Wade Broadhead
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Pueblo
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So it finally arrived and AOEIII was the second game of the night Thursday, after a painfully exhausting game of Mall of Horrors which didn’t put people in the right mood. However, since it played 6 we decided to give it a go, with all the regulars. They are mostly all our meaty, deep game fans. Only one club newbie who is quite bright and caught on quickly. This session report will have general remarks as well as some cautionary tales if you want your group to enjoy the game.....

General strategies
Wade: big time trade goods, steady colony scoring
Doug: MR. Discovery/ strong capitol buildings
Larry: Missionary/colonization
Tim: soldiers, mixed
Dan: mixed, discovery
Jeff: mixed, merchant shipping, discovery

Jeff took over for Beth who was enjoying the game the first two turns. He missed the rules explanation, but seemed to catch on quick. First problem, the lack of a player aid was a big drawback. I think a number of people didn’t remember what each character did in the game. Some people learn by hearing, others by reading or both, so there was a lot of confusion throughout the game about EXACTLY what every character did and where they worked the best.

As predicted it was tough to tell the leader although Doug quickly became Discovery Captain hitting all his attempts. Dan was close behind and I missed 2 with 4 sized crews! which really killed me. I did however, understand the colony scoring and I tried to really dominate 3 colonies, which paid off over time. It was not until the last colony scoring when Larry's missionary building shot him ahead of colony points. Tim became warfare chief and starting whacking Dan and Larry in a number of colonies. Here's where problem 2 arose. Warfare was not clear, probably my fault, and 2 players read it incorrectly and that caused a constant strain of confusion and frustration. Again, a player aid would have helped. Once understood, warfare on its own can be really effective way of gaining control. People were frustrated that going first did not really give you any advantage. Perhaps there is some advantage I am missing.

We also played something wrong. People choose their place in the initiative box while not filling in from left to right. Doug often took 6 place and 6$. Again that was my fault. I knew I had read it, but trying to keep a 6 player game going I couldn’t find it till today. Again, that would have rewarded my trade good strategy more and others would not have been able to buy more capitol buildings. This brings up another point. The game didn’t seem as "tight" as we would have liked. Despite going 6th Doug ended up doing fine as you will see. Because the game steers people toward different strategies you don’t necessarily compete with each other, except in order choosing capitol building, and the colonist ship that filled up quick in the last rounds. It was no Caylus or Age of Steam, but many may like that. I didn't mind too much and chose to go first most of the game so I would at least get 2 good/better picks each round. This strategy ended up helping me a lot. Another factor that contributes to this is the Discovery Box. I love this mechanic, but you cannot interfere with others. Doug got the free captain and just discovered about every turn. Now yes that costs men and material, but discoveries give you Lots of VP, plunder, and a presence in the New World, not a bad trade off. Plus its a sure thing! A missionary or solider startegy can be messed with in the New World. I think other players have to really gang up on a good explorer player since you cannot stop him from taking a card or discovery tile each turn.

So Larry's missionary strategy got him all over the board (+1 colonist per missionary), and Doug picked up a building, which gave him points for having presence in multiple colonies. Tim and Jeff were too diversified and could not haul in enough points. My trade goods gave me steady income and the ability to keep buying capitol buildings. I positioned to choose first last round- that was good, but again since we all had specific strategies and the tiles are so expensive there was no reason to steal one away from another player. I bought mercantilism since I has 12 trade goods, all others got pretty good tiles as well. This part was not very tight or tension filled, but it did allow for multiple viable paths to victory.

At this point the game had gone on 3 hours!!!! I think we all played fast and had little downtime, despite some warfare arguments. Some people were really frustrated it had taken so long. Beware: the 6 player game it is not short. It is my fault for doing a 6 player as their first intro to the game, but the 6 player option is what attracted me to the game originally.

So for the scoring. I kept track. People didn't like the scoring track at all and you really have to use beads or something. I apologize to Glen for complaining before I played

Final Scoring:
Colony Track Discovery Others Total
Wade: 37 5 24 63 3rd place
Larry: 46 10 6 62 4th place
Doug 28 31 37 96 1st place
Dan: 18 20 31 69 2nd place
Tim: 18 9 15 42 6th place
Jeff: 26 14 12 52 5th place

Sooooo Discovery's are incredibly important we observed, and hard to beat. Doug played smart and also picked up some crucial capitol buildings at the right time as well. Knowing when to go first is really crucial in this respect as well as knowing what buildings are in the stacks.

