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Viscounts of the West Kingdom Review

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12 Mar 2021 07:09 #320437 by adamr
That's his solo signature. Nusfjord makes such clever use of it in the campaign mode. Often in his games you choose a deck of cards, and you see/use some of them. In the campaign you play three back-to-back games. The first game uses half the cards (as normal), the second game uses the remaining half, and the third uses a random mix of the things you didn't build in the first two games. The fact you can play the entire thing in less than two hours is great.

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12 Mar 2021 08:47 #320443 by Matt Thrower
The biggest problem I have with heavy euros nowadays is that they're such a colossal pain in the arse to learn and teach.

Euros, in general, have a thematic disconnect where the rules don't "make sense" because they represent the parameters of a puzzle instead of a real-life thing. You can't anticipate how anything is going to work until you've got the whole picture, and even then it often takes a playthrough before the pieces start to fall into place.

Like, if you've ever played one hex and counter wargame, you already know half the rules to pretty much all of them. You have a movement allowance based on the unit's speed, because it makes sense that faster units travel further. And difficult terrain costs more to move over, because, y'know, it does. It just all makes sense. Euros aren't like that. You can't project forward to guess how bits of the puzzle are supposed to work.

Back in the day when games like Agricola were cock of this particular walk that was fine. But then designers decided the best way to add weight was just to cram in more and more resources to make the disconnect between collecting them and getting points even wider. That added more rules. Then some bright spark decided you could have multiple puzzles with multiple resources all on the same board! Great! Except it's *even more* rules that don't make any damn sense until you've seen them in action.

Given, then, that I tend to like lighter games in any case, and games with high player interaction, and that a complex rule set is the number one thing that puts me off games nowadays, you can imagine that heavy euros just don't pique my interest much. The likelihood of me enjoying them is just too low to be worth the monumental effort of learning them. I'm sure I'm missing out on some great games, but hey, you can't play everything.

This turned into more of a long rant than I intended. I'll stop now.
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12 Mar 2021 09:16 #320444 by adamr
A lot of that comes down to the game, and the designer. Stefan Feld loves to throw everything in one pot (Bonfire, Trajan), and while they are difficult to learn how to tie together, they are at least balanced. By the same notion though, I wouldn't want to teach Bonfire.

Grab something by Uwe Rosenberg though, and although still heavy, they're thematically more sound, and less in terms of moving parts. Hallertau, his most recent, for example - there are a ton of places to put workers, but it's all at least logical. You get some sheep from the market, great, you get more wool this turn. You want meat on a later turn, send the sheep to slaughter. When you plant crops in a field, the next round the yield for the field slips down one. You leave it fallow for a round, it goes up. But that's all you do on a turn - place one or more cubes in a single space on the board, take the stuff they produce, spend the stuff.

The same is true of Viscounts, it's really not too hard to teach or understand. Turn a card over and put it on your board. The number in the corner is how far you can move. The things you can spend, are the values visible on your board. Then you either buy stuff, or trade one of three resources to get one of three rewards. And in a grossly simplified way, that's it.

As with the very best euros though, it's what you do with those simple actions, and the strategy you come up with for getting what you want, that's where the weight comes in. It's not that you have to do a million different things and learn how to do them all, it's that there are only a few, but a lot of choice over when and where you do them. A heavy euro doesn't have to be complex. Some are, but not all. After my first play of Hallertau, I've never had to open the rule book for a rules reference, the same with Nusfjord. I can't say the same of a lot of lighter games in my collection.

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12 Mar 2021 10:09 #320453 by Gary Sax
I moved that meta site tangent to its own thread, as it had value, but this thread is clearly more for specific reactions to the game in question.
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12 Mar 2021 10:47 #320465 by jeb
This game looks really pretty on the table and that is already getting my juices flowing. Remember all those totally abstract games without vowels? GRNDL and VRTBK or whatever? Those were so spartan I couldn't see anything to attach to. But a (kind of sloggy, passive-aggressive) game like CARCASSONNE: THE CITY still gets plays from me because I want to take a picture of the board at the end of every game.

A question for Adam though, is what is driving that close scoring? I don't recall who pointed this out (Uba?), but some games have close scores because players of equal skill end up with the same chances. But some games have close scores because the game is badly designed and you can't help but end up 20-19-18-18 because choices don't matter if the point soup is rich enough. If someone is bad at this game, will they get washed?

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12 Mar 2021 11:16 #320468 by adamr
It's actually good game design in my opinion. There are basically three things to 'do' in the game: place buildings, place guys in the castle in the middle, or collect manuscripts. All of them have points bonuses that snowball, so placing your last few buildings for example, is worth far more points than the first few.

What this all means, in my experience anyway, is one of two things. Either players concentrate on a separate path, so can both rack up the points, or players compete in an area, which stops one of them running away with it. What you're left with then are the small differences. Clever planning and play means someone can do slightly better than others.

The other bit that's really nice is the deeds and debts. Getting to a limit of either of them drawn throughout the game triggers the end. But if you trigger it through revealing a last deed card, for example, it's the player with the most debt cards who gets the bonus. It leads to a really nice cat and mouse feel when a deck gets close to the end.

The only trouncing I've seen is me, being beaten by one of the four AI boards. The cleric one is a beast!
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12 Mar 2021 12:08 - 12 Mar 2021 12:10 #320479 by Matt Thrower

adamr wrote: Grab something by Uwe Rosenberg though, and although still heavy, they're thematically more sound, and less in terms of moving parts. Hallertau, his most recent, for example - there are a ton of places to put workers, but it's all at least logical ...

... After my first play of Hallertau, I've never had to open the rule book for a rules reference, the same with Nusfjord. I can't say the same of a lot of lighter games in my collection.


Ah, but it's very much about what you get used to and how your brain is used to digesting information. I couldn't make head nor fishy tail of Nusfjord. Didn't get on much better with Architects of the West Kingdom, either, which made me immediately suspicious of this.

That said, you make a great point about Uwe Rosenberg. He really is very good at using these particular kinds of design tools to make thematically coherent games, although Le Havre is a terrible offender for the sort of nonsense I'm talking about. I probably ought to give some more of his stuff a try: Le Havre put me off terribly. Maybe I'll take a look at Hallertau.
Last edit: 12 Mar 2021 12:10 by Matt Thrower.
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12 Mar 2021 13:28 #320491 by jason10mm

jeb wrote: A question for Adam though, is what is driving that close scoring? I don't recall who pointed this out (Uba?), but some games have close scores because players of equal skill end up with the same chances. But some games have close scores because the game is badly designed and you can't help but end up 20-19-18-18 because choices don't matter if the point soup is rich enough. If someone is bad at this game, will they get washed?


You know, point spread manipulation and "catch up" mechanisms is a great topic. I love the slinky effect of Power grid that retards the leader enough that other players can get past them with enhanced options in the auction and resource buy phases. I further love that it is an advanced tactic to DELIBERATELY slow your progress to exploit this mechanism at the right time.

So for me a tight race to the end as an inherent part of game design isn't inherently a bad thing, so long as skill still has a place. Nobody likes playing a game for the last 2 rounds when they know they are losing and nobody else likes it when that inevitable loser can chose to play kingmaker in some fashion instead (unless the game is like Diplomacy).
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