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Subject: The Broken Meeple - The Colonists Review - Long Term Storage rss

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Luke Hector
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Before obtaining a game for review, naturally it's worth doing a bit of research into what other gamers and content creators have to say. You'll usually get a mix of mountain-top praising and horror stories from doing this, but having that information going in can be a great aid. It gives you aspects to look forward to, but also helps to mitigate that sense of disappointment if there's parts you don't like.

Most of what I heard about The Colonists seemed pretty appealling. It looks the business, it's essentially a resource management / civilization game (technically a colony, but same feel), which I tend to like and offered a lot of variety. Sounds pretty sweet so far. Then I noticed a more scary trend among the stories. 3 hours, 6 hours, anywhere up to 9 hours for a potential game length. My reaction to that was basically a homage to The Angry Joe Show....<slo-mo>..UP TO NIIINNNEEE HOOOURRRSS?!?!!

What on earth?! I'm not the biggest fan of games that outstay their welcome and rarely does any game justify more than 3 hours of my time to indulge in it. But six to nine?! I have other committments in life you know, chores, a job, a relationship, etc just like most people, it's not like it's easy to find nearly half a waking day to play a single game and even then that game has to not just be good, it has to be outstanding and keep me engaged the whole time. I hoped that it was simply a case of learning the ropes or maximum player count, which rarely is a good idea in any Euro game anyway (seriously why do some people play Through The Ages with 4 players, are you just insane?), because if these horror stories are true. . . .



Designer: Tim Puls
Publisher: Mayfair Games
Age: 12+
Players: 1-4
Time: Anywhere from 1 to 9 hours!
RRP: £69.99


Description from the publisher:

In The Colonists, a.k.a. Die Kolonisten, each player is a mayor of a village and must develop their environment to gain room for new farmers, craftsmen, and citizens. The main goal of the game is full employment, so players must create new jobs, educate the people, and build new houses to increase their population. But resources are limited, and their storage leads to problems that players must deal with, while also not forgetting to upgrade their buildings. Players select actions by moving their mayor on a central board.

The Colonists is designed in different levels and scenarios, and even includes something akin to a tutorial, with the playing time varying between 30 minutes (for beginners) and 180 minutes (experts).


ONE FOR THE "OCD" AMONG US

Mayfair typically do pretty well in the visual styling of their games and I was pleased to admit that The Colonists does deserve its price tag. You've got a ton of stuff in this box from cardboard resources and buildings to wooden meeples of different colours and types. The artwork on the tiles and cards is colourful and vibrant and very little looks dull with a pretty clear graphic design throughout. I would have liked wooden resources instead of titchy cardboard chits, which are a bit of a pain to use if you have big fingers, but that would have been a big price increase.

<credit Steph>

But be prepared for a painful introduction as if you try to keep this organised simply by using the bags provided, you're going to go mad. I would go as far to say it's a mandatory requirement for you to go out and purchase some Hobbycraft divider boxes depending what end of the world you're from and spend the time separating out the different buildings, resources and meeples. Trust me, your play experience will be greatly improved. Though the flip side is that if you decide you don't want the game, it's even less fun tipping the stuff out!

You've got several rulebooks to dig through but some are just reference guides, which do a pretty good job of explaining the different colony abilities and buildings. Expect to use these very often though as there's a lot going on here. There's quite a lot of rules to absorb including some fiddly bits on storage and when you can move workers around so I do recommend going through the introductory game first if you can. I chose to just get stuck into a 4 Era game from the get-go and that probably wasn't the best plan from a learning perspective. It's a heavy game and pretty much reserved for heavy gamers but I was expecting it to be much harder to comprehend.


SANDBOX COLONY

There's certainly a lot you can do in The Colonists and to begin with at least you'll never feel like you've got enough actions to achieve it all. When you get to the final Era sometimes you feel like you've done everything you can and nothing you do is that useful, but that depends how your strategy went. A lot of this is down to the map layout and the Colonies themselves. The timing of when the different map tiles appear has a big impact on what you can do and no map will ever be the same from game to game.

