I know the rules claim the sides are balanced and can be mixed in the same game, but I have my doubts. In general, the B-sides feel a little stronger to me, but it's sometimes hard to compare because they are so different. In most cases, it probably comes down to style of play and strategy to be used in a particular game. However at least in the case of Rhodes, the B-side seems to have an advantage. Here's a comparison:
Completing all wonders of A-side yields:
- 10 Victory points
- 2 Shields
Completing all wonders of B-side yields:
- 7 Victory points
- 2 Shields
- 7 Coins
Just looking at this alone, there is little difference between the benefits of the two sides. Since the 7 coins can be converted to 2.33 victory points, the A-side has only a very slight edge. However, there are some other things to consider which tip the scales in favor of the B-side:
- 3 coins are worth more than a victory point. At a minimum 3 coins equal a victory point, but coins are the tie-breaker, so 3 coins is greater than one victory point. Also, coins have more utility as they can be used to purchase other things, if desired.
- The B-side gets a Shield bonus and 3 coins after building the first wonder, making it much easier to get a military victory at the end of the first Age, and the coins are very helpful early on. The A-side doesn't give any benefit for the first wonder (aside from the victory points, which don't help until the end of the game).
- The A-side requires 2 Wood, 3 Clay and 4 Ore to build its three wonders, respectively. The B-side only requires 3 Stone and 4 Ore. The 3 Clay and 3 Stone are basically equivalent, so the B-side avoids needing two of a third resource (Wood).
- The B-side only requires two turns to build all wonders, while the A-side requires three. With the extra action a B-side player could simply discard a card for three coins, giving it a total of 10 coins, which then puts its rewards ahead of the A-side as the 10 coins would give 3.33 victory points. But the B-side player also has the option to put an additional card into play, which could be worth much more than 3 coins.
All of this makes a strong case that the B-side of Rhodes is not balanced with the A-side. About the only advantage I can think of that the A-side has is for cards that count number of wonders built: Arena and Builder's Guild. Depending on the setup, Builder's Guild may not even be in the game. And, the B-side has the advantage of weakening that card for your neighbors. Arena is a nice card, but it's not a big loss, IMO. Does the A-side have some other advantage I'm missing?
I'm not sure if the A-side of Rhodes is underpowered or the B-side is overpowered, compared to other boards. When using the wonder cards to randomly determine which wonder board each player will play, we've taken to letting players choose the side they want to play because the consensus is some sides are just weaker than others.
Do any of the other boards exhibit similar imbalance? I haven't examined the others that closely.