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Subject: Does an intelligent design translate into an enjoyable game? Not in this case. rss

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Purple TripleCrown
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I'm posting this review because of the predominance of favourable reviews of this game, and the absence of negative observations (even in the course of those reviews).

Frankly, I was surprised by how much I did not enjoy it.

Of course, tastes vary. In my case, as a former chess enthusiast, I now usually don't enjoy abstracts unless they have a very well applied theme and/or a healthy dose of luck injected into the design. For me, if a game is about calculating the optimal move/next five moves within a context where there is truly only one right choice, I call this exercise work, not play. I feel the same way about euros which don't involve much luck. I also dislike assembling jigsaw puzzles for much the same reason. I can understand that there can be satisfaction in solving puzzles/problems. I just don't associate that activity with "play".

With this in mind, there was probably not much chance at the outset that I was going to like this game.

We played 3-player and used the Mayfair edition.

The board and components are quite attractive. Regrettably, this is often the only strength of such "applied abstracts".

I won't describe all of the game mechanisms, because this game is already well reviewed. Instead, I'll focus on what bothered me about the game:

1. Rock, Paper, Scissors

In this game, you constantly draw up to your allotment of 6 tiles (even when spent in "defence" of a conflict created on another players' turn). Thus, even if you just saw a player spend 4 red tokens, you cannot infer that they would be vulnerable to a red conflict on the next player turn. A player might turn over 4-6 of their tiles in the course if their turn, depending upon the number of conflicts. The draw of tiles is random, but there are only 4 colours. As a result, the resolution of conflicts felt just like playing rock, paper, scissors. If you are unfortunate and lose your first 3 conflicts (remembering that ties go to the defender, you've probably already lost the game (subject to my comments below about focusing on the leader).

2. Some "potential" choices are not really choices.

Examples include:

a) There is only 1 place on the base game board where you can build a monument with blue tiles. You don't want to be the player who places the 1st to 3rd tiles. You want to be the player who only places the 4th tile. Since you cannot place other colours on these spaces, your choice is either to wait for someone else to do the heavy lifting and then place the 4th tile, or prevent the monument by laying waste to one of the spaces.

b) You can put your first red tile on the board in a number of different possible ways, but it only makes sense to put it out one way - forming a right angle with a (red or black) leader and another red tile (treasure).

3. The trailing players must interfere with the perceived leader. on virtually every turn. Otherwise, the engine that the leader is building will allow him/her to run away with the game. There are no random events to negatively affect the leader's advantage (unlike AH Civilization with its catastrophe cards). If you are playing with anyone who doesn't understand this, and you are trailing, you will inevitably lose (it's not the losing that matters in connection with this observation, it's the inevitability).

4. This is yet another game that introduces a meaningless and annoying "memory" component, despite the fact that this not a game about memory, and the memory component has absolutely nothing to do with the theme. Every player can see the victory point cubes as they are acquired on each turn (before they are placed behind a player's screen). If you cared to memorize what each player collected (or write it down) you would know the current score of the game with precision. Clearly, players with strong memories (and who are highly competitive in their gaming) will do exactly that. The simple question is, why? If I wanted to play Lotto, or Guess Who, or Stratego, that's exactly what I would do. Of course, this feeds into the issue immediately above. If your playing companion(s) doesn't remember who's winning, he'll inevitably act against the weaker opponent (easier victory points), not realizing that you cannot catch up in this game by doing so.

5. Some of rules must have been developed for purely technical (game balance, mathematical) reasons, because they otherwise make no thematic sense. Examples:

a) No victory points for placing a tile that connects 2 kingdoms, and the tile can't be used as support in any resulting conflicts.
b) Connecting 2 kingdoms allows you to collect all but one of the treasures within the connected kingdoms.

In short, although we only played this game once, I believe that I would not play it again. At no time did this game seem like I was building an empire. At no time did I think the game mechanisms were in any way related to any of the ancient cultures who lived in the region. This was a purely abstract exercise, with the added frustration that your playing companions, by not realizing who was leading the game, or by not realizing the impossibility of catching the leader without interfering with his engine, can cause the outcome to be obvious long before the game is over. At least when you play chess, your inevitable defeat is of your own making.

