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A Study in Emerald

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Author Topic: A Study in Emerald  (Read 160 times)
Sluggonics
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« on: July 16, 2014, 02:35:27 pm »


I played this with my wife last weekend.  I bought it mainly because of the subject - a mash-up of Sherlock Holmes and H.P. Lovecraft based on the world, if not the actual plot, of the Neil Gaiman short story by the same name.  Plus, I really loved the artwork on the cards -they looked like 19th century lithography.  The board is a little busy for my tastes, but it's certainly functional.  This is also the first Martin Wallace game I've ever played, which I was kind of surprised to realize, given how prolific he's been in recent years. 

It's basically a deck-building game, with the typical cube pushing bidding process typical of the Euros I've played (which isn't many).  There's a hidden identity element to the game as well, as, at the beginning, no one knows whether each other player is a Restorationist (trying to eliminate the world leaders who are really Old Ones in disguise) or a Loyalist (trying to keep the Old Ones in power).  Some of the actions you take on the board can give this away pretty quickly, and it's not too important to hide your identity throughout the game, but it does provide an advantage to whoever the last-place player is, because this player can ultimately cost the side he or she is on the entire game - so if the others aren't sure which side the last-place player is on, they'll be hesitant to end the game for fear they could end up losing if the last place player is on their side.  This gives the last-place player time to try and get more points.

The interesting thing to me is what effect this has on the number of players playing the game.  For a two-player game, keeping our identities secret was pointless, as there wasn't advantage to be gained from it, since we were directly competing simply for points.  If you add more players, then the "team" aspect comes into play, and you start playing more defensively, rather than just trying to gobble up as many points as possible.  My wife and I didn't spend any time trying to block or deny cards to each other, which can certainly be a viable strategy in multi-player games - we simply went after the most points we could get as quickly as we could.

There are two tracks on the board which you can spend cubes on to advance the point totals at the end of the game of all players on one side or the other.  In the two player game, neither of us paid any attention to this track, as we'd quickly figured out we were on opposite sides, so it made more sense to acquire points directly through board actions, than use the tracks to add points after the fact - this "raising all boats" point method would certainly be more valuable in a multiplayer game.

I look forward to trying it with more players because it seems like it will be a completely different game.
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anarchy
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« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2014, 03:04:57 pm »

My game of the year so far.
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« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2014, 04:39:03 pm »

As someone who owns a complete Mythos CCG collection, far too many Arkham Horror expansions, and is a bit of a Dominion fiend, this sounds totally cool.

Kyle: Given what you said, would you still recommend it as a 2-player game? I'd be playing mostly with my wife who doesn't care at all for direct conflict mechanics.
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« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2014, 04:49:34 pm »

As someone who owns a complete Mythos CCG collection, far too many Arkham Horror expansions, and is a bit of a Dominion fiend, this sounds totally cool.

Kyle: Given what you said, would you still recommend it as a 2-player game? I'd be playing mostly with my wife who doesn't care at all for direct conflict mechanics.

I don't know if I'd recommend it solely as a two-player game - I think you'd be missing out on a lot of the potential of the game, and you wouldn't get to fully exercise a lot of the features of the game (such as blocking discs) that are more useful when you're working with or against multiple players.

Although even with two players, it's not exactly a direct conflict game - since your "side" is determined randomly at the start of the game, you could both be Loyalists or Restorationists, meaning you'd both have the same goals of either assassinating Old Ones or protecting them, but you'd just be racing for points, in terms of assassinations/saves conducted, cities controlled, or certain victory point card effects.  So you'd kind of be on the same "team" but vying for points.  Yes, still "conflict" but with a nice veneer of theme that puts you on the same "team".
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« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2014, 04:53:04 pm »

Ok thanks. I'll give it a look!
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« Reply #5 on: July 23, 2014, 07:50:41 pm »

Managed to get a full five-player game of this in on Sunday, and it indeed was a vastly different game.  It was everyone else's first time playing, and my first time playing with more than two players, and everyone came out very cautiously.  We started bidding up cards, acquiring agents, nobody made any moves to attempt any assassinations, as everyone tried to divine who was on what side.  Eventually, people started scoring some points, and things opened up quickly.  It didn't take long for us to figure out there were three Restorationists and two Loyalists.  I was one of the Loyalists, and had been trying to bide my time until one of my opponents played the Agent card that allows you to look at the identity card of a player and chose me.  Then the cat was out of the bag.  I was second-to-last in points, two of the Restorationists were way ahead on points, so my Loyalist "partner" bid on the Permanent Effect card that makes you switch sides. 

So it promptly became a 4 on 1 game.  But, and this is the beauty of the game - it looked like there would be no way for me to get more points, because they could all easily start blocking me - but by then they had dismissed me as finished and started competing against each other for first place.  This allowed me to suddenly move the War Track up a few positions, actually assassinate some of their unguarded agents (and make use of my Shoggoth card which allowed me to free-kill another agent), and suddenly move ahead of the last-place Restorationist player.  They were able to work their **** out in enough time to push me back down to last place and end the game, where the guy who scored the game's first points was able to grab the win. 

Really had a great time with this.
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