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Subject: A few thoughts after first game rss

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Edward B.
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I was able to play my first game of History of the World a bit ago. This was a four-player game with regular gamers but it was the first time for all involved.

Delivers an epic feel

This game definitely delivers an epic feel, which is the main reason I had wanted to play. Spanning seven different ages, with four players we got to see the rise and fall of 28 different civilizations with a few minor civilizations popping up here and there. It was really cool to see the remnants of the once great Egyptian nation struggle to hang on until finally being snuffed out around the fourth or fifth age.

However, that epic feeling has a cost in terms of time investment. The game took well over four hours. My tolerance for longer games has waned over the past several years, but in this I felt it was worth the time investment. You definitely feel like you've witnessed a good chunk of history unfold after you're done.

The rules are fairly simple but hold up well for an older game. It's Risk-ish enough that most people are going to get at least the core concept of rolling dice and trying to get higher than your opponent. This game does favor the attacker, generally, in that the standard roll is 2 versus 1 with ties not going to the defender but instead causing both players to lose their army. Which then leaves the territory open for the active player to take (as long as they have enough men). There's enough wrinkles thrown in with difficult terrain and fortresses to keep combat interesting. There's definitely some strategy.

The other big choice besides deciding on where and when to attack is choosing when you will play your cards. Each players gets seven minor event cards and three major ones and you can play a maximum of two cards per age.

The coolest cards are the ones that allow you to take a turn first as a minor power. It's just like your main turn except the number of armies you have at your disposal are much smaller. Other cards can range in usefulness from making it easier for you to attack certain terrain or giving you a boost in income.

History of the World avoids board clutter (sort of) by allowing only one figure on each space to designate the player who controls the territory. You don't roll more dice for having more men, but from potentially playing cards. Like I said earlier, the attacker starts with advantage by 2 v 1 dice with ties causing both to lose their men. Terrain features generally benefit the defender.

Large time investment and lots of luck

This may be the number one thing that could prevent someone from getting into this game. It is a long game, and it's also heavily influenced by luck. Yes, you can try to play your cards at the right moment, you can choose whether to spend money building defensive buildings and where to attack. But there are big swings of luck thanks to the dice and the card draw for empires.

See, each of the seven ages the player who is in last draws a card from the age deck, depicting an empire they can choose to control for the round. They can keep it or pass it to any other player. If they pass, they must keep their second draw. Then the next person draws a card. If they already have one (because they were given a card earlier) then they must pass it to a player without a card, and so on.

It's not completely luck dependent, but, again, luck is a huge factor. You can happen to draw an awful or great empire on your first turn. Weaker empires generally get to go first, which is a bit of a mitigating factor, but there are a few powerhouses (Romans, who get an ungodly amount of soldiers, and British and Spanish, who have large fleets allowing them to hit just about anywhere on the board) that seem to dwarf the other nations.

Scoring

Scoring is kind of cool. There are only so many places in the world open to conquest at the beginning of the game, with more areas gradually opening up. Like the actual history of the world, Australia is one of the last places to be opened up for exploration/colonization.

You get a varying amount of points for each continent you are on depending on if you dominate (no one else has troops there), have a majority (more than any other one player) or presence (at least one soldier).

Huge gulfs at the end

At the end of the game, there was a huge gulf in scores. The player who had gotten Rome and Spain took first. I was second and behind at least 20-30 points. Third place was about the same behind that and fourth was probably about 80-100 points behind the first player.

This being my first game, I don't know if that's typical or not, but this does seem like a game that isn't conducive to close endings.

It's long and filled with luck, but it is fun

This is a lengthy game and one where luck plays a large role. But it's also a fun game. I think the biggest thing this game gets right is conveying a feeling of history. Of great empires rising and falling (and struggling to hold on) as time marches on.

It's a game I had fun with even when at times it felt like my success was dependent primarily on the dice.
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Mr G
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Great summary.

I have the old Gibsons Games version, but I don't think much has changed.

I've played a few dozen times and the scores tend to be quite close. Often a few vying for the win and a couple a bit behind.

Usually, the reason for massive gulfs in scores is poor distribution of empires. In particular it may be tempting for first timers to give the Roman player the garbage empire next Epoch (I think it's the Guptas) but that empire goes FIRST in turn. NEVER give this to the Romans.

With old hands there is quite a lot of discussion and negotiation around Empire distribution.

EDIT: I read a couple of posts and it seems as though the rules around Empire distribution may have changed. In my ancient version, the lowest strength (card value resources) player gets first choice and can keep / assign their pick. Then next lowest, etc.
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Drake Coker
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If you enjoyed it, but it was too long, it is well-worth trying the new (2018) version from Z-Man. It trims the number of eras to 5 and plays in a comfortable amount of time.
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Kevin Youells
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It looks like you may have played the empire draw part incorrectly. Each person (in score order-low to high) only gets to pick once and then keep/pass. If you pass, you will get your empire when another player passes one to you.

Good review, though.
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Tim Earl
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Olvenskol wrote:
If you enjoyed it, but it was too long, it is well-worth trying the new (2018) version from Z-Man. It trims the number of eras to 5 and plays in a comfortable amount of time.


I second this. The game really loses nothing by shortening it.

To answer your score differential question, in our last game, there was something like a 10 point difference among the top 4 players at the end. I think it was 5 points for the top 3.
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andrew dlugolecki
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I have the Gibson game. We customised it to 10 epochs, which needs two nights , but we feel is well worth it. Starts in prehistory, continues into WW2, postwar, and 21st century.


Kept the basic rules the same, but added a couple of countries to the board, and some new events. Plus a mechanism to peg back the leader in later rounds (eg historical financial crashes). Also added technology,as a random historical factor, to make the country values dynamic.
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Edward B.
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Hmm. I guess we did play the empire distribution cards slightly wrong, then. I think we may have went in turn order from lowest score to higher, but if someone passed we had them immediately draw a new card that they had to keep. Not sure how I got that rule so wrong.

I did look at the newest version of the game before hunting down this one. One of the things I liked about this game was that it did feel big. I think part of the reason it does is because of the length. I think it's one of those situations where you really have to have some kind of length to get that feeling of sweeping history.
 
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