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Subject: Québec - Is all aboot cascades - down to the basics review rss

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Tiago Perretto
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Thinking about my next move.
So, if my only options are these, then I shall...

About Québec:

1) What is it?
Québec is a game the passes by 400 years of building the city of Québec. And there is no better way to represent this than adding cubes to circles, then send these cubes to other circles, and score some few points in the middle and much more every century. You can almost feel the maple.

Anyway, Québec mixes work placement with area influence. For most of the time, players will be adding cubes to help build things (and activate the place to do some other action), or starting new buildings (to gain more workers and gain some points, while also sending the workers there to the related area of influence). Québec isn't the most intuitive of the games out there, but is hardly one too complex rules-wise.

This meant that, in spite of the explanation of it runs a little long (as it must encompasses all the different abilities of places, the powers of leaders, the cascade effect when scoring influence areas, and some other things), when playing the turns have, usually, a very nice pace, going briskly between players, as each person has one action to do each time, and although the action of a player can prevent you from doing what you were about to do, changing to something else isn't as hard as it could be, since, most of the time, there are plenty opportunities open on the board to be used.

Putting workers on other players buildings has a nice duo effect: it helps you, since it will activate the ability of the place, and, later, when the building is finished by the owner, it will send your cubes to influence one area, which is most of the reason of everything that is done in the game. But also you are helping the other player to gain points, as the more spots a building has covered before being closed, more points the owner will gain at the end of the game. I enjoy very much this sort of positive interaction in games, in which both sides gain, it is a matter of you gaining more to make it worth it.

Overall, Québec is very interesting, providing interaction, decisions, options and paths to victory, all wrap in a pretty unique game.

2) How do you play?
Every player has the cubes "on hand" and in the reserve. In each turn the player has 4 options of actions:
- Finishing a building and starting a new one (of course, at the start of the game, only start a building, without finishing other, is possible). The player takes 3 cubes from the reserve and put in on hand. All the cubes on the building go to the proper area of influence (religious, political, economical or art), accordingly to the type of building. Finally, the building token is flipped to its completed side and the player puts a marker to indicate its value at the game's end;
- Add cubes to a building: the player puts the required number of cubes (from 1 to 3), from the ones on her hand, on the building tile. She can then activate the ability of the region the building is in. It is possible to put cubes without using the ability (this normally happens when a player adds cubes to her own controlled building);
- Put a cube directly on one of the four areas of influence - not in the citadel of Quebec;
- Take a Leader card - the player also gets the a number of cubes to the hand equal to the number of already taken card (therefore, the first to get a Leader gains no worker, the second, gains 1, the third, two workers, and so on).

Each player does only one of these actions on her turn. Every one goes on doing actions until one of the two triggers to end the century happens:
a) All the buildings of a century are finished and a new one, from the next century, is started;
b) A player has no more cubes, both in hand and in reserve. In her next turn, after this happened, the century will end.

Once the century ends, a scoring of all 5 areas of influence will happen in a given order, that changes accordingly to the century, but always starts with the citadel of Quebec. Here is where the cacade effect takes place - the player with the majority of cubes in an area gets to send half (round down, and up to a maximum of 5) of her cubes to the next area of influence. And yes, this can make the same player have the majority in the next area as well, and the effect will trigger again. In the last area of influece of the century, there won't be a cascade effect, of course, but, instead, the cubes there will go to the players hands, which is good to allow the use of abilities of buildings and getting ready to influence again more promptly, as all the cubes remaining on the other areas go to the reserve of the respective players.

All the cubes in the areas of influence, regardless of majority, will score 1 point. The cascade effect only helps players score cubes more than once.

In the end, after 4 centuries, after the cubes in influence areas are counted (for the fourth time in the game), there will be another scoring: player will gain points accordingly to the buildings finished - the bigger unbroken chain of buildings of each player will score fully (using the numbers on the token), and the others buildings of them, not connected to the chain, will score equal to the number of stars on them. Finally, the player with the most prestige (points) will be the winner.

