Ian Collier
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My gf is totally unpredictable when it comes to games. Sometimes I think I've figured out what she likes and what she hates and I buy accordingly, and sometimes I'm right but mostly I'm wrong. So now I just buy and see. AoC I've noticed is already being suggested as a very gf/wife UNfriendly game, for it's brutal nature and the perhaps over-emphasised fact that there are 'women' tokens in the game (you hardly notice the fact of what they represent, believe me). But it was too tempting and my gf is a bit random so what the hey I thought and I bought it.

Well, not only is AoC a complete success in our house, it turns out that feminine wit and guile overthrows masculine machismo and posturing hands down every time. We played three two player games and I was thrashed each and every time.

So, our first match...We set up - lots of fun in itself - and worked our way through the rules. Easy rules by the way, lots to take in but nothing complicated by any means.

And then we were off. I've picked our first match because I can share where I believe we made errors, those beliefs supported by changed strategies during further play.

THE FIRST AGE
Tentatively we take our first steps beyond the borders of our home provinces, militarily subjugate a few neutral provinces to see how that works (simple and straightforward is the answer as long as the dice go your way), make friends with a few other neutral provinces to see how that works (also simple and straightforward), get a fort, get a tower, get some gold, get some Empire tokens, so far so step-by-step. We see the value of strategy cards straight away. In fact, rolling straight against any enemy type can really go either way and is likely to end in tears if you have luck like mine. But with the simple addition of a strategy card your chances of success go straight up (they turn dice rolls that would result in a non-hit into a hit).

Conan is a bit of a non-event in our first age to be honest. I won the bid to control him every time but for the fourth and final adventure of the First Age, but I don't really understand the purpose of adventure tokens yet so I'm grabbing them as quick as possible. Sending Conan in a straight line towards his destination is a sure-fire method of getting these, so that's all I do. He doesn't pass anywhere near either my places or my gf's places. He's just there, slaying monsters, grabbing treasure and then using that treasure to take women out to dinner.

And so the first age trickles along, with both of us expanding our Empire towards each other (but not encountering each other yet) with towers and forts, building armies and sending emmisaries to grab gold. And making a couple of important mistakes.

Mistake one - don't just expand towards your opponent in a 2p match, because in a funny way it's not so important to be in a position to bash them but more important to have a strong empire yourself that you can defend. We got a little distracted by the wargame side of AoC, and missed the fact that in many ways it's more an area control title with wargaming aspects. So my first piece of advice to 2p newbies is EXPAND BACKWARDS.

Mistake two - don't waste Conan by sending him straight to adventure locations if you could reroute him through your opponent's territory or territory they are likely to try and expand into, because with Conan you can really mess with your opponent. If there's a neutral territory then he can make it harder to conquer by putting Raiders there. And if it's a neutral territory that your op is trying to subjugate then he fights alongside the defenders and again makes it a lot harder to conquer. Yes, adventure tokens are important too, but our second piece of advice to newbies is USE CONAN AGAINST YOUR OP WHEN YOU CAN, ESPECIALLY IN THE FIRST AGE - it can seriously hurt their chances at expanding and have a major impact on the final game as they struggle to catch up and you can wade in and keep them back.

END OF FIRST AGE
Now we get to see what all that gold is good for, and start spending madly on new army units and cards, building up to be ready for the Second Age.

THE SECOND AGE
Okay, we are beginning to see the point of some things now, especially Conan. Right at the end of the first age my gf experimented by subjugating a province with Conan on her side and with her, and the results were awe-inspiring - it was a massacre and the neutral province collapsed before her (she force-marched her way through the entire campaign in that province, and had no problems at each turn, even tho she of course followed the rule that she lost a unit to force march each step and continue her campaign in the same turn).

