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Subject: Itialia rss

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Simon Bracegirdle
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We tried out the three player version of Italia, or Italia 1 for those who know the game. To be honest we really struggled with this. We were all new to the game, and so all had to learn the game together, but we have all played Britannia and some of its progeny, so many of the concepts were easy to grasp. We managed 5 turns in around 4 hours of rules assimilation and play. We had four big problems.
First the rules are a pain. They look impressive and have lots of lovely pictures but they just did not seem intuitively laid out. For example, veterans of Britannia will know that leaders only last one turn. But it took us ages to find this rule and we couldn't assume it was there as some faction cards had instructions which made it clear that their leaders lasted more than one turn. Eventually the rule was found buried in the reinforcements rules.
Second the faction cards are a mess. They contain far too much information. On numerous occassions victory points were missed, becuase the points available are listed in more than one place on the card. It did not help that the faction cards have instructions on the front and back. We only got to turn 5 which was a relief to the Roman as his cards in later turns were like mini rulebooks.
Third, play balance was non-existent. OK we only got half way through but at the point we finished the Red (Rome & Greece) faction was ahead by 50+ points and was in total control of the board. We could see with hindsight that blue and yellow should have raided more, but even that looked unlikely to make many inroads points wise. There seemed to be many occasions when blue and yellow have factions who are in each other's way and so are forced to fight, whilst red sits back grinning. Carthage goes after Greece in the turn order and so is always on the back foot. Pyrrhus and his Epirotes come on and can do some damage, but they cannot carve out an empire as they have no income and so after kicking butt for one turn they just wither on the vine. Even if Pyrrhus could hurt Rome, one turn after his campaign the Romans are brought back to a minimum strength (14 legions). Consular legions take two hits to kill and so are almost indestructable.
Fourth, combat. Cities are just too powerful for the defence with a -2 modifier. As a very high proportion of areas have cities, it makes attacking a very risky prospect without a leader and some factions (hello blue and yellow again) have no, or few leaders.
Although it must be remembered that we only played 5 of 10 turns, our impressions were not good. Balance may have swung back by turn 10 (althoughwe considered it unlikely), but frankly I do not want to sit and get slaughted for 6 hours in the hope of 30 minutes of fun at the end of a game. Perhaps the four player game is better. However, unlike Britannia the three player game is not just a redistribution of factions from the four player game, but a distinct game in its own right. This does not bode well.
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Walter
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Hi Simon,

We have also played the 3-player scenario. It took us 3 hours for 4 turns, but I think the next game will be a lot faster.
As for the balance: after 4 round the red player had gained 58 points, the Yellow player 55,5 and the blue player (me) a meager total of 11,5. For blue the Sicilian campaign was desatrous and the Yellow player focussed his Celts too much on the Etrusks & Illyrians. Hannibal (Turn 6) might have done some good, but I think both Yellow and Blue need to constantly harrass the Roman player.

Greetings,

Walter
 
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Simon Bracegirdle
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Walter
Yellow did very well in your game.
Neither of us got to Hannibal, but it sounds like both games had beat up Carthaginians who had little or no spare forces in Africa to add to Hannibal and it seems in both games that Hannibal was going to have to go through the Celts to get to the Romans (risking loses and hurting the wrong player).
The Scicilian campaign appears a no hope situation for Carthage. Greece out numbers them and has the advantage of first turn, to enable forces to be concentrated.
Simon
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Walter
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Hi Simon,

I think the Carthaginians have potential, if they don't counterattack in Sicily right away. Use the Turn 1 leader (Mago) and one or two new fleets to wipe out the Greek fleet. This limits the invasion option of North Africa for the Greek player and gives the Carthaginians naval supremacy.
Furthermore, the Carthaginian strategy (I think) is not to win the Sicilian War, but to not lose it. Just keep defending and strenghtening your position during turn 1-3 (except for the naval war).
Furthermore, Turn 6 is the great scoring round for blue. The Celts are not too big a problem - Fabius with his legions hidden in Florentia on the other hand...
Also, the Celts, Etrusks and Samnites may revolt when Hannibal is near and start to raid cities and do other nasty things. This is great for the Carthagians as it will give the Romans a lot more to worry about.

Walter
 
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Simon Bracegirdle
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Walter
Some interesting thoughts. Perhaps another try is required.
Simon
 
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George Van Voorn
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Hi guys,

I have to wait until Sinterklaas for Italia to be opened up, and in Eindhoven they only demoed the four-player scenario, so... Still, I think Walter's argument makes sense. I'm pretty sure the designer has been faithful to history. The Carthaginians had no forces compared to Rome, and Hannibal had to endure attacks by the Celts. From a historical point of view, the Carthaginians couldn't possibly win the war against Rome. From a gaming point of view this is boring, and the only solution seems to be to indeed attack the Romans together.

The second point is, although you already mentioned it, Simon, in Brit the scoring is VERY asymmetrical. Yellow there scores half his points in the first five turns, but then there are eleven left. Blue, on the other hand, gets his shot in the last two rounds with the Normans. So perhaps you will really have to play it to the end to be sure about any bad balance in the game.

I'm sure eager to try!
 
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Gerit Driessen
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Hello George:

Is there any change that you live nearby Uden/ Veghel? I would love to try Italia. Like any new game one has to get to know it, and it is not as simple as RISK (no pun intended).
Phalanx tends to produce really nice games and if Italia comes even close to Age of Napoleon (beautiful game!), it will be awesome. Though I totally agree that the complexity of this kind of game can cause some frustrations in the beginning but it also has the potential of still inspire after years of play.
At first sight, I would say that Italia is more complex than Age of Napoleon, with all its nations and specific rules for each one of them. Perhaps more following a certain script, leaving us less space to improvise?
 
