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Roll for the Galaxy» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Faction Review and Balance Concerns rss

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Orion Anderson
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I've recently discovered this game, and I absolutely love it. I've played it once with 3 players, once with two, and many times now "solitaire" 2-player against myself. My one misgiving is that some factions seem much more effective than others.

Caveats:

--I'm only looking at the base game
--I recognize that playing mostly 1.5 player may have warped my perspective
--I have attempted to guess how factions would play with more players
--I understand that the homeworld can have a big impact on a faction's viability
--I have tried to account for this variance in my faction ratings

Top Tier: Destroyed Colony, Biological Adaptation, Alien Archaeology
Middle Tier: Consumer Markets, Genetics Lab, Mining Industry, Galactic Religion
Bottom Tier: Improved Reconnaissance, Space Piracy

General Principles:

The best factions (and worlds) are the most reliable factions; factions with economic benefits that reliable help you at the start of the game. In practice, this means one of 2 things: dice in the cup on round one,or a starting development that gives +$ for something easy to do. Next best options are factions that come with worlds that can "trade" goods for lots of $. Starting with goods is worse, in my opinion, than starting with dice in the cup.

Destroyed Colony: This might be the best faction; it starts the game with everything you need to succeed, no matter your strategy A die in the cup round 1, 2 *good* special dice, and a world that makes special trade goods. Want to go development-heavy? Both of your special dice have multiple Develop sides, and because you start with two planets, you can delay Settling more and do economic Developments without hitting your dice cap. You can also fit more combo pieces in before hitting 12. Want to Consume goods? You can spam cheap worlds, use your purple die to match colors, and fund your engine by Trading yellow.

Homeworld Combos
: You have dice, want money, and like to ship. Doomed World is so good it feels like cheating. Earth's Lost Colony lets you Consume while you trade. Sparta and Iridani make Settling planets almost unnecessary. The only bad draws are Old Earth and arguably Alien Factory, as both are redundant.

Alien Archaeology: While a little bit slower than Destroyed Colony, this faction also reliably enables you to do whatever you want to do. Your first two rounds can be very slow. Round 1, you need to hire your Yellow, and because you can't ship or produce, you probably just Explore. Round 2 you often want to Explore *again* to cash in your yelow die for +4$. Doing nothing for 2 turns is rough, but it should allow you the chance to look at a lot of tiles and make a good combo.

Homeworld Combos: You have money, but need Dice and Production sites. Any of the 3 red planets gets you rolling quickly, and the yellow homeworld has obvious synergy. The only bad draws are Old Earth (you don't need purple dice if you can't produce goods) and Doomed World (because you shouldn't need the money)

Biological Adaptation: Much like Alien A., this faction starts with a strong die and an economic bonus, but can't Produce. You get an additional VP, a die in the cup, an ability that lets you do more on turn X rather than giving you money that doesn't do anything til turn X+1. This faction is capable of explosive starts, but I consider it weaker than the first two because if you don't find a good reassign tile early, you can have serious problems.

Homeworld Combos: Doomed World lets you rush a valuable development early without running out of cash; if you build a good reassign power in round 1 or 2 and use the Doomed World money to hire everyone back, you can immediately use those reassigns to pull off a big turn. The green homeworld brings good trade and consume options. Any of the red planets enables fast Development, but I like the Separatists best because rolling 5 dice round 1 is awesome. Old Earth once again doesn't help much if you can't produce, but at least you start with 7 VP and could race to 12 with a pile of discount techs.

Genetics Lab: Strong starting die, valuable trade goods, and bonus $ for production are all very good, but you start with the lowest possible VP and your die is in citizenry. Your bonus +$ is potentially very strong, but in practice difficult to trigger more than once every other round. To get +4$ you need to scout until you find a green tile, settle that tile (which could be expensive), then use both your green dice to produce, which prevents you from getting the 3-point match and make it more difficult to settle expensive worlds in the first place. It's very similar to Alien A., as both are worth 2 VP, start with a strong special die, and earn +2$ when using that die for a certain action. Genetics Lab gets a production site, but a yellow die is generally better than a green die, and +2$ for exploring is much more convenient than +2$ for producing.

Homeworld Combos: The Green world is good for obvious reasons, but vulnerable to rushes with just 2 starting VP. The blue and purple worlds enable solid trade/consume strategies. The only bad worlds are the +2 dice worlds. The +2 dice worlds and the Doomed World are probably the least useful.

