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Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Not what I expected, and not in a good way. rss

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Pol Michiels
Belgium
Ottenburg
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Of all people who have nothing to say, those who say nothing are the wisest.
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Note: this will not be a full rules review, just me telling you why this game let me down. There's plenty of other reviews that will tell you why to buy this game, I'm here to tell you why I wouldn't, if I were you.



When a bunch of people got together and donated me a modest sum of money for my birthday, to be used for buying games, I caved in and finally got Age of Empires III (that's the name on the box, that's what I'm calling it!). For good measure, and because I am a sucker for completion, I also immediately got the builder expansion. When we had a couple of friends over, I dug out my copy, and we got to playing. I've played a few times since then, and my thoughts on the game stay much the same, so here they are: in short, it's a big letdown.

In long, while I find the game has many great concepts, they did not click together into an intirguing whole for any of us, and in fact we all found ourselves bored before we even got to the last round.

First of all, there are some things (buildings, trade goods) that are just plain higher priority than the other options. However, you don't see these before the turn order is defined, and as such it becomes a crapshoot wether to push for first player, with some people getting big rewards, and others getting only a minor benefit, or the uniquely fun position of doing something of no benefit to them personally just to avoid another player getting a huge benefit, while everyone else gets to enjoy their own action.

Another thing that we found annoying was the discovery tiles. While in theory these could create a nice "push your luck" aspect, the penalty for failure is just too high (multiple actions down the drain for 0 benefit), so you always (except maybe last turn) explore with a full team (or not, but then the aforementioned price of failure hits hard). Then it just becomes a matter of who gets a nice benefit tile and who doesn't.

Also, maybe because we played 5 player, but the amount of useful action always quickly ran out, and we even saw a last turn rush on merchant shipping for the hell of it because everything else was full and the discoveries were done. This lead to many uniteresting, and as such also uniterested moves by players.

The area control in the new world did keep us invested for a while, but ultimatly failed to compensate for the fact that the rest of the game was just tacked on mechanics that disjointed an already not very solid base to the point of tedium. We were all happy to see it end, so we could get to some good gaming instead of this yawn. To those who do like the game, I wish the best of luck and much fun with it, but for me, it's on the trade list to make room for better games.
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David Hoffman
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Cortlandt Manor
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While different people like different things, and there's nothing wrong with you disliking a game I and my group enjoy very much, it doesn't seem to me that this review is concerned with the Builder Expansion as much as the base game itself. Apart from the brief mention in your introduction, you don't mention the changes playing with a sixth player, the new buildings, the new discovery tiles or the new, "Builder" role players can choose.

I'd suggest moving this over to the proper forum -- the base game. I'm sorry you didn't dig what is, in my opinion, an elegant and challenging worker placement game.

Edit: seems to have moved. So that's a good thing and I think this will more useful in its new home.
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John Coates
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Sorry to hear this didn't go over well with you or your group.

Age of Empires III (that's the name on the box, that's what I'm calling it too!) has hit our table on a regular basis for the last couple of years, was one of my first board game purchases and remains one of my higher rated games.

I guess I could hit on a few of your concerns about building availability, turn order and exploring, but it would still boil down to whether or not you enjoyed playing the game. So the Trade list is likely the best place for it. You have more room and someone else gets a great game
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Todd Sweet
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Geneva
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The only thing I would caution before making a final decision is to make sure you are playing the game correctly. From your brief comments, you mention: "else was full and the discoveries were done". I can't believe you went through the entire deck of Discovery cards (after the map is done). Also if you were using the Builder Expansion, it also opens up the Speciaiist spot on the last turn to get victory points.

It's obviously fine not to like the game. Just make sure you are playing the game correctly you don't like :-) Playing everything correctly might change your opinion.
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Eric Brosius
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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I didn't care for it that much either. I think you review does a good job summarizing what I didn't like about it.

However, it's in the BGG top 50, so there must be some people who enjoy it.
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Lawrence Davis
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TMJJS wrote:
The only thing I would caution before making a final decision is to make sure you are playing the game correctly. From your brief comments, you mention: "else was full and the discoveries were done". I can't believe you went through the entire deck of Discovery cards (after the map is done). Also if you were using the Builder Expansion, it also opens up the Speciaiist spot on the last turn to get victory points.

It's obviously fine not to like the game. Just make sure you are playing the game correctly you don't like :-) Playing everything correctly might change your opinion.
This is the first thing I thought of too Todd as read. "Are they playing the game correctly?"

There are plenty of games that have turns where you might not be so inclined to take an action, but I've never come across that in AoE. There are just too many places you need a colonist to go and usually you want to be the first one there, The building and colonists' tracks aside, don't you need to grab that gold bar on the trade good track? how about needing to train a merchant so you can pick up some cash next round? No surprise I guess then even 5 players are not finding this fun if you aren't excited about getting a colonist on just about each and every track.

