It took several sessions of learning the game through videos and reading the rulebook, but I finally got in a solo session on Saturday night. Here are my first impressions!
I love the box.
Love the purple, love how dense the box is. It's a small box with so much game inside and the organization isn't compromised much at all.
Great rulebook, until I got to the solo mode rules.
Surprisingly a good and easy read with plenty of visual guidelines. It had me nodding again and again just thinking about what the game is attempting to accomplish and how the design is trying to support it. Strangely, once you get to the solo mode rules, there aren't anymore visual guidelines. There are also several glaring grammatical errors and it's not as clear as it could be sometimes. Perhaps nitpicky, but it made me wonder if the draft of the solo mode rules might not have gotten enough eyes after it was added onto the main rulebook (the solo mode had a separate designer).
Fast setup and teardown.
Most of the setup time goes into constructing the draw deck for the market. Otherwise, it's surprising how little there is to do to start the game considering its depth.
Similar weight rating as #Root? Hmm...
- Lots of rules overhead. Both Pax Pamir 2E and Root have simple core mechanics but are difficult to teach for different reasons. For Root, most of the difficulty comes from having the asymmetric factions. Otherwise, it's surprisingly simple because most of the rules are right on the player boards. For Pax Pamir 2E, there are significantly more small rules to internalize that I hoped I got at least 80% of the rules right while playing. I had to keep referencing the rulebook to check myself or ended up catching my errors.
- Opaque. Especially if you're new to this type of game, the decision making process feels a bit like you're pressing a button just to see what happens, at least in the beginning couple of rounds.
- In line with this, there's a lot of abstraction that represents the political dynamics the game tries to capture. It's definitely there, but it's harder to recognize than Root's.
This is a game that makes me want to learn the history of its settings.
Whenever I play a game like #Pax Pamir (Second Edition), it amazes me that there are people out there who can think like this. While abstracted, the mechanics of the game are great at capturing the shifting alliances and political instability of the setting. I'd have to say that it takes some effort to fully picture the theme come through as you make many of your puzzly decisions (and it sure would help to be a history buff), but the decision making this game allows is very fun once it clicks.
Speaking of which, I really like Cole's designs. It's ambitious, elegant, yet complicated to a point that it can be too inaccessible for casual/new gamers. But it's so rewarding for groups that see its worth and hang onto it because it feels like player interaction is at the forefront of his design, instead of being a byproduct. That comes through even as I played against Wakhan (the AI opponent), and I can see how Pax Pamir 2E could easily become a group favorite.
Wakhan feels like a worthy and real opponent.
Wakhan makes for a fierce AI opponent because of her flexibility. And that's not just in her ability to maintain loyalty to multiple coalitions at a time, but also in her decision-making that's always geared toward maximizing her benefits. Her decisions typically reflect what a human player would do, and that means you can't make plays hoping for a lucky break in card draws.
Production is off the charts.
Great production goes a long way when it comes to solo gaming. After all, why wouldn't I just play a video/PC game if a board game didn't reward anything other than just a really great puzzle? The tactile fun in this game is the best experience I've had to date.
Verdict: I think this has high potential to be my favorite solo game, but we'll see!