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Subject: Thoughts on 2-Player Urbanization rss

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John Drake
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Last night, I had the opportunity to play a 2-player game of Urbanization without the expansion. While I understand the limitations of reviewing a game after only 1 play, I thought the community would appreciate such-review simply because of the lack of information available about this game. As of date, most critical responses have been towards the kickstarter campaign and not the actual game, which doesn't do this game justice. Thus, I'm writing this review to give people a general idea of game-play and to highlight my positive and concerning thoughts about the game.



The Basics
The goal of urbanization is to create the most "prosperous" city, which is judged by an accumulation of victory points earned through building buildings (Houses, Skyscrapers, and Administrative Buildings), building factories, producing goods, "attracting" citizens, and maintaining a surplus of foods. While there even more ways to earn victory parts (Mayor card, invention cards, etc), the number of citizens you have is the largest contributor.

See, the number of citizens you have is equal to the lowest number of houses, work orders, or food that you obtained. Thus, when you earned victory points for building homes/skyscrapers... you may also increase your number of citizens. The reason why citizens are so important is because they score at the end of each round while most other factors score only once. But maintaining and increasing your number of citizens is difficult; if any of those three factors go down, your population will decrease with it.

Game Play
There are three phases within each round (Hire Character, Perform Actions, and Prepared for Next Round) and 6 rounds in the entire game. But, the bulk of the time will be spent during the action phase, where players will have the opportunity to do 4 actions.

Phase 1: Hire Character There are 9/10 characters in this game (10 with expansion). They essentially give you a "bonus" for an action.

Actions There are 8/9 actions to choose from (9 with expansion). Thus, while each player will only perform 24 actions in the entire game... they have a lot to think about.

1) Buy Land: Allows you to purchase adjacent plots of land you already own. Land is used to build buildings (which is necessary to increase citizens), to sow grains (which is beneficial to increase citizens), and to acquire victory points (through building buildings, building factories, producing goods with factories you have already built, and producing surplus grain). While I understand this cause-and-effect relationship may not make sense... all I want you to understand is that land is very important and has a cascading relationship with victory points. Furthermore, land cost money and when land is purchased, that cost is displaced onto future-land purchases. Each land-area has 1 or 2 plots, which is used to build buildings, build factories, and sow grain.
2) Raise Buildings. Houses, skyscrapers, and administrative buildings can be raised if you meet their conditions (Always cost money, often will need to be built on a plot or replace another building). They score you victory points and houses/skyscrapers may increase citizens.
3) Trade Grain: You can buy/sell grain from areas, which have different values assigned to them (1, 2, or 3). When selling, you must fill in the lowest-values first (Makes it difficult to make money). When buying, you may only select the lowest-values once (Costs of grain rises quickly).
4). Sow Seeds. Requires a plot of land, but get 2x back. Better then buying grain.
5). Receive Work orders. Gets you work orders, from factory tiles, of three-different colors, which have different values (1, 2, or 3). Values are important when you turn your work-orders into goods, through the produce goods action. The number of work orders you have also dictate the number of citizens.
6) Attract Industries: Allows you to build factories or replace an existing one (Necessary because factories are limited in the game). To build a factory, you need an open field, an available factory token, and often need the work-order action-areas to be filled. You get victory points for building the factory and each time you produce goods with the factory.
7) Produce Goods: Remove work orders off your player-area and produce goods with whatever-factories you have built. Receive 1VP per good produce plus money equal to the value of the cube (orange = 1 , grey = 2, white = 3). Be careful, goods often need to be of the same color and the lack-of-goods can lower your population/citizen number.
8) Collect Taxes: You get 2x dollars for each citizens you have. But the collect taxes value, of each individual player, needs to be to the right of the citizen number. Thus, too many citizens... you can't collect taxes. And, the collect taxes value moves left each time you collect taxes... meaning less of an ability to collect taxes in the future, especially if your citizen number goes up.
9) Inventions: This action allows you to purchase one of the invention cards, which is essentially the entire expansion. All the cards are available at the start of the game but may cost a lot of money to get. They basically modify the value of certain actions and goods. Furthermore, they give bonus victory points for owning specific factories.

