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Subject: Britannia - The Hidden Gem rss

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Ade Lewis
United Kingdom
Wiltshire
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Well….. Let’s resurrect this one, for my and your sanity.

I’m going to be frank (but probably not), the wife’s out with the mother in law at some theatre to see ‘The Searchers’ (It’s at Frome in Wiltshire UK) and I’ve booked the dining room table for the whole weekend in order to play test a four player game solo.
10 or so hours (on and off) later, after living life, and popping into the dining room to play round after round when time permits, I’ve reached some conclusions.

First and foremost, this is a four player game, to say any differently is plain wrong, importantly - it will last 4-5 hours, so put this aside.
Start at 8pm at your peril if you want to get to bed at a reasonable hour. 7pm is a great starting point for a midnight finish.

For me this time round, this is a solo game, pretending to be four players. I’ve had a few White rum and cokes too before typing this rambling review so apologies in advance for any inconsistencies.

I’ve played 6 rounds and think that the beauty of the game has ‘appeared’
I need to share it with you.

Britannia has been on my shelf since I bought it.
Why?

Is this because the all session and reviews point towards Britannia being, a long game a behemoth of a game, an epic game, a complicated game, and, intricate? A game based around the history of the island I (or you could) live in, the driving force behind the purchase. I’ve been scared of tabling this one for no real reason other than the broad and mostly stretchy reports on BGG.
Shame on all you doubters, Why cast doubt!!

I’ve been afraid of it, thanks to BGG, the box has remained dusty due to the sketchy flaffle and mid range chaffle I’ve read, it has never ranked among the table games I have. What a mistake! I’ve always plumped for something else to learn, Shame on me!

For some reason I bought it, for some reason I opened my wallet and deprived myself of hard earned ‘wallah’ to add this board game to my collection. It was karma. It was destined to be mine, destined to stay in my collection.

I’d like to open your eyes if you have eyes to see. ;)

I’m not a great rules person, if a rulebook is complex I’m turned off, if reports say it’s a long game, too long, I’m turned off, if reports say it’s a ‘marmite’ game, I’m turned off.
I was turned off (thanks mainly to BGG reviews & session reports) before I started, but I had to try it once at least. I had to table it; I had to try it out. I had to justify the gut feeling purchase.

I’m glad I did, I’m glad I pulled out the box from the bottom of the pile, glad I spent the time sorting out the chits, glad I set it up, glad I spent three toilet reading sessions on the rules, I’m so happy I committed to testing it. Let me impart my gladness upon you.

This game is worth three craps worth of reading. Don’t mess about. Buy it, have three 15 minute time-outs (washroom sessions) and then table it for a realization that genius unfolds in a game not in the rules.

Britannia is more than the rule book - or more than a game you play strictly; it is an unfolding mystery, a story you create, your chance to alter history!!
The rules explain how you must play it, but choices and decisions made throughout the game dictate how it plays out.
Because this is dice based you see strange deviancies in how things should be, but this only adds to the whole game experience.
The real strangeness for me was how accurate it all was. No matter what you chose, the outcome was historically correct. It was fate.

Let me explain.

In this first test solo game as four players I did not score (my bad). I did not take my eye off the scoring aspect, but I did not score.
Looking at how I would have scored, all actions I took fell into the scoring requirements naturally. The game Britannia is designed so well that the actions you take are always close to the logical ones. If you take an illogical one you are never far away from scoring the logical points or recovering from your mistakes.

If there is one saving (for you, for me there is now more) grace it’s the balance of the overall game. There are many choices (dice, choices, what-ever) only a serious play reveals, Please be serious about it all and your seriousness becomes apparent and harvest points for you that will help win the game at the end.

History reveals itself, Britain’s history may change, it most likely will not. As a player you are channelled towards the right thing in order to score the maximum amount for your ‘tribes’ at any time. If you deviate, you do so at your own peril. It might be right, you may redraw history and you may design an alternate history for the better, who knows!!

The feeling from the off was that the roman armies had it all. They did.
The game plays out so that between round 1 and 4 or 5 the roman factions have it all but please hang in there! Things change, the game irons it all out. As it all progresses massive leads are reigned in and even the weakest player has the ability to recover.

Around round 6 Britannia shone, all sorts of shizzle happens that keeps the balance.

At this point I understood that mechanics, I witnessed the sheer elegance and the thought that had gone into it.
Can I think of another game that brings everything together in such a balanced waltz – No.

Can I imagine another game with a balance of historical accuracy, luck and skill, No!

I’ve yet to unleash this on my gaming group, but from an impartial solo play I am as impressed with this as I was with my solo play of Agricola.

There are times when a game captures your heart, Britannia has waited without aggravation like a neglected sibling, lurking on the edges, without trying to impress.

I am impressed, if you have never attempted to try this, try it once.

This game drives you forward, but you feel like the drive is required and its not scripted.
Without following the game drive you feel like you always feel like you are having the impact you desired, following the way the game wants to drive you is always within your grasp.
Then it dawns on you, following the paths the game drives you towards is the correct path and fuels the game for everyone.

As mentioned earlier, I was not scoring. I was not planning anything, but referring back to the scoring aspects, the choices I made naturally fell into what was required to score.
This surprised me, I was moving armies into scoring areas without realizing that this was required.
This was the amazing aspect for me.

With a little more planning and forethought I could have scored so much more, and, in fact, relived history.

What amazed me was how, without chasing the games scoring path, I chose the correct paths for most options. It’s really strange, in fact worrying, how the choices you make fall into how things should be.

Played correctly and if you choose each action you take seriously you honestly cannot go wrong.

