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Tom Vasel
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In my younger days and college years, I pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I'd never acquire Conquest of the Empire - at that point one of the GameMaster series by Milton Bradley. I had the "big three", Axis and Allies, Fortress America, and Samurai Swords, but Conquest was more elusive and didn't seem to be in many stores. Then, I read on the internet that the game was a good one but had "broken" rules about catapults. This, added to the games rarity, pretty much convinced me that I'd never pick up the game.

Then I heard that Eagle Games had acquired the rights and were going to reprint it. Wow! I mean, I consider Eagle Games to be the successors of the GameMaster series, and now they were going to make one of the games I had wished for into a purchasable reality with their incredible component quality! (Waiting on Fortress America, still). When I finally saw the finished product, I was blown away by how it looked; and I was expecting it to look great! Conquest of the Empire (Eagle Games, 2005 - Larry Harris and Glenn Drover) comes with TWO sets of rules for two almost completely different games. One set of rules is an improved version of the original rules of the game - a rule set redone by Larry Harris with input from Glen. But another set of rules is included, a set done by Glen Drover but heavily based on (and attributed to) the rules to Struggle of Empires by Martin Wallace. Both games involve the struggle between would-be-Caesars and their competition to control the ancient Roman empire in the second century. Players take the role of their "Caesar", attempting to conquer all other players either by total destruction (the first game) or most points (the second).

I've had a chance to play through both rule sets; and while I'm not sure I would buy the game on the strength of the first rule set (although I'm sure there are plenty of people who will enjoy it), the rules based on Mr. Wallace's game are tremendous; and I had a real blast playing them. They're certainly abstract, and I almost feel guilty for using such beautiful pieces and such a massive board to play what is closer to a "Eurogame."

Some comments on the game… (Game #1 refers to Harris' design, and #2 refers to Drover's design.)

1.) Map: The huge map is pretty much the standard in any Eagle game these days; but unlike a few of the former boards, this one utilizes space pretty well. Yes, they could have made the board much smaller, but the larger board provides a much more grandiose experience. I do understand that some might have a problem with this, as table space is limited - Conquest certainly demands a gargantuan playing area.

2.) Miniatures: I always insist that a war game with miniatures is invariably more fun to play than one without them and still think that here. There are only five basic types of units (leaders, spearmen, cavalry, galleys, and catapults), but they are beautiful models - some of the largest plastic models I've seen come in any war game. The galleys are huge and well detailed, and the catapults actually have a moving piece! Add this to some nice city, fortress, and road pieces, and the game is a plastic treasure trove - the complete setup game is amazing to behold.

3.) Money: The plastic coins used for money in both games is fantastic to see and feel, while at the same time feeling just a tad bit overdone. I love the coins - they're HUGE, and easy to pass around and move. In fact, I think any game such as this is often better served by coins rather than paper bills. But the coins are spent (at least in Game # 1) to such a high degree that people rarely hang on to them. We found that we spent our entire income each turn, as one can barely afford not to. On the flip side, money is much more important in Game # 2, as it's used for alliances, purchasing cards, units, etc. The coins are a big "wow" factor of the game - not since Ave Caesar have I seen such neat plastic coins.

4.) Other Components: The cards (used for # 2) are of the highest quality with the stunning artwork by Paul Niemeyer all over them. In fact, Paul's artwork for this game, both on the box, board, and cards, is some of the best artistry I've seen in a game ever. It's very invocative of the turmoil-filled period of the second century and helps set the mood quite well. The chaos tokens, province tokens, and influence tokens are all two-sided cardboard tokens, easy to handle, and all easy to distinguish from each other.

