I had a chance to play Alex’s latest new game, Nations, over the weekend.  Interesting game, and one I enjoyed more than I would have guessed.

After playing it, I did a bit of reading on BGG.  Quite a mixed bag of reactions to it.  Also, it seems that this game initially attempted to retail for $100.  But I saw folks selling their copies for <$30.  I was tempted to buy one myself.  But I decided I should play Alex’s copy a few more times before I spring.

So what did I like?  A number of things, actually.  I enjoyed how everyone recruits the cards most interesting to themselves.  A big array of cards are on display.  You can go for domestic improvements or a more powerful military.  Each card choice is distinct, there are no duplicates, so your culture will be unique as you craft it.  Player interaction is present – you affect other players with card selection priority and with the period war.

I enjoyed balancing my needs for building materials, food, gold and additional workers.  The game imposes a wide-ranging array of events.  Each epoch will have two events – but the deck they are drawn from is pretty thick – so each game will have different demands.  The theme is carried off nicely with lots of interesting cards.  You can recruit a leader, whose special ability will help in varying ways.  You can establish up to two colonies, and you can build wonders.

The game did take a while to play.  I’d guess it took 3+ hours with explanation.  This could speed up though, we were playing late at night, and we were all newbies.  The biggest pressure I noticed was the threat of war.  There is almost always going to be a war each round.  And there is always going to be at least one player who goes after a strong military force.  The war mechanism is abstracted – there is no board, so you never have to worry about invasion.  But as a weaker military force, you will be punished if the strongest player forces the war to happen.  Further, if you want to claim the best colonies, you will want a strong military.  So the game encourages a stout devotion to military strength.

Overall, there are lots of balls to keep in the air.  Yet each player’s turn is relatively brisk.  I was impressed.  I look forward to a second play of Nations.


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