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Subject: Review/Recommendation for SoE - should be ranked higher than it is. rss

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Rooster Robinson
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You can read other reviews if you'd like to understand the rules or how to play the game. I'm interested in getting more involved with BGG.com and felt that writing a recommendation/review for SoE, would be a nice start.

A little history.....I've got a strong group of "gamer" buddies. Many of us have known each other for a long time and over the years our favorite games include D&D, Puerto Rico, Princes of Florence, Magic, PowerGrid, El Grande, and most recently SoE. I grew up playing, BloodBowl, DungeonQuest, Talisman, CarWars and many others, but it wasn’t until I played Settlers of Catan that I realized a true new era in Board games was upon us. So, for the last 4-5yrs I’ve been slowly buying the top games listed on this site and introducing them to my friends.
We are in the +30 crowd, and still manage to meet up at least once a week.

I’ve always been looking for a “War” game that was based in the real world and wasn’t Risk. Reason being, once I realized you didn’t need dice to play a board game (thank you PR); Risk, Axis and Allies, Titan, Warhammer FB and whatever else ceased to have much appeal. This doesn’t mean Dice based games aren’t any good (SoE uses dice), it means that games that rely too strongly on which player gets the better rolls, require less skill or strategy to play. Real world history as a theme can’t be beat either. You have a working knowledge of what accents you need to adopt for smacking talking. “You filthy swine!” vs. “I must break you.” Sort of thing.

Our first introduction to the new modern “War” mechanics was with GoT (Game of Thrones). One of us read the books and then 6 months later everyone had read them, btw anyone heard of when Dance of Dragons will be printed???
It was my first experience with using a limited number of orders to move units around a board, and with a form of solving battles that didn’t require dice. We liked it. However in the end it found its way to the bottom of the pile due to its length of play, discontent with the random events and how abstract game end was. There are lots of pieces, a lot going on and it takes a lot of time and patience. The end result is not always satisfying; the game can end on the 3rd turn or the 10th without a clear winner. Crazy. (If you’re a fan of the books, A+ on theme though!)

I did more research and finally picked up Shogun. My First experience with the battle tower! Again we liked it and it got a few good plays in before we opted for the quicker more familiar Euro games instead. Shogun also a great game but did lag in order placement, random events although not as bad as GoT were disconnected from play, and lacked deep strategy. Movement is limited so it’s hard to better position yourself and every time you battle someone you need a few rounds to build up your forces again. Then the game is over before you know it. It ended in a reasonable amount of time and the theme is fun but doesn’t contribute much to game play. (However, a sumo/samurai accent is one of my favorites to perform.)

So my search continued for a multi-player game, which included real world domination. I disregarded “Mini” games (BattleLore, Tide of Iron, Commands and Colors, etc.) because I wasn’t interested in collecting more crap. I’ve got MTG for that. I found Struggle of Empires. I read all the reviews and it seemed like what I wanted, however the thing that kept me away for the longest time was that right on the box it says it takes 4-5hours to play. Our crowd normally does not have this much time or patience to dedicate to a game. We’ll play multiple games of magic for hours, but the idea of sitting down to one board game for 4-5 hours was an issue. GoT and Shogun took us a long time and I couldn’t get anyone to play either of those anymore, so I was apprehensive. The price was right, only $30, great deal I thought.
…..I finally bit the bullet and bought SoE.

Rules were pretty straight forward and easy to read. There not Rio Grande rules but they were good. Any questions you have can be answered here. http://web.archive.org/web/20070707144013/innovan.freelinuxh...
If fact if you are going to own this game, print them out and read them. They have helped me several times.

SoE can handle from 2-7 players. Great benefit. I’ve played it with 3, 4 and 5. I would say 4-6 is probably the sweet spot. If you’re going to be playing 3er, try some of the variants, it should make for a more enjoyable game. I heard 2er is good and 7er must be crazy but I would love to give it a try.

The game is great and should be raked higher. It’s got a great balance of war and development. The neutral counters help to ease the tension between players. Because you don’t always have to attack each other, instead you can gobble up “Neutrals” increasing your influence and not pissing off your competitors. Bidding for Alliances is an amazing mechanic. The phrase “keep your friends close and your enemies’ closer” never rang truer. The actions you can choose from, 2 each round; similar to PoF, are well thought out and make for some grueling decisions. This makes for constant involvement on your part, not only do you have to plan ahead you also have to watch your opponents closely. Player interaction is through the roof, in fact we’ve yelled at each other a few times. Yes, things get serious some times, in fact I’ve recently shelved this game because I don’t want anyone to burn out on it or throw down over a loss in the German States.

