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Subject: I am in awe of this game. rss

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Andrew J.
United States
Missouri
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I bought Tammany Hall on October 30, 2016, little anticipating the Halloween nightmare that this game would prove to be. It sat on my shelf, brooding as only a fat cat New York City mob boss can do, daring me to test myself against it, only to break against the uncaring sand and retreat, as the waves do day after day after day. Finally I could stand it no longer, as I threw down my gauntlet, gathered my friends, and resolved to test our wills and our friendships on this knife fight.

Reviewers described Tammany Hall as 'competitive' and 'backstabbing' -- I pictured your typical Sheriff of Nottingham game, or even a competitive push-your-luck game like Deep Sea Adventure. I was in no way prepared for the convulsions of nervousness and fear that would overtake me when playing this game. Calling this game 'competitive' is like calling a tigress an 'overgrown kitty cat.' This is, bar none, absolutely the most competitive game I have ever owned or played.

The Players
We had six players in a five-player game, so Jon and Ashley graciously agreed to play as a couple. They are both engineers and extremely talented so we all feared for our lives.
Nathan and Stephen both have a little exposure to gamer's games, and area control specifically, and I of course feel pretty confident with a game like this.
Lindsay was player #5 and she is an inexperienced gamer. However, she was so excited about the theme that she grabbed a spot at a table. Though I wasn't sure how she'd handle it I didn't want to bar anyone from playing (though in hindsight, it might have been better to steer her away and let Jon/Ashley be two players). It didn't help that the other two folks at game night (my wife, and Nathan's girlfriend) weren't playing a game, but were finishing up some homework.

So we started. I flubbed the rules explanation, even though I'd watched several walkthroughs. This game is just kind of difficult to wrap your head around and the elections especially kind of left everyone confused. I was working straight from the rulebook (a big mistake for this game) and feel like I didn't do a great job.

Our first hint of trouble was when Lindsay started getting frustrated during the rules. Other players were talking a good deal, so she was shushing them and trying to listen. When we started, she still didn't feel confident so asked for the rulebook to read through. So probably for the first four years, she was reading the rulebook. I offered to explain further but she wanted to read for herself.

Mistake #2 -- I missed the rule that says the start player rotates clockwise. This meant I was the first player every single term, and boy, can that screw you up in this game. Predictably, I finished at the bottom of the barrel as every election year all the other players could screw me up. I also never, ever got any immigrant leader bonuses except in the last term, when it was too little, too late. Those are crucial to the game and going first every time really messed me up with that.

We got started and after our first election we were all starting to get the hang of it. We'd all done fairly well and were jostling around 4VP, except Jon/Ashley, who had won mayor and shot up to 8VP, and...Lindsay, who won not a single ward in the first election.

At this point Lindsay started to get frustrated. She said she didn't understand how elections worked, and I was suspecting that this was too competitive of a game for her tastes (that's ok, it is for a lot of people). My wife later said that Lindsay had been on her phone during the rules explanation so probably didn't get the gist of it until she read the rulebook for herself, and overall, well, there's just no easy way to solve this situation as the host.

We pressed on into the second election and this is where my luck began to fade. As the first player every single turn, almost all of my control eroded as I was overpowered by later players, and I won only two wards. I also mortgaged my future by overbidding for one of them. Throughout the game I had trouble acquiring favor chips, and I think these are way more important than placing two ward bosses. I should've been doing 90% 1 ward boss/1 immigrant cube, and 10% two ward bosses, but the ratio was more 60-40 or even 50-50. That was my mistake, and coupled with the first player penalty, I was sunk.

We loved the special powers that came out, and the mayor always agonized over which to give to which. Jon and Ashley's initial strong position faded as everyone sort of ganged up on them, and Stephen and Nathan began to jockey for first place. I was doing worse and worse, and by the third election year I had control of zero wards, after some particularly dirty slander chips thrown my way. Lindsay had picked up a ward or two to get her to three points, but she was so far behind at this point that she had almost entirely checked out -- and was still complaining that she didn't get it. After the third election, I think she finally figured it out, but it was too little, too late.

By the fourth election, I had control of the locking power, so I immediately locked up one district with seven cubes in it. What's incredible is that by the time it came around to me again, there was still only one ward boss in a giant twelve-cube ward. I was able to slander that boss, place my own boss, and lock down that ward. I knew those were the only two wards I would carry in the fourth election (as I was out of favor chips) but I had basically been able to play spoiler and throw the game to Stephen instead of Nathan. I was still hoping that they would beat each other senseless and I would lock down enough of the immigrant bonuses (at one point, based on those two wards alone, I was in line for all four bonuses) to squeak out a win, but Jon/Ashley grabbed the germans and Nathan retaliated with a slander in another district to grab the Irish from me.

