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Subject: Three Kingdoms Redux - A Review rss

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David Belk
United States
Orlando
Florida
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So I bought this game a little less than a year ago and just played it today. Below is my brief review.

For the record I am a HUGE fan of the era in history. In my formative years I was introduced to a Nintendo game called Destiny of an Emperor. It was a Final Fantasy version of the story of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. A few years later I learned there was another game about these characters called Romance of the Three Kingdoms 2. A short time later I learned this was all based on a book about an actual era of China's history and while "romanticized" most of these people were real and there was a source material. Decades and many games later I found myself more of a board gamer and found there was a game called Three Kingdoms Redux.

Now when I first saw the board I said it was not for me. It was a single city... This epic takes place over all of China. How could the designers have done such a disservice and shrunk it down to a single city?!

Somehow (not sure how) I learned that wasn't the actual case and my Ire lessened. I found a deal on the game and picked it up, like I said, a little less than a year ago. Playing it was a whole other deal. I prefer to learn via being taught not by reading rules, 3 players "made it hard" to find a chance to try it, bidding is typically a mechanic that despise, excuses abounded.

I was at Dice Tower Con 2018 with hopes of finding someone to teach it, but to no avail. Then Sunday (the day I could not attend due to my wife's birthday) a very nice guy, Scott, offered to teach it. I explained I wasn't there Sunday and he offered to drive 2 hours to teach it and play it. I scrambled and set plans in place.

Sorry for the long preamble but you need to understand my reservations. This is a precious setting for me. I had reservations and excuses.

So we sat down today June, 28, 2018 and Scott taught the game. I played Shu (the weakest starting faction), my good friend Rich played Wei (the most powerful starting faction), and Scott was in the middle.

I had finally sat down and watched parts of Jplay's and Heavy Cardboard's instructional videos but life and work have been busy so there was good things to learn. Rich and I got it and we were off.

Immediately I found myself feeling much like Liu Bei did, outmatched, outgunned, not enough to be able to compete with. By the end, I had pulled out a victory for Shu. The game ended round 10 due to a player (really 2) having 5 generals controlling boarder territories. The final score was Shu 43, Wu 42, Wei 41. It was neck and neck and incredible.

The game is outright fantastic!

The asymmetry - from the concept of the alliance with the lowest bid winning player setting it, the max bid winning player being out of it. The differing starting assets, general counts, special powers, it AMAZES me at the degree of balance there is in this game. It would be extremely easy to say of Wei starts off the strongest and clearly has a huge advantage. And that is true, but only for so long. It is so finely crafted and designed it blows my mind.

The bidding - So honestly this was my biggest hesitation after finding out the game didn't take place in 1 city. I hate bidding (its a personal thing). I don't mind blocking but bidding... I know people who would spite bid or do so just to be the "Chaos Bringer" of the game. I definitely carefully consider playing this with them as they would play just to mess with people and not to win (which makes it easier for someone who is trying to win to do so... but at the same times frustrates optimal play) but that is the case with any bidding game and them. So my concerns were not realized at all. There were a few times I got outbid and I few times I outbid someone else, but mostly we were largely doing our own things. It really made for an interesting dynamic and sometimes forced you to hold back placing out someone who I wanted to place sooner... just in case. So it in no way hurt the game and added a layer of interesting decision making.

Combat - So this was something I was very curious and a little concerned how a Euro would do it. I also was hesitant on the idea of "losing that officer" for the rest of the game. The lack of ability to take territory for someone went against my expectations for the theme of the game. The whole thing is brilliant. The hard choice to give up a good general to secure land and get a constant stream of points every rounds, offset by an upkeep... It made for very hard and brilliant trade off decisions.

Worker placement - This kind of ties to the bidding above, but the spaces all make perfect sense, fit much of what I'm used to video game wise from all the RTK titles (draft and army, train it, equip it, develop farms and markets, buy sell goods, build improvements). All great and easy to process. First looking at the board I felt it was too tight and not enough spaces or things to do. WRONG again. Even the lay out (top right military, bottom left civil, middle flip) is elegant and conceptually beautiful.

Art - Another area of concern for me. I grew up much on Koei's interpretations of these characters after 8 bit sprites. The art of bold, beautiful, polished, and familiar.

Components - Again the art is great, the thickness of the cardboard is top notch. The cards are thick cardstock.

Game play - While it initially looks intimidating its not. AT ALL. It heavy not in rules or cascades of things triggering each other (Vital I'm looking at you! I love all your stuff but but I'm looking at you). It is so easy... so easy is the wrong work... accessible! That I can't figure out what took me so long. Any game where the rules and mechanics are extremely accessible but the trade off and decisions make it heavy speaks volumes about elegance in design.

Time - So I hadn't really looked at the play time. I expected 3-5 hours just from my gut. For the record anything over 3 hours in my world I class as long. That's just because my FLGS game a weekly game night that is 3 hours, so anything longer doesn't fit into that and is usually a monthly weekend game day thing. Our play took about 3.5 with teaching and a bathroom break. I honestly lost total lack of time. Some long games feel long (even if fun). This flew by. Maybe in part due to the people had little down time. But it was ALWAYS engaging. Never was I like, well here is a slow spot. Sometimes it was my turn again sooner than I expected.

Overall - This is a true masterpiece brilliant game. Christina Ng Zhen Wei and Yeo Keng Leong THANK YOU for the design and labor of love this clearly is. Ray Toh thank you for the beautiful art that made me feel at home with the characters I have loved and adored since I was 7 or 8. Honestly this game should have flown off the shelves. It is honestly this incredibly rich, tight, extremely balanced, game where everything has thematic justification. A truly beautifully crafted game.

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Tim Freerksen
United States
River Forest
Illinois
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The more I read about this game the more I'm salivating at it.
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Christina Ng
Singapore
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说了又不听,听了又不懂,不懂又不问,问了又不做,做了又做错,错了又不认,认了又不改,改了又不服,不服又不说,那你要我怎麽办?
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Thank you David for supporting Three Kingdoms Redux and taking the time to write this lengthy review about our game!


Quote:
a very nice guy, Scott, offered to teach it. I explained I wasn't there Sunday and he offered to drive 2 hours to teach it and play it.
Wow! we would also like to thank Scott for taking the time to specially teach Three Kingdoms Redux! meeple
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Neil Helmer
Canada
Windsor
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This game, ever since my first play, has firmly rooted itself in my top 10 games ever excellent review, and i'm very happy to see more people discovering and appreciating this gem!
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Cory Yates
United States
Pekin
Illinois
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copcopps wrote:
The more I read about this game the more I'm salivating at it.

Me too dude. This is the ONE game out of many on my shelf that I am dying to play. I KNOW it will be one of my top games ever. Getting that third player for this type of game is hard for me. This is a wonderful review. Really got me itching to play it even more!
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Jon Snow
United States
New York City
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David,

Great review!

Since you are an fan of the story, you might be interested in this:

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1738332/outline-sketch-...

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