What a game!
(This is a long article)
We had another session of PotR last friday. The game has lost very little of its splendour and I like it better every time I play. We play without the troop limit. Wich makes it so much of a richer game.
We played 6 this time and even with that number there is no significant downtime or other irritations that usually come with a larger number of players.
Andries had the strategy of the day. He had the condotiere with -1 on war bids and only 1 unit of aquebussiers. He aquired the armoury tile so he got -2 on bids. His strategy:
1 Fighting for the city that you want to LOSE. Earning a lot of money
2 Making it realy expensive for people that want to fight their own fights.
I had the parasitic strategy to Andries.
1 Strong army defence and offence 8, I got the swiss pikes.
2 I followed Andries into Milan and Florence right away. He was fighting all the losing fights and I was fighting the winning fights for our league. (getting the laurels)
We were able to keep florence and Naples on top for a long time....
Robert went for large offence and many treachery cards. thus allways having the element of surprise on his side. He did not auction of any city tiles as it was in his opinion a waste of a turn. He calles this the free rider strategy. Robert focussed on Naples with 4 tiles.
Christine played for the first time.She went for buying the VP events and was the only one to invest in Rome leaving her at the mercy of the other cities. This way she also ended most of the rounds more quickly than some of us would have liked, leaving money unspent and a few wars unfought.
Arjo was Déste. He built a defensive army denying many laurels to the other players. He quickly joined our (milan, florence) league and cleverly took the lead in Milan by buying a second tile. This changed the focus to building florence were Andries and I were stronger.
Martijn quickly decided for the Merchant strategy He ended up winning by 4 points or so. He got 10 points from his merchants, most money for 6 points.
Having 6 city tiles (5 merchants) 2 of those tiles were in the second stronges city naples, 4 in the weakest Venice, gave him 22 points from cities. He could buy so many because he had enough money (he recieved an 3+18+23=44 income throughout the game from his merchants...
The pivotal moment in the game was a war I initiated between Florence and Naples. Robert was defender with 2 defence for his city of Naples. Christine was attacker for florence with a weak army. I let her win the bid for Condottiere because She had a lot of influence (She had lucretia..) and I though she would win the war giving me a couple of chances later on (and a strong city to boot). Robert ended up having a bribe card and winning the defence by luck of the die. He won the counter attack and decimated Florence. It took me the rest of the game to get her back into 3rd position thus regaining some of my lost points (she was in second place and I owned 3 tiles).
The league of two condotieres one with a strong army the other with a weak army is very strong. You are usually in the position to decide wars. The disadvantage is that the Big army guy gets a lot of VP thus making the coalition unstable towards the end.
Of course the first chinks in the armour of POTR have appeared but they are so easily mended that must forgive.
Problem: Giving away/ trading influence and gold could possibly kill this game. It introduces the dreaded "endgame kingmaking......."
(So at the end of the game I (since I cannot win) give all my influence and money to player X, he gets 10 poins and wins the game. a milder form of this same evil is easily thinkable....)
Solution: Fortunately trading is completely unessesary in this game! In fact it should not be part of any auction game! Deals should be made without currencies changing hands.
Alternatively it could be made a part of the game by making one or two of the Venetian merchants different so they allow you to trade. This makes kingmaking a strategy in the game and would make it completely acceptable.
We however opt for skipping the trading alltogether.
Note: We play with unlimited troops in one type, however we let the person who choosed conditierre first get the last turn. This takes care of any unfair advantage déste might have.
With "steal influence" or "gold". We decided that playing these cards is illegal as soon as the object of an auction is made public. This means you have to do it at the end of someones elses turn or during war or before or after the auction during your own turn. This eliminated the annoying timing problems, when does the auction start?
With "bribe troops". We ask players wether they want to bribe troops beforw the first die is cast. First the attacker mus announce then the defender. In between wars the procedure is the same. Thsi gives the attacker a bit of a disadvantage. Alternatively the roles could be reversed (defencer decides first), giving the attacker the initiative back.
With "Stop bidding" This is announced during your own turn an can be used to exclude someone from the bidding that has not bid before during this round.
I also have soem ideas for additional city cards that AI will send to Martin Wallace to see if he likes them.