Macht & Ohnmacht / Power & Weakness
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England in the 5th century: a time of great changes and the start of a new era. The Romans have abandoned England and the Saxons are conquering the island. Christianity is still weak and struggles against the old Celtic religion. Power and Weakness takes place in this time of uncertainty.
The players try to increase their influence and gain power in the provinces to finally win control over England. They use both conventional fighting and magic. Knights and magicians in their service are sent to the provinces to overthrow their opponents.
Naturally, the methods of magicians and knights are very different: whilst the knights turn to their swords and must slog overland from province to province, the magicians are not subject to the laws of time and space. They use their secret magical places and thus appear by surprise in a region which the opponent believes to be already secured for himself.
And so the struggle surges to and fro until one side attains power. The challenge in Power & Weakness is to keep abreast of the two very different stages of play: Magic and Sword, each with its own rules and specific tactics. Each player must decide whether to concentrate on the military or the magical field -- or to try to be equally good in both -- in order to attain power and gloat over the weakness of the opponent.
In my search for Power and Weakness (JKLM Games and FRED, 2007 – Andreas Steding), I noticed that it's the only game with the word "weakness" in the title. Yes, that's not an interesting fact, but really – the game gave off this air of incredible boredom that resonated from the medieval artwork to the pasty colors. The fact that it was a two-player area control game was intriguing (something fairly difficult to achieve), but it also looked immensely abstract.
Power & Weakness is exactly what it looks like - an abstracted two-player area control game. It manages to feel like two distinct games being played at the same time, with some fairly detailed rules (the poorly written rulebook doesn't help much). I enjoyed the game; but I think the audience will be small, as it is a game that appeals to mostly die-hard gamers and is more difficult to grasp than most games of this genre. The theme is a bit bland (read: non-existent), yet it is very unique, and luck plays a very small role.
The board is a map of England in the fifth century, divided up into different regions. A colored disk (red, yellow, blue, and green) is randomly placed face up in each region. Piles of markers in each players' colors (orange and white) are placed in a central stock (cubes for knights and disks for magicians). Players take three of each into their reserves, and the first round is ready to begin. Rounds alternate between a magic cycle and sword cycle. During each cycle, one of the types of units is considered the "active" unit (knights during the sword cycle, magicians during the magic cycle), and the other is the "passive' unit.
At the start of each round, each player receives two active pieces. A time token is turned over (from "4" to "8"), and that many gray cubes are placed on a sundial picture. Action tiles are turned over (the same number as that of gray cubes, plus three) face up near the top of the board. The player who currently has the fewest victory points go first (ties are determined randomly).
On a player's turn, they have two actions that they can take (on the first turn, a player has only one action).
The three tiles that can be auctioned off (which results in player's bidding secretly a number of their active pieces - the higher bidding player getting the tile but losing all of their bid pieces to the stock) are:
There are different tiles that a player can play on their turn. Some of them can instead be discarded to take two cubes and/or two magicians.
At the end of each turn, players count up their active regions (regions with more active pieces than passive pieces); and the player with more receives one victory point. Players then add their current victory points to the number of active regions they control. If this number meets or exceeds twelve, they win. Otherwise play goes to the next round.
Some comments on the game...
I enjoy Power and Weakness, because it's fascinating how the pieces in the two different cycles interact and affect one another. At the same time, the game feels like two separate duels, and players cannot completely ignore either one of them. The game is more complicated that I'm normally looking for when playing a two player game, and it's often difficult to tell who's winning until the end. All that being said, it is a satisfying experience to see one's plans succeed.
Yeah, that was a bunch of back-and-forth without any real conclusions, right? The best recommendation I can give you here is to read my rules summary and determine if it sounds interesting. Don't pick up Power & Weakness for simplicity or theme - neither is present. This is a game that will appeal to those who simply want to use game mechanics to outmaneuver each other.
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