Mark Morell
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I just returned from Origins 2009 (my first Con ever) and had a blast! It was a little overwhelming seeing all of the games in action (there really are a lot out there) and I'm sure my credit card was wincing every time I walked through the exhibit hall but I've got to say that one of the highlights of the Con for me was playing Axe.

Myself and the 4 buddies I was with got to sit down and give this game a spin with Chris walking us through (and playing one of the 6 roles). Chris was the perfect host and made the experience even more delightful with his enthusiastic personality but the game itself is what really caught my eye. For me it captured the perfect blend of gaming elements that make a session so much fun for me! There were many laugh-out-loud moments as players ducked under thrown axes while running for the exit all the while watching other diplomats careers come to an "end".

For us it took about 3 1/2 hours to get through the game and the time flew by. The game concept is unique, the cards well-balanced and the strategy is not always obvious which is great (for me anyhow).

The one slight criticism I would mention is that one of my buddies lost his ambassador (your main diplomat) about half-way through the game and it really impeded his ability to do much else for the rest of the game. He ended up finishing in last place (by a wide margin) and I know that he felt left-out and a bit frustrated by the situation. Since there's no way to resurrect your ambassador it did make for a tough finish for him. Perhaps an expansion or a house rule will help with this situation but it might be tough to incorporate without impacting the balance of the game.

All in all I definitely want this game in my collection and can't wait for it to arrive! According to Chris it will be at GenCon this August and widely available after that so I'll be checking my local hobby shop around that time.

Thanks to Chris for a very fun session!

...Mark
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Chris Schenck
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I've had this one on my wishlist for quite a while now. Thanks for the update!
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Nick Stellato
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This was one of my highlights of Origins 2009, too. I was very much looking forward to seeing this game in action and was able to play a game with Chris and two others on Thursday morning.

I've been thinking about your criticism and I can see where this would be a big problem, not only do you lose 5VPs at the end, but you can't participate in the Diplomacy phase anymore which really hurts. By not participating you can't lay down territories or create treaties. Thus, pretty much guaranteeing that you won't score more VPs.

However, I think there is a way to play if you get your Ambassador eliminated. First, start blocking other players moves with the other delegates, get them hung up and open holes in the top where they can start losing people due to axe attacks. This can really work if you get to move the delegates last, I know that there is a turn order in this, but maybe a house rule that if you have your Ambassador eliminated you automatically move last in both the delegate phase and the player phase, call it command confusion or something. Also, once your ambassador is eliminated another axe comes into play. There is also a card that let's you add more axes, however, I think it's only for that round.

Second, and I'm just going on memory and I don't have the game in front of me, yet. There are some very powerful cards that you can play to decrease points for everyone. I think the Break all Treaties card would do the trick. Save that for the end of the game. Also, you can discard cards during the one phase and draw. I would burn through the deck looking for the cards that would directly hurt the other players. I can't remember if you have to play some of them during the diplomacy phase, but the ones that you can play anytime would definitely help. Also, grab the veto cards, to make sure that what you want to do will go through. I know it would be tough, but you could definitely be a thorn in the other players sides.

Finally be very offensive with your bodyguard. Kill the other members of the delegations, however try to leave the other bodyguards intact - there is the bribery card. If you've seen the bribery card, or better, yet have it, go straight after them.

I'm sure it would be an uphill battle, but I think it would/could be fun. You just have to make sure that the group you play with can handle the backstabbing and mean nature of the gameplay. You cannot play this game and be nice. I can't wait for this game to be released - I think this will be a huge hit with my one game group.
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Mark Morell
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Hi Nick!

I agree with you that without your ambassador you could work to make everyone else's life miserable (i.e. by going after their diplomats with your bodyguard or playing various cards) but especially in a game with a higher number of players (say 5 or 6) I think you'd have a hard time being able to get enough victory points to still pull off a win. In our game, my buddy who lost his ambassador ended up with 5 points whereas the rest of us were in the high teens or twenties (Chris won with 27 points I believe).

I guess that it just seems to me that if there were a way to get his ambassador back in the game (using a card that included some sort of penalty like having to exchange with his bodyguard and losing land or victory points) that it might give someone at least a shot of getting back in the game (hence giving them something to shoot for). There is a card that allows you to resurrect your bodyguard so even though it might be hard to balance I still think it would be nice if there was an outside shot of someone getting their ambassador back in the game.

