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Subject: Stratagame rss

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Chris Kovac
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Toronto
Ontario
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This is a 2-6 player area conquest game by a new Canadian boardgame company called Stratagame (www.stratagame.org) which were kind enough to give me a review copy of the game. The board is a map of Europe with a square chess grid layered over top. The object of the game is to control a number of fixed resources spaces (Factories, Oil, Air Bases and Sea locks). Some squares have resources which you have to control to win the game. These resources also give a player production points which allow you to build units and special abilities. For example oil squares are worth one production point and allow your mechanized units to move one space further than normal. At the start of the game you get a set number of plastic military units (light armour, mechanized, infantry, artillery and ships) and bases of which one is your main HQ. Starting with a randomly chosen start player bases are put down two at a time then each player puts all his units on the board next to one of these bases. Bases cannot be placed next to a resource or another player’s base. Since these bases are fixed for the rest of the game the initial placement is important. Players also get two strategy cards. Strategy cards give special abilities to specific units (additional combat strength, special movement, etc.) but are one shot uses. The interesting thing is that each type of strategy card has a number of different options and you get to choose which option you use when you use the card. On a turn all players first get two new strategy cards (you also get one if you win a combat) then starting with the start player you buy units, then move your units, fight combats and get the appropriate resource chit if you control a resource square. Each unit requires a certain number of production points which is equal to the production point value of resource squares you own. Furthermore you can only build your heavy tank if you control three factories. These units can only be put down next to a base or HQ you control. Units can normally only move one space thought some strategy cards and resources and make units move further. You can also move a unit between bases you own once per turn (unless a particular card is played) which is called rebasing. You have combat when you move onto a square containing another players unit. You can only have one unit attack one unit at a time though adjacent units (namely artillery, ships and bases if the unit is on top of the base) can provide additional strength to your unit. Combat is resolved very simply by each side rolling dice equal to its strength then the highest dice rolled winning the combat. The losing unit is eliminated. In the case of ties the one with the highest strength wins, if still tied both units are eliminated. Strategy cards and resource tokens can be played by either side to modify the number of rolls in a combat, the value of the roll or if the combat even occurs in some instances. If you conquer a base you swap it for one of your color. If you conquer an enemies HQ not only can he not put down new units but it is worth two victory points. The opposing player reclaims it if he conquers one of your bases (simply replace the base with his formerly captured HQ).

We played a five player game for about two hours and it seemed to settle down to alternating turns of building up your forces then bashing your neighbour to get resource centres or enemy HQs. I would say a full game would most probably take about 3-4 four hours with this many people. The game is extremely well produced with a fully mounted board, fully colored rule book, a separate box for each players pieces, custom dice and a box so strong it a small child could stand on it without damaging it. The rule book is in English and French with easy to understand rules though the English rules did have some spelling errors. Also the plastic figures while functional were fairly basic and the ships had a definite tilt to them. Overall I would say this is an average game which feels like a cross between Risk and Axis and Allies. This game has some nice features such as the strategy cards and a very good player aid. However there is nothing which we have not seen in similar games released over the years. I would say this game would be of interest to casual gamers interested in learning strategy games or as a light strategy game for the more hard core gamers.
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Richard Young
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A fair assessment I suppose but I would like to see some additional discussion on the approach to game play which is somewhat unique yet reminiscent of some older games I remember from my youth (no, not Risk). We've just finished our first game and while I see the family resemblance to Axis and Allies and Attack! (with the expansion), it has some tweaks that I like. I hesitate to make a definitive pronouncement after just one playing but I have a few observations that I would like to add to this review. I should probably have made this a separate review but I just didn't have the heart to repeat all the boiler plate on the bits and rules etc.

The use of squares is interesting but really just another version of point to point movement. However, the single unit stack and the possibility of adjacent support from some units puts it in another realm from the region to region movement of Risk/A&A etc. The reference to chess in this context I find interesting from a tactical perspective.

The importance of the resource squares and the effect on one's capabilities is also interesting (in fact more might be done with this as I'll suggest later). The fact that these are the fixed bits on the map will mean that re-playability could suffer once players "break the code" on initial placement. However, the journey of discovery as each player makes his own assessment of the ideal initial placement should be an interesting one.

The rules observations are fair although none of the "errors" create rules confusion in our view. One point that might have been more clear is how units are placed after putting down the HQ and remainder of the bases. We assumed that you continue two units at a time clockwise from the first player (actually, we prefer the "switch back" rotation - a la Settlers). Note: a discussion with one Stratagame individual about this indicated that they assumed the rules were clear that each player, in turn, places all his units after the roundabout placing of bases has been completed. We haven't had a chance to try that method as yet but it seems counter-intuitive to me.

We played with five and were impressed at how fast the base placement becomes a sub-game of its own. That part deserves a lot of study as it can have an enormous influence on how your starting position will end up (see comment earlier re resource square locations). Because of the placement rules, you can seal off areas quite effectively (as we were to find too late for some). The board rapidly becomes very crowded and the emphasis on being the attacker (similar to Nexus Ops) ensures player interaction (combat) from the very outset. This can be unsettling to those more used to the kinder gentler Euros of late.

Lots of pieces and lots to do each turn because of all the above = lots of down time in a five player game. This might also unsettle younger gamers unused to this style of play (which used to be the norm in the Ameri-trash slugfests of yore). A suggestion here might be to come up with a system of limited ops to restrict the number of actions a player has per round. A House Divided uses a die to determine how many "marches" a player will have. Another technique would be to give each player a number of actions (move and/or fight) dependent in some way on the number of factories one has; or, a player might be given a fixed number with additional actions as some function of the number of factories held (would give factories something to do in the game besides churn out PPP). The effort here is to reduce the "apparent downtime" as most multi-player strategy games have had to learn to do.

The cards (every game has to have cards these days don't they?) are something we initially treated as optional. We played a few turns without them and gradually introduced them and they do give players "power-ups" that make fighting more attractive (and a good way to get yet more cards) but the game would probably play just as well without them. Nothing wrong conceptually, and makes the Magic/Yu-gi-oh crowd feel at home.

Overall, I think the game has solid potential and it is really great to see a Canadian Company in the hunt!! We hope to see more from these folks!
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Hi,

I just bought the game, but I really don't understand the beginning with the Units. It says to put them all...but you're supposed to buy them with points (from ressources). Since at the beginning we don't have ressources, I just don't understand how we start after putting all the Bases.

Help please?
 
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Hugues Richard
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Quebec
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You get a startup army per X players as described in the rulebook, same page as victory conditions if I remember. The first player as to put all his army at the same time before the next player do the same. Accordingly, the last player has a tremendous advantage in army placement which acts as a counter to being the last to put bases on the map.

On house rules, this game can go for days if you don't tone down the advantage of cards drawn from victory (representing shifting momentum) or if you don't set the victory conditions to possessing X resources at any time.

PS.: There's a couple of obvious spelling errors in French too but still a good game!
 
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