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Colin Hunter
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I've never written a game review before. I am primarily writing this to help grow the base of players for thsi game. I will do my best to be objective about the game.

Heres the low down on the game. Things you need to know initially. Basically you get to control a single important power (Rome, Carthage, Greece and the east (selucids/ptolomys) in a period stretching from 300BC to about 50BC. Each turn covers about twenty five years. Systamatically this is an Action Marker game. Your chit gets drawn you get to do stuff. Basically since each turn is about 7 years you can potentially do heaps of stuff. There is lots of chrome, don't let this put you off. The main experience of the game (for me) is not about chrome. You win by having the most VPs at the end of the game which you get by having the most territory at the end of a turn or the most cities and towns. Basically there is a balance between the need to capture territory, accomplish objectives and build towns and cities. It has lots of dice rolling and so initially I thought it would be very random.

The Good Stuff about the game.

1. The victory point system is really good. If you fall behind your never out of it as each turn there are basically the same number of vps up for grabs.

2. The balance between expansion and development is superb. Cities and towns bring power and money. Territory brings mony and VPs.

3. The balance between players is excellent. No player has the ability to defeat two other players. Except maybe rome near the end. This leads to intriguing Hobbsian political dilemas, it is essentially a game of real politque. Each power is unique and generally "feels" right, while still being fundamentally similar.


4. It is very very difficult to effectively knock players out of contention as the resourses needed huge and such an expenditure makes you prone to other players.

5. The ability to move vast distances in a single turn allows the game to be dynamic.

6. It is a game of political intrigue and manipulation set in the context of a wargame. It does this incredibly well.Plenty of backstabbing and dramtic reversals.

7. Game balance is absolutely fantastic for a game that has a large amout of special rules and exceptions.

8. Luck is not nearly as big factor as you would think, because bad luck is off set by political dealings.

9. Real choices. You have to make the same choices governents make. Do I go to war and destroy my army and devestate my lands in order to prevent another power dominating the know world? Do I let another player share cities within my territory so that we might both benefit, when he could use them as staging points for invasion? Sould I raid the opposing lands or should I try to colonise their territory and bring it under my control? The "realism" and chrome of the game inhances this significantly.

10. Winning is usually not about dominating the game, but continually doing slightly better than your opponents (like most good games).

Ten Reasons not to like it

1. Its long. It is very long. While a lot will happen in a single turn so interest is kept up, it is very frustrating to play for 8 hours and be on turn 2 or 3 out of 10.

2. The cards are random and don't "feel" quite right. Some cards are random events, some are very beneficial. It is possible to quite poorly simply because you repeatedly get certain cards. Politics can balance this, but because card are secret it makes it hard for other players to judge this. I probably don't find this a huge problem, but it is the thing I like least about the game.

3. There are alot of very veriable dice rolls. I think it is dealt with excellently, but you can't say you were not warned.

4. Nothing is relaible, almost everything in the game is random. If you want to plan ahead you can, but you can only do so much.

5. Its complicated. This makes it hard to teach to newbies. It also means that little rules can make a huge difference in how conflict is resolved. Unless everyone has a firm grasp on this it may be difficult to make informed decisions.

6. Naval Movement seems to be powerful. The navies are hugely powerful. While they are well balanced it does lead to a focus on sea power.

7. Its not a euro game. While it has many features of euro games it is nowhere near one. Its rules are not ablsolutely perfect in the way that an abstract or maybe a euro might be.

8. Rome is very powerful if you play a full ten turns. Rome is powerful. While not unbalanced, it forces the other players to meta game against rome.

9. To many kinds of units. There are many kinds of units (heavy infantry, light infantry, cavalry, elephants, militia, garisons, etc). While they are all different and have a distinct purpose, it is often fiddly.

10. Its only four players and less players is much worse. I can't recomend the game with less than 4 players. My gaming group like six player games so we have trouble playing this.

