3 May 2015. I finally managed to play my copy of this Black Box Edition of Glory to Rome. This was a gift from Allen. It would be a shame to not get this beautiful version played. I much prefer this artwork over the original. The cards themselves are actually a little flimsy though. I probably should sleeve them, but if I do, they wouldn't fit into the nice box insert that comes with the game.
I convinced my wife Michelle to play this with me, saying it's a little like Race for the Galaxy. When I taught her the game, I was reminded of how difficult it could be to learn this game. Even Michelle felt a little embarrassed when she asked me the same question a third time. I felt a little guilty for having led her to believe it would not be hard to learn. Thankfully she persevered and we played quite a few games. I think now she is more comfortable with the rules and she will still be willing to play in future. I think Glory to Rome can be a good spouse game. It is probably better with 3 players, but 2 is fine too.
4 May 2015. It had been a while since Michelle and I played Antiquity, so she needed a rules refresher. When we play, she always picks the Saint Cristofori, who gives her infinite storage capacity, and whose winning condition is to stockpile three each of the eight types of food and luxury goods in the game. I, on the other hand, like to try all saints. She wins more often than I do because she has specialised and she has learned to play Saint Cristofori well. I more often lose because I am mostly flailing trying to work out my strategies. However I enjoy the exploration and the challenge.
In this particular game I wanted to try San Giorgio. The winning condition was to completely overlap another player's area of influence with your own. Unfortunately my planning was poor, and I later changed my mind and went for the same saint as Michelle. That didn't work out well. I wasn't well prepared for that either, and in the end Michelle won quite comfortably.
In this photo I (yellow) had built my second city. Michelle (red) had planned to stick to just one city, but later had to go for a second one because she wanted to build a Market (which allows you to trade for goods you don't have) and her first city was full.
I like Antiquity a lot, yet sometimes I wonder how big the strategy space really is. It's a tough game and you need to work hard to even survive. In order to survive, there are many things you can't do. You can't be wasteful. You cannot not do things which help you survive. You don't have the luxury to tinker and see what works. The game can feel restrictive. Then there are the various saints and their unique winning conditions. Once you pick a saint, you need to make sure you stick to a strategy that utilises his power and most efficiently pushes you towards victory. In fact you probably want to decide on which saint to go for even before you build your cathedral, so that you already work towards your goal much earlier. The game is a stressful race against time because the famine level increases every round. You need to reach victory before the world goes to hell. Sometimes I wonder whether Antiquity is mostly about figuring out the best ways to play each of the saints, and once you've figured that out, these broad strategies don't change very much from game to game. Still, being able to figure them all out will already require many plays, so the game will already have given you your money's worth.
One thing that others have complained about is the low player interaction. I don't find that a problem. Indeed you won't be able to interfere with many of your opponents' actions, and it can feel like a swim-in-your-own-lane race game. However there is player interaction, and sometimes it can greatly impact the outcome of a game. Some player interactions are very direct, e.g. when you are fighting for land.
10 Days in Asia is something quite different from other games. I can't think of anything quite like it, other than the other games in the series. It's refreshing to bring it to the table once in a while. It was Shee Yun who suggested it this time. The game teaches some geography, and that's certainly a handy excuse, if you need one. I bought the Asia version because I live in Asia.
8 May 2015. Boardgamecafe.net was closed this day, so I asked some of the regulars whether they wanted to play at my place instead. Only Dith could make it, so I suggested Sekigahara, one of my favourite games, which he hadn't tried before. I let him play Tokugawa (black) while I played Ishida (yellow), because I think Tokugawa is slightly easier to play.
Dith aggressively went for the resource locations. Controlling more of these brings more troops into the reserve box at the start of every round. I focused more on grabbing castles. More castles means drawing one more card every round. I sat at the northern edge of the board, so left is east and right is west. I (yellow - Ishida) dominated the west very early in the game. In the early game I had the right cards which allowed me to make some swift attacks. This was bad news for Dith. I captured his Fukushima recruitment centre and held it securely, which prevented him from mustering new troops at this centre for the rest of the game. This more or less made all his Fukushima cards useless.
In the east (left), the war between the Date clan (Tokugawa faction, black) and the Uesugi clan (Ishida faction, yellow) was long and hard, and had some surprising twists. I didn't draw many Uesugi cards, and could not fight very effectively. I kept reinforcing, hoping blocks from other clans would be able to help the Uesugi clan. Dith probably didn't have very good card draws for Date in the early game either. We just danced around each other and hollered. Around mid game, he marched a Maeda army from the northern coast (foreground in the photo) all the way to the east (left), and then launched a coordinated attack together with his Date army. That was a huge battle, and a meticulously planned one. Dith had even planned for the possibility that I would play a Loyalty Challenge. Unfortunately (for him), he had misunderstood that each player's deck contained only one Loyalty Challenge card. When I taught the game, I had forgotten to mention how many there were. So he was caught by surprise when my first Loyalty Challenge failed, but later on I played a second Loyalty Challenge card. It was because of this Loyalty Challenge that he lost the battle. It was a costly defeat.
This photo was taken soon after this major battle. I (yellow) had a stronger presence in the area, and had even sent out one block to capture undefended resource locations. Later on Dith launched another major offensive, and this time I could not push him back. I lost the east.
This was the final siege of the Uesugi clan castle.
After controlling the east (left), Dith organised his troops to march west. I had enjoyed superiority throughout most of the game, but now I found that Dith was poised to make some simultaneous attacks, and I had to tread carefully to stop him from grabbing enough castles and resource locations to win the game. I was leading in points, but he only needed to win two battles to turn things around. I was weak at the northern coast (foreground), and I expected the Maeda castle I was controlling would fall. So I gave that up, and focused on other areas. Dith had a large army approaching along the southern coast (far side). I had to prepare to meet him in one last climactic battle.
I was quite strong in this area, but my forces were slightly scattered. It would be costly to try to merge them. I'd have to spend cards. So I decided to group them into two armies. The first would face Dith's Tokugawa army. If I lost the battle, the backup army would counterattack. It was the last round, and Dith and I had our last grand battle. I managed to beat him back, and that secured my ultimate victory, 14VP vs 13VP. Tokugawa Ieyasu himself narrowly escaped death on the battlefield.After our game we had a discussion about how impossible it seemed for Tokugawa to win by capturing Osaka. The western area is the homeground of the Ishida faction, and also there are many Mori troops sitting in Osaka. I still can't imagine how a Tokugawa player can pull this off. However if I consider the likelihood of winning by victory points, then I think the Tokugawa player has a slight advantage. His recruitment centres are more evenly spread out, while three of the Ishida player's four recruitment centres are clumped together near the western edge.
10 May 2015. Michelle and I did 2P Goa. She beat me 40VP vs 39VP. Just one point!