In A Weighted Voting System With 5 Players There Are Review: Intrigue City

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Review: Intrigue City

With hundreds of new games coming out every year, it’s getting harder and harder to find new games that stand out from the crowd with original and attractive ideas which are also well executed and well presented. As time goes by, games that use a basic mechanic are replaced by games that try to mix many mechanics and concepts together in order to produce a new gameplay experience. Strategy games and in particular worker placement games usually don’t seem to make a very good pair with player interaction (although that is not a mechanic). Each player usually focuses on his own strategy and tries to achieve the various goals of the game, without much intervention in his plans from his opponents. Now, how about a strategy game in which opponents could ruin your plans big deal and not in a random way at all but through a well- thought plan? And what if this game also combined a handful of other interesting mechanics such as set collection, time-track, voting and area control? If that sounds intriguing enough, “Intrigue City” is a game that deserves your attention.

“Intrigue City” is the first game published by the new-founded Purple Games, a publishing company residing in Greece and focused in offering games with high components quality and interesting mechanics. The game takes place in the fantastic world of Core, in which the city of Aar is the dominating and only ruler. Six major guilds have control over the city, namely:

  • the Brotherhood of Steel
  • the Crescent Moon
  • the Dragon’s Blood
  • the Dreamers
  • the Eternal Seekers and
  • the Raven Lords

Each guild has its own colour, symbol and philosophy. He who controls the guilds, controls the whole world of Core. Players take the roles of members of the High Council, the Spider’s Lodge, who have the power to secretly influence each and every guild and ultimately the whole world. The goal of the game is to achieve the perfect amount of influence on the guilds, not too obvious nor too weak, called Equilibrium. Each player’s Influence on the different guilds is designated by Influence tokens which are placed on his personal board, which contains a depiction of a hexagonal table with six chairs, one for each guild. Influence tokens come in three colours of different values, white with a value of one, yellow with a value of two and red with a value of 3. Equilibrium is achieved by having influence tokens with a total value of exactly six on a guild. At the start of the game, players take 3 sets of influence tokens and place them on 3 different guilds of their choice on their player boards. By adding, removing or moving influence tokens on their board, during the game, players try to achieve Equilibrium in as many guilds they can. Unfortunately, opponents can and will also interact with your board by adding, removing or moving tokens. This is achieved through a worker placement mechanism. Each player has two action tokens to place each round. One of them (black) is offensive and is placed in order to interact with an opponent’s board and the other one (gray) is defensive, used to promote the player’s plans by interacting with his own board.

The main game board holds the positions of the various actions a player can perform during his turn. However and geniously thought this is a modular board. No predefined actions exist on it except two. All other available actions are randomly chosen during setup and can be basic or advanced actions. Moreover the number of available actions depends on the number of players. All players will have the opportunity to place their “defensive”, grey token as well the “offensive” black one in any action space, as long as it is not already occupied. Such an action always includes a target guild on a player’s board, a specific value of influence token and the kind of interaction such as add, remove or move. For example a basic action would be: “Add a red influence token on a specific guild on a player’s board”. Advanced actions are more powerful and enable players to add/remove/move influence tokens to/from 2 guilds on a board.

Another interesting mechanic is that of the time-track. The game takes place through 4 Eras, each one consisting of two rounds. During each round players will play their 2 action tokens but not at the same turn. Each action space on the board, grants, apart from the specified action, a specific number of intrigue points which are used to promote the player’s token on the intrigue counter, found around the main game board. This track is important because it determines the order of play using the time-track mechanic. The player who is further ahead on the influence track get’s to play last which is a great advantage given the constant changes on the players’ boards. Getting to play last can assure that your precious and hard-earned Equilibrium will not be ruined by other players or, if keeping for your last action the offensive token, the opponent you will attack won’t have time to fix his board until the end of the round. However there is also a disadvantage to play last, in that you will have very few options as to where to place your remaining token. Well, one can not have it all I guess.

