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Subject: Short impressions after 2 plays rss

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Paulo Soledade
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In this game players set monuments in a map/grid and try to get victory points.

There's a VP goal that can be different to each player. Along the game, when players get stuff that give them advantages, the endgame conditions get more difficult or, better said, more distant. There are two tracks in the game (actually is one track but with two different markers): one with the goal of the game which starts equal to each player but can increase when a player gets something to his advantage in the game. The second marker is for victory points and increases everytime a player takes an action that gives him VP's (obviously). The game ends at the end of the round in which a player makes these two markers meet together in the same spot or the VP marker passes through the goal marker.

This is a very good mechanism. In fact, this is my favorite mechanism in the game. A very good catch-up thing, because when you get stuff you simplify the path but you turn it longer.

Gods exist in the game and they give small but, often regular, advantages to the players praying to them. Once a player chooses his God, he can no longer change it until the end of the game. Also, each God, depending on the individual relative strenght, increases the end game condition for the players getting them. Chosing a God is the first part of a player's turn. Players can pick a God at the start of their turn until they get one. Only one per player is allowed in the game and it can be (or not) picked since the very first turn. Because they make the victory goal more distant, chosing a God is not always a win win situation.

Craftsmen are also in The Great Zimbabwe and they exist in order to allow players to increase their monuments, which is the main action of the game, the action that gives more VP' s to the players. Each player starts the game with a single size one monument. The two main actions to be taken are: make a new 'size one' monument or increase an existing one by one step. Increasing a monument costs the previous size in artifacts. If one has a size 3 monument and wants to increase it to a size 4 monument, 3 artifacts must be payed as a gift to the gods! These artifacts are made by craftsmen that players add to the game making them available for everybody to use. And they need resources to make what they make, of course. Diamonds and wood and ivory, all of these are needed to produce jewels and chairs and bracelets.

In order to use the resources and the craftsmen, there's a pattern in the board that is mainly referred as a distance in 3 steps (3 squares). If I want to use a sculpture to increase my monument, I can't be more than 3 spaces away from it. If I am, I may use anyone else's monument as a hub in order to gain 3 more steps and so on. As long as I pay for these hubs I can go as far as all of the monuments on the board can go, which is often, everywhere. The restriction here is much more related to money than to space itself. The most important restriction is, in fact, the resources in the board. These can be used only once per round (except if using some God's abilities, this is the common rule). If there's only a few resources to use in the board, there's a huge advantage to the player(s) playing first. And this is where the game presents us with the turn order bid. An auction is held at the start of each round (money once again) in order to determine the turn order. The bid here is quiet interesting too because players can get money from this auction or they can invest some of their money in themselves. Not brilliant but another very good mechanism that may work. Once the turn order is determined, players get their turns with a single action and see if anyone has completed the victory condition. If so, the game ends. If not, another round is waiting.

I played the game twice. Once with 3 players, another with 5. The interaction is very strong but I find a few problems in the game. The time of play is very good. It is playable under 2 hours. With more players takes more time but even so, not that much. The round is simple and straight: auction, action (usually increasing monument). Because increasing monument is what you want to do, there's a lot of fighting on the turn order auction for the position of play. Resources are needed and they are not much. The problem is this. You are always fighting for a position in the game that allows you to get the products to increase a monument. And you can't even try to make something different because you won't win (apparentely) if you do. There's only one action per turn and that doesn't help the gameplay in my opinion. I wanted to fight for the turn order but, if I couldn't get what I intended to, then I would go for a plan B. This plan is not possible to execute in the current turn because only one action is allowed and so, even if one wants to add more stuff to the board, usually that is only in fact relevant in a following turn. What happened a lot in our games, both games I played, was that the player(s) winning the turn order auction were able to play and do interesting stuff. The others would mostly build new monuments or invent something inocuous to do for the turn and wait for a next chance in the following. Boring to death. Also, at some point of the game, it seems obvious who is going to win because there's nothing new in the decision making. The game can almost be played in a kind of group decision in order to speed the game. Players need only to have money to spend and everybody can search for the least expensive way to increase a given monument.
Some good ideas in a rather uninteresting game. The best decision is always (just a guess from my short experience) to increase monument. The rest is related to costs and turn order. Very short in my opinion.


