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Subject: Is disease and drought your idea of a good time? rss

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Jeff Curtis
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I’ve played In the Year of the Dragon three times in the last 8 days, and the games were for 3, 4 and 5 players. My personal opinion is the game scales extremely well for any number of players. The winning score for the three games did not vary greatly, although the score did increase some, as you would expect, after we gained a bit of experience.

The number of person tiles available is reduced based on the number of players. There is always one less experienced worker available than there are players in the game. The number of players does not seem to alter the number or type of tough decisions.

I enjoy games where you wish you could do 2-3 actions but must select just one. In the Year of the Dragon has that going for it, and how. That seems to sum up every single turn of every game. I also think the replay value of the game will be good. The order of the events really changes the game. Even the way the actions are grouped before selection really impacts the strategy turn-by-turn.

This leads to a really nice mix of strategy and tactics. Let’s look at those two areas.

The main determination on whether people like this game seems to be centered on the events. In general the events cause bad things to happen. The fireworks are an exception, and the Mongol invasion is not necessarily bad for all the players, as only the person who has the lowest number of Mongols in his people tiles loses a person. There are things you can do to mitigate all the negative events though. The order the events will occur are known right from the beginning. What is different is how much of the game is spent trying to mitigate the impact of the events. It’s a couple of levels of magnitude beyond trying to control the rats in Notre Dame. It’s also what makes this game somewhat unique to my mind.

So you’re trying to do just enough to offset the negative events while still doing some actions that help you to generate victory points. If you have not done enough to satisfy the requirements of the events, you pay by eliminating some of your people. Everyone starts the game by selecting a couple of people to place in your two initial temples. You also get to select 11 more people, so you will have a maximum of 13 people at the end of the game. Each person is worth two points in end-game scoring. Here’s where we get to one of the strategy decisions you will likely have to make. There definitely seems to be some obvious differences between maximizing your end of turn scoring versus the end of game scoring. You get points at the end of a turn for each temple you have, each court lady in your temples and for dragon tiles you have obtained. But if you are obtaining dragon tiles and court ladies, then you are not selecting the actions and people tiles you need to offset events that are coming up. This is just one of the excellent balancing mechanisms in the game. For every pro there is a con.

Speaking of offsetting pros and cons, turn order tends to play a critical factor in the game. Turn order is determined by the number of ‘people’ points each player has accumulated. Values have been assigned to each person tile. In general, the more valuable the tile, the smaller the number of people points you get for it. A court lady will generate a VP every turn, but only give you one people point. The experienced version of each role is always worth less than the inexperienced person. The most people points is 6 for an inexperience monk. Monks provide no benefits at all other than generating points in end-game scoring. The reason turn order is important is the selection of actions. There are 7 different actions, but they are randomly grouped each turn. If there are three players, there will be groups of 2/2/3 actions. With 5 players you have 2, 2, 1, 1, and 1 actions. The first player to take an action from any given group gets it for free. Anyone else wanting an actions from a previously selected group has to pay 3 yuan. Money is very tight in this game, so this is a big deal. It takes an action to get money and you only get 12 actions for the entire game. If you haven’t selected a tax collector, then the money action only gets you two yuan. Two of the events are for imperial tribute, which requires you to pay 4 yuan. You start the game with 6 yuan, but those never seem to last long.

The dragon tiles that generate points every turn are 2 yuan for a single dragon and 6 yuan for a double dragon. In my third game I splurged and purchased the double dragon on turn one, expending my entire starting funds. I also selected a court lady as one of my starting people. With the standard two beginning temples, I was generating 5 VP per turn. But like everything in this game, such a strategy comes with a cost. Having no money leaves you vulnerable for selecting actions, unless you are first on turn order. Since the court lady nets only a single people point, I was generating more VP than the other players but was last in turn order and broke to boot. Not a good thing. A player can bypass taking an action and instead you draw enough money to put your yuan back at 3. If you are broke, this actually generates more money that taking the income action. You also have to aware of when the imperial tribute events will come up. You could not try this strategy if the imperial tribute event will come up in the first 3 or 4 turns.

No problem you say, just select the tax collector as a starting person tile and hope you get to select income as an early action. The problem there is, it is likely that one of the early events will be drought, contagion, or a Mongol invasion. These require you to take different types of people so you can produce rice or obtain physicians or soldiers.

