Klaus Gunther Herzog
Okay. This is NOT a review about whether or not the expansion is worth the price, because mine came in the Big Box. Plus, it was a gift.
Is it a bugaboo to compare my review to others? Maybe, but I'll do it anyway. Of course I wanted to get other people's opinions on the expansion, as I'd never even played the base game before, and considering play opportunities and the length of the game, didn't want to invest a bunch of time in the base game alone before deciding which expansions to add in.
Well, this weekend, three of us got in a game with THREE expansions, Tenno being one of them. To peek at my opinions on the other two expansions, see my review (and comments) here... About those 3rd and 4th Expansions...
The impression I got from reading (and watching) reviews is that while Tenno does somewhat fix the cube tower seeding imbalance by giving you a benefit from your cubes that the tower spews forth before game play, that really the bonuses derived from putting lobbyists (ahem, "courtiers") into play really isn't worth the cubes lost from the board or tower.
That's where I beg to differ. In my last two games (played against relative newcomers to the game, I'll admit), those Tenno bonus cards were game-changingly powerful. I won't go through the whole deck and cite all of them, but here's ONE direct experience.
While the people I were playing were more in the eurogamer end of the spectrum, one was indeed an old school wargamer before his recent reincarnation. Still, I'm known as the agressive alpha in the group, and so eveyrone was watching their back. And front. I did manage to launch an agressive campaign, especially when it came to grabbing territories with lots of other people's buildings.
And of course in Year 2 after I'd already leapt ahead on the scoreboard and made myself a target, the others finally started coordinating their plans and massing their cubes on my borders.
And that was the moment, in both games, when I managed to pull a surprise, and invest myself not in buildings or more troops, but in locking down the turn order and maximizing my presence before Tenno, to guarantee my choice of card... and the card I chose in both instances is the one that prevents attacks both A and B. Meaning, I had no reason to defend those borders, because no one would be attacking me anyway, and this was Autumn of Year 2, so there would be no futher attacks.
It won me the game, but it sure felt anticlimatic. I denied my opponents that rousing mass battle when cubes have to be poured into the tower with both hands.
So sure, having more options allows for some surprise moves. But it may very well be at the expense of the very unique thing about this game that is part of the FUN of the experience.
In the future, I think I'll be avoiding Tenno, until I get really REALLY bored with the pure Shogun.
If I feel there needs to be a balance for cubes NOT in the tower at start of play, I might consider a different balancing mechanism. Like treasure chests as compensation, or allowing some of those cubes that come out of the tower to be placed in territories.