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Subject: Is Pax Necessary? Or, Why I Feel the Way I Do rss

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Jonathan Harrison
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Get Your Pax Out of My Porfiriana!

The only session reports I’ve written before now are blow-by-blow recaps of my Earth Reborn sessions, for my own records.

And the only review I’ve written has been a review of the rules for Napoleon’s Triumph. As much as I’d like to inhale games and exhale reviews, I’m having enough trouble matching my comments count to my collection size.

But when Matt Logan asked one night in the Up Front thread whether I could report back on my initial play of Pax Porfiriana, I couldn’t not do it. Because, totally unbeknownst to the man from Peoria, I had had a fucking awesome first play of Pax.

I’ll start out with some disclaimers:

• I had only played 2-player Pax when I wrote the first, informal version of this session report. I’ve since played 3-player Pax, and it is even better.

• In neither of my games have we played strife correctly. No, we surveyed the Clenched Fist of Screwing Everyone Over and said to ourselves,
Fools that we were, we wrote:
“How iconic! and thematic! What flavor doth art convey!”
forgetting, as hardened players of Origins, that there is no flavor art in an Eklund game: there is only which layout element is screwing you this turn. So we played without strife, and those who have played Pax will understand that there is a void in the experience Pax provides if you play without strife. So take this report with a saline cube, hermano.

• My previous version of this session report was wrong. There was no Pyrrhic tie: there was a Depression, and we all died while putting the game back in the box.

• This is a session report of only the last 10 minutes of our game.



The Origin of Pax in the Breakdown of the Bicameral LotSM

For those who don’t know, Pax is the newest game by the self-induced performance art team known as Phil Eklund. After throwing in with Julian Jaynes in Origins and shooting down an entire generation’s dreams of Going To The Moon When I Grow Up in High Frontier, Phil and two willing co-conspirators have dropped into what can only be considered exactly the sort of scam you’ll be running in Pax all game long.

Since you’re the sort of person who already owns the first and second editions of Lords of the Sierra Madre, you’ll be, I shit you not, outraged to realize that what you’re getting in the 4"×4"×2" Pax box is Lords of the Colinas Madre.

Buenos tardes, Pancho, you heard me right: when you buy Pax “Lefty” Porfiriana, you’ll find that you were right to wonder how they fit

• Hex grid
nor
• Paper mapsheet (plexiglas not included)
nor
• 352 counters
nor
• 5 separately available documents of errata
nor
• 2 dice

inside a package smaller than three Tichu boxes having a fistfight.

They didn’t, and clearly if you’re not feeling cheated about now, you’re a tolerant man. I don’t know about you, but I read errata for fun! More value for my money, that’s me and errata: If you don’t know free expansions when you see them, then you can get your chopsticks away from my burrito, pal.

Suffice it to say that the joys of counting hexes are wholly lost on this new generation of “Phil Eklund”.


Persons who have a significant time investment in translating Lords of the Sierra Madre from its original English should stop reading here.


Gunning for El Grande

Hello, chiquita! What rifles you say? We card players, amiga. No dice, no hexes, no counters, no funny business, just we and the cards. Frikkin Old Phil can go burn all his movement points, ’cos equally Frikkin New Phil just handed us the biggest package of badassery per square inch since we fit four years’ worth of Innovation in a single frame, only bigger.

Because whereas LotSM1&2 was all cards, with the exception of a hex-gridded paper map, 352 counters, and 2 dice, Pax is all cards, with the exception of your play partners and lighting arrangements. There are some cubes, but they look nice (even if they are in primary colors), you get only 15 apiece, and if you combined them all you could play 3⅛ sides of Origins using them.

The point of the game is to overthrow, or otherwise succeed, Porfirio Díaz. Whether by controlling the military at the right time, bootlicking with the best of them, making time with the revolutionaries, or simply pissing on the boots of Teddy Roosevelt while painting a halo around your own head. And how you do it is the point of the game.

Now that the pre–session report is longer than the session report will be, I’ll treat you to the real reason you came: a true session report, with as little context as I can muster, no explanation of key terms, and a cast it’s just as well you don’t know personally. (We’re nice, but probably not to you.)


What I Wouldn’t Give for a Subsidiary Branch in Sonora

The context I said I wouldn’t give, and what precious little it is: We have failed to topple Díaz three times now. Once it was close but I failed, once Jesse had the game in the bag and failed to see it (I pointed it out when my turn began with as much grace as I could muster, and you can imagine how little that was), and the first time we were as broke as the Illinois State Treasury on any date you care to name.

The turn I pulled out the last Topple card, with 5 cards remaining in the draw deck, I had just purposely thrown Sonora and Chihuahua into anarchy and was ready to topple Díaz in my role as revolutionary leader of Mexico on my next turn: I had been working on this for months, quietly collecting supporters and allowing the liberation of Yacqui slaves in my district under the pretense of trying to heighten the already keen American outrage at banditry in Sonora.

