Recommend
11 
 Thumb up
 Hide
7 Posts

Three Kingdoms Redux» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A Thematic and Interactive Euro for Three rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Ben Wickens
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Three Kingdoms Redux is a game based on the classic Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms which in turn is based on the Three Kingdoms period in Chinese History. It is basically a three sided bid for supremacy.

The mechanics of the game play out like a worker placement game but instead of first player to go to a space blocking it players instead are kind of auctioning for the action spaces with the highest bid winning. Loser gets nothing. This creates one of the central tensions in the game where players have to either load up their generals onto one action space to "lock" it or they can try to go places where others are less interested that might not be where they actually want to get a decent chance of getting to perform the action. This is then compounded by many of the action spaces being fairly essential for developing your game plan. There is only one main space where you can train generals with a second space available only at the additional cost of rice... So as everyone needs to have trained armies there is a tense balancing act to be struck.

How players respond to that mechanic will be different for different groups so where some might be actively looking for ways they can trump a player from taking an action even if they get something slightly less good for them (a different weapon for their troops) others might be more mindful of trying to optimise their own actions. Equally some might focus on what is best for them in isolation where as others will be looking at the interacting game state and be looking for ways to stop someone getting access to the rice they need to feed their armies.

Then this is not your standard engine building point salad euro - most of the points you can get are either directly against other players (comparative standings on various criteria) or indirectly. Whilst sending generals out to battles generates you individual VPs one one player can win each of the three battle grounds and they themselves form part of one of the comparative scoring headings.

This is all layered then with one of the most unique aspects of the game. Each general comes with an ability as well as stats for the strength of their military and admin ( some spaces depend on one and some the other). In drafting generals players need to balance good stats with good passive or active abilities. This can mean there is a lot going on as well as the push-pull of the different elements. So you need to see if you can optimise this general to win an action where his ability will trigger but at the same time making sure that you actually have the combination of trained armies with the right weapons and enough gold and rice to station them at the right time...

In short the game can overwhelm those who are not careful or equally bad create a situation where players need to balance out a run away threat but are too busy trying to combine their player abilities to notice. Whilst the rules themselves are not complex there is quite a bit of mental load going on for the game to play at its best.

As such this is a game that is really fun for a first game but does improve the more you play and the more you play with the same players interesting meta games can develop in terms of how you form alliances and how you cooperate and undermine your opponents. The designers do recommend a starting scenario that minimises the load by not using the special powers and whilst that would still be a fun game I would probably rather just play something else at that point. If people just play with an approach that they will not always be able to maximise everything they should be fine if they are experienced gamers.

Critisisms
There are a few elements where the generally strong graphical interface comes unstuck and there are a few elements that feel overly fiddly. For instance the text on the cards is small so there is no way you could read of other players generals abilities from the other side of the table, equally it is a minor pain getting out the token for each general when they are drafted. Similarly there are a few other mechanics that feel they are more fiddly than they needed to be ( the harvest and money equivalent mechanic is a bit fiddly). Overall though this is a minor issue.

The mental load involved in playing this well is quite high and it can lead to a less interesting game if people are not fighting and interacting as much as they should. Also there can be a bit of feel bad if you are stopped from taking actions by others if the game runs too short for that to balance out.

A lot of the critisisms are features of the game rather than problems but there is one serious and potential exception and that is the end game triggers. There are several end game triggers but each of my games has ended by the placement of a 5th general in a border space. This can happen as soon as turn 4 although that would be hard (and probably not profitable to pull off). As Shu start with 3 generals to Wu's 5 and it is only by round 8 that they all have the same number of generals I do feel that Shu is, if not at a disadvantage (as there is enough interaction for players to balance that out themselves) at least at a minor disadvantage of play experience.

Thematic elements
The game has a lot of theme and there is a lot of art on the cards that helps evoke the theme but really it captures the priorities of the houses involved in the struggle and the balance of political importance, truces, infrastructure and combat. The combat does not have the gotcha of viceral moments of battle games but there is an ever present tension.

Lots of euros play lip service to theme but it really feels imbedded into this design.

Concluding comments
I do feel I would like the game to consistently last 8-10 rounds but have yet to see a game go beyond 7. That might be the people I have been playing with and there might be ways that the play could be extended with better play but it is the one aspect of the game that stops me wholeheartedly singing its praises a near perfect design. If that issue does continue then it would be fairly easy to house rule but I have in now way played enough games to know if that is neccisary.

The game plays differently than anything else whilst at the same time offering an experience that is mechanically fairly familiar with players.

The truce action space (which the person in last place in actions taken) gets to place really adds an interesting element to the game too as it lets the 2nd and 3rd player share an action space with their combined strength making it hard to capture by the third player.

