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Subject: Why Archipelago Deserves to be Played rss

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Bryant Ross
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With the release of Archipelago, I expected lots of overly enthusiastic reviews, a steady climb up "the Hotness," and the requisite 15 minutes of fame lavished upon it by the Cult of the New. Doubly so since, after having bought and played Archipelago several times, I concluded Christophe Boelinger had designed yet another masterpiece; successfully blending several popular Euro mechanics into a single deep and thematic experience. To my surprise, there are no gushing reviews, no ascent to the top of "the Hotness," and the BGG threads have largely consisted of grumblings over the components and ways the rules aren't worded adequately. I'm not saying Archipelago deserves the Cult of the New treatment, it is a heavy game with some aspects which may not be for everyone. But it deserves better than this! So I in an attempt to set the record straight, this review will not only address some of those gripes, but also discuss everything Archipelago gets right (which is a lot more than the naysayers would suggest).

Why Archipelago might not be for you:

Rather than label aspects as "bad," I think it'd more appropriate to highlight elements of Archipelago which some gamers might not enjoy. They are not "bad" elements, just some things you should be aware of before reading various BGG threads and thinking this game is a stinker.

The Components:

This is a matter of form over function. Each and every tile in Archipelago is unique; they each contain tiny huts that need to be counted when a new tile is added to the board. Some of the huts are round; others are square, and they are all incorporated into the scenery to look natural. Does it make them hard to count from three feet away? Of course. But no one in my group has had trouble finding the huts while holding the tile in-hand. Christophe Boelinger has stated that he set out to create a Euro where the theme isn't just pasted on. And in doing so, he has crafted a game where the components and artwork are a thing of beauty. Does this sacrifice some functionality? Yes.

So you have to ask yourself whether or not you prefer functionality above all else. I personally appreciate the extra attention to visual detail; it makes the game aesthetically appealing. It's why we gamers swap out the cubes in Agricola for "Animeeples." It's why we gush over collector's editions of games and DYI customizations. Archipelago goes the extra mile to look amazing on the table and as a result, doesn't feel like every other thematically generic Euro game. If that means playing a bit of "Where's Waldo" when counting huts, I'll gladly take that any day!

Hidden Objectives/Endgame:

In Archipelago, one card is dealt to each player containing vital information on when the game will end and one of the possible ways to score points. Since this card is kept secret until the end of the game, each player will only be privy to their own slice of the end-game pie, as well as any possible victory conditions they can deduce from the behavior of other players. For those planners who prefer the strategic game, I can see how this would be a nightmare (although there is a variant where all information is public). For the rest of us, is the added chaos really all that bad?

Those of us who play lots of board games find that repeated playings of the same game tends to lead to games playing out the same way. One of my favorite Euros, Le Havre, suffers from this problem. My wife and brother hate playing Le Havre against me because I have my game planned out and am able to ship everything away before the game comes to its predictable end. Contrast this to Archipelago, where every turn and every decision is important because it might be your last. Having the end looming over each and every decision forces one to play differently; to constantly reevaluate their strategy based on the information leaked by the behavior of other players. For instance, I know that I'll earn victory points for building towns, but I see my opponent is building monasteries. I must balance my limited opportunities to build against both known and deduced victory conditions, while also realizing that each of those builds might be bringing the game closer to an end. It’s an exhilirating way to play and a much needed injection of chaos into what might otherwise become a repetitive experience after numerous sessions.

Rules Confusions:

This is one of those complaints you see with nearly every game here on BGG. Unless your rulebook is written by a wizard like Chad Jenson, there are going to be numerous rules threads asking questions. We had questions ourselves (like when to move citizens out of buildings, which we assumed was during disengagement—but it's not clarified in the rules), but like just about every other game we've played, we debated it and came up with a general consensus. Yes, the rulebook doesn’t answer every possible question. Archipelago is no better or worse than other games in this regard. Every new board game comes with rules questions. If you can bear to wait for the inevitable FAQ and don't mind applying a little common sense in the meantime, you'll find Archipelago's rules to be no less confusing than virtually every other set of rules you've ever read.

Why you should try Archipelago (if you can get past the issues listed above):

The Components:

I briefly mentioned the great artwork above. And the board really is remarkable—sprinkled with little details on each tile. But to only highlight the most obvious aspect of the components would be doing this review a disservice.

Archipelago features wooden "meeples," ships, and discs for every player. It's a classy touch and more thematic than using discs or pawns to represent citizens.

