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Board Games 4821
A Rolling Storm of Woe
(Updated: August 18, 2019)
tl;dr — Epic in every dimension. And, despite all the ISC brouhaha, it plays just fine right out of the box.

UPDATE: This is still a great game, the experience growing more rich and nuanced as we become more familiar with it. This is definitely one of those games that requires repeat plays—difficult for most, I know, as the first couple of plays can be excruciatingly long and fraught with error. All I can say is stick with it; like the monster games of old the wonders in this box are only revealed through familiarity.

ISC and other tweaking:

The best version of this game is played with the Age of Empire & The Ancient Throne variants. AoE, found in the rulebook, lays all the public objectives out in a row and allows for long-range strategic planning. AT, an official variant found on Fantasy Flight's website, changes the ISC to 1VP if you control Mecatol Rex—in addition, it allows you to earn as many VP objectives as you qualify for, all at once.* It makes for a longer game (with no 2VP clock counting it down) but with far more interaction, with emphasis on the ACTION!!!

*This is also now the Imperial II Strategy Card found in Shattered Empire.

Board setup for more interaction:

Take the best double systems and place them randomly around Mecatol Rex (so the first ring is made up of resource- and influence-rich gems of the Empire). Then build the other rings as normal. This prevents the usual layout of the galaxy—with players each residing in their own premium "turtle pockets" that are bordered with crap while the throneworld of Mecatol Rex languishes in a backwater ghetto. Surrounding it with double systems forces players to move fleets up the ladder and into sweaty proximity around Mecatol Rex for a turn (or so) of hard stares and eye-twitching until someone pulls the trigger on the Last War and makes the jump for Mecatol. With everyone having a fleet one hex out, the game becomes a Rolling Storm of Woe mitigated only by political shenannigans and shady trading...

UP-UPDATE: Aw, hell... who am I kidding? With the advent of the Shattered Empire expansion, this is a rock-solid 5-star game. Slathered miles-deep in theme, diplomacy & intrigue, massive space fleet engagements & ground combat—there's nothing else like it. Nothing even comes close.
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