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Subject: Albion review by 2d6.org rss

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George
United States
Bloomington
Indiana
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This is my review of Albion which is also available over at 2d6. (http://www.2d6.org)

Albion was designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede (of Carcassonne fame) and published by Rio Grand Games. Albion is a simple to play resource management game for 2-4 players set in ancient Great Brittan (which was called Albion before the Romans arrived). The players take the role of Roman envoys that are competing for the favor of the emperor by constructing and developing the most impressive settlements on the island while at the same time protecting those settlements from the increasingly restless native Picts.

The core rules of the game are quite simple and turns move very quickly as there are relatively few options for what is possible on any given turn. At the same time, your plans will change as you try to take into account what other players are doing and how best you can use your meager resources for this turn and the next turns so you end up thinking almost continuously and downtime is kept short. The mechanics are driven by the choice of either taking the entire turn to collect resources (fish, lumber, stone, gold) from your developed sources OR moving units and developing buildings.

Players have two types of units – legionaries and settlers – and four types of buildings which are built and upgraded by settler units: settlements, fortresses, resource plants, and ramparts. Developing all three of the player’s settlements fully to level IV is the ultimate goal of the game, and along the way the upgrades will provide new units and free upgrades. The fortress buildings allow the player to upgrade the number of moves they may make per turn from the starting number of two up to a maximum of seven and allow some special movement of settlers. Resource plants and upgrades allow more resources to be collected every time the player spends the turn collecting them. Ramparts combine with the player’s legionaries to provide defense against the Picts – who grow increasingly irritated with all of Roman expansion that is going on!

While it may seem that there are a dearth of tokens and bonuses it surprisingly doesn’t slow the game down at all! I’ll admit that the first time I played I was referring back to the rulebook quite a bit, but after the initial learning game I was able to fully explain the game to the next group I played with quite easily and straightforwardly and even the new players hit the ground running without trouble. The beauty of the system comes from the simplicity of the building mechanic. All the resources are equivalent for building purposes (though some are harder to get than others) and each stage of a building requires the corresponding number of unique resources to be spent. For example, building a level I fortress requires one of any resource. Upgrading that fortress from level I to level II requires two resources of different types and so on.

Players start the game with access only to fish and lumber, and must exert considerable effort to get at the others, which means initially no player can upgrade beyond level II buildings. Throughout the game this leads to hard choices about the best way to spend your resources. For example, if I had two fish and a lumber I would have the option to build three level I buildings or I could build a level I building with a fish and then upgrade that or another building to level II with my remaining fish and lumber. Easy right? Well the problem is that players can only build one type of building in each region of the map and each building or upgrade causes the settler to return back to the starting area (far away from the action). This means that as players build more buildings the map starts to fill up and you might have resources to build something but can’t reach where you want to build it or need to upgrade something else first (which you might not have resources for) or can’t defend it against the Picts or… well, you get the idea!

The economy of each player is completely in their power to develop as they see fit without interference so much of the game revolves around players each building their self-contained little empires, however there is a fair amount of player interaction as players compete to build first in each area. Players with higher level buildings will get tribute from those who wish to build in that region later on. This makes for some exciting races and changes of plan as it may no longer be so appealing to build somewhere if two other players make it there first. Players can also used their legionaries to “convince” the Picts that the other players are the real problem!

Overall I have really enjoyed this game. It is almost completely deterministic, with the only random element being the initial (and hidden) distribution of hostile and friendly Picts, and yet game feels quite close and exciting all the way to the end. Fans of Caylus or Brass will have no trouble with this one, though it is a notable step up in complexity from games such as Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne. The rules are six easy to read pages with nice pictures and examples. There is a bit of a learning curve for the first game, as there are quite a few different tokens but their use is easily mastered by the end of one game. The components themselves are quite nice, with wooden units and high quality colored and shaped cardboard buildings and resources. The board itself is as high a quality as any gamer hopes for and is quite aesthetically pleasing.

I’d recommend this game for anyone who enjoys reasonably quick and straightforward resource management or building games with little or no luck, or anyone interested in the Roman or British themes. Players who enjoy more random elements in either setup or gameplay or those who don’t enjoy planning for building upgrades a turn ahead might have not have as much fun with this one. Like all deterministic games, it’s also possible that the game wouldn’t be as much fun for players of wildly differing skill, since if you fall behind a little bit each turn you will be quite far behind by the end and there isn’t any dice rolling to keep the underdogs in it! However, in my experience this hasn’t been a problem and all the players were still engaged and having fun all the way into the last turn.

Happy developing!

George
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David Ott
United States
Russellville
Arkansas
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Hey thanks! Great review. Wasn't sure about this game, but now I'm thinkin' I'll get it.
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George
United States
Bloomington
Indiana
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Thanks! This was the first review I've ever written so I was a bit nervous about it.
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David Ott
United States
Russellville
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Oh, awesome! Looks like we both instilled a little confidence, then!
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Rob Arcangeli
England
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Great review, I am really excited to try this one out. I might use it as a "gateway" for Brass as you mention.
 
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Jon Prichard
United Kingdom
Fareham
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A great review! Well done. I have the game and agree 100%
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