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Subject: First try, first financial collapse. rss

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Hal
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After a cancelled attempt to play earlier in the week (wrong venue, extra arrivals etc), we gathered five to give Founding Fathers a first run through. Three of us were Brits and so not entirely at home playing in American history. But the other two were Alaskans abroad, so maybe the stonking hot weather this weekend made them feel equally discomfited. All of us are pretty keen on games with a lot of negotiation: we plat Virgin Queen semi-regularly, and I just can't help but enjoy the trashy delights of Spartacus. One of our Alaskans confusingly thinks Cosmic Encounter is good but I guess everyone has a few kooky opinions. I was hoping for the game be something to add the rotation with a more consistent emphasis on negotiation, those other games have elements of negotiation there's a lot of other things going on as well. I am interested in the politics leading up to the Civil War as well, particularly the Bleeding Kansas period, so was interested to see how the game handled this.

It didn't go well for the newly United States of America. The nation succumbed to a financial collapse just before we made it into Age B, even though we had all seen coming since the end of turn 3.

It started okay. George Washington had a successful first term as president, racking up a decent popularity. I wasn't making any headway getting my Conservatives into the cabinet, so I switched to bumping up Liberal public support when I could, and cosying up to Jefferson as he seemed to be the next in line. Oh, and keeping my fingers crossed that Washington would shuffle off. I really liked throughout the game that you could attempt to build a long term position, helping maneuver who you think is the next presidential candidate to take the election and hope to cash it in for popularity later.

Second term, we all got a bit optimistic when the End Slavery issue cropped up. And the President got silly. Washington hadn't been fiscally responsible so far, in his first time he did nothing to bump up the fledgling nations revenue. Washington delegated the decision about slavery to Vice President. Most issues require multiple people to act, which creates a lot of points at which you can exert pressure to try to get it to fall your way. Definitely creates a lot of outbreaks of negotiation.

Congressional approval is the most interesting of these, as the often the non-cabinet players have no interest in letting bills pass, so the powerful players have to start making offers and buying friends. We founding recalculating which side (yes/no) had a majority of votes during negotiations a bit difficult, so it could be tough to tell how worthwhile spending IP for congressional votes would be.
So the Vice President decided not to ignore the End Slavery issue, and the cabinet member spent all of their Influence Points to make up for his meagre skill, and it passed along to congress for approval, who waved it on through. The amount of IP a statesman or player has can create fluctuating values which are helpful for creating interesting deals. A less able statesman with a lot of IP stacked up is a pretty good choice for a cabinet member, but he'll be useless after spending the IP, so maybe the President can wangle something extra out of the player for appointing him?

We felt pretty good about ourselves, until we came to pay interest. End Slavery had cost us 200 from our reserves, which were looking pretty unhealthy now. We had passed a couple of taxes and a tariff that turn, but the interest formula was much more punishing than we had realised and we plummeted to way over 200 in debt. I do wish there was a way to visually represent how much interest you were going to have to pay based on your current reserves, we did occasionally have to pause and work out what we would be paying come the economy phase. The ideal thing would be for there to be a way of displaying your interest payments next to your current level of reserves, but given the layout of that track and the wide amount of values reserves might take I'm not sure it would be possible. Anyhow, the economic crisis roll was one away from ending the game right then, and it sobered us up quite a bit. Especially the president, who lost most of the popularity he had gained. Washington's player hadn't noticed how influential the penalties from the economic crisis table could be. There is a lot to balance in the game, especially when President (I think, I never made it into the oval office) in a good way. You don't want to give away too much, but other players also have plenty of guns to hold to your head to try to get more.

Washington was out for this election, and my work swinging things towards liberal was starting to pay off. I got a VP nomination, and we would be placing first. Elections start off feeling a little counter intuitive, and having two cubes per state makes them take a little longer to work out, and a little slower to work out good moves. As soon as the 12th amendment is passed they function a lot more smoothly. I don't know the historical specifics of pre 12th Amendment elections, but I assume the rules reflect this. It's a little bit of a shame that the more complex have to be the things you start with, but history isn't always convenient. Post 12th, elections are quick affairs and play interestingly and quickly. It actually felt like Hey That's My Fish, you wanted to isolate a big chain of states so your opponent couldn't get in there (Get New York, there's no route into the 38 vote New England).

