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Subject: Struggle of Empires Review rss

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John Clocherty
Australia
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Western Australia
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Introduction
Struggle of Empires is one of those games I bought ages ago, but had never played until recently. Finally the opportunity presented itself; there were three keen newbies and myself. After delving into the rules and playing a couple of games, we were impressed.

Components
The game comes in an attractive box, with impressive artwork depicting some of the key themes of the game – ships, armies, industrialisation and the like.
The board is sturdy, and is an aesthetically pleasing snapshot of Europe, with offboard style boxes for the Americas, Africa and India. The scale is pretty high level, with regions depicting the likes of South America, Central Europe and India.
The counters are really nice, representing the key units of manoeuvre and combat in the game – armies, fleets and forts. There are also tiles that are used for various purposes such as making alliances with influential neutrals, improving your country’s government or tiles to influence combat. There are other markers for things like unrest and control, and plastic markers for money.
I should say that the board and the counters, in terms of manufacture, seemed to be of a fairly superior quality compared to most games.
Assessment: Very Good

Rules
The rules are short for the scale of the game, clocking in at about 4 pages. There is also a quick reference guide. The rules are reasonably well written, although I needed to re-read it before we could make a start. Maybe it was just me, but the alliancing rules were a little unclear, but we got there in the end. You also need to read the tiles in detail before you can start to understand how the game comes together. But this can occur during the progress of your first game or two. The rest of the rules were fine.
Assessment: Fair - Good

Gameplay
For a game with relatively subtle rules, there is a lot of depth underpinning the main system in Struggle of Empires. You can select one of the main powers in Europe, between the likes of UK, Russia and France. All powers are identical. It does not matter too much which side you choose. That said, the location of your home country can have an effect regarding moving your forces in and around Europe. An interesting twist is that there is no combat or invasion of home countries. Normally, all forces will be in colonies. It is also possible to colonise parts of Europe that are not part of a major power. In fact, the German states will often be the most contested area.
Players choose Alliances, and bid for them at the start of each turn (War). It is a clever mechanic. The incentive to ally with another country is often to stop them attacking you, rather than have someone to aid you.
The name of the game is about sending forces out to locations around the known world, establishing colonies via control markers, and fighting local nations / tribes for control or other players. At the end of each of the 3 wars, players are allocated victory points based upon fully or partially controlling locations. Maintenance for forces must be paid. There is NEVER enough money, leading to unrest.
Combat is relatively simple, and is based upon the number of fleets and armies / forts that you have. It can be affected by combat influencing tiles.
The tiles are the real chrome in the game, allowing players to establish strategies for winning. There are many options including employing allies or companies, improving government, logistics, navigation, combat modifiers and the like.
The third and final war will find players eyeing the VP status, trying to bring down the pack leader and fight for opportune VPs.
In terms of game length, as always, it depends upon the number of players and their experience with the game. Our experience is it would take at least a couple of hours at a minimum.
Assessment: Very Good - Excellent

Depth
There is of depth to the game. There are many subtleties to the game that are not immediately evident on first playing. As stated above, the tiles add a lot of depth to the game, offering players numerous options and strategies.
Assessment: Very Good

Replayability
Replayability is high. Players can choose various approaches to each game sitting, and strategies will be largely dependent upon actions from other players.
Assessment – Very Good

=============================================
Overall Assessment – Very Good
Struggle of Empires is a very good game. It is not complex, but has sufficient underlying depth and subtlety in game mechanics making it a worthwhile challenge.

