Monday, December 16, 2013

DuckiCon Impressions - Concordia ( Game 3 of 6 )

Concordia had a big footprint at Essen this year and was one of the booths that was constantly flooded with people. I didn't manage to get a demo in then, but the feedback from others were mostly positive.
Eric managed to borrow a friend's copy and I gave it a go during DuckiCon.

Concordia is a Euro game that revolves around 3 familiar and simple to teach mechanics - resource management, hand management, and area control. When you look at the board and set everything up, Concordia may seem like a difficult game to play ( which was also my initial thoughts before the rules were explained ), but after the first few initial rounds, everything falls into place and you would definitely be able to teach the game to someone new by your second play. Heck, the ruleset is only 4 pages long. That is probably the shortest ruleset for any Euro game I have ever played.

Everything that happens in Concordia revolves around the hand management aspect of the game. Each player begins with a standard deck of cards which determine the types of actions that the players may execute. Throughout the course of the game, players will have the opportunity to purchase more cards that not only increase the type of actions that the player may perform, but it also affords the player the ability to increase his/her end game scoring bonuses. This is the part of the game that is really interesting.

The deck of cards that each player has will ultimately determine the winner of the game as that is the only way to score points in Concordia. If a player never purchases new cards throughout the game, that player is playing to lose. The hand management aspect of the game requires players to play a card on their turn to take an action, and once the card is played, it can't be used again till the player plays the card that allows them to retrieve all previously played cards. So the players are trying to time their actions right and also to feed off what the other players have played as there are cards that allow you to copy the last played card of any player. It's this strategic planning of the card-play and your position on the board that will give you cause to think a little longer than you might have wanted to.

7 Face-up cards to buy each round

The actions that you can activate via the cards are:
- copy the last played card of any player
- receive money and trade up to 2 types of goods
- activate a province on the board ( allows players to collect resources )
- purchase up to 2 cards from the draw pile
- move your colonies and build camps on adjacent cities
- retrieve back all played cards and build a new colony on the board

As you can see, the cards control the movement of your colonies, where you may build camps, and dictates everything such as buying of new cards, and when you receive or trade resources.
Even when you are buying new cards, the abilities are mostly the same as the above except for a few cards that either have a completely different action, or a better action.
Examples of these are, being able to produce one type of resource for each camp you have of the matching resource type, or collecting more money before you trade up to 2 types of goods.

So you might ask, why then would I buy new cards of the same action type if all I really need is one of each ?
Well, the reason is that each card has a specific end game scoring condition that you may want ( truth: you REALLY want ) to collect in sets. The player's starting deck has one of each of the different end game scoring conditions, and throughout the course of the game, by buying cards with matching end game scoring conditions, you will score more points for each condition you have achieved.

My end game scoring bonus. Colony Focused for Second Place.

For example, one of the conditions is that you will receive 2 points per colony on the board. So with one card of that type, and with 4 colonies on the board, that card is worth 8 points to you. Now imagine if you had 3 of those cards, without adding any extra colonies, you are now scoring 24 points instead of 8 points. What a leap ! So you will find yourself buying cards not just for the actions, but mostly, and mainly, for the end game scoring benefits.

The end game scoring conditions are:
- 1 point per 10 dollars at the end of the game ( each player will only ever get one of this card )
- 1 point per non-brick city you control
- 1 point per province you have a camp on
- 2 points per colony you have on the board
- 2 points per type of resource the player produces
- X number of points per camp you have of matching resource type

People, that's 90% of the game right there.
You probably could start playing Concordia right now. Haha.
The only other aspects of the game that you need to know are the conditions and the costs to build camps, the rules for moving your colonies, and the smaller rules for collecting money, and a card that goes round the table that allows the owner to gain double a province resource.
Most of these I won't explain here but they aren't all that difficult to grasp. There's also a handy player aid that helps you to see the costs of the camps and all the end game scoring conditions.
The game ends when all the cards are bought up, or when one player builds all his/her camps, then the player who triggered the game end gets 7 points, while the other players get one last turn.

