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Terraforming Mars» Forums » General

Subject: Physics Complex card - thoughts about balance rss

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Alex Treacher
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Yesterday we played our third game of TM and the Physics Complex card (number 095) came out for the first time. I got it into play as early as possible and it scored very highly for me; so high in fact that we felt that it might be overpowered/underpriced.

This was only a feeling from one play of course, and we're still new to the game - so I'd be interested in hearing if others who've seen this card in play agree or disagree.

The card scores 2VP at game end for every 'science resource cube' added to it. Each such cube costs (uses up) 6 energy, and is added to the card as a card action. It costs only 12M€ to build, can be built with steel, and has no pre-requisites.

This card scored me 14 VPs in the game (having added seven cubes to it). My final score was 154; given that players start the game with 20VPs (from the TR track) this card alone accounted for over 10% of my final score.

Other cards that provide an endgame bonus of "VPs per xxxx" all give 1VP per animal resource or whatever the card collects, or in some cases 1VP per two or three. The Physics Complex card is the only one (as far as I know) with such a high rate of return. Expending six energy per generation seemed like a bargain to get 2VP, and with that in mind I cranked up my production of energy so that I had plenty to spare. Every generation I expended six energy to place a science resource on the card (effectively buying 2VP), while still having plenty left over to convert to heat to push up the planetary temperature.

Had the card offered 1VP per science resource, I wouldn't have been surprised. Or had it cost more energy to 'buy' a science resource. Or had the card cost more to build, or had a high requirement, I wouldn't have been surprised. As it stands, it seemed like an absolute bargain and too good to pass up.

Has anyone else seen this? Or has the card seemed balanced when played and perhaps this game was just a statistical anomaly?

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Wim van Gruisen
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I haven't played this yet, and it seems like a good way to get points, but some remarks:

- You have to get an energy production going. That would cost you a few turns.
- Energy normally leads to heat, which you can use to raise temperature and gain a point. By converting your energy into physics cubes, you don't gain points for raising the temperature. This point generator is definitely more efficient than energy -> heat -> temperature -> points conversion (and it can continue even when the temperature has maxed out), but you should consider the opportunity cost of not producing heat and not raising temperature in your appraisal of the reward.

Here, each six energy gets you two points. Normally, each six energy get you 0.6 points. So I'd say that the net gain is 1.4 points. That, and you have an action, which you can use to stall taking other actions. With the heat generation, you only get 0.6 actions (actually a bit more because of the heat generation).
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Jon Ben
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Of course I've been up all night! Not because of caffeine, it was insomnia. I couldn't stop thinking about coffee.
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Whymme wrote:
Here, each six energy gets you two points. Normally, each six energy get you 0.6 points. So I'd say that the net gain is 1.4 points. That, and you have an action, which you can use to stall taking other actions. With the heat generation, you only get 0.6 actions (actually a bit more because of the heat generation).


What Wim said, except that 6/8 = 0.75 so actually the net gain is only 1.25.
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Örjan Almén
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Yeah, the balance of this card is the high energy costs. It will take some generations to get an energy production of 6 and also you need to keep it high which means a limitation on for example cities to build from cards as they normally lower your energy production.
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Manuel Berger
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I've tried a energy to points + heat strategy and it worked very good! Still, I lost by 6 points :/
IMHO, it is strong, but not OP
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Morten K
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You do play the right way where a generation is more than one turn per player, right? Getting 42 energy cubes takes a long time and the card can only be used once per generation.
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Alex Treacher
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Tigrillo wrote:
You do play the right way where a generation is more than one turn per player, right? Getting 42 energy cubes takes a long time and the card can only be used once per generation.

Prodromoi wrote:
I got it into play as early as possible and it scored very highly for me...

Every generation I expended six energy to place a science resource on the card (effectively buying 2VP), while still having plenty left over to convert to heat to push up the planetary temperature.