It also uses full size cards. The objective cards don't see much use and most games would see this as an opportunity to skimp and use tiny, hard-as-hell-to-shuffle cards. Not in Archipelago.

The evolution cards, which are square-shaped, are thick, high-quality, and about the size of the cards used in Power Grid. They feel great to shuffle and will hold up to repeated playings. The hexes are also an excellent size and thickness (think Eclipse or Twilight Imperium).

The best part: all of the components fit into the tray provided. And this tray is used during gameplay, making set-up and clean-up quick and easy. Not hassle with bagging or finding places on the table for the components--they're all kept nicely in the box until needed.

Seamless blending of mechanics:

Archipelago uses quite a few game mechanics. It features worker placement (think: Agricola, Dominant Species), bidding (think: Modern Art), deal-making (think: Genoa, Chinatown), co-op play with a possible traitor (think: Battlestar Galactica, Shadows Over Camelot), exploration (think: Sid Meier's Civilization, Eclipse), a market which fluctuates based on supply and demand (think: Power Grid), and developments/buildings allowing special privileges (think: Le Havre, Ora et Labora). Now there are two assumptions one might make based on this: One, is this just and a hodge-podge of pasted together mechanics? And Two, did Christophe Boelinger just rip off of bunch of other game mechanics. The answer to both these is 'no'. What you would assume is a hodge-podge of mechanics is actually a carefully crafted symphony of mechanics that work flawlessly together and does so in a way that makes Archipelago feel very distinct from the games mentioned above. If you enjoy any of the games listed above, it is worth your while to give Archipelago a try. You'll find (as I did) that Archipelago uses these mechanics in an original and thematic way.

Semi-Cooperative:

In Archipelago, a player wins based on individual achievement. But everyone can collectively lose if players play too selfishly. For instance, exploring is exciting and a great way to get resources… but it leads to large swathes of indigenous workers who, without something do, might revolt. Meanwhile, making babies is the cheapest and easiest way to get more citizens… but overpopulate and you're looking at revolt. And taxation is by far the cheapest and easiest way to make money… but I think you can figure out where that leads (if you guessed revolt, you're a smart cookie). The best actions in Archipelago upset the equilibrium. More board games need this. The problem with many co-op games is that one or two skilled players dictate the course of the game for everyone. Archipelago avoids this problem by keeping each player distinctly competing towards their own interests and gives them no reason to demand perfect play from others. Conversely, the problem many competitive games have is the run-away leader. Archipelago mitigates this through the cooperative aspect. If one player starts doing too well, there is less incentive for other players to keep the balance. They can play more aggressively (and perhaps catch up) if they feel they'd be better off collectively losing anyway. It's a great dynamic that keeps every game close.

Deal-making:

In Archipelago, players are allowed and encouraged to negotiate over everything that isn't painted their own player color. I initially had some reservations about this, fearing it would dominate the game. But what I've found is that it adds flexibility to the co-op mechanic mentioned above. For example, say one player is giving up more than their fair share of resources to resolve a crisis... they can, in exchange for their altruism, demand favors, access to improvements, etc. in exchange for saving everyone's collective behinds. The deal-making element not only encourages interaction, it's the glue that keeps this competitive/cooperative experiment together, cementing it into an exhilarating and ever-changing game experience. (Note: the two-player game doesn't feature this and suffers as a result).

A Personal Take, Why my Group loves Archipelago:

A couple of my favorite games are Le Havre and Merchants & Marauders. I love Le Havre for the mechanics and M&M for the theme. With Archipelago, I don't need to compromise one for the other (unless we're talking about counting huts). I get the best of both worlds each time I play.

My brother loves cooperative games and civ-building games. He also gets the best of both worlds with Archipelago. His favorite cooperative game is Battlestar Galactica, largely because of the traitor aspect. Archipelago has cooperative play, plus a potential traitor. This is coupled with the exploration and development aspects from his favorite civ-building games.

My wife (and let's be honest, the most important gamer to make happy) loves Archipelago because the semi-cooperative, deal-making atmosphere makes the game feel less "cutthroat." She can enjoy exploring the archipelago without having to worry about being attacked, out-competed for resources, or being forced into last place. Archipelago has competitive aspects to be sure, but the cooperative element dulls the sting of the competition.

