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Subject: Game Session with the Prototype Part 2 (Game Phases) rss

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This is part 2 of my series of session reports about a game with the prototype of "Die Insel der steinernen Wächter". Participants where Claus (the game author) / Henning (his 12 year old son), Christian, Hermann and me. The game took place on 10-01-2009. For more details please see my other session report (part 1 (Game Set-Up) and part 3 (Lutao)).

The phases of the game
A game round consists of 5 phases:
1.Composition (Placement) Phase
2.Main Phase
3.Counting Phase
4.Magic Spell Achievement Phase
5.Purchase Phase

Placement Phase
In the Placement Phase each player (in the order of play) places his game material (bought in the previous round in the Purchase Phase) on the board. Possible game material could be armies (this is the most frequent game piece placed), cities, ships and movement sticks. Because this is the first round of the game, the placement of game material is already done (as part of the game set-up). So we went straight to the second phase, the Main Phase.

Main Phase
The Main Phase is the only phase which is further divided. This phase consists of 3 steps:
2.1 Movement of armies
2.2 Fighting
2.3 Formation
Hermann is the starting player (he has the white army markers with the wizards hat symbol on it). The strategy depends on the race and rune abilities and on the magic spells. Hermann has the Witches in combination with Rune of Ghosts. This means he is strong when it comes to fights over cities (Rune of Ghosts: he gets three additional armies when fighting over a city) and the longer the game takes, the stronger the Witches will be (Witches: each game round he can steal a good card from an opponent (as long as he is involved in a fight with him and the opponent plays a good card) and give away a bad fighting card to an opponent). So the longer the game runs, the better gets the fighting deck of the Witches. In the starting phase of the game it is generally a good idea to try to conquer one or two complete lands. So Hermann plans to take over Solem and Canli. Solem is a land with four provinces of which Hermann already owns two, and Canli is the smallest land in the game with two provinces of which Hermann owns one. So much can be guessed by the other players because Hermann puts his army forces (10 armies from the game set-up phase) in these two lands (5 went to Solem and 5 he put on Canli in his province there).

In the Movement of armies step Hermann moved 5 armies from his Canli province into the second Canli province occupied currently by the orange player (me with one army there). His other movements in this phase take place on Solem, where he tries to conquer the two other provinces occupied by opponents. I think he moved three armies in one province and 2 armies in the other (when moving armies to form an attack you always have to have at least one remaining army in the province where you start the movement. Additionally you can only move one step with each army, in other words only into neighbour provinces).

After Hermann's Movement of armies step the fighting step take place. Hermann decides in which order he wants to play the fights (fights happen in all provinces with more then one type (colour) of army markers). There are three provinces with more then one type of army markers in it, so there will be 3 fights. Each fights goes over one or more fighting rounds until either the province is empty or only one type of army is left in it. In "Die Insel der steinernen Wächter" a fight is done by using the fighting cards (magic spells could also be played if they are allowed in this phase). Each player is in possession of a fighting deck. It consists of 23 cards. A fighting card can either be a Miss, a Shield, a Strike, a City Strike or a Double Strike (please see the following image).

