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Subject: Tigris and Euphrates – a great game idea badly designed rss

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Jerome Franklin-Ryan
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PLEASE! WHETHER YOU AGREE OR DISAGREE WITH MY REVIEW CAN WE AVOID PERSONAL ATTACKS IN THE RESPONSES AND ANY SNIDE COMMENTS ABOUT SPELLING AND PUNCTUATION. I AM VERY DYSLEXIC AND APPOLOGIZE IN ADVANCE


Tigris and Euphrates – a great idea badly designed

Introduction

It is very rare I am stired to write a game review, (or a review of anything for that matter) but certain things about this game were so extraordinary I felt compelled to write one

When I do, I tend to use a descriptive format following the course of a typical playing of the game. This is in italics with analysis or explanation in standard bold script.

Not only am I a gamer of 17 years standing but I also design and make games as a hobby. I do so for fun and the fun other people get from playing them. You may well have seen me over the years at Dragonmeet in London UK showcasing (unofficially) my games and inviting friends and members of the public to try them out. Usually I give away free copies of the rules and how to make copies of the games too. I get feedback in exchange….what works and what does not.

From this experience and from feedback I have learned to assess games in four main areas : These main categories in which (in my opinion) all games should be examined are :

1.Acessability – how easily is it played by players of all levels? How complicated is it to understand? Is there good Game flavor to draw you in ??

2.Playability – depth of play , scale of tactics, variability in play, complexity of game play

4.Enjoyability - is it interesting?? Original?? and is it fun !!!

Each category score 30% out of 100 %

4. Other Factors: presentation ,artwork, value for money etc

Which in terms of playing the game are less important so the category is worth only 10%





The Review


I was told a lot of good things about this game in advance by several fellow gamers and saw high praise for it here on BGG. Anyway a group of us eagerly waited till we could get to London and nab our own copy. We sat down to play it for the first time as a group last Saturday.

There were 5 of us, all of us are university graduates.
2 of us are very experienced gamers Myself and R. (15 years plus of gaming each ) 2 experienced gamers T and S (10 years plus) and a neophyte J who scarcely plays games at all. We played two games one after the other stopping to disuses and debate the game in between.



First off, R,(The other very experienced gamer ) had read the rules several times in advance to familiarize himself with them. He then proceeded to explain the game concepts. I was playing as well as R,T and J. S Was observing and commenting.

We all began understanding the clear aim of the game but then got in a muddle and ended up discussing for half an hour the difference between internal and external conflicts. Eventually we began to play the first game despite myself and J still not understanding what we were doing and T with only a general idea.

This was a bad start as far as I am concerned as regards Acessability . None of us are thick ( two of us have very good degrees and another a first class one)and between us there are 45 years of gaming experience round the table and we are struggling to understand the rules concepts and mechanics.


We began the game and it started off ok .. all of us grasping the base concepts (laying tiles and leaders etc etc).


This was straightforward enough and with all the depth revues of the game mechanics I’m not going to delve into them again.


Then kingdoms formed began to be joined and problems began to arise. We stopped playing and began talking our way through turns referring to R as we went. But we could not successfully resolve some issues we played for about 30 minutes and had to abandon the game ….why??

Firstly R. hand simply misunderstood virtually every rule and as he explained them we hand misunderstood them further….on trying to check one issue he realized he realized his errors

Now R having worked in games retail sales for 6 years, is one of the best people I know for explaining game rulse and concepts to anyone.. he did it for a living!! So the job of rules guru falls to him in or games group.

However he had simply misunderstood them, such was there inherent complexity and depth. Rules for tile placement, leader placement, joining kingdoms, monuments, scoring, it was simply too much to fathom all at once. We were equally puzzled.


Again I think this was very bad as far as acessability was concerned. If an intelligent seasoned gamer can’t get the rules having read them 3 times and can’t get other experienced gamers to understand from an explanation something is wrong. Either the rules are badly laid out/or worded or the game is inherently very complicated. I eventually came to the conclusion it was a case of the latter. Complexity is in a game not a bad thing but complexity to the point where understudying becomes difficult is. A neophyte should be able to pick up a good game regardless of complexity or depth and read the rules one or twice and be able to play with little difficulty.






So R. read the rules again (20mins) and we began a lively debate as to what our initial thought were. The three experienced gamers myself f R. and T. were very impressed (despite our abortive efforts) with the game concept and mechanics. We could immediately se what the designer was aiming for and the massive, tactical depth the game afforded.


This was very, very exciting ! conceptually brilliant. I was thrilled to see the potential the game offered and despite teething problems reckoned we were all in for a treat. If not during play that day but in future games.


It seemed initially to us. to be an abstract game akin to ‘Go’ sharing many of its concepts and mechanics.. It was evident even after less than a full game that it had the possibility of being played infinitely without repletion and the skill level needed to play it well was phenomenal with scope for real tactical diversity taking months of play to master fully. It seemed very well balanced and well thought out As such we were keen to understand the rules and get playing as this was the sort of game we relay enjoyed.


Again fantastic! and all very positive in the games favor in terms of playability and potential Enjoyability. I admit ‘Go’ is a game I see as sublimely brilliant (though I am rubbish at it and need more practice to improve.) its extremely simple yet dazzling complex at the same time. I felt this game could be just like it….what a treat!



