Saturday 14 March 2009

Risk: Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition

Han was back in town on a short business trip, and he came to play on 7 Mar 2009. We played Risk: Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition.

I think there are two versions of this game, and the one we played was the newer and more complex version. I'm not sure whether there are multiple rulesets. In the game we played, the good guys can win by delivering the One Ring to Mount Doom, and the bad guys can win by capturing the Ring. There is a ring in the game (nice gold coloured, with elven writing, very much like in the movie) representing the fellowship of the ring. It travels from The Shire to Mount Doom, a distance of 18 territories. The fellowship moves after every player's turn, but in some territories, a die needs to be rolled to decide whether it moves or not. Whenever the ring stops in a territory controlled by the bad guys, the bad guys can try to capture the ring by rolling 12 with 2 dice (or as low as 10 if certain conditions are met). So the good guys and the bad guys need to fight over the territories in the fellowship's path. That one of the main differences from regular Risk.

Then there are event / objective cards. You get to draw one at the end of your turn if during your turn you have captured a special territory. Some of these cards must be played immediately (and they don't always benefit you). Some of these are one-time special power cards, and can be played at your conveniece. Some are objectives that if you fulfill, give you some benefits.

And there are leaders. You get two at the start of the game. They give you a bonus in battle (add 1 to your highest die roll), and they are needed to fulfill objectives. If you lose all your leaders, you get a free one at the end of your turn. Some territories have strongholds. They give you a free soldier at the start of your turn, and when defending, you can add 1 to your highest die roll.

And that's about all the differences from the standard game. The rest is mostly like standard Risk.

The game can accommodate up to 4 players. Since we played a 2-player game, some territories are randomly designated as neutral territories, each defended by 2 neutral soldiers. The good guys (me) and bad guys (Han) get assigned some fixed territories at the start. Of course, it wouldn't be very true to the story if the good guys control Mordor at the start of the game, or the bad guys The Shire. For the remaining unclaimed territories, the players take turns to claim them.

This was around the start of the game. Green were mine (good guys), black were Han's (bad guys), and red were neutral. Most of the pre-determined territories for the good guys are on the western half of the board, and those for the bad guys are on the eastern and southern parts of the board.

The card backs of the two types of cards. The ones on the left are event / objective / special power cards. The ones on the right are territory cards.

The pieces for the good guys. The eagle represents 5 soldiers, the rider of Rohan 3 soldiers, the elven archer 1 soldier.

The bad guys - orc = 1 soldier, black rider = 3 soldiers, orc shield = leader.

The game has lots of die-rolling. I played it the same way I played Risk: Star Wars Original Trilogy Edition. I just attacked as much as I could to claim as many territories as possible on my turn, leaving my soldiers very very thinly spread, and knowing that my borders would be easily broken through, and that it would be hard to hold on to any control over any region (i.e. continent) until the start of my next turn. Because reinforcements are received at the start of your turn, you can always easily amass troops in one territory to break through your enemy's border.

I played the good guys, and in the first few rounds of the game I managed to control more territories than Han. That created a momentum that was hard for Han to reverse, because controlling more territories means getting more reinforcements, which in turn helps in conquering even more territories. I was also lucky to be able to get an extra reinforcement card early, and I had collected 3 eagle (the best type) reinforcement cards relatively early and used them to get 10 troops. The armies of the humans and elves spread across Middle Earth like they were the evil empire or the hordes of orcs. On Han's turns, he employed a similar tactic - attacking as much as possible and breaking through as many region controls as possible.

It was only Round 2 or 3, and I thought the momentum was well on my side to win the game by conquest. Then I drew an event card which gave the bad guys 10 free troops in one of their strongholds in Mordor. Oops... my previous conquest path stopped exactly in the territory next to that stronghold. If I had taken the stronghold, Han would not have received these 10 free troops. On Han's turn he made good use of these troops and launched a successful counter attack, leaving a swath of destruction. There are two such powerful event cards in the game, and the other one is for the good guys (getting 10 free troops in Minas Tirith if the good guys are holding it). It's a big dose of luck, and it is also thematic.