The best aspect I really like are the Colonies though. With 4 to start the game with out of a wide selection, the replay value here is high and every colony has very different special abilities to take advantage of. You really do have to decide between focusing on one all the way or spreading the love because you simply won't have time to maximise them all, but I love how utilising them can help define your path to victory. It's not that there's many ways to win exactly, but how you get there can vary a lot. One game a colony is allowing me to get a ton of storage space, in another I'm able to freely convert resources. I haven't had anywhere near enough games to ascertain if they are balanced, but certainly on first glance, some abilities seem much easier to take advantage of then others. Being able to freely convert between clay and wood as the Alchemist I'll vouch is far more user-friendly then being able to pop a Citizen into a farmer building on rare occasions with the Labourer.

I would have perhaps liked a bit more variety in the building types though. Most do pretty much the same thing, either producing a type of resource or generating money (which oddly you don't actually spend, it's just for victory points). Aside from a few unique ones on top, you just get a bunch of different embassy buildings which serve no purpose other than to show that you're using that ability level from a colony. They could have saved on production by not bothering with them really.

As sadly is the case with a lot of these kind of games, the player interaction is minimal. There are literally only two changes to the game for having more than 1 player. A couple of colony abilities key off another player's Steward and if you go to a tile with another player you have to pay a small resource fee. That's it. No really, that's it. Aside from that your opponents might as well not even be there at the table. You can't trade



STORAGE ISSUES. . . OTHER THAN THE GAME ITSELF!


Most resource management games will require you to think about what you need and when you need it, but The Colonists takes this to the next level with its storage system. Usually a game doesn't have a limit on how much you can store in resources or if it does, it's not too tricky to manage. The Colonists is unique in that it makes storage the whole crux of the game and I think it oversteps the mark in that regard, to the point where I'm not even convinced it's entirely keeping to theme, or if it is, it's going too far down that road to where it doesn't need to be.

Storage space is so limited to begin with and unless you focus a lot of your early efforts on improving this, you're going to suffer........a lot! There's so little room, yet everything costs so much to build and it's very fiddly having to re-arrange what's in your storage shed, what's in your warehouses and where your production lies constntly to the point of frustration. For some bizarre reason you're only allowed to spend resources from your storage, not your warehouses/buffers (production spaces). This is really limiting and doesn't even make any sense. Why can't I go grab some clay from that pit over there if I'm short, why do I have to have everything ready in advance in a shed like I'm James May organising my tools before I can build anything? Is it locked away and guarded by wild dogs? Constantly you'll be fighting the game because you want to build a cool theater and yet you don't have enough storage space to house every resource you need at one point in time. I'm pretty sure most construction that happens these days brings the resources in gradually over time. I'm pretty sure bricks can be stored outside if need be especially given as your entire house is made of bricks, it's just plain weird and feels like a forced restriction.

And because it's such a big deal, you're forced to spend time to get your storage space to as high as you possibly can regardless of what your strategy is and I don't like being pigeon-holed into things like that in what is meant to be a sandbox game. Try to survive with just a couple of basic storage sheds, I double dare you!! This aspect nearly drove me out of the game, it was that annoying and if you think it's going to tick you off also, stay well away. Some people are going to love this though as an extra aspect to manage well, but it doesn't make enough logical sense to operate like this for me.




YOU'RE PLAYING FOR A LITERAL ERA


Now the big elephant in the room. The Colonists is long........I mean REALLY long. To play your first game even on solo mode is going to take you into the region of 3-4 hours with the setup, rules checking, etc. Add more players and it just gets ridiculous. I've had reports from recent conventions where 4 players have played this game for 9 hours straight. That's an average of 2.25 hours per Era. In no reality would I say that's acceptable.

Now already I hear the keyboards typing the usual "our select Mensa group played this with 4 players in 10 minutes" argument, but let's be realistic here chaps. For a large proportion of players, this is going to be a 3+ hour game at minimum and with 3-4 especially if there is someone new, it's going to be go even further. If you're comfortable with that kind of length, that's great, you've got no worries. But any flaws that you find in a game will only amplify themselves in a lengthy game.

And it's not like you're fully engaged either for that time. Each player takes his 3 actions all at once so you might be sitting there a fair while before it's your turn and any remote amount of AP will make things worse, which given the pleathora of options here is easily triggered. The lack of significant player interaction is only made worse when playing for an extended time. Why would you want to play this for 7-9 hours when you could get the exact same experience for 2-3?