Prepare Next Round Relatively quick book keeping phase where you will calculate citizens (and get vp bonus), feed your citizens (grains disappear), collect VP for surplus of grains, and update the game board.

Then you repeat 5X more



The Game When I played the game, my opponent and I chose different strategies. From reading the rulebook, I assumed that citizens would be important and thus attempted to increase the value of the three factors (Housing, Food, Work) together so that my citizen number would increase efficiently. By turn 3-4, I was probably earning 8 VP on citizens alone. On the other hand, my opponent tried to buy a lot of land and block me in. By doing this, he had little money to purchase houses and had a low-citizen number by turn 3-4. If I remember correctly, he was only making 6 VP per round. Furthermore, I built a factory early-on, which allowed me to gain another 2VP per round (plus the 2VP for building the factory). In sum, I had a nice lead and thought I was going to win the game.

But I lost. My opponent used his excess land to sow/harvest grain... which he sold to the market. He then used that money to build lots of homes on that land (with a character card to make it cheaper). That then allowed him to increase his population dramatically and earn VP for building homes. On the other hand, I was wasting actions and money to buy grain... because I had little land to sow/harvest. Combined with the fact that my population consumed 4 grain each turn... I was fighting to maintain my population. The prospect of increasing my population seemed small by the end-game because of how expensive it was for me to expand (because my opponent displaced the price markers to the plots adjacent to me, during his expansion, to make it more expensive for me to expand). In the end, I lost by 8 VP.

Conclusion
Urbanization is the type of game that hits the sweat spot for me. It is a medium-to-heavy euro with meaningful decisions that aren't mitigated by luck. It is an unforgiving game, but a game that will reward thoughtful play and punish careless mistakes. And it plays relatively quickly (For 2-players, you should be able to play it within an hour). It is simply a game I enjoy to play.

Furthermore, I really enjoyed the indirect, but influential, player-interaction. The character cards are strong, and you'll want to consider what cards are most beneficial to your opponent. The work-order spaces may give you work orders, but they will also make it easier for your opponent to purchase a factory, which will give him VP and a future source of VP + income. Not to mention, the trapping of land and displacement of land-cost can make expansion especially costly for your opponent. And finally, buildings/grain are limited in the game... which can be purchased to limit and burden your opponent.

That being said, this isn't a game for everyone. But for the gamer who enjoys such tight-playing mental exercise... there may be something very rewarding in this game for you.






3-4 Player Concerns
While I enjoyed this game with 2-players, it may shine with 3. The reason is simple... you have more indirect player interaction. The one thing that I noticed in my 2-player game was a lack of competition for factory tiles. With more players (and more actions), those work-order spaces would quickly fill up. Thus, players will have to weigh the benefits of collection work orders at the determent of allowing their opponent to build a factory. In sum, player-order and trying to guess what your opponent will likely do would be much more important... and fun

But, I do not think this is a good 4-player game. In fact, I think it is broken. I know those are strong words to say... but this has to do with the buy-land action.

See, all land areas are triangles (3-sides) with either 1-plot or 2-plot; the number of plots in the land area adjacent to any other land area is always different. Thus, the plots adjacent to a 2-plot-area will always have 1-plot, and vise versa. This is important because you are required to build adjacent to a land-area that you control. Thus, if you build on a 2-plot land area, you will only be able to expand into 1-plot land areas next turn.

Lets say you are playing in a 4-player game and "get" to go first. You would obviously pick a 2-plot area in the center (Most plots and 3-sides to expand to). What happens if your opponents decides to built on the 3-adajent plots? You may think they wouldn't do that... because those areas are 1-plots, but in fact... they should. See, buying land is very important in this game. With only 1 plot, you can never have more than 2 citizens. Thus, your first action will always be "buy land". Thus, every player will have 3-plots near the start of the game.