However J the neophyte was still so utterly bewildered by the game, the rules and our attempted comparisons to ‘Go’ that she gave up S. then stepped in to be player 4 for the second game. J now the obeserver



This is bad as far as acessability is concerned…if an intelligent non-gamer can’t understand it and gives up after less than a full game.





We decided to start a second game walking through each turn to clarify things to one another.so each move explained out loud as was what we were doing, and why were doing it (to check it did not break the rules) We were all seemingly getting by reasonably. But I was still struggling on the mechanics of playing tiles and pieces. There were simply SO many variables for even choosing combinations of pieces and tiles to play in a single turn let alone variables for where to put them each turn and the rules governing the placement.



This is an excellent factor in a game up to a point. But too many variables to choose from make the game tedious to play and reduce the enjoyment of the game as well.

Lets take the single game mechanic and concept for just the choosing of tiles and leader pieces to place in a turn :

There are 41 possible combinations of choice of tiles and/or leaders to place each turn.

4 tile types x 4 leader types x 2 tiles to choose = 4x4x4 =32

Then factoring the catastrophe tiles means another 9 combinations. regular tile and catastrophe 4, leader and catastrophe 4, and 2 catastrophe tiles together total = 41 possibilities

True, not all these are available to every player every turn. But there are multiple options.

This is complicated. it’s a far cry from a simple choice system as in say ‘Go’, where you have 1 placement choice of single bead. Or Chess of moving a single piece.


Now lets look at the mechanic of placing the chosen tiles.

in ‘Go’ there are 361 possible bead placement locations to start with. These diminish and rise as the game progresses but there are never more than 365 placement options for a single bead.

These placement possibilities give ‘Go’ astonishing depth of play and tactical scope …the fullness being beyond the comprehensions of many (including myself) and taking years of play to become a senior Dan grade player. Yet it remains mechanically and conceptually simple.

In T+E there are thousands of possible placement possibilities for the 41 possible piece combinations chosen. With 176 squares o the board that already makes

41x176 = 7216 possible placement combinations.

This is not even taking into account that certain tiles and pieces can only be placed in certain squares or not. This would make so many that it would take ages with a pad a pen and a calculator to factor them all. And that would only be for a single first turn because the placement options for pieces varies due to other pieces previously played (I.e leader pieces can be placed next to temples laid in a previous turn) It is SUPER complicated.

The depth of play and tactical scope of T+E in merely choosing and placing pieces is almost infinitely complicated and I defy anyone to be able to work out let alone indicate and remember every possible combination of moves with a given set of tiles and leaders to be placed in a given turn this is naturally not without taking days going through them all one by one with a pen and paper.

Simply speaking no player can have a full list of move options to chose from…there are simply too many. If he or she can spot 10-15% of the possibilities available to them they are doing very well.

Now, wonderful though this is tactically (genius almost) I could have spent HOURS planning and mulling my turn and still not found the best or even a tactically reasonable placement option - I was irritating my friends sometimes by taking 5 minutes!

This makes the game have the potential take DAYS to play like Chess Diplomacy and ‘Go’. This is assuming there is no turn time limit and the players are playing to win.

The whole game is again akin again to ‘Go’in that it is a vast mass of complicated sums and mathematical shape-puzzles. The puzzles require you to work systematically over the board to find a good place to put a bead. ‘Go’ makes my brain ache playing it but it still has room amid the shape-puzzles for knowing ones adversary and having a feel for the game, which takes the edge of the mental strain.


T+E with 9 piece types makes it at least is nine times more complicated still !!and is as much as you can hope to do to work through some of your variables let alone get a ‘feel’ for the play and what your appoint is up to. Visually the irregular features on the T+G board compared to the simple clean grid in ‘Go’ makes visual analysis harder still. This impacts on the Playability . As far as I can see you can never really be good at T+E without years of practice, being a Savant mathematical genius or just plain lucky as you draw your tiles (see later).

But it impacts more so on the enjoyment particularly in multiplayer games. If you have one deep thinker in a 4 player T+E game I can see it getting VERY boring for the other three waiting to take their turn.






…I was also having problems working out how the two different combat systems worked. When I got the hang of them and it dawned on me how complicated it was to work out how likely you were to win a battle. something I had to have an idea before placing tiles that imitated a conflict..



My analysis above does not even touch on the variables in the mechanics of the 2 combat systems…. Both are statistically based on knowing how many tiles of a certain colour have been used in play, been discarded, or are left in the bag. This is then used to work out of those left how many of those left your opponent is likely to have to use compared to the number you have in your hand. Again mind bogglingly complicated and adding another tier of complexity to tactically placing your pieces.



We plodded on but on several occasions we found we hand missed conflicts that needed to be resolved and played several turns before we noticed….we had to undo all we had done resolve the conflict and carry on again. This began to be very VERY frustrating thinking we hand the hang of it an then realizing it was all a mess because of an oversight 3 turns back.

We tracked the reason to the fact we were missing the positioning of the leader pieces especially the ’amphora tribes’ and overlooking them when placing tiles and other leaders .T wondered Why? I suggested it was due The poor visual design of the tiles and leader pieces.

