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Subject: Great Beer And Pretzels Game, Albeit Slightly Flawed rss

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Dickie Crickets
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Supremacy was the board game of choice for my buddies and I back in high school, and it still gets dug out every now and then when it's Guy's Night and we have no big plans. While the game features a ton of expansions, these tend to slow down and complicate the proceedings to an annoying degree, so we simply use the Fortuna, Middle Powers, and Warlords/Pirates expansions and leave the rest aside. The game is basically Advanced Risk with nuclear missiles and a stock market, and features many of the same pleasures, including the crafting of clever strategies and making shady alliances with other players. As always, victory is declared when all other players are eliminated or driven into bankruptcy, although much like in Risk, this can take a LONG time, and thus you may wish to set alternative victory scenarios. The game can also end in nuclear winter if enough territorities are bombed into ash, in which case, nobody wins. This can lead to some obvious endgame problems, which I'll get into later.

While you can play with as little as two players, Supremacy really needs at least four to be remotely interesting, and you'll want more than that if possible. With the Middle Powers expansion, there are eight superpowers you can play as, so there's plenty of space at the war table. Having more players does slow things down, obviously, but it makes diplomacy and combat much more intriguing. The ability to 'champion' other players by opting to have your laser satellites shoot down nuclear attacks intended for them can lead to some very interesting last-minute deals and allegiances. (It's also a fun way of incurring the wrath of guys who enjoy launching nuclear weapons.)

As noted earlier, the gameplay will be very familiar to Risk fans. You'll use little plastic armies and navies, and battle with dice. The main difference between the two games is that Supremacy uses a system of money and resources, which are required to build armies/missiles/satellites and pay the bills. To keep the cash coming in, you'll need to play the stock market and sell the grain/minerals/oil that your companies produce. Of course, you need that stuff to make your military and effectively attack/defend, too, so if you shot your load at the market to load up on money, don't be surprised if you get attacked while your defensive pants are down.

Deciding which 'phases' to participate in (and how heavily to do so) is the main strategy of Supremacy. You get three little markers at the start of each turn, and each time you want to participate in a 'phase,'
it costs you a marker. The phases are: sell at the market, attack, move troops, purchase troops, buy at the market, and research/develop. As you can see, with only three markers, you aren't able to participate in each phase per turn. So you'd better choose wisely. It can be terribly frustrating to spend a precious marker on the sell phase, only to see it wasted as you get a low die roll and the other guys raid the market before you get a chance to make any real money. Your marker is essentially wasted, and thus, some players find Supremacy to be a little too dependent on chance. Your mileage may vary. I actually like the element of chance; hence, we use the add-on Fortuna deck, which causes random events to occur each turn, such as earthquakes, market fluctuations, and militia uprisings.

If Supremacy has any real flaws, it's in the somewhat passive nature of the design. Many players (especially newer ones) tend to sit around, contentedly playing the market and buying armies that collect dust in their territories. Or, if they're feeling frisky, they'll attack a neutral territory to collect some tribute. While this is all well and friendly, this sort of 'turtling' strategy grows old quickly. The problem will only get worse as time goes on, as players will build massive piles of armies and tactical weapons that make any kind of aggression rather unwise. Eventually, a player will get bored and attack someone for the heck of it, usually hopelessly. The other players will then turn on the now-weakened aggressor, essentially punishing him for trying to get something started. To prevent this, it's best for all players to make a general agreement that a wargame is a wargame, and get down to business. Canada and South America, for example, could unite to put the squeeze on North America and decide to split the bounty afterwards. If your friends are anything like mine, one or two other players will take mock offense at this kind of unfair bullying and sail on over to attack Canada or South America while they're otherwise occupied. After a few turns of this, everyone will be in the mix in one form or another, and the fun factor quickly escalates. When the board becomes a giant swarm of colored army and navy pieces and combat is flying left and right, everyone will be having a ball, cheering their temporary allies and booing their enemy-of-the-week.