Considering that, your decision of placing on a 1-plot or 2-plot land-area makes little difference. In fact, I imagine most players will expand to 5-plots before considering whether to expand further (like my opponent did) or whether to start building (like I did). Thus, your decision is simple... 3 plots and allow 1st-player to live or 3 plots and eliminate the 1st player from any chance of victory in the game.

I strongly hope the designer of this game will comment on the must build to adjacent land plots rule... because quite frankly, it breaks the game with 4-players. Perhaps other players aren't as aggressive as I am, but this is a gamers' game that will attract competitive players... the exact players who will exploit any rule to win. I'm hoping that I've missed something in the rules or that the rules were translated incorrectly... but considering all things, the optimal move in a 4-player game is to trap the start player in.

Thoughts on Invention Cards
While I didn't play with the invention cards, they seem to be an integral part of the game design. Thus, they weren't some afterthought for a kickstarter bonus. I think Queens' decision to seperate them into an "expansion" has more to do with the fact that they make the game much more heavy and players have no idea how to value those cards until they played the game.

In many ways, the invention cards are like improvements in Agricola. New players will be perplexed at them but seasoned players will be excited about the different opportunities/strategies they create. Essentially, the cards change the "values" of many goods/actions. Furthermore, they give bonuses on built factories, which mean players will try to compete for specific factories to gain more VP or block another player from gaining them. I suspect they will add a lot to the game in a positive way.

Thoughts on Components
When you open the box of Urbanization, you will notice thick cardboard, tons of wood, and nice graphics. But, the functionality of the components is lacking in the game... something that will make it more difficult to teach.

The most unforgiving mistake is the use of a "$" sign for the attract-industry action on the factory cards. See, the factory cards have 2-3 receive-work-orders action-spaces followed by the attract-industry action-space; all those action spaces have the same shape and size. Problem is, the player who fills the last receive-work-orders action-space get a $1 bonus. Thus, a lot of people probably assume the "$" sign indicates the bonus.... but it is a completely different action. In fact, nothing on the board reminds you of the bonus.

The other issue is the lack of iconography in general. Thus the return area isn't labeled to distinguish it from the grain field. The cost of buildings isn't listed on the board. And the player aids, which list the actions, don't tell you if you can repeat those actions (For example, you may only buy 1 land-area per action, but may sell/trade grain as much as you want).

And finally, the dreaded factory and skyscraper blocks... which are both wooden rectangles of the same color. Personally, I just replaced the skyscrapers with colored cubes that I had left over. But honestly, I feel like Queens ordered the wrong bits or something happened during manufacturing... because those pieces are very similar.

Thoughts on Teaching
If you do teach this game, you may just want to play through 2-3 rounds and then restart the game. There are a lot of ways to earn victory points and a lot of things to consider. While I don't consider this game as heavy as some recent euros, like Vinhos, it's difficult to explain all the rules and expect players to remember the nuances. But really, this is a solid game for 2-players and may excel with 3-players. If this is the type of game that you generally like to play, I would encourage you to at least try it.
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Don D.
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Great review, thanks a bunch for positing- even if we were disagreeing in the other thread

Can you compare it to some other games you like in terms of it's depth and weight?
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Tim Seitz
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I think the issue with the 4-player game is different than you are suggesting.

Yes, if all players after the 1st player work together, then the first player is screwed. However, if the 2nd player plops down next to #1, who's to say that player #3 and #4 don't block in player #2, instead of #1? With normal placement, he'd have a 25% shot at winning from the get go. If he goes for the block, he'd have a 33% shot, since it's now down to 3 players, but he'd also have a 50% chance of being the one that gets blocked. So by placing adjacent #1, he possibly reduces his winning chances down to 50% of 33%, or 16.5%

So player 2 should pretty much always avoid placing directly adjacent to player #1, and this analysis would indicate that the blocking of player #1 should never occur.
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Alexis Perez
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Quite a simple rule fix is needed:

Players must build adjacent unless all adjacent spots are filled. In which case they may place on any spot that still has price markers.
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Tim Seitz
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alxamp21 wrote:
Quite a simple rule fix is needed:

Players must build adjacent unless all adjacent spots are filled. In which case they may place on any spot that still has price markers.

