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Subject: A game changing expansion rss

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Simon Maynard
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Where I'm coming from...

I ordered the expansion a matter of days after getting the base game, that I got it primarily for solo play despite the fact that there were no official solo rules and used the very good Solo Automa Variant created by Kevin B. Smith. It's very simple to use and that just shows you how well this game lends itself to solitaire play. I have also played it a few times with 2 players and whilst still fund, this is not exactly the most interactive game out there.

What does the expansion contain?

A huge number of cards in a thin cardboard box and a small sheet of instructions. Most of the cards are dual language but some of them are duplicates, one set in English and the other in German. Once you've sorted them out, you could discard the language you don't use if you wish. Initially this provides quite an organisational challenge in working out what goes where and how they are to be used. It helps the fact that most of the new cards are numbered.

Once you've read the instructions and found the setup card for the first chapter, you have everything you need to get going.



So you set up the game as normal and additionally follow the instructions on the setup card. As you can see, it includes rules for both solo and multiplayer. Furthermore, changes to the game play become immediately apparent:

1) Games will now last a fixed number of rounds. 9 for multiplayer, 10 for solo.

2) The rounds will be counted by turning over a new event at the beginning of each round.

3) There is an objective that you must achieve by the end of the game. In multiplayer you will be heavily penalised if you fail to meet it, in solo play you will simply have to go back and try again if you fail.

Chapter 1 for the multiplayer game.

Chapter 1 for the solo game.

The game events will sometimes have an immediate effect such as introducing new cards and sometimes they will specify a particular phase in which they will take effect. For instance:

This illustrates another significant change to the game play. You can now only move assistants when this event occurs and it is now free.

Most events are beneficial or offer interesting options for that round but this is not a nice one to see...

New buildings

So, as I said, the deck initially is setup as per the base game. But as you work through the story, you will encounter events that instruct that you make new building cards available. Initially they are put next to the assistants and are available to be built from there but once you've completed the chapter that introduced them you will shuffle them into the deck thereafter.

There is a new concept the game introduces; strength (illustrated by fists). Strength is acquired by building watchtowers. These come in three sizes:

Quantity: 4, all black. The cheapest but least useful.

Quantity: 8, various colours. Attaches to a production building reducing its production requirement by 1.

Quantity: 4, various colours. Similar to the regular watchtower.

There are new kinds of production cards that produce every turn and don't need a worker:

Quantity: 6, various colours. Simply produces 1 good worth 2 gold each turn.

Quantity: 4, various colours. Produces 1 good per turn but with a variable value, depending on the number of other building you have in the same colour.

And there are a couple of new regular production buildings:

Quantity: 4, various colours. Something else you can do with Iron.

Quantity: 4, various colours. Makes bricks more worthwhile as now you have a production chain for them.

Character Cards

Over the course of the story, 4 character cards are introduced. They get shuffled into the deck and the player that draws them into their hand (they are discarded if drawn into the market) can get to use them whenever they wish.

This is the first one you encounter.

Beyond the story

Once you have completed the story there is an "all inclusive" mode that will allow you to carry on playing with all new buildings and character cards added to the deck and with a random chosen objective each time.



My thoughts about the expansion

In a word, it is very good.

Where the base game lacked a sense of purpose, the expansion rectifies this by giving you particular objectives each game. There are still options but you've got to seek out the cards you need for at least one of the production chains indicated else you will fail.

Where the base game lacked a narrative, the expansion provides it in spades. The story you work through provides surprises (which I avoided spoiling above by not showing you certain cards) and even choice as the story is not completely linear. Additionally, it serves as a great tool to simply get you used to all the new cards gradually.

Games have a definite length. Where they would have carried on until one player had built their 8th building which could have been after any number of rounds, now you know exactly how long you've got as well as what you've got to get done. You sometimes manage to build more than 8 buildings.

If you're thinking that 9 (or 10 for solo) rounds is a bit tight, consider the rule change that allows you, on any given round, to buy both a new building and an assistant. Even so, it is still presents a challenge to get done what you need to.

