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Subject: Musings on Churchill rss

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Joel Tamburo
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Hi.

I don’t often write reviews, but in the case of Churchill I decided to step out and make an exception. With that said, I am not writing a traditional review that describes the game and such. Instead, I am putting my varied thoughts on the game out there. These thoughts are based on both pre-publication involvement and playing 15 games since release, many at WBC teaching others how to play the game. Needless to say, feel free to take these thoughts with a grain of salt (or even a whole salt mine if it seems appropriate)…

#1: Don’t try to “classify” this game

A lot of gamers try to classify games when they start playing them. Classifications can include “worker placement”, “resource management” and others. These classifications then provide experience based general approaches to the game. Another version of this is trying to group a game with other games. My advice for Churchill is not to do this but to come at the game completely open and fresh.

Why not try to classify it? Because Churchill really does defy easy description. Are there resources per se? Yes. Is there a form of control? Yes. But what is really going on a much different. Basically the players are having a group discussion where they “vote” using their cards. Those votes create decisions on the global use of resources and such which are then put into effect on the game board. At that point the game system takes over to tell us the effect of those allocation decisions. So, to me it is too different to be classified properly.

#2: Remember to Negotiate

This is a game of (as Mark Herman says) “coopetition”. While you do play your cards (that represent historical staff) against each other on the issues, the real key can and should be hashing out your approach with one or both of your fellow players beforehand. Discuss what issues to put into debate and even try to share them out in pre-conference discussions. When doing this, remember not to punk any one player down too much as in all likelihood you will need the help of that player later on.

#3: Watch those Victory Conditions!

Churchill’s rules call tracking Victory Points during play optional. Not to me it isn’t! Remember the Victory Conditions in this game are not what game players are used to, as the player with the most points might not win if they get too far in front. Remember the conditions:

a) If both Axis powers surrender and the point difference between first and third place is more than 15, the second place player wins.

b) If an Axis power does not surrender, then all three players roll a six sided die. The first place player subtracts the whole value from their score, the second place player subtracts half the value from their score and the third place player adds the value to their score. After that most points wins.

So, it is good to be ahead but not to be too far ahead. In essence you have to resist the temptation to pile on your opponents.

#4: Enjoy the experience!

Churchill is one of a kind. Personally I love the game as much for the experience as for the playing to win. It really does convey a feeling of trying to manage something in concert with others who have goals of their own that partially but not completely coincide with your own. I have seen no other game that captures this in quite this way.

I heartily recommend the game both to seasoned wargamers and non-wargamers.
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Francisco Colmenares
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Joelist wrote:
Basically the players are having a group discussion where they “vote” using their cards. Those votes create decisions on the global use of resources and such which are then put into effect on the game board. At that point the game system takes over to tell us the effect of those allocation decisions. So, to me it is too different to be classified properly
That pretty much describes Space Alert, except Space Alert has variable threats and a timer (Oh and they win together never separately)

WARNING: I'm being facetious and my comparison is not meant to be taken seriously.
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Chris Montgomery
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Thanks - an informative review from an insightful, experienced player. Here's some GG.
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Nathan Lee
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what is historical basis for one player to not be too far ahead? I'm really intrigued by this game,but that part seems a bit game-y. Does it feel that way when you play it?
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Mark Herman
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thegreat2 wrote:
what is historical basis for one player to not be too far ahead? I'm really intrigued by this game,but that part seems a bit game-y. Does it feel that way when you play it?

Covered in designer notes in the online rules.
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Joel Tamburo
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MarkHerman wrote:
thegreat2 wrote:
what is historical basis for one player to not be too far ahead? I'm really intrigued by this game,but that part seems a bit game-y. Does it feel that way when you play it?

Covered in designer notes in the online rules.

Yep!

And the rationale made perfect sense to me. When one power becomes too dominant the others align to counterbalance them. In a way, the Victory Conditions deserve their own article as they are VERY well thought out.

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Bill Koens
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thegreat2 wrote:
what is historical basis for one player to not be too far ahead? I'm really intrigued by this game,but that part seems a bit game-y. Does it feel that way when you play it?
The victory conditions are amazing. If the Axis are defeated then the Ally with the most VP wins unless they are too far ahead, in which case the second place Ally might win (chief partner in a two-way coalition against the first place Ally). If the Axis are not defeated by game end, then the last place player has a chance to win (representing cutting a deal with the Axis and selling out the dominant allies).

