Recommend
41 
 Thumb up
 Hide
10 Posts

Pax Emancipation» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A Primer for Pax Emancipation, what makes it different? rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Josh
United States
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Disclaimer:I was an independent playtester for Pax Em and had a hand in tweaking bits and pieces of the rules towards the final product. I've worked on other Pax games, and Bios:Megafauna II as well. For my efforts I was given a free copy of the game.

Addendum:While I own and have played most of the S-M line, and all of the Pax, I feel I appreciate the history and simulation aspects while being able to honestly critique the mechanical apparatus that come with the priorities the Designer has in his games. I don't touch the political side of things, and sometimes marvel at how he and I can agree on simulation outcomes with totally different justifications.

What this is not:An in depth review of the intricacies of all of the mechanics in Pax Em. Pax games, indeed any Sierra Madre game, comes at gaming from a consistent and flavorful angle. There are plenty of deep divers who have reviewed previous Pax games and you can get enough from them to understand the overall complexity and thrust of any new Pax game. It also won't tell you what the game is about, you're on the game's BGG page, what more do you need? That said, I DO think Pax Em is a good jumping in point for many(or maybe the only toe in the water for others) for reasons I'll explain below.

What this is:A quick overview of what I think makes Pax Em stand out among the other Pax games. If you've already got a stack of Pax on your shelf, or just a shelf full of games I'm hoping this will tell you why THIS one is(or is not!) worth your cash.

From a pure 'I've played too man darn games, show me something new!' standpoint Pax Em does the dreaded Semi-Co-op outstandingly well. I generally don't like Semi-co-ops at all. They are rife with Prisoner's dilemmas, extortion, and recriminations. I've only come up with one other game that did a decent job of handling the mechanic and I do think Pax Em tops that one in handling it.

So how does it work? The first part of the game is a variable number of rounds of 'purely(heh)' co-op play. The players generally have control of how many rounds this part is, but it's not fixed per-se by the game. During this time every player has a goal based on their faction. IF they cannot complete this goal they will not count points towards the endgame threshold for joint victory. This is supported neatly by the fact that the things you do to achieve those goals also get you points. You want to do them anyway, but you need to do enough of the right KIND of points-garnering things. Everyone needs to be mindful if anyone is falling behind because in general if anyone misses their goal the whole group sinks and everyone loses(boo!) BUT this isn't your usual prisoner's dilemma. The game doesn't stop at this endpoint so you can't sit back, look at the board and think 'Well poot. I'm gonna lose anyway, time to light the torches and burn this sucker down!' The second phase of the game plays just like the first(though shorter!) but there's no requirements and at the end all points are points and the faction in the lead are shepherds of the modern era, huzzah for them!

All of that you can get from the rulebook, but what isn't at first clear is the dynamic that revolutions throw into the game. Without them this would be a somewhat creative 'all hold hands until the long knives come out' two-games-in-a-game. Revolutions (mostly) cement each of the 10 spheres into a fixed position once they've succeeded. This means that over the course of that first part of the game you're collectively shrinking the margins for that eventual squabble over king of the hill. It doesn't behoove you as a player to try and Dominate someone out of the running in the early game because you need them to get over the hurdle of counter-enlightenment and have anything recognize your efforts at all. Simultaneously You need to be mindful and positioning yourself to take advantage of the shrinking opportunities left once the race for the glory can begin in earnest. All of this sits atop an interconnected series of actions, requirements, and supports that offer lots of room to explore and vie for position.

For the Euro Gamer looking at Pax: There's points! Previous Pax games generally had narrow Teetering win conditions full of opportunism and swings. These rock for political intrigue and infighting games, but I've had more than one euro friend(and myself now and then) go 'ugh, what just happened? That's it? It's over?' We're used to our happy ever increasing barometers of success. Pax Em replaces that with something much more easy to observe and process. Things that put you in a good position generally get you points, and the more you do the more points you get. sure sometimes someone might dip into your points pile now and then and swipe a few, but in general you know where you stand. It's calming The points aren't the only thing, overall I feel that Pax Em mechanically is a good deal more 'euro' than it's counterparts. Worker placement, action selection, it is a lot more familiar right out of the gate.