Now you can choose to play only 1-3 Era's instead of the full 4, which will certainly lower the time, but there's a catch. Playing one Era really doesn't give you much of a game in the overall context. So instead you would likely choose between Era's 1-2 and Era's 3-4. The first will be the quicker game, but you don't really build up to anything particularly epic. By that point you're lucky if you have a few farms, a couple pubs and a storage shed or two. In fact by the end of Era 1, you've pretty much grabbed some wood and clay. . . . whoo. . . . Now try the other option and you'll have a more involved game, but you lose that fun feeling of building up from scratch as your starting lineup is reduced to a "point-buy" system. The whole point of a fun civilization/farm building style game is to see yourself progress from start to finish, so naturally the more fun experience is to play all 4 Era's, but then you're going to be stuck there for a long, long time.

The Colonists is therefore one that needs to be tailored to your group. I doubt I would ever get it to the table frequently enough and for me, there's better competition out there for a similar style of game, but in a much shorter time frame. Caverna, Le Havre and Fields of Arle I can whip out and finish much quicker and get the same sandbox style game. The Colonists has more options than both of them I agree, but there's a limit to how long I want to spend trying out each one.




VERDICT ON THE COLONISTS


The Colonists is certainly a beast, but it's a great addition for those who really enjoy long-term based strategy games. Next to no luck and with plenty of potential options from the Colony abilities, which are easily the best aspect of the game, there's a solid amount of replay value to keep those gamers happy. The art/component quality is solid and colourful in typical Mayfair style, but be warned that you need a good organiser system to reduce setup time unless you want to literally go insane.

The emphasis on storage can also be not only really fiddly from a rules perspective, but also plain frustrating from an enjoyment take. In fact even though it's not the hardest game to learn, there's a lot of fiddly little rule nuances you have to keep reminding yourself of that you will more than likely get wrong constantly in your first game, which have game-changing implications.

Its biggest problem however is the time investment. This is a long game, and I mean LONG. Playing through 4 eras will take hours and hours even in solo mode and you'd have to be plain crazy to even attempt this in 3-4 player mode where games can surpass 6-7 hours yet there's next to no interesting player interaction. Any issues a player may have with the game will simply be amplified because you have to keep playing for longer. Other games in this style take far less time and offer a decent amount of variety already. Playing with less era's helps but that also removes a lot of the sense of build up or scale from the whole affair.

There's definitely a lot going for The Colonists and it's easy to see that there is genuinely a fairly decent game here. I like its look and feel, I like the variety it offers and over a full game there's a good sense of progression. But I'm never going to play it again. It's just far too long for what it is and the storage/interaction issues I have only get worse over time. Just because a game spans over generations, doesn't mean it has to take a generation to play. I certainly recommend you give it a try if this is your genre, but book some time off.





BROKEN RATING - 6 INADEQUATE STORAGE SHEDS





YOU WILL LIKE THE COLONISTS IF:


You want a game that rewards long term planning - in a 4 era game that is.


You like having a variety of setups and abilities at your disposal.


It looks visually appealing from the sheer amount of decent quality components.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE THE COLONISTS IF:


You don't want a long game - this is too lengthy even on solo mode.


The constant hassle with storage will put you off - it can get very frustrating.


You don't like multiplayer solitaire - there's very little player interaction.
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Garry Rice
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Most of the interaction happens in the tiles. Beating someone to a tile they want to use can force them to change their plans or pay you a fee.
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Luke Hector
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That's indirect interaction, basically the same as a standard worker placement game, except here you don't even block the space, you just make it a tad more expensive and probably at the expense of wasting your time on the space.
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Chris Funk
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farmergiles wrote:
That's indirect interaction, basically the same as a standard worker placement game, except here you don't even block the space, you just make it a tad more expensive and probably at the expense of wasting your time on the space.


And that's what a great many medium or heavy euros have. This is not unusual.
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Brett Smith
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Biggest issue I had from watching one play through was that the new eras basically did nothing to ramp the game up its just rinse and repeat each era for the most part with some very minor scope creep in the game. I really think they dropped the ball on this game could of been a really cool game if each era would of had some really cool new buildings that could change your strategy. Instead its more of a look era 2 I have 5 farms and by era 3 I have 10 farms, nothing really new and exciting just more of the same.
 
