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Subject: Why Wallenstein is better than Shogun (to this gamer) rss

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Gaius Caesar
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Recently, a fellow spielbyweb.com Wallenstein player asked me if I like Wallenstein or Shogun more. My answer was I enjoyed Wallenstein more.

With this bias in mind, I will still do my best to compare the two games as neutrally as possible.

I have over 50+ completed www.spielbyweb.com Wallenstein games under my belt; additionally, I have roughly 30 completed traditional Wallenstein games finished (i.e. uses the actual game board on a table). Because Shogun does not exist online (yet?), and also because I do not enjoy it as much as Wallenstein, I only have about 15 Shogun games completed.

Before I dig into my reasons for liking Wallenstein more, I would like to make it clear that I am keenly aware that tastes differ. I know there are players out there who will disagree with my assessments. This review is not a crusade to bash Shogun players; rather, I will do my best to compare some of the game rules, components, boards, game play, etc. I also intend to outline why I think Wallenstein is more playable.

A Request to Queen and Other Players
I certainly wound not mind it if the review gathered enough support to convince Queen Games to issue a reprint of Wallenstein. I didn’t enjoy paying the collector’s price for Wallenstein at the time, but I am glad I did in retrospect. If there are any of you out there who feel the same way about a reprint of Wally, let Queen know about it. I did and am now.

Potential Language Problems
Regarding the playability of Wallenstein, I think it is only fair to say that non-German speaking players may find Wallenstein a potential nuisance, at least initially. All the rules, the game board, and cards are in German. This does not bother me because I know German well. However, I do play with people who don’t speak German, and I am sure they find not knowing exactly what is printed a problem. This probably affects game play for them. Because I am aware of this, I always remind opponents of yearly special events right before they lay down their province cards on the action planning player mats. After I finish writing this review, I will download these special events cards (in English) to make planning a little easier for fellow players.

For those of you who do not speak German, there is massive support (i.e. English rules, cards, etc.). Just check out the files for Wallenstein on the previous page. Besides English language help, there is support in many languages (Korean, Czech, Dutch, and French, to list a few). If there are downloads in multiple languages, this should tell you something about the popularity of the game, despite the linguistic hurdles.

Shogun is multilingual, so non-German speaking players should have zero problems with rules, the game board, special events cards, etc. That is a big plus, I think.

Game Board(s)
Shogun has some incredible merits. I like the game board. For one thing, Shogun has a victory point track, which Wallenstein does not. Sometimes a careless Shogun player might brush the victory markers with a loose shirt, but it is a neat thing to have anyway. In Wallenstein, you need to record each player’s victory points on a pad of paper (and there are numerous special score sheets you can download for that).

Another thing I like about Shogun is that there are two playing boards. One board, supposedly the “easy” map, is called the sun board. The “harder” board on the flip side is called the moon map. It would be neat if any future Wallenstein maps would have something similar. In any case, the Shogun maps are long and slender, whereas the Wallenstein map is more square and squat. The Shogun maps have sea routes enabling attackers to move armies to costal regions. Wallenstein has no sea routes. In my opinion, the Wallenstein map enables a player to more easily back him/herself into a safe corner. Although this is indeed possible with Shogun, it is much harder to do, especially if the moon map is used.

What I don’t like about the Shogun maps is that the colors are rather muted, and some of the regions (especially in the northwest and southeast) have similar green-yellowish colors. Wallenstein, I find, has brighter colors. Shogun province cards are maybe a little better, geographically speaking, in that each province card locates where it sits on the larger playing map. I do not know Japanese geography as well as I know German geography, and I appreciate the Shogun cards.

Battle Tower
The battle tower in either game is a special bonus. I am not gaga about the tower as other players are, but it sure is innovation. The cool thing about the tower is that it allows battle results to be determined rapidly without the use of dice. It also sometimes spits out incredible results. If, for example, an attacker moves 7 armies into a province defended by 2 armies, the attacker might lose. It is also conceivable that an attacker with 2 armies might win over a defender with 7 armies (although I personally don’t recommend attacking 2 to 7).