That was may suggestion as well. I'm not sure adjacency requirements add anything, other than forcing you to buy higher-priced properties.
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Wayne Applewhite
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alxamp21 wrote:
Quite a simple rule fix is needed:

Players must build adjacent unless all adjacent spots are filled. In which case they may place on any spot that still has price markers.


Queen Games, this has merit and it would be great if you commented on this particular rule change suggestion. It is no fun if you have to go through the motions of playing the game knowing that you can never buy a plot of land because you were blocked out on the very first aspect of the game (set-up); when in reality, the game turns/phases had not even started yet!

Anyone from Queen Games like to comment?
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Jason Reid
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out4blood wrote:
alxamp21 wrote:
Quite a simple rule fix is needed:

Players must build adjacent unless all adjacent spots are filled. In which case they may place on any spot that still has price markers.

That was may suggestion as well. I'm not sure adjacency requirements add anything, other than forcing you to buy higher-priced properties.


Well, half-seriously, they also incentivize you to buy land early before you get blocked
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Johnny Ebsen
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Hi All,

the situation that is being discussed here can theoretically happen according to the rules. But if we assume that all players are playing to win the game and not to be bullying another person, there are only limited incentives for number 2 and 3 players to try to enclose the first player. Both are at the risk to be the ones getting enclosed to all but one side, which increases the risk of having to buy overly expensive land.
And a little hint. If you start the game on a piece of land with 1 building ground, you have three options thereafter to go to land with two building grounds, before the prices increases.

Johnny Ebsen
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Wayne Applewhite
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Hi Johnny!

Thank you for the insight and for answering the mail. I enjoy your game!

Wayne
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Jason Reid
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Johnny Ebsen wrote:
Hi All,

the situation that is being discussed here can theoretically happen according to the rules. But if we assume that all players are playing to win the game and not to be bullying another person, there are only limited incentives for number 2 and 3 players to try to enclose the first player. Both are at the risk to be the ones getting enclosed to all but one side, which increases the risk of having to buy overly expensive land.
And a little hint. If you start the game on a piece of land with 1 building ground, you have three options thereafter to go to land with two building grounds, before the prices increases.


Hey Johnny,

What do you think is the smallest patch of land you've seen a player win with in 4p? Care to comment?
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Johnny Ebsen
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Hi Jason

It depends. With the invention expansion you can actually do with less land than without. I would recommend to get at least 7 building grounds and the quicker you go for them the cheaper you will get it.

Johnny
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John Drake
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dond80 wrote:

Can you compare it to some other games you like in terms of it's depth and weight?


While not similar in style, I feel that many Vlaada games (Dungeon lords, Dungeon pets, etc) have a similar weight and depth to Urbanization. I do think Vlaada does a better job in linking the theme to the nuances of the game rules. Thus, Vlaada games would be a bit easier to teach.

But overall, this game evokes the same feeling that many popular gamers games do (Agricola, Power Grid, and Caylus). All these games involve mental calculations and the players' decisions aren't mitigated by random luck. But thematically, I can't think of any game that has a strong resemblance to Urbanization. Obviously, the mechanics aren't anything revolutionary/new... but the game feels unique to me.

Johnny Ebsen wrote:
The situation that is being discussed here can theoretically happen according to the rules. But if we assume that all players are playing to win the game and not to be bullying another person, there are only limited incentives for number 2 and 3 players to try to enclose the first player. Both are at the risk to be the ones getting enclosed to all but one side, which increases the risk of having to buy overly expensive land.
And a little hint. If you start the game on a piece of land with 1 building ground, you have three options thereafter to go to land with two building grounds, before the prices increases.