At the end of each round, players that managed to gain and maintain Equilibrium in a guild or more, take Equilibrium cards of the corresponding guild. These cards are the main source of victory points at the end of the game but you can’t just rely on that. The value of these cards is not predetermined but is formed as game progresses through voting that takes place at the end of each era, that is every 2 rounds. Each player has his own guild power deck with cards used specifically for the voting process. In an Era change round, players draw 3 guild cards from this deck and have the opportunity to vote for one guild, so that its power will increase and so will the value of Equilibrium cards of that guild each player has. That means that your memory will be tested too in this game, as you will have to remember what cards other players have earned and not accidentally boost rather than hinder their plans. The results of voting during the last 2 rounds is not revealed until the end of the game which makes the game even more fascinating.

Another important element of the game, are the favor cards that one acquires whenever placing his gray “defensive” token. By influencing a guild, the player gains its favor, in the form of a favor card which is unique for every guild. These cards form a pile for each guild, placed next to the board and have two different sides, a minor and a major favor side. If Equilibrium is gained by taking the action, the player takes the card from its light (stronger) side. These cards can be used throughout the game at any time, to gain significant bonuses or hurt opponents more. For example a card may give the ability to place tokens on an action space already occupied or when attacking a player’s guild, interact with this guild on your own board too.

Scoring occurs after the end of the 4rth Era. The player further ahead on the intrigue track, wins the Schemer card and now the intrigue counter is used as a power points counter. Players are awarded power points for the following:

  • the number of Equilibrium cards they have gained multiplied by the power value of each guild
  • the player who has the “Schemer” card takes 3 points
  • for each unused major favor card, players gain 1 point
  • the player with the biggest variety in equilibrium cards gains 5 points
  • any player with a total number of influence tokens on his board of exactly 36, gains 5 points

Let’s now see how “Intrigue City” scores in our usual scoring categories:

Components:

Components of Intrigue City have a quality that will satisfy the needs of the game without offering something special. All tokens are made of wood and cards of high quality cardboard. Influence tokens have the usual cube shape. Graphic design of the game has a medieval feel which fits well the fantasy theme. There is no text on cards, which makes the game language independent and more relaxing for players who don’t like to read texts while playing. Action space symbols will be a bit confusing at first as it is not always clear what each space does. The player boards have a special place on the left where valuable game help is given. We can see there all the different ways tokens can be combined to achieve Equilibrium as well as what does count towards scoring at the end (an important reminder indeed). 7/10

Gameplay:

Intrigue City has tight and very well-balanced gameplay. There are many things to consider while playing and the win will never come easily. Luck doesn’t play any part in this game except maybe the cards you draw when voting. Gaining Equilibrium will prove a rather easy task but maintaining it until the end of the round will be much more tricky. The fact that Equilibrium can be achieved in many different ways (different combination of influence tokens) makes the game feel like a constant puzzle with many solutions but also very fragile. Players will have to constantly make important decisions such as: “what action token to play first, the grey or the black?”, “who shall I attack?”, “should I choose the action that suits me even if it grants few influence points or should I go for that neutral action that will beam me to the first place on the influence track and play it somewhat safe?”.

What I mostly love about the game is player interaction which is a major fun factor and many times neglected, especially in strategy games. Friendships may be tested, alliances may be built but it’s really up to the players to adjust the game to their gaming style needs and mood of the moment. You could as well choose to help your opponents with your “attacking” move just for the sake of it if you feel like it and cooperate for the common good and big scoring (as long as they agree to do the same of course). Moreover, in this game you are not going to just sit there, getting a bit bored, while waiting for your turn as in many strategy games. There is always so much going on and everything concerns you. Opponents may attack you out of the blue, so you have to think how to get back your equilibrium. They may form equilibriums of their own,so must think if they are worth attacking. In fact, sometimes you will get too much information and it will be difficult to set priorities.

Another positive element of the game is how surprisingly good it can be played with any number of players. Four or five players usually seems the ideal number for most not 2-player games but Intrigue City just stays intriguing when played by only as few as two players. There are special rules for this situation, with fewer action spaces available and a few more tricks. In this case, you know that you will be the only target of attacks and the game gets as strategic as one can get, feeling more like a game of chess.

