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Subject: Gameplay - Really fun! Components? So close...but not quite rss

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Tim Collett
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Shawnee
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Introduction:

I like the western theme, and I wish there was more of it. It seems like it isn't used as much as it should considering that fantasy, space, and ancient history seem to dominate board game themes. It also seems to be a theme that should be able to convince others to play a game because there are quite a few people that enjoy westerns but aren't into the other themes that I mentioned earlier. That being said, Homesteaders is based on a western theme of working on creating a boomtown and has a lot of interesting gameplay to go with it.

Object of the game:

Over 10 rounds, the players will bid for land deeds to be able to purchase buildings to build up their towns. These towns allow people to gain income, resources, and victory points. Players will hire workers that can provide them with additional income or resources as well. Whoever has the most victory points at the end wins the game.

Components:

This is a tough one for me. There are a TON of components for this game. The cardboard tokens and cards are made of really nice thick cardboard and the color scheme and details on the cards work really well for the game. The wooden components are also really nice and well painted (not often that you get wooden cow bits that are painted black and white and even have the eye painted on them).

This is what confuses me though. All the components are really nice but the game board literally feels like a piece of paper. Again, it works for the game but the quality is really poor in my opinion. I am going to have to attach it to something that will keep it more rigid. The components also had a "wet" feel to them (even though the box had one of those moisture packs in it to help prevent moisture).

The other thing that bothers me is the cutting of the pieces. Wow, did they miss on some. When your cards have borders, these borders should be as close to the same as possible on every card when they are cut. Some are cut right, some are cut to where they are missing the entire border on one side or the other. The coins and victory points were rought as well because the number should be centered on them and on quite a few, the number is really close to the edge or has been cut in some form.

Gameplay:

The fortunate thing is the game has wonderful gameplay. It is a resource management game with a little worker placement in it. I am not going to go through the rules because people can read them online, but will instead just talk about the progression of the game itself.

After the initial setup (which can be lengthy because of the number of pieces), the game begins and last over 10 rounds. Again, the goal of the game is to get the most victory points by building up the best town.

During the game, players will be able to build different types of buildings during the rounds. Rounds 1 - 4 are devoted to building settlements, rounds 5 - 8 are for towns, and rounds 9 - 10 are devoted for cities. The individual tiles will say what type of card it is and when it can be built. There are some cards that have the ability to be built as both a settlement or a town building. Players can only build the appropriate buildings in that round (in rounds 1 - 4, you can't build cities or towns). Also, the buildings are broken down by industrial, residential, commercial, and special and are denoted by different colors for each and have the type of building on the back of the building card.

Every player starts off the game with a homestead, a worker, and some silver coins. Gameplay begins with everyone placing their worker(s) if they would like in order to get additional resources, coins, or victory points. Some building cards need workers to produce different items and others don't.

Next, everyone receives their immediate payments from the buildings (if it has any) and anything produced by their workers.

Finally, everyone now pays for their workers (1 silver for each worker). You have to pay for the worker even if you didn't have then actually doing anything in a building.

Now the auctioning phase begins. With a three player game, there are only two stacks of land deed cards and with a four player game there are three stacks. Because of this, one person each round is guaranteed not to win an auction. If a person chooses to no longer bid or has been outbid and chooses to pass, they do not leave empty handed. There is a rail line at the bottom of the board that a person moves up that allows them to take a special item (such as a trade chit, etc.) immediately. It is possible for two or more people to pass and one or several of the land deeds don't get a bid. In this case, these cards are disgarded so that there are an equal number of cards for the whole game.

After the bidding is over, people pay for their auctions. People can always pay for the bidding cost or anything that needs silver because even if they don't have enough silver, they can take on debt. A debt token gives a person 2 silver and can be repaid with 5 silver. Unfortunately, debt tokens also allow you to lose victory points. The first debt token is -1, the second is -2, the third is -3, and so on. So if you had three debt tokens at the end of the game, it would be -6 points against you.