The Battles are exciting and fair. Even though war is settled with dice, it doesn’t favor the reckless player. Beating down someone with a +2 advantage over you is a rush, and losing a battle with an advantage like this drains you. However, unlike Shogun or GoT you can easily create more armies on subsequent turns so the sting is short lived. As unrest mounts you must become more conservative in your approach to win the game. Snapping up “Slaves” and “Pop” counters is critical for victory in the colonies, while pure military strength is more important in Europe.

The game has made a few of us obsessed with it. Which is good, any good game should act like a good drug or at least have something about it that feeds or creates addictive personalities.

It’s never the same game twice. The number of players, the tile choices and the randomly placed counters help to keep things fresh. No need to invest in new boards or game pieces! As one of your 2 actions every round you can improve your nation and gain the upper hand on your opponents by selecting Alliance, Company, or Improvement tiles. Some are more popular than others but there’s many different ways to go about it. This coupled with the different starting positions (similar to GoT) are great. Not only is your homeland never the same, you start the game with randomly placed control tokens and each war begins with 10 randomly placed Neutral counters on the board. This helps to make each play a unique experience.

I strongly recommend this game for anyone who has a good group of gamer friends that enjoy Euro-game mechanics, History, and talking smack with a Russian accent. The strategy is deep, and each War is palpable. It leaves you wanting more, its price is incredibly low for what you get, and I can’t say enough about it.

The only thing I don’t like about this game is the low production quality. The money is really bad, we use poker chips instead. I’m not saying what you get for the price is bad; everything (except the money) is very nice and adequate. I will just hold out hope for a deluxe edition with little army men, little flags, maybe some cannons, and cool little boats.

~VonRoo
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Jim Cote
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VonRoo wrote:
The only thing I don’t like about this game is the low production quality. The money is really bad, we use poker chips instead. I’m not saying what you get for the price is bad; everything (except the money) is very nice and adequate. I will just hold out hope for a deluxe edition with little army men, little flags, maybe some cannons, and cool little boats.
You could use the army/navy/city/coin bits from Antike. That would make it pretty sweet.
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Mark C
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I like SoE, but I don't love it because of the pick on the leader element to the game that develops during scoring. Once you have a clear leader in an area majority game, they are likely to take on a beating. The ally mechanism is good for mitigating that, but doesn't get rid of it. I haven't really played it enough to see how well that aspect can be used, but the few times I've played it, it came down to figuring out who to beat up in the 3rd war.
 
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Einmal ist keinmal
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Nice review! I've only played the game once, but I feel the obsession you speak of (and that was a 7-player game)!

You're right, too, about the player interaction being intense. The fickle alliances make things so interesting as well.

VonRoo wrote:
I disregarded “Mini” games (BattleLore, Tide of Iron, Commands and Colors, etc.) because I wasn’t interested in collecting more crap. I’ve got MTG for that...

...I will just hold out hope for a deluxe edition with little army men, little flags, maybe some cannons, and cool little boats.

Aren't these two statements contradictory, though? Personally, I think the money is unattractive as well, but it certainly doesn't affect the enjoyment of the game. I think the money from Maharaja: The Game of Palace Building in India would work as replacements fairly well. I might try that sometime.

As for replacing the chits with minis: no thanks! I like the small box and compact storage of the chits. Plus, you can't stack minis

More minis in games also means more desire to paint them (i.e. War of the Ring (First Edition)), which I don't have time or money for.

This game makes Risk: 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition seem like child's play! Well done, Mr. Wallace!
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Einmal ist keinmal
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Gamer_Dog wrote:
I like SoE, but I don't love it because of the pick on the leader element to the game that develops during scoring. Once you have a clear leader in an area majority game, they are likely to take on a beating. The ally mechanism is good for mitigating that, but doesn't get rid of it.

I actually like this, as it adds another touch of historical/realistic aspects to the game. After all, superpowers (especially belligerent ones) in our real world are watched closely by other nations.

Also, it reduces almost eliminates the chance of "runaway leader" mechanics in the game.

A wise player will be humble in his/her conquests and empire-building, so as not to invoke the collective opposition of other players. I guess my peers in my gaming group have larger egos to defend.
 
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Wade Broadhead
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Crap. Now I have to play this too. Just when I was rounding out my "to play list"
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Tony Archer
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VonRoo wrote:

The only thing I don’t like about this game is the low production quality. The money is really bad, we use poker chips instead. I’m not saying what you get for the price is bad; everything (except the money) is very nice and adequate. I will just hold out hope for a deluxe edition with little army men, little flags, maybe some cannons, and cool little boats.

