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Subject: Elegant gameplay mixes just the right amount of luck and strategy. rss

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Jordan Booth
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This game is the new Stone Age! devil Meaning a game that everyone enjoys while they are playing even if they are losing.

Seriously, it is a brilliant game. My friend who notoriously despises eurogames surprised us all by declaring he wanted to play again immediately. I think what he appreciated was a suitable amount of player interaction and no extra goods to clutter the equations. Also all the past present, and endgame points are spelled out at a glance of the game, so it really comes down to the two inverse choices of action number vs. action value and instant vs. delayed VP gratification. He also said its like the Cranium of strategy games because it employs so many varied mechanics, something that opened my wallet in Plank time. I also like how it scales so elegantly by adding and removing action dice.

The game is very straightforward. You are exploring the Dark Continent for your Queen Victoria and whoever places the most huts (the ones from Taluva) in the most strategic pattern according to the nature of the grid and the luck of what choices the dice allow. To do this you need money - Pounds Sterling(Lbs.) - more and more each round, which you can get in two ways. You can also take a card which delays action for a stronger action(s) later. The game ends after 10 (or 11) rounds and after you figure out final points (this is my favorite part) you see which deadbeat(s) doesn't love the queen (has donated the least to their lockbox) is eliminated and then the leader in VP is declared winner. So it is a fairly forgiving system.

Gah, enough vagueness. Here is the game naked.

Each player starts out with 3 coins, an empty donation box, and about a dozen huts.
The active player rolls 2x #players dice and organizes them in ascending numerical groups. Then they start the round of each player choosing a single die to perform one of four actions until either there are no more dice or no one can select because there are no available numbers above their previous choice. This dice mechanic is the heart of Livingstone, it is the player interaction of blocking hut placements or even whole turns and also the action value/number decision.

Now what you can do with that die:
1You can draw a card. This is delaying action to get a rulebreaking action later or just a jolt of lbs. or VP. And considering you can play as many cards on your turn as you like I think they are definitely worth it, but only if you don't need that particular face value for one of the next three reasons.
2You can gain Lbs. equal to the face value, a certain, but limited income.
3You can dig in the mine and pull a number of stones equal to the face value. This is one of the more exciting aspects of the game as there is an increasing (from 1/60) chance of everything being pulled going back in the bag. So this is the risky money option because half of the stones are worthless, and even in the first game a couple of people were unlucky enough to pull a few of the most valuable gems only to cause a cave-in and have to put it all back.
4You can also place a hut on the board. This is absolutely crucial to winning. The tricky balance here is that the face value of the die you pick is the amount of VP you score at the end of that round and also the row you place in on the board, but at the end of the game the player(s) with the most huts in each row gets a bonus in inverse proportion. Thusly, the player who scored the most 6 pt. huts during the game gets only 2 more, but the person who placed the most 1 pt. huts gets 12 pts.

This seems simple at first, but it becomes tough to play key huts when you run out of Lbs. at just the wrong time. Especially when you are hastily donating to the Queen to keep up with other players. In the next game I saw two players attempt to save all their money for expansion and donate everything at the end. While I can see how this makes sense as one of these players was the leader by a substantial margin, it was ultimately the other player pursuing the strategy that saved him by being able to only donate 7 lbs. on the last turn to his 9. Every one else had accumulated at least 12. So basically if you're going to do that you want to donate on at least the last three turns.
There is also a sneaky card that moves the round counter one space backward so that you score the previous round again (with any new additions) and move on to the original column to finish and score it. A clever and lucky player can score 24 pts. with only 3 huts and if early in the game for quite cheap.

My only gripe is that they need more 1 Lbs. tokens because these are the most likely to go into donation boxes and out of circulation. In a 5p game we had to make phantom change or usually they'd just donate it by putting a marker die on their box. You could just say donate larger denominations but to do that you'd pretty much be limited to drawing really well out of the mine/cards a few times before a couple key plays and a large donation. But the longer you wait, the more it'll cost.

Great fun. Any media that evokes the feeling to experience it again immediately has more than satisfied already.
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Nice review! But:

Born-of-Ashes wrote:
opened my wallet in Plank time.


Can you post a video of this?
 
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Jordan Booth
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dysjunct wrote:
Nice review! But:

Born-of-Ashes wrote:
opened my wallet in Plank time.


Can you post a video of this?

Sorry, my frugal camera can only capture 30fps so I missed it.
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Gordon Adams
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A bit confused. Pound sterling as in money ? Or Imperial measure as in 1 pound = 16ozs ?

Sterling = £ unless there is a bag full of coins and weighs in Llbs

This review has made me think again....yep, I think I will buy the game after this review.

Regards.

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Jordan Booth
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I do mean pounds as the unit of money. I just used Lbs. because on an american keyboard there is no monetary pound symbol (I'd have to go hunting in the character map).

I'm glad the review was helpful, it was my first.
 
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Stephen Tudor
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Born-of-Ashes wrote:
I do mean pounds as the unit of money. I just used Lbs. because on an american keyboard there is no monetary pound symbol (I'd have to go hunting in the character map).


GBP might be a better abbreviation than Lbs. Very nice review, BTW – I'll have to check this game out.
 
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Neil Henderson
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The way we used to write sterling (before going metric), and the way Livingstone would have seen it, is L.s.d. Pronounced as "El,Ess,Dee" (pounds (L),shillings (s) and pence (d)). Ah, the good old days......
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Jordan Booth
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Yeah, I should have known GBP as I was just in the UK (brought Dominion back a week early) but I was trying to mirror the rulebook.
The lsd thing is good to know, 'though it makes me laugh thinking of bums asking for it as a handout (yes, I'm aware of the massive time difference)
 
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Andy Leighton
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Born-of-Ashes wrote:
Yeah, I should have known GBP as I was just in the UK (brought Dominion back a week early) but I was trying to mirror the rulebook.
The lsd thing is good to know, 'though it makes me laugh thinking of bums asking for it as a handout (yes, I'm aware of the massive time difference)


We had the LSD system up until the early 70s - decimalisation day was in 1971. However 'bum' as a noun always means your arse in Britain.
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