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Subject: Session Report rss

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John McCoy
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Redmond
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Well the Wolverine Gaming Club gathered for its usual meeting on 1/25/04. And people were so enthused about our game of Pax at the preceeding session that we decided to play it again. Since it's a slow day here at the office I figured I'd write another brief summary.

This game was very different from the last one that I reported. For one thing, we had 7 players. So all of the playable countries were being used, including Russia and Italy. These two countries are somewhat limited in what they can reach, but the fact that they are European powers means that getting involved in war with them might trigger the Great War and end the game. Also, they have very small victory point divisors, so they don't really have to take much terrotiry in order to win. These two countries being run by players also means that the board gets a lot more crowded a lot faster, as they gobble up marginal territories that the bigger powers typically ignore until late.

Another big difference was that I had volunteered to play Britain. Now Britain is the biggest and most complicated of the powers to play, and I'd never tried it before. My inexperience with Britain had a pretty dramatic impact on the game.

The first turn was pretty typical. There were some random events that raised France and Russia's income but forced them to spend much of it on military units. Bulgaria went into unrest on turn 1, but with the map full of more inviting targets no one cared. So the Western European powers mostly laid down Influence markers in the higher value spots in Africa and South America. Britain established a protectorate in Egypt. The U.S. put some influence in South and Central America. Japan and Russia put influence in the Far East and positioned themselves to contest for Korea and Taiwan.

The big event on the second turn was a bad one for me: Unrest in Australia! I had to commit most of my available troops to suppressing the silly Aussies. None of the minor powers did anything interesting.

There was much politicking during turn 1 and turn 2, with alliances forming up between all sorts of people. I made a secret arrangement with Japan that I hoped would enable me to get in on Korea and/or Formosa, at the expense of Russia. Italy and France made a public defense pact. Russia had secret alliances with France and Germany.

Now I knew that as Britain, I essentially start out the game winning and need to try and hold the other powers down as the game progresses. So I was very concerned when on the second turn France and Germany started establishing protectorates in various high-value African provinces. On top of that, the Americans established a protectorate in Hawaii, and the Russians built protectorates in Korea and Formosa. I felt the need to stop all of this, or at least get in on some of this action, but never having played Britain before I wasn't sure how. So I blundered...

My first instinct was to squash Germany, because he was going to cut-off my shot at an east-west path across Africa. But Germany said that if I put influence markers in the territories he was claiming to get a casus belli on him, he would refuse to negotiate and force me to back down or declare war. If I did declare war, his Austrian ally (the German player automatically controls Austria) would declare war on me, and then Germany would start the Great War by declaring war on France using a Casus Belli he had in East Africa. Since I would have been the first to declare war, I would suffer an especially large penalty for causing the Great War and I would surely lose the game. As the last country to declare war (on France) Germany would also suffer the triple penalty, but he felt that threats like these were necessary in order to make headway.

After much thought, I decided not to push Germany. The East-West path wasn't worth it. Instead I decided to go after France, and accordingly I put Influence markers in Nigeria and Tanganyika, the two regions France was trying to claim, as well as establishing a Protectorate in Sudwest Africa. When it came time to negotiate, I pointed out that I now controlled all of southern Africa. If France wanted a North-South path across the continent, she needed to bargain. We reached a deal where I got condominions in Nigeria and Tanganyika, we agreed to share Rhodesia (which we would be able to reach next turn and needed for our North-South paths), and in return I let France share the valuable Cape Colony with me.

So far so good. I also had no trouble dealing with the United States. He had no allies so I simply put an Influence in Hawaii and told him he had to share the island with me or face war. He immediately agreed.

But then there was the Far East. I decided to put Influence in Korea and Taiwan to get a Casus Belli on Russia. This put Russia, Japan, and I into three-way negotiations. Russia insisted that I back down, and swore that he would bring Japan, France, and/or Germany into war with me if I didn't. Either I would lose the war, or I would start the Great War and suffer the big victory point penalty for doing so. I didn't believe that Russia could back up his threats, because I knew I could get Japan to side with me and I didn't think France or Germany would declare war on me if doing so would start the Great War and cause them to lose the game along with me.

So I refused to back down. We went to a Council of Europe, and I was able to get the Council to agree to my plan: Russia and Japan split Korea, I get Formosa to myself. Russia refused to accept this, and defied the Council. This gave everyone at the Council casus belli on him, and left me with no recourse but war. So I declared against him. I got Japan on my side by promising to share Korea and Formosa with him. Russia then called on his allies, France and Germany, to declare war on us. Knowing that they couldn't win such a war, both France and Germany decided to take the 5 VP penalty and dishonored their treaties.

This is exactly what I had hoped would happen, if it came to war. But I had forgotten that when a nation dishonors its treaty, its treaty partner gets a Casus Belli against them. Faced with a war against Japan and Britain that he could not win, and which he felt would eliminate any chance at overall victory for himself, Russia declared war on France and Germany. This meant that four European powers were at war with each other, the Great War had begun!

Thus the game was ended part-way through the second turn. Russia and I were the first two countries to declare war, so we suffered the heavy penalty for causing the Great War and came in last and second to last, respectively. Everyone else suffered the non-tripled, "Game ended in the Great War," penalty, and as a result the winning nation, the United States, had a score of -14. A sad day for Western civilization to be sure. France, Italy, Germany, and Japan rounded out the top five.

So, a very different sort of game than the previous session, and a game that was over in about three hours. After game discussion revealed where my biggest mistakes had been. One was to simply underestimate how important Korea and Formosa were to Russia. His chances of victory did pretty much rely on him getting into them, so I should have known he would go down fighting.

Secondly, there was a game mechanism I could have used that I didn't think of. I could have established my own protectorates in places like Korea, at the same time as the other countries. Then instead of me having Casus Belli on them, we would have had Casus Belli on each other. Now if we couldn't reach an agreement in Negotiation or the Council of Europe, and no one actually declared war, under the rules our protectorates would *both* remain and we would have a condominion even though neither of us agreed to it. So, provided I was willing to share with Russia, I could have followed this strategy, gotten into Korea and/or Formosa, and Russia would have either had to accept it or else declare war on me, meaning I would not have been in line for the triple penalty.
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Rainer Kraft
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I'm pretty sure the last interpretation of rules is wrong. If there are conflicting protectorates and no resolve on the CB and no war about them then they both will be downgraded at the end of the CoE phase to influence markers.
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