Alexander the Great
Besides sharing in part, similar name to him, I know little about the history that surrounds this game. A few years ago, a friend that bought this took it out for a spin which ended up with 2 games played with the rule books being flipped continuously throughout the game. One game ended with Alexander completely dominating the map and the other ended prematurely due to time. Vaguely remembering, and after reading through the rules NOW yet again, I believe we might have missed a rule or two then.
BGG has always been good food for thoughts in most games. However, it lacked some support for this particular title. The designer has pointed us toward some (actually, its quite a few pages worth) discussed answers and a brief FAQ of sort.
I would like to share my experience with all about this fascinating game that seem very likely to be a one sided affair. But is it? ........
WOW is all I could really say. Mark M. really did a great job. The old world map is worth a wall space if I were to hang game maps up! But there are certain nick pick, one of which lies in the segregation of Europe and Asia minor. The 'light shadows' of greens and browns, indeed are difficult to differentiate. In them, lies a number of FAQs. Others include the Alexander injury chart and weariness charts. The counters don't sync well with the table. (why do we need a 10x counter when the number is on board? Small issue actually....)
Some gamers might not have seen the subtle highlights of the victory condition areas and spaces. At first glance, if one is to well verse in that era, gamers might have a hard time finding various lands and city spaces.
Some gamers indicated that there are not enough identification markers to help with location ownership. I have no problems with that. The ownership of province is rather clear during our games. The garrisons helped with this aspect.
The armies, markers, number counters are very basic. Nothing to shout about but fully functional in games terms. The small number of counters on board does help with players concentrating on LOC counting without being too cluttered.
I was wondering why they never used standees for the leaders. That would have been awesome!
The Z cards
This is where the story of Alexander begins. The fun aspect is to align the cards in respective order and one would be able to have a reasonable short story of the era of Alexander the Great!
Being NOT a CDG, what these cards do is to change and bend certain aspect of the rules thus giving the flavor of the story being unfold as the game moves along.
The cards do provide certain tactical and strategic options to players. Certain cards interact with other cards, much like Magic the Gathering.
This however, is also where certain aspect of interaction that this system fails and thus creates a frustration to a 'numbers game' that is happening on the map. (Eg, Card X cancels card A, but card B could still be played and have another totally different effect. Of course, the difficulties lies in the fact that ONE of the player must have both A and B. Worst to come, if both these cards need to held by say, ... The Persian player only. )
There are other cards that are totally powerful if held by the 'correct' player. (Eg, the Cletus card or the Assassin card) And there are cards that are deemed useless, but could be very powerful when used at the right moment. (such as the Bad weather and Drought cards) dropping those cards behind a stretched Macedonian LOC can really hamper their advance tremendously.
Overall, the cards seem to favor the Persians in need, but than again, the Macedonian player holding them could do just as much damage.
We did discuss if the holding of Proskynesis or the marriage card was worth the card space in hand by the Persian player. The Oligarchic card was a great frustration to the Macedonians, but keeping a weak army guarding the European provinces do help to stop this and control some revolt.
Lastly about the cards. First time gamers will have a tough time flipping the book to get the gist of what each card does. The cards are done in brief. The full action of the card is from the back few pages of the rule book.
Reading the rules and understanding them, is a game in itself. It's quite fascinating that sometimes a great game is rendered unplayable due to the convoluted rules being presented too briefly.
Here, I believe, that this rule set has been written as the game goes along. Which is the good part. The bad part is that, not all games go along the same line as how it is laid out.
Unfortunately, the game is such that every particular action has one or more interactive components ( or exceptions) that could change or alter the outcome and eventually, the 'original' action becomes a huge combo or becomes completely useless. It is this, that is causing gamers to feel the lack of control or the feeling of complete hopelessness, that cause the game to be 'rejected' by most gamers? ( others felt that Macedonians were overwhelming in Advantage, for one reason or other.)
A quick walk through for those that do not have the game.
There are no turns. Alexander need to do a few things at a few different sites in order to win. This include hunting for a mobile Darius, becoming Great King, to praying in Egypt. (spent a turn there)
The phases in brief
1. Pick up an APM (player activation phase markers). This tells you who's phase this is.
2. Put the old APM back.
3. Play your Z card.
4. Draw a card back.
5. The Actions that you may take. From moving, to fighting, to raising armies and getting leaders. Ships move and fight too! Chose 'Admin'.
6. Admin moments. ( occurs dependent on APM drawn or player choice) this phase, brings back run-away armies. Macedonians will check on their weariness track. Weather turns better! Always! Hahaha....
