James Webb
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I've been trying to put my finger on why Indonesia is such an excellent experience. I think it might be because it feels like a true sandbox economic game. There are many economic Euros that promise you freedom, but then hamstring you by saying, “Yeah, you can do whatever you want – but if you totally ignore this thing, well, then you'll lose.” Indonesia feels different. It's not a complicated game, and there are scripted moments due to the way that the companies come out, but every single play starts off with what feels like unlimited possibilities. It has an epic scope, without an epic playtime or an epic rule book. What is it? Like, eight pages or something.

One of the ways in which Indonesia differs from other economic games is that many apply the “You have to spend money to make money!” principle to every action that you can do. Get a cabbage factory? That's $3. Produce cabbages? Another $1. Cross-breed your cabbages with gerbils? That's $5. Let's hope that the market value for Gerbages stays at $13, shall we? Everything you do costs you money. The logic is clear: You must lose to win, so make sure you either lose the least or win the most, preferably both. Yet, in Indonesia there are a lot of things that you can do to make money that actually don't cost you a single Rupiah.

Here is a list of things that you can do that can improve your game position, but don't cost you any money:

1) Start a company

2) Expand a company (sometimes)

3) Develop your infrastructure

4) Produce goods

5) Have someone buy your company

6) Punch Chris in the face






In Indonesia, you don't need to spend money to make money. For example:

1) Start a shipping company

2) Increase your hull size, forcing players to use MEGASHIP INC. for all their shipping needs

3) Collect money from other players

4) Sell your shipping company

5) PROFIT!!!






All without spending a single penny. But there are, of course, also actions that cost you money. Here's a list of things that you can do with your money in Indonesia:

1) Bid for turn order

2) Expand a company (sometimes)

3) Ship goods

4) Buy someone else's company like a scum-sucking leech, or alternatively, protect your own companies from a disgusting hostile takeover, unless you can't or don't want to

5) Buy a new copy of the game because you force fed Luke the wooden tokens until he choked, because he merged your rice company with his spice company to create a totally unnecessary siap faji company and in doing so took away your best source of income GGRRRRAHHHHHNNNNGGGGG!!!!






This dichotomy is, in part, the brilliance of Indonesia. It's not a pure mathy exercise of working out the most cost-efficient actions – there's a huge element of bluff, instinct and sniffing out the weakest member of the herd. You have to decide yourself when to spend, and when you do, you have to decide yourself how much something is actually worth at that given time. How much is going first in turn order worth? Maybe nothing this turn, but maybe plenty next turn when the new companies come out and you need to ship your rubber before Luke ships his. How much do you want to spend to merge those two spice companies? Ah yes, Mergers. The most deliciously tense auction moments in any game I have ever played, ever.






























One turn you'll want to buy another player's company in order to get a monopoly, or to deprive someone else of income, or to just take advantage of the fact that no-one's in a position to stop you swallowing up all the shipping. The next turn you'll want to sell, either because you want the money, or because there are some tasty new companies coming out and you want to free up one of your precious slots, or for some other more sinister motivation. But what if no-one wants to buy? SO...MANY...DECISIONS...

It's all compounded by the fact that the mergers are their own little closed economy, so the winning bid is split between the owners of the companies, regardless of who actually ends up as the CEO of MONSTER OIL INC. It's not just a question of how much you are willing to spend to get what you want - it's also a question of how willing you are to enrich another player by doing it.

This uncertainty factor, the required leaps of faith, is a reason why some people just don't enjoy the game. You are not battling a game engine, you are genuinely battling the other players, and that can go wrong. It's not a difficult game, but it's not a gentle game. You can get sharked off the table. You can fall behind because you paid silly money for a company that didn't have the shipping network to get the goods to market - but that's your own fault. You can get locked out of a profitable commodity, but then you can always merge your way back in if you want to. Besides, maybe it doesn't matter because there are always other opportunities, other ways to make money.

But it has its quirks. At times it's a fiddly game. Oh boy, is it fiddly. The auctions can be slow, as each bid must be a multiple of the size of the companies involved, and unless you want to wait for Chris to struggle through the 13 times table you'd better have a calculator on hand. I don't mind this though. I'm always totally invested in the mergers, because the outcome is so important. A bit of delay while someone works out their next bid tightens the delicious tension just a fraction.

