Tonight, Justin Easley and Justin Kosek came over and I was able to finally get Age of Empires III to the table. This new game has been getting really good press as well as word of mouth. A number of the AZ Boardgamers were impressed with their single play (Jason M called this a likely top 10) as was I. I'm saddened that I'm not experiencing this with them, as their gamesmanship and reflections after the game were always welcome, and I imagine this will hit the table a lot in AZ.
At any rate, after going over the rules with Justin and Justin, we jumped in. I was randomly chosen first (which as HUSKER red, was befitting) and decided to grab the first capital building which would pay me $5 a turn. JK ended up heading to the new world right away as well as starting some discoveries. JE set himself up for the next round with a number of specialists and a capital building that gave him and extra colonist each turn. The first turn also saw me try for a discovery first. I sent three guys. Three guys that promptly ran into four natives. Too bad for me and good for JK, who was able to then send 4 guys and make out like a bandit. After the first age, we had already settled into a few strategies - I was making money hand over fist with capitals and more capital buildings and a few trade goods. JK had a commanding lead in colonization with JE slightly behind. JE had a lead in goods. The first scoring round didn't look promising for me as I barely scored points and the Justins pulled away. The mid game saw me grab a new capital building right away, which brought me more cash, which I turned into buildings for specialists. JK had grabbed a capital giving him soldiers in the discoveries and had also managed to grab all the sugar - which turned out to be huge, when early in the second age the Rum Factory came out - he was now pulling down $15 a turn from just that ($21 if you count the set too). I had hoped that cash was going to let me make up ground in the mid game with free access to buildings, but started to worry that it might not work that way. In response, I started sending a few colonists to the new countries to try and scrape out a few second place points. Though I had a load of cash each turn, the second age scoring saw me fall very far behind. Luckily the third age was mine. The last age saw the first building to come out be worth $30 a turn - I also happened to be first player this round! I grabbed it and JK and JE also grabbed another building to help their causes. When we replenished, the three new buildings we all meant for me! Navies (vps per ship), VPs for capital buildings, and Wealth - 1 vp for every $5. JE grabbed the navies to score his 3 ships and keep me from scoring my 4. I got the other two and proceeded to make my charge. My income on the last turn was $62, which shot me out into the lead. In addition, my 9 buildings scored me another 25 pts (18+7) and my total wealth scored me another 13. Add another 20 or so in discoveries (which was on par for the other guys) and I was out in front about 20 points or so when it was all said and done. The building we didn't see the last turn was the one worth VPs for each two colonists in the new world - had JK gotten that and one of the other buildings not been there for me, it might have been VERY close. So, in the end a slight bit of help from lady luck steered me to the win, but overall a tight game.
I can see already how this game tightens up with more players and look forward to trying this out with 5. Though it supports 6, I don't think I'll be ordering another set of pieces. I just don't see where it would be much fun when things are that tight. We'll have to see how 5 players is first.
**Update July 12, 2007
Bah! Of course, it being the first playing - we mis-played a rule. The last round scoring doesn't include income from buildings - which probably moves me straight to last. I'm not sure how that shakes out for the other guys as Justin K was given points for the Rum Factory.