Conclusion:

Archipelago is an expensive game (ranging between 50 and 80 U.S. dollars depending on where you shop) and has some aspects that might make it a less than ideal experience for you or someone in your group. But the rich theme, seamless blending of gobs of game mechanics, and semi-cooperative aspects of Archipelago needs to be given a chance if you're someone who enjoys board games. I wrote this (first attempt at a) review because Archipelago deserves to be played. If you enjoy worker placement games, co-op games, civ-games, or games with a colorful theme, you owe it to yourself to try Archipelago.

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Kolby Reddish
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auschwito wrote:


Rules Confusions:

This is one of those complaints you see with nearly every game here on BGG. Unless your rulebook is written by a wizard like Chad Jenson, there are going to be numerous rules threads asking questions. We had questions ourselves (like when to move citizens out of buildings, which we assumed was during disengagement—but it's not clarified in the rules), but like just about every other game we've played, we debated it and came up with a general consensus. Yes, the rulebook doesn’t answer every possible question. Archipelago is no better or worse than other games in this regard. Every new board game comes with rules questions. If you can bear to wait for the inevitable FAQ and don't mind applying a little common sense in the meantime, you'll find Archipelago's rules to be no less confusing than virtually every other set of rules you've ever read.


While I really do enjoy this game and think it will be a great addition to my collection, I REALLY disagree with your point here. The rules don't follow common sense, and could really use a rewrite to clarify more than a few places that are sketchy. For example, your question you raised as an example is one I haven't even thought of yet. It's not that the rules are necessarily THAT much more unclear than other games, it's that there are quite a few that are not intuitive, and are difficult to find in the rules.

Overall, a great review, but people should be warned straight up that there are lots of complicated rules in this box that won't make sense the first few plays.

Thanks for the positive review! I agree with everything else and think this will be a gem given a little more exposure.
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Doug Herring
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reddish22 wrote:
auschwito wrote:


Rules Confusions:

This is one of those complaints you see with nearly every game here on BGG. Unless your rulebook is written by a wizard like Chad Jenson, there are going to be numerous rules threads asking questions. We had questions ourselves (like when to move citizens out of buildings, which we assumed was during disengagement—but it's not clarified in the rules), but like just about every other game we've played, we debated it and came up with a general consensus. Yes, the rulebook doesn’t answer every possible question. Archipelago is no better or worse than other games in this regard. Every new board game comes with rules questions. If you can bear to wait for the inevitable FAQ and don't mind applying a little common sense in the meantime, you'll find Archipelago's rules to be no less confusing than virtually every other set of rules you've ever read.


While I really do enjoy this game and think it will be a great addition to my collection, I REALLY disagree with your point here. The rules don't follow common sense, and could really use a rewrite to clarify more than a few places that are sketchy. For example, your question you raised as an example is one I haven't even thought of yet. It's not that the rules are necessarily THAT much more unclear than other games, it's that there are quite a few that are not intuitive, and are difficult to find in the rules.

Overall, a great review, but people should be warned straight up that there are lots of complicated rules in this box that won't make sense the first few plays.

Thanks for the positive review! I agree with everything else and think this will be a gem given a little more exposure.


I have to agree with this. The rules "look" like they are pretty well done and on first read "seem" logical enough.....then you start playing and you realize, they were not nearly as clear as they needed to be.

The game is good, and it is deep, and I assume we were playing it mostly right but rules clarification and a redo are a must if people are expected to learn this heavy hitter.

We sat down with 4 to play a short game. Two of us had read the rules and had some time to fiddle with the game. The short game lasted from about 2:15 in the afternoon until almost 7pm. The main reason was a constant need to refer and question the rules. Still, I am not sure how much shorter it would have been for a learning game regardless but we did have several moments of confusion were we all had to puzzle something out other than how to keep the rebels at bay.

We definately, I think, enjoyed it and I would gladly play it again now that I think I have the majority of the rules down but this rule book thing is my only real complaint. Otherwise it is pretty darn solid and a great looking game.
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Luis Fernandez
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At last a good review! Still i want to play this game, i was expecting like Village sucess! still to early to judge that! love the game concept!
 