So, did Concordia impress me much ?
Well, in a way yes, but not sufficiently so.

I love the hand management part of the game. Hand management has been overdone this Essen ( Rokoko, Lewis & Clark, now Concordia ), but Concordia really made it's hand management aspect stand out by tagging the end game scoring bonuses to the cards. So all this while, while you are trying to force your way onto the ever crowded board, you have to remember to take a break and fight for the cards, as just playing on the board will reward you with nothing without those handy dandy scoring cards.
It's this portion of the game ( which is a big portion ) that really made the game very interesting both tactically and strategically. All with only one set of cards !

However, the game has to fall into the category of "Not my type of game". Its not a bad game really, in fact, I would say that Concordia has the chance to be a great game for those who like the type of game that it is. And what would that be ? Well, Concordia has what I call the "Dynamic Area Control Mechanism". What that means is that basically, the areas you control net you benefits throughout the course of the game, each and every turn. That's just not the type of game that I tend to enjoy.

I do enjoy some area control games ( only some ), but I find that the ones I like are those that dish out the rewards at a fixed interval or after certain rounds. So maybe the game might say, after round 1, you receive stated reward for controlling that area, and you may receive the same reward again after round 2 if you still control that area. So I have a given time to know when I should get my butt into a competition for a spot.

But in Concordia, your reward is continuous. You may produce out of turn if someone triggers the province production, you may also produce via cards, the resource you produce then helps you to build more camps on the same type of resource cities ( doesn't lead to a monopoly but can be the case ), and you even make it harder for someone to build on the same space because you are there first. And that's the part that I think irritates me the most, having to pay more when you are later into the area. That might seem that that is the whole point of area control games, but I think that in Concordia, its very punishing to be late into a space. Money is very tight in the game and you may end up spending many turns trying to get money just to build a camp that in the end may or may not benefit you as much as it was worth the effort to build it.

Maybe I just don't "get" these types of games, and I won't be afraid to admit that that is possibly the case, which is why I seldom play area control games.
I prefer my area control games to have equal cost/opportunity to enter rather than a first in second pay kind of enter. It makes it a race and a player who knows what he's doing can effectively block out any new players from being equally competitive out of the gate. 

"Not my type of game" comment aside, the only other problems I found in Concordia is that, number 1, the board is terrible to decipher. The provinces are not clear and the city areas too small to place multiple camps and still read what resource is being produced. That board needs better definition of lines and colors.
Number 2, there is no way to wash the cards on the board. When you purchase a card in Concordia, you can only buy from the face-up cards available. So if no-one buys any cards, then you have to buy one for a new one to appear. So if you are focusing on a particular strategy, without the movement of the cards, you may not see sufficient cards of the type that you want appear, and thus you can not maximize on your decided strategy. Number 3, the box art is terrible, and the game art is bland. It's probably one of the least attractive games I have played in recent months. Nothing stands out and I never once felt the need to admire anything in the game, everything is dull. Boring and dull.

So that's Concordia. If you ever wanted a clever card-play game with area control aspects, then it might be the game for you. It reminds me most of Hansa, but I will say that Hansa is better than Concordia. Given the 2, I would choose Hansa any day. I would have loved the hand management aspect in Concordia to be implemented in a non area control game, maybe next Essen.


1 comment:

  1. I like the game, I guess Daniel LOVEEEEE the game......... strangely this game remind me of Navegator which I like alot.

    For this game ..... I felt you have to strategically sent your colonist to place where others are ........ it need not necessary be good to go one direction where others are not going to ........ditto it need not necessary be good to control all province in a region and etc. There's a partnership involved to a certain degree. (of course it must be inline with some of the strategy card as well). Our games has somehow alot of gold involved ........ not sure did we play wrongly.

    Another advice I was given was it may be a good idea to build one house on a non cloth city where the cloth city is within the same region. In that case the region would be frequently activated, and one will get the other resources and etc. I am also a little surprised that most of my friend prefer Rokoko to Concordia.

    Once again, thanks for the review and Merry Christmas!