So despite some problems with a first game and a SIX player game I REALLY enjoyed the experience as a change of pace and lighter Caylus type game of worker placement and multiple paths to victory. I'd rate it a 8-9 but that’s also because I love exploration and colonization games. The mechanics are smooth and game play is pretty straight forward although I learned not for all, and a player aid is really good to have on hand. It is nowhere near as quick as I wanted, and Wallenstein/Shogun will beat it out in our group for the time required to play. I think a second play with 4-5 will be much better. I am worried a bit about the discovery strategy, all other strategies have way more risk to them but that remains to be seen. Unless you really want to pile on the discoveries, just wait and go for the for sure discovery. Larry, Tim, and I all lost numerous exploration missions and it really hurt. Finally, I want to play again and see if it feels tighter, but we had the full compliment and it seemed like you usually had a bunch of good places to go, perhaps that was me taking the iniative: and always going first or 2nd each round.

Despite some setbacks, it’s a great game I can't wait to get to the table again as soon as possible, this time with less players.
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Doug Saxon
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Colorado Springs
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I wouldn't recommend the game be played with six. It seemed a little clunky and there were some issues with the parts (not enough money, trade goods exhausted earlier, etc.)

Discovery strategy seems hard to beat since only you can stop yourself by not putting enough dudes out. The warfare aspect of the game seemed weak. The battles didn't seem to bring enough ROI beyond the joy of pounding someone.

I look forward to playing again....not with 6. Four seems like the right number.

Doug
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owen oliver
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I think with fewer people, the less important the discovery strategy becomes. Possibly because when there are fewer people competing for the other stategies, you can really get a good amount of victory points with less resistance from them.

As the various other strategies become crowded, the amount of victory points you can milk out of them dwindles. Discovery doesn't water down with more players.

I've played with 2, 3 and 5 players and the game feels much different with each.
 
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Frank Hamrick
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Rocky Mount
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We had a totally different experience with six. No issues at all with money or trade goods. Further, we saw nothing of the "clunkyness" you mention.

The guys who used the Discovery strategy finished 2,4,5. They guy who used total (ONLY) military strategy finished a dismal last. The guy who played a trade strategy finished 3rd. I tried to play a more balanced strategy - only discovered twice, had only 1 majority, and had only 8 trade goods, yet won the game.

I loved playing with 6. Yes, it took longer - about 3 hours including ALL of us learning the game. I think 6 players maked our decisions tougher, since there was plenty of competition for every Event box, except War where only one guy went for much of the game, but in the last 3 turns there were two and sometimes 3 players (mostly going there for defensive purposes, to discourage our Napoleon from constantly attacking them.

I never fought - and avoided the warmonger in the colonies.

I haven't played with fewer players, but can't imagine it being any better than our 6 player!
 
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Glenn Drover
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Playing with 6 players who know the rules usually takes 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Warfare is really a corollary to a strong colony strategy. Placing soldiers in the New World not only acts as a strong deterrent to being attacked, it allows you to make some pretty strong moves to dominate the region through warfare. Add in an "Indian Allies" capital Building and a player could dominate one or two colonies at the end of Age one, four or so in age two and perhaps five or six in age three. This equates to:

Age I (2 colonies): 12 VP's

Age II (4 colonies): 24 Vp's

Age III (6 colonies): 36 VP's

Total: 72 VP's! (Since 100 VP's is usually a winner, this is a potentially winning strategy if well executed and not offset)


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Tim Condit
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Budley wrote:
Playing with 6 players who know the rules usually takes 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Warfare is really a corollary to a strong colony strategy. Placing soldiers in the New World not only acts as a strong deterrent to being attacked, it allows you to make some pretty strong moves to dominate the region through warfare. Add in an "Indian Allies" capital Building and a player could dominate one or two colonies at the end of Age one, four or so in age two and perhaps five or six in age three. This equates to:

Age I (2 colonies): 12 VP's

Age II (4 colonies): 24 Vp's

Age III (6 colonies): 36 VP's

Total: 72 VP's! (Since 100 VP's is usually a winner, this is a potentially winning strategy if well executed and not offset)




See guys, I had an idea of what to do I just didn't execute it well... thus my last place finish. But look out next time!!
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Todd Sweet
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What makes me like the game so much is reading all the articles:

1st article - the trade goods and economy strategy is TOO powerful
2nd article - capitol buildings are TOO strong
3rd article - discovery is the only way to win
4th article - missionary and catherdal breaks the game
5th article - warfare is too strong (ok - haven't read that YET!)

