Review of Chang Cheng

Review Summary
Comped Playtest Review
Written Review

December 19, 2007


by: Shannon Appelcline


Style: 5 (Excellent!)
Substance: 3 (Average)

An attractive game with great bits and an average game design, probably appealing most to families and fans of old-school pseudo-abstracts.

Shannon Appelcline has written 672 reviews (including 354 board/tactical game reviews), with average style of 4.03 and average substance of 3.85. The reviewer's previous review was of Chicago Poker.

This review has been read 4943 times.

 
Product Summary
Name: Chang Cheng
Publisher: Tenki Games, Z-Man Games
Author: Walter Obert
Category: Board/Tactical Game

Cost: $55.00
Year: 2007

SKU: 7020


Review of Chang Cheng
Chang Cheng is a brand-new game by Walter Obert, published by Tenki Games, and distributed in the United States by Z-Man.

Players: 2-4
Playing Time: 45-60 minutes

The Components

Chang Cheng comes with everything you need to create the Great Wall of China, which turns out to be a set of five game boards, numerous plastic wall bits, and a number of different cardboard bits.

The Boards: These are five cardstock boards, all cut diagonally rather than into straight rectangles. Four of them show the Great Wall of China, and are used to play the game. Each of these is double-sided, increasing the variety of boards you can play (though unfortunately the diagonal cuts prevent the boards from being used together entirely freely). The fifth board is a scoring track. (Simple wooden discs are placed on it.)

The boards are all sturdy and linen-textured. Their artwork is all done in nice pastels, which really gives the feel of Chinese artwork.

The Wall: Some of the ads for Chang Cheng talk about really building the Great Wall, and this is why: each player gets 16 attractive plastic wall bits, including 14 single walls, 1 double wall, and 1 tower. They all look quite nice, and provide a high toy factor, really adding a lot of appeal to the game.

Cardboard Bits: A ton of cardboard bits rounds out the game components. They're all linen-textured and feature attractive artwork. These include: 15 reputation (scoring) counters, 15 Mongul (penalty) counters, 3 emperor markers, 4 special event cards, and 6 action markers for each color.

The action markers are of particular note, because they provide special powers when players place them face-down into the Chinese provinces. Each one of the six markers has a separate power or powers, and good iconography reminds you exactly what each does.

Overall, the components of Chang Cheng are good quality, with the great toy factor of the plastic bits and the nice utility of the action markers. The pastel board is a little plain, but nonetheless has to be given kudos for its period appropriateness. Overall I've let Chang Cheng eke in a "5" out of "5" for Style: very good.

The Gameplay

The object of Chang Cheng is to score the most points from building walls in front of Chinese provinces and to lose the least points due to the ravaging Mongol hordes on the other side.

Setup: Two boards are laid out, with three reputation (scoring) markers placed face-up on the Chinese side of the board and three Mongol (penalty) markers placed face-down on the Mongol side of the board.

Each player chooses a color and takes the 14 walls, 1 double wall, 1 tower, and 6 action markers in that color.

More on the Board. The board of Chang Cheng is somewhat peculiar, and also the heart of the gameplay. Each segment of board has three Chinese provinces on one side of the Great Wall and three Mongol provinces on the other. The trick is that these province lines don't line up precisely: a Mongol province may be smaller, larger, or offset from the Chinese province on the other side. This is of note because majority controllers of Chinese provinces get rewards and majority controllers of Mongol provinces get penalties.

The wall itself is where players place their wall pieces. There are a set number of spaces in front of each province (which also determines the base score of the province, which is then modified by the reputation marker).

Order of Play: On his turn a player may: place two wall segments in different provinces; place two action markers in different provinces; place a wall and an action marker in the same province; place a double wall; or place a tower.

Placing Action Markers: Each player has six action markers to place over the course of the game. They will affect the province they're placed in when it scores. The six markers are:

  1. Cancels another marker.
  2. "Breaks" a wall block or removes a Mongol counter.
  3. Scores the province at 2 or -2.
  4. Scores the province at 2 or acts as one "virtual" wall block for scoring.
  5. Acts as two "virtual" wall blocks for scoring.
  6. Swaps one wall piece in the province with a wall piece elsewhere.

(Note that none of the abilities can affect the two special plastic bits, the double wall and the tower.)

When a player places an action marker in a province it goes face down.

Placing Plastic Bits: The plastic bits are placed in empty spaces on the Great Wall of China. The single walls are the norm, while there are special rules for the other wall types. The double wall is just that; it also scores 2-4 points when placed, depending on how many Chinese and Mongol provinces it touches. The tower, meanwhile, guarantees your ability to place a single wall to one side of it, and will also protect you from Mongols in that province at game end.

Whenever you place a plastic bit, you get to look at the face-down Mongol counter on the other side of the wall.

Scoring. This happens when all the wall spaces in a Chinese province are filled.

First, all the action markers are flipped face-up. Any with the same number are removed from play, then the rest are applied in numerical order; for markers that have two powers, the one the player wishes to use is selected when its number is reached.

Second, the blocks in the wall are counted, adding in "virtual" walls and ignoring broken walls. The player or players with the most wall blocks earn the full score for the province, which is somewhere from 3-10 points, based on the base score of the province plus the bonus added by the reputation marker in that province.

Every time three provinces are completed, then a new board is added either to the right or left of Great Wall, up to 3 or 4 total boards depending on the number of players.

Ending the Game: The game ends when all 9 or 12 provinces have been scored. Now, the Mongols attack!

Each Mongol value is revealed, showing a penalty of -2 to -4. Then the player or players with the majority on the Mongol province lose those many points (except for players protected by towers).

Relationships to Other Games

The Great Wall of China has been a somewhat popular topic for game designs, and the game designs using the theme have generally been pretty good. Reiner Knizia's Great Wall of China and Klaus Teuber's Great Wall historical scenario for Settlers of Catan are both games that I rate highly. I'm sure there are other games on the topic that I haven't played.

Mechanically, Chang Cheng is a majority control game. It's very abstract with very little randomness in the core play. You have to figure out how to outplay or outbluff your opponents in the various provinces: there are no cards or other randomizers that have any particularly notable effect on the game. Chang Cheng's largest bit of originality is in the negative majorities which score at the end of the game, which is something that I haven't seen previously, but is pretty clever overall.

The Game Design

In some ways, Chang Cheng strikes me as an old-style game. Its somewhat abstract nature and its non-random placement of pieces makes it a pure power struggle. Thus, it reminds me of the clean and simple game designs from the beginning of the age of designer games, the time of Alex Randolph's Twixt or David Parlett's Hare and Tortoise. I think Chang Cheng will appeal to similar tastes.

Generally Chang Cheng is pretty simple and relatively quick. It's quite constrained and very analytical. There's the ability for some strategic play, as you decide where your battlefields will be and quite a bit of bluffing, both in where you're going to concentrate your forces, and in which of the action markers you use. Sometimes there will be a tactical opportunity to snatch up a province because an opponent left an opening, but among good plaeyrs, that should happen with less frequency.

I mostly like Chang Cheng as a filler game--though it's on both the long and expensive side for the category. However, I think it allows for great gameplay when you want to play for 45 minutes or so. I don't think it has enough depth to play for much longer, but fortunately among experienced players that won't be a problem.

Other players may like it as a family game, which is probably where it will enjoy the most success because of its great pieces and simple play.

Overall, I've given Chang Cheng a high "3" out of "5" for Style. It's slightly above average in gameplay.

Conclusion

Although it won't rise above filler status among serious gamers, Chang Cheng will probably do well as a family game because of its combination of excellent components with simple but meaningful gameplay.

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