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× Talk about the latest and greatest AT, and the Classics.

Phil Eklund "Lords of..." games

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07 Nov 2010 22:28 #78760 by dan daly
Phil Eklund seems to get a lot of love around here, especially Origins: How We Became Human, American Megafauna, and his latest game High Frontier.

I'm a history guy. So what can anyone tell me about the "Lords of.." games? As far as I can tell there are:

-Lords of the Sierra Madre
-Lords of the Renaissance
-Lords of the Spanish Main

Has anyone around here played these? What did you think? Are they an unplayable mess? A treasure trove of historical trivia? Both?

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07 Nov 2010 23:08 - 07 Nov 2010 23:13 #78764 by Dogmatix
I've got the Decision Games reprint of Lords of the Sierra Madre, which I picked up on the cheap off CSW (one highlight of the CSW marketplace--the more traditional consimmer may take a flyer on an odd game now and again but if they don't like it, they damn near give it away to clear out the space). I've been led to believe that it's the best of those 3.

As far as I can figure it's the hideously deformed love-child of Junta and an 18xx game without the trains (or perhaps Tracks to Telluride, or whatever that Winsome game was about mining). The rulebook is chrome-heavy--which is what makes the game possible--and a bit of a mess. I've not been able to get this to the table with a group of people for specifically that reason.

Based on my read of it, it's an economic game at its heart--and it has Phil Eklund's attention to friggin' detail driving that--but there's a lot of backstabby goodness to be had like cutting deals with some players and hiring bandits to fuck with others. If you have a group of people who play the game like it's a pure economic game--which is possible--it appears to break down because you're kind of playing the engine but not the theme. Playing the theme too, however, seems to require a grasp of the rules that don't seem to be entirely intuitive.

Now, all of this is, sadly, based on my read of the game. I'm *dying* to play this but I can't get folks to buy into it. (Wonder if it would work PBEM...hrm...)

I think there's a bit of fucking genius sitting in this box, but I don't know how to unlock it.

There's a good review of it here: www.gamecabinet.com/sumo/Issue13/Madre.html
Last edit: 07 Nov 2010 23:13 by Dogmatix.

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08 Nov 2010 11:42 #78795 by Notahandle
I remember them getting good reviews when I bought (one or two) of them ages ago. Never managed to get people interested in playing them though. One day, one day... My best advice would be, if you like any Phil Eklund game then you'll probably like all of them.

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08 Nov 2010 12:44 #78812 by southernman
Dogmatix wrote:

I've got the Decision Games reprint of Lords of the Sierra Madre, which I picked up on the cheap off CSW (one highlight of the CSW marketplace--the more traditional consimmer may take a flyer on an odd game now and again but if they don't like it, they damn near give it away to clear out the space). I've been led to believe that it's the best of those 3.

As far as I can figure it's the hideously deformed love-child of Junta and an 18xx game without the trains (or perhaps Tracks to Telluride, or whatever that Winsome game was about mining). The rulebook is chrome-heavy--which is what makes the game possible--and a bit of a mess. I've not been able to get this to the table with a group of people for specifically that reason.

Based on my read of it, it's an economic game at its heart--and it has Phil Eklund's attention to friggin' detail driving that--but there's a lot of backstabby goodness to be had like cutting deals with some players and hiring bandits to fuck with others. If you have a group of people who play the game like it's a pure economic game--which is possible--it appears to break down because you're kind of playing the engine but not the theme. Playing the theme too, however, seems to require a grasp of the rules that don't seem to be entirely intuitive.

Now, all of this is, sadly, based on my read of the game. I'm *dying* to play this but I can't get folks to buy into it. (Wonder if it would work PBEM...hrm...)

I think there's a bit of fucking genius sitting in this box, but I don't know how to unlock it.

There's a good review of it here: www.gamecabinet.com/sumo/Issue13/Madre.html

I bought a copy of this recently for the same reasons, it sounded a very in-depth and interesting game - but the rulebook is extremely complex and I have no illusions that I will never get anyone to play it (for both complexity and game length reasons).

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08 Nov 2010 12:53 #78816 by Michael Barnes
I have RENAISSANCE and SPANISH MAIN.

RENAISSANCE looks incredibly detailed, and I think you can play up to 12 players. Which may be insane. It sort of looks like an EMPIRES OF THE MIDDLE AGES style game with politics, religion, culture, exploration, trade, and so on going off at once. The problem is that it's the typical Phil Eklund "information overload" thing...but done in 1990-style Printshop Deluxe graphics. It may be cool, I dunno. I've had it for years and never have had a chance to play it.

SPANISH MAIN is pretty neat, it's the only game I've seen to really attempt a serious age of pirates simulation. It brings in a lot of different elements, but it's again full of information overload. I tried to teach it to some folks once and it just bombed. It could be that the pink and blue components turned everybody off. I've played it solo, and it's a neat simulation, I'd love to try it again.

If you (or anyone else) wants to give them as shot, I'll send them both to you for $20 shipped. RENAISSANCE is unpunched.


I think MEGAFAUNA, ORIGINS, and HIGH FRONTIER are really quite a bit more developed as games than these earlier ones...but they cover entirely different subject matter.

