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Wealth of Nations» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A Little-and-Often Review - Wealth of Nations rss

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Adam Taylor
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It is my intention to write a brief review (around 300 words) of every game that I play over the coming months. It won't quite be a random sample of games but there is likely to be quite a range; some will be games that I've played many times before, others will be first impressions of games that are new to me, some I will like, some I will hate, some I may be predisposed to like or hate before I even sit down to them. I make no apologies for this but I will lead with a rough number of plays and my rating.

Plays: 1
My rating: 5.5

I might play Wealth of Nations again some time - but not any time soon. It was pitched to me as something like Container (which I like very much): a game with simple rules but a complicated and engaging inter-player economy. It wasn't a misleading description; there is an engaging heavy-economic game here - and probably a rather good one. Unfortunately, there were two elements of it that I really didn't enjoy and which have put me off of future plays.

Firstly, the trading phase (a significant part of the game) is simultaneously too open and too prescribed: I'm not generally keen on games with open trading between players - I don't like the mental gear shift between interactions on the board and face-to-face interactions. I'm happy to do either but I don't want to keep jumping from one to the other. Also they have a tendency to kill the pace of a game and sometimes stall it altogether. Wealth of Nations prevents the worst of this by having players sequentially make one deal at a time - rather than everyone shouting at once - but I still found that it slowed the game down more than I would have liked. Finally on trading, games with open-ended deals and negotiations can slow down due to the labourious mental maths required - or else be dominated by those who are better at on-the-spot calculations. Wealth of Nations addresses this by having the basic values of goods at any given time displayed in the market. This certainly speeds up negotiations but it meant that all deals tended towards the mean and made the whole thing feel kind of obsolete.

The second thing that I didn't enjoy is even more subjective, I'm sure that this is a plus for many people but I had a bad experience due to how punishing it is of early mistakes. I like the element of programming your turn and assigning resources, and the player mats really do help to get everything right, but in an early turn I made an error and didn't leave myself enough resources to run both of my Industries. This was compounded by the strategic error (probably) of trying not too take early loans to get production going, but instead steadily building with what I had. The combination of these meant that from about forty minutes into a three hour game I was not only out of contention to win but I was really struggling to do more than keep my production ticking over. As I say, I realise that this is really subjective and more related to one experience than to the game itself - but it really put me off and I'm sure that it would do the same for many other people.

Wealth of Nations is a very clever game which does a good job of simulating a fluctuating supply and demand market. For me though, it's just not an enjoyable experience.
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Agent J
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He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
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I had some of the same thoughts on the trading until I had an epiphany... trading based on the values on the board is so much better than selling to the board or buying from the board. The trade phase isn't to make an extra buck or two on a deal. The decision you make isn't how good a deal you can make, but WHO you make deals with. If someone's ahead, you can make them deal through the market and their resources suddenly are worth less and cost more to obtain to do what they want. Deals should be routine and at set prices (perhaps you can negotiate some sort of deal some of the time) but the important thing is who is trading with who, not the prices.
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Agent J
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He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
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He's a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action. He's a furry little flat-foot who'll never flinch from a fray. He's got more than just mad skills, he's got a beaver tail and a bill.
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As a rule, for first plays I try to allow at least 1 roll back for such errors as that, in order to avoid the game becoming extremely boring for one player. That said, I believe loans are needed to really kick things into gear at the start, and are intended as such, even with the $1 interest cost.

The one thing I love about this game the most is the lack of monetary costs for things. Things cost resources to do. Resources cost money. That makes the actual amount of money in play rather low while still being a game pretty much focused on the value of resources represented by money. It's quite brilliant.

But it takes too long and it's harder to teach than Container.
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George Nebesnik
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This really is or I say could be an amazing game. It needs a reprint and it really needs some rules tweaks.

Trading
The first couple of plays trading does seem to bog down the game, but once you play the game enough, the trading phase is quick and painless. We tend to make long term deals. The last game we played I got stuck with the food producing tiles. Early game they are great as everyone needs food but people who spend too many turns and too much money and resources on expanding their food producing industry don't win. By mid game food is practically useless and too cheap to really make any money. So as I watch everyone around me start automating their tiles I make a sweet long term deal with the player on my left who makes a couple of things I really need. I tell him if he promises to not automate I will expand my food and trade him all of the food he needs for cheap. Deals like that are not binding of course but he kept to his word and by the end of the game I was trading him almost 20 food cubes a round.

The game is definitely punishing. I know in some groups it's taboo but I always help new players of this game. They often get all of the resources they need to build a new tile but then forget or not calculate the couple of extra resources they need to run the new tile they are going to put out. So I point it out and just tell them, "hey if you don't grab another food from somewhere you won't be able to run that new tile."