We were constantly confusing or overlooking the leader pieces of another players as being ‘one of our own’ after placing a piece of the same color near it or In the same kingdom….thus we were missing vital conflicts to resolve. I admit was the worse culprit but others did the same several times as well .so could not deny this colour match problem was a likely cause.



This was a VERY bad floor in the game design making acessability to a super complex and tactically deep game even harder than it need be. It also makes playability worse as its hard to assess ‘ at-a-glance’ the status of the board and Enjoyability is less because of the frustration arising meaning turns must be taken back.

Colors are fundamentally simple for the mind to process. thus in all aspects of life from politics to football strips, from cars to games components, people use color to visually distinguish ownership or identity at a glance. In games above all the color of a playing piece indicates ownership.

Similarly, shape or design being more complicated to process, is visually linked to function or purpose in the mind. A knight in chess is horse shaped …it’s a visual reminder of its function.

This is a standard format nearly all games have had since the dawn of time. This is regardless of their format. It did not matter whether the game was a new concept or as old as the hills. It was recognizable format that made identification easy. So you would think this complex abstract game would use it…right??

Wrong! Reiner Knizia took leave of his senses and reversed the system so a design represents player ownership of the leader pieces, and colour the function. The result?

Chaos and confusion! Why he did this is anyone’s guess but it was crazy!! How does the colour red indicate the leader piece is a priest conceptually.. ?? it doesn’t !!! it denotes instantly ownership by red! The same with black and green respectively.
The only colour on a leader piece with any game conceptual link was the blue on the Farmer . This being linked to the blue rivers the farms had to be built on. This is still tenuous and as a general design concept very poor. Blue usually being associated with, the sea or the sky not farms or farmers.



..The worse offenders by consensus of all were T’s ‘amphora’ leader pieces. Everyone instantly linking the icon to the concept of trade and mistaking them for each players merchant leader. My cattle head was almost as bad with its ‘farm’ connotations.



Again some mental aberration by Reiner Knizia or the designers at Mayfair Games in picking such confusing ownership symbols for each tribes leader pieces. This further compounding the stupidity in using symbols for ownership in the first place. The bow and the lion were fine ..they have no connection to any of the tile concepts of farming trading cities and temples. But the Amphora and the cattle !! anything else would have done !! Cuneiform symbols! other animals! Whatever! Provided they were not conceptually muddling and did not ruin the game flavor

Ideally it would have been commonsense (as this is an abstract game in nature) to have colour denoting the tribes and clear simple stylized conceptual images representing the leader functions inking them to the tiles. E.g. a crown for the King, a pitchfork for the Farmer, the amphora for the Merchant, and an incense burner for the Priest.

The same went for the beautify illustrated tiles. though full of Babylonian game flavor they were far too small, and too detailed They were not easily identifiable with what they were. The Farm picture was fine the Market one ok but the Temple and the City pictures were not visually representative of anything specific. Just people in Babylonian costume standing about. This meant relying on the confusing colour-indicates-purpose borders on the cards.
Though not as confusing as the leader pieces they served to muddle albeit occasionally rather that clarify the game board.


I have since learned that the Mayfair copy we were using was not the original and that the original German printed version was far simpler and more stylized. This does not apparently rectify the confusing symbol-for-colour switch but at least the images on the tiles are big, simple and less conceptually muddling.


The game proceeded and we became confused over how monuments worked T. and I believing they counted as individual tiles still for conflict purposes R. and S. that they did not. Even at this late stage in the second Game R. had to delve into the rules to get the solution…the answer?? .they didn’t. This resolved we continued but we could not work out why monuments built say of temples also gave victory points in another colour too.?? Also why build them as by getting victory points each turn in on or two colors you imbalance them in proportion to the others ??? it remained a mystery and we just carried on.


There is probably a very good reason for having monuments in the game and having them bi-colored and in the fixed combinations of colours. This being the case not one of us could fathom it out and explain it. Monuments simply seemed to ad even more complexity to a dizzyingly complex game. Maybe they are there more as a nice flavor element that also interacts with the rules quite nicely? perhaps monuments serve to give some reason to keep your leaders in a kingdom?
Either way they seem to be an afterthought tacked-on rather than being integral to the game.



By now we had all grasped the mechanics if not some rudiments of tactics and the game was moving along. Then a new stumbling block arose…R and T both began placing tiles that made no sense that gave them a disadvantage and give VPs to S and myself. We asked T and R why they did this? (Particularly because it was clear T was winning) They explained that they had no choice as they had no tiles of any type to do anything else! They simply were not drawing them. despite the imbalance in distribution in the bag. Neither R or T had enough red or blue tiles. T angrily stating that black tiles were more or less useless and that the fact the king leader marker could claim VPs of other colours was scant compensation for drawing them when you most urgently needed red or blue tiles e or perhaps green .I was inclined to agree though R and S were not certain.

R. then ditched all his tiles twice in an effort to get a blue one.he got tow from 16 drawn He could not ditch a third time as there were not enough tiles left. So he had to make do We had enough for one more round of play. and in R’s turn there was nothing he could do that we could see that would improve his score …only do nothing or aid an opponent. They may well have been a solution to R’s tile placing problem but without hours to mull over it we were unlikely to find it. We decided to carry on and finish the last round




So if not already hideously complicated enough, a random tile draw means even a competent player working with the thousands of game possibilities can be defeated by sheer bad luck of the draw! Unless he had mental resolve enough to add another layer of statistics on top of the 7,000 + plus options at hand. This time workout the probabilities of tile drawing. These must then be factored into his plans. Anyway why bother?? Despite your calculations If you are unlucky and draw naff random tiles it ruins your plans anyway!

