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Subject: Condensed Britannia: 6-turn playtest rss

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Jon G
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I'd been wanting to try out the 6-turn "condensed" version of the full game that Lew Pulsipher had posted on the eurobrit yahoogroup, and mentioned here on BGG. This had the side benefit of pleasing my wife, whose preferred game length is about 2 hours... that is, until it took almost four hours to play out, despite minimal breaks and analysis paralysis. But less than six, certainly.

For readers not familiar with the 6-turn variant, the key differences are thus:
Nations score each turn, immediately after their nation turn, one point each for holding territories the count for them. So for instance, the Brigs score the same for being in Strathclyde, Galloway, or Dalriada
There are some bonus points as well, and many nations still get points for beating up the Romans, raiding, etc. Each nation also has a one round where they get points for a special objective, but it's never more than 2 pts/territory.
Saxons (turns 5 & 6) and Romans (turn 1) get some extra turns to let them accomplish what they historically need to.
The battle system is modified quite a bit, to make battle deaths happen more slowly, and allow more retreats. You roll two dice per army, but need two hits to kill an army. It makes 2-1 attacks a lot more effective.

Most of the players had only played the full game a couple times, so I took yellow and the Romans. My wife got green, and Sarah and Nate played blue and red, respectively. Here's how it went down...

Turn 1: Roman major invasion went off without casualties, submitting the Belgae & Welsh, reaching Cheshire, and surrounding the Belgae with three legions in each space. The Belgae then threw a major curveball. Rather than attack the Romans, they took York from the Brigs and scored five points for holding land around Lindsey. The Brigs then followed the same logic, retreating to their scoring spaces, and taking Dunedin from the Picts. The Picts had no spare armies (only 5 pop points), so they sat tight and took five points. The Romans removed down to 12 legions, took their extra turn, and promptly for got how to fight.

I had a problem on my hands... the pacifist Belgae had six armies (and Boudicca, worth one point here) on the board, but I had to get north. So I attacked the Brigs 2-1 and 2-2 in Dunedin, plus some 1-1's against the Belgae... and ran into a bucket of 6's. The Romans lost 5 of 12 armies, failed to submit the Brigs, and didn't make much of a dent in the Belgae. With only one Roman turn to go, I was in trouble.

Turn 2: Romans inflicted enough pain on the Brigs to submit them (then withdraw those legions south), and killed two Pict armies, but couldn't do enough damage to force submission and withdraw them south. A fort BBQ was unavoidable, but less painful due to 1-pt/fort limes. The Belgae expanded back to five spaces, the Welsh and Brigs were quiet. The Picts helped their three kamikaze raiders (Maetae) burn three northern forts, the Irish took out forts and stayed Cumbria & Cheshire (leaving Wales alone), and the Scots landed in force in Skye. Down south, the Saxons roasted four forts, but the Jutes and Angles pounced on the Saxons instead of toasting forts, leaving only three Saxons on the board.

Turn 3: With extra scoring around Suffolk, a ton of armies (with cavalry), and a shortage of legal, easy targets the RB's thrashed the Belgae and moved in around N Mercia. The Welsh and Brigs expanded into open areas, but didn't attack much, and Cals & Picts (short on armies) sat tight. The Scots took Dalriada and Alban, and the Irish took Devon briefly. Meanwhile, things looked bad for the Saxons. They briefly expanded to seven territories, only to be picked off by the Jutes and Angles. The Jutes held the south coast from turn 3 until the Normans arrived. The Angles took the eastern midlands from the RB's, who fled into March and Hwicce. They also made a small dent in the Brigs, but not enough to prevent a huge score.

Turn 4: The first half of the turn was fairly static. The Picts fought off a Scots attack, and the Cals dug in for the Norse. Then the Norse, who score two points for each west-coast territory raided, mostly ignored Scotland and simply picked off the every 1-army territory, most of which were in Wales. The Danes did the same to the east coast, mostly at the Angles' expense, and both retreated to sea. The much-weakened Angles and already-weak Saxons mostly sat tight, while the Jutes enjoyed the sunny south coast.

Turn 5: In the north, the Scots crept further into Pictland, and everyone else held their ground... highland population growth was just too slow to do much else. The R-B's & Irish fought for the west midlands and Clywd, while the Welsh survivors of the Norse raids didn't have enough men to fill the empty spaces. The Norse and Dubliners raided northwest England, while the Danes took over Essex and East Anglia at Angle & Saxon expense. The Saxons, down to three armies in two territories, rebuilt somewhat a reclaim Wessex during Alfred's double-turn, but held little more than a petty kingdom.

