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Subject: Or why I traded off my copy rss

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Simon DeSmet
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There are already alot of good reviews for this game that explain the game very well and show pictures videos etc. So im not going to dwell on components game play or such details.

but first for those that don't want to read the length of my ramble heres to conclusion;Try before you buy. My key point is that the game can stagnate. This is probably very historically accurate to the conflict, but is it fun?



The objective of this review is mearly to explain why this game didn't click for me so that you, the potential buyer can pause for a thought before auto buying because it has a very very high rank on this site.


First off, i don't think this is a bad game, but i do think it is a game that will suit certain types of gamers and not others. Im going to try and narrow down the types of folks that will and won't get into this game.


So whats good?

It has decent components easy to understand rules etc etc. The game plays fluidly and feels strategic, it is loaded with challenging decisions, and whilst not strictly a 'war game' in my view it does feel like a game about war, and the mechanics do feel like the fit the conflict being portrayed. You settle towns, draft cards, prepare focused strategies and work at ways of breaking your opponents deck whilst adapting your own and accumulating points all the while.


Whats bad?
The main reason i traded this game is thus; This game is a verses deck building game (some may have thought this was obvious). It is a game where you ruin each others decks and throw spanners in to each others strategies. In the games i have played (about 10 games) this lead to stagnation, or early capitulation. Either one side would make an early mistake, wasting some time drafting some less than useful cards, and thus loose within about 30mins. Or both players would adeptly block each other and make each others decks increasingly less efficient for around 3 or more hours.

How so; Well in this game your going to draft cards such as military and Indians in to your deck and use them to attack either each others hands of cards, or settlements on the board. To be able to take a settlement, either with indians, or military you usually need to stack a decent combo or set, up in your hand, you then play it and hope your opponent doesn't block it (hopefully you've already used some Indians or other such cards to flush some of the indians or military out of your opponents deck), but NO your opponent has another indian card, and he blocks you, or some soldiers and the siege is drawn out...

In this game, successful defence makes the game longer. You push cards out of your opponents hand and back into the deck. He then cycles through his deck, maybe changes on or two things and tries again, and you are often doing the same. And its... attritional. Theres alot of, oh damn, time to cycle through my deck again and reprepare to attack here or there. Whilst at the same time modifying your deck to try and keep it resembling some efficiency by getting rid of the odd card, or altering your defence.

There are (if you look through the strategy forums here you will see) stratagies that are less attritional (well they can be a bit less attritonal sometimes) but there is some question of the balance in using them.

In my view this is a game for people who enjoy verses deck builders where you constantly scupper each others plans. Progress in this game can be slow, and the need for constant micro adaptions to your deck is always there, it's a game of constant adaptation. For some this will be great, for me, i like to feel like im making progress in a game. In a block war game, even if i loose a scrap, it damages blocks and shortens the game, progress of some form is made. In this game effective defence just creates more time.

For war gamers?
Ive already said this is not a war game, what i should say is that this doesnt play like other war games ive played. Theres few grand manouvers or risky gambits, minimal bluffing, and whilst there is some back and forth it feels more like retreading the same ground than tug of war.

For eurogamers?
It depends how much you like conflict and how happy you are with someone wrecking your machine. In this game the opponent can do far more damage to your deck than they can in Dominion and your winning machine will be disrupted more than it will be in a game like Puerto Rico.

IN conclusion

Try before you buy. My key point is that the game can stagnate. This is probably very historically accurate to the conflict, but is it fun?
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Thanks for capturing that concisely in a few paragraphs. Very helpful.
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Tim K.
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Quote:
Or both players would adeptly block each other and make each others decks increasingly less efficient for around 3 or more hours.

That's been my [limited] experience so far. If one player goes military the other play pretty much has to go military too and then you both end up plodding through military-heavy decks in the brief pauses between attacks when you try to do something productive.

It leaves little room for creativity and I've yet to experience much room for options in play. The idea of raids seems like it would be a neat element to add some variation but I haven't played a game where either player was able to make much use of them (one or two attempts). And I suspect if one player does try a raiding approach that you both build decks for that and then end up in the same situation as the military game.

Ambushes, how often is anyone using that?

As you say, this may be a reasonable model of the reality of the struggle, but is it fun? I'm not convinced yet.
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Manuel Pasi
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well written and unfortunately pretty much my sentiments...
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Holger Hannemann
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Thanks for the review.

I just wanted to point out that it is very easy for both players to keep their decks small. Once you understand that you shouldn't do everything at the same time but concentrate on one or two particular things (colonizing, raiding, defense, warfare, upgrading) the game flows very nicely and nobody gets locked out of the game. Cards like the Governor or Home Support encourage you to do so. This fact would've been obvious would those card have been part of the starting decks.