Once a player has paid for his deed, he must use it immediately. They can not be carried over from round to round. The stacks are marked with a 1, 2, and 3 so the 1 goes first and so on in choosing a building. Buildings almost always cost resources and resources can be traded for in the marketplace (explanation on that in just a second). Building can contain one time immediate rewards, end game rewards, and rewards that can be used throughout the game. Buildings can also produce resources, victory points, or coins during the income phase either free of charge or by the use of 1 or more workers or both. It is important to look over the buildings carefully to make sure that you are either getting the resources you need or getting resources and trade chits so you can do trading in the marketplace. Note: you can not build another of the same type of building in your town. There are very few duplicates though.

The marketplace is always open and can be used at any time throughout the game. A player will need a trade chit in order to buy or sell to the marketplace. A trade chit is needed for each transaction a player wishes to do (or if the player has a building that allows them to do something different). If a player sells to the marketplace, there are fixed prices that denote how much a player gets but that player also receives one victory point as well. The cost of buying and selling are exactly the same (the victory point is only taken when selling to the marketplace and does not have to be returned when buying).

One other thing: gold can be used as currency even though it is a resource. One gold token is worth 5 silver coins. The catch is if a player uses gold, they do not get change back. So if a transaction costs 8 silver coins and the player pays with two gold, they do not get 2 silver coins back.

At the end of each round, the player that won the auction in auction space one is the start player. If no one won that auction, it goes to the winning bidder in auction 2 and so on.

At the end of 10 rounds, the game is over and the victory points are tallied. Certain buildings are worth victory points and some buildings have conditions on them that give additional victory points if the conditions are met. Each copper, gold, and cow tha a player is holding is worth two victory points each at the end. All other resources and coins have no value. If there is a tie, the number of silver coins decides the winner. If there is still a tie, both people win.

Positives:

- I like the old west theme.
- The trade chits add some complexity to the game because a player can't just buy and sell as they please. Without trade chits or special abilities on buildings, a player can't buy or sell.
- The game has a good amount of complexity which I really like because of all the different types of resources and special abilities from certain buildings.
- The multiple building types also add complexity but nothing that is too much.
- The auctioning mechanic is fun and sometimes it does pay to not build and just take a bonus from the rail line in hopes of holding out for something better.
- Not an overly complex game to teach. Instructions are simple but with alot of choices (nothing like Agricola though).

Negatives:

- The components were close to making the game great and yet the fall flat because of bad cutting and a bad board. People can memorize tiles because of the bad cutting on the boarders for the auction tiles.
- The instructions are vague in certain areas. You sometimes have to read between the lines to get your question answered.
- A player could get some AP from deciding which building to take.

Overall:

The game is a lot of fun and definitely has a lot of replay value because of all the unique combinations and different ways to solve problems to get points. I am a huge fan of the game. Unfortunately, the components could have been the star and some poor cutting and a super cheap board kind of drag it down. It doesn't make the game any less fun or unplayable, but the initial reaction isn't the type of impression that game company wants to make considering the number of games on the market.

Now, from what I have seen on here, not everyone has major issues with the components being cut too far, etc. If you can get past that or it doesn't bother you, it is a really good game. If you think that is going to bug the heck out of you, definitely try the game at least and see how you like it. I wouldn't judge it on just the components alone.

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The Grouch
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Making the boards from heavy cardboard, replacing the auction tiles with cards, mini-poker chips for coins & VPs would have made for a much higher quality game. Even if the price had to be bumped $5-$10 for it, it would be worth it.
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Andy Van Zandt
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the only things miscut on mine were a couple of the coins and stars... which i see on every game i own with cardboard coins (my copies of Caylus and Puerto Rico, for instance, was just as bad). the game board doesn't get manipulated during play, and is still cardboard, so i've no complaints there either (i've mentioned that elsewhere too, the complaint about the board just seems trivial to me).

and admittedly, my copy didn't seem to have any moisture problems. so while i was lucky there, i think people are over-reacting to the components, especially when the wooden pieces are so good, and the graphic design on the cardboard pieces is so functional.
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Tim Collett
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I will try take some pictures of my pieces tonight and post them. It is one thing to have a few off but this just missed the mark entirely.
 
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Seth Jaffee
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bill_andel wrote:
Making the boards from heavy cardboard, replacing the auction tiles with cards, mini-poker chips for coins & VPs would have made for a much higher quality game. Even if the price had to be bumped $5-$10 for it, it would be worth it.

