Ron
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Not really a good game, so many said. Is that true?

When I set up the pieces for my first game, I was a little unsure – I really like Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery and have played it a fair number of times, so kickstarting its sister game was a no-brainer for me. However, the first reviews and reports on that game mostly criticized the new endgame: the Galactic War, in which all those Stormtroopers Sentinels attack the Rebels, is a boring cube-drawing affair, and totally randomizes the scores. Is that really so? I wanted to find out for myself.

We played a 4-player game (Sascha, Claudia, Andrea and myself), with all the pretty Kickstarter stuff added, but without the special player powers (I never liked them in Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery, so I decided to leave them out for my first Glenn Drover's Empires: Galactic Rebellion game). Everybody was familiar with the sister game, and when I explained the differences, I put great emphasis on the Galactic War, how it works and what you can do to better up your odds and be prepared for it.

... and the Rebels went forth and multiplied

IMHO, the strategy in this game comes from two factors: your personal favorite strategy and the one suggested by the Epoch I tech(s) you acquire. My favorite is building a strong economy, but the first tech I got was the one with a free Hero each turn. The Smuggler slot on the Specialist track is usually quickly occupied, so I was a little unsure on how to proceed … but I managed to get two trade goods on turn one and decided to follow my favorite path but also made a heavy appearance on the Covert Mission box with my free Hero each turn. I totally neglected the Senate, but tried to be number one on two planets – one with two and one with three Sentinels on it. I also tried to grab a couple of other planets, well knowing that I most likely will get wiped out during the war in the end, because my military cubes stayed at 3 for a long time; in the end I had 5. But I always tried to go first, build smugglers and was able to secure three trade routes for myself. My final income in the last round was more than UC20!

Sascha quickly made his intentions clear: he got a Scientist each turn and he used it to grab those military cubes – he finally gathered eight of them. He had a strong presence on the planets and was one of the big players in the Senate, using the cards there to his advantage.

Claudia also followed a planet strategy, but didn’t build up much military. But with a Trade Route and two matching goods, she had a strong economy in the beginning, and also grabbed the “UC5 each round” Tech. The biggest thing for her was the Tech where she got control of the Rebel ship!

Andrea, my wife, also battled for the Senate and the planets, and with her permanent Diplomat, she dominated both for a while. She also invested in military cubes to better up her chances in the upcoming war and also eliminated some Sentinels during play. She totally neglected income; her final score here was UC3.

We all were warned enough about the war at the end! So beginning with Epoch II, we started to send Heroes to those planets where our pieces had a strong presence and got rid of a fair number of Sentinels! When facing a Hero (and if you already have an extra cube or two), those guys aren’t that tough! We even saw normal Troopers in the Warfare box killing those Empire minions!

When the war finally came, the game was more or less already decided. A couple of points up and down, yes, but my victory was never in danger, although I lost my two dominant planets during the war. So what? I still won, to hell with that stupid war. The others were prepared good enough and mostly battled the remaining Sentinels successfully.

The final score was ...
1. Ron (yellow, 125 points)
2. Andrea (green, 87 points)
3. Sascha (blue, 67 points – 3rd place because of the tie breaker)
4. Claudia (red, 67 points)

That dreaded Galactic War ...

So what about that war …? Too much luck? Too long? Too stupid? No, no, and no! You can prepare yourself for that event, and if you decide not to, you still have two full scoring rounds before you get wiped out by the evil Empire’s Sentinels. So don’t whine about bad luck if you didn’t take the right preparation during play! And if the players start to battle those black devils during the game with their Heroes and Troopers, the War isn’t that luck-dependent! You can easily estimate your chances. But don’t depend on them! Don’t put all your money on only one horse! Also, we needed not even 5 minutes to play through the whole war, and it was accompanied by a huge tension, much laughter, some schadenfreude and some curses. I heard about people complaining it lasts 20 minutes and more … I can’t imagine that it takes that long. Even if you don’t kill or remove a single Sentinel during the game, no way this will this take 20 minutes!

The image shows the board before and after the Galactic War - as you see, we already killed a fair number of Sentinels before it started:


The Galactic War is the mechanism that lets this game stand out of the crowd of worker-placement games. It adds an element of uncertainty, a little luck, and it hangs over the players like Damocles’ Sword. So it’s not “just another worker-placement game”; it has a built-in chicken game – the player that starts to battle the Sentinels on his dominant planets too early clearly invites others to invade that planet too … but start battling them too late and you likely end up with too many Sentinels in the final war.

So ...?

All in all, I totally liked the game, as did two of my fellow players; only my faithful wife wasn’t impressed (although she wasn’t a fan of Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery either).

