I just want to briefly say that you should consider supporting Tuscany/MERCS:Recon on kickstarter as they’re both EU friendly and look really awesome =P (Also SDE…but you might get shafted for customs/shipping/taxes…I just want to play it when it’s out ^^).
First of all, I want to apologise to the guys I played with this week as I was a bit woozy, yay illness =P Still, we managed to fit 2 games into the evening and had a good time despite my making a mistake or two!
We started with Archon, which I’ve been wanting to play for a while but thanks to some minor design flaws (visual) has been difficult to introduce – I’ve got it out twice before with friends and they didn’t want to play past the first or 3 years as it was a bit of a strain to see the pieces on the board. I’ve painted the player pieces so they’re now blue, green, orange & purple rather than black, grey, white & unpainted. I’ve also replaced the resources, black cubes are now black cylinders, grey cubes are silver cubes & unpainted cubes are paper meeple things, the white cubes for stone I left the same – This makes them much easier to recognize representations of the resources they represent, iron, silver, paper & stone respectively. The board still isn’t great with it’s lightly coloured spaces in a light background, & resources are still shown as cubes on it (Might try and make stickers to show the replacement resources more clearly) but I’m happy with the look of it all now and feel it’s playable! ^^.
Archon is a relatively straight forward worker-placement game, in that you’re gathering resources to change into points as you go through the game, but it gives you lots of choices to go about this while having some interesting mechanics regarding the placement of those workers. The game is placed over 9 seasons, with 3 seasons to each year. At the end of each year an attack occurs, followed by a scoring phase I’ll go into shortly. Over those seasons, players gather resources, construct buildings, research science, contribute to religion & train knights to build up the city and set themselves up to receive points.
Before they can get to that however, players need to set up their starting workforce. During the game each player has 10 cards representing such, and at the start of the game everyone has 8 courtiers, with the other 2 needing to be made up from special workers to be ready to go. The options are Merchant (+1 resouce/gold/whatever when visiting certain bouard spaces), Scribe (Take a second action after, but not another scribe), Cleric (Use an action space even if full) & Tax Collector (Anyone visiting a space with a tax collector pays 1 to the player that placed it). There is a chart on the board to represent what each player has and how much each costs, and start resources prevent having 2 of the same at this point. When you take a special worker you also get points, so essentially everyone starts with a few points as this happens first.
With everyone up to 10 cards, players can begin with the game, almost. Each round only uses 5 cards, so first everyone chooses the 5 they want in the coming round – The other 5 will be used the following round, and then they’ll get to pick again in the 3rd, etc. I can see the choices being quite strategic with a few plays, but we were all essentially first-timing it so it was pretty much ‘split them fairly evenly’. We then take turns to place our workers, which we do by discarding cards. The worker placed is determined by what card is discarded, so discarding a merchant card means you’re placing a merchant etc. Some spaces on the board have 2 ‘cards’ shown, and you either need to discard 2 courtiers or 1 special worker to use those action spots. If a player finishes a round with cards left in hand, they move up in the player order for the next round.
The first thing players will want to focus on is getting some resources. Spaces to do so are the repository (Take 1 resource from a small selection which changes each round), the marketplace (2 transactions for buying or selling resources), the barracks (take 1 recruit) & the treasury (Take 2 coins). These spaces are quite tight so being earlier in player order is important to secure them (Particularly if you want to merchant the repository to take 2 resources instead of one). Next is spaces to advance science & religion, which take 1 paper/1 gold & 2 gold respectively, and can be done up to 2 times per placement, in the same vain is a spot to turn recruits into knights (1 recruit + 1 silver into a knight, again can be done twice with 1 placement), all 3 of which are generally important to do once/year at least (for points). The other 2 spaces are the ‘engine-building’ ones, which are the guild (replace a courtier with a special worker – note that this means you never get more workers, just varied ability ones) and the builders merchant, for constructing buildings which give ongoing benefits throughout the game (Such as take 2 paper each season, gain a cube when visiting the market, etc).
Using these things together, players will prepare knights, religion & science which come into affect at the end of the yearFirst off, the city gets attacked and a card is drawn to determine the strength of the attack. If the number is greater than the total knights on the wall between players, the raid is successful and all players lose resources (Equal to attack strength – number of knights) or points if they have no resources to pay. If the number is less than the total knights on the wall, then noone gets hit. After, scoring occurs. Scoring is based on a ‘kings grant’ card (Which everyone can see from the start of the year), and gives points based on science, religion and knights. Each year will bring different demands from the king, and the area he cares most about will be the highest scoring for that year (The card also determines a new marketplace configuration each year). Being able to get the majority in the area he’s interested in is a key point to success in the game. All knights/religion & science is then returned to supply for the next year. After 3 years are up, the game ends and whoever has the most points wins!