My other Essen12 impressions: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/148839/essen-12-played...
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Isn't that conclusion a tad absurd? Akin to something like "Age of Steam has some good ideas in a rather uninteresting game. The best decision is always to ship cubes as far as possible. The rest is related to costs and turn order."??

I mean, when a game is ostensibly about creating and managing a diverse and multilayered cost / turn order structure, it seems a bit silly to just brush that aside as a periphery concern. "Oh, Container is just about buying the colors you need. Nothin to it!"
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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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I agree with Nate. Also you haven't played enough. There are ways of negating the need for turn order for example. Our games are over in under an hour, even with four. The Shaman is your friend, don't forget about him.
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Paulo Soledade
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NateStraight wrote:
Isn't that conclusion a tad absurd? Akin to something like "Age of Steam has some good ideas in a rather uninteresting game. The best decision is always to ship cubes as far as possible. The rest is related to costs and turn order."??

I mean, when a game is ostensibly about creating and managing a diverse and multilayered cost / turn order structure, it seems a bit silly to just brush that aside as a periphery concern. "Oh, Container is just about buying the colors you need. Nothin to it!"


You're probably right. Even more absurd is to think that every game can be shortened into a review or something. Playing a game twice is such a short revision on a game that nobody should even comment about it. At a certain degree, this is just a honnest opinion, not a buy/like don't buy/don't like statement. I was disapointed at the game and that seems to be clear. On the other hand, I honnestly believe that many others would love it. To me though, it's almost reduced to that sentence you used. But I admit that I've only played it twice.
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Adam Kazimierczak
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It seems your group suffers from a rather severe case of groupthink or the Abilene Paradox. But I appreciate that the game didn't engage you enough to rise above the sum of its mechanics. Caylus is like that for me: I respect that it's a great game, however I can't get past how "un-fun" it is.
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J C Lawrence
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Soledade wrote:
The time of play is very good. It is playable under 2 hours.


I wish it were 50%-75% longer.

Underline added:

Quote:
The round is simple and straight: auction, action (usually increasing monument).


This (the underlined) is Bad Play.

Quote:
The problem is this. You are always fighting for a position in the game that allows you to get the products to increase a monument.


Many of these fights take place over several turns (3-4 is common).

Quote:
And you can't even try to make something different because you won't win (apparentely) if you do.


False.

Quote:
What happened a lot in our games, both games I played, was that the player(s) winning the turn order auction were able to play and do interesting stuff.


This is why the game is generally played 2-4 turns out in the future of the current turn. Very little of interest ever happens in the current turn given competent play. A great deal of interest to the game state in 2-4 turns happens in the current turn.

Quote:
Also, at some point of the game, it seems obvious who is going to win because there's nothing new in the decision making.


As with any game, if that is true then the game is over and can be safely called.

Quote:
The best decision is always (just a guess from my short experience) to increase monument.


False.
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David desJardins
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I played the game once and I probably won't play it again. But this review seems too superficial. I can explain the reasons I don't like the game that much, they are much more solid than "only one player gets to do anything each turn". That sounds like the statement of a group of players who haven't even figured out how to aim for victory, yet. Also, if you're playing with 5 new players (or probably even 3) then other players are going to do random things (because they are just learning to play) and that's inevitably going to make the game outcome totally random. That could be true if you were the world's greatest player; if everyone else plays at random then you will have little ability to control your own fate. It's once you can count on other players to play in their own interest, at least to some extent, that the game could get more interesting. For people who like this kind of game.
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Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro
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Having played the same 2 games (3 and 5 players):

Pros
- Great auction mechanic
- Clever payment engine (creates a nice feel of growth)
- "Replayability"
- Victory Requirements mechanic

Cons
- Dry and abstract
- "Puzzly Race game" feeling
- Anticlimactic game end
- Balance issues on cards-special powers


I really wanted to love this game but... i just like it... 7/10
No False or True...
Just an opinion. Mine.
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David desJardins
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Sentieiro wrote:
Cons
- Dry and abstract
- "Puzzly Race game" feeling
- Anticlimactic game end
- Balance issues on cards-special powers


I think this is a list of the designer's goals!
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Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Sentieiro wrote:
Cons
- Dry and abstract
- "Puzzly Race game" feeling
- Anticlimactic game end
- Balance issues on cards-special powers


I think this is a list of the designer's goals!


