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Pax Porfiriana: Solo first impressions

Supporter

Today, I tried out #Pax Porfiriana solo, for the first time. I have decided to write my first impressions, in a "Brian's Battery" format.

Firstly, I must give the usual caveats. 

  • These are my FIRST impressions based on ONE play. There is lots of room for my impressions to change, and there is a great possibility, nay a certainty, that I messed some rules up.
  • Out of the box the game supports 1-6 players, though you have to provide a dice yourself. Ricky Royal lightly tweaked the solo rules in the box to provide a more dynamic playing experience. I used his version of the solo rules. Those can be found here.  It doesn't look like he changed much, nevertheless, this is my first impressions of his variant, not the one that came in the box.
  • This was a SOLO play, I haven't played it multiplayer, though I really want to.
  • Also this was the "collectors edition." This is the only format that they produce it in right now. But, it does have a few upgrades over the "origianal" edition. I don't know what all the component differences are.... but be warned, this is not the original edition.

So, who are in #Pax Porfiriana and what are you trying to do? You represent a "hacendado" in Porfirian Mexico. Hacendados were, mostly, wealthy landowners. In the game some of the hacendados are US business magnates, or Mexican Generals. You are trying to make money and consilidate power, while studiously ignoring any small pangs of conscience that come your way. After all, what good has conscience ever done anybody? You will probably try to topple Porifio Diaz. He was a Mexican president, who, in one of history's greatest irony's, originally ran for the presidency on the platform of "no reelection." The reason this is ironic is that he ended up ruling Mexico with a iron hand for 33 years before being outed by a revolution. As I said, you might try to out him.... Or you could maybe be a loyalist, if that looks more profitable, or a more sure way to power. So, these are your goals, money and power, in whatever way you can get them.

 

Brian's Battery

Theme ++

This may be the most thematic game I have ever played. I marvel at how these cards can communicate so so much. I marvel at how much sense of place there is, even without a map to work with. I marvel at some of the tricks you can pull, I'll give you a few examples.

  • Let's say you have a mine, You can theoretically cause your Yaqui slaves to revolt, and go on strike. This is a problem, because, it dries up all your income from that mine. Furthermore, if you have built a rail connection there, you lose the use of that connection. But, you get "revolution points" for inciting that revolt. It is as if you are bragging about being a great inciter of lberty, while carefully ignoring the fact that they were your slaves to start with.
  • You can send some of your troops over to a neighbors mine, or ranch, or bank, and camp out there extorting money from them.
  • If your holdings are primarily ranches, you can put the country into a depression, making your opponent's lose money on their banks and mines.

There are many other actions you can do, and admitedly, I imagine they might feel even more fun in a multiplayer game. But, this game, to me felt super super thematic, and it is a theme I really enjoy.

 

Gameplay + I had a lot of fun. This is very much a tactical game. You have to be willing to be opportunistic, and to change your plans sort of on the fly.

 

UI - So, the symbols are clear, and they are consistently placed on the cards. The ways that cubes are different things depending on which cards they are placed I thought would be mind numbingly fiddly. Instead, it is brilliant, and just a little bit fiddly. However, I do feel like I must give it a negative point because the symbology is dated, at best, and the cards are distinctly cluttered. But, to be fair, I didn't have too much problem with it.

 

Component quality - I feel bad giving this a negative mark for component quality. In truth, the components are perfectly adequate. The cardstock is good, though the cards do not sport a linen finish. The tableau board is a nice touch and seems solid. The cubes are nice. But, the tiddlywinks that are used for unrest and for jail tokens are just disappointing. And the money is quite frankly the worst money I have ever handled in a hobby board game. They are little plastic discs. They are thick enough, but, they don't stack all that well, and they are just ugly. There is a good chance that I will end buying some mexican peso's to use instead. I feel like if I didn't like the game, or if I felt like it was a "one and done" I wouldn't be as dissappointed in the money. But, that was a real downer for me.

 

Rules + They are mostly pretty good. There were a few ambiguities that I was able to clear decently quickly with the included rulebook. I printed Ricky Royal's solo rules out, and it was one narrow sheet of paper, printed front and back. That was super clear. But, this is a complicated game. It seems like the actions really nest inside each other. For instance, moving or deploying troops is a really simple action. But, you have to understand a bunch of other things before you can do that action.