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Chris Funk
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smith2332 wrote:
Biggest issue I had from watching one play through was that the new eras basically did nothing to ramp the game up its just rinse and repeat each era for the most part with some very minor scope creep in the game. I really think they dropped the ball on this game could of been a really cool game if each era would of had some really cool new buildings that could change your strategy. Instead its more of a look era 2 I have 5 farms and by era 3 I have 10 farms, nothing really new and exciting just more of the same.


You have not played the game.

1 is very basic. 2 brings in the embassies, which change a lot with how the game is played and they are variable/random every game. 3 brings in new buildings and a 5 embassy, which can and usually do change your plans. 4 has its own buildings, some new and some improve older.

It sounds like the play you watched was only era 1. Watch some other videos like Rahdo's playthrough or read some of the reviews. There's more than just 10 farms.
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Luke Hector
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He's not being literal but he has a point. It is very rinse and repeat. Yes the buildings increase in complexity but you are still doing the same thing over and over and over. And the later buildings are not that exciting. Yay I can make an apartment instead of a flat now. Red guy instead of yellow guy.

Also Embassies appear in first Era from the start, there are 4 levels of each one.

And whether or not indirect blocking is in many Euros is irrelevant, it's still no substitute for player interaction. For the extra many hours each player adds to the game length, there is no reason to have them there. 2-3 hours of extra game length just so I occasionally have to pay an extra food now and again.....fun...
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Chris Funk
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So what makes this so different from, say Agricola? Worker placement, except you have the option to share an action someone else uses. The rest of Gric has even less player interaction than Colonists, but people love that game like few others. The two games share something in common - You're building something. In Gric, its your own farm. In Colonists, it's your own town. Of what I have played through multiple eras, and nearly every review has noted, is that even though the play time is long, they have a feeling of accomplishment and don't have have an issue feeling that the game is plodding along.

Now, if you just don't like the game, it's going to feel like it's dragging on. I've not had that personally, but not everyone enjoys every game style. In my first 2-era game, I felt like it ended too soon and wanted to play the next one. I haven't played a full 4-era game yet, but I'e done a couple 3-era rounds. This weekend is game night and we may try a full game, so I can possibly chime on that, too.
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Brett Smith
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farmergiles wrote:
He's not being literal but he has a point. It is very rinse and repeat. Yes the buildings increase in complexity but you are still doing the same thing over and over and over. And the later buildings are not that exciting. Yay I can make an apartment instead of a flat now. Red guy instead of yellow guy.

Also Embassies appear in first Era from the start, there are 4 levels of each one.

And whether or not indirect blocking is in many Euros is irrelevant, it's still no substitute for player interaction. For the extra many hours each player adds to the game length, there is no reason to have them there. 2-3 hours of extra game length just so I occasionally have to pay an extra food now and again.....fun...


yes this is exactly what I meant watched two different play throughs and Like I said there is a small scope creep in the game but its very small. Look my farm can be flipped into an Estate so now instead of one laborer it can hold 3 WOW real exciting LOL, ohh look my Tailor shop can turn into a Textile factory so now it produce 3 instead of one each round again WOW riveting stuff here. In a 4 player game it will be 6-8 hours of the same buildings and slightly better flipped buildings that just do stuff slightly better. Its not like a game where era 1 I have an axe man to chop tress but next era 2 I have a sawmill that can cut trees and pump out paper or something cool like that.

If this was a 90 minute game I would be fine with this type of scope creep, not ok for me in a 6-8 hour full play through game.
 
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Luke Hector
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Agricola doesn't take me 6-7 hours though in a 4 player game to get that feeling of accomplishment. Even solo it can give me that same feeling in half the time Colonists does . . . . . though let's be accurate I would be playing Caverna/Fields of Arle over Agricola any day. But I never say that Agricola has much player interaction either, but it's not adding an extra hour plus per player to introduce them into the game. As Brett says, if this were a shorter game, that wouldn't be an issue. You don't feel any more accomplished from what you've built here in 6-7 hours then you do in a 2 hour game of the other contenders.

