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Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain» Forums » General

Subject: Fun City Faction Selection and Weekly Reports rss

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Steven Mitchell
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Rolling for factions (preview of coming attractions on the Fun City blog!)...

Will roll in alphabetical order: Chris, Jim, Nate, with myself being left with the remainder.

First roll will be a 1d4, second being a 1d3 (ignoring what Chris got), third a 1d2 (ignoring what Chris and Jim got).

1: Dux
2: Civitates
3: Saxons
4: Scotti

1d4 = (3) = 3
1d3 = (3) = 3
1d2 = (2) = 2
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  • 1230489. patton1138
  • 1d4 =
  • (3) =
  • 3
  • Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:46 pm
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  • 1230490. patton1138
  • 1d3 =
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  • Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:46 pm
Steven Mitchell
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Re: Fun City Faction Selection
Results:

Chris rolls 3 for Saxons
Jim rolls 3 for Scotti
Nate rolls 2 for Civitates
Steven is left with Dux (which, being the only singular among three other plurals, will bug him for the entire game; really should be Duces)
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Marc Gouyon-Rety
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Re: Fun City Faction Selection
Just for information, there is a good reason for the single singular, as the Dux represents the only reasonably centralized faction, at least early on... :-)
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Steven Mitchell
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Re: Fun City Faction Selection
GouyonRety wrote:
Just for information, there is a good reason for the single singular, as the Dux represents the only reasonably centralized faction, at least early on... :-)


I did figure that 'dux britanniae' was more or less the intent. But knowing that there were many duces britanniae over time, and that they certainly didn't have the centralized control they might have claimed... it still stings

[PS I also appreciate the fact that dux will be pronounced the same as dukes.]
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Jon Snow
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Re: Fun City Faction Selection
laugh Go, Big Apple players! Please link us to your blog.
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Steven Mitchell
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Re: Fun City Faction Selection
You can find the weekly AAR, composed by host JR Tracy, here: https://boardgamegeek.com/blog/1319/fun-city-gaming

The postings have been a bit behind from the busyness of the holiday season, but in time they'll get posted. My own take thus far:

We began the game last night and got through two Epochs. Even though we're all COIN vets, our first playthrough of a new entry in the system is usually a slog, as we all wrap our minds around the new systems and try to separate out how they're different from those of previous entries.

The 'Roman' factions still have a strong hold on the island. There have been quite a few successful raids, but the only 'permanent' Saxon presence, a settlement and warbands in Kent, was wiped out in a cavalry campaign. The Scotti have some warbands of their own in southern wales.

One thing I very much like so far is how the Epochs create a real historical narrative that you don't often see in COIN games. For the declining faction Dux, they came as an unpleasant surprise, as the Civitates gained automatic dominance in the first, and when I tried to regain dominance by sacrificing some vital cavalry in the second, I whiffed the die roll.... *sigh* So even though they haven't played out in my favor, I really enjoy how they push the game along a certain arc towards its telos, bringing in those effects from causes outside the game's proper scope.

Another element we've not really yet seen, but which I see coming, is the pivotal, game-changing decision that the Dux faction may have to make: to see that victory under the imperial regime is impossible and throw the switch to begin pursuing the warlord area-control victory of Fragmentation. (And of course, that changes a lot of things for the other three factions, as well.) If that plays out the way I'm expecting it to, that will be a very, very cool. That alone could rocket the game into my favorite COIN game.

All in all, this game already seems to be fulfilling the promise of a designer who realized that, as I have argued in the forums here, the main engine driving COIN really doesn't have much to do with counter-insurgency per se, capitalizing on this by discarding many of the COIN tropes, and driving that engine in a rather new, and intriguing, direction.
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Marc Gouyon-Rety
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Re: Fun City Faction Selection
patton1138 wrote:
(...) a designer who realized that, as I have argued in the forums here, the main engine driving COIN really doesn't have much to do with counter-insurgency per se, capitalizing on this by discarding many of the COIN tropes, and driving that engine in a rather new, and intriguing, direction.
My thoughts exactly, Steven :-)
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Steven Mitchell
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Re: Fun City Faction Selection
Played an Epoch and a half more last night in Pendragon. I thought we'd get more in, and we had a good pace at the start, but things got messy as the night wore on, lending to a bit more caginess.