This luck element means a further frustration to reduce Enjoyability. But perhaps and added positive twist to the game mechanics.



The game was over after 2 hours and a bit and S the victor. This was by default almost due to R and T not being able to do anything constructive. S could not fathom how she had been able to win and was as surprised as the rest of us. T and R were equally frustrated that I had a beater score than T and one jus behind R despite having little grasp of the rules until the very end.

Even if we knew the mechanics tactics still eluded us all. This is bad for enjoyment as luck then seems to be the real decider when we know skill should have been.


We all agreed the artwork and feel of the game was excellent though it need not have been so elaborate for a abstract mathematical –shape puzzle game. We also all agreed it could be themed in any way and the Tigris And Euphrates though really nice were just dressing The games mechanics and play had nothing to do with the historical region and it could just as easily have been set in space between two meandering galaxies. T and I felt strongly it had nothing to do with Civ building at all with S agreeing with us that it was a mathematical puzzle game. Thus someone buying it on a Civ basis would be very disappointed. Rich was not certain, and J did not comment on this aspect.

We all agreed it was not outrageously expensive for what you got with the exception of me who felt considering the floors in the design it was a bit over priced.



Overall a good solid game as far as Other Factors were concerned with only a slight suggestion that it was to expensive. The big problem was with it being described as a Civ building game. It is perhaps in its art, dressing, and theme but not in mechanics, play, or feel. It fails to play or enthrall as billed and is less enjoyable and accessible a result.



T enjoyed the game a lot but admitted it needed ages to play it properly R enjoyed it also but reckoned he was not certain about several aspects of tactics still. S thought it was ok but nothing special admitting it was the hardest game she had ever played. I was disappointed. I only really grasped the rules midway through the second game and found the colour/image swap very confusing in an already complex game. J (who had patiently sat watching the whole game) was still none the wiser over how it all worked and declared it far to complicated for anyone but dyed-in-the-wool gamers to understand or enjoy.



Conclusion


Reiner Knizia is without doubt a master at making games. Rather than this being his masterpiece, I believe it could have been.

Had he not got up one day during its design without his brain switched on and decided to meddle with basic design conventions all would have been well.

The potetial was for a complex -puzzle game which was easy to play and very enjoyable. Alas (thanks to this error of judgement) the masterpiece-in-making ended up a badly formated game of statistical and mathematical gymnastics as impenetrable to the non-gamer as Fort Knox.

He then compunded his error by covering all this with a wafer-thin theme, which albeit nice looking was irrelevant in concept, and visually confusing in design.

In order to be ‘brilliant’ ‘a modern classic’ or to be able to ‘stand the test of time’ all things I have heard and read attributed to Tigris and Euphrates it has to appeal to a far wider audience.

Even if re-designed along more colour-conventional lines as a puzzle game its still exceedingly complicated with layer upon layer of probabilities and possibilities.

Ameritrash games overwhelm the player with thousands of components taking hours to set up and move. This game overwhelms with thousands of play variables meaning each move can take an age to decide.

Nether extreme makes a suburb or timeless game popular with lots of people of all ages . Extremes make geeky games played by a small following of die hards.

Modern Art is far superior as a game and does Knizia far greater credit. (Incidentally we all played it for the first time on Saturday too. After one round lasting 10 minutes with R. explaining the rules we all completely understood what we were doing and loved every moment of it. )


Advice on Playing/purchasing



Beginners to Gaming

Avoid Tigris and Euphrates like the plague….if any game is likely to put you of gaming this is it !!!

Its a brilliant idea and very playable if you understand the detailed concepts behind it and finally figure out the complex mechanics If not….it’s a nightmare. Its unspeakably complex and made more so by a needlessly bad design.

If as a game beginner you feel you must try it play chess for a while first, then ‘Go’ first on a 9x9 board (to get the feel for its style and subtlety of play) then on a full 19x19 board. If you liked ‘Go’ a lot then try Tigris and Euphrates. If you were not thrilled by ‘Go’, then don’t touch this game with a bargepole.





Go’, Chess, and Diplomacy Veterans and Other Seasoned Gamers

be prepared to invest AGES in playing a superbly conceived, super complex, deep tactical game. I reckon it will take YEARS of play to fully understand its tactical depths, let alone be good at it. There is plenty to recommend it.
But be prepared to be confused at first as we were, and as constantly frustrated by the inane design. This is worse in the pretty but pointless Mayfair edition.



Gary Casparov,Prof Steven Hawking,‘Go’ 9 Dans, and mathematical geniuses


Get a copy and enjoy playing it as an interesting alternative to your day job.



Acessability 4% out of 30%
Playability 27% out of 30%
Enjoyability 19% out of 30%
Other 8% out of 10%

TOTAL OVERALL % = 58 %



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David Bohnenberger
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Quote:
41x176 = 7216 possible placement combinations.


If you're talking about the first move, this is a misleading comment.