The only downfall I have with this game are the banks. I'm not going to say this game is broken (I hate when people say that) but banks take a great, fun game and turn it into something completely different. On more than a few occasions a player will go heavy taking loans early and build three bank tiles and start producing a ton of money. By the end of the game that player easily pays off all of his loans and still wins the game comfortably. The amount of VPs a 3-bank industry generate is just too powerful to combat. So the game turns into either a race, where people who think they have the lead go as fast as they can to get all of their flags out to end the game before the bank player can really start to turn out VPs, or it becomes a block fest where two or three people will do everything they can to block a player trying to build a 3-tile bank, or it turns into an everyone else vs the guy with banks. Nobody trades with him and he is forced to spend the money on resources he needs for the round.

All of these things take away the fun of the game. We actually played one game without banks. We just took them completely out of the game and it was one of our best plays of the game. We are thinking of a house rule where you are only allowed to take 2 loans out a round to prevent the "super bank" strategy.

I hope you get the desire to play this game again. It's a really good one.
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Travis Sonsalla
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gen1400 wrote:
We are thinking of a house rule where you are only allowed to take 2 loans out a round to prevent the "super bank" strategy.

I hope you get the desire to play this game again. It's a really good one.


Not a fan of house rules myself, but I know tweaking has been done from the original rules, and this has enhanced the game. Maybe it's worth considering.

Theme-wise it works where the government shuts the stock market down to allow a "cooling off" period when an emotional run appears to be happening. The same concept could be done regarding loans.
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Agent J
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He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
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He's a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action. He's a furry little flat-foot who'll never flinch from a fray. He's got more than just mad skills, he's got a beaver tail and a bill.
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Or you could just react and also take loans... which will help shorten the game... which means less bank turns...
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David Gibbs
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gen1400 wrote:
The last game we played I got stuck with the food producing tiles. Early game they are great as everyone needs food but people who spend too many turns and too much money and resources on expanding their food producing industry don't win. By mid game food is practically useless and too cheap to really make any money.


There is a balancing fact to this. IIRC (and it has been a while), you get VPs for each tile you have out, too. Food starts with one extra tile (which is a leg-up right there), and the food tiles are cheaper to build. So, a bunch of your VPs should be not from the money from the food itself, but from the tiles.
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George Nebesnik
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Yes you get VPs (1 VP) per tile on the board. But you get 1 VP for every 10 bucks you have. So a "super" bank produces 90 bucks every round. That's 9 VP a round. You just can't keep up.

Like I mentioned there are a bunch of different strategies to try to offset the banks, but in my opinion I just think they take away from the game play overall.
 
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Agent J
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He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
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He's a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action. He's a furry little flat-foot who'll never flinch from a fray. He's got more than just mad skills, he's got a beaver tail and a bill.
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gen1400 wrote:
Yes you get VPs (1 VP) per tile on the board. But you get 1 VP for every 10 bucks you have. So a "super" bank produces 90 bucks every round. That's 9 VP a round. You just can't keep up.

Like I mentioned there are a bunch of different strategies to try to offset the banks, but in my opinion I just think they take away from the game play overall.


Soooo how long have you been counting up scores incorrectly?

Tiles are worth 4 VP? Or is it 3? It's not 1.
 
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George Nebesnik
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Jythier wrote:
gen1400 wrote:
Yes you get VPs (1 VP) per tile on the board. But you get 1 VP for every 10 bucks you have. So a "super" bank produces 90 bucks every round. That's 9 VP a round. You just can't keep up.

Like I mentioned there are a bunch of different strategies to try to offset the banks, but in my opinion I just think they take away from the game play overall.


Soooo how long have you been counting up scores incorrectly?

Tiles are worth 4 VP? Or is it 3? It's not 1.


oops my mistake. 4 VP. I meant 4. You get 4VP per tile and 1VP per every 10 bucks.
 
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Agent J
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He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
badge
He's a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action. He's a furry little flat-foot who'll never flinch from a fray. He's got more than just mad skills, he's got a beaver tail and a bill.
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gen1400 wrote:
Jythier wrote:
gen1400 wrote:
Yes you get VPs (1 VP) per tile on the board. But you get 1 VP for every 10 bucks you have. So a "super" bank produces 90 bucks every round. That's 9 VP a round. You just can't keep up.

Like I mentioned there are a bunch of different strategies to try to offset the banks, but in my opinion I just think they take away from the game play overall.


Soooo how long have you been counting up scores incorrectly?

Tiles are worth 4 VP? Or is it 3? It's not 1.


oops my mistake. 4 VP. I meant 4. You get 4VP per tile and 1VP per every 10 bucks.


The thing is, trading in the stuff for the tile nets about 1 VP if that.
The bank has to pay for the stuff to run it (or at least not have those resources available for other things) but also has a really high startup cost and a lot of loans to pay off, many of which didn't net them very much money anyway compared to the smaller amount of loans you got out.

It is still very likely they can pay off 2-3 loans per turn though.

I would have to play the game again to get a better picture of how to beat the bank, but I agree that it might make the game less stable. If someone else is overproducing food, that's a huge profit even without automation.
 
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