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Subject: Rhodes ~ Deranged Review. rss

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Deranged
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~Deranged Review~


Hello! Welcome to this Deranged Review. How's the family?

I was fortunate enough to attend the releaseparty of Rhodes today (#8), and it was, simply put, great. The food was exquisite (#1), the people were ready to roll, the coffee was on the house and the star of the show was played on very nearly every table in a cozy Greek restaurant with a curiously fitting name (#2). There was a story behind the choice of this specific restaurant beyond certain clear similarities, but this is not that story.

No, this story starts some fifty years ago, in a small village in North Holland (#3). But as I've hardly got the time to tell a story spanning fifty years, I'll just get on with the review, okay?

I'll be giving grades on several aspects of the game, such as discussed here.
For ART, I look at the big picture, and how that picture looks. EASE covers ease of play and learning curve, FLEXIBILITY covers the amount of free will you have and is therefore linked to replayability. FUN might be deceptive, as it's a gut thang, but I'll try and specify in the text, and COMPONENTS should be self-explanatory. I'll not say a lot about rules and specifics - you can find those out for yourself.


The Game Itself: Mediterranean Trading
Produce, sell, buy, sell, achieve goal, get points, repeat until satisfied. Most points wins!

ART
-The game looks amazing. The board has tiny people walking around doing typical Rhodesian things, like walking around and being toga-clad. The Colossus is suspiciously absent, but that's probably because it hasn't been built yet (and we, the players, need to raise the money to get it done, which is actually a rather epic goal). The money is some of the best I've seen in games yet; it looks sufficiently Ancient Greek, and I actually like paper money, especially when it looks this good.

The wooden pieces are all bright and colourful, and most things are colour-coded for your convenience. The several distinct worker-placement parts of the board are just that, clearly distinct. And the box art immediately tells you this is a game about ships and Rhodes.

EASE
-There are a handful of things to do, which are all pretty easy to understand. As with most worker-placement-type games, the trick is in when and how to do it. And as with most good games, the answer to the question "What should I do?" is "It depends on what the others are doing."

There's some production going on, which more or less forces you to supply your fellow Greeks with goods as well. Production comes with a side option of blocking them off of other goods for the turn, in a way that is far more direct, specific and optional than usual (#4).

Then there's the Canal with the boats bobbing along the quay, the price of the contents available for purchase determined by how far along it is. New boats push the old boats along, making the goods contained therein cheaper. So the longer you wait with buying a specific good, the cheaper it gets; but the cheaper it gets, the higher the chance someone else will snatch it up. You pay the owner of the boat (unless that's you, in which case you pay the bank), so selling your wares through the Canal is a nice way to get some extra cash .

There are some things you can buy with your hard-earned cash that do not come on boats, like additional farmland or technological upgrades. You can turn products into money, money into points, or create revenue with the use of your fully upgraded farmhouse.

Point is, the game is not really all that difficult to understand ruleswise, but it does offer many options.


FLEXIBILITY
-Unlike Stone Age, there is a clear line from farm to scoring table; unlike Game of Goose, that line is not linear - it has many shortcuts, turns, speedbumps, alternate routes and stops. And as GPS-navigation was not available in ancient Rhodes, there's no One True Path to Victory, you'll just have to walk and see how far you get.

You could forego traditional farming and just buy the products you need as they arrive on the docks. You could go for technical advancements, which when fully operational allows you to just spawn goods of a type of your choice in your warehouse. You could opt for going for the big boat to push through loads of goods and snag up the resulting discount on goods further down the line as an added bonus. Or you could just, you know, farm for massive amounts of points.

All these options are viable some of the time, but none of them will be viable all of the time, meaning you'll have to keep a weather eye on the horizon (#5), and be ready to do a Race for the Galaxy-esque change of track when so needed.

FUN
-My regular readers (#6) will surely remember I am usually all for direct confrontation, hilarity and creative solutions to problems pertaining to not-winning. FUN is a word usually less and less fitting as the heaviness of a game increases.

Well I had a blast today! While the game frustrated me to no end - more on that later - I certainly had genuine fun. Rhodes has a weight of 3.00 as of now, a weight mostly derived from the myriad paths to victory and the ever-changing worth of these paths. However, unlike some other heavy games, Rhodes is still very much understandable while having a beer and having fun with and around the game.

The wooden parts are bright and easily stackable. That helps.

COMPONENTS
-Wooden bits, check.
Sturdy cardboard, check.
Thick paper money, check.
Plenty of zip-locks, check.

Pro's
Interestingly frustrating.
Bright and clear design.
Relatively cheap for the amount of game you get.
Not point salady.
Short AND deep enough to explore options.

Con's
Somewhat weird and incomprehensible.




End result:
Rhodes is an intensely well-crafted game which brings together some very neat mechanics in a way that offer possibilities without infinite options. And it was exceedingly frustrating.

I found myself continuously with just one drachme short, without valuable options or cut off from the thing I needed to do at that moment. I was behind from the very start, and like an astmathic in a marathon I did all I could but just did not seem to get anywhere. It was infuriating! But it did not lead to senseless acts of ragequit; rather, it got me trying to analyse what went wrong, where, and when, and to better my truly abyssmal score of the first game (#6).