In the end, even that powerful event could not fully reverse the momentum that the good guys had. Han conceded defeat in I think Round 5 or 6, when he found that the reinforcements that he was getting was just too little, and he didn't have any good cards on hand that were helpful. So, the armies of the elves and humans had worn down the hordes of orcs and Uruk Hais and goblins and oliphaunts. And the fellowship of the ring was still leisurely strolling along the tourist trek. I guess in our version of the story the stars were the crazy battlefield commanders and not the lazy hobbits.

I think the game is still very much like Risk, but with enough differences to make things interesting. There is a lot of luck, so I would only play this with a light-hearted mindset. I think the game may be more interesting and slightly less "lucky" with more players. One thing that is more interesting are the rivers, bridges and mountain ridges that prevent / allow movement between territories. I'm not sure whether movement is really more restricted than Risk or these are just cosmetic, but my gut feel is Risk LOTR's movement between territories is more restricted.

Friday 13 March 2009

Dominion on BSW

It was only after my 20th game of Dominion that I started to like the game more. And this happened after I started playing it on BSW. By being able to play it quickly and not needing to spend time shuffling and reshuffling my cards, I am now starting to appreciate the game more.

My early impression of the game was it seemed like just another economic / engine-building Eurogame where you spend the first half of the game building your economy / engine, and the second half using that engine to generate victory points. Now I am starting to appreciate the deck-building fun in this game. I realise that the most interesting decisions are actually in the early game, and in the buying. Every turn when you draw your 5 cards from your deck, the decision on what action card to play is usually quite trivial. In fact, sometimes there is no decision to be made, e.g. when you only draw one action card, and it is something that only has benefits and no harm. Now I realise that the most interesting decision is in choosing what cards to buy, not what cards to use, and most of this happens in the early game.

In my early games, I often felt helpless towards the second half of the game, when I saw my opponents happily buying up the Provinces. Even when I myself was the one buying up the Provinces, I felt there wasn't much that my opponents could have done. I wasn't very happy with that. Now I realise that by the time the game reaches this stage, you are already at the end game, and this stage is just the execution of a plan that has been made earlier. How good your deck is is determined by how you built it at the early stages of the game. So complaining about your deck by then is already too late. You should have done a better job of building your deck earlier, and not complain about the game being poor, not allowing a catch-up mechanism, having too much luck, etc.

Sometimes you need to respond to what your opponents are doing too. Michelle loves using the Witch card on me, so if we play with a set that has the Witch, I usually need to buy some myself, or buy Moats. And sometimes the interaction is not just about those interactive (attack) cards. You also need to see your opponents' strategies, and decide whether you can come up with an even more efficient strategy to either grab more victory points, or to end the game quickly while you are still ahead in victory points.

Analysing the 10 types of available action cards of a game is also interesting, and this is of course something done at the start of the game. Now that I am more familiar with the game and with the possible synergies between cards, this aspect of the game is becoming more interesting. Again, this is something that happens at the early stage of the game.

It does seem that Dominion is interesting mostly in the first half, and the second half is just execution or follow-up of the decisions that have been made in the first half. What's good about playing on BSW is you can play so quickly, the second half flies by without you feeling bored. There are still decisions that need to be made in the second half. The game is not really that clear cut that you can draw a clear line between the first and second halves. It is a gradual transition.

I look forward to playing more on BSW.

Thursday 12 March 2009

my problems with Axis & Allies

Having spent a lot of effort writing up two session reports for Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition (AA50), and also a review for the game, I now venture into the problems I have with the game. So, this is kind of an extension of my previous review.

In my previous review, I said that everything in AA50 has been improved, to different extents, and I definitely will not go back to earlier versions of the game. That still holds true. The problems that I have with the game are actually problems that I have with all versions of the game, and not specifically the Anniversary Edition. And I am talking about the world theatre versions, not the regional theatre versions (e.g. A&A Europe, A&A Pacific) or battle specific versions (e.g. A&A Guadalcanal, A&A Battle of the Bulge). I still think this is a great game, and writing about these "problems" is more like accepting limitations of the game rather than complaining about the game being poor. I don't really have solutions to all the "problems", and I am not trying to offer any.

