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Near and Far» Forums » General

Subject: Game Balanced? rss

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Christopher Melenberg
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Prince Rupert
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To be blunt: I’m worried that there is very little strategic depth to the game (making me wonder if I’d want to play it 10+ times) and worse that with the game as is there are exploits that may need reworking. Harsh right… I hope I’m wrong.

I’ve read the rules and watched both Radho’s and the designer playthroughs, which as far as I can tell is as much info as I’m going to get.

Major concerns: Unbalanced actions.

1. Right now there is a space that offers 2 food BUT anytime you leave town you can recruit an ally. The ally comes with 3 food (max, but if needing food you always have access to this) AND the ally comes with increases in attack, skill, etc. AND you get an additional banner which will help you score points… WHY would anyone ever choose the 2 food space (except possibly when returning from the map and you MUST go to a town space)?

2. Also related is the mining space which will give you a coin or a gem BUT if I’ve just gone outside on the map (see point 1), then you can go and create a nearby camp. Camps possibly help you score points AND will likely give you more than 1 coin or gem, especially once you have at least 3 party members AND possibly take part in adventures… (books, rep, resources, etc.). Yes camps cost 3 food, but again, for their benefit, why wouldn’t you just take the 3 food ally OR return to town get a different 3 food ally and then go and make 2 camps…

3. The other town spots: The other town spots are more difficult to determine their value and I can see that depending on what you might need they could all have some value, but I can’t see how any of them come close to Leaving town OR setting up a camp.
I don’t see how the optimal strategy wouldn’t be: leave town, set up a camp, return to town because you have to in order to leave town again… and pick the best of the sub-optimal choices from town that fit best with whatever you want to do outside of town.

I wonder if trying this “exploit” has been playtested. If not, I’d really recommend it be. I’d hate play the game a couple times only to discover spending any time in town is futile, especially since this is where the bulk of the actions are!

I think there are likely some easy “fixes” that could be applied... but hope that playtesting is happening with a diverse enough group.

I also want to note that the art looks great, the multiple play styles appealing, but I'm worried these aspects are covering up a weak game that could be made much more strategically interesting. To me and probably to most gamers the gameplay is what will make a game last, so I’m hopeful I can be proved wrong OR that this is addressed before the game is made.
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Brenna Asplund
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I've been involved with a lot of the playtesting, so I hope it's alright if I answer.

TopherMel wrote:


1. Right now there is a space that offers 2 food BUT anytime you leave town you can recruit an ally. The ally comes with 3 food (max, but if needing food you always have access to this) AND the ally comes with increases in attack, skill, etc. AND you get an additional banner which will help you score points… WHY would anyone ever choose the 2 food space (except possibly when returning from the map and you MUST go to a town space)?


The 2 food space has always been one of the most popular spaces in my experience. It's always useful to get those extra resources so that you can do more when you leave town.

You're not always going to want to get that 3 food ally, because 1) one of the other allies might have a more useful ability, 2) you might need more of a certain faction to help either secure your ownership of that faction or meet the requirements for an artifact, or 3) you're concerned about who's going to be your party leader.

Keep in mind, extra faction points only help you score at the end of the game if you have A) more of that faction than any other player and B) plenty of camps for that faction built. Generally you're going to struggle to control any factions unless you pick one (or maybe 2) from the beginning to focus on and work hard towards that.

Camps you build are always the same faction as your party leader, who is always the last adventurer you recruited.

Maybe the 3-food adventurer is green but you control blue, so you want to recruit a blue adventurer so that you can build blue camps.

Also, you can only have four adventurers in your active party at once, one of each faction. So every adventurer you recruit doesn't give you an extra ability because after you have one of every faction, you'll have to start switching them out. This also affects who you might want to recruit, because you may not want to be forced to replace a green faction ally who has a sword and a skill with a green faction ally who only has a skill.

Party management is a big part of the game.


TopherMel wrote:
2. Also related is the mining space which will give you a coin or a gem BUT if I’ve just gone outside on the map (see point 1), then you can go and create a nearby camp. Camps possibly help you score points AND will likely give you more than 1 coin or gem, especially once you have at least 3 party members AND possibly take part in adventures… (books, rep, resources, etc.). Yes camps cost 3 food, but again, for their benefit, why wouldn’t you just take the 3 food ally OR return to town get a different 3 food ally and then go and make 2 camps…


Keep in mind that it also costs food to travel over empty spaces, so you can't always build 2 camps if you leave town with 6 food, especially if something you want or need (like a book or a gem space) is far away from any previously built camps.

And even after building, you might still be low one gem, so the next time you go to town, you visit the mine.

We've played a few games where gem spaces on a particular map were pretty limited and hard to get to, so there was a lot of competition for those spaces, and people visited the mine a lot.

Or maybe when you visit town you really wanted to go to the 2 food space, but it's occupied, so you decide to grab an extra coin or gem instead, so you go to the mine. There are a few different reasons to visit the mine.

TopherMel wrote:
3. The other town spots: The other town spots are more difficult to determine their value and I can see that depending on what you might need they could all have some value, but I can’t see how any of them come close to Leaving town OR setting up a camp.
I don’t see how the optimal strategy wouldn’t be: leave town, set up a camp, return to town because you have to in order to leave town again… and pick the best of the sub-optimal choices from town that fit best with whatever you want to do outside of town.


