Sunday, 3 October 2010

After the Flood online

Han, Allen and I started an online game of After the Flood at on 8 Aug 2010. After the Flood is a strictly 3 player game designed by Martin Wallace that the three of us have played before once. I took screenshots during our game, to make this session report. We finally finished our game on 3 Oct 2010. This was how our game went.

Han was green, Allen red, me purple. Unfortunately I couldn't choose my colour (green), and this colour assignment confused me on more than one occasion.

This was early in Turn 2 (of 5). This shot more or less shows the situation at the end of Turn 1. Allen (red) had passed very early in Turn 1, which led to his downfall. Although Han (green) and I (purple) had to pay more to take further actions, we placed more workers onto the board. Due to the relative number of workers in the Irrigation and Weaving boxes, in the Decline phase of Turn 2, Allen lost all his workers there. In Turn 1 I built 4 cities, Allen 3 and Han 2 (see squares). I built in Umma and Lagash too, despite the lack of special abilities, just to give myself more opportunities for city expansion later. In Turn 1 both Allen and Han expanded their cities (see squares with crosses). I overspent my resources and decided to forgo expanding any city.

All three of us had started our empires, Han in Amorites (north west), Allen in Isin (central-west), me in Larsa (central-west). I don't remember why Allen attacked me in Uruk. Han had destroyed Allen's city in Babylon, and built his own. A city in Babylon is very valuable because it gives you extra armies when you start an empire.

The worker boxes (on the right) are more populated now. Han had already placed a worker in Mittani (northern tip) in preparation for starting an empire there next turn. This was baaad news for Allen and I.

Start of Turn 3. At the end of Turn 2 I was the only one who had expanded a city, at Nippur (centre). My rhythm was a bit behind Han and Allen. They had done their city expansions in Turn 1, and were already in progress to their next expansion. Allen was still suffering from resource shortage, because he had fewer workers in the Irrigation and Weaving boxes.

Turn 3. All of us had started our Turn 3 empires, Han (green) in Mittani in the north, the most powerful empire, Allen (red) in Uruk (central Sumeria) and me (purple) in Egypt (west). Allen had paid resources to recruit more soldiers (his Sumerian empire had a base value of 3 soldiers, but he had 9 - 8 plus the one already on the board). He had also paid a wheat to equip his army (see yellow cube in army equipment box at the top centre) to make it more effective in battle.

Allen had invaded Ur, destroyed my unexpanded (grrrr...) city and built his own, and had now invaded Eridu too. Having a city in Ur is good because it gives an extra textile at the start of every turn. Han had done a lot of trading and had more than enough to do a full city expansion (which required 2 wood + 1 each of tool, gold, oil and lapis lazuli). I was still working towards that.

Han (green) had destroyed my city in Nippur and built his own. A city in Nippur gives an extra VP for every Sumerian (light coloured) territory held by your army. Han's Mittani empire had spread down all the way to Lagash in the south east. Allen had destroyed Han's city in Eridu (south eastern tip) and built his own.

Competition in the Irrigation and Weaving boxes had been fierce. Allen and I could not beat Han. Since Han was leading, I thought it was better that I kept my worker count the same as Allen, so that we both would get the same amount of resources. If I had forced him into 3rd place or vice versa, one of us would have even fewer resources the next turn, and it would be even harder for us to cooperate to try to beat Han.

Start of Turn 4. Both Allen and I were very screwed. We had no workers left in the Irrigation and Weaving boxes, because when there was a Decline (start of Turn 2 and 4), the player with the most workers removed all but 2 workers, and the rest must remove the same number of workers. Han had exactly two workers more than both of us. At the end of the previous turn all 3 of us had expanded cities, but for Allen it was just a small expansion, paying 2 wood for 4VP (vs Han and I who did the full expansion for 20VP).

Now Han (green) had started an empire in Kassites (north east), and Allen (red) in Hittites (north west). I (purple) mostly did worker placement.

