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Relive the colonial adventure with AFRICA 1880! Between 1880 and 1914 European nations fiercely raced to gain control of the "dark" continent. Each player represents a nation exploring and colonizing Africa. The success of their adventure, however, has more to do with intrigue in the luxurious parlors of the embassies than hacking a way through the jungle. Negotiating alliances and declaring war are what change the face of the world!
Average Rating: 3 in 4 reviews
For those fans of games like Diplomacy, who love backstabbing, alliance breaking and double-dealing this game is it. Unlike Diplomacy you don't have to find seven people who are willing to make a life commitment to finish the game. All players write their moves at the same time, but in this game countries are developed and alliances count in the end.
I would give this game five stars and say it should have been considered one of the best games of the year, but the fact is it is a rare breed of gamers who like this double-dealing and backstabbing. Some of my family refuse to play it (As they won't play me at Diplomacy or Risk). I love it!
Simple rules, great design, well made product. The problem is you'd have to stop by the Clinton White House to find people to play with you. If you're like me and have family members who value loyalty, honesty and sincerity they will not like this genre. If you love the art of double cross and sneaky gameplay, this game's a must.
'Africa 1880' is not a game that your game group is going to replay all night long. It is, however, not a bad game.
Briefly, each player plays the role of a European power trying to colonize Africa. Each turn a player may either send out an exploration party from his territory to an adjacent territory, or develop that territory. It takes from one to four turns to develop a territory completely, once all the development spaces are full it becomes a colony of the occupying nations, and is out of play for the rest of the game (a player may only send out exploration parties from a colony. Other players may not move into it). If only one nation is present in the territory he scores eight points for the colony. If multiple nations are present all must be allied before the territory is colonized. If the territory is colonized each nation present receives three points for the territory.
Also, each turn players declare war or alliance with every other nation in the game. If multiple nations are in a territory and war was declared, a nation's marker is removed from the territory if there are more nations in the territory who declared war on him than are allied with him.
By the third or fourth round the board is full of nation markers and the game becomes rather complex. It is very easy at this point to forget to declare a move or development with disasterous consequences for the rest of the game.
The game is played over eight rounds.
It is my experience that the players who get along the best do the best in 'Africa 1880'. Declaring war may give you short term gains but long-term grief. There's not as much back-stabbing and changing of alliances as you might expect for a Diplomacy-like game. Eight rounds of play is often not long enough to persuade someone you just screwed into an alliance, especially since there was likely no war declared until the third round at the earliest. The biggest drawback of Africa 1880 is that you are either completely at war or completely allied with the other nations. There is little chance to cooperate in one area against a mutually troublesome opponent and squabble in another area of the board.
All in all, I would describe 'Africa 1880' as interesting enough to play occasionally. It is not meaty enough to satisfy hard-core gamers, and may be too tedious for nongamers. If you find it on sale, buy it.
Africa 1880 does not impress you with the map. The playability is another matter. Tilsit Editions sometimes impresses with games, such as Courtisans of Versailles, and, sometimes not, Joan of Arc (still to be played correctly). For playability and diplomacy, Africa 1880 wins some kudos.
The rules seemed easy enough. Go find a sea territory and explore. From that base, you can explore another territory or start a settlement (develop). Most of the areas are marked on the African map with the number of settlements before a colony can be built. It soon becomes apparent the name of the game is colonies. Achieving a colony gives the player eight points, while sharing a colony with other imperial powers gives the player only three points.
With four players (up to six can play) everyone, the British, the Belgians, the Dutch, and the French, went their separate ways. The Dutch player attempted to colonize North Africa. The British started in the Cape Town region and steadily moved north. The Belgian player landed on the West African Coast, Dahomey, and moved inland. The French player started on the East African coast, Zanzibar, and moved toward the Belgian and French players. You can also place your initial pieces according to historical accuracy.
Then, the messiness began. The Dutch player created a colony at Lake Chad. The British player smartly outfoxed the French player and established a colony on Madagascar. The stalement continued for the next six turns with most territories being shared (alliances) to achieve colonies. You may have eight minutes of diplomacy in each turn, but we found that time excessive. Some areas took as much as four settlements before a colony could be declared.
During the game all players had to write three kinds of orders: (1)explore (E), (2)develop (D), and (3)land. Once all the sea areas were visited by at least one player, the landing orders disappeared. It took some concentration writing the orders next to the territory already visited. For example, if you wanted to visit Bengui from Cameroun (notice the French spellings?), you wrote the order 'explore' next to the slot for Cameroun, not Bengui.
In each turn you had to establish diplomatic relations, war or peace (alliance). If no orders were written on the back of the well-illustrated African map, you assumed 'peace.' If you declared war, then a count had to be made in the territory of how many war and peace imperial counters existed. If, for example, Holland and Britain declared war on France (all in the same area) and France had peace, then the French counter was removed from the area. France, in our game, declared peaceful relations with the other three countries and lost three explored territories because of that action. The player cannot take back the diplomatic orders, once written, even though incorrect. France learned a terrible lesson.
The game came down to the year, 1914, the last turn. The Dutch, instead of staying with their peaceful relations, as previously announced, stabbed Belgium in the back by tossing the Belgians out of Dakar, Algeria, Djibouti, and Alexandria. That ended the game with the final scores: Netherlands, 59; Britain, 44; Belgium, 39; and France, 17. I'm not sure the game should have come down to one back stabbing. To a degree, though, the game did portray the real world of the times.
As a group we did agree it is important to select the appropriate sea landing spots in the first turns. Certain players opined it was better to explore rather than settle more territories in the early rounds. As a well-rounded and vigorous game, I would rate the playability behind Machiavelli and Axis and Allies. It does, however, score in giving a flavor of the period, 1880-1914.
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