Some definitely do and some definitely don't prefer the chrome version called Conquest of the Empire.
 
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Raymond Glosser
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VonRoo wrote:
btw anyone heard of when Dance of Dragons will be printed???
~VonRoo

Amazon recently put it on the pre-order list with availability set for September 30th...now I can only hope.

I bought Lord Foul's Bane when it was first released, only to live through a delayed release cycle between each volume. I swore I would not read another series until completion. I broke that rule for the first time after GRRM's fourth volume in the Fire & Ice saga. Great series, but the pain begins again...

-Ray
 
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Mikko Ämmälä
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SoE is great and yet severely underrated. It is WAY better than Shogun/Wallenstein as a game and offer a lot more than El Grande.

If there is smt. minor to complain it is production values (does not matter to me) and the fact that your home base does not affect the game as it should. I would love to have an expansion to this great game where every starting country has some unique quality...

.mikko
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Stephen Tudor
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MichaelB wrote:
I would love to have an expansion to this great game where every starting country has some unique quality...
+1

But really, I would be happy if they (Eagle Games/FRED) decide to reprint this gem of a game.
 
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Einmal ist keinmal
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MichaelB wrote:
I would love to have an expansion to this great game where every starting country has some unique quality...

Yes, that would be nice. On the bright side, at least all players start out equally balanced (well, other than the ever-so-slight difference in starting location).

Other games that have different nations with different advantages also have balance issues. I've not yet played it, but I've read that in Mare Nostrum, Greece is handicapped. Although I'm sure it's still a great game, there has been some House Rules enacted in order to alleviate this.

With SoE, we can all be proud of that. But, yes, I do agree with that request as well
 
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Rooster Robinson
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You could use the army/navy/city/coin bits from Antike. That would make it pretty sweet.[/q]

They look like mini "Bobs big boy" pcs. However they could work. I've already considered Deluxe Risk as well, however you'll never find orange, so the United Provinces are at a loss. And as some else had pointed out it would be hard to stack Minis.

~VonRoo
 
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Rooster Robinson
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Desiderata wrote:
Gamer_Dog wrote:
I like SoE, but I don't love it because of the pick on the leader element to the game that develops during scoring. Once you have a clear leader in an area majority game, they are likely to take on a beating. The ally mechanism is good for mitigating that, but doesn't get rid of it.

I actually like this, as it adds another touch of historical/realistic aspects to the game. After all, superpowers (especially belligerent ones) in our real world are watched closely by other nations.

Also, it reduces almost eliminates the chance of "runaway leader" mechanics in the game.

A wise player will be humble in his/her conquests and empire-building, so as not to invoke the collective opposition of other players. I guess my peers in my gaming group have larger egos to defend.

All very good points Mr. Twitchell. I agree This helps to Eliminate a runaway leader, and if you are so concerned about getting ganged up on in the last war (because you've amassed a grand lead) there's a few things you can do to not get killed.
1) save your forts until the last war - Very easy +2 def. late in the game. Great for making your would be attackers reconsider their plans.
2) runaway - if multiple attackers come-a-calling in the german states and threaten to beat you down, run. If they are pooling resources to attack you there, then they are weak somewhere else. You might trade down in some points but its better than gathering unrest losing battle after battle. "defensive manuvers" has saved me a few times.

~VonRoo
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Play Games - Interact - Have Fun!
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VonRoo wrote:
The only thing I don’t like about this game is the low production quality. The money is really bad, we use poker chips instead. I’m not saying what you get for the price is bad; everything (except the money) is very nice and adequate. I will just hold out hope for a deluxe edition with little army men, little flags, maybe some cannons, and cool little boats.

~VonRoo

Have you seen this hand made version?



I think it wouldn't be too hard to do actually - but it would take a helluva lot of time.
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James Taylor
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vimhawk wrote:
Can't agree with ranking higher, mainly because of the dice. If I lose because I played badly its one thing. But this game allows you to play well but lose because you rolled badly.

I don't agree with this assessment.

The game allows you to lose if you roll badly, when you take risks with your attacks.

I believe the intention of the game is to make battle a costly activity for both the attacker and the defender, but one that can pay high rewards. I think it models this very well.

I also think SoE should be ranked higher. It is my favorite multiplayer war game.


Hopefully it will see print again soon.

Excellent and spot on review, btw.

JT
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Paul Holman
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vimhawk wrote:
Can't agree with ranking higher, mainly because of the dice. If I lose because I played badly its one thing. But this game allows you to play well but lose because you rolled badly.