And true when all said and done the variety in what you can build isn't quite as sprawling as some reviews will say. Most will simply produce 2-3 of what they did before rather than 1 or change a meeple colour. And for half the game you're forced to build a ton of storage buildings just to get around that frustrating mechanic.

You'll probably enjoy a 4 Era game, but man is it going to be a long game, good thing you got a weekend spare. Problem is playing only the first era's is just not accomplishing at all. Yay I have a few farms, a pub and one embassy..........after many, many hours.

 
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Michael Frost

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Thanks for the brutally honest review. Game had little interest for me before reading your review. Now it has none. And that is what a good review should do. Motivate readers one way or the other. Now I'll know never to waste my time playing it. Better games to play.
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John Van Wagoner
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"Beating someone to a market tile" doesn't mean anything...(page 9 of the rules):

"From time to time, the Place you would like to move to will be occupied by other players’ Stewards. It is explicitly allowed to
move to an occupied Place. However, when you do, you must pay a Fee to each player whose Steward is on that Place.

On Markets, you never have to pay the Fee."
 
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Garry Rice
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John_VW wrote:
"Beating someone to a market tile" doesn't mean anything...(page 9 of the rules):

"From time to time, the Place you would like to move to will be occupied by other players’ Stewards. It is explicitly allowed to
move to an occupied Place. However, when you do, you must pay a Fee to each player whose Steward is on that Place.

On Markets, you never have to pay the Fee."


Sorry, poor word choice. This is what I meant.
 
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Garry Rice
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farmergiles wrote:
That's indirect interaction, basically the same as a standard worker placement game, except here you don't even block the space, you just make it a tad more expensive and probably at the expense of wasting your time on the space.


Sure...but its still interaction that you neglected to mention...and it has affected me in the game I played by either reducing how much I was planning to build or preventing me if I didn't have the fee.

I also think part of the interesting aspect of this game is managing what you have in atorage and available to use...if you could store an infinite amount of goods, then the game loses its character and purpose, as well as most of the interesting decisions.

I have no issue with your review or criticisms...by and large there is certainly alot of validity there...it is certainly NOT for everyone!
 
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Luke Hector
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A lot of these kind of games allow infinite storage and I got no problem with that. If you can store 10 bricks you can store 30. This one constantly forces you into getting storage houses to even survive.
 
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Chris Funk
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farmergiles wrote:
A lot of these kind of games allow infinite storage and I got no problem with that. If you can store 10 bricks you can store 30. This one constantly forces you into getting storage houses to even survive.


And one brick token could equal 700+ bricks, or enough to build a new building. You may need a lot of space to hold that and 100+ planks of wood, 50 creates of food, etc. One token doesn't equal a single brick. It represents a much larger number, and yes, you need places to store all of that. It's different when you use scale to say "If you can store 700 bricks, you should be able to store 30,000 of them."

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Stefaan Verscheure
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I must say mu play group has a whole different experience with the game.

The game lends itself to only play 2 or 3 Era's and you can play that in 2 or 3 hours with 3 players.

We found there to be more player interaction than in most euro's since you can not only block spaces but also if you are the first player you can plan your turn to put some of the new locations hard to reach for the other players and make sure you end your turn close to them. making it more expensive and e few turns later for the other players to get to the nice new building.


As for the storage, you know from the start its important, and if you don't take care of the problem you will indeed run into a wall. But this is a euro game and we found that to be a fun part of the puzzle.
 
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Max Maloney
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"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason." -Jack Handey
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Luke's critiques of this game are too subjective for my tastes.

First, the interaction is tougher than you think. It's not in the placement of your stewards on the places where it gets mean, it's in the placement of the places themselves by the start player. I have seen players wrecked by mean placements and it can completely upend your strategy.

The best comparison I can make to explain what differentiates this from the bulk of traditional euros is that it has a lot more emphasis on logistics. The need store goods properly ripples throughout the decision-making in the game. It ends up having an almost Splotter-like feel, where failure to plan correctly can be very punishing.

Clearly it's not a game for anyone, but to dismiss it with offhand comments that imply it brings nothing unique in exchange for its length of play is ignorant.

I do recommend it with 3P over 4P though; the playtime is more manageable while retaining the push-pull of multiple players competing for your stuff and getting in your way. It's also a great game to play with a timer! We found 25 minutes per player per age worked well.
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Luke Hector
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And yours aren't subjective? Welcome to the world of opinions!