The Scotti remnant in southern Wales beckoned more of their brethren to join them, turning Wales into a hotbed of Celtic ne'er-do-wells, including two settlements and a large group of warbands. It took a lot of time and money, but the Dux Bellorum rallied cavalry from all across Britain to root them out and successfully did so.

Unfortunately, at the same time, the Saxons were nipping at the eastern side of the island, mostly around Anglia and Lincolnshire, completely wiping out Roman presence there. What the Roman factions hadn't noticed was that this had dipped them down below the threshold that downgrades things from Roman Rule (the optimal political status) to British Autonomy (the middling status). In game terms, this means that victory conditions for the two Roman factions are now reduced, but cooperation is harder between them and the island is less economically prosperous.

In the early goings of the second Epoch, we Romans learned an important lesson: familiarize yourself with your opponents' Pivotal Events. Both Roman factions were recuperating from the previous Epoch's battles, in part by inviting Saxons to join The Cause as Foederati, working for the Romans, in exchange for land. What we didn't realize is that the Saxons' Pivotal Event has the potential to free a lot of those Foederati from their foedus and regain control of them. And that's exactly what the Saxons did. Now there are a lot of them up and down the coast, moving into the Midlands. Oops.

The other thing we quickly learned, both from the Scotti earlier and the Saxons in the present, is that once the barbarians get a foothold on the island, their raids can be much, much more annoying. One of the main protections against those raids early on are patrolled oceans. But if the raids are coming from settlements on the island, of course, those patrols can't help, and the raids spread like a cancer.

I think right now the question is whether the Romans will be able to repel the Saxons, or whether it's gotten to the point where we need to welcome our new neighbors. And while the Scotti threat isn't quite as acute as it was when we began the night, one or two swift moves could change that. So I think Britain is right now on a knife's edge, where it could hold out for a bit longer, or it could all of a sudden quickly collapse into Fragmentation (the game's lowest political status) and devolve into a free-for-all melee for control of the island.

As I indicated last week, I like the historical arc that is emerging from the game. One common criticism of COIN, which I think is mostly correct, is that they're very sandbox-y and the string of events in the game has very little to do with historical developments. The strongest connection to historical events often seems to be that there are cards with evocative titles and pictures and that, if you squint and cock your head at the right angle, you can see why that card would have that effect... but it could have instead been titled half a dozen other things and worked just as well.

I actually find the card titles and pictures to be even less relevant in Pendragon, but! that's because I'm not having to turn to them to scratch all my history itches. I'm getting more than enough itch relief from the actual way that the game itself is flowing. And that's a very good thing.
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Jim Crimmins
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Re: Fun City Faction Selection
Thanks for the detailed thoughts Smitch. This is high on my 'next COIN to play list'
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Marc Gouyon-Rety
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Re: Fun City Faction Selection
Thank you Steven :-)
Very good takes, and I'm happy you are finding you are having both a tense game, fun and historicity! I feel I have achieved my goals when I read this ;-)
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Ryan Keane
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Re: Fun City Faction Selection
Nice report. I haven't played other COIN, but comparing the events to that of CDG's like Twilight Struggle, I like how Pendragon does a better job at creating a historically accurate-feeling narrative arc. Only a subset of the events trigger, adding just enough flavor but their timing of appearance is not player-driven, and most of the game is narrated by player-driven commands and feats. I think it helps that we really know very little that is indisputable of the history of this period, so while the game has some built-in design elements that portray the author's decision on how to present what we know, how each game plays out is like an alternative interpretation of the clues from Gildas, Welsh legends, archaeology, etc. Pendragon's also nice in that it's like a snapshot in time, not trying to depict the end - when it ends and one faction is called the winner, that's like calling the game at half-time (even with a full game of 7 Epochs), and letting real history go on in the second half to portray what really happened (i.e. Dux lose, Saxons win).