My point exactly !
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David desJardins
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The "con" that I think is the most significant to me, and the one that didn't even make Nuno's list, is the "negative play" from building level 2 craftsmen, which inherently make the level 1 craftsmen less valuable. This means a lot of the balance of the game aeems, to me, to come from players deciding that someone is doing too well and so someone else has to "bell the cat" by building the level 2 craftsmen that make their level 1 craftsmen less valuable. Sure, there are ways you can make this more attractive, e.g., in the specialists and gods you choose, but it's still fundamentally about, Joe is going to win unless someone does this thing they don't particularly want to do but will slow him way down. Some people like that kind of game but I don't really care for it myself.
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Martins Livens
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7/10 here too, but my only objection is that it's more tactical while I enjoy more strategic games.
Though I can't blame designers, it's shorter game and highly interactive as promised.

BTW 7 is still high rating from me.

Sentieiro wrote:
Having played the same 2 games (3 and 5 players):

Pros
- Great auction mechanic
- Clever payment engine (creates a nice feel of growth)
- "Replayability"
- Victory Requirements mechanic

Cons
- Dry and abstract
- "Puzzly Race game" feeling
- Anticlimactic game end
- Balance issues on cards-special powers


I really wanted to love this game but... i just like it... 7/10
No False or True...
Just an opinion. Mine.
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Paulo Soledade
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clearclaw wrote:
Soledade wrote:

And you can't even try to make something different because you won't win (apparentely) if you do.


False.


Let's just assume that I'm buying this discussion. Can you please indulge me and give some strategies other than developing (increasing) monuments in order to win? I've only played the game twice (my underline here).
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David desJardins
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It seems a safe statement to me that no one is going to win this game without ever increasing the level of a monument. I guess you could try to score 4 points/turn by just building 2 monuments/turn, and doing nothing else, but it seems too slow.
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Martins Livens
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DaviddesJ wrote:
It seems a safe statement to me that no one is going to win this game without ever increasing the level of a monument. I guess you could try to score 4 points/turn by just building 2 monuments/turn, and doing nothing else, but it seems too slow.


Two new monuments? isn't it only 2 points?
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David desJardins
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Oops, yeah, sorry. It probably wouldn't even be enough at 2 VP/monument but it's definitely not enough at 1 VP/monument.
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J C Lawrence
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Soledade wrote:
Let's just assume that I'm buying this discussion. Can you please indulge me and give some strategies other than developing (increasing) monuments in order to win? I've only played the game twice (my underline here).


I've played four times and watched two games I didn't play in. Yesterday's game, my fourth, was the first game in which I felt I played faintly competently.

Craftsmen offer VPs, as does simply placing monuments without increasing the height of monuments. I've seen two games won by players with only a small handful of height-2 monuments and all the rest 1-high. I've also seen a game won by a player the majority of whose VPs came from placed craftsmen.

DaviddesJ wrote:
Oops, yeah, sorry. It probably wouldn't even be enough at 2 VP/monument but it's definitely not enough at 1 VP/monument.


This is mostly a question of how long the games goes and of the curve of craftsmen pricing. Without claiming good play on anyone's part, yesterday's game lasted 7 turns (with better play I expect it would have been a 9 or 10 turn game), during which time I placed 10 monuments on 5 different turns and upgraded 8 monuments across 2 turns, thus equalling my VR of 27. I lost to a player that exceeded their VR by 2 on that turn. The other players were 1-2 turns behind. If I had delayed and upgraded monuments only once rather than twice, I would have lost on the first tie-breaker. With any of a large number of other butterfly effects, the results would have been quite different.

More broadly: constant monument upgrades and related resource availability fights are by no means a necessity in the game.
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David desJardins
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clearclaw wrote:
I've seen two games won by players with only a small handful of height-2 monuments and all the rest 1-high.


I can fit a lot of height-2 monuments in my hand! A small handful would probably be 20 or so.
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DaviddesJ wrote:
but it's still fundamentally about, Joe is going to win unless someone does this thing they don't particularly want to do but will slow him way down.


How's this? Why, in the fundamental case, wouldn't I particularly want to build a level 2 craftsman?

