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Subject: A great game I will never own (redux) rss

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Halden
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I seem to have hit a nerve that I had no intention of hitting and I have also learned quite a bit from the comments to my original review and would like to offer a more fleshed out review that might get my thoughts and feelings across more clearly.

The Great Zimbabwe review, take two.

The Great Zimbabwe is a very elegant economic euro with hints of area control and route building. The game play is tight and provides a good deal of player interaction as players compete for resources, space and the best routes.

Gameplay

Every round of TGZ with a turn order bidding phase that they call “The Generosity of Kings”. This mechanic is one of my favourites in this game. In this phase not only are players competing for the privilege to go first and have first crack and the limited resources but they are also redistributing wealth. As you make your bid for turn order you are placing you money (cattle) on tiles representing the players, so the more you are willing to spend to go first the more cattle you are giving other players. This redistribution is one of the two clever ways that TGZ creates parity between the wealthy, powerful players and the less fortunate which makes for a very balanced feel and I believe will prevent runaway leaders.

Once turn order is determined the players begin their individual turns starting with the winning bidder. On your turn you can make the following moves:

You can select a god.


When you select a god this will provide you with a special ability or power that you can use throughout the game. Players can only choose one god and once their choice is made that god is with them for the duration of the game.

You can select a specialist.

Specialists like gods will provide the players with a special ability or power but unlike the gods the players may have as many as they like. Another difference with the specialist is that a player must be able to use the specialists ability as soon as they select it. In subsequent turns they can elect whether to use it or not.
TGZ balances the power granted by gods and specialists by increasing the difficulty to win as players get more powerful. All players begin with a win condition of 20 VP but as they collect gods and specialists that requirement increases. These increases (and in one case decrease) range from +2 to +6. So you see that no matter how tempting it is to grab all the abilities one can it must be tempered with the increased victory requirement added by each.

Once those two steps are complete the player may perform one of the following:

Erect a Monument

Erecting a monument only provides the player 1VP but more importantly it creates a route or hub as it is called that the player may use to access goods, resources and other monuments. In the beginning players must be within 3 spaces of a craftsman in order to improve their monuments (more on that in a bit) but they can increase that range by skipping through hubs. Using your own monuments is free but skipping through another players hub will cost you one cattle for every hub you use that does not belong to you. You quickly see how beneficial having your own system of hubs can be.

Place a Craftsmen

Placing and owning craftsmen is where you make you cattle. To place a craftsmen you must first own the technology. Pay the price listed on the tech card and increase you VR accordingly (as with gods and specialists). Once you have the technology you can build a craftsmen, this will not only become a source of income but you earn VP for every craftsmen placed. Craftsmen must be placed with range (cannot use hubs) of their required resource that is not in range of another craftsmen that uses that resource. As you place the craftsmen you then set the price for the good he creates. All players may buy goods from you craftsmen to improve their monuments but they must pay you.
The game also has secondary craftsmen that require a resource as well as a good from their primary craftsmen. Once a secondary craftsmen is in play players can no longer purchase goods from the primary.
One small gripe I had here was that all but one of the craftsmen had their primary as the small tile and secondary as the large tile. I am not sure why they chose to reverse that for one craftsmen but it did cause some confusion.

Improve Monuments

All monuments begin as one disc and as players add levels to these discs they gain VP. You get +2 VP for the first story, +4 for the second, +6 for the third and +8 for the fourth. As the point value increases so do the requirements. Your first story needs one ritual good, the second two, the third three and the fourth four. You cannot use the type good twice when building unless you have an ability that states other wise. Monument size also increases your income as you revenue at the end of your turn equals the height of you tallest monument.

Finally the players receive all the revenue from their cards, craftsmen and income.

Conclusion

The Great Zimbabwe is an excellent game that will have lots of replayability and present challenges. The game seems a bit daunting and dense at first but begins to flow intuitively fairly quickly. My only complaint is the cost of the game. I know, I know that this is to be expected from Splotter. They make small runs, they make niche games for the hardcore gamer. I get it and I do not begrudge anyone buying nor would I discourage anyone from buying if it is in your means to do so. I just would not get the value I would want from it.

