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Hansa Teutonica» Forums » General

Subject: Small feedback, if ever there's a second version rss

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Chris Williams

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I've only played once, with only three players, and I can tell that when we were playing, we were not playing very optimally. And so it's possible that things could be wildly different if players play better and with a full roster. It's possible that my analysis is off-base, but I think it's more likely that I'm overstating the deficiencies of the game as it is than that the deficiencies don't exist.

I liked the game. But I noted when we were done that the board was almost completely empty except for one route and the corners where the upgrade actions were located. We each had a stack of tokens which would allow us to battle for supremacy of towns, but we only had one town where two people had control cubes. Cycling through the stack of tokens didn't seem worth it.

If we'd been battling for control of the routes connected to the upgrades, those tokens may have been valuable. But, of course, then the map would have been even more empty. More likely, those are more for when you have 5 players playing.

Overall, it felt like the majority of the map existed only for two reasons:

1) To allow for the longest route mechanic.
2) To give players a reason to go away from the upgrade routes, to get special action tokens, so they could battle for upgrade routes.

By the nature of these two features, you end up with a board where, by design, most of the map is intended to be empty and jostling for towns there wouldn't really come into it, unless everyone decided to go with a route-building strategy in one game. More likely, two will decide to do so, letting the other three battle for control of upgrade routes. With only two, and so much empty space, the fighting would probably not be so terribly fierce as it could be.

The game is good, make no mistake. But, it seems to be clearly calling for an expanding, tile based board instead of a static one where most of it is dead space.

You would start with a center tile (with two sides) that has the main upgrade routes on it, and a control city per one. The two sides of the center tile would be balanced for 2-3 players and 4-5 players. Depending on player count, more tiles would be added on. As the players play, new tiles could be added, as one of their actions, if they wanted to engage in route building. Some tiles would feature red cities, and a bonus would be attached to any connection between red cities. Some tiles would spawn a token when revealed.

You would end up with much the same game but it would have the following benefits:

1) More variability from play to play.
2) Players would be kept together, competing for the same routes and cities - even when avoiding the upgrade routes - since there wouldn't be a vast wasteland of empty routes in the middle of the board.
3) And that competition would force new players to figure out how to play the game more quickly, since they'd be getting the benefit of drafting off other players' moves early in the game, due to being forced to play in the same region.
4) Better scaling, since the board size would adapt to the needs of the game being played and what strategies the players were targeting.

So, if there ever is a thought to create a second version, I would suggest that the designers/publishers try that out and see if they can make it work. I think it would be a fairly straightforward upgrade.
 
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A Huynh
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It sounds to me like you guys were not playing optimally, which is expected in a first game. Much of the strategy of the game is emergent and I'd say it's pretty impossible to grasp it all in your first game.

I would suggest to play a few more times and with other player counts (4 or 5 players) or more plays at 3 players. After a few plays you will see why the map is designed the way it is, after one play I don't think you could hope to have learned enough about the game design to suggest balance changes or changes to the map itself (really turning this into another game).

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Ben Draper
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I don't even know where to begin. I'll just say this: one poorly-played game doesn't give you close to the experience to make an informed analysis of the likely strategies, let alone the design choices.
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A Huynh
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BennyD wrote:
I don't even know where to begin. I'll just say this: one poorly-played game doesn't give you close to the experience to make an informed analysis of the likely strategies, let alone the design choices.


Ah said it better than I could articulate!
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katanan wrote:
BennyD wrote:
I don't even know where to begin. I'll just say this: one poorly-played game doesn't give you close to the experience to make an informed analysis of the likely strategies, let alone the design choices.


Ah said it better than I could articulate!

Pretty harsh though... shake

HT is quite deep and it is very difficult to see more than the rudiments of tactics in your first play. It requires many plays to get deep into strategy: I have played 60+ games and I am still learning. If you read the early forum posts, especially session reports, you will find that a lot of groups fixated on single strategies for a while (not always the same one!) until discovering that alternatives might be better.

As a general rule, a player who does his own thing (while everyone else fights over a common goal) is going to do very well. It also sounds like the OP may have missed the rule for scoring bonus chits.

