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Terra Mystica» Forums » Variants

Subject: Faction Preferences, Balance and Metagame - Asking For Your Opinion rss

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Jordan Lewis
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As some of you have seen, Loon Lakes, the first map developed by players, has gone live for playtesting. I think it may open up new strategies and a potentially vibrant metagame, adding even more replay value to the game we love.

After it is (hopefully) successful, I'd like to take map designing in a new direction: as a tool to bring new factions into the metagame. In video games and other assymetrical competitive games, periodic updates and new versions fundamentally update competitors to change the balance. However, in Terra Mystica, official errata are rare, and some factions seem fundamentally stronger than others.

Still, I believe that a new map can be designed that is not only fun and challenging, but which significantly improves the prospects of neglected factions while diminishing those of factions we're all tired of playing. While there are significant interdependencies, I have been making maps for about six months and am getting to a decent understanding of how to strengthen and weaken some factions while limiting the effects on others.

For example, to strengthen swarmlings relative to mermaids, have more friendly trios and quartets in isolated or landlocked areas.
To weaken darklings without hurting brown, place more brown/yellow neighbors and blue/black neighbors, while separating black spots by shipping and eliminating quartets of black/brown/blue.

We have a living example that shows both the possibilities and limits of faction balancing of a new board: F&I side 1. The 4 red hexes in the center island (C5, H7, and especially F2-E7) represent a clear attempt to help the Giants without breaking the Chaos Magicians, and the network of yellow nexes of distance 2 near the edge is certainly to help Fakirs without . Unfortunately, in this case CMs and Nomads are still much better than Giants and Fakirs.

With this in mind, I'm asking for your opinions:
1. What factions or faction pairings would you LIKE to see more, if they were more viable?
2. What factions would you like to see weakened?
3. Do you have any ideas on strategies to help a faction relative to those who share or neighbor its color?
Personally I'd like to reduce the gaps between Nomads and Fakirs, Mermaids and Swarmlings, and Engineers and Dwarves. How about you?
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Henrik Johansson
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I would like to see Darklings nerfd and Fakirs buffed, thank you.
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Dániel Lányi
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sthrjo wrote:
I would like to see Darklings nerfd and Fakirs buffed, thank you.


That and Giants should be buffed in a way that I could imagine a scenario where I would rather take them instead of nomads.
 
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Robert
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Can there be a map which makes Auren preferrable to Witches? Or is it all in the cults and scoring tiles?
 
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Dániel Lányi
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DocCool wrote:
Can there be a map which makes Auren preferrable to Witches? Or is it all in the cults and scoring tiles?


Doesn't seem for me that they have enough difference in how they behave on the board for that but for me it's good enough that scoring/cult tiles can make a difference.
 
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Matthias Reitberger
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Loons map is quite good for giants and F&I as well, That might change things a little.
They aren't an alternative to Nomads because nomads are better as well.
Maybe thete will be more red/yellow games than Black/Blue combinations because darklings don't have there own continent. Darklings are also inferior to alchemists in many setups on loons & f&i map.

I can't see any advantages of auren over witches on any map or setup.

Fakirs are worst on the original map, but nomads are still superior.
 
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James Wolfpacker
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Another part of map design that we need to consider are hexes that are not meant for the home factions to use, but are placed for factions that are 1 terrain off.

Examples include:

E7 on the fire and ice map... I know people will debate me on that, but it is not a good idea for red factions to start there. It is my belief that it is placed there for grey and yellow factions.

G6 on the original map is not for blue factions. It's meant for green and black factions.

I12 is OBVIOUSLY not meant for a red faction, but is mainly for grey factions (more dwarves than engineers).
 
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Ola Caster
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DocCool wrote:
Can there be a map which makes Auren preferrable to Witches? Or is it all in the cults and scoring tiles?

If the map is constructed so that green factions have to invest very heavily to reach three towns then maybe. But in that case probably green would be rarely played anyway.
 
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James Wolfpacker
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The Auren have a blank space in their faction ability. They should have had 4vp or 5vp per 10 on the cult track. Witches expand and form towns for network and are lower on cults while Auren are lower on network and do cults. It would make sense and balance the difference between the Greens.

