Friday, September 12, 2014

The Pitch: Archipelago

This evening at the Landing, I am bringing the latest addition to my Much-Bigger-Than-It-Should-Be-Given-The-Available-Space board game collection, Archipelago. Following is a pitch concerning what the game is about and how its played. Tonight will be my first night playing the game, so this pitch is based on what I already know of the game after a cover-to-cover reading of the rules and watching a few video reviews of the game. If you, Dear Reader, are familiar with Archipelago, and you see any omissions, inaccuracies, or clarifications you'd like to make, please let me know!

Archipelago, at first glance, is a pretty typical eurogame: it's a victory-point based game of worker placement and resource management. What differentiates Archipelago from those other games, however (and, in my opinion, what gives Archipelago an edge that could very well make it the best eurogame I've ever played, if it plays in practice like how it reads in theory), is that it has three small but very significant differences in how its played:

1. Resources are hidden, and can be traded on a player's turn. The game comes with these adorable little player screens that you hide your shit behind. This may not sound like a big deal right now, but keep reading...

2. Archipelago is semi-cooperative. There is only one winner; however, throughout the game, there are moments where all players must work together, or everyone will lose. So watching what everyone else does is a profound and important part of Archipelago, especially because...

3. Each player has a secret objective card. The objective card is broken into two halves; the top half shows one of the game's end conditions; the bottom half shows one of the scoring methods. Any time any player triggers any other player's end condition, the entire game ends. After that, every player scores themselves according to the criteria listed on every player's card. So, for example, if you notice one player seems to be hoarding stone and trading for it from everyone, maybe his card awards points for the most stone. So maybe you should start gathering stone, too! Or if another player seems like he's in the lead, but is randomly exploring more tiles...maybe his end condition is to deplete the supply of explorer tokens. So you know the end might be coming faster than everyone else thinks! So in Archipelago, you will only ever have a partial picture of the entire scope of the game. You get the rest by watching the other players, taking note of what they trade for, what actions they take, and how cooperative they are when crisis comes. That last one in particular is important, because:

4. (Bonus!) There's also the Separatist objective card, whose objective is to make everyone lose the game. If that happens, the Separatist wins, no victory points necessary! Archipelago can play up to five players, and there are 10 objective cards. So with a full table, there's a 50/50 chance that someone at the table is trying to ruin the game for everyone else. Who is it? How are they doing it? Do they really not have enough money to contribute to this round's crisis card, or do they not want to help because they want the rebellion level to rise, causing us all to lose? WAIT! It's you, isn't it! Why don't you have any money, I know you took a tax action last round...

...and so on. I thus describe the game as such: "If Terra Mystica and Settlers of Catan had a baby, but they gave the baby up for adoption and it was raised by Battlestar Galactica and A Game of Thrones: the Boardgame, THIS would be the game."

So, if you live in the D.C. area and want to see this trainwreck in action, swing on by the Landing at Crystal City tonight around 6pm!






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