Pax Pamir is an interactive historical game about politics and power in nineteenth century Afghanistan from the designer of John Company and Root.
Though Pax Pamir presents players with difficult strategic decisions that reward experienced and thoughtful players, the core of the game is simple. Most turns, players will purchase from a central marketplace.
After buying cards from the market, players can play them on their personal row of cards (called a Court). Playing cards like this will add new units into play, such as armies, roads, tribes, and spies. Each of these types of units has their own special utility.
Additionally, when a player expands their court, they gain access to new actions which you can use to disrupt the game state. But, be careful, powerful cards on your court will attract the attention of enemy spies!
Players score victory points by developing positions of influence in dominant coalitions. Influence can be gained by offering gifts to their supports, wooing patriots, and betraying high-value targets with your spies.
However, too much infighting will likely prevent a coalition from achieving dominance. If no alliance can secure victory, personal power will be all that matters.
Pax Pamir: Second Edition can be played with one to five players. The game presents very different challenges at each player count.
With two or three players, Pax Pamir: Second Edition is a sharp affair, prone to sudden-death victories (in this way more like the first edition). The four and five player games tend to be longer, often extending until nearly every card has been bought. Larger games usually emphasize partnerships and player-to-player synergy, whereas the smaller games emphasize combo-building and diplomatic flexibility.
In the solo game, players will square off against an automated opponent. This opponent may be adjusted to be used in the two player game as well. Games with the automated opponent emphasize risk management and a deep knowledge of the game’s core systems.
In terms of components, this new edition improves on every element.
In Pax Pamir, players assume the role of nineteenth century Afghan leaders attempting to forge a new state after the collapse of the Durrani Empire. Western histories often call this period “The Great Game” because of the role played by the Europeans who attempted to use central Asia as a theater for their own rivalries. In this game, those empires are viewed strictly from the perspective of the Afghans who sought to manipulate the interloping ferengi (foreigners) for their own purposes.
In terms of game play, Pax Pamir is a pretty straightforward tableau builder. Players spend most of their turns purchasing cards from a central market, then playing those cards in front of them in a single row called a court. Playing cards adds units to the game’s map and grants access to additional actions that can be taken to disrupt other players and influence the course of the game. That last point is worth emphasizing. Though everyone is building their own row of cards, the game offers many ways for players to interfere with each other directly and indirectly.
To survive, players will organize into coalitions. Throughout the game, the dominance of the different coalitions will be evaluated by the players when a special card, called a “Dominance Check”, is resolved. If a single coalition has a commanding lead during one of these checks, those players loyal to that coalition will receive victory points based on their influence in their coalition. However, if Afghanistan remains fragmented during one of these checks, players instead will receive victory points based on their personal power base.
After each Dominance Check, victory is checked and the game will be partially reset, offering players a fresh attempt to realize their ambitions. The game ends when a single player is able to achieve a lead of four or more victory points or after the fourth and final Dominance Check is resolved.