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Subject: Aztechs balanced with any number of players? rss

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Brian Pedersen
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I got to play this game the other day (Avalon Hill/Hasbro edition).
Looking through the Empire Cards, I was wondering how well balanced the Aztechs/Inkas are. It seems to me a player can get set seriously behind if the two empires earlier in the sequence are both drawn. The more players, the bigger the risk of this happening. What exactly is the trick with this empire? I'm thinking both play balance and strategy-wise.

These guys didn't show up in our 4-player game, so I didn't get to see them in action. The game itself, however, was quite fun and tense. Although the final round seemed to drag a bit, with players trying to maximise scores.
 
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marc lecours
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There are some powers that are weaker including the aztec-incas. But the majority of the time you end up giving it to the leader. So in a sense by being a weaker unbalanced power it ends up making the game more balanced.

Think of getting weaker powers such as the Aztecs or khmers as a punishment for getting the Persians or Romans or Arabs earlier in the game.

If the leader receives the Aztecs card to give, then he/she will give it to the player in second place.

But the real unbalance occurs not when the Aztec card comes up but when it doesn't come up. In that case, everyone was holding back by not giving the leader a medium card in the hope that he would end up with the Aztecs. But if the Aztecs don't come up then the leader can accidentally end up with a good power instead and take a big lead (especially if he/she) has a lot of powers on the board and counts early.
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Mark Jackson
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Well said, rubberchicken!

rubberchicken wrote:
But the real unbalance occurs not when the Aztec card comes up but when it doesn't come up. In that case, everyone was holding back by not giving the leader a medium card in the hope that he would end up with the Aztecs. But if the Aztecs don't come up then the leader can accidentally end up with a good power instead and take a big lead (especially if he/she) has a lot of powers on the board and counts early.


As much as I have loved the H/AH version of History of the World, it's stuff like this that makes me an even bigger fan of A Brief History of the World, since the empire assignment system (the last place player gets the same number of empire cards as the # of players, chooses one & passes the remainder to the next to last player - leaving the last empire for the leader) deals with this issue.
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Brian Pedersen
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rubberchicken wrote:
There are some powers that are weaker including the aztec-incas. But the majority of the time you end up giving it to the leader. So in a sense by being a weaker unbalanced power it ends up making the game more balanced.

Think of getting weaker powers such as the Aztecs or khmers as a punishment for getting the Persians or Romans or Arabs earlier in the game.

I can see it as a good mechanic if there is a runaway leader, but in a close game it looks to me like this empire really sets back the leader, letting everyone else pass him by. Not having seen it in action yet, I still fear this could unbalance a close game.

rubberchicken wrote:

If the leader receives the Aztecs card to give, then he/she will give it to the player in second place.

Unless we played it wrong, this would never happen. The leader is the last one to draw an empire card and would not have any choice between players. Right?

rubberchicken wrote:

But the real unbalance occurs not when the Aztec card comes up but when it doesn't come up. In that case, everyone was holding back by not giving the leader a medium card in the hope that he would end up with the Aztecs. But if the Aztecs don't come up then the leader can accidentally end up with a good power instead and take a big lead (especially if he/she) has a lot of powers on the board and counts early.

This is part of what I fear. The worst case scenario, I could imagine, would be for the leader to get a medium card and then the Aztecs show up, leaving one of the other players behind in the dust.

I am really tempted to have the Aztecs removed from the game next time we play. Or maybe move them to the first position in play order?
With only one game so far, I would greatly appreciate further comments.
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Dick Hunt
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gamemark wrote:
As much as I have loved the H/AH version of History of the World, it's stuff like this that makes me an even bigger fan of A Brief History of the World, since the empire assignment system (the last place player gets the same number of empire cards as the # of players, chooses one & passes the remainder to the next to last player - leaving the last empire for the leader) deals with this issue.


This system of assigning empires would quickly grow stale for me because it seems like most of the decision making would be fairly automatic. The first picker in line simply keeps the best empire available to him, and then everyone else does the same thing. It sounds pretty dull.

