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Subject: Review - Basic Game - A solid game rss

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Paulo Vicente dos Santos Alves
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I played Space empires 4X - Basic game with a few friends of mine.

The game is solid and works well for a session that will last from four to six hours depending on the speed and experience of the players.

The game has of course its limitations due to map size and number of counters, but it's a very solid design for those who want more variations to work upon.

I'm not going to review the board quality and basics of mechanics because there are plenty of other reviews about that. My points will be the game capacity to simulate a galactic or space battle with fun in a few hours and not many days.

Galaxy - The mapboard is rectangular, which is obviously not the galactic shape. The galaxy has a ring structure, more specifically a torus. However the fact that the player are arranged in the corners simulates decently the combat in a thoroidal space without the complexity of the map.
One player can basically interact with the two on their sides and will have their homewards protect in the middle of its own space.
The game makes a very good and practical simplification without losing simulation value.

Of course there could be the arms with different densities and the galactic core, also the map could be round simulating a galaxy. Those preferring that can use the outdated Outreach Mapboard or the map I designed for my Millenia RPG as a basis for that.

But then nothing in the game states that we are playing in Milky way, and it could also be just one arm within a galaxy and not the whole galaxy, since the scale of the game is abstract.

Races - There are no racial differences at first but since you have a few turns to face each other in combat there's will be some differences when combat begins.
I really enjoyed this simplification because there's a supposition that evolution is convergent enough so that the races will be not very different but there can be some variations in technology.
In our game with three players all took a slightly different path. The only convergences were ship size and terraform technologies.
The future expansion of close encounters may break this symmetry and beautiful design but hopefully will maintain balance.

Tech - The technology tree is limited but functional for a fast game focused on combat. You don't have money to buy all of them before entering combat so you must make choices, and since they are made in secrecy this game has a poker style bluffing in tech and hard choices to be made. Very good for gaming and simulations purposes and with high replay ability.
Also the technologies don't upgrade automatically which makes the players account for operational problems in upgrading and rotating their units.

Counter limit - This bothered me but I understand that there's will always be a limitation on those due to production costs. It's very easy to reach the limit of units in each class and that seemed to be purposeful to create incentives for the players to attack each other. If there were too many units to build many players would wait until they had all possible units available for attacking making the game longer.

Colonization - This one is very straight forward and there is an intrinsic "Rare Earth Hypothesis" built in the game as there are very few planets in the galaxy available for colonization, even including the barren ones. Also, since the many civilization start at the same time it's intrinsic that some sort of leveling effect occurred, and since there are space wreck around the "Ancient Hypothesis" is being used too.

Space terrain - This is ok, but not brilliant. Too many dangers make the initial exploration a kind of minesweeping challenge without minesweepers. That is, you will lose a lot of ships, preferably scouts without tech improvements. This could be done better but does not affect the game and in fact it's mechanically efficient for a fast game.

Strategy - The weak point was strategy in terms of multiplayer games. The game is ok for two player games, but for three or four there's will be an incentive not to attack while waiting the others to kill each other and them attack the weaker one trying to reach its home world faster than the other player.

This means that probably the best strategy is defensive play putting bases in front of whoever attacks you and keep retreating and upgrading until you try to deliver a major blow to him with all your ships and better technology since he was probably advancing without upgrading.

However if everyone tries to do that the game will end in a stalemate. The small variations on build capacity by the uneven distribution of barren worlds will take too long to build a significant difference and can be counterposed by limited offensives by two other players combined.

So you have a typical multiplayer game problem of the game not converging to a winner. I call this problem the "diplomacy syndrome" because diplomacy is probably the older and best known game with this problem.

A time limit with other other kinds of victory points could solve this problem, however this is not the case in the basic game.

Overall - I liked the game and it can be improved with advanced rules and future expansions. The basis is solid and it can be improved by house rules, further modules and variants.
I rate the game 8 out of 10 because of strategy problems mainly.



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Padraic Kirby
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This game could use a rise and decline curve to spur aggressive conquests and speed up the game. There is only a perpetual rise. There could to be a mechanism to put the empires into a decline at some epoint, which will kill them if they sit back waiting for everyone else to kill each other. I understand that paying Ship Maintenance is a partial solution to this.

Possibly allowing any empire in a State of War and having taken Ship and System losses the capability to build lost ships for cheap reflecting the idea that the State is at war and all Imperial resources are now allocated to War output and it's people are mobilized. The Empires still at peace will not be able to keep up militarily as their citizens spend GDP on the best consumer goods instead.
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simon thornton
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Quote:
The weak point was strategy in terms of multiplayer games. The game is ok for two player games, but for three or four there's will be an incentive not to attack while waiting the others to kill each other and them attack the weaker one trying to reach its home world faster than the other player.


Couldn't agree more , I love SE but wouldn't recommend it with 3 . Its best (and faster) as a 2 sided game. I played it 4 player last week with two teams of 2 (3 of whom had not played it before) , we played with the suggested speed up rules (simultaneous movement until someone leaves their home system) and boxed the game off in 2 hours.

It was great fun and it need not be a 6 hour game. I suspect between hours 2 and 3 in most 2 sided games one or the other side will get such an advantage as the weaker side will concede even if a capital hadnt yet fallen.



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Jim Krohn
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Quote:
It was great fun and it need not be a 6 hour game. I suspect between hours 2 and 3 in most 2 sided games one or the other side will get such an advantage as the weaker side will concede even if a capital hadnt yet fallen.


Yes, that is how I like multi-player also. I understand how some people really enjoy a long game, but it makes it so much easier to get it to the table as team play.
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Bob Archer
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Jim Krohn wrote:
Quote:
It was great fun and it need not be a 6 hour game. I suspect between hours 2 and 3 in most 2 sided games one or the other side will get such an advantage as the weaker side will concede even if a capital hadnt yet fallen.


