1st April - In the Year of the Dragon

Steve has written the report for In the Year of the Dragon

This game has some similarities to Caylus, in that you select an action to take in each round (but only one!), and ‘build’ people (but only one each round) who help you to perform actions in later rounds. The actions either give you VPs or provide resources for use in future rounds. So far, so familiar. The catch is that a special event occurs at the end of each of the last 10 of the 12 rounds, in response to which the players must mobilise their accumulated people and/or resources in order to gain a reward or avoid a penalty. These events cannot be ignored if you are to stand a chance of winning, and thus become an added factor to be considered when planning the sequence of your actions and purchases.

Each event occurs twice, in a random but pre-determined order. We ended up with the two droughts as the first and last events, so I decided to take the hit for the first one in order to build up my treasury to give me more flexibility; I also tried to stay ahead on the turn order track, in the hope of being able to make the others pay for the actions they needed to take. Garry’s initial strategy turned out to be a damp squib (his fireworks display was less impressive than mine), so he switched to maximising his returns from the VP action. Richard’s plan was to go for the people who provide ‘free’ VPs (ie. without requiring the VP action to be taken), and to keep as many people alive as possible, since they are worth 2VPs each at the end. This put him at the back on both the scoring track and the turn order track for most of the game, but he came through strongly in the final scoring to finish just one point behind me, whilst Garry was still burying his corpses.

There are plenty of twists in the rules to keep you on your toes, but since everyone has his own tile display, interaction is limited. In many games this would be addressed by encouraging players to take the tiles that others need (eg. Agricola?), but I found that it was difficult enough just keeping your own head above water, without worrying about how others might be faring. In addition, there didn’t seem to be a serious shortage of tiles of the different types (and yes, we did remove some, as per the rules for 3 players). Perhaps it would be better if the players were vying for space in a single palace? Or perhaps there could be an Evo style auction for the action tile groups? If you’re after the ultimate in China based games, you might be better off waiting for Confucius, which I saw being playtested at Baycon recently (it seems to have around 20 different actions to choose from, all with their own rules, so I’m expecting it to be renamed Confusus), but until then, YotD’s game of find-the-winning-strategy should keep the puzzle addicts happy for a few evenings at least.

Steve 97, Richard 96, Garry 83

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