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Darkrock Ventures» Forums » General

Subject: Runaway leader issue? rss

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Jerold Wallis

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Although I have only played twice, it seems the game is unstable. A lucky roll can get you way ahead.

And getting more rig dice for being ahead (as in current rules) just makes you get farther ahead quickly, and creates a runaway leader.

As an analogy, it is as if (in Settlers of Catan) when you got to 5 points you automatically got your settlements upgraded to cities at no charge. The first person to get there would take off, and leave the others behind.

Are others experiencing this issue?

Not sure of the best solution. Any ideas?

Edit 11/1/16 - see proposed solution in thread below.

JW
 
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Jarad Bond
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Yeah, I've played a couple games and it feels a little bit like that for me too. One way of looking at the game is that it is fast - a "quick burn" - so you can expect someone to get lucky and win big, but it's okay, because the game is over in less than an hour. I want to play it a few more times before I come to any real conclusion, though. It is possible that players just have to contest everything or keep up and hope to get lucky the next time. There aren't a lot of "next times" though.

In my two games, someone not only got lucky, but they got lucky/used gear *and* had 3-4 miners on a station, so they got a huge lead. I posted an idea to the variant section of the forums which would combat that quick jump ahead by limiting the amount of minerals you can get in one pass. You could check that out and tell me what you think. I have yet to test it, but I will be using it the next time I get a group together.
 
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Claudio Coppini
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Wait, does it mean that if you have more than 1 crewmember on a mining station you can collect one resource per crewmember with only a pair of dice? I thought it was only 1 resource per pair of dice.
 
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Gianluca Casu
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No, if you have two crewmembers you collect two resources using the same die, this is the gamble.
 
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Claudio Coppini
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capricorn_tm wrote:
No, if you have two crewmembers you collect two resources using the same die, this is the gamble.


I see, thanks.

I haven't played the game yet so I can't say for sure, but considering the starting number of dice/crewmembers/cargo spots, isn't this only something that might happen later in the game?
 
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Jerold Wallis

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An idea that I am thinking about (but have not playtested) is the following:

If you are at 10 points or over, instead of getting a free rig die, you have the option of giving up a worker (that has not yet been placed) to purchase a second rig die. This rig die is available for use the same turn. EDIT: The worker goes back into the pool, and can be regained by the usual method of getting new workers

Thematically, think of this as no longer paying the salary of the worker, and instead putting the money toward maintenance on the rig. You lose the worker, but gain a rig. (If you drop below 10 points, you do not give up the second rig if you have already bought it).

Same would happen with the 3rd rig die at the next break point on the scoring track.

This would make for more strategy and temper the runaway effect.

JW
 
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Claudio Coppini
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Maybe as a house rule you can just instead limit the number of crewmembers that can be placed on a spot to one?
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Jarad Bond
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jerold_wallis wrote:
An idea that I am thinking about (but have not playtested) is the following:

If you are at 10 points or over, instead of getting a free rig die, you have the option of giving up a worker (that has not yet been placed) to purchase a second rig die. This rig die is available for use the same turn.

Thematically, think of this as no longer paying the salary of the worker, and instead putting the money toward maintenance on the rig. You lose the worker, but gain a rig. (If you drop below 10 points, you do not give up the second rig if you have already bought it).

Same would happen with the 3rd rig die at the next break point on the scoring track.

This would make for more strategy and temper the runaway effect.

JW

It sounds like an interesting option. I love hard choices like that. Is the worker you are giving up permanently removed from the game, or would you be able to recruit them later?

Here are some of my thoughts:

From what I've seen, the extra rig die isn't as useful as Crewmembers placed in the Gear Satellite. As with many (all?) worker-placement games, more workers = more actions = win. The first payouts in my games have been with someone who had 4 or 5 Crewmembers/Captain and they dump all workers on a mining station except one or two, which are over at the Gear, mitigating the luck. They clean house and then stay ahead. They laugh at the solar array. I think the problem lies in the size of the lucky break rather than the odds of getting one.

Also remember that the rig rental is available if you think that the rig die is that useful, and it is the price of a Crewmember (but you get him back for the next round without having to pay money and a turn fighting over the crew space). But I rarely see anyone use it - I certainly wouldn't use it unless all the gear spots were taken, partly because my die rolling is always so crappy, lol.

Statistically, if you had the choice of an extra die or +/- 1, you should always go +/- 1. Say you knew you needed to roll a 2 or a 4. That's 1/3 with one die alone. If you had two dice, that's 1/3 + 2/3*1/3 + 1/36, or ~58%. If you had the +/- 1, you could hit on a roll of 1-5, or 83%. If you needed to roll a 2 or a 5, you could get 100%.
Only in the worst possible case, if you could only make it by rolling a 1, are your odds the same.

need to roll | 2 dice | +/- 1
------------------------------
2,4 | 58% | 83%
2,5 | 58% | 100%
1 | 33% | 33%
2 | 33% | 50%

It might be worth it in a longer game where you could take advantage of the extra rig die for a few turns after you are able to get your worker back and regain the lost time.
 
