Intro & Overview
Three Kingdoms Redux is a Heavy-Euro set in the Three Kingdoms period of feudal China - a popular theme appearing in many video games. The game itself takes ~3 hours for exactly 3 players. In essence, this is a worker-placement Eurogame, with a few unique twists that sets it apart from anything I've played before.
Players will compete for 12 'common' action spaces on the board in order to collect resources, weapons and units. Eventually, these weapons and units will be sent to generate Victory Points, while the resources will be used for upkeep of those units. In addition, you'll also be trying to develop your economy, play cards for long-term benefits, and compete to become the Emperor. This is only an overview, so I'll concentrate on the feel of the game, rather than giving a detailed rules explanation.
Ok, so what's the big deal?
Let me preface this by saying I play a lot of eurogames, and placing workers to get stuff just doesn't rock my boat like it used to. I'm looking at you Russian Railroads and Lords of Waterdeep. I need a side dish to go with my Worker Placement main course.
It's here that Three Kingdoms Redux is very generous, filling you with side dishes, so that the main course is almost an afterthought. In keeping with the theme, I'll pick out three key mechanics that set this game apart from most euros:
1. Conflict! (Euro-style)
As mentioned, this is a worker-placement game. However, unlike most worker-placement games, simply getting your worker onto a slot wont guarantee you an action. Other people are welcome to crash the party and try to steal your rewards. Each worker has a 'warfare' and 'admin' stat from 1-5. Depending on the slot, you will be 'bidding' with either 'admin' or 'warfare'.
Each player can add more workers to a single slot - occasionally ending with 6 generals vying for a single slot. After all bidding is complete we look at the winners of each slow. To the victor goes the spoils and the loser gets nothing(!). This excellent mechanic makes it a very conflict-heavy euro, and really adds to the tension. Often I'd place a worker, praying that my opponents wouldn't just steal it to spite me (they always would).
2. Workers With Personality
At the start of the game there is a drafting of generals, each of which has the afore mentioned 'warfare' and 'admin' stats. Whilst it might seem obvious to take the generals with the highest stats; complication/awesomeness is added by the fact that each general has a specific power (whooaaa!). This is agricola-esque, giving bonuses for taking specific places on the board, or partnering up with other generals. However, it only applies when that general performs the action. On top of this, trying to keep a balance between 'warfare' and 'admin' makes for some seriously tough decisions.
3. Three's a Crowd
Although the requirement for exactly three players is a bit of a turn off, I wouldn't have it any other way. Any more than three would ruin this game, and I don't say that lightly. Firstly, the conflict is fantastic, because fighting with someone over a space leaves a third party to benefit - hurting the two combatants. This makes it doubly costly to fight with someone who's in third place.
Secondly, the asymmetrical setup is interesting and balanced - with a number of catch-up mechanics to keep the game running smoothly. The alliance mechanic (where the player in third place can 'team up' with the person in 2nd place for a single space) is very interesting, and really thematic. This balance of power constantly changes based on the number of action-spaces 'won'. This means that after having a terrible turn where you lose a bunch of slots, you get an amazing following turn, and are able to swing the balance right back.
Finally, the scoring mechanism is great - with nearly everything being relative scoring (i.e. how you compare to other players). This keeps the game from having a 'points-salad' feel, and every VP is important and precious. Furthermore, it adds to the conflict, as you can directly take points away from other players.
There are a number of unique and interesting things I've barely touched upon (Military VPs, Tribal Relations and the Emperor track, and the frankly incredible Artwork). Rest assured that there will be plenty of interesting and unique surprises if you get this game. If you're desperate to know more then the rulebook is available online.
Sounds awesome, where do I sign?
Whoaa, just hold on for a minute. Although this is an exceptional game from a first-time publisher, there are a couple of minor gripes that may turn other players off.
Firstly, the three player requirement is absolute. It simply cannot work with any other number. Considering the complexity of the game (maybe a smidge higher than Agricola, and a touch lower than Terra Mystica), this can be difficult for many groups. However, if you think you might be able to get the right number then don't worry - it will get played.
Secondly, some people may have minor issues with the components. I'm a big fan of wooden cubes, and they've gone for cardboard tokens - this makes it look much prettier, but makes it marginally more fiddly (personal opinion only).
Finally there's the price - it's pretty expensive in most countries, due to hefty import costs from Singapore... However - they're currently doing a group order to the EU and the US which can be found on their website http://www.startingplayer.com/games/group-order-eu-member-st..., there is literally no better time to buy!
This game is awesome. I literally cannot think of anything else bad to say. Maybe if you hate euros with conflict, or can't stand any sort of bidding then this might not be up your street. I'd still definitely encourage you to try. If you like conflict-heavy euros such as Terra Mystica or Argent: The Consortium then there should be no hesitation at all.
- Last edited Sat Oct 24, 2015 2:36 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Fri Oct 23, 2015 12:15 pm
Newcastle Upon Tyne
Great report Fred.
This is indeed an awesome game. I played my first game last night and really enjoyed it, although I'd introduced it to our 4 person Thursday night group a couple of weeks ago. I explained the rules and refereed the game with the other 3 - they all loved it. After reading the rules I was deperate to see it played and was happy, as I say - to referee.
In that first game, I noticed the players competed heavily for the borders, and it occurred to me that there were lots of points going begging for "Tribal relations" and "Rank". So when I played last night (as Wei) I really pressed those actions and won the game (ending as Emperor) after just 6 turns. Obviously the other players didn't contest this hard enough - if they had that strategy would have come unstuck. That is just one of the really clever thing about the game - there are different routes to victory, and if 2 players compete hard over 1 thing the 3rd player might have a free ride elsewhere - so the players have to watch each other very carefully.
A lot of points are available for occupying the opposition's borders, provided this is done early in the game (because the points are scored every round thereafter). The downside is that by stationing a general at the borders he is out of the game and can no longer bid for actions. In addition his armies have to be maintained with gold and rice, so there's a real trade off, and some very brainburning decisions to be made around this issue. There's no perfect strategy because the generals you draft, and the state enhancements you build, will be different every game, and will favour different strategies,
This really is an awesome game - and anyone in 2 minds about that EU friendly offer - the time is running out! Actually I bought the game at a much higher price and haven't regretted it at all. After reading the rulebook I just couldn't wait for the EU offer to complete!
Incidentally - the rules are extremely well written, and where players have sought any clarifications, the 2 designers have been very active on the forums supporting the game.
Beware of Rocks
Great game and review.
My biggest gripe is when you get further into the game and have more generals. I found myself constantly having to look at the cards to figure out which does what and the type set and size makes it a little difficult for these near 50-year-old eyes.
What matters in life is not the triumph nor the struggle but the triumph by tie breaker.
Way to get in the thick of it without wasting time! Of course, you're right because the meta-game and connection with theme in this box is so much more than cardboard and "what it is/how it works/how to win" 4 pages articles.