Ok now before I go any farther let me say, I love this game. I do not agree with all the criticism I have listed above, but I felt it nescessary to present them in order to provide balance. My biggest complaint would be about the card, I just don't really like how they work. If you like very interactive multiplayer games, go out tomorrow and but this. Then beg your friend to play it. Don't tell them it will take 20 - 30 hours. They will like it have no fear. I heartily recomend this game to anyone who likes heavy, long, self indulgent games. This game is quite simply my favourite game. It will not appeal to everyone, but it will appeal to those of you like me. It is a wonderful game at in its entirety. Without the quirks, detail and elegent system it would not allow the political intrigue and interaction.
10/10

If anyone outthere is in New Zealand and wants a game don't hesitate to contact me.
Colin
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Daniel Val
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Oh man! ...and I thought I could get away without buying the game!
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Andrew Young
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Hey, nice review. I know you like the game and don't necessarily buy in to all the listed criticism but I wanted to respond to it.

Quote:
1. Its long. It is very long. While a lot will happen in a single turn so interest is kept up, it is very frustrating to play for 8 hours and be on turn 2 or 3 out of 10.


I've not played it face to face- just via CB and VASSAL. But, I can't imagine the game playing for 8 hours after just 2 turns... This game plays so fast online that I just can't wait to play it in person. Turns fly by once players understand the game, combat, strategies, etc. Not sure why this took you so long. I'd never use the phrase "very long" with this game unless playing the 10 Turn Campaign.

Quote:
2. The cards are random and don't "feel" quite right. Some cards are random events, some are very beneficial. It is possible to quite poorly simply because you repeatedly get certain cards. Politics can balance this, but because card are secret it makes it hard for other players to judge this. I probably don't find this a huge problem, but it is the thing I like least about the game.


Sure, the cards can hurt but in playing 3 games thus far they have been all over the place never adversely helping or hurting any one player. Remember, this is a geo-economic/military game covering larger periods of time (25 years per game turn). There is plenty of random historical events happening every 25 years in our life time. The game asks the player to be able to respond to those over the course of the game turn or multiple game turns.

Quote:
3. There are alot of very veriable dice rolls. I think it is dealt with excellently, but you can't say you were not warned.


Its a wargame. Again, the timeframe of turns makes the randonmess of some of the dice work fine for me. The combat system is less random using ratios, units and leadership to mitigate the 1d6 rolls.

Quote:
4. Nothing is relaible, almost everything in the game is random. If you want to plan ahead you can, but you can only do so much.


See above re: the cards. You can plan but you must react as well. I love that part, again given the scale of the game. It makes sense. I'm not denying the randomness, mind you. I'm just saying it works.

Quote:
5. Its complicated. This makes it hard to teach to newbies. It also means that little rules can make a huge difference in how conflict is resolved. Unless everyone has a firm grasp on this it may be difficult to make informed decisions.


Actually, I didn't think the game was complicated at all when reading the rules. Playing it out confirmed this as it flows so well. Any game of this size, however, will present newbies with some question marks. I think by turn 2 though, things REALLY become clearer. And, combat can be thought of like this- have the biggest army you can field, the best leadership you can field and you should be ok. Even fights are risky... fights that are not in your favor suck. These things can be dealt with via card play or bad dice. But, this is generally true for all games.

Quote:
6. Naval Movement seems to be powerful. The navies are hugely powerful. While they are well balanced it does lead to a focus on sea power.


Well placed galley squadrons are crucial. Not sure if this is s criticism so much as an aspect of the game.

Quote:
7. Its not a euro game. While it has many features of euro games it is nowhere near one. Its rules are not ablsolutely perfect in the way that an abstract or maybe a euro might be.




Quote:
8. Rome is very powerful if you play a full ten turns. Rome is powerful. While not unbalanced, it forces the other players to meta game against rome.


I've not had this experience though I've not played 10 turns. Rome is in a tough spot in the beginning. It does get more powerful as things go... but, that's life. Greece and Carthage must deal with that.

Quote:
9. To many kinds of units. There are many kinds of units (heavy infantry, light infantry, cavalry, elephants, militia, garisons, etc). While they are all different and have a distinct purpose, it is often fiddly.


Its a wargame. The rules cover the units are small. HI and LI are the same, just have different BP values. Cavalry can't be used against cities, in mountains, etc. If you have cavalry in a battle and your opponent doesn't you get extra 'shifts' in that battle. Etc. Etc. Simple really. If you have Elephants your opponent's or your horses may dive off cliffs right before battle. Lovely.