Consumer Markets: This faction superficially resembles Genetics Lab, in that it rewards you for production and for stacking one color. It has a more difficult time getting to big planets or developments and can't make as much +money early on, but is much more user-friendly. You start with an extra VP and a die in the cup. Additional blue worlds are easy to scout for an cheap to settle. You can earn money by producing with your white dice, then depend on your blue dice to roll the ship icons you need to cash in. This is probably better than the genetics lab.

Homeworld Combos: The blue homeworld is good for the obvious reasons, but so are the yellow and green worlds for mixed trade/consume actions. Yellow is probably the best of the bunch. You might have trouble spending the Doomed World's money, or paying forthe Spartans, so those are probably the worst worlds. Everything else is pretty good.

Galactic Religion: Like the other blue faction, you can earn more bonus cash the more blue planets you grab (well, in this case info tech also counts). You start with an astounding 5 VP and bonus $ to everyone's favorite action, Develop. You can potentially race to 12. Unfortunately, you ability is really fiddly, because it only pays you if you have blue dice in the citizenry. The only ways to do that are (a) leave your blue dice at home and roll the white ones instead, (b)use your blue dice to Develop the tech, or (c) use your blue dice to explore. Unfortunately, blue dice aren't no better than white dice at exploring or developing, and you can't guarantee that Explore and Develop are both called in the same round. Blue dice mostly roll produce and ship, but you can't earn cash for them the round you produce them, ship them, or ship *with* them.

If you get a good reassign tech early, you can make a killer Develop engine by changing your blues to developers for a self-funding research rush. However, you need to get the right tech *and* find blue planets to settle. It doesn't help any that your blue die starts as goods, making you unable to earn bonus $ on round 1 and tempting you to waste time on a Ship action when you probably should just Recall it.

Homeworld Combos: The blue one makes an early Ship worth it and the 7-VP start is awesome. Worlds that put dice in citizenry work well for you because if you can't afford to hire everyone, you can leave your blues out and try to cash in. The Red/Red and Red/Blue are both great for fast and cheap Development. Doomed World is pretty bad.

Mining Industry: The absolute most generic, middle-of-the-road faction. Moderate VP, Moderate-value die, Moderate-value trade goods. Die starts AS goods, which is worse than in cup but better than as citizen. Bonus cash is pretty good; extremely good with the right tech combos, but using it early, while often worth it, does slow down your opening.

Homeworld Combos: I like Brown and Purple for consumption, yellow and green for trading. I don't care for the other gray planets, as the sooner you can get 2-3 production planets online the more reasonable it is to spend your time shipping.

Improved Reconnaissance: The other brown planet. You get +2 VP and your die is in the cup, but instead of bonus cash you get an almost-completely-useless scouting bonus. It's close, but I think Mining Industry should put pay out enough $ to outscore.

Homeworld Combos: Whatever, really.

Space Piracy: Oh man. I was seriously tempted to name this threat "Space Piracy: useless?" I cannot get this faction to work or understand how it's supposed to work. It's a 2 VP faction with features that seem weaker than some 4 and 5 VP factions. It starts with no dice in the cup, or goods, or world that produces goods, and generates $1 during an uncommonly-called phase that the pirates themselves will rarely want to call.

And yes, I did type $1 instead of $X, because building to exploit this is essentially impossible. You need to acquire 2 more red dice for each $1, and have them in the citizenry at the end of the shipping phase. If you do have 3 red dice odds are good that at least one will be stuck on an an uncalled action, an incomplete tile, or as goods, so you really need 4 reds for a good chance of earning $2 when you call ship. But why would someone with 4 red dice ever call ship? It's almost impossible to get enough red dice to make piracy pay while also getting enough worlds to make produce/consume viable. The best you can realistically do is leech small amounts of money off other people's shipping (so the flavor/theme is indeed strong). The more players you have the more useful this is, and maybe the pirates are better in 5 player games.

Still it's hard for me to see how this competes with the safe easy money from Alien Archaeology, or with the Destroyed colony (also offers a red die, comes with +1 VP, grants a purple in the cup, and lets you make $ in ship phases by trading yellow goods. The pirates feel similar to Biological Adaptation (another no-produce faction with a green die and a develop discount instead of a red die and $ ability), but the Adapters start ahead +2 VP and +$1. Galactic Religion has a similar color-based awkward-to-activate $ bonus, but starts +3 VP up.

