Thursday, April 28, 2011

"we shall have to teach perfidious albion a lesson! - the scarlet pimpernel

albion is a game that i picked up during a tanga special back when tanga still ran daily game specials, and i'm pretty glad that i did.

created by klaus-jurgen wrede (the same game designer that created carcassonne) and distributed by rio grande games, albion is a game of territory building, area control and influence, and worker placement. the basic idea is that each player represents an emissary from the roman empire looking to conquer and settle the fair isle of albion (britain for those of you who may not be familiar with one of its proto-celtic names).

the trick to albion is to balance expansion of your settlements and fortresses with the build up and collection of existing and new resources. meanwhile each territory has native picts that may be friendly or hostile. expand too fast and you may find yourself surrounded on all sides by angry naked aboriginal brits painted blue.

starting in southeast britain, each player automatically starts with two resources (fish and lumber). as you progress north, there's opportunity to begin quarrying stone and mining gold. both of which will be needed to improve your existing settlements and fortresses. settlements allow you to recruit legionnaires (to protect your territories from hostile picts) or settlers which allow you to build multiple times a turn. fortresses increase the speed at which your legionnaires and settlers can advance.

each turn, a player can either move and build, or collect resources. so once the rules are learned the game moves pretty quickly. 

i felt pretty confident about my expansion and conquest, but in the end, alan was the winner of the game with some savvy movement, a clever fortress placement (for some speed at the end of the game), and the fact that he managed his resources better than i did.

i like albion a lot, though i feel that the hostile native/angry pict mechanic doesn't pose enough of a threat.  though to be completely honest, they are more of a spoiler for the players rather than an objective all their own. what really surprises me is that albion is rated pretty low on boardgamegeek. the rules are pretty tight, simple, yet elegant. the components are all of good quality, and everyone i've ever played it with like it and would consider owning it. it's just one of those games that fell through the cracks.

if you get the opportunity, give it a try. i bet you like it too.

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