Another strategy I’ve seen a couple of times is to obtain scholars in hopes of performing frequent research. The research action gives you immediate victory points. By default the action give one VP. Scholars add 2 or 4 VP to that. In our first game a player obtain 3 of the experienced scholars. Players have one card for each type of person and then two wild cards that let you select any type of person. With your two starting tiles, this means you could possibly have 4 tiles for one role. Getting 3 tiles of the experience version of any person is hard to do. In this case, the scholars also only pay off when you can take the research action. But we get back to the pros and cons of decisions you make. This setup allowed the player to jump to a big lead. Fears of runaway leader popped into our head, as it was our first game. The offset though was so many resources and actions were spent, that the player ended up being broke and also lost people tiles to some of the events. He held the lead for most of the game, but by mid-game other players had accumulated temples and people that were generating 7, 8 and even 9 points per turn, and they started to cut into the lead. The lead finally disappeared on turn 11 or 12, and another player overtook him in end-game scoring for 2nd.

In my 2nd game I decided to try to maximize my end-game scoring. I didn’t start that way, but by about turn 5 I could tell that was going to be my best approach. So I did what I could to keep my people alive. One of the tricks here is to build new temples fast enough to have the capacity to support the people. You also have to have enough rice to survive droughts, money to pay tributes and avoid having the fewest soldiers during a Mongol invasion. I suppose if you wanted to truly maximize end-game scoring you would also need to accumulate as many monks as possible. Monks are worth the number of monks pictured on the monk tiles, either one or two, multiplied by the number of stories in the temple where the monk resides. Temples have a limit of 3 stories, so an experienced monk could be worth up to 6 victory points. Additionally, every three money is worth a VP. In this game I trailed in scoring the entire game, but did collect 27 VP in end-game scoring, and that was with only one inexperienced monk. I ended up loosing by a single point.

If you couldn’t tell, I really like this game. You get to perform 12 actions in the game. The people you have acquired often enhance what you get from the actions. The people tiles you select at the beginning will likely be influenced by the order of the events. If you take a court lady on turn one she will produce 12 points over the game, but she is also likely to put you behind on turn order. This is just typical of the pain involved in every decision you will make in this game. Another example of this is with contagion. The contagion event will kill 3 of your people unless you obtain physicians, but one physician tile will prevent 2 deaths at the most. So do you spend one of your wild cards to hire a 2nd physician, or do you just accept your going to lose a person, and use that wild card to obtain a different type of person? Keep in mind each event happens twice in the game. From reading the comments, this may be a bit too tense for some people’s taste. For me, it leaves me wanting to play again so I can try something different. In my three games, by the end I always feel like I could have done better. The fact that angst and tension seems to be consistent, no matter the number of players is just another plus for the game.


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Kevin Iacoucci
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The more I play it, the more I love it. One of your last comments in regards to the physician - I usually accept one as a loss (a new space just opened for my palace - Yeah!) then on the second plague I usually let the medic "take one for the team" since he is of no more use. same goes with farmers and the like, fireworks are especially expendable.

Heck, I love this game so much that I went out and bought metal chinese coins just for the game! Glad you discovered it as well!
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Jim Cote
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Kaizen Zanshin wrote:
Heck, I love this game so much that I went out and bought metal chinese coins just for the game!

Where? Can you post an image?
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I enjoyed Stefan Feld's other games that I played: Roma and Notre Dame.

I already ordered this one and I'm waiting for it to arrive.

How would you compare it to Notre Dame? Heavier? Better?
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Jeff Curtis
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I've only played Notre Dame once, but I would say In the Year of the Dragon is definitely heavier. while the rats in ND are annoying, the amount of negative things you need to mitigate in ITYOTD are considerably more significant and really drive the game. For the folks giving negative comments to the game, the fact that the core of the game is dealing with negative events instead of focusing on building your VP engine seems to turn them off.

It just seems like every decision in Dragon is tense.

pitris wrote:
I enjoyed Stefan Feld's other games that I played: Roma and Notre Dame.

I already ordered this one and I'm waiting for it to arrive.

How would you compare it to Notre Dame? Heavier? Better?
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Adam Daulton
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pitris wrote:
I enjoyed Stefan Feld's other games that I played: Roma and Notre Dame.

I already ordered this one and I'm waiting for it to arrive.

