Billabong Boardgamers December 8th, 1998
Present: Alan, Donna, Julian W., Moray, Liz, Dey, Roger, Janet, Doug, David, Julian C.
Doug Adams writes:
It was a case of find a seat and never let it go at Alan's tonight, again pushing in home resources to the limit.
Roger, Alan, Dey and Janet were just starting to play Was Sticht on one of the two tables, while four of the others were playing Express on the other table. I was on the point of leaving as there was no room for anything else, when Was Sticht was canned in favor of Sveak Rike. Amazing what can happen if you look manfully at a table with the lower lip trembling :) I dove for a seat, while a game of Airlines was started in the lounge, giving David and Julian a seat. If another player had turned up, there would have been trouble!
Roger and Alan had played Svea Rike before, but it was new to the rest of us. I was very keen to play a game of it, hearing that it was very simple mechanically, with a fair bit of interaction.
What a negative game! We slogged away for two hours of Swedish history, trading, purchasing fiefs, trying to defeat opposing countries in various wars, etc, before the game appeared to fizzle down into nothing. Here's what happened from my perspective...
On my very first turn, Alan played a card that removed one of my two opening fiefs. Great! Luckily I had a card that claimed Alan's just played event from the discard pile, and played it right back at Alan. Very much a "Hah, Take That!" play, if ever I saw one.
On turn two, Prussia got a testosterone kick and decided to have a swipe at Sweden's instability so off we all went to war. Janet and I were rather green and we were bedazzled by Crown Prince Roger's stirring speech about how much good would come fro all this if we fought. We all committed cards, apart from that swine, the evil Crown Prince Alan. A swift Alan event card heightened Prussia's chances against Sweden, and we lost the war. I was down to zero fiefs and Alan was meeting my dark looks with a smirky grin.
Going into turn three, I was starting to glance at the watch, but I reached for the victory conditions to see what I could do. Gold gives you points...hmmm. Armies and income gives you points, but they come from fiefs and they appear to be very easy to lose.... money it is! For the rest of the game I didn't buy anything apart from two resource cards, and attempted to become the commercial arm of Sweden.
God it was fun watching the others struggle against wars with Denmark and Russia, giving stirring speeches, throwing lots of dice, being branded traitor and generally losing fiefs each time a war or event was played. I just happily burbled to myself, placing merchants, raking in money, and trying to amass multiples of 20 coins for points. Sure, there's some down sides, such as being evicted from a country if it goes to war with Sweden, as well as that "give half gold back" event in the crown cards, but all in all it was a smooth few centuries for Doug - pinnacle of the Hanseatic League.
The last few turns were a rush of wars that cleared all fiefs off the board and ended the game very, very quickly. I was sitting on 2 points with about 40 gold, and those wars were just what I wanted as the others just burned up their fiefs/points via fighting or being labelled traitor. It became farcical as if you went to war you were guaranteed to lose and lose a fief, so everybody took the 50% chance of being branded traitor which was a 50% chance of keeping their fief. Silly, but the right thing to do.
I had a killer card combination I was saving for my last turn. I had a card that enabled me to purchase a fief off another player as well as a "$2 off" card. I was going to buy Roger's wonderful 3/3 fief for under $20 and gain 2 victory points for effectively 1 VP. However, another war saw Roger branded traitor and lose that fief. I was then going to purchase it from the deck on the last turn but yet another war saw the game end. Tallying points was very easy:
Doug: 2 (40+ gold)
What an interesting experience that game was. I can see what the designer was aiming at - everybody gain fiefs, and use them to go off to war against countries, reap rewards, etc. However, the game really breaks down if one or two detract from fighting. Sweden lose the war, the fighters get hammered, the others have a 50% chance of being traitor. I made a deliberate decision not to buy any fiefs from turn three onwards. What was the point? They are expensive and too easy to fall prey to wars and events, as Alan showed me on turn 1. Gold appeared to be the most stable route, and apart from a couple of "lose half" turn events, it worked as I won the game. I am surprised no event cards affect a players gold stocks, but I guess that is a wise move as it appears to be the only stable resource in the game.
I don't think I want to rate this game. It was a very random, chaotic 2 hours of gaming with a lot of negative plays and not a lot of positives. Poor Roger still hasn't seen Sweden win a war, and I really have no idea what happens if Sweden does win a war! Days of wine and roses, I think.
On the plus side the game has a terrific look and atmosphere, and I'd readily pick up a copy. My other group of gamers would love it. Very interesting game, part of me loved it (chrome, simple mechanics, feel), while part of me disliked it (randomness, broken feel if others [ME!] don't help the nation). Need to play again!
So, did we play well? Did we do anything wrong?
Alan writes: Doug has reported the Svea Rike game, but he forgot that there are indeed cards which affect gold. Dey played an event card which would have forced everyone to pay half their gold to the bank, but I cancelled it with another event card (I should have kept this one to prevent Janet ending the game before I played - aiming to buy a 3rd military card for at least I SP - in the second last game turn).
Well Svea Rike came back to haunt me here. My early juicy offerings were ignored and I was shut out for half the game. Of course, by then it's too late so I just watched as Julian W and Dey traded a few cards, while Janet and Roger fed off each other. I studied Alan's breakfast cereal collection until the game finished :)
Doug's rating: plunges from 8 to 2 ;-)
Alan Stewart writes:
Dey, Roger, Alan
Dey was winning trick after trick, and managed to cash in a set of 8 on the second hand. Roger was trying the minimalist strategy, and I was sort of in the middle.
It looked like being a bad game when i realised I still had 8 different ranks of cards in my junk pile after the third hand!
Final wrap up game - Was Sticht (which took longer than we were expecting).
Final scores: Alan 0, Julian Warner 1, Julian Clarke 2, David Coutts 4
David seemed to be having a really bad night, and there were numerous times when Julian Warner exclaimed "You bastard" as Julian Clarke took the card he wanted.
An entertaining game, and I think all players would like to play it again some time.
It's a real pain getting down to only 1 goal left, and everyone knows what it is.