I got a chance to play yesterday with my brother and a friend, and we managed to fit three games in the space of an afternoon and evening, even with a break for supper. We played with the event cards and the combat variant posted here at BGG (roll 3 = fewest warriors panics a unit, roll 4 = fewest warcanoes panics a unit), and for the last one, played to 28 points rather than 25. My brother and I have both played before (a set of four games over vacation this summer) and my friend hadn't played before, but has played many wargames with me over the years so was a fairly quick study. Here's a quick overview of the action:
Game 1: Tonga jumped out to a lead, with Hiva (myself) a close second, with a nice compact empire of several 3 and 4 space islands clustered southeast of Hiva. Samoa was our new player, and being behind, he decided to try aggression against Tonga, managing to take Tonga itself. Two turns of them bashing each other allowed Hiva to build its way to victory.
Game 2: With the results of excessive aggressiveness fresh in our minds, all three players initially had plenty of room to expand, and built up to the low 20s. At this point Hiva had no new islands and no room to build more villages, so was looking to expand at Tonga and Samoa's expense (if he had started a turn earlier he might have been able to pull it off). This game, Samoa (the new player again) was turning his aggressiveness to taking independent island groups. On the turn before the last one, Tonga took Fiji. On the last turn, Samoa and Tonga, both expecting trouble from Hiva, performed spoiling attacks against Hiva to prevent his attacking key islands that were otherwise within range (Aeotorola (sp?) and Tahiti respectively). Tonga strategically reached out from Fiji due north to capture the island there (I forget the name), thus cutting Samoa's trade fleet chain down to all of its new conquests. Hiva recovered its border island and atolls that had been taken, but was unable to build any more and thus make it past the post; Samoa needed to rebuild its trade network, and thus Tonga (me again) was able to build enough villages to push past the finish line.
Game 3: This time Samoa was in the lead, with Hiva and Tonga trading off for last place (alternating those event cards :-). Hiva (me) had a very sprawling empire, it was just a function of where the islands were. Samoa was one point away from winning (as was disclosed later with the A&C cards) when he was afraid of an attack by Tonga, thus attacking Fiji, where most of the Tonga troops were located, having taken it on the prior turn. This led to alternating attacks on Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji. Hiva meanwhile nipped at the edge of Samoa, which was all that was within reach. On the second turn of this, Hiva managed to take a 3-space island on the fringe, having failed on the previous turn, then held it against a counterattack, and spoil an attack on my main island in that region (also 3-space and defended only by a rumor) with the ariola card. Along with the conquest of a small Tonga-held island, all the way on the other side of the board and of the Hiva empire, a group of colonizers to the last undisclosed island in range, and some key builds, I had just enough to win with Hiva. Which was good, as the other two had just agreed to a non-aggression pact so they could come after me on the following turn, until I was adding things up during the build phase and realized I had enough to win and told them it was over.
Having gone three for three, I think that I've painted a giant bullseye on myself for the next time we play, but we had fun. Thanks for a great game, Kevin.
Some observations, for those new to the game:
1. You generally will need troops by the end of the game, but knowing when and where to use them is key. We typically used them to prevent the win, and once that has started, to grab the win. We also tend to be a bit vindictive, so once you start something with someone, it's going to continue for the rest of the game.
2. This game, due to the way the victory points work, really relies on a sense of strategic timing: when to build different things, managing growth and expansion, and when to strike with the military forces.
3. Tonga and Samoa have a disadvantage in being right next to each other, as it requires a large garrison and leaves your main islands vulnerable to attack. Hiva tends to have more strategic depth, depending upon how the exploration goes. I'm not sure how that would work out in a four-player game (we're going to try to find another person for our next session).
Si non potes reperire Berolini in tabula, ludens essetis non WIF.
Hey, get your stinking cursor off my face! I got nukes, you know.
I've only played this once, it was with three, and Hiva won as well (not me).
Oliver Hazard Perry leader counter from Amateurs, To Arms! by Clash of Arms Games.
Warrior Band counter for Conquest of Paradise by GMT Games.
Nice report, Jonathan! Thanks for posting this. Good observations about strategy, too.
Tonga and Samoa have a disadvantage in being right next to each other...
Others have claimed here at BGG that Hiva and Raiatea "can not win" because of the "huge" economic disadvantage that they begin the game with. I tend to agree with you- the smaller home islands can quickly overcome their disadvantage (unless they have some really terrible exploration). Meanwhile, having a competitor right next door looks worse and worse as the game progresses.