So there was aggressive bidding to win him over and my gf won out. But to my surprise she spent the age ignoring the adventure tokens, and me, and simply moved Conan with her units across the map, subjugating neutral provinces left, right and centre. And looking mighty fine doing so too I can tell you, it was scary. Meanwhile, rather pathetically, I decided not to let her get away with this and completely wasted my time trying to knock her new lands over rather than expanding my own Empire. And herein is mistake one of the Second Age (by Crom)

Mistake (lesson) one - don't spend all your time trying to knock your opponent when you could be using it building yourself up. There's plenty of time for battling it out in the Third Age, and it's damn hard to keep a province when you've got it, so with seiges TIMING IS KEY. Honestly, I spent an inordinate amount of time invading an enemy province and taking it, for your op to invade you and take it back, for me to go back in and take it back again... it's a bit if a waste of time in ways if during all this messing about you haven't really built up much of an Empire anywhere else.

Anyway, on went the third age, with my gf using Conan to help her build when she could, me using Conan to grab adventure tokens and little else, and then me constantly taking pot shots at my gf's provinces and either winning out but ending up with only one unit after it all (pretty useless in a neutral province really) OR me just failing completely due to having no strategy cards and lousy dice rolls.

Thus ended the Second Age with a map covered in red (my gf's colour) with pathetic bits and pieces of yellow here and there (my colour).

The end of Age phase then went similarly to the first BUT I got a load more strategy cards this time (to get my own back and make my mark in the Third Age).


THE THIRD AGE
In a nutshell, this was just embarrassing for me. Now that my gf had plenty of armies, so many provinces compared to my paltry few that she could afford to lose a couple and still be better off AND Conan with her for the first adventure (yes, she won the bid AGAIN) she spent all of it attacking me, successfully I might add. And so as the Age passed, my armies fell, my forts and towers were raised to the ground I made a couple of pathetic attempts to attack, like with two army unit and Conan against a red horde, and lost out again and again and again.
And to add insult to injury, not only did she clearly have the upper hand generally speaking but then she managed to pull off the manouver of having Conan in her province at the end of an adventure during which she controlled him and therefore was able to have a go at crowning him. And she did!!!

Lessons in the Third Age? Similar to the second, don't get distracted by trying to make your opponent's position weaker, focus on making yourself stronger wherever you can. Get hold of Conan and fill your op's provinces with Raider tokens. Get forts in neutral provinces around you rather than try and smash your opponent's. Grab treasure tokens wherever you can.

And so the end of the Third Age came to pass and we counted the scores and mine was rubbish and hers was awesome and she leapt up and down the room shouting 'I won! I won!' and I concluded that you have an advantage if you have the red coloured plastic bits or if you are sitting facing East or if you have blue eyes rather than brown.

We played two more games over the weekend, and I lost both of those too, but I'm getting a grip on my aggressive gameplay tendancies and trying to be a bit more nurturing. But she just keeps on winning with an impressive combination of loving tenderness for her own followed by awesome aggression when the time is right. Me? I raise three units, send them screaming over the hills and plains towards her fort and then run into a volley of arrows time after time after time.

Conclusions overall? Age of Conan is:

(1) Amazingly well designed.
(2) A ton of fun whether you are winning or losing.
(3) Just great for 2 players.
(4) NOT prone to giving one player an unbeatable advantage early on through bad design, only through appalling play by one player, like just about any game really - I honestly believe that the game is well balanced and has enough variety in scoring methods (tokens, objective cards, gold, forts, cities, towers, provinces etc etc) that there's always an opportunity for you to catch up IF YOU PLAY WELL.
(5) Potentially very gf/wife friendly, because although it looks like a wargame and often tastes like a wargame it's got more in common with a Euro area control and resource management game which rewards careful thinking and careful planning above and beyond warlike aggression and manly posturing.



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Jorge Arroyo
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Great session I game most of the time with my gf so that was very useful. We'll sure be getting this one...
 
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Chris Walkley
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Quote:
And so the end of the Third Age came to pass and we counted the scores and mine was rubbish and hers was awesome and she leapt up and down the room shouting 'I won! I won!' and I concluded that you have an advantage if you have the red coloured plastic bits or if you are sitting facing East or if you have blue eyes rather than brown.


