Aaron Curtis's History of the Game

My point of view for this game will be "Expert Outsider." I will read only the public history of the game, and base my comments on that. I will be concentrating mostly on strategy.

Start of game: Two Bavarias and a Cthulhu implies this game may be dominated by powermongers. Given the experience of the players, I don't expect anyone to go for a quick win, but if they do they will likely be brought down hard. There is a chance the powerdecks will collide, which will be an opportunity for Jason and James.

Lead Puppet: A CIA bounce! Big opportunities exist to any player who can take advantage of the impending Violent/Govt conflicts. Or, the conflictees will have to negotiate heavily. Jason's lead of Finland is suprising, given that Japan is significantly more useful. Maybe he's playing a Computer/Liberal deck.

Turn 1:

A "standard" first turn consists of ATO'ing one group, and either taking over another group from your hand or spending an Illuminati action for a Resource. You can be greedy and do both, if you can take a group with a single action. But, leaving yourself with no action tokens is begging to be attacked. You can also do neither, leaving you with two groups and your Illuminati, but this leaves you behind the pack and loses the advantage of the first turn no-interference rule.

Don Fnordlioni breaks with tradition and ATO's a Resource. This saves his Illuminati action, but note he could have ATO'ed the BATF (or another, more useful group) and spent Cthulhu's action to take the Necronomicon, leaving him with one Action token each on two group, and with the two groups separated. As is, it would be mighty tempting for either Bavarian player to slap down a large Violent Government group and try to take them both in a suprise attack. For example, Glen could attack with New York to control the Mossad on a base -3; with a +10 card and his Illuminati token, he could make a move that could net him two groups and seriously wound a rival. While such first turn sneak attacks are rare, there's no reason to encourage them. However, both Thany and Glen decline the offer.

The other players' first turns are farly standard. It now appears Thanny is not playing Violent/Govt, but Science, or maybe Conservative. James is off to a slow start, perhaps because of his card draw. Glen takes over the Perpetual Motion Machine, leaving him in a very strong position in later turns *if* he can keep it. But, the best opening move goes to Jason. The play of two power -> 6 cards explains why he led with Finland, and a power 6 England is more powerful than it looks, especially if he can play Dictatorship later. He is set to grow AND defend on his next turn. Note that he could have waited to play the Self-Esteem and Emergency Powers, but in this case there was no need to.

Turn 2:

The first attack of the game, and maybe a bit premature. Note that Don Fnordlioni spends a precious action token moving the BATF to a more defensible location, and spends every action token he has, an Agent, and a plot canceler in his attack. He got support from James and Thany, but neither of them received anything for their troubles except a destroyed New York. Jason, meanwhile, gets a friend. Note that this is good for Jason only because the attack succeeded. If Glen had kept New York he would have been able to play the 900-pound gorilla.

The Don made a tactical error by not playing Atomic Monster before the "real" attack. It could not have destroyed New York, but might have devastated it, and in any case would have eliminated their action token. Even better, he could have played it on Japan: 32-16=16 to devastate, 9 to destroy. If it failed, he still could have gotten aid against New York, and if it succeeded, there would have been no need to attack New York immediately, and he could have saved his New York agent for when it really mattered.

James takes this opportunity to destroy the Nuclear Power Companies. I expect this was planned out in advance with Cthulhu. The attack leaves him with few action tokens for defense, but with Secret groups you don't need them.

Thany plays it safe with a group takeover from hand. Jason gets Japan(!) from Glen. Seeing as this is a lot more than you would expect for failing to save New York, it appears that Glen and Jason have some larger deal going. He follows up with a Seize the Time! Everyone (but possibly Glen) should be worried. Don Fnordlioni plays the Atomic Monster he should have played earlier, destroying Japan. Jason remains in a good position, unless someone stacked their deck with disasters.

Glen's seemingly suicidal all-out grab for the Local Police Departments is explained by his Seize the Time! Note that he could have re-linked the Perpetual Motion Machine to Texas to give it two action tokens, but didn't.

Turn 3:

Don Fnordlioni, having exhausted himself in his previous attack, and looking at the strong defense posed by Jason and Glen, plays defensively.

James makes clever use of the Libertarians and an Agent to take Germany from Jason, and a Full Moon to set himself up defensibly. In the attack on Germany, it seems that Glen is trying to help Jason with the Orbital Mind Control Lasers, but removing the govt alignment from England only serves to reduce the strength of the attack by 5 and eliminates a power 4 token that could have been used to defend. Much better would have been to make the Libertarians Liberal, giving a -4 for opposite alignment and a -2 from World Hunger. This might have made the difference...

Thany plays it safe. He could have used the Congressional Wives to control Germany on a 10 or less. Even if he did nothing else, James would have had to spend three action tokens (or a +10 card) to stop him. Alternately, he could have attacked Jason, taking Russia or even England away from him, because Jason has no action tokens. This is an opportunity for Thany to take something from a rival with little risk to himself, but he squanders it.

Jason plays Power Grab. There are very few instances when you don't want to play Power Grab as soon as you have it (such as when a rival is about to win). His play of Canada is curious, considering the World Hunger. There's no reason why he couldn't have played NWO A Thousand Points of Light before his ATO; perhaps he misunderstood a rule. In any case, Jason is left in a strong, defensible position. He is in the lead, with seven groups, but also has several poweful action tokens available, which can all defend all his groups.

Glen is still in recovery mode. The "12" on his attack on California didn't help. On the other hand, he looks a lot weaker than, say, Jason, so he's less likely to be attacked.

Turn 4:

Don Fnordlioni has fully recovered from his turn 2 attack and sure enough, he attacks the leader. More effective than just taking out France, he forces Jason to spend five(!) action tokens to buy plots, just to trade for a Secrets. This is a tactical mistake on Jason's part, because it leaves him nearly defenseless through three players' turns. I would be suprised if they don't take advantage of this.

Here's what he could have done: link the Necronomicon to the CIA, play NWO Gun Control and attack to control Russia. He would have had a 15 (power) + 8 (alignments) - 4 (Resistance) -10 (proximenty) = 9 or less. If Glen tried to interfere he could have destroyed his OMCL with his Deasel Engine. Instead, he played it safe in a weak control-and-destroy your own group manuever, and it failed.

Side note on Glen's S&L Scam: he could have traded it to Jason when he was being attacked, saving Jason four action tokens that could have been used for defense. Of course, maybe Glen doesn't really trust Jason as much as it seems on the surface...

James plays it safe. Again, he could have attacked the vulnerable Jason and reloaded with Full Moon, but decided to turtle up instead.

Thany finds himself with 47 power and a hand full of plot cards. Since he will be attacked anyway, he may as well go for the win. The problem of being the first to try for victory is that you have the resources of four other players against you. This is why first attempts usually fail.

Glen's Giant Kudzu on Vatican City succeeds in draining four tokens from Thany's power structure. I'm suprised he didn't have anything to defend himself with; a +10 card, Near Miss, or even a plot canceler. When going for the win, you *must* have a way to counter your rival's inevitable attempts to stop you.

As is, James, Jason and Don Fnordlioni teamed up to destroy France in order to draw the plots they needed to stop him (with a clever trade of the Soulburner to let Jason draw plots as well). The Pentagon is devastated, Thany is tokenless, and the Don follows up by destroying the Congressional Wives. Then the temporary alliance instantly falls apart.

Now, the best time to attempt a victory is just after someone else has been twarted. Don Fnordlioni's play of Senate Investigating Committee not only stops Jason from taking advantage of the situation, but leaves him with lots of tokens to stop anyone else's bid for victory.

Glen decides to step in to the power vacuum, spending three action tokens to get the CIA in a privileged attack. It's amazing how quickly you can gain in power with the right NWOs in play. Just remember, those who live by the NWO, die by the NWO... which is exactly how James stops him, by replacing Gun Control. What is puzzling is why he spent WITCH's action to help Glen only to be forced to spend actions to stop him later. Perhaps the mysterious "6" that Glen rolled was part of some mysterious agreement... only Ralph knows for sure. It is interesting that Glen offered the CIA to Jason. This (combined with earlier actions) should be a major signal to the other players that they are working together. They should do the math and compute 3 > 2, but so far they seem unable to cooperate for long. It is to Glen's credit that even though his victory was thwarted, he still crippled his arch-enemy, Don Fnordlioni.

Turn 5:

The Don doesn't have much left to fight with, but assassinates Sadam Hussein all the same. When he gives Hitler's Brain and Robot Sea Monsters to James it appears that he is wimping out and giving up, attempting to help the person he dislikes the least to win. I hope I'm mistaken, because I hate that "tactic". It gives James his third doubler, for a total of 11 groups. It seems obvious that he should try for victory here, but instead attacks Thany (ineffectively) and knocks.

Thany once again plays it safe. Given that he's one group away from victory, this is probably a mistake, as his rivals will be forced to attack him. On Jason's turn, sure enough, they do, removing the Robot Sea Monsters and bringing him back down to 9 groups. Jason goes all out, taking control of Isreal and attacking Don Fnordlioni's Mossad, which would take him out of the game, but fails (barely). At this point, only Thany has sufficient action tokens for defense. Considering Jason's plot gift to Glen, it looks like they're still working together.

Now, Glen shows why it pays to keep plots in reserve. With three plots, he increases his power total by 31! Meanwhile, everyone else has been so busy attacking other players who looked closer to winning that nobody had plot cancelers available to stop Gun Control. As is, Glen became so powerful that he was able to give Jason sufficient power to win as well with Power for its Own Sake, and to wipe out Don Fnordlioni in the process.

Conclusion: I'm fairly certain that Glen and Jason did not conspire for a shared victory from the get-go, because I know Glen doesn't play that way. More like, it seems that, starting from Jason's defense of Glen's New York, they grew to trust each other and work together more as the game progressed. This should have been obvious from at least the third turn, and the other three players should have ganged up on them. Unfortuately, they couldn't cooperate, and Glen cleverly hid his strength until it was too late to stop him. James and Thany both had opportunities to try for victory in the fifth round, but both declined. I fear that this may be due to fatigue on the part of the players; the game was 9 months old at that point.

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Last Modified: October 1, 1997
Ralph Melton <ralph+@cs.cmu.edu>