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Cardboard Children: Age Of Empires III

Spreading His Dirty Seed

Hello youse.

So I asked myself, what do these PC freaks like? I made a list.

1. They like banging on about how great PCs are, because they're insecure.
2. They like having to deal with DRM stuff and patches, and games not even working.
3. They like getting a sore back, sitting playing games at a desk, like a BUSINESS MAN.
4. They like buying Diablo 3, and supporting gold farming and oppression.
5. They like playing games where you click on little men and make them--

WAIT! We got something here. You like clicking on little men and making those little men do things for you. WE GOT SOMETHING HERE!


Yeah, baby. Now I got your attention.

This isn't a new game, but it's new to me, so shut up. I get a little bit scared of games that I've heard are “worker placement games” because that makes me think of dry, dull Euro games about building monasteries in 16th century Belgium. I only picked Age of Empires up because I saw it cheap. And it was only cheap because it had a slight dent on the box. And it was only dented because it had fallen off a shelf. And I was only in the shop because it was my birthday. And I could only go to the shop because James Purefoy was writing my column. And Solomon Kane is available to buy on Blu-Ray now.

The game is designed by Glenn Drover, whose name you might have heard in this poem:


Red Rover. Glenn Drover.
Range Rover. Glenn Drover.
She steps into the kitchen
“It's Over.”
Smiles at her
“That rhymes with Glenn Drover.”
“The guy from that poem we're in.”
She weeps.
Roger. Over. Glenn. Drover.
Bend Over.
Ben Dover.
Ben Dover's Slutty Mummies.

It IS a worker placement game. But wow. Wowee. Dry it is not. There are over 300 miniatures in the box. Little figures, little men. And you get to place these little mannies on a beautiful big board.


The board is split in half. On the left are the various area of the New World, and at the start of the game there is nothing there except from some trade goods, and markers that tell you the unexplored regions. One of the first things you want to do is get some dudes sent to the new world on discovery expeditions, get the natives murdered, and grab those trade goods. NO ROOM FOR NICE GUYS IN THIS GAME.

On the right hand side of the board are different action tracks, and this is where the game actually gets played. In your turn, you choose an action track and place a colonist on it. Let's take a look at what these different tracks do.

INITIATIVE: Place your colonist on the initiative track, and you'll earn money equal to your position on the track. This also determines turn order next time round. However, when you place a dude on the track, you have to stick him in the first vacant position. So – you place first, you'll get first place in the turn order, but only $1 return. You see? If you're tight on cash, you might want to wait until some others have filled the initiative track, for a higher payoff.

COLONIST DOCK: This bad boy is important. By placing your colonist figure into this box, you get to send them off to the New World. The dudes get sent in order of placement, so often you'll find England sets one guy off, then Portugal does, then Holland – rarely do you get to send two colonists one after another. Why? Because the first person to get three of their dudes into a single region of the New World gets the trade good that lies there. As specialists come into the game, such as soldiers and missionaries and merchants, you'll be sending those from the dock too. And the places on the dock are limited. Sometimes you might need to get a soldier over to Canada to defend your territory, and the other players fill up the boats like drunk teenagers on the night bus. This is FRUSTRATING.

TRADE GOODS: This box gets filled with new randomly placed trade goods every turn. And you want these BAD. The player who gets their colonist in the first position in this box gets first pick of the available trade goods. And you WANT that choice. Why? Because income is generated by SETS of Trade Goods. You want to go for sets of three of a kind or four of a kind of each trade good. This is HARD TO DO but fucking VITAL to your success. There is always a mad rush for the trade goods box, unless a load of crap comes out in the random draw. This makes me SULK when some cows come out when I need textiles.

MERCHANT SHIPPING: In this box, at the start of every new turn, a boat is placed. A beautiful little boat miniature. What does a boat do? Oh baby. With a boat, you have a TRADE GOOD WILDCARD. Let's say you have three Silver trade goods - you can add the boat to the set, and you have FOUR OF A KIND. That little boat mini can be anything you want it to be, representing your nations ability to ship in new goods. So how do you get the boat? Have the most of your dudes in this box by the end of the turn. Oh, and Captains and Merchants count as two dudes. Fill 'er up!

CAPITAL BUILDINGS: Now things get tasty. This box works in the same way the trade goods box works. Get your wee men in there, and you have the chance to buy one of five randomly drawn capital buildings. These get more expensive as the game goes on, but they are KEY ELEMENTS to your success in the game. Each capital building gives you bonuses of some kind. In the First Age, you'll often see things like Training Grounds that give you a free soldier each turn. Or a Trading Post that gives you $5 every turn. Little short term boosts. In the Second Age, the middle section of this eight round game, you'll see more powerful things like Privateers (letting you claim $1 from each player per ship you have) and the University (awards 5 Victory Points and lets you, once in the game, move to the front of any event box). In the Third Age, towards game's end, you'll see Capital Buildings that will award massive bonuses depending on how you played your game. Navy gives you 4 Victory Points per ship you own. Population gives you 1 VP for every two colonists you have in the New World. And so on. The Capital Buildings are what makes this game really shine – the game's been playtested like crazy, you can tell.

DISCOVERY: The Discovery action box is hugely important. Those regions in the New World part of the board? At the start of the game, you can land your little fellas on one of them. The rest need to be discovered first. You discover new regions by building up your colonists, Captains, and soldiers in the Discovery box and then sending them on an expedition. You choose an undiscovered country and turn over the tile placed there. This tile will tell you how many natives are there, and you need to have sent enough of your guys to “deal with” those natives. If you haven't sent enough, your little guys are dead, and quite right too. If you have sent enough, you're a true empire-builder, and you can chop these little dudes' heads off. You'll earn some money right away, and more money if you've sent some soldiers. And you get to place a colonist in your new turf. You total, total bastard. Each exploration nets you Victory Points too. In the last game I played, my buddy boy Richard became the Exploration Master. While the rest of us squabbled over trade and buildings, he travelled all over the world, spreading his dirty seed. And then he lost, because that's all he did, the dum-dum. Killing and shagging is never enough, is it?