You are correct on both counts.
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Alex Treacher
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Whymme wrote:
I haven't played this yet, and it seems like a good way to get points, but some remarks:

- You have to get an energy production going. That would cost you a few turns.
- Energy normally leads to heat, which you can use to raise temperature and gain a point. By converting your energy into physics cubes, you don't gain points for raising the temperature. This point generator is definitely more efficient than energy -> heat -> temperature -> points conversion (and it can continue even when the temperature has maxed out), but you should consider the opportunity cost of not producing heat and not raising temperature in your appraisal of the reward.


There's nothing stopping a player using it as well as raising the temperature of the planet. Using six energy cubes per generation still allowed for enough remaining energy to transfer to heat that I was able to also raise the temperature twice per generation (with the heat produced, plus the surplus energy that had been transferred into heat). So think of it as an 'as well as' rather than an 'instead of'.
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Enoch Fryxelius
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Tigrillo wrote:
You do play the right way where a generation is more than one turn per player, right? Getting 42 energy cubes takes a long time and the card can only be used once per generation.


14 VPs means that you had a chance to use it once per generation for 7 generations, which probably means he more or less must have used this from the very start of the game (so the game must have lasted at least 8 generations). This means:
a. He got at least 6 energy production going very early, probably first generation!
b. He got the card very early.
c. He invested early in point generation that gave him points but no extra momentum in his engine building. His energy could have been used for heat=TR or used on other cards, and his money could have been spent instead on cards that would have increased any production.

14 VPs from this card is very unusual (but cool!) - but it's not unbalanced in my opinion. Remember this is a game where all cards are good depending on the circumstance. That's why you have to be careful not to label cards "OP" the first times you play...
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Enoch Fryxelius
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Prodromoi wrote:
Whymme wrote:
I haven't played this yet, and it seems like a good way to get points, but some remarks:

- You have to get an energy production going. That would cost you a few turns.
- Energy normally leads to heat, which you can use to raise temperature and gain a point. By converting your energy into physics cubes, you don't gain points for raising the temperature. This point generator is definitely more efficient than energy -> heat -> temperature -> points conversion (and it can continue even when the temperature has maxed out), but you should consider the opportunity cost of not producing heat and not raising temperature in your appraisal of the reward.


There's nothing stopping a player using it as well as raising the temperature of the planet. Using six energy cubes per generation still allowed for enough remaining energy to transfer to heat that I was able to also raise the temperature twice per generation (with the heat produced, plus the surplus energy that had been transferred into heat). So think of it as an 'as well as' rather than an 'instead of'.


The economist in me awakens here:
What we discuss here is only the 6 energy resources spent on the Physics Complex. The "alternative cost" means what these 6 cubes could have been used for if not spent on this card.

That you had more energy or heat production in this case is only interesting if it limited you from playing or using other cards.
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Alex Treacher
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EagleEye80 wrote:
The economist in me awakens here:
What we discuss here is only the 6 energy resources spent on the Physics Complex. The "alternative cost" means what these 6 cubes could have been used for if not spent on this card.

That you had more energy or heat production in this case is only interesting if it limited you from playing or using other cards.

Like 'Capital' for example? Yeah, built that too...
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Florian Ruckeisen
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Prodromoi wrote:
There's nothing stopping a player using it as well as raising the temperature of the planet. Using six energy cubes per generation still allowed for enough remaining energy to transfer to heat that I was able to also raise the temperature twice per generation

Soo you had gargantuan energy AND heat production from early on (6 energy for Physics Complex AND 16+ energy/heat per turn surprise), combo'd with Physics Complex and Capital (that's another, what, 1 or 2 energy required isn't it?) - and you are wondering why you won the game in a landslide?

It does make me wonder how you got your energy/heat engine up so easily - the Physics Complex seems to be just the VP-generating cherry on top here.

Normally, while Physics Complex is a very efficient VP generator, it either stumps your growth in many other areas (as you spend time and money getting that 6+ energy engine up and avoid reducing power production for other stuff), or you only build it later in the game but then don't generate as many VPs.