Really nicely done.
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Randy Mauldin
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I hope this comes out on VASSAL soon, because so far I'm just not getting it. Oh, I understand most of the rules, but when I first saw this advertised I was really excited. It was the most anticipated game of the year for me (and I've bought quite a few from GMT this year including Mark's Empire Of The Sun). But so far it has kind of fell flat for me. Oh it's okay, just not balls-to-walls fun I had anticipated. I need to play it more and I have very limited gaming time with my friends.
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Mark Herman
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Randy Mauldin wrote:
I hope this comes out on VASSAL soon, because so far I'm just not getting it. Oh, I understand most of the rules, but when I first saw this advertised I was really excited. It was the most anticipated game of the year for me (and I've bought quite a few from GMT this year including Mark's Empire Of The Sun). But so far it has kind of fell flat for me. Oh it's okay, just not balls-to-walls fun I had anticipated. I need to play it more and I have very limited gaming time with my friends.

I am told that several people like Joel Toppen have expressed interest in making a set, but I do not know when this will happen. I just design them, Vassal is outside of my skill set.

Mark
 
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I hope Joel makes one. He's the best..

And please understand I dont' mean this as a criticism of your design. I am a big fan of your work. It's just taking time to sink in..
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Mark Herman
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Randy Mauldin wrote:
I hope Joel makes one. He's the best..

And please understand I dont' mean this as a criticism of your design. I am a big fan of your work. It's just taking time to sink in..

No problem, Churchill is the best I can do, if it is not to your liking, no insult was meant or taken.

All the best,

Mark
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David Brown
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Quote:
The victory conditions are amazing. If the Axis are defeated then the Ally with the most VP wins unless they are too far ahead, in which case the second place Ally might win (chief partner in a two-way coalition against the first place Ally). If the Axis are not defeated by game end, then the last place player has a chance to win (representing cutting a deal with the Axis and selling out the dominant allies).

Really nicely done.

I'm not convinced by the victory conditions. I played Churchill yesterday ( I was Stalin), it was our first game and very strange.

By half way through the game Stalin had built a reasonable lead, at which point the British started doing everything possible to help the Russians. Clearly needing to take the Russian into the 15 point gap territory so the British can claim second place and win.

So the second half of the game was spent with the British doing everything they could to help the Russians, and the Russians trying to 'stall' themselves and help America.

In the end I won as the Russians, as I, with help from the British, has build a massive lead, and managed to just about stop the surrender of Japan.

I'm not sure these victory condition work in anything but a gamey way. And I wonder if the traditional method of 'get the leader', rather then 'help the leader' would have worked equally as well?

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thirtybrowns wrote:
Quote:
The victory conditions are amazing. If the Axis are defeated then the Ally with the most VP wins unless they are too far ahead, in which case the second place Ally might win (chief partner in a two-way coalition against the first place Ally). If the Axis are not defeated by game end, then the last place player has a chance to win (representing cutting a deal with the Axis and selling out the dominant allies).

Really nicely done.

I'm not convinced by the victory conditions. I played Churchill yesterday ( I was Stalin), it was our first game and very strange.

By half way through the game Stalin had built a reasonable lead, at which point the British started doing everything possible to help the Russians. Clearly needing to take the Russian into the 15 point gap territory so the British can claim second place and win.

So the second half of the game was spent with the British doing everything they could to help the Russians, and the Russians trying to 'stall' themselves and help America.

In the end I won as the Russians, as I, with help from the British, has build a massive lead, and managed to just about stop the surrender of Japan.

I'm not sure these victory condition work in anything but a gamey way. And I wonder if the traditional method of 'get the leader', rather then 'help the leader' would have worked equally as well?


Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate that you and your friends altered their behavior to align with the victory conditions and it seemed unsettling. I would offer that if you stood back the behavior mimicked an alliance trying to win the war even though that was not what was in your hearts. So, the strategies used to win the game were not the get the leader shoot out, but distrustful allies trying to cooperate yet still get an edge. Sounds about right and not 'gamey' to me, sounds like a bit of history.

There are all the other multiplayer games for the he with the most points is king. If that were the case with Churchill it would be nothing like the events being portrayed. Again thanks for letting me know how it went.

Mark
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Svein M. Gaasholt
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Hi, i am curious if others agree that negotiations are crucial? I really like everything else I read about the game but I am wary of games where negotiations are important as I do not enjoy that much as a mechanic. The game page here on BGG does not list negotiations as a mechanic, but as its a new game perhaps the listing is not complete?
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Funestus wrote:
Hi, i am curious if others agree that negotiations are crucial? I really like everything else I read about the game but I am wary of games where negotiations are important as I do not enjoy that much as a mechanic. The game page here on BGG does not list negotiations as a mechanic, but as its a new game perhaps the listing is not complete?