That aside though it is a really, really fun game and I enjoyed it very much! I know our gang will have a blast with it so I'm very much looking forward to its arrival! I'm glad to hear that you had a great time with it as well!

...Mark

 
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Chris Adams
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Hi Mark & Nick--

It was great playing with both of you last week. Since playing with Mark's group, I've been thinking about the loss of the Ambassador, and its effect on play.

OMGTAAIMH is designed with two invariable pivots, a Carrot and a Stick. The Carrot is the Sovereign Powers: Every player gets a "Big"-- one thing no one else can stop. (Though it's possible that the chance to use them can be thwarted, esp. the Soviet power which is based on a specific card.)

The Stick is losing the Ambassador: He is irreplaceable, and all players dread it happening to them. (Though there are ways to protect him, even against a motivated opponent.)


OneCrazyCanuck wrote:

I agree with you that without your ambassador you could work to make everyone else's life miserable (i.e. by going after their diplomats with your bodyguard or playing various cards) but especially in a game with a higher number of players (say 5 or 6) I think you'd have a hard time being able to get enough victory points to still pull off a win. In our game, my buddy who lost his ambassador ended up with 5 points whereas the rest of us were in the high teens or twenties (Chris won with 27 points I believe).


Just for perspective, I have seen games where a player got all his pieces out, and lost because that was all the VP they got (total = 9). I've seen people get 3 VP total for a Territory, and all their pieces were stuck alive, last on the board, when the game ended. There is still the luck of the draw, and being outmaneuvered. So losing by a wide margin by losing your Ambassador early is actually rare, based on my quantity of playtests over the last five years.

OneCrazyCanuck wrote:

I guess that it just seems to me that if there were a way to get his ambassador back in the game (using a card that included some sort of penalty like having to exchange with his bodyguard and losing land or victory points) that it might give someone at least a shot of getting back in the game (hence giving them something to shoot for). There is a card that allows you to resurrect your bodyguard so even though it might be hard to balance I still think it would be nice if there was an outside shot of someone getting their ambassador back in the game.

That aside though it is a really, really fun game and I enjoyed it very much!


Mark, it was a fun game, and thank you. But your one buddy stepped away from an otherwise happy table with a sad look, and to me that is Unacceptable. So! next week I am at Dexcon, the convention where this game first playtested, and I will be experimenting with new cards for a possible expansion set. (The publishers know I am doing this, and if anyone needs further proof that the main game is at last going to press, there you have it.) I will focus on new, more obvious defenses for the non-Bodyguard pieces. Maybe even one that lets you... MOVE DIAGONALLY!

But I do not think we were wrong in prohibiting the Ambassador from coming back-- the game needs a Stick, something to dread. It was you and your friends' first time playing, so the strategies and defenses for the Ambassador may not have been obvious enough.

Thlayli wrote:
However, I think there is a way to play if you get your Ambassador eliminated. First, start blocking other players moves with the other delegates, get them hung up and open holes in the top where they can start losing people due to axe attacks. This can really work if you get to move the delegates last...

Second, and I'm just going on memory and I don't have the game in front of me, yet. There are some very powerful cards that you can play to decrease points for everyone. I think the Break all Treaties card would do the trick. Save that for the end of the game. Also, you can discard cards during the one phase and draw. I would burn through the deck looking for the cards that would directly hurt the other players. I can't remember if you have to play some of them during the diplomacy phase, but the ones that you can play anytime would definitely help. Also, grab the veto cards, to make sure that what you want to do will go through. I know it would be tough, but you could definitely be a thorn in the other players sides.


Those are all intentional ways to avenge yourself, Nick, but there's also playing defense while the Ambassador is threatened.

Thrown Axes have many ways to be thwarted, but a Bodyguard Wielding an Axe is not to be toyed with. We beefed up the Self-Determination card to disarm a Wielded Axe, but that's the only hard check, apart from the doubt spread before Anarchist Bomber is played. A Wielded Axe is what took out Mark's buddy. What then is an exposed Ambassador to do?

What Ambassadors have always done in these situations. Beg for mercy.