This is a three player only game and I do appreciate a game that is perfect at that count whereas often games scale to 3 fairly well but it rarely feels the optimal play count for games.

Some people have complained about the game length but I have not found it takes too long. That might be different if it consistently lasted an extra 3 turns but I think the more you play it the quicker turns would take in any case and I cannot see this exceeding 3 hours including teach except with people with AP or not good with complexity such as this wouldnt be a good choice for them to play with in any case.

This is an excellent game albeit one that needs the right players and plays to really shine and whilst the potential to miss out on actions can frustrate at times that is part of the charm of this aggressive and highly interactive euro.

Overall thoughts

18 
 Thumb up
0.10
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew Denison
United States
Ames
Iowa
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Pretty interesting thoughts. I would say though that if its consistently ending by general placements then that is either group think or people not reacting to what someone is doing and putting a stop to it. I have played several times and in our group it can be general placement but is often Emperor track as well. The ones that have been least likely is development or 12 turns.

I think if the complaint is game length that is coming down to either AP or people are playing it once or twice. With experienced players I think you are talking two hours maybe two and a half.

Glad you enjoyed the game. For me it is still in my top games of all time and one of the few euro games I will play without hesitation any time.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Quantum Jack
United States
Kentucky
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
For a better sampling of end game conditions, look through the "log your winning kingdom" thread and see how often each ending comes up.

Same for thinking shu is at a disadvantage. Win % for each kingdom is very tight according to the plays logged in that thread.

Curious: why do you think the game would be better if it went a few more rounds on average?

Overall a very nice review. I expect some of your issues will fade with experience.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ben Wickens
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
When I play games in my main group there are a rotating 14 or so people there so its often different people each time although there has been some overlap. Because of the nature of the design any imbalance or potential imbalance can be entirely corrected by the players but that only comes with experience. I do think this is a game where the more you play it with a group the better it is.

The thread referenced actually supports my position in that Shu win less. Now imbalance in games is almost impossible to rule out and 30% ish in a 3 player game is well within a reasonable deficit....However I do see Shu getting a major boost in when the last set of generals are added as they get 2 new generals compared to other players only getting one. Up until that point they have had viewer generals. I was not talking so much about their disadvantage but the feeling of disadvantage that comes with having fewer generals than the other two - particularly if the game ends before the last general draft. You get less actions and are most vulnerable to have your generals outbid by others at the start.


In my groups Wei and Wu have rushed the game end and that disadvantages Shu as it is only in the 8th/9th round by the time all players have the same number of generals. Its true they start with the truce/alliance marker and they have the advantage of generally later turn placement though. In terms of number of rounds in the game early ending can mean any engine building of resources can feel wasted and that removes one interesting way to play.

Overall though I do think its a great game - it would take a good few more plays to feel if anything needed done to tweak things in my group but I know other than the challenge neither myself nor some of the others who have played it more than once would rush to pick them except to make things easier on others.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Hugues Richard
Canada
Quebec
Quebec
flag msg tools
What matters in life is not the triumph nor the struggle but the triumph by tiebreaker.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
benme wrote:
I was not talking so much about their disadvantage but the feeling of disadvantage that comes with having fewer generals than the other two - particularly if the game ends before the last general draft. You get less actions and are most vulnerable to have your generals outbid by others at the start.

In my groups Wei and Wu have rushed the game end and that disadvantages Shu as it is only in the 8th/9th round by the time all players have the same number of generals.
Love this review of comprehensive explanations and thoughtful subtleties. I can't deny anything you said but the impression that Shu gets even too late because starting rnd 5, they are all at 7 generals.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ben Wickens
msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Ah yes - I was misremembering it as the last draft (rather than 2nd last draft) before they were all equal. Still if a game finishes c. 5-7th rounds then that is still over half the game with less generals then everyone else. I appreciate that there are other compensating factors but I still think the earlier a game ends generally the worse it will be for Shu.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Hugues Richard
Canada
Quebec
Quebec
flag msg tools
What matters in life is not the triumph nor the struggle but the triumph by tiebreaker.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Probably but Wu shouldn't let Wei get away with it. If he does, Sun Jian would probably loose the 2 best categories left and right : Rank to Wei and Harmony to Shu.

I got through my records and have only 1 relevant experience (out of 30 games) when it ended in rnd 6 and it so happens that I was playing Shu. For such a short game, discussion ensued with the designer so you have a real good insight of what happened if you look at Game 28.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1385629/log-your-winning-ki...

The responsibilities of the alliance, finding optimal synergy (you see more generals and SE than others) and the type of economy you want to build are questions an experienced Shu player will have more ease to answer and more faith to overcome. For example, I heard of someone that has the wit and courage to play Shu without developments and is extremely good at it.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls