Andrew Rae
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There has been enough written about Age of Empires 3 to sink a ship. There are plenty of reviews for both sides. Tom Vassel best represents the affirmative with 53 thumbs up for his review but only 2 responses. Meanwhile the negative is best represented by Mikko Ämmälä with 19 thumbs up, but a whopping 31 responses. Both are entertaining and I can’t pick a winner. Yet they both raised questions that needed resolution including ( as Tom Cruise would put it) the quintessential question of this game.

Is it just a rehash of a hundred other games?
No. One would struggle to find any game in this day in age that does not borrow from another game. Variable turn order, area control, building for points or capability, these are all mechanics that have been used in other games. People have identified genetics from Caylus, El Grande and Puerto Rico to name a few. Yet in today’s environment a new mechanic is a very rare thing and the nature and skill of creating a new game is often to combine the elements in such a way that it looks, feels and acts in a fresh way. The designer is the artist and the mechanics his tools. This is very different to the environment of ten years ago where a good designer was someone who came up with a great idea. It is getting harder and harder to push the envelope.

Thus it is my view that the game blends these mechanics together well to create something new and fresh, different to it’s predecessors. There is enough atmosphere and difference here from Caylus to provide a new experience, and the introduction of luck and set collection mechanisms make this a worthwhile addition. Sure, if you like Caylus you will probably like AOE3, but I see it as a fresh game with points of difference.

Is it just another euro?
Probably. If you are sick of euro games, can’t be bothered with victory points or bonus points or managing your cash to the closest dollar then this is not for you. But if you love the euro, thrive on optimisation and can think of nothing better than outwitting your opponent, then this is for you.

Is all the plastic a problem?
No but… There are things about the game that could have been done better, and the components are one of them. This is a plastic fantastic where almost everything is made of plastic form the hundreds of miniatures to the Spanish doubloons. This is not a problem if the pieces are distinctly different. I have the second edition of Axis and Allies and the miniatures are all the same coloured plastics, but very different in design. It is too easy to get these guys mixed up and I often end up squinting and fishing through a pile. The money suffers from a different problem. The beautiful design is wasted with the light plastic coins. There was potential to add even more atmosphere and accuracy to the game with better components, but that chance has been missed.

Does it run on autopilot?
Certainly not. As with any euro, it is based on strategy and one must plan the course of their empire. If you train heaps of soldiers and go to war then part of your strategy is buying accompanying building that reward you for it.

What could be said is that the early stages of the game are more important than the later stages. You set your strategy is ages I and II and age III is about capitalising on the investment. I think this is what feels like auto-pilot.

The strength of this game is the variety of choices that you can make early, and the adaptation to, and balance of, the different spheres of scoring.

Is there too much luck?
No answer. No one can answer this question because it is all about personal preference. My preference is for little luck, like for example Thebes which has way too much like for me. Yet a little bit can open up possibilities, and I like that. For example what if you chose to buy a building AND THEN the five tiles are turned. If you are first you are likely to get a building that you want, but if you are third or fourth then you may have to settle for one of lesser value. It is important that luck elements can be mitigated against for it to work for me.

On balance I think there is a little too much luck. Spending ten workers to discover two single native lands and their associated lower rewards seems grossly unfair. But I may be quibbling and the risk can be managed. It’s not something worth worrying about and it’s not going to put me off.

What’s the point of difference?
This game just feels great. Perhaps the point of difference is that it takes my favourite bits from many games and then puts a twist on it. I like area control but hate the power cards in El Grande. I like the ability to purchase turn order, but then AOE3 twists it to give more cash to later player. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find points of difference in new games and so the discerning factors between which game to buy and which not to is the feel and the atmosphere. Age of empires has atmosphere and an accompanying theme which really works.

The quintessential question of this game. Was it fun?
Heck yeah it was great. This is a pure strategy game where you lock and load early on. It eurotastic and a perfect way to whittle away an afternoon or evening.
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Wade Broadhead
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Pueblo
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Agreed. One of my top 3 favorite games of 2007. Familiar parts but a new expereince that is popular and which few club members will turn down.
 
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Troy Adlington
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Quote:
Is there too much luck?
No answer. No one can answer this question because it is all about personal preference. My preference is for little luck, like for example Thebes which has way too much like for me. Yet a little bit can open up possibilities, and I like that. For example what if you chose to buy a building AND THEN the five tiles are turned. If you are first you are likely to get a building that you want, but if you are third or fourth then you may have to settle for one of lesser value. It is important that luck elements can be mitigated against for it to work for me.

On balance I think there is a little too much luck. Spending ten workers to discover two single native lands and their associated lower rewards seems grossly unfair. But I may be quibbling and the risk can be managed. It’s not something worth worrying about and it’s not going to put me off.



Well since the discovery section is the ONLY luck at all in this game I think your point is rather poorly made.

Since we are modelling sailing off into the unknown My 'suspension of Disbelief' would be rather destroyed if you always knew what you would find!

Further since the variables are known. It's not so much luck. It's decision making. My most recent game I decided to risk a settlement of Brazil with 4 colonists. Bad move....lost me the game actually, but that was my call.