Oh well....thanks for your review just the same though. Not everyone can enjoy these kinds of games I know.
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Patrick
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TMJJS wrote:
The only thing I would caution before making a final decision is to make sure you are playing the game correctly. From your brief comments, you mention: "else was full and the discoveries were done". I can't believe you went through the entire deck of Discovery cards (after the map is done). Also if you were using the Builder Expansion, it also opens up the Speciaiist spot on the last turn to get victory points.

It's obviously fine not to like the game. Just make sure you are playing the game correctly you don't like :-) Playing everything correctly might change your opinion.


This seemed likely to me too. Were you using the additional pile of Discovery cards with higher amounts of natives and generally higher VP and money rewards? Was Initiative Track a tough decision the turn before in order to position for the best buildings in the last round? Was anyone using a lot of warfare actions with soldiers in the New World, also making certain warfare-related Age III buildings more desirable than before? Our group frustrated the heavy soldier player a few days ago by jumping on the warfare spots 3 times in a row. His one warfare action was not enough to bring his plans to fruition. On the last turn, we even usually jump on the Initiative Track to eke out a few last coins, and the final merchant ship is comparable to another New World area because it usually swings a 6-pt good for the final victory point economy trade-in. +3 pts. for winner, -3 pts. to one or two other players.

As everyone said, play what you enjoy, but could rules errors and/or group think be limiting the types of strategies employed?
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steve templeton
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the game is excellent !! with 4,5 or 6 players it is a nailbiter - but horses for courses i guess
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Pol Michiels
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mmmm... Horses...

I checked the rules, twice, after all your suggestions, but we did play it correctly. We did use discoveries a lot, I think the expansion might be to blame. Since the national advantages get you an extra specialist every turn, and the builders allow for more/easier capital buildings leading to even more specialists per turn (from buildings), statistics might have been skewed, but we actually ran through that entire deck. A lot of captains were obtained, and most went disvocering.

As for the other spots: warfare was full, specialists didn't matter in the last round, the merchant ship was contested, but only out of boredom, since one player would clearly win it, all trade goods were taken, initiative was full, the whole shebang. I guess the extra actions from the expansion really boost the game along, combined with 5 players.

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Henry Allen
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I would not be suprised if use of the expansion is significantly coloring your perception of the game. The base game alone is a very tight game with tough decisions throughout because money and colonists are both sparse. My impression is that the expansion drastically changes this (though I haven't played with the expansion yet).
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William Snider
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Played my second game last night with five players. I feel like my first game with four was better due to that fifth player. Just too crowded with the worker placement choices. I feel like it is a fine game just not too exciting.
 
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Brian Perez
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I would stay away from the expansion, personally. I played it a few times. Don't like it. Much prefer the base game. Back when warfare was subtle.
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Darren Dew
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Oooh, I agree...warfare *IS* subtle, in an amazing way in this game. Used the other day by one player on the last turn to exterminate a series of enemies and gain several scoring opportunities in the New World.

BUT, back to the OP; give this a few more tries. There IS a lot of competition, the better you get at it, but I can see how the first fewgames might seem to start blowing one way for a single player and never be changeable.

Our last game, I was DEAD LAST by about 30 points before the last scoring round. The entire spread after scoring was 19 points, bottom-to-top and I was four points behind the leader. Itsa great game.
 
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Ryan Finley
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Maybe you should just try a game without the expansion and/or without the faction advantages. In the base game that we play in our group, there are no faction advantages, and everything is hotly contested until the bleeding end in a 5 player contest. This is one of my favorite games.
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John Clark
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Yes, the expansion really changes the game - there are a lot more workers going around and you run out of good places to put them. I am still on the fence on if its an improvement or not.

If you want a tighter game, with more of those blessed 'agonising decisions', then I suggest you stick to the base game.

On discovery being a bit random, this was a definite design choice of the designer - he wanted it this way and was aware of other less random options, but chose this mechanic because it better suited, in his view, the reality. I think he is correct but it might not have been the best game design choice. You can house rule the discovery stuff, of course - you don't have to play it according to the rules and there are several suggestions on BGG as to how to make relatively minor modifications to the rules to remove some randomness in the discoveries, because you are by no means the first person to make this complaint.

On the randomness of what you might see as first player, I can't see the problem here. Yes, the buildings might be a bit worse than you had hoped, but even if you hate them all, then going first is still a huge advantage - being first on the ships to the New World is huge - often you will get three guys on the ship with everyone else having only one. Being first to pick from the specialists is also very good.

We played last night and I made sure I was in the first space most of the time and often I did not buy a building - I still won the game.

All that said, this just might not be your kind of game. I think that AOE3 is a lot better than Dominant Species, which has many similaries, but evidently most BGGers disagree.
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Craig Hebert
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Maybe, just maybe, play a game more than once before making such damning judgements.

This is a tremendous game.
 
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Craig Hebert
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I agree with that notion. The national differences don't really add to the game. The result of the expansion feels very contrived.
 
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Noel
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JacquesDeMolay wrote:
Maybe, just maybe, play a game more than once before making such damning judgements.

This is a tremendous game.


Quote:
and we got to playing. I've played a few times since then,



Maybe, just maybe, read the review before making such statements.
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