Saturday, November 29, 2014

Gaming in another Age

Well, as some of you can probably tell, I don't often get the chance to play board games.  But, when I do... it's usually 'historical'.

You have seen a few posts now on History of the World, which I really love, and wish that Fantasy Flight would pick up and redo.

A few years ago, we picked up one of the Catan historical games, called Struggle for Rome.  I believe it is out of print now.

We thought it might be a nice change from the usual Settler's game, and it was!

We had lots of fun with it, as you can clearly see by Jeff's face!  I was surprised at how much depth there was, and how you actually felt like it was the time period, and you were, in a way, reenacting that era.

This is a game people have heard me talk about again and again.  That game would be Age or Renaissance.  It's another out of print game, and probably the most complex that we play.

It can take about 6-7 hours depending on how many people are playing, and how close the game is.

In this game of economic civic, scientific, cultural advancement, you play one of six 'countries', which you bid on before the game starts.  This mechanic was created because the six playable countries are not created equal.  Hamburg always struggles, while Paris and London are also challenging.  Genoa, Venice and Barcelona tend to have an advantage in the game.

So, if you want to play Barcelona, for instance, you would try to out bid your opponents to play it.

The downside of this plan is that you will now have less funds to start the game!

The early part of the game involves simple land grabs as countries expand.  A few of them run into each other right away, such as Genoa and Venice.

There are a number of other key features, such as resource cards and leaders.  The leaders can provide bonuses to your country by assisting you in researching new technologies.  Those new technologies are vital for your advancement, and even survival!!

The resource cards provide you with the funds to generate those advancements.  You never know when a commodity is going to pay out, however.  Someone may be holding it, or it comes up during a surplus or shortage, etc.  Depending on when it does, you can make a huge sum of money in a hurry.

This also puts a huge bull's eye on your back.

For whatever reason, the cats... like Boomer, love to curl up in my jacket as we play...

As I mentioned before, this is a very complex game.  You have a ton of things to take care of.  The ship chart in the upper left corner shows your exploration level.  That is, are you plying the seas in mighty galleons, or hugging the shore in rowboats.

The long strip on the right is your misery index.  That is influenced by disasters, technologies, loss of influence in the world, and more.  It will penalize you at the end of the game, or even throw your civilization into chaos!  That wipes you out of the game, as we discovered.

It is monitored even more closely after two players found themselves erased from the map in one game when the misery index reached critical!

Certain advancements in commerce, civics, science and exploration help with the misery index.

The very confusing chart on the lower left is the value of given commodities.  Is there a shortage or surplus?  I there's a shortage, and you have the most of that commodity, it's very nice.  You get a bonus card, and you can potentially make a ton of $$$ if that resource card is played!

You are also trying to expand your empire every turn.  You must balance your purchases between research, expansion, ship upgrades, card purchases, and more.  Unless you are very lucky, there is never enough for all of what must be done!

You can see various countries attempting to expand into the near east.  This is very difficult for Hamburg, Paris and England.  There are some event cards that make it a little easier, but normally you have to hope for a few good resource outputs to generate cash for exploration!

Das Boats.  Having advanced shipping is not a guarantee, as the more religiously inclined nations can declare a Papal ban on such things!

It usually happens to me just as I am about to research a technology to allow me into the near or far East!

Thumper was always fond of curling up in my jacket.  It made it warm before I had to go home!

The board tends to fill up rapidly.  Remember, this is a game of commerce, not warfare.  Fighting is very difficult, and very hazardous.

You can stack up some bonuses on your side, but when you buy lots of 'troop', the other civs take note, and try to thwart your invading hordes.

As the game moves on, certain commodities become less valuable, and others take precedence.  Silks and spices are the biggest let game resources, and those are found in the far east, of course!

The victor (in this case London!) can usually be identified by being at the top of the misery index, a completed Advancement Chart, and a big pile of cash!

This can be a laborious game... and if you are down early, you are pretty much done.  The early front runner is usually hammered and weakened enough for the second place player to take over in the end.

There are absolutely no guarantees in this game, however.  Even before the game starts... the game begins. :-)

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