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Subject: Early thoughts rss

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Richard Dewsbery
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Sutton Coldfield
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So far I've played it four or five times, depending upon how you count them.

The first time we started someone insisted that we dive right in, read the rules and just go for it. Huge mistake. The rules do not help new players get started at all.

So we abandoned that and "played" the introductory read-through. A much better idea. And ideally, someone should then read the rulebook through afterwards.

Then I played the introductory game, twice (with two different groups). Era I, with the easy set up - it's pretty pedestrian. But it meant that I had the core mechanics pretty well locked in.

This weekend I played with three new players, and rather than do the read through again, I explained the core rules enough to be able to play the introductory version - but now with the medium setup. Which was indeed quite a good bit trickier than the easy setup. Took almost two hours, but everyone enjoyed it.

We'd toyed with the idea of just rolling on into Era II (the main problem being that the player boards were upside down for this), but the greater consensus was for starting again in Era I with a player-dictated setup and the full rules - including colonies.

Overall, this was the first time that I felt I was playing a proper game. Although I understand that when the designer plays the game, he usually skips Era I - and that makes quite a bit of sense, that you could almost regard Era I as being an extended/randomised setup, and the game really gets going in Era II. Era II started to introduce more meaningful decisions and different directions to take things in. It also saw food - a huge waste of time in Era I - become a bit more important. Or for me - with 7 citizens - REALLY important.

Interestingly in both games one player prioritised cards and improvements. He was last, in both games. They are useful bonuses to get if they fall right, but its not a good idea to build your game around them. Instead, prioritise storage and production.

But boy is the game long. We were playing from 11 til after 6 - and that was just the era I game and the Era I&II game. Goodness knows how long a four Era game would take, with four newish players! I think I'll try to stick to 3 players in future (albeit at a cost of less falling over one another - allthough maybe that's a good thing? Being able to plan your turn while others is taking theirs is good; suddenly having to rethink because someone ended on a key tile isn't).

The good news is that we were getting a lot faster, and the Embassies, rather than just adding complication, really did open up the options.

It's still one of those games where keeping up with your own moves is tricky, and watching what other players do is almost to tricky to manage. So it's entirely possible that other players were making mistakes without my ever spotting them. And there are plenty of small bits where it's possible to make mistakes - the rules on using resources (you can only spend from your "storage" during an action, but you can hold more resources in some other spaces) are particularly tricky to get your head around.

Everyone felt that it was a lot like a Rosenburg resource-management game, but it's not a worker placement game like Agricola. Instead, I'd say that it really helps to have a plan, and spend your effort trying to find efficient ways to execute that plan. Simply grabbing stuff with the hope of putting it to good use I a turn or two's time is NOT a route to success in this game. Of course, it's really hard to plan long-term when you are new to the game - we had no idea what changes Era II would bring, and no idea at all how eras III & IV might play out.

And the two different eras we played did feel different. Era I, and the start of Era II, food is not at all important. Neither are yellow citizens. It's all about storage and production in that first era - sort out some storage options and then build an engine. Then in Era II, we started to look more at the yellow workers, and once a player had more than two or three of them food became a real issue.

Our game finished with a three-way tie for first place despite three very different approaches. And one player lagging a LONG way behind. The player in last place spent a lot of time and energy using Improvement cards - he'd done the same in our Era I training game and came last in that too. So although Improvements are nice little bonuses, it's hard to build a good score around them - instead you need workers, production buildings and storage.

Our two-era game was long - really long - but we were getting better at planning and thinking during other players' turns. it's not the sort of game where another players turn causes a massive rethink - or at least it isn't once you've found a few ways to mitigate that headache; although with four players there was definitely lots of congestion early on when we were trying to achieve the same thing. But I want to play it again. And soon.

But storage is king. Take too long to get enough and it can really hurt.
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Kareem Koh
Malaysia
Puchong
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Yes, storage is indeed king! It's so important to make sure you have enough to pay for everything.

We played the first two eras yesterday and one thing that stood out was how powerful a second steward (Envoy colony) was. It allowed flexibility and the ability to "tax" other players by putting them on popular spots or routes. One player was literally generating resources through clever placements.

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Richard Dewsbery
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Sutton Coldfield
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We had the Envoy colony in our game, but only one player went for it. I got a Lord embassy instead - the extra options it opened up we're useful mid-game, until I opened up the level II ability of paying no fee.
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Matt Gustafson
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"Our game finished with a three-way tie for first place despite three very different approaches."