Original review:



When I was going over the list of Essen titles that would be available to play at the convention I attended last weekend (Ludo-Outaoais)I was quite excited to see that The Great Zimbabwe was one of the titles.

We had just arrived and were contemplating our first play when I noticed two guys setting up TGZ, I wandered over to take a look at the game and to ask if they had played it. They had not and were looking for players so my two companions and I sat down to play a 5 player game of TGZ.

My first impression and unfortunately one that has stuck, despite all that happened afterword, was disappointment in the quality of the game. The player boards are flimsy 80g paper and I had two discs that were cracked in half. All the wood bits were in one giant bag, 120$ buys a lot of ziplock.

Once I got over the initial shock of the components we settled in for the game explanation and we were off. TGZ is a very elegant economic euro with hints of area control and route building. I loved the first player bidding mechanic and the variable victory requirement really helped balance the players who went for many specialists and craftsman and those with more sparse engines. The battles for first turn and resources was intense at times and in both games was make or break.

The Great Zimbabwe is a dense, challenging and extremely elegant but this is not represented by the poor production. This would be easily forgiven for such a fantastic game if it weren't for the price tag. This incredible game with these components would be an insta-buy/must have at the 50$ price point but for 120$ I need better bits. That feels really terrible to say but it is honest. I love this game. I will play any and everytime I get the chance but I would be heartbroken to have spent that much on these components.
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Matthew Tadyshak
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Re: A great game I will never own
I hear you, this game is good, but I could never afford to spend $120 on a single game.
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mfl134
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Re: A great game I will never own
I like the simple components. The components do not subtract from the gameplay. The player boards are actually just player aids and are entirely not necessary (Though, they are very helpful.)

I will continue to pay splotter for making awesome games. I am sure I am one of many who feels this way.
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J C Lawrence
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Re: A great game I will never own
The player aids ("player boards") are useful for the first half of the first game. After that they might as well be left in the box.
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Guillaume HALLIER
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Re: A great game I will never own
mfl134 wrote:
I will continue to pay splotter for making awesome games. I am sure I am one of many who feels this way.

I feel this way too. But I can understand OP.
I guess that overseas shipping costs are heavy, because I paid 70€ for the game (90$) and I'm very happy with it !
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Re: A great game I will never own
mfl134 wrote:
I like the simple components. The components do not subtract from the gameplay. The player boards are actually just player aids and are entirely not necessary (Though, they are very helpful.)

I will continue to pay splotter for making awesome games. I am sure I am one of many who feels this way.


I am sure they will have plenty of customers, I will not be one. I enjoy the thought of a boutique publisher making innovative games but the product needs to reflect the cost and the beauty of the idea.
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Nate S
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Re: A great game I will never own
First, I too was surprised at the price. There is not nearly the same quantity of "stuff" in the box that I always felt pretty much justified the price of Antiquity and Roads & Boats, given that Splotter's games are self-published with really small print runs. But man, the player-aid complaint is about as lame as complaints get. It's not a game component, just a summary of rules that may be helpful for a few turns for first-time players. As for the other components, I wouldn't want them to be any different. They're functional and elegant. If some of the bits in that box were broken, the owner should contact Splotter for replacements, something they've been happy to provide in the past.

Even if I was surprised at the price, after playing a few times I felt the value proposition was just fine: great game, and I'll play it many times in the years to come. If you don't buy it, no worries, it will sell out in the very near future anyway!
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Re: A great game I will never own
ghorsche wrote:
It's not a game component, just a summary of rules that may be helpful for a few turns for first-time players.


You may think it a lame complaint and you are entitled to that opinion and I and the seven people I played with saturday are entitled to ours. If it was simply a crib sheet they could have just printed them on cards to avoid confusion or simply a table in the rulebook. Print them in playboard shape and they will be confused with playboards.


ghorsche wrote:

If you don't buy it, no worries, it will sell out in the very near future anyway!


I am not worried. I will buy 3 other games for the same price and be happy. You will have TGZ and be happy. To each their own.
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Nate S
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Re: A great game I will never own
Halden wrote:
Print them in playboard shape and they will be confused with playboards.