The worst culprit, however, is shipping goods with it's Golden, Necessary, Fantastic Rule that "You must ship as many goods as you can." By Era Three everyone is peering intently at the table during every other player's turn, trying to help them maximise their shipping routes. It's slow and can be annoying, but it actually matters to everyone. It's in your own interest to make sure that the other players are using as much of your shipping as they can, or that they don't absolutely have to ship that spice to the city that you wanted to ship spice to. It's a hassle, but I think it's worth it.






Ultimately, I think it's the combination of freedom and brutality that I love about this game. There's always exciting options parading in front of you. When I win, I won because I outplayed my opponents. I won because I was shrewder and kept my nerve for longer. I wasn't railroaded into victory - I chose it.

But when you lose, well, you know that it's your fault, and yours alone, and that you can do nothing but sit in the dark, replaying the game in your head and feasting on the bitter fruit of regret.





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David G. Cox Esq.
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You're a funny dude. Your comic sense has developed nicely since leaving Australia.

Write more reviews.
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Nicola Bocchetta
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Which game where you meaning?
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James Webb
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Faso74it wrote:
Which game where you meaning?


I don't know. Which one do you like more than Indonesia?
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Grant
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This review is awesome. Well done!
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Darrell Hanning
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Superb, absolutely superb. And, may I add, spot on.
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Nicola Bocchetta
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revgiblet wrote:
Faso74it wrote:
Which game where you meaning?


I don't know. Which one do you like more than Indonesia?


I don't know. I've never played Indonesia.
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Josh
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Faso74it wrote:
revgiblet wrote:
Faso74it wrote:
Which game where you meaning?


I don't know. Which one do you like more than Indonesia?


I don't know. I've never played Indonesia.
So all of them then
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A. B. West
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One of my greatest regrets in all my years of gaming. Scheduled to play Indonesia. Decided not to play.

WAAAAHHHHHHYYYY??

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Michael Perez
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Hilarious. You truly captured the essence of the game.
Hard not to be on both ends of that deal at some point. This is one of those few games where you replay it in my mind and can pinpoint those couple of moves that won or lost you the game.
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W. Cracker
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Noah's boat + Opposite of left
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James Webb
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MrMzchf wrote:
Noah's boat + Opposite of left






DISCLAIMER: I've never played Arkwright, but I'd really like to.
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W. Cracker
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revgiblet wrote:
MrMzchf wrote:
Noah's boat + Opposite of left






DISCLAIMER: I've never played Arkwright, but I'd really like to.

Wow! I'm impressed how quickly you created that image on the fly! I'm sure your excellent review wasn't referencing Ark******whistle Anton Chigurh; best villain ever and avid Indonesia player.

P.S.: I'm waiting on my copy of Indonesia
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Viktor Karlsson Mantel
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Can someone please make a real good how to play video for this game?
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Severus Snape
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I am trying to put my finger on why this review is . . . as that other one, for that other game. Funny thing, that.

goo
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Tolchock wrote:
Can someone please make a real good how to play video for this game?

+1
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Chris Wood
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I have a economic game I like more than indonesia, but I'm not telling you what it is.
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W. Cracker
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Myoman wrote:
I have a economic game I like more than indonesia, but I'm not telling you what it is.


Oh, come on. How about a hint? What letter does it start with?
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W. Cracker
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MrMzchf wrote:
Myoman wrote:
I have a economic game I like more than indonesia, but I'm not telling you what it is.


Oh, come on. How about a hint? What letter does it start with?

Just a teeny eentsy weentsy hint?
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Andy Mesa
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Tolchock wrote:
Can someone please make a real good how to play video for this game?

Someone did...ten years ago.

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W. Cracker
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MrMzchf wrote:
MrMzchf wrote:
Myoman wrote:
I have a economic game I like more than indonesia, but I'm not telling you what it is.


Oh, come on. How about a hint? What letter does it start with?

Just a teeny eentsy weentsy hint?


OK! Be that way. But I'll just bet you my favorite economic game would fire your favorite economic game because Monopoly isn't really that good a game you know
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Andrea Martinenghi
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revgiblet wrote:

...


Dude, I just registered after few years of lurking to express my appreciation to your post. So fucking perfect and funny. Thank you.

P.S. I just bought today the game at a big game fair and made it signed by the creators!!!
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P A
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what if that other game is vinhos?
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