Unless you really don't understand the rules, there is almost no logical first move but to put a leader on the board, and there are limited locations as to where it can go. And for scoring verstility, it usually makes the most sense to put the black leader down.

In almost every game I've played in the last year, each player has started the game by putting the black and the green leader next to the same temple. I'm not gonna claim this is undeniably the "best" opening, but it certainly makes sense if you think about it: You want the green leader to get treasures, and the black leader to get points when you play tiles to connect two treasures.

Tigris is tough to learn for some people, but is worth the effort. And I promise - it's not NEARLY as complicated as you make it seem.
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George Van Voorn
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In reviewing your review I had the same remark as Dweeb. There are not that many logical opening moves. Peasants can only be placed on water, and the other three types of tiles cannot be placed on water. Leaders can only be placed next to temples, or at least, that's the only thing that makes sense, etc. The number of options is rather limited.

Now, in my view the complexity of this game is in the resulting disorder when three or four people start expanding and suddenly realize the placement of a single tile will lead to a number of internal or external conflicts, and it is almost impossible to correctly predict the outcome.

Yes, you are right this game is very abstract and requires a lot of logical thinking. But is that necessarily a bad thing? E&T is a typical eurogame, but actually is one of my favourite (I'm not really a big fan of eurogames). I enjoy the whole game play, abstract and all. Losing is always a result of your inability to correctly judge certain situations, not of some stupid bad die rolling (Risk?! Monopoly?! Settlers?!)

Last but not least, I did enjoy your review.

Oetan
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Daniel Corban
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It sounds like Knizia is not your man. Many of the issues you mention stem from his favorite mechanic: Many desirable choices and not enough time to do them all.

You are acting like you need to sit down with a computer and calculate every possible move. In reality, you look at the board and 3 or 4 possible moves become evident. Of course, you only have 2 actions, so you have make often difficult choices.

I also find your attempts at qualifying your gaming expertise misleading. I sincerely hope that gamers new to this game don't take this "review" to heart. I don't have a particular loyalty to this game, but after my first reading through, I really thought this article was a joke.
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Michael Barnes
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Jerome-

This is a good review- your incorporation of the session report really shows where and why you felt the game derailed so severely. Further, I really appreciate seeing alternative viewpoints that call into question the "Sacred Cows" of BGG, T&E being one of them.

I rate E&T a 9- I've had the German edition since its release and in those early days of the German game craze I played it quite a lot and I still think it's an excellent, cereberal game that's almost like a more "hardcore" version of Acquire (which I rate a 10). It's funny that you detail a lot of difficulty in learning the game, because it's kind of how I felt back in '98 or so trying to explain the game to others. It's _not_ accessible, it's rather complex and unintuitive. It's easy to call the game "simple" after playing either pre-Settlers, much more complex games or more systematically intricate Euros but the fact is that getting newbies and casual gamers into E&T can be pretty difficult. I think some of your frustration is a little preemptive and largely founded on a couple of intial outings that went poorly. There is a good game there behind all the confusion between conflicts, player colors, and such. But no, it's not GO and if you're going to invest time and effort into a game I'd definitely suggest it over E&T. That being said, I found that my 10th and 20th games of E&T were a lot better, faster, and more interesting than my first five. Now, _that_ being said, I'll likely never play the game- it's not timeless, it's not perennial, and eventually it just becomes a mathematical exercise stripped of any real excitement.

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JP LaChance
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Had any of you played the game before?
This is one game that I feel you need a "teacher" or "game splainer" for. Use the "teaching script" it is more logical IMHO.

I'd say to give it another try.

JP
 
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Gisli Sigtryggsson
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dwarf_samurai wrote:
I was irritating my friends sometimes by taking 5 minutes!
This makes the game have the potential take DAYS to play like Chess Diplomacy and ‘Go’. This is assuming there is no turn time limit and the players are playing to win.


I'm sorry, but, and I know you realize this, that taking more than a minute on your turn in a four player game that has potentially ~ 20 turns is unreasonable. I'm not surprised the enjoyment factor wasn't very high.

However I sympathise with your difficulties in getting going. I've had a devil of a time teaching this game and it is one of those games that, despite its accolades, doesn't have 'universal' appeal. Some gamers would rather chew on razorblades than play this game.
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George Van Voorn
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Quote:
It's funny that you detail a lot of difficulty in learning the game, because it's kind of how I felt back in '98 or so trying to explain the game to others. It's _not_ accessible, it's rather complex and unintuitive. It's easy to call the game "simple" after playing either pre-Settlers, much more complex games or more systematically intricate Euros but the fact is that getting newbies and casual gamers into E&T can be pretty difficult.


Well, Rome wasn't built in a day either. They have gateway games for that, I think. How the heck do you come up with E&T as a newbie game anyway? Though now I mention it, it was I think one of the first games my girlfriend and I bought AFTER Settlers, and no, we had hardly any problems understanding the rules. And yes, my tenth game of E&T IS more interesting than the first one. heck, that's why it's a good game in the first place!

Quote:
Had any of you played the game before?
This is one game that I feel you need a "teacher" or "game splainer" for. Use the "teaching script" it is more logical IMHO.
I'd say to give it another try.


I agree with that. Again, you cannot play this game as a gateway game...
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Maarten D. de Jong
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oetan wrote:
Again, you cannot play this game as a gateway game...