Homeworld Combos: I don't even know. New Sparta seems like it should be good, but is actually bad. You can't Produce goods at all, all your special dice start in the cup, and you'll rarely get the +$2. Epsilon is bad for the same reason. Separatist start isn't as punishing, but nothing special. Doomed World is a terrible fit for a faction with a cash-generating ability based on citizenry, and again leaves you unable to produce. Old Earth is terrible because purple dice do nothing for you. The best options are probably alien factory or ancient race, but let's face it,those world are good with any faction.
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Matthew Percival
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I have played 59 games with the full spectrum of 2-5 players. I stopped thinking that any of this mattered a loooong time ago. I am fairly confident I have seen every faction win and lose multiple times, and very rarely has a game unfolded where someone's starting faction/homeworld was absolutely critical to their victory. They are generally a nice little starting bonus to get you going until you get the good tiles down. I believe you are massively over-thinking an extremely minor part of the game.
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ackmondual
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Elric of Grans wrote:
I have played 59 games with the full spectrum of 2-5 players. I stopped thinking that any of this mattered a loooong time ago. I am fairly confident I have seen every faction win and lose multiple times, and very rarely has a game unfolded where someone's starting faction/homeworld was absolutely critical to their victory. They are generally a nice little starting bonus to get you going until you get the good tiles down. I believe you are massively over-thinking an extremely minor part of the game.


Had to wonder none of the less.


In the first arc for Race, folks often "joke" that Galactic Developers = instant win. It does seem to win more than not, but yeah, you still need a push in the right directions with your starting hand/drawn cards.

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Orion Anderson
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Elric of Grans wrote:
very rarely has a game unfolded where someone's starting faction/homeworld was absolutely critical to their victory. They are generally a nice little starting bonus to get you going until you get the good tiles down.
I believe you, but you're asking the wrong question. Or you're asking one of the right ones, but only seeing half the story.

It's not enough to ask "how often do someone's starting tiles make them win," you need to ask yourself, "how often do someone's starting tiles make them lose. You're correct to note that the more tiles you build, the less important your starting tiles become. To do well, you must build tiles, and in a multiplayer game, the player who wins probably wins because they build the best tiles or find the most useful combo. Thus, the winning player will rapidly outgrow their starting faction and will be unlikely to see it as a major factor in their victory. They could likely have played almost the same game on a variety of faction because what matters is that they drew good tiles and built them quickly.

Now look at the players who lose. Some will lose by a small margin because they played a similar game to the winner, but not as well. The difference between them probably comes down to micro or to tile draws, although in some cases starting VP will swing the game. However, some players will have poor games because they either weren't able to build useful tiles in the early game or they ran out of money in the midgame. Often, they could have done substantially better if they had started with slightly more or more useful resources or if they had a small cash infusion from a power. This goes double if they lost because they tried for an expensive build early and choked, in which case a small difference in starting position might have swung them from the bottom of the pack to the top.

Basically, I consider factions "good" if I think they can reliably get the early money and settle or develop actions to build some tiles, reclaim those dice, and render their faction obsolete. The best ones either provide a component for a combo engine, or a large number of victory points on top. I consider a faction "weak" if it looks like they're capable of having a weak start and failing to do anything useful in the first few turns.

Rolling only 3 dice on your first turn is the big offender here, because often you won't be able to do anything better than using Explore x2 to bulk up to your full 7-8 dice. Rolling 4 or 5 dice it's very likely that you can immediately play a 3-point tile, and possibly leech some explorers as well.

I suppose it's possible that weak starts are not a problem for skilled players, and that it's only my inexperience that causes me to struggle in some games to get off the ground, but right now it looks to me as though some set-ups are much riskier than others.
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Fredericus Rex
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After 19 playes my playgroup agrees that Mining Industry is the worst one out there.
The starting tech is rarely used. It has a lot of requirements (good from a brown world and consume not trade) and all that just for 1$.

Space pirates aren't that bad. You can use your red dice (which are easy to come by) on Exploring, Developing, Settle and if anyone uses Shipping you can get good money (usually between 1-3$).
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Orion Anderson
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There's no way Mining industry is the worst. Even if the ability were worthless, it's one of the few factions that starts with the ability to make goods and with its special die pre-hired. That alone might make it better than pirates and adapters.
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