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Nate Merchant
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I'm the hapless Civitates in Steven's game. I maintained order for the first and second Epochs, but now things are truly falling apart. As I keep saying, I'm not a dedicated COIN fan, and yet I find myself really looking forward to my *third* nightly session with Pendragon. Keeping that kind of interest going over weeks is rare for most games and unheard of for COIN. I guess it just gives me time to tread the rules *again*!
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Steven Mitchell
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We finished the game last night (kinda). We had about six or seven cards left in the deck but had to call it because of the hour. Because of scheduling (and already having played the game for three weeks), rather than extend it into another session, we decided to call the game.

Our Civitates player had to address a maintenance issue at home and was absent for the first half of the night, so after much deliberation, though since the other three of us hate using bots in games, we decided to nevertheless proceed with a bot until he arrived.

We were about 3.5 Epochs in when we started. The Saxons had a strong presence in the center of Britain, and the Scotti were building in the north. The latter ran a few campaigns in the North to eliminate the last of the Roman resistance up there. Meanwhile, in the center of the island, there was a lot of unoccupied land begging to be occupied by Saxons. The Germans did just that, taking up residence in the Midlands, coast to coast. (They still had a settlement in Kent but all parties seemed content to just let that be.)

Meanwhile, the Civitates bot was rebuilding its forces, having lost quite a few in the prior Epoch. With the forces rebuilt, the Dux gathered troops to take out the Saxon settlement near modern Gloucester. Though the pace was slow and deliberate, this allowed him to couple it with the Retaliate feat for gain extra Prestige in the victory.

All the while, the Saxons were pointing out how close the Scotti were edging towards a victory of their own. Left unmolested, he had gotten five of his settlements out and was using the Ransom feat quite effectively to leach Renown from the Roman populace.

So after two Epochs came out in almost-too-rapid succession and the Civitates player's arrival, the Dux turned his attention to the north to attack the Scotti. Unfortunately, in the course of doing so, he forgot to read one half of an event card and found the cavalry that he had concentrated near York had gone turncoat and now sided with the Scotti. D'oh.

With the Imperium status having just barely escaped descending to Fragmentation in the penultimate Epoch and the Dux maintaining his popular appeal among the Romano-Britons, however, the Dux were able to coerce the aristocrats into helping rebuild the military presence in the north in anticipation of another Retaliation, this time against those former Roman cavalry, making it narratively quite satisfying.

Unfortunately, however, this was the point at which we had to call the game. The Saxons maintained permanent presence in southern Wales and Kent, with raiders in Dorset and just north of London (along with Foederati in Dorset). The Scotti still had settlements in Cornwall, Cumbria, and Northumberland, with Foederati near Lancaster.

The consensus around the table was to name the Dux the victor by acclamation. He had accumulated quite a bit of Prestige and would probably trigger Fragmentation (with his Pivotal Event) shortly, after first draining the last of the aristocrats' resources (preventing them from retaliating), with not quite enough time for the barbarians to strike back either. Having accumulated a healthy amount of Prestige and more to come from the Yorkshire retaliation, even if he didn't meet his victory threshold, it was likely he'd be closest to it.

First thing I'll say is I still hate bots in COIN. I suppose they're a nice luxury for those who aren't able to fill out a table, but boy, are they far more trouble than they're worth. The bot played well enough, but all three of us hated running through the flowcharts and interpretive grey areas. I know some people love them and wouldn't purchase these games if they didn't have them, but as we noted to Mark Herman, who was at the other end of the table from where we were playing, it really doesn't seem to be worth all the extra design effort that they surely require. Just do away with them and release the game six months earlier. And if that loses you 100 sales, so be it.</soapbox>

As for this final stage of the game, I think all of us would say that it continued to exceed our expectations. The narrative continued to cohere, and the tension between the various factions continued to ratchet up. Whereas the Romans were able to completely rebuild the island after the first Epoch or two, Britain was looking very empty in that final Epoch, with Roman troops having to be more concentrated to take out key threats and regions' Prosperity quickly disappearing after only a raid or two, except in the occasional hinterland not readily accessible to the barbarians.

Most satisfying to me, though, was seeing the careful handling of the Imperium status actually play out as I expected. Just as I hoped would happen, the Dux were driving on the fumes of the Empire until just the right moment when they could seize the initiative and throw the island into a chaos that they believed they could then dominate.