Sure you can. I've done so with a number of people---carefully selected people of course, whom I know can absorb a lot of information quickly without wondering what it all means. Despite a rough start, one of these newcomers managed to persuade us to do three E&T games in a row without pause. My brain resembled a mass of gently wobbling jello after that.
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Nate Straight

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There are nowhere near as many choices per turn as you seem to think there are. For starters, you only have 6 tiles to choose from (which, importantly, may or may not be split between the 4 colors available... you're likely to only have 2 colors to choose from for a fair shake of your turns) and, for most of the game, probably only 1 leader left to place (hopefully one that got removed through conflict and not one that you neglected to place earlier in the game).

Furthermore, the necessity to score points with nearly every placement (though of course there are exceptions, when you're building up to a high-scoring conflict or something) cuts down on your choices even more as there will be limited positions on the board that will provide you with points. The need to balance between all 4 victory point colors cuts your choices down even further, since you'll need to focus on your weaker colors and temporarily ignore your stronger ones.

There are still a great number of options and you still have to consider them all carefully, but there are nowhere near 7,000+ different things to think about on your turn. Not even close.

Your concerns about the learning curve and the difficulty understanding the game are valid, but I think are based more upon your "game explainer" and your particular group than upon the game itself. The rulebook is extraordinarily well written, with every term defined in great detail and both textual and graphical examples given for every major rule. If you don't skip around and you simply read straight through the rules, you shouldn't have a problem.

The issue with confusing color with ownership and symbol with purpose is also valid, but probably your problem, not the game's. For starters, the VP system would be unnecessary complicated if the roles of color and symbol were reversed. Further, the symbols as ownership indicators are strongly tied to the theme (should aid understanding). Finally, you're given both a screen and a tile to remind you "who" you are. No one I played with had any trouble figuring it out.

It sounds to me like your rule reader and your game group simply had trouble grasping the game. Perhaps you had preconceived ideas of how it worked instead of simply taking the rules at face-value?


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Nate Straight

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For all your talk of the mathematical probabilities and whathaveyou in the game, you should have figured out that the reason for having "fixed" color combinations of the monuments was simply so that there would be one monument for every possible combination of the four colors of the game. You don't even have to arrange them specifically as they are shown in the rules (e.g. you could change around the three colored "step" pieces that fit into the bottom of the larger colored pieces [having RED-blue, BLUE-green, and GREEN-red instead of RED-green, BLUE-red, GREEN-blue] without affecting the game at all), as long as all possible color combinations are represented (which is inevitable if you don't duplicate colors).
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Maarten D. de Jong
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NateStraight wrote:
It sounds to me like your rule reader and your game group simply had trouble grasping the game. Perhaps you had preconceived ideas of how it worked instead of simply taking the rules at face-value?

Seconded. Especially the rule-reader bit---for someone with that much experience it should have been not as problematic as written to absorb the rules and explain them. Personally, I fear that the rule-reader isn't such a good rule-reader / -explainer as the OP makes him out to be.
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Jerome Franklin-Ryan
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Dweeb wrote:
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41x176 = 7216 possible placement combinations.


If you're talking about the first move, this is a misleading comment.

Unless you really don't understand the rules, there is almost no logical first move but to put a leader on the board, and there are limited locations as to where it can go. And for scoring verstility, it usually makes the most sense to put the black leader down.

In almost every game I've played in the last year, each player has started the game by putting the black and the green leader next to the same temple. I'm not gonna claim this is undeniably the "best" opening, but it certainly makes sense if you think about it: You want the green leader to get treasures, and the black leader to get points when you play tiles to connect two treasures.

Tigris is tough to learn for some people, but is worth the effort. And I promise - it's not NEARLY as complicated as you make it seem.




As far as I can see., under the dressing, this is a mathematical puzzle game. No one seems to be arguing with me on this.

As such the only way I see to play it properly is by using s mathematical logic based on probability and statistics.

To do this you need to know all the variables. Otherwise how can you make an informed choice of move ??

And I did say in my review that not all 7216 placement variables are available each turn, that they were modified by other factors.
 
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I think a lot of the complaints here aren't in the design, but in the rules. The horrible terminology being the most obvious issue, but in general I think better rules would make the game a lot easier to learn.

Oh well.
 
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Jerome,

Now that you've played the game and understand the basics behind it, may I suggest playing teh online version here a few times, to see if the game improves for you.

Especially as it will work out and resolve all conflicts automatically, you will be able to see how the game plays, as well as how other experienced players play the game.


N.

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Jerome Franklin-Ryan
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oetan wrote:
In reviewing your review I had the same remark as Dweeb. There are not that many logical opening moves. Peasants can only be placed on water, and the other three types of tiles cannot be placed on water. Leaders can only be placed next to temples, or at least, that's the only thing that makes sense, etc. The number of options is rather limited.


I know. I think i made this clear in the review (see my rre-post to Dweeb above.) There are still hundreds of combinations available. This is not always a bad thing. Infact, it’s a good thing for game play but it makes for a very complicated game which is bad for acessability.

oetan wrote:

Now, in my view the complexity of this game is in the resulting disorder when three or four people start expanding and suddenly realize the placement of a single tile will lead to a number of internal or external conflicts, and it is almost impossible to correctly predict the outcome.