It may not suit your style to dive into forums to learn the "right" way to play, but it might help to get a wider view of all the options. In any case, HT is a gem, completely worth your perseverance.
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Jon Geruntho
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The game is brilliantly designed. Play a lot more! I think 3 Player games are great, so no issue there. My first play (4p, with all inexperienced players) was nothing like yours. Even though we played poorly, the winner scored 90+ points total, ending with a real sweet network. It was a glorious game and I haven't seen one like it since .
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Jim Temple
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Were you playing on the side of the board that's already scaled for 2-3 players? See the top-right corner here:


(not my pic)
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Chris Williams

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I feel that I should note again that I enjoyed the game, and thought it quite good. Suggesting that bacon be added to hamburgers is not secretly a statement of hatred for hamburgers.

Ozludo wrote:
HT is quite deep and it is very difficult to see more than the rudiments of tactics in your first play. It requires many plays to get deep into strategy:

Yep, that's the sense that I got. And tightening that learning curve up was one reason for the suggestion.

People, on average, are more inclined to play a game if they find themselves doing well at it. If they try it and come out feeling like they weren't doing much but poking around at random things, most won't try it again. Others, yes, will think, "Man, I want to try that again and really nail it!" But, that's a smaller audience.

As a game designer, certainly you have to accept that no game is going to appeal to everyone. But, within the scope of people you might attract to it, you do want to appeal to as many as possible. If you can get more people coming back a second time, that's more people who are liable to talk about the game and buy the game.

If you can find a way to not sacrifice the game play, and increase appeal, there's no demerit to that. It is possible, and I admit as much, that I may not have a sufficiently deep appreciation for the game. But I don't feel like it's likely that a switch to an expanding board would remove any of the existing strategies from the current game. It wouldn't be a regression in any way. But there is the potential that it would step it up in a few ways. And hence I put the suggestion out.

It's up to the designer/publisher to fiddle around with the idea if they are interested in revisiting the game. Maybe they have moved on to other things. Maybe the idea falls flat in actual play testing. But, certainly, there's no harm in throwing an idea out into the wind if you think you've got one.
 
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Jason Reid
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AnalyzerOfGames wrote:
People, on average, are more inclined to play a game if they find themselves doing well at it. If they try it and come out feeling like they weren't doing much but poking around at random things, most won't try it again. Others, yes, will think, "Man, I want to try that again and really nail it!" But, that's a smaller audience.


If every game appealed to average people, we'd only have average games!

Quote:
But I don't feel like it's likely that a switch to an expanding board would remove any of the existing strategies from the current game. It wouldn't be a regression in any way.


Throwing out ideas is never a crime, but this is the part that (after only one learning play of the game) smacks of hubris. How can you know what's going to be removed if you don't even know how to play the current game well yet?
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To the OP, I'm curious:
-Was anyone going for the Key upgrade? If there was no competition for it, Keys combined with a large office network would be hard to beat.

It sounds like there might have been a bit of group-think going on - you were all playing the same strategy, and no one was taking advantage of a neglected strategy that would do better since there was no competition for it. Maybe try playing with different people, or try exploring different point-sources in the game.

The changes you describe sound like an interesting game inspired by HT, definitely. But not needed due to any deficiencies in HT-itself.

(At least the OP didn't complain about the Action Upgrade being overpowered )
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Shawn Fox
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AnalyzerOfGames wrote:
I feel that I should note again that I enjoyed the game, and thought it quite good. Suggesting that bacon be added to hamburgers is not secretly a statement of hatred for hamburgers.

Ozludo wrote:
HT is quite deep and it is very difficult to see more than the rudiments of tactics in your first play. It requires many plays to get deep into strategy:

Yep, that's the sense that I got. And tightening that learning curve up was one reason for the suggestion.

People, on average, are more inclined to play a game if they find themselves doing well at it. If they try it and come out feeling like they weren't doing much but poking around at random things, most won't try it again. Others, yes, will think, "Man, I want to try that again and really nail it!" But, that's a smaller audience.

