Thursday, June 19, 2014

Trieste: 2 Session Impressions in 1

First Play - 31st May 2014 
Stealing > Arresting > Hoarding

I've been wanting to play Trieste for some time as I heard it is a very excellent 3 player game.
Well, one of my main groups is usually just the 3 of us, so this was a game that I bought as soon as I saw it available at one of the online game stores.
Trieste is an asymmetrical game where players take on the role of a faction with different abilities and victory conditions. The 3 factions involved are the thieves, the city guard, and the merchant.

Each round is played simultaneously whereby the players will select a card from their hand to play facedown. In fixed faction order, players reveal their card, pay for the cost, and then trigger the abilities of the card. It is during this phase that most of the action takes place. Each faction is unique because of their respective card decks; thus, during the reveal phase, each faction's cards will react based on what has been played by the other factions.

The Thieves - Stealing
The thieves are looking to sneak past the city guard and achieve infamy in the process. Once the player reaches 9 infamy, he/she wins. The majority of the cards in the thief deck consists of different level thieves. The higher the level, the greater the infamy the player will obtain, but that also means that the cost to activate the card is higher. Also, higher level thieves are harder for the city guard to catch compared to the lower level thieves.

When a thief bypasses the city guards, their abilities will also take effect. These range from stealing money from the merchant, to giving the thieves a chance to reuse a discarded card.
I found the thief faction to be the most fun. Gaining infamy and trying to out think the city guards was just my style of play.

The City Watch - Arresting
The city watch on the other hand, wants to capture 7 thieves; this act would immediately grant the player victory. How the city watch captures thieves is usually by immediately catching the thief on the same round that it is revealed. So it takes some reading of the thief player and his/her intentions.
The city watch may also capture thieves from the thief discard pile, but by then the thief will have already gotten his/her infamy points. So this tactic is usually done to simply bring the city watch player closer to victory.
The cards in the city watch deck ranged from the ability to capture thieves, to ongoing cards that will tax money from the merchant, or make the playing of cards more expensive for both parties.

My very empty prison. An often sight when I play as the City Watch

The city watch faction left me slightly stumped. I was a TERRIBLE city watch, which led to the thief victory on our last play. I had captured no one in 6 turns and by then the thieves were 2 infamy away from winning the game. I had problem catching the thieves as my opponent was busy trying to play the higher level thief cards which none of my hand of cards could arrest. Also, I felt the need to keep both players in check, and that made my turns and actions split across two fronts. And it was safe to say I was ineffective on both ends.

The Merchant - Hoarding
Lastly, the merchant is hoping to accumulate enough wealth to secure his/her victory. The amount of wealth required depends on how many thieves the city guard has managed to capture (the more captured thieves, the more wealth is required for the merchant to win).

The merchant is possibly the easiest faction to play. You play cards or money to draw more money cards, and hope to the high heavens that you don't get the good ones stolen from you. You could play a slow game whereby you raise contracts that give you steady income each round ( I tried that ). This would help to ensure you have multiple low value cards that even when stolen, don't hurt you as much as having a gold taken from you. 

However, this meant that the merchant turned out to be the most boring of the 3 factions as it was all about hoarding money and trying to do it as quickly as possible.
When we all played as the merchant, we never felt the need to counter play with the other 2 factions. It seemed best to sit back and watch as the city guard and thief battle it out. I was busy amassing my piles of wealth.

Money Money Money! Must be Funny! In a Merchant's hand

Well, as per my group's preference, it was mandatory that we all played the role of each faction once. What's the point of only trying one third of the game? Haha.
The results were 2 merchant wins and 1 thief win.
Much as what I have read online, it is much easier for the Merchant to win compared to the other factions. So much so that others have claimed the factions to be unbalanced. I am not ready to jump on that bandwagon yet though, but I will say, the less experienced the player, the more likely that he/she will be a major influence in letting the party whom he/she is suppose to be guarding win.

I didn't go through the deck of cards for each faction, but what was noted by us was that it was very difficult for the city watch to capture level 3 thieves and above. So with proper money management, playing level 3 thieves seemed to be the way to operate as the thieves. Sending your level 0 or 1 thieves out would most certainly lead to arrests and even with success, they only net you 1 infamy at most.
When I have more time, I would like to go through the deck to see if that is the case.

