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Subject: Review of Sucessors by Decision Games rss

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Steven Bucey
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Successors, from S&T 161 (Decision Games) Steven Bucey, February 2004

This is a 3-4 player game of the fighting over Alexander the Great's empire after his death. It's a simple game with just a few pages of rules. The map is an area map of the middle east from Thrace to India. Combat units move three areas a turn, so to give you some idea of scale it's possible for a combat unit to move across the map in 3 turns. Each space is rated for Taxation/Victory point value (the same), which can range from '0' to '6'. Most spaces are worth 2 points. Spaces are also either normal (cost 1 point to move into) or rough (cost 2 movement points to move into). Sea areas can be entered only by fleets. A few coastal areas have ports. Each area also specifies the type of unit that could be raised there. You must control at least one province with a Cavalry marker to raise cavalry, for instance.

To start the game players roll die and the high die gets to choose his home province (which, according to the errata I found this morning NEVER gets removed, in direct contradiction to the rules). He gets 5 TP (Treasury Points) to immediately purchase units to place there, along with his single leader.

The sequence of play is as follows, for each player in turn (starting with the LAST person to choose a province:

* Random Events (there are a LOT of these, good to bad, and can affect the rolling player or somebody else or nobody at all).
* Treasury Phase -- tax your provinces, maintain your troops (each cost 1 to maintain), raise NEW troops (levy=1, infantry=2, cavalry=3, fleets =3 if built in a port and 5 otherwise). New units are placed in your home province or with your leader.
* Movement - you must stop when you enter an enemy occupied province, though a formal alliance can alleviate this restriction, I think. The rules are not clear on this point.
* Combat -- the moving player decides if he wants to fight anybody present (in order if more than one player). If so, there is a fight. If not, the defender decides if he wants to fight anyway. There are two phases, pre-combat where cavalry get a first shot and elephants can negate them, and regular combat. Regular combat rounds last until there is nobody left on one side. After each round the attacker can retreat if he chooses, if not the defender can retreat if he chooses, and if both sides are still present then you fight another round of regular combat.

The game continues in this manner for 10 turns. Victory is determined via province value plus one half the total TP you have.

It is VERY important to note that you control a province ONLY if you have a land unit there and nobody else does, including rebels. Since each unit cost 1 TP to maintain that means that you'll spend a lot of money maintaining a large garrison force.

Unit types are Infantry (in combat hits on a roll of 5-6), levy (hits on a 6), cavalry (hits on a 5-6 AND gets a pre-combat chance to hit on a '6) and elephants (hits on a 6 AND prevents two cavalry from getting a first shot in during pre-combat). There are also fleet units - fleets can also fight each other, but there seems to be little of that and their most important use is transporting infantry to land someplace else, like one of the undefended islands.

Leaders (each player has only 1) provide movement bonus to all units that move with them and during regular combat rounds provide a bonus to ONE unit. If left alone after a battle they are captured. According to the errata you can't get them back until you ransom them for 5 TP (this was not clear in the rules, so we played that you got the back after one complete turn without them if you couldn't ransom them).

Oh, elephants are available to buy ONLY via random events. Mercenaries also become available via random events, so it's sometimes worth it to save a few TP after the Treasury phase (there are other reasons also, but that is one of them).

The game's variety comes in two ways. Firsts, this is a multi-player game so diplomacy is the rule, and there is the unwritten "Whine" phase where in everybody points to somebody else as the obvious leader and target for the rest of the group. Since this happened in the actual history this is appropriate. Also, it's possible to make deals, form formal alliances (again, the rules are not really clear on this), buy units from each other (with restrictions), offer bribes, etc.

Second, the random events really can make things interesting under the right conditions. For instance, I took Macedonian as my home province. Twice the Gauls raided in from the north into Thrace and I had to divert troops back to regain control of my northern provinces. Such barbarian raids can happen around the map. Some provinces are never quiet and rebel a lot. Mercenaries and elephants can be bought, fleets desert, unexpected gifts can be given (not without historical precedent), special one time combat or truce advantages, and more.

Initial choice of home province is very important. Two spots in particular, Egypt (6) and Macedonia (4) are worth more than all others (ranging from 0 to 3). Also, movement across the map can become constricted by simple proximity to each other. Egypt in particular is constrained in this manner.

In our game everybody started play by buying lots of cheap levy to spread out fast and gain control of as many areas as possible. This was easiest for Gary who started out east as he was almost unopposed in the far east, while Joe and Andy started almost immediately to fight over the Levant area and I had to deal with barbarian raids. There were also a few areas that started with neutral units in them and needed to be reduced, such as Greece proper, so gaining control of areas quickly lead to fights in many cases.

Play is interesting as long as you're doing at least OK -- it is possible to be completely knocked out of the game early, though in our game this didn't happen. Joe for a couple of turns thought that he was out of it, but pulled a third place finish. However, I'm not going to give it more than a 3 (out of 5), as I'm just not a multi-player fan for the most part.
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Robert Wesley
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The portion regarding the "Barbarian Raids", sounds akin to what I have "designed" to ADD upon this "game": Conquest of the Empire While I included some "Naval" assets for them as well, to have some arrrh "Fleets". It was a method by which the players with the least amount of $$$ could then "bribe"}b them into making an "appearance" to inflict casualties, once ALL of the "Armies" pieces were GONE. I figured that with HALF or MORE of their $$$, then they PAY for this 'force' to appear with varying configurations then. It is designated BY the person paying this $$$ from, as to WHERE they shall BEGIN into an r{"Enemy Province". They continue to "RAID" until destroyed or can NO longer "Attack". What do you think?
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Steven Bucey
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Sounds cool. I take it that once unleashed they wander about at random?
 
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Daniel Blumentritt
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Quote:
To start the game players roll die and the high die gets to choose his home province (which, according to the errata I found this morning NEVER gets removed, in direct contradiction to the rules).


It also says there is no penalty for losing your home province, but then later on the same page says if you have "Trouble at Home", your leader must move to your home province.
 
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