As a game designer, certainly you have to accept that no game is going to appeal to everyone. But, within the scope of people you might attract to it, you do want to appeal to as many as possible. If you can get more people coming back a second time, that's more people who are liable to talk about the game and buy the game.

If you can find a way to not sacrifice the game play, and increase appeal, there's no demerit to that. It is possible, and I admit as much, that I may not have a sufficiently deep appreciation for the game. But I don't feel like it's likely that a switch to an expanding board would remove any of the existing strategies from the current game. It wouldn't be a regression in any way. But there is the potential that it would step it up in a few ways. And hence I put the suggestion out.

It's up to the designer/publisher to fiddle around with the idea if they are interested in revisiting the game. Maybe they have moved on to other things. Maybe the idea falls flat in actual play testing. But, certainly, there's no harm in throwing an idea out into the wind if you think you've got one.


All of that said, you just don't understand the game. While I agree that there are quite a few games which can be analyzed and called "broken" or "bad" after one play, HT isn't one of those. To understand the game it takes a lot of plays or some really serious analysis. Basing an opinion on one play of HT with other players who had never played before is very questionable, especially by someone with a fairly limited experience with board games as your profile appears to indicate.

That said, I am not someone who defends every design as being perfect. HT is not a perfect game, it has some flaws, as does every game ever made, at least so far. I'm stilling holding on to my perfect 10 rating in hopes that game is eventually created.

Basically what I am saying is that your analysis is completely wrong. There are multiple routes to victory. Upgrading your abilities is generally not the optimal strategy in my experience, unless everyone else ignores them of course. HT is all about balance, doing what others aren't, and engineering the end of the game to occur at the optimal time for your current strategy (or understanding when other players are going to trigger the end of the game and planning accordingly).

As for flaws in HT, I dislike that the game ends immediately when an end game condition is reached. I've never tried to find any statistics on it, but I suspect that going later in the round results in a lower chance of winning, especially in 5 player games. Going 5th is just brutal. If the other players don't actively block each other it makes it really hard for the 5th place player to compete since you need two turns to really start to take advantage of the larger number of active cubes you start with.
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To the OP, I saw in your ratings comments on the game:

Quote:
The game ended just as we were starting to accomplish things and get to a position where we could start to compete for territory.


I'm curious, what was the game-end trigger?

One of the key strategic aspects of the game is controlling the game-end trigger - it's a really interesting game that way.

In my experience, when I play with first-timers, they usually speed up to the 20-point end-game trigger way too early and way too fast. And once they realize the game is about to end (and if they don't want it to b/c they are not in a position to win), they can't do anything about it. I think pretty much every time I've played with new players, the game was ended by one of them, and due to the 20-point trigger.

No idea if that was your case, of course! But your ratings comment suggested it might be.

As players gain more experience, they figure out how to balance short-term points with investment in longer-term points, and to manipulate the pace of the game.

Also FYI the designer is indeed thinking about a new edition with potentially a new theme at least, no idea if he's also considering rules changes:

New theme for Hansa Teutonica
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Mike Geller
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I'm having a hard time understanding the OPs game session.

The players each had a stack of tokens. I assume you mean bonus markers. Yet the map was empty except for a couple of offices at the corners. How did the players obtain the bonus markers without laying down offices? Normally there will be one office placed with each bonus marker taken.

Presumably the game ended with the 20 point threshold. The only thing you guys did was do upgrades and give points to those couple of offices at the corners. Why didn't anyone try to gain control of those cities where all the scoring was going on? Why didn't anyone try to control the city at the other side of the routes where all the scoring was going on? Why didn't anyone try to score the Coellen points? Why didn't anyone try to build a network and upgrade keys? Why didn't anyone try to connect the red cities? I don't understand your description of why no one used their bonus markers, or why the players didn't try to score points by increasing the numbers they held.

It's hard to know whether you played the game correctly, but if you did, you guys left all sorts of strategies untouched. It's a rare game which leaves the map mostly empty at the end of the game. I think you're trying to solve a problem which doesn't really exist.
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Jason Reid
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sfox wrote:
To understand the game it takes a lot of plays or some really serious analysis.


