original German edition
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Migration of the Germanic tribes!
In 375 AD, Attila's mounted Huns overran Europe causing the Germanic tribes in their path to flee and penetrate the outer provinces of the declining Roman empire.
In Attila, the players control the migrations of the Germanic tribes to the Roman empire. The players move Goths, Teutons, Vandals and other tribes into the Roman provinces. When the Germanic population of a province grows too large, there is conflict. The result of the conflict is a reduction of population, but peace for those tribes that remain.
As they migrate the tribes, the players compete to have the greatest influence in the tribes' affairs. At the end of each century, the tribes score points for the players who have had the most influence on their affairs
Naturally, the more successful tribes score more points for their visionary advisors than the weaker tribes. Thus, the winner is the player who has offered the most successful tribes the advantage of his great vision.
All six 'tribes' start equally, with nothing on the board and each player getting six random cards. When you play a card, that tribe goes onto the map, thus increasing its value, and at the same time your own marker goes up on the 'influence' track for that tribe, thus getting you into the race for first and second.
When a province reaches a population of five, it is considered overcrowded and an innovative winnowing process occurs. The least numerous tribe will be eliminated from the province, thus decreasing its value, but only after each player has the chance to 'support' the tribes with cards from the hand. Then the province is frozen for the rest of the game (i.e., no more tribal markers may be placed in it). There's a lot of strategy in trying to position yourself to be the one to trigger these provincial shakedowns, because they, in turn, trigger the scoring rounds--and it's advantageous to make the last advance before the scoring round on the influence tracks.
This of course is quite a contrast to Union Pacific, where the scoring rounds occur at random, according to when the dividend card is turned up. So that's one bit of gameplay you won't blame on luck in Attila.
To cover all the innovations in the game would take rather a long essay, so I'll refer you to the other reviews and simply say that all the mechanisms work together very smoothly in a finished game of great subtlety and charm. It'll probably take you two or three games to get used to all the different 'tricks' you can pull off--but the learning curve is fun, and it doesn't stop being fun after everybody is playing it down to brass tacks. And as other reviewers have also mentioned, you enjoy a close, hard fought contest won by skill, guile, and putting yourself into the right place at the right time, all in under an hour!
Of course, this can't be considered a war game unless you really stretch the definition, so don't let the 'Attila' name fool you into thinking you'll be ordering units of horse and spear around at each other or anything like that. It is instead a worthy addition to the Acquire - Union Pacific - El Grande - Web of Power - San Marco family of first and second place payoff games--possibly the most elegant of them all.
Attila is another great game of the type which our gaming circle loves! Nice map, components, and rules. Clear simple rules but a subtle and challenging game on every turn. Competing for influence in the tribes reminded me of the commodity battles in Merchants of Amsterdam.
If you like Web of Power you'll like Attila. Playable in well under an hour.
Good News #1: Everyone at our table thought this game was gorgeous. And once we got started, we had no problems working the scoring system. 'In blue, advance white one. In green, advance red one.' All the players very quickly adopted this format of reporting scores and the scorekeeper never had a problem.
Good News #2: One of the ways of getting cards out of your hand that you don't want to put into play is to start a conflict in a territory that has the colors you want to eliminate. You can play as many cards from your hand as you want as long as they are colors that are part of the conflict. So what if your hand size is diminished until the end of your next turn? You weren't going to play those cards anyway and now you get to replace them. Try it and you'll see that there are other benefits that go along with this action.
Good News #3: Euphrat & Tigris! El Grande? Not bad comparisons for a game at this price. I don't know that I see it or what the point is. This is a fun and engaging game that is simple to learn, has sufficient depth with regards to its playing time and a great bargin at the price. We played Taj Mahal just before this one, and while it is somewhat lighter fare than TM, it was no less enjoyable. I have no problem recommending this one.
Each tribe is represented by nine cards of its color. Discard cards to place tribal markers in provinces, or to increase your influence in a tribe over a period of centuries. War starts in overpopulated provinces, with discarded cards supporting the belligerents. The weakest tribe is removed, and the province denied to others forever! At the end of each century's final conflict, score all tribes. Players most influential in each tribe score for all its markers on the board. Action Tiles, playable one time only, gain you free placements or influence. Highest score after the last conflict wins. Players don't need to be fierce warriors--just ingenious investors who must balance current gains against long-term income.
And so the ole' Prodigal returns, after a two-year hiatus in a New Orleans bar as guitarist for Hans and the Moskitos. And what have we been missing? Well, if you consider Herr Schmiel the Patron Saint of German game design (I do), then the man behind Die Macher, Tyranno Ex and Was Sticht could not get back soon enough. His new game may not be quite as revelatory as previous titles, but it certainly crams in a gamut of gaming possibilities in an expeditious hour (or less).
