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Duel 2 Alamaze

Duel 2 Alamaze

By: Rick McDowell

Issue #1

Twelve Newbies in One Alamaze Game

     What we see below are a few accounts from newbie Alamaze players posted on our Players’ Forum regarding their experience in their first game. This was an unusual game in that 12 of the 15 players were brand new and all players knew each other from the RSI game Duel 2 (formerly Duelmasters). This was especially interesting for me as I used to play Duelmasters, and had a friend in Paul Brown who ran RSI. RSI was next to the Alamaze booth at Origins / GenCon when Alamaze won the PBM Game of the Year Award, and Paul went on to license a version of Alamaze from me and engaged me to design their next game. You can get more Alamaze info and signup at the Alamaze website.

     The below are straight from the players’ posts, except where indicated with the *ED notations, mainly to explain Troll language.

     Just a bit of explanation for some of the acronyms and Commendations referenced below. We recently introduced Commendations wherein active players at the end of an Alamaze game can recommend special recognition for other players in that game. The three commendations at present are:

  • Iron Willed. This is a commendation for a player who persevered beyond all odds, battling on rather than resigning even in the face of near certain (eventual) defeat. Often close-ended PBEM games can be unbalanced by drops, so Alamaze has an Honor system (to retain their important “Citizen” status a player cannot drop a position before turn 12), augmented by the potential of an award from being recognized by peers as Iron Willed.
  • Chancellor. This is our mentoring commendation; with an experienced player nominated by new players for unselfish acts to aid their understanding and their learning the various subtleties and finer points in the game. We feel our experienced players are very willing to fill this role and are a source of pride in our community so we want them to be recognized.
  • Infamous. This is an award for a player who in any number of possible ways, made the game unforgettable, increased the fun and intrigue, and likely involved some aspects of role-playing to pull it all off.

     These are the abbreviations for the kingdoms in Alamaze Classic:

AN –The Secret Servants of the Ancient Ones

BL –The Dark Skies of the Black Dragons

DA -The Onyx Imperium of the Dark Elves

DE -The Seven Hells of the Demon Princes

DW –The Dwarven Lords of the Talking Mountains

EL -The Golden Woods of the High Elves

GI -The Stone Giants Above the Trembling Ground

GN –The Gnomish Bastions of Alchemy

RA -The Rangers of the Frontier Marches

RD -The Reign of Terror of the Red Dragons

SO -The Hidden Realm of the Unseen Sorcerer

TR -The Damned Lands of the Troll Uprising

UN –The Shadow Brotherhood of the Underworld

WA –The Fiery Reach of the Red Warlock

WI -The Witchlord’s Empire of Doom

     A couple of terms referenced in the newbies’ accounts:

     ESO –Early Strategic Objective. A set of conditions that, if met, provide substantial and important awards to the kingdom accomplishing them either on turn 10 or turn 15. There are more than 100 possible ESO’s.

     SVC –Secret Victory Condition. Besides the Standard Victory conditions, each kingdom is assigned a SVC, a set of accomplishments that result in victory. Similar to the ESO, there are nearly 100 different SVC’s and this is the most common form of victory. A kingdom with a High Priestess can divine the secret intentions of any kingdom. The High Priestess risks death in the endeavor.

Duel 2 Alamaze -Game 105 Remembered (by persona Nitnux)

     So that was pretty fun. I played SO in game 105. We had three players of recent Alamaze experience in Hawk (AN), Nikodemus (DE) and paway (RD) but the rest of us, mostly recruited from the Duel2 play-by-mail community, were all completely new to Alamaze. Because of this, the three pros made a point of going easy on us (at least while we were all floundering in the early game). They all gave out tons of advice and let us find our feet at our own pace.

EARLY GAME

     IRL I was travelling a lot and my early game was abysmal, not only because of immense misunderstandings about rules, misreading the reaction/emissary tables, and my terrible proof-reading of my order sheets, but I also did a lot of inefficient things with my armies and personnel, and I mis-budgeted several of my early turns, meaning that many orders were wasted and I actually got no PC gains until turn 6.

     Most foolishly of all, rather than focusing on the land grab I had been itching to see some different dynamics early on, regardless of proper strategy, so I ended up losing a level 5 agent in a failed assassination against Rangers in the R9 city, and I discovered how weak SO troops were when I was thoroughly beat up by a neutral village I should never have attacked. Still, I eventually had a battle victory and also got to exploit the broken Chaos mechanic to devastating success, when I landed on a stray WA town in Region 9 where he had two brigades and decent early game wizards sitting very peacefully. None of these actions were of any value diplomatically or strategically, but being a noob I couldn’t resist trying them out all the same.