I'm confused. Were you doing something with them other than referring to them as crib sheets?
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Re: A great game I will never own
ghorsche wrote:
Halden wrote:
Print them in playboard shape and they will be confused with playboards.

I'm confused. Were you doing something with them other than referring to them as crib sheets?


No not reallly. we had them in front of us, refer to them..etc... but they are shaped more like the playboards I am familiar with than crib notes.
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Don D.
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Re: A great game I will never own
It's a bit of a misstatement linking $120 price tag to lack of components. Sure $120 buys a lot of ziploc bags, but do you exoect funagain games to unseal all the games and put some of their money into buying ziploc baggies for it ?
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Re: A great game I will never own
dond80 wrote:
It's a bit of a misstatement linking $120 price tag to lack of components. Sure $120 buys a lot of ziploc bags, but do you exoect funagain games to unseal all the games and put some of their money into buying ziploc baggies for it ?


No I expect publisher to provide enough storage for the components and one giant bag for all the wood is not great.
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Don D.
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Re: A great game I will never own
Halden wrote:
dond80 wrote:
It's a bit of a misstatement linking $120 price tag to lack of components. Sure $120 buys a lot of ziploc bags, but do you exoect funagain games to unseal all the games and put some of their money into buying ziploc baggies for it ?


No I expect publisher to provide enough storage for the components and one giant bag for all the wood is not great.


Well, then why mention $120? That is a retailer's price.
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Re: A great game I will never own
Playing and ordering TGZ has been a sort of self-reflective moment in my boardgame geekdom.

Not too long ago I would see the prices for Antiquity or some other OOP games and just shake my head at the very idea of spending that much on a single game, no matter how good it might be. Surely I would have more fun exploring three different games, all of which might be very good. Then there was the issue of components. I'm not sure thick cardboard and wooden pieces had a significant effect on my enjoyment, but it sure did make me feel better about buying the game.

I think, though, after getting my collection past 200 games and playing a number of interesting but flawed or shallow games this past year, it suddenly struck me that I really wanted to spend my gaming budget on something that was truly a boutique game, a game that would be collectible and yet also fun to play because of the depth and the strength of the playtesting.

Even though I loved my first play of TGZ, I don't think it is 3X better than any other game I might buy, nor that it will get played 3X as much so as to justify its cost. I ordered it knowing full well I was not getting a good deal. Yet, I'm very excited about it in almost the same way as I was many years ago when first buying Puerto Rico or El Grande. All of which pleasure I fully admit is based in my mind and might have a little too much to do with conspicuous consumerism.

On the other hand, I also find I have a newfound affinity for Ameritrash games with lots of beautiful bits. So who knows what's going on in my head.

Anyway, good review, though my first impression of the components wasn't negative, though I thought the board tiles could have been more attractive.

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Re: A great game I will never own
dond80 wrote:
Halden wrote:
dond80 wrote:
It's a bit of a misstatement linking $120 price tag to lack of components. Sure $120 buys a lot of ziploc bags, but do you exoect funagain games to unseal all the games and put some of their money into buying ziploc baggies for it ?


No I expect publisher to provide enough storage for the components and one giant bag for all the wood is not great.


Well, then why mention $120? That is a retailer's price.


Sorry it was the price I was familiar with. The 95$ from the publisher will also buy a lot of ziplocks
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Re: A great game I will never own
I for one will never balk at the price of a game. When I have seen the box priced at 120$, I said wtf, so I took a look at the back...I was staring at emptiness...ninja

If the game is good and the print run is extremely limited, then 120$ is not really an issue if you know that you will get back the money if you ever want to sell it back. And this is why the author can afford to sell it at a higher price point than typical games. He guarantees a certain rarity.

It doesn't matter if the components are not up to par with the price. You are not buying components, you are buying a rare game.

Unfortunately, I'm not into euros, so bring on the Zombies!
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Re: A great game I will never own
I can see just saying that $120 is too much to pay for a game, but (for me, anyway) components are a pretty small factor in deciding which expensive games are worth it. Nice bits don't necessarily make great games.

