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Subject: Pax Renaissance is THE perfect 2-player game. rss

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D. Fox
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Merry Christmas!” I said.
Merry Christmas,” she replied.
Here – open this one first, I’m really excited about it.” I suggested.
Hmmmm Pax Renaissance…another game?” she said.
Yeah!” I said.
Do we REALLY need another game?” she asked.
We don’t have a game about the Renaissance!” I explained.
I love the Renaissance,” she said.
I know.” I replied.

Dear reader, I am about to tell you that Pax Renaissance is THE perfect 2-player game…if one of you knows a LOT about the Renaissance but hates to read rules, and the other one knows NOTHING about the Renaissance but is motivated…and both of you are patient (well, one of you is patient)…and you have a weekend to kill to read the rules…and you don’t have kids that are pestering you all the time to let you focus on those rules, but you might have a dog that wants to go run and play Frisbee (which lets your brain take a periodic break from trying to figure out what all of those rules actually mean).

No, no, no – that’s all shite.

Let’s try again. Pax Renaissance is THE perfect 2-player game. Period. End of story. But here’s the story…

In Pax Renaissance, you’re not playing the part of some boring Viking or detective or space explorer. No, no dear reader – there is nothing so mundane here. No, in Pax Renaissance you get the opportunity to play a bank. You read correctly, a BANK. I know you are already distracted with excitement at the possibilities of wearing one of those little green banker’s visors with +3 defense or slinging razor-edged bank notes in a ranged attack, but please try to maintain focus for a few moments more. Who wants to heft a sword or shoot a laser or explore for clues when you can collect coin and arrange marriages and finance Holy Wars! Oh, yes, dear reader, THIS is the heady stuff of Pax Renaissance. But be warned. Once you’ve defeated, nay humiliated, your spouse or significant other or best friend in a game of Pax Ren, any joy you might have experienced in other, lesser games, will pale. Want to Terraform Mars do you? Simple. Catch saucy Jack in the darkest corners of Whitechapel? Elementary. Build a beachside bonfire and signal a rescue ship for Crusoe and his man Friday? Child’s play. Taming the unruly tendrils of the Eastern and Western Trade routes of 15th century Europe to meet one of 5 possible victory conditions will be far more elusive and rewarding, dear reader. Trust me.

Pax Renaissance is quite possibly the greatest game you’ve never heard of. It is ranked obscenely low on the BGG charts – #842 (as of this writing). How can this be? And only #126 for theme? This is an outrage. But rather than lash out at the indignity of its near obscurity, let us revel in the fact that we are members of an ultra-exclusive club whose colleagues are made of like-minded individuals contemplating how best to bring Byzantium and Hungary to heel in order to monopolize the Eastern Trade route versus pursuing Holy wars in the West. Ah, the choices! The infinite options laid out before our little banker’s feet! The awakening world of the Renaissance is our oyster and we are the cocktail sauce trying to mask the fishy aftertaste of the medieval age.

So what is Pax Ren?” you are asking. It is a game of strategy in which you are a banker imparting your influence across 15th and 16th century Europe. You can do so through a myriad of mechanisms: encouraging votes, arranging coronations, campaigning against neighboring lands, fostering peasant revolts, invoking holy wars, taxing the peasants, reaping rewards from trade routes and any number of other things you won’t even know about until you’ve got 10 plays under your baldric and have read the rule book for the 3rd time! It is in this way that Pax Ren is a coy little monkey. She reveals her shiny objects very, very slowly. This is no crass and brazen game that displays her inner magic all at once. Ah no, dear reader, she will flirt with you and play hard to get, saucy little minx that she is!