     When the scores came out with turn 6 I was in a very poor last place, though I had finally gained a first town. Despite that assassination attempt I made early peace with RA and also with DA and DW. I ceded my control claim of Region 9 to the Rangers to guarantee his ESO and we hoped to arrange mine for turn 15 though it ended up proving too tricky. DW took Region 3, DA took Region 6, and between the four of us we wanted to get stuck into war as soon as we could, planning to hit the Giants in Region 5 and the Black Dragons in Region 10.

     Elsewhere on the map, WI was first to get regional control, taking Region 2 in turn 4. He was allied with EL who took Region 1 very soon after. The two of them kind of turtled for a good 10 turns, working on artifacts, training and economic consolidation, while the rest of us got stuck into various costly battles.

     But the biggest dynamic within the game was unquestionably the AN/TR alliance. From turn 1, TR wanted to come out fighting, and boy did he pick fights with pretty much everyone around him. AN focused on keeping DE and RD disrupted (for honorable reasons he didn’t attack new players but was happy for TR to do so) while TR started marching all over the southwest.

MID GAME

     From turn 9 or 10, Rangers invaded Black Dragons, and Dwarves invaded Giants. I sent a couple of emissaries into Region 5 with the DW but I focused mainly on backing Rangers up in Region 10. Dark Elves were also present in both regions.

     In Region 10 we had a pretty fun war. BL was allied with WA, but WA was defending himself against AN/TR. So we hoped BL would be an easy campaign, though it was anything but that. He fought every step of the way, winning several battles against RA and our progress was slow, though gradually our numbers advantage worked in our favour. Progress against the GI was also good to start with but he too proved himself in combat against the DW and halted our progress.

     In the western conflicts I saw that RD and DE made some deft maneuvers and for a long while it wasn’t clear who had the upper hand, but AN/TR recruited GI and EL and by that point, essentially had unstoppable armies. At somewhere around the turn 15 mark, AN and GI swarmed into the DA in region 6, and EL attacked the DW, effectively neutralizing my allies’ offensive opportunities as they had to go into defensive mode.

    UN and GN dropped in turn 16, having not made much impact in the game previously. I think they were already inactive and were defeated by TR long before that point.

     By about turn 18, RA and I had taken most of Region 10, and I had an invisible p7 poised to strike the main BL army with Summon Deaths to finally try and take him down for good. However, the game-changer for us was the point WI announced his plans to invade Region 9 to start working on his SVC. He was pretty gentlemanly about it too, giving a couple of turns notice, and being extremely reluctant to fight anyone anyway.

     At this point, me, RA, DW, DA, and the other beset-upon nations DE, RD, BL and WA realized that an SVC was imminent but might come out of the blue from any of GI, WI, AN, TR and EL. We had to defend together with whatever we could.

     RA and I brokered immediate peace with BL/WA and I ceded pretty much all my Region 10 gains back to BL so he could try to feed his armies. So I never got to fight the BL on the field, which was just as well in retrospect because my army would certainly have been annihilated. He was a fun opponent. I would definitely fight beside him or against him in another game.

END GAME

     From about turn 23 we tried to engineer a counter/defense/final stand. While Rangers and Dark Elves attacked AN/TR, DW continued fighting EL and I supported DA against GI in region 6. With the imminent arrival of WI we knew that it was going to end badly for the eastern coalition anyway. DE and RD were now out of the running but kept harassing AN/TR for as long as they the units to do so. They also kept the strategic advice coming, for the rest of the game.

     When WI arrived in Region 9, he first apologised to the RA and then attacked him. Then he apologized to me and attacked me.

     My armies weren’t worth much, but with Summon Demon I killed the GI king as we speculated (maybe incorrectly) that he was closest to his SVC and then right after that, I killed the WI king. Those two-turn results were the best news I got all game. WI returned the favour, but only after he had spoken to me and confirmed that we were going to continue fighting, and had reminded me that he now had artifacts protecting his new king.

     In turn 26, AN and GI had knocked me out of Region 6 but for one short, glorious turn I gained the city and control of Region 9 before WI’s numbers advantage started to tell. He swatted away my troops and emissaries and when his Summon Demon killed my king, I lost 10 influence in a single turn.