Negotiations are optional, there is no mechanic for it, and all conversations must be public.
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Funestus wrote:
Hi, i am curious if others agree that negotiations are crucial? I really like everything else I read about the game but I am wary of games where negotiations are important as I do not enjoy that much as a mechanic. The game page here on BGG does not list negotiations as a mechanic, but as its a new game perhaps the listing is not complete?

In the games I've played so far, there have been some negotiations. There are times when you need to accomplish something and a quick "hey, I'm trying to do this and for the good of all if you support me here I'll lend you a hand now/later" type of agreement can go a long way towards advancing your agenda.

That being said, this isn't Diplomacy. You can go throughout the game with little to no negotiations and still do fine. But in the spirit of the conferences, a little side deal making can be a fine thing...
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Rex Stites
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Joelist wrote:


#2: Remember to Negotiate

This is a game of (as Mark Herman says) “coopetition”. While you do play your cards (that represent historical staff) against each other on the issues, the real key can and should be hashing out your approach with one or both of your fellow players beforehand. Discuss what issues to put into debate and even try to share them out in pre-conference discussions. When doing this, remember not to punk any one player down too much as in all likelihood you will need the help of that player later on.


I just came across this thread while searching for something else. I may have read the post when originally made, but since then have a lot more experience with the game.

I'm wondering how true this statement is. It seems to me that a game with too much--or really any substantial amount of--negotiation would risk players actually losing a part of the game experience. There are myriad games where players cut deals that are in the best interest of both players. The true beauty of Churchill, imo, is that I don't need the assent of the other player to get their country to do what I want.

If the US isn't allocating resources to the war in a way that benefits me, I can put a DO on the table and try to win it. There is something so much more satisfying about manipulating your opponents through the game's mechanics this way, rather than coming to a mutually beneficial agreement that "I'll use my pac leadership support at X if you use production in Europe at Y."

I also don't want to agree about what issues should be debated. I love the tension of wondering if I forgo issues that benefit the group (strat material/second front)so that I can put issues that help me directly, will someone else down the line bite the bullet and put the issue out there. I also want to be putting issues on the table that are going to help me get what I want by distracting the other powers. (E.g., worried about the US grabbing a global issue? Put their DO out there and put them to a choice of the Global issue or not having control over their production). The same goes with the allocation of resources to the fronts. There are some really tough decisions when you have no idea how others will allocate their production.

The more cooperatively/deal making you play the game with, seems to detract from the experience more than enhance it.
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Joel Tamburo
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Hi!

I'm not so sure about what you're saying here. Trying to broker a conference is both thematic (in essence you're really stepping into the shoes of the Big Three member you're playing) and can be VERY productive. you can optimize resource allocation and even establish informal spheres of influence.
 
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Brokering a conference may be "thematic," but by that logic you could dispense with the conference segment and merely argue/negotiate with your 2 opponents to figure out how to resolve all the issues. But Churchill is different from a typical negotiation game in that the "debate" is explicitly modeled rather than be some free-form open negotiation.

In that context, the design is from the point of view that the "negotiations" should generally be conducted through the game's mechanics. Once you start negotiating outside that context for big things like allocation of production or which issues will be debated, it would seem to detract from the core of what the game is to a degree. Basically, everything that you are doing "informally" when done through the game's formal mechanics is really what sets the game apart from any other game out there.

Moreover, if you're optimizing resource allocation (presumably to the benefit of all to win the war), then it seems like your games would be missing the jockeying back and forth in trying to grab DOs to manipulate which fronts move when to maximize the benefit to your country. Once you start resolving those things through open negotiations, the actual core of the game becomes much less important and much less tense to play out.
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Quote:
4.7 Negotiations
There is no formal negotiations phase or procedure. All conversations
must be made in the presence of the other player. No secret
negotiations or conversations are allowed during the game. No
agreement or conversation is binding. Only player actions during
the game are binding.

Play Note: Threatening or pleading with your Allies is encouraged,
but not binding.
Negotiations outside the formal debate mechanic are part of the game. They are allowed within the context of the game rules. Beyond that, arguing over how people "should" play the game seems pointless to me. People will and can play as they see fit. If the game is well designed (and I think it is), playing within the rules as written players will find effective and rewarding ways to play with and against their opponents to achieve victory.

