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Subject: A Brief Look at Navegador rss

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Geeky McGeekface
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I’ve played Navegador close to 10 times so far and it's clearly my Game of the Year for 2010. I was starting to wonder if the Rondel games had jumped the shark, but Gerdts really did a good job with this one and proved there’s life in the ol’ Circle of Actions yet. Gameplay is extremely smooth and turns come very fast, since each action is very basic. The game is quite thematic and all the actions tie in nicely to the theme (for example, churches can be used to convert the masses, so it makes sense that they can provide new workers relatively cheaply). The game seems to be well balanced and I’ve seen different approaches work. All in all, a very enjoyable game, thanks to its speed of play and interesting choices.

I think the market is quite innovative. Gerdts gives us two kinds of money-making elements (colonies and factories) which work in opposition to each other. Colonies are most profitable when the market is high, while factories work best when the market is low. The interplay between these two types of structures shapes the flow of the game and emphasizes the importance of your opponents’ actions to you. To accomplish all this in a simple, elegant market mechanism is an admirable achievement and is typical of the game’s smooth playing mechanics.

Maybe it has something to do with my greater experience with the game, but it seems to me that the placement of the actions on the rondel is more player-friendly in Navegador than in Gerdts' earlier rondel games. In Antike and Imperial, the rondel seemed to fight you, as the actions you really wanted to do were so far away. In Navegador, while there's always interesting decisions, you almost always have something useful to do and rarely advance to an action just to get closer to the one you really want to accomplish. This adds to the game's smoothness of play and makes for a more positive gaming experience. I still like harsh games, so the fact that the earlier games seemed to make the players fight for their efficiencies doesn't bother me. But I do find I really like the way the actions are laid out on the rondel in Navegador.

The key to winning really does seem to be to do what others aren’t. This will not only allow you to acquire the things you need more cheaply, but means there will probably be more privileges of the kind you want for you to acquire. The privileges are the heart of the game and are the best way of boosting your Victory Points. I’m convinced that defensive play is essential, since if a player is allowed to dominate in a category, they’ll probably win easily. I’m really looking forward to games where the entire table is experienced with the design, to see how the interplay of defensive actions plays out.

All the elements in Navegador are carefully thought out and fit together like clockwork. Of Gerdts’ other games, Imperial, when it works, will still give you a more involving and exciting game. But I’ve also had a few games of Imperial that fell flat. Navegador may not quite hit the high notes of its older brother, but it’s proven to be the more consistent source of enjoyment. In fact, right now, I think I'd put Navegador higher on my list of gaming favorites. Regardless of the relative ranking, I can safely say that Mac Gerdts now has two great rondel games on his resume.
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Tim Seitz
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Glen Allen
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Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. 2 Sam 14:14
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Hey! Antike is a "great game", too!
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Patrick Jamet
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I'm glad you waited 10 plays to give your opinion. Thanks a lot. thumbsup
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Geeky McGeekface
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I agree, Dan, that can be the case in some games. However, I don't think you have to commit right away and I've had some success in switching strategies midgame (or at least modifying them). You have to have a sound economic engine to manage that, but it's hard to win in any event if you haven't achieved that. My feeling, however, is if the game is being played at the highest level, all of the players will have some competition in the areas they're trying to specialize in. Thus, your early decisions shouldn't doom you in such a game, since the other players won't cluster around your strategy (as it will undoubtedly open things up for another player). I haven't had a session play out like that, but I think it's possible and is the way the game is meant to be played. Until my group achieves that level of expertise, I'm still enjoying it a lot and have had pretty good success in picking the right hill.
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Philip Yaure
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I enjoy Navegador, but one solid issue detracts from its sheen somewhat. Our gaming group puts it like this: at the beginning of a game of Navegedor you decide what hill you're going to fall down, and hope you chose the right hill. In other words, if, halfway through the game, you realize you're probably not going to win, I don't think there's much you can do about it (other than hope that the front-runner makes a dreadful error).


Certainly the half-way point is far past the threshold for strategy altering, but it seems to me you can improve your position by diversifying early on. For example, I like to open by picking up a few colonies, an explorer token or two, and a shipyard (along with 1-2 of the relevant VP chits). That way I'm open for three different VP specialization combos (colony-explorer, colony-shipyard, explorer-shipyard), which I can select from once it becomes apparent what the other players are playing. And while I may be slightly behind in any one specialization had I chosen right from the start, the three work in combo well enough that I can catch up, I think. Ultimately, if you diversify well, I don't think one needs to commit to a particular 'hill' until right after the start of phase 2-- a reasonable threshold in experienced games.

Admittedly, it is hard to see in inexperienced games what the other players are doing that quickly, but the front-runner is likely enough to make a dreadful error in those instances. In reference to the OP, I think the 'defensive' strategies that should emerge will play like a game of chicken, with players prolonging commitment (both keeping their position flexible and making it dangerous for other players to commit) until the last possible minute. (Of course, this assumes that we colony-explorer-shipbuilder folks can figure out a way to beat the factory-church combo-- which came close to sweeping at WBC, I believe).
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Geeky McGeekface
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Very interesting stuff, Philip. You've certainly given me something to think about in future games. Thanks for posting this.
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