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Terraforming Mars» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A Game with Pluses and Minuses rss

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Mark C
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Terraforming Mars (I’ll refer to it as TM) has had an amazing ascent in the BGG rankings, which speaks volumes to its reception, already up to 19th in the strategy game rankings. Many gamers love tinkering with card combinations, and this game seems to be a big hit in that category.

That said, after playing with a couple different groups and discussing the experience, there were reasons to be less enthusiastic. I thought I’d share for those who are on the fence about TM, those who just wanted to discuss it, or for those who like critical reviews. If my limited experience with TM seems unusual, feel free to comment.

Overview

TM comes with a ton of cards, and has a central mechanic of card drafting. There are many ways to draft, though, so more specifically, TM uses a mechanic that you draw 4 cards at the start of the round, and pay 3 space bucks for any you want to keep. There’s also a tableau building element, in that there are several ways to improve your abilities, which help you do things that should eventually score points. There are also generic actions, which are almost always inferior to a cards, but allow you to do certain things when you don’t have a card for it.

The game is ambitious with the number of moving pieces, and also the huge variety of cards. The comparison that comes to mind for me personally, is Agricola. While TM doesn’t have worker placement, which is admittedly a big difference, TM has that sense of sheer volume, and wide variety of card effects.

Just to give some flavor, cards can have:
* Good long-term scoring potential based on a fairly generic condition or accomplishment
* Scoring or scoring potential based on some specific condition or set collection.
* Scoring as a point value (or negative point value) which is a by-product of the card effect
* Speeding you along to a bonus score that only the first player to claim will get, or pushing you ahead so you can trigger scoring in something you expect to be best at when the game ends
* Bonuses to every aspect of building your engine or tableau –things like income, creating forests, cities, oceans, heat, energy, and TR, which is a rating that counts for both income and points. There are also unique elements that can come from a card effect. For example, in one game I collected pets on a card, which I received every time someone built a city, and scored for every two I had.
* Take-that cards, which provide a benefit, but also have some destruction of another player’s resources or tableau.


Like any card game, there is plenty of luck in your draws. There is definitely a wide spectrum in card power. Some cards get your engine off to a great start, while others are worthless for it. There are also ‘company’ cards, which are a setup/start position mechanic that gives players asymmetric player powers and/or starting resources.

So, with that as background, what left me feeling meh about TM?

Critical Comments
First, the card draw luck is significant, but in a way that felt underdeveloped. It’s entirely possible, and we found this out the hard way, to draw your cards for the turn, and none of them are legal plays. Restrictions may open up later, but you can get hit with an utterly useless draw. While this may be tolerable later in the game, it feels pretty bad in the early turns as other players are revving up their engines. It’s part of the luck element, but what was problematic was the level of mitigation. It didn’t feel like you could chart your course in a meaningful way without cards. The generic actions won’t gain you nearly as much over the game. If there was a push your luck or payment element that included cards, I think that would help. Unfortunately, while you can sell useless cards, you can’t use them to gain draws.

Another aspect that bothered us was the way the company cards interacted with the take-that cards. If you have the thermal company, you have heat income, and likely you alone, which can be used to raise the temperature. In my case, one game I had the plant producing company, which can eventually lead to forests, which have good scoring potential. My starting benefit was production of 3 to start the game. With that, 3 turns in, you’ll have a forest with a couple plants to spare, and you’re almost averaging a forest every other turn. When the cards come out that have a side benefit of attacking a player with plants, guess who gets hit? Late in the game, take-that cards may work as a catch-up mechanism, but there’s no gradient to the deck, unfortunately. The thermal player felt the same way after getting hit twice early. Before the halfway point, I not only had lost my plants so often I couldn’t actually create forests, but by the mid-way point where I finally thought I would, someone killed my entire production.

Another issue was the take-that cards in general. My favorite example: I believe it was my third turn. I paid 3 for the card, and 16 to play it --almost my entire turn’s income which starts at 20. That's pretty steep in an engine building game, and it allowed me to put a token on it each turn. When I had 2 tokens, I could take them off to raise my TR, which scores a point and likewise increases income. Over the long term, hopefully I get that to pay out. The player behind me then put out a cheaper card that steals the token from me, can use it every single turn, and scores points for the stolen tokens! I had to completely abandon the card, not even trying to use it. My only hope was that someone else would put out another, similar type of card so that maybe I’d only be targeted every other turn. Of course that didn’t happen, as who would want to drop a card that gets stolen every other turn, likely worse if you're in the lead. The next token card, of course, was immune to the thievery. Was I playing a deep strategy game, or Munchkin?

