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Subject: Web of Power: my view. rss

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Rob Mortimer
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Web of Power: my view.

Preamble.

I bought Web of Power about 5 years ago. The look of the game intrigued me, it played in under an hour and reviews were positive, so it looked like a good investment. Since then I’ve played it many times. Now it’s available online and as the new game China. With this in mind, I thought it might be useful to revisit the original.

Components.
The game comes with an excellent rulebook: very clear, well laid out and illustrated appropriately. The other components are equally good. The board is a thick mounted fold out style and has worn very well indeed. It details 12th century Europe, with each country clearly defined by colour, and containing sketches of the key cloisters, joined by roads. Each country also has a round coat of arms for placing advisors. Finally, there are numbered connections drawn between allied countries. The artwork is really nice, and together with the unusual colours, it gives the game a unique early medieval feel. My only gripe with the board is that the victory point track around the outside needs numbers. There is a starting square marked zero and then every fifth square is a little darker than the rest, but it would have been better to have had every fifth or tenth square numbered. There are 55 cards that correspond to the countries. The colours of the cards match those of the board really well, which is not something that manufacturers always manage to achieve. Most of the countries on the board (and cards) are paired up, but the most influential power, Frankreich, is the only purple country. Finally there are wooden cloisters (houses) and advisors (cylinders) in five colours (yellow, red, green, purple, blue), together with scoring markers and a black place marker. The blue and green pieces are perhaps a little too close in colour (black or white would have been better). Overall, the components are very nice indeed.

Gameplay.
The aim of the game is to build the most influence across 12th century Europe by placing cloisters along the roads and advisors in the courts of kings to control alliances (so creating a ‘Web of Power’). The players choose a colour and elect a starting player who takes the black place marker. If there are 3 players, two cards of each type are removed from the deck. If there are 4 players, one card of each type is removed from the deck. The starting player then deals three cards to each player and then places the deck next to the board, drawing the top two cards and placing them face up next to the deck. The players then take turns. On a turn, a player must do one of the following:

1. Play 1, 2 or 3 cards from his/her hand and place cloisters or advisors in the appropriate countries, then filling his/her hand to 3 cards.
2. Discard 1 card and draw one card.

When the deck is exhausted for the first time, there is an interim scoring phase. The second time the deck is exhausted, there is a final scoring phase and the game ends.

When playing cards, a player may place cloisters and/or advisors in the corresponding country. There are several restrictions:

1. A player can only place pieces in one country each turn.
2. If a player is the first to play in a particular country, he/she can place one cloister only.
3. A player may play one piece per card played
4. A player may play two cards of the same colour together as a joker to play a piece in any country.
5. Cloisters can only be placed on unoccupied cloister spaces.
6. Advisors are placed on a coat of arms. These can contain multiple advisors belonging to any player, but the total number must not exceed the number of cloisters in the country held by the player with the most cloisters (e.g. if one player has 3 cloisters and another 1 cloister in England, then a total of 3 advisors could be placed in England).

This means that players use 1-3 cards to play 1-2 pieces.

When a player draws cards, he/she can draw face up cards or from the deck, or a combination of both. Face up cards are replenished after all draws are made. If a player cannot or does not want to play (rare), he/she can discard one card and draw another.

Interim scoring occurs immediately the draw stack is exhausted for the first time. At this stage, players score for cloisters only. For each country, the player(s) with the most cloisters score points equal to the total number of cloisters in the country. The player(s) with the second most cloisters score points equal to the number of cloisters that the player with most cloisters in that country has. The player(s) with the third most cloisters scores points equal to the number of cloisters that the player with second most cloisters has etc etc. Points are recorded on the victory point track around the board and then the discard pile is shuffled to make a new draw deck, and play continues where it left off.

When the draw stack is exhausted for a second time, players continue until everyone has had a turn in the round (using the black place marker to check who is still to play). At this point, the game ends and final scoring occurs. The end of the game is also triggered if all cloister spaces and possible advisors have been played (rare).

Final scoring begins with cloister scoring in the same way as interim scoring. Following that, advisors are scored. Players work their way through the numbered alliances shown on the board. For each one, if a player has the most (or equal most) advisors in each of the two countries joined by the alliance, he/she receives points equal to the total number of advisors in the two countries. Finally, cloister chains are scored: a player who has 4 or more of his/her cloisters in a continuous chain scores points equal to the length of the chain (branches are not counted).

The winner is the player with the most points at the end, with ties broken in favour of the player with the most pieces left in stock.

So What Do I Think?
I like Web of Power. Once you get the hang of it, it plays really fast. Regardless of the number of players, it plays out in about 45 minutes. It is one of those games that has very simple rules, but seems to take a while to explain, and new players often take one game to get to grips with it. Some people might find it a little dry or abstract, but I don’t. For me, the theme fits well and the game makes sense. There is some luck in the draw of the cards, but there are plenty of different strategies that players can use to achieve victory. Best of all, because it is quick, you can easily play several games in an evening, trying out different strategies. Overall, I give Web of Power a very commendable 8 out of 10. I wish it would get to the table more often but unfortunately there are one hour games out there that everyone in our group finds more exciting (e.g. Ticket to Ride), so that is unlikely to happen.

UPDATE: After numerous further plays, this one has lost some of its shine, so I'm dropping it to a 7 out of 10. It starts to feel a little too dry after a while.

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sunday silence
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I realize that this review is somewhat old but I want to see what people think.

Rob says near the end that there is some luck to the cards but you can try different strategies. I am not sure this is really true I have only played this and China several times (6?) but it seems to me that once you've locked onto the basic thinking, given the number of cards you have there really arent that many options you have.

It seems to me and I may be wrong, that with experienced players, the basic optimal plays become obvious to all the players. And hence the only determining factor is the luck of the cards.

does anyone else feel that way?
 
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Sight Reader
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sundaysilence wrote:
It seems to me and I may be wrong, that with experienced players, the basic optimal plays become obvious to all the players. And hence the only determining factor is the luck of the cards.

Try playing a few online. I'm sure some of the players there are pretty fierce.

http://michaelschacht.net/pbm/index.php
 
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J C Lawrence
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Card counting and tracking is central to good play in both games. If you don't card count, you're going to be pasted by those who do.
 
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sunday silence
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So what happens if all three players are equally good at card counting? Is there any strategies that emerge or does it just come down to who had the better cards?

Put another way, it's as if you're playing a game of Go, but instead of being able to place your stones anywhere you can only do so if a card allows it. So while the game of Go may be very deep, the cards limit what you can do in any event. So assuming you dont make any bad mistakes, it's as if the cards you are dealt are playing a game of Go by themselves....
 
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J C Lawrence
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sundaysilence wrote:
So what happens if all three players are equally good at card counting? Is there any strategies that emerge or does it just come down to who had the better cards?


It comes down to whom is either better at assessment or whose gambles paid off more successfully. Usually it is the former.
 
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