With History Of The World, it's not that simple. Getting to draw your empire card first (because you're last in VP's) is no guarantee of an easy comeback! If you draw a strong, early-turn-order empire like the Huns, you obviously keep them. And if you draw a weak, late-turn-order bunch like the Khmers or Mughals, you obviously hand them off to whoever is leading in the game.

It's the in-between empires that make the game fun. If you're in last place, what do you do with the Byzantines? They're reasonably strong for their epoch, but take their turn in the middle of the turn order. Are they too strong to hand to one of the game's leaders in order to keep them from going 1st or 2nd in the turn order?

The Incas & Aztecs are a classsic case of this dilemma. Do you guys really chuck them at the leader without a second thought? Not my group! The Incas & Aztecs are a pretty weak empire in terms of strength, but the fact that they go third in the turn order eases a lot of that pain. If the leader has his units scattered all over the map, do you really want him to go third in the turn order? How many of his units do you think the first two empires can wipe off the map before he takes his Incas & Aztecs turn? If the answer isn't "most of them," you'd better think twice about letting him bat third in the order! You can score tons of points with the Incas & Aztecs if you have a lot of units on the board when their turn comes!

If the leader has units all over the board, the chances are still pretty slim that he'll have any in the Americas yet. You're handing him both continents by giving him the Incas & Aztecs! If you're adding the Incas & Aztecs to a color that's already got units scattered in most of the other continents, you're heading for trouble.

Play the game a whole bunch before you consider removing empires for any reason. After a few more games, you'll see how wonderfully balanaced the game is.
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Dick Hunt
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Quote:
I can see it as a good mechanic if there is a runaway leader, but in a close game it looks to me like this empire really sets back the leader, letting everyone else pass him by. Not having seen it in action yet, I still fear this could unbalance a close game.


It's not the Incas & Aztecs that are the game's biggest balancing mechanism. That function belongs to the Khmers, who you'll probably see handed to the player who just had a big turn with Rome. That move comes off like clockwork whenever I play the game with experienced opponents.

I think you're approaching this issue from the wrong angle. The Incas & Aztecs aren't devastating enough to "ruin the leader." However, you can hand the game to its eventual winner by giving the Incas & Aztecs to the wrong opponent. Of course, this is true with lots of empires in this game. Give the wrong empires to the wrong people, and you can really hamstring yourself in this game. I think that learning this fact is the strategic key to History Of The World.

The tricky part about this game is accurately estimating the game's true score, which is very hard for most new players to do. Most newbies simply look at the scoreboard running around the edge of the map and assume that they have to "get" the player with the most points. Experience will quickly show you that the game isn't played quite that easily. While the score leader's 20 point lead might look pretty scary numerically, it's a lot less threatening if his opponents have ganged up to wipe all his units completely off the board. You need to consider both the score and the current map situation to accurately measure the game's true score.

If the leader is ahead by 20 points but has nothing on the map, he's a lot easier to catch than if he leads by 20 points AND has units all over the map as well. Don't give such a leader the Vikings just because they don't have much strength as an empire! Most of his older units would still be on the board when his Vikings took their turn, and the result would be a huge turn full of points for the guy. Good luck catching him after that!

Quote:

If the leader receives the Aztecs card to give, then he/she will give it to the player in second place.


Same general response: this is by no means automatically true.

There are three major aspects of every empire to consider: location, strength, and turn order. The Incas & Aztecs are good in two of these three areas. First, they're good because they get their turn early in the epoch. Second, they're good because they show up in an area of the board that has had very little traffic before their arrival. That means they won't have to fight for every inch of ground they take, an important plus for any empire that starts with low strength. Of course, with the Incas & Aztecs, it's their low strength that seriously hurts their value as an empire.

