Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Agony in Alexandros

Image courtesy of
Rio Grande Games
My good friend Grant gave me Alexandros (designer Leo Colovini, publisher Rio Grande) for Christmas a few years ago.  Kathy and I had played several times, and I won perhaps every game we played, so it sat on a shelf for some time since then.  Now that she has been waxing me at Battle Line, she proposed we try Alexandros again.

I really like Alexandros.  It's not like any other game I know.  The map depicts the extent of the empire of Alexander the Great in Asia, divided into equilateral triangles, a little over half of which are blank and the remainder each having one of five icons reminiscent of Hellenistic Greece - an urn, a horse, a lyre, a soldier, or a temple.  Each player represents one of Alexander's generals, who seek to govern provinces in Alexander's empire and collect taxes.  The player to collect the most taxes wins.

The game includes a deck of 55 cards, each of which features one of the five icons that appear on the board.  Over the course of the game, Alexander will traverse and conquer his empire, and his path establishes boundaries of new provinces.  Alexander's movements are influenced by the players to the extent that the available cards allow, so there is some opportunity to control where the province boundaries are set.  Players each have four Macedonian guard pieces that can be used in combination with cards from their hands to conquer provinces once they are completely enclosed by boundaries.  Players can elect to levy taxes, but when any player does so, all players get points for their governed provinces simultaneously.  So it is important to try to govern the most profitable provinces (those containing the most blank triangles) before levying taxes.  Provinces can also be taken from other players by card play.  Guards can be removed from one province and, in a separate action, used to occupy another.

In our most recent game, I occupied a large province early on and started levying taxes to jump to an early lead.  I committed guards to other, smaller provinces, while Kathy accumulated cards because there was little else she could do in the early stages.  I continually levied taxes and increased my lead, and it looked for a while as though I was going to run away with the game.  But with a big hand of cards comes a lot of options, and Kathy soon established a much stronger position.  Around mid-game, she took one of my larger provinces and occupied a couple of others as well.  Then she was the one to start levying taxes.  The game end can be triggered when one player exceeds 100 points, and it was right around the 55-point mark that Kathy passed me and never looked back.  I had spent so many actions placing guards and levying taxes early on that I never accumulated cards for any kind of hand strength, so I was in no position to catch up to her.  She ended up beating me by over 20 points.

Alexandros provides a whole different game-playing challenge, and I can see that I still have a lot to learn in the way of tactics and nuance.  I also hope to have an opportunity to play in a three- or four-player format, where I'm sure gameplay can get even tighter.

1 comment:

  1. I love it when I win. You had me worried for a while there! Thanks for a great game.