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Subject: Age of Imperialism! Historical Scenario rss

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Edward Hoden
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We had a nice four player game of War! Age of Imperialism. If you are not familiar with it, W!AoI is sort of Axis and Allies meets Risk set in the mid 1800s. Each player takes a colonial power and attempts to rule the world. The basic game allows each player to choose territories for their empire, just like Risk. The historical setup provides for a reasonable representation of the Europe/Asia/Australia situation during the time frame indicated. We played the historical version. Chuck played Britain, I (Ed) had France, Greg had Germany, and John had Russia.

It is kind of funny that most of the game reviews talk about how there is little player interaction in the opening game because players are so spread apart. Those reviews are referring only to the basic game. In the historic game, France, Germany, and Russia are crowded together (big armies jammed into little areas) at game start. And in the four player version, there is no Austro-Hungarian Empire as a counterbalance in Southern Europe/the Balkans. As a side note, I think the generic "European" player provided in the five player game is a poor choice. It combines A-H, Spain, Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands into a single player and besides be ahistorical really clogs up Europe. I would much rather see an Ottoman Empire player (weaker though it would be, it would fill a niche otherwise empty on the board).

Back on topic. Greg, John, and I, being who we are and well aware of our own game-playing tendencies immediately initiated a general European theater conflict. On the opening turn, the warmongering Germans invaded both Italy and Austria-Hungary as the French loudly hinted that such a move would leave the heartlands of Germany and Prussia open to an invasion. Not being deterred in the least by such feeble threats, the Great Grey War Machine swiftly added the two invaded states to the Reich. Diplomatic missives flew and Russia and France both declared war on the vile Hun.

The Germans immediately marched their main force across the Rhine and conquered France (I being utterly unable to roll a single number over 5 on two dice). The French government withdrew across the Mediterranean, exiled to Algeria where it could at least harass the Germans with the threat of a naval invasion from Northern Africa. Meanwhile, the Russian Army enjoyed huge success in the east, smashing the Germans repeatedly and eventually conquering Germany, Prussia, and Austria-Hungary as the turns proceeded. France-In-Exile briefly regained Paris only to see the City of Lights extinguished forever.

With German industry in the hands of the Czar, the Kaiser embarked upon what must be called Gotterdammerung. Around turn 3 or 4, the Germans began destroying all of Europe rather than see it in Russian hands, burning Paris, Danzig, and Koenigsberg to the ground, destroying the industrial Ruhr, and tearing up German railroads. This change in policy seemed to change German luck because the Germans began to win some important battles. In one last desperate act, the final remaining effective German force captured Moscow and St Petersburg and put them to the torch.

What was Britain up to you ask? Mostly, Britain observed an uneasy peace, assimilating China and Korea into the British Empire but having little luck in Central Asia. Around the time Germany began turning out lights all over Europe, Britain took a more bellicose stand, declaring war on Russia and attacking repeatedly into Kazakhstan. Russian luck held for a while as lonely soldati, with nowhere else to run, drove off much larger British forces or inflicted ferocious amounts casualties before being defeated.

By the end of game turn six (of a scheduled ten), the only city left standing outside the British Empire was Algiers. The French had had no luck expanding into Africa and other than sending the German navy to the bottom of the Atlantic had little effect on the course of events on the Continent. The Germans and Russians had no production available and both armies had taken a terrible beating, the Germans more so. The British possessed portions of Africa, all of Australia, the Indian subcontinent, about half the Far East, and had a sizable army in Central Asia. So by mutual consent the British were declared the winner and thus endeth the war.

All in all it was quite a fun game. But I will go ahead and point out some deficiencies I believe are in the historical scenario.

We sort of mixed and matched some of the advanced rules with the standard game. No one was too keen on doing all of the investment and invention stuff so we left that out. In turn, that meant sticking to standard combat in order to retain the School modifiers to the combat roll.

