With the Easter long weekend upon us the usual pattern of gaming on a Sunday night was upended. Instead, Craig hosted a mega games session at his mountains venue on the holiday Monday, while Pat offered up the PGA (Pymble Gaming Arena), for one of the last times ever, for a special Good Friday four-player big game night. Various biggies were considered ahead of time, but Pat’s suggestion of CotE, proposed because he had never played it, was accepted without dissent. The pics here are from the Nokia, hence not the usual standard when Brad provides the snaps.
That’s enough with the preamble already - so what happened in the Empire? Everyone was dealt one starting token in Asia (Turkey). The remainder of Brad’s setup appeared in Spain, Narbonensis (France), and Numidia. Pat received Achaia, Galatia, and another alongside Brad in Narbonensis. Alex and I both had tokens in Egypt and Mesopotamia, with Al also in Galatia (I think) and my remainder in Neapolis. Pat and Alex were the first starting alliance against Brad and me, hence the turn order was Pat, Brad, Alex, then me. The first turn was mainly about card-taking and consolidation, although Alex began his with an aggressive assertion over my tokens in Egypt and Mesopotamia - these were both lost to his yellow forces within about the first two turns. But as the first few province tokens appeared in Rome (Italia), I had made up my mind that I was going to play a central (ie., defend Italia) strategy. Amongst the card draws, Pat had taken the 15 point bonus Senate Vote, and I had taken the 6 Infantry in Rome Senate Vote. At the end of Season 1, 65 minutes after starting, the scores after Chaos subtraction were Pat: 65, and the rest of us on 35.
Alliance bidding for Season 2 resulted in exactly the same order as for Season 1. I tried to vote Pat and Alex apart, but still in the early stages of the game without a lot of spare cash, I let Pat spend 15 rather than go to 20 and severely limit my ability to recruit and convert tokens. Unfortunately this had dire consequences. Pat played a largely defensive strategy, and as I tried to puncture his picket lines, Alex opportunistically rolled away one of my stronger forces on the board. I assumed this was to weaken to me before marching on Rome, although such an attack never came, and Pat was therefore provided with a stronger buffer against further invasion from my purple forces. This season unfortunately also saw some confusion come to the fore over the use of Senate Vote cards, which arguably hindered both Pat and Alex. However, after 65 minutes, Brad, Alex and myself had made no net gains in new token points after Chaos subtraction for Season 2, all of us ending on 70 points. Similarly, I believe Pat too had made no net gain in token bonuses, but had leaped miles in front to 145, being a doubling of his Season 1 score and a bonus 15 for his special Senate Vote card.
Season 3 started with déjà vu – again I tried to vote apart Pat and Alex, but it was not a case I felt too strongly about this time, so I let it go again (half hoping that one of the others might have shifted the balance instead). I recall few details of the conflict in this season, although there was a substantial military build-up in all four corners of the empire. The threatened show-down between Alex and Brad looked like it was going to happen at last, but instead of being in North Africa was actually arising in Narbonensis. However, I think even this was a fizzle, with both sides looking more like defenders than aggressors. Correct me if I’m wrong, chaps, but there never was any major face-off between yellow and black, was there…? On the other hand, I continued my march towards Pat’s stronghold in Achaia, but had to fight through a picket in Macedonia first. After a convincing battle Pat was finally left with unprotected tokens in Achaia, but with a round turn up he was able to move his leader back in and recruit, thus slowing down the token conversion by yet another round! After a shorter Season (only 50 minutes that time), I had a net gain of 45 points (for a total of 115), but so did Pat (for 190). The gap wasn’t getting any wider, but it wasn’t smaller either. Brad and Al were still threats to a 2nd position back on 100 each.
Season 4, and I was more determined to ensure that Pat and Alex would not be allied. I started the bidding by proposing Pat first and me 2nd, and this made it though without too much dissent. Then the all-important 2nd proposal had to see Alex allied with me. The bidding stayed between Pat and me up to my limit of 40 talents – after which it wouldn’t have mattered since I wouldn’t have enough cash to recruit and convert the necessary tokens, and the extra turn action to tax the people was also too costly. However, Brad finally stepped in and took the baton, taking the bid up to about $55, at which point Pat dropped out. Again, I recall little about any conflict on the board except for in Achaia where, after all the necessary turn rounds Pat was finally driven out. Of course, I was parasitized by Alex, who timed his walk-in, after all my hard work, and converted two of the remaining three tokens to take the majority! However, it was all too little too late anyway – Pat’s combination of Season 1 gains and the +15pts Senate Vote was probably unstoppable by mid Season 2, without breaking apart the Alex + Pat alliance. Season 4 took a quick 45 minutes to complete, with Pat’s gains cut a little for a net 40 (to 230), while Alex won the Season with a net 60 (for 160), I managed net 55 (for 170), and Brad sat back for 30 (to 130).
This is a tricky, tricky balancing game, with lots of “coulda, shoulda”, etc. Yes, mistakes were made, but that kind of judgment is always in hindsight. Lots of discussion afterwards, with agreement all round (except from Pat, who apparently wants to retire on top!) that it needs another playing and soon. Can’t wait!
50 mins setup and rules explan.
195 mins playing time total
Final scores: Pat: 230. Paul: 170. Alex: 160. Brad: 130.
(Originally posted on www.themineshaftgap.com.)