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Subject: After 3 plays, is it a wolf in sheep's clothing? rss

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Tim Collett
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Shawnee
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Introduction
Laying the game out, it looks grand in scale and even a bit intimidating. You have this board that has to be assembled along with all these different areas and wooden bits which creates what looks to be a monster of a game with choices galore. Now throw in some cards that make each round different and give people the ability to vote to make decisions that can alter certain aspects of the game. Add in that you have the designer of Alhambra who made the game and with some similar components to Alhambra, and now there is a bit of familiarity to the game. Finally, throw in some worker placement with the scalability of 3 to 6 people and wow, this is a cool game....right?

At first it can be. After that, I don't feel it is what it tries to portray.

Components
The game itself has some great components. Tons of nice wooden bits (I have played with both the regular and collector's editions of the game), a huge board, good instructions, a nice big box to put everything into, and the list goes on. Overall the components are very nice.

The paper money feels like magazine paper so if you aren't a fan of paper money, this is a bit harder to use chips since there are four different colors and each color has 1s and 5s but it is doable.

Gameplay
The gameplay is simple enough. The object is to ship the goods you can to get money to buy points. Certain colors of money buy only certain colors of cards and the point values range from 1 - 5 with a 2x sprinkled in for good measure.

The game takes place over 6 rounds (or weeks according to the game). The board is broken down into 7 areas which are referred to as days. Each person is given a set number of people for worker placement along with some of each money type, four random resources, and one random good.

Your workers for worker placement are a resource that can be (and will be) spread over the different days so be aware of how many you have at the end of the week. I will explain more about this in a few.

Here are how the game plays out by days in general (I won't go into it in detail but instead just give a quick overview):

Day 1: This decides how many resources will be available at the market in each market area, how many goods will be manufactured of each type, how many rolls of the die will be used to see if any additional goods will be produced, and how many ships will leave the port so people can get paid. Also, three cards are put out for people to vote on particular situations that can alter the round a bit (these cards say which day they are to be voted on and they are voted on immediately before anything in that day begins).

Day 2: Voting takes place here for turn order. Everyone has six cards (from 3 to 8) and each person will pick a card and that will be used to decide turn order. The highest number goes first, etc. These cards can only be used once and the number on the card denotes how many workers get put into the building on day two.

Day 3: This is all about buying resources. Each tent contains a random set of resource denoted by the card on day 1. If a person chooses to buy these resources, they must spend one worker for each resource in the area. A person can choose one tent on their turn and after everyone has had a turn, they may buy more resources by again spending workers for resources.

Day 4: People now bid to purchase goods that will be paid for using the resources from day 3. Again, workers are used to bid with each area under the good costing one additional worker each time (place 1 costs 1 worker, place 2 costs 2, etc.). Even though a player may put workers there, that does not always guarantee them goods. The number of goods produced is decided based on a card from day 1 and with some random die rolls as well. Any one that had workers out there but did not get goods will move to the front of the line for goods on the next turn.

Day 5: Using the goods from day 4, players can ship their goods in order to earn money. At the end of the turn on day 5, a certain number of boats will ship out (denoted by a card on day 1). There are always four boats available but not all boats will ship on the current turn. You can ships goods within any boat you wish but you may not get paid until future turns. Also, each boat pays with a unique type of currency (one of the four types) so be aware of that as well.

Day 6:Boats that shipped out will pay the players that shipped on them in the appropriate currency.

Day 7:People may use their currency to buy cards that will be used for victory points at the end of the game. Any unused cards are removed from the board at the end of the turn and replaced. You can reserve a card from one round to the next but it does cost a worker and it only guarantees the card will be there for the next turn. It does not guarantee that you will be able to buy it.

At the end of the round (or week), all the workers are moved to the street in each area. The workers in each area will be available to the player once that area is completed on the next turn so it is important to keep track of how many workers you have. Bidding takes place again and so on.