Britannia is about as balanced a game as you can get, yes there’s dice but this adds to the flavour and weirdly pans out to fairness. Overall, history will replay itself, like it was always how it was meant to be; things may change slightly, or drastically. But overall it’s just… right,
If you are a historian it all feels correct.

My final words on this game,

Oh my god, a masterpiece that will benefit from the cleverest of players to redraw the history of Britain.

Are you able to recreate history, I doubt it.
Especially if you do not give this one the chance it rightfully deserves.

For me, the next time four qualified players are available, this is on the table.
Qualified = players that can commit to a 4-5 hour game which will leave all implicated with a sense of historic moulding not sensed before.

Britannia you have been neglected and passed by for far too long.
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Chris in Kansai
Japan
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Nice one. Thanks for inspiring me to rip the shrink off my copy and dig into the rules finally.

And have an extra thumb for a Wiltshire lad using the word shizzle.

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What's the deal with board games?
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Wait, so you've never played this with other people?
 
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Ade Lewis
United Kingdom
Wiltshire
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stanstanminson wrote:
Wait, so you've never played this with other people?


No, I have not. But I needed to write this review after play testing it solo. I wanted to ensure that if anyone out there has this game and has never played it they really need to.

I am going through my collection with a determination to learn all the games that have not been tabled or opened.
The last game I solo'd to learn was Android and after a similar solo it hit the table the next time three players were available.
The same will now happen with Britannia.

I cannot wait to see how it unfolds. It's an utterly great game and everything feels right about the mechanics.

I never thought a dice based game could 'feel' so balanced, its the best of many worlds and tickles itches on so many levels.

I'll try to pop back after the inevitable session and report on how it went.
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Lewis Pulsipher
United States
Linden
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I'm glad you enjoyed the game, Ade.

Be aware that most players take several plays to really understand most of the strategy involved in the game.

I confess, I find playing solo quite interesting, to "see what happens next", as I work on the new edition of the standard game. (The FFG version is out of print.)

The Romans have a harder time of it in the prototype new edition of the game, but still dominate when played well.

The Romano-British are much stronger in this new version, which is not only better history but makes for different strategy.


There's a "freeform" version (player decides where to score) that is less historical, and starts after the Romans leave, but is much quicker, takes me 2-2.5 hours to play solo.

I'm also working hard to balance a new-from-scratch three player version.



There are actually three versions in the new "editions", which will probably be sold separately.

I've just tested the quickest version of the game ("Conquer Britannia") with family (two of them non-wargamers) last night in 2 and a half hours. (Testing with family can be quite illuminating, though I don't recommend on a regular basis!) Experienced players have taken as little as 1:24 to play.

There's also a 3 hour, diceless (combat cards) version ("Rule Britannia").

The revision of the standard version is better history, better for teaching history, but definitely epic, hence the current name, "Epic Britannia".

Anyone interested in playtesting should check into the Eurobrit Yahoo Group.
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Jim F
United Kingdom
Birmingham
West Midlands
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Great game. Personally prefer the original.
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Andrew Borgelin
United Kingdom
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Great review and totally agree with you about the game. I love to play this one but, it can be very long and it does really benefit from multiple repeat plays as players need to know what each others power can do and how they get their points and what you must do to stop them.

I see that you are in Wilts; we have a group that meets on a Thursday night and every second Sunday in the month at the George in Frome. If you want to join up for a Sunday games day we could arrange a four player game of this with a bit of luck and we can fight it out on the battlefield that was Britain in the first millennium.... Give us a shout if you are interested!

Cheers

Andy B
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Helmut Hohberger
Germany
Munich
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Yes, a great game that has been a favourite of mine for well over 20 years.
 
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Gary Wilson
United Kingdom
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This is a great game that is rare in being able to survive the test of time and new mechanics - Great game.
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Ade Lewis
United Kingdom
Wiltshire
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I've now played this with opponents and its as good as I thought it would be.
We ended the game after the 6th turn due to time constraints but it was enjoyed by all.

I've also played the mid game turns in two player, awesome and easily picked up by new players.

I look forward to an 'all dayer' with Britannia, its one of the games deserving of an all day gaming session and will be on the list of games to choose every time the chance presents itself.
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Patrick McNamara
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Great review! I just picked Britannia up today at my ULGS (and yes, the U is for unfriendly) for $40. I thought it was a pretty good deal. And after, reading this, I am really looking forward to getting a solo play or 2 in before unleashing it on the group. Now, off to the crapper! whistle
 
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Phillip White
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Birmingham
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You have inspired me. I have owned this game for forever but have never played it, and was seriously considering trading it away without ever giving it a try. I now think I will at least set it up and solo it once before making a final decision.
 
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Dmitri Pisarev
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Found the 1986 Gibson Games edition of this for £1.99 in a charity shop this afternoon, out shopping with my 7 year old son! It caught my eye and I just had that feeling about it. Got it down from the shelf, and a quick scan of the rules made it sound like a premonition of Small World. Does that make sense?

Anyway, the copy seems never to have been played -- but it will be this weekend. Delighted to read so much positive writing about the game, which from theme to design to mechanics looks like a doozy!
 
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Martin Gallo
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noglet wrote:
Found the 1986 Gibson Games edition of this for £1.99 in a charity shop this afternoon, out shopping with my 7 year old son! It caught my eye and I just had that feeling about it. Got it down from the shelf, and a quick scan of the rules made it sound like a premonition of Small World. Does that make sense?

Anyway, the copy seems never to have been played -- but it will be this weekend. Delighted to read so much positive writing about the game, which from theme to design to mechanics looks like a doozy!
Good find. Great game!
 
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A Goldman
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absolutely right. endless solo replay value. In my current playthrough, I'm pretending that Purple and Blue are secret allies (Yellow and Blue to owners of more recent versions -- I have the Gibsons Games version).
 
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