On the negative side, there is the different Tech Tile size of the base game and the expansion. For the next game, we need to put them in a bag and draw the tiles out there, because if you put them down in stacks, the two expansion tiles in each stack are clearly visible. Very annoying. Also, some of the miniatures are badly bent – but I also had this issue with the sister game. I guess a game with 400 minis can’t offer top quality (but I already complained about that in a forum post.)

And one last word: This game would have been perfect for the Star Wars universe. A real pity that it looks and feels so generic (although it does its best to remind you of Star Wars on several occasions). Oh boy, I would have wished for FFG to publish it!

I rate the game an 8 after my first playing . This might easily go up to a 9 after a couple of more plays. I really like the game; unfortunately, wifey does not, so I guess it won’t see many more playings. Which really is a pity.

Thanks for reading and may the Force be with you! meeple



The box image is taken from the BGG gallery, submitted by user geardragon. Thanks for uploading!
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Michael Off The Shelf Board Game Reviews
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Re: “I find your lack of fate disturbing” or “Come on, who really fears a Galactic War?”
You are COMPLETELY failing to address the point that the game punished people for playing it badly though! I mean come on people ignored the Galactic presence and THEN got smacked around for it in the end game?? OBVIOUSLY this is something people have a right to complain about! Who wants to play a game where you get stomped for ignoring the giant Galactic Empire waiting in the wings to stomp you into the ground?

whistlewhistlewhistle
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Re: “I find your lack of fate disturbing” or “Come on, who really fears a Galactic War?”
Great review, or rather a counter-review of the negative reviews given by other reviewers. I understand you are taking the end game mechanic and trying to shed some light on what really happens and how it affects the players. The point I got from your review is that all the players should be aware of the consequences of the Galactic War of the end game before you start playing the game. Once that point is made then there should be no surprises at the end.

Not so bad for the experienced BGG gamer, but what about someone that pulls this game off a shelf for the first time and tries to just read the rules with friends and play the game for the first time (most likely what happened in the Dice Tower review)? A rhetorical question. I am OK with it and can see things objectively as you, but others may not see things the same.

One more thing, although not much difference you refer to Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery as the sister game, but the latest game was Empires: Age of Discovery which had the built in builders expansion.

Edit: I took a closer look at your GW before/after pic. I looks like Yellow had 3 of the 4 GW planet battles and lost them all. Although yellow was already in a big lead, if the score was more close to the other players would that change your rating?
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Re: “I find your lack of fate disturbing” or “Come on, who really fears a Galactic War?”
Bogusgig wrote:
Not so bad for the experienced BGG gamer, but what about someone that pulls this game off a shelf for the first time and tries to just read the rules with friends and play the game for the first time (most likely what happened in the Dice Tower review)? A rhetorical question. I am OK with it and can see things objectively as you, but others may not see things the same.


I had a similar thing happen first time playing Hit Z Road, I know it is a quicker game, but I am the gamer in my family and after reading the rules I still was wasting a ton of resources vying for first player marker early in the game and at the end of the game I barely managed to hang onto one of each for bonus points. But it would not happen again, I would be more careful when I played next as will all the people who played. So if someone doesn't realize that the final battle in Empires is going to require some during game management when they play their first game, they sure will in their next game. It seems like a self fixing problem.
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Ron
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Re: “I find your lack of fate disturbing” or “Come on, who really fears a Galactic War?”
Bogusgig wrote:
Not so bad for the experienced BGG gamer, but what about someone that pulls this game off a shelf for the first time and tries to just read the rules with friends and play the game for the first time (most likely what happened in the Dice Tower review)? A rhetorical question. I am OK with it and can see things objectively as you, but others may not see things the same.

You definitely have a point here. Maybe it would have been a good idea to include a paragraph in the rulebook. Or half a page titled "suggested strategy" or something.

Bogusgig wrote:
One more thing, although not much difference you refer to Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery as the sister game, but the latest game was Empires: Age of Discovery which had the built in builders expansion.

Yes, that's because I never played the "newer" game; I own the original edition with the builder expansion.

Bogusgig wrote:
Edit: I took a closer look at your GW before/after pic. I looks like Yellow had 3 of the 4 GW planet battles and lost them all. Although yellow was already in a big lead, if the score was more close to the other players would that change your rating?

Yes, my position on the board wasn't bad before the war, but as I neglected my military and concentrated on other things, the outcome was expected.
And no, a closer score wouldn't have changed anything. The others simply underestimated the power of the Covert Missions - I had 5 with 4VP each. and I also managed to grab the Epoch III tech which gives you extra points for them. One of the benefits of my "one hero each turn" Tech. Also, I the others obviously underestimated that going first every round is a huge advantage. I'm pretty sure in the next game, the scores will be much closer.
 
