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Saturday, July 16, 2005

 

Finally. Struggle of Empires.

Finally. Got SoE to the table. It's been setting on my game shelf for 8 or 9 months. Played through one war (out of 3 that make a complete game), made enough mistakes that we started over, then played two wars (out of three) before we ran out of time. We only played with four players, but I look forward to playing with more as soon as I am able.

For a game with such a short rulebook, it is easy to make mistakes. The rulebook is not organized well, and there is some significant errata. All those extra wooden cylinders? They are for bidding purposes. Spain is considered to be adjacent to Italy (that is significant errata). A failed sea move causes unrest. And why, oh why, didn't they put lines to delineate between the North Sea and Baltic if navies can only be used in Baltic battles but not North Sea battles?

The game features a unique system of alliances. From war to war alliances change. The first player takes two tokens representing two players he would like to see go to war. He makes a bid. Going around the table, any player who wants to bid more can change the two counters. The player who makes the highest bid loses his bid and places the counters on the alliance chart where they remain for the rest of the war.

The second player now chooses from the remaining player tokens, makes a bid and play continues around the table in the same manner as before. The highest bidder places the two tokens on the alliance chart in the positions he proposed. When all player/nation tokens are in the alliance box the next war begins. Players can't attack members of their alliance, although they don't have to support them in conflict if they so choose.

One obvious strategy is to get your enemies into your alliance and your friends into the opposing camp.

The game also features a rather unique combat mechanism. Two dice are rolled in combat. The dice are subtracted from one another to calculate the value of the roll. For example, a roll of a 6 and a 4 would be 2 (6 - 4 = 2) a roll of a 3 and a 3 would be a 0 (3 - 3 = 0). Everyone in our group was puzzled trying to calculate the odds. I later found a chart that gives chances of rolling a given number using such a mechanism. Here it is, the odds of rolling a:

0 = 17%
1 = 28%
2 = 22%
3 = 17%
4 = 11%
5 = 6%.

Additionally, any roll that totals a 7 (either by the attacker or defender, winner or loser) causes an extra army to be lost.

SoE is a war game, but it has the feel of a war game that was designed by a guy with a background in German games, which it was. It is a good game, all in all. I really appreciate the thin rule book, which is unusual for a good war game. There are no exceptions to the rules to keep the game historically accurate, yet it has historical flavor.

I suspect we will play several more times in the next few months. If we do, it is a game that interests me enough that I will write a more in depth review.

The current version of Struggle of Empires, by WarFrog games, simply utilizes cardboard chits for game pieces. I understand that Eagle games is reprinting SoE. Eagle is notorious for cool plastic bits and great artwork. WarFrog has a well deserved reputation for poor rules. The game is good enough that the odds are 70/30 I will buy a copy of the Eagle version even though I own the original.

Good gaming
Coldfoot

Comments:
According to Gamefest, the Struggle of Empires reprint is exactly the same as the Warfrog version with an Eagle Games logo.

Conquest of the Empire is "Designed by Glenn Drover;
Inspired by a design by Martin Wallace" and is also published by Eagle. The rules are online and at first glance it seems that they have only borrowed the alliance mechanic. You can read them here:
http://www.bggfiles.com/viewfile.php3?fileid=11020
 
Well, in that case, my wife will be glad to hear that I won't be investing in a second copy.
 
You realize that your totals add up to 101%

-Warmfoot - keeping the honest more honest...honestly
 
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