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Great review, and your first one, wow! You've swayed me to bump this up to a higher priority on my wishlist.
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philippe lachance
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Archipelago is an awesome game, probably my favorite. It is a game that has blossomed every play I did since the first. Hidden objective make it so that people don't waste their time just piling ressources, it forces you to adapt and become efficient. You discover the very meaning of a particular moves after a couple plays and it is pure pleasure to go back and try it out. Very aggressive yet in a "zen" like way, the semi coop aspect challenge everyone's tendency to compete in a very unique way, it might even tells you things about your own behavior, how'S that? Somebody who judge a game like that on one play should not be taken seriously. Components are awesome and the minor thermo issue was completely fixed in my case after a couple plays only. With a couple of reads, the rules becomes a breeze, not to my opinion requiring more preparation than your ordinary game.

That's it, love it
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Thank you for this review. Archipelago is truly a gem. What I learned from the rules discussions: this is a game where the theme is very rich and when you come into any rules discussion, try to apply common sense to follow the theme. Most of the time you come to the same conclusion as meant by the author.

I had a somewhat difficult start with my gaming group on Archipelago. We already had played 5 hours of Eclipse when I introduced them to Archipelago. Being all a little bit unconcentrated, several things needed to be clarified during the game that left me (the only person at the table who did know all the rules) with some advantage. But, despite the first game went a little rough with my group, they all sayed "let's play it again next time!".

I think this is also, because Archipelago has elements that serve different types or roles of gamers. It has appeal for:
- the Discoverer
- the Merchant
- the "Emperor" (building cities to control ressources)
- the Detective (deducing win conditions)
- the Diplomat (talking others into solving the crisis)
- ...

We all like a beautiful game and this game has beauty, theme and mechanics greatly melted together. It is my 2012 favourite game.

So let's spread the word and introduce it to our fellow gamers!

(edit: typos)
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Jon Day
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Great summary, thanks.

The hut issue isn't a problem as huts + resources on each tile = 5. You don't need to find them.

5 hours for a short game, even your first is no reflection on the game, we took about 90 mins wih 5.
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Leonard Moses II
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The box is pretty. We haven't yet put the effort into fully learning Agricola, probably the most complex game we've tried to learn. We'll play this within 2 weeks. I think we have a high chance of learning this game correctly and I think we have the drive. I know where to go for help. I paid $51 -10%, on a Thursday, thanks to CSI and I don't mean the tv show!
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JohnnyDollar wrote:
Great review, and your first one, wow! You've swayed me to bump this up to a higher priority on my wishlist.

+1 - really like the way you bring out the good and bad in the game. Well done.
 
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Jimmy Okolica
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Hard to believe this is your first review. Excellently done! Have some gg.
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Łukasz 'farmer'
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auschwito wrote:
Why Archipelago might not be for you:
[...]
Archipelago deserves to be played. If you enjoy worker placement games, co-op games, civ-games, or games with a colorful theme, you owe it to yourself to try Archipelago.

You get me.
Just ordered the game!

yours,
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Sander van der Drift
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Quote:
Semi-Cooperative:

In Archipelago, a player wins based on individual achievement. But everyone can collectively lose if players play too selfishly. For instance, exploring is exciting and a great way to get resources… but it leads to large swathes of indigenous workers who, without something do, might revolt. Meanwhile, making babies is the cheapest and easiest way to get more citizens… but overpopulate and you're looking at revolt. And taxation is by far the cheapest and easiest way to make money… but I think you can figure out where that leads (if you guessed revolt, you're a smart cookie). The best actions in Archipelago upset the equilibrium. More board games need this. The problem with many co-op games is that one or two skilled players dictate the course of the game for everyone. Archipelago avoids this problem by keeping each player distinctly competing towards their own interests and gives them no reason to demand perfect play from others. Conversely, the problem many competitive games have is the run-away leader. Archipelago mitigates this through the cooperative aspect. If one player starts doing too well, there is less incentive for other players to keep the balance. They can play more aggressively (and perhaps catch up) if they feel they'd be better off collectively losing anyway. It's a great dynamic that keeps every game close.

Thank you for your great review. Based on the above quote (and I few other posts about Archipelago) I do have a few questions about the game being semi-cooperative. For me that sounds like a mechanism that does not reward good play. You say it yourself, when one player starts doing too well, the rest of the players can feel that they'd be better off collectively losing. So, if I understand correctly the 'good' player then has to adjust his strategy (and make it probably less effective) to ensure that other players keep close. In other words, the players who are not winning can more or less blackmail the players who are in the lead, because else everybody will lose. I really don't get why this mechanism works. I want a game to reward me if I'm playing good, not penalize me.