I disagree, of course
It seemed perfectly fair to me when we played. Clever use of bidding for allies and a huge loan is the key!
 
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James Hamilton
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Perhaps there is a market out there for Martin's original 1730 something game. SoE is a distillation of 1730 something that plays in a sensible time as opposed to taking all day. That said 1730 something had a lot more bells and whistles.

There was no way I was going to let Warfrog produce a game with a playing time of 12-18 hours so SoE is the end result of a lot of editing. Yes there was a fair amount of game left on the cutting room floor but the end result retains a large proportion of the original.
 
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Trey Alsup
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jtaylor wrote:


The game allows you to lose if you roll badly, when you take risks with your attacks.


Hmmmm. When DON'T you take risks with your attacks?

With "Risk"... or poker... luck will even out somewhat over the course of the game / many hands. With SoE, a single dice roll can sink you. Say you have a very strong advantage. 2 armies plus naval superiority. This is a plus 3 to your roll. Devoting more units to the fight would frankly be sub-optimal. It would in fact be bad play, but if you lose the roll, the consequences are extreme. Loss of a unit, loss of a control marker, and loss of an action. This is exacerbated by the alliance mechanic so that even oftentimes its not just that you've lost an action with a failed attack but you've lost the entire opportunity. (Example: you fail in an attack for a control marker, on your ally's turn he successful attacks the control marker and you now have a large military force in an area with no possible target.)

Dumb.

The roll for naval moves is even dumber. Yes the chance is small of failure, but that's why when it does happen it has a huge effect on the game. Are we as players actually supposed to be discouraged from performing naval moves??? It's just a random "you lose" roll.

The use of dice in this way does not belong in a modern, well designed board game.
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alan beaumont
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treyalsup wrote:
The use of dice in this way does not belong in a modern, well designed board game.
But it is valid in context of what is being depicted. It is a fact that fleets were lost due to poor navigation and armies lost battles they ought to have won. The game is nonetheless great fun and better laid plans do tend to succeed over poor ones.
 
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Bradley Keen
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Hammy wrote:
Perhaps there is a market out there for Martin's original 1730 something game. SoE is a distillation of 1730 something that plays in a sensible time as opposed to taking all day. That said 1730 something had a lot more bells and whistles.

There was no way I was going to let Warfrog produce a game with a playing time of 12-18 hours so SoE is the end result of a lot of editing. Yes there was a fair amount of game left on the cutting room floor but the end result retains a large proportion of the original.

Do you mean Sixteen Thirty Something? I have played this game once with 3. It took about 2 hours. I recally enjoying the game and would like to play it again. The rules appear long, but they are quite a bit less fiddly than Struggle of Empires.

Like many of Martin's games, though, ideas from Sixteen Thirty Something have appeared in later games and better hashed out. In this case, I suspect that Struggle of Empires is the better game.
 
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James Taylor
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treyalsup wrote:
jtaylor wrote:


The game allows you to lose if you roll badly, when you take risks with your attacks.


Hmmmm. When DON'T you take risks with your attacks?

With "Risk"... or poker... luck will even out somewhat over the course of the game / many hands. With SoE, a single dice roll can sink you. Say you have a very strong advantage. 2 armies plus naval superiority. This is a plus 3 to your roll. Devoting more units to the fight would frankly be sub-optimal. It would in fact be bad play, but if you lose the roll, the consequences are extreme. Loss of a unit, loss of a control marker, and loss of an action. This is exacerbated by the alliance mechanic so that even oftentimes its not just that you've lost an action with a failed attack but you've lost the entire opportunity. (Example: you fail in an attack for a control marker, on your ally's turn he successful attacks the control marker and you now have a large military force in an area with no possible target.)

Dumb.

The roll for naval moves is even dumber. Yes the chance is small of failure, but that's why when it does happen it has a huge effect on the game. Are we as players actually supposed to be discouraged from performing naval moves??? It's just a random "you lose" roll.

The use of dice in this way does not belong in a modern, well designed board game.

In SOE, the risks of combat, naval moves, etc. can be quite significant even if the odds say you should not lose a unit. Even so, the idea that you can't recover from one bad roll in the game has not been my experience.

If you are so concerned about the loss of a unit during naval movement then pull the tile that avoids it. Its probably not the move I would make, but you have an option if it concerns you.

+3 is a borderline attack in my opinion, but sometimes the rewards are great enough to take that risk. You may think more than that is sub-optimal, but I disagree because simply put... insuring that you collect the Victory Points is what you need to do.

If you Ally is beating you to the control tokens you want... you might want to consider not supporting his attacks.
 
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