1. Too simple and too clean. In translating World War II at the world level to a boardgame, Axis & Allies has simplified many things. Many details need to be abstracted away. Precision has to be greatly reduced. 0.1423 is rounded down to 0, 0.7253 is rounded up to 1. In the Atlantic Ocean, if a naval battle is fought between UK and Germany, the end result will likely be one of the navies will get completely wiped out. In A&A, the Atlantic Ocean is a small pond, that cannot really allow two big opposing navies to co-exist for very long. In real life, the German navy probably wasn't as strong as the Allied navy, but they definitely had presence. In A&A, I think Germany often loses all naval units, and doesn't bother rebuilding it. This is just one example. In other areas, e.g. Egypt, India, China, Soviet Far East, this problem can be seen too - the situation where one side is completely wiped out, and the victor becomes completely unrestrained. One sad thing about Italy is once it loses its navy, it will likely never be able to rebuild it. Italy cannot afford it.

2. Sometimes the game becomes not historical / realistic. Japanese fighters protecting Berlin, Japan conquering Africa, Russians defending India. This probably should not be considered a problem. You just need to stretch your tolerance for alternative history. Where's the fun if every game turns out exactly like real history.

3. Battles are usually fought to the death. Two big stacks that have taken many rounds to build up can be almost completely wiped out within one battle. This can be a big swing of fate, and a big change in the balance of power in that front. Compare this with A&A Guadalcanal and A&A Battle of the Bulge, where battles are only fought for one round, and both sides may have units surviving to fight again next round.

4. Technologies can be a big luck factor. If you get a useful tech at the right time, it can be a very big advantage. But there is quite a bit of luck in investing in technology, in whether you succeed in making a discovery, and also in what tech you discover. Well, techs are an optional rule, so you can play without it.

5. The fall of your capital is crippling. You lose all your money, and you can't build troops for at least one round. This gap in your production cycle of even just one round is devastating. It is a big loss of momentum, and it takes a while for you to catch up. Also it is painful to have given your opponent a windfall. Now indeed losing your capital should be bad. That's reasonable. But I prefer the penalty to be less severe. Sometimes it feels like winning or losing is determined by capturing enemy capitals. Well, at least it seems losing (or becoming a non-factor) is determined by losing your capital. This felt like the game is all about capturing enemy capitals, just like in the original (1984) game. That is a pity, because I think that makes things less fun and less varied.

6. The victory condition may not really matter. In my two games of AA50, we set 15 victory cities as the victory condition, which is the standard victory condition. In both games, one side conceded before the victory condition was met. In both games, it felt as if the victory cities didn't matter at all. We never got near 15 victory cities, and by the time one side conceded, it wasn't nowhere near being beaten down to 3 victory cities. So it seemed the victory cities didn't really matter. Capturing capitals was actually more important, because of how devastating it was to your opponent. So perhaps we should have set a lower number of victory cities as the victory condition. That would make capturing capitals less necessary, and both sides would need to pay much more attention to every victory city. It may be tricky to decide the ideal number of victory cities to use. Set it too high (I think the default of 15 is too high), and it becomes meaningless. Set it too low, and it may be too easy for the Axis to achieve it quickly, because they have more starting forces and these starting forces are better positioned to make quick gains.

Despite all these complaints, I am actually not very keen on introducing any variant. I'm generally not too keen on inventing variants for games, or using fan-created variants. I trust the designers and their play-testing teams more. Some fan-created variants may be unbalanced, or may make things too complex. But one thing that I may do when I play AA50 again is to play with fewer victory cities as the victory condition. That should be interesting.

Monday 9 March 2009

Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition Game 2

On 23 Feb 2009 Han and I started our second PBEM game of Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition (AA50). This time we played the 1942 scenario, which is equivalent to the starting setup in past versions of the game. Spring 1942 was when the Axis powers reached their peak during World War II. This time I played the Axis and Han the Allies. We played with both national objectives and technology.