Some sort of immediate peace agreement or truce by the European powers is needed in order to have any chance of someone other than Britain winning. Either that or the players just need to have more sense than we showed. :-)

I think the initial setup needs to allocate at least one Explorer to each nation to give players something other to do than just go straight to war. In this sense the German player in particular is out of luck because he has nowhere to go other than Scandinavia, Italy, and Austria-Hungary. Germany almost HAS to take AH in order to gain a Mediterranean port and have access to Africa.

I think assigning resources and natives to starting colonial holdings is a good idea. The rules contain sections for simulating native uprisings and developing resources in conquered locations but none are put in place in starting-owned areas. So inciting the citizens of India to throw off the oppressive yolk of British is not really an option.

On the topic of assigning resources, I think it would almost be better to manually assign native and resource markers to the major non-controlled regions. In the four player game that would be places like Spain, Italy, Austria-Hungary, China, etc. Random assignment probably works fine for the Risk-like set up but I think the verisimilitude of the historical scenario is undermined by random assignment.

Someone needs to sort out the rules for buildings in a region. The rules state only one per (with some exceptions). However the historical scenario violates this rule for almost every nation. We went ahead and threw out the limit instead saying you were limited to one building of each type in a region.

Lastly, I would like a more complex combat system. The game designer mentions in the rules that if that is desired, use the combat system from Eagle Games' American Civil War. I think I would try to track those down and use them for the next game.
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Philip Thomas
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Yeah, the Historical Scenario has its problems. Worst in 6 players where Japan is utterly screwed. Germany can take out France easily (and thereby secure the Mediterranean Port), but then it faces Russia. Britain has the strongest position overall...

 
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Edward Hoden
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Of course you are correct. As a game, the historical scenario has numerous issues, not the least of which are its contradictions with the game rules. But as a simulation of the decisions facing the various European nations, I think the game does a good job of putting you in Imperial shoes. Expand or die!

Even though I have not played the six player game, your comments about Japan are probably spot on. I am assuming that the historical scenario begins in the late 1880s. Britain did not occupy Egypt until 1882 and did not consolidate control of South Africa until after the Zulu War and the First Boer War (ended in 1881). France did not possess Annam until 1885-86. By that time, the Meiji industrialization of Japan was well under way and Japan was one of the, if not the single, fastest growing economies in the world. So something probably needs to be done with the initial setup to make Japan more competitive and to reflect their rapid economic expansion. Having an explorer would help because then they could begin the takeover of Korea, much like really happened.

Returning to Germany and the time frame, Germany did occupy three African colonies by 1884-85: Togoland, German East Africa, and German South West Africa. Some of the pressure for war in Europe would be alleviated by turning an empty province or two into German colonies in appropriate spaces.

Besides requiring a Declaration of War, players might institute a rules-binding Defensive Treaty. That is, a Declaration of War against Player A is the equivalent to a Declaration of War against Player B, if the players so agree. This to would make the decision to go to war more onerous if, say, declaring war on France would automatically bring Russia into the conflict.

The game suffers most in trying to be a simple simulation of a complex situation, at least in my eyes. I purchase war games for their historicity and not necessarily just to command and conquer. I was expecting something more like Pax Britannica and less like Risk. In that sense, I was a little disappointed when I opened the box. But the game is still extremely fun to play and our game made at least one person want to purchase his own copy.
 
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Philip Thomas
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Yeah, for a while I made new Scenarios for each decade between 1815 and 1914. If you are interested I could dig them out of the cupboard the game is in (which I won't have access to until Saturday). The scenarios include optional Tech tree advances for the various nations as well. I even allocated a few Resources.


One idea I toyed with was making the Tech tree a fixed cost. Maybe 20 x the number of the advance? Not sure.

If your friend has any good eurogames I might be willing to trade him my copy of this- I have become totally fed up with it. Although it would probably take ages to reach the States.ninja
 
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Edward Hoden
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I would be very interested in the scenarios you made up if you can find the time to post them. Thank you very much in that case.

I have mentioned the potential trade to the gent who is interested in the game. I pointed him in your direction if he wants to trade for it. I am not sure how many Euro-style games he owns as, much like myself, he is more of a wargamer, but I cannot say that for sure.
 
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Philip Thomas
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Hmm. Is he on the geek?

 
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