5.) Combat: Six-sided dice are included with the game, each with a picture of an infantry on two sides, a cavalry on another, a catapult on another, a galley on the fifth side, and the sixth blank. While battles are different in each game, there are similarities. Basically, dice are rolled, and for each picture that matches one of the units making the attack, a casualty is taken from the other side. It's almost a reverse of the combat system from Memoir '44. While it's effective, and I enjoy it more than using regular six-sided dice; it's still quite lucky. We found that occasionally a much superior force would lose ignominiously to a smaller troop, and for some people, that can be annoying. Having combined arms is a help in battles, but I'm wondering if an optimal combination can be found. In the first game, catapults have their uses (can attack from reserve), and cavalry are fairly useful (can move two spaces instead of one like everyone else). But the infantry are the true backbone, and I found myself continuing to buy them. Not only are they the cheapest unit to buy, they also seem to be the most powerful - hitting 33% of the time, as opposed to the 16% of the other units. There is a limit of troops a player can have, and I suppose that the fact that players will eventually be forced to buy other units balances the game out; but I wonder if the power of infantry might not cause war strategies that are too similar. Time will tell.

6.) Struggle of Empires: Struggle of Empires is a fantastic game by Martin Wallace that is an excellent abstract game about colonizing the world and spreading one's influence. Game # 2 is, while not an exact replica, fairly close to Struggle, using many of the same mechanics and having the same basic game structure. It's quite a bit simpler than Struggle, and I'm not so sure that's a bad thing - quite the opposite! In Struggle, there were a myriad of different tiles that players had a choice of acquiring each round to further their cause. In Conquest, players utilize almost the same system - but instead using a deck of cards. Each turn, cards are turned over equal to twice the number of players in the game. This allows the players some options - from a deck of many - but not enough to overwhelm them. The card mechanic also helps cut down on some of the angst of decisions and makes play smoother. I really enjoyed the Conquest cards and thought that Glen took a clever mechanic by Wallace and made it even better.

7.) Abstract: Game # 2 is fairly abstract, especially in movement. Players can, if not stopped by their opponents, move their armies in ways that might boggle the mind of a traditional war gamer (it's similar to the free move in Risk). I've found that the war gamers that I've played # 2 with have generally not been as impressed by it, and some can't deal with the abstract nature of the movement. I think the movement symbolizes political maneuvering myself, and enjoy it, but I can see how some might find it shortcoming. Either way, both games force all players to move armies only with a leader, and that is something I find enjoyable. Players can't move all their armies - just five or so of them (players have four leaders and "Caesar"). Leaders add some combat bonuses in battle, but their biggest draw is that they move armies around. This takes the game above being abstract and grounds it in the reality of that historical period.

8.) Elimination: Game # 1 has elimination, while # 2 doesn't. That, simply, is the sole reason that I would have to enjoy game # 2 better. When a player is eliminated in the game, the conqueror gains all their resources, getting richer in the process. This is fine, as long as you come into the game knowing this, but I enjoyed the peaceful yet wary cooperation that occurs in game # 2.

9.) Alliances: The single best feature of Struggle of Empires was the force alliances, and that has carried over to Game # 2 of Conquest. Each "season" (series of turns) players bid on turn order and player alliances. Players attempt to place each other in either "Alliance A" or "Alliance B". For the remainder of that turn, players in the same alliance may not attack one another (although they can do underhanded things), thus giving a rich player a lot of power (they can determine who's in which alliance). For me, this is one of the best ways I've seen to handle multiplayer games where everyone gangs up on one person. With alliances, at least two other people can only resist the leader in a passive way.

10.) Players: Both games support up to six players, but I'm not sure that six is a good number for game # 1. In # 2, players simply take two actions, and then the next player takes a turn, keeping downtime to a minimum. In game # 1, downtime is rather long, and I found myself occasionally getting bored because others moved a little slowly. In # 2, I think six is the optimal number - it makes alliances more exciting and important. In # 1, it would appear that four is the magic number.

11.) Rules: Two rulebooks are included with each game and are full of colorful rules, pictures, hints, examples, and more. I didn't have any problems with the rules for # 2, but we did have some questions (which I did find the answers for online) from # 1. Both games are easy to teach, but # 1 is much more comprehensible for people to understand - the strategies are straightforward and don't differentiate much. In game # 2, players have many options, and therefore can take a variety of tactics.

