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Age of Exploration» Forums » Sessions

Subject: First Solitaire AofE Session rss

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Chris Dorrell
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Darwen
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I have just finished my first solitaire game and I have to say I am impressed. I tried the 15 VPs in 95 turns option and ended up with 9 VPs reported and 4 VPs discovered but not reported. So I failed basically.

The rules for this game are amongst the most difficult to get to grips with that I know. I have around 500 games in my collection and AofE's rules are about the worst. When I first started playing (having read through the rules, quick start sheet, summary and player mat) I was continually referring back and searching all four documents for answers. I now have a grip on most of the game principles but haven't tried the Civilization aspects yet.

So why am I impressed? Well the theme is the thing here. Having played so many more recent European games with pasted on themes and simplified concepts. it's refreshing to have a game which is so obviously based totally around the theme.

The game isn't actually that complex once you get the hang of it. It's all the options and exceptions which make it difficult but they are all there for a reason and they make sense thematically. If the rules were better laid out then things would be a lot easier. The extensive historical background provided adds immensely to the enjoyment for me as I like to read up on game themes anyway. Knowing why certain rules work the way they do also adds to the enjoyment and helps to fathom out what's going on.

I'm certainly looking forward to my next set of expeditions. Even solving the riddles of the obtuse rules is a rewarding challenge.

Having said all of that I can't ever imagine playing this with a group. Firstly because the rules are so fiddly and secondly because there is relatively little player interaction. I have many other games that are great for 2+ players but for solitaire play AofE is a great find for me.

Finally I should add that I live in the UK but just before Christmas I found AofE on the web site of Noble Knight Games in the US. Their mail order service was superb and I had the game in my hands within about 4 days of ordering it.
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Tom Lehmann
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Glad to hear you're enjoying Age of Exploration. I'm sorry about the rules confusion -- I agree that the rules are poorly organized. I once posted on Usenet many years ago about my experiences in writing rules and the pros and cons of various approaches, including the Let's Play / Reference Rules approach that I tried in the Prism line of games. The upshot was that I felt, in hindsight, that this approach did not work well for many games, in particular Age of Exploration.

(My other real rules blunder was in accepting some playtester advice on how to explain courtship in Suzerain which worked for that playtester but not for anyone else, sigh.)

Age's rules were further complicated by thinking that we were done -- and, in fact, we had shipped the board, counters, and rules off to the printer -- and then, when doing some extra playtesting, deciding that the Lost rules needed to be tweaked. Further, some late comments by blind testers came in (better late than never, I suppose) which revealed that some rules just weren't clear enough. By then, most items (except the mats and historical booklet) were already printed, so I shoehorned some Q&As into the end of the historical booklet, further scattering the rules, in the hopes that providing information *somewhere* with the game would be better than having to issue lots of errata later...

(And, in fact, there was never Errata issued for Age, though I did post some more Q&As on the (now defunct) Prism website.)

Your own mileage may vary, but I've played Age with groups at cons where we were all jockeying for VPs, stepping in front of each other's major expeditions. As I stated in the design notes, that interaction is indirect, but I've definitely seen it happen. I do think the full game is enhanced by the variant that reduces the Amazon River Descent from 8 to 7 VPs and increases the NWP Explored from 5 to 6 VPs.
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Chris Dorrell
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Tom,

Thanks so much for the response. It's always great when the author / designer gets involved in these threads! I used to have a company designing and developing adventure games for personal computers in the old Spectrum, Commodore 64 days and I always tried to respond personally to correspondence.

If you have any additional Q&As etc I would be very interested. The fact that the rules had to be "enhanced" at the last minute explains a lot. I must say that now I'm two thirds of the way through my second session, I'm beginning to wonder why I had so much trouble getting going. The basic mechanism of take a card, do what it says and then perhaps move followed by some end of turn options is as simple as it gets.

I think I will produce a game turn summary along those lines and then a note on each of the game options etc. I'll need to do that so that when I come back to AofE in a few months I'm not back to square one with the rules.

As I say I'm part way through a solitaire session. I'm on my third expedition with 6 VPs so far and just about to tackle the Incas for the grand finale. I'm getting more and more into this game, it's subject matter and I love the story telling nature of the cards and map. I've been looking for a challenging and interesting solitaire game for some time and I think I've found it.

As for playing with a group - well, I think that now I've mastered the rules (nearly) I could get others up and running quite quickly with the basics and then cover the finer points as they arise. In some respects the reduced interaction would be a plus point for some (particularly my wife). I think she would take the fates destroying her expedition better than if I could and did.

I'll write up my notes on my Session 2 when I've defeated the Incas and post them here.

One thing I'm unsure about is that I gained a Porter through a Land Card while still at anchor ie all crew etc still on board on a land square. Where does the Porter go? There are spaces on the land expedition section of the player mat but none on the ship?

Anyway thanks again for the reply
Chris
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Tom Lehmann
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Thanks again for your kind comments. I don't have the rules at hand, but my memory is that one "unit" of Porters (maximum), represented by the chit itself, can be placed on a ship (or raft) cargo space (next to a Trade Goods, for example), counting as 1 cargo at sea (raft). Alternatively, the Porters could be converted into a "Natives for Europe" (no cargo) chit.

I think this is covered in one of the Q&As at the end of the Historical Guide, but I'd have to doublecheck this.

(Yes, this is a bit of funky UI -- on land, the Porters chit marks a track, but at sea (raft), it represents an "item". This is because the limited ship (or raft) capacity of the time prevented loading large numbers of porters, but that armies of hundreds of them, along with native allies, could and did travel with some land expeditions.)

Good luck with the Incas; I look forward to the session report.
 
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Tom Lehmann
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OK -- I just dug out the old Prism website files (I have the backup text/html files but not the graphics from the site when the IP provider went bellyup and pulled the plug on it) and converted and posted the Age of Exploration file to BGG (I should get around to doing this for all the old Prism games at some point).

The variant (already mentioned above) is in the Age Variants folder.

The extra Q&As (and some strategy hints) are in the Rules folder.

Enjoy!
 
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Chris Dorrell
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Tom,

I actually found the Q&As and your Variant posting before coming to this thread so see my replies there.

I've been away on business this week so Pinzon is still in Central America having left his three Carracks in CA1 (North) and moved with a land expedition to Panama City. He'll probably be moving on later in the week and I'll post up the session report when finished.

I'll follow your notes on Porters and check back on the rules but I think I see what you mean.

Thanks again
Chris
 
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