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Subject: Quick pros and cons review after first play rss

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Nicholas Korpelainen
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Pros:

+ very finely balanced gameplay, with suitably restricted movement courtesy of black holes. It felt skill-driven, not luck-driven.

+ incredible variability, through random map layout, different starting cards, different order of appearance of tiles and cards.

+ as with Martin's other games of this type (including A Study in Emerald), it features nice short two-action turns with unbelievable breadth/complexity of possibilities. Yet each action type is easy to remember, because the options are so intutive logically/thematically. There is nothing extraneous or contrived. This is a pretty tight design.

+ the game has an amazing flow: similarly in many features to Battalia, one can plan ahead by reserving cards for future turns... the difference being that reserved cards are face-up here. The combos of resources needed to achieve progress are a lot more simple and intuitive than in Battalia, while the game remains at least as thinky. The decision-making is juicy.

+ The card and box art are impressive and evocative of the theme.

+ The end of game trigger being a reshuffle-countdown is imaginative and works well in practice.

+ will appeal to combo-spotting afficianados. Lots of creative synergy is possible between positioning and card effects. It also allows for creative problem solving by giving you tools to circumnavigate bad positional/military luck by acquiring the right cards.

+ the game just makes sense: the cards do exactly what you would expect from the card titles. The resources required for colonising and building are exactly what you'd expect, too.

Cons:

- The white reverse side of fleet-tiles and system-tiles looks amateurish and prototype-ish compared to the visual flare of the cards.

- Careless production: with "time" infuriatingly misspelled "timem" on player mats, a system card missing (Eridani), two system cards mismatching their respective tiles (Ponthrus and Mugator) and perhaps more errors. Very amateurish QA process.

- The theme, although extremely lively and functional, is not as compelling and fun storywise as A Study in Emerald. The genre is quite different though, and as a streamlined 4X experience, it does work. This is more serious as a board game, but not heavier.

- The 18-step randomised setup is tedious, with the need to place many pieces on the board and to search for names of your initial random empire tile-locations among a sea of similar looking tiles, to cross reference tiles with cards. Not as smooth as the gameplay itself.

- The manual has a few lapses, such as barely including the details for alien combat on neutral tiles (it is introduced, only to get sidelined while simultaneously having the very different PvP combat explained).

- Deck thinning is too costly (only one card trash allowed per wasted action!) It felt more satisfying and natural to do in Battalia. But here you can reserve more cards, mitigating the issue somewhat.

Overall: preliminary score of 8.8. One of the finest designs in functional and creative gameplay, but with a few snags and misprints.





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Thank you for this.

What is "Battalia?"
 
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-=::) Dante (::=-
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Thanks so much for sharing your detailed thoughts!

Guessing you haven't played Mythotopia yet?

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-=::) Dante (::=-
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Hobbes wrote:
Thank you for this.

What is "Battalia?"


BATTALIA: The Creation (not a Wallace design)
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Fabian
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I pretty much agree with all of your points. I brainstormed some of my initial thoughts into my game comment (unsure if somebody reads these...).

Regarding the game play, the most important part to review on: I too like the two action system, each of them straight forward to understand, yet in combination providing very strategic possibilities.

I also think that the deck-building aspect is not the most pronounced mechanism here. Due to the many sources of resources (your hand, the development tiles, the two reserves — you basically have between 6 and 18+ "cards" each turn at your disposal), your actions often seem not limited by the draw and many of the possible actions are viable. To pull of big sweeping turns (mostly movement+combat, or getting the most expensive technologies) requires good hand/reserve/dev token management. I see the core game play element in this aspect.

Setup is a little long, also true. I hope this gets faster with more people familiar with the game at the table.

Edit: “18+ cards at your disposal.” — Okay, that's a rare exception, especially since cards in the Reserve 2 are often permanent abilities and cannot be "used". Still, more often than not, I found myself to have 6 cards in my hand + 3-ish unused development tiles + 2 reserve cards for my actions.
 
