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The Splotter for 18xx maniacs-- though far better than any 18xx game. An economic slugfest with opaque valuations, and a merger mechanic is so ingenious and special, I'm gobsmacked that nobody has tried to replicate it in the 15 years since this game has been out. The biggest barrier to entry in this game is the Operations round. While I don't mind it, it is tedious. Players who go for a shipping strategy are effectively cut out of the process, which can sour the game for a lot of people. I don't find playtime to be an issue, though. With rare exception, most of my plays of this game come in at under 3 hours, which for a rich and deep economic game, is about what I'm looking for.
2008-05-30 - Wow. True, the map is hard to read sometimes and there's just a lot of keeping track of boats and how many times they've been used but it's just great, this game is. The time for our first game was 4 hours total plus an abortive 5th. 2008-03-17 - Bought 2010-09-22 - Sold via BGG Marketplace
Its a very pretty game, but some of that prettiness affects gameplay in that theres some very unclear areas of the board. It also seems like the "era" cards that denote where cities can be please could be a bit clearer, a mistake on my part due to it being a new game really made the game difficult as we were missing a city in a major part of the map that ended up hurting a couple players pretty badly. I did enjoy the game greatly however, it took me a few turns to understand the game, and I shot myself in the foot early in the game and there was no real recovery, but I think next time I may have more of an idea as to strategy, looking forward to a second play.