Lets look at an example fight. Hermann chooses the province in Canli to fight over first. He has 5 armies there, I have one army in this province. We both have a shuffled face down fighting deck in front of us. Depending on the number of armies on each side each player draws fighting cards from his deck. Normally you can draw one more fighting card then armies are involved on your side. In Hermann's case this would be 6 fighting cards. But there is a maximum of 3 armies to take into account for drawing cards. So Hermann draws 4 fighting cards hidden from me and I draw two cards. Now each player choose one of the cards just drawn and put it back face down at the bottom of his fighting deck (this is a good tactical way when the fighting deck gets smaller to put good cards in it for more important fights). This leaves Hermann with 3 fighting cards and me with one fighting card for the actual fighting round. Let's assume Hermann had two Misses and one Shield and I had a Strike. Hermann couldn't harm my armies with a Miss or a Shield so nothing happened to my glories army. I had a Strike which normally would destroy an army but Hermann had a Shield which blocks one Strike. So nothing happened at all. The used fighting cards went to the discard pile. Again Hermann draws 4 fighting cards and put one of them face down on the bottom of his fighting deck and I draw two cards etc. Let's assume I had a Double Strike (which is not a good idea to play against the Witches but for the purpose of this example I will go along) and Hermann had a Miss, a Shield and a City Strike. I had a Double Strike which means normally two armies of Hermann would be gone. But Hermann had a Shield, so only one of his armies goes to his common army pool. Hermann had a City Strike (which is like a normal Strike, because we don't fight over a city at the moment) and destroys my single heroic army (which goes to my common army pool). Now Herman owns this province with four of his armies left after the fight there. Because Hermann plays with the Witches he has the special ability to steal a good fighting cards once each game round. Because my Double Strike, I played against him, is definitely a good card he decides to use his ability and steals my Double Strike and put it on his discard pile (there it goes cry ). This means that Hermann can't use this ability any more in the fights to come during this game round. The other two fights over the provinces in Solem happened in the same manner and Hermann won all provinces.

Now the last step of Hermann's Main Phase happens, the Formation. This step helps the actual player to reform his armies after the fights took place. You can move armies based on the formation rules. In short you can only move each army one step i. e. to a neighbour province and only if you own both provinces (there are other possibilities including ship movement and magic spells but this would lead to a much to detailed explanation here...).

This ends Hermann's Main Phase and Christian's Main Phase starts. An example can be seen in the following photo:

On this photo Christian moved I think 6 armies into a province of Duran (upper left corner) and fought against 2 of Hermann's armies.

Counting Phase
After all players are finished with the Main Phase the Counting Phase begins. Each player counts the points he actually gets for alls his provinces and cities. Points can be seen as the currency in the game. With points you can buy armies etc. in the Purchase Phase. Let's look at an example. Hermann owns all four provinces of Solem, all two provinces of Canli and let's say four other provinces distributed over the remaining lands. For each province he gets one point. This makes 10 points. For every city he gets an additional point. He has one city on the board (on Solem), this makes 11 points in total. If you are in possession of all provinces of a land you can add an additional point (if it this displayed on the land, there are some small lands like Canli which are to easy to conquer so Canli wouldn't give you an additional point for the whole land). In the case of Solem Hermann gets another point, so now he has 12 points. If a player has a complete land and has a city marker in it he gets an additional point again. So in the end Hermann counted a total of 13 points, because he possessed Solem and had a city there. Each player counts in this way his points. Then the point marker of each player is placed on the point track card on the appropriate position / number of points. The player with the highest amount of points will be first player from know on until the next counting phase (again there are magic spells to change this but normally this is the way to go), the player with the second most point is the second player in the order of play and so forth.

Magic Spell Achievement Phase
Now the Magic Spell Achievement Phase take place. For every city a player owns he got one magic spell from the face down magic spell deck. These cards are hidden from the other players. Magic spells can nearly change every aspect of the game. From repositioning a land to a different place (with all the markers on it), the ability to steal the rune of a player for one round, to counter spells, to manipulate fights (including fights you aren't involved in), to deny ship movement in a certain defined area (Storm spell) etc. etc. There is a maximum of four cards a player can have in hand.

Purchase Phase
The last Phase in each game round is the Purchase Phase. Let's take again Hermann as an example. He has a score of 13 points (marked on the point track). Now he can go on a shopping tour. Each player has an overview sheet. On this sheet you have a table with the cost of game material. You can buy armies, ships, cities and movement sticks (needed to move ships between lands). For 13 points Hermann could buy 6 armies (4 armies costs 8 points, 5 armies costs 10 points, 6 armies costs 13 points), or he could buy 4 armies for 8 points and buy a city with the remaining 5 points (city costs 5 points, ship cost 4 points and movement stick cost 1 point). I think he chose 4 armies and one city marker.

To illustrate the use of the movement sticks (again this is the prototpye version in the photo) I uploaded another photo. Here you can see a typical use:

In the last part of my session report I will discuss some aspects of the game session we played, and I will speak about the actions the players can and cannot do on Lutao.
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