When these types of games are put out on the table, I want to like them for the beauty of their artwork/components alone. However, I've yet to find a game of this type that I enjoy.

As I noted earlier, I know that many people will disagree, but I've posted this review principally for the benefit of people whose thinking about "play" and "gaming" may be closer to my own.




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Martin G
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Quote:
I now usually don't enjoy abstracts unless they have a very well applied theme and/or a healthy dose of luck injected into the design. For me, if a game is about calculating the optimal move/next five moves within a context where there is truly only one right choice, I call this exercise work, not play. I feel the same way about euros which don't involve much luck. I also dislike assembling jigsaw puzzles for much the same reason. I can understand that there can be satisfaction in solving puzzles/problems. I just don't associate that activity with "play".
All of that describes my taste very well. But Tigris & Euphrates is my favourite game of all time. Go figure
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The concluding conversation of every game I play of this with my friends:

"This is a good game"

"Did you have fun?"

"Yeah, kinda"

"Well, designed game, though, right?"

"Oh, for sure!"

"Want to play again?"

"No."

"Me neither."

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Laszlo Molnar
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I felt the need to quote an even shorter part of the text above:
Quote:
I now usually don't enjoy abstracts unless they have a very well applied theme and/or a healthy dose of luck injected into the design.
T&E is like an abstract that has a very well applied theme AND a healthy dose of luck injected into the design because of the tile drawing from a common pool. Well, the latter still doesn't make the game very luck-dependent, but it still adds a healthy dose of luck here.
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Laszlo Molnar
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Also, you state that you have played the game only once. I think this underlines what I suspect is the main reason behind classic Knizia games falling in rankings in these days. They reveal their depth and beauty during subsequent plays, not after a single play. I know I had my problems with Tigris after one single play as well. A few more plays into it, I was amazed by the design. Listing so many complaints about this game after only one play is... something everyone is entitled to, but maybe still should not do - one play is far from enough for this game to shine.
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Ken Bush
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I bought this game so expecting to like it. But after 3 plays with different people and different player counts, I just can't like it either. I can see the strategy to it, but your points about memory and getting the leader are paramount. Since I don't have a good memory I struggle to know who to attack. The last game I played I only drew 3 red tiles the whole game. Was painful to play as I lost every internal conflict.

Ken
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Maarten D. de Jong
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If you want to dismiss the game for whatever reason then that is fine, different strokes and all that. But frankly, for someone who wants to write a review (note: review, not some opinionated thread) 'principally for the benefit of people whose thinking about "play" and "gaming" may be closer to my own', you sure devote a lot of Unicode to theorising tactics and strategies based on just a single game. I strongly question the wisdom of that approach.

Apart from that, you begin your review by stating you want a healthy dose of luck injected in your (abstract) games these days—okay, fine. But then you dismiss the random tile draw and consequent conflict resolution as being 'just Rock, Paper, Scissors'...?? Count me quite confused here. Is an abstract then also to meet exacting specifications on the amount and influence of randomness before it meets your approval? It would have been nice to see more discussion about that rather than bland and apparently quite contradictory dismissal.

I repeat: I am not obliging you to like this game, far from it. I am, however, questioning whether this review achieved what you wanted it to attain.
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Mark Beazer
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I've owned a copy for a couple of years, and have been kind of afraid to try it ... I think because I'm afraid I'll come to the same conclusions you have.

I guess I need to give it a try, so I'll know. And I can add it to my trade list if it comes to that.
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Martin G
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On the memory issue, the game functions perfectly well with points on display if that's your preference. No need to torture yourselves!
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Jeff Michaud
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Purpletriplecrown wrote:
5. Some of rules must have been developed for purely technical (game balance, mathematical) reasons, because they otherwise make no thematic sense. Examples:

a) No victory points for placing a tile that connects 2 kingdoms, and the tile can't be used as support in any resulting conflicts.
think about it a bit more... who would get the cube?