Playing the Axis is fun. You start with more units and they are better positioned to fight. I played quite aggressively at the start, making some gambles here and there. I didn't really think too much. I may have been overly aggressive. Playing the Axis feels very different from my previous game as the Allies. As the Allies, you start the game doing mostly damage control. You are desperately trying to contain the Axis expansion, trying to minimise losses, and trying to build up your forces to be able to halt the Axis advance. You need to be defensive mostly, and yet you need to plan for counter-attacking, and you cannot concede too much, lest the Axis build up too much of a momentum. All this while the Allies need to conserve their limited starting forces. Well, actually the Axis also needs to conserve their starting forces too, because being economically weaker, replenishing them will be harder. Definitely playing the Allies is quite challenging. You need to plan carefully to turn the tide, before it overwhelms you.

The starting setup of the AA50 1942 scenario.

In our game, we tried some different approaches from our first game. As the Germans, although I attacked the Russians aggressively with my starting troops, I spilt my production capacity between boosting my navy and building more troops to send to the Eastern Front. I even built a battleship and a carrier. Having a German navy is convenient for shipping troops to Scandinavia and to Karelia. It is also useful in delaying the invasion of Europe by UK and USA. My German navy destroyed the British fleet in Round 3, and also the small American Atlantic fleet by Round 4. During these early battles in the Atlantic, the legend of the German Yamato was born.

Germany invested in its navy, and defeated the initial UK fleet, gaining dominance of the Atlantic Ocean in the early game.

Sidetrack: The name Yamato comes from a Japanese manga (comic / graphic novel) Silent Fleet by Kaiji Kawaguchi (沉默的舰队 - 川口开治). In the story (which happens in the 1990's I think), a nuclear submarine built by the Japanese, manned by Japanese soldiers but belonging to the US Pacific Fleet went renegade, and renamed itself Yamato. It defeated many submarines and ships sent to hunt it down.

In the Atlantic Battles, there was this stubborn German U-boat that defied the odds multiple times and sank many Allied ships. It was eventually destroyed by the new British fleet, consisting of an aircraft carrier (with fighters, of course), but not without taking a British destroyer down with it.

The German Yamato, which later proceeded to sink those 2 British destroyers and also that American transport.

The German fleet lasted only into Round 5. UK built up its Royar Air Force and sank it. Germany, which could not afford to spend more money on its fleet, had its fighters desert their poor carrier, and diverted its money to building land troops to invade USSR. The new British fleet was born in Round 7, and became a constant threat to the European coastline. USA never spent much effort in Europe, but one well-timed troop shipment to Africa help a lot in recapturing the continent which was previously conquered by a lone German tank. The Americans did recapture Gibraltar for the UK, and also helped capture France and Italy later on.

In North Africa, the Italians were aggressive in attacking Egypt, but unfortunately weren't very successful at it. Egypt only fell in Round 4. The Italian navy was very handy, and in fact was critical, in supporting the push for Africa, and in threatening USSR from the south. It was lost to British bombers in Round 7, after which the Italians could only afford to build land troops. The Italians had only ever built one naval unit, a transport, and that was on the very first turn. The fall of Egypt allowed Germany to break through and capture most of Africa, but it was soon liberated by the Americans.

The Pacific Theatre was probably the most tense area. Japan attacked the starting American fleet in Hawaii, and the American Californian fleet retaliated. After that USA spent most of its effort building up its Pacific fleet. Japan had to do the same. It was an arms race. There was much maneuvering, with the two opposing fleets being just out of attack range, and not daring to come too close. Japan starts the 1942 scenario in a strong position, because it already fulfills two of its three national objectives, which the Allies will require much effort and time to deny. Japan can easily destroy the UK India fleet in Round 1, before it can do anything (Japan's turn comes first), which I did in this game. Unlike our previous game, Han commited much American money to the Pacific Theatre, and this threat caused Japan to hesitate and limit its expansion on the Asian mainland. China was subdued quickly, but Japan didn't have enough troops to threaten India or the Soviet Far East as well. The Red Army amassed at the border and did not return to Moscow. UK built a factory in India, and USSR even sent a tank to help protect it. This was a dilemma period for Japan. The Indian factory could become a serious threat in the future. The Red Army was about to break through the western tip of China and the Japanese-Russian border to the north of Manchuria. And all this while the American fleet was building up and threatening, even capturing the Solomon Islands and Wake Island. Also Japan had build a factory in Manchuria, which needed to be protected.