In total, aside from the grievous first-player error, this was a good game. Stephen took the win with 29 points (not coincidentally, he was the last player which had a big part in it), Nathan was second with 20 points, Jon and Ashley grabbed 18, I had 14, and Lindsay had 3.

Impressions
Jon: Amazing game, now let's not play it for another six months.
Nathan: I really like this game.
Stephen (who ended up winning): let's finish this thing up, I know I'm going to lose in these elections.
Lindsay: ...
Me: mixed feelings.

So this particular session could have gone a lot better. Lindsay obviously didn't have a good time, and I feel really bad about that, even though there wasn't much I could do. I'm not going to tell someone who wants to play a game that they can't, but I'm wondering if I should have since I really didn't think she would enjoy it -- and she didn't. Obviously, the first player order really screwed us up as well, and I also wonder if four-player makes for a slightly more manageable game as 5-player felt sort of chaotic to me.

Despite all that, I enjoyed playing the game and would tentatively rate it a high 6 or even a low 8. More plays will determine that. I also agree with Jon that it's a great game, but far too stressful to see the table every week. At the same time, there's nothing that really does what Tammany Hall does, and if you want some good area control, it's hard to find a more satisfying game than this. I'm eager to see how it plays with fewer players and with proper turn order, and I think I will be keeping it in my collection.

Would welcome your thoughts if you have any!
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chris thatcher
United Kingdom
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Quote:
there's nothing that really does what Tammany Hall does, and if you want some good area control, it's hard to find a more satisfying game than this


El Grande would like a word with you.
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Marina SC
Canada
Vaughan
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I like this game a lot, but I agree it can feel draining!

aaj94 wrote:

Mistake #2 -- I missed the rule that says the start player rotates clockwise. This meant I was the first player every single term, and boy, can that screw you up in this game.

Just to clarify, the Mayor becomes the start player at the beginning of each term, and from there you proceed clockwise
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Mark Gilbertson
United States
Duluth
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Tariff wrote:
Quote:
there's nothing that really does what Tammany Hall does, and if you want some good area control, it's hard to find a more satisfying game than this


El Grande would like a word with you.

... good one!
 
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Andrew J.
United States
Missouri
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Mashpotassium wrote:
I like this game a lot, but I agree it can feel draining!

aaj94 wrote:

Mistake #2 -- I missed the rule that says the start player rotates clockwise. This meant I was the first player every single term, and boy, can that screw you up in this game.

Just to clarify, the Mayor becomes the start player at the beginning of each term, and from there you proceed clockwise


Ahh, so we even got the correction wrong. We all agreed to continue as we had been, but I like the rules (as you correct me) even better -- the mayor gets a sharp penalty against the next election!
 
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Andrew J.
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Tariff wrote:
Quote:
there's nothing that really does what Tammany Hall does, and if you want some good area control, it's hard to find a more satisfying game than this


El Grande would like a word with you.


blush I've never played it. . . Find me a copy that's less than a couple hundred bucks, and I'm yours!

Edit: Also, not something I'd say in a review, but an off-the-cuff sessions report, sure Still, thanks for the rec.
 
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Maarten D. de Jong
Netherlands
Zaandam
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Tariff wrote:
El Grande would like a word with you.

El Grande should stay right where it is, in its evil box oozing demonic energies from beyond the dawn of time. I seriously don't get why people are so hung up with it... probably momentum from the days when there was little to choose from and so everyone played either this or nothing. (It's the same with Die Macher, really.) Majority games have moved on since it appeared, cutting away useless cruft and honing the way players interact.

In Tammany Hall people can at least target specific players and areas, and are even meaningfully encouraged to collude in what surely must be an apt translation of its subject matter into abstract game mechanisms. In El Grande it's all very much dependent on chaotically determined player order and making the most of a situation a player didn't want to be in. That is quite a different, and in my opinion quite an inferior, way of having the players decide how to pursue their own fate.
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Christian Amey
United States
Eastern Shore
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If, as your wife stated, Lindsay was on her phone during the rules explanation, I can understand why she didn't have fun. But, I hardly think that is your fault she wasn't paying attention when you were explaining the game.

As for the game itself, I've been playing online at SlothNinja.com for a few years now as well as with my gaming friends. My favorite player count(s) online are 3 or 4; I also find 5 players too chaotic for my tastes. When sitting at the table with friends, the chaos is more enjoyable; maybe because I can talk and collude more easily with the other players to disrupt the leaders momentum.

Regardless, this game is worth playing. The rule set is surprisingly simple (when you pay attention to the pre-game explanation) but the gameplay is much deeper and strategic.
 
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Michael Frost

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As with nearly all great games like TH, you really need to play by the rules to get the most out of it. In this case, the rules regarding the Mayor and first player. Try it again rather soon, since you have the game fresh in your mind. It rewards repeat play. As the game is at its best with a group of 4-5 experienced players.