My next issue is the tableau. A friend put it best when he said he hates to play games where you’re constantly worried about bumping the table even a little. The pieces are slick and quite small, and are critical to tracking your abilities. What’s more unfortunate is that you need to reach over and see other player’s cards, or ask them to provide info, because they may affect you. For example, every card or piece of a certain type may affect your abilities or tableau, even if played by someone else. The worst aspect of this is that you can’t necessarily track back the tableau when there’s a problem. For example, we had a large income cube slip out of a hand that sent tracking cubes all over the place. Some cards are forgiving in that they can be reconstructed, but others are based on events from a certain point forward, making it nigh impossible to figure out when everything happened. I generally don’t mind fiddly games all that much, as I tend toward heavier games where there may be more tracking, but this was somewhat of an issue even by my standards.

I’d like to mention that many of the design aspects that were troublesome seem like they were addressed to a degree. The generic actions let you do something when you have bad card draws, and card restrictions could theoretically be more extensive or better suited to cover the worst of the targeting possibilities. The problem was more that these didn’t appear to handle cases we ran into, and seemed really contrary to what we believed was a medium/heavy strategy game experience. You can certainly make the case that the luck portion was intentionally made more dominant given the theme. I can even buy that argument, I just don't find that it makes the experience better for me.

Conclusion
TM has a lot of interesting moving parts, and card interactions which give it a deep strategic space to work with. I get why so many people are excited about this game, and in the very early going, we caught some of that excitement. Card drafting plus tableau building in a medium heavy game? Sounds ambitious and appealing. Still, there are some rough situations that seem like they just don’t belong, and I think a 4 card draw with no recourse makes the luck wilder than it needs to be.

If you don't have a problem out of the gate though, and get your income up a bit, you can take more risks, and the luck factor improves. If you have something to work with already out, generic actions can be a viable play, even if they're not as good as card draws. And if you get one of the cards that increases your card draws (there are a few), or one that gives you a card, your options start to open up.

I should also mention that I think TM deserves a shout out for the theme and art. Abilities and the moving parts are all centered around your terraforming mission. The multiple game end objectives are also integrated nicely.

At its best, TM has a nice tension of how best to use your cards given how much game is left, what others are doing, and what path gives you the best combination of building your engine, or opening up scoring. The tension for awards is definitely palpable.

At it's worst, you can get worthless draws or have meaningless turns. Even worse, the game has some attacks that make little if any sense, and can hammer you. Not from being out-maneuvered, but just being in the wrong place at the time. And finally, while the production is generally good, the need to see everything on the table all the time to keep up with tableau changes, along with implementation of the player tableau, can be a real detractor.

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Yuting Yang
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I have to say that my impression of the game, after more than 10 plays (at various player counts) somewhat mirrors yours.

As a disclaimer, I do like the game; in fact I think it's rather enjoyable and will never turn down a chance to play it. There's a lot of meat to be chewed on this piece of bone so to speak.

With that out of the way, I can't shake the feeling that luck of the draw (especially with the opening 10 cards) will not only determine your choice of corporation but quite possibly the end game. I recall from a specific game I played with four other friends: I drew Helion and another corporation that starts the game with titanium production (the name of the corporation escapes me now, sorry) and my 10-card opening hand had zero heat production cards and zero titanium or space cards. I ended up keeping only four cards, three of which were plant-production cards. The game went really funny too, because the player who drew Thorgate couldn't get any energy production cards, and the one who had Ecoline had no plant production cards. Meanwhile, one of us chose Interplanetary Cinematics had four event cards in his opening hand. Guess who had a great start?

While it is certainly true that drafting and clever card play will offset some of the luck factor, you can only go so far with tactical drafting (I wouldn't call it hate-drafting) and use of attack cards. It didn't take long for us to realize that in order to stay in the competition, our choice of cards during the research phase had to be limited by the board state and that kinda went against the idea that there were multiple paths to victory. I'd admit that meaningful and painful decisions when it comes to keeping the patents added a lot of tension and appeal to the game. But I still can't shake the feeling that somewhere beneath the fun that everyone at the table was having, that something felt incongruous and it was just a tad less than perfect.

Personally I don't mind the moving pieces and cube pushing; while it did feel like a chore at times, it was within my tolerance for upkeep. I have no problem with the art or components, though there's certainly room for improvement in terms of production value.

But getting back to point, thanks to Gamer_Dog for this review; just wanted to chime in and share my thoughts on the game.

(Edited for grammar)
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Geeky McGeekface
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Mark, you may want to try the game again using the Draft variant in the rules (on page 13). On each turn after the first, instead of drawing 4 cards a turn, you draft them 7 Wonders-style: each player chooses 1 from their 4 card draw, passes them to a neighbor, then chooses 1 from the cards passed them, and so on, until each player has 4 cards. Then, each player decides which of the 4 cards to add to their hand, at the usual rate of $3 a turn. In my experience, this variant makes all the difference in the world. You have 10 cards to choose from each turn, rather than 4. Hate drafting is also a viable option, since you can just discard the drafted card and keep it away from an opponent at no cost (other than the opportunity cost of not drafting a more useful card from that group). IMO, TM is a much better game with this variant and I have no interest in playing it any other way.

