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Golden Lotus
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Durham
North Carolina
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There have already been several reviews that tell you about playing Wallenstein, so I will try to offer something a little bit different – what it is like to play it.

Wallenstein has a reputation as a war game crossed with a Euro. This is somewhat true but I also think that it leans much more to the Euro side. Though there is undoubtedly a war game aspect to Wallenstein, there is also a mechanism in place that actively penalizes a player with too many provinces. In short, the person that spends all their resources invading their neighbors is not necessarily (and probably not) the person that actually wins at the end.

While you do get points for possessing provinces, it is the buildings that score you most of your points. However, in general things should be reasonably close based on a provinces + number of buildings built equation. What usually separates first from second is the bonus points for dominating in a building group in a particular region: the winning player will dominate one region to the tune of 5-6 bonus points and will catch some points from some secondary regions as well. So this requires building wisely, managing the available building spots you have in a region and capturing the bonus points for a given building type for the minimum investment.

The thrill of playing Wallenstein comes from the planning. Oh, I don’t deny there is a good amount of fun throwing armies into the tower and seeing what happens, but the real meat of the game is in the planning phase and then executing what you have planned, adjusted for the actions of other players. You plot what each of your provinces is going to do. No two provinces can do the same thing (except that two provinces can attack a neighbor on the same turn). There are only 6 opportunities to go through this cycle, so you must maximize your point scoring without giving your opponents any easy targets to steal your critical provinces (i.e. the ones with buildings in them). There is also the issue of gold and grain. Gold is fairly easy – the more you have, the more you can do on your turn, but you find it rapidly runs very short. So gather as much as you can. Grain is trickier. The more provinces you have the more grain you need, but you can only generate it from one province per season no matter how large your empire (I imagine this reflects the increased difficulty of feeding a larger population, though it truly is just a balancing mechanism). A winter grain revolt can be devastating to your chances in the game so you must do all you can to avoid such revolts. Of course you are uncertain until the fall of the year exactly how much grain you are going to need for the winter. What often happens is that you end up in a situation where if one event comes up you will be OK and if the other comes up you will be one or two short. Unless you have a smaller empire and/or a low number comes up for the year’s grain loss, missing out on a grain harvest (due to loss of the grain-producing province prior to harvesting its grain) is very very bad news. Missing your grain goal by one or two is usually OK: depending on the tower and where the revolt takes place, you will usually come through relatively unscathed. But as the gap grows the potential damage increases. So the critical planning phase is a balancing act: you must produce enough grain (without anyone interfering) and make as much gold as you can, whilst building as many buildings as possible. On top of that, you must worry about an attack and reinforcing your critical provinces is vital. And of course, these troops are very useful for that critical strike to capture a valuable province, whether for its production or for the buildings it already houses. In the standard 4-player game, this is a fairly tricky and occasionally agonizing process. The pain is lessened somewhat in 3 player due to the increased space (though it is still OK, as some provinces are removed from circulation). 5 player Wallenstein is one of the most agonizing games I have played. There is significantly less breathing room and the fear of neighbor attack is palpable. If the order of the actions comes up right, it is almost paralyzing!
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