Actually, the Auction boards were supposed to be mounted on 2mm chipboard - that's what we spec'd to the manufacturer. Welcome to the annoying manufacturing issues that have been haunting us!

As for cards vs tiles, we thought tiles would make a 'better' impression. The original prototype used full size cards, and they simply took up too much room. Admittedly, we never considered 1/2 size cards, but that's because we thought tiles would be nicer. to be fair, we've not gotten any cards from that manufacturer, and I'm not sure how they would have come out - I contend that the tiles - if not misprinted and poorly cut - would have been very nice.

Mini poker chips would be nice, but again - I didn't expect the production of the cardboard bits to be so poor. I personally am a fan of cardboard coins in games, so the added cost for poker chips over cardboard coins didn't make any sense to me. Maybe I am in the minority on that.

I know that Michael is at least considering 1/2 size cards for the re-print, but I don't know if we'll go that way in the end or not.

In any case, I'm glad people are liking the game itself, which I feel is excellent despite the manufacturing issues!

- Seth
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Dave Eisen
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I like the tiles, but then, mine are printed properly. The added heft is nice.

I agree with you regarding cardboard coins vs. chips. Especially when we not looking at currency of various types, but all singles. All very easy to manage with Homesteaders.

My only gripe with the production values is the board. Assuming that everything worked as designed and the moisture wasn't a problem. I seem to recall having problems with the quality of the screens, but it's been months since I've used them as my group prefers playing with open information so really cannot comment on them. I guess if being fussy: it would have been nice if the wood resource and copper resource were easier to tell apart.

 
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Chris Rudram
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The design of everything is great, it's just the production is lousy. I like the tiles, I like the coins/tokens/debts markers, the wooden pieces are awesome.

The two guys I played it with last night said they'd probably get a copy, despite of the production issues... they liked it alot (and one really values production quality in what he buys, so that's a win).

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Marc Reissig
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I would be really interested to hear a direct comparison to Carson City, which I also just played. I liked Carson City much better than Homesteaders, but wonder if ultimately I was just a sucker for the better production values. :-)
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Steve Duff
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I like the tiles, I think it would be a mistake to change to cards. Just go full bleed next time.

New publisher, first printings, growing pains were to be expected.
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Alex Rockwell
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mreissig wrote:
I would be really interested to hear a direct comparison to Carson City, which I also just played. I liked Carson City much better than Homesteaders, but wonder if ultimately I was just a sucker for the better production values. :-)


Yeah you totally were!
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Alex Rockwell
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Cards really wouldnt work as well. We used cards in playtest versions and they are way too big. You end up not being able to fit them all on the table, so you pass this 'deck' of building cards around and people look through it to see what they want. Its bad, I promise. Tiles are good!

And tiles are much nicer than small sized cards.

We got screwed by the bad manufacturer. The board was supposed to be mounted on cardboard, its not. Tiles and tokens shouldnt be cut offset, dampness shouldnt be an issue. But unfortunately they are due to bad manufacturer quality.

Generally I dont think this effects playability at all. Miscut tiles doesnt effect whether you can see whats coming, since you can hide them under the current tile, so you cant see it. In cases where a copy is really bad, they're replacing those pieces.


There are aspects that I really love, notably, the wooden pieces are AWESOME, and I really like the graphic design. The tiles are easy to understand and not cluttered. Icons are clear, and for anything complicated there is text on the tiles, not an icon, so there is no need to learn any complicated iconography. (Personally I have no problem with learning icons, I like this in Race for the Galaxy, but I know some have a problem with it. Its nto a problem in Homesteaders).
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Chris Rudram
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Actually there is one tiny aspect of the design that could be clearer... the 'city', 'town', 'settlement' naming is a little small on the buildings and the AND/OR or the bid cards is also a little small.

 
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Dave Eisen
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It would also help if the word "industrial" or "commercial" or "residential" or "special" appeared somewhere on the buildings. This confuses new players although naturally you pick it up after a play or two.
 
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Alex Rockwell
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Both good notes, I'll discuss these with Michael once we look at another printing.