If all the right cards fall into place, as seems to have been the case for you here, P.Complex is certainly awesome - such is the beauty of nice combos. The card also benefits a lot from the game lasting longer, obviously - I wouldn't usually expect it to run for 7 generations.
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Alex Treacher
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Snapshot wrote:
Prodromoi wrote:
There's nothing stopping a player using it as well as raising the temperature of the planet. Using six energy cubes per generation still allowed for enough remaining energy to transfer to heat that I was able to also raise the temperature twice per generation

Soo you had gargantuan energy AND heat production from early on (6 energy for Physics Complex AND 16+ energy/heat per turn surprise), combo'd with Physics Complex and Capital (that's another, what, 1 or 2 energy required isn't it?) - and you are wondering why you won the game in a landslide?

It does make me wonder how you got your energy/heat engine up so easily - the Physics Complex seems to be just the VP-generating cherry on top here.

Normally, while Physics Complex is a very efficient VP generator, it either stumps your growth in many other areas (as you spend time and money getting that 6+ energy engine up and avoid reducing power production for other stuff), or you only build it later in the game but then don't generate as many VPs.

If all the right cards fall into place, as seems to have been the case for you here, P.Complex is certainly awesome - such is the beauty of nice combos. The card also benefits a lot from the game lasting longer, obviously - I wouldn't usually expect it to run for 7 generations.


Well, haven't packed up from last night yet, so my cards were still on my side of the table. The ones that had an effect on my energy and heat production were (in approximately the order played as best I can recall):

Beam from a Thorium Asteroid (+3E / +3H) (played very early)
Quantum Extractor (+4E)
Mass Converter (+6E)
AI Central (-1E)
Imported GHG (+1H)
Aerobraked Ammonia Asteroid (+3H)
Capital (-2E)
Soil Factory (-1E)
Wave Power (+1E)
Tectonic Stress Power (+3E)
Tropical Resort (-2H)

I got the two heat production bonuses from the temperature track, which was worth +2H.

An yes, I was specifically avoiding pushing the 'game clock' forward; once temperature and oxygen content had capped out, I avoided making oceans for as long as possible to capitalise on the VP building. I wanted to get the 'Thermalist' award into play, but was pipped and this wasn't one of the ones that scored!
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Jeff Kayati
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That's a huge amount of Science tags needed to get that combo out.

Where did they come from?
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Alex Treacher
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jkayati wrote:
That's a huge amount of Science tags needed to get that combo out.

Where did they come from?


Research (2 science)
Designed microorganisms (1 science)
Artificial photosynthesis (1 science)
Quantum Extractor (1 science)
Mass Converter (1 science)
AI Central (1 science)
Robotic Workforce (1 science)
Physics Complex (1 science)
Olympus Conference (1 science)

Don't forget that with fewer players (our games have all been two-player so far) it seems highly probable that players will get down more cards then in games with higher player counts. I imagine scores in games with more players will be lower as a result.
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Jeff Kayati
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The sheer amount of card cost seems to indicate the game lasted more than 10 generations.

My guess is an anomaly aided by a two player game with a high variance in number of generations.
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Michael Denman
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I don't see a problem with this card. I had it in my last game, but not until the late game. Still, I don't seem to generally see players even capable of generating 6 energy per turn (since anything less is worthless because of the energy to heat transfer at the end of the generation). I guess if I got the card early and so I had it in mind to focus on that, then it might seem pretty feasible though.
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Y P
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Snapshot wrote:
If all the right cards fall into place, as seems to have been the case for you here, P.Complex is certainly awesome - such is the beauty of nice combos. The card also benefits a lot from the game lasting longer, obviously - I wouldn't usually expect it to run for 7 generations.

This happened for me last time we played. We played a 2p game that lasted 15 generations and I was able to get 14 or maybe even 16 points out of Physics Complex.

One more nice thing about this card is that you can get it going even without the right cards since you can increase Power production as a Standard Action. I didn't have to do this because I got the right Power boosting cards, but it's nice to still be able to get that VP engine going even if the cards don't go your way.

