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Subject: Stronghold Initial Review rss

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James Sheahan
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Stronghold not only has a great setting but it also had a great pre-launch. The designer released over ten posts about how he came up with ideas and developed the game. This brilliant bit of marketing explained the game perfectly but was also very evocative. As a result, I pre-ordered it.

The game is about the seige of a castle. With two players, one player defends and one invades. (With more than two players, players share in the invasion or defense.) Resources are tight, especially for the defender but then they have the advantage of being in a giant castle and shooting at anything approaching the walls.
The invader uses troops and material to make equipment, build siege engines, perform rituals, and much more. Everything the invader does costs time too and it is this time that the defender then spends to for their actions: repair walls, train troops, build defenses, etc. It’s faster to use better troops but then they won’t be available to attack the castle. So, the game has a very interesting balancing mechanism right there.

The invader has a pleasantly, if somewhat daunting, array of choices but, of course, the resources available are too few to do them all. Rather than remain overwhelming, the invader only plays with a sub-set of choices for each game which are chosen during set-up. A specific set is suggested for the first game too. This adds lots of variety for future plays. I look forwards to having a bettering ram next time.

The board looks stunning and there are loads of bits. There’re over 200 tiny cubes for the invading forces alone!

Working out what to do at the start is tough. If you use your troops to build lots of equipment then who’s left to storm the walls? The longer you prepare for your attack, the longer the defender has too. Lots of interesting decisions to be made. I think it almost needs a play before you can really play properly.

The setting is epic but so is the playing time, at least on the first try. We played half a game which took around 3 hours but much of this was getting used to the rules and understanding what thing did. Next time, it will be much faster (especially as I’ve now bagged all the bits separately to speed set-up.) I doubt it will ever be a quick game but then games of epic proportions never should be.

I think if you like War of the Ring then I think you’ll like this.

Final thought: How about a War of the Ring version of Stronghold where each seige in War of the Ring is played out using Stronghold? It may take years to complete a game but how cool woud it be? Anyone want to start on the board for Minas Tirith?

[Played with 2 players - probably most fun with just 2 players too]

This review and other reviews of Essen Spiel 09 games on my blog at http://thegameofgaming.wordpress.com
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Captain Spaulding
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Thanks for the review! Any thoughts on how good the four player game is? I'm a little concerned that it's the same as the two player except two teams basically share the same decisions, which can basically be done with any two player game.
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James Sheahan
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I have the same thoughts too. I haven't tried anything mroe than 2 player so have no experience of it.

If you have 3 players, the attack role is shared by having one side of the castle each (and there is a different set of strategy cards whicb determine what actions are available to the attackers too). If there is a 4th player, the defense is shared but each player has their own set of hourglasses.

I feel the same way as you that it may feel a bit watered down with more than 2 players as you play a part of what you'd get in a 2 player game. However, the team nature of it may enhance the experience.

I guess we won't know until we try it.
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Russ Hewson
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I bought this...
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...as I had no idea what to spend my GG on!
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Have only played once and that was 4 player, so feel free to take my comment with a large pinch of salt. It felt a bit like WotR 4 player in that it was really a 2 player game with some really arbitrary rules to give each player some degree of autonomy. We enjoyed the game, but I think I'll push for 2-player only in the future (much as I have with WotR, although it's become difficult as the 4 player rules lead to 3 of my friends vowing to never play it again!).
 
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Andy M
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Eisley wrote:
I think if you like War of the Ring then I think you’ll like this.


i had heard Stronghold was very "Euro" in style, is that not the case then?
 
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James Sheahan
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I think Stronghold is a "Euro" game although it's quite a complex one just due to the many different options available and the amount of pieces. Even though it's a Eurogame, I just think people that like War of the Ring will like Stronghold too because of the subject matter, it's epic feel and that it is a game of strategic choices (which are made from a very wide range of options).

War of the Ring has dice to roll for combat and actions which makes it feel more like a wargame. Stronghold's combat is diceless (it's a direct comparison of strengths) although luck does play an element in the siege weapons as hits or missses are drawn from a deck of cards. (You can influence the decks a bit and the attacker's deck gets better over time as any misses are discarded but hits are not.) Overall though, these are just different mechanics but the premise and decision-making depth of both games are both complex (in my opinion).
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Andy M
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hmm, this is definitely a game i'd either love or hate and i am not sure i can afford to drop £40ish to find out. thanks.
 
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Wiktor Pucek
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Ive already played 1vs1, 2vs1 and 2vs2.

My first game was 1vs1 and that was great. You do anything you want and where you want. (4 hours - i played as a defender)

Then i've played 2vs2. I was impressed how good is the game in this option. You have to talk with your ally all the time. Who does what and when, what invaders can do, where to defend more etc. (5,5 h - 3 other players played first time, so thats why it took so much time - i played as a defender and my tactic was so different from my first game)

3rd game was 2vs1. I think defender is in better situation than in 2vs2 (he does whatever he want). That was my first game as an invader. We use battering ram for the first time but we start buidling it in 3rd turn, so we didnt even break through the first gate . Now i know it has to be built from the beginning.
2 players as invaders have more troops than one invader (in 1vs1 he gets 14 units, in 2vsx they get 20 units together), they have 4 action to choose from (not 3 as in game 1vs1), and with other person is much easier to find out the best tactic to win (4 hours - we still had to read the rulebook in every turn, ask each others what equipment does etc. But i think we need 2-3 more games and we can end game in 7 turns in 3 hours top)


The game is great for 2, 3 and 4 players!! (but for 3 and 4 players it takes much more time because you have to talk all the time)
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Ryon Adams
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I played this for the first time today with Tom Vasel.

This game ROCKS!!!

I played the defense and won. Lots of decision-making, and numerous strategic options. After the game, my brain was definitely fried!

I'd like to try playing the offense next time, just to see what sort of challenges exist with that. Don't miss this one. It has EVERYTHING!!! Strategy, decision making, and a great game board.
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