But also, it was noted by all that we hardly had the time to run through the deck of cards for each faction. I think we barely used half even, that's how fast each game went. So there is a chance that you don't get to see the cards that could be really useful for your faction, and that would be a major bummer.
It is to be noted that we did not use the Hero cards on our first play of the game. We left them out as we were unfamiliar with how the game was going to go.

Overall, my initial experience with Trieste was a positive one.
I like how the factions are vastly different, and how each faction constantly needs to be wary of not letting the faction that they should be keeping in check run away. The synergy between the card play is pretty nice and I liked how there were many types of cards with different effects for each player to pull off.
I do hope to find a balance within the factions though, as right now we seem to agree ( yes initial play and initial impressions ) that the city watch is the most difficult to play as and the merchant gameplay was merely ok. Should we fail to find the right balance within the factions, I am certain that the replayability of the game would drop as my friends might quickly lose interest. Fingers crossed there.

Second Play - 14th June 2014
Disturbance in the Force

As it turns out, I managed to get Trieste tabled again.
This time, instead of going 3 rounds ( 1 of each faction ), we stopped after only 2. I played the City Guard and the Thieves without playing the Merchant.
Just to state it upfront, the wins went to the Merchant in both rounds. :(
I must say, the city watch did come unbelievably close to victory during the second round. Needing only to capture one more thief for a rare victory.

Anyway, this time round we used the Hero variant in both our games. This really spiced things up and allows for more strategic decision making right out of the gate. For example, when I played the city watch, I took the Hero that would give me a tax card for free. So I knew going in that I would be able to pull out that card and thus I could spend my money on other tricks I wished to pull. And when I played as the thieves, I took the lady chief who controls all the Street Urchins in the game. So I decided to go with a dash and slash tactic and hoped to steal in bits for quick points. That was rather exciting, but that also led to the near city watch victory as they were much easier to capture.

A whole bunch of Street Urchins, and a FOXY vixen! Yum. 6 Infamy, not enough for the win

Well, despite this, I must say that my enthusiasm for Trieste has dropped considerably. Not because I think it is unbalanced ( even with the Merchant victories again, I am not really thinking that way ). The reason for my lack of enthusiasm in the game is because I find it quite flawed in the way where a bad player will greatly influence the outcome of the game. In other every man for himself games, if someone is terrible, that player will lose but everybody else still has a fair chance at victory. But in Trieste, a terrible player greatly swings the outcome of the game to the one who benefits more from the player's stupidity. And do you know who is the stupid player? ME. Hahaha.

I was once again a horrific city watch player. The merchant did get lucky, so the game was over by turn 4 and I had once again failed to capture anybody. In the second game, my failure as a thief nearly gave the city watch the victory. The merchant did win though, but that was close enough to bother me. I don't mind being a terrible player at something, but when it affects the outcome of the game in a swingy way, then I find that disturbing. Trieste needs 3 closely matched opponents to build up to a good game, but because I own the game, and I suck at it, then guess what, whenever its being played, its being played with me ( cos its my copy! ), so that means I will bring the whole experience down. Aigoo.

Well, this last play kinda soured me on the game.
I was excited about it on my first play, excited to take it out for the second play, but now that I have kept it back in the box, I don't think it is coming out anymore. One other factor that made me kinda bummed about the game is the luck of draw in the money cards. Yes, luck in card draws should be expected in a card driven game, but when the luck falls with the merchant, and that is directly related to his/her victory condition, then I think that's quite a big problem. Drawing 1 or 2 silver and gold early can really push the game to a quick finish as I experienced myself when I was the city watch in the first round. A 4 turn game is quite simply a depressing experience. Haha.

Yeah well, that's it. Two and done.
I love the idea of what Trieste is trying to accomplish, and I wish I had more patience for it, but I think putting in more time to master it is really going to annoy the heck out of me. I think if I kept it out of sight, my friends are unlikely to ask for it, so off to the trade/sell pile it goes.


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