Review: League of Six

Posted by James (admin) on October 20th, 2010

I bought League of Six with its expansion at Spiel 2009 so I’m pleased that I have managed to finally play it just before going to Spiel this year.  (We played the game with 6 players – which requires the expansion – but did not use the other part of the expansion that adds different tax tiles.)

In League of Six, players are tax collectors going from town to town.  No, wait, don’t give up on it just yet…  Okay, it may not sound the most evocative theme but League of Six delivers an interesting medieval-themed Euro game which has its own identity.  The game lasts 6 turns and each player tries to collect goods, guards and horses so they can deliver goods to the king and to the civic leaders in order to gain influence.  The player with the greatest number of influence points at the end wins.

There are two main elements to a game turn: bidding for cities and delivering goods.  It’s important to understand how the principles of how these work because it is these that give League of Six its unique gameplay.

Bidding for Cities – The 6 cities are placed in a circle and a number of cities equal to the number of players are available each round.  At the start of each round, players take turns placing their coach on one of the available cities.  A coach placed on an unoccupied city is placed on the city’s zero guards space.  A coach placed on a city already occupied by an opponent’s coach must be placed on a higher number of guards.  The two players keep out-bidding each other until one accepts and the winning player pays the number of guards bid (from their hand of cards) to their opponent.  Only one player can occupy each city, so the player that accepts payment must move on to another city where they may end up bidding against another player.  Players can pay 2 influence points to buy extra guards; also, it costs 1 guard to travel to each adjacent city too.

So, what are you trying to gain in the city?  Each city has a fixed set of 6 combinations of goods, guards, horses and civic leaders that it can potentially pay the player who occupies it.  Prior to bidding, each round one hexagonal tax tile is randomly placed on each city which shows 2 to 5 arrows pointing towards its edges.  The player that occupies a city rotates the tax tile to any position they wish and the goods, guards and horses that the arrows point at are what the player receives (plus the item shown in the centre of the tax tile).  Therefore, cities with tax tiles that have more arrows on them are usually more desired by the players because they will give lots of goods, guards, horses and leaders.

Delivering Goods – Once players have selected the rewards they will receive from their city, they compare how many horses they received which determines the order in which players deliver goods.  Each round, two new delivery charts are placed (one for the king & one for the civic leaders) each showing rows of goods (coloured cubes) and a bonus number at the start of each row.  The current player selects a row to be delivered – they must place any cubes they have that match those shown in the row and score the points shown next to each cube too.  Then, going clockwise, each player also must place any cubes they have that can fill in any remaining gaps in the row (scoring the points next to each cube too).  If the row is completed, the player that picked the row receives a bonus – extra points (King’s delivery chart) or a card showing civic leaders (Civic Leader’s chart).

At the end of the game, players get bonus points based on how many of the three types of civic leader they have on their cards compared to the other players.

Overall, League of Six is a Eurogame with its own identity because the game mechanics are fresh and quite different to other games.  It took us the first round to understand the flow; in fact, our first round of bidding for cities was ridiculously polite with no clashes as we didn’t realise what we were really going to obtain; after that, lots of bidding and re-positioning broke out.  The bidding can get very interesting as players may bid a high amount of guards (even without that many in their hand) in the hope that their opponent will outbid them and give them lots of guards.  Of course, it can be bad news if a player accepts your bid when you were planning to be outbid , especially if you have to pay lots of influence to buy the guards you need.

Rotating the tax tiles to receive rewards is very interesting.  We mostly tried to win the cities with the tax tiles that had the most arrows on them rather than pick any specific city because of types of the rewards it could offer; but I did start to spot combinations of tax tile and city that were better or worse combinations, i.e. a tax tile/city combo that either delivers guards and horses or just goods.  As a player can select which row gets delivered, there’s a nice pay-off between gaining horses to pick a row to score a bonus and gaining goods to gain points for delivering cubes.  Also, there’s a pay-off between gaining points immediately or collecting civic leaders to try to earn big bonus points at the end of the game.  Plus, you need to balance gaining guards so you can select good cities and gaining cubes and horses so you can earn points.  I like these sort of balances in a game.

I found it difficult to plan too far ahead with regards to which goods to collect so I could get the most points out of their delivery.  However, as the game continued I started to realise that having most horses was very important so I could pick a row that would earn me a bonus.  I can imagine some players won’t like the difficulty in planning far ahead, but I enjoyed reacting to the many short-term decisions.

The game worked fine with 6 players but there was a bit of downtime during the bidding phase for players who placed last as the players before them start to clash and cause others to re-position before they get to take their turn.  My gut feel is that the sweet spot for League of Six may be with 4 players as you’d have a bit more control and less downtime – but I’d need to play it with 4 to see if that’s true and 6 players was still interesting.  Whilst we didn’t play with the tax tiles from the ‘Loyal Retinue’ expansion, these do look really interesting as players keep the tax tiles of the cities they occupy and the tiles give their owners special abilities as well as potential extra points at game end.

League of Six is definitely different to other games and a very enjoyable Euro game.  Some players may dislike the difficulty to plan far ahead but I found plenty of good decision-making within it and the bidding for cities was tense and interesting.  It’ll be interesting to see if my ability to plan increases after repeat plays.


[Played with 6 players]

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