But two turns before, having only the three standard actions to work with, I had no choice but to raise Jesse’s suspicion when I took advantage of political unrest to personally liberate the Yacqui slaves in the plantations in my home department, publicly painting myself as a liberator.

The next turn I gave myself completely away to Jesse by arranging for open declarations of support from the various public figures I had been secretly lining up behind me. Everything was in place for my coup, ticking like a clock, and I was two fucking actions away from making the whole thing go down. The Revolution was on its very eve.

But Jesse spent $80,000 in bribes to take advantage of one of the current headlines to himself back Díaz and give Díaz the bare edge he needed against me—even though Jesse’s doing so lost both Jesse and me half our respective personal fortunes ($180,000 loss for him, $30,000 [of $50,000] loss for me), and even though doing so earned me $80,000 from speculation on the headline event.

Even after that I could still have pulled out the win the next turn by inciting the provinces back toward anarchy, but Jesse then spent $80,000 more buying the Topple card. Díaz was ready to fall, and Jesse gave him the push.

Being a Fucking Leech Down in Chihuahua

Because of all the unrest that had accumulated in my district, much of my support among Díaz’s camp had diminished, but Jesse had had very little to begin with. I had some residual credibility with Díaz’s government, though, and a business partner who had Díaz’s ear, so my hacendado declared himself publicly for Díaz to scrape together the last shreds of support I needed to become Díaz's legitimate political heir and successor: but then Jesse's hacendado, who had political connections with Díaz going back as far as mine did, declared himself for Díaz as well, against me, and pulled the whole thing out of my fingers right as they were closing.

So thanks to unrest at those of my haciendas that I had once used to support Díaz, I was 1 point shy of becoming Díaz’s successor (I had a very strong setup—Jesse leeched off my enterprises all game), and we moved to the personal fortune tiebreaker. Nobody was succeeding Díaz or overthrowing him, but one of us was going to be out of favor in significantly more style than the other, if possible.

Jesse had drastically reduced his personal fortune of $440,000 to keep me first from leading a revolution against Díaz and then from turning around and getting appointed Díaz’s successor (oh, I had played a coy game), but he still had $100,000 remaining. I had started the turn with $20,000, but since Jesse’s meddling in the current headlines had earned me $80,000 in speculation, I had just socked away $100,000 in the bank, too. (Not my bank, of course—his U.S. cavalry had been extorting from my bank all game, so I spitefully let it wallow in unrest: it was earning neither of us anything.)

So we moved to the tiebreaker tiebreaker: earning power.

And because all my enterprises were in unrest, I didn’t win on the second tiebreaker, either, having an earning power of $00,000. (You read that right: when the game speaks in money, it does it by ones, but I do it by ten thousands.) Jesse’s earning power was $90,000, so, having averted two coups, both at the last possible moment, and finding himself no more the prestigious than me in personal fortune, he squeaked out the win at the last, on the second tiebreaker.

I’m Only Depressed When It’s All Over, Lefty

But Jesse’s desperate actions, his tampering with multiple headline events in a single turn, had unbalanced the markets and thrown us into a depression, crashing his earning potential to $0 as well. He got to enjoy his win for as long as it took for me to swear in Spanish at him, but as we started collecting the cards from the table to return them to the box, depression hit. The earning value of his mines (he had only mines) plummeted to $0, the market was destroyed, and our departments were already ravaged and rife with unrest, overrun with machine gun–armed troops. There was nothing left for either of us in Mexico. I had had a gun store, but it had been raided by revolutionaries, with my permission, during my failed bid for the presidential mansion. And Jesse had been extorting it anyway.

Jesse may have won in Phil Eklund’s book, but in my Book of Moral Victories (it is large), it was a for-all-purposes-but tie, a tie worthy of Pyrrhus.

Pax? Pax is a fucking masterpiece.
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Dan Moore
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SO want to play this
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Jorik
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Quote:
What I Wouldn’t Give for a Subsidiary Branch in Sonora


that linky under the subsidiary brach is an awfull truth, I could have won the last PbF with it as well as several FtF games, and who knows what will happen in my Vassal game, probably the same.

Awesome writeup Johnathan
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Cole Wehrle
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Great write up!! And I agree, it is a fucking masterpiece. As far as I'm concerned, between that and The Great Zimbabwe, 2012 was the best year in recent memory for games.
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Martí Cabré

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Awesome.

So the final result was a tie to 0$ income due to the unrest and depression?
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Matt Logan
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Outstanding session report Jonathan! I'm gonna have to drive down to Fisher and play this with you guys some time. Pax is where it's at.
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Mark Crane
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Your multicolored f-bomb circumvented my profanity plugin.
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Jonathan Harrison
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marticabre wrote:
Awesome.

