This game I played months ago, it has been on my mind searching for the reason I was uncomfortable. I obviously enjoyed something about the game.
In this game you collect and deliver resources, the board is seeded randomly (we played 3/4 times close together) and generates a nice challenge in figuring out the optimum delivery strategy.
However there is blocking and direct attacking. I do not mind attacking in a game and I don't mind direct attacking.
I'll explain direct and in-direct attacks. Games such as Risk, Scythe, Imperial Settlers and Blood Rage all have direct attacks in them. I see in-direct attacks as being in games like Agricola, Viticulture, Terra Mystica and Carcassonne. These are about denying an opponent options available to them.
There is also a segment of games that have a direct attack mechanic but you do not choose who you attack, such as King of Tokyo and Cosmic Encounter.
Going back to the game. As you get further into the game, things tighten up. You become flush with cash/resources and the game begins to say its time to attack and start taking what the other players have. The game is structured in a way where you will not have quite enough and incentive's you to attack an opponent.
This in its own right isn't an issue. However (I'm getting there), in games like this if I attack the strongest player or a player of equal strength a war will ensue and we both lose. This game rewards you to attack the weakest player and technically eliminate them from the game.
2 questions arise.
1. Why do games in general not give you an incentive to attack the strongest?
2. Would it not be best to be fully eliminated, rather than a partial elimination?
This game (and many others) in particular should have some sort of mechanic that gives you an incentive to attack the player/s in the lead or penalise hitting those that are weaker.
For example in this game I was tied in my opinion to win. I could attack the person that I felt I was tied with, but I could see that if I did, it then made sense for that player to retaliate elsewhere as I would be weak at another location.
Where as it actually made sense for me to attack the weaker player, leaving myself strong with no 'chinks in my armour' against the player who I was tied with. However, that leaves the weaker player partially eliminated. Meaning they have to continue playing, but they have no chance of working there way back up and there is still an hour left of game play.
In my opinion (and that is what this entire rant is about) it would have been best for that person to have been knocked out entirely from the game, or a catch up mechanic could have been put in place to draw that player back in and into the running.
I felt awful and really uncomfortable for attacking the weaker option, strategically it made 100% sense. I won the game, but took no joy from it, I was deflated.
Games such as Scythe and Imperial Settlers handle it really well. In Scythe you can have workers in the hex spaces, if a player drives you out of a location they lose as much popularity as you had workers in that area. Popularity is the end game multiplier, you need to think hard if you want to lose any popularity. The weaker player is given a really nice defensive option.
In Imperial Settlers if a player takes out one of your common cards, yes you lose that card. In reality you have only lost its ability. You gain a resource to use next turn and you can still use it as a foundation. Taking that sting out of the blow.
In games like Agricola and Viticulture. Your options effect the other players, but they are never driven backwards. In fact when you take a location in Agricola or Viticulture, the opponent just needs to take a different 'route to market'. That player still has a positive action You also generally do not know where the other players are going either, its normally not 100%, unless your Rainman.
In this game we were all seasoned game players and took it as is, but we all felt it. Maybe it was my feelings being projected on the group, either way I could not recommend this game to any particular group/style of players.
It is now something that I know to stay clear of and when I do my research on games I'm going to ensure I look to see if you are rewarded or not for attacking the weak player.