That doesn't mean anything without concessions and appeasement, and it's the way an armed Bodyguard can help it's player get the sweetest deal. Just killing the opponent makes everyone else try to neuter you, but a threatened player can offer Treaties, or even Territories in order to stay alive. And once they're Treaty partners, there's less motivation to lose them, which would happen if a Treaty partner is attacked.

---

Having said all that, if players feel that the Ambassador Death Rule is too harsh, I have no qualms with house rules (because doesn't everyone have house rules?) that overcome that. My recommendations would be to experiment with allowing the Bribery card to apply to all the pieces, or possibly a "field promotion" of a surviving Translator to Ambassador. Note that I think these would cause more blood to boil and to be shed, but if more fun is had by all, that's what ultimately counts.

Cheers to everybody,

Chris

Edit 7/15/09:

YouTube footage of the game in question before the German delegation bought it. Already their nemesis has appeared, the British Bodyguard, and the players are in the Minor Delegate Phase discussing what is to be done about it:



PS - Note that this is still the demo set: Various pieces, esp. the Axes, have been redesigned for the release set.
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Mark Morell
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Hey Chris!

Thanks for your response - I really did have a great time with the game and I'm really, really, really (did I say that 3 times?) looking forward to it coming out!

I totally agree with you that part of the problem with playing a game the first time is that you don't have a good "feel" for what strategies are best employed in a given situation. I think on second and subsequent plays we would have all adopted different approaches to protecting our ambassadors - begging for mercy would definitely have been at the top of that list.

I'm excited that an expansion is in the works and I really like the idea of diagonal movement (although I guess we wouldn't be able to yell through the hall like we were when that came up (grin)). Very exciting!

I'm also sure that through 5 years of play-testing you've seen many different situations and I can only imagine how hard its been working through these along the way. What you have is a very fun and polished game that, like I mentioned, I'm very excited about!

I did have one other question that's come to mind as I've been thinking of our experience - by the end of our game it seemed like there were a lot of axes available on the board. I wondered if you considered having a thrown axe land on the board only if it didn't kill one of the diplomats? In this manner if the axe killed someone and was truly "In Their Head" then it would be harder to use again as a weapon. I'm just curious more than anything how the balance of the axes has gone during your play-testing.

Anyhow thanks again for the response and all the best with the release and expansion! I can't wait!

...Mark
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Chris Adams
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Hey Mark, et al.,

Back from Dexcon; I should have an Axe report on that in the next couple days.

OneCrazyCanuck wrote:
I'm excited that an expansion is in the works and I really like the idea of diagonal movement (although I guess we wouldn't be able to yell through the hall like we were when that came up (grin)). Very exciting!


It's not official yet, but if the main game sells well enough an expansion will be ordered. Thus, we playtest it now with hope in our hearts and an axe in our heads.

OneCrazyCanuck wrote:
I did have one other question that's come to mind as I've been thinking of our experience - by the end of our game it seemed like there were a lot of axes available on the board. I wondered if you considered having a thrown axe land on the board only if it didn't kill one of the diplomats? In this manner if the axe killed someone and was truly "In Their Head" then it would be harder to use again as a weapon. I'm just curious more than anything how the balance of the axes has gone during your play-testing.


This is a feature not a bug. Players likey Axes. I'm not sure how you'd explain that Axes can't be pried from Great Power heads but can from Minor Delegate heads. It would be a confusing rule if we published it, but make it a house rule if it suits you. Early on we determined that simulating a growing pile of bodies, however visually satisfying, was not useful for gameplay. So replacing a head with an Axe after it is hit was the most functional solution.

An unplanned boon we discovered was that as the crowd retreats, the targetable heads allow the Axes to spread evenly (within the bell curve) across the entire room. A retreating Bodyguard has almost as good a chance at arming himself as does one hanging around the Stage.

But in one game last Saturday, the Italian Bodyguard just wandered the board near the Stage, picking up Axes and Throwing them at his retreating opponents! It was risky, but I had never really seen such a casual take on Axe-wielding; on the other hand, the Bodyguard was many rows away from opponents who were almost out the door, so why not? The system is robust for new strategies, and these are always welcome because of the fail-safe rule allowing whoever has the Gavel to Adjudicate the rules if necessary.

Best,

Chris
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