My positioning didn't turn into much popularity in turn 3, as I foolishly accepted Treasury on the turn in which everyone was to pass all the taxes in the deck. Those tax outrage penalties really dragged me down that turn. And it continued to roll downhill from there. We eventually lost a few turns later, after that turns President tried to resolve very issue in a way that gave him most popularity, but drove the reserves down down down, with the support of his partner they had more votes in congress than the other three of us combined. The partner kind of rode the president to victory though, as they got a lot of offices and shared in the popularity boosts, but come the eventual collapse didn't suffer the 5 popularity drop. The game ended up in a tie between Washington's player, and the final president's support, the rest of us way behind.

That decision to help drive the country into the ground exemplifies what I think the game does well; it encourages you to make self interested decisions and act like the worst version of "whats in it for me" politicians. You score best when you cash in popular decisions without looking responsible for the failures. It creates the same motivations and feelings I imagine a politician having. This is really backed up by the statesman card text, which points out the foibles, incompetencies and corruption of it's subjects for the most part. The cards are packed with information, which is a blessing in reinforcing the theme. The downside is that it is quite difficult to read an upside down issue card from the other side of the table, and parsing the effects of the issues is pretty key to decision making. We found passing the issue card around fairly essential and it does slow the game down a little.

I really enjoyed our game. There were plenty of tough deals made, and the scoring encouraged play in all the right ways. The game feels immediate and urgent by handing out little bits of reward (IP, Popularity) immediately due to decisions, but also creates a much longer arc where the issues you deal with effect others, your financial decisions impact your options in the future, your decision to focus on public support decides the next election etc. In Virgin Queen, one of the main things I enjoy is how a story emerges as you play from the seemingly disparate sub systems. Like how England fought off the Armada, occupied Lisbon and began a march into Spain, only to have France sway Catholic Scotland to their side and snatch victory from an overextended England. I got the same thing here, our decision to end slavery set off a little chain of consequences which shaped the rest of the game in unexpected ways, but it all made sense, it formed a sensible story. It is complex, but not inscrutable. The few difficulties we had I can deal with for that. Most players agreed they would like to play a longer game where we get into later eras. One player mentioned feeling exhausted from having to be "on" all the time, always looking to eek out some edge for herself in the negotiations, which I think means the game is hitting my initial hope for having the emphasis on negotiation.

On the components front, everything is good. I had not ordered anything from Game Crafter before, but the card quality is good, all aligned well and clearly printed. The card art and layout is good, everything is very clear and in a consistent style. The game arrived in the UK in just over a week in good condition. I'm a little sad we didn't get into the Civil War buildup, but I hope we'll manage it in the future.
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upandawaygames.com
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It's late at night here so I won't post a lot, but what a great report! Almost feel like I was there.
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Luca Cammisa
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Anthony, I'm curious to know who won the game in the end... I mean, after the IP and Votes were subtracted by VP, who won? I guess the less "influent" player, that's to say who contributed less to the monetary collapse?
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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This was a great read.

How complicated is the game as compared to Republic of Rome?
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upandawaygames.com
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I'm interested in Anthony's reply, but in case you've not seen it I wrote a short article comparing the two:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1135081/compared-republi...
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Thanks. Now for a possible stupid question: are the rules posted anywhere online?
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upandawaygames.com
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As they say, we were all born ignorant.

You can find them, for example, at
https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/founding-fathers:-green...

or at
https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/founding-fathers

They're also available on the Founding Fathers mailing list:
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/FoundingFathersGame/info
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Thanks. I am going to read them and see if this is the game for my group.
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Hal
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Sorry, thought I was subscribed to this! I haven't played Republic of Rome ever, just gazed longingly at it so I couldn't comment I'm afraid.

I thought Founding Fathers was very managable, there aren't many special rules exceptions to deal with, most things function consistently throughout the game. The exception is with the switch in election mechanics caused by the passing of the amendment, but that's a permanent change that only slightly alters the rules (but to significant effect).

Luca, the person who had helped maneuver the final president into the oval office and cashed in on the non-presidential offices won - they basically set the president up as a patsy to take the popularity hit for the inevitable collapse!
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