The other town spaces have been significantly less popular in our playthroughs than the farm and the mine, but they all serve their purposes.

Dueling in the saloon is a good way to go up or down reputation if you need to fulfill a requirement for an artifact.

The town hall allows you to pay money for faction banners, moving your reputation up or down by one, or discarding an artifact. All of those things could be useful for helping you succeed in your strategy. In some of our games the competition over faction ownership has gotten pretty fierce, so people ended up visiting the town hall a lot.

The stables are actually super useful because packbirds increase your movement, allowing you to travel a lot further when you leave town.

The general store and the mystic's hut, which provide artifacts and treasures, also have their benefits (if you want to take a chance on a random bonus or have the possibility of getting some more end-game points).

TopherMel wrote:
I wonder if trying this “exploit” has been playtested. If not, I’d really recommend it be. I’d hate play the game a couple times only to discover spending any time in town is futile, especially since this is where the bulk of the actions are!


This isn't really much of an exploit because it's actually the way we've usually played the game! It's a very strong strategy to leave town frequently, and the game was balanced with that in mind. We were actually surprised to see how long Rahdo spent in town, and that's probably he perceived the game as being too long.

The game isn't designed for players to spend a lot of time in town. There are a lot of options for what to do there, but that's not where the bulk of the game is meant to take place. You can't really break the game by leaving town too often (and I should know because I've broken the game many times).

That being said, we're slightly readjusting some of the balance now that we've realized that a lot of new players will be inclined to spend a lot of time in town.

In our play tests we've had people win using a lot of different strategies (focusing on camps and trade routes, focusing on fighting monsters, focusing on artifacts, etc.) but usually the most effective strategy is a bit of all of them. And because of the competition for faction control, there have been a few last-second upsets in our games.

We're still going to continue to playtest and adjust the game, but I hope this answers a few of your concerns.
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Ryan Laukat
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Quote:


I wonder if trying this “exploit” has been playtested. If not, I’d really recommend it be. I’d hate play the game a couple times only to discover spending any time in town is futile, especially since this is where the bulk of the actions are!

I think there are likely some easy “fixes” that could be applied... but hope that playtesting is happening with a diverse enough group.

I also want to note that the art looks great, the multiple play styles appealing, but I'm worried these aspects are covering up a weak game that could be made much more strategically interesting. To me and probably to most gamers the gameplay is what will make a game last, so I’m hopeful I can be proved wrong OR that this is addressed before the game is made.


Near and Far has had more development time than any of my previous designs, and we've carefully crafted it to be the game we want it to be. Many of the nuances of the strategies are difficult to see from reading the rulebook or from videos.

Edit: But you are correct! Staying in town is not an optimal strategy. Most of the meaty decision-making comes from recruiting and traveling.
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Phil Jurney
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BOOM! That was awesome Brenna and much appreciated. Thanks for giving us some more insight into the strategy of the game. My wife and I just played Islebound, the first time we played our strategies were all over the place, but the second time we played we had more than twoce the points because we figured out where to put our attention. I'm sure Near and Far will be like that too.
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Christopher Melenberg
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Thanks Brenna for taking the time to answer so quickly and thoroughly!

I think this was the most important comment:

CepheidVariable wrote:
This isn't really much of an exploit because it's actually the way we've usually played the game! It's a very strong strategy to leave town frequently, and the game was balanced with that in mind.


I’m glad to hear my powers of deduction were not totally off, BUT more importantly…

It’s good to know that the game was designed with weighting the actions to make sure you are leaving town and exploring (so they don’t drag on like Radho complained of). And ultimately this makes a lot of sense and I can see how there would be many nuances and “meaty decisions” to be made primarily on this front: which leader is best based on faction/food/skills etc for which camp I’m hoping to set up next.

I think the strongest evidence of nuances was given here:
CepheidVariable wrote:
We've played a few games where gem spaces on a particular map were pretty limited and hard to get to, so there was a lot of competition for those spaces, and people visited the mine a lot.


I like that some maps might have more or less of a certain type of resource thus creating a different feel.

You’ve quelled about 80-90% of my concern.

Out of curiosity how many points are people scoring in your games roughly given they are experienced?

Thanks again.
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Brenna Asplund
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I'm glad I could help!

TopherMel wrote:
Out of curiosity how many points are people scoring in your games roughly given they are experienced?


Our point spread is usually between 30-70 (30 is pretty bad, 70 is pretty good). I've scored in the 90's a few times (even over 100 once, I think) but we always nerfed my strategies afterwards, so probably you won't be seeing many scores quite that high, ha ha.
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Tim Tix
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TopherMel wrote:
To be blunt: I’m worried that there is very little strategic depth to the game.


On a side note: Isn't a storytelling game a less strategic (but tactical) game by definition?
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Steve Cohn
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TimTix wrote:
Isn't a storytelling game a less strategic (but tactical) game by definition?


Love that clarification!

Strategy: "I'm going to be the gem king of Arzium this game!"
Tactics: "Ugh...everyone keeps taking all the gems! Time to change my strategy!"

Really looking forward to this one!

~Steve
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