 

Art + This is a personal impression. So, I may say that I like this art. Though, in all honesty, I think that the majority of people would bounce pretty hard off of this art. It is clearly not as clean and considered as something like #Pax Pamir (Second Edition). But I love it. There is a bunch of sort of period style art on it, juxtaposed with some photos, and some big messy symbols added on top. On top of that, every card has flavor text, sometimes quite a lot of it. To me all of this actually helps with the charm of the game. It adds to the theme. It feels like it could almost be a product of the time it is representing. It feels like it is pulling from every medium extant at that time. And, I love it. It is not my favorite. And, I don't think it will ever be my favorite. I also am forced to admit that the whole package is not as cohesive as something like the superlative #Pax Pamir (Second Edition) where even the box size was carefully considered. I have been thinking a lot about art and presentation in boardgames lately. I think I will probably be writing a post about it in the near(ish) future.

 

How do I feel about this game? Especially considering that I played it as a solo game?

I loved it. I adored my time with it. This is probably the most positive I have felt about a new game since I picked up #Scythe. This is clearly, so clearly not for everyone. It is big (in scope), brash, too complicated, messy, probably subject to chance, unappealing art, unappetizing theme, it can be punishing, you can get very screwed over,or screw somebody else over. This is the extreme opposite of multiplayer solitaire. And, it doesn't have the components that one looks for in a "Ameritrash" game. It lives in a bit of a weird space. Maybe the closest non-Pax game I can compare it too is #Innovation. Is it a good game? I don't know.... Did I love it? Yes. Do I look forward to playing it again? Yes. Am I excited to play it multiplayer? Yes.

So, how about the solo opponent? In the solo game, you are playing against Porfirio Diaz. Basically you he gets two cards per turn,and either discards them, adds them to his tableau, uses them to attack you, or does a strawman attack on himself. There is some probability about what cards he will choose from the market. But, it is literally, ultimately driven by a die rolls. There is no question about it that he lacks the finesse of something like the Wakhan in Pax Pamir 2E. And, I don't feel like he is likely to be as satisfying a solo opponent.That being said, I was still very satisfied with his performence for a first play. 

One last point. I have, in the last two weeks or so, played #Pax Pamir (Second Edition) and #Pax Porfiriana both for the first time. These are the only two Pax games I have ever played. But, judging between those two, I would say that Pax Pamir 2E is going to be far easier to "get into" that Pax Porfiriana. The rulebook is easier to read, the game state is easier to read, the cards are easier to read, everythingis just easier to read in Pamir. And, I think that more people will like Pamir than will like Porf. In fact, I expect there will be people that don't like Porf but like Pamir and vice versa. That being said. I think, based on only one play apiece, that I might actually prefer Porfiriana. And, they are both quite different games. I easily have room on my shelf for both of them. I do think that Pamir is probably the "better game" and the "better solo experience." But, it isn't as big, and brawling, and dusty as Pax Porfiriana. And, sometimes, I want big, brawling, and dusty.

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2 months ago

Excellent review!  The Pax games are a niche unto themselves and there's a lot to explore once you get deeper into the series.  My favorite is Renaissance, followed by Transhumanity but I can comfortably say all four of those titles are in my personal top-15 games of all time

Supporter2 months ago

Thanks, I appreciate the affirmation.

I did Kickstart the second edition of Ren and Pax Viking. So, I'm looking forward to trying those. I also have Emancipation on preorder from Gamenerdz.... Maybe I should hunt down Transhumanity as well. 

Supporter2 months ago

If you had to pick only one which one would you go with?

Supporter2 months ago

You ask hard questions.

I really don't know. I might have to say Porfiriana...... 

Fortunately, I don't have to make that decision at the moment. I am sure that Pamir is the right choice for more people, But, Porfiriana is so right for me.

I will have to get more plays of both before I am able to answer that question well.

2 months ago

I'll read this today :) Glad you got to play this!

2 months ago

Really interesting stuff, thank you for taking the time!

Supporter2 months ago

Thanks. 

You are welcome.