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alan beaumont
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No Struggle of Empires?!
Good review, SoE remains my favourite Wallace game and still hits the table at intervals. Try to get a 5th player to unbalance the alliances and add more pain to the auction!
Quote:
The rules are reasonably well written....
This is the only real surprise. Were you working with the original as printed, or the improved versions in the SoE entry? If it was the former you might get some big surprises if you read up on the FAQ.
Anyway thanks for the review and pray welcome to many more Struggles good sir.
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G. Gambill
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Shawnee on Delaware
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misteralan wrote:
Good review, SoE remains my favourite Wallace game and still hits the table at intervals. Try to get a 5th player to unbalance the alliances and add more pain to the auction!
Quote:
The rules are reasonably well written....
This is the only real surprise. Were you working with the original as printed, or the improved versions in the SoE entry? If it was the former you might get some big surprises if you read up on the FAQ.
Anyway thanks for the review and pray welcome to many more Struggles good sir.

Could you please link to the improved rules you mentioned? I'm finally getting this to the table soon. Thanks!
 
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Neil
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Here are the rules rewritten for clarity:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/30397/rewritten-soe

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alan beaumont
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Better late?
ggambill wrote:
Could you please link to the improved rules you mentioned?
Go to the SoE entry and sort the files by 'Hot' and you will get several sets and play aids to pick from.
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G. Gambill
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Thanks for the links and tips! I look forward to trying this one.
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John Clocherty
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Thanks Alan for the comments and the links to the improved rules as per above. They do look a lot better, which should help heaps. Cheers
 
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ANDREAS MILIOPOULOS
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KOROPI
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Nice review and comments! I also own this game for about a year and a half and haven't played it yet. I'll do it soon especially since there is an improved version of the rules.
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John Clocherty
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Indeed, it is well worth the time invested to read the rules and play. As I said above, the new rules seem to be a lot clearer, which can only be a good thing.
 
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Neil Parker
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Thanks for the review. I like SoE although i've not played it for a number of years. The alliance mechanic is definitely the key factor in this game and when this game got played it tended to usually be with 6 players - choosing who can and cant attack you, not to mention influencing the turn order, is vital.

There is never enough actions or cash for that matter and you're going to get some unrest especially since war is expensive and you're bound to lose units along the way.

In our games those players that did well tended to follow two key strategies a) chose between either a European or Overseas colonisation and b) if you cant lead in an area at least try to get a presence to pick up points.
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Ik ben een kleine boefje
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Madrid
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2006/2011 (Amsterdam - Maastricht - Apeldoorn - Den Haag -Delft) Vijf jaar dat ik ga nooit vergeten.
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A trully fantastic games I do love. I think key here is to be extremelly careful in the opening, since if you are too agressive or even too conservative (the latter in the case you had a bad starting setup) you can lose your chances in the game. ANother key is when, who and where to attack. In my games, the interactions among the players not allied with me and me are the key. I think it is a game about timing in which the key is to attack when and where an attack must be done. Of course this is very easy to say but quite difficult to accomplish.

Fantastic game, excellent review sir.
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CW Lumm
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Gelete wrote:
A trully fantastic games I do love. I think key here is to be extremelly careful in the opening, since if you are too agressive or even too conservative (the latter in the case you had a bad starting setup) you can lose your chances in the game. ANother key is when, who and where to attack. In my games, the interactions among the players not allied with me and me are the key. I think it is a game about timing in which the key is to attack when and where an attack must be done. Of course this is very easy to say but quite difficult to accomplish.

Fantastic game, excellent review sir.

This is all very true. There's also a long (some would say exhausting) negotiation element, too, and it's a game that seems to breed blood feuds - you occasionally have to screw over people you've said you wouldn't, and find really nasty ways to make your allies accumulate unrest.

That sort of backstabbing is both against my usual practice in board games, and also has to be handled delicately in-game because it can be deadly to put anyone totally out of contention. You want to have everyone at least feeling like they can win going into the final scoring. Otherwise, vendettas abound. I've won several games because other players engaged in a blood feud, leaving me to pick up the pieces.

One of the things I like is how socially engaging the game is. In my circle of gamers, the negotiation element is difficult, intense, time-consuming, and absolutely fascinating. Players [i.e., not me] who can successfully convince others that someone else is in the lead have a real advantage. I love any game that makes me feel like I'm in the shoes of Talleyrand or Metternich!
 
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