12.) Senators: There are a lot of different things I could say about game #2, but the senate vote was a neat feature for me. Each player receives some senator cards that have values of 1-3 at the beginning of the game. Players can purchase vote cards during the game, which means they can call a vote on one of five different agendas. Each player uses their senator cards to sway the vote (more of these can be picked up during the game) with the winner usually getting a pretty nice benefit. I liked how the senate added a bit of variety to the game. If one concentrates too much in the Senate, they have to back off a bit militarily, and vice versa. It's fairly difficult to maintain the perfect balance.

There's a lot more that I can say about both versions, but the burning question is - which one is better? For me, it's a no brainer - version # 2 is more enjoyable for me. I like the fact that it's much shorter, that it has less downtime, and that it offers a wide range of possibilities. It's possible to do well without much combat, which might scare of some prospective players, but they would probably enjoy version # 1 better, anyway. For me, Struggle of Empires was a magnificent (but fairly complicated and long game). Conquest has taken that system, streamlined and made it more accessible, while at the same time adding in some of the best components in a game ever.

But why quibble? The best feature of Conquest of the Empire is that you get two complete games in one box! I loved version # 2 and had a fairly fun time with # 1, while some of the people I played with had the opposite reaction. Yes, Conquest carries a fairly hefty price tag but compared to the huge amount of toys in it (it weighs a lot!), you're certainly getting your money's worth. And having games inside that will appeal to both war gamers and Eurogamers - the value of the new Conquest is amazing. If you're interested in an empire building game, whether you like combat as a focus or not, this is an excellent game to purchase. Just pick the rules set that best suits you. Either way, the beautiful components are yours to have fun with.

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games."
www.tomvasel.com


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Jack Wraith
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TomVasel wrote:
But the infantry are the true backbone, and I found myself continuing to buy them. Not only are they the cheapest unit to buy, they also seem to be the most powerful - hitting 33% of the time, as opposed to the 16% of the other units. There is a limit of troops a player can have, and I suppose that the fact that players will eventually be forced to buy other units balances the game out; but I wonder if the power of infantry might not cause war strategies that are too similar.


Exactly. Making infantry double the combat strength of anything else was a profound mistake, IMO. There are many other examples, both old and new, in which trying to put emphasis on the 'drones' of a wargame leads to those drones dominating combat odds and it being wiser to ignore specialist units in favor of simply buying hordes of the regulars.

Having played the original back in 1986, I was really looking forward to this re-release. However, the combat system is a real turn-off (maybe even worse than the catapult problem in the original.)
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Robert Wesley
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Excellent 'Review' TOM, and probably my FIRST of 'yours' that I've read(many 'know' WHY). I had to 'take away' a 'Point' on this however, due to YOU 'liking' them damm COINS! They're INSIPID! and those 'coins' don't help matters. They could've 'wasted' that PLASTIC on something else, or NOT at all since a ''count up'' track would have been just as 'feasible'! I'll probably pick up a copy at hefty 'discount' at someplace where somebody's ''dropped off'' theirs, since I've got a copy of the very first ''VI Caesars'' game, and one of the 'Milton Bradely' versions. Keep up the 'Good' "JORB!"
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Emilio Rodriguez Rodriguez
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Thanks Tom, for the wonderful review of this game, i had already pre-ordered a copy at Eagles Games, but i was recently reading bad critics of this game and was just thinking of cancelling the order, but thanks to your review i just can't wait to have it and played it with the rules #2.

 
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david bodtcher
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"I consider Eagle Games to be the successors of the GameMaster series,"

So Tom, have you heard if they are going to rerelease broadsides & boarding parties also?!?
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Tom Vasel
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I haven't heard that. I don't really care if they do or not - I'd prefer to see Fortress America or Samurai Swords first.

Tom
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Glenn Drover
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The reason that I gave infantry so much combat power despite the fact that they are the cheapest unit, was so that the combat in the game would correctly model this period of history. Roman Imperial armies were dominated by infantry with small contingents of supporting cavalry, and auxiliary troops. The reason for this was that Roman Infantry armaments and tactics made them extremely effective. (They were easily able to defeat much larger armies of Gaullic cavalry for example.)