I think it is a good game but I can certainly see why people don't like it.
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Jim F
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Where the heck did this interest in WW1 come from?
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I think it's a game of limited options and becomes repetitive with play. If it was shorter that wouldn't be a problem, but as the OP suggests, it can stagnate. I've held on to my copy but it's definitely in the 'could live without this one' category. This, amongst other reasons, was why I was so disappointed it was BGG Wargame of the Year.
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Severus Snape
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Simon,

I interpret--and appreciate--your tone to be gentle, though your disappointment of the game is evident. Just a few points:

You write: My key point is that the game can stagnate. This is probably very historically accurate to the conflict, but is it fun?

Timmy also wonders: "As you say, this may be a reasonable model of the reality of the struggle, but is it fun? I'm not convinced yet."

As far as the history of the Seven Years War is concerned, from 1754-1763, the British certainly hit a period of stagnation, but with Pitt, grit, and Wolfe, among other facts, they won a decisive victory. In this sense, whenever a game of A Few Acres stagnates, it is not evocative of the period history.

Timmy, I think the game, by necessity, is far too abstracted to be "a reasonable model of the reality of the struggle," though I think it is evocative, whatever that means, of the historical "issues" surround French-British tensions in North America.

As far as not being a wargame, I agree. It does not fit my own concept of what makes an historical simulation, but there are clearly many others who are perfectly fine voting for it as a wargame.

Quote:
Try before you buy. My key point is that the game can stagnate.


Would this not be true of other, perhaps too many other, games besides? This is not to argue with your experience, but just to note that, often times, those games that stand above others are among the most replayable games.

Let's discuss a different "animal" altogether, the Card Driven Wargame:

Ted Raicer's WWII: Barbarossa to Berlin is an example of a CDG that, in my experience, stagnates. The reason for this is how heavily scripted the game structure is designed. It is not just a case of certain events having to happen before others can be played--a typical caveat in CDG's--it is that these events must be played regardless. Period.

On the other side lies a CDG like Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage, for one of the things that amazes with this game is how no two games are ever alike. There is no stagnation here; frustration for getting a lousy hand, deal after deal, yes; but then your opponent is free to stomp your face in in twenty different ways. No stagnation here.

I do not have enough experience with deck building games to be able to comment on how that design could lead to stagnation. I doubt I will ever have enough experience unless other history themed games, like A Few Acres, are designed.

Simon, I think you have made an intelligent effort to note the weaknesses in A Few Acres. A question: is this weakness because it is a deck building game, or because it is A Few Acres?

As for me, I still like it.

goo




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Simon DeSmet
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"Simon, I think you have made an intelligent effort to note the weaknesses in A Few Acres. A question: is this weakness because it is a deck building game, or because it is A Few Acres?"


I think the stagnation is linked to the deck building mechanic. As in terms of the cards nothing is ever destroyed, just moved further from your hand. Which then encourages you to spend time getting cards back into your hand.

I haven't played and card driven war games as yet, ive got Twilight struggle on p500 order, but it is yet to arrive. I want to get hold of Hannibal vs Rome, but hopefully in a trade.


In general i thank you all for the positive feedback on the review.
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Iain K
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DukeofChutney wrote:

Ive already said this is not a war game, what i should say is that this doesnt play like other war games ive played. Theres few grand manouvers or risky gambits, minimal bluffing, and whilst there is some back and forth it feels more like retreading the same ground than tug of war.


Excellent points, I wholeheartedly agree, thanks for the well written and refreshing views.
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Dave Heberer
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Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean that really got out of hand fast.
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While I agree the game can funnel into the same kind of play, especially with the same opponent, I disagree it's any worse than any other deck building game I've played. There are a couple of things that will cause it to feel the same in repeat plays, the goals and map are constant and the options presented to the player to customize their deck are constant too.

But most wargames I play have a very similar feel to them, if the depict a battle or conflict over time. The goals are always the same, and there are crucial spots that an astute or practiced player will pick up on. I think the problem comes from it being seen as a deck-building game about war vs. a wargame with deck-building as the driving behind it.

All that being said, the review is opinion and I certainly can't argue with the advice to try the game before you buy. I think the game is ground breaking in tying a deck-building part to a real game. I also think that it, like most Wallace games, are really brilliant with a dash of broken.
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Severus Snape
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Pascal said, "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me."
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Quote:
I also think that it, like most Wallace games, are really brilliant with a dash of broken.


Is this the gaming equivalent of "shaken and not stirred"? ninja

goo

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bentlarsen wrote:
Quote:
I also think that it, like most Wallace games, are really brilliant with a dash of broken.


Is this the gaming equivalent of "shaken and not stirred"? ninja

goo



"Oh James, you're a cunning linguist!"
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Lawrence Low
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To a large extent your point is valid :

1) deck building games have the drawback that it takes time for you to get the approximate hand of cards that you want again, and if your deck gets bloated, it takes helluva lot longer, if the combo you seek is very specific. That is why I hate & eschew every deck builder except this one.

2) you can alter/damage each other's hand & deck. To a certain extent, true, but not as big a problem as #1, since what you have in hand is probabilistic, unless it is a very thin deck. This recreates the "fog of war" so beloved of wargamers.