The Bonus Landscapes attempted to do this separately, but the fact that Witches get one too (though weak) still probably tips green to the Witches. The only thing that Auren would have over Witches is if the cult bonuses line up perfectly for Auren to hit them all using their SH ability.

Acolytes, Auren, and Fakirs require almost perfect Round and Bon setups to be picked.
 
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Matthias Reitberger
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E7 is perfectly good for giants if no faction is starting green. I also wouldn't mind a yetis sh isolated there and gaining 20 leech first round.
For nomads it's only intresting if they can get either F3 or E6 with sandstorm. Generally yellow factions will rather bridge c6. For grey g5 is often the better alternative if d4 is contested.

G6 can be vital for mermaids if they can't get a neighbor elsewhere. I played it myself quite successful and saw a even better game from xevoc.

I12 is for nobody, grey doesn't take it because i11 is better.
 
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Space Trucker
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1869 wrote:
I can't see any advantages of auren over witches on any map or setup.

For the classic game I agree, for Fire/Ice I'm not completely sure.
No late town bonuses, early SH bonus and most important cluster scoring might lead to a game where Auren are viable, because it might be reasonable to build only one town and secure cluster scoring.
Still not very likely of course.
 
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Loon
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While that's totally possible, it's still not due to the map itself. I agree that it would be hard to come up with even a ridiculous example of a map where auren are better than witches.

For contrast, here is a ridiculous example of a map where the fakirs are obviously better than the nomads.
 
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Jordan Lewis
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DocCool wrote:
Can there be a map which makes Auren preferrable to Witches? Or is it all in the cults and scoring tiles?


I suspect no. It's hard for board design to benefit a faction with no ability that impacts the board. Count me among those asking for them to be errata'd, maybe to be able to pay cult steps for coins or something.

JamesWolfpacker wrote:
Another part of map design that we need to consider are hexes that are not meant for the home factions to use, but are placed for factions that are 1 terrain off.


Definitely. Agree on I12 for dwarves. I like G6 with Mermaids if red/grey are there, but otherwise that spot is occupied by green, black or even brown just as often. One other example: E5 for black on F&I? Some people have used this as Alchemists, but mermaids an brown factions seem more likely to ship there than Darklings.

While we may not be able to "fix" Auren through the board, the other weak factions DO have enough differntiating factors for a board to help close the gap.

To buff Fakirs relative to Nomads, look to the northwest in F&I board for an example. The area is often neglected and usually allows for Fakirs to have 3 carpet flights late in the game. Meanwhile, Nomads have no reason to settle there unless they get lucky with a neighbor or have nowhere else to expand. @Loon I like the idea as a thought experiment...we certainly would need to try something radical to make Fakirs competitive without errata!

I highly suspect that Loons Lake will not reduce the gap between Dwarves/Giants and Engineers/CMs. Giants can be buffed relative to CMs by having red spaces connect by 1 or 2 land tiles of 2/3 spades away (like E7 which can go to F2 or C5, James!) - On LL the red tiles except for the NE are too distant to form a town easily. Personally I think its a shame the Giants are weak in the base game, as they have the potential to create tense, exciting games. My ideal map would help them out.

Dwarves CAN be buffed relative to Engineers with landlocked grey tiles. Unfortunately, as a quirk of the lake design the new board has 0 landlocked tiles besides the edge...
 
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Matthias Reitberger
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SpaceTrucker wrote:
1869 wrote:
I can't see any advantages of auren over witches on any map or setup.

For the classic game I agree, for Fire/Ice I'm not completely sure.
No late town bonuses, early SH bonus and most important cluster scoring might lead to a game where Auren are viable, because it might be reasonable to build only one town and secure cluster scoring.
Still not very likely of course.


Still no advantage, witches can build early sh as well. And if they score only 1 town that's still quite ok. The flight ability is quite strong on the new map.
 
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James Wolfpacker
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I knew people would debate me on the E7 on F&I. In the F&I Test Leagues there are at least 3 examples that I know of with Giants getting surrounded at E7. Even as a Red Yeti, I wouldn't want to isolate my SH there... it's a 4pw building and counts for more than half of a town value.

Placing as Giants at F&I E7 could work out in some cases as well as the Mermaids at Orig G6, but that is not a strategy I would recommend in most cases.
 
