Thursday, 17 July 2008

Quo Vadis

Quo Vadis is yet another game played at Carcasean. This is a negotiation game by Reiner Knizia, where players control politicians in Rome and try to promote one of their own members to the senate. This is a very clean design, and really is all about negotiations and politics, and you can lie and cheat too, to a certain degree. Nothing is not negotiable.

On the game board there are many big and small committees, and promotion paths from one committee to the next, eventually reaching the senate (not sure whether that's the name, but that's what I call the highest committee). Players place pawns on the bottom level committees for free, but from that point onwards, every promotion to the next committee needs to be voted by the members of the committee where the pawn currently sits. Unless you control a majority in that committee, you will need to get support from other players through clever negotiations. Every time a pawn gets promoted, it collects a victory point chip on the path to the next committee, and the other players who have supported this promotion collect 1VP each. The victory point chips are hidden from other players after you collect them. It won't be easy to remember how many victory points your opponents have collected, but you will have some rough idea. At game end, the player with the most victory points wins. The twist is, he or she must have a pawn in the senate. In the case of ties, whoever reached the senate first (not the one with most pawn in there) wins. So players will be maneuvering to shut others out of the senate, especially the ones who seem to have collected many victory point chips.

This was still early in the game. See the victory point chips on the promotion paths. Whenever one is taken, it is immediately replace with another random chip.

In our game (Michelle, Han, Chong Sean and I), I was the preferred target, because Michelle, Han and Chong Sean all know me better than each other, and thus feel more comfortable bullying me than others. So I was blocked a lot in the early game. We were mostly quite quick in negotiations, and struck deals easily. We never really bothered to track whether promises were made last round or earlier. There is a rule stating that promises made must be fulfilled if possible before the end of the next round. Our game progressed at a good pace.

Chong Sean was the first to secure a place in the senate. I was the last, and only through a deal made with Han. He was basically gambling on whether he would get more victory points than me through that deal. When the VP chips were revealed, I won at 23pts. Michelle had 19pts, and both Chong Sean and Han had 17pts, but Chong Sean beat Han to 3rd place because he reached the senate earlier. In the second half of the game I have been acting like the downtrodden victim, which probably let their guard down.

This is a cunning game. The mechanics are very simple, so it really comes down to the negotiations and the psychology. You can cheat and lie and break promises. It may not be good for you, but a timely betrayal may just win you the game, e.g. shutting a "friend" off from the senate because he or she looks to be having too many VP chips. I think this is a game that needs to be handled with some care. There can be hurt feelings and anger and enemies made. Just remember it's only a game.

I'm not planning to buy this myself. I think this needs 4 or 5 players to be good, and I don't have that often. It is quite a different type of game, where you are manipulating people. I wouldn't mind playing this now and then, but not too much. And with people who can take it only, of course. Thankfully the game we played turned out OK. We played very briskly and I guess we also took it quite lightly. I think that's the right attitude to play this.

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