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Jim Marshall
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Quote:
Is there too much luck? No one can answer this question because it is all about personal preference.


I like this point. As you say, the opportunities for coming up with something both completely fresh and good to play are more restricted now than when the first flush of great Euros emerged, when it seemed as though something brand spanking new came out every few months. (That's not to say it can't be done - as I think Mr. Jack most recently proves).

Now people review games not in isolation but in comparison with the experience and preferences they have built up through playing other games. So if someone objects to luck, they may compare a game to (say) Puerto Rico and say it's bad because it has a lot of luck.

This gets my goat.

A game's not bad or good per se just because it does or doesn't have luck. A game is good or bad depending on how the combination of luck, mechanics, components, chaos, player interaction, theme etc. etc. come together to create a playing experience.

Everyone has preferences. If you don't like games involving luck, fine, simply don't play them.

Me, I like a little luck, both because I come from a wargaming background and because I think it keeps a game fresh. But that doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to playing (say) the copy of (the luck-free) 'Revoltion: the Dutch Revolt' I've recently acquired. And if I then review it, I may note that luck doesn't play a part, but I won't make that my criterion for saying it's a good or bad game.

Rant over, I'll get off my high horse now!!
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Tom Grant
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Quote:
Well since the discovery section is the ONLY luck at all in this game I think your point is rather poorly made.


I have mixed feelings about the discovery mechanics. I know, AoE3 is more Euro than historical simulation, but the randomness of the discovery system made it feel like the least attractive path to success--in a game set in the Age of Exploration, no less.
 
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David
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citylife wrote:
I like area control but hate the power cards in El Grande.


What? Why on earth are you playing with the Power Cards then? You should be using the Intrigue & The King expansion!

 
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Glenn Drover
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Kingdaddy wrote:
Quote:
Well since the discovery section is the ONLY luck at all in this game I think your point is rather poorly made.


I have mixed feelings about the discovery mechanics. I know, AoE3 is more Euro than historical simulation, but the randomness of the discovery system made it feel like the least attractive path to success--in a game set in the Age of Exploration, no less.


This was a design decision. I didn't want a player to be able to win by just exploring (...or rally just anything), but wanted to reward the proper BLEND of the approach.

For example, the Dutch were historically very focused on trade/ merchant shipping, but did a little colonizing; The Spanish were all about exploration (with soldiers for extra plunder income) and colonizing; The British were colonizers and merchant shippers (and definitely had the Privateer Building); The French were merchants with a small dash of missionary (and the Trading Post and Indian Allies Buildings); and the Portugese focused on exploration and did a little trade and some colonizing.
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Tom Grant
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Huh, good point.

I confess, my reaction is colored by profoundly bad luck with exploration. In the games I've played, I wanted to pursue a strategy tilted in the direction of exploration, but I kept drawing the worst discoveries possible.
 
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J. Alan Henning
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Great, insightful review. I agreed with everything you wrote except your discussion of the components. I think the components are absolutely fantastic; in fact, the only components of any game I like more are from Glenn's edition of Conquest of the Empire (e.g., catapults that pivot and great detail on the Roman coins, which say "Eagle Games" in Latin).
 
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Glenn Drover
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Thanks Jeffrey. However, I have to admit that there are ways to improve...

1) Better card and Box stock (coming in the next print run)

2) Better scoring track (coming in the next print run)

3) Slightly smaller box size to better fit the board and to take up less space (coming in the next print run)

4) Sculptures that are easier to differentiate (coming in the next game I do...History!)

Cheers,

Glenn
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Andrew Rae
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From my point of view those four improvements will add real value to the game. Congradulations on a fine game, you should be proud of the result.
 
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Bruce Glassco
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Just played the game for the first time yesterday, and enjoyed it greatly.

If you redo the map, though, there should be spaces to show the order of the colonists who go on the trade goods and building spaces. Not absolutely essential, but it seems odd that they aren't there.
 
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Glenn Drover
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Hi Bruce,

Thanks!

Left to right is the order for both... it seemed natural and precluded numbering.
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Dan
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Bountiful
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Budley wrote:
Thanks Jeffrey. However, I have to admit that there are ways to improve...
1) Better card and Box stock (coming in the next print run)

That would be good.


Quote:
2) Better scoring track (coming in the next print run)

Hooray! Although my FLGS gave me some wooden score markers for each color with my purchase, so their customer service certainly gave them a bonus on this one.


Quote:
3) Slightly smaller box size to better fit the board and to take up less space (coming in the next print run)

My number one pet peave on this print!


Quote:
4) Sculptures that are easier to differentiate (coming in the next game I do...History!)

I haven't had any complaints about this, except during setup. People quickly catch on.

Also I personally would like a place to put the available trade goods and buildings, squares on the board or something. Not essential, I guess. I just put them in the ocean to the left of the trade and building sections.
 
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Nomadic Gamer
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NO. It is NOT a Euro! Like a wargame I can mobilise all my resources & soldiers against you & you'll never win.
 
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