End game:
People get victory points for buying cards and/or having the most of a type of currency at the end of the game (2 points per currency type). Ties on the currency give no points to either player. The player with the most victory points wins. Ties are decided by money and then there are several other tie breakers as well.

Game thoughts:
When I first played the game, I really liked it. It seemed deep and had a lot going on with a lot of choices.

Now after several plays, my tune has changed. It is a wolf in sheep's clothing or more of a luck game in a strategy game's clothing. The game puts on a good front for being a strategy game but there are so many uncontrolled variables that it plays more with luck than anything else. You feel like you want to plan ahead (and doing so can give you some real AP) but after playing it a few times, you realize that there isn't much to plan ahead for because things can change before you get there (by voting and/or player order).

As another person put it last night, the game seems to last too long for what it is. I don't mind games with random elements and, in fact, really enjoy a lot of them. The problem is when you are playing a game that is about 1.5 hours and you really can't plan that much because there are so many factors that can mess up a plan that don't involve anything other players can do to you, the game starts to drag.

I wouldn't say the game is broken but it just seems like there is too much random to really learn strategies and become good at this game. You want to think ahead and then you learn that planning doesn't do you any good in many cases. You want to have some control and feel like you should but yet you don't in many situations.

To top it off, I wouldn't want to play this game with 6 people ever. The length of the game would be too much in my opinion. 3 - 4 people seems about right.

Final thoughts:
After 3 plays, my enthusiam has gone down each time. I didn't feel like I was accomplishing anything from time to time and with all the random elements, it is sometimes too much for the length of time. If the game could be pushed into a 30 - 45 block, I feel it would be much better and wouldn't begin to drag. How to do that, I am not sure.

Do I hate it? No, I don't but I don't love it either. I will play it from time to time but I won't work to get it to the table.
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Manuel Pasi
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Thanks for your insights and telling me what I wanted to hear
I half-suspected a somewhat less-than-deep game that just looks awesome
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John Di Ponio
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PasiMax wrote:
Thanks for your insights and telling me what I wanted to hear
I half-suspected a somewhat less-than-deep game that just looks awesome


Helped me too!
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Greg Parker
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I think the problem with the randomness is that the game is so tight victory point wise (the winner often having under 20 points and the range of points to last place often being under 6 points) that the inadverdent hosage can have a large impact on the outcome of the game.
If twice as many points were possible to be scored in a game I think the problem wouldn't exist, but in a game this tight it is a major issue IMHO.
Having said the above I do like the game play and want to really like this game.
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David Hoffman
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My feelings towards Colonia are as follows:

(1) people who dislike "luck" in games shouldn't play it. They will be unhappy.

(2) people who enjoy planning and risk, on the other hand, should play it. They will be happy -- when their risks pay off.

The thing with Colonia is that -- yes -- there's luck in the game. But, similar to, say, Stone Age, it's luck you can work with. Luck you can make work for you.

Now, I don't think one could do this (very) successfully on one's first play. But after a few games, I think you'd be able to see which things one might want, at which stages in the game. I think one would be able to decide which rounds to go earlier and which to go later.

I think one could "stock up" in certain goods and be ready for a high-scoring ship to appear. I think one could prepare for the uncertainty in the game and, thus, be positioned for big scoring.

The hard thing with Colonia, and the thing that frustrates me, is that the first play is often somewhat lackluster. I do think it's a really good game, and one I'm generally up for playing. I think it'd be great to play a solid 3-4 player game with experienced players.
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László Horváth
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Quote:
I wouldn't say the game is broken but it just seems like there is too much random to really learn strategies and become good at this game.


This is the same feeling I had with Alhambra.
Thanks for the review!
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Matthew Mesina
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horlaci wrote:

This is the same feeling I had with Alhambra.


Try Alhambra with expansions then.

