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Subject: ZhanGuo - Brain food rss

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Otherworldly Gamer
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Components

The components in this game are good, not great, but good. All the bits are functional and do the job, but there is nothing that will blow your socks off. The art is good, but it won't cause people to stop when they walk by the table. I would say the art is functional as well, in a very good way. The main board and the player boards have iconography on them that basically tell you how every action works and its rewards/costs. This is extremely helpful in teaching the game and I don't think I referred to the rules a single time once we got started. Overall, the presentation is about average for a good Euro game, but extra points for the icons on the boards.

Theme

This game is supposed to be about the unification of China, but really it could be about pretty much anything. The theme really does not come through here, but this being a heavier Euro, I wasn't really expecting it to. Yeah, there is the Great Wall but we really could have been building Stonehenge for all I knew. I wasn't looking for theme going in and I didn't really find one.

Gameplay

The Emperor is very needy. As his emissary, he wants you to unify all these warring states by consolidating writing, currency, and laws. If that wasn't enough; in your free time, he wants you to install some governors to run those states, build the Great Wall, and erect some palaces in his honor. The Emperor seems like a real jerk. But don't worry, you don't have to do it all by yourself. You get six characters (cards) in each of the five rounds to help you out. You can send these flunkies into the provinces (player board) to help you "persuade" the locals to use your writing, money, and laws, or you can send them to the council (main board) to hire some workers, build, hire some officials to help you run the place, or install a governor to control the peasants in a region. The peasants in each region think the other regions are a bunch of wankers so they are not too keen on signing on to be part of the same empire so they get a bit pissy when you start sending guys in to influence things. They also are a bunch of lazy turds so they don't like it when you recruit them to work on walls and palaces. Controlling unrest in each region is an extra wrinkle that you have to manage during the game. The Emperor will reward you handsomely (end game scoring) if you manage to get a bunch of his requests done.

What do I think?

This is a great game. I enjoy games that make me work through tough decisions and cause me to doubt those decisions just as I make them. Though I would classify this on the heavier side, the way the game works is really very simple. Play six cards in each of five rounds. The cards can be played in one of two places. That's it. But there is beauty and brain-burning goodness in that simplicity. Play cards to your tableau to gain unification tokens to win bonuses at the end of the round, but the abilities on those cards can also be triggered later by playing other cards to the main board. Each card is numbered and that comes into play when you play to the main board. The main board actions require the card played to be either higher or lower than the last card played there depending on the action you want to take. This can lead you to playing a card to take a bonus that you really wanted to use in your tableau. Figuring out how to maximize the bonuses triggered, while also focusing on building palaces, walls, and installing governors is the juggling act. You can't really ignore any of the Emperor's requests because those end-game points can be huge, so focusing on a single strategy is risky.

If you like games that have multiple use card abilities, a bit of a press your luck element, some civilization building, and a copious amount of brain-burning, play this game. If you are looking for something with more than a paper-thin theme that you can play while watching TV, avoid. The rip on this game is that the sheer number of decisions to be made causes massive analysis paralysis. I can definitely see that happening, but since each player is faced with those same decisions, everyone is in the same boat. In my experience I found that I needed every bit of time when it wasn't my turn to figure out what I wanted to do when my turn did come up. I normally hate waiting on someone to make a simple decision, but in this game it didn't feel that way. I was engaged the entire time and the game seemed to move pretty quickly. YMMV. So with that being said, the Emperor gives this an 8.5.
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Mark O'Reilly
United Kingdom
Chester
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Nice review of a cracking game that I rated similar to you
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famille auzias
France
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meeple
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