This would bother me after a long game.
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Will Plante
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Wow all the early write ups stress how long this game is, there is no way I'll get a group of players who want to invest that kind of time on a regular basis. Which is unfortunate because the game sounds great.
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Thanasis Patsios
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Papa Ninja wrote:
Wow all the early write ups stress how long this game is, there is no way I'll get a group of players who want to invest that kind of time on a regular basis. Which is unfortunate because the game sounds great.


It really depends on the group, their level of experience with the game and the Eras they decide to go for. For example, our second 2p game, playing first and second eras was well under 2 hours. I guess we could've played another era within another 60'. Nevertheless, it is a very rewarding experience!
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Jimmy Okolica
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Washington Township
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Nice writeup. I will disagree that this isn't a worker placement game. I'd say it is worker placement with a spatial element and where instead of blocking players you just make them pay you.

and, of course, there's that silly do 3 things in a row rule. I get it. Without it, paying the fee would probably happen a lot more. However, it ends up creating a lot more downtime. With 3 consecutive actions, planning an "optimal" route takes a lot longer and you still can't start planning until the player before you is done.
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Jimmy Okolica
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Papa Ninja wrote:
Wow all the early write ups stress how long this game is, there is no way I'll get a group of players who want to invest that kind of time on a regular basis. Which is unfortunate because the game sounds great.


My opinion may change, but at this point it sits in the Mage Knight: TBG and Through the Ages camp. It's an amazing game, but playing the full (or 3 era if you start in era 2) game with more than 2 players is a significant time investment. With 2 players, I suspect once everyone gets more experienced, you'll find play times listed in the 2 - 3 hour range.
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Kareem Koh
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Puchong
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Papa Ninja wrote:
Wow all the early write ups stress how long this game is, there is no way I'll get a group of players who want to invest that kind of time on a regular basis. Which is unfortunate because the game sounds great.


It is an "Epic Strategy Game".
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Richard Dewsbery
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gamesgocrazy wrote:
"Our game finished with a three-way tie for first place despite three very different approaches."

This would bother me after a long game.


It was 102:102:102:60-odd. So one player played VERY sub-optimally. As to the rest of us, I doubt greatly that the play was optimal, and I believe that it was just pure chance that had three of us tied on the same points. It's not like the scores were 12:12:12:8, where there is clearly insufficient granularity to reflect several hours of play.
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Richard Dewsbery
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It's obviously going to draw comparison to other Lookout games (and other games by Uwe Rosenburg), partly due to its obvious similarity in artwork, but also in the games' scope and vision.

The one I'd liken it to most of all is Ora et Labora. Lots of resource conversion, with the aim of placing buildings on your board, and with a limited set of actions that ramp up as the game progresses, with the main interaction being how you trip over one another.
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Richard Would
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Hucknall
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gamesgocrazy wrote:
"Our game finished with a three-way tie for first place despite three very different approaches."

This would bother me after a long game.
The only frustrating part was the other Richard won the tie break

As one of those who played it last week I would echo many of Richards thoughts. The game will certainly speed up when you know what occurs each age so I would guess the next game will see the first two eras going quite quickly.
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Richard Dewsbery
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It's never a problem when the right Richard wins.

Turns out I was cheating anyway, taking too much clay from unused Places (the minor improvement I had doesn't in fact combo with the Lord colony). Oh well.
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Richard Dewsbery
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I struggled a bit for storage at points in that game, and I think that the move from era II to III forces players to revisit storage once agin. Which means citizens, which means food.
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Richard Dewsbery
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I've now played a three-player game spanning Eras I to III, and a game of Era I to Era IV.

And it's hellishly, freakishly long. But it never felt long; we were all engaged, and thinking, all of the time.

The times were quite consistent game to game.
Era I - 1 hour.
Era II - 2 hours.
Era III - 3 hours.
Era IV - 2 hours.

The most interesting parts of the game are, unsurprisingly, the transition from farmers to citizens, and then the introduction of merchants.

Resources that seem trivial at the start - food and tools - become important in the later ages, as does having a plan and executing it. Storage is perhaps at its most critical early on, but it never gets easy. And board space gets important.

What interests me is the way the game will play out differently, depending in part on the board layout and also on the available colonies and embassies.

Really fascinating. I just wish that it was a lot shorter, as I fear that the opportunities to play it will be limited because of its length.
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Paul Aceto
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Is it, like Mage Knight, best played solo?
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Joshua Gottesman
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I play wargames and 18XX games. An engaging 8 hour game holds no fear for me.
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