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Subject: Critical Issues In Martin Wallace’s La Strada rss

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David G. Cox Esq.
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La Strada


A Road Building Game for up to Four Players
30 minute playing time
Designed by Martin Wallace
Published by Mayfair Games (2004)



My Critical Issues Reviews focus on significant aspects of game play within the game – I hope that you find it interesting.



Preamble

I am impressed with Martin Wallace’s designs. They generally seem to require more thought than most other games and can be quite punishing to those who make mistakes. For this reason they also give a great sense of satisfaction when you play them well, even if you don’t actually win.

I saw La Strada sitting on a shelf in a shop and Martin Wallace’s name blazoned on the box cover was all that was necessary to secure the sale. I had never heard of the game nor seem it previously but if the name Martin Wallace was on the box there was going to be space for it in my game collection.

Upon playing the game I was a little underwhelmed. It was much lighter than I had expected and was finished in less than 30 minutes. Now, 12 months later and having played it several times, I have a higher opinion of the game and want to share my thoughts with you.


Critical Issue #1 – It Has Been Designed By Martin Wallace.

Obviously this is true but as indicated it is not typical of Martin Wallace designs in respect of several criteria. It plays from start to finish in less than 30 minutes. Each player’s turn is very quick and relatively simple – in the game each player has a ‘workshop’ tile which is placed on the board. The board is of a ‘jigs-saw’ type and consequently will change from game to game. Each player is given six action points each turn – they use these to build roads to connect their workshop to settlements so as to be able to create a market in the settlement. To build a road in a clear hex costs two action points, in a forest it costs three and in the hills it costs four – players are allowed to save up to four points to use in the following turn (a player will never have more than 10 action points at the start of any turn).

If you play the game for the first time and expect a game in the vein of Age of Steam or Brass you will be disappointed. If you go into the game with an open mind you may be pleasantly surprised.


Critical Issue #2 –The Aim of the Game Is To Build Roads.
When you start to play the game appears to be a race amongst players to connect their workshop to 12 settlements. Each player has 12 market cubes and will place one in each settlement that they connect to. There are several ways the game may end – one of them is when a player STARTS their turn without any cubes remaining to be placed. I think that one of the most important aspects of game play is blocking other players and denying them access to other parts of the board.

This is a potentially vicious game where vicious play by vicious players will be rewarded.



Critical Issue #3 – The Start Player Should Win.
Looking at many posts on BGG there is a strong feeling that the start player should win. This is because they have the first opportunity to place their workshop. This gives them the opportunity to take the choicest location that gives the best access to settlements. It also gives the other players the chance to try to ‘bottle up’ or contain the start player as much as possible. I believe it is the god-given right of each player to try to hinder the start player to the best of their ability and their responsibility to make his situation as miserable as possible.


Critical Issue #4 – Roads Don’t Dangle.
I missed this on my first reading of the rules. During a turn each player must build complete roads – the roads must start and finish at settlements. If you want to build a road that costs more than six points you have no alternative but to save your action points and use them next turn. If the route you wish to build costs more than 10 action points just forget it – it’s not going to get built. This has some serious implications regarding where and when to build, particularly if blocking or avoiding being blocked is high on the priority list.

(scoring corner for a city - paying 2-5 gold)

Critical Issue #5 – Settlements.
There are four different types of settlements – hamlets, villages, towns and cities. Having a market in a hamlet gives fewer points than the larger settlements – cities give the greatest rewards regarding points at the end of the game. The more players have a market in a settlement the less benefit each player gains. Players have to look at getting into the cities and towns and hopefully not having to share them with other players. Again, trying to block other players is a crucial aspect of the game.


Critical Issue #6 – La Strada & Age of Steam.
Although the two games are galaxies apart there are two very significant similarities between the two. In AoS each game is different due to the random distribution of goods cubes. In La Strada each game is different due to the random nature of both the map and the distribution of settlements. In both games one of the most crucial elements towards achieving victory is being able to read the board – that is, looking at the board and seeing what opportunities exist. Initial placement of your workshop in La Strada is crucial.


Critical Issue #7 – La Strada Is Not For Everyone.
As I mentioned before, La Strada needs to be played in a vicious, cut-throat manner to reach a level of excitement and interest. If you are not going to be nasty it is going to be a fairly bland tile-laying game and the start player should win.

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Guy Riessen
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da pyrate wrote:
[COLOR=#00CC66][b]La Strada

This is a potentially vicious game where vicious play by vicious players will be rewarded.


Absolutely! This is one of Wallace's most viciously confrontational games...it is brutal, so play with the right crowd and you'll be rewarded with phenomenal gameplay. Play with the wrong crowd and it's going to be a terrible experience.

The first player issue can be balanced using the Spielbox fix, which adds an action point on the first round the farther away you get from start position. Although you're right, in some, if not many cases you can indeed bottle the start player through tacit cooperation, it doesn't always work. The random set up can favor a start player or worse the first two players significantly enough that there is no chance for the 3rd and 4th player to have a chance. Whenever the first two player start with an advantage it will be a battle between those two alone. So, play with the starting player fix posted here, and don't forget that it only applies to the first round!

Because it's such a vicious filler (taking 30 minutes or less) it has seen a lot of play with my group now and we've never been disappointed playing with the Speilbox fix.

Oh yeah, don't play with two, even though it has rules for it. It's ridiculously long because the downstream think causes severe AP even in those not normally prone to it.
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David G. Cox Esq.
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Sprydle wrote:
The first player issue can be balanced using the Spielbox fix, which adds an action point on the first round the farther away you get from start position.


So, with the Spielbox fix the second player has 7 points on turn one, the third player has 8 and the fourth player has 9?

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Bradley Keen
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This sounds interesting, when (and where) did they publish this "fix"?
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PO
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Quote:
Oh yeah, don't play with two, even though it has rules for it. It's ridiculously long because the downstream think causes severe AP even in those not normally prone to it.


You might want to give http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/44041 a try. It's a two player version of La Strada that Nick Danger came up with & I tidied up. It's a vast improvement upon the official one that is offered with the game.

I'd be interested in your thoughts as to whether I've correctly interpreted Nick's variant & if my tidying up is of any help.
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Brent Pollock
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da pyrate wrote:
Sprydle wrote:
The first player issue can be balanced using the Spielbox fix, which adds an action point on the first round the farther away you get from start position.


So, with the Spielbox fix the second player has 7 points on turn one, the third player has 8 and the fourth player has 9?


...or do you mean that the placement cost during the first round goes up the further the tile is from a player's own starting tile? Anyone know which Spielbox issue that was?
 
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