occurred.

The board is quite elegant to look at and the components do the game justice.

My gaming group found Rococo to be a very pleasant surprise! It is tight with many decisions to be made, engaging where you sometimes hear one say: "Hey! I wanted to do that!", and enjoyable as it does make one think before they "throw another stitch!"

Again, nice job on the review!
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Anthony C
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Quote:
Fine, but don’t blame me if you haven’t entirely appreciated the importance of musicians as tiebreakers for determining area control. Incidentally, during final scoring I was blamed for having provided an inadequate explanation of the importance of musicians as tiebreakers for determining area control. "You might have told us that at the beginning," remarked my wife. "I apologise, darling," I responded, "and of course I accept full responsibility."


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