     By turn 28, Rangers had been evicted from Region 9, Dwarves from Region 3, Dark Elves from Region 6, Black Dragons from Region 10 and I was down to a couple of PCs but with a few turns of gold to keep my emissaries busy, an army still hungry for enemy contact, and a P7-3-3wizard team still itching to make someone suffer.

     Turn 30: RA, BL, DA, DW and RD were all eliminated or dropped, having nothing left to fight with, but mostly all keen to return when we get a new game started.

     At this point, the eastern coalition was just WA, SO and DE, we were all bankrupt and probably had only one or two PCs between us. It became a concern to WI that his allies had taken too much other territory and he’d probably not be able to gain his SVC without stabbing one of them, which he was definitely not prepared to do. It was also likely that they might not have room to gain their SVCs and that we’d possibly be fighting until one of the other game-end criteria was reached, either turn 40 or the elimination of all the smaller players. So WI and I agreed to continue fighting in Region 9 anyway. I didn’t know he’d given an artifact to TR but it figures with his sense of honour that he’d sacrifice something to help bring the game to a close.

     On turn 32, the penultimate turn, at the gates of my final town, the main SO and WI armies were to finally meet on the field, but with a P10, P7 and P7 at his disposal, the WI was able to wipe away 11 innocent SO brigades before they could even finish their breakfast. So, when the battle commenced, I had a demoralized and devastated single brigade left, who felt it their duty to charge into a row of spears and mark their place in history.

     Both AN and TR tried and failed an SVC check, and AN landed his immense army at my final town too.

     For turn 33, WI asked again if I was still going to fight him. With both him and AN on my doorstep with massive armies, I only had one answer. As the TR claimed his hard-fought and well-deserved victory, my p7,3,3 and a rag-tag band of survivors were faced off against the enemy, and were crushed to the last man, at the gates of Fort Goliath, where now the banner of the AN proudly flies.

POST MORTEM

     The scoring system did not reward me. 8 players finished the game and I ended up in 11th place, behind others who had gone out. I had had a slow start, was always short of PCs, never made HC, owned a city only for 2 turns all game and controlled a region for just 1 turn, and I never owned a single artifact all game, so my point earnings never really got off the ground.

     The finishing players in order were TR, WI, AN, EL and GI, the western coalition who had all been ultimately successful in their campaigns, and then DE, SO and WA. We weren’t the only players from the losing coalition who fought hard, we were just the ones that were able to hold onto something until the end.

SOME HIGHLIGHTS AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

     In the late game, TR won a bid for the HC with 250,000 gold, being the most remarkable example of conspicuous consumption in gaming history.

     Whether on the giving or the receiving end of king assassinations, Summon Demon was great fun either way.

     In turn 32 I speculated with a 1 gold bid for an empty HC seat. I didn’t win but it would have been a funny way to earn extra points.

     In turn 32 I was comprehensively zapped by WI’s p10-7-7. It was fitting that I could meet a noble death at the hands of a P10 called Ry Vor.

     One example of my poor ordering: In turn 5 I had a 2 brigade group on 2 ships, and mistakenly tried to recruit another brigade, obviously illegally. The game auto-processing sunk my ships, my 2 brigades and a p2 wizard, all to my immense horror.

     Thankfully Cipher rectified the adjudication so it just disallowed my recruitment, and restored the brigades and wizard to life. Thanks, Cipher!

     I imagine this was an atypical game because of the learning curve for all involved. There was a lot of banter shared in the D2 chatroom between allies and enemies alike, and we shared lots of questions, battle reports, SVCs, and other tactical clues/details which would probably remain very secret in a second game. There was one accidental emissary usurping between DA/DW which DA was very apologetic about, but as far as I saw, everyone played with the utmost honesty and treated friends and foe with equal honour.

     Thanks for arranging the game and recruiting me, Nikodemus! Looking forward to the next one.

MY COMMENDATIONS

     Iron Willed: Destitute Noble (WA). He was fighting against the odds, up against the biggest players for the whole game. Apart from my one-off surprise early battle, I didn’t directly campaign against him while we were at war, and when we teamed up I wasn’t in a position to support him directly. But he was stubborn as hell and when we formed the ‘losers coalition’ he kept going with energy for the fight, the whole way through. Kulvac (BL) was also a stubborn opponent for me and RA, and paway (RD) has to get a mention for the way his armies kept AN/TR at bay for a hell of a long time.