Spoiler (click to reveal)
A: you are "joining" two kingdoms with this tile.... which leader would get the cube? ....
Spoiler (click to reveal)
... in the case that both kingdoms both have a leader of that color and/or king(s)
Spoiler (click to reveal)
as for support in the conflict... again which kingdom would get the support? no player "owns" a kingdom...
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chearns
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lacxox wrote:
Also, you state that you have played the game only once. I think this underlines what I suspect is the main reason behind classic Knizia games falling in rankings in these days. They reveal their depth and beauty during subsequent plays, not after a single play. I know I had my problems with Tigris after one single play as well. A few more plays into it, I was amazed by the design. Listing so many complaints about this game after only one play is... something everyone is entitled to, but maybe still should not do - one play is far from enough for this game to shine.
Eh. While I disagree with the content of the review, I think it's a good thing it exists, precisely because of your first sentence.

If we look at the review, he calls T&E, amongst other things, an engine builder. A statement I have never heard before. However, I can see why one might call it that, if one had only played modern complicated euros which are often engine building games. If all you have is a hammer...

But I'm glad it exists. Why? Because I wouldn't be surprised if this review holds true for Cultists in general, and specifically cultists that have shown up in the last few years, in the era of Feld.

If you expect games to be something you buy and play five or less times and you'll have basically seen all it has to offer, well, T&E goes much deeper than that. I imagine that if T&E is played by a bunch of people sitting in their own corners building engines, then yes, this will be a dumb broken stupid unthematic game. But it was made in a time when no one would think of doing that, and is now being exposed to people who have only ever known that.
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Jeff Michaud
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Purpletriplecrown wrote:
I'm posting this review because of the predominance of favourable reviews of this game, ....
that probably corresponds with it's rating/ranking

Board Game Rank: 34
Strategy Game Rank: 27

Quote:
I now usually don't enjoy abstracts unless they have a very well applied theme and/or a healthy dose of luck injected into the design.
this definitely explains why you didn't care for this game... in general I would actually recommend you stay away from any game in the "Strategy Games" subdomain. You've only ranked one game so it's hard to tell... but the one (Darkest Night) you ranked you gave a 9.5 is in the subdomain

Board Game Rank: 1111
Thematic Rank: 168

personally I'm not a fan of "theme", maybe because I also only read non-fiction? Like folks said, different strokes for different folks.
 
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Jeff Michaud
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chearns wrote:
I imagine that if T&E is played by a bunch of people sitting in their own corners building engines, then yes, this will be a dumb broken stupid unthematic game. But it was made in a time when no one would think of doing that, and is now being exposed to people who have only ever known that.
it's also why this game is not for anyone who prefers no conflict in their games... first time I played years ago two of the players were women who wanted us to all do just that... stay in our own corners.

By coincidence I taught this game to 3 newbs this past Sunday (part of a Knizia-thon session so it had to come to the table)... two of the newbs were women, 1 was the boyfriend of one of them so he was hesitant to initiate conflict with her... his GF built the 1st temple (she was start player as well) and no one (but me) wanted to go after that kingdom so she just kept producing two of the 4 colors so could focus on the other two... I kept mentioning it the whole game... I did try to stop her but it's not a job you can do alone w/out losing badly (ie. 4th place) the game yourself. She ended up with a score I've never seen before... 14! I was 2nd with 7-8.

All players have to be willing to initiate some conflicts...
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The "this is not a valid review" folks have come! Hide your wife! Hide your kids! Only they know what is and is not a good game! RUN, YOU FOOL!
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Christopher Dearlove
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There's a fallacy in the OP's 2(a) that is indicative of not having played much or thought things through.

So there's one space that you can build a blue monument. That takes four blue tiles. Which hand out four blue points. To the local blue leader. So who has the incentive to lay the four tiles? The owner of that local blue leader. Who also is the beneficiary of the blue points from the monument.

That really doesn't make it worth anyone else doing it. What's in it for them? A lot of wasted actions and half a monument.

So what's the alternative? Yes, another player could decide to make the site unusable. But that can only be done with a disaster. Which is both a wasted action and one of your only two disasters. For what really isn't a big deal - can't form that one monument, there are plenty of other opportunities.

So really, this is not an issue at all.

