We hadn’t planned to do a boardgame today but the Pope rang up (OK, it was the chap who’s playing the role of the Pope in our “Here I Stand” Vassal game) to say he was free and was there any chance of a 3 player game? A quick look at my shelves revealed “Andean Abyss” and as Kevin had pre-ordered the Afghanistan game in the same COIN series it was an easy choice to agree on. In the 3-player game, one player has to control the AOC right-wing faction and the Cartel drug gangs faction (and achieve both victory conditions at the same time for an auto-victory) whilst one player controls the Government forces and the last player the left-wing FARC guerilla faction. We rolled for who got what and I was the FARC – probably the easiest to play in the 3-player game as a combination of bases and influence would give me victory.
The key mechanic of the game is that, though it is card driven, the players don’t hold any cards in their hand, but the top card of the deck is revealed along with the card which is coming up next. Each card has the order the players may use it printed on it, and because if you play an action on the current card you miss out on the chance to play on the next card, this leads to some difficult choices – it’s an interesting twist, but because I wasn’t holding any cards I felt the game was driving me rather than the other way round. Into each quarter of the deck a “Propaganda” card (think scoring card from Twilight Struggle) is inserted, then each quarter of the deck is shuffled separately and combined into a deck – this way, you know a scoring card is coming, just not exactly when. Oddly enough, the scoring card was the last possible card out of the first quarter of the deck AND the second quarter of the deck so accusations about the quality of my shuffling and general trustworthiness were being bandied about – ironically, mostly by the Cartel and fascist bully-boy player 🙂
We played through the first quarter of the deck concentrating on getting towards our own victory conditions and not really interfering with each other unless a card event came up which seemed too detrimental to the other factions not to play. In a way, this was the Government’s downfall as Nick played events rather than building up his forces when he probably should have been (especially the Police) to stop the FARC holding on to political control of so many areas.
By the end of the second quarter of the deck, the Cartels were swimming in cash and had easily achieved their objective of placing bases, but the AOC weren’t even close. The Government forces had cleared out all my bases and guerillas from the province of Huila-Tolima but hadn’t yet managed to switch its allegiance to pro-Government – important in the scoring phase which we all knew was coming within a card or two. Life is cheap in the FARC, so knowing I would lose the guerillas I launched an all-out assault on Bogota which the government cannot afford to lose as it is worth so many victory points. Responding to this assault, the Government sent in just enough troops to wipe me out, but not before my 2 remaining guerillas got a chance to fight back. Needing a 1 or 2 on a D6 to kill some Government forces and force them to take two action phases to wipe me out rather than one and swing control of the province with the other, I rolled a ‘1’. I had also placed a base, and because the Government were prevented from taking an action on the next card and the card after was “Propaganda” this ended the game as the FARC had enough bases and political influence to win. The Cartel were rolling in drugs money but the AOC had not been able to destroy any FARC bases and place enough of their own to outnumber FARC (their only objective).
I wish I could say I’d planned the ending, but I’d be lying – I was probably playing the least difficult side in the 3-player version and it was our lack of interfering with each other’s plans which gave me victory. I really want to like this game, but I honestly didn’t really feel like I was immersed in the theme of running Marxist guerillas, just gaining area control with cubes and discs whilst gathering and spending resources and as an afterthought making sure no-one else was achieving their victory conditions. The game seems very abstract – there is little actual dice-rolling or combat unlike Labyrinth by the same designer, though that is 2-player and cards in-hand so you feel that you are playing against someone and not just the game system. It was an OK choice as there were 3 of us wanting to play a game – a once every couple of years event – but I enjoyed our last 3-player outing of Here I Stand a lot more.