How would you compare it to Notre Dame? Heavier? Better?


I'd also say that ItYotD is heavier than Notre Dame. I really like both of them however. The rats in Notre Dame have been magnified in the Dragon with all of the bad events.

P.S. Nice review Jeff. Captures exactly what I think of the game.
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Dave Eisen
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Right. I'm surprised at how many gamers don't like a game specifically because it strongly involves wending onesself through a maze of disasters. I think that's kind of cool myself.
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Jeff W
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I hope people don't read the title of your review, reply "no," and cross this game of their list.

I feel like there is a resistance against this theme. A lot of people are saying it is too negative. I thought I wouldn't like it because of all the negative things said about it, but was coerced into trying it--and ended up loving it.

It might also help if we use the same euphemism as "La Citta". People don't starve, rather they leave your city (palace) because there is not enough food (or enough medicine, etc.) I think this might the only way I can convince my wife to try the game even though I think she'll love the game. She can't bear the thought of killing off her own people.

Have other people found resistance to the theme, or is it just me?
 
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Kevin Iacoucci
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ekted wrote:
Kaizen Zanshin wrote:
Heck, I love this game so much that I went out and bought metal chinese coins just for the game!

Where? Can you post an image?


I'm spray painting some of them silver - I'll post when they are complete.
 
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dkeisen wrote:
Right. I'm surprised at how many gamers don't like a game specifically because it strongly involves wending onesself through a maze of disasters. I think that's kind of cool myself.


I agree - with a bit of experience, you can bend the disasters to get rid of workers you no longer require. Make those bad times work for you

I think In The Year of the Dragon is about the same "weight" as Notre Dame. It feels heavier, but I'm not sure it is. I find this game easier to teach than Notre Dame.
 
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Jeff Curtis
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You may be right there. I guess it comes down to how you define 'weight'. The rules are not difficult at all, and are not long. But I think the decisions are tougher in Year of the Dragon.


dougadamsau wrote:
dkeisen wrote:
Right. I'm surprised at how many gamers don't like a game specifically because it strongly involves wending onesself through a maze of disasters. I think that's kind of cool myself.


I agree - with a bit of experience, you can bend the disasters to get rid of workers you no longer require. Make those bad times work for you

I think In The Year of the Dragon is about the same "weight" as Notre Dame. It feels heavier, but I'm not sure it is. I find this game easier to teach than Notre Dame.
 
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J. David Koch
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Great review Jeff,
Really like this game.
So many things to do in such a short time frame.
All in all, I think it is a better game than Notre Dame.
Wonderful tension all the way through.
I'm sure this one will see a lot of play at our game group.
 
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Alec Clair
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Quote:
Another strategy I’ve seen a couple of times is to obtain scholars in hopes of performing frequent research. The research action gives you immediate victory points. By default the action give one VP. Scholars add 2 or 4 VP to that. In our first game a player obtain 3 of the experienced scholars. Players have one card for each type of person and then two wild cards that let you select any type of person. With your two starting tiles, this means you could possibly have 4 tiles for one role. Getting 3 tiles of the experience version of any person is hard to do. In this case, the scholars also only pay off when you can take the research action. But we get back to the pros and cons of decisions you make. This setup allowed the player to jump to a big lead. Fears of runaway leader popped into our head, as it was our first game. The offset though was so many resources and actions were spent, that the player ended up being broke and also lost people tiles to some of the events. He held the lead for most of the game, but by mid-game other players had accumulated temples and people that were generating 7, 8 and even 9 points per turn, and they started to cut into the lead. The lead finally disappeared on turn 11 or 12, and another player overtook him in end-game scoring for 2nd.


After 1 or 2 games many peoples would like to try this strategy.

to make it works efficiently you will need money so that the other players couldn't prevent you from choosing the scholar action.
Specially in 3 players games opponents could choose an action that suit their own goal as well as hindering your choice.
 
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Todd Redden
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I finally played In the Year of the Dragon Thursday night with 4 other players, and while most of us had great fun playing the game (the exception - one player who failed to follow along during the "learn the rules" phase,) I'm not yet certain that score is very closely connected with how (or how well) you play the game. Afterwards, it kept haunting me whether the Privilege tiles break the game. I'm going to have to study this question over the next few games. Preparing for the scoring phases seems to be all that really matters, the rest of the game is just icing on the cake.