Some of my thoughts
Is Alexander truly invincible? This question came up on our first game where the game ended rather prematurely, when Alexander was killed within the first few activation. Lost the first battle on a snake-eye and followed up Persian counter attacks destroyed the 'Useless' army. We restarted the game in less than half hour, wondering if we played it right....
The game gave me a sense of 'Barbarossa', where the initial Panzer Armies roamed unstoppable into the depths of Russia. Was there a possibility of a 'perfect' defensive setup? Probably not, the starting setup is as per the rules. So it seem inevitable, accounting average dice rolls on both sides that the Persians will Lose (most of the time at least) due to a massive +6 dice modifier towards the Macedonians. But we can prepare for it..... In terms of what cards are at hand, when to declare 'Admin' and where the retreating army should go. Ever wonder why gamers feel that playing Persians is 'hopeless' ( for lack of better vocabulary, sorry) and the Macedonians will always win? Is it the same feelings here in a Russian Front WW2 game? When did the Russians bite back? By squandering away their manpower? Bad strategic play? Better yet, blame it on the dice?
The game is very dependent on which APM is drawn next and who has what cards at the moment that 'drives the action along'. It is this uncertainty that players can catch each other off guard. (perhaps, it's because of these possibilities that make this game not-so do-able as a solitaire game.)
Did I over stretch Alexander's LOC? What if the next APM is not mine? Worst, if the next APM is Admin, causing the fatigue armies to recover! When to use the Assassin card? Does my opponent has a void card to it? How to bring the other Macedonian Armies up to cover Alexander's back? or how to build up the Persian armies so that every engagement would be an army more than 10 ASPs?
LOCs are, I believe, the key to this game. Those Macedonian Garrison will eventual be spread thin. When and where to put them becomes important to Provincial control. Placing them is not so easy as it may seem, as every APM that the Macedonian has need to be leading them further into Asia. Running around placing Garrison is something the Macedonians can ill afford. Not to mention that there are limited stock!
More than half the game will have players playing cards that the opponent will not have an answer to. This is where the cards become deadly. A 'bad weather' on a province behind a wondering army with enemy armies nearby is Not where you should be. Even winners suffer depletion in rank and fatigue status, couple with lost of LOC is in a bad position.
The strategic placement of Garrisons by the Persians could also create choke points that forces the Macedonians to lay siege. The slow-and-steady advancement of all 3 Macedonian armies is also a strategy to consider, though it depends greatly on the APMs. Dropping ASPs in cities are also worth considering. Memphis used to raise troops! Burn up the treasury by moving extra ( so that it does not fall to enemy hands fully loaded) are also tricks we use to hamper each other. 10 seem to be a magic number.
Engaging Alexander's army is key, to a point where his other armies will be weakened to shore his number 1 army up. Take back what's 'yours' is equally important. When to chose 'Admin' and how you can force your opponent to chose 'Admin' on their APMs! Is stacking 10 high on Garrison worth it? Or adding/dropping 2-3 ASPs could do the surrender trick? Has Darius been to Europe?
The naval aspect of the game is very important to both sides. Holding some coastal cities with Garrisons and ASPs should be considered. 15 boys on a fleet is very interesting. Opens up another option........ Please note on that.
One thing I do not quite get, is the barbarians. They don't disturb LOCs, they don't account for control of provinces...... I must admit, i have yet to explore further on this one.
This is one of those games that do not have a standard strategy. There is no operation edelweiss, no operation typhoon, no operation citadel. You take what comes and operate what is best to create a certainty. ( Eg, engage Alexander so that he rolls on Injury. Or hold Damascus with another army while Alexander heads for Egypt.)
So as one can see, there are so much to this game that makes it most enjoyable to BOTH sides that is really worth some gaming time spent. For those that has played it solitaire, or has quit prematurely, I would like to encourage you to try again on a FTF game session. You might enjoy it more, and see the beauty in this game.
Oh,... One last thing..... Get the errata and the 'discussed' answers..... You'll need them.
Thank you for this review. I've been on the fence a long time about this game with very little positive to hear about it. Now I'm interested again.
Wish gamers could try this game FTF for a few times with the errata. You will find it to be a fun, light and fast wargame.
Think this is the only game I ever played that promotes someone's death!
"Reading the rules and understanding them, is a game in itself. It's quite fascinating that sometimes a great game is rendered unplayable due to the convoluted rules being presented too briefly."
You realize, don't you, that this game was designed by Richard Berg?
Yap, it's a Berg game alright.
I'm not too concern who are the designers of games. I play them. That's about it.
Yap, it's a Berg game alright.
I'm not too concern who are the designers of games. I play them. That's about it.
Don't get me wrong, I love Berg's games. It's just that his rule books have a tendency to be somewhat "dense".