Reading out4blood comments, the strategy of the other players may not be as optimal as I originally thought. But, that doesn't change the fact that the 1st player could be essentially eliminated from the game by making no decision on his own. To me, this represents bad design.

What is perplexing is why not simply include rules that dictate initial placement, so such thing can't happen? Or better yet, why include the must-build-adjacently rule at all? After all, building early makes properties expensive for other players overall. Did the game lack something fundamental without the must-build-adjacently rule?

Don't get me wrong... I've enjoyed this game and think this is a solid 2-player game (And perhaps better with 3-players). I'm just trying to understand that rule, for 4-players, from a game-design perspective.
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BaBang wrote:
What is perplexing is why not simply include rules that dictate initial placement, so such thing can't happen?


If it presents as an actual problem, I'd be inclined to make it more expensive for folks to do that rather than outright prohibit it. Like, say, charge people $1 for building adjacent to another player. Or start everyone with +$1, and then charge people for their first land purchase

Quote:
Or better yet, why include the must-build-adjacently rule at all? After all, building early makes properties expensive for other players overall. Did the game lack something fundamental without the must-build-adjacently rule?


Well for one thing, without it, folks would jump to all of the 2-building spots.
 
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Robert Rossney
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Lets say you are playing in a 4-player game and "get" to go first. You would obviously pick a 2-plot area in the center (Most plots and 3-sides to expand to). What happens if your opponents decides to built on the 3-adajent plots? You may think they wouldn't do that... because those areas are 1-plots, but in fact... they should. See, buying land is very important in this game. With only 1 plot, you can never have more than 2 citizens. Thus, your first action will always be "buy land". Thus, every player will have 3-plots near the start of the game.


If the rest of your argument were sound (and I don't think it is), then no, you would obviously not pick a 2-plot area in the center, because that would provide your opponents with an incentive to knock you out of the game.

I haven't played the game enough yet to know, but I suspect that buying land actually isn't the optimum first move. It's a good move, certainly, and you can certainly be forced into having to take it if the other players expand aggressively. But I'm not convinced it's necessarily the best move in all cases. I think there's a reason the game doesn't start with all players owning two plots.
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BaBang wrote:

8) Collect Taxes: You get 2x dollars for each citizens you have. But the collect taxes value, of each individual player, needs to be to the right of the citizen number. Thus, too many citizens... you can't collect taxes. And, the collect taxes value moves left each time you collect taxes... meaning less of an ability to collect taxes in the future, especially if your citizen number goes up.


Unless I'm mistaken, you only collect $1 per citizen you have.

I'm interested in trying a selling grain strategy as did your opponent. I've only played once, but from my limited experience I wasn't sure how a selling grain strat could be profitable, without having a very low citizen population.

The most grain you could have is 8. This decreases immediately after you feed your population. Let's say you have a small citizen population of 2, this leaves you with 6 to begin the next round for selling/sowing. The more you sell, the less you can sow.

You could make some good money selling (depends which barns/field are full), but I'm still not convinced this could be sustained for winning, since population would have to be kept low to keep grain high.

I'm glad it worked out for your friend, and I hope it is more of a viable strategy than I'm predisposing it to be.
 
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UhhhClem wrote:
Quote:
Lets say you are playing in a 4-player game and "get" to go first. You would obviously pick a 2-plot area in the center (Most plots and 3-sides to expand to). What happens if your opponents decides to built on the 3-adajent plots? You may think they wouldn't do that... because those areas are 1-plots, but in fact... they should. See, buying land is very important in this game. With only 1 plot, you can never have more than 2 citizens. Thus, your first action will always be "buy land". Thus, every player will have 3-plots near the start of the game.


