After playing the published version, I came away un-impressed. Not from the mechanics, they're fine. From the middling problems associated with the production values. Specifically:
> Tiles depict the territory and land type. One is color coded, no problem. The other is depicted by pictures. None of which are shown in the instructions. There are hills and mountains, towns, cities, villages and castles, rivers and lakes, and woods. But some tiles show what appear to be hills, along with structures. Are the structures towns? Cities? Villages? Is the tile both a hill AND a village? Who knows. Nowhere in the instructions is there a legend showing what is what. And there are some cards in the Conscription deck that refer specifically to a "town" tile.
> Use the "mixed arms" optional rules! The distribution of Captains to Company's is 18 Captains to 40 Companys. With only 3 out for show, you could go through a significant drought of Captains. The Mixed Arms optional rule allows a flushing if 3 of a kind (captains or companys) is showing.
> 30 VP's is too easy to get to. In our game, albeit we were playing too defensively, only 2 Captains came out for the entire game. One player started on a papal tile (2 VP's per turn) and started buying VP's almost immediately (for 5 Florins, you can buy 7 VP's). By the time he was at 20+ points, we were still floundering, trying desperately to get a Captain in order to build a decent army. The game lasted 6 turns before the game was over. Like I said, we played defensively, growing our domains, when we should have been more aggressive and attacked. But with lone companies to send out for slaughter, it would have been suicide. Only 2 of us had Captains, so that a decent sized army could be mustered.
> The Army and Company tokens should have stickers in order to read the numbers on them. On the board, you can't really tell your #2 Company from your #3 Company. Simpy having stickers applied to the tokens would make things easier. So much easier.
> Card timing. Nowhere in the instructions does it mention the use of the Conscription cards and their timing. My opponent had a card that had "Administration" in bold. Do you play the card during your turn in the administration phase? Anytime during the phase? At the start of the phase? At the end? It made a difference as it was a "rob your opponent of 2 Florins" type of card. At the START of the Administration phase, there wasn't any money to be had (you get your Florins during the administration phase). So when his turn came (he was 3rd in the order), and wanted to rob the 4th player, can he? Can he use his card any time during any players Administration phase? We came up with our own ruling, but it would have been nice to see it in the rules. An example or even a sentence or two.
And no, I don't expect FFG to issue a FAQ or anything like that. They've already shown (with ToI) that FAQ's aren't their style.
For $80, I would have expected better.