The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Tribune Initial Thoughts & misc notes

Continuing my worker placement kick, I’ve now played Tribune twice. In one way, Tribune is the sort of thing for people who like that sort of thing – You have worker placement, a few blind bid auctions (but only loser pays). It will disappoint those who seek massive variety. Since I am the last person here who has played, I see no need to discuss mechanics.

It’s … sparse. Not minimal, like an abstract, but hardly laden with chrome (like Agricola). It holds together well; I like the adjustable victory conditions. I’ll never get to 20 games as quickly as Agricola, but Tribune stands on solid ground. Better than that, Tribune does not sacrifice fun for elegance. Overall, I like it. (And I did like the shocked looks when I didn’t bring Agricola to the game session).

What stands out is the parallel nature of Tribune (parallel instead of serial). Lots of games have multiple paths to victory, but they have paths. You get your money, buy stuff, then convert to a victory point engine. Grow your family, specialize, cover your negatives as best you can. A then B then C. Often, victory comes down to speed.

But here, you’ve got what I hear called the “Long Pole” in military circles, or “Critical path”. Better to get all your victory conditions on turn 5 than to hit all but one on turn 3 and one on turn six. So, A and B and C. Parallel.

Once you’ve got so many laurels (or legions, or the favor of the gods, etc) then extra ones are nice. Even more so than Agricola’s scoring chart, the players disperse into doing lots of things at once, and working on timing issues. Inevitably, there is some serialization because you only have so many actions per turn, but the strategy is in timing so that your last objective is fulfilled ASAP.

I’ve probably played other parallel games before, but this is the first time its jumped out at me. Perhaps this is more a factor of the “Carpe Diem” objectives, where you fulfill many ‘easy’ conditions. Games requiring fewer ‘difficult’ objectives or a mandatory condition may have more of an efficiency-engine feel.

I like that the conditions vary in granularity. Each objective is binary (either you meet it or you don’t) but the steps along the way. You need 8 laurels, which you get one at a time. You need 3 legions, which are also one at a time, but only 1-3 are given out per turn (instead of 5-10 laurels). 30 Denarii can come in fits and gasps, but the 3-card auction space can swing 10 denarii from one player to another. And the Tribune requires a relatively easy 1st step (the scroll) and a difficult second step (a pair of matching factions). The favor of the gods is the converse, a fairly difficult first step, but relatively easy second one.

My main concern is the leaders. Given that you can takeover a set by simply having more cards, the ‘zero’ value doesn’t seem like a big deal, and there are only 7 leaders out of 100 cards, which means getting one on the opening deal (or having one show up in the ‘1’ cost slot when you are first player) is a nice bonus.

Still, I don’t regret my first purchase in four months (I think).

In other news … I played some magnetic placement game (whose name escapes me) which was just like the RattleSnake, only substituting quiet contemplation for raucous fun.

My concern about Agricola’s cards reared its head again my last two plays … in one game a strong gamer, new to Agricola, slapped down the patron and 6 other occupations and ran away with the game. In the second my first turn acrobat was trumped by a second turn dancer. (Both cards head for the travelling players space). That one was still close, but those cards were a huge influence. I’d rather play a fun game than an elegant “pure” game, but I’d like both. I’m still not anywhere near the point where I shall lay down my sheeple and play Agricola no more forever. But I was annoyed. Revisiting the numbers, I’d say that maybe 30% of my games were strongly influenced by the card deals to the point that it seriously affected the game, but the number of runaway wins that I think were basically impossible to stop was maybe two or three. Tough to differentiate the two since many of my games have had different levels of expertise.

I need to come up with an Ark OptiMix variant to shave 20 minutes off the game. I like the new variety, but the original game’s length was better. I think I’ll just randomly discard ten cards at the start of the game and shuffle the rain cards in the bottom 75% of the deck (instead of bottom half). (Alternately, I could scrounge a second deck and shuffle 6 or more rain cards into the bottom half of the deck). I’m tempted to make “Shy” not such a debilitating setback, but that may have just been our one game (I think 5 shy animals got placed, and for a good chunk of the game they couldn’t go anywhere).

Not having a real video-game system, I’ll just have to assume I would never have been tempted to try the Iron Bladder setlist in RockBand II. Unlike some people I know. Ye gods.

Oh, and the comments on the initial worker placement post are still active, a little.


Written by taogaming

September 23, 2008 at 9:42 pm

Posted in Agricola, Ramblings, Reviews

Tagged with ,

4 Responses

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  1. You’re not the last.


    September 24, 2008 at 10:44 am

  2. Allow me to ignore most of your blog entry and ramble about Agricola a while. I’ve also never played Tribune. I’m curious if you are suggesting this game or not. I don’t think I’ve even heard of the game.

    I’m starting to think that the answer to the Agricola card problem might not be drafting or drawing ten and discarding three, but just putting a better deck together. I’m thinking of using all the decks and just cutting the occupations and minor improvements that nobody ever uses. I thought about my game last night and was trying to make some good excuses for why I lost. My cards were definitely sub par. Usually I don’t care too much what cards the other people are playing as long as I have something going on myself. The “uberdeck” will probably point out which occupations and improvements are too good much quicker.

    I’ve been pretty unhappy with the amount of time drafting adds to the game and drawing ten and discarding three might as well be drawing ten. I’m interested in one idea I saw somewhere on bgg where instead of having starting hands you can just play any occupation/improvement they want in the deck. That might just warp the game towards occupations/improvements far too much. Also, when I suggested it to a couple people, they looked at me like it was just terrible, so I’m not sure I could even get a group to try it.



    September 24, 2008 at 4:21 pm

  3. Agricola … I think drafting would take too long. If you just trimmed out the worst cards, then synergy would matter more. I have been playing ‘wild’ (with all the decks shuffled together), that may be a mistake.


    September 24, 2008 at 10:09 pm

  4. I’ll add to my earlier comment, namely that the “fungible” nature of the cards in Tribune helps players work on the parallel paths at the same time rather than single-threading through critical steps (such as Agricola’s hut expansion and family growth spaces), as in most other worker-placement games.


    September 25, 2008 at 11:35 pm

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