All in all Intrigue City is a deep and well-thought game in every aspect with a gameplay that will absorb you and make you want to play again and again. 9/10

Learning Curve:

Intrigue City has a lot of rules and many things to grasp until you feel comfortable with it. However designers did a very good job in trying to introduce players slowly to the complexity of the game. There is a family version that can be played without the favor cards. There are also options for a quicker game and for advanced play when players have fully explored the game and would like more challenges. So, there seems to be something for everyone concerning how to approach this game at first contact but also later on. The rulebook also gets thumbs up, as it manages to explain everything in great detail and offers many gameplay examples that will leave nothing in doubt. 8/10

Theme:

The context of the game, although briefly explained in the rulebook, will probably not stay a lot in your mind as it not present in most aspects of the gameplay. Glimpses of the theme are there for anyone who will seek them out. For example, the value of the influence tokens, represents the intensity of the action taken e.g. a white token represents a subtle action such as manipulation whereas a red token represents a much stronger action that draws attention such as blackmailing a member of a guild. Abilities of the guilds, depicted on their favor cards, don’t succeed in giving them a unique feel and differentiating them enough from each other but that’s not really a problem. Players do get immersed in the world of the game, but mostly through its mechanics and not the theme. 6/10

Replayability:

There are so many things to explore while playing a game of Intrigue City, for example:

  • how to best manipulate the influence counter
  • in what order to play the action tokens
  • the many different ways to achieve Equilibrium
  • the way to setup your starting influence tokens

The idea of having random actions available in each game guarantees replayability as no two games will be exactly the same. Moreover even more actions can be made available through expansions. The first expansion “Intrigue City: The Bank Conspiracy” has already been published offering 5 new advanced action cards and a new type of card. Different ways to achieve equilibrium makes the game exciting and will urge you to want to play again in order to try different strategies. 8/10

Fun:

This game is huge fun, although it needs meticulous thinking and sometimes may also cause Analysis-Paralysis syndrome through the many possibilities it offers. Strategy games usually have a more subtle and “soft” way to interact with other players but in “Intrigue City” that’s not the case. Interaction is absolutely direct. “I ruin your Equilibrium. Period”. Friends may get to hate you but you will enjoy every minute you have the opportunity to interact with their boards and screw their plans. In fact you may enjoy it even more than do something on your own board. That’s the definition of fun in my opinion. 8/10

Final Verdict: Upon playing this game, I was totally absorbed by it. Time flew by so quickly and I was always on the edge of my seat, wondering what’s the best action to take and always wishing my opponents won’t attack me, which of course was inevitable whenever I was doing well. Judging by all the tiny details of gameplay, it’s clearly seen that designers have spent a lot of time to fine tune the game and left nothing to luck, added nothing just for the sake of it. Every single rule builds up to the general feeling of a tight gameplay and a game that is also very entertaining. Intrigue is certainly there for those who seek it!

A special note must be made regarding the printing process of the game. The publishing company “Purple Games”, decided not to print the game in a low-cost country abroad but choose a local printing unit which supports people in need instead. More specifically, the game is being printed at KETHEA’s (Therapy Center for Dependent Individuals) Schema+Chroma printing unit which is located in Sindos, Thessaloniki, Greece. The unit is fully equipped for DTP, bookbinding and printing with its own studio and creative and publications departments and it employs professionals and graduates of its therapeutic programmes.The fact that such a small company, just making its first steps in the industry in difficult times and in a country that holds many uncertainties, made this move, should stand as an example for large game companies and be an inspiration for everyone of us. If you too want to support the therapeutic programmes of KETHEA,you can find more about its printing unit here. A very promising start for Purple Games indeed.

Pros:

  • rich gameplay
  • direct player interaction
  • many variants to play
  • equally good for any number of players

Cons:

  • theme not ideally supported by gameplay

Recommended for: Gamers who like to be challenged, strategy game lovers

According to our scoring system, scoring categories have different weights. Components have 15% weight, Gameplay 35%, Learning curve 5%, Theme 5%, Replayability 25%, Fun 15%. According to this system and the above scoring in each category, overall weighted scoring of the game is:

Overall: 8.10

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