One of the best comments I have read on the Geek for a long time. Especially the score summary. I have also been on the end of a gf shaped whupping, my friend.


Quote:
(1) Amazingly well designed.
(2) A ton of fun whether you are winning or losing.
(3) Just great for 2 players.
(4) NOT prone to giving one player an unbeatable advantage early on through bad design, only through appalling play by one player, like just about any game really - I honestly believe that the game is well balanced and has enough variety in scoring methods (tokens, objective cards, gold, forts, cities, towers, provinces etc etc) that there's always an opportunity for you to catch up IF YOU PLAY WELL.
(5) Potentially very gf/wife friendly, because although it looks like a wargame and often tastes like a wargame it's got more in common with a Euro area control and resource management game which rewards careful thinking and careful planning above and beyond warlike aggression and manly posturing.


Very pleased to hear point 2 being made (although the others are all very good too!)

Cheers
Chris
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Ian Collier
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Glad to hear the report is useful, I'm just really keen to encourage fellow gamers to purchase this, at £60 it's a hefty commitment but I do believe that it is well worth the cash.

As for the gf whupping, it happens a lot more than I'd like, it's just like she SEES things I can't see in games. Or maybe I'm just too easily distracted. For example, at the start of a Dominion match, within 5 minutes she's figured out her strategy for making the most of the cards available, a long term strategy at that which takes into account the need to add key cards at key points to maintain the probability that she gets the cards she needs in the sets she needs them when she needs them. Meanwhile I'm still gazing at the cool artwork on the 'Adventurer' card.

And when I do get a moment of glory, she still gets the upper hand. I made her cry once, when I ate her coral reef in a Reef Encounter match. Typical, I'm in front and doing well and she resorts to emotional blackmail to prevent me doing it again. I place it in the same category as the 'If you beat me I'm never playing this again' statement.
 
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Christopher Lawrence
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inuitmyth909 wrote:
I made her cry once, when I ate her coral reef in a Reef Encounter match.


That would be theme-appropriate for AoC, actually: "to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women." devil

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Chris Walkley
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inuitmyth909 wrote:
...at the start of a Dominion match, within 5 minutes she's figured out her strategy...


Same story here... I spent a long evening playing Dominion with my regular gaming buddy. By the end of it I was pretty sure I had the game sussed and was beating him most times.

So the following night I sat down to play with my gf and BLAM. I was totally owned.

It took me several games before I got close. And you know what the worst thing is? She says I taught her how to think strategically in games.

Just like firgging Star Wars...

"Now I am the master"
"Only a master of evil all my games..."

At least your post showed me I will get an automatic advantage by playing red in AoC! Thanks for the tip!

I'm doomed... shake
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Ian Collier
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One more tip during AoC if you're feeling really desperate. Roll the fate dice onto the board and 'accidentally' knock all of the pieces over, into such a mess that you have no choice but to start over.

*I have no pride left...*
 
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Anders Kernel
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Very very nice review!

Thank you for the strategical advice. But most of all to all the guys here, thank you for warning me.

From now on I will never try to convince my gf to play boardgames with me again... She is a terrible loser, and a very good winner.

If she began beating me several times in my preferred games, I believe I would stop playing boardgames forever.

Cheers,
Anders
 
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Adam Deverell
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Quote:
(5) Potentially very gf/wife friendly, because although it looks like a wargame and often tastes like a wargame it's got more in common with a Euro area control and resource management game which rewards careful thinking and careful planning above and beyond warlike aggression and manly posturing.


You did something right. This was a complete write off with my wife. She loathed it. I thought she may enjoy it, as you're right - it is about area control. There's also bidding and the resource management of adventure tiles. But I think it was the plastic armies and excessive dice rolls that did me in. I've written a rather sad session report about it and fear Age of Conan will never darken our gaming table again while my wife is about.
 
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