I think all of us also played rather well for our first game. The barbarians, of course, have an uphill battle for the entire game, but the Scotti were coming close to the summit, with the Saxons well situated for the changeover to their Fragmentation VCs too. And at least twice, the Civitates had the necessary control to win, if only they had been the dominant Roman faction.

That latter bit is the other half of the Imperium status that I thought worked very well. Both the Civitates and the Dux factions have little side games that they have to play to build their Wealth/Prestige, which are essential for winning that struggle, even when things are nominally okey-dokey between them. If the Civitates made any error during the game, it was not concentrating strongly enough on building his Wealth to bring about civilian rule. With the exception of the first Epoch card, which unilaterally switched things to civilian rule, the Dux was always able to maintain military rule during the Epoch Phase.

The last thing that occurred to me is an observation in relation to other games in the series. They sometimes have a justifiable reputation of having a very incremental pace — things happen in a very piecemeal fashion — and having a tug-of-war feel — I do X, then you do Y which virtually undoes X, so I do Z, which you roll back a bit with A. While it still can feel incremental at points, there are also places when the design of the commands and feats overcomes that. For example, barbarian Raids include the option to do a Battle, as do Dux Intercepts.

But more importantly, rarely did I think that my opponents were able to completely undo my moves. They could weaken me in certain ways, but unlike other COIN games, I don't think there was ever a time when I thought, 'Great, what was the point in me doing that, when he was able to completely undo it all?' That's a huge plus, since I find that to be another largely correct criticism of COIN designs.

All in all, it was very enjoyable to play, and having now finished, I think I can confidently say it is my favorite of the COIN series.
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Nate Merchant
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Roses are red
Civitates are blue-ish
Until Fragmentation
We're both SPQ-ish

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Tom Kassel
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The Dux pivotal quarters prestige. I would think he would need a substantial amount of control for a winning position.
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Steven Mitchell
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Tom Kassel wrote:
The Dux pivotal quarters prestige. I would think he would need a substantial amount of control for a winning position.


Yes, that was part of the calculus. Conservatively the Dux would have ended up with 8-10 population under their control, with 5-6 prestige, even after quartering.
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Tom Kassel
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I haven't had a chance to play competitively yet but have done three solo non-bot games. I never saw Dux with more than 10-11 prestige, never enough to effectively use the pivotal. Though it hardly needed any assistance to reach fragmentation.
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Steven Mitchell
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Tom Kassel wrote:
I haven't had a chance to play competitively yet but have done three solo non-bot games. I never saw Dux with more than 10-11 prestige, never enough to effectively use the pivotal. Though it hardly needed any assistance to reach fragmentation.


Yes, most of the game I couldn't get it above 5 or 6, and actually bottomed out a couple times. But the final Epoch was a monster one for the end-of-Empire military.

They were coming out of the penultimate Epoch with about 5, I believe. Add on top of that two successful Retaliates — one actual and one imminent — for 5 each (+1 for fewer casualties, +1 for destroying a stronghold, and +3 for the Retaliate bonus), plus another low casualty Battle or two, plus a Built town... And you're up to around 20 or so.
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Marc Gouyon-Rety
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Steven, awesome AAR! Definitely looks like you guys had a lot of fun and got a good experience of the man issues facing late/post-Roman Britain, which makes me very happy :-)
Cheers, Marc
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Mark Herman
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Natus wrote:
Roses are red
Civitates are blue-ish
Until Fragmentation
We're both SPQ-ish



Good one...
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Nate Merchant
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The smoking rubble of an initially well-administered and prosperous Britain:

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Steven Mitchell
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Thanks for posting that, Nate. It made me realize that my initial recollection was correct, that I did conduct that attack north of York. The photo gallery on my phone got screwed up and was out of order, so when I double-checked, I still saw Scotti in that region and figured I'd misremembered.
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Tom Kassel
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How do you make foederati from comitates? I don't recall any such event.
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Steven Mitchell
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If you mean the one up north, I am certain the counter is actually atop a Scotti (affiliated with the settlement to the west), and a comitates cube has slid very near it, falsely appearing to be designated by it as well.
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Tom Kassel
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ah, yes. Just a little green visible in the back.

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