David+, Jon, Brendan, Adam, Yitzchak
Brendan proposed this game a few weeks ago and we finally were able to give it a try. I approached the game with some trepidation, for several reasons.
The basic idea: each player gets a number of tokens to place into areas on the board, no more than five per area in a round except for his own country's area. Once per round, a player can challenge another player's influence in one area, which results in one or both of them removing pieces. At the end of the game, each player gains points based on having ten or more tokens in certain areas (each player has different objectives) or by limiting other player's achievements. High score wins.
First of all, our game group had rejected playing Origins of World War II several months ago because the game box had Nazi symbology on it. This game, Origins of World War I, is a predecessor of that game and was published in Sid Sackson's excellent A Gamut of Games. We had to come up with the components ourselves (thanks, Brendan).
Secondly, the game is at least thirty years old. Most elderly games are not my style. It is also a pure negotiation game with a die rolling chart to resolve conflicts. All of which don't particularly appeal to me. Nevertheless, the game also doesn't have that much "combat" (the combat is really clashes of political influence), and the main mechanic is really area control, which I guess you could say about most war games, actually.
In the end, I'm always willing to try new things. So how did it go?
The superficial answer is that I was pretty bored for most of the game. There are supposed to be negotiations going on. That is how you are supposed to maximize efforts and ensure efficient resource utilization. Instead, I played it like a strategy game, with little negotiating.
I took full advantage of the "only one attack per turn" mechanic, and spread out to multiple areas, forcing people to be unable to attack me everywhere at once without ganging up. I also played a lot more for limiting other player's advancement, rather than looking for my own, since the net point differential in doing so was more advantageous to me.
The unfortunate part of all of this is that Britain's main objective was to ensure that nobody else gained too many points. David, as Britain, was easily going to be able to achieve this objective unless people focused on preventing this. Unfortunately, everyone else's main objectives are stated in such a way as to make them think that they have to take out Germany (which was me). I kept telling them that attacking me wasn't going to help, it would only let David win, but to little avail.
Eventually I allied with Russia (Brendan), but we weren't able to rack up enough points to challenge Britain.
As far as I my personal opinion goes, it seems to me that the strength of the game is in much deeper and stronger negotiation. Furthermore, players have to be more aware of Britain's strengths so that they can team up and ensure limiting his point gains. A few more games may have to be played in order to achieve this.
So I think it is probably a reasonably good game for those that like this sort of thing. On the other hand, the game allows you to gang up on other players without much hope for that player to respond, has a boring die rolling conflict resolution system, is unbalanced (which is not such a problem if players gang up effectively), and resolves to kingmaking at the end.
I liked Origins, but think it needs some work on the combat table. A 3:2 column would be good. But overall better than Diplomacy: much quicker, more than just negotiation, and more historical, with asymmetric victory conditions. ... It's fun if you get into the silly accents. Maybe everyone should wear an appropriate national hat?
Nice session report. Did Brendan make things on his own or did he d/l things from the files of this bgg entry?
I would play it again if I were you!