So the final result was a tie to 0$ income due to the unrest and depression?

Nope. The final result was a win for Jesse, $9 to $0. But the very next thing that [would have] happened after determining the victor was the onset of a depression that sent us both crashing into dust, and dropped him to $0 income as well.

So I'm sure it was a very hollow victory for him.
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Jonathan Harrison
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Matt Logan
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Matt Logan wrote:
Outstanding session report Jonathan! I'm gonna have to drive down to Fisher and play this with you guys some time. Pax is where it's at.

You do that! I work at home, and so am practically always available.

We can compare mustaches.
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Jonathan Harrison
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craniac wrote:
Your multicolored f-bomb circumvented my profanity plugin.

Fi[i][/i]xed. Now you should be able to see all of them. modest


Cole Wehrle wrote:
Great write up!! And I agree, it is a fucking masterpiece. As far as I'm concerned, between that and The Great Zimbabwe, 2012 was the best year in recent memory for games.
Don't make me wish now that I hadn't passed up a chance to buy this! shake
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Justus
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wow. one hell of a session report. I just got another 3 plays at the game store today (two 4P, one 2P) and having played the full range of players, I think its all good. The 2P game is a bit more of a tug of war, but still a very good game. I think I like 4P more than 3P, but for a learning game its a little harder cause there are more moving pieces. 5P is good, but only if everyone has already played at least once.

In any case, I think I've officially fired TTA, no that I loved it so much anyways, but Pax does the card drafting extravaganza so much evocatively while still being a tense tight game.
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Martí Cabré

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HuginnGreiling wrote:
marticabre wrote:
Awesome.

So the final result was a tie to 0$ income due to the unrest and depression?

Nope. The final result was a win for Jesse, $9 to $0. But the very next thing that [would have] happened after determining the victor was the onset of a depression that sent us both crashing into dust, and dropped him to $0 income as well.

So I'm sure it was a very hollow victory for him.


Oh, now I understand.

Yes, I'm sure it was a very bitter victory for him. laugh
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Cole Wehrle wrote:
Great write up!! And I agree, it is a fucking masterpiece. As far as I'm concerned, between that and The Great Zimbabwe, 2012 was the best year in recent memory for games.


Excellent to hear. I have both these games arriving next week.
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Gordon J
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Excellent report. Probably one of the most unique games I've payed in a long time.
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Mike Siggins
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Most unique. No, and no.

Did we really need the swearing?
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Jonathan Harrison
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Do we "really need" the acute accent over the i in Díaz? Yes, if it expresses the exact meaning the author intends to convey.

If language isn't abusive, I have no grounds for finding it objectionable. "Swearing" as you use it is simply a nebulous construct used to de-emotionalize visceral language. It certainly has nothing to do with the biblical prohibition against "swearing" [of oaths, as prohibited in the New Testament], nor with "cursing" [no imprecation here!].

Obviously people unjustifiably malign many words as "swearing" nonetheless, but all I anticipate from those people is that they will themselves not use such visceral language in their session reports. I feel assured you will not, so you have accomplished your purpose in posting here! That makes two of us now.

No need to ask a *wink, wink* question. If you have something to say, say it. If what you want to say needs to be said in RSP or Complaints, please say it there instead. As far as I'm concerned, the entire English language is free for use. If you take offense at the meaning of my words, rather than the diction I use to convey that meaning (believe me when I say that no other words exactly expressed my meaning, and notice that I have 15 edits invested into getting this session report to its current state), then I'm sure the mods will be happy to hear it. Feel free to GM them.

I've used 644 different words in this session report. In my judgment, my meaning required the use of the 3 words you devalue. I'm just giving words a fair chance.


[edit]

To demonstrate the difference between abusive and nonabusive use of the same word, and mod response to them, see the thread Is Twilight Struggle a wargame?, in which the first three posts are mine. I was moderated, and it was worth it.
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Jonathan Harrison
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Cole Wehrle wrote:
Great write up!! And I agree, it is a fucking masterpiece. As far as I'm concerned, between that and The Great Zimbabwe, 2012 was the best year in recent memory for games.
Damn you, Cole! I broke down and got The Great Zimbabwe last week. zombie
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HuginnGreiling wrote:
Cole Wehrle wrote:
Great write up!! And I agree, it is a fucking masterpiece. As far as I'm concerned, between that and The Great Zimbabwe, 2012 was the best year in recent memory for games.
Damn you, Cole! I broke down and got The Great Zimbabwe last week. zombie


Awesome. Well I hope you enjoy it! It's gotten a steady stream of plays over here and has made more converts than enemies. And the game has remained interesting at the 10+ play mark which is a very good sign.

Of course, I consider purchases like that pretty low risk too. Those Splotters always hold their value.

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Jonathan Harrison
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Yes, I agree (as someone who bought Antiquity slightly late)!
 
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