There were five chapters to the story and in solo mode I had to replay each chapter numerous times before I managed to beat it and move on to the next. The last chapter was fiendishly difficult.

Negatives?

There a couple of minor negatives.

1) The box the expansion comes in doesn't help you organise and store all the cards. They certainly don't all fit into the original box. I went out and bought a deck box to hold my current deck of building cards and the rest I organised somehow back into the original box.

2) Once you're playing all inclusive, sometimes finding a particular type of building is just going to be impossible. Discarding large hands on multiple rounds will often not be enough to find what you are looking for. The only solution I think is to not put all your eggs in one basket and pursue two production routes to meet the game objective.

Rating

All in all though this is an excellent and game changing expansion. I really enjoyed the base game but this took it to the next level and made it an excellent game. It's still very minimal on interaction and that not leave many gamers cold but if you like low interaction or like playing solitaire, this is definitely worth getting alongside the base game (if you can get it which, at the time of writing this review, is not particularly easy).

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Conner Morlang
United States
Santa Monica / Westwood
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Fried Egg wrote:
Negatives?

2) Once you're playing all inclusive, sometimes finding a particular type of building is just going to be impossible.


Yowl!! That seems like a big deal!

One of the things I love about the game is being able to dumb my hand to get a load of new cards that will probably have the next step in the chain I am working on. It is a nice feeling being able to finish a chain each game ... or to get close to finishing it anyway.

I wonder if there is a way to keep that feeling. ... like keeping the added Longsdale buildings next to the helpers.

Anyway, I've only finished chapter one, so I'm not sure if the added character cards mitigate the extra buildings in some way.
 
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Gabriel Conroy
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Having played several games, in my experience the new cards are all fun but now the number of times when I simply don't get the building I need until too late in the game has increased noticeably. That is rather less fun; like that experience playing patience when you realise a card is never going to come out from under another one covering it. To reiterate what I have said elsewhere, I really like this game, and this just adds more randomness, which usually I don't mind, but here I feel some house rule for increased control might be necessary.

 
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Jonny
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achates wrote:
Having played several games, in my experience the new cards are all fun but now the number of times when I simply don't get the building I need until too late in the game has increased noticeably. That is rather less fun; like that experience playing patience when you realise a card is never going to come out from under another one covering it. To reiterate what I have said elsewhere, I really like this game, and this just adds more randomness, which usually I don't mind, but here I feel some house rule for increased control might be necessary.



Have you had any success with house rules? We finished playing through the campaign today, having played each scenario twice on the way through, and it is frustrating dumping your entire hand of a decent stack (at least 6 cards each time) three rounds in a row and still not finding the next production chain.

I'm thinking that when this is the case that strategies need to be more diverse than relying on one or even two chains, and other goals chased after - my scores when I have done this have been about 5-10 points lower than when I pull off a big chain however!
 
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Gabriel Conroy
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I've tried the rule I suggested elsewhere, namely that once per game you may purchase a card from the market for for its build cost and add it to your hand. If you do this you can't use it as a market good, and you still have to pay again to build it. Thematically it's like using your commercial contacts to find someone who can construct the building in question; you have to pay a little extra to grease the wheels.

It seems to work ok, in that because you can do it only once there is an element of risk deciding whether to use it, e.g. if the card you want comes up early. I've experimented with varying the cost - e.g. you have to pay twice the build cost. But the main thing is it makes me feel more in control, since now if I lose it's because I didn't take the card at the right time, not because I never saw it.
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David Flores
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Perhaps a house rule that you can dump your hand up to twice in a given turn might help. I don't own the expansion, but considering the now fixed length, it might give you enough control without being OP. You are only getting 5 more cards into the deck.

If that makes it too easy because you have twice the chance to get the goods you need, Perhaps a Mulligan rule. Dump the hand, draw 5, if you don't like it, dump the hand but draw 1-2 card less (3-4), so you might burn through the deck faster to get the chain you want, but at the cost of lower flexibility.
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