Also, what if one player is playing selfish and chooses to ignore the semi-cooperativeness of the game? Then either the other players have to make sure that a revolt will not happen, which probably gives the selfish player a big advantage, or everybody loses. Am I missing any other options?

This game and your review really sounds great, but at the moment I see too many problems with the semi-cooperative aspect of the game. So I hope you can convince me otherwise.
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OmegaDragon wrote:
Quote:
Semi-Cooperative:

In Archipelago, a player wins based on individual achievement. But everyone can collectively lose if players play too selfishly. For instance, exploring is exciting and a great way to get resources… but it leads to large swathes of indigenous workers who, without something do, might revolt. Meanwhile, making babies is the cheapest and easiest way to get more citizens… but overpopulate and you're looking at revolt. And taxation is by far the cheapest and easiest way to make money… but I think you can figure out where that leads (if you guessed revolt, you're a smart cookie). The best actions in Archipelago upset the equilibrium. More board games need this. The problem with many co-op games is that one or two skilled players dictate the course of the game for everyone. Archipelago avoids this problem by keeping each player distinctly competing towards their own interests and gives them no reason to demand perfect play from others. Conversely, the problem many competitive games have is the run-away leader. Archipelago mitigates this through the cooperative aspect. If one player starts doing too well, there is less incentive for other players to keep the balance. They can play more aggressively (and perhaps catch up) if they feel they'd be better off collectively losing anyway. It's a great dynamic that keeps every game close.

Thank you for your great review. Based on the above quote (and I few other posts about Archipelago) I do have a few questions about the game being semi-cooperative. For me that sounds like a mechanism that does not reward good play. You say it yourself, when one player starts doing too well, the rest of the players can feel that they'd be better off collectively losing. So, if I understand correctly the 'good' player then has to adjust his strategy (and make it probably less effective) to ensure that other players keep close. In other words, the players who are not winning can more or less blackmail the players who are in the lead, because else everybody will lose. I really don't get why this mechanism works. I want a game to reward me if I'm playing good, not penalize me.

Also, what if one player is playing selfish and chooses to ignore the semi-cooperativeness of the game? Then either the other players have to make sure that a revolt will not happen, which probably gives the selfish player a big advantage, or everybody loses. Am I missing any other options?


Having not played the game...
but to me, rather than couching being ahead in points in terms of "good" play... rather, the descriptions remind me more of Power Grid, where the "smart" play is to not get too much of a lead, but stay in the group and calculate for a jump ahead at just the right time. So someone who builds a lot of houses early on is not actually demonstrating "good" play but rather "naive" play as they will probably not win.
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Kolby Reddish
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I think that this element makes the player in the lead bear the heavier burden when it comes time to deal with the rebels, which can allow other players to catch up. You also have to remember that the victory conditions are mostly hidden, so it's very hard, IMO to tell who is in the lead.
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Jimmy Okolica
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OmegaDragon wrote:
Quote:
Semi-Cooperative:

In Archipelago, a player wins based on individual achievement. But everyone can collectively lose if players play too selfishly. For instance, exploring is exciting and a great way to get resources… but it leads to large swathes of indigenous workers who, without something do, might revolt. Meanwhile, making babies is the cheapest and easiest way to get more citizens… but overpopulate and you're looking at revolt. And taxation is by far the cheapest and easiest way to make money… but I think you can figure out where that leads (if you guessed revolt, you're a smart cookie). The best actions in Archipelago upset the equilibrium. More board games need this. The problem with many co-op games is that one or two skilled players dictate the course of the game for everyone. Archipelago avoids this problem by keeping each player distinctly competing towards their own interests and gives them no reason to demand perfect play from others. Conversely, the problem many competitive games have is the run-away leader. Archipelago mitigates this through the cooperative aspect. If one player starts doing too well, there is less incentive for other players to keep the balance. They can play more aggressively (and perhaps catch up) if they feel they'd be better off collectively losing anyway. It's a great dynamic that keeps every game close.

Thank you for your great review. Based on the above quote (and I few other posts about Archipelago) I do have a few questions about the game being semi-cooperative. For me that sounds like a mechanism that does not reward good play. You say it yourself, when one player starts doing too well, the rest of the players can feel that they'd be better off collectively losing. So, if I understand correctly the 'good' player then has to adjust his strategy (and make it probably less effective) to ensure that other players keep close. In other words, the players who are not winning can more or less blackmail the players who are in the lead, because else everybody will lose. I really don't get why this mechanism works. I want a game to reward me if I'm playing good, not penalize me.

