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Subject: Some initial thoughts on the game rss

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Justin Baumgartner
United States
Wisconsin
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I was one of the people who bought Lancaster when it was insanely cheap on Amazon, and finally got to play it last weekend. At some point I hope to write a complete review on it but it'll need more play to get there.

The rules are actually pretty simple and laid out straightforward enough in the game, so our group of 4 was off and running pretty quickly. While it'll take at least a somewhat experienced board gamer to get the initial play going with a group, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the game flowed intuitively. As such, Lancaster isn't a gateway game, but as others have mentioned before it is very "next step" level.

Another thing that keeps Lancaster from being a gateway game is that it is actually quite punishing for mistakes especially with cutthroat opponents. There is a higher degree of player interaction due to this not being strictly a worker-placement game, but rather has the feel of an auction game mixed in with it (Keyflower is another game that does this, if in a slightly different fashion).

There are a mixture of elements that are nicely blended together: the laws part of the game is really nicely implemented and adds a nice twist, the auction-esque worker placement, the conflict with France rules, and the set collection of the nobles all work together well.

There isn't a scaling mechanism that differentiates the game in much of a fashion other than the number of available noble tiles, which is why I agree with the contingent of players that suggest that this game is best played with all 5 players, and never less than 4. There are just better games than Lancaster for two players in the genre, such as the previously mentioned Keyflower.

Overall, it is a component-heavy game that plays lighter than expected but also with more player interaction than I'm used to in a game that, by the rules, is a worker placement game. I liked it quite a bit and I'm hoping to get it to the table more often. If I had a criticism of the game, its that it isn't the kind of game that "creates memories". Most of my favorite games like Dune, Stronghold, Churchill, The King is Dead, and Terra Mystica all have memorable games where something awesome happens, and I just don't see that coming from Lancaster. When I initially rate games after one play, I usually rate them 6.5 (Was pretty meh but I'll give it another chance if someone else wants to play it), 7.5 (I liked it and will try to play again when there is a good opportunity), and 8.5 (Loved my first play, will try to make time to play it) and Lancaster sits firmly in that 7.5 category.
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Nate Dorward
Canada
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I really like this game, but yes, it can be punishing for inexperienced players. The first time I taught it, I insufficiently stressed that after 2 rounds, if a battle had not been won, the knights involved would have to be ransomed or else would be lost--one players managed to lose all their knights except a lowly first-rank knight by failing to reinforce their troops or reserving some cash for ransom.

I did find it occasionally less than clear from the rulebook what the criteria were for fulfilling the laws (e.g. which knights count as "deployed"--only the ones on the board or also the ones on your player mat?).

Yeah, I don't think there's much scope for a big memorable moment in the game. And I do love it when that happens. (Recently played Innovation where after a hard-fought game someone activated the Fission card and triggered nuclear apocalypse, wiping the board of all but a half-dozen cards...wow!)
 
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