Is it hard to learn?” you are asking. GOD YES! As well it should be! What do you want? Do you want to sit down, read some rules in 10 minutes and master a winning strategy in 20? Go play Splendor! (I love Splendor.) You are not worthy of the tiny wooden chess pieces that cleverly represent the noble agents you will use to conquer the land in Pax Ren. You are not worthy of the historical flavor text that adorns every available space of this game. You are not worthy of learning of white Papal elephants! Consider Lord of the Rings. When Frodo decided he would take the ring to Mordor and drop it in the fires of Mt. Doom, did he take the easy way out and just hitch a ride on one of Gandalf’s gigantic eagles, flying there in a couple of hours, dropping it in from the lofty safety from above? No – he WALKED, and crawled and scratched and clawed his way there – and lost a finger in the process! (Now that I think about it, why DIDN’T he just fly there on an eagle? Kind of a dick move on Gandalf’s part, but whatever). You get the point.

How do you play?” you are asking. I have no idea! Well, I have a little idea. But I’m getting better all the time! Listen, dear reader, if I handed you a cello and told you to play it, what would happen? You would be nervous and apprehensive and if you tried to draw the bow across the strings it would sound horrible. And so it should! Did you really think you would channel Yo Yo Ma the first time? Of course not! It will take effort and time and practice. And this is Pax Renaissance. It is a commitment. So why should anyone want to commit themselves to a game that takes effort, you might be wondering. Go ask Bobby Fischer! Go ask Michael Jordan. Go ask Lance Armstrong! No – don’t go ask him because he’s a cheating sh*t who still owes me the $14.95 I spent on his stinking biography.

Why is this a great 2-player game?” you are asking. On each of your turns, you can really only do two of four things: Buy a card, sell a card, play a card, and run some operations described on your cards. You can also declare a victory when the conditions are right, but you’re only going to do this once, immediately before you do a Renaissance-themed victory dance to heighten the humiliation of your opponent. Surprisingly, with only 4 actions, each turn requires much thought. This is because your hand size is only 2 cards and every decision you make has consequences. And it is my contention that these consequences are particularly exaggerated in a 2-player scenario. If you pass up on the chance of buying a desirable card in a 4-player game, kiss it goodbye. But if you pass on buying a card in a 2 player game, there is a chance your opponent might also let it go, increasing the anticipation you will feel as you hope you’ll have a second chance. For example, did you not have enough money to woo that Queen into your hand on this turn? Are you pining away for her? Your buddy across the table might also not catch her gaze and you can have one more opportunity to invite her over. If so, she will sweet talk a king into joining your soiree and ‘Hear ye, Hear ye’ you are LITERALLY on the map! Also, there is a lot of offense-to-defense in the 2-player version of Pax Ren. When the game starts, no victory conditions are established. You and your opponent are just fumbling about in the dark. You can focus on trying to develop a tableau based on what cards are available without worrying too much about what your opponent is doing. But then quite suddenly, a game mechanism occurs (a Comet!) which allows one of you to declare what a victory condition – the 1st victory condition – will be. It’s up for grabs. And this will determine if you get to stay on offense (if you can capture a Comet) or need to think about defense (if your opponent grabs a Comet first). It is an act of complete game design brilliance. Suddenly, your strategy may need to change. Do you double down on your plan or do you try to block your foe? With a multi-player game, it may be hard keeping tabs on everyone’s motivations. In basketball terms, imagine trying to guard three others, all of whom have basketballs and are either driving to the hoop or launching jump shots. But with a 2-player game, you can just concentrate on your opponent if you are suddenly put on defense. And you can stare her down and trash talk her and ridicule her for taking Vlad the Impaler’s ugly-ass brother, Radu! That sh*t is WEAKSAUCE! But I digress…