Some skeptics don’t like the battle tower, but they are, I feel, limiting their imagination. History has cases where a portion of an attacking army defects to the other side. Or maybe the armies have brilliant or poor generals. Maybe mercenaries joined the battle at the last minute. Say what you may about the battle tower, it is still a pretty cool system. Fate, if you wish to call it that, does have its place in Wallenstein and Shogun. I have lost games because the battle tower didn’t favor me in the least. Yet then again, I have also won because of the tower.

Throw In the Peasants
Another factor also plays a sometimes pivotal role with the battle tower: peasants. Peasants normally side with the defender and help thwart enemy incursions. Because of the battle tower’s design, it may have several peasant cubes stuck inside its bowls. When attacking and defending armies are dropped into the tower, this falling motion could dislodge green peasant cubes and/or the attacking/defending cubes might get stuck themselves. For example, if the 7 attacking and 2 defending armies are dropped into the tower, the results might be 4 attacking, 1 defending, and 4 peasant cubes are spit out of the tower. In this case, the 4 peasant and 4 attacking cubes are counted as dead. Thus, there is 1 victorious defender, and s/he gets to keep the province.

Peasants will not, however, side with the defender if she has taxed or collected grain from them. And now we come to a difference between Shogun and Wallenstein. In Wallenstein, if a player taxes a province twice in one year, the peasants will not come to the defender’s aide on the battlefield. In Shogun, if a player has taxed a province just once, the peasants will not help the defender. So, Shogun has more uppity, fickle peasants. Personally, I prefer the Wallenstein way. I don’t like peasants unless they are fighting for me.

Cubes and Tower Trays
The army cubes in both games are wood and are of good Germany quality. The Wally pieces are slightly smaller than Shogun cubes. I have also heard that the Shogun tower has slight internal modifications to it, so supposedly it isn’t identical to Wally’s. I haven’t taken the towers apart to find out. The Shogun tower does have one improvement over Wally’s tower: the tray where cubes fall into is clear, whereas Wally’s tray is dark green. I like the clear tray better because everybody can see the results immediately and not just the player sitting next to it.

Warping Player Mats
At one point, there was a lot of discussion about how upset consumers were because the Shogun player mats easily warped. It looks as if Queen has found a solution to replace the warping boards now (for more info, see http://www.boardgamenews.com/index.php/boardgamenews/comment... ). Initially, I was not happy about forking out a lot of money for a game that had (what I perceived to be) poor quality control. In all fairness, however, I still like the game.

The Big Difference: Special Event Cards
The special event cards in both games are the main reason why I like Wallenstein better than Shogun. Special events are fundamentally different in the two games. What is a special event? In Shogun, as in Wallenstein, there are 4 events that happen in each of the 4 seasons (and the game is played over a period of 2 years). Examples of special events are:

• Furious farmers (when a neutral province is attacked, 2 peasant cubes get thrown into the tower)
• Battle weary farmers (when a neutral province is attacked, no peasant cubes get thrown into the tower. Shogun does not have this card.)
• Church/temple peace (no province containing a church or temple may be attacked)

Those special events are basically the same in both games. What is different are the following:

• Lack of troops cards. In Shogun, this means that all players suffer equally in all geographic regions. So, for example you pay 3 gold and only get to deploy 3 armies instead of the usual 5 armies. In Wallenstein, the lack of troops card is tied specifically to a region. There are lack of troops cards for each of the five Wally regions (Austria, Bavaria, Saxony, Kurpfalz, Brandenburg).
• Bad harvest cards. As above, Shogun players suffer equally in all regions when they collect rice. In Wallenstein, the bad harvests are tied to specific regions. If while playing Wallenstein, I plan to harvest in Austria, but the “Bad Harvest in Austria” special event card is pulled, I will suffer alone if I am the only player who chose to harvest in Austria. Other players who took their grain from Saxony, Brandenburg, Kurpfalz, or Bavaria would not be in the predicament I would.

For me, the global events cards in Shogun are a big, big minus. I don’t like it that all players either enjoy or suffer from the same event. Sure, Japan is a small country, as is Germany, but just because there is a bad harvest in a year, it doesn’t mean, at least in my mind, that all provinces will share the same fate.

