Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Britannia at PrezCon: My Stint as Yellow

Rome’s high water mark in the game….

I drew the table with the guy that had won many, many tournaments. When I walked over, it soon came out that I had never played before. But my color was yellow… arguably the worst set of factions for the beginning player. (You start with the Romans… who are not only extremely influential in the opening turns, but who also break every single rule in the game!) The guys were a little flummoxed, but soon got down to business showing me the ropes. This was the exact same treatment I’d gotten last year when I blundered into the tournament for The Kaiser’s Pirates… but given the length and complexity of Britannia, I was still surprised at just how far they went to make me feel welcome.

The first moves were pretty chaotic to me. I blitzed around the board taking over territories and building castles. Red and Green very quickly offered to submit to me and I ended up accepting. Green’s player explained that it was a very common agreement, so I went along with it. The die rolls didn’t go so well for some of my battles, but I insisted on playing aggressively in spite of the other players’ attempts to convince me that this was not in my interests. I lost several Roman units to Blue and he collected them greedily so that he could score points for them.

The Scots’ high water mark in the game.

For several turns, Red and Green would ask me how many babies they could have. This rule made no sense to me at the time. I’d ask… “well, what can you do for me?” They’d always say, “nothing.” So I’d make them have whatever made them weakest. This was supposedly not the “correct” decision on my part in terms of my raw self interests… but I’ve honestly had it with playing games where I do things for opposing factions which in turn have zero interest in ever doing anything for me. You tell me up front that you won’t help me later on, then you can forget even trivial favors. I couldn’t be sure, but I think I may have thrown the game out of their usual opening patterns, which suited me fine considering how experienced these opponents were. On the other hand, I screwed up the game by making it so that we’d all score less than average– which would have consequences when scores were used to determine who went on to the finals.

Before long, the tides of history changed and I was running to the hills with my Romans. Castles were burnt left and right. Soon the killer armies were replaced with the Romano-British, who weren’t good for much. King Arthur and some Cavalry showed up… but the entire table persuaded me not to use them. If I came out from the rough terrain that was sheltering me, then I would be vulnerable… and it would be worth someone’s time to come pick me off for the extra points that they would get out of it.

The Dubliners’ high water mark in the game….

The Scots came onto the board and noodled around. They couldn’t do too much and seemed to have trouble on all sides. I got another leader for them at some point, but I don’t think I could really use him for much because of the “King Arthur effect.” If I put him outside of the rough areas, he’d be too vulnerable to counterattacks.

The middle part of the game was a bit of a drag. I couldn’t seem to really do anything for a long time. However, I did have time to figure out the scoring notes that were in front of me. My next couple of factions would get lots of points for going into certain territories. I studied the board so I could prepare my attacks. York was my prime destination… for both of them!

The Norwegian invasion….

Now… before I go into that, I have to explain that in the early stages I really seemed to pick on Blue slightly worse than the other players. One of my stupidly aggressive moves might have set him back somehow. Now… I don’t know if it was all that important, but I did make a point to throw him a bone latter on to try to make up for it. That maybe didn’t matter, but Blue took a shine to me for some reason. At one point he declared how much he liked how I was handling myself– listening to everyone and then sort of boldly pushing forward with my own decision without taking up too much time. He may even have just liked that I was clearly enjoying one of his favorite games. Or maybe he just wanted to see a top player go down in flames just on principle… who knows! But at some point, Blue started looking out for me on the board.

The Norwegians killed a king!

Green and Red… I could not really understand what they were doing. The factors influencing their play came down to racking up points based on how the territories were marked on their scoring guides. But they also had to measure how far to push things. If they overextended themselves, they would get eaten up. They had dozens of games that they could recall for how things would turn out if they did certain things. And they had to play every turn thinking about five moves down the road….

My last two factions were not like that at all. There wasn’t a whole lot of finesse to them. They both just boiled down to heading to York and taking as many of my other of their high scoring territories in the process. At this point of the game I could declare my moves mostly on my own. Almost every turn, Red and Green would explain something to help me tighten up my position or avoid waste. Sometimes this was clearly to do with something in their interest, but many times I had the advantage of getting the real assistance of sort of a Britannia mass mind.

My Dubliners came on the board and had a string of good die rolls in their favor. I had every one of their counters on the board and was getting every point I could out of them, nearly. Red looked at them and said it was the best Dubliner position that he’d ever seen.

A very famous battle.

My Norwegians came on the board and it was very similar. They took York and all of their high scoring territories. Other players could have come after me, but I doubt they would have gotten a lot of points for doing so. They were more concerned about holding on to what they had. A king did a large attack nearby my Norwegians and then ended up taking a surprising amount of losses to his armies. My Norwegian king was in position to take him out… and did so successfully. This was a very lucky turn of events for me.

In the final stages of the game, Blue went on a killing spree, taking on Red in many, many battles. He rolled well in several and would scream and yell every time he got a “6.” Red, in turn, became more interested in recapitulating history than in maximizing his score. Green… I never quite understood how he’d had to play for the entire game, but he continued on doing the “patient” thing right up to the end, even if he couldn’t ever quite get rid of the Irish.

Anyway, the final score was tallied and… I’d won! Everyone was pretty impressed that I “beat” one of the top Britannia players in his own game, but now you know how that could have happened!! I actually could have played in the finals if I didn’t have to leave so early on Saturday…! (I don’t expect to make as good a showing in my next game. I wonder what color I’ll draw?)

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4 responses to “Britannia at PrezCon: My Stint as Yellow

  1. lewpuls March 4, 2014 at 7:44 am

    Brit is one of those games where no one, in his first game, can possibly see all the factors that (ought to) affect his moves. I recall another person, at WBC, playing yellow in his first game. He did poorly and then said he didn’t see what he could have done to do better. There was LOTS, and the veteran players explained some of them to him. This is in contrast to the typical “modern” game, which is usually designed so that by the time a player has finished one game, he (thinks he) understands what he needs to do to win. Transparent games, I call them. Brit and many older games are not designed with such Instant Gratification in mind.

    • jeffro March 4, 2014 at 10:07 am

      Even the shorter and simpler games require discipline for tournament play. I wiped out early in games I thought I was familiar with due to blunders…. Doh! At any rate, I wouldn’t be too quick to judge a top 100 hobby game that sees as much table time as this particular title.

  2. Alex March 5, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    It seems odd that they would change purple to yellow at the same time they would change the map from green to yellow.

    A bad start for purple(yellow) or an unlucky final two turns for blue can make for a pretty miserable game for whomever is playing them. I’ve honestly not seen purple have many bad starts, but mostly because of the roman bonus. Still, not even that can overcome a streak of horribly bad luck.

    • lewpuls March 5, 2014 at 6:13 pm

      I told them (FFG), let’s not have green pieces on a green map. So they made a yellow map, but changed the purple pieces to yellow. Go figure.

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