In other words I think the game is well balance with multiple ways to win! If any one strategy is dominating your group it's probably more a problem of "group think" than a flaw in the game!

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Troy Adlington
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Just a quick point. Impossible to run out of trade goods I believe?

4 per turn (no matter how many players)

I had the WI Co. which gave the free trade good and got that immediately Age II started. I took the very last trade good with that in the very last turn.

So how can you run out?
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Wade Broadhead
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Thanks Glen. A second or third play will have people hone in on specific strategies and understand smart ways to counter others.
I thought early money and colonial presence would do well. Well it sort of did, but I played the discoveries poorly and risked it, when I should have waited.
Missionary is VERY strong, bbut again, it's a risk and a warfare can wronk you like I did to Larry last night, taking 2 colonies from him. Discoveries are still hard to counter though.
Looking forward to another game. I am certain soilders will be making appearances ASAP in the next one.
 
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Wade Broadhead
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We added a 5th trade good each turn to offset the people. Would not have done that in retrospect.
 
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Tom Herman
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Being the designer, I'm guessing Glen oversaw many many playtesting sessions where he has a pretty good idea of what strategies are available. Just a thought.
 
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Dave Gilligan
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Budley wrote:
Playing with 6 players who know the rules usually takes 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Warfare is really a corollary to a strong colony strategy. Placing soldiers in the New World not only acts as a strong deterrent to being attacked, it allows you to make some pretty strong moves to dominate the region through warfare. Add in an "Indian Allies" capital Building and a player could dominate one or two colonies at the end of Age one, four or so in age two and perhaps five or six in age three. This equates to:

Age I (2 colonies): 12 VP's

Age II (4 colonies): 24 Vp's

Age III (6 colonies): 36 VP's

Total: 72 VP's! (Since 100 VP's is usually a winner, this is a potentially winning strategy if well executed and not offset)




Glenn, first let me say, great job! The Appalachian Gamers played last night and it was hit.

Our second place player followed the military path but didn't start out right away and so missed out on first round colony scoring. At the end he did control 5 or 6 colonies with ease, as you point out. Throw in the capital building that provides 2 VPs for each soldier in the colonies and you can potentially add 20 points to the total!

Our winner managed to stave off the military advance by loading three colonies with men, making a military victory difficult to achieve. He also had a strong trade position and some good capital buildings along with some discoveries. A more balanced approach.

This was a 6 player game, by the way. I wrote up a session report (hasn't been approved just yet.)
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Dave Gilligan
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denverarch wrote:
Thanks Glen. A second or third play will have people hone in on specific strategies and understand smart ways to counter others.
I thought early money and colonial presence would do well. Well it sort of did, but I played the discoveries poorly and risked it, when I should have waited.
Missionary is VERY strong, bbut again, it's a risk and a warfare can wronk you like I did to Larry last night, taking 2 colonies from him. Discoveries are still hard to counter though.
Looking forward to another game. I am certain soilders will be making appearances ASAP in the next one.


Wade, great session report.

In regard to discoveries I simply could not bring myself to go with less than 5 in the discovery box (and usually 6.) The way I look at it is it costs me 1 or 2 extra actions to reach 5/6 (since going with less than 4 would be truly foolhardy) but if I go with 5 and happen to pull China, a 6 card, then I have lost 5 actions. In our game there was only one failure based on the player taking a chance, while the other failures occurred in the last turn when a few players took a chance with 3 or 4 men in the box.

In order for a discovery strategy to be effective you really need to get captains in the box (I had a tile that gave 1 free captain in the discovery box each turn.) Also wouldn't hurt to supplement that with soldiers whenever possible to earn the extra money.
 
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Glenn Drover
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Thanks Dave.

The funny thing about the game is that there are several strategies, but we haven't really found a dominant one. They can all work. It really depends on the other players and on what opportunities present themselves to allow you to maximize a certain strategy.


Sidebar: Dave, I notice that you have rated over 130 games and have never given a rating higher than an '8'. I'm insanely curious why this is? Do you think that you'll ever give a game a 9 or a 10?