In conclusion, this was a horrible review. I didn’t tell you how to play, I didn’t offer any strategies, and I didn’t discuss the components (although I will mention they are intentionally wee to keep shipping costs down but I’ve already made plans to pimp my version out with a custom made map that is posted in the files section and some nice big-ass chess pieces I found online and my wife is worried about me). But is this a cracking good game that plays exceptionally well with 2-players that is strategy-heavy and dripping in sweet Renaissance theme? You bet your sweet astrolabe it is.
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Manuel Drews
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Frankfurt am Main
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Wonderful written! This was really a joy to read. Thanks!
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Jack Francisco
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Very enjoyable to read. I love Pax Ren. It might be one of the most opaue games I've ever played from the perspective of trying to figure out how you are supposed to get to the end of the victory condition. You eventually sort out the means to that end by just "doing things". It's excellent. For 2p, though, I prefer to set the deck up for 3p to stretch out the game a little.
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Christopher Wood
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Quote:
ranked obscenely low on the BGG charts


Just to put it in perspective ...
(numbers as of this post)

• 93719 games listed
• Pax Ren #844 overall
• (93719-844)÷93719 = 0.99099435546687437979491885316745
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Jack Francisco
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I think it's low considering it should be top 10.
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Christopher Wood
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senorcoo wrote:
I think it's low considering it should be top 10.


It should be #1.

(It's my #1.)
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Dave Schmidt
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I think it'll move up, but it's also hard for a game of this 'weight' to move up really high.
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Kevin Thatcher
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Your perspective matches mine. The first time my friend and I played we ended up playing 5 2-player games in a row. Just could not stop playing.
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Brett McLay
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To paraphrase many people, "Thanks ... I needed that." thumbsup
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Joel Carr
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Thanks for this review! My sentiments exactly.... all the pax games are in my top 10.. and ren is my favorite by far
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D. Fox
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christopherwood wrote:
Quote:
ranked obscenely low on the BGG charts


Just to put it in perspective ...
(numbers as of this post)

• 93719 games listed
• Pax Ren #844 overall
• (93719-844)÷93719 = 0.99099435546687437979491885316745


Two thoughts:

1)This kind of analysis is EXACTLY what likely makes you an outstanding Pax Ren player. Dammit, I like where your head is, Mr. Wood! (I hope the rest of you are paying attention to the moxie of this reply. THIS is the commitment you need for Pax Ren, kids.) You have likely also considered the differing probabilities of encountering a Queen in the West and East Trade Routes due to the inequity in deck sizes of each...

2)Do you mean to tell me this incomparable, elegant, maddeningly addictive game actually FELL TWO PLACES to #844 since I wrote this post? What is wrong with people? How can this be?
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D. Fox
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senorcoo wrote:
I think it's low considering it should be top 10.


HUZZAH Master Francisco!

Maybe if people realized the gentleman banker featured on the box art looks EXACTLY like actor Damian Lewis, it would get a bump in popularity?



Come on folks, this is a BEEFCAKE by Renaissance banking standards!
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Phil Eklund
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Hello from Germany D. Fox. I am wondering if your wife enjoys the novels of polymath Dorothy Dunnett? If not, consider this for a gift next Christmas? Her Niccolò series, about a fictional Renaissance Flemish banker with powers borderline supernatural, inspired the game. I belong to the Dorothy Dunnett fan club on Yahoo groups, and the first sentence of her series is quoted on the game cover.
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Tracy Baker
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This is one of the best reviews I've read here in ages. Thanks for posting it!
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Jack Francisco
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phileklund wrote:
Her Nicollo series, about a fictional Renaissance Flemish banker with powers borderline supernatural, inspired the game.


I am NOT a Flemish merchant!! I am the idealized version of the complete Renaissance man!! MP
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Kevin Thatcher
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senorcoo wrote:
phileklund wrote:
Her Nicollo series, about a fictional Renaissance Flemish banker with powers borderline supernatural, inspired the game.


I am NOT a Flemish merchant!! I am the idealized version of the complete Renaissance man!! MP


A group of us REALLY should get together to play some games of Pax Renaissance. Given the personalities involved, it would be a blast....
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Alex
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Brilliant
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D. Fox
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phileklund wrote:
Hello from Germany D. Fox. I am wondering if your wife enjoys the novels of polymath Dorothy Dunnett? If not, consider this for a gift next Christmas?Her Nicollo series, about a fictional Renaissance Flemish banker with powers borderline supernatural, inspired the game. I belong to the Dorothy Dunnett fan club on Yahoo groups, and the first sentence of her series is quoted on the game cover.


