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Subject: Rulebook v4j rss

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Joe Fatula
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Just uploaded a new version of the rulebook. Changes in this version:

* Added a reminder that an advancement with no outcomes is always successful. (p20)
* Fixed a typo: changed "they can received" to "they can receive". (p22)
* Described what happens when an ion thruster is successful, but the maneuver fails anyhow. (p26)

The most significant change is the third one. It's there to prevent infinite testing of ion thrusters in a single turn -- we've been discussing this problem in another thread.

Here's what the new version of the rulebook says on page 26:
Quote:
Occasionally an ion thruster fires successfully but you do not generate enough thrust to complete the maneuver (perhaps because another thruster failed). In this case, if there is an automatic maneuver present, perform that immediately. If there is no automatic maneuver, take one time token and remain in the same location.


If you have any questions, feel free to ask.
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JR
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Hi Joe, I have a question.

In a game I played last night (amazing game btw), the final outcome on my Atlas advancement was a minor failure, but I didn't have any funds left that year to remove it, so it stayed face up on the Atlas advancement.

I was unclear on whether I would be permitted to pay $5 to remove the outcome at the start of the next turn or whether the only way to remove an outcome card was to first "draw" it, meaning I would be forced to exhaust a rocket a second time with the face-up outcome to give me the opportunity to remove it. Which is correct?

In this game, I managed a narrow victory on my first Very Hard game but it was against all odds after that Atlas failure left my probe stranded in Mercury fly-by (and was lost as a result). I managed to scramble a second probe mission together in just enough time to land on Mercury before game end for 53pts of a possible 99. Once I've succeeded in establishing a venus station, I think the Outer Planets are going to have to come into play!
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Joe Fatula
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jrebelo wrote:
In a game I played last night (amazing game btw), the final outcome on my Atlas advancement was a minor failure, but I didn't have any funds left that year to remove it, so it stayed face up on the Atlas advancement.

I was unclear on whether I would be permitted to pay $5 to remove the outcome at the start of the next turn or whether the only way to remove an outcome card was to first "draw" it, meaning I would be forced to exhaust a rocket a second time with the face-up outcome to give me the opportunity to remove it. Which is correct?


If you don't pay to remove an outcome, it gets shuffled back into your outcomes on that advancement. So the minor failure should have been turned face down stayed on the advancement, and you'd have to fire another Atlas rocket before you could remove it.

If you don't fix a problem when it occurs, you'll have to try to replicate it again.
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JR
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buffalohat wrote:
If you don't pay to remove an outcome, it gets shuffled back into your outcomes on that advancement. So the minor failure should have been turned face down, and you'd have to fire another Atlas rocket to reveal it again before you could remove it.

If you don't fix a problem when it occurs, you'll have to try to replicate it again.


Regarding the last line, that seems to agree with the rules as written (and is how I played it, so that settles that much). Regarding your first paragraph, it disagrees with the rules, quoted below:

Quote:
If there is only one outcome left on an advancement, when you draw it, you may leave it face up on the advancement.
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Joe Fatula
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jrebelo wrote:
buffalohat wrote:
If you don't pay to remove an outcome, it gets shuffled back into your outcomes on that advancement. So the minor failure should have been turned face down, and you'd have to fire another Atlas rocket to reveal it again before you could remove it.

If you don't fix a problem when it occurs, you'll have to try to replicate it again.


Regarding the last line, that seems to agree with the rules as written (and is how I played it, so that settles that much). Regarding your first paragraph, it disagrees with the rules, quoted below:

Quote:
If there is only one outcome left on an advancement, when you draw it, you may leave it face up on the advancement.

You're absolutely right!

Either way, you can't remove the outcome until it is drawn again. Leaving it face up when it's the only one left is a convenient option so that you don't forget which card it is, but it doesn't change what you have to do to remove it.
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Josh Zscheile
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buffalohat wrote:

* Described what happens when an ion thruster is successful, but the maneuver fails anyhow. (p26)

The most significant change is the third one. It's there to prevent infinite testing of ion thrusters in a single turn -- we've been discussing this problem in another thread.

Here's what the new version of the rulebook says on page 26:
Quote:
Occasionally an ion thruster fires successfully but you do not generate enough thrust to complete the maneuver (perhaps because another thruster failed). In this case, if there is an automatic maneuver present, perform that immediately. If there is no automatic maneuver, take one time token and remain in the same location.


If you have any questions, feel free to ask.


Wow, that's a harsh new rule. That is an even greater incentive to test all your equipment before using it. Why is this only the case with Ion Thrusters and not with rockets?

I don't think I like the rule. After all, Ion Thrusters are expensive to test (both in money and time), and I'd rather use them as a fallback to save an otherwise doomed space craft. This is impossible now.

Now that I think about it, it really is not impossible. You should think a bit more about this rule, Joe, because all it will do most times is that players begin to game the game by using their Ion Thrusters last. The only case where this might be a problem is when you use multiple Ions and one that is not the first fails. So this is really an edge case rule that especially can screw over newer players that do not pay attention to the order in which they use their rockets and thrusters.
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Roger BW
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Thematically, if you know your spacecraft is doomed, you can still fire its other ion thrusters to see how well they work before it goes out of communications range.