Attila allows players the opportunity to claim and conquer territory with six different armies. Although these tribes will not be under your individual control, you will need to have progressed up the Influence ladder in each (like Medici) in order to score points. And it is here that the only element of confusion rises, because the player colours match those of the armies. Cries of "Yellow player up two on the Red Track" abound.
In order to placate our venerable editor, who demanded "a long review, please!!!", let's start with the contents within the medium-sized box (stock card, excellent stacker). The main board shows most of Europe and a smidgen of North Africa; the barbarian armies--Franks, Huns, Goths, Saxons, Teutons and Vandals--arrive via the Steppes to the North. A supplementary board records the current levels of influence that players have with the various nationalities.
Armies are depicted by wooden "head and shoulder" pieces (beech, non-beveled, light lacquer), and clearly illustrated on the accompanying card deck (recycled Jacaranda bark), which allows their introduction and expansion. The package is completed by a handful of die cut counters (four point guillotine) portraying a peace symbol (when hostilities in a country must cease) and additional actions (three, single use only) for each player. These are: An extra turn, a bonus move up the Influence Track and the chance to exchange cards (normally vital in the later stages of the contest).
Attila moves along at a fair old pace. In turn, players may play a card from their hand (six in the first deal) in order to place an army on vacant or occupied land. The restrictions are: In the first turn, these armies must arrive from The Steppes and be placed on any of the six bordering domains. On subsequent turns, they may expand into adjacent regions but can ALWAYS enter through the Steppes. There are four distinct phases of the game. In the first, each placement earns one influence point, in the second it earns two and so on up to four in the fourth. These are recorded each time an army is introduced. And here the fun starts.
Each domain has a natural maximum capacity of four armies. The placement of a fifth initiates war. This is resolved by totaling the armies in place and adding cards from hand to build attack values. An example: Southern Italy is currently hosting two Frank units (blue) and a single army from each of the Goths (yellow) and Vandals (red). A second red is placed, triggering a conflict. All players may now simultaneously support any of the protagonists. If Smoking Joe has an interest in red and blue (noting his position on the Influence Track), he may play any number of cards to supplement the existing totals. Let's assume he opts for blue (one card). Cassius is desperate for yellow to prevail and plays two (yellow) cards. Lennox is disinterested, but would like to relinquish a couple of blue cards, which are of no use to him (his interest in the Franks is minimal). Rocky completes the round by dispatching a single yellow card to the battleground. The totals are: Blue 5 (2+3), Yellow 4 (1+3) and Red 2 (their army in situ). The weakest race is vanquished, and their dobbers are returned to the stockpile.
This simple resolution is particularly adroit. It allows bluff and double bluff, it purges the weak, and provides an opportunity to re-jig a hand. I should point out that cards are NOT replenished until after a player's turn. When a territory has been subjected to conflict, a peace marker is removed from the holding section on the board and placed under the victorious armies. At the start of the game, peace markers are allocated to each phase and a phase ends when all its peace markers have been placed on the map. As each peace section is emptied, the Influence for armies being placed increases. One intriguing aspect of territorial consolidation (and a bit of design wizardry to boot) means that if one colour dominates an area, a fifth army of the same colour will trigger war (civil?), and the process is settled as above. This can, of course, stop an army in its tracks.
The end of each phase triggers a scoring round (as in El Grande). The best player on each of the six tracks earns the TOTAL of specific armies in play, the runner-up the number of territories occupied by that tribe. For example: Jersey Joe heads the Saxon (green) track. They have nine armies in play, and he advances that number of squares on the board. Floyd is just behind Jersey Joe, but the Saxons have dug in rather than expanded and occupy just three territories. His efforts earn three points. Clearly, it is unwise to spread armies too thinly on the map if your influence over a tribe prevails.
As influence increases it possible to look despairingly at the board and rue missed opportunities and the unlikelihood of catching up. But this is entirely possible, particularly when points are earned at four per army in the later stages of the game.
The three action markers distributed at the start give you the freedom to make tactical manoeuvres at crucial times. The double move can lull a player into a false sense of security, particularly during the early sorties. The exchange of cards (which can be made at the beginning of a player's turn) can be a godsend. There you are, heading the Saxons, Vandals and Huns, but with a hand of Goths and Franks. Their sacrifice is paramount. The two-stage bonus has bought much debate. Played early, it will sneak a player ahead during the early, and confused stages of the game. But it can also prise a player loose when the points are at their most valuable. Your choice.
The game ends in one of three ways:
Although Attila moves along at a cracking pace, the final stages slow somewhat as participants ponder their position, decidedly so when a game-ending move is at hand, and the points need re-counting. Nonetheless, the game will be finished at between 45 minutes (as stated on the box) or the usual one hour.
This is remarkable given the scale of events and the time taken by similarly themed games like Risk and El Grande. But that is, I suppose, the element that elevates Schmiel above most of his contemporaries.