If we had made catapults or cavalry more powerful, it would have incented players to create huge armies of these types of units, and the game would not have had the correct flavor.

Given the rules as they are, the most successful armies are made up of mostly infantry with a few units of cavalry and a couple of catapults and a General. This gives the army the most combat power, ability to absorb casualties in a cost-effective way, and the best "combined arms" bonus.

As with any boardgame, you are free to change the rules to your liking, but this is why the rules were designed as they were.

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Ian Duncan
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Thanks Glenn, and you have made a very sensible decision re the infantry in my opinion. I have to admit I am puzzled by the unlimited movement as I always enjoy the threats produced by movement, and being pounced on from the other side of the known world will be different! But I will certainly buy a copy when it arrives on these UK shores in a couple of weeks on the boat from China!


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Mike E
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My biggest issue with the original was the fact that, in larger games (five or six players), the middle nations on the map tended to get their butts kicked pretty hard, as they were caught between inexoriable advances (Hispania troops had nowhere else to go but east, as did the - I forget the province name at the moment and my new EG copy is not at hand at the moment - western North Africa starting location).

I like the infantry rules, personally, since as Glenn said, large bodies of cavalry were usually employed by enemies of the Empire (especially in the Near East), not the Empire itself.
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Pierce Ostrander
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Quote:
Given the rules as they are, the most successful armies are made up of mostly infantry with a few units of cavalry and a couple of catapults and a General. This gives the army the most combat power, ability to absorb casualties in a cost-effective way, and the best "combined arms" bonus.


There have been other discussion of this, and though folks do disagree, I think Eagle made the right decision for all the points Glen outlines.
 
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Pierce Ostrander
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Here is a link to the thread with the extended discussion about the combat system:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geekforum.php3?action=viewthrea...
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Noel
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I think that the decision to strengthen the infantry was a fine one. The Roman Legion was the premiere fighting force at the time, rarely defeated when employed correctly (poor Crassus). Since this is a game about Roman civil war, the infantry have to be the focus. Cavalry was primarily either allied, mercenary or light noble Romans, used to outflank the enemy, rather than engage in combat. These weren't the heavy knights seen in the Medieval period, nor the Cataphracts of even the late Roman period or the Parthian Empire. I still don't understand why the catapults were included as regular combat units. Siege engines weren't used outside of sieges.
 
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Darrell Hanning
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While the desire to emphasize the reliance on infantry is certainly justifiable, I'd like to express one caveat to this reasoning.

Given forces of equal size, skill, weaponry and training (and we are talking about competing Roman factions, are we not?), I would take the force that was 80% infantry and 20% cavalry over the force that was 100% infantry, almost every time. Cavalry not only cover your flanks, and enhance your ability to pursue - they disrupt, demoralize, and maneuver. Cavalry - against a force without cavalry - can run behind the enemy lines, then attack the rear echelon of an already-committed formation. Cavalry can thwart or disrupt an enemy infantry charge with an oblique attack. A cavalry attack against an infantry formation with a good chance of winning in melee against another infantry formation can cause that formation to lose morale and break, instead. Cavalry can mitigate or even negate an enemy's missile (archer) advantage.

So, while I agree in principle with promoting the notion of infantry being the backbone of the army, I don't think the solution provided by the dice properly captures that notion.

Perhaps giving a force with a cavalry superiority an extra die for each cavalry unit they have in excess of those owned by the enemy...

...I'm not really sure quite how to address it, with the dice being used the way it's explained in the rules, but I do think the system as is tilts too far in advantage of infantry.
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Roger Eastep
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The problem I had with the original game was that with a full player compliment, no one wanted to be the first to attack anyone else. Mainly because if you did, even if you won, you were bound to experience some losses, and then you were a feast for the other players. There really wasn't anything except battles to unbalance player strength. I thought the easiest fix would be to have some random events. Someone published random events in MOVES which looked pretty good, but I never got a chance to try them.
 
