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Alexander moves with army back and forth across Asia Minor, conquering the land as he passes. To bring peace to these newly conquered lands and to reward his generals, he gives them control of the new lands. The generals establish administration over the lands and levy taxes on the people living there. Naturally, each general tries to acquire the most productive lands for himself. With more productive lands, the general can levy higher taxes, show his worth to Alexander, and win the game!
When you first open _Alexandros_, you are greeted with a mass of triangles (maximum, four players) that doesn't make too much sense. You are to control all the triangles you can and create provinces with your guards (four guards for two-player game)in control.
That sounds easy enough, doesn't it? You are given wooden bridges or boundaries to show your movement from triangle to triangle. After moving the Alexander block with one of the two face-up cards, you then take two other actions: (1) draw two cards or take one face-up or one from the deck; (2)occupy a province with your guard or steal an opponent's province; (3) levy taxes once a turn;or (4) take back a guard to bring your depleted four initial guards back up. It should be noted you can take a card from your hand and substitute for a face-up card, but it does mean losing two cards instead of one. Everything works fairly well until movement. I had to ask the distributor to clarify the following rule: 'The player need not choose a point closest to Alexander, but may choose any of the three points of the chosen triangle.'' What that means is the player moves to the nearest triangle, not nearest point of the triangle.
You have five symbols on the cards you draw and move to on the triangles. They are: nourishment, a jug (amphora), horse, lyre (culture), soldier or warrior, and temple (administration). When drawing these cards as part of your two actions, it is wise to conserve amphora, horse, and warrior, because these cards do not seem appear too often in a well-shuffled deck.
Levying taxes can become a real pain in the neck. Let's say you control six triangles, and you decide to levy taxes as one of your actions. You collect the victory points or money all right, but your opponent also collects his or her taxes. It is wise to only levy taxes when you benefit.
The rules suggest it is a good idea to break large sets of triangles into much smaller plots to place one guard instead of wasting two. You may in your turn hoard as many cards as you wish in your hand. My opponent did that and waited for just the right moment to play his three horses, two temples, and a jug to achieve a rather sizable piece of property or province (triangles). Since the scoring of points occurs immediately, my opponent soon figured out that maybe triangles of five or so meant many more points, ultimately, in the victory column.
As the parcels or triangles were gobbled up by my opponent, I waited patiently for the extra warriors and horses to complete a rather large plot. It finally happened with about 10 triangles, but the problem is snatching parcels from your opposing player. My opponent started thinking, hmm, if I could get three temples, two jugs, and three soldiers (warriors) in my hand, I could take over my friend's property. It is important to recognize the removal of the opponent's guard starts the takeover effort. If a guard, for example, is resting on a temple symbol within a triangle, the opponent must have two temples in his hand to remove that guard and then play all the other cards to complete the occupying of that province. That occupying, naturally, subtracts victory points from the opponent levying any more taxes. Levying taxes can only be accomplished once a turn.
The viciousness of the game is balanced by the sheer fun attached to the playing. It is challenging to plan just the right moves to reach the triangle points with the cards in one's hand. To remind ourselves, it is any point on the nearest triangle.
My opponent, eventually, outdistanced me by 30 or so points. That, obviously, meant he has passed 100 points or one of the ways to stop the game. He allowed me to continue the game beyond the last card and wall as a possibility of catching him. That did not happen, but that does show how the game can become addicting once it is started. Also, if a player recognizes not enough boundary walls or thin blocks exist to complete the path, the game comes to a screeching halt. Once the rules clarification of triangle points was completed, the game is well worth playing again and again.
Actually, this is somewhere in between 3 and 4 stars.
It also has a fairly unique mechanism, and you do have to think carefully about how to balance your various options.
One drawback is that there are a bunch of minor rules that exist to balance out the game play. And while most games have those, the ones that don't merit 5 stars in my book (like Carcassonne). BUT, it's not a complex game overall and smrt children (7 or above) could play this and give an adult some trouble.
As is said below, however, the game is a tad dry. But I suspect some people will love this game, so if you've loved games such as Attika, Samurai, La Strada or others like that, then you will probably like this a lot.
When you have access to a large number of games, some good, some bad, but in the main playable, what happens when a new tranche of games appear? Essen and Nuremberg stimulate the flow of games, but almost every week there are new games to buy and try. As a result competition for table time is furious and new games often get a smaller number of showings than they deserve.
Alexandros might be one of those games. It starts off brightly, as designer Colovini has established a sure fire reputation - Carolus Magnus, Clans, Magna Grecia and Cartagena immediately come to mind. All of these share an abstract feel and a mainly thin veneer of theme. I don't mind that, so long as I enjoy the game. Alexandros fits straight into this genre without any trouble at all.
The board shows a map of the near East split into triangles and Alexander begins his march on the tip of Turkey. Players move Alexander across the board and create a wall linking his old and current locations. Players can select two of the following options: capture empty enclosed areas (provinces); invest in resources (exposed cards or from the deck); capture opponent's areas; move a governor; or tax (score victory points for everyone).
The rules are written awkwardly, so moving Alexander is not as intuitive as it should be, but once everyone understands what is happening the game flows fairly smoothly. Alexander moves to the nearest triangle matching one of the two face-up coloured cards. When there is a choice and there often is, a player can select a triangle that is useful to him or one that spoils the situation for the next player. Half of the triangles on the board are coloured in one of 5 colours, and the deck of cards matches these colours. In order to capture a province you need to hand in cards that match these triangles. Your five governors (pieces) can be used to substitute for any you fall short in, but provinces with more than one governor are being suppressed and will not earn victory points when a player chooses to tax. A minimum of one governor is required to rule the province. The value of the province is the number of background-coloured triangles enclosed in the province.
One of the pleasing design aspects is that Alexander can be moved to cut through a large province. This is usually good for all players except the one who has a large province, but is a far cheaper way to spoil a province than capturing as the capture from another player involves handing the losing player a bunch of cards, which can be used later to threaten the conqueror. Another aspect I liked was that you can build up an enormous hand of cards. The downside is large in that you may not score many points when taxation takes place, but the upside is that a large province may be captured with these cards and it becomes very difficult for other players to retake this province. It also creates a feeling of power as you ponder when to strike. You then hope to score heavily in the remaining turns before the 100 points barrier is broken signalling the conclusion of the game.
So will Alexandros get its fair share of game play? I think that there is a chance. While the game only supports a maximum of 4 players (and I often have 5 players so limiting its chances), the turns are quick and there is not much down time, so the game has a certain pace to it. The options are nearly always pointed out by other players and these are not too hard to choose from. Sometimes the options are boring so the best thing to do is to get your turn over quickly. The longer term plans in the game suggest that you have to decide when to make your move, or steadily score points to build an unassailable lead. I have seen both work and fail. All of which tends to suggest that there is a reasonable amount going on in this game and its table time will be close to what it deserves.
Alexandros plays well with two, but better with four. It is abstract, but fairly fast and a good opener or mid session game to play to warm up your brain.