3) the stagnation bit. IMHO this is the weakest argument, as in my games sometimes it reflects the long gruelling struggle of a century of escalating conflict, other times it's just the 7 years' war (Anno Mirabilis scenario), and sometimes, it's even alternate history, when the French capture a key city for sudden death win. You do not always have to respond in tit-for-tat fashion, but since there are only 3 game ending conditions, it is still somewhat scripted. For example, I haven't successfully switched from a military heavy deck into a deck optimized for settling, when playing the French. Takes too long, and I cannot switch back fast enough anyway, if I need to.

And I really hate that to settle a place, I gotta have exactly that connection card in hand, plus other things, makes it damn slow IMHO to go for a settling win. And to fortify, same thing. Bloody waste of time IMHO.

Brits are still gonna try the HH, and probably won't try anything else unless HH is successfully blocked. French are usually initially responding to what Brits do, being initially strapped for cash, but given a breathing space, they have a lot of flexibility what strategy to apply.

4) My conclusion : this is a game to bring out occasionally & to play against reasonably experienced or heavy gamers, or wargamers, or history buffs....and if you have 1.5 to 4 hours. That's how long my longest game took.
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Don Smith
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What did you trade it for?
 
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Tim K.
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i7dealer wrote:
I also think that it, like most Wallace games, are really brilliant with a dash of broken.

Indeed.

And I agree that it is a groundbreaking game. Let's hope someone picks up the ball and runs with it.
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Железный комиссар
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Very helpful review, succinctly conveys the "why" of it. Thanks.
 
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Don D.
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I disagree almost entirely with this review, I cant see this game lasting as long as its claimed, youre almost always making progress to and end game trigger, and the screwage is less than in other deck builders. However, it's important for me to note that I think this type of review serves an important and much needed function on bgg and I applaud the OP for writing it.
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Severus Snape
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Pascal said, "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me."
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Quote:
However, it's important for me to note that I think this type of review serves an important and much needed function on bgg and I applaud the OP for writing it.


Don, how would you describe the role of this review, and others like it?

I find that negative reviews of popular games--having written a couple myself--tend to get the wagons circled with the goal of shooting the messenger.

If this review had arrived on the scene a couple of months back, before the "the sky is falling! the sky is falling!" gang took over the airwaves of discussion, there would be more critical disagreement with the O/P. As is, if you stop and listen carefully, you can just hear the "meh's!" and "whatever's" and "told you so's" whispering in the background.

goo

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The possibility exists that the first chunk of sky to fall whacked you on the forehead. At that point, it's not chicken little. It's the boy who cried wolf.

I love nursery rhyme metaphors...
 
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Richard Morgan
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What does "verses deck builder" mean? I understand the deck builder bit, just not the reason for putting "verses" before it.
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richiebabes wrote:
What does "verses deck builder" mean? I understand the deck builder bit, just not the reason for putting "verses" before it.


Poetic licence?

B>
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Don D.
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bentlarsen wrote:
Quote:
However, it's important for me to note that I think this type of review serves an important and much needed function on bgg and I applaud the OP for writing it.


Don, how would you describe the role of this review, and others like it?

I find that negative reviews of popular games--having written a couple myself--tend to get the wagons circled with the goal of shooting the messenger.

If this review had arrived on the scene a couple of months back, before the "the sky is falling! the sky is falling!" gang took over the airwaves of discussion, there would be more critical disagreement with the O/P. As is, if you stop and listen carefully, you can just hear the "meh's!" and "whatever's" and "told you so's" whispering in the background.

goo



The role of this kind of review is to provide counter point and balanced perspective on the whole. BGG is afflicted with a horrible case of group think, it's so bad that it substantially lowers my opinion of the community. Much more often than not, the groupthink is in the positive, and anyone who bucks the group gets shred to pieces for having a differing opinion. 7 wonders is a PRIME example. This gentlemans review was unafraid of being negative, but did so in a rational manner. That I disagreed with what he said isn't as important as the fact that he said it.
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Quote:
The role of this kind of review is to provide counter point and balanced perspective on the whole. BGG is afflicted with a horrible case of group think, it's so bad that it substantially lowers my opinion of the community. Much more often than not, the groupthink is in the positive, and anyone who bucks the group gets shred to pieces for having a differing opinion. 7 wonders is a PRIME example. This gentlemans review was unafraid of being negative, but did so in a rational manner. That I disagreed with what he said isn't as important as the fact that he said it.
Man, you have hit on my soapbox. 7W is horrible. Broken or not, I'd rather play Acres of Snow any day of the week.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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dond80 wrote:
BGG is afflicted with a horrible case of group think...

Which explains all the arguments and flame wars.
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Severus Snape
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The role of this kind of review is to provide counter point and balanced perspective on the whole. BGG is afflicted with a horrible case of group think, it's so bad that it substantially lowers my opinion of the community.


I agree about the group think; it is tough to buck the trend round these parts. Yet, the group think cuts both ways, either to support or to criticize a game. But this you know.

It is the well-written, well-supported review that is typically not found on BGG, regardless of whether it be "for you or again' you."

goo

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