A very interesting game that I recently was taught by one of my newer gaming friends was Pax (that link is to the publisher's site - it's not on Amazon).
In Pax, you are rebelling against Rome. Well, at least most of you are. To successfully rebel against Rome, you (as a collective group of players) must defeat Rome in 4 of the 7 categories. Each turn, you will draw three cards, but you will see them one at a time. One card goes in your hand, one goes on the bottom of the deck, and one goes under one of the "legion" cards. Next, you may buy a group of "legion" cards by paying the cost of all of the cards in the pile. Third, you may play cards from your hand in front of you - the first card is free, and each additional card costs one more than the card before it. Finally, you collect income based on the pile you just added to that has the most cards. Once all players have had a turn, whichever legion pile is worth the most gold goes into Rome's pile. This continues until the deck has been exhausted. At that time, players compare their strength in each category against Rome. If Rome is stronger than (or tied with) all of the players in at least 4 categories, then Rome wins! And thus, whoever has conspired with Rome (which means they have the most points in the "conspiring" category) is the winner! Otherwise, players add up points (getting bonuses for various things like having more strength than Rome in a category) and whoever has the most points is the winner.
|This is the person betraying you.|
The next thing that I liked about the game is that each of the different categories was valuable. With this, you could even argue that there are more than two paths to victory - within the "defeat Rome" strategy, there are different categories you can focus on. Some of the cards give you points, others give you money, one type lets you buy legion piles cheaper, and one even allows you to draw more than one card at a time before deciding where they go. Every category is useful - though some are much more useful at the beginning of the game, whereas others are much more valuable late. Plus, the designer avoided making any of the categories unbalanced. Specifically, the conspiracy cards could quickly become overpowered (they can give you instant victory), and to compensate for this, you don't collect any income on a turn that you play a conspiracy card! That's a nice little touch that keeps the game balanced.
My final pro is that I like that your decisions in this game are simple yet challenging. What do you do on your turn? For the most part, you're simply looking at a card and deciding what to do with it. But, since you have no idea what's coming next, it can be tough. For example - if I draw a card that I could use, but isn't especially helpful, what should I do? Should I bury it under the deck, even though I can use it? Should I keep it, and hope that nothing better comes out? Should I put it in a legion pile - but what if I don't buy it and it helps someone else (or even Rome)? Pax gives you meaningful and tough decisions to make, and makes you decide how much you're willing to gamble on what you will draw next.
|Your legion piles might look like this.|
Overall, I give Pax an 8.5/10. It's a brilliant little game, and I look forward to playing it more. I don't necessarily see myself getting together just to play Pax, though, so it doesn't quite crack the 9 threshold.
If Pax sounds interesting, you might also want to check out Atlanteon, Wizard's Gambit, and Orbit Rocket Race 5000.
I would like to thank iRon games for providing me with a review copy of Pax.