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08 Nov 2010 16:01 #78837 by iguanaDitty
I have managed one game of Sierra Madre. We had read the rules ahead of time. After 2 hours we agreed to bail but we had figured out how to play the game for the next time. Which is to say, get someone who is patient and also likes figuring out weird ass games and you'll have fun.
As usual for Eklund games there's some sort of auction but unlike Euro games a) you do not want to hoard your resources and wait because odds are you'll screw yourself and b) you can make infinite amounts of deals with your fellow players. So in Sierra Madre one player grabbed a mine by borrowing from another player (with interest) and more than paid off the other player by the time the mine amortized. And I, stuck in my Euro-ways, was shut out of all of it.
Of the 3 I think Spanish Main looks the coolest but I think they all have their strong points. In Sierra Madre you can have the US invade Mexican states, or something like that.

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25 Mar 2011 05:00 - 25 Mar 2011 18:11 #92116 by Gavroche
Last edit: 25 Mar 2011 18:11 by Gavroche.

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25 Mar 2011 09:41 #92123 by Chapel
I was going to go through some talking points, but Michael pretty much covered what I was going to say. And with that I'll agree that Origins, High Frontier were much more on the game side than the simulation side that the Lord of X games portrayed. That isn't a bad thing, just different experiences. All three were interesting games.

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25 Mar 2011 10:44 #92129 by Shellhead
I had totally forgotten about it until now, but I own a copy of first edition Lords of the Sierra Madre. I can't remember when or why I bought it, just that I picked it up some time in the early '90s. I looked through it a couple of times, and it appeared to be an unfinished prototype of a game.

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25 Mar 2011 10:51 #92131 by Shellhead
That linked review is interesting. Maybe Lords of the Sierra Madre might be better as a PBEM game.

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25 Mar 2011 11:04 #92134 by moofrank
I think I would start with Spanish Main. It has the base structure, and is the simplest.
Sadly, I've never played ANY of these either.

The other Lords game would be Rocket Flight: Lords of the High Frontier. That has completely been replaced by the new High Frontier. The original might not be playable by people that aren't Eklund.

Barnes and I both have quite a few big, epic games to try and tear through. Any chance we can set up a saturday every month or so and collect a group of hardcore folks only?

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25 Mar 2011 11:39 - 25 Mar 2011 11:41 #92139 by aerodynamics
I bought the Decision Games version of "Lords of the Sierra Madre" years ago due to the description and reviews I had read. It seemed like a perfect game for my group due to the theme, historical flavor, opportunities for intrigue, alliances and backstabbing, etc. At one point I even talked most everyone into giving it a shot, but reading the rules kind of made my head spin (and I'm an old hand with complex wargame rules). I foresaw too much confusion and we opted to play something else instead.

Those interested should check out the Spotlight On Games website though. Rick Heli has done a rules re-write and provided lots of other information and playaids for the game there...

www.spotlightongames.com/military/mnights/l.html#lordssierra
Last edit: 25 Mar 2011 11:41 by aerodynamics.

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14 May 2020 10:08 #310299 by christopherwood
Necromancing this thread.

I've just played my first Lords of the Sierra Madre, which I found wonderful. It shares the pseduo-ownership mechanisms of the Pax series, where you don't really own those troops, but you can control them somewhat. It also generated some amazing narrative in the "emergent storytelling" style. One of my guys actually went insane during the session, which is not a game mechanism :) Here's where I mention this was a 3p schizo play. I'm really hoping to play this one again several times. I had a blast.

I'm currently just starting Lords of the Renaissance, which appears very similar in many ways, obviously the same design framework. The economy is tricky in this one for me so far, but I suspect it's just trying to bootstrap everybody's personal & faction finances. I suspect once I get going with some engines, we'll be OK. This is 6p schizo. Also fwiw, Pax Ren is my #1 alltime fave. I'm super enjoying the study of Lords/Ren for its ancestral character to Pax Ren, as well as its own play value.

I've got Lords of the Spanish main sitting there in the queue, also. Hopefully I can get to it before ION comes out with Pax Caribbea or whatever.

Currently hoping to get ahold of the "first edition" prototype version of Lords/Madre if anyone has one they're willing to make a deal on.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Dr. Mabuse, Msample

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14 May 2020 14:11 #310308 by southernman
Are you an Eklund :whistle: :laugh: ?
Well done, I loved the background and chrome but I have no trouble admitting the rulebook was scarier than the Amazon jungle at night.

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14 May 2020 14:29 #310311 by christopherwood
LOL no, Ancestry.com said I had some Scandinavian DNA, is as close as I can claim to relation to an Eklund, tho they since took that away and left me just my green Irish blood, them glassin' sleveens.

And yeh the rulebooks are ... I'll just say they're usually decipherable, if one puts in enough effort. They very much take me back to my wargame days in the 70s & 80s, where there were so many crosswires and doodads in the game mechanisms, without clear explanations in the rules, that we often just tried to figure the most thematic interpretation, scribbled a note in the rules (bcz this was before they printed everything foll color on gloss), and if worse came to worst we settled it with a die roll.

The key so far for me, to understand Eklund games, is to hit it from that same thematic angle. His stuff is very simmy. It's easy to see where he's applied abstractions to make the sims playable as games; and wherever the bare sim is still showing, without a clear expression of how it's supposed to work as a game mechanism, well, falling back on thematic interpretation will usually save the day. And frankly his rulebooks are not any worse than anybody else's from that era ... or from this era, for the most part. :\

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