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Subject: Our seventh Adv Civ game rss

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Nikolas Moore
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On April 25th and 26th, eight of us played Advanced Civilization with the Western Expansion. The previous game, which I missed, was Easter 2007, won by Darryl. I had played in the previous five. This time, we had use of Darryl's excellent custom-made set, which covered the whole of our large table and had every region and sea named.

RULE NOTE: In the past there has been much dispute over whether cities on the water at the extreme East (Charax, Ur, Susa) are coastal and therefore vulnerable to Piracy. This has been a point of discussion on the Board Game Geek message boards. At times we have made it so that they are NOT. This has made Babylon even more powerful. This time, with the water marked as the Persian Gulf, there could be no dispute. They are coastal.

There was a good mixture of newcomers and experience. Only Lester had never played before, so he was given Babylon, regarded as the easiest nation to win with. Holly had played once, four years ago, and was given Egypt. Russell had only played the original Civilization and was given Assyria. The remaining five of us are experienced players, and drew randomly for order of choice. I drew first choice, and chose Africa, the only remaining nation that I had played as before. Tim, a brilliant strategist at any game, got to pick next and chose Iberia, also a flexible nation. Kit was allowed to play as Crete, which he specifically wanted. David, as usual, ended up as Thrace, and Darryl chose the adjacent Illyria.

The first few turns are fun, fast and simple, as people just move around and expand and there is no conflict, calamity, or purchases. As Africa, my territory stretched East to Cyrenaica and Siwa, and included Sicily. It was careless that I built on Syracuse unnecessarily early, but Mt Etna was dormant the entire game. Early, Darryl moved towards David, giving Tim extra room. For the early part of the game, Tim and I each had seven city sites and ended up building two wilderness cities. Mine remained intact the entire game. With just 47 tokens each and the frequency of disasters, it was difficult for anyone to get to 9 cities regularly. Wilderness cities reduced the need for conflict, which in the early part of the game was confined to units. The Eastern nations had plenty of room and Kit proved adept at handling Crete.

Most nations built at least two cities at turn 5, while I only built one and bounced on the AST. This was probably an error of judgment, although it meant less pressure to meet the requirements in future turns, and Africa's AST is fairly forgiving. I did not get to 9 cities until turn 10, but usually got to 7. Rebuilding cities became easier following a purchase of Architecture in turn 8. Towards the end, I regularly used Coinage to tax 3 per city, meaning fewer units and cities, but allowing me to move later, draw earlier and buy Gold.

David and Darryl became even more crowded when they were joined by a series of Barbarian Hordes. As often seems to happen, the barbarians kept hitting David, even when he was not the primary victim. David wisely made an early purchase of Metalworking to help combat them. David and Darryl also suffered from Civil Wars in their area. David managed to remain in a competitive position, helped by sometimes being the Civil War beneficiary.

Africa comes under early population pressure and I alleviated this with the help of my Eastern territory, and permission from Holly to leave a unit or two in Upper Egypt. This came to an end after I drew a Flood. I lost just the one unit in Upper Egypt (much better than losing a whole city) and took ten Egyptians with it. (I had done this once before by accident; this time it was deliberate.) By then I had Agriculture – my first purchase - and didn't need to be there.

On several occasions, especially early on, I had trouble getting sets of resources and often spent partial sets. The problem was that, with eight players, often another person was collecting the same resource. I may have been better off waiting next turn to get the full set, which would only work if the other player spent his set. On one occasion, after David went back on a trade offer, I spent nothing and threw out two Ochre, collecting all the Bronze and Ivory next turn for my highest purchase of 365. In fact, I got all the Bronze (216) three times. Clearly, Mining, which I never bought, would have been a very useful purchase for me. It was also difficult finding a combination of commodities to match the available credits. I based many of my purchases on what added up best, trying to avoid overlap.

Non-tradeable disasters are a real burden, as you are then likely to finish with two calamities rather than one after trading. On one early turn it was known that the second person to draw would get Famine _and_ Civil War. Darryl was the unfortunate, although had he manipulated the Famine differently he could have had the fewest units in stock (I think) and avoided the war, instead of having David benefit. The northerners kept getting Civil War and trading units around.

One of the drawbacks of the game is knowing where disasters are in the pack and spending time try to build a number of cities to avoid these cards. Someone from an online game subsequently suggested the following solution to make it more random, and therefore more realistic: for each stack, count out the number of that will be acquired and then shuffle them before dealing them to the recipients. It is likely that we will try this for our next game.

