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In the role of a medieval prince, you try to attain success with the correct mixture of diplomatic, economic and strategic decisions. Extend your possessions, lend municipal rights, and gain citizens. Win additional areas by marriage, and influence the game by the skillful play of the cards on your page... All your actions have direct effects on your prestige, which is an important key to the victory. In each generation a new king is selected, by whom the fate of the country influenced for this round. Only the most powerful ruler is to be crowned the emperor!
I was looking at the featured game of the day and was suprised to notice that I haven't written a review of this game yet. I purchased this game about a year ago and was very happy I did.
A note of warning is that this game requires a lot of translation. It is not language neutral. For those of you who found Die Sternenfahrer von Catan to be annoying for this reason, consider yourselves warned. Fortunately, a lot of translation work has been done for you at the Gaming Dumpster, which I found using the Funagain Gameweb search engine.
Regardless, the game itself is very involved and the first playing will take a good three hours. So... for those of you willing to invest your time, what do you get?
I belive that Anno 1452 is a very underated game with classic elements of American gaming. You actually are able to attack other players directly! The game play is very detailed, methodical, rich, calculating and blended. This is a game that compares very favorably to El Grande and Serenissima.
Do yourself a favor and research this game a little bit on the net. The sparkling reviews that you'll find are no lies. This is a spectacular game!
So, why only four stars? The amount of translation can be annoying and the bookkeeping is sometimes tedious, so I mark it down one star for that reason.
And you thought that Die Handler had a ton of stuff to do and keep track of! Just wait until you try this one! Anno 1452 is another one of those "kitchen sink" games that has everything in it, and in this case still works remarkably well. The players represent medieval German princes vying for "imperial dignity" (whatever that is) throughout the provinces of Germany by diplomatic, economic, and strategic means. The components are top notch, but be forewarned: Initially, much time is spent referring to the translations of the multitude of cards, and making your own player aid chart that summarizes the actions is near essential. But, even with these headaches, this is a superb game.
Each epoch (turn) can last up to three rounds, and within each round you have a choice of doing only one of eight different actions! These include: Buy one estate, settle citizens, attack, increase an estate into a city, get married (to obtain the valuable dowry, of course), earn a title, inherit land, or do a special action. Each of these can contribute to winning, so plotting your course to victory is quite varied. At the end of each epoch, an evaluation round is performed to receive income, adjust prestige, and determine who is to be King for the next epoch. Just keeping track of who is in the lead (so you can beat on him) can be challenging. All in all, it is this availability of diverse strategies that is the joy of the game.
For a light semblance of playing History of the World or Age of Renaissance with a heavier emphasis on internal growth over expansion, Anno 1452 provides everything it proposes to do. Highly recommended.
Note: A flaw in game play can occur if a player intentionally positions himself to be King on a regular basis. (Being King provides incredible benefits, and is designed as a balancing mechanism for players who are behind.) Our group adopted the rule that if a player is crowned King on consecutive epochs, that player does NOT gain the additional prestige, cards, or soldiers, but only retains any soldiers not used in his previous epoch and can still choose his turn order.
Become king for a day or more in this action-packed game of continuing interest and uncertainty. Nine epochs last from one to three rounds, determined by die rolls, and you have only one action per round. Feeling edgy already? The tension mounts as the options race through your mind. Should you introduce an Estate, hoping to gain a majority in a province? Settle citizens for defense? Play an Action Card? Marry a fussy Teutonic lady whose requirements are very precise? Or start a battle to the death with an adjacent Estate? All these options contribute toward Victory Points. From the third epoch on, an interesting complication is added to these vexing choices: The player with fewest Estates becomes king and gains a mercenary army that can wreak havoc on enemies, who now pray for a one-round epoch. You'll be certain to enjoy this turbulent trip back in time to medieval Germany.
Piatnik have been on the verge of something special for some time. They had a flurry of excellence in the mid-90s with Palermo and two previous Kodys designs, Insider and the outstanding Jewelenzauber, but have fallen short in recent times, although we enjoyed both the Boat Race and Lighthouse games.
Anno 1452 represents a significant change from Piatnik's recent diet of family fare. In fact, it feels like Francis Tresham by way of Wolfgang Kramer. Remarkably, it plays in a couple of hours (or less, if a reduced scenario is selected).
The game has some vague historical background, but this is irrelevant as regards gameplay. The Grand Prize is achieved by acquiring Victory Points via several well-worn game devices, notably Prestige Points, land acquisition and flourishing citizens. Although little here is particularly original, the whole does represent a gamut of gameplay in which fundamental choices result in much hand wringing.
The gameboard represents the Principalities of Germany in the middle ages, and features Time and Prestige Tracks, the latter a combination of the most and fewest Principalities, Cities, Citizens and Estates, whilst the former records the number of action rounds per year.
Anno 1452 starts ``Interregnum'' (without a King). Players complete one of four possible actions before the dice are rolled (two in the first phase, three in the second) to determine whether additional rounds are required.
The four possible actions are:
You will, of course, want to do all of the above and more each turn, and will hope that there is more than a single action round per Time Phase, particularly if you have been crowned King (more in a mo). And because choices are limited, each turn comes around pretty rapidly, which I always deem a good sign.
If the above seems straightforward, there is sufficient flavour in the card descriptions and excellent graphics to immerse players. Hold-ups will only occur when card descriptions are being analyzed by non-German speakers, but even then delays will be minimal given the thorough translation sheets included.
I understand that Anno 1452 underwent extensive playtesting before release, to the extent that a ``finished'' copy was available at Spiel 98, where the professional critics had their say. They determined that the King was all powerful and could cause an imbalance.
Being unaware of previous incarnations, I can only tell you that whilst the King, or, more specifically his troops, can cause havoc, the fact that you only inherit the title when behind on the Estate count seems a perceptive and satisfactory embellishment. Usually, everyone becomes King at some point in the game, but the initial booty allocated -- Prestige Points, additional Action Cards, Soldiers and the ability to attack any Estate certainly provides a significant advantage. I can report, though, that a certain unique gaming talent (modesty prevents me naming him) has won Anno a couple of times without serious recourse to the King's trappings.
At the completion of each time line (one, two or three Action Rounds), an Evaluation phase is enacted. Cards are replenished, income is paid, trades are discussed, Prestige Points are allocated and there is then a new Coronation, whereby the player with fewest Estate markers lords it over the rest next turn. There is a sinister card (the anti-King) which must be played immediately and which does much to reduce the King's powers, immediately removing half of his remaining forces.
A final Evaluation Round completes the game, but in this instance just income and Prestige Points are appraised. I haven't got a clue as to why this is not simply doubled in the previous phase, but so be it. Victory points are then awarded for cash, Estates, Citizens (a particularly valuable source if you've managed to keep out of the wars), Cities and Principality cards (signifying control). This has not proved as tedious as it sounds, but it is difficult to keep tabs on the most likely winner, therefore precluding wholesale ``Kingmaker'' tactics (or ``Get The B---'' as it's known within our throng).
There have been several outstanding ``conquest'' games in recent years, and our group will always relish the chance to play Löwenherz, Rheingold, El Grande, Euphrat & Tigris and the like. Until we find some insurmountable problems, Anno 1452 becomes a redoubtable member of that club.