3) Which are the decisions made during play?
Many decisions are done throughout the play. Not only which of the 4 main actions to pick from (usually will be adding cubes and starting new buildings), but also subsequential decisions. For instance: ok, you decided to finish your current building, as it is full. This is a decision, and on its own it can already have some complexity to it: if you don't finish it, the cubes (probably from other players) will be stuck there, unavailable to them for as long as you keep that building unfinished. Also, the timming might not be right, as this "only one action per turn" makes everything become priorities: yes, finishing the building now will allow you to take a good spot to continue a chain of buildings, but also will prevent you from adding cubes to a building that might be full when your turn returns, therefore you might not be able to do the ability it allows, which can have a big effect on the majorities of an area. Or start a building, while good for you in the long run, might benefit others more, as usually you can't use the ability of a building you own, so starting a new building is basically giving the others more opportunities.

But ok, you decided to finish your current building and start a new one. Then comes the subsequential decision: where to start a new building? As I mentioned, you want to make a big chain of completed buildings to score more at the game's end, however, you don't really want to start a building with a too useful action of the others, but can't pick a truly bad one, as there might not be interest in helping you build and you won't be able to gain points from it, or too few points. Or maybe you want someone else to open a building in a certain place, as you want to use the action there.

The same is valid for the adding of cubes to a building. It has an immediate effect (the ability of the region of the building), but also, once the building is finished, the cubes there will go to an influence area. Normally you will want to make use of buildings also thinking in gaining the most of it when it is finished, in order to score better once the century is done. Therefore, even a worst ability can be more interesting to be done, if it will allow you to send cubes, say, the economical (yellow) sphere of influence.

As you can see, Québec offers a lot in the field of decisions, and the cascade effect in the scoring of influence at the end of each century adds a layer of decision without adding complexity, and it works very well.

4) What are the good things in the game?
- Allows for a lot of positive interaction between players, with just some light blocking as negative ones;
- Many and layered decisions to be made throughout the play;
- Small downtime, as players do a single action each turn;
- Unique cascade effect, which give more weight to decisions;
- A rare area influence/control with almost no bash the leader.

5) Which are the bad news?
- Big box, making it difficult to move around;
- Colors and the way the buildings are set up make difficult to see, at a glance, all the information needed;
- Plays best with 4 or 5, numbers that can be hard to achieve to some;
- Several areas abilities, the unique scoring and powers of leaders make the explanation a challenge to be done quickly and for everyone to remember the information given.

6) How do you feel while playing?
Did I mentioned already the maple? Yes, maple leaves brushing your feet and clothes, in a the afternoon breeze. The smell of syrup, and wood being cut. The sounds of construction and life happening all around. A bustling city becoming greater. Well, none of this is truly in Québec.

Québec isn't a thematic game, nor even tries much to be (it maybe be more using the Event cards), though the Leaders cards do have the nice touch of adding names of persons of importance of the time, and the way the order of the spheres of influence is resolved at the end of each century has a link to the shifts that happened on the grand scale of the city itself. Still, you won't feel that while playing.

The feel of Québec is a mechanical one - you think in plays considering benefits, what others are doing, what they can do, and who is influencing where and with how many cubes. You are in a constant struggle trying to keep the number of cubes on hand and on reserve in proper number, as cubes on hand serve to activate buildings and they go from the reserve while using the abilities of regions - so you need to have enough cubes in both places to do well. There is also a fight for influence, specially due to the cacade effect, and for places on the board, due to the chain of buildings. Most spots are coveted and timming issues are pressing for the whole game.

In the end, Québec isn't the tightest of games, not for the work placement part - there is usually several good places to use -, and not for the are influence part - all cubes will score, regardless of majorities. While this doesn't add up to make the most tense, cutthroat, hard or stressful game one will find, it does make for a nice experience, one with little AP, few moves to hurt others, with a good pacing and filled with important (yet, not brain-hurting) decisions. Very recommended game.


Image credit: Comet

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Tom C.
United States
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This is a wonderful game, for me, and glad to see a nice write up. I would like to defend it as a very good 2 player game, as well, with the included rules for that count. It works very well, even though with more players the game is different (more interactive, but not glaringly better necessarily, depending on what you're looking for). If one can get past the weak theme and art style, there's a great game in that box. Thanks.
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Maxime Belanger
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And surprisingly, the theme was at the core of the creation of the game.

Very good game that is hurt by its look
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Michael Frost

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Good to see ongoing interest in this wonderful game. I have loved this game since the first time I played it a few years back. So much so that I bought it.

I think this is a game where the theme is ever present and fits in well with the mechanics. Gorgeous to look at and to play.

And my GF and I thoroughly enjoy the 2-player version. A lot of fun.
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