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Subject: Making Sense of the Theme rss

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Craig Duncan
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I know, it's a bit of a fool's errand trying to make sense of a Knizia theme, since Knizia is famous for pasted-on themes. But I have a theme-related question all the same.

There are two ways to score in Medici, namely, (a) scores based one's boat load and (b) scores based on one's stall supply (aka warehouse or pyramid supply).

It'd be easy enough to make sense of ONE scoring mechanism. For instance, if only boat load mattered, then the score would represent, say, the price for which the goods were sold. But that cannot be so in the game, since after the boat load score one can potentially get more points from the commodities once they go into the stalls. So it's NOT as though you sold them off from your boat, never to see them again (and never profit from them again).

Hence my question: anyone have any ideas for what the scores could represent?

One idea:

(i) The boat load score = a bonus from the Medici family to the trader; it represents something like a "most favored trader" status given to traders who have successful seasons relative to their competitors.

(ii) The stall score = the premium prices the trader can charge in virtue of owning the "go to" stall for that commodity, that is, in virtue of being the trader with the most selection of that commodity.

What do you think? Any other ideas?

P.S. OK, allow me a postscript on pasted-on themes.

I don't really mind pasted-on themes as long as they are pretty obviously pasted on. For instance, I've been enjoying Biblios lately; it's pretty clearly a set collection card game with a veneer of a medieval theme. And that is fine; it does not pretend to be anything more.

What sticks in my craw, I suppose, is a what I might call a game with a "semi-pasted-on" theme, that is, a game that makes some effort to have more than a pasted on theme, but then leaves crucial elements of the game unintegrated into the theme. So, Medici has boats and florins and commodities and stalls, but then the scoring system is hard to explain in terms of theme.

Anyone else out there like me, theme-wise? I. e. "pasted-on = fine, semi-pasted-on = grrr"? And any other candidates one might suggest for other games with semi-pasted-on themes?

Don't get me wrong: I've been enjoying Medici on my iPhone lately. And sometimes you can with some imagination rescue a semi-pasted-on theme (e.g. maybe my explanation i and ii above will do the trick for Medici). Medici is a very good game. My grumble is like a grumble about having just a little sand in your bathing suit at a very nice beach, if you know what I mean.
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Chris Gray
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How about the boat load = number of good sold = bonus for coming into the harbor (not pictured in the game) with the most goods -- People see your full ship and come on over.

The goods score = reputation in that area, meaning more people come to you to look for that particular good, resulting in a bonus if you get high enough. "Oh, you need fabric? Go talk to Blue."

This isn't in reference to the rules or any terminology found therein, but that could be one way to make sense of it.
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Jason Weed
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I'm a "theme" person, and I never had issues with this one. Great game.
 
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Peter Mumford
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What bothers me more than pasted on themes is the phrase 'pasted on theme'. It does not reflect the way most game designers work, including Knizia. He has spoken about this frequently. He conceives a subject first, then designs a game for it.

On the other hand I agree with your larger point. The way I look at it, consistency of the theme is more important than detail, chrome or anything else. I don't see Medici as particularly successful in its theme. It is pretty much an abstract, and in this it is like a great many euros. Ever played China? It is completely abstract (with a theme).
 
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david landes
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I always assumed that the Total value of the goods on the ship represented a sort of higher revenue versus lower quantity/revenue ship... while the value of the pyramids represented higher versus lower margin that the ship owner commanded based on the "control" of the volume of the market in that particular type of good.

Each to their own I guess..
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Sight Reader
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dklx3 wrote:
I always assumed that the Total value of the goods on the ship represented a sort of higher revenue versus lower quantity/revenue ship... while the value of the pyramids represented higher versus lower margin that the ship owner commanded based on the "control" of the volume of the market in that particular type of good.


Yeah, that's pretty much what we do. Total value is how much money you made in trade, while pyramids are the payoff for control of specific markets.
 
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Todd Redden
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weed131 wrote:
I'm a "theme" person, and I never had issues with this one. Great game.

Yeah, the theme is pretty obvious.
 
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Todd Redden
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photocurio wrote:
What bothers me more than pasted on themes is the phrase 'pasted on theme'. It does not reflect the way most game designers work, including Knizia. He has spoken about this frequently. He conceives a subject first, then designs a game for it.

