4p Session, Sept 10, 2006. Pat, Brad, Paul, Alex.
Epoch I: The first turn is a simple, and seldom very confrontational affair. I think there may have been no combat. I went first as the Egyptians, spreading myself across two regions to optimise points and score 11. Alex revealed the Minoans to manage only 6 points from around the Mediterranean. Brad then squeezed out only 5 points from China as the Shang, followed by Pat with the Aryans, but preceeded this with the Hitites minor empire for 9 points in total.
Brad kicked off Epoch II with the Assyrians, and collected an excellent haul of 21 points. I followed with the Chou Dynasty earning 23 points to retain a (to be short-lived) lead. Then came Pat as the Vedic City States, to earn 14 from new conquests in India, and Al, with the Greek City States for a mere 13.
Epoch III marked the shift in the balance of power, with the old last-then-first play proving particularly rewarding for Al. His Macedonians (and residual Greek and Minoan presence) conquered a massive amount of territory, including much of my middle-east base, for 37 points. Pat as the Mauryans then swooped across India and the eastern end of the middle-east to finish off the last of my lands in that part of the world, and take a respectable 31 points in the process. Brad with the Hsiung-Nu took back most of mainland China, leaving me a single (ie., exactly one) land presence on the map. This, and my deployment of the Sassanids earned a mere 12 points this epoch and sent me from 1st to 3rd place.
Epoch IV, and Brad’s Guptas went first to help earn him 24. I followed with the Goths, to scoop up chunks of northern and western Europe and stay with the flow, earning 25. Al’s Tang Dynasty then took serious bites from Brad’s Chinese base, and this coupled with his ample residuals over the rest of board continued to earn him the most points (33 this turn). Finally Pat’s, Khmers gained a foothold in Malayan penninsula and surrounding areas, to help him retain his position with 24 points.
Al began Epoch V with the Vikings, to eat away a little at my Goth empire before moving across the Atlantic and gain a foothold in nth America. I went next with Chola, to gain a nice, but relatively low-value chunk of central southern India, earning even fewer points this epoch (23). Pat’s Sung Dynasty did well, helping him to another 33 and continuing the see-saw shift in power that was China. In keeping with the focus on this corner of the globe, Brad’s Mongols then appeared, taking back some of these gains, but not as much as they should have due to appalling dice rolls, which allowed Brad to net only 24 points.
More tit-for-tat in Epoch VI: Pat’s Ming Dynasty re-filled China with blue conquistadors(!) to give him 32. Brad followed with the Timurids, and although this expansion looked quite good on board, only raised Brad’s score by 27 this epoch. I was dealt the Ottoman Turks, the most troop-heavy empire of the epoch, and this helped gain back patches of the mid east and Europe for 35 points. This might have been more if not for nasty dice rolls…
Epoch VII saw Pat lead out again, this time with Russia. This was a highly successful expansion, and coupled with his Ming Dynasty, still largely, if not completely, intact from his last turn, was the biggest epoch earner of the night for all players at 55 points. Al’s Manchu Dynasty only helped him a little in replacing some losses from Pat’s march, but his total on-board presence just remained too strong and he picked up an excellent 49 points. Then came Brad with the French - a relatively weaker force, but sufficient to gain valuable points throughout Europe, and some in Africa and North America. Mine was the last turn, and as the United States I took some of this land from Brad’s French, as well as Australasia, with a respectable 52 points. Disappointingly, the US was not capable of traversing the Atlantic Ocean (go figure?) - I’m certain I would have equalled Pat’s final score were this not so!
So there it was. This is always a nice game to play, and it moved at a good pace with 4 of us, averaging around only 25 minutes per epoch. Key decisions are of course in the empire selection and distribution process, but unfortunately one has limited control in this phase.
Another lesson learnt for me: Although holding back some powerful event cards until towards the end can be helpful in those final turns, this is arguably not the best use of them. As points earned per turn begin ramping up from about Epoch III and IV, this is a better time for some of the stronger ones to start coming out. As Alex demonstrated, a diverse range of empires spread across the whole globe provides a warm, points-earning buffer, so that even when you’re dealt a reatively weak empire, your residual occupations still keep ticking over. It’s best therefore to use those cards that help a large expanding empire sooner rather than later.
Running totals and time summary:
Rules rehash: 21 minutes. Total game play: 174 minutes.
Epoch I: Brad: 5. Alex: 6. Pat: 9. Paul: 11. ~15 mins.
Epoch II: Alex: 19. Pat: 21. Brad: 26. Paul: 34. ~25 mins.
Epoch III: Brad: 38. Paul: 46. Pat: 50. Alex: 56. 26 mins.
Epoch IV: Brad: 62. Paul: 71. Pat: 74. Alex: 89. 28 mins.
Epoch V: Brad: 86. Paul: 94. Pat: 107. Alex: 125. 24 mins.
Epoch VI: Brad: 113. Paul: 129. Pat: 139. Alex: 164. 29 mins.
Epoch VII: Brad: 158. Paul: 181. Pat: 194. Alex: 213. 29 mins.
Plus bonus tokens (final): Brad: 158. Paul: 190. Pat: 194. Alex: 235.
Total troops allocated over 7 epochs (not counting minor empires): Brad: 63. Paul: 51. Pat: 53. Alex: 56.
Success ratio (score/troops): Brad: 2.51. Pat: 3.66. Paul: 3.73. Alex: 4.19.
(Originally posted, with pictures, at www.themineshaftgap.com.)