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Subject: A Brief Look at Augsburg 1520 rss

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Huzonfirst
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Manassas
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The players are all rich financiers vying to loan money to impoverished nobles. The reason for this curious behavior is that when the I.N.’s invariably are unable to repay their debts, they lavish royal favors on their benefactors. Evidently, this was what made life worth living in the sixteenth century.

The game is nothing but auctions, but before you go screaming into the night, let me say that the auction mechanic is a very nice poker-like one which gives Augsburg a different feel from most auction designs. The game is played with a deck of cards with values in four suits (one for each noble). Most of the auctions are limited to one noble. Players bid the number of cards of that noble's suit they wish to play. Other players can match this number, fold, or raise to a higher number. The players around at the end of the auction then play the number of agreed cards from their hands and the one with the highest single valued card wins. This leads to some interesting tactics, as both high-valued cards and long suits of mediocre cards can be used successfully. Among the items the players are bidding for are increases of the money, number of cards, and victory points received each round. Players must buy the new cards they want from the new ones they receive (cards with higher values cost more), so there are both money and card management issues. It’s also possible to steal increases from other players. Finally, there are two points on the scoreboard where you can't increase your VP total unless you own certain tiles; naturally, these tiles can be acquired in the auctions. These two natural bottlenecks add a lot of tension to the game and provide much of the story arc.

All in all, the game plays very nicely and I've enjoyed it every time I've played. The auction mechanic is what makes the game, but there are the usual nice refinements you’d expect from an Alea design. There is a bit of a luck of the draw issue and the concern is that it could conceivably dominate the game. But the more I've thought about the design, the more ways I've seeen how to get around most of the problems fate could send your way. I do believe the game is more subtle than it first appears. This is yet another fine mid-size Alea release.

As an aside, the game’s designer is Karsten Hartwig, who also created the excellent Chinatown, as well as the less loved Lucky Loop. This means that Hartwig now has three published designs and two of them are Alea games! Not too shabby!
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john m
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Do you think the auction mechanic is what got this game below a seven? Thanks.
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Brad Stock
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Elsah
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I think the auction format is quite different and makes it harder to get the feel for the game -- it is so innovative in that way. But I think the game is worth the effort. We found that on our third play, the game was very balanced, even for me -- who had almost all 200 and 250 value cards. Strategy allowed me to keep up and I ended up losing only by 1 prestige point. But it is very frustrating sometimes to bid $ cards and still lose, or to be outbid because you don't have enough cards to keep up even though you have high cards. But that is because we are so used to high cards winning auctions. Whereas this game allows many low cards to win the auction -- which is what makes it innovative and unique and in some ways minimizes the luck of the draw, since the lower cards are cheaper to buy.
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Mark C
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johnnyLikesGames wrote:
Do you think the auction mechanic is what got this game below a seven? Thanks.


I have no idea why this is rated where it is. I would play this over Goa. It's almost as tactical, but the auction mechanic is much better. I think it plays a little faster as well.
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Scott Nelson
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I think as an Alea everyone was expecting another Puerto Rico, and so it fell short of expectations. It wasn't what they were looking for in an "Alea" game. If you look back on further games in this sized box, it fits. At the time it was published, the world wasn't ready for it.

It is a nice game in a small box...with some good meat in that package.
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