I wish there was as simple a fix for the Take That cards, but I haven't heard of one. I don't care for these cards--they seem bolted on in a game that otherwise features a lot of planning and more often than not, they aren't effective in attacking a leader (as the player you want to target may not have the items the card mentions). OTOH, in my experience these cards rarely decide the outcome of a game; I found them more annoying than hugely impactful. I wish they weren't there, but they don't bother me so much that I won't play the game.

There are a couple of things that keep me from rating TM as a great game (the Take That aspect is one of them), but I still consider it a very good one and one of my favorite games of the year so far. The draft variant makes a really big difference, so if you have any interest in checking this game out again, I highly recommend using it.
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Jack
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I like the draft and would probably use it at lower player counts, but with 4p and 5p, I'm not drafting more than the first 10-pack. I totally don't mind the luck-of-the-draw aspect.
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Tyler Gingrich
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Larry Levy wrote:

I wish there was as simple a fix for the Take That cards, but I haven't heard of one. I don't care for these cards--they seem bolted on in a game that otherwise features a lot of planning and more often than not, they aren't effective in attacking a leader (as the player you want to target may not have the items the card mentions). OTOH, in my experience these cards rarely decide the outcome of a game; I found them more annoying than hugely impactful. I wish they weren't there, but they don't bother me so much that I won't play the game.


We just pull the "Take That" cards out of the deck and play without them when we want to have a game without that small aspect included. We leave the voluntary "Take That" cards in but don't use that part of those cards.

For example...

002: Asteroid Mining
125: Hackers
160: Power Supply Consortium
201: Energy Tapping
061: Great Escarpment Consortium
121: Sabotage
050: Virus
124: Hired Raiders

There may be others, but that's what's in my mini-deck for playing without "take that" at the moment.
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Brett Smith
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This is a game that rewards multiple plays and the so called luck of it I just dont see by the very close scores I have seen on a continued bases on all player counts and multiple plays I never see a run away leader in this game which would indicate luck of draws as you say. The issue with luck when people first play it is the chance of drawing certain strategies should I go the science route when there is a small percentage of cards with that in the deck, thats the risk YOU take for a large payoff of the science route. Of course your first couple of plays you might not realize that and go for that early to only find out there is very little science cards in the game.
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Geeky McGeekface
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Brett, there's no question that experience will help players to mitigate against some bad draws. However, it's also true that there are many cards which have the potential to be very swingy. The draft variant does much to even out the luck of the draw, but there's no question that luck can still play a role. For example, in my last game, a player was dealt the corporation that gives him an income boost for every city played and his starting hand let him play 3 cities! He used his enhanced income to add to his wealth and by the end of the game, had an astonishing +$53 modifier to his income! Consequently, on the last couple of turns, he was just able to buy board presence for a bunch of VPs. OTOH, one of the cards I was dealt on the last turn was worth 8 VPs to me! It was expensive, but at that stage of the game, you'll gladly pay bucks for VPs and 8 VPs was a huge bonanza. And it just fell in my lap. Thanks to that card, I was able to make it close for the city player, although he still won. I think we played a bit better than the other two players in the game, but there's no question that we also got some very good breaks.

The draft variant definitely helps to smooth the luck factor out. But this is still a game that can be decided by the luck of the draw. Skill is still rewarded a great deal, so the amount of luck is acceptable to me, particularly since you still need to execute with proper decision making. But Lady Luck can still rule the day from time to time.
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Florian Ruckeisen
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Thank you for your review, Gamer_Dog. I can understand what you don't like about TM, and while I may sound like a broken record, I'll reiterate that drafting IMHO very much improves the "random card draw" aspect. I avoid playing without drafting, even tho it increases play time.

Another recurring criticism seems to be the cards with "take that" effects on them. I must say I'm a bit surprised about how many posters take issue with this being in the game, but if it is a negative for you, that will certainly influence how much you like or don't like TM.

I do feel, tho, that the impact of these cards is often overestimated. This goes for your favourite example too:
Gamer_Dog wrote:
Another issue was the take-that cards in general. My favorite example: I believe it was my third turn. I paid 3 for the card, and 16 to play it --almost my entire turn’s income which starts at 20. That's pretty steep in an engine building game, and it allowed me to put a token on it each turn. When I had 2 tokens, I could take them off to raise my TR, which scores a point and likewise increases income. Over the long term, hopefully I get that to pay out. The player behind me then put out a cheaper card that steals the token from me, can use it every single turn, and scores points for the stolen tokens! I had to completely abandon the card, not even trying to use it. My only hope was that someone else would put out another, similar type of card so that maybe I’d only be targeted every other turn. Of course that didn’t happen, as who would want to drop a card that gets stolen every other turn, likely worse if you're in the lead. The next token card, of course, was immune to the thievery. Was I playing a deep strategy game, or Munchkin?

