Last week i received a copy of Churchill from GMT. I had pre-ordered it (P500) and even though i had chosen the slow shipping option (4-8 weeks) to reduce the cost its shipping time was still short, around 3 weeks. The advantage of ordering it through P500 is that you get the game at a discount (which basically covers customs) and you are guaranteed a copy of the game without having to worry about it going out stock and/or out of print. Furthermore, you receive it before stores do which means before most other board gamers.
There’s something really satisfying about being one of the first to explore the potential of a game. You go to the BGG forums to check threads and there aren’t that many yet. It’s early in the game’s life with the designer still responding to people’s rules queries.You are sort of a pioneer when it comes to experiencing what this game has to offer.
On the other hand, the risk with a pre-order is that the acquisition is based on simply reading the rulebook and a few articles with previews and impressions. There aren’t any proper reviews out there for it yet. This means that the risk you run of the game not being for you is considerably higher. I have done the P500 thing only twice before. The first time was with Dominant Species which is now one of my favourite games. The second time was with Urban Sprawl, by the same designer of Dominant Species. Urban Sprawl was a huge disappointment even though i thought i had done enough homework by reading the rulebook and previews before ordering it. I eventually traded it. There’s a lot of hope involved in pre-ordering (unless it’s a reprint) and often you just don’t know how you will feel about a game until you actually play it.
“The players in the game take on the roles of Churchill, Roosevelt, or Stalin as they maneuver against each other over the course of 10 Conferences that determine who will lead the Allied forces, where those forces will be deployed, and how the Axis will be defeated. The player whose forces collectively have greater control over the surrendered Axis powers will win the peace and the game.”
For the past few days I’ve been spending most of my time going over Churchill’s rulebook and the BGG rules threads to make sure that i know the game well before playing it with my board game buddies. It’s a 3 player game which is ideal as i currently have two 3 player groups i could play it with and there aren’t many games which play well with three. It’s also possible to play with fewer players with the use of bots taking over the other 1/2 leaders. I’ve tried it solo 3-4 times using these bots but it hasn’t worked out for me. I found that the use of the flow chart to determine what each bot will do to be too procedural, with the bots making sub-optimal decisions and me being forced to make a different decision for them far too often. That defeats the idea of solo play in my opinion. Ultimately, i think because of the negotiations that should take place and the sort of bidding mechanic you have during the conference you need human opponents. The upside of this experience is that many games i had in mind to acquire because they allow the possibility to play solo using these bots are now my the wish list (e.g COIN series). At least in terms of strictly playing them solo.
In spite of the disappointment of the solo play and the concerns i have of explaining the game (very tricky Victory conditions) i’m very excited to play it. I’m planning a “teach the game” session on my own this week in order to articulate my thoughts on how to go about teaching it. Hopefully it will hit the table soon.