I fared much better in my second game, and managed to double that score on my third game along with the knowledge that it could have worked well enough to snatch the win (if only the game had lasted a little longer...) and that my opponents had to rush the game to prevent me from winning.

Rhodes is far less unforgiving than Steam, less point salady than Stone Age and less unpredictable than Tigris & Euphrate. It's still deep enough to earn it's badge of Light Expert - and wear it proudly. It may take twenty games before I actually win one, but that's okay, I'm patient...

I kinda hope Pieter will do six more games (#9), so I can complete the set .

As usual, please give your opinion in the comments .

Oh, by the way, I am Deranged. I like to have fun with (and around) boardgames, and have played many of them over the years. I've been furniture in my FLGS for years ^^. I tend to like old games; well, I tend to like good games, most of which have been around for bit ^^. I've written 86 reviews as of yet, which you can access here, and a handful of random topics discussed here. If you want me to write a review for you or recommend me a game, there's this neat little envelop near my avatar!

I do pay a lot of attention to editing, so if this review looks really weird to you there's prolly a difference in resolution.

googoo

#1: But unfortunately very nearly gone when we finally finished our first game.
#2: No points for guessing.
#3: Not the north of Netherlands, mind you. Please watch this wonderful video by the inesteemable mister CGP Grey if this confuses you in any way. Actually, go watch it anyway, Mr. Grey's videos are well worth the time.
#4: Player interaction, one of my favourite and most appreciated ingredients in any game.
#5: And your opponent's cash supply.
#6: Welcome back!
#7: I can confidently say that my score went up with a whopping near 400% the next game. No longer abyssmal, merely canyonic.
#8: When I wrote this, that is. I was keeping it on ice for reasons I shan't discuss here and now, but rest assured that good things might just be in the future .
#9: and possibly a movie.

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Jimmy Okolica
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Great review! I agree with all your points. The only thing I'll add is the how interactive the game is! It feels like Puerto Rico in the sense of the number of times during the game I had to ask, "this is good for me, but is it better for someone else?" I love that in a game! I've only played twice, but right now it's got potential to be in my top 5 of 2016.
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Jonathan Franklin
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My only niggling concern is whether there are truly multiple paths to victory.
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Deranged
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grandslam wrote:
My only niggling concern is whether there are truly multiple paths to victory.


Well, yeah. I mean, I believe there are, I've seen 'm, and I've even outlined a handful in the review. So I'm not quite sure what you mean .
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Jonathan Franklin
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We found it hard to compete with those going the shipping route. It felt like games started with production, then diversification/buying of powers, then lots and lots of shipping. Meanwhile, other spots on the board went virtually unused until the last turn or two, such as the better exchange rate spaces. I can totally believe it is groupthink, but it felt more tactical than that there were different strategies to pursue.
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Deranged
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Do you mean those players who push the boats through, thereby making the goods cheaper for you so you can more easily rake in the points?

The Market usually gets used a few times in the beginning to get some dough, the Temple gets used as a last resort, true. But if people keep on shipping you could just buy all the blocks you need in the Harbor. Possibly add a few nice blocks to your Farm to score some extra points every now and then.

IF however you feel like people are hanging around in the Harbor too much, you could just buy more blocks. If there's nothing nice on sale, it's no use to go to the Harbor. Or you could just flood the harbor with goods, get all the cash, and do a few monster turns at the end - or just never produce so they can't buy anything.

The thing is, any given strategy usually works by the grace of your opponents, and if you just start doing someting completely out of left field, they won't know what to do. It's possible shipping only works so well in your group because everyone is doing it.

Something I'd like to try is farming, farming all the way, and then just buy points at the end of the game, possibly snatching up some gold (or just buying ALL THE GOODS) in the middle. It'd be hard to defend against, but might not be fast enough .
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Michel Claessens

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Thanks for the review! I tried the game yesterday and liked it quite a bit. Then, I read again your review
I am not sure that there is a myriad paths to victory though. At least, not in the sense that you can choose an avenue, like just building your estate, and try to win.
As far as I understand the game the different areas, to the exception of Market and Temple which didn't get much use, seem pretty tightly intertwined to me.
Production and Farm (shipping) seems to be the main source of income. You can't really get started if you don't produce and ship your goods. After that you get more specialization options but it seems like you need a solid engine first.
The fun for me was the always changing puzzle of the Harbor which, in my opinion, was driving everything else, like what to produce, when to ship, what to buy, what to store, etc. You can somewhat mitigate the risks of the Harbor or of the Farm through more estate or development tiles but you have very little time to do that and the cost of these tiles limits you to 2-3 tiles max in a game.
So, I would think that your strategy will always be, as you mentioned it, a fluctuating mix of a few options, driven by your earlier choices and what others have chosen.
I actually like this game better than other family games like Fresco or Village. At least for the time being
I really like the turn order selection. And, My only questions would be about the usefulness of Market or Temple, which take some real estate away, besides being catch up options, and the cost of development tiles.
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Deranged
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Well, starting with a bit of extra cash never hurts, so Market usually sees use in the first few rounds. Those ten extra drachmes make the developments easier to get, too . Temple, well I don't know what to say . I guess it has it's place as a last resort, but so far my experiments of getting all the money and buying my way to victory have not yet succeeded :/.
 
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