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Tucker Taylor
Canada
Vancouver
British Columbia
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Doge is a game that I really want to like, but can't quite manage to. Full disclosure: I've played twice now, both times with four players. I'd feel a bit uneasy about writing a review based on two plays, but both times ran pretty much the same way. The first half of each game was tense and exciting, with advisor hats and houses flying every which way. Then, about the time everyone got to four palaces, it started to get dull and predictable.

Brief mechanics overview: there are six regions plus the Quarantia (doge's palace). The object is to build a palace in each region, or seven palaces in five regions, or eight palaces in four regions. The first palace in a region costs three houses, the second four, the third five, and so on. Players bid blindly into three of the regions (four with three players), and then the regions are resolved one at a time. The winner of a region gets its 'advisor' who can add one vote to a player's total in another region, and also gets two houses in the region. The runner-up gets one house. The advisor can be ignored in favor of moving a house into or out of the region. The Quarantia has no houses, but three advisors: the winner gets two, the runner-up gets one.

The opening rounds are an interesting jockey for position, as eveyone tries to claim a few early (more cost-effective) palaces, and use advisors to get 'free' second places in districts with only one voter. The mechanic of always knowing what districts will come up seven votes in advance means that some advance planning is possible, but not so much that you stare at the board for five minutes trying to find the best place for an advisor.

So, what's the problem? Put simply, there's only one practical way to win. The escalating costs of palaces make it inefficient to try and win with more palaces than the minimum six, so the last turn or two the blind bidding becomes almost an afterthought: it's obvious which districts everyone will be bidding for. The scripted endgame sucks all the fun and tension from the first half to two-thirds of play out of the dynamic bidding system. Personally, I blame the escalating costs of palaces: maybe a 3/4/4/5/5 cost scheme would help; maybe if you can buy a second palace at the cost of your first. This is the kind of thing that really should have been seen in playtesting.

I also have to comment on the production values. The gameboard and pieces are gorgeous, and the advisor hats are a neat idea. But, as one player said, "This Colovini game has too much theme." It's often difficult to tell which cross-topped advisor goes with the district you just took over, necessitating a lot of squinting at the board and the pieces. Color-coding them, or giving them more distinctive and less historically accurate symbols, would have helped this matter immensely.

Bottom line: brilliant voting mechanic, dull endgame. 4/10: not so good, it doesn't get me but could be talked into it on occasion.
 
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Aaron Sizer
United States
New Jersey
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I wonder if you're playing this correctly. I actually find that the game gets more interesting towards the end. The opening 1-2 rounds are often a complete crap shoot, just trying to build up a critical mass of houses and stay out of other players' way. Once people are up to 4 or so palaces, though, they have a choice to make. Do they go big in the districts that they're still lacking, or do they go through the back door, generating houses in districts that they've already filled (and potentially gumming up other players' plans in the process), then using the "abstention" power to move their houses around the board? The Quarantia becomes especially important at this stage, as it provides up to two "wild card" moves anywhere on the board. Even if you're pretty sure which strategy your opponents will favor, it's no easy thing to figure out where they will place. And even then, you need to calculate whether it's better to spend your chips trying to obstruct them, or to work around them and race for the finish. Without the rule for moving houses, I agree that the endgame would be impossibly boring--playing correctly, though, we almost always get white-knuckled finishes.
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Kendahl Johnson
United States
Albuquerque
New Mexico
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JazzFish wrote:
Players bid blindly into three of the regions (four with three players), and then the regions are resolved one at a time.


I think this is only partially true. You bid blindly into the regions, and then with your remaining voting counters, you continue to bid on regions (using the cards). THEN you resolve the regions.
 
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