On the other hand I agree with your larger point. The way I look at it, consistency of the theme is more important than detail, chrome or anything else. I don't see Medici as particularly successful in its theme. It is pretty much an abstract, and in this it is like a great many euros. Ever played China? It is completely abstract (with a theme).

Medici has long been one of my personal favorites. I don't regard the theme as "pasted on" but relates directly to the way the game is played. Pasted on themes really tick me off, like another RK game, Cthulhu Rising, which is a pure numbers game and has absolutely NOTHING to do with the theme. There's a big difference. Theme is good, pasted on is bad.
 
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Craig Duncan
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sightreader wrote:
dklx3 wrote:
I always assumed that the Total value of the goods on the ship represented a sort of higher revenue versus lower quantity/revenue ship... while the value of the pyramids represented higher versus lower margin that the ship owner commanded based on the "control" of the volume of the market in that particular type of good.


Yeah, that's pretty much what we do. Total value is how much money you made in trade, while pyramids are the payoff for control of specific markets.


Yes, I see this idea. I'm being really pedantic, however, and pressing for further details, and wondering whether this idea holds up on further examination.

For instance, in real life, how would a trader make money? He'd buy a good G for x dollars and sell it for y, where y>x. But once he sells G, he can make no further money off of G. So if the 30 florin score for highest value boat load represents profit off of sold goods, there would be no good left to place in the stall. So the 30 florins must arrive before the good is sold. The puzzle is how to explain that. How does one get paid if not via a sold good? Hence, my idea above of a bonus from the Medici family.

One alternative option I have thought of since my original posting is that the score represents, not newly acquired cash in hand, but increases in the net worth of your assets. You have a highly valued boat load relative to your rival traders, so your net worth estimate goes up higher relative to them. You place your goods in your stall giving your more goods of a given type than your rivals, so your net worth again gets a boost relative to theirs (since your reputation as a seller of that commodity gets a boost relative to theirs).

So thinking of the score as the value of your assets, rather than as the value of actual sales, might help.

Of course, it's not a perfect solution: in the game, if your score increases, you can spend more in subsequent auctions, which suggests that the increase in score IS in the form of cash. But, hey, you're a wheeler/dealer and financial whiz, so I guess you've just figured out a way to make some of your net worth liquid. I don't know; no biggie.

I prefer this "net worth" way of conceptualizing the score to my original suggestion. Sorry to be so pedantic.
 
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Todd Redden
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I believe the rules tell you specifically that you make 3 shipments of goods. The boatload tells you how successful you are with filling your boat for each shipment. The pyramids mark how much each player was able to monopolize on each type of goods over the course of 3 shipments. (Money and victory points are equal. You pay money for goods and get victory points in return. VP is a mark of success. It's not selling goods twice.)
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Craig Duncan
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Thanks for the input.

Yes, one can think of the boatload and stall bonuses as simply victory points instead of money. Then there is no need to ask exactly WHO is paying you the bonus money and WHY; it's victory points you're getting at the end of a round, NOT money.

But... that leaves unexplained why you start the next auction round with greater buying power than the previous round: those victory points you got at the end of the previous round can be spent in the next round as money. So the distinction gets blurry.

Again, no biggie. I recognize that I am being a bit unreasonably literal here in my quest for a commercial interpretation of the scoring system!

I would just ideally like to avoid having to make the distinction you make--that is, I would like to avoid ever having to think of the score as "victory-points-not-money", and instead be able to think of the score as at all times "both-victory-points-and-money." (For one thing, I think a unified interpretation would make it easier to teach the game to newbies.)

 
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Todd Redden
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I'm not sure. I think teaching abstract games with an applied theme is much easier than the complexities of realistically themed simulation games where every speck of the game has to fit the theme. Medici ain't Wallenstein (first edition)!
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Sight Reader
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cdunc123 wrote:
For instance, in real life, how would a trader make money?

I don't view the numbers attached to goods as related to quantity at all ("2 cloth" and "5 cloth" are not necessarily different quantities). Instead, I view that number as the general measure of success foreign operatives had in getting those goods to port.

These operatives offer their services to the highest bidder. The actual machinations of buy/sell prices, middlemen, transport costs, deals, kickbacks, and so forth these guys used to get stuff at that value would be abstracted out. Your ability to control the groupings indicates some penetration into these organizations.

I view money from market domination the same way: just a general measure of profit made from the leverage. Exactly what you buy, sell, extort, or do to exploit that advantage is once again beneath the scope of simulation.
 
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