So I already had an opportunity to try Versailles 1919 in solo mode – see more here. That was quite a challenge as you had to wrap your head around concept of changing sides during the game and actually over-smarting the game engine. That was definitely fun 🙂
But this is only half of the story. The real thrill comes from the session with other players. I had a chance for face-to-face session recently and would like to share it below.
Couple of words about the Game
Versailles 1919 takes us to the peace conference after The Great War, held in Paris in 1919 for six month. The main decision makers then were Woodrow Wilson (United States), David Lloyd George (United Kingdom), Vittorio Orlando (Italy) and George Clemenceau (France) – and the players would be able step into the boots of those leaders.
The game introduces a card-bidding mechanism in which you use your influence to settle issues aligned with your agenda while keeping domestic constituents in support of your actions i.e.e happiness. You need to balance the need to demobilize your military forces while simultaneously keeping regional unrest under control. All of these decisions are set against the backdrop of regional crises and uprisings.
To win you do not only have to settle issues but also progress with your agenda – depicted in the game by strategy cards. Whoever gets the most points once the finishing issue is settled, wins the game!
On a peaceful Friday afternoon, four of us sit down to the table, to shape the World after great calamity of WWI. We were playing in following set-up:
- Maciej – United States
- Michal (me) – United Kingdom
- Marcin – Italy
- Krzysztof – France
After brief rules explanation – they definitely are not overly complex – we started to play, learning the mechanics and dependencies between the game elements. Pretty quickly we were witnesses to first uprising which allowed us for the strategy decision – so in essence, which agenda we will follow (see above).
That is a very neat element in Versailles 1919, which forces each player to negotiate with different agenda and approach. As you may see above, US (Maciej) had concept pretty close to what Woodrow Wilson presented historically. Reparations seems a little odd for Italy, Global Trade can be associated with France, but Churchill-led Communism Containment strategy was in stark contrast to Lord Geroge agenda (by some called even British-Bolshevik).
With every turn we were more and more proficient in cunning negotiations, placing influence in such a way that it benefits us long term and even use the instability in the regions to undermine the opponents. The latter one is really a hallmark of the game as anticipating which region will get hit and which issues unsettled is a vital information to the everybody’s strategy.
In the end we did not perform too many overt-the-table negotiations – definitely, the game does not have such a tense feel in that aspect as Churchill where you fight for the issues all the time.
The game – with sad exception of Italy, left behind by other super-powers – was pretty close and balanced. The strategy tokens although a small fraction of the score, were decisive here. But of course first session was more about learning the game then the actual results.
First impression – multiplayer mode
- The game rules are pretty straightforward and easy to teach
- Length of game makes it perfect even for a weekday evening and even in full, 4-players set-up
- The game is beautifully produced and you really have a feel of sitting in Paris hotel taking part in the post WWI negotiations
- While main way to score points is of course winning the issues, the strategy cards element gives so much needed element of differentiation between players agendas
- The score tracking is not suggested within basic rules and the end result might be surprising so I rather suggest to keep at least provisions (issues VPs sum) tally of points
- I wish there was more negotiations in the game and maybe a layer or two more of complexity
- What I lack most is a big picture at the end of the game – what kind of treaty we have negotiated? I know designers ha din mind in first version such a thing but it was dropped later one. I think this is really missing!
That is all for today – so far I have one solo and one full multiplayer games behind me. Need to bring that title to the table more often to provide the full review. Definitely I will do it!