Sunday, 26 August 2012

After The Flood, in blood

This game of After The Flood was what inspired my previous post. Han, Allen and I played this strictly-3-player Martin Wallace design at from 26 Jul 2012 to 24 Aug 2012. Here's a write-up of the game, if you are unfamiliar with it.

Round 1

I was assigned green, my preferred colour. Yay! Allen was red, his usual colour too. Han was purple.

I raced to start the Akkad empire, which had the most armies, and managed to get it. I played in a rather cooperative manner, trying not to get too far ahead, lest I get ganged up upon. Unfortunately that didn't quite work out. I was the only one who could not get lapis lazuli, and also the only one who did not expand a city in Round 1. Expanding a city can give as much as 20pts. It requires collecting up to 6 resources, and also you need to own a not-yet-expanded city. Worker placement competition was fierce for the Irrigation and Weaving boxes (yellow and white boxes on the right), which resulted in each box having only one player left by the start of the next round.

By the end of Round 1, one of my (green) cities, the one in the south (Ur), was razed by Han, and a new city was rebuilt in its place. I fell behind - Han (purple) 30, Allen (red) 26, Hiew (green) 14.

Round 2

A clean slate again at the start of Round 2. Declines occur at the start of Rounds 2 and 4, causing some workers to be removed. Only Allen (red) had workers left in the Irrigation (grain harvesting) box, and only I (green) had workers left in the Weaving (textile producing) box. Han (purple) needed to spend some resources to place workers this round.

In the previous round I saw that Han (purple) although having the smallest empire (fewest default armies) managed to boost his army count by spending tools. Since I was trailing now, I decided to try a different approach. I increased my toolmaker (bottom right box) team to three, so that I could produce tools to build a strong military. I wanted to try forgoing the city expansion aspect (despite how significant 20pts is) and instead go for a military approach.

I didn't start the empire with the largest default army, but I significantly boosted my army count by paying tools. I also equipped my army to become the most effective in battle by paying one wood. At this point I (green) had 14 armies in stock, and both Allen (red) and Han (purple) had 5 each.

My large army stormed northwards, razing both of Han's (purple) cities in Babylon and Shuruppak. I built my own new cities there. Babylon gives 2 extra armies when starting an empire, Shuruppak makes razing your city cost 3 instead of 2 armies. I controlled Nippur, which meant I scored 3pts instead of 2pts for Sumerian provinces controlled by my armies. This big military move brought me back into contention. No one did any city expansion this round. The only scoring was from armies. Han (purple) 36, Hiew (green) 32, Allen (red) 28.

Round 3

Start of Round 3. Allen (red) already had workers in Mittani and was ready to start an empire. Mittani is the biggest empire in Round 3. One mistake that Allen made was he didn't realise when placing workers he could place fewer workers than the paid resource allowed. He wasted some workers throughout the game because of this. E.g. in this round he only needed one worker to start the Mittani empire, after which all his worker(s) in Mittani must be removed.

Han (purple) was severely blocked out this round, his Egyptian empire (left) never managing to grow beyond Egypt, mostly due to being beaten back by Allen (red). I continued my military approach, also making many tools and buying many extra armies, even equipping my armies with gold so they fought better.

My (green) humble Sumerian empire, despite the lowly three basic armies, expanded greatly because of the many mercenaries that I paid for. However, I still didn't do any city expansion. Both Han and Allen managed to expand cities again, both scoring the full 20pts. Resource competition was fierce again. In the Irrigation box I (green) had 9 workers, and Han (purple) had 8. In the Weaving box Allen (red) had 6 workers and Han (purple) had 5. Even by now I am not sure whether placing 9 workers in the Irrigation box was a good move for me. It gave me 6 grain next round, and forced Han to take only 4, and Allen 3, but this move also starved my worker count next round. I'm still not sure whether it was worth it. Certainly Allen was happy, since he (red) only had 2 workers in the Irrigation box and only lost these two in Round 4 Decline phase. Han and I both had to lose seven.

Han (purple) 58, Hiew (green) 53, Allen (red) 52.

Round 4

Early in Round 4. Han (purple) had placed a worker in Hittites (top left) in preparation to start the Hittites empire. Similarly Allen (red) had placed a worker in Kassites (top centre).

I had placed workers in Dilmun (bottom right) and Elam (right), and again used them to trade for metal and then make tools. Throughout the game I kept telling Han and Allen that I was just making harmless hammers. But of course when we met on the battlefield I screamed "Thor!!!".

Both Allen (red) and Han (purple) had started their empires. They collaborated and razed my cities in Shuruppak and Babylon. I (green) had placed one worker in Egypt (left) in preparation to start my empire. However I realised I was screwed. The moment I started my Egyptian empire, that worker would be discarded, and Han could simply march in to kill off my new empire. Even if I equipped my army well, he could afford a few more tries to exterminate my starting army. After that, I would need to place another worker in order to restart my Egyptian empire. However he could simply exterminate it again. I couldn't afford this. I only had two workers left, one of which I must reserve for the Weaving box. I could not risk paying tools to buy extra armies only to have my empire exterminated before it could start growing. Eventually I decided to give up ever starting an empire in Round 4. That was painful.

Han (purple) had built a new city in Babylon oven the ruins of my old city. Allen (red) had done the same in Shuruppak. Both their empires had grown further.

