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Subject: Learning Liberte rss

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Andrew Rae
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If you find this report a little negative at first perservere because it improves.

The intellectual part of my brain tells me I am going to love this game when I get a chance to play it again. It has all the classic trademarks of a game relying on influence and control. Unfortunately it is not intuitive and there is not an easy track into understanding the game. The net result is that the new player needs some very good advice for the first couple of turns and or needs to accept that they will not suceed in the first game. This seems like a reasonable assumption and attitude for a new player but there are those of us (yes we have a support group) who cannot let go on even a single game. So all I will say is that a new player should be 'managed' when teaching them the game or risk putting them off the game indefinitely.

If you knew me then you would immediately say, oh dear, he's going to sulk all afternoon which is largely what happened. We were into the third turn before I figured out what was happenign and how I could influence the main flow of the game. At that stage I was a long way behind and would have been further was it not for a generous friend allowing me to win a tiebreak. The net result was that I was a long way behind on board influence and effectively out of any governemnt calculations.

Then comes the gimic rules. Do they suit the game? Maybe. Do they provide game balance and intrigue? Maybe. I will have to trawl the boards to see what the consensus is but in general I don't like alternate winning criteria. This is because the way to win is no longer managing the major mechanism of the game. This will be a plus for some and certainly over the long term provides diversity but I don't like it in principle. Still it may be an essential element of this game.

I really liked the battle points and the main governement election mechanism. I like how you invest for the future and the advancing of leaders and generals and the ability to retain them into the next round is fantastic. I think this is a very clever game.

Now to the play. In the first two turns I adopted a strategy of spreading out and getting influence all over the place. I was collected and playing high counter cards but when it came to the election the influence I had in governement was not enough and I narrowly missed being the opposition as my support was rapidly ebbed away as another players diversity lost most if not all of the contests. Ofcourse it was in his interest to lose them. I was not to know.

In turn two I then ran out of my player markers. I was assured this didn't happen (presumably because no one would be as stupid as I was and spread out) yet I did and found all of a sudden that people were no longer spreading out but were now building higher stacks to gain key districts. I coudln't even go into the battle as I planned because of course I had no markers. As I mentioned earlier a kind friend allowed me to win a tie break for the opposition so there was some consolation. The opporutnity for player allainces and diplomacy aside formt eh different factions is stroing here and I think in a diplomatic setting this game would turn even further. But I digress.

In turn three there were many more things to look at. VP's for area control and the gimic rules (forgive me I have to call them that until I understand them better. By this stage I had virtually no influence on the board and so headed for the VP's by trying to be subtle about the white win criteria in case I could execute it. I need some sort of stack reducing card to play with one of my large white persoanlities. Well as it turns out I was not the only one. Another player had the cards and executed the white end game criteria and hey bingo we were finsihed 90 minutes ahead of time. Inadvertantly a couple of us had misunderstood the criteria and so when it was read in full it was discovered the executing player had not in fact won, rather I had won. We thought it was 'number of areas won with white' not markers, and certainly not including the cards in the hand. As it happened I only controled four areas, two white (that I had gained from 3whites on each) and then I had another powerful card in my hand. The net result was the incomponent, whinging, moaning, sulking, no board position, no victory point player won the game.

Noone doubts this was an aberation, no one could question that. It was misunderstanding rules and lack of attention to the winning criteria. It just seems wrong that it could happen though, that the game mechanics could strew that way. Still when you put a 5 year old behind the wheel of a car you can't expect it to be pretty.

I stand by my remarks that if you are a Liberte fan you need to manage new players better. Help them understand what they need to do and why they need to do it. Perhaps starting there rather than with the rules helps. But as the rules become perternant the experienced player has to be willing to make the complex rules clear. Every player needs a little sucess in their first game. This is one of the reasons so many people play 'diplomacy' once and never again.

That said this is a fantastic game mechanism and I can't wait to battle others in the mastering of this political gem. I will climb over the hump of first game frustration be clearly not everyone will. Please persevere witht his game I believe it will be well worthwhile.

 
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Ed
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Without the sudden death conditions, I think the game would essentially boil down to luck of the cards. I think the sudden death conditions keep the game interesting for everyone all the way to the end, without unfairly handicapping the leader.
 
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