That combined with your comment about length of game got me thinking. Is it true that higher player counts result in fewer generations on average? Intuitively it must be but I wanted to confirm. If so, I wonder how the power curve works out over various player counts and how it compares to the power curves of lower VP-per-turn cards like the big animals and small animals cards.
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Sebastian Stückl
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MentatYP wrote:
One more nice thing about this card is that you can get it going even without the right cards since you can increase Power production as a Standard Action. I didn't have to do this because I got the right Power boosting cards, but it's nice to still be able to get that VP engine going even if the cards don't go your way..


The standard action is really inefficient, you don't really want to use it unless you have a specific card you need the energy for.

If you use only standard actions to fuel physics complex, it will cost you a total of 81(!) M€ to set up an income of 2 VP per turn, without any resource or M€ production.

In contrast, you can use 83 M€ to place 3 greenery tiles and increase heat by one, yielding 7 victory points by itself, and an income of 4 M€/turn (so 0.25 points per turn).
In addition, you strategically positioned yourself for the gardener milestone and the landlord award, and made some progress towards the terraformer milestone.


To outrace the VP/turn alone, you need to set up Physics complex and then keep it active for a full 5 turns, while not advancing your progress in other areas.

Clearly, the card can be great in a long game where you got the necessary energy production set up nicely, but you have to factor in your opportunity costs.
Often, milestones and awards will win games, and you aren't making any progress towards them.
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Steve
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Repeat after me: If a card doesn't lead to greenery it's not OP.
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Florian Ruckeisen
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Well, last night we had a 3-player CE game, and Teractor managed to bring Physics Complex online in generation 3. The game lasted till generation 10, and he even got an extra resource cube on it via CEO's Favourite Project (indeed it was ), for a total of 18(!) VP. surprise

He came in dead last, even tho he managed to unexpectedly snatch my Miner award in the end, the little scoudrel. No milestones tho (that is IMHO something that is to be expected when you play an early P.Complex), and someone else overtook him in the Scientist department.

The card looks mighty scary, and my first impulse was "oh god, now we need to finish the game ASAP, otherwise he'll just run away with it!" - turned out tho that an early P.Complex alone still doesn't auto-win you the game.
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s schmi
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In the 7 or so games Ive played.

I saw this card come out early (gen 3 or so) With 2 gens the player had played solar mirrors? + 3 energy production and the card that gives you 1 energy production for each city? or is it each other energy card you have played? whichever it was that ment that by gen 5 or so that person was stacking 6 energy per round to 2VP. he crushed us with like 26 pts on the card alone by the end of the game.

I played it mid game and walked away with 12-14pts on the card and the win.

I have never seen a person play that card mid game and not win the game. IT was the card I mentioned previously as IMHO the most broken card in the game.
 
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Sebastian Stückl
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schmism wrote:
In the 7 or so games Ive played.

I saw this card come out early (gen 3 or so) With 2 gens the player had played solar mirrors? + 3 energy production and the card that gives you 1 energy production for each city? or is it each other energy card you have played? whichever it was that ment that by gen 5 or so that person was stacking 6 energy per round to 2VP. he crushed us with like 26 pts on the card alone by the end of the game.

I played it mid game and walked away with 12-14pts on the card and the win.

I have never seen a person play that card mid game and not win the game. IT was the card I mentioned previously as IMHO the most broken card in the game.


That's funny. My experience is exactly the opposite. I have yet to see somebody actually win with the card. But then, it also hasn't been played very often in the games I played. (And when it was, it did not win)
26 points sounds like a TON though, how did the person manage to keep it active for 13 full turns generations while the other players didn't feel the urge to end the game more quickly?

Sebastian
 
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Felipe Bulhões
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Yeah, I can see this card being problematic in a lower player count, because you will have more generations to work with and better odds to access cards that will boost it(ceo pet project and so on).
 
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Sebastian Stückl
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Coiote wrote:
Yeah, I can see this card being problematic in a lower player count, because you will have more generations to work with and better odds to access cards that will boost it(ceo pet project and so on).


Don't forget that you can somewhat control the length of the game. For one, you can keep heat/plants in the last generation rather than ending the game, which is +1 generation.
Also, you can set up steel/titanium production rather than heat/plant production, which may increase the game length by multiple turns because your opponents have to do all the terraforming on their own.
 
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