I think (and hope) the two recent Essen targets of the "Anti-Luck Squad", Colonia and World Without End, are both gonna have expansions that flatten the luck somewhat, but are both fine games for people that are able to loosen up and go with the ebb and the flow.
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Joel Weeks
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I like the game a lot because of the levels of planning that are required in order to do well. You always have to have two or three plans going simultaneously. I am fascinated by it and think I will be for years to come.
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Jason Wiebe
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joelbear wrote:
I like the game a lot because of the levels of planning that are required in order to do well. You always have to have two or three plans going simultaneously. I am fascinated by it and think I will be for years to come.

I played this last night and I couldn't agree more! We have become so inundated with Puerto Rico/Le Havre type games where you grab one corner of the market and hold on for dear life. THIS game IS different. Yes, absolutely there's luck involved. But this game is about what you do with that luck (good or ill). You have to plan ahead - and hope for the best. There are other games out there just like this - perhaps this one is a little more unforgiving?

I can totally understand where the designer is coming from - a game where you grab what you can, make the most of what you can, and push everyone else out of the way to get any relics you can to make yourself the 'most influential family' in town. This game IS a wolf in sheep's clothing - it has much more bite than you think.
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Savino Palumbo
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What I have a hard time with is in fact planning ahead. I want to like this game because I like how it is organized (each week) and it looks beautiful. However I am trying to figure out how to plan ahead, aside from reserving a relic with a family member. You can board a later boat, or reserve a later craftsman, but it's really irrelevant because you don't know what relics are going to be available next turn (unless of course you reserve one). I would appreciate any insight you might have into this game's long term strategy, because I would like to get the most out of it when I do play it!

canucklehead wrote:
joelbear wrote:
I like the game a lot because of the levels of planning that are required in order to do well. You always have to have two or three plans going simultaneously. I am fascinated by it and think I will be for years to come.

I played this last night and I couldn't agree more! We have become so inundated with Puerto Rico/Le Havre type games where you grab one corner of the market and hold on for dear life. THIS game IS different. Yes, absolutely there's luck involved. But this game is about what you do with that luck (good or ill). You have to plan ahead - and hope for the best. There are other games out there just like this - perhaps this one is a little more unforgiving?

I can totally understand where the designer is coming from - a game where you grab what you can, make the most of what you can, and push everyone else out of the way to get any relics you can to make yourself the 'most influential family' in town. This game IS a wolf in sheep's clothing - it has much more bite than you think.
 
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Jason Wiebe
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Admittedly it IS tough to plan ahead, but you have to keep looking at the boats, and the relics, to see if you can get what you want.

Being near the top of the order is a must.

The last game we played was a 6 player game. and for the last turn all we had was one(!) ship sailing, with the large hold already taken by one player the previous turn. Yeah, we all got burned, but we had a great laugh. The groans abounded for the last turn and for me that makes a good game. I know not everyone will like that (what do you mean 'this turn is wasted'??!) but for me, I know NOW that if I had planned a little better, saving a better City hall card for the last turn instead of foolishly - but unknowingly - going along with everyone else (all of us played 7's or 8's the second last turn) would have made a world of difference for me. And I could have done so had I just given a little more thought into my planning - do as I say not as I do!

You have to constantly keep referring to the ships 'down the line' to see what's coming. This is all important I think.

It's not a perfect game, but the 6 of us had a blast!
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Tim Tuff

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Quote:
The last game we played was a 6 player game. and for the last turn all we had was one(!) ship sailing, with the large hold already taken by one player the previous turn.


Don't all the ships sail in the last round?

I played for the first time last night, and loved it. I can understand people's challenges with planning ahead. It's certainly different than planning ahead in other games I've played. I think that you can't be very detailed in your planning, and must be more willing to adapt to what comes to you. You do have to focus on what you can control, and position yourself to "get lucky". For example, you're probably going to go last (or at least late in the turn order) at least once. When will that be least painful? You're going to have to put 8 family members in the senate at least once, when will that be most opportune? Are you competing with another player for relics/currency of a certain color? - do you want to get ahead of them in turn order or not?

Obviously more plays may change my understanding, but fortunately, I'm sure I'll see those extra plays.
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