MS: I must say I'm in complete agreement with Mark's comments on both these games, though quite why so many good games have popped up all of a sudden I don't know. History of the World is a little gem and is the first game for a while that I have itched to play. It didn't disappoint but I'm still puzzling over my steam iron setting. HOTW is full of flavour and has that Britannia and Risk appeal of seeing empires (and players) wax and wane, second only in fact to Charles Vasey's forthcoming Chariot Lords. HOTW is fun, thoroughly playtested, tight on systems and rules, always close in the final add-up and is not overlong in play - we have completed four player games in three hours with plenty of chat. In essence, it is Risk for grown-ups, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.
Having played five times now I am a little unsure of its future play value (perhaps I just need a short break from it!) but at present I am more than content to search for new strategies while watching the 'historical' events unfold - in this, the game is never going to be the same twice and it is a treat to play. In fact, I feel it is good enough for a major publisher to pick up and re-package - it is at least as appealing as Britannia and that's done well enough for Gibsons and Avalon Hill. Go and buy it now and help those nice Ragnar boys clear their houses of boxes.
ExtraBlatt is also stunningly good. There are a large number of broader or long term considerations when making any single move and, as Don Greenwood says in the letter column, there may well be almost too much strategy to take on board. Whatever, it is a clever, polished and quick (two hours) game system that seems to reward good play consistently and, like Die Macher, punishes any mistakes. The components are incredible (goodness knows he does it for 60 Marks) and I would say the replayability is going to last for a while. In my view a better game than Die Macher (making it Herr Schmiel's best, though I have yet to play the quirky LBS and the promising Tyranno Ex) and also better than most games released in 1991. A little cracker.
The logical development for those who wish to customise their game is to produce some small English headlines for mounting on card - those supplied, even the spare stickers, are hard to read and not altogether funny in the native German - most are digs in the Irish joke vein? I'm sure that the Sunday Sport would provide plenty of material but I've already had suitable input from Mike Clifford and Mark Green - more are welcome. If I get some time I'll bash out some colour-by-numbers kits for the rules bank, but I must say even the very obvious 'Francis Tresham ate my Hamster' or 'Homas Factory found on Moon' have a certain appeal.
Finally, a HOTW rules clarification from the designers; if a kingdom or migrants are called for and the counters appear elsewhere on the map, it is not possible to expand the empire from these outposts. In our first game, Mr Clifford's Byzantine empire sprouted a kingdom in Scotland and promptly (against all my best advices based on history, logic, common sense, game experience, bullying etc) spread southward into the English heartland. The mind truly boggles on what this would have done for British history.
History of the World sells for £20 or less from most gameshops. Extrablatt is a little more from the usual specialist suppliers. Along with Elfengold and Silverton, it's been quite a crop this month! But in life, there are always those balancing items...
On to the review of Automania or back to the review of Extra Blatt.
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