You can make this assessment with any empire, and you'll find that most of the good ones are strong in two of these aspects but weak in the other. The Huns have lots of strength and get to go early, but have a tough location because they have to fight their way over the Great Wall Of China...unless they want to walk clear across Eurasia for easier fighting. The Arabs have a lousy turn order, but they also have great strength and start in a location that's both in and near a lot of potential points.

Some empires don't look great by this measure, but some other aspect will still save them. Great Britain goes fairly late in the turn order and starts out in a very crowded area of the map. But they're the strongest empire of their epoch and they're great at navigation, so it's easy to use their strength wherever it does you the most good.

Quote:

But the real unbalance occurs not when the Aztec card comes up but when it doesn't come up. In that case, everyone was holding back by not giving the leader a medium card in the hope that he would end up with the Aztecs. But if the Aztecs don't come up then the leader can accidentally end up with a good power instead and take a big lead (especially if he/she) has a lot of powers on the board and counts early.


I think this is the true genius of the game--you're never going to see every empire appear in a single game, and that forces you to play honestly. You can't all sit around confidently knowing that the game's leader is going to get stuck with crap. Nor can you deliberately dump a turn by attacking worthess areas of the map just so you'll be guaranteed a good empire draw in the next turn. You might be able to guarantee an early draw that way, but there's no guarantee that you'll get the empire you want!

Quote:
I am really tempted to have the Aztecs removed from the game next time we play. Or maybe move them to the first position in play order?
With only one game so far, I would greatly appreciate further comments.


That's the key to it all: with only one play. Please play the game some more, and you'll not only see the light, you'll have a whale of a good time doing it!
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Mark Jackson
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DSHStratRat2 wrote:
gamemark wrote:
As much as I have loved the H/AH version of History of the World, it's stuff like this that makes me an even bigger fan of A Brief History of the World...


This system of assigning empires would quickly grow stale for me because it seems like most of the decision making would be fairly automatic. The first picker in line simply keeps the best empire available to him, and then everyone else does the same thing. It sounds pretty dull.


It's not.

Just like the original design, decisions aren't automatic - you do a very nice job in a different response of showing how the intersection of board position, turn order & empire strength affect your decision-making. The same is true in A Brief History of the World... you have to take into account what you leave behind as well as what you take.
 
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Chris Bender
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DSHStratRat2 wrote:
gamemark wrote:
As much as I have loved the H/AH version of History of the World, it's stuff like this that makes me an even bigger fan of A Brief History of the World, since the empire assignment system (the last place player gets the same number of empire cards as the # of players, chooses one & passes the remainder to the next to last player - leaving the last empire for the leader) deals with this issue.


This system of assigning empires would quickly grow stale for me because it seems like most of the decision making would be fairly automatic. The first picker in line simply keeps the best empire available to him, and then everyone else does the same thing. It sounds pretty dull.


I play with the Hasbro/Avalon Hill version, but we play with the drafting mechanic as a house rule. That one change has made the game significantly more fun for my group, and there is no way we would ever go back to the original method of empire selection.

In my experience the empire selection process is not automatic whatsoever, and people agonize over their choices. Also, since there is at least one more empire than the number of players, nobody gets stuck with the worst one, such as the Incas/Aztecs (although that is not always the worst empire).
 
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Eric Phillips
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I like the word "Aztech." I'm picturing cybernetic Indians. Cortes doesn't have a chance now!
 
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Philip Thomas
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Then again, the epoch VI empires aren't nearly as important as the epoch VII empires. Getting the Aztecs/Incas often means that player has a good position in turn order when selecting epoch 7 Empires, and I'll take Aztecs then British over Ottomans then Netherlands any day!

Also, don't knock late appearing empires. In every epoch but Epoch VII they are a good chance to set yourself up for the following epoch.

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Chris Bender
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Philip Thomas wrote:
Also, don't knock late appearing empires. In every epoch but Epoch VII they are a good chance to set yourself up for the following epoch.


I think a key strategy is to set yourself up for a late turn empire followed up by an early turn order one in the next epoch. You should be able to do this about once a game, and it's key to maximize your scoring when this opportunity arises.
 
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