I see it as quite thematic to allow for preliminary agreements before the formal debate occurs. The meeting segment is where issues are formally debated and officially resolved (for that conference), so it can't be dispensed with even if informal agreements are made. The latter can be readily broken, either a little or a lot, and player's have to judge how much trust to spend to set themselves up for a winning position.
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arjisme wrote:
Quote:
4.7 Negotiations
There is no formal negotiations phase or procedure. All conversations
must be made in the presence of the other player. No secret
negotiations or conversations are allowed during the game. No
agreement or conversation is binding. Only player actions during
the game are binding.

Play Note: Threatening or pleading with your Allies is encouraged,
but not binding.
Negotiations outside the formal debate mechanic are part of the game. They are allowed within the context of the game rules. Beyond that, arguing over how people "should" play the game seems pointless to me. People will and can play as they see fit. If the game is well designed (and I think it is), playing within the rules as written players will find effective and rewarding ways to play with and against their opponents to achieve victory.

I see it as quite thematic to allow for preliminary agreements before the formal debate occurs. The meeting segment is where issues are formally debated and officially resolved (for that conference), so it can't be dispensed with even if informal agreements are made. The latter can be readily broken, either a little or a lot, and player's have to judge how much trust to spend to set themselves up for a winning position.

Nobody said it was against the rules. The OP suggested that people should negotiate as much as possible. I simply provided a counterpoint that perhaps players who do so are depriving themselves of a lot of the unique gameplay of the game. Moreover, because the game is not actually cooperative in any meaningful sense and because of the unique victory conditions, I'm skeptical that the sort of heavy negotiations suggested are actually in the best interests of both of the agreeing player (it's likely only to truly benefit one of the players).

So the question is not whether players can play that way or "should," in the sense of everyone must play this way or the game is broken, but the real question is whether how players "should" play to give them the best chance of winning. The OP suggests that negotiation with the other players is "key" and even suggests negotiating with both opponents. That seems somewhat absurd in a 3-player competitive game. This is not a quasi-cooperative game like Republic of Rome where coming to agreement on how to allocate resources so as to optimize beating the system or survive a period until things stabilize so then players can fight it out for the win. There is no chance of everyone losing which would justify a 3-way deal to beat the system. So basically by definition, a 3-way deal ought to be raising a red flag to each of the players that hey, maybe this deal isn't actually in my long-term interest.

The only potential time that negotiation is probably actually in the best interests of the 2 agreeing players would be the case of a runaway leader who is trying to force a condition-3 win. At that point, the other two players do have a common interest in getting unconditional surrender. But even then, explicit negotiation may not be necessary. But negotiating to keep a runaway leader in check is hardly a "key" first principal. Rather it's a strategy of necessity.
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Joel Tamburo
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I like the counterpoint to my thinking. I suggested doing some brokering but it is by no means required. I can also see the point to not trying to broker things.
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Your prior comments seemed to emphasis that informal negotiation detracts from the game experience, undermining its design intent to negotiate through the debate mechanism and generally diminishing the overall game experience. I don't agree as it is actually part of the game and it has been my experience that it can lead to mutually beneficial play for the players in the discussion (keeping in mind that each player has to judge the potential benefits of any agreement, which may or may not be realized as the game progresses.).

But now it looks like your main point is actually summed up here:

Quote:
[...] the real question is whether how players "should" play to give them the best chance of winning. The OP suggests that negotiation with the other players is "key" and even suggests negotiating with both opponents.
I don't agree these negotiations are key to winning the game because you can certainly win games without them. So key is a bit overstated, I agree. But judicious use of them can sometimes lead to a win.
 
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arjisme wrote:
Your prior comments seemed to emphasis that informal negotiation detracts from the game experience, undermining its design intent to negotiate through the debate mechanism and generally diminishing the overall game experience.

That is my basic point. But the comment was more directed to those that have not played the game or have very limited experience with the game.

I think if you go into the game thinking that it is a "negotiating" game and play it as such, you're likely going to come away from the game with a feeling that it falls flat and there's not much there. So I would encourage players to start out resolving the issues through the in-game mechanic rather than through open discussion, as it will give a better feel for the game.

I posted the details about why I feel it may not be in a player's best interest to enter into an agreement in response to the assertion that I was telling people how they "should" play the game to illustrate that it's not merely saying play the game like this to get the best experience, but that in many instances it probably isn't a winning strategy.
 
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