If the rest of your argument were sound (and I don't think it is), then no, you would obviously not pick a 2-plot area in the center, because that would provide your opponents with an incentive to knock you out of the game.

I haven't played the game enough yet to know, but I suspect that buying land actually isn't the optimum first move. It's a good move, certainly, and you can certainly be forced into having to take it if the other players expand aggressively. But I'm not convinced it's necessarily the best move in all cases. I think there's a reason the game doesn't start with all players owning two plots.


I don't agree, that your opponents would kick you out. See, if I take a 2-plot-area, then player #2 takes one adjacent to me - which is a 1-plot-area. Now, player #3 and #4 can box in 2 player - either player #1, but for this they have to take 1-plot-areas - or player #2 - for which they can take 2-plot-areas.

So basically player #2 has brought the doom on himself...

This is why I believe that player #1 should ALWAYS pick a 2-plot-area, because it is less interesting for his opponents to take the adjacent 1-plot-areas...
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jasonwocky wrote:
Johnny Ebsen wrote:
Hi All,

the situation that is being discussed here can theoretically happen according to the rules. But if we assume that all players are playing to win the game and not to be bullying another person, there are only limited incentives for number 2 and 3 players to try to enclose the first player. Both are at the risk to be the ones getting enclosed to all but one side, which increases the risk of having to buy overly expensive land.
And a little hint. If you start the game on a piece of land with 1 building ground, you have three options thereafter to go to land with two building grounds, before the prices increases.


Hey Johnny,

What do you think is the smallest patch of land you've seen a player win with in 4p? Care to comment?


I just played this game for the first time tonight. It was a tense, very fun 4-player game and the winner only had 3 (or was it 4...) plots of land, with a total of, 5 or 6 building spaces. He never built a factory. I'm not sure exactly how he won, as I was more paying attention to my own land, and we were probably playing some rules wrong, but I believe he bought and sold grain quite a bit and made sure to keep up his population.
 
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colmustard21 wrote:

I just played this game for the first time tonight. It was a tense, very fun 4-player game and the winner only had 3 (or was it 4...) plots of land, with a total of, 5 or 6 building spaces. He never built a factory. I'm not sure exactly how he won, as I was more paying attention to my own land, and we were probably playing some rules wrong, but I believe he bought and sold grain quite a bit and made sure to keep up his population.


If you can, could you detail how he bought and sold grain for profit?

Maybe I'm missing something, but I feel that conditions would have to be just right in order for a player to make profit.

As I stated in previous post, this may work if population is kept very low (which was not the case in your game as you described). Buy grain, sow seeds, feed population, sell excess, sow seeds again. Assuming that the market hadn't changed much since he bought them (in the barns), you have to sell more than you buy, in order to turn a profit. This to me is why this must be done with a low population- feeding minimally with excess to sow.

If the market changes from other players, it changes for the worse: players continue to buy from the cheaper barns, causing someone with a selling strategy to fill the barns to capacity from right to left, with multiple grain markers yielding only $1.

Another scenario is if other players are selling and keeping barns full, and the field is not to capacity as a result of players taking "Mill Worker" card. A player selling could skip the barns and sell to the field for 3 dollars each. This seems to be a very unlikely scenario: if the barns are full, then players only have the 1 grain they started the game with.

Any ways, I'd love to hear other thoughts on this.
 
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dyepbr wrote:
colmustard21 wrote:

I just played this game for the first time tonight. It was a tense, very fun 4-player game and the winner only had 3 (or was it 4...) plots of land, with a total of, 5 or 6 building spaces. He never built a factory. I'm not sure exactly how he won, as I was more paying attention to my own land, and we were probably playing some rules wrong, but I believe he bought and sold grain quite a bit and made sure to keep up his population.


If you can, could you detail how he bought and sold grain for profit?

Maybe I'm missing something, but I feel that conditions would have to be just right in order for a player to make profit.


The grain-related inventions would make it easier, for one thing...
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