When I teach it to others, I describe it as an area-control war game disguised as politics.

But it is just so much fun to play. Even to watch others play.
 
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Maarten D. de Jong
Netherlands
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MPMelanchthon wrote:
When I teach it to others, I describe it as an area-control war game disguised as politics.

It's area majorities through and through, and mechanistically no more agressive than any of the top a.m.-games of yonder years. The much more friendly-eyeing San Marco is much meaner in this respect, for example. But where Tammany Hall deviates considerably from the rest is in how it promotes players to cooperate in order to oust other players.

Still, I don't associate Tammany Hall with wargames.
 
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Michael Frost

Iowa
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Each Ward Election is a "battle". Part of the overall "campaign" that is the entire election cycle of 4 years. And players on their turns provide the necessary "reinforcements" of either Ward Bosses or Immigrant Cubes to win "battles".

Even the special roles for the City Offices are mostly tied to winning "battles". The Chief of Police, Council President, and Precinct Chairman allow you to manipulate things in ways to help you win "battles" and control wards.

One has to be careful playing ones Political Favor Chips. These work not unlike fuel or food or ammunition that a military force needs during both "battles" and a sustained "campaign". You must play them very carefully over the course of the entire "campaign", during the individual Ward Elections, because you must use them sparingly, in the right Wards at the right time, if you want to use them for maximum effect in each "battle". Waste them, and you'll be crushed in both "battles" and in the "campaign" that is that overall election cycle.

And the pre-programmed order of the Ward Elections, and the benefits associated with winning those in Wards 1-2-4-7 provide additional "reinforcements" or resources to use during the "campaign".

This could easily have been re-themed in a military manner. It plays out like 14 individual "battles" that make up one "campaign". Which is done 4 times for the entire "War".
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Andrew J.
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MPMelanchthon wrote:
As with nearly all great games like TH, you really need to play by the rules to get the most out of it. In this case, the rules regarding the Mayor and first player. Try it again rather soon, since you have the game fresh in your mind. It rewards repeat play. As the game is at its best with a group of 4-5 experienced players.

When I teach it to others, I describe it as an area-control war game disguised as politics.

But it is just so much fun to play. Even to watch others play.


Yes, definitely agree. I'm hoping to bring it out again within the month so we can try again with the proper rules. Think it might be less frustrating. A lower player count might be good as well.

A
 
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Jeff Huter
United States
McCordsville
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aaj94 wrote:
Yes, definitely agree. I'm hoping to bring it out again within the month so we can try again with the proper rules. Think it might be less frustrating. A lower player count might be good as well.

A


You may also consider playing a game or two at slothninja.com to ensure you have a strong grasp on the rules before your next face to face game. whistle

Jeff (AKA SlothNinja)
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Andrew J.
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Aha, I may just have to do that, though I don't have a lot of time these days
 
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Joseph Betz
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I played this one time and was not too impressed. It could be it was not a great experience as we played it when it first came out and there was a rule that was not real clear.

I was given the council president as my bonus which lets you lock two wards up. But the earlier edition of the rules was not clear about nothing could go in or out of that ward. So it would be like okay you get this special ability and the other players would either put cubes in or out I forget exactly. The bottom line was you would think okay I will lock this up because I am leading here and then it would get screwed with.

It was eventually cleared up on the FAQ on the publishers game site that nothing could go in or out of that ward but the game was kind of ruined for me when I played it.


I would need to play it again I guess with the right rule but still not sure I would like it more than El Grande which is one of my favorite games and these games seem pretty similar.
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Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Don't fall in love with me yet, we only recently met
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Quote:
Reviewers described Tammany Hall as 'competitive' and 'backstabbing' -- I pictured your typical Sheriff of Nottingham game, or even a competitive push-your-luck game like Deep Sea Adventure. I was in no way prepared for the convulsions of nervousness and fear that would overtake me when playing this game. Calling this game 'competitive' is like calling a tigress an 'overgrown kitty cat.' This is, bar none, absolutely the most competitive game I have ever owned or played.


Yep. This is the only game that has ever pushed me close to punching someone.
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doug eckhart
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INDIANAPOLIS
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it shouldn't, but this makes me smile.
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Michael Frost

Iowa
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Of course it should. You designed a great game that is fun to play and standing the test of time. So enjoy your smile. You earned it. The old fashioned way: with a good game that has great replayability.

And while I've enjoyed El Grande, it just doesn't have the same feel. The special power cards make it a completely different experience. And the turn order is too critical. TH is much more streamlined, more elegant, more brutal to play in light of its simplicity. You win by being smart every round. Not relying on some power card to play at the right time. Watching your opponents and then making sure to pounce at the right time. Love to watch that player in 3rd place who eeks out a win on the last election.
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