The other controversial factor in Supremacy are the nuclear missiles, which can be gamebreakers. A nuked territory is gone from the game forever, and all armies and companies within are obliterated. A volley of five or six missiles can eliminate an entire superpower in one shot, if he has no laser satellites to defend himself with. The satellites cost twice as much to build as missiles do, so it can be difficult to assemble a large enough defense screen. And many players, when faced with impossible odds, will go deep into debt to buy one last huge payload of nukes to rain death upon their enemies. (Or even try to force a draw with a nuclear winter.) You may need to make some house rules to keep nuclear weapons from dominating the game. I would advise against eliminating nukes entirely, though, as they make for some interesting strategy.

While Supremacy needs a fairly large group of players and at least one veteran (called a Marshall) to direct the proceedings, it will be well worth the effort. It's a highly enjoyable table-top wargame that has brought many long, entertaining nights to my friends and I. The game can be difficult to find these days, though, and it is often surprisingly expensive, considering the relatively generic nature of the pieces and accessories. Be prepared to spend a little coin if you decide to hunt the game down on on-line auctions.
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J Castellucci
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Many junior college homework assignments were skipped staying up late drinking beer and playing Suprmacy. Your description almost sounded like you were part of our gaming group.

While there are a bazillion expansions for Supremacy, the only one that is really crucial is the Field Marshall's Handbook. This expansion was essentially a revised rulebook with lots of variants to spice up the basic game. Our group was big fans of the bidding for actions variant to determine who did what and in what order. Of course, this led to a lot of market exploitation (one player sells to bring up the market in colusion with the next player who will sell and give the first player a big kickback).

Nukes weren't a real controversy in our group, and they were used often to bully people (we've had games end with everyone losing to a nuclear winter) or block off access points. Satellites were essential because of this.

The game does have a real "cold war feel" to it, which might not be fully appreciated by younger gamers.
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Dickie Crickets
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I hope that there are still groups of rowdy teenage guys playing tabletop wargames these days. I know video games are easier and provide insta-pleasure (which I also enjoy), but there's nothing quite like a good, solid game of strategy. Heck, we could get an hour of fun just from coming up with funny names for generals and admirals.

Let me ask you this: how did you and your friends interpret the rules for sharing resources? Did you allow it at all? And if so, during what phases? We found that the ability to share resources during the attack phase was a bit unbalancing, so we limited it to the buy and sell phases. But I doubt this meshes with the official ruling.
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Jay Moore
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I used to play Supremacy in High School as well, but the thrill is gone. WAY gone. One of the biggest problems of this game, IMO, is the way that when a power gets attacked, they can make a counterattack anywhere on the board against anybody. This allows for some pretty ridiculous situations, as Person A attacks Person B halfheartedly, allowing Person B to attack Person C before Person C gets to move. This has led to countless shouting matches in our game groups, which is why I don't play anymore!

If the Supremacy itch must be scratched, I think there are better ways to do it. There are a lot of games that have that Supremacy feel to them, but with a much tighter ruleset. Unfortunately, none of them have the cool nuke mushroom clouds, which IMO make the game so darn appealing.

Nice review, though. I think Supremacy was a neat little game that just really shows its age.
 
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J Castellucci
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eaglebeak wrote:
Let me ask you this: how did you and your friends interpret the rules for sharing resources? Did you allow it at all?


It's been quite a while, but, IIRC, the only time you could Trade resources (i.e. share) was during the Market phase, and then only if the Seller(?) chose it as an action.
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Kris Dybeck
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Stormbull wrote:
eaglebeak wrote:
Let me ask you this: how did you and your friends interpret the rules for sharing resources? Did you allow it at all?


It's been quite a while, but, IIRC, the only time you could Trade resources (i.e. share) was during the Market phase, and then only if the Seller(?) chose it as an action.


That's exactly how we interpreted the rules as well (if anyone cares after all these years )
 
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steve davidson
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we all quickly realized that the market portion of the game was screwed up, allowing player's to "sell high and buy low" every turn. Once we figured this out, the game went in the closet
 
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