But that places part is very MINOR interaction. No more than a typical worker placement game in terms of levels. So for those 4-7 hours your total interaction reflects around a handful of times you place some tiles out? That's not interaction and nobody other than people who play solely brainburner Euro's can consider that heavy interaction.

25 min per player per age, with 3P that's still around 4 hours - way too long to be messing around with that storage system, which fair enough if you love it, great, but it seems like a constant pain to deal with and it doesn't even make thematic sense.

Also never say that a game has a "Splotter" feel if you want to say the game is good.................yuk
 
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Max Maloney
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farmergiles wrote:
Also never say that a game has a "Splotter" feel if you want to say the game is good.................yuk

If you don't have the range of game tastes to at least appreciate one of the most respected pair of designers in modern boardgaming, than your reviews have a narrow basis. Thus, too subjective (in my subjective opinion!).
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Luke Hector
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Newsflash, opinion is subjective! White house prepares statement! shake And most respected??
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Geert
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farmergiles wrote:
Newsflash, opinion is subjective! White house prepares statement! shake And most respected??

Luke, opinions are subjective, and I appreciate both yours and Max's. In my subjective opinion however, a good review also takes a couple of steps back and presents a more objective picture. I appreciate your criticism, and it may very well keep me from buying this game. Nearing the end of your review, however, it felt more like a rant than a review to me. Hence I understand why Max would find it "too subjective".

I also really appreciate Max's explanation, as it gives me more insight into the game. For me, when I read the rules it was very clear to me that the placement of the community tiles was very important, and being the starting player meant a great deal. Since you can do 1 step per action, when placing tiles you can plan a chain of actions, and at the same time make it hard to reach for your opponents.

It is ok if you don't like that mechanic, but at least we can, objectively, conclude that your list of opportunities of player interaction was incomplete:
Quote:

As sadly is the case with a lot of these kind of games, the player interaction is minimal. There are literally only two changes to the game for having more than 1 player. A couple of colony abilities key off another player's Steward and if you go to a tile with another player you have to pay a small resource fee. That's it. No really, that's it.

Also, you make a good point that playing 1-2 Eras isn't a complete game, and you wouldn't feel the same sense of accomplishment. However, as other reviews have taught me, the game does allow you to 'save' the game state after an Era, allowing you to return to your game at a later time. Furthermore, a less subjective standpoint would be to point out that you don't need to play 7 hours straight, but could play per Era and leave the game at the table for a break.

On a final note, the review comes across as if you have played the game only this one, heavily disappointing, time and like you haven't given yourself the opportunity to fully appreciate the mechanics that maybe do warrant a long playtime.

Please continue writing negative reviews if you feel a game deserves one, but maybe allow yourself to do one step back when looking at the game as a whole.

Just my (subjective) 2 cents.
 
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Luke Hector
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"you have played the game only this one"

It actually took longer than I expected for someone to use that - yeah seriously it's like the first thing any defender uses to a "less than perfection" review. No, the game was not played once, obviously!

You got a 6 man, that's still "ok" - but no The Colonists is not worthy of a 10 out of 10 I'm afraid.
 
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Geert
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I did not say that you played it one time only, I said that the review, to me, comes across as if...
To be fair you only mention this one time you played the game and immediately tried the 4-Era game in stead of playing the tutorial, which you honestly admit was a mistake. You don't mention any other plays, nor do you explain if the issues raised were a problem in every game you played, etc.

I don't mind if you give this game a 6 or a 10. It's not my game, I haven't played it, and I'm not trying to defend it. I am a potential buyer looking for well argumented opinions on the game. Your criticism is well appreciated, but I feel you could have presented in a more objective way to increase the quality of your review.

Because the thing is, the context is missing. I don't know you or your other reviews. Therefore I don't know if I can blindly trust your opinion for I don't know how to value your opinion. When a review presents criticism, but within a more balanced frame also including different views or opinions, it does improve the credibility of the review.

Your quote is pulled out of context from my reply which was meant to be constructive feedback, which you chose to completely ignore in your reply. I don't think it is a bad review at all, but personally I feel that if you write negative reviews you should also be open to constructive feedback.

Cheers
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