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Subject: Italia I - Seven turns rss

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Rob Doupe
Canada
Calgary
Alberta
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Played an incomplete learning game of Italia I today. Difficult game to rate. Love the history, the system, and the components. But I found it fiddly, long, and, utlimately, a very frustrating experience.

Yellow got off to a strong start, with the Celts raiding Rome and spreading out in the north. Red puttered along with the Romans, and scored well with Greece, exchanging cities in Sicily with Carthage tit for tat.


I had a brutal time as Blue. The Etruscans struggled to hold more than two cities by turn 3, and then got submitted by Rome just before the scoring. Carthage couldn't conquer Siciliy against a committed Greek - the Red player even sent a Roman force to take Lilybaeum for good measure. The Illyans were wiped out by the Celts.

Scroring after 3 turns:

Blue 18
Yellow 38
Red 35

The Epirotes slammed Rome down good, killing most of his units on the map, then quickly faded away. Rome bounced back immediately with its automatic reinforcements, and pushed up into the North. Yellow continued to score well with Celtic raids. The Etruscans still did nothing. Illyia was irrelevent.

Hannibal's campaign was a debacle. The heavy fighting in Sicily meant I could only augment Hannibal's army with a single elephant from Africa. And I neglected to save money for the campaign. When I tried to invade Rome, Flamnius reacted from Florentina and killed six of my units in the first round of combat. Rather than fight a second round and have to face a Paullus stack that appears in Rome, even if I won, I pulled back and headed into the mountains. Another fight there, a couple costly overruns, and Hannibal ended up in Apulia with the remnants of his army - two elephants. Total Carthage score on Turn 6: 3 VP.

On Turn 7. the Numidians crushed Carthage in Africa, and then the Romans joined in the fun. The Romans also spread out over mainland Italy, scoring a whopping 27 points on the turn.

We called it after Turn 7 (and 7 hours). Score at the time was:

Yellow 85
Red 70
Blue 44

We agree we should play again. I'm generally a good sport about losing, but something about the Blue position in this game was particularly frustrating. The Etruscans are punching bags, the Illyrians impotent, and the big Hannibal campaign is a puzzle that can only be solved with a thorough knowledge of all the different nation cards. For example, after my turn I realized I could have submitted the Etruscans and moved through that territory to get to the south of Italy and score some VPs. My mistake is understandable, considering that this information is on the Etruscans card, not the Carthage card.

Which highlights my biggest gripe with the game - without knowing all of the myriad VP conditions and special rules on all of the cards, the game can go badly off the tracks. I can see the outline of an attractive game here, but I don't know that I have the endurance to committ to hours of card research, and another 8-hour session to really come to grips with it.

We all agreed that 20 hours spent on Pax Romana is time better spent than 10 on Italia.
 
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Aaron Silverman
United States
Halfway between Castro and Mickey Mouse
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Is Italia anywhere near as complex as Pax Romana?

One issue that has always plagued Britannia-style games is that you can't play a partial game (unless there are designed short scenarios) because the VP opportunities are not constant -- one player might get a lot in the beginning, while another gets a lot toward the end. If you stop the game early, then it won't be balanced.
 
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Rob Doupe
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Italia is not as complex mechanically as Pax. However, where the goals of reach player in Pax are fairly straightforward (capture provinces and build cities), the goals in Italia can be a puzzle. And you can roll with the punches for most of the special chromey rules in Pax (barbarian invasions, revolts, pirates, etc.), but missing a special rule on Italia can ruin your whole game (see my Hannibal/Etruscan example).

So Italia has less rules than Pax, but its' more thinky, and brittle.

As for not playing the game out, in our case we simply couldn't finnish Italia because we had booked only 10 hours. And looking at the nation cards, it was pretty clear nothing coming up could salvage my (blue) game. Carthage is supposed to be the big earner for Blue, but I scored only 3 points with Hannibal.

The only selling point Italia has over Pax for my group is that it plays with 3. So it's possible we could play again. But not unless each player takes all of the nation cards home and studies them beforehand. And there's no way I'll play Blue again.
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