First off, I'm not sure which card you played, as I can't find a microbe-accumulating one that costs 16 - Nitrite-Reducing Bacteria is 11, Regolith Eaters is 13, and GHG Producing Bacteria is 8. Anyway, Ants must have been the "eater card".

While it understandably felt harsh to you having your microbes insta-countered by Ants (I've been there... cry ), there are a few things to consider:
- Ants has an O2 requirement (4%). That is rare (tho certainly not impossible) to be met in generation 3 already - usually, you should be able to get at least 1-2 TR increases out of your card before that (not sure if you managed to do that here or not)
- If only 1 microbe-producing card is in play, you're right that the sensible reaction on the victim side is usually to just stop using your card. But that means that Ants will likewise do nothing else but nullify your card - they won't score any VP either! (Maybe 1 if you had the Nitrite Bacteria or misplayed to give the Ants a second counter.) So the other player spent 9+3 M€ for most likely no gain. This seems an ok move in a 2p game, anything else it mostly benefits the 3rd player, so I would consider playing Ants like this a bad play.
- Insta-countering your card probably means the other player bought Ants blind. That's a risky thing to do! No microbes in play = Ants is 100% useless. Which is another reason why your card (whichever one it was) will have netted you at least +1 TR. Not the best deal, sure, but better than what the Ants player got...
- With more than 1 microbe-producer in play, it's a whole different scenario. Then Ants really pays off - but on the other hand, the victim cards are then still worth using, too.

As with many resource-destroying/stealing cards, it feels worse than it actually is. And always remember that those "take that" cards don't come free either. I can see, however, that it's especially disappointing to a new player who doesn't even know that such a card might come up at all.

On players hitting Ecoline with plant destroyers: You bet! And they better be - if Ecoline just gets to plaster the planet with their greeneries unmolested, they are mad strong!

Quote:
the game has some attacks that make little if any sense, and can hammer you. Not from being out-maneuvered, but just being in the wrong place at the time.

Being in the wrong place at the wrong time is a thing, yeah. I've been in situations where I was like "ok, I really want to play Big Asteroid now, but the only player whose plants I can sensibly hit at the moment is not the one I actually want to weaken... oh well"

Baimi wrote:
I recall from a specific game I played with four other friends: I drew Helion and another corporation that starts the game with titanium production (the name of the corporation escapes me now, sorry) and my 10-card opening hand had zero heat production cards and zero titanium or space cards. I ended up keeping only four cards, three of which were plant-production cards. The game went really funny too, because the player who drew Thorgate couldn't get any energy production cards, and the one who had Ecoline had no plant production cards. Meanwhile, one of us chose Interplanetary Cinematics had four event cards in his opening hand. Guess who had a great start?

Now this is example made me go "huh?" in multiple ways:
- You don't necessarily need further heat production right away when you play Helion, or further plant production with Ecoline. You already have a leg up here, and you can focus on that further, but you don't have to.
- You do want energy cards with Thorgate - so why pick that corp when your opening hand doesn't have any?
- 4 event cards for InterCin, ok, that's an extra 8 M€ for them, likely over the course of several generations, as InterCin has little cash and event cards aren't buildings to use their steel on. Seems hardly game-breaking even if the others have less ideal starting hands.
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Ken Chaney

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Good discussion all!

TM has a moderate amount of luck of the draw in the spectrum of gaming. It is more than I prefer, but luckily optional/house rules can largely improve it.

The optional drafting during the 4 card Research phases really helps a lot.

On the other hand, too much still often swings on the initial 10 card draw. It is likely the game winner started with a decent or strong initial draw/company combination, and unlikely they didn't. In at least 1 in 10 starts, people I have played with have felt they started with terrible initial draw. I have been in that position and felt dragged along for the (not short) game, which is frustrating.

This suggests the initial 10 card draw would be a good place to apply an adjustment! There have been a number of house rules offered:

-Full Draft: Draft all 10 cards by setting aside one, passing the rest, then paying for which ever set aside cards are kept. This is likely too complex for new players, and takes away much of the hidden information that helps create tension in the game. This is not likely a great answer, but certainly reduces the odds of a dead start.
A variant would be a Clumped Draft. Set aside "n" cards, pass the rest, repeating until done. (i.e. set aside 3 cards, pass 7, set aside 3, pass 4, set aside 3, pass 1, then buy whatever you want to keep.) This reduces the loss of hidden information and allows some better combinations to be kept as they are seen, while reducing the chances of dead starts. One player's junk may be just what another player needs.