(Indeed, you'd probably be firing them all at once.)
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Josh Zscheile
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Yes, but until now it was possible to save your space craft by maneuvering with remaining, functioning Ion Thrusters over several years to a safe location. Now the craft is automatically destroyed (I don't recall a location with automatic maneuver that allows for timed maneuvers and does not have 'lost' as the automatic one...)
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Joe Fatula
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I'm afraid I don't understand the situation you're talking about. Under this new rule, if you can't generate enough thrust to leave Lunar Fly-By, for example, your spacecraft will be lost. This was true before, too.

Can you describe precisely a situation where this new rule would have the impact you're talking about?
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JR
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I assume he's referring to the "immediate" execution of the automaneuver, whereas if a standard rocket had failed, we might still have the chance to save the mission by expediting the delivery of a replacement rocket or at least send a rescue capsule to save the astronauts before the year end.
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Joe Fatula
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jrebelo wrote:
I assume he's referring to the "immediate" execution of the automaneuver, whereas if a standard rocket had failed, we might still have the chance to save the mission by expediting the delivery of a replacement rocket or at least send a rescue capsule to save the astronauts before the year end.

If that's what we're talking about, it's a pretty rare situation. Lunar Fly-By is the only such location that can be reached in a single turn from Earth.
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JR
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I suppose it's also possible that you already have usable assets in the same location. For instance if I had two missions on the go and they both involved passing through Inner Planets Transfer. After clearing the time tokens, I prepare to continue both crafts on their journey. Craft A has a failed Ion drive. I could do an emergency rendezvous and maybe save the situation, or at least mitigate the loss, but with the wording of the rule I would be precluded from doing so because of the automaneuver in the location. That is unless I've misunderstood some of this discussion.
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Joe Fatula
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Just to be clear, this rule only applies if you have an ion thruster fire successfully, but you don't do enough to generate the thrust you need.

So in order for this rule to preclude a rescue, you'd have to:
- be at Inner or a Fly-By
- fire an ion thruster successfully
- but not generate enough thrust by other rockets/thrusters
- while you have a rescue spacecraft in the same location (or within one turn's move away)
 
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Josh Zscheile
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Alright, I'll give an example:

You are in a race to bring back a Ceres sample. Your space craft is currently in IPT with two Ion Thrusters and the sample. You can bring it back to Earth Orbit in one year by firing your two Ion Thrusters. Since all you drew so far were successes, you did not remove any of the outcomes. You fire both Thrusters. The first is a success, you shuffle it under. The second one is a minor failure, you remove it. Now your craft cannot make the trip in the one year you wanted it to. With the old rule, you could retry the maneuver by increasing the number of years to two. With the new rule, your space craft is automatically lost.

You just lost 20M$ in Ion Thrusters and quite some years in progress toward the mission, because your space craft immediately moved to 'Lost' and was destroyed, when it could have come home just fine a year later.

Imagine the same situation with a much larger craft that is needlessly destroyed when you obviously had a working Ion Thruster that could have brought it to safety.
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Joe Fatula
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Now I see what you're talking about. You're right, that rule would cause a bad situation.

The alternative rule idea that we were discussing would be something like this:
"If an ion thruster fires successfully, it cannot be used again in the same year."

What do you think of that idea?
 
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Jeff Anderson
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buffalohat wrote:
Now I see what you're talking about. You're right, that rule would cause a bad situation.

The alternative rule idea that we were discussing would be something like this:
"If an ion thruster fires successfully, it cannot be used again in the same year."

What do you think of that idea?


Doesn't "retrying the maneuver by increasing the number of years" require reusing the undamaged thruster this same year?
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JR
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CaptainQwyx wrote:
Doesn't "retrying the maneuver by increasing the number of years" require reusing the undamaged thruster this same year?


Moreover, it does say in the rules about slower maneuvers that you have to choose the number of years you intend the trip to take before generating the thrust. So, unless I misunderstand Josh, it seems like an impossible scenario to save with or without the new rule. No support materials could be brought into IPT as a response without at least 1 year delay (which means the ship is lost) and the decision was already made to generate thrust for a particular duration of jump which then failed, so it seems like the probe is kaput either way because, as you noted, the one working ion thruster has already been used.
 
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Joe Fatula
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CaptainQwyx wrote:
buffalohat wrote:
Now I see what you're talking about. You're right, that rule would cause a bad situation.

The alternative rule idea that we were discussing would be something like this:
"If an ion thruster fires successfully, it cannot be used again in the same year."

What do you think of that idea?


Doesn't "retrying the maneuver by increasing the number of years" require reusing the undamaged thruster this same year?

No matter what rule we end up with, it's going to have to disallow firing an ion thruster successfully multiple times in a year, since that's the problem that required a rule change in the first place.
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JR
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The rule suggestion as you framed it earlier seemed to succinctly accomplish the end result I think you're going for.

Quote:
"If an ion thruster fires successfully, it cannot be used again in the same year."