For those who don't like simultaneous solitaire: The Tableaus are gone! Everyone's messing around on the same map, and deploying people onto the same cards to achieve their ends(with some elbows involved) This might remove a level of stability some like(wait what? Stability in a S-M game? Scratch that) sense of ownership is a better term. What you gain is focus. Almost the entire game is happening 'out there' in the middle. You've got your little finance board to pay for it all but your actions and their repercussions take place in the same sandbox as everyone else's. This eliminates having to crane across and study each of your opponent's options upside down just to try to juggle the game state. It's a godsend to my mind. Especially since S-M loves to pile it's cards full of quotes, flavor, and historical or scientific notes. Side note to add Pax Em's cards are the 'cleanest' graphically to date.

There are other differences, and Pax doesn't shirk the S-M tradition of thick overhead in terms of terminology(though again, I think it does pull back some on the throttle) but I think these few major points will help people make up their minds about picking up THIS particular entry into the Pax series.
58 
 Thumb up
1.30
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Edwin Nealley

Ardmore
Pennsylvania
msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
Cool ideas to combine in the Pax series. Can't wait to get mine- do you have a 'Get Out of Hong Kong Free' card? ;-)

Seriously, very interesting post.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jack Francisco
United States
Cumberland
Rhode Island
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Nice take. Looking forward to my copy, whenever it decides to get here. Curious, though. What is the OTHER semi-co-op that you liked?
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Josh
United States
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
senorcoo wrote:
Nice take. Looking forward to my copy, whenever it decides to get here. Curious, though. What is the OTHER semi-co-op that you liked?

New Angeles. It uses goals that mean you only need to beat certain other players to win, which is a fun time in a negotiation game.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jack Francisco
United States
Cumberland
Rhode Island
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
For me Dead of Winter is another that really hits the semi-co-op ball out of the park.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Josh
United States
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
senorcoo wrote:
For me Dead of Winter is another that really hits the semi-co-op ball out of the park.

I can never feel that one. The last player spike is just another permutation on the standard semi coop problem.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tiggo Morrison
United Kingdom
Bridgnorth
Shropshire
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb

Very, very insightful overview. Thank you.

Having been a fan since the days of Rocket Flight, I am keen to see the latest developments on the Sierra Madre Road.

GG for
Quote:
behoove
as well.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sérgio Alves
Portugal
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Nice thoughts here... Thanks for the insights cool
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Scott Nelson
United States
American Fork
Utah
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
stuarttigger wrote:

Very, very insightful overview. Thank you.

Having been a fan since the days of Rocket Flight, I am keen to see the latest developments on the Sierra Madre Road.

GG for
Quote:
behoove
as well.

It is nearly 2020 when Rocket Flight begins devil
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rogerio Nogueira da Costa
Germany
Braunschweig
Niedersachsen
flag msg tools
mbmbmb
Shadrach wrote:
The Tableaus are gone! Everyone's messing around on the same map, and deploying people onto the same cards to achieve their ends(with some elbows involved) ..... What you gain is focus. Almost the entire game is happening 'out there' in the middle.

I just soloed my first advance game yesterday, and it blew my mind!
Lawsuits leading to freedom pairs, making revolutions viable, allowing me to place a free agent immediately (if they weren't viable before), possibly even launching a revolution, making cards flip to a stronger blueish side.....man, what a fantastic entwined and interlocking system!

Incredible game. True, it has taken me over 4 months after my first runs in basic mode before gaining the courage to tackle the advance rules and having them bloom in my head. But now that it's done, I just want to dive back in and go through the simulation again. I am just playing solo, so I can but imagine the rollercoatser of a game that a 3 player one must be.

Definitely one of the aspects that I enjoy the most is the central playing area. Unlike other pax games as you mention, even the the market is a playground now and not a card you retrieve to your personal space. I like the map and how it reacts and changes from pieces coming on and off (including the barriers), etc. I do prefer it when all players have one central focus area (such as a map) rather than having super detailed, book-keeping player boards.

The (advance) game concepts and mechanics are hard to understand, but once you do pass that hurdle, this game becomes an incredible welcomed addition to the "pax universe".
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls