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I usually put the comments after the rules, but in this case I’ll put them first so that you can determine if we’re on the same wavelength and if it’s worth proceeding.
* Have you every brought a game, gleefully hoping to engage in an epic campaign with your friends and then discovered to your immense disappointment that the game is horribly flawed?
* Have you had the added frustration of realising that this could have been a great game if only a couple of things were different?
That pretty much sums up my reaction to 7 Ages.
The following comments, which are naturally all my own opinion (your mileage may vary), will cover the changes that have occurred to me in order to make this game a more rewarding experience and suitable for campaign play. It will also include the philosophy behind the changes so that you can determine if it matches your own.
It is important to note that none of these changes have been play-tested (sadly all too common a thing in games these days). None the less, I believe they should significantly improve the experience of playing the game.
“Faster History” obviously has to be dumped; the whole concept of these rules is to play the full campaign.
While this change does not guarantee anything like an even start, it’s a hell of a lot better than what can happen now.
In one of the four games I’ve played in, a player went three turns before he was able to start an empire (we were using redemption). I feel for the poor bastard who went SIX turns (4 hours) before he got an empire he could play (from the rating comments).
It is simply inexcusable that this wasn’t fixed before release. The game desperately needs some form of start packet.
This ruling is merely to eliminate some anomalous situations. As it stands a good trading empire can not only get more Elephants than the empire controlling the Elephant breeding site (Huh?) but also better Elephants than the breeding stock can possibly provide (double Huh?).
Trade & Progress
Currently “Trade & Progress” is a dog of an action, not only is advancing a space or two along the progress track far less useful than “Production”, “Manoeuvre” or “Civilise” is likely to be, but there’s a damn good chance that you’ll get next to nothing and push one of your enemies a space or two along the track. With this change it’s still the ugly sister of the actions, but you are at least sure of getting something.
I feel that “Fog of War” at this scale makes little sense. The restriction on losing Elite markers is to cut down on the “gamey” effect of mugging a lone defenceless unit in order to get rid of an opposing army’s elite status.
I have provided two options for the combat system, the first one is used with the rules as written to get rid of the effect where a cavalry company can exhaust an entire panzer corp. If you want to disrupt the enemy then they will have to notice you as something other than a smear on their boots.
The total rewrite is to speed things up and hopefully get rid of the effect where in major battles one side is wiped out and the other takes no losses. However I should note that it is the change I am least confident about.
Again these changes/clarifications are to get rid of anomalous situations. For instance, Motorised Infantry should be just as capable of pursuit as Lt. Horse.
Not a bad idea in and of itself, it’s just that it’s implemented backwards!
As the rules stand (without cadence) the knuckle-dragging barbarians will advance just as fast as the high trade value empires. With this change the less technologically adept societies will gradually fall behind and into insignificance. Note that this will not significantly increase the length of the game as about 1/3 of the empires are Trade +1 or better and hence will not be retarded on the progress track by this rule.
You are bared from choosing “Discard Empire” as there is no need to kick a player who is already down. The fact that he chose “Discard Empire” is already a sign that at least some things aren’t going perfectly. “Cadenced Progress” as written is yet another rule to screw over others in a game that already has too much of that.
The trouble with this rule is that it punishes those players who are already losing. “Destiny” would only be played on an empty space because either they have not been lucky enough to draw an empire that can be played or all the counters are in use.
Take for example a 6 player game, three players can have 3 empires each and the other three are stuck with only 2 empires each (and hence I would advise against more than 5 players, downtime also becomes a major issue).
“Destiny” is normally the most useful action to play on the vacant empire slot, but under the rule as it is written some players draw one card less when they are already scoring one empire less.
While I’m not a fan of rules that heavily punish the leader, I like rules that punish those who are already losing even less. If you use no other change that I’ve put forward, use these modified technology rules. It will also help those players who haven’t drawn an empire that can start in the current age.
I don’t have a rule for this, but it is an issue. Take a 5 player game, it hardly seems fair that one player will get an elite bonus empire, two more will get good quality troop empires and the last two will get poor quality troops, simply on the basis of when they were able to get their third empire started. The chrome of different quantity and quality of units for the various empire colours is detrimental to a well balanced game. Far better to have all countermixes the same and list bonuses and penalties on the empire card.
Finally we hit the game destroyer, before I brought the game I’d read the rules online and noted a few minor issues, and then I got the game and read the cards.
It was immediately apparent that the game was unplayable with my group with the events as they stood. A game played with the designer confirmed this view.
In the game we played, being a 5 player game where we got through about 10 turns in 6 hours, I had 2 empires eliminated by the play of a single card and another 2 empires that missed a turn by the play of a card.
If I consider that the destruction of an empire is equivalent to missing 2-3 empire turns (which probably understates the impact), then all up I missed 7 empire turns due to card play, that being equal to 2.33 full game turns.
Now I don't know about you, but I consider a design where I lose 23% of my turns due to card play that is not only highly luck dependant (in that they drew such cards) but also has little if any cost to the player screwing me over to be seriously flawed.
However the designers’ opinion about this seemed to be that as they chose to target me with those killer cards there was nothing random about it. Hence real men should just suck it up, there’s no reason to complain.
I would counter that real gamers generally prefer to be rewarded for good play, not punished. Make no mistake; what happened to me wasn’t the result of playing badly, that was the reward for playing well.
Try to imagine how some players would feel about having an empire that they had spend several hours building up, being vaporised by the play of one or two cards. The problem lies in the balance, it takes considerable effort to build a good empire but it only takes the flick of the wrist to destroy one.
I certainly felt the taste of ashes in my mouth, and while I resisted the temptation to walk away, I would definitely have supported a player who chose to quit under those circumstances.
Some will doubtless say that the events are a balancing mechanism, they are wrong. The bit in “Power Grid” where the player with the largest network gets the least convenient place in the player order is a balancing mechanic, as is the player with the least number of armies used getting to chose first in “History of the World”.
Relying on “Bash the Leader” is the game design not making any attempt at being balanced and handing that responsibility over to the players. You could implement it just as well with a rule that at the end of a turn every player (in turn order) gets to take a glory point from another player. Many players would find that preferable.
I don’t seek to completely ban such events, because on occasion they did happen, they just didn’t happen anywhere nearly as often as they do in the game. With this change you can still hurt the leaders as they will have little choice but to let many of the minor attacks through, thereby saving cards to stop the empire destroying attacks.
That is, you can cripple an empire, but you have to work at it and it will be the death of a thousand cuts. A couple of times during the game (rather than once every couple of turns) an empire destruction event will get through, but it will be the exception rather than the rule.
The leaders will likely also be taking more “Destiny” actions than normal in order to help protect themselves, again bringing them back into the pack.
I did not allow the combat events to be blocked as almost all the memorable historic battles were rather lop-sided ones, however I did want to keep the battles two sided rather than “1 vs N” sided. The combat events are far more balanced in any case.
Use all but Faster History
Separate the following 10 empires and deal two of them to each player:
Harappans (3) Shang (4) Phoenicians (9) Celts, Gauls (14) Etruscans (52) Ancient Iranians (86) Early Finns (94) Cushites, Nubians (95) Amazons (97) Chou (108)
Then deal another five cards to each player.
You may gain at most one elephant unit via trade (but may trade again to improve). If drawing an African elephant you must remove the 4 +2 elephant before drawing, if drawing an Indian elephant you may remove a 2 +1 elephant before drawing.
Trade & Progress:
If an empire choosing Trade & Progress does not win the trade, they will still gain a one level progress advance (i.e. 2+ advance if win, 1 otherwise).
Conflict and Committing Units:
There is no “Fog of War”. A defeated defending empire only loses an elite marker if it had at least two units involved.
Change for combat as written:
If the winning sides’ combat total is at least twice that of the losing side, then the victorious units are not considered to have been committed.
Combat Version 2 (complete rewrite)
All units are committed every round and there is no combat disorder. The events “I Spy”, “Deserter” and “High Command” now give you a bonus equal to that gained if the other side had a disorder marker. Compare the two combat totals, if the totals are equal:
Then each side loses one unit (combat round over)
Else the loser loses one unit for every (5+ age of loser) points of difference or part thereof
If the loser could remove all required loses:
Then the winner must remove one unit for every two removed by the loser, rounded down (combat round over)
Else the winner suffers no loses (combat over)
If at the start of the combat round the smaller side had at least 5 combat units then both sides will lose an additional combat unit. Start a new combat round; either side may retreat at this time (subject to pursuit).
Generally each side gets to chose which units it loses, however if a side must lose 2 or more units, then the opponent can choose one of the losses. Leaders are only killed if their entire force is wiped out.
For the purposes of this rule Cavalry are land units with move 3. Tanks count as 4 units for losses, Aircraft as 6 units.
The first player must place two (and only 2) of the cadence markers on the Trade => 0 and Trade => 1 boxes. He may not choose Discard Empire.
Ignore the version in the rulebook, this rule is now: “If ‘Destiny’ was played on a vacant empire slot, then the player may fill his hand to 8 cards”.
In addition to the restrictions of this rule you may resist an event played against one of your empires (unless it is a conflict related event). To successfully resist an event you must discard card(s) with an equal or greater total trade value than the trade value of the event card you are blocking.
Only the target of the event card may block it and only the initial card can be affected, a card that modifies, cancels or redirects (new target may block) the event cannot be stopped. Only the involved players may play conflict resolution cards.
I know EXACTLY how you feel because that is EXACTLY how I felt after playing 7 Ages. I organized a bunch of friends (all experienced gamers) to come round and have a 7 player game last September, and we all felt the game was flawed and were very disappointed.
I will certainly have a look over your suggestions when I get time--I really rally wanted 7 Ages to be a great game. Sadly, it went down so badly that it is not likely to see my table again. There are just too many other good games to play.
Good grief, why bother. Just bury it if you like it so little. It is different from WiF for example but so be it.
We play a 3 player game with very experienced gamers and find it excellent. There are some minor tweaks but Harry has always considered house rules and soemtimes they get adopted. If you feel you need to rewrite the game then just move on.
We use most, but not total or faster history. We like the concept of not knowing in which era the game will start.
See above. This gets rid of the need for everyone to have an Age 1 empire (especially with the flush and fill with one less card option used.)
I like this one. We hadn't seen a problem, but understand and agree with your logic. (Although maybe the African elephants are happier in new climes... )
Trade & Progress
I've become a believer in the rules as written. It's true that you'd rather not take this action, but if others do, you wind up being at huge disadvantage militarily. It would be nice if there were benefits besides better units, bigger cities and potentially choosing when to end the game. I'd like to see some other cultural advantage, maybe an extra leader number or something like that.
The combat has a lot of rules, many of which aren't used. However, overall I like the commitment every round and the penalty for overusing one's troops. I really don't have a problem with the "mugging" of a lone unit to force a loss of an elite marker. The Romans didn't tend to leave lone legions in dangerous areas and when they did and lost them, it was a huge morale boost for the indigenous people.
I see your concern, but do not share it. The discarder may actually be in the lead, but have one dog empire. If the person with the cadence chits can bluff him into keeping it an extra turn or two beyond its usefulness then it's a fun tool. If Tailend Charley looks likely to discard an empire, then the other players should consider that when placing cadence.
What might be interesting is to have a way to increase progression to some rather than deny it to some.
We use a rule towards your idea. We don't penalize when it's personal action, but also don't allow eight cards, it's just a normal play of Destiny.
I think we disagree that more empires is always better and that's why I'd hesitate to give the low empire count player this advantage.
I like the mix concept. It seems that you could simply make all armies have the same numbers (ignore the printed ones) rather than getting new chits if the variablity bothers you. In concept I like the idea of having special troop bonusses and penalties on the card, but in practice, using the numbers on the chits is handier than cross referencing.
I've only seen one healthy (no disordered markers) empire taken out all at once. There are a pretty limited number of cards that can combine to do this. It is a bash the leader game for sure. I like those kind of games, but if you don't this may not be a salvagable game for you.
However, now that you have the rules, I look forward to reading playtest results.
Surely, I am also planning to adopt some small hose rules, but that’s just because I love house rules. I have never played one single game without adopting a few house rules (one small thing we will tweak is the effect of a Volcano). However, I think 7 ages is just as great without any house rules.
1) I was furious in my first game when a huuuuge stack of Mongol cavalry was destroyed by a so-called-friend in a fever, but hey, I was in the lead. I simply discarded the empire, and started a new better empire. I soon forgot about the Mongols. I really like the dynamics in 7 ages. You don’t have to hang to an empire, just let it go and start another one! Playing cards against the leader makes the game balanced.
2) Don’t you like Fog Of War?!? Ehhh... Well... I am an old war gamer (WiF etc.), and I assure you that Fog Of War is necessary. Otherwise I will simply look at your stack, calculating the odds and than charge if the odds are in my favor. And that will lag the game down. Believe me.
I must admit that I was very skeptic towards the combat system when I read the rules the first time. But after my first game, I found out that the combat system is great. It’s not only up to the odds table and the dices as in normal war games, its more like when you try to read your opponent playing Texas hold’em.
- - -
I think that the most important is that new players get a copy of the rules conserving artifacts and leaders to study some day before the first game. Otherwise it may slow the game down somewhat. (But who cares; board gaming is more than just gaming. The longer games, the better.)
Anyway, we will consider your Elephant house rule: “You may gain at most one elephant unit via trade (but may trade again to improve). If drawing an African elephant you must remove the 4 +2 elephant before drawing, if drawing an Indian elephant you may remove a 2 +1 elephant before drawing.” Good thinking!
I was going to write a long and impassioned reply. But lately I seem to be the angry geek so lets keep it simple.
Kurt mate, I think you have missed the point of the game!
We have a healthy amount of players and here are the only house rules we use
1) Don't lose an elite marker if only one unit involved on your side.
2) If you lose an elephant space any named (and built) elephant you possesss is swapped for a random one!
3) We use cadence and the redraw rules as we often start in age 1
I particularly like (1) Troy and that will be standard in future. Kurt does have a point about the luck and pls see my next post on what may be a simple resolution of this issue.
We soon adopted a version of your 10 initial empires as we always started in Age 1. We (3 player) sorted out the 15 Age 1 Empires and would deal two to each player then shuffle the remainder back in to the pile and deal another 5 cards to everyone. It enabled everyone to start but still left Age 1 Empires in the deck (initially we handed out all 15 but found this meant that many were used on other things and were then in the discard pile while the first deck was worked through).
We found the combat a bit too all or nothing and I like your changes here. The Combat was quite confusing and although you had real decisions to make that did make a difference
We found the cards exactly as you did. Some are all but useless, while some are massively destructive and are just so cheap to play. The casual destruction or trashing of another persons Empire seemed so powerful. If the Capital or main unit concentrations were removed it would usually take multiple turns to recover. In a 3 player game - with only one manoeuvre, one production and one civilize to play with you often just discarded a hit empire, even a well nurtured and long lived one until then. The rewards were just too great compared to what was used (only really the opportunity cost of not hitting someone else). It's compounded by some powers needing a long time before they starting hitting a rich points flow while others are in the points straight away.
I considered abandoning the use of the card events and just using the colours (or numbers of the cards) to give a bonus for that as the card is played. For example 1s could be used to build or upgrade a city for an Empire that did not play civilise. A blue card could let an Empire produce & build from just one area in it's empire if it did not pick production etc. You could also have some damage an opponent cards (and counters), just not so destructive.
So I would definitely adopted your Combat and the Take That rules unless I replace the card events all together!)
The Initial deal we already have our own version of.
The Elephants variant is reasonable but this was not much of an issue in our games. We just did not use Elephants that much. We had few big stack vs. big stack combats. It was usually the winner (attacker) with overwhelming odds. So people just built them if they could but did not really seek them out.
The Trade and Progress is not a big issue in a 3 player game as usually one of your 5 Empires will do this anyway (few other choices). And not necessarily your '5th' Empire either. An established points scorer may well do this as others use the more generally useful picks. With more people I can see why it may often be ignored. But I would modify it even then to not work in Dark Ages. I think Empires should really need to struggle/achieve something to get past them.
My group has abandoned this game sadly. We all liked it a lot but in the end it is not a great multiplayer game for us. Too much casual nastiness when we want gaming to be a social occasion. People can appreciate a well crafted knife in the back or a bold knife in the front. But this was just random luck driven trashing not really suitable for such a long slow build up game.
Everyone liked the game despite that, but thought it would be better as a single player game. And with some kind of modified card and combat rules it can be. Maybe I can talk them round with a few variants like these for another go. Otherwise this will remain a solo game for me. For which, I might add, this is actually a rather good game. Roll on the add ons….
I have to agree with much of what Kurt (and others) had to say about this game. I use most of his variants, although I disagree with his blythe dismissal of starting the game part way (faster history).
This game is such a flawed gem. The problem is that it is the most ambitious game ever designed. Well, since World in Flames, anyway. And although it was obviously played a lot before being published, it really is still in beta. So many clumsy elements, from card and counter design, to the effects of certain cards (almost all of them are either worthless because of situation and playability limitations, or else sweepingly destructive) and so many empires having little or no value, considering that to start an empire, play it for even a couple of rounds and then discard it takes up so much time.
Here's a lit of things which need to be changed, in my experience:
1. Altered combat system which is quicker. A CRT would be better.
2. Quicker way to start and end certain empires. One simple approach is that barbarian empires ought to be able to be discarded at whim at the end of any turn, not through the play of Discard Empire. Too many times one rejects playing many early states because of the time involved and the few VPs they garner. better these swashbuckling barbarian tribes cause empires to collapse than the play of events.
3. Get rid of the artefact counters. Have them on a card with the effects on it for all to see. The artefacts are representative, not location-specific.
4. Handle leaders differently. Given the scope of the game, having them move about the board is nonesense. They ought to be represented by one-off cards or be representative of the culture and so simply apply to the empire broadly.
5. More counter sets, which I understand is already in the pipeline.
6. Complete rewrite of the Trade and Progress. Kurt's works much better than the standard system, but consider making Trade and progress a subfunction of Civilize.
7. Most of the events need redesign. Too many are too specific and others are overwhelming in their power.
8. Disorder is too hard to remove without a card or lots of money. It ought to have different effects and be shorter-term, rather than permanent.
9. Too many empires are complete dogs. Ancient iranians are the worst, but there re many others which you wouldn't play even if the conditions were perfect (like starting the Iranians as the first player on the first turn).
10. Finally, the Glory system needs a rethink. There needs to be two versions. Keep the nation-specific version, although many nations need adjustments to make them even vaguely worth playing. But there needs to be a more generic optional version. Something more akin to History of the World. Each empire would use the sme set of targets which would change by age and use the age which the most advanced nation is in. For example, the Age 1 criteria might be World 2, Artefacts 2, China 1, SE Asia 1, Europe 1, Wheat.
- Last edited Sun Jun 22, 2008 7:24 pm (Total Number of Edits: 3)
- Posted Sat Jun 21, 2008 7:23 pm
"Trade & Progress
Currently “Trade & Progress” is a dog of an action, not only is advancing a space or two along the progress track far less useful than “Production”, “Manoeuvre” or “Civilise” is likely to be, but there’s a damn good chance that you’ll get next to nothing and push one of your enemies a space or two along the track. With this change it’s still the ugly sister of the actions, but you are at least sure of getting something."
The current (June 28 2008) errata for the effects of trade and progress adds the following:
"The empire that loses the trade gains money equal to the value of the card they played. If the trade is tied, the player whose go it is (the player with the turn marker in front of them) decides who wins and who loses."
As an added twist that we are testing now, the winner of the trade decides whether they want to win (progress) or lose (get money).
As to the take that cards, we were always cognizant that they could be very powerful which is why we had the option that you can on ly play them on empires within range. Although not too many players play with this option it would reduce the effects of the killer cards by 80% as you can only use them on competing empires close by which is something players are more accepting of rather than the 'hand of God' as the cards can come from anywhere.
In the printing of the expansion kits we are increasing the number of Bad Augury cards to ameliorate this issue. ALso Mathew's idea of the victim getting the card on another thread also sounds very intriguing.
Harry Rowland wrote:
The current (June 28 2008) errata for the effects of trade and progress adds the following:
Where (June 28 2008) errata can be found?
Man, this is a thread full of sour grapes!
I think this game is fantastic as-is. I have a friend who tells everyone before they play to "not get too attached to your empires". I think a lot of folks here should consider that advice.
One point I do agree on is that Trade and Progress is not a great option in this game, unless your empire gets Glory for being the most advanced. In spite of that, we seem to always have someone who wants to T&P throughout the game in an attempt to shorten it.
For my money, there needs to be more cards in the deck such as Earthquake, Volcano, Flood, etc.... Adding more Bad Auguries will kill the game IMHO as it is too difficult to take down a leading empire now.
We started a game using your variant combat system rules and it's working very well! It streamlines the game in a very good way.
Just a thing on elephants. Using your variant, we were not sure how to use the elephants: we finally decided to reduce the strength of the affected units by 50%.