There is an inherent handicap in Wallenstein event cards that Shogun does not have. I find myself always calculating the risks while I plan a Wallenstein year. For example, I might ask myself, “Should I really deploy armies in Bavaria? I know I need them there, but there is a good chance there will not be enough troops to reach full army recruitment? Gee, what do I do? Damn, choices, choices!” While planning a Shogun year, I tell myself, “Well, everybody else will be as screwed as I am if card X gets pulled, so I might as well plan whatever I think is best.” I prefer Wallenstein because it adds a “calculated risk” phenomenon that doesn’t exist in Shogun in the same way. I have spoken to other Wally fans, and they tend to express the same sentiment.

The “Calculated Risk” Component of Shogun
If I were more open to Japanese history and geography in the same way I am to the same German subjects, I might console myself with the “kick” factor in Shogun. Unlike Wallenstein, Shogun player order is determined by bidding. Before actions are carried out (i.e. who gets to attack first, second, etc), Shogun players reveal their monetary bids. The highest bidder gets to select 1 special (ability) card and choose his/her player order. The abilities are: attack with +1 army, defend with +1 army, harvest +1 rice, collect +1 gold, and deploy 6 armies (instead of deploy just 5). When the highest bidder selects the special ability of his choice, s/he is simultaneously picking when s/he gets to execute his/her action in relation to other players.

Examples: had I won with the highest bid, I might choose to go first (i.e. execute actions first). However, the special ability card that has been designated to first place for this season is not exactly the card I would like. In order to go first, I would have to bid the highest money, and perhaps select the “defend with +1 army” when what I really wanted was, say, the “attack with +1 army” card. Sadly, the “attack with +1 army” is in the fifth place, and I certainly don’t want to go last this season. I might, however, want to be in last place in future seasons. By the way, the position (i.e. turn order) of special ability cards change season to season.

There is still a bit of a handicap in Shogun. For gamers who like bidding games, you might enjoy Shogun for that reason. I am not a fan of bidding, and I prefer the random player order selection of Wallenstein. For those of you who want to bring bidding in Wally, I see no reason why it couldn’t be done.

End Assessment
I like both games. I just like Wallenstein more.

Originally, I bought Shogun first. I liked it so much that I pushed myself to find a copy of Wallenstein. I also pushed myself to pay the high price for it. Perhaps I like Wally more because I paid more for it? (Shogun wasn’t cheap, though.) Maybe because I like German history, I favor Wallenstein more? I can’t precisely put my finger on what makes me like Wally more. Perhaps the special event cards in Wallenstein are superior, at least to me?

Nevertheless, both games are worth owning. Both games are incredibly fun to play, even if you lose. Sessions are always lively. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that a reissue of Wally may be considered for the future.
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Ed
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Personally, I don't see a big enough difference between Wallenstein and Shogun to recommend getting both. The main difference is the map. I prefer the Wally map because it's less volatile, but that's a minor quip. Be happy with the one you got.
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Roy Hasson
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Good review. I was interested in what the differences between the two games was, and I feel you covered it well.

BTW, "Japan is a small country, as is Germany" - compared to what? Russia?
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John Lopez
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If you don't care for the special cards on the turn track as they stand, you can increase the importance of the bid by not putting them on the turn track.

Instead, allow the winner of the bid to choose a card *and* a turn order slot. Resolve ties in favor the the lagging player on the score track (and then via random draw) to insert a bit of catchup mechanism.

I haven't tried this, but it would make the bid doubly important. Frankly, perhaps a bit too much so.

EDIT: I should point out that our group has only played Shogun, so the comparison is mooted for us. The group does *adore* the game though, as written.
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J. R.
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First, thanks for posting your ideas at length. As a result, I have auctioned a copy of Wallenstein today.

Quote:
In my opinion, the Wallenstein map enables a player to more easily back him/herself into a safe corner. Although this is indeed possible with Shogun, it is much harder to do, especially if the moon map is used.

Well, I looked closely at the maps here on BGG. I found the sun map of Shogun somewhat more prone to corners than the Wallenstein map. The moon side stretches some of the regions too much - I have a feeling that it would give players a too easy chance to score a few buildings in an extra region. Thus I find the Wallenstein map a pretty good medium (with the exception of Steiermark....) - that said I have no playing experience of Shogun.

Quote:
While planning a Shogun year, I tell myself, “Well, everybody else will be as screwed as I am if card X gets pulled, so I might as well plan whatever I think is best.”

