Stop me if you've heard this one. So Russia and a powerful Western superpower walk into a central Asian country... Tom Chick and Bruce Geryk talk to Cole Wehrle, the designer of a boardgame called Pax Pamir about war and intrigue in Afghanistan, but a long time ago..
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I preferred Porfiriana. I think Pamir has a much much better user interface, and it is quicker, and I have read the source material. Despite all this for some reason in 4-5 games Pamir never quite really hit it off. I found that usually one empire won really quick or some player would grab the better political cards early. I think there is potentially a better game but i couldn't quite find it. The victory conditions in Pamir are probably the hardest part to grok as often someone would win with out realising they could. On the other hand I have always found that Porfirana worked even if it is initially baffling. I would probably have kept plugging away but my friends are easily lead off to the newest thing out there so the window to convince people is pretty slim.
I'm in the same boat. I think my biggest problem with Pamir is that even after a few games, I still have to struggle to figure out the board state/victory conditions at any given moment. It's not terribly intuitive to me. The topple rule in Porfiriana was also tough to wrap my mind around at first, but after a few games I started to understand it. I can't say the same for Pamir.
The podcast mentioned in the episode where Cole Wehrle talks more about Pax
Pamir is located here (split into two parts):