Thanks for the replies! I will tell you a bit more about the rules so you can get a clearer picture of what the game is like.
The game goes from 1850 to 1920. Each decade is represented by one turn and each turn is divided into three phases. Each country has unique objectives that it attempts to accomplish throughout the game. At the end of the game, each player reviews the objectives for his or her country and is awarded points for the objectives he or she has accomplished. The player with the most points wins.
The action of the game takes place during the movement phases of each turn. During the movement phases, players move their armies and fleets around the board and attempt to take or hold territory. Players fight wars against other players, minor powers, and natives. Minor powers and natives are non-playable and are subject to special, simplified combat rules. When players engaged in battles with one another, the full combat system is employed.
Combat is very easy to understand. A battle occurs whenever the units of warring players end a movement phase in the same territory (or sea space for fleets). No dice are used to resolve battles. If either side has double the amount of units involved in the battle, then that side instantly wins and the loser is forced to retreat to an adjacent friendly territory. If neither side has double the amount of units of the other, then the battle is unresolved and continues to the next movement phase. If a battle is unresolved at the end of the third movement phase, then the side with one more unit in the battle than the other wins the battle. If the two are exactly even, then the battle continues to the next turn. The purpose of having battles rage on from phase to phase is to allow players time to bring in reinforcements or adapt to the situation in other ways.
Additionally, the game uses a mechanic called the “battle line bonus.” This threats units in territories that are adjacent to a battle as participating in the battle. So, if there is a battle between two British units and two French units, but the British have one unit in an adjacent territory, then the british have a 3 to 2 advantage. If the adjacent unit, however, is also engaged in a battle, then it only provides half of its value to the other battle. So in the previous example, if the British unit in the adjacent territory is also in a battle then it only provides 0.5 support to its comrades in the other battle resulting in a british advantage of 2.5. The idea here is to encourage players to build battle lines as opposed to clumping all their units in one territory. The result is more realistic looking fronts developing between warring players.
As for movement, armies move one space per movement phase and fleets move three spaces per movement phase. Armies can be loaded on to fleets (two armies per fleet). Fleets are not allowed to go into land territories. As the board is huge, it is difficult for armies to move around large territories. However, to help transport their armies around quickly, players can build sea lanes and railroads. Sea lanes connect friendly coastal territories that are separated by sea and allow armies to instantly move between them during a move phase. Railroads connect long distances of land territory and allow armies to move instantly across them during a move phase.
These are some of the core rules to know. I thought I would also post this little description of a recent player’s experience with the game:
To get a feel for the sort of decisions players will face, let’s take a look at Germany. In 1850, Germany was not yet unified. As such, an important German objective is to unify Germany by conquering the remaining German territories that it does not own. Austria-Hungary, however, does not want Germany to unify, as it has an objective to that effect, and so will work hard to keep Bavaria out of German hands. In its un-unified state, Germany is too weak to fight Hungary alone. So what to do?
Of the many options, we will discuss one that actually occurred in the most recent play test. Like Germany, Italy is not yet unified in 1850 either and also finds Austria-Hungary opposing its unification. Perhaps an Italo-German alliance against Austria-Hungary will allow both to unify? War is declared and Germany and Italy fight together to push the Austrians out of their homelands. Despite some success in Germany, the Germans and Italians have become bogged down in their offensive and major battles rage in Bavaria and Lombardia. In hopes of breaking the deadlock, Germany has a private conversation with the Ottoman leader where he reminds the Ottomans of their objective to conquer Hungary and vows to help them achieve that goal. The Ottomans declare war on Austria-Hungary, and the Austrians go into a panic! They had the power to fight the Germans and Italians, but they cannot manage a new enemy on a third front. Austria-Hungary offers peace to the Germans and Italians. Both accept and, with that, both Italy and Germany are unified. Though the Ottomans are mad at the Germans for leaving the war, such is a small price to pay in order to achieve unification.
Unification completed the German player looked to his other objectives. Of his many options, he decided to pursue colonial goals in West Africa. Unfortunately, he had lost precious time during the war of unification and West Africa was mostly colonized by the French. Ever the crafty diplomat, Germany entered into negotiations with Great Britain, who also had an objective to acquire colonies in West Africa.
The two decided to both declare war on France and split West Africa between themselves. With war declared, France was too afraid of a German invasion of France to send enough armies to defeat the British attack on West Africa. The war ended quickly and Britain stayed true to its word transferring 4 of the 8 West African territories conquered to Germany. And, with that, Germany became a colonial power.
By this point the game was half of the way over. In the end, Germany placed fourth as a result of a failed invasion of Russia. Russia actually won the game with France coming in second. France regained its lost African colonies and took over much of Southern Africa when Britain got caught up in a war with the Japanese over the East Indies. At any rate, this ought to give you a feel for the sort of things that happen in the game.
Let me know if you have any other questions, comments, or criticism. I would love to have any feedback.