-Full Mulligan: A player may discard their 10 cards for a new hand of 10. This radically reduces the odds of a terrible start. (If they were 1 in 10, the odds go down to 1 in 100, even if they were 1 in 4 they go down to 1 in 16.)
Some people would allow this to be repeated. In a group of "fair" players allowing a second Full Mulligan is fine if they again drew dead cards, but some players will abuse the option to redraw until they draw a very strong start.

-Partial (Paris?) Mulligan: Discard your hand and draw fewer cards. One suggestion is to discard 10 to draw 8. Again there is the optional version allowing players to repeat: discard 8 to draw 6 etc.

-Split draft: Set aside 5 cards, discard the other 5, draw 5 more. This seems pointless in evening out the start. It can improve already strong starts with only moderate chances to rescue terrible starts.

-Catch-up Mulligan: Set aside "k" cards, discard "n" cards. Draw n-3k replacements. (Keep 0,1,2,3 cards to draw 10,6,2,0 cards.) Of course other distributions could work: draw 10-2n (keep 0,1,2,3,4,5 or more to draw 10,8,6,4,2,0 cards.) Keep 0,1,2,3 or more to draw 10,8,5,0. I like these type of options as they benefit bad starts more than good starts, but have yet to settle one a preferred distribution. Try it out and see what you think!
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Geeky McGeekface
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Good suggestions, Ken. Of the ones you list, the Full Mulligan makes the most sense to me. By giving each player two bites at the apple, it should greatly reduce the number of awful initial draws, while not delaying things by too much. Plus, making it an irrevocable change (i.e., I can't go back to my first 10 cards) should mean that players won't resort to it unless their opening hand truly sucks.

If you really wanted to allow players to repeat this process, maybe you could say that each extra hand after the first costs them income (an additional -$1 production starting with the third hand). But I'd be happy implementing just one mulligan.

Honestly, I don't get too bummed out if my opening 10 cards aren't great. The big thing is if they don't match my corporation and since I don't have to choose between my two cards until I see my hand, that doesn't happen often (although as Baimi noted, it's still possible). The mulligan rule would take care of those edge cases and maybe a few others. But right now, if my opening hand is poor, I just discard most of them and hope that my first few drafts help out (the draft variant makes that much more likely than the basic rules). Worst comes to worst, I can always resort to some standard actions. It's not optimal, but I've actually won a game doing that. Sure, I'd rather get a good opening hand, but the $3 charge per card retained helps to even things out a bit.

So I could see implementing a small change, like the Full Mulligan rule. But I'd really want to avoid any of the more elaborate variants. There's going to be some luck (it is a card game, after all), so don't spend too much effort to make the start totally even.
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Yuting Yang
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In response to Snapshot's questions:

The choice of corporations in the game we made was in a way, to choose the lesser evil. It was really a matter of choosing the corporation that would be easier to play in the game, more so than synergize with the opening hand. I for one don't care for the corporation that has the ability to pay 3MC to boost the TR rating once per generation and if it ever comes up in my draw, I'll definitely choose the alternative. It was like that.

Moving on to my opening hand choice, having had played multiple solo games, I have to admit that I have been accustomed to ditching cards that I can't play within certain rounds or cards that don't work very well with my corporation. The truth is, I actually wanted to ditch all 10 cards, that's how bad my opening hand was. The other guy who played InterCin not only had 4 event cards but the other two cards he kept were building cards, which he easily paid for with his 20 steel. That really made a difference, no matter how you look at it.

Granted none of us were experts at the game and despite the fact that two of us were first time players, we still went for the draft-variant and although the game did stretch over 4 hours with 5 players, the experience was still quite a lot of fun.

With regards attack cards, I was wondering if we can adopt the solo rules and simply play as if there's an invisible player who we can choose as the target for the take-that effects. Perhaps that would be a viable solution?

(edited for clarity)
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My simple assessment: more plus than minus. A keeper.
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Roger Reisinger
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Just reading this thread because Im interested in trying it but havent had a chance yet.

In some card games I house rule to draw double the cards and keep an initial hand of your choosing. So in this case draw 20 cards and keep 10. Is the deck in TM large enough to allow this?


kenchaney wrote:
Good discussion all!

TM has a moderate amount of luck of the draw in the spectrum of gaming. It is more than I prefer, but luckily optional/house rules can largely improve it.

The optional drafting during the 4 card Research phases really helps a lot.

On the other hand, too much still often swings on the initial 10 card draw. It is likely the game winner started with a decent or strong initial draw/company combination, and unlikely they didn't. In at least 1 in 10 starts, people I have played with have felt they started with terrible initial draw. I have been in that position and felt dragged along for the (not short) game, which is frustrating.