Turn 6: Everyone maximized points up north, and the Scots finished off the Picts, but the Caledonians proved unassailable (and very boring, says my wife). The Danes (with Cnut) easily claimed the kingship, then held on to East Anglia in the endgame. Then the Norwegians moved into the Cheshire-York area, but with no other kings on the board, kept Harald in York. The Saxons got a double turn, but Harold had too few shieldmen to attack Harald, and holed up in the Downlands. Finally, the Normans (no major invasion) landed and scored well killing Saxons & Danes in the southeast.

The Reckoning (extra turn for Danes, Norwegians, Saxons, Normans): The Danes couldn't hit any of the leaders, so they retook Essex and dug in. Harald brought a large army to the Downlands to take on Harold, who escaped into Avalon. Harold then gathered three men to attack William and two cavalry, but the Saxon king fell in the attempt. William was able to muster a large army to face Harald, but unable to prevent his retreat, so the Normans spread out an maximized points. At the end, the Normans and Norwegians each held a goodly chunk of England, but were out of time to face each other.

Final Scores:
Romans: 42
R-B's: 18 (a lot more powerful than in the standard game)
Scots: 24
Norwegians: 7 (hampered by lack of scoring territories in the south)
Yellow: 91

Belgae: 18 (did much better sitting tight than attacking Romans!)
Picts: 25
Angles: 23 (could have been played better than they were)
Normans: 20
Blue: 86

Welsh: 35 (not attacked by Irish, but raped by Norse)
Caledonians: 23 (stayed home all game)
Danes: 25
Jutes: 9
Green: 92

Brigantes: 34 (scored 8 for killing Romans, probably won Red the game)
Irish: 18 (did very, very well ignoring the Welsh)
Norse: 17 (freed from assailing the Cals, they were a scoring machine)
Saxons: 28 (never prospered after killing four forts)
Red: 97

Overall, a tense game all the way through. Most of the players liked the constant need a grab land and score points, though that led to several unusual plays (especially the Belgae refusal to revolt). Game time was much longer than the 2-hour goal, but much shorter than normal without a reduction in fun.

 
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Lewis Pulsipher
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First time other people played it, at WBC, it took considerably more than four hours. There's an adjustment, just as there is to the standard game. I find that new players take seven or more hours for the standard game first time, even if they'll get down to 4 or 5 with experience. So the 'two hour' game will take four or even five first time, most likely. Two hours is reasonable when the players are familiar with the differences.
 
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Jon G
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Did you see anyone else play the peaceful Belgae strategy? It really does seem to make sense... scores five points in the first round, and the Romans have better things to do thereafter than try to mop up the Belgae. If the Romans throw a bunch of 1-on-1 attacks, the Belgae are likely to score some kills and/or run away at the end of Round 1; if not, they score another five points and have a solid presence that lets the Angles move north, beat up Saxons, etc. If you want the Belgae to attack more, you could move their scoring center to Norfolk, limiting the territorial scoring, but letting them count Lindsey.

Overall, the limited number of population growths gave the invaders a boost over the residents throughout the game. The Welsh (despite Irish disinterest) never had the numbers to think about leaving Wales, the Angles and Saxons failed to grow much, while the raiding forces were a stronger menace than usual. Overall, there were fewer armies on the board, generally spread thinner to maximize scoring each round. It probably evened out in the end, but if the Saxons hadn't stalled, Red would have been a runaway winner.
 
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Lewis Pulsipher
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I've been away from this game a long time, and need to get back to some work on it, maybe at WBC.

6 turns and scoring after every move certainly turns this game into much more a "conquest" game than a "preservation" game. (But people, especially those familiar with Risk and Axis & Allies) grew up on conquest games.) Nations like the Welsh and Cals who score gradually over long periods aren't likely to do as well, I'd suppose, in a conquest game. The Angles and Saxons don't have the "down time" to improve their score. Which COULD mean adding a turn in the middle somewhere, but only time will tell.
 
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Lewis Pulsipher
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I have heard (in the full game) of the Brigs making a deal with the Romans, heading north, and trying to score more points that way than by killing Romans. Did not work well enough to try again.
 
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Jon G
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lewpuls wrote:
I've been away from this game a long time, and need to get back to some work on it, maybe at WBC.

6 turns and scoring after every move certainly turns this game into much more a "conquest" game than a "preservation" game. (But people, especially those familiar with Risk and Axis & Allies) grew up on conquest games.) Nations like the Welsh and Cals who score gradually over long periods aren't likely to do as well, I'd suppose, in a conquest game. The Angles and Saxons don't have the "down time" to improve their score. Which COULD mean adding a turn in the middle somewhere, but only time will tell.


Lew, the real issue seems to be that population growth is out of balance with invasion forces. On a number of occasions, territories were left empty because there just weren't enough people to score them. Rather than giving more extra turns to the Angles and Saxons, I'd think about adding 1 extra pop point per territory (2 for highlands, 3 for lowlands).
 
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