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Nicholas Korpelainen
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I did not play Mythotopia... the theme didn't draw me in enough, although I've seen it on sale for as low as £12. From what I have read, AHoS seems to be a superior redesign of the same game.

Battalia (a Bulgarian 2-4 player hand management and light deck building on a map) has a lot of similarities with this, but with overproduced and beautiful Kickstarter-components (some of the most aesthetically satisfying components).

The major difference is that Battalia required you to trash a card from your deck for each card reserved for the next round... the satisfying gameplay hook came from exploiting this deck thinning mechanism, while being careful not to lose all basic cards (which remained important until the end). The different resource costs required consulting a menu/player-aid, but the number of card types was smaller than AHoS. In Battalia, the game map gets built by players buying tile-cards, rather than being seeded randomly -- certain terrain types would give bonuses to different players. The battle system is very similar to AHoS, but with far fewer combats and less sprawling armies (you only had two units to fight with, at most!). Winning key battles would offer a reward (but with less options than development tokens in AHoS).

For me, AHoS is the 'streamlined Battalia' in this great genre, and more of a 'tactical light war game', while Battalia stresses hand-management more. The games do feel different. I'm convinced that most people who enjoy one of these games will also get a lot out of the other, though. One of the major criticisms of Battalia was repetitiveness from game to game (this will be fixed by an expansion coming out this summer). Also, the first third of the gametime was very slow, unless you houseruled to start with a higher initial score/development (you basically started with nothing). I didn't mind it too much, because I would focus on acquiring different combos of cards each time, but AHoS certainly has the upper hand here, with far more card-types and randomisation. Battalia is more unforgiving in terms of player mistakes, whereas AHoS is slightly more gentle and light.

Battalia also has some elements that are cute, but could be seen as unnecessary or extraneous or fiddly, such as a season dial that gives discounts/boosts to different cards, from round to round. It also had a setup of 21 small decks of square cards to lay out. But don't let it put you off. I didn't mind them too much. It gave you complete control of the shape of the map tiles, rather than mixing it all into one deck etc. More deterministic play and player choice, less randomisation.

Hand/action-management on a map is a wonderful genre. Any game that can take some of the glory of Mage Knight board game and put it into a streamlined and shorter format is an instant win.
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nkorppi wrote:
Hand/action-management on a map is a wonderful genre.


You should definitely check out Mombasa then. I see you're already a big fan of Concordia which is the other title that immediately came to mind when you said this. Mombasa is heavier, more complex, and very rewarding as well.
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Nicholas Korpelainen
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NuMystic wrote:
nkorppi wrote:
Hand/action-management on a map is a wonderful genre.


You should definitely check out Mombasa then. I see you're already a big fan of Concordia which is the other title that immediately came to mind when you said this. Mombasa is heavier, more complex, and very rewarding as well.


Thanks for the suggestion. My two concerns with Mombasa are the bleak colonial dressing/theme and the existence of many 'tracks'. I rarely enjoy track-keeping in my games, with some notable exceptions. For example, culture tracks put me off Terra Mystica.
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Nicholas Korpelainen
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One thing that worries me a little bit is that since deck-thinning is not a major attraction in AHoS, the final rounds grow longer and longer for reshuffles to advance the timer. This is not an arc that I'm typically fond of. It can cause mild 'drag'. At the end of my two player game, I felt that it was not too long, yet it was approaching the very upper limit of my patience regarding game length. If the game had continued any longer, I'd have been annoyed. Luckily it ended just as the entire board was more or less covered in cubes and disks.
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nkorppi wrote:
… the final rounds grow longer and longer for reshuffles to advance the timer …


This may happen, I guess. In my 2p learning game (caveat: I played both sides solo), in the later rounds combat happened frequently. And combat increased the speed, because as per the rules "the defender always redraws to hand size", so one combat turn basically equals 2 turns, card-wise — *if* the defender decides to join the fight and uses a bunch of their hand cards in the war, of course.