I spent about the same on TGZ as I did on Space Hulk (third edition). After spending several hours punching, gluing, and organizing Space Hulk, I played it twice. Both games were lopsided and luck-dominated, and so (even though I won both of those games) it has sat gathering dust ever since. Beautiful components -- probably the best I have ever seen in a board game. But the game itself sucked by my standards.

The list of Fantasy Flight games that have delivered a similar component quality to gameplay quality ratio (albeit at a somewhat lower price) is quite long.

TGZ, OTOH, has seen fairly constant action since I opened it a few weeks ago, and I am eager to play it again. So for me, TGZ was easily the better value. I expect that in terms of plays per dollar it will surpass most of my $25-$40 games.

As you say, to each his own. But if you find a game that you'll actually enjoy playing for $120, I'd say that's a decent investment, regardless of the components. And because it's a Splotter -- the best-received Splotter title since 2005's Indonesia -- you can rest assured that you'll be able to get most of your money back any time you like.
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Re: A great game I will never own
Your comments qualify under the "general" section at best. This is hardly a review of the game, more like a rant on its price. I'm disappointed in the BGG admins for letting this one get posted as a review. It's not. I could sit here and blather on about how great I enjoyed my test drive in a Mini Cooper or Fiat 500 was but call the price ridiculous for what they give me. It doesn't make it a car review. Far from it, it makes it sound like a rant, which despite your backhanded comments about how much you like the game, doesn't hide the fact that ranting about component price.

It just goes to show that I could strive to find a formula that would cure the common cold, publish it on a roll of toilet paper, and charge a thousand bucks for it. Someone would complain that it was way too much to pay for a roll of toilet paper.


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Don D.
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Re: A great game I will never own
Walt Mulder wrote:
Your comments qualify under the "general" section at best. This is hardly a review of the game, more like a rant on its price. I'm disappointed in the BGG admins for letting this one get posted as a review. It's not. I could sit here and blather on about how great I enjoyed my test drive in a Mini Cooper or Fiat 500 was but call the price ridiculous for what they give me. It doesn't make it a car review. Far from it, it makes it sound like a rant, which despite your backhanded comments about how much you like the game, doesn't hide the fact that ranting about component price.

It just goes to show that I could strive to find a formula that would cure the common cold, publish it on a roll of toilet paper, and charge a thousand bucks for it. Someone would complain that it was way too much to pay for a roll of toilet paper.




I'm with you on this. I normally despise chastisizing posters who make negative reviews because I've been burned many times by people doing the same to me when I post a negative review. This, however, isn't really a review by my standards.
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Russ Williams
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Re: A great game I will never own
Walt Mulder wrote:
Your comments qualify under the "general" section at best. This is hardly a review of the game, more like a rant on its price. I'm disappointed in the BGG admins for letting this one get posted as a review. It's not.

I agree it's not really a review, just a complaint about the components for the price. But note that BGG users (not BGG admins) moderate reviews.
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Re: A great game I will never own
Reviews help people decide if they should buy it or not. This one discusses numerous aspects of the game, almost entirely positively. The title clearly communicates this, and makes it clear there's a negative. For someone trying to decide if this game is worth the money, there's useful information here for them.
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Re: A great game I will never own
Your three component complaints really are as follows?

1) The player aids / boards are thin (most are these days)

2) There were two pieces needing some wood glue (even Carc sometimes comes with armless, headless, or otherwise dismembered meeples)

3) There were not enough ziploc baggies in the game to sort the pieces in addition to storing themm (what gamer doesn't have spares? 100 of them cost $3 at a craft store)

Seriously? Color me not convinced by these "problems".

At least complain about the amount of punchboards or something.
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Re: A great game I will never own
Aetheros wrote:
Reviews help people decide if they should buy it or not. This one discusses numerous aspects of the game, almost entirely positively. The title clearly communicates this, and makes it clear there's a negative. For someone trying to decide if this game is worth the money, there's useful information here for them.

True, if someone does not want to spend a lot of money for a game with insufficiently impressive components, the review has useful information to convince them the game is not interesting for them.