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Robert Wesley
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Hey "roger-e", in case you or any others were unaware of this little 'tidbit', then a GREAT 'tactic' in the "olde style" version of the 'Game', WAS to 'attack' on YOUR 'Turn', inflict some "losses"-whether or NOT you actually 'won' any BATTLES-and THEN 'buy up' those such AVAILABLE 'Troops' later on! Check it out and see what I mean. Some people get 'lemons' and cuss 'em, I'll get those and 'make' "meringue pie" from that!
surprise
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Keith Blume
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Hi Darrell,

I think the statistics of the dice handle your point of why a force mix works, especially in the case of the new rules. If I have a leader in combat that means I am rolling four dice per round of combat. For every infantry above four that I have, they cannot contribute a hit, because the most casualties I could inflict would be four (if I matched the number of dice perfectly, in this case rolling four infantry). By adding a cavalry unit to the mix, the likelihood of that unit getting a hit becomes 1- (5/6)^4 (The second term is the chance that you would not roll a cavalry icon over the course of 4 rolls). This translates to roughly a 52% chance that a cavalry unit will inflict a casualty during one round of battle when 4 dice are used.

Without question a force mix is needed to maximize the casualties inflicted. I don't want to go overboard with statistical examples, hopefully this example will suffice.

Thank you very much for your interest in Conquest of the Empire.
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Mike Brown
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Great review Tom. I have been watching this game with great intrest. As a fan and lucky owner of the 4 "Gamemaster" series of games(yes I discovered war-gaming back in the 80's) I can now say I will purchase a copy. I believe Eagle Games has done a great job in bringing back the board-wargamer again. Next up give Shogun a make over. (I have found ZVEZDA's 1/72 scale Samurai series minis great for home rules)
Keep up the great work!

ps. Every forum has a "Bob" Wesley, that you just have to deal with and look past. (wish a way you could just block post) Quite the eye-sore and kinda of looks bad when someone such as Glenn stops by and offers tidbits.
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Sean Swart
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I been a player of Conquest since it first came out in the original form, the Six Caesars. The combat system has always been it's weak point and the MB version was even worse. While the Eagle version is a improvement, it still (IMO) doesn't capture the flavor of the troop types. But, other than that, it IS a improvement.

For those that want to try a different combat system, I submit mine. It is simple, but encourages combine arms. Try it, and see.


One aspect of CotE that needed help was the combat system, along with the Catapult rules. There has been others posted on this forum, yet they didn't seem to address the problem of cost effectiveness. The system has added two new types of units, that are in Ralph Boerke's varient called Caesars and Satraps.I have my own revamped combat system. I own much of it to others that have posted thiers.

Each combat unit add a number of dice which is rolled together, after both players roll, hits are removed. The players chose the hits for thier own forces. Defenders roll first, then attacker. After units are removed by hits the attacker may retreat, if he choses to continue the attack the defender may retreat, if the defender stands another round of combat takes place.

Each infantry rolls 1 die.
Each cavalry rolls 1 die
Each catapult rolls 1 die.
Each ship rolls 2 dice.


All dice are rolled and 1's or 2's hit. (Use different color dice for different to hit numbers. More on this later)

I know it sounds bland but wait till the Combat advantages kick it. There are two types of advantages. Combat and Defensive. Each works differently.

Combat advantage and other advantages.

+1 combat advantage If you have Cav. and enemy doesn't
+1 combat advantage If Legion is led by Caesar
+1 combat advantage Each catapult

Defence advantage +1 if defending a city
Defence advantage +1 fortified city in region.


Combat advantages and how they work. Unlike the original game my combat advantage work differently.

All defence advantage give player +1 on all thier dice! So Defending a fortified city means, all defenders will hit on a 1, 2 or 3.

Catapults reduce defence bonus by 1 per catapult. So in the above example 2 catapults would negate the fortified city defence. Catapults also give +1 combat advantage, more on that in a moment.

