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Subject: First step on The Road to Enlightenment rss

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Tom Chick
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Tujunga
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I've posted a sort of first impressions overview here, but here are some of the more nuts-and-bolts Boardgame Geeky details about my first playthrough:

Our first game was a three-player game, with three people who were very experienced with boardgames. As the guy responsible for reading the rules and then teaching them, I'm pretty disappointed in the documentation, the lack of consistency with terminology, and some of the gameplay mechanics, especially for managing the cards. We routinely had problems trying to sort out the particulars of how to arrange cards so that the action and enhancement were clear, or figuring out how to use the national action cards, or trying keep our favorites separate from other luminaries. This whole core gameplay dynamic is great at a design level, but at an interface or execution level, it's a mess. That stuff should have been smoothed out before the game was released.

But nearly everything else was an absolute delight. I loved how the censuses loomed over the action. As France, I was going for science early on. I got both medals and hit the top of the track pretty quickly, which I was pretty sure was going to give me a solid lead throughout the game. But then we did the last census in the early age and flipped the late age census counters; it turned out the game was going to end before a second art and religion census were held. This meant that now everyone was focusing on that last science census, and suddenly my position was threatened by all three of us focusing on that last stab at a big jump in the score. I didn't expect it was going to play out that way! It reminds me a bit of the way the scoring cards work in Twilight Struggle. You can't always be sure about the relative importance of various scoring options, and sometimes when they reveal themselves, it's too late. Great concept!

Religion ended up playing a huge (decisive?) part, and I think the dynamics of being a three-player game drove this. France and Spain did very nearly nothing on the Christendom track, figuring we'd get around to it eventually, and counting on the other guy to pull his religious weight. But early on, England nudged the Christendom track into anti-Catholocism. The 3d6 during the religion census (remember, we only had one!) helped immensely in terms of keeping France and Spain from devoting much to the religious census. And the +1 anti-Catholicism/turn for an odd number of players kept so much downward pressure on the track that it kind of felt futile to burn an action to move it. Before playing, I would have thought it would suck to be the odd-man-out for religion. But now that I've played, I wonder if that's not the better place to be sitting. And given the score at the end, religion definitely determined the winner. Check it out:

England 8 points
France 5 points
Spain 4 points

Crossing the religion track into Catholicism would have made it like so:

France 7 points
England 6 points
Spain 6 points

Religion, man.

Wars are simply wonderful! I love love love how difficult and unpredictable conquest is. It adds delicious tension to the game, it makes it incredibly gratifying when it works, it makes it even more incredibly gratifying to foil an attack. The negotiation process between great powers is a superlative tie-breaking dynamic. It came into play twice in our game, and it was especially memorable when Spain tried to take the Netherands from England and only managed to roll enough sixes for to enter negotiations. At that point, neither side had any cards to play or any coin to spend. The negotiations came down to a single point of political power in England's defense stack!

The razor's edge of supporting conquests seems really well tuned. Money was an issue for every single one of us, and at various times, we all had to let go of foreign holdings for want of upkeep money. Rookie mistakes, or historical reality? It certainly made us more appreciative of devoting good cards to the taxes and treasure phase! Not to mention piracy. Ooh, piracy. And that damnable Dutch interest card.

Our Spanish player ended the game having to discard seven luminaries on the last turn because he couldn't pay his upkeep. He figured there was no point bothering with it at the end (coins break ties on the scoring track, but he was pretty soundly in last place).

The piracy stuff in the military deck was really nifty. We got a lot of play out of that, considering we were all colonial powers and we were all drawing heavily from the military deck because we were trying to grab neutral territories. One of the lessons learned is that you can be really vulnerable if you don't have some extra money in your pocket, which again feeds into how much I love wars. Do you save those coins for a battle? Do you throw them into the defense of a neutral power?

I especially liked the deck building aspects of the game. By the time the game was over (we went 11 turns), I had a real sense for my cast of characters. I was really invested in who I was going to draw and what I could and couldn't do with them. I also had a sense for some of the other player's characters. I also like that you shuffle your exhaust deck every turn rather than cycle through it sequentially. You can never be guaranteed that character you want it going to show up this turn. Which again ties into the looming census. You don't want your good cards languishing in the exhaust pile when a census rolls around!

For three first-time players, it took about a half hour to explain the rules (although I did a lot of work beforehand trying to finesse the way the manual presented information). It took about two and a half hours to finish the game. The pacing was superlative, since all the analysis paralysis (Which cards do I use...?) takes place simultaneously, and then all the resolutions happen pretty quickly. I love how few victory points are in play, and how dramatically they can swing, because it keeps all the players invested.

A lot of times, I get through a new game like this and figure that's all I need to play for a few weeks. But in the case of Road to Enlightenment, I was ready to go again immediately. Enthusiastic thumbs up based on the first game!
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Thanks for your report. I'm eagerly waiting for my copy. I agree, the game mechanics are great but the rule book is rather confusing. It would be a shame if potential players would be scared off from this great game because of how the rule book flows. I imagine that the rule book was written as the game design went forward and therefore was subsequently written (?).

Another question: How well was RtE playable with three players? We usually play with 3 people, sometimes with 4. Most multi-player boardgames play better with more players...
 
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Francisco Pizarro
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Granville
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Thanks for the report Tom! Really glad you guys had such a good time with it.

Message received on the manual. We're going to do everything we can to smooth things out by adding to the FAQ and I am working on a step by step walkthrough from start through the first census to get people rolling.

As for player number, the game certainly works with 3. It's not my favorite number to play with (I love 4-6 and even 7 if we're in the mood for a little bit longer, more chaos filled game). I like having an even number of Catholic/Anti-Catholic players if possible but the more players you add the more the table talk erupts, which is something I love about the game. Asking an ally to help with an attack during the action selection only to have him or her (in the case of my cutthroat wife) decide to not help you or worse aide the other player...

Full disclosure: I don't like the control markers much either. They ended up looking like sidewalk chalk (that wasn't the vision we intended) and as you mentioned they are a little too big for the city circle. If we had it to do over again we'd try to replace those with small flag stands that fit into the city spaces either color coded or with each country's flag. Maybe a 2nd edition upgrade.

Anyway thanks for the write up!

--bill
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Thanks for the info bill. I think Dirk is still researching the possibility for a component upgrade for Kickstarter backers, so I havent given up hope yet to replace the "sidewalk chalk"
 
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Christopher Bartlett
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Marietta
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One additional note about the manual...

Its biggest flaw, in my opinion, is the lack of graphic examples. Because everything is word-based, the inconsistent terms and descriptors are magnified... There aren't any diagrams to use as comparisons.

Whatever you end up doing moving forward, the manuals must include images. I am excited to play this game for dozens of reasons, but I do not like the feeling of being forced to unearth a great game by digging through, testing and retesting rules to see what the instructions really mean. I just want to play.

This is a VERY COOL game, with a GREAT concept. I have faith that you will work this out.

 
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Francisco Pizarro
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cc_TheToph wrote:


This is a VERY COOL game, with a GREAT concept. I have faith that you will work this out.



It's currently the #1 priority. And I agree with you completely.

--bill
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Tom Chick
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Tujunga
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Shelfwear wrote:
How well was RtE playable with three players? We usually play with 3 people, sometimes with 4. Most multi-player boardgames play better with more players...


Mr. Wear, I thought it went way better than I expected with three players. I normally hate how most three-player games end up in a 2 vs. 1 dynamic, but that was neatly tempered by Road's close scoring, which is a factor of how few points are in play and how many ways there are to swing the score. So I would put this on a short list of games that I feel is very well suited to three-player games.

-Tom
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