But in the spirit of hopefully constructive feedback: for someone interested in the actual gameplay, the review is extremely sparse and really only gives 3 generic sentences (the 4th paragraph of 5) about the gameplay for readers who are not automatically put off by the price or components complaints.

We read that it's an elegant economic game; it involves area control and route-building; there are variable victory conditions; there is competition for resources... Honestly, this is probably not really useful or very surprising info for most people curious about this game, is it?

It seems more like a "back of the box blurb" or a brief impression/summary and more along the lines of the notes I read in personal user comments about the game, e.g.:
http://boardgamegeek.com/collection/items/boardgame/111341?c...

In a review, I'd like more specific info about how the game plays (What are some concrete things you do in your turn? Does the game have any randomness or hidden information or memory elements? Is there trading or negotiation? Is there player elimination? How long does the game take? How does the game end? How do you win? What are the mentioned but undescribed multiple victory conditions? What is the mentioned (apparently unusual) first player bidding mechanism which the reviewer tantalizingly loved but didn't describe? Why not mention that there are geomorphic map tiles and their playability implications and whether one builds different sized maps for different numbers of players? Etc.). And some concrete impressions like how long did it take them to learn the rules? How long did your game last? What are some comparable games, how does it contrast and differentiate itself from other economic euros, etc. (And a meta-issue: for a non-trivial multiplayer game like this, I'd prefer a review based on more than one play, with various numbers of players.)

These are sorts of things I appreciate and look for in a review, and they certainly help me decide much better if a game appeals to me.

Edited to add: sorry, I see you apparently played it twice; apologies for thinking that you'd only played once.
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Re: A great game I will never own
russ wrote:
Aetheros wrote:
Reviews help people decide if they should buy it or not. This one discusses numerous aspects of the game, almost entirely positively. The title clearly communicates this, and makes it clear there's a negative. For someone trying to decide if this game is worth the money, there's useful information here for them.

True, if someone does not want to spend a lot of money for a game with insufficiently impressive components, the review has useful information to convince them the game is not interesting for them.

But in the spirit of hopefully constructive feedback: for someone interested in the actual gameplay, the review is extremely sparse and really only gives 3 generic sentences (the 4th paragraph of 5) about the gameplay for readers who are not automatically put off by the price or components complaints.

We read that it's an elegant economic game; it involves area control and route-building; there are variable victory conditions; there is competition for resources... Honestly, this is probably not really useful or very surprising info for most people curious about this game, is it?

It seems more like a "back of the box blurb" or a brief impression/summary and more along the lines of the notes I read in personal user comments about the game, e.g.:
http://boardgamegeek.com/collection/items/boardgame/111341?c...

In a review, I'd like more specific info about how the game plays (What are some concrete things you do in your turn? Does the game have any randomness or hidden information or memory elements? Is there trading or negotiation? Is there player elimination? How long does the game take? How does the game end? How do you win? What are the mentioned but undescribed multiple victory conditions? What is the mentioned (apparently unusual) first player bidding mechanism which the reviewer tantalizingly loved but didn't describe? Why not mention that there are geomorphic map tiles and their playability implications and whether one builds different sized maps for different numbers of players? Etc.). And some concrete impressions like how long did it take them to learn the rules? How long did your game last? What are some comparable games, how does it contrast and differentiate itself from other economic euros, etc. (And a meta-issue: for a non-trivial multiplayer game like this, I'd prefer a review based on more than one play, with various numbers of players.)

These are sorts of things I appreciate and look for in a review, and they certainly help me decide much better if a game appeals to me.


I don't see a review the size of this one ever being much help, which is why (IMHO), something like this is not really a review at all - more like something someone would post about a coffee maker, on Amazon. What you and I expect to see in a review seems to exceed what a lot of people are willing to invest in writing them.

You wrote as much in response to the review, as was written in the review!
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Re: A great game I will never own
I followed bread crumbs from a subscribed user here and I thought it was just a forums post...didn't even realize it was a review (and yeah I read the OP) until I got down to this point in the comments.
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