This suggests the initial 10 card draw would be a good place to apply an adjustment! There have been a number of house rules offered:

-Full Draft: Draft all 10 cards by setting aside one, passing the rest, then paying for which ever set aside cards are kept. This is likely too complex for new players, and takes away much of the hidden information that helps create tension in the game. This is not likely a great answer, but certainly reduces the odds of a dead start.
A variant would be a Clumped Draft. Set aside "n" cards, pass the rest, repeating until done. (i.e. set aside 3 cards, pass 7, set aside 3, pass 4, set aside 3, pass 1, then buy whatever you want to keep.) This reduces the loss of hidden information and allows some better combinations to be kept as they are seen, while reducing the chances of dead starts. One player's junk may be just what another player needs.

-Full Mulligan: A player may discard their 10 cards for a new hand of 10. This radically reduces the odds of a terrible start. (If they were 1 in 10, the odds go down to 1 in 100, even if they were 1 in 4 they go down to 1 in 16.)
Some people would allow this to be repeated. In a group of "fair" players allowing a second Full Mulligan is fine if they again drew dead cards, but some players will abuse the option to redraw until they draw a very strong start.

-Partial (Paris?) Mulligan: Discard your hand and draw fewer cards. One suggestion is to discard 10 to draw 8. Again there is the optional version allowing players to repeat: discard 8 to draw 6 etc.

-Split draft: Set aside 5 cards, discard the other 5, draw 5 more. This seems pointless in evening out the start. It can improve already strong starts with only moderate chances to rescue terrible starts.

-Catch-up Mulligan: Set aside "k" cards, discard "n" cards. Draw n-3k replacements. (Keep 0,1,2,3 cards to draw 10,6,2,0 cards.) Of course other distributions could work: draw 10-2n (keep 0,1,2,3,4,5 or more to draw 10,8,6,4,2,0 cards.) Keep 0,1,2,3 or more to draw 10,8,5,0. I like these type of options as they benefit bad starts more than good starts, but have yet to settle one a preferred distribution. Try it out and see what you think!
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Ken Chaney

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I really like the game. Most of the people I have played with have have enjoyed at least a play, and some of them are usually very critical, so give it a try!

As far as a 20 card start, if it would make the game more fun, of course you should do it ... my guess is that it would make starts too rich, and unevenly so.

There are certainly enough cards in the deck to allow 5 players to draw 20 initially, but this will greatly speed the need for a reshuffle. (In some 2-3 player games, we need a shuffle, and all 4-5 player games we have had to shuffle.) This is no big deal, but does change when initially rejected cards become available again - a noteworthy game effect.

While such an initial selection would leave the chances of a terrible start very low, a better goal than "no bad starts" is starts balanced across players. Being able to keep up to 10 out of 20 cards (it is unlikely 10 will be considered worth the opportunity cost of being so broke - but some sets could be contrived) has a good chance of giving a player a phenomenal start. (See the thread about what can be done with a "perfect information" and selection start!) A player with 6 highly synergistic cards will be just as advantaged over decent starts as was the problem we are trying to solve. Without estimating odds, my assessment from the gut is that this would not lead to better balance, but would lead to shorter games. I'm hoping to try the catch-up method some more.
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Lord Alatar
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It's a complicated game and I can understand that casual gamers have a problem if this gets on the table. I think most experienced players can play good even if they get cards that don't match their primary strategy.
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Jack
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Well, I've won it a couple of times, so it MUST be broken.
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Florian Ruckeisen
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Baimi wrote:
In response to Snapshot's questions:

The choice of corporations in the game we made was in a way, to choose the lesser evil. It was really a matter of choosing the corporation that would be easier to play in the game, more so than synergize with the opening hand. I for one don't care for the corporation that has the ability to pay 3MC to boost the TR rating once per generation and if it ever comes up in my draw, I'll definitely choose the alternative. It was like that.

This is sort of where I was getting with my comments - there are some corps whose start is more closely tied to your opening hand. InterCin and PhoboLog, with their stash of steel/titanium, are good examples for this - if you can make good use of those resources early, you are off to a start with effectively more money than others. If, however, those steel/titanium cubes are just sitting around unused for several generations, that's just dead capital until later, slowing down your start.

UNMI, incidentally, is a corp that can handle a "bad" initial hand exceptionally well - even if you don't play any cards in the early game, you can just go for Standard Projects for TR increases, and your special ability all of a sudden make those very viable.

Quote:
The truth is, I actually wanted to ditch all 10 cards, that's how bad my opening hand was. The other guy who played InterCin not only had 4 event cards but the other two cards he kept were building cards, which he easily paid for with his 20 steel. That really made a difference, no matter how you look at it.