I'm quite sure she is not familiar with those...and now I have the perfect gift for her this year as well. She is a ravenous reader. I owe you ANOTHER one for providing the perfect gift two years in a row!

Thank you kindly, Dr. Eklund.
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Andrew Doull
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I prefer Any % Queenless for 2 player. Let the other player have 'cheap' kingdoms.
 
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Jack Francisco
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Kevin Lee Thatcher wrote:
senorcoo wrote:
phileklund wrote:
Her Nicollo series, about a fictional Renaissance Flemish banker with powers borderline supernatural, inspired the game.


I am NOT a Flemish merchant!! I am the idealized version of the complete Renaissance man!! MP


A group of us REALLY should get together to play some games of Pax Renaissance. Given the personalities involved, it would be a blast....


Indeed. It would be amazing.
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Menin Gate at Midnight, Will Longstaff, 1927.
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"At the landing, and here ever since" - Anzac Book, p. 35.
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GREAT! THANKS! You've sold me on this wonderful looking 2 player game and it seems to be completely unavailable in my country... ARGH!
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Adam Deverell
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Haven't played this two player, but love the game...the big question is, would my wife enjoy it too? I'd love it if she had the same reaction as yours did - and she plays some heavy games (Agricola, Terra Mystica, Great Western Trail) but I don't know if this a bridge too far.

I've eventually got the rules down pat, but the opaque strategies when you first play and the "what the heck do I do know?" helplessness you feel could make this a tough sell. There's a lot going on too.

I reckon I'd only have one shot at selling it.

Any suggestions to how to best teach this AND play it? It is a fast playing game, and I'd love to get it on the table more.
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Jack Francisco
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My suggestion of teaching would be to grab my game aid from the file section that has incorporated the latest living rules. It's what I use to teach and, while its a lot, it covers everything. Also, tell her not to worry about how to win. It might not become evident for victory conditions other than Imperial until you get there.
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So I taught my partner the game with fairly positive results (meaning, interest in playing again).

Here's roughly how I did it. Keep in mind, I taught her porfiriana already, she's always been a civilisation player on the PC, and she tends to whoop me at euros.

1) I said we were illuminati types trying to control the destiny of europe
2) I explained the victory conditions super briefly - get kingdoms under your control, get the strongest religion under your control, have the most trade under your control or have the most democracies under your control - and how they could be unlocked by comets later
3) I explained the market in a sentence
4) I said when you play a card you choose what happens - some event, or you add tokens - and this affects the map which can help you get kingdoms or what have you
5) I explained how after that you can activate your cards for their actions
6) i demo'd a trade fair
7) i said, right, that's all I know, let's pull some levers and see what happens, I wanna get the pope to behead someone.

I find with pax games there appears to be a lot to them. There is..... but they look more complicated than they are to actually play. Once you get the flow of play, as long as you treat it like a bit of a sandbox, you can just play some cards and see what happens. If you can create that mindset in the person you're teaching, I don't think it's too hard to grasp.

You don't need to understand repurcussions to just play. A story will unfold - just keep hold of that. Pretend to be evil masterminds pulling the strings. Explain the potential actions as they appear.... tax does this, repress does this, hey, you need some guys in France otherwise I'm going to take it etc etc.

The biggest hurdle for me is the battles, I still haven't internalized them, but the handy table helps with those, and everything else has a relatively easy logic to it, as individual actions, anyway.






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Kevin Thatcher
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One of the key benefits of Pax Renaissance for me (especially with 2 players) is that you can finish a game in a little over an hour and can set up for an immediate rematch. Once you get the first game (or two) under your belt, the opacity starts to fall away.
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