It seems like the added clause about immediate handling of an automatic maneuver after the scenario being discussed is just added rules bloat unless the rule I just quoted above is not sufficiently handling some edge case you're trying to prevent.

It seems implicit that any ship stranded in an zone like IPT without another craft in the same area to rescue it is going to inevitably hit the automatic maneuver at the end of the year no matter what. So can't the existing rules be left to handle that case after this new rule is added to clarify that an ion thruster can only be fired once in a year?
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Josh Zscheile
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buffalohat wrote:
Now I see what you're talking about. You're right, that rule would cause a bad situation.

The alternative rule idea that we were discussing would be something like this:
"If an ion thruster fires successfully, it cannot be used again in the same year."

What do you think of that idea?


Well, this has the same effect in most cases, but is a much clearer rule.

I am curious: Why do you want to limit Ion Thruster usage to once per year? To me, it does not really make sense thematically and takes away some 'limping home after something has gone wrong' opportunity. If something goes wrong with a space crafts rockets or thrusters, the ground team or the astronauts or probe on the space craft should have the opportunity to calculate a new, longer course with the remaining functioning thrusters they have. Unless of course in reality you can only fire up an Ion Thruster once a year and not even turn your craft after that to go for another course...
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JR
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Interestingly, that mechanic seemed quite thematically appropriate to me. I assumed the thematic explanation is that not all failures are going to conveniently make themselves known the instant you press the button and so in the cases being discussed, perhaps you traversed 1/3rd of a multi-year journey when the ion drive failed and that's why you can't just point the nose in another direction and hit the button again because by the time the failure cropped up you were too far off of an alternate course for a simple correction.

In this case you could obviously make a case that if this occurred, then perhaps the ship should continue on its course but perhaps double (or triple) the number of time tokens taken for the journey. This would mean any astronauts are almost sure to perish from lack of supplies (unless you took way more than the trip was supposed to require).

In all of these things, however, game play must necessarily come before reality because having the cleverest and most plausible rules is unlikely to be the best as far as balance and gameplay are concerned.
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Joe Fatula
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Mechanically, there has to be a limit on using ion thrusters or else you can test them an infinite number of times in a single turn, which is tedious and annoying to everyone at the table.

Thematically, at this level of abstraction, testing an ion thruster could mean different things. Is firing it once for a few seconds enough to draw an outcome, or does a test represent firing it continuously for a year? Either interpretation seems reasonable, so the real decision will be based on what helps the gameplay the most.
 
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Scott Cantor
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I guess a lot of the problems with the rules right now all stem from the common thread of infinite testing. Is there some kind of throttle possible involving making removal of additional cards more expensive?

I guess that wouldn't preclude people retesting enough to be super-confident in the cards.
 
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JR
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With the rule change being discussed preventing Ion thrusters from firing repeatedly in a given year, am I correct that the only technology without some barrier to rapid testing (apart from cash to remove the outcomes) is Rendezvous?

Limiting rendezvous testing without having a massive change in game balance seems tricky. I thought about it for a bit and figured a few possibilities and one I think might be suitable.

1. Associate a cost or a consumable item with performing rendezvous. Simply paying money to perform a rendezvous goes against everything else in the game, since you'd expect money to be spend only on earth. So, there could be some kind of consumable component that could be introduced which must be used to perform rendezvous (air canisters for maneuvering?). This isn't a good solution even if it works balance-wise because it doesn't work with the game currently and requires another component.

2. Limit the frequency of allowed rendezvous. This doesn't seem to work without being really complicated and probably having too big an impact on the game balance that exists now.

3. Instead of 3 outcomes, place 5 (? or some other number based on testing) on to the Rendezvous advancement. Leave the rest of the rules as they are. You can test as often as you like, but clearing out 5 outcomes is going to take a minimum of two full years of dedicated testing and could cost nearly two full years of budget, not to mention the potential lost equipment. The number of outcomes can be tweaked to fit the desired change.

One last idea to consider is a twist on the frequency limiting in #2. Limit "rendezvous" (joining) actions to once per year per initiating craft. Suppose Alpha, Beta and Gamma crafts are all in Earth's Orbit. Alpha initiates a rendezvous action (success) and Beta is combined into Alpha's inventory. Now only Alpha and Gamma remain. Alpha has already initiated a join action, but Gamma could initiate a join now and create a single craft out of the three which used to exist (if successful).

Of all those possibilities, and ignoring the fact that they are just random thoughts from a non-designer, the #3 seems like the simplest modification requiring only a single rule change (changing 3 outcomes to X outcomes on a rendezvous advancement), and it seems to have the leave potential bleed over to muck with other game rules.
 
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Joe Fatula
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More Mellotron wrote:
I guess a lot of the problems with the rules right now all stem from the common thread of infinite testing. Is there some kind of throttle possible involving making removal of additional cards more expensive?

I guess that wouldn't preclude people retesting enough to be super-confident in the cards.

Retesting is indeed the problem. We've come up with a fix for Rendezvous that doesn't impact the game much, but it still needs to be tried some more before I'm ready to put it into the game.
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