Now, even after the game has ended, I am still not sure whether I made the right decision at that point in time. I sent my Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) to capture India. The capture of India was a little risky, as USSR could have recaptured it quickly. Having my IJN in the Indian Ocean also allowed the American Pacific fleet to sail to Japan, and although it didn't have enough transports and land troops to invade Japan, it was able to capture my newly built factory in Manchuria. The eager Russians waiting at the border quickly came down to help secure Manchuria. A Russian tank also invaded from the western border of China, and converted the Chinese to communists.

Sidetrack 2: Now here's a bug of the TripleA program, if I understand the rules correctly. When USSR recaptures Chinese territory, they should revert to become American controlled, since the American capitol is not enemy-occupied. Instead the Chinese territory became USSR-controlled in our game, i.e. USSR earned money, and USA didn't get to receive Chinese infantry.

The IJN rushed back towards its beseiged island home, knowing that it was facing a formidable foe. USA had jet-fighters, which were as good as bombers on offense. The US Fleet met the IJN halfway, off the coast of Vietnam, and the biggest battle of the game ensued. That was Round 7 of the game. All ships from both sides were destroyed, and only one lonely American bomber survived to tell the tale. It flew back to Manchuria.

The Battle of South China Sea. Attacking US fleet: 1 heavy bomber, 8 jet fighters, 1 battleship, 1 cruiser, 3 aircraft carriers, 2 destroyers, 2 submarines, 1 transport. Defending IJN fleet: 6 fighters, 4 battleships, 1 cruiser, 3 aircraft carriers, 2 submarines, 2 transports. 1 US bomber and 1 US transport survived this battle.

This was probably the height of Russian expansion into Asia, at the end of Round 8.

Japan quickly recaptured Manchuria and rebuilt its navy. At the same time the Americans had already started rebuilding their Pacific fleet. They even sent a small force to liberate Borneo. That's where I was born (many years after the end of World War II though). Japan, knowing that it had to spend money on land troops to reconquer lost ground and to push outwards towards Moscow and Africa, could not afford to spend too much money on its new IJN. So it invested in submarines. It had previously made a breakthrough in technology, gaining super subs, which attack on a 3 instead of a 2. This certainly helped. In one surprise victory off the coast of Alaska, four Japanese super subs defeated a medium-sized American fleet of 2 carriers, 2 destroyers, 2 fighters and 3 transports. There were still 2 Japanese subs remaining. The US fighters retreated to land in Alaska, but the destruction of the 3 transports prevented USA from capturing a toe-hold on the Asian mainland. The second arms race continued in the Pacific, with a slightly different flavour. The Japanese favoured subs. The UK joined the fray, after building a factory in Borneo (hey that's where my hometown is!). It tried twice to start a new fleet, but twice the nucleus was destroyed by Japanese planes and submarines. Eventually the second big Pacific naval battle never occurred, although the new US Pacific Fleet had advanced to the South Pacific, and the new IJN had also built up considerably.

The factory on Borneo. I was born in Sabah, formerly known as North Borneo, a British colony. This was how much the new US Pacific Fleet had built up by game end.