Well now we're talking - 4 events and 2 building cards gets InterCin off to a very nice start, provided those cards are actually useful in the early game and not just played "because you can".

I'd still argue that this alone isn't that decisive a factor for the rest of the game, tho. As long as you can get a hold of decent cards over the next 2-3 generations, you're still good. Only if luck continues to be in "that guy's" favour I would say you really have a runaway leader problem on your hands.

And even then, the other players might still reign him in. I agree that the game doesn't make it very easy to specifically target a player that is perceived to be in the lead. But "take that" cards (which in such a case should of course be finding their way at the leader whenever possible) aren't the only thing you can do. Play the board against him too, pressure him on milestones, force him to do the heavy lifting in paying for awards #2 and 3 while you spend your money elsewhere - and then leech off 2 VP on an award that he paid for, if not even steal 1st place on it. cool

I'm not saying it's as easy as "oh just do this and that and then you'll catch up just fine", but I am convinced that a) after just gen 1, noone will be ahead so much that I would call him a runaway leader and that b) the game still isn't just over when someone is, a few more generations in.

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Granted none of us were experts at the game and despite the fact that two of us were first time players, we still went for the draft-variant and although the game did stretch over 4 hours with 5 players, the experience was still quite a lot of fun.

Glad to hear it, and I'm in the same boat in that I'll rather take a long playtime when in return I get a game that everyone feels they have more control over what's happening and aren't at the mercy of lucky draws.

One can argue that drafting should be avoided with new players because they don't know the cards very well, so they will need even more time reading and understanding them, and may not be as good at making optimal decisions, so might as well let luck decide for them.
OTOH tho, new players also aren't as adept at playing around "bad draws", so the quality of cards they do get is more important for them than it is for a "veteran". Which may lead to a very strong first impression of "oh this game is all about drawing the right cards at the right time, what a luckfest". yuk

IMO, it comes down to the players' mentality and preferences. So far, all groups I've played with immediately opted to play with drafting even for their first play. (But most were cool with leaving Corporate Era out at first.)

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With regards attack cards, I was wondering if we can adopt the solo rules and simply play as if there's an invisible player who we can choose as the target for the take-that effects. Perhaps that would be a viable solution?

It's something, but it does alter the cost balance of those cards balance slightly, as all card effects are considered in their price. So if you aren't using attack effects to weaken an opponent, you effectively somewhat overpaid for whatever else the card does. That's just about the only downside I can see here tho, so it may be worth trying for you.
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shumyum
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♒♒♒♒♎♒♒♒♒ sloooowly sinking
IMO drafting every round is a must even for first timers. You are more likely to turn off players from "luck of the draw" issues then with a steep learning curve.

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mister mystery
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lordalatar wrote:
It's a complicated game and I can understand that casual gamers have a problem if this gets on the table. I think most experienced players can play good even if they get cards that don't match their primary strategy.


I see it more that for the totally not casual players you get this runaway leader problem. if you have players that play next to perfect their initial hand is just going to decide mostly how it is going to end.

having played 6 games so far, it was only close 1 single time between the players, that was also the first play. Else it was quite clear, for 1 player I can say if he gets a super start it is not clear if he will take the win as he is "more causual" but on the others it was too often a clear runaway. (one time in my favor). In neither game I played worse or made any mistakes I was aware off and in the aftermath.

Its still a cool game, and after zapping through some youtube vids, of course you need some skill for the game (but thats what i see as a requirement anyway) but once you reached a certain level it is very luck depnendent

Back to your statement yes you can still play "GOOD" and get a good amount of point for what cards and stuff you got in the game, but you will have no chance against someone with better cards, not playing much different.

(and you can't deny all that luck, just see solo play scorse they have a long range even for the same player and so on, see the 3 turns terraforming perfect information, and 300 point statements)
 
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Jonathan Fryxelius
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MisterMystery wrote:
(and you can't deny all that luck, just see solo play scorse they have a long range even for the same player and so on, see the 3 turns terraforming perfect information, and 300 point statements)


Score variation depends on a lot of things, especially in the solo game. Some corporations are harder to terraform with, that is the very reason we have one score for each corporation and not one single highscore. And with my experiment with perfect information, I was not playing as I would without perfect information, because I could rely on what I would get next turn. So the decisions I made were totally different than playing by the rules. It was just for a theoretical upper bound of points. My point is, if I got the cards in that exact same order, but didn't know it beforehand, I would not have played the way I did, and would not reach that score.

