Pax Pamir is an interactive historical game about politics and power in nineteenth-century Afghanistan from the designer of John Company and Root.
In the game, players will work in coalitions to build a new state after the collapse of the Durrani Empire. However, only a single player can win. As your coalition becomes powerful, former allies will turn to espionage and political subterfuge in an effort to secure their personal dominance.
Bottom Shelf Board Games has produced a wonderful overview of the new edition that can be seen here.
Note: The copy of the game featured in this edition uses an old version of the map and prototype components.
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.
The rulebook for Pax Pamir: Second Edition can be found here. The solo rules are not yet included. Outside of that, the current rule set is complete, but has not yet been finalized. The final rule book will also include design essays, a bibliography, and a reading guide on the period.
In terms of components, this new edition improves on every element.
In terms of design, the second edition of Pax Pamir has offered me a chance to put into practice the many lessons I’ve learned over the past few years. I have done my best to simplify and streamline the rules of the game without compromising the game’s strategic difficulty or interactivity.
Though these changes may seem small, fans of the first edition will quickly realize that Pax Pamir: Second Edition is very much its own game.
In short, though the rules are dramatically shorter and the design itself has been streamlined, Pax Pamir: Second Edition should not be mistaken for a light Pax game. While the new design is easier to teach, I think it remains a difficult game to master.