Kardinal & König
original German edition of Web of Power / China
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Europe, the center of power in the 12th century, is the stage for political intrigue. Clerical orders vie to control that power by influencing the cardinals and kings who hold the power. By building cloisters in the courts of kings, the orders try to increase their influence. Each order plots in the ecclesiastic and secular areas to weave a web of power to control the cardinals and kings of Europe.
Although very different from Chess and Checkers this game has the same sort of abstract, deep gameplaying characteristics. Since there are not many games like that which play with 3 or more players this is an interesting game. There are many finesses in this game that only come out after a couple of games which make that the game becomes more fun the more you play it, it also means that there is no such thing as 'beginners luck' in this game. The more experienced you get with the game the better you will score.
There is also an extension to this game called 'The Vatican', it is not for sale because it exists of only one extra board, you can download it for free and print it out on plain paper.
In less than an hour, players will struggle for control for Middle Ages Europe. A set of simple rules propel players into a stunning variety of situations. Definitely not detailed but certainly dynamic. The bottom line of Web of Power is balance. While perhaps not the boisterious of games, Web packs alot of tension into a small space. A compelling basic board with simple and understandable pieces, the game creates a light speed absract version of Risk. It is a political game in its very essence. This is an ideal game for passing the casual gamer into the world of 'German' games. Easy to explain, difficult to master, Web of Power is a game I will never tire of. The fastest of quick dense modern strategy games.
I had to come to the defence of one of our group's favourite games. The previous few reviews stated that the game was abstract, lacking in strategy and has a short shelf life. Not true.
A game is not abstract because of a flimsy theme. WoP is yet another straightforward strategy game with a dubious theme. As is El Grande, Medieval Merchant, et al. If anthing, all German game themes are abstract - but not the game itself.
Considering a game is usually over in 40 minutes, there are numerous strategies you can pursue to win. I have seen players win without placing a councillor and I have seen players leap from last to first purely on scoring all their councillors. If you are not systematic you do not win.
As for shelf life, our group has played this for over a year and it is rare that WoP does not get a run each meeting. It is so quick, enjoyable and fun (dry? get out of here) that it makes the perfect filler.
Considerations should also be given to the clever scoring system, relatively low cost of the game and the ability of new players to get into the game easily and quickly.
A very good game that caught our attentions immediately and has kept it.
Last year's fast-paced Best Family Strategy game beckons us again to fight for influence in Central Europe. Players discard cards from their hands to place cloisters, or advisers, in a single country. Whoever has the most cloisters in a country scores the total number of cloisters there, but, intriguingly, anyone with at least one cloister present scores the number of cloisters of the player with the next highest count! A majority of advisers in a pair of allied countries scores their total number. Highest total after two rounds wins. Schacht's Web of Power requires a lot of difficult decisions in a mere hour of play.
Before you lies a map of central Europe, ripe for influence and political intrigue, and fraught with a perplexing plethora of choices to deal with in less than an hour of play. Your hand of three cards enables you to place one or two cloisters, or advisors, in a single country. You can score in many ways. For example, if you have at least one cloister in a country, you score the number of cloisters of the person with the next highest count. Whoever has the most cloisters in a country scores the total number there. Also, a chain of at least four cloisters scores the number of cloisters in it. Finally, a majority of advisors in pairs of allied countries score the total number of advisors in their respective countries. You have restrictions, too: (1) A country cannot have more advisors than there are cloisters in any one color, and (2) you can only place one cloister in an empty country. Most points from two scoring rounds wins. The game involves plenty of knotty decisions that will keep you thoroughly wrapped up in the Web of Power.
The first thing to be made clear is that this game has nothing to do cardinals or kings. It is simply a very lightly themed abstract game of placement that happens to be played on a map showing part of medieval Europe. The theme starts and ends with the use of the map and the names for the pieces. That said, the good news is that it is a rather good abstract game of placement, which crams an impressive amount of interesting play into a short space of time. It is also a welcome addition to the rather thin ranks of games that are not merely playable with three but probably at their best with three.
The map shows nine of the countries, duchies and principalities of medieval Western Europe--France, England, Bavaria, Burgundy and so on. Snaking across is a simple road system and dotted along the roads are sites for monasteries. In the centre of each of the nine regions is a placement area for "counsellors". Each player has a set of playing pieces made up of cylinders (counsellors) and houses (monasteries) and the game equipment is completed with a deck of cards. Eight of the nine regions are paired off by colour. So, for example, England and Swabia are the same colour, as are Bavaria and Burgundy. The odd one out is France, which is the largest and has a colour to itself. The cards are in the same colours and carry the names of the corresponding countries. Thus a green card simply has on it the names 'Bavaria' and 'Burgundy'.
Play is governed by a '3-2-1' rule. On your turn you may play up to three cards (from a hand of three) in order to place up to two pieces, but if you place two they must both be in the one country. The cards determine where the placements can be made. In order to place a piece in a country you must play either one card of the same colour or a matching pair of a different colour. For example, if your hand consists of one green and two pink cards, your options are:
After you have made your placements, you replenish your hand back up to three by selecting from two face-up cards and the top card of the face-down deck.
Getting the restrictions right is one of the two key steps in a placement game. The other is the scoring and here it comes in two stages: a smallish one at the halfway point and a larger one at the end. At the halfway point the scoring is just for monasteries and there are points to be gained in each of the nine countries. The player with the most monasteries in a country receives one point for each monastery in the country. The next player receives one point for each monastery belonging to the first player. And so on down the line. For example, if blue has 4 monasteries in France, green 2 and red 1, the scoring would be 7 to blue, 4 to green and 2 to red. Players with no monasteries in a country get no points from it. (There is always one chancer who asks about this. Hit him.)
Scoring at the end consists of a repeat of the intermediate procedure, together with bonuses for chains of monasteries (one point per monastery in any chain of at least four) and a scoring for the counsellors. The latter works as follows. Numbers on the board indicate 15 possible 2-country alliances--usually a country and one of its neighbours. If you are either first or first equal in counsellors in both of the countries in one of these alliances, you score a bonus equal to the total number of counsellors in the two countries.
The shape of the game tends to be mainly monasteries in the first half and mainly counsellors in the second. There are three reasons for this. The first is the chains. They will be important at the end and you won't build them up unless you make an early start. The second is the intermediate scoring. Provided you all take it seriously, you are likely to come out of it fairly level. But you do need to take it seriously, as the difference between first and second in a well contested country is significant and so are the cheaply bought second places. Somebody has four monasteries in France, where he is trying to build part of a chain. If you place one monastery for a second or joint second place, it is going to net you 4 points while only giving the leader an extra one. These are not bargains that you should pass on. The third is a restriction which ties the number of counsellors in a country to the numbers of monasteries currently there and this stops an early rush for the counsellor spots, even though you all know that they are going to be important at the end.
As I said at the start, this game packs a great deal into its 45 minutes and what it does, it does pretty well perfectly. If you like abstract games, you will almost certainly enjoy it.