     Chancellor: Nikodemus (DE). He recruited most of the players and made the arrangements to set this game up. He, Hawk (AN) and paway (RD) all helped the newcomers immensely, generally giving advice at the expense of their own game interests.

     Infamous: Tripwire (TR). His desire to fight fight fight fight fight from the get-go was the dynamic that shaped this whole game, as he overwhelmed one opponent after another. He was funny in the D2 chatroom and dropped in to laugh at his own mistakes and (few) military defeats, mainly at the hands of RD. I didn’t meet him in combat or even land in a PC of his, all game. I’m pretty grateful that I didn’t.

     Honorary Mention: There isn’t a category for him but The Dark One (WI) was the most honorable player. He upheld all his agreements with allies, even to his cost. He wanted to play an artifact-based game rather than a war-based one so he was consistently apologetic about attacking people, and kept up a regular communication with me the whole time we were at war. He clearly got the game and played extremely well from the outset -it was just too crowded for him to engineer his own victory. Would definitely enjoy fighting with or against him again.

Duel 2 Alamaze -Game 105 Remembered(by persona Tripwire)

     Me TROLL Rule the world! <Slobber>

     Back at start me trolls couldn’t find our bungs with a stick! Me had many problems and cried to Ancient peoples “Why me?! We poor trolls can’t find bungs!” Ancient peoples helped trolls and we were friends. Me told Ancients, “We only care about Ancients and Trolls, me no like to talk to others. Me eat them all.” Ancients said, “OK, me help you find bung.” Ed* The Troll finds a mentor and ally in the Ancient Ones

     Trolls smiled and said, “Me eat your face!” and fight everyone. Sometimes even friends of Ancient Ones by accident! They other people were in towns and trolls eat towns and sometimes villages. I think we even ate Ancient Ones towns a few times or were going to but Ancient say, “Troll that’s me!” I say, “OH whoops I no mean to eat you.”

     Big moment very early came when Ancient one say, “Troll you make floating sticks and float your trolls to the big city and fight!” Troll say, “We no float before! We no likely!” But Ancient ones show trolls how to make big boats and trolls surprise bad guy on water and smash them! Bad guy said, “WTF!? Why troll on floating sticks!?”

     Troll say, “We eat your face! And then we ate their face and took city on water!” Ed* The Troll invests in sea power in the Sea of Foreboding and captures Avalon.

     Then ‘nother big moment when troll came to fight 2 big fights against giant lizards who like to fly in and blow fire and beat up trolls then fly away! Trolls no like fire! So Troll cry to Ancients, “Big lizards whipping my bung! Me need help!” So Ancients cast spell thingie and make the lizards go to sleep so troll can eat the face from the town while lizards sleepy. So we take 2 capitals from enemies without having to fight big lizards and some other bad guys. We ate the capitals faces though and it was good! Ed* The Red Dragons became a problem for the Trolls, who received some magic assistance from their AncientOnes ally.

     Then bad time came when Warlocky people appear out of nowhere! Then they eat troll army faces and fly away! Troll no like that so we go hunt Warlocky people and eat their faces and their momma’s faces and daddys too!

     Then trolls get confused and start eating more faces of ancient one friends and troll says, “Ancient one has lots of friends! Troll want to eat more face!” Ancient one says, “nononono! You fight that way!” So troll say “Sorry” and move on to other towns and villages and take those instead.

     Then troll start buying talky trolls to talk to towns! Every town we take we put talky troll in it and we start to take towns without eating anything! Was very strange. Ed* The Trolls begin to discover uses for their emissaries

     Then trolls ate some more.. And talky trolls talked some more. Then Ancient one says, “What your SVC?” And troll say, “WTF is an SVC?” And had to go and look back and find out what that was. Then troll started pushing towards getting SVC to rule the world and eat all the faces. But Troll not have artifacts he needs. He has only looky artifacts. So he trade with other good guys and get artifacts. Ed* The Troll Secret Victory Condition required artifacts other than scrying artifacts, so he makes a trade.

     Trolls had lots of shiny coins! Troll saw talky group that liked to talk and said, “Ancients! Me want to talk on talky group!”. Ancient said, “Use many shiny coins and they will put you on talky group.” So troll load up hoards of shiny coins and put them and he got on talky group! People say, “WOW! That lots of shiny coins!” and Troll shrug and say, “We got many more shiny coins!” And people no like that. Ed* The Troll joins the High Council with an outrageously high bid to gain the open seat.