Also, what if one player is playing selfish and chooses to ignore the semi-cooperativeness of the game? Then either the other players have to make sure that a revolt will not happen, which probably gives the selfish player a big advantage, or everybody loses. Am I missing any other options?

This game and your review really sounds great, but at the moment I see too many problems with the semi-cooperative aspect of the game. So I hope you can convince me otherwise.


Actually, what complicates this further is there is a hidden objective, the separatist, that allows one player to win if a revolution occurs. If this card is in play, one player will intentionally work (quietly) to make a revolution happen.

I think the Power Grid comparison is somewhat apt. However, recall that the goals are hidden, so it's kind of hard to tell who is ahead. Most of the game is spent trying to figure out what other people's goals are. Unless you know that, you really don't know who is ahead. So what if you've got more people than me (which is never a goal), if I've got a couple of strategic towns. Am I ahead? What's my goal? I've got a bunch of iron and wood (assuming you remember that). That means I could build something, but until I do, those goods are worthless. I've got some cattle. Is that because cattle is my goal or am I getting ready to build a market? Am I ahead? That's the sort of thinking that goes on in this game.

The only time you can tell that someone is behind is if they're doing badly with exploration and haven't been able to build ships to get off of their isolated island. For instance, I start out late in the turn order, so the tiles placed near mine (but not touching) make it very hard to explore and there's no wood on my starting tile (I only had one I could use). In that case, the only way I can get off my island is to use my one explore token as a wood, build a ship and then migrate to another island. That will set me back a full turn over other people and make me less interested (and less able) to help out. So far, that's the only time I've seen someone not able to do something productive and at least appear that they might be accomplishing their own objectives.
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OmegaDragon wrote:

Also, what if one player is playing selfish and chooses to ignore the semi-cooperativeness of the game? Then either the other players have to make sure that a revolt will not happen, which probably gives the selfish player a big advantage, or everybody loses. Am I missing any other options?


I only played once so far, but I think that a selfish player will be as successful as a selfish player in, say, Settlers. You will be more successful if you negotiate at the right time (remember, except people, ships and action discs, more or less anything can be traded and agreed on).

Furthermore, if the others think you are acting to selfish, you are likely to go last in player order unless you manage to win the auction every round, which is probably quite difficult financially. Remember: The bid only decides who is the start player. This player then decides the order of the remaining players (possibly and most likely bribed, "supported", manipulated or whatever by those players ). And my feeling is that being last in every turn is not efficient. So the selfish player knocks himself out, the others "just" have to take care to keep the game alive.


(I might add that we lost our first game. After a comfortably slowly raising rebellion level, hiring a bunch of people at once while the local market was pretty empty probably wasn't the smartest of all moves, as it lead to an explosion of rebels right up the population count. Then the export crisis caught us.)
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Bryant Ross
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OmegaDragon wrote:

Thank you for your great review. Based on the above quote (and I few other posts about Archipelago) I do have a few questions about the game being semi-cooperative. For me that sounds like a mechanism that does not reward good play. You say it yourself, when one player starts doing too well, the rest of the players can feel that they'd be better off collectively losing. So, if I understand correctly the 'good' player then has to adjust his strategy (and make it probably less effective) to ensure that other players keep close. In other words, the players who are not winning can more or less blackmail the players who are in the lead, because else everybody will lose. I really don't get why this mechanism works. I want a game to reward me if I'm playing good, not penalize me.


It's possible that a bit of blackmail can happen. And players failing to help resolve domestic crises can end the game really quick. But to put things in better perspective: scores have always been close (within a couple of points) in our games; there isn't a problem with runaway leaders. What's more often the case: one player may sense another player having the upper hand and take more powerful actions (such as taxation); thus putting more pressure on game leaders to spend a few extra florins or resources to keep the peace.

There is also an additional element which prevents simply picking on the leader: two (of the ten possible) objective cards are geared towards causing or preventing rebellion. There is a "pacifist" objective wherein only the player holding it scores a nice chunk of points for keeping rebellion under a certain level. And at the opposite end, the "traitor" objective gives victory to the player holding it if rebellion occurs.
Due to these things, the behavior you describe above is technically possible, but it's seldom the case.

OmegaDragon wrote:

Also, what if one player is playing selfish and chooses to ignore the semi-cooperativeness of the game? Then either the other players have to make sure that a revolt will not happen, which probably gives the selfish player a big advantage, or everybody loses. Am I missing any other options?