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Hugh G. Rection
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denverarch wrote:
Another factor that contributes to this is the Discovery Box. I love this mechanic, but you cannot interfere with others. Doug got the free captain and just discovered about every turn. Now yes that costs men and material, but discoveries give you Lots of VP, plunder, and a presence in the New World, not a bad trade off.


I'm not sure if you were playing incorrectly, or it's not worded clearly. Successfully completing a discovery does not give you a presence in the colony discovered. All pieces committed to that discovery are returned to the player's supply area.

I was wrong - missed the pertinent rule in the rulebook.

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John Paul Sodusta
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Hugh_G_Rection wrote:
denverarch wrote:
Another factor that contributes to this is the Discovery Box. I love this mechanic, but you cannot interfere with others. Doug got the free captain and just discovered about every turn. Now yes that costs men and material, but discoveries give you Lots of VP, plunder, and a presence in the New World, not a bad trade off.


I'm not sure if you were playing incorrectly, or it's not worded clearly. Successfully completing a discovery does not give you a presence in the colony discovered. All pieces committed to that discovery are returned to the player's supply area.


When you successfully discover part of the Americas, you get 1 FREE colonist in that region, additional to the bounties and VPs.
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Hugh G. Rection
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Well crap, there's another rule that was missed in our first game. Thanks for pointing that out. Important rules like that should be bulleted in the manual. They are too easy to gloss over when you're anxious to actually play the game!
 
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Dave Gilligan
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Budley wrote:

Sidebar: Dave, I notice that you have rated over 130 games and have never given a rating higher than an '8'. I'm insanely curious why this is? Do you think that you'll ever give a game a 9 or a 10?


Glenn,

Think of me as the antithesis of the folks who have a couple of dozen games rated a 10 . I may, at some point rate a game a 10 but I haven't played any single game enough to give it that honor (or even a 9 for that matter.) In the group I play in we have a couple of members who have collections numbering 400-600 games, meaning I'm constantly playing new and different games. I can't bring myself to rate a game a 10 given my situation.

If you look at my games played you will see that those 130 games I rated have all been played within the last year. Only a few games have I played more than once (RRT is one...great job with that one too!)

I'll tell you what. You come to Charcon, West Virginia's gaming convention in October as an honored guest of the convention and I will give my first 10 rating to either RRT or AoE III . This is the second year of the convention and while we do cover basically any gaming genre (RPG, CCG, Historical Minis, Fantasy Minis, Sci-Fi Minis, Boardgames, etc...) I am in charge of promoting the Boardgaming genre. We have a website, http://www.charcon.org/charcon/index.php, but it hasn't been updated much (still in the planning stages for this year.) We'd love to have you join us.

Dave
 
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Seth
Netherlands
Eindhoven
Noord Brabant
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I have only red the rules - twice - but from that impression, I realized the Discovery strategy would be a potent one. But there is one thing I couldn't figure out from the rules:

I'm unable to determine if you are allowed to attack Discoveries made from the Discovery Deck... If not then Wade is right; following the Discovery Strategy is pretty safe indeed, since those VP's can't be toutched and by anyone else. I would really like some insight from a designer (Glen?)
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Glenn Drover
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Dave - I'd love to come to WV for the con. My only issue is time/ distance. I've recently taken a full-time gig as national sales director for PopCap Games (awesome casual PC games!... you should check them out), and I'm in Saettle alot, travelling the country, and home in Chicago occasionally to see my wife and three kids!

If I can fit the con in, I'll be there...but it doesn't look promising.

*********
Seth - Discovery is pretty bullet proof. If you use 5 colonists for New World Discoveries (or the equivalent) and 6 for the cards (after the New World is fully explored, you cannot fail. Other players cannot hinder you or take your "discovery" away.

While this can generate a good number of victory ppoints (perhaps 30 - 40), it cannot wiin the game for you by itself...most of the time.

You'll need to support a Discovery Strategy with good capital Buildings, and probably a decent economy...one or two colonies woouldn't hurt either...in other words a balanced approach with a concentration on Discovery.

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Travis Reynolds
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Amma
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denverarch wrote:
We added a 5th trade good each turn to offset the people. Would not have done that in retrospect.


I would guess that in addition to depleting the trade goods, this also heavily contributed to your groups feeling that initiative was not valuable. By having more trade goods available, it reduced the value of going early just to have a chance at the good you wanted.

TR
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