Eric Alleman was interested in playing this latest game from designer Michael Schact and I was more than happy to oblige. I've played several times now and find the game very interesting and usually very competitive.
I am not as enamored with it as the first time I played, but the game still rates a reasonably high 7.5 for me. Another BIG plus is that you get lots of choices, planning and strategies packaged in a neat 60 minute time frame. Yet another advantage of the game is that it is easy to explain the rules quickly with few misunderstandings or questions. These factors alone should keep this one hitting the table often.
Along with Eric and I, the field of players was rounded out with Trevor Antczak, Elizabeth Gonzales and Jerry Maus.
My first two turns left me without a matching pair, so I was forced to place just one marker on these two turns. Certainly this is a disadvantage, allowing others to actually have two more pieces on the board in just two turns. My situation was further complicated when my initial placements were quickly 'cut-off' by subsequent placements by my opponents, negating my hopes of formulating long, continuous road paths. That tossed that strategy right out the window! So, I altered course and attempted to set myself up with advisors and the lucrative second scoring round. In my previous three games I was ahead entering the second round, but failed to capitalize on the advisor scoring and ultimately lost the games. This time, I figured I would sacrifice cloister placements in favor of getting my advisors onto the board in key locations. I did manage to do much better in this area, but it wasn't enough to win.
Elizabeth was completely ignoring the advisors, concentrating on building majorities in cloisters and establishing long routes. I thought this strategy would haunt her in the second round, but she has positioned her cloisters extremely well. In a number of territories, she scored several points simply by placing one cloister. England was her biggest coup ... 5 points from one cloister! Elizabeth led following the first round and nearly won. It was Trevor, however, who claimed the victory. Trevor had dominated England and had nice advisor connections into four separate territories. Plus, he had two road routes, each earning him 4 points. This was just enough to hold off Eric and Elizabeth.
Round 1: Elizabeth, Trevor -1, Jerry -5, Eric -5, Greg -10
Round 2: Trevor, Elizabeth -3, Eric -3, Greg -10, Jerry -17
Ratings: Elizabeth 8, Eric 8, Greg 7.5, Trevor 7, Jerry 3.5 (he hates most German games)