I had one situation where the defender got to draw a card from deck (through a Combat card in their reserve), which triggered a shuffle, and thus flipping of all development tokens, so a lot of Matter became available for them to fight with — and suddenly the attacker would be smashed into the ground. Definitely a situation to be aware of…
 
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Nicholas Korpelainen
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The Missiles-card? I was using the same. There are thankfully many card effects that cause more card draws and discards to keep the game up to speed. Usually I'd expect unreserved leftover cards to be wasted/discarded at turn end in this sort of game, but keeping them in hand isn't too bad unless all players go full on 'cold war', spending just a few cards per turn. That could be a vulnerability, if players are not exploiting their opportunities to the max. The more ruthless the players, the more fun it is.

My favourite aspect of the game was modifying the topography (a card let me place a new black hole to completely cut off a section of my empire until wormhole tech was revealed), or even just doing it by choosing which systems to build ships in to deter opposition, creating bottlenecks on the map.

Another major decision is choosing wisely which fights one wants to lose, to save cards, reserves and resources for another fight. You can't protect all systems well, but some systems have higher strategic importance. It's fun to analyse which systems are crucial.

Finally, the choice of which reserve cards to keep in those valuable slots gives immense scope for unique decision-making and customisation. You quickly become very aware of the reserve cards that the opposition is harbouring.

I was playing as Culturemood against Aggroloid, (who had dreadnoughts + super dreadnoughts giving her +6 attack), and yet I successfully fended off many attacks with Diplomacy, Missiles and matter gained from fast expansion giving me development tokens, despite having fewer ships in play. Finished with 84 against 69, but we were exchanging the lead throughout, in a nail-biter.

I enjoy the fact that not all systems are suitable for building units, because it adds more significance to movement-considerations and the aforementioned bottlenecks. This interplays nicely with wormholes and temporary wormholes and stealth etc. If one is doing poorly in one main resource (say research for wormhole movement), there are ways to come back: for example, the card that offers two research (but no action) for a one-off cost of two research is invaluable (and players will ignore it at their peril, having seen no fancy action-text). There's a lot of loving detail gone into the design.
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Lawrence Wang
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I have this preordered, would the printing and graphic errors be fixed when I get my copy or is it already too late in production? If the latter, I'll be pretty disappointed.
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Gordon Watson
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The card errors are being fixed by the printing of replacement cards - I believe distribution is being delayed slightly for non-UK pre-orders so that the replacements can be included before they are shipped.
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nkorppi wrote:
I did not play Mythotopia... the theme didn't draw me in enough, although I've seen it on sale for as low as £12. From what I have read, AHoS seems to be a superior redesign of the same game.


Still not played my copy, but from what I'm seeing, it's not. Not "worse", but Mythotopia has few of the cons you list here. The map is fixed, but locations are assigned randomly (or drafted by house rules etc.) so whilst everyone starts different, it's on a well drawn map that you can read easily, and remember where places are.

The two reserves... (or more like one and a half reserves given the limitations on one of the two piles) seems weird to me, very much feels like a workaround for a design issue. Of course, Mythotopia had an asterisk put next to it early on from the dubious end game condition, as did AFAoS with HH. Hopefully the component issues here haven't already given it one too, and nothing else will come out of the woodwork to do so.

I would expect that AHOS is theoretically the better designed game on paper, but not as good and natural an experience as Mythotopia.

[I've a spare limited edition copy sitting under my desk you're welcome to buy from me!]
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Chris Allan
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nkorppi wrote:
the final rounds grow longer and longer for reshuffles to advance the timer


We found quite the opposite, and players were ploughing through cards quicker and quicker, whether it be driven by combat or through large discarding to drive the game clock, and try and draw the cards they need.
 
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I just finished my first game, a 2 player game.
With setup and rules explanation (a bit as we went) it took us around 2 hours to finish.
My opponent was a bit surprised that I was reshuffling almost every turn (I had a +1 reserve, and so pretty much always had 3+3 on reserve).

Want to play it again.
 
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