I agree as in my review. due to the confusion of leader pieces, tile distribution in the bag etc

oetan wrote:

Yes, you are right this game is very abstract and requires a lot of logical thinking. But is that necessarily a bad thing? E&T is a typical eurogame, but actually is one of my favourite (I'm not really a big fan of eurogames). I enjoy the whole game play, abstract and all. Losing is always a result of your inability to correctly judge certain situations, not of some stupid bad die rolling (Risk?! Monopoly?! Settlers?!)


I know Its not a bad thing to be logically demanding. I gave this game 28/30 for playability because of just this - its a superb game in this respect .


oetan wrote:

Last but not least, I did enjoy your review.

Oetan



Many thanks Oetan! Nice of you to say so ! and thanks for the constructive points you made
 
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Jerome Franklin-Ryan
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generalpf wrote:
dwarf_samurai wrote:
PLEASE! WHETHER YOU AGREE OR DISAGREE WITH MY REVIEW CAN WE AVOID PERSONAL ATTACKS IN THE RESPONSES AND ANY SNIDE COMMENTS ABOUT SPELLING AND PUNCTUATION. I AM VERY DYSLEXIC AND APPOLOGIZE IN ADVANCE

May I make a polite suggestion? Write your review in a word processor, apply the spell checker, then copy and paste it into your browser.



I appreciate your advice. I do this already. The problem is my computer does not understand context and will correct spelling and punctuation but leave words with multiple meanings in place. Bear and bare and their and there etc so despite this I can still look a fool!

Thanks for being cool with it though.
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dcorban wrote:
It sounds like Knizia is not your man. Many of the issues you mention stem from his favorite mechanic: Many desirable choices and not enough time to do them all.




No not in the least ! I like his agonizing multiple-choice/option format. This game does that and that’s GREAT. but there are just too many bewildering options layered upon layer to make the game easily accessible and highly enjoyable.

Great concept - but Knizia over egged the pudding.


dcorban wrote:

You are acting like you need to sit down with a computer and calculate every possible move. In reality, you look at the board and 3 or 4 possible moves become evident. Of course, you only have 2 actions, so you have make often difficult choices.


You do need a computer to work out all your given options there are so many. By just glancing at the board and choosing from a handful of options you happen to spot is game suicide. You are limiting your options so severely no proper mathematically reasoned choice can be made. The whole game is layer upon layer of statistics, variables and probabilities. You need to treat solvinf (ie playing) it as maths.

Even with a systematic visual sweep of the entire board for options will still only give you a fraction of your options. The rest must be worked out.


dcorban wrote:


I also find your attempts at qualifying your gaming expertise misleading. I sincerely hope that gamers new to this game don't take this "review" to heart. I don't have a particular loyalty to this game, but after my first reading through, I really thought this article was a joke.


How are they misleading? Please elaborate?
I just wanted readers to understand I know more than a little about games design as my main criticism of the game was its daft design/format.


And I’m sorry if you did not find my review useful.


 
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crackedlcd81 wrote:
Jerome-

This is a good review- your incorporation of the session report really shows where and why you felt the game derailed so severely. Further, I really appreciate seeing alternative viewpoints that call into question the "Sacred Cows" of BGG, T&E being one of them.

I rate E&T a 9- I've had the German edition since its release and in those early days of the German game craze I played it quite a lot and I still think it's an excellent, cereberal game that's almost like a more "hardcore" version of Acquire (which I rate a 10). It's funny that you detail a lot of difficulty in learning the game, because it's kind of how I felt back in '98 or so trying to explain the game to others. It's _not_ accessible, it's rather complex and unintuitive. It's easy to call the game "simple" after playing either pre-Settlers, much more complex games or more systematically intricate Euros but the fact is that getting newbies and casual gamers into E&T can be pretty difficult. I think some of your frustration is a little preemptive and largely founded on a couple of intial outings that went poorly. There is a good game there behind all the confusion between conflicts, player colors, and such. But no, it's not GO and if you're going to invest time and effort into a game I'd definitely suggest it over E&T. That being said, I found that my 10th and 20th games of E&T were a lot better, faster, and more interesting than my first five. Now, _that_ being said, I'll likely never play the game- it's not timeless, it's not perennial, and eventually it just becomes a mathematical exercise stripped of any real excitement.

Michael,




Thanks for some good points raised…

I completely agree with you that I need to play the game more . 2 games is scant basis for an in-depth review.

I know that underneath the loathesome design it is a SUPURB tactical puzzle game game….. but the key word is underneath.

As far as I am concerned it should not have to be a brain-taxing struggle delving under the surface chaos to find a superb game. It should be apparent to any person of reasonable intelligence from the outset. And this means it being accessible. All along this was my only real big gripe it was inaccessible to new players.

Game play…and Enjoyability fantastic!! if you like complex maths based puzzle games! If you are not a die hard puzzle game fan…. (as you say) it can become dry and stale.

J

 
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Jerome Franklin-Ryan
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custom golf clubs wrote:
Had any of you played the game before?
This is one game that I feel you need a "teacher" or "game splainer" for. Use the "teaching script" it is more logical IMHO.

I'd say to give it another try.

JP


No none of us had played it before. I did say in my review. and yes I will be trying it again.
 