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andrew enriquez
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Run away leaders usually only happen in my experience from playing at 2 players, where both players have enough ways to mitigate the randomness to get what they want all the time. Which is why we designed the two player variants which both include extra players. Sometimes it happens in a three player game when one player is focusing on the solar track as well. They can of course happen from good luck though. In our play-tests They rarely came into play because we wouldn't let any single player get precision imaging, rough imaging, and rover which are required to pretty much guarantee success all the time. Then if someone did get lucky we'd try to block the export 3 spot to force them to have to allocate extra crew to get those resources all shipped.

One of the other catch up mechanisms we designed into the game is the therion attack cards. Since the players who rolled unlucky get neutronium they have the easiest time defending against attacks. And if a lucky player runs for the first player marker for it's nuetronium resource, it leaves the other players an opening to grab up those good gear and resource spots first.

The game was developed to play in 30 mins though so a fast ramp and quick end is part of the intended experience, although for a longer game you can definitely extend the amount of spaces that must be mined before the game ends.
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Jarad Bond
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I very much appreciate the insights!

Darkrock Ventures is a fun light game that has been easy to teach and play, with a hint complexity. I like that very much. I jotted down some of my thoughts as a fairly new player to DV, but experienced gamer in general.

cedeliing wrote:
Run away leaders usually only happen in my experience from playing at 2 players, where both players have enough ways to mitigate the randomness to get what they want all the time. Which is why we designed the two player variants which both include extra players. Sometimes it happens in a three player game when one player is focusing on the solar track as well. They can of course happen from good luck though.

I've played two 4-5p games so far and it happened both times. Lots of grumbling from people who realized there would be no way to catch up. I played two games with 2p and it kinda happened too, but probably more for the reasons that you explained. I need to try those variants and encourage people to be more aggressive for the larger games. We do have a fairly tame group.

cedeliing wrote:
In our play-tests They rarely came into play because we wouldn't let any single player get precision imaging, rough imaging, and rover which are required to pretty much guarantee success all the time.

This is what I suspected, although I would posit that only precision imaging is needed to guarantee near certainty most of the time (or only rough imaging, circumstantially) for iron and sometimes cobalt. It does depend on the roll of the standard dice, though.

cedeliing wrote:
One of the other catch up mechanisms we designed into the game is the therion attack cards. Since the players who rolled unlucky get neutronium they have the easiest time defending against attacks. And if a lucky player runs for the first player marker for it's nuetronium resource, it leaves the other players an opening to grab up those good gear and resource spots first.

I never thought of it that way. Interesting idea! It isn't a very strong catch-up mechanism because everyone tends to get hit equally, but I can see it subtly adjusting the outcomes.

cedeliing wrote:
The game was developed to play in 30 mins though so a fast ramp and quick end is part of the intended experience, although for a longer game you can definitely extend the amount of spaces that must be mined before the game ends.

The only problem with extending the spaces to be mined is that the person who gets the lucky break will always win the game barring some crazy bad luck/planning afterward and more mining spots would just extend the misery for other players, so I'm rooting for the short burn here.

If a longer game is desired, I think the better way would be to limit the number of resources that can be mined with a successful operation to even out the statistics a bit.
 
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Jerold Wallis

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Jared, I agree with your numerical analysis, but that assumes that the precision imaging spot is always available.

Given that you may not be able to get there and that rig die are always available to you, the choice becomes situation dependent. The intent was that the worker that you gave up goes back into the pool, and could be repurchased by the usual mechanism.

Interesting discussion. Thanks.

JW
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James Carus
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So I played a three player game yesterday, and as leader for the majority of the game, I wasn't quite at double the score of the other two players, but I wasn't far off.

One of the other players was focusing primarily on solar energy, which meant they were down a worker most of the time, and was delayed in getting the extra worker and captain due to the third player. The third player seemed incapable of mining anything but iron for most of the game, despite often having the rover and sometimes the imaging spots or re-rolls.

My strategy early on was to utilise the rig rental to get the extra dice, giving me better odds of getting the cobalt and platinum, the gamble I took was exporting on turn two, hoping that my miner would get something that turn which he didn't, but the two resources I did have took me to $8 which allowed me to get my extra worker and captain on turn 3. I spent a couple of turns at $0 but the combination of the early captain and worker let me roll two/three rig die a turn to guarantee the odds on mining resources, particularly with the vortex drill to get better chances of getting the one or six needed for platinum. From there, it sort of snowballed.