Noone did any city expansion in Round 4, but both Han and Allen scored much for their armies. I was the only one scoring zero. In the Irrigation box, eventually both of them placed the same number of workers, and I had fewer than them. In the Weaving box, Allen (red) had more workers, and Han (purple) and I (green) were tied. But Han controlled Ur, which gave him one extra textile. So in the next round, I would receive fewer resources (grain and textile) than both of them. My only consolation was I had resources saved from this round. Also I had a worker placed in Kassites so that I could trade for lapis lazuli, which I had never been able to get any up till then.

Han (purple) 70, Allen (red) 68, Hiew (green) still 53.

Round 5

The start of Round 5.

Finally I got myself some lapis lazuli (a very valuable blue gem). I even equipped my army (green) with it, resulting in my men being called gay (no offense meant to LGBT, just that we were being juveniles for a while here). This round I started my empire early, in Elam (right), because of my fear of what happened in the previous round. Han (purple) had also started his empire now, in Assyria (top centre). Assyria with 12 armies is the largest empire in Round 5. We both spent tools to boost our numbers, and ended up with the same number of armies (17).

I (green) expanded my empire cautiously, leaving a corridor for Allen's (red) Chaldea empire to emerge and march northwards to attack Han (purple). Allen at this point decided to give up on city expansion due to some tactical mistakes earlier. He had assigned many of his workers to become toolmakers, and he was going military. He missed one risk which could have caused him to be unable to start his Chaldea empire. At one point he had placed two workers in Chaldea, and had no more workers in stock. Han and I still had workers, and could have placed three in Chaldea. If we did so, Allen wouldn't be able to start his empire because another player had more workers than him. Fortunately for Allen neither Han nor I spotted that. So Allen was able to start his Chaldea empire with the max of 20 armies. They were equipped with lapis lazuli too. Yeah, another gay army. One thing he missed was that when equipping an army, you are not limited to one resource. He could have equipped his army with lapis lazuli plus another resource, so that his army would be more effective than mine, which was equipped with just one lapis lazuli.

I had invaded Kassites (top centre) to buy time. I had two gold which over two turns I traded for lapis lazuli. I wanted to see how things went before decided what to do. Timing is very critical in After The Flood. Han (purple) had started placing workers to fight for the workers area majority scoring (which occurred only at game end), so I could see how he placed his workers before I decided how to place mine.

Now I had placed my (green) workers for the area majority competition. Allen (red) was very much short of workers and could not compete much in this area, so it was mainly between Han (purple) and I. I had worker majority in Mittani (top left), Kassites (top centre), Egypt (left), Chaldea (bottom). Han had worker majority in Hittites (top left), Amorites (top left) and the Weaving box.

The massive siege of Babylon was about to start. Han (purple) had prepared the resources for one more city expansion, and Babylon was the only unexpanded city that he had now. He must keep Babylon in order to win.

The siege of Babylon went badly for Han (purple) because his army was less effective than Allen's (red). The siege was costly to Allen too. While the two leading scorers nuked it out, I happily expanded my empire around the fringes.

Soon, Han and Allen realised they needed to work together to stop me. I had prepared the goods for city expansion, and needed to ensure one of my two (green) cities survived. Allen (red) had enough armies to potentially raze both. I was quite far behind in scores and if I wanted to win I needed to make sure that Han (purple) didn't get to expand his city, and I did expand mine. I razed Han's already-expanded city in Lagash (near bottom right) and built my 3rd city. This was to deter Allen from even bothering to try to raze all my cities. So although he had invaded Nippur where one of my cities was located, in the end he didn't spend his armies to raze it. He turned back towards Han's only remaining city in Babylon and razed it instead. One thing that really helped me was the combat superiority of my better-equipped army. When Han and Allen collaborated to attack me, they failed quite a number of die rolls and had to spend more armies. I think this superiority also discouraged Allen from attacking me earlier this round, and encouraged him to go after Han whose army was inferior to his. Plus Han was leading at the time. Not razing Babylon (i.e. allowing Han to do city expansion) would doom both Allen and I.

The game ended with Han's carefully accumulated city-expansion resources being wasted. I was able to do my one and only city expansion in the whole game. I had a come-from-behind victory. Final score: Hiew (green) 113, Han (purple) 83, Allen (red) 80.

This was the only time I had the resources to do city expansion. I decided to expand Nippur because the city of Nippur had helped me a lot in scoring bonus points.

This game was certainly a roller-coaster ride for me. A poor start, then a big catch-up using a military approach, then a depressing zero-scoring round after becoming public enemy #1, and finally another come-back, probably partly due to not being perceived as any major threat anymore. The game was really close towards game-end. All three of us had reasonable chances of winning. We did make some mistakes during the game, due to being a little rusty with the rules. One thing that I was quite happy about was having gained a new perspective about the military strategy. It is viable to forgo city expansion and use a military approach to score as many points as city expansion would earn. In the past I tended to think city expansion is the core scoring method, and military scoring is more supplementary, military sometimes being used to deny city expansion.

This was my first ever win in After The Flood. It was quite a relief. But if you ask me whether the game still makes me uncomfortable, I would still say yes. This is the link to the game session transcript, complete with inappropriate comments in the chat log.

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