Game Session Report 30.10.2002

Author: Aaron

at the table: Mike Lasher, Günther, Hans, Walter, Aaron

on the table: Globopolis

  1. Globopolisbox cover
    This time we had another go with "Globopolis", the first game of Mike Lasher, which received rather mixed reactions at our first session four weeks ago. In the meantime we'd been in contact with Mike for some rule clarifications and quite to our surprise Mike asked if he could join in on our next Globopolis session. We were all too happy to accept but at the same time I was faced with the challenge to limit the number of Westpark Gamers for that evening to four. We finally managed by arranging an Orc gaming session the next day (Halloween!) for the one's who could not attend.

    While explaining the Globopolis rules to Walter, who hadn't played the game before Mike took the chance to provide details of the game design. Hence, we learnt that the territory placement on the board has been very carefully laid out to make sense not only with respect to geography but also with respect to resource locations and Guild placement. We got the impression that aspects like this had a much higher priority during the design than actual game balance...

    The detailed explanations by Mike provided further clarifications on a number of issues which again led to an update of our "Globopolis Rules Summary". So all of you who downloaded it earlier may want to get the latest version now. While writing this I remember Mike saying that he encourages everyone to suggest variants to the rules in addition to those already described in the rule book. At one point he even mentioned that the game can be viewed as a "game kit" providing lots of material for own creations.

    But let's come to our game.

    After the completion of the first round Hans surprised all of us when he played his Mission card which allowed him to immediately receive 20 CR points if he owns four territories with point value 3 or 4, one in each quadrant. Just by chance he had received four such territories during the game setup and suddenly was 20 points ahead of everyone else after just one round. Since a game of 5 players has a victory condition of 75 points and including the point values of the initial territories Hans found himself halfway to victory already without really having achieved anything. This triggered some discussions about the element of luck in Globopolis and Mike explained that they had never encountered this situation before during play testing. At that time I was not willing to reveal my Mission card which would make me the winner of the game if I am the first player to reach the 50 CR point mark. If Hans would have drawn this card during his second or third turn in addition to the Mission card which gave him 20 CR points the game would have been over in under 30 minutes without giving even the slightest chance to the other players to do something against Hans' victory. (After we had finished the game we had a look at the mission cards and found them very unbalanced, indeed. Some are almost impossible to achieve while others appear to be very simple and heavily influenced by luck.)

    At least one thing was clear after the first round: we had a "public enemy #1" - Hans. No more favorable deals with him until we had caught up.

    After a few more rounds Günther had almost caught up with Hans with Walter in close pursuit. Mike and myself were still close to our initial point values with not much we could do about this. One reason was that the other three players had already acquired several more territories while Mike had lost a territory to Hans in a very unlucky battle. I for myself was the proud owner of a Guild with plenty of food and water to sell to the other players (and getting these for free myself) but on the other hand was very resource constrained with respect to production units. This left me in a situation where I had lots of money but no chance to spend it on economic development which would have provide additional CR points. Instead I was left with buying points whenever possible. Too soon did I have to bury my victory plans of being the first to reach the 50 CR point mark - in fact I only managed to get there as the fourth player.

    When Günther and Hans both came closer to the 75 CR point victory mark they had to stop buying CR points (as described in the rules) and concentrate more on territory development and territory acquisition. In fact we found it to be a good tactic to first spend money on CR points in addition to some basic development for defense purposes and do all the economic development possible later when it is no longer allowed to buy CR points. This way one can achieve a CR point increase of about 5 to 10 points each turn also in the later stages of the game.

    Finally, Günther managed to sneak past Hans and cross the 75 point victory mark when we had played just under 2 hours. Third was Walter closely followed by me while Mike was still trying to negotiate the 30 CR point mark. He obviously spent too much time on explaining the game and demonstrating the various options rather than trying to win.

    Since the game lasted shorter than we had expected we spontaneously decided to continue until the first player reaches the 100 CR point mark - the victory condition of the four player game. This took us more than one additional hour as getting and keeping CR points tends to be rather difficult on a board with only a few unowned territories left. Nevertheless, Günther also managed to meet the extended victory condition first making him the definite winner of the evening.

    We spent more than an hour of game analysis thereafter - unfortunately most of the time without Mike who had to leave early:

    Globopolis is not a game from gamers for gamers. There are many things that make the game unbalanced and uncontrollable which will not appeal to the hardcore gamer. Also the rules are too unstructured and sometimes imprecise leaving things open for interpretation - serious gamers hate it when they discover during a 3 hour gameplay that some players have different rules interpretations than others.

    Globopolis is also not one of the lighter family games which is quickly explained, with some moderate elements of luck in order to give everyone a chance for winning. It has far too many different game elements in it which make it too complex for a family game. And the playing time of 3+ hours is prohibitive for that clientele anyway.

    So what is Globopolis? Its much more than Monopoly - in fact I would not even compare it to Monopoly as it has too many other mechanisms and elements which require a completely different style of playing. Neither is it Risk - the element of aggression is predominant in Risk but not in Globopolis. The dice rolling rules for engagements are actually quite innovative and we were wondering what the odds of winning a battle are depending on the number of dice used. Günther made the effort to do some calculations for this and the results can be found in his "Globopolis Odds Table".

    Nor is it Settlers of Catan - there is resource management involved in Globopolis, too, but the freedom allowed by the rules with respect to trading and allocating resources provides a completely different feel. It definitely is a game with interesting mechanics taken from these three games and put together in an interesting and new way. In many respects it would have helped the game if some of the elements found in the three games had been left out in order to make it less complex (actually, Mike told us that Monopoly's "Jail/Free Parking" field had been present in earlier prototypes but luckily was taken out in the final version).

    Globopolis certainly is fun to play with the right set of players. We liked it for the challenges it provides. And it can be improved by tweaking a few things to balance the gameplay a little better. The rule book already provides ideas about how to reduce some of the elements of luck a little and this is where the Globopolis community on comes in and is asked to develop variants.

    Westpark Gamers Score: 6.25 (out of 10)