On the Eastern Front in Europe, the initial battles left both the Russians and the Germans quite depleted. The Russians were able to advance to Baltic States, East Poland and Ukraine, but later the joint efforts of the Germans and Italians pushed them back. After the destruction of the German and Italian fleets, the game became the often-seen race between the Axis capturing Moscow and the Allies capturing Berlin. USSR was now being threatening by Japan from the east, because of the two factories in India and Manchuria. It tried to counter-attack, but wasn't very successful. Germany kept pumping out land troops to send towards Moscow. France went back-and-forth many times, greatly annoying the French. Eventually Germany was the first capitol to fall, in Round 11, to the British heavy bombers. Both the Americans and the British had heavy bombers at this stage. The fall of Berlin surprised me, and in hindsight I only had myself to blame. I should have paid more attention to those 2 British RAF heavy bombers. The Italians helped to recapture Germany. Germany went back-and-forth many times, this time greatly annoying the Germans, while the French next door just laughed.

Berlin was the first capitol to fall into enemy hands.

Moscow first fell in Round 12, being captured by the German army. The remaining Russian troops all rushed home to liberate Moscow, but it didn't last. Next round the Japanese captured Moscow, and there were no longer any Russian troops around to recapture it. Rome fell in Round 13, to the Americans. The game became a 2 vs 1 battle, UK and USA against Japan.

In hindsight, I made a very bad mistake of using German troops to capture Moscow. Germany took all the Russian treasury, but immediately all that money was lost to UK, when UK captured Berlin again. So UK looted the German treasury when it first captured Berlin, and then looted the loot from Moscow when it captured it the second time. This made Queen Elizabeth filthy rich (she became queen in 1952, and Round 12 is about winter 1945, assuming 1 round = 3 months, so I'm not exactly historically accurate here). And it made me want to strangle myself for being so stupid.

UK had $117 after the 2nd fall of Berlin.

Now a new world order was born. The Japanese Empire stretched across the whole of Asia and into the Middle East. Europe and Africa are solidly under Allied control. The main front was now Eastern Europe, with a smaller front in Egpyt, the gateway to Africa, and also South East Asia, where the factory on Borneo and the advancing US Pacific Fleet was making Japan rather nervous. Japan was now producing from the previously Russian factories. UK was producing in Germany, and USA in Italy. At this stage, the biggest fear of the Japanese was the heavy bombers of the Allies. With a fleet of heavy bombers, the attacking power of any reasonable size of land troops can be boosted tremendously. Japanese scientists desperately tried to make this scientific breakthough, but it was not to be. When Japan lost Karelia, and then Caucasus to the UK, it conceded defeat. The remaining production capacity of 6 in Moscow would not last. So, a victory for the Allied powers, at the end of Round 16.

This was the game end.

In the technology aspect of the game, Germany had improved artillery and rockets, which helped a little. It gained jet power later in the game, but it was too late to make much impact. Japan had shipyards earlier than the rest, which helped in building ships cheaply, allowing it to keep up with USA in the naval arms race. It's long-range aircraft also provided good flexibility. And of course, the super subs technology might have created a second legend of Yamato if the 2nd major Pacific naval battle had happened. So Japan got quite a good deal out of technology. Not as big of an impact for Germany. UK and USA gaining heavy bombers was a great advantage. This was the one thing that I had no counter for. Jet fighters also benefited USA much, especially in the Battle of the South China Sea (off the Vietnamese coast). At game-end the USA had all 6 of the naval/air technologies.

This PBEM game took us almost 2 weeks. Again, it was very exciting and addicting. And again, it was also very tense and very taxing. PBEM is too much tension for me and I needed to take a break from it. Some days I actually lost sleep over it. It feels too much like unfinished business, because the game was still in progress. I couldn't help thinking about how the game would progress.

In our second game we tried quite a number of different things. This time USA fought the Japanese with a vengence in the Pacific theatre, eventually avenging Pearl Harbour, and spent little effort in Europe. Germany gained naval supremacy for a while, and didn't put as much pressure on USSR. This in turn allowed USSR to expand, and it even made advances against Japan. The Axis broke through Egypt this time, and managed for a while to bring Africa under Axis rule.