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Matthias Reitberger
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E5 is absolut essential for alchemists on f&i.
I would even start there if needed. Its like e4 for blue on original map.
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James Wolfpacker
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^I agree on that point.
 
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Jordan Lewis
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Mattias and James,

Y'all seem to be fans of the Alchemists. Where do you standard on the snellman statistics consensus that Alchemists are playable but weaker than average on original board, and very weak on F&I? This appears to be regardless of rating. I know some on these forums have long contended that Alchemists have untapped potential, but no one honestly thinks they are a truly great pick, even on compatible setups, and especially on F&I?

Assuming you agree that, regardless of player skill, there is a viability gap between Alchemists and Darklings, what do you think could be done on the board design side to reduce it? One idea is decent black shipping lanes, which provide all-important workers to Alchemists but are less useful for Darklings. Do you have any others?
 
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Matthias Reitberger
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I generally belive that Alchemists are better than Darklings on F&I. I also think they are better on F&I than on the standard board.
 
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James Wolfpacker
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JordanLewis1 wrote:
Mattias and James,

Y'all seem to be fans of the Alchemists. Where do you standard on the snellman statistics consensus that Alchemists are playable but weaker than average on original board, and very weak on F&I? This appears to be regardless of rating. I know some on these forums have long contended that Alchemists have untapped potential, but no one honestly thinks they are a truly great pick, even on compatible setups, and especially on F&I?

Assuming you agree that, regardless of player skill, there is a viability gap between Alchemists and Darklings, what do you think could be done on the board design side to reduce it? One idea is decent black shipping lanes, which provide all-important workers to Alchemists but are less useful for Darklings. Do you have any others?


I'm flattered, you confused me with CTKShadow!
 
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Jordan Lewis
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JamesWolfpacker wrote:
JordanLewis1 wrote:
Mattias and James,

Y'all seem to be fans of the Alchemists. Where do you standard on the snellman statistics consensus that Alchemists are playable but weaker than average on original board, and very weak on F&I? This appears to be regardless of rating. I know some on these forums have long contended that Alchemists have untapped potential, but no one honestly thinks they are a truly great pick, even on compatible setups, and especially on F&I?

Assuming you agree that, regardless of player skill, there is a viability gap between Alchemists and Darklings, what do you think could be done on the board design side to reduce it? One idea is decent black shipping lanes, which provide all-important workers to Alchemists but are less useful for Darklings. Do you have any others?


I'm flattered, you confused me with CTKShadow!


I know you largely agree with his thesis on how to Alchemists well! What kind of board do YOU think would benefit you when playing Alchemists, especially relative to that other faction we're all tired of playing

@Mattias, your view is utterly at odds with all available data. I would love to see you vindicated though - I look forward to seeing you revolutionize Alchemists play and carry them up the tier list.
 
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Matthias Reitberger
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I am wondering what data you are referencing concearning the f&i map.
Darklings are primarily good on the standard map. Even there on some setups, like this I rather play alchemists.
 
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Robert
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1869 wrote:
Even there on some setups, like this I rather play alchemists.
Fascinating game so far. Nomads with a TE start, then SA in round 2. SH can obviously wait until round 3.
 
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Matthias Reitberger
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DocCool wrote:
1869 wrote:
Even there on some setups, like this I rather play alchemists.
Fascinating game so far. Nomads with a TE start, then SA in round 2. SH can obviously wait until round 3.


It's the only game I like this season.
Nomads SA is not so uncommon.
In the Top divisions Sandstorm isn't much appreciated.
 
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Robert
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1869 wrote:
Nomads SA is not so uncommon.
In the Top divisions Sandstorm isn't much appreciated.
A quick check of the Nomads in division 1 in seasons 11/12/13 shows this:
- season 11: 1 SH in round 2 (last), 1 SH in round 3 (last), 1 SH in round 4 (3rd)
- season 12: 1 SH in round 1 (2nd), 1 SH in round 4 (2nd), 1 SH in round 4 (win)
- season 13: 4 SH in round 1 (1*win, 2*3rd, 1*last), 1 SH in round 3 (last)

So of 11 Nomads, only 5 built their SH in round 1 with mixed results, while 6 built their SH later, with slightly worse results (1*win, 1*2nd, 1*3rd, 3*last).

5 games were against black, blue, grey; 3 against black, green, grey, 3 against black, green, red.
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