I thought that the little pictures in the upper right of the building, and the color coding, would sufficiently inform players of their type, but maybe not.

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Scott Everts
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I actually like the tiles too. The suggestions here about putting names instead of just building icons on the tiles is a great idea. But it didn't take too long to figure out the colors.

What I'd love though is an upgrade kit if you guys decide to enhance some of the cardboard bits. Especially the play board (and ship boards in Terra Prime). I'd be happy to buy nice thick cardstock ones to replace the thinner ones we got.

I certainly realize this is all growing pains of a new publisher. Others have experienced it too. But from a design perspective your games rock! I'm sure the production problems will get ironed out.
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Dave Eisen
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Alexfrog wrote:
Both good notes, I'll discuss these with Michael once we look at another printing.


I thought that the little pictures in the upper right of the building, and the color coding, would sufficiently inform players of their type, but maybe not.



Some people process information visually. Some do better with words.
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Alex Rockwell
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ScottE wrote:

What I'd love though is an upgrade kit if you guys decide to enhance some of the cardboard bits. Especially the play board (and ship boards in Terra Prime). I'd be happy to buy nice thick cardstock ones to replace the thinner ones we got.


I agree that this would be cool. (The problem is, does it make sense from a business sense). I'd email Michael and let him know that you would be interested in this. I'm sure that if he gets a bunch of mail saying that people want this, it would be a lot more likely to happen.

Quote:

I certainly realize this is all growing pains of a new publisher. Others have experienced it too. But from a design perspective your games rock! I'm sure the production problems will get ironed out.


Thanks! Yes I believe that future publishings with the new manufacturer will be much better.
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Ed Liming
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ScottE wrote:
I actually like the tiles too. The suggestions here about putting names instead of just building icons on the tiles is a great idea. But it didn't take too long to figure out the colors.

What I'd love though is an upgrade kit if you guys decide to enhance some of the cardboard bits. Especially the play board (and ship boards in Terra Prime). I'd be happy to buy nice thick cardstock ones to replace the thinner ones we got.


Totally agree with ScottE, great game, board is thin, but would love an upgrade kit. But to Seth's comment about, not a fan of the cardboard trade tokens and money. As part of my sickness with pimping out games, I had to add some of new bits to this game.

 
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Andy Van Zandt
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i'd be more tempted to replace the rail-line cube with train pieces than meeples, i think.
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Michael Sillion
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I don't think there is anything wrong with the board. It feels like an old pergament. Use a tablecloth like you should when playing all boardgames and it will lay still.
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Tim Seitz
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Some thoughts on ways production could improve gameplay...

1. Use a clearer icon for the building types, and then use THAT on the special cards for bonus. It doesn't really matter what the icon is, but it should agree with the special text. e.g., +1 VP (star icon) for each XX building (where XX is the icon and every building of that type has the icon on the front.) Alternatively, you could have color-coded the building type text with the appropriate color. Things like that are REALLY helpful for first-time (or even second- and third-!) players. I shouldn't ever need to make a mental translation of "Oh, the green buildings are residential." Instead, it's "I get points for green buildings."

2. Use different-style tokens for the bidding and rail tracks. Several times, one of us picked up our rail token when we meant to pick up the bid tokens. It happens, but only because they are the same and they are very close. Using a disk or a train token would solve that. Small vs large cube could serve the purpose.

3. Make it easier to determine which buildings belonged to which phase. Settlement vs town vs city distinctions should be OBVIOUS, not microscopic. It's not necessarily a big deal when playing because you can keep the building piles separate, but it's quite an unnecessary chore to separate the buildings into their appropriate phases when either putting it away or setting it up.
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Tim Seitz
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dkeisen wrote:
Alexfrog wrote:
Both good notes, I'll discuss these with Michael once we look at another printing.


I thought that the little pictures in the upper right of the building, and the color coding, would sufficiently inform players of their type, but maybe not.



Some people process information visually. Some do better with words.


I think the issue is that there's a translation requirement here when there is no need for one. If you like your icons, then use those icons in the special bonus text, not some other text, or color code the text to refer to the right set of buildings. See my comment above.
 
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