I arrived a little late, to Tal welcomed the first guests. Hershel returned after a long absence. Bill and Shirley brought a friend Liza, who had not played any modern games.
SetTal, Hershel, Gili
Tal entertained them with this until I arrived. I don't know how it went.
In the Shadow of the EmperorNadine 23, Hershel 19, Gili 16, Jon 15
First play for all of us. I read the rules for this last shabbat, and read them again as we set up. It looked like it wasn't going to be too complicated a game, but strategies were not obvious from the first. We all started making essentially random moves until about a third of the way into the game.
This is an area-control, negotiation game with some twists.
The game doesn't specify any kind of negotiation in the rules, but at several points in each round players may decide the fortunes of other players, which leads inevitably to negotiation. I'm not exactly thrilled with that mechanic, unless negotiations are enforceable; I don't enjoy backstabbing games (except Diplomacy, which is nothing but). And, with negotiation over fairly important points, much of your success or failure is a result of other people's whims, which means he who whines most generally wins.
In this game, negotiation plays a strong role unless you play carefully to avoid it. So it's kind of a mix. And we played with hidden victory points (they were trackable, like in Puerto Rico, but no one tracked them), so you couldn't always figure out to whom to give the points, assuming that you wanted to give them to the losing player and gang up on the winner. In actuality, we always guessed correctly. Nevertheless, the other players would have preferred to play with victory points open, so that they didn't have to guess.
Other than that, the game was quite good. It reminded me of a more intense interactive version of Tribune.
It's played over five rounds. On each round:
- you collect income (a bit more if you have certain things on the board)
- all of your pieces on the board "age" (some die)
- you get a new piece or you get a VP or another gold
- you take as many actions as you can afford, and you may get some bonus actions if you had control of an area the previous round; there are various different actions, to age or youthen one of your guys, add new guys, move guys, take a victory point, gain bonus voting power, increase your income level, and so on
- you figure out who has control of each area, winning 2 points if you gain control of it (but not if you simply keep control of it)
- all players who have control of any area now vote for the new emperor, between the current emperor and the contender if there is one; the emperor gains a VP or two and some other bonuses on the next round (and the voters each get a point)
You gain points for: one of the actions, gaining control of an area, being in control of one particular area, voting for the emperor, or being the emperor. All of these are 1 to 2 points each, so final scores are low. All of the other mechanics seem like a lot of work to gain these few points, but it never felt like it was dragging or uninteresting.
In our game, I kind of got knocked out from all areas in mid-game, which made coming back very difficult. The only reason I did as well as I did were the few points thrown my way because everyone knew I was losing. None of use knew for sure who was winning, but we all essentially figured out the correct order. Nadine took the most straight victory points directly from the cards, and also had the highest income the earliest; I don't know how she managed that, yet.
R-EcoShirley, Bill, Liza
First play for Liza, I don't know what happened. Nadine coached.
ContainerShirley, Bill, Liza, Abraham
I didn't think this was the best first game for a new player, but at least, as Nadine said, the mechanics repeat themselves and are not too difficult. Shirley won.