I made a stupid mistake in forgetting to trade away a disaster (Superstition). As my final trade got me Civil Disorder, Superstition made little difference. I was already down to three cities when it came to Civil Disorder. I was particularly scared of Barbarian Hordes and Civil Disorder and took some care to avoid ending up with them, successfully except that one time. I also managed to avoid any damage from Civil War, Iconoclasm and Heresy and Piracy. I&H did not occur often due to people not getting to eight cities, but Piracy was somewhat more common due to Gold purchases.

Meanwhile, Tim's mastery of trading got him first all of the grain and then all of the spice, and a stack of advances, putting him firmly in the driver's seat. Tim was also good at trading off disasters, although there was one round where he kept getting them back and still had two nasty tradeables at the end. Naturally he usually got hit with maximum secondary effects. Epidemic was coming up nearly every turn. Tim was reined in somewhat but his early purchase of Medicine was very helpful. Aside from people targeting Tim, the distribution of secondary effects was very fair and reasonable.

David, Darryl and I were Tim's neighbours, and we regularly attacked his units in an attempt to reduce his dominance. It was somewhat easier with Tim not having Metalworking for a long time. Tim advanced every turn on the AST until late in the game, when I had sufficient troops to plunder his cities on consecutive turns, including a wilderness city. I only managed to steal Iron and Ochre off him. I was the first to buy Military, and using high taxes kept my population low so I could play after him even though he got it on the next turn. With other players hitting him too, and several calamities, Tim dropped right back to the pack. There was one turn when he could not even trade. We overdid it a bit, but to his credit Tim accepted these misfortunes without complaint. Russel was unfortunate enough on one turn to have no cities, and went backwards on the AST. Civil War helped balance the game somewhat.

After Tim's relative demise, an unlikely new front-runner emerged: Lester. No doubt he was underestimated for most of the game, as he was a newbie, almost the youngest at 28 (two months older than me), and was inconspicuous. He may have benefited from being next to the other "newbies". Babylon has a reputation for being the best nation as it has plenty of city sites, agricultural, mainly inland, and difficult to attack. Yet up until now Babylon had never won in our games. Clearly, Lester picked up the game very quickly and was able to play to a standard that matched the best. By the time we realised how good a position he was in, we could not do enough to stop him. He remained well inland and completely beyond my reach. Even on the last turn of the game, nobody could stop Lester from building nine cities.

The other front-runner was Kit. He was somewhat behind Lester in purchases but had a good board position and was left alone for much of the game. He purchased Military fairly early, making it difficult to attack him. He also curried favour with other players by trading for Barbarian Hordes, to which Crete is immune. The shortage of barbarians took part of the fun out of the game, admittedly.

On the final turn, it was clear that Lester or Kit would win. The race for third was a close tussle between David, Tim and I, but none of us had Law so we could not purchase two cards that use credits efficiently. Kit and Lester had nearly every advance. Frustratingly, on my last draw of 8 cards, I got three tradable calamities, including Piracy that I had spent 18 gold to buy. Rather luckily, I only ended up with a Slave Revolt (made milder by Enlightenment), and acquired all the Cloth after it transpired that Kit and I were both collecting Cloth and Bronze. We swapped with each other to each get a full set. I maximised the value of my final purchase with Monotheism and Mathematics.

I came out of the calamities relatively unscathed, with 7 cities and 7 unused trade cards worth 37. David was very unlucky, possessing the only calamity to stop him reaching the end of the AST track: Iconoclasm and Heresy, aggravated by Monotheism, losing five cities, though he got one back from Monotheism, finishing with four. Nobody else reached the end of the AST track either, but we ended the game at this point because somebody had to leave. It was unfortunate that once again the game could not be played out until its natural conclusion. I suspect that Lester would have won regardless, albeit by a lesser margin with others catching up with him on purchases.

In terms of Civ cards, Lester was the clear winner on 3010, followed by Kit (2720), David (2430), Tim (2360) and I (2260). Scores do not include trade cards, cities or AST advances. I had just enough cities and trade cards to pip David for third place. Otherwise, the overall placings were unaffected by these.

I did well with my tokens and board position, and suffered relatively little from calamities. I was never in top spot as I did not quite make the most of trading. With so many Epidemics, I should have purchased Medicine earlier. David fell short probably because he had too many calamities. Tim fell short because he became too much of a threat early, was mercilessly pounded by his neighbours later in the game, and was denied an AST advance on the last turn. Russel (1340) and Holly (1240) picked up some disasters and were still learning the game. Darryl (1650), playing Illyria for the first time, suffered from a shortage of city sites.

I had not played for nearly two years and would have liked to play again soon before I forget everything again, but our next game will not be until at least Christmas. Without rushing the game, two days are really required, and some people have trouble finding that time, which is understandable. Congratulations, Lester!
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great game
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