(I'm not going to argue whether the OP is right or wrong to dislike the game. If he doesn't like it, he doesn't like it. We all like and dislike games that others dislike and like. I'm just saying this point doesn't work as a real reason. Well, actually I think 1 is over-simplistic and 2(b) and 3 really don't work either. But it's 2(a) that really fails.)
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Jeff Michaud
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Dearlove wrote:
There's a fallacy in the OP's 2(a) that is indicative of not having played much or thought things through.

So there's one space that you can build a blue monument. That takes four blue tiles. Which hand out four blue points. To the local blue leader. So who has the incentive to lay the four tiles? The owner of that local blue leader. Who also is the beneficiary of the blue points from the monument.

That really doesn't make it worth anyone else doing it. What's in it for them? A lot of wasted actions and half a monument.
a couple of things could be there for them...

* they get to choose the other 1/2 of the monument so presumably I'd choose one matching one of my leaders....

* turning the 3 blue tiles already there into the foundation for a monument means that kingdom is now 3 strength weaker in the case of an external conflict... and if I'm a player who has my blue leader in a neighboring kingdom I could be setting up to initiate that conflict (maybe even the same turn... assuming my blue leader survives and the two kingdoms stay merged after conflict I now benefit from both halfs of the monument... at least until another player comes gunning

ps: my game from this past weekend... we were playing with the double sided board on side where two places for creating a blue monument... I had a blue leader in kingdom with 3 of the spots covered... I never turned it into a monument for the reason that I wanted to maintain strength so I could at some point initiate external conflict with a neighbor kingdom
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Randall Monk
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I've played T&E about 6 times. I admire the design and want to like it, but I just don't. It's just too abstract for my tastes. This review matched my experience.
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Bleicher
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klbush wrote:
your points about memory and getting the leader are paramount
I can't agree with that. I *never* care about counting everyone else's points and that never made any difference to my win rate.

Also, "getting the leader" is only really important when there is a very clear runaway leader (e.g. when someone builds early monuments), which is ok because usually they are easy to be stopped (building early monuments make you vulnerable). T&E is not about "getting the leader", but about choosing the best attack possibilities among what's there at the moment (i.e., it is way more tactical than about long-term strategies).
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Dusty S
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I hope you were prepared for the backlash

I haven't played this game tons, and I'm not great at it, but I LOVE the depth of this game.
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Lou Moratti
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I couldn't be farther from your opinion if I tried. While it was available here at the Geek I had registered over 500 plays, always had a half dozen going at the same time, and never came close to tiring of it. I'd go so far as to say it is one of the best designed games of all time and will certainly always stay in my top 10.
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qwertymartin wrote:
On the memory issue, the game functions perfectly well with points on display if that's your preference. No need to torture yourselves!
I agree, but I go the other way. I just try to remember vaguely where everyone stands on the four colours. No need to torture yourself with knowing the specifics. Particularly because often looking at the board is enough to remind me of who stands approximately where on each colour. While the empires may expand and recede, they leave behind remnants that allow me to reconstruct what has happened and thus have a rough idea of where people stand.
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broken clock wrote:
The "this is not a valid review" folks have come! Hide your wife! Hide your kids! Only they know what is and is not a good game! RUN, YOU FOOL!
We are all completely OK with the OP not liking the game. Its the internal consistency of his post that we are questioning.
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chearns wrote:

If you expect games to be something you buy and play five or less times and you'll have basically seen all it has to offer, well, T&E goes much deeper than that.
I played it several times at different play counts and still disliked it for many of the same reasons the reviewer lays out (plus a few he didn't). Sometimes you can get a pretty good sense of a game from one play -- maybe not enough to know if it is objectively good or bad, but certainly enough to know that whatever good/bad aspects it has aren't for you.
 
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David B
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This game is much more thematic than many give it credit for. When you start a war between other players ( besides yourself ), watch the kingdoms crumble to ruins, then swoop in to claim the spoils left behind, THAT is theme. And it is more theme, even, than many other games that are heralded as thematic.
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David B
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broken clock wrote:
The concluding conversation of every game I play of this with my friends:

"This is a good game"

"Did you have fun?"

"Yeah, kinda"

"Well, designed game, though, right?"

"Oh, for sure!"

"Want to play again?"

"No."

"Me neither."


Sounds very similar to the conversation following our game of Seasons.
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