The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Dynasties Review

The SABG has been en fuego.  I’ve been playing classics (burning through my Top 20 outside 200), Rallyman, and several new-to-me titles.

Like Dynasties.

At it’s heart Dynasties is a simultaneous selection game. You take over china via a little duel of cards … there are 5 provinces, 9 turns and scoring after 3, 6 and 9. (Each province gets a marker at the start of the game that shows how much it’s worth each time). Both players place a card for each province … the higher card adds the differences in armies (or removes the differences in armies … each province only has one army).

There’s a neat idea — armies are (somewhat) tight, and the player losing (with fewer armies) picks the order of resolution. If you win, you must place armies, and if your reserves run out, you must steal them from another region.

Another good idea — the 1-6 cards recycle, but the 6 card can only be used once per province … and it costs you one reserve army per use. The more powerful cards are one shots.

For an abstract, I like it. It’s really a 2 player Adel Verpflichtect. But … it needs  development. Too many of the one shot cards are unanswerable. You can play a +1, which means your card is one more than your opponent. Where’s the fun in that? If you are up a few armies, you play that, and even if they play the +2 (which costs an army permanently) you win the province. What’s the point of a guessing game when one selection will always win?

You may find high level Rock Paper Scissors stupid, but it exists and kids all over the world play it (or some variant). Nobody plays Rock, Paper, Paper.

It would be nice if all the card had a counter or two. For example, if the 3 card cancelled the +1, it would be a risk. The 4 could cancel the plague. Etc. There wouldn’t be that many rules.

So I wanted to like Dynasties, but during the scoring round, I could see unstoppable plays in provinces. Ho hum. You could argue that means that you should have goals in the penultimate round (“If I get to +2, I’m unstoppable … if he gets to +1, I have no defense against X”) but that doesn’t peak my interest. I want this to be fast.

Also, I think you start with a few too many armies. (21 for 5 regions and marking permenant losses). Tossing a few into the box from each side would leave more scope for tactical play where you try to sucker your opponent into playing a large number, then go small and watch them overconcentrate (winning one province but losing 2 more). In theory that can happen now, but it doesn’t matter much. If one player has to do that, they’ve got all their armies on the board.

(Actually, if we played a rule wrong and both players added armies to the board, that would probably fix this game. Did we play a rule wrong?).

Written by taogaming

June 1, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Posted in Reviews

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  1. Hrm. I’ll re-read the rules now that I’m not under the pressure of the “I have to get this played before something more shiny shows up and I lose his interest!” panic mode I was in when I was setting the game up Monday.


    June 2, 2011 at 10:17 am

  2. I’m the designer of Dynasties, which was a 2006 Golden Geek Best 2-Player Board Game Nominee. The comment that it needs “more development” is amusing, since the design’s history took more than 20 years from inception to published product. Moving right along….Your first suggestion to have some cards counter other cards would create precisely the kind of chaos that would remove all the tension that this design was intended to promote. And yes, you *should* have goals in the penultimate scoring rounds. That was also intended, like Chess, the modus operandi for the design was to make the right *preparations* to win, as Sun Tzu or King Shao might have. Lasdly, you completely missed that the players only use 18 armies in the expert version, rather than 21. It would have helped immeasurably had you actually thought about your critique in depth.

    Alan Newman

    June 4, 2011 at 7:46 am

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