Cavalry have a special ability, other than giving a combat bonus if enemy has no Cavalry. The ability is in retreat. When a enemy retreats if you have more Cavalry than the retreating enemy you may make a pursuit. For each cavalry in excess to the enemy roll a die. Each 1 or 2 rolled the retreating player loses a unit.

Combat advantages. for each advantage you have, your to hit on 1 die is raised. Example Player a has a +2 advantage so 2 of his dice may be raised by 1 or 1 of his dice may be raised by 2.

Combat advantages and Catapults. Catapults while giving a combat advantage, never give the advantage to themselves or other Catapults.
Example Player A has a legion with a Caesar, 2 catapults and 1 infantry. So he rolls a total of 3 dice, one for the infantry and 1 each for the two catapults. Since the Catapults can't give themselves a advantage, he could give one die +3 (hit on a 1 thru 5) or, because of the Caesar, 1 die +1 (hit on a 1 thru 3), and one die +2 (1 thru 4).

Example 2: Roman force of 4 Infantry invades a region defended by 2 inf, 1 cavalry and have a fort. The Attacker force rolls 4 dice with a +0 combat advantage. The defender rolls 3 dice with a +1 combat advantage and a +1 Defensive advantage. (+1 for the cavalry and the forts +1 defence). The Attacker roll 3 dice that need 1's or 2's to hit. The defenders troops all have the defensive bonus, so they hit on a 1 thru 3, plus one die will be given a +1 for the Cavalry since the attacker has none and will hit on a 1 thru 4. The attacker should have had a Catapult with him to negate that defence bonus.

Note: the above rules fixes the catapult problem but still keeps them worth the cost in the basic game. The advantage of Cavalry is not in strenght now, but in their abilities to confer a bonus and in retreat. So the cost is still in line with the model. The defensive bonus is very powerful and forces players to invest in catapults to lay seige to thier enemies. Note, I haven't limited the players in what to buy, but rewards the player that buys a balanced force.


BTW: Grognads is a breath of fresh air IMO. But, I will not defend him, he can do that much better himself! YET, I just had to laugh at the post before this one, where the poster states, the Grogands is a eye sore, because Glenn gave a tip or something! THAT was funny, maybe if you would wipe that brown off your nose you would note that Glenn is Eagle's company owner, not GOD!

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Mike Grace
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Great review, Tom! Thanks!

I've got the game on the way and will be playing it friday with the guys.
I've read your reviews here and on CONSIM I think and I usually concur with your opinions so you must be a smart guy.

Keep up the good work!

Congrats to Eagle on what appears to be a great game.

Mike
 
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Craig Yope
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Dorb wrote:
As a fan and lucky owner of the 4 "Gamemaster" series of games(yes I discovered war-gaming back in the 80's) I can now say I will purchase a copy.


There were 5 games in the Gamemaster series:
1)Axis & Allies
2)Conquest of the Empire
3)Broadsides & Boarding Parties
4)Fortress America
5)Shogun (later called Samurai Swords)

So you may not be as lucky as you think.

Craig
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Sean Swart
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If the one he doesn't have IS Broadsides and Boarding Partys, HE SHOULD concider himself lucky.
 
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Mike Brown
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Doh! forgot Axis & and Allies. Got it but forgot to count it. But I thought that was a gimmie, after all doesn't everyone own at least one copy.
Ya gotta love the ships with B&B. Wonder what it would be like with two copies...
 
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John Wray
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We loved Broadsides! What's the beef against this game? Simple game, quick to play. Two ways to win. It was a blast!
 
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John Wray
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I have the MB Conquest of the Empire. Does anyone know if the new updated rules for original game that I can download from Eagle Games site is playable with the old game or did they add some new compoments to the classic game?
 
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Brad Miller
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If you have some spare Battle Cry, or Buffy, dice llying around, you could play with the updated combat rules for "Classic" COTE, but you are seriously out of luck for the new COTE II rules. New cards and stuff required.
 
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