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There is no doubt about it - out of my collection of nearly 100 board games, this one is among my all-time favorites. Unfortunately the basic game is only for 4 players, but the expansions take care of that problem.
Borderlands is somewhat like the Settlers of Catan, with the territories, resource development and so on, but when you add the cutthroat element, the negotiations and the inevitable backstabbing, you get an absolutely wonderful game...provided of course that the players are not put off by a little bit of backstabbing.
Go and buy this one...or wait and hope that someone, somewhere will re-release it.
This was a great game. Too bad I only played the 'origanal' tabletop version once. But for over 15 years I have been playing the computer version, 'Lords of Conquest' on my old tired, but still working, Commodore 64. The computer versions incorperates the expansions (ships, etc.) and also has a nice map generator and editor so you can make unlimited maps to enjoy. Though, the computer gets really old to play against after awhile. (You can only play against one computer player, or up to 4 total human players.) I would love to once again play this on the tabletop.
True to form that Eon games were before their time, this came out over 10 years before Settlers of Catan. SoC is a watered down version of Borderlands, lacking the cutthroat nature and negotiations involved. Borderlands is also 100% pure strategy. All the possibilities are before your eyes and it's up to you to trade and conquor your way to victory. It also fits other criteria of an excellent game ... easy to learn, fits on a regular table, and plays in about 2-3 hours.
Many moons ago when Eon Products was publishing games such as Quirks, Darkover, Hoax, Runes and their most celebrated product,Cosmic Encounter, I reviewed Borderlands. Eon Products published a small newletter on their games and I wrote in to the editor. I stated at the time that I owned every game that SPI, Avalon Hill and GDW had on the market, and I consider Borderlands the best. Jack Kittredge, Peter Olotka and Bill Eberle designed a masterpiece here and it's disapearance from the game market is in my mind a travesty.
I was extremely surprised to see Borderlands for sale at Funagain and thought for a fleeting moment that some insightful game company had finally decided to re-publish this grossly unrecognized jewel. However, upon seeing the price I realized this was an offer of a collectible item that will be paid only by those who were around when this classic hit the market, (which was for a very short time).
Borderlands was created by the brilliant team of game designers who created Cosmic Encounter and, like that highly-esteemed classic, was ahead of its time. It is relatively unknown by most gamers new to gaming as it was published shortly before Eon Products went out of business, hence a relatively limited print run. Only Germany recognized its brilliance and later published a less aggressive, more family-oriented version of it called Settlers of Catan. If Eon had been able to publish this game with high quality components, such as those in Axis & Allies or Risk, I suspect Borderlands would be one of the highest selling games in today's market. Unfortunately all components are cardboard counters.
Borderlands is one of the few strategy board games that can claim a zero-luck element. Strategy and diplomacy are needed in about equal measures, though a good strategist can still pull off a win when other players gang up on him/her. Borderlands introduced such concepts as rotating the lead player each turn, collecting and trading resources to build a civilazation, and a diceless combat system. Another innovative and attractive component to Borderlands is that the goal is to be the first to complete three cities, rather than eliminating other players. Thus, other players are not booted out early on and forced to sit around for the rest of the evening watching the finalists wrap things up.
Borderlands is extremely easy to learn (a six-page rule book in large print) but will take multiple playings to master the potential strategies. Play time is usually under three hours and rarely drags on (since losing players can usually cling to hope if their diplomatic abilities are strong enough).
Eon originally published the game with two expansion sets. However, the first one should be included as part of the basic game for a better balance, adding warships so that players can make coastal attacks. Otherwise riverboats become far too important and tend to clog up the riverways. It also adds islands and pieces for a fifth player. The second expansion adds considerable fun for the advanced player and pieces for a sixth player, though six-player games are not recommended - they tend to drag and the board becomes far too cluttered.
I still have an unopened copy of Borderlands squirreled away in my closet as a backup to my ragged, opened edition. However, I've been thinking about sending it off to an open-minded publisher such as Rio Grande or Hasbro/Avalon Hill in hopes of convincing them to re-publish this long-lost treasure. In the meantime I will have to be satisfied substituting the cardboard components with Risk pieces and using the city markers from Settlers of Catan.