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Jason Jullie
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dwarf_samurai wrote:

You do need a computer to work out all your given options there are so many. By just glancing at the board and choosing from a handful of options you happen to spot is game suicide. You are limiting your options so severely no proper mathematically reasoned choice can be made. The whole game is layer upon layer of statistics, variables and probabilities. You need to treat solvinf (ie playing) it as maths.

Even with a systematic visual sweep of the entire board for options will still only give you a fraction of your options. The rest must be worked out.


Your problems with this game sound like they might be due to your game group. It sounds like you and your game partners are pretty serious about gaming and make concerted efforts to win. With that in mind, I could see how this game could come to a screaching halt as you agonize over all the possible choices.

For me, there is no need for a computer to help me out with my choices. The victory conditions, board layout, and my available tiles quickly narrow down possible plays and logical moves. Turns in my group don't take more than a minute or two. Sure, someone spending 30 minutes on a turn might beat me, but there is a fair chance that my plays could win me the game. With other players actions to account for, their hidden tiles, and you tile draws being random, there are too many variables to make such analysis to be worth the effort (IMO).

Bottom line: This is a multiplayer board game with a splash of luck thrown into it. Playing this game like a mathmatical puzzle defeats it's purpose. If that's what you are looking for, go grab a Suduko book. However, if you want a game; take a look at the board, look at your options, make the best choice that you can come to in a reasonable time frame, and enjoy they company of your friends.
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zapperio wrote:
dwarf_samurai wrote:
I was irritating my friends sometimes by taking 5 minutes!
This makes the game have the potential take DAYS to play like Chess Diplomacy and ‘Go’. This is assuming there is no turn time limit and the players are playing to win.


I'm sorry, but, and I know you realize this, that taking more than a minute on your turn in a four player game that has potentially ~ 20 turns is unreasonable. I'm not surprised the enjoyment factor wasn't very high.


This stems from me trying to actually logically (mathematically) analyze the game to come up with my possible moves. It was so frustrating for the others and myself I gave up and began placing pieces more or less at a whim. I gave up trying to work out moves Why?? Because I could have sat analyzing for hours. Infact I feel it is necessary to do this understand the sheer complexity of the game.

So unless everyone playing is just ‘mucking about’ not analyzing each turn in depth as the game complexity merits yes! It will drag! However if the players are all just taking a handful of immediately visible options and just ‘going for one’ for the sake of keeping the game playing and being enjoyable it loses 99% of its depth of play.

So why bother making such a complex game? Have a game with far fewer options to start with.



zapperio wrote:

However I sympathise with your difficulties in getting going. I've had a devil of a time teaching this game and it is one of those games that, despite its accolades, doesn't have 'universal' appeal. Some gamers would rather chew on razorblades than play this game.



I agree here...I look forward to playing the game again followed by a desert of gilette blades!!!!
 
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It is silly to play a game with as many random elements as T&E like a mathematical puzzle. That's why they are there, so players don't spend 30 minutes taking their turn. Check the T&E games here on the geek. There are some very good players and I'll guarantee most all of them don't run a mathematical program to determine their moves even though they could if they wanted.

Like the rest of the posters here, I'd say you should play the game a few more times and this will become clear. You have no ideas what tiles your opponents have so you will have to play tactically with some broad stategic goals in mind depending on what tiles you have and how the kingdoms are developing.
 
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dwarf_samurai wrote:

This stems from me trying to actually logically (mathematically) analyze the game to come up with my possible moves. It was so frustrating for the others and myself I gave up and began placing pieces more or less at a whim. I gave up trying to work out moves Why?? Because I could have sat analyzing for hours. Infact I feel it is necessary to do this understand the sheer complexity of the game.

So unless everyone playing is just ‘mucking about’ not analyzing each turn in depth as the game complexity merits yes! It will drag! However if the players are all just taking a handful of immediately visible options and just ‘going for one’ for the sake of keeping the game playing and being enjoyable it loses 99% of its depth of play.

So why bother making such a complex game? Have a game with far fewer options to start with.




Again I'd suggest playing a few more times, or at least checking out some of the strategy articles here on the geek. Statements like this suggest a fundamental misunderstanding of the game I'd say. Placing pieces at a whim will lose you the game. Spending 30 minutes "mathematically analyzing" your move will lose you your gaming partners (and most likey not even increase your chances of winning).
 
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Alexander B.
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Quote:
So if not already hideously complicated enough, a random tile draw means even a competent player working with the thousands of game possibilities can be defeated by sheer bad luck of the draw! Unless he had mental resolve enough to add another layer of statistics on top of the 7,000 + plus options at hand. This time workout the probabilities of tile drawing. These must then be factored into his plans. Anyway why bother?? Despite your calculations If you are unlucky and draw naff random tiles it ruins your plans anyway!
...


...says it all.

I was disappointed by this game. Any game that challenges one to think deeply, then hides some information that must be memorized in order to think deeply, THEN throws a random towel into the mix, just isn't my sort of game.

Well written review!! Certainly reflected many of my thoughts as I learned this game.

It isn't terrible, but it is so loaded with flaws and problems that I have no idea how it ever got the high ratings it did: I guess tastes do vary!

I fall into the seasoned gamer category, and still don't like the game due to the quote above. Indeed: why bother?
 
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