Had the gang over for a playtest session of Archon yesterday. Well, part of the gang. With school and work, getting everyone together at the same time is going to be difficult until just after Christmas.

Anyway, we had four this time. Me and Mark, who had played it two-player before, plus Jason and Dave. Everyone had read the rules at some point (generally some time ago), and with the clarifications in the current version of the rules it was pretty easy to get everyone up to speed.

Choosing city-states was a bit easier this time, since the need for population growth was understood this time. I took Attica (first) and Arcadia (last), Mark took Argolis and Thessaly, Dave took Corinth and Lokris, and Jason took Aetolia and Messenia.

Play went fairly smoothly, and seemed to act a bit more like I expected. After a few rounds, RPs weren’t desperately short, but no one was amassing humongous unspendable stockpiles either. Dave I think set the record for income at about 12-14 RPs late in the game.

The biggest comment from everyone is how austere the game is. Sending out colonies is pretty easy, but gaining control over the area, or doing any sort military adventurism is very difficult. Not because it’s expensive in population or resources, but in actions. With a need to build multiple units (at one action apiece), and then activate them for movement, an offensive is very difficult to manage. I was the only one who conquered another city-state, and it took most of the game to get to that point. I could have managed a second at the very end, but mis-thought what I was doing, and took an army as a casualty to preserve my population/militia. That left me with the potential to take another province, but not enough actions to recruit the force needed.

While that is accepted as part of how the game is, the big concern is population growth. Population growth fuels a fair amount of the game (both in that population is needed to do things, and that having too much population needs to be avoided), but the random mechanism for it is proving too chaotic for most everyone.

Having the last pick for initial city states ended up with me taking land-locked Arcadia. This meant that my colonization was powered purely by Attica (Athens). However, with my other distractions (building an army), and a three turn period where I could do almost nothing (kept getting ‘play now’ cards which drained my hand of actual actions), my colonization efforts never got going.

Final scores: Dave 34 VP (city state w/temple, city state w/democracy, 5 controlled colonies, 16 RP), Jason 34 VP (two city states, 3 controlled colonies, 22 RP), Mark 24 VP (city state, city state 2/democracy, 3 controlled colonies, 11 RP), James 19 VP (2 city states, 1 city state w/democracy, 9 RP).

Playing time came out to about 3 hours, perhaps a bit less.

Not sure when we’ll manage more than 2 people face to face again, or what we’ll play at this point.