Considering I claimed it’s relatively straight forward, that was a lot of explanation, oops! I’m going to try writing a little differently about our game, so not sure hoe well it’ll go… Anyway, firstly I’ll say what I did! My aim at the start of the game was to grab a couple of buildings as well as to try and put out my knights first (You can get a couple of points by doing so). I started with a Scribe & Tax Collector, with the aim being to grab all the important spots before they were lost and deny others from having easy money at the treasury. I managed to get a building to generate paper (2/season) quite early on, but then let myself focus too much on science/religion at this early point to be able to get any other buildings to go with it. I think I got all 3 scoring opportunities in the first year but drew for knights and came last for science. The attack against us was successful as it was 5 to 4, so I lost 3 resources (as did Steve, Stan lost 5). In the second year I decided that as I was finding it hard to get the resources for buildings to go for special workers instead, I got myself to 2 scribes so I’d have one every season, and used them first turn each round to grab 2 actions (With one being the hotly contested repository as I was 2nd place in order of the 3 of us). I tried to make good use of my paper in getting science, but lost the chance to compete over knights (Steve got a building to generate them) so just made the one to get ‘some’ points. As we did the second years attack (Which failed with 3 against 6 knights) and scoring, it became clear that Steve had taken a much better early strategy in the prior year, and pretty much took to competing with Stan, who I was within a few points of. In the last year, I finally went for some additional buildings, getting 2 of the 3rd tier buildings down to get a large chunk of points (One for a straight 9, the other for 2 + number of sp. workers, so 9 again). This managed to take me into second place with a little over 60 points for the end game!
I’m not sure what Stans early focus was, but he mainly kept neck and neck with me throughout the game. We both got a lot of workers, but he got a lot more buildings than me (4 to 1 at one point), however I think he put himself in a difficult position by letting himself stay in last in player order by always using all his workers (I stayed in 2nd after getting pushed back also) – This meant he never got to use the repository very effectively, needing to use a Cleric to go there at all and for slim pickings at that. I think a good number of his buildings in the game were to gain supplies when he placed workers rather than ‘each season’, which I think he missed a few times by mistake (Yay, as he’d probably have kicked my ass otherwise :P). I had a rule wrong so I messed up a scoring opportunity for him at the end, but I don’t think it would have got him ahead of me anyway (Close though), at least we know for next time how it works ^^.
Finally we have Steve, who royally destroyed us in points over the game and was the clear ‘teachers pet’ to the King. Early in the game he rushed a couple of good buildings (Beating me to at least one I wanted, unfortunateuly for me ^^), which had him getting huge amounts of reasources every season. He mostly didn’t bother with special workers until later in the game when I think he just got them out of having spare stuff to dump somewhere more than because he needed to ^^. The first year I think he may have actually been on par/small bit behind us, but he had already started shooting ahead by the second, and was a good 30-40 points over me at the end. Next game I’ll be sure to emphasize the need to rush buildings a bit more, and stare even more at the rules for them as they just feel so, so powerful compared to the special workers (Which I understood to be the sort of ‘alternate engine building’ path.). Very tidy win, it’s just a shame we couldn’t have given him more competition to be racing against!
Following on from this we had a short gap of time so Stan suggested Gunrunners as the followup game. In this game we’re acting as detective teams trying to bust well…gunrunners, and confiscate the crates of guns they’re smuggling. Each player has a 13 card deck (Symmetric) with a number of agents with values from 1-6, with a few of those having special abilities. Each turn the active player rolls the dice, placing more gun crates into the #players locations that are out, or into ‘the warehouse’ if the number is greater than the number of locations. They then place a card, which can either be as a ‘probationary’ face down agent ready to move in (But not yet counting towards the bust), or a an ‘undercover’ operative directly facedown into a location (Max 1.). When a probationary agent is placed, it flips another players one at that same location face up into the location where their ability if there is one actives immediately. When a location reaches 4 faceup agents, it scores, and in order of highest number at that location players take turns to take half the available cubes (So an 8 cube location gives 4, then 2, then 1). The player who gathers the most cubes by the end of the game (All players run out of cards, or 8 ‘busts’ happen) is the winner, and presumably gets a gold star sticker on the police station wall.
I have absolutely no way of saying how the game progressed, as I wasn’t really thinking particularly strategically at this point of the evening. I can say however that I must have made a couple of mistakes in taking extra turns or something that led me to win, as I ran out of cards before Steve & Stan. Sorry about that, I hopefully won’t be ill next week! =)