Quote:
10. Its only four players and less players is much worse. I can't recomend the game with less than 4 players. My gaming group like six player games so we have trouble playing this.


I do wish there were more 3 player scenarios. Or, just 1 for that matter!

Andy
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David Seddon
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Yep. The game has lots of scens, so it needn't be long.

And as wargames with long rules go, this one is NOT difficult.

It's a really good game, btw.

One great way to play is on ACTS/Cyberboard.
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Colin Hunter
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I'm in auckland by the way. Sorry I wish I lived in beautiful nelson.
Have a good christmas Honestly it takes hours and hours to get through the first few turns, we are quicker now I would say six hours for two turns, but hey thats our game group. As to compexity, you guys are right a lot of it is pretty intuitive.
 
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Stuart Connor
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I'm really keen to get started with this game, especially as I've had it sitting on my desk since June, but I just can't seem to get into the rulebook.

I've tried several times and always find myself glazing over after paragraph or two. I didn't have this problem with Wilderness War or Here I Stand, both of which slipped down easily and have resulted in very satisfying ACTS games with little need to return to the rules.

Can anyone offer suggestions as to the best way to approach the rules?
 
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Colin Hunter
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well this is something I have dealt with before. My friends are lazy rule readers at times. My first suggestion would be convince a playing friend who is mad about the theme to read them. Then have them talk you throught the first few turns. If have to read them your self.. I would read the sections on movement, control, building cities and towns, and navies (remember they are important). Then I guess you could go an play the first turn and just look up combat when you come to it. Same with VPs, stability, income, and cards. Anyway once you have played a turn thish should motivate you to read the rules.
 
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Michael @mgouker
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I have another suggestion. Start with the playbook. use the play example and you will see many of the mechanics used. Then, set up the game and play a simple scenario. You will be surprised how easy it is to pick it up.
 
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Severus Snape
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Quote:
7. Its not a euro game. While it has many features of euro games it is nowhere near one. Its rules are not ablsolutely perfect in the way that an abstract or maybe a euro might be.


I am going to hurl! Quick, give me a lid from any large Euro game. gulp goo
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Severus Snape
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Pascal said, "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me."
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By the way, where is ekted when I need him? Jim, get in here and do your "stuff," if you know what I mean. sauron goo
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Colin Hunter
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Thanks for your helpful criticism???? Mental note never mention pax romana and euro games in the same sentence... oops did again, damn I'm stupid.
By the way what if I told you I could make a compelling argument that mozart has to many notes...
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Andrew Young
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And if you never have, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.
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ibn_ul_khattab wrote:
Thanks for your helpful criticism???? Mental note never mention pax romana and euro games in the same sentence... oops did again, damn I'm stupid.
By the way what if I told you I could make a compelling argument that mozart has to many notes...


LOL. Great article Colin in that we are talking about a great game. So, thanks.
 
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Stuart Connor
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Thanks for the helpful suggestions. I have now gone through the play example and got a much better feel for the game - it seems like there should be a good flow to action.

Hopefully I will get stuck into a real game soon.
 
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Severus Snape
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ibn_ul_khattab wrote:
Thanks for your helpful criticism???? Mental note never mention pax romana and euro games in the same sentence... oops did again, damn I'm stupid.
By the way what if I told you I could make a compelling argument that mozart has to many notes...


1) Colin, as far as a review of Pax, one might say that "I've been there, done that." If anything, your review has--hmmmm, how to put this?--"too little notes."

2) It was not my intention to leave "helpful criticism," but rather helpful sarcasm based on the inane comment containing Pax, euro games and rulebooks all in the same sentence. And just for the record:

in‧ane  /ɪˈneɪn/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[i-neyn] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation

–adjective 1. lacking sense, significance, or ideas; silly: inane questions.
2. empty; void.
–noun 3. something that is empty or void, esp. the void of infinite space.

[Origin: 1655–65; < L inānis]

—Related forms
in‧ane‧ly, adverb


—Synonyms 1. pointless. See foolish.

3) Re Mozart and your compelling argument, it is a non sequitur.