The winner of our game was the guy who bought the heavy privilege early on. It seems almost impossible to win against a player who gets 2 more victory every turn (including his palaces) than everybody else. It takes at least 2 turns to have enough $$ to buy a large privilege, but then for 9 turns you leap ahead of everybody else by even 2 x 9 = 18 points and its hard to catch up even with heavy game end scoring.

The second place player played the builder game. He built large numbers of palace floors and ended up with big game end scoring but had no privilege tiles throughout the game.

I played with the goal of trying to max out for each event. I had 3 healer's mortars when the time came and saved all my courtiers, I had the most fireworks, I didn't have the least warrior'helmets, I had plenty of rice and only ever relieved from service courtiers who didn't count any more. In the end I tied with the guy who didn't know how to play and who had one palace with one or two floors and as many transient courtiers but who also had 3 privileges throughout most of the game. He played an almost random game and tied me. I played a well thought out game based on the flow of the game as I could best grasp it in one play after having studied the rules faithfully.

It seems almost as if you could just let your palaces go to waist and just tax and buy privileges. It also seemed strange that the game comes with so few privilege tiles considering there is supposed to be no limit of availability besides their cost. Maximizing scoring in this game is going to be further studied over several more events (I do find the game very enjoyable and am looking forward to analyzing it in more detail.)

- Todd
 
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Houserule Jay
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tmredden wrote:
I'm not yet certain that score is very closely connected with how (or how well) you play the game.


Well it would sure be a silly game with low ratings if playing well DIDN'T affect your end game score, there would be no point to play.

tmredden wrote:
Preparing for the scoring phases seems to be all that really matters, the rest of the game is just icing on the cake.


Well no this isn't true either. The core game of crisis management plays at least as big as part as the scoring, you will see this as you play more games.

tmredden wrote:
The winner of our game was the guy who bought the heavy privilege early on. It seems almost impossible to win against a player who gets 2 more victory every turn (including his palaces) than everybody else. It takes at least 2 turns to have enough $$ to buy a large privilege, but then for 9 turns you leap ahead of everybody else by even 2 x 9 = 18 points and its hard to catch up even with heavy game end scoring.


Privileges will score you a lot of points, no question. I do think they are almost a little too strong however our group has seen many different strategies win this game and that often included someone having no privileges beating others who did, there is a good amount of exploration here in the first 15 games.

Your example looks a little misleading, if someone bought a double privilege 3 turns ahead of someone else they would have gained 6 points on him. It is possible to buy the privilege on the first turn with all your money (6 Yuan) and this often happens in our games (means 24 points over the course of the game). Doing this means you have have no money and if the Emporer event is coming, you now need to gather some income quick. Also, with no money you will not be able to buy the action you want, if the drought event is approaching and your not first in the turn order, you won't get rice in time without fast action. No rice can put you out of the game in a heartbeat.

tmredden wrote:
In the end I tied with the guy who didn't know how to play and who had one palace with one or two floors and as many transient courtiers but who also had 3 privileges throughout most of the game. He played an almost random game and tied me. I played a well thought out game based on the flow of the game as I could best grasp it in one play after having studied the rules faithfully.


Knowing the rules, as you seen, means nothing here. Having experience ie. a few games under your belt would have seen you beat your friend. Everytime we introduce this game to someone new they almost always lose or come in the back of the pack.

tmredden wrote:
It seems almost as if you could just let your palaces go to waist and just tax and buy privileges.


Nope! Someone that has managed far better will end up with more points at the end if you did exactly that. I can understand why it looks this way and I urge you to try it, I did see a money/privilege strategy win once in 17 games however they also managed the disasters well throughout.

Beating experienced players will always require playing a full rounded game and also the order of events plays a HUGE role in how someone will have to play to win, it also ensures that just one strategy will not always win.

tmredden wrote:
It also seemed strange that the game comes with so few privilege tiles considering there is supposed to be no limit of availability besides their cost.


Agreed, a bad choice on someones part, we often have to use other bits in their place if players are buying these up.

tmredden wrote:
Maximizing scoring in this game is going to be further studied over several more events (I do find the game very enjoyable and am looking forward to analyzing it in more detail


This was a really fun part of the game for our group. We often were discussing the different strategies for days after playing, which included such emails like, " I just thought of a new strategy, I'm going to kick butt next game!". I even wrote them done on paper one day preparing to destroy everyone the next time we played, I have never done this before. I can't think of another game that has generated more post game discussions before. Have fun playing and analyzing, it is a most enjoyable time and a truely challenging game.
 