Monday 2 March 2009

gaming in photos

14 Feb 2009. I didn't expect to buy Um Reifenbreite after playing it at Carcasean boardgame cafe back in Kota Kinabalu. But Chong Sean offered me a good price and I couldn't resist. Also I think it's a game I can play with my children when they are older. This game is only available in the German version, so I had to download the English translations of the event cards before I could play my copy. I did it the easy way. I put the cards into card sleeves, and then the English translations on small pieces of paper into them too. No stickers required.

I didn't put these energy cards into card sleeves. I prefer to play games without card sleeves. I like the Joker cards (on the right). These are cards you can use on any rider on your team, and the artist literally drew a joker on them.

15 Feb 2009. I play Carcassonne with my 3-year-old daughter. The good thing about playing with her is we don't need to worry about the confusing farmer scoring rule. We don't score at all! We just take turns placing tiles to build the landscape of Carcassonne. We often don't even bother to place our meeples. In this photo she wanted to place the barn exactly this way, because she thought the barn door was a tunnel through which the road could run.

15 Feb 2009. When Michelle and I play Galaxy Trucker, we play 3 rounds, with Spaceships II, III and IIIA (as opposed to I, II and III). This is more challenging. In this photo I lost one very big chunk of the right side of my spaceship, including crew members and goods. Ouch...

22 Feb 2009. Agricola. Michelle's very nice 42-point farm. No wasted space at all.

These were her cards. They seemed to be rather unrelated, but they worked quite well together.

22 Feb 2009. Lord of the Rings with the Battlefields expansion. I was Frodo and Michelle was Sam. Michelle was rather distracted during the game because of the children, so she wasn't very focused. The game was tough, and not being able to concentrate made things worse. We didn't even make it past Shelob's Lair, the second last scenario board.

The top row are the 5 enemies that can appear on the battlefield board for the Moria scenario board. For each scenario board there are 5 enemies with different characteristics. The backs of these enemy pieces show a section of the scenario board.

Battlefields "completes" the fellowship of the ring. Boromir, Legolas, Gimli, Aragorn and Gandalf. These characters did previously appear as feature cards, even in the base game, but now they are pieces that can be played on the battlefield boards.

1 Mar 2009. Michelle and I had a very close game of Through the Ages. This was in the middle of Age II. I was amused to see 4 leaders appearing so close on the card row. Later Michelle took James Cook.

At one point I had too many stones and couldn't use them quickly enough. I managed to avoid corruption for many turns, but eventually my anti-corruption drive failed for one turn and I lost 2 stones due to "rasuah" (bribes, in Malay). Well, I guess that's not too bad.

My empire, at the end of the game.

My wonders and special technologies.

My past and current leaders.

This was how the game ended. Only two points apart! I was white and Michelle was red. These were the four final event cards. There were a few key actions near game end that could have swayed the game either way. I started building the First Space Flight wonder quite early, but completed it only on my last turn, because I wanted to make sure I played as many technology cards as possible before that to maximise the value of this wonder. It eventually got me 30pts. Michelle had one Age II action card that gave 4pts. Unfortunately she held it for a little too long, and by the time she wanted to play it, Age III had ended and she was forced to discard it before being able to use it. On my second last turn, overall I was militarily weaker, but my army was worth 10 strength and Michelle's 5 strength (most of her military strength came from technologies, wonders and colonies). I played an aggression against Michelle successfully, sacrificing all my soldiers, to destroy 2 of her computers (labs). I was hoping there would be some impact at game-end scoring. Then on Michelle's next turn, the event came up which awarded 10pts to whoever was more technologically advanced. This effectively gave me a 20pt lead.

Michelle's empire at game-end.

Michelle only had 2 leaders. She had more colonies though.

Michelle's wonders and special technologies. See how many gave her military strength (sword and shield icon).

Our culture rating and science rating. My culture rating was higher because of Game Designer. My science rating was higher because I had destroyer Michelle's two Computers (which would have given her 10 science points per turn). Michelle had Einstein as her leader, and Einstein gave her a lot of culture points. 3 culture points per technology played doesn't sound like much, but she was able to play very many technology cards. I was militarily much weaker by game end because I had sacrificed all my soldiers to launch that successful aggression against Michelle.