504 review, 4 down 500 to go
Bit of info, I've only played four games; 123, 941, 286 & 783. I have had experience with all bar one module (5 exploration), these have had a number of different maps as well as the different ways of winning. I still have some way to go to fully understand the game, but I feel like I understand the game well enough and have had enough experience to give some kind of review of the game. Anyway...
This can be a bit of an issue, finding all the pieces can be a nightmare, then working out what to get of each was fairly difficult the first couple of times, however once you know where to look, what the codes and such like means it gets a lot easier. I found that making up bags for each of the components and labelling them has made things much easier too.
Working out the rules
This can be much more difficult, reading the rules is like trying to decipher a lost language at first, but once you know the relevance and context it's a lot easier learning a new version each time. Reading the common rules helps a lot, but only when you know what that means as you need to ensure you know the context and what the language used means too. Also the fan made app helps a lot as it removes the rules that aren't needed, giving these to the other players can help, but it can also hinder you if you get a rule or two wrong.
Initially this was slow going, looking at the rules for each move and trying to work out what I should do and where the clashes were resolved. Again this changes with experience and know how the game works – my most recent game flowed much smoother and I felt on top of things much quicker than previous.
Each game I've played has been enjoyable with the one exception of one game we didn't finish as we made a mess of the rules (783). Each game is surprisingly different and other than the look you wouldn't know they were actually from the same box.
The overall theme is about these 504 worlds that were created that we are experiencing. Personally I like the idea and it really fits, but I tend to use my imagination for what I'm actually doing. One game (941) felt like the corporations from hunger games sponsoring people to kill each other and making side bets (shares) to make money, whilst another felt like we were colonising a new land and racing to discover it before each other (286). I actually quite like that it leaves it open enough to do this without shoe horning in a theme that really doesn’t fit.
Makeup of the games
So, you should understand that the first module is how you win the game, the second is how you play the game and get money and the last is just a bit of flavour adding an extra twist. The first and second modules make a massive amount of difference but the third can sometimes be unimportant, or make the game way more interesting. 286 had the roads module in 3rd position. In the entire game we made 2 roads and really felt like they were a waste of resources to complete when there was other, more important things we could do, the game was fine without that but it was a shame it made such a minor difference, whereas module 3 - privileges - is very effective, these add small benefits like giving extra income or an advantage in some way. I am planning to play every game in each part and from that will try to work out what ones are good and what didn’t really help, it could also be that certain modules work better for other games but we’ll have to wait and see for that.
I'm only a few games in but now I'm past the main teething issues I really feel this crazy idea of a game works, it adds great depth and complexity every time and the games really do vary. Personally I recommend it, it can be used as a gateway game (if you understand the game and have played it before) as the rules for each game fit onto 2 A4 sheets and some versions can be played in 30-45 minutes. It can also be used with lots of depth. 941 took us about 3 hours after we got our heads around the rules and there was a lot to think about and do in the game. People will still be dubious, will still complain and many rules will need clarification along the way, but I'd recommend you give it a try at the very least just to see what you really think!
Note: I'm tracking every game and giving each one a score out of 10 along with a few notes, happy to share this too if anyone wanted it