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George Van Voorn
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Quote:
Is there any change that you live nearby Uden/ Veghel?


No, not really. It takes me a 1.5-hours drive to Eindhoven...

Quote:
Like any new game one has to get to know it, and it is not as simple as RISK (no pun intended).


I don't know any (war)games as simple as Risk: even Monopoly beats it in complexity. I don't need to know all games. For instance Munchkin: expansion 300 or Panic in the Field (whatever it is in English) don't really capture my imagination. Italia however is intruiging me.

Quote:
Though I totally agree that the complexity of this kind of game can cause some frustrations in the beginning but it also has the potential of still inspire after years of play.


And that's the beauty of Brit! It remains interesting, no better, it gets more interesting when playing more often. I have similar hopes for this game as well.

Quote:
At first sight, I would say that Italia is more complex than Age of Napoleon, with all its nations and specific rules for each one of them. Perhaps more following a certain script, leaving us less space to improvise?


AoN is just a different game. It is complex in a different way. I'm not sure about the script, that I can only judge after having played Italia a few times. In Brit there is plenty of space to improvise, but only once you start to know more about gameplay.
 
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Gerit Driessen
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Quote:
I'm not sure about the script, that I can only judge after having played Italia a few times. In Brit there is plenty of space to improvise, but only once you start to know more about gameplay.


Yes, I agree that you need the experience of playing it quite a few times to get to know the game. The many rules on the nation cards however, gave me the feeling that much is pre-decided. Of course playing the game may prove me wrong. Still think it is a beautiful game and hope to play it soon!
 
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Jan Oudshoorn
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Hello,

I don't understand the "red is favored" idea. We played round 1 to 5 last saturday, with the following results.

The Celts had a major invasion, grabbing most of northern Italy and kicking the Illyrians out. They then grew and built cities, remaining unconquered, with the Romans and Illyrians finally starting to chomp at their empire in the fifth round, scoring some success.
The Illyrians were almost destroyed on round 1 and didn't make a comeback untill round 5, capturing some new ground.
The Etruscans were forced to submit, but held onto Etruria, Perusia & ravenna, building cities there for points and to make a strong comeback when they will revolt in round six.
The Greeks tried to make a play for southern Italy to increase their growth rate, but were decimated by the Samnites. They subsequentle lost to the Carthagians and Epirotes, being reduced to almost nothing on the fifth round.
Because of their huge empire, the Romans only conquered the Samnites on round three, after which they revolted, dragging the romans into a bloody war against them and they remain unconquered. They also built cities in their fragmented empire.
The Carthagenians destroyed the Greeks and Epirotes using elephants, leaders and naval supremacy. They hold everything besides manland Italy and their biggest invasion is yet to come.
The Epirotes took out a Roman leader and then left for Sicily. They were destroyed by the Carthagenians, and the sole unit is now leading a life of piracy with the two fleets, still scoring.
The Romans own the middle portion of Italy, and much ofr the south and north, although only the Etruscans are submitted to them. They are strong, but are fighting dragged out wars against both the Samnites and the Celts.

All three colors have about 50 pints, yellow being in the lead (barely). Anything can happen now, as both the Celts and the Romans will feel the force of Carthage. The etruscans will revolt, coordinating their efforts with the Carthagenians and the Illyrians. The Celts may be doomed, but then so are the Romans. All hope of conquering the Samnites will probably be lost, and they will grow strong, maybe even reaching for Sicily. The Numidians will finally end the quit life of Carthage in Africa, and the Cimbri will make for a blue domination of Northern Italy. Yellow will grow strong in the South if not taken seriously. Rome will get its due aswell, but they now have to choose who to attack. Samnites? Carthage? Etruscans? Yellow will have to choose as well: do they start attacking Carthage or Rome? And blue finally will have to choose: turn north Italy into a blue-zone, or protect Africa at any cost against the Numidians.

Now what part of this is unballanced??????????
 
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Simon Bracegirdle
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Jan
It sounds perfectly balanced to me. My post was first impressions. If these were incorrect I am happy as I love games that work.
Simon
 
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Jan Oudshoorn
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Have you had the chance to play the entire game yet? I'm curious as to how this particular game turned out. How can it happen that Blue only scored 11 points in half the game?
By the way, I probably sounded/read a bit annoyed in my post... think nothing of it, please....
 
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Chris Farrell
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I haven't actually analyzed all the scoring options for all the nations, but my empirical experience certainly backs up the fact that Red is strongly favored. I've played Italia I twice, and Red has won both games. The first game saw a new player who had never played a Britannia-style game play as Red against two experienced players and win by about 20 points. The second game, with an experienced player as Red, saw Red winning by a whopping 60 points, 140-82-80, even after the main take-away lesson from the first game was "beat on Red". I have a hard time seeing how some technique or strategy is going to quickly close that gap. Everyone who played felt that Red was extremely strong. Playing Britannia, even for the first time, it feels pretty well-balanced. Italia I does not.

I'm not going to say that Red is favored unequivocally, because I've just go two plays so far. But, then again, if I play the game again, I am definitely planning to give Red a handicap of possibly as many as 40 points.
 
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Jan Oudshoorn
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I really urge people to write in on this phenomenon. I've played the game a couple of times now, and we never noticed anything about the favored position of Red. I know I'm not doing anything wrong here, or saying that me and my friends are such brilliant strategists (we are not), but I just don't see how red can go to such a landslide victory.

Does anyone have more details for me? I don't want to critisize anyone, I'm just really curious....
 
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Philip Thomas
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Jan, are you playing with all the Roman reinforcements, including the reinforce up to 14 legions in turn 4 and up to 16 legions in turn 7?
And are you makign sure the legions arrive at the beginning of the turn where specified? Those are obvious things to check.
 
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