However, you are quite right that the scores vary greatly from play to play, and this has a lot to do with luck. Drafting can change a lot of this, and psychology too. Revealing your strategy early can obviously ruin a lot of your plan if your opponents are perceptive enough to catch it. Saving cards in your hand to help you steal an award out of the blue can also help. Placing tiles to tempt other players to play certain other tiles can also change a lot. Claiming the best spots for cities, or ruining city combos with special tiles. There are so many things you can do which do NOT depend on luck, that blaming or crediting the starting hand for a victory or loss sounds like an exaggeration. Of course the starting hand has a great impact, but far from determining the winner.
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mister mystery
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Lord_Aethan wrote:
MisterMystery wrote:
(and you can't deny all that luck, just see solo play scorse they have a long range even for the same player and so on, see the 3 turns terraforming perfect information, and 300 point statements)


Score variation depends on a lot of things, especially in the solo game. Some corporations are harder to terraform with, that is the very reason we have one score for each corporation and not one single highscore. And with my experiment with perfect information, I was not playing as I would without perfect information, because I could rely on what I would get next turn. So the decisions I made were totally different than playing by the rules. It was just for a theoretical upper bound of points. My point is, if I got the cards in that exact same order, but didn't know it beforehand, I would not have played the way I did, and would not reach that score.

However, you are quite right that the scores vary greatly from play to play, and this has a lot to do with luck. Drafting can change a lot of this, and psychology too. Revealing your strategy early can obviously ruin a lot of your plan if your opponents are perceptive enough to catch it. Saving cards in your hand to help you steal an award out of the blue can also help. Placing tiles to tempt other players to play certain other tiles can also change a lot. Claiming the best spots for cities, or ruining city combos with special tiles. There are so many things you can do which do NOT depend on luck, that blaming or crediting the starting hand for a victory or loss sounds like an exaggeration. Of course the starting hand has a great impact, but far from determining the winner.


But all this stealing and claiming the spots is as likely for the player with the "better hand" as the other. therefore he will still have no chance. I am still liking to play the game, but the one with much better start/income is just more flexible to take those oportunities too. I say you hardly can outplay another good player if he just has better cards.

Of course on 2 players I played so far with those oportunities are just more likely, but others don't grant them so easy. And even then its probably just closing the distance from 8-10 points to 5-7 or so. Our games just not have been close most of the time with 3 players.

Those parts don't depend on luck, but in our few games the winner was only once decided really by a though play, else those parts didn't matter a whole lot, may change some VPs but differences where just too big. But we will get more samples playing

(and that denying of course, when I faced mining corp last time build on iron myself to deny and also take the cards that let place special tiles in the draft, but it was just much easier as many are good cards and I already had a much larger income after the first turn alone).

I'd just say for 3 of our players probably the starting hand will decide 80% of the games is my feeling
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Jonathan Fryxelius
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MisterMystery wrote:

But all this stealing and claiming the spots is as likely for the player with the "better hand" as the other. therefore he will still have no chance. I am still liking to play the game, but the one with much better start/income is just more flexible to take those oportunities too. I say you hardly can outplay another good player if he just has better cards.

Of course on 2 players I played so far with those oportunities are just more likely, but others don't grant them so easy. And even then its probably just closing the distance from 8-10 points to 5-7 or so. Our games just not have been close most of the time with 3 players.

Those parts don't depend on luck, but in our few games the winner was only once decided really by a though play, else those parts didn't matter a whole lot, may change some VPs but differences where just too big. But we will get more samples playing

(and that denying of course, when I faced mining corp last time build on iron myself to deny and also take the cards that let place special tiles in the draft, but it was just much easier as many are good cards and I already had a much larger income after the first turn alone).

I'd just say for 3 of our players probably the starting hand will decide 80% of the games is my feeling


It would be cool to sit by your side as you play, seeing which priorities you make, which cards you keep. I have played this game over a hundred times, probably closer to 200 times (mostly solo), but I am certain I am still not making the optimal moves. I think it is very easy to think you're making the optimal moves and choosing all the right cards. Then, out of the blue, someone points out a new perspective, and certain cards or mechanics get much more interesting.
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mister mystery
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Maybe we should somehow record it. Lets see how much it will devolop. At least or scores are in Ranges Posted by others. Once i get the copy myself i can play more Solo.

Small things could have Make a difference but at least till now the games never wäre Clone and those decision with maybe +/-2/3 points per Person Would hardly Change the ranking.

It will defenitly be interessting how my opinion on the game will Change with more games.

(i just now from Other games that i tendiere Do see many combinations in cards. As mage wars playtester I often fight for Single Balance to mana Cost so in Respect to terraforming for Exemple why does a particular card Cost 20 and Not 21. what is the reason behind... For Example i like solleta but not sure if overcosted vs the 4 heat ocean place tile. Not talking about much but 1-2mc... Maybe that also helps in the game in card Selection.)

But lets see if i can get a copy. And i think with random Information you cant always tell what is the optimal Move probably only what is a Bad Move or a suboptimal combibation.
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