One more time, for the record:

non se‧qui‧tur  /nɒn ˈsɛkwɪtər, -ˌtʊr; Lat. noʊn ˈsɛkwɪˌtʊr/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[non sek-wi-ter, -toor; Lat. nohn se-kwi-toor] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation

1. Logic. an inference or a conclusion that does not follow from the premises.
2. a statement containing an illogical conclusion.


[Origin: < L: it does not follow]

goo

 
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Colin Hunter
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Oh well, thanks for being so helpfull and constructive. I was hoping the person who posted ten reasons to hate a wargame (which is an excellent geeklist, one of my favourites) might actually have something insightful to say, something funny to say or if nothing else would take the time to explain himself to mere mortals. Anyway each to their own I do appreciate your feed back either way. Now I know that the point of BBG is to improve self-esteme (by showing how superior you are), correct typos, gramtical mistakes, and teach the inane masses how to write. Thanks again

Colin

PS
Pax Romana is not a Euro game... damn I am so inane (thanks for the new word )
yay I'm an idiot and I feel good about my self.
The man walks on the moon on sundays...
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Michael @mgouker
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Colin, for what it's worth, I liked your review. You hit a lot of very key points:

Quote:
It is a game of political intrigue and manipulation set in the context of a wargame. It does this incredibly well.Plenty of backstabbing and dramatic reversals.


Exactly. One way of effectively playing is not pulling too far ahead and making yourself a target.

Quote:
9. Real choices. You have to make the same choices governments make. Do I go to war and destroy my army and devastate my lands in order to prevent another power dominating the know world? Do I let another player share cities within my territory so that we might both benefit, when he could use them as staging points for invasion? Should I raid the opposing lands or should I try to colonize their territory and bring it under my control? The "realism" and chrome of the game enhances this significantly.


In a nutshell, this is why I love the game so much. There are so many decision points and it's hard knowing what is the right choice.

Quote:
10. Winning is usually not about dominating the game, but continually doing slightly better than your opponents (like most good games).


So true! If you do too well, you are going to get cut down.

As for your comments about the rules and the style, I know exactly what you mean. I wouldn't call them euro-rules (whatever that means) but they are organized very well. Plus, with the Playbook, you can start right up.

All the best!

Michael

P.S. Don't mind Bentlarsen. It's his job to be a curmudgeon. You can tell when he is joking because of all the emoticons.

devil
 
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Colin Hunter
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right thanks. I kinda new to BBG. I love Bentlarsen's commentary so. I've read a couple of geeklist as well as posts and they always seem insightful, so I was kinda hoping for something useful was all. So sorry to Bentlarson I have heaps respect for your commentary and opinions.

As for the Eurogame comment. I noticed pax had received criticism in the past for not being a pillar of craftsmanship, in terms of game balance. One thing that I think that some Euro excel in is treating players evenly. Even if they don't, most euro have philosophy that is focused towards game balance. This focus is why we often joke they have soul etc... because they make a trade on theme, "realism" (what ever that means), character. I am speaking in pretty broad generalisations, but I hope you see what I mean. In pax the powers are different, there are dice, variables, different rules ect.. (many war games are similar). Many euros use these same mechanics, but do so using different ideology and philosophy. The results is that styles of games seem different, no mater how many mechanical similarities they share. I want to have whole discussion about genre, but it is probably not the place. In general culture is nebulous and hard to define. Many articles I have read trying to deliniate different genres of music, art or anything struggle with this very issue. If people are interested I can recommend scholarly articles that deal with the subject well. The point is you can't judge different types of games with same stick, this may seem truistic, but I just thought it was worth mentioning, before we had more complaints about chrome. Check out Bentlarson's geeklist 10 reasons to hate a wargamer It has good discussion on pax.

Thanks
Colin
PS I'm super stressed at the moment so I probably am a bit grumpier than usual
 
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Neil Randall
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You don't come across as grumpy. And I'd love to hear your comments on game genres - it's an interest of mine as well.
 
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Giles Pritchard
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Nice.

It's great to see an 'educated' perspective here.

The open mindedness and high ideals that should accompany learning are obviously not lost on Bentlarson, who demonstrates himself to be a gifted individual who is generous and understanding with his thoughts and free with his opinions.

I'm glad we have such an enlightened individual commenting here.

Giles.
 
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