This is a very strong argument in favour of Wallenstein, too, IMO. But I see that someone has produced Shogun-like event cards for Wallenstein, maybe one could do the same vice-versa.

Quote:
In Wallenstein, if a player taxes a province twice in one year, the peasants will not come to the defender’s aide on the battlefield. In Shogun, if a player has taxed a province just once, the peasants will not help the defender. So, Shogun has more uppity, fickle peasants.

Remember that in Wallenstein, newly captured provinces also get a revolt marker if they neutral before. In Wallenstein, this means that you still get the full defensive support, but lack the capability to reap the resources without revolt. That makes resource management a little harder in Wallenstein, while in Shogun it makes those end-of-the-year battles much more fickle. Which is something I think they don't really need, because players tend to be at least twice as aggressive before a scoring round. angry

Can't wait to throw my meeples into that tower...
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Martin Sarnecki
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rome_freak wrote:
Battle Tower
Some skeptics don’t like the battle tower, but they are, I feel, limiting their imagination. History has cases where a portion of an attacking army defects to the other side. Or maybe the armies have brilliant or poor generals.


My issue is not with the unpredictability of the combat results, but with the help given to the loser of a battle. As you point out, there have been many against-the-odds victories throughout the history of warfare.

The only reason for a failure in one battle to help you in a later one is to somehow 'balance' the game for those who get bad luck. While that may be admirable in a cuddly Euro, I find it annoying in what is, to some degree at least, a wargame. If someone's getting pounded, make 'em take their licks.

I've a few games of Wally under my belt on SbW now, and my rating of the game has just kept dropping as a result. Maybe I need to play it IRL (I have two copies!), to enjoy the immersivity of the experience.

Excellent comparative review, BTW. Have a tip.

[Edited to add justified compliment]
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Bidding rewards the rich (in gold or cards)/punishes the poor.
Not good because you can't always drag the leader down if your not next to them.
It also adds a chunk of time to the game.
Also the moon side needs a navalway in the northeast to prevent 'turtling'. (Used a grease pencil)
Wally is a tid better.
cool
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Barton Campbell
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Quote:
Recently, a fellow spielbyweb.com Wallenstein player asked me if I like Wallenstein or Shogun more. My answer was I enjoyed Wallenstein more.

With this bias in mind, I will still do my best to compare the two games as neutrally as possible.


Bias means prejudice, and prejudice literally means "to pre-judge". In other words, if you decided that you liked Wallenstein better than Shogun but you never played Shogun, then you would be biased. Since you played them both, apparently, many times, it is incorrect to say that you are "biased". Perhaps "preference" would be a better word than "bias".

Though you may know your German very well, perhaps you should brush up on your English.
 
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Dennis Ku
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bartman347 wrote:
Quote:
Recently, a fellow spielbyweb.com Wallenstein player asked me if I like Wallenstein or Shogun more. My answer was I enjoyed Wallenstein more.

With this bias in mind, I will still do my best to compare the two games as neutrally as possible.


Bias means prejudice, and prejudice literally means "to pre-judge". In other words, if you decided that you liked Wallenstein better than Shogun but you never played Shogun, then you would be biased. Since you played them both, apparently, many times, it is incorrect to say that you are "biased". Perhaps "preference" would be a better word than "bias".

Though you may know your German very well, perhaps you should brush up on your English.


Bias still means having an inclination one way or another. His use of the word is fine. Stop being such a prick.
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Justin K
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Thanks for the comparison. I own Shogun but not Wallenstein, your take has helped solidify that I don't want to buy Wallenstein.

I know that might sound backwards, but the games seem very very similar and the things you don't like about Shogun I do.

I like that all players suffer equally with event cards, that is a fair balance to the game. To me it would suck if only my region got hit with a bad event. That unbalances the game really hurting a random player. While Shogun keeps it balanced, and it still hurts all players differently.

So I'm sticking with Shogun. But thanks for the comparison!
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Andy Mesa
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I have not played Wallenstein, and after reading this I can't imagine ever wanting to. All of your reasons for not liking Shogun reassure me that Shogun is the better game. Thanks for the comparison!
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Thibaut Palfer-Sollier
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Beware that this review and the comparison does not apply to the new edition of Wallenstein, which has been Shogun-ized.
Much to the disappointment of the OP, from what I read
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