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We don't take kindly to YOUR color of cubes around here.
I've played Louis XIV a couple times before, but this was my first opportunity for a two player game (using a third "ghost" player). My opponent, Ben, was playing for the first time. After two practice rounds to give him the idea, we started in for real.
We used Jonathan Degann's alternative board layout, leaving all tokens sitting in the box. In my opinion, this really does make the board look far less intimidating. We also opted for the common house rule that eliminates the randomized shield bonuses at the endgame.
My first round looked very strong--I ended up taking six mission chips and was able to enter the next round with three mission cards already on the table. Ben did okay, fulfilling two missions.
Unfortunately I spent all my cash on round one, which hurt me rather badly when we each received only two gold at the start of round two. Nonetheless I was able to hold my own in rounds two and three, alternating between medium and hard missions. I headed into round four with mission cards that supplied me with +3 gold, an intrigue card, a tiebreaker card, and extra influence on the Louis board, among other things.
On the other hand, Ben had managed to fulfill missions that allowed him to completely resupply his stash of influence markers when heading into round four. He also had an extra influence card, so he had plenty of opportunity to make use of all those markers.
At the end of the influence phase, round four was looking pretty good for me... and then Ben pulls out his whammy card that lets him lay four influence markers on the card of his choosing (Louis, of course). This turned out to be the deciding play in a very close game.
I ended up with 10 mission cards and five shields, for a total of 55. Ben had only 8 mission cards, but had collected enough shields to push his score up to 57.
The two player game is entertaining, but I think three or four players makes for more interesting competition. Ben commented at one point that he felt like he was playing against the game, and not so much against me; I think that sums up my feelings pretty well. The two player game didn't offer as many opportunities for screwing opponents.
I'm still very much in the learning phase when it comes to Louis XIV. Today I learned:
- Don't forget to keep track of your opponents' mission cards.
- Don't underestimate the shields.
- Intrigue cards can be great, but they can also be near-useless. In general, I might prefer a good supply card to a randomly chosen intrigue card.