Thursday, September 25, 2008

Game of Nations - Review

Today I decided to bin my copy of Game of Nations. Lunchtime this week has been a short series of goes at this game. None of them were at all satisfying.

When I first saw the game I thought that the pieces minimalist feel gave it that Diplomacy feel. I thought that the paper money ( printed on only one side ) was a bit lame but I was prepared to deal with that because this game dates from the 1970's. The board is huge and again a bit minimalist and this also appealed to me.

So considering that this looked so good where did it fall down?

The first place where it falls is that the box claims it's a game for 2-4. I think this game is best with 2, terrible for 3 and pointless for two out of the 4 in a four player game. Let me explain that.

The game starts with you placing/claiming territories and with 3 players tail-end-charlie cant claim the same number of locations as the other players. The economies of game mean that this leaves number 3 with half the income of the other two and in a position to be eliminated in a very few turns. No chance.

With four players everyone plays for a little longer but as soon as one player makes an attack he effectively eliminates the one he attacks. It will then not be long before the third player is eliminated.

And so we come to the 2 player game. When you play with 2 there is a more balanced game that is going to last a little longer. When you eliminate players and get back down to 2 you are also in the same situation.

Unfortunately the two player game isn't much better. The players will turtle for a couple of turns and then launch attacks. The first player to be attacked will find himself down on income has at that point quite simply lost.

The game includes EARLY player elimination meaning some poor sap or saps will have time on their own.

Playing tactics are very simple you need to match ships with oil derricks. Lose a territory and you lose the derricks, you also lose the ships if there are any there. So the simple play is take the territory where your opponent has his ships. Fine that's straight forward. Unfortunately, you save money for a couple of turns, you make an attack and you opponent is probably out of the game. Why so quick an end? Because there are only four locations on the board where you can place ships, and you can not effectively defend any of them, therefore you have to either put all of your eggs in one basket and earn lots or spread them out and earn less because your going to keep losing them. You need money to grow, you need money to move, if you have less money than your opponent you can not catch up.

There are locations on the board that force you to draw cards if you land on them. These cards can be a boon or a bane. In one game a player was down to one ship and was not able to make any money so drew a card hoping for money instead it sunk his ship. Zap, just like that he was out. Not due to bad play, just because he had no other choice.

So to summarise. The game eliminates players quickly, has crappy money, unsatisfactory game play, no depth and no way to stratergize. As soon as you have a set back you will have no way of coming back.

Don't buy this game.

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