     Then troll get key to open artifact he found but that was all troll needed to eat everyone’s face and win the world. The END! Ed* The Trolls win the campaign by Secret Victory Condition after recovering a powerful quest artifact: one that requires first obtaining the Key to allow access to the location of the quest artifact.

Awards

     INFAMOUS: Paway (The Silent One) and his Red Dragons! This was probably the only ASS whipping that the Trolls really got aside from the Warlocks surprise attack. Man the attack 1 is really a punishing attack on trolls. If they can’t get in your face so to speak they are in trouble and none seemed to do it better than RD and their fire!

     CHANCELLOR -Hawk definitely for me. I told him early on I didn’t want to get into any huge alliances and regardless how it ended up and you can ask any of the allies that we had, I only went through him and just wanted to play an aggressive and attacking game. I never asked for much and gave gold away like crazy all game. I think I needed food 1 time in the game but that was it. And a few traded artifacts (Thanks guys!)

     IRON WILLED-Destitute Noble-Definitely! I thought he was out like 3 times and he kept coming back. Near the end we got soooooo lucky. We saw he was back and we guessed that his AN3 I think it was would attack my group by surprise so “Just in case” We had TR1 attack on a 2 vs AN3 and then attack the town and sure enough he did attack and I slaughtered him bigtime. Another instance where Hawk saved my butt suggesting we do that.

     Thanks to all I couldn’t have done it without everyone elses help and the win definitely doesn’t feel deserved with all the help I received with orders!

Duel 2 Alamaze -Game 105 Remembered (persona The Dark One)

     Well, that was my first game of Alamaze and it was a lot of fun. I think the best thing I did was take Hawk up on an offer of help early on. He pointed me in the right direction and left me alone to do what I wanted. My personal goals were to get the ‘feel’ of the game and hunt artifacts. So that’s what I did. My goal was to snag the Ring of Power, so I started working on that right away, but it took a long while! I was able to gain region 2 early and made a bunch of non-aggression pacts with my neighbors, which I upheld with honor. My one official ally was the Elves, and Erik and I spent a bunch of the early turns trying to figure things out. Hawk helped out with advice as I needed it, which was often. I didn’t want to / plan on actually attacking anyone all game.

     And that worked out. I didn’t have any early hitches and worked on powering up my wizards. Frankly, I was terrified that someone would show up with even a small army, as I had like zero military and as cool as the wizards are, you can’t be everywhere at once. Fortunately, no one did. The only real hiccup was that I loaned D. Noble (WA) a ring of protection, but he got mauled by the TR and they took it…

     Finally on turn 18 or so I managed to get the Ring of Power. It turned out I already had found the Ring of Spells and stumbled across the Ring of Invisibility, so I also managed to achieve one of the in-game quests, which was highly cool!

     With rings in hand, and everyone telling me to ‘Get Involved’ I decided to be a little more aggressive and decided that since I was already in Region 10 to get the Ring, I’d see about taking some PCs there. Since I was already friendly with everyone in the North, that seemed to work best.

     So I ended up rumbling with the RA, and it turns out that high level wizards are really, really cool. Fortunately, I was able to take some territory in 9 and 10 and eventually take over region 9. Had some good fights with both the RA and the SO along the way. Learned a lot more about how combat works and what to do with those high-level wizards. Along the way I managed to get Ry Vor up to LVL 10, but about a week after someone else already achieved that quest, dang it.

     Finally, my highlights of the game were:

     Taking Region 2 on Turn 4, which was coolTrading assassinations of our kings with the SOFinding the 3 Rings and solving the quest level 10 Wizard!

     My thanks go out to Floyd/Nikodemus for setting up the game and offering advice, OAB (The Silent One) for also giving me some tips, Erik (Otto X) for being a great ally and most of all, Hawk, for helping me through the growing pains and not laughing at me when I screwed stuff up.

     Finally just a few notes about what I liked about Alamaze:

     I really enjoy hunting artifacts. Great aspect of the game.

     I like the magic and the balance of it. Not sure why the invisibility aspect of the game is getting changed, because wizards are helpless militarily. If you can see them coming and kill their wizards, it’s all over, baby. Seems unnecessary.

     I think the map should ideally be more randomized, but that’s another thing. It could also be larger to allow for more exploration before conflict is imminent.

     Emissaries seem too powerful, rebelling and flipping PCs at will… Seems like that could be a little harder.

     I like a lot of the subtle and detailed orders -very cool -shows a lot of work went into the game.

     Mostly though, it was a fun time and I enjoyed it! Looking forward to playing again!

 

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