We had a chance to play a 5p game of China on the weekend. It was certainly a better choice of game than the 5p On the Underground that happened later on. This was a game with four players who had played before and a single new player who got a full rules coverage and some of the strategy tips from our two four player games.
After having two games of watching house-only strategies look a bit underpowered and watching the emissary-only rush not quite win, most folks settled down to try to build up a balanced strategy. E here is the new player, Ev has played two games, as have C, B, and M.
During the game, M pursued a house + road strategy, coming about mid-field in the scores, E was a little random, mostly going for immediate house/region scoring while Ev, C and B tried to balance houses an emissaries.
There was a lot more reluctance to almost fill up a region with one colour since this gave away too many points to the player in second place. We also saw a great number more builds where someone would place a house and then an immediate emissary taking advantage of the newly available emissary slot. There was a lot more deliberation before people took the underpowered single-house build to open new regions.
The 5-player game was actually quite fun. There wasn't that much downtime and the game seemed to have an accelerated pace as we burnt through the cards seemingly much faster. There was absolutely no way to plan for available cards more than 1-2 players ahead, though, so lots of people took their first card blind. In general, the game felt really fast and in every turn we were confronted with far too few remaining actions and many great looking choices of actions.
In the end of the game Ev came a close second with 44 points to B's 56. B and C managed to take many of the southern regions with dual emissary majorities, and the emissary scoring from multiple adjacent region allowed these large emissary groups to yield lots of points. Ev had to work much harder on her regions to get emissary numbers up working alone and mostly ran out of tokens. M trailed in the 30s because 5 players and the patchiness of regions being battled over for emissary control were really tricky to get long routes with.
A highly recommended 5p game.