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Re: “I find your lack of fate disturbing” or “Come on, who really fears a Galactic War?”
I also took pictures of the planets before and after the GW. This is from a 3-player game.

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Re: “I find your lack of fate disturbing” or “Come on, who really fears a Galactic War?”
You are all making me hope my KS comes in soon, I need to try this game out.
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Re: “I find your lack of fate disturbing” or “Come on, who really fears a Galactic War?”
Thanks for posting the photo.It appears that 1st player is a meatsheild for 2nd player. What are your thoughts on this?
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Ron
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Re: “I find your lack of fate disturbing” or “Come on, who really fears a Galactic War?”
galeninjapan wrote:
Thanks for posting the photo.It appears that 1st player is a meatsheild for 2nd player. What are your thoughts on this?

You might be #1 on planets for Epoch I and II (and score big points for that), but in Epoch III, you're dead meat if you don't prepare. And yes, you might then act as a meatshield for the players behind you ... but if #2 isn't also prepared for the war, he might get in trouble too and this goes on and on.

That is the penalty for neglecting military and not kicking the Sentinels out during the game.
EDIT: We started the game with 18 Sentinels on board. Before the war, there were only 8 of them left (as seen on the photo). So we took care about them during the game, and were not surprised on how the war ended.
Remember: During the game, Sentinels have 5 cubes and Heroes add 2 cubes to your own - so even if I don't have any additional military, with a Hero it's 5:5. A fair gamble. During the war, those same sentinels use 8 cubes! So you better have suitable military cubes of your own by the time of the war, otherwise, you likely get crushed!

IMHO it can also be seen as a clever mechanism to avoid total domination of a planet for all three rounds.
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Matt Smith
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Re: “I find your lack of fate disturbing” or “Come on, who really fears a Galactic War?”
PzVIE wrote:
galeninjapan wrote:
Thanks for posting the photo.It appears that 1st player is a meatsheild for 2nd player. What are your thoughts on this?

You might be #1 on planets for Epoch I and II (and score big points for that), but in Epoch III, you're dead meat if you don't prepare. And yes, you might then act as a meatshield for the players behind you ... but if #2 isn't also prepared for the war, he might get in trouble too and this goes on and on.

That is the penalty for neglecting military and not kicking the Sentinels out during the game.
EDIT: We started the game with 18 Sentinels on board. Before the war, there were only 8 of them left (as seen on the photo). So we took care about them during the game, and were not surprised on how the war ended.
Remember: During the game, Sentinels have 5 cubes and Heroes add 2 cubes to your own - so even if I don't have any additional military, with a Hero it's 5:5. A fair gamble. During the war, those same sentinels use 8 cubes! So you better have suitable military cubes of your own by the time of the war, otherwise, you likely get crushed!

IMHO it can also be seen as a clever mechanism to avoid total domination of a planet for all three rounds.

This, in spades.

In the pictures that I posted, the blue player didn't prepare for the GW as much as did the other players. He had planned to kill some Sentinels on Edara prior to the GW, but another player moved more Sentinels there in Epoch I, causing the blue player to kill Sentinels on Galcrux instead. He fully understood his lack of military cubes would likely mean he would lose Edara, but he was okay with only scoring 18 points there. He got a bit unlucky to get wiped off Sargas, but again he only had 5 cubes and no military defenders, so wasn't well prepared. His efforts during the game to kill Sentinels on Galcrux paid off, allowing him to maintain control.

Again, this game approaches the concept of area control differently than Age of Discovery. While the idea of sending workers to the planets to score majorities in the first two Epochs is the same between both games, in Galactic Rebellion how many actions you invest to get those points versus actions spent to prepare for the GW and score Epoch III planet points is the new twist. Also, the introduction of the Galactic Senate (worth up to 21 points) presents yet another way to spend actions to get points (and manipulate the board state). No longer is majority control the primary focus. Yes, it's still a good way to get points in Epochs I+II. But throughout the game you should be thinking about how your actions will gain planet points in Epochs I+II versus Epoch III (post GW), and how your actions will lead to points from the Senate, Covert Missions, Economy and Techs. As long as you're investing just enough actions to get good planet points in Epochs I+II, your remaining actions should be focused where you can get the most points, which might not be from Epoch III planet control. If you're not investing actions to prepare for the GW, don't dump your guys on the planets after turn 6. Instead, go for the Senate and Covert Missions. And hopefully you've developed your economy (in lieu of building your military) and can afford multiple Epoch III Techs. Any points you lose on the planets will be offset by these other point sources.
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