I think this is a bit of a bum rap. The game isn't that opaque. Where it does break the mold is that it's got a lot of real tradeoffs between Engine Building, Snagging Points, and Advancing the Game Clock throughout (as opposed to most Euros which are pretty obviously set up as "Build-engine-THEN-get-points" games).
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Shawn Fox
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jasonwocky wrote:
sfox wrote:
To understand the game it takes a lot of plays or some really serious analysis.


I think this is a bit of a bum rap. The game isn't that opaque. Where it does break the mold is that it's got a lot of real tradeoffs between Engine Building, Snagging Points, and Advancing the Game Clock throughout (as opposed to most Euros which are pretty obviously set up as "Build-engine-THEN-get-points" games).

Ok I take it back, some brilliant people such as Jason Reid are able to understand all of the nuance of how taking different actions affects the outcome of a game and thus can come to an immediate understanding of how good a game is after reading through the rules just once. For us average board game players who are not blessed with such brilliance, however, it generally takes multiple plays to understand enough about a complex game to make conclusions about the quality of the gameplay.
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Kelly Bass
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In a game where it is so painful to you (and helpful to them) to kick an opponent's blocking piece out of the way, you should put serious consideration into going where they are not bothering to block.
 
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Jason Reid
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sfox wrote:
jasonwocky wrote:
sfox wrote:
To understand the game it takes a lot of plays or some really serious analysis.


I think this is a bit of a bum rap. The game isn't that opaque. Where it does break the mold is that it's got a lot of real tradeoffs between Engine Building, Snagging Points, and Advancing the Game Clock throughout (as opposed to most Euros which are pretty obviously set up as "Build-engine-THEN-get-points" games).

Ok I take it back, some brilliant people such as Jason Reid are able to understand all of the nuance of how taking different actions affects the outcome of a game and thus can come to an immediate understanding of how good a game is after reading through the rules just once.


What the hell?

You know, I've never had trouble with any group I've played this game with. Pretty much everybody grokked right away that it's a game about growing your network, building your engine, and trying to time the end of the game so that it's advantageous to you. What's so hard about that?

Quote:
For us average board game players who are not blessed with such brilliance, however, it generally takes multiple plays to understand enough about a complex game to make conclusions about the quality of the gameplay.


You know, maybe me and everyone I've ever played with is not so brilliantly above average. Maybe you're just below average? I guess 50% of us have to be, right?
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Mark Brown
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HT is still in the top 100 games after 7 years.
It is the 4th highest rated game of 2009.
It is standing the test of time very well. No wonder so many people are jumping on the premise of the original post.
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AnalyzerOfGames wrote:
I've only played once...

Stop right there. That may be your issue.
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And yeah, not to pile on, but when your thread is titled "Small Feedback..." and what you are proposing amounts to a re-design of essentially the entire game from the ground up (including the board!) then it's hard to give any valuable feedback.
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shadowjump wrote:
HT is still in the top 100 games after 7 years.
It is the 4th highest rated game of 2009.
It is standing the test of time very well. No wonder so many people are jumping on the premise of the original post.

I think it also says a lot that the game still has so many people subscribed or at least watching its forums that this post got so many good responses.

This thread should be in variants, by the way.
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Clyde W
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AnalyzerOfGames wrote:
I've only played once, with only three players, and I can tell that when we were playing, we were not playing very optimally.
AnalyzerOfGames, please keep analyzing this game by playing it more.
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I have some small feedback for a second version too that I think could be fun:

Assymmetric starting backs. Players can have different starting numbers and numbers of cubes and such on the back side of the board. Many games like Eclipse and Cuba do this for easy extra replay.

Skill City Tokens so you can switch which starting cities have which upgrade actions. This can be just a variant that you play when you want a new map setup.

Maybe some official variants based on playtesting or on ones from the Variant forum here. Ones like a solo variant vs AI decks, or ones that change up the gameplay like everyone starts with a hidden bonus marker (from a set of balanced/equal ones) or goal cards or everyone starts with an extra cube to setup the board with.

Theres probably lots more possible. A variable player power card dealt at the start of the game can be semi interesting, etc. But ideally these are all variants and optional to the player, aside from the great base gameplay.
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