I had now started my (purple) empire in Egypt (west) too, and had expanded my empire to Babylon. Allen had expanded his empire along the northern border to Kassites, which was Han's home region. He even reinforced his army (see the number 2 in his army icon) to make it harder for Han's empire to reemerge.

I had expanded my army too to kill off as many of Han's armies as I could. Han had no more army on the board now, but that actually didn't mean much, because he still had 9 armies waiting to be unleashed, while Allen and I were down to 1 and 2 respectively.

Turn 5. In the previous turn both Han and Allen had done city expansion (Nippur and Eridu respectively), but not me. Han had started his green empire in Assyria. Assyria was the strongest empire in Turn 5. Allen had started his red empire in Chaldea (south), and I had started my purple empire in Elam (east). I had expanded towards Nippur, to compete with Han. I had given up on doing any more city expansion, committing my resources to my armies. I had the best equipped army in turn 5, which meant better odds in battle.

Allen did an accelerated expansion (which meant paying armies to expand more than once for one action), reaching Kassites in the north, which was the only location that lapis lazuli could be traded for.

It may seem that not much had changed, but if you look at Han and my army counts, they have dropped a lot. We did a lot of fighting in Nippur. I wanted to reach Sippar in the north, the site of Han's last unexpanded city. If I could destroy that city, Han would not have any city to expand, and that would be 20VP missed. However, even if I did an accerelated expansion to reach Sippar to destroy the city, he would have enough armies left to retake it and rebuild a city. So I gambled on the slow tit-for-tat in Nippur, hoping that my better equipped army would last longer than his. In Uruk, Allen had reinforced his army to protect his last unexpanded city. I guess his didn't really trust me to leave him alone. Ha ha...

Eventually my empire was strong enough to drive Han's armies out of Sumeria, but not strong enough to destroy Han's last unexpanded city in Sippar. Allen had passed by this time. See red circle in the Passed box near the top right. Now that the fighting was over, what remained for Han and I was to place as many workers as we could for the game-end scoring. He (green) had placed workers (octagons) in Amorites and Kassites in the north, which were 4VP territories.

I used my last action to overtake Han in Amorites, and to draw equal to him in Kassites.

After end-of-game scoring, Han (green) won by a big margin, at 131pts. I had 103pts, Allen 90pts.

The Online Implementation

The design is meant for players to take their time taking turns, and not meant for all players to be online at the same time watching one another making their moves. You get an email notification when it is your turn. There are no animations. When you take your turn the screen refreshes automatically to show the results of your moves, but when it is another player's turn, you need to refresh the screen yourself to see what has changed. There is a turn log which is helpful in showing all the moves that have been made.

The user interface is clean and clear. Some text on the board is small, but you can click to zoom. There seems to be some minor bugs, but overall the program works fine. I highly recommend playing the game here. One wishlist item - let me choose my colour, because I want to play green.

Further Thoughts on the Game
  • The game is brutal. An early mistake can ruin you for the rest of the game. That was the case for Allen - passing too early and not fully utilising his workers in turn 1, and to a certain extent me too - wasting my resources in turn 1 and getting left behind. I was too conservative and spent more resources on strengthing my army than I really needed to.
  • Gaining victory points mostly boils down to two things - city expansion and empires. There is the end-game worker presence scoring, but during the game, these are the two areas you need to keep in mind of. They are the objectives that you must never lose sight of.
  • Resources is everything. You need them to place workers. You need them to recruit extra soldiers. You need them to equip your soldiers. You need them to expand cities. You sometimes even need to spend them when passing, to fight for first mover advantage in the next turn, which can be critical, especially when you are competing for the big empires. You need to plan and prioritise everything based on the resources you have.
  • Don't waste your workers. Leftover workers at the end of each turn are discarded, so you might as well make the most of them, even as payment for taking actions after someone has passed.

After the Flood is a well-balanced and tense 3-player game, where every decision is important. There is a lot to think about and you are constantly torn in different directions. Some games are described as knife-fights in a phone booth. Just imagine three people fighting in a phone booth. And each has two knives.

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