SPECIALISTS: This box is where you hire those tasty specialists we spoke about. There are five places in this box. You can claim a Missionary, a Merchant, a Soldier or a Captain. Once a player sticks a colonist in one of these places, and claims one of these, NO OTHER PLAYER CAN GET A FREE ONE. Brutal. The fifth place allows you to pay hard cash to train up a colonist as one of the four specialists. But that's it. Competition for specialists is always fierce, because once they're gone, they're gone. And they're AMAZING. The Missionary, when you send him to the New World, counts as TWO colonists. Why? Because he's worked his voodoo magix and turned some poor native into one of his brainwashed religious freakanuts. The Merchant earns you money the MINUTE he lands in the New World. Instant cash. His miniature is a big fat fella with a sack of money. He smells, and he counts as 2 colonists when he's trying to buy a boat. Then there's the Soldier. The Soldier is gonna shoot other players for you. We'll get to that in a minute. He also earns you money in discovery expeditions. He's a RATBAG. The Captain helps a fella out on Discovery Explorations and Merchant Shipping, by counting as 2 colonists. He has a big telescope through which he SPIES YOUR GIRLFRIEND'S UNDIES. These specialists are all dickheads, and you need to make friends with them often.

WARFARE: Oh boy. Yummy. If you place a fella in the Warfare box, you get to make War. Each placement gets you one free battle in a region. If you want to go to WAR, you have to fund it with COLD HARD CASH MONEY. The difference between a Battle and a War is this – a battle sees you attacking one opponent in one region. A War sees you attacking another player at the table in EVERY region where you share colonists, and you have soldiers. That's just evil. Yeah, you need soldiers to attack. And the fights are simple. Each soldier knocks out one other figure. So easy. So brutal. In our last game, a beautiful thing happened. Three of us activated Warfare, and had battles against one player. We CLEANSED the board of her filthy peoples. We SAVED the land from her dirty genes. Cost us nothing. Cheap and easy genocide.

And that's your action boxes. At the end of every Age, Victory Points are awarded for first and second place in each territory where a player has more than three figures. A majority population race is always on to claim these scores. That's why you want your soldiers over there, thinning the other numbers with musket fire, and why you want your missionaries converting as many poor people as possible.

At the end of the game, everything gets tallied up. Points from the colonies, points from your exporation tiles and cards, and your Capital Buildings. And you get your final turn income in Victory Points too – your final reward for clever set collecting and being a greedy shit.

WOT I THINK (That's what they do here, right?)

Oh man.

It sounds complicated, doesn't it? That's the first thing I want to clear up. It isn't. It's beautifully simple. You are placing wee men in places that do things you want done. That's all. You PC gamers will get this – it's like clicking on a little man and then clicking on some trees. You know he's going to chop some wood. Here, you place your little fella in a Warfare box and you know someone's getting shot. It's clear, clean and beautiful.

Oh man.

It's so exciting. We all love it. Everyone that played it loved it. Louise had to take a time out in the kitchen to calm down after we wiped her nation from the board by blowing her colonists' heads apart – and EVEN SHE was tweeting about how great it was. You're ALWAYS thinking. You're always hoping the spots you want are going to stay available. You're always bluffing about what you want to do, so that other players block you out of actions you don't care about.

Oh man.

Halfway through, there were big grins around the table. When Joanne got Privateers, the grins turned to horrified grimaces. She'd been grabbing boats like crazy, making crazy sets. Then Privateers popped. “We can't let her get it.” We stopped her from getting first choice of Capital Buildings. She had University. She used its one-time power and moved into first place on the Capital Buildings track and Privateers was hers. That meant, with her four boats, she was blasting each of us for $4 every single turn. A killer. A dirty pirate killer. Amazing. We loved it.

Oh man.

I made a deal with Richard. We would let our colonists live together in harmony, carving up little 1st and 2nd spots in the colony VP race. We made that deal because we had crappy trade goods. No sets, shitty income. We locked down these countries, these cash-poor countries, and wouldn't let anyone else in. It was an alliance of necessity. It was the poor allying with the poor, in hope that they could muscle out the rich by RISING in NUMBERS. Rich with theme, this game. Rich with theme.

Oh man.

I haven't played a better worker placement game than this. It's even better than Agricola, that lovely, charming farming game. There's so much to do that it doesn't even really feel like a worker placement game at all. It feels like this huge, rich, engrossing thing. A big hybrid beast. A worker-placementy-majority-controlly-diplomacy game. An incredible game.

Is it like the PC game? It's BETTER than the PC game. And I love the PC game.

This game is for you. You're the target audience for this bad boy. No downtime, easy to learn, and a theme that you PC gamers love - killing natives.

What are you waiting for? Get it BOUGHT.


Who cares. Star Wars is played out to all fuck. Discuss.


Fantasy Flight have announced a Second Edition of their dungeon-crawling game Descent.

I am a veteran of Descent, an experienced Overlord. I will find out about this for all of you, and try to bring you some more info next week. In the meantime, check it out on the Fantasy Flight site.


Next week, something very special. See you then.

No, sorry, it's not James Purefoy again. Sorry.

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About the Author

Robert Florence