I think the issue on this game was that neither of the other players were willing to waste a worker on taking the leader position from me, and the one time they did, I didn't mind spending a worker to get it back which kept me able to pick and choose from an empty board to block/take spots that might be wanted by others as well as me. I'm thinking that some of the cardsets might help to balance the runaway leader a bit, but so will knowledge of the game, and players playing not just for themselves but to block others which is vital in worker placement games.
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Cluny McPherson
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I'm a little puzzled. In the above posts in this thread people have made clear that their complaint is with the "leader" problem emerging because of 2+ Crewmembers being used with the same die-pair to get more than one resource, but your reply doesn't refer to this or take issue with it. Yet this is clearly incorrect as far as the rules-as-printed state - only a single die-pair may be used to gain one metal resource unit for a Crewmember (or two for a Captain).

p.9, rulebook, emphasis added in bold:

Quote:
"In order to successfully collect metal resources, you must pair any one of your Rig dice with one Standard Mining die or with the Neutronium die so that the sum of these two dice exactly matches the number on a Mining Station. You may then resolve a Crewmember located at that Mining Station to collect one unit of that Mining Station’s remaining resources, or a Captain to collect up to two units. You may create pairs out of as many dice as you have available so long as each pair includes one Rig die of your own and one non-Rig die from the board. You may not use more than two dice to collect a single resource and each die may only be used to collect resources once per player per turn."


The criticisms of this problem in Darkrock Ventures in this thread are therefore clearly wrong and no such "leader" problem exists.

A clear statement from a designer here in this thread for BoardGameGeek would be welcomed to settle this point before people Googling about the issue become confused.
 
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Jarad Bond
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Cluny wrote:
I'm a little puzzled. In the above posts in this thread people have made clear that their complaint is with the "leader" problem emerging because of 2+ Crewmembers being used with the same die-pair to get more than one resource, but your reply doesn't refer to this or take issue with it. Yet this is clearly incorrect as far as the rules-as-printed state - only a single die-pair may be used to gain one metal resource unit for a Crewmember (or two for a Captain).

p.9, rulebook, emphasis added in bold:

Quote:
"In order to successfully collect metal resources, you must pair any one of your Rig dice with one Standard Mining die or with the Neutronium die so that the sum of these two dice exactly matches the number on a Mining Station. You may then resolve a Crewmember located at that Mining Station to collect one unit of that Mining Station’s remaining resources, or a Captain to collect up to two units. You may create pairs out of as many dice as you have available so long as each pair includes one Rig die of your own and one non-Rig die from the board. You may not use more than two dice to collect a single resource and each die may only be used to collect resources once per player per turn."


The criticisms of this problem in Darkrock Ventures in this thread are therefore clearly wrong and no such "leader" problem exists.

Your analysis sounds exactly like my early questions. However, the criticisms are still valid because your assumptions are, unfortunately, incorrect.

Cluny wrote:
A clear statement from a designer here in this thread for BoardGameGeek would be welcomed to settle this point before people Googling about the issue become confused.

Such a clear statement has been made:
http://boardgamegeek.com/article/22733842#22733842
meskue wrote:
To qualify for any minerals on a spot, you must pair up one of your personal dice with one of the shared dice (clear or black). By adding the numbers together, you can claim resources on the spot that matches that number if you have workers there. The number of dice only comes into play if you are claiming multiple spots by matching two separate pairs (or possibly 3, but even 2 is rare).

For example: You have a Captain and a regular Crew on the 8 spot. You are rolling 2 dice and one is a 3 result. One of the shared dice is a 5 result so you pair up your 3 with the 5 to make 8. With that match, you may now collect resources from the 8 spot and take a total of 3 iron resources.
 
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Jerold Wallis

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Agree - that thread quoted above answers the question, with both the example above and the following quote from that link:

"The dice matchings pretty much open that spots' "door" and if you have any crew present they take resources. Even if you were to stack all of you meeples on a single spot, as long as you can make a single match for that spot they can all take goods."

As far as the runaway leader issue, my main issue was something different -- it was that the first person who got to 10 got a second rig die for free, and therefore became further ahead. I proposed a solution for this above, which worked well when I tried it, but I want a few more games with that variant before I report back.

As a reminder, my solution was that when you got to 10, instead of getting a free rig die, you instead got the ability to trade an unplaced worker for a (permanent) second rig die, which could be rolled immediately. The worker went back into the pool, and could be purchased again later (or even on the same turn) by the usual mechanism. When you got to 20, you would have the ability to trade an unplaced worker for third rig die. If you dropped below 10/20 you would not lose the rig die, but you would lose the trading ability if you had not yet taken advantage of it.

This would be a variant rule, and has not yet been endorsed by the game designer.

JW
 
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Cluny McPherson
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That is very unfortunate, as it means this entry in the rulebook flatly contradicts the rule as the designer intended them. "A" Crewmember - not "as many Crewmembers as are present".

An official published errata to fix this is strongly advisable.
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Jarad Bond
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Cluny wrote:
That is very unfortunate, as it means this entry in the rulebook flatly contradicts the rule as the designer intended them. "A" Crewmember - not "as many Crewmembers as are present".

An official published errata to fix this is strongly advisable.

Agreed, although I only really had major issues with the wording of this and one other section (playing both completely wrong):

The placing of crewmembers (pg.7): If you read the rules closely, you'll see that the rules clearly say you cannot place additional crewmembers on a spot with [your] captain unless you had crewmembers there first, but the designer has since said that only referred to an opponent's captain.
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