Sure, I can imagine instances where I would want to avoid a particular level 2 tech, but I imagine that often enough there's someone at the table who can profit well from building that craftsman. The fact that it disrupts Joe's path to victory is delicious gravy, and a primary appeal of the game for me.
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Don D.
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I find myself taking the increase monuments action typically 2 or 3 times during a game. One game i Took it only once.mI've played 10 times. A lot of what you are saying in this review as a static certainty is in fact very dependent on god and shaman selection from game to game.


I appreciate your effort at adding a negative review on the game to balance opinions.
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jasonwocky wrote:
How's this? Why, in the fundamental case, wouldn't I particularly want to build a level 2 craftsman?


Well, in the fundamental case, it's worth negative VPs, it's unlikely to generate any income for you before the game ends, and to use it you also have to pay for another craftsman. If building the level-2 craftsmen didn't interfere with the level-1 craftsmen, they would pretty much never get built.

Quote:
The fact that it disrupts Joe's path to victory is delicious gravy, and a primary appeal of the game for me.


This explains why I don't like the game, better than I did. Thanks for improving on my exposition.
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Jason Reid
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DaviddesJ wrote:
jasonwocky wrote:
How's this? Why, in the fundamental case, wouldn't I particularly want to build a level 2 craftsman?


Well, in the fundamental case, it's worth negative VPs, it's unlikely to generate any income for you before the game ends, and to use it you also have to pay for another craftsman. If building the level-2 craftsmen didn't interfere with the level-1 craftsmen, they would pretty much never get built.


Interesting. The bolded part doesn't jive with my limited experience.
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J C Lawrence
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Well, in the fundamental case, it's worth negative VPs, it's unlikely to generate any income for you before the game ends, and to use it you also have to pay for another craftsman. If building the level-2 craftsmen didn't interfere with the level-1 craftsmen, they would pretty much never get built.


On the last turn of my third game I built 3 level-1 craftsmen and 5 level-2 craftsmen for a net gain of 10 VPs (yeah, 26 cows). With greater resource availability I could have upgraded monuments for 12 VPs -- clearly better for that single turn, but not better if the game had gone a little longer.

In a game I watched, the level-2 craftsmen came out on turn 2, and by turn 4 all possible craftsmen had been placed short of Shaman-use. The level-2 craftsmen paid well in that game.
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Guillaume HALLIER
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I played the game 3 times : 3, 5 and 4 players.

Our last game, the winner was almost predicted, but a smart turn order bid of the last player on the scoring track slowed down the first. Better than that, he managed to get boosted. Then we were all eligible for victory and the game ended with all of us reaching our VR in the same turn. The scores ended at +6, +5, +3, +2 and it was the one who was the last (at the score) during almost all the game that won it !

It was epic and each player was trying to slow down the others.

As other players already said, I think that upgrading each turn at all costs is usually a mistake (depending on the game setup of course). Sure you'll need to upgrade, but there are a lot of other very good building actions to take !

For the secondary craftmen, it costs you VR +3 and 4 cattles each. But you can built them more than once ! If you place the first one in a good spot, then you can build another one later - when you cannot upgrade because of the turn order for example ! So if you build 2 of those, then it's a total VP gain of +1 (+3 VR then +2+2 VP). You have to build up your own economy of course, but it can be fast to get the money back if you placed it well !

Imho of course, and only after 3 plays.
(sorry for the spelling and grammar).
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David desJardins
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clearclaw wrote:
On the last turn of my third game I built 3 level-1 craftsmen and 5 level-2 craftsmen for a net gain of 10 VPs (yeah, 26 cows). With greater resource availability I could have upgraded monuments for 12 VPs -- clearly better for that single turn, but not better if the game had gone a little longer.


The whole thing sounds funny. The only way you could get a net gain of 10 VPs is if you only have to take one new technology. That means you've already got at least three other technologies and three craftsmen on the board. So you're building 11 craftsmen over the course of the game, at a cost of 34 cows (possibly less some income), for a net gain of 6 VP at best (17 VP for the craftsmen, minus at least +11 VR).

This can't possibly be a winning strategy unless your opponents are playing very strangely.

Another possibility is that you're taking and using Gu, and just didn't mention that (!). But then you have to count its cost of 6 VR against you, so the net gain is only 4 VPs for your 26 cows....
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