As I described above, it's possible that one player will be holding the "traitor" objective and will be working towards that very outcome. However, the other players aren't helpless. There are actions and improvements (such as building monasteries and "education") which help reduce rebellion. The selfish player/traitor only has the advantage in taking more powerful actions. That player will still be working against everyone else, whose end-game objectives will only be applicable if the game ends without rebellion (also note: the "traitor" and "pacifist" cards aren't used in the two-player game). So like in BSG, it will be one player versus many.

OmegaDragon wrote:

This game and your review really sounds great, but at the moment I see too many problems with the semi-cooperative aspect of the game. So I hope you can convince me otherwise.


Not every game is for everyone. Me and my group love Archipelago. As I mentioned in my review, it's not a cheap game... I suggest trying it before you buy it if you still have concerns. Cheers!
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I've had my eye on this game, and there is no doubt I would be willing to give it a play. But this is NOT a game I would BUY before TRYING. So that does drop my chances of trying it significantly. Thanks for the great review!
 
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Paolo Ciardulli
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May all beings be happy. Whatever beings there may be, whether they are weak or strong, without exception, long, big, medium, short or small, whether visible or invisible, those living near or far, those born or to-be-born, may all beings be happy!
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A beautifully written review, exactly the kind of reviews I like: not a lot of details about the rules (but enough to give feelings about what the game is about) and A LOT of opinion and valuation and putting the game into the context of other games and gamer's tastes.

Not only the review, but the all thread, with all opinions and questions and answers, is very informative and a pleasure to read.

What a pity I can't give more thumbs up.

Thank you!

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Bryant Ross
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oceano wrote:
A beautifully written review, exactly the kind of reviews I like: not a lot of details about the rules (but enough to give feelings about what the game is about) and A LOT of opinion and valuation and putting the game into the context of other games and gamer's tastes.


I'm glad my review has been helpful. I personally enjoy reading people's thoughts and opinions on games more than rules summaries. And I figured that using game comparisons would help others relate to the mechanics at work. It's immensely satisfying to learn that my review approach has succeeded.

Thanks to everyone for the feedback!
 
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I'll disagree about there being an average amount of rules confusion. We spent an hour on the rules (5 experienced gamers) and still had to go back to the rulebook multiple times, and on least two occasions we had a split decision on what the correct interpretation was.
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Kolby Reddish
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auschwito wrote:

A couple of my favorite games are Le Havre and Merchants & Marauders. I love Le Havre for the mechanics and M&M for the theme. With Archipelago, I don't need to compromise one for the other (unless we're talking about counting huts). I get the best of both worlds each time I play.


I'm just waiting for my wife to get home to play another 2 player game of this, and as I'm setting up, I'm realizing how true this is about Archipelago. Well stated!
 
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Great review.
I have really enjoyed the games of M&M that I have played and I really like the melding of theme and mechanics in this game.

But this:
auschwito wrote:
Why Archipelago might not be for you:
Hidden Objectives/Endgame:

Not only random hidden endgame bonus points but also random hidden game end conditions? And the endgame bonuses apply to all players? This means you could play the best game you could possibly play, even better than the other players, toward the known group and personal conditions and still loose.
I really want to play this and know that I need to come at it as an adventure game, not a strategy game. But, that is a long time to play for the same result as a game of Flux. Hidden points or endgame I might be okay with. Having both is a bit much.
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Jimmy Okolica
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SPBTooL wrote:
Not only random hidden endgame bonus points but also random hidden game end conditions? And the endgame bonuses apply to all players? This means you could play the best game you could possibly play, even better than the other players, toward the known group and personal conditions and still loose.
I really want to play this and know that I need to come at it as an adventure game, not a strategy game. But, that is a long time to play for the same result as a game of Flux. Hidden points or endgame I might be okay with. Having both is a bit much.


On the contrary. End game goals and end game conditions are tied. If you're playing better than the other players than you should have been able to figure out what their goals are (and consequently what their end game conditions are). With that knowledge, not only can you outdo them in their own goals, you can somewhat manipulate the pace of the game so that you end the game at the best time for you. The Hidden Conditions/Goals are one of the biggest parts of the game and one of the reasons that this game is so interesting.

OTOH, if you really don't like hidden goals/conditions, one of the variants provided in the rules is to play with all of the goals/conditions open.
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