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Jeff Curtis
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I concur with Jay's last statement. This game keeps you thinking about alternative plans days after the game is over. It's left me anxious for the next game more than just about any other new game I can think of over the last couple of years.

I'm curious what kind of scores you guys are seeing. We've only played three times so far, and we're seeing winning scores at right around 100 points.
 
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Hi Jeff, nice review btw! touching on some of the finer points.

I see the Dragon has you under her spell....hehehe. Our group was nothing short of obsessed for the first 15 games, most of us have now moved on so to speak but no other game ever had this effect before (except for Taj Mahal for me). Also, every time we introduced the game to someone it had the same effect on them, roughly 10 people in total.

It is the challenge of the game that draws you in; beating the game, beating the other players and trying to beat the high score or at least your high score! The discovery of new ways to win was awesome as well.

After 17 or so games, I believe the high scores are as follows:

3 player - 116
4 player - 119
5 player - 113

The game plays very well 6 player also, talk about tight! If you scale the tiles it will equal the 5 player but without that little detail some people will be hurtin... posted this in the variant section.

I found the 2 player version very weak (not tight enough or competitive enough), I posted a variant for this also if your interested.

Cheers!

Jay

Edit - thanks Candoo!
 
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Jay: The 5 player game high score in our group is 113. How can you not remember after all our emails? surprise
 
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jayjonbeach wrote:


After 17 or so games, I believe the high scores are as follows:

3 player - 116
4 player - 119
5 player - 113



Funnylly We've got exactly the same highscore for 3 and 4 players games
 
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Todd Redden
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jayjonbeach wrote:

Nope! Someone that has managed far better will end up with more points at the end if you did exactly that. I can understand why it looks this way and I urge you to try it, I did see a money/privilege strategy win once in 17 games however they also managed the disasters well throughout.

Beating experienced players will always require playing a full rounded game and also the order of events plays a HUGE role in how someone will have to play to win, it also ensures that just one strategy will not always win.


Thank you for the detailed reply. I really didn't want what I said to be true.

- Todd
 
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Todd Redden
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Jeff -

Your review is an excellent introduction to this multifaceted game. I had forgotten one thing that struck me after my first game in my previous reply. The hardest part to deal with successfully was how to stay ahead on the person track while managing everything else (people, actions, event management, and scoring.) I kept finding myself needing to choose an action on a pile already chosen by another dragon and not having enough Yuan or planning on using the money for other necessities. Do you sometimes choose the highest valued courtiers regardless of other strategies just to get ahead on the person chart? (Of course the Person Cards are somewhat limiting.) The Warrior seems to be an otherwise wasted action just to bump ahead 1 or 2 spaces on the person track (unless already having lured other Warriors into your court.) Or, are you more willing to choose a free action and rethink your strategy? I'm planning to play again Thursday night and will be bringing it to Unity Games XIV in Wakefield Ma on Jan. 26th. I would be hoping to play more than one game of it at that all day event.

- Todd

 
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Todd Redden
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I did get to play a 3 player game last Thursday with 2 other players who played last week also. I played to stay ahead on the person track, and being able to choose a free action that I wanted every turn ended up making all the difference, and I won the game. laugh

I let events govern my actions somewhat, bearing in mind how I compared to the other player's preparations (for example, you just don't want to have the least number of warriors, and if nobody has any fireworks then 1 firework is all you need, and if one of your people is no longer useful, then 1 less rice is sufficient, etc.) I bought a privilege tile early on and kept a close watch on my scoring advantage per turn and as I neared end-of-game scoring. I want to play more games with 5 players. Great game!!!
 
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jayjonbeach wrote:
tmredden wrote:
It also seemed strange that the game comes with so few privilege tiles considering there is supposed to be no limit of availability besides their cost.


Agreed, a bad choice on someones part, we often have to use other bits in their place if players are buying these up.


Really? Is this in the rules? I don't own the game, but played twice last week. The limited number of privileges made what can be less-than-urgent opening rounds much more exciting.
 
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The rules do say that the number of privleges both large and small are unlimited.
 
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