Dave Gilligan
United States
Charleston
West Virginia
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Last night the Appalachian Gamers gathered to play the latest and greatest offering from game designer Glenn Drover, Age of Empires III. Kris had recently acquired his copy and had the foresight to pre-order and get the components allowing a 6th player to participate. This was fortunate because that night we had me (Dave), Travis, Ted, Charlie, Tony and, of course, Kris in attendance and we were all eager to play.

Because of the mechanism of “worker placement” and then resolution of each area in turn some have compared this game to Caylus. Well, I for one can tell you that this is no Caylus…AoE III has a heart and soul, oozes with theme from the board to the bits (gotta love those ships) with some areas of perfect information interspersed with random elements and a dose of luck interjected. The whole package is impressive, enough so that I am considering picking the game up to include in my collection even though one of our group members already has it. Now, on to the game.

With four of us being entirely new to the game (Ted and Kris had previously played a two player game) we were a bit unsure as to what exactly what we should do. Strategies common among us included several grabbing trade tiles, some of us grabbing up specialists for next turn and those of us who did not bid on turn order buying capital buildings. I managed to get the tile for one free captain in the discovery box each turn while other tiles included and extra soldier and an extra missionary (as I recall.) Kris took the first merchant ship, a move that he would capitalize on later. We also had several players move into the Caribbean, with Charlie taking top spot and me taking second. There were of course several workers placed in the discovery box.

The following turn saw several new discovery missions, opening up more colonization opportunities. It was still too early to see if any distinct strategies were taking shape except for Kris, who seemed determined to be the wealthiest player in the game.

We made it through the third turn and scored the colonies. Everyone earned some points, with the possible exception of Kris. He was busy building his merchant fleet and collecting more capital buildings as the opportunity arose. It was around this time that he managed to by the Incan Gold tile which really shot him into the money lead.

As the game progressed the strategies became apparent. I had moved to a discovery strategy. Kris was a growing economic power with 3 or 4 merchant ships, several good capital buildings including a privateer tile that allowed him to collect 1 silver from each player for each merchant ship in his fleet…3 or 4 a turn and at the end he actually took 5 apiece in the last turn. Charlie was following a trade goods strategy supplemented by a strong position in the colonies. Tony was using a joint colonization and discovery strategy. Ted was working on a strategy to ensure he would end in last place. Meanwhile, Travis was growing an army of soldiers to wrest control of the colonies from everyone else. He was getting 2 soldiers a turn from capital buildings and on several turns he would place a worker in the soldier box, gaining three in one turn.

Toward the end we had a feeling who would be leading the game and my money was on Kris (actually all our money was on Kris…he kept taking it all!) In the last few turns he was able to buy some nice VP tiles while there were three of us who simply could not afford them. Travis was crushing everyone in the New World and ended the game with 1st place in 5 or 6 locations. Charlie was also doing well by maintaining a strong presence in three colonies and a presence in several others which was supplemented by picking up a tile that provided VPs for every colony where he had a presence. I was pretty sure all my discoveries wouldn’t amount to enough to beat these three. Tony was in a bit of a bind because he became one of Travis’ military targets in the last round. And Ted…well, let’s just say he wasn’t doing so well. He had several trade tiles but no sets to speak of because the tiles he needed just never appeared in the game. He was also trying to pull points using discovery as a VP engine but a few weak draws of the cards and he was done.

The final tally had Charlie in first, with Travis two points behind, followed by Kris, Tony and me (tied) and finally Ted. I was really pleased to see that we had followed quite different paths and were all relatively close in the end.

Having played I can say that knowledge of what cards appear in later ages can really influence strategy and tactics. Travis, for example, was not aware that there was a tile that would have provided 2 victory points per soldier in the New World but he simply didn’t have enough money to purchase it when it appeared. Had he known it was lurking out there he would certainly have ensured a shot at getting it (there was always the possibility that another player could have tried to block it in any case.)

Another thing I liked about the game is that while there is leader bashing to some extent, you aren’t always sure who the leader is. So, do you use one of your actions to hinder someone or concentrate on increasing your own position? Unless the situation is blatantly obvious (like the guy with 10 soldiers getting the chance to essentially purchase 20 VPs) increasing your own position seems best. That certainly occurred in our game.

All said, this one gets high marks from the Appalachian Gamers. Great job, Glenn!

For Kris’ take on the game, check out: http://boredgamegeeks.blogspot.com/.


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Larry Tuxbury
United States
Albany
New York
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How long did your game take?
 
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Kevin Bender
United States
Knoxville
Tennessee
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Samuraicat wrote:
Ted was working on a strategy to ensure he would end in last place.


This is my absolute favorite part of this review.

But then, I'm a friend of Ted's so I can tease him about this the next time I see him.

AoEIII is a terrific game.

Kevin
www.easttennesseegamers.com
 
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Dave Gilligan
United States
Charleston
West Virginia
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ltux wrote:
How long did your game take?


Larry,

The game took just under three hours.

For me, AoE III falls into the category of games that have a relatively longer playing time but don't feel long. You are constantly involved in the action due to the worker placement mechanism and because your decisions are often based upon the actions of others you are engaged as the turn moves around the table during placement and resolution.

Other games in this category, for me at least, include Die Macher and Struggle of Empires.
 
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Glenn Drover
United States
Plainfield
Illinois
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Just taught he game to three friends today (none of them had played before). We played two games (four players). The first game took about three hours, but the second one was over in just over an hour and a half! Once you start playing with people familiar with the game, the play times drop drastically.
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