Yes, that is how I like multi-player also. I understand how some people really enjoy a long game, but it makes it so much easier to get it to the table as team play.


I keep telling my group we can play 2v2 and do it in two hours... but they don't like to "share" wins. Sigh.

BOb
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Paulo Vicente dos Santos Alves
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Jim Krohn wrote:
Quote:
It was great fun and it need not be a 6 hour game. I suspect between hours 2 and 3 in most 2 sided games one or the other side will get such an advantage as the weaker side will concede even if a capital hadnt yet fallen.


Yes, that is how I like multi-player also. I understand how some people really enjoy a long game, but it makes it so much easier to get it to the table as team play.


Jim

In my opinion the bigger the number of players the faster must be the game.
In long multiplayer games we have the "lost hope syndrome" in which one player is so weak that he he has no chance to win and loses interest in the game and keeps trying to influence the others to stop or the others must influence him to continue.
If the game is a multi-session game this is a disaster.
Three to four player games have a limit of 10 hours to play in order to be viable. Five to seven player games must be shorter topping 6 hours.
Space empires is OK, unless everybody enter in the defensive.


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Darrell Hanning
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I find it interesting that you assume the board represents an entire galaxy, even when everything about it indicates otherwise - that it is, instead, simply a sector of space of unspecified (but much more finite) size.

Also, if you play with the standard victory conditions, the first player to take an enemy home planet wins the game. Waiting, more often than not, guarantees second place, in those circumstances.
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Guido Gloor
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DarrellKH wrote:
second place

What is this "second place" you speak of?
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Chris Wilcoxon
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haslo wrote:
DarrellKH wrote:
second place

What is this "second place" you speak of?


First loser
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Paulo Vicente dos Santos Alves
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divedeeper wrote:
haslo wrote:
DarrellKH wrote:
second place

What is this "second place" you speak of?


First loser


Silver Medal....laugh
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Paulo Vicente dos Santos Alves
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DarrellKH wrote:
I find it interesting that you assume the board represents an entire galaxy, even when everything about it indicates otherwise - that it is, instead, simply a sector of space of unspecified (but much more finite) size.

Also, if you play with the standard victory conditions, the first player to take an enemy home planet wins the game. Waiting, more often than not, guarantees second place, in those circumstances.


The model represents best a Galaxy, that's why I assumed that.

There are three possible types of expansion in space: spherical, cylindrical and toroidal (or disc shaped).

Spherical - At start the expansion will be spherical as the distances to the stars are still small and the species will expand in a sphere like form. This requires a third dimension to work properly and have been tried in games before with varying results.
The model don't work well with this the because the home world are set up in the corners. If it was simulating a spherical expansion it would have to show the parts outside the map board where there could be new planets to colonize, and other enemies.
It would be impractical from the gaming point of view in a map board.

Cylindrical - When the expansion reaches the limits of the galactic arm it becomes cylindrical with expansion occurring basically in two direction along the arm until in reaches a point where the arms cross each other, or are very close to another one, or there are some stars in between to create a viable bridge them.
The model can deal with that in two-player games but not in multi player ones.

Toroidal (disc shaped) - After some level of technology the speed is big enough that the distances between arms is no longer important and the expansion occurs in a torus (or disc, or donut). Ot can be in many directions within the torus but basically it still has some cylindrical properties, only that the cylinder joins each to its sides.

The model does work with that very well, being a good simplification of that.

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Guido Gloor
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pvicente wrote:
divedeeper wrote:
haslo wrote:
DarrellKH wrote:
second place

What is this "second place" you speak of?

First loser

Silver Medal....laugh

I still don't understand cry I always thought this game only has one winner and everybody else loses equally losingly...
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Bob Archer
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pvicente wrote:

The model represents best a Galaxy, that's why I assumed that.


Of course a 2 dimensional model of the galaxy is already flawed.

BOb
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Paulo Vicente dos Santos Alves
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pilotbob wrote:
pvicente wrote:

The model represents best a Galaxy, that's why I assumed that.


Of course a 2 dimensional model of the galaxy is already flawed.

BOb


Bob

Actually it's a good model of that.
The galaxy is 100 thousand light years in diameter, but only 400 light years in height.

Imagine a disc with 1 meter of diameter and 0.4 cm in height.
Actually it's almost a two dimensional shape, right.

Assuming a hex of 400 light years from side to side, to become equal in height, the galaxy would have 250 hexes in diameter.

To capture that in a map board is hard. A large map board usually has something like 50 hexes from side to side. You would need a playing area of 5 x 5 of these map boards. Thickness would become unimportant.

I have modeled these a lot in the past.
Look at the map board of my own Millenia RPG. The galactic map is 37 hexes across to each hex is about 2700 light years from side to side, but only 400 light years in height.

Thanks for the debate...I love to talk about these issues.
It was a long time since i don't have a nice talk about these topics.

Best Regards

Paulo Vicente


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Bob Archer
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pvicente wrote:
pilotbob wrote:
pvicente wrote:

The model represents best a Galaxy, that's why I assumed that.


Of course a 2 dimensional model of the galaxy is already flawed.

BOb


Bob

Actually it's a good model of that.
The galaxy is 100 thousand light years in diameter, but only 400 light years in height.


But still, playing a space game where only the x/y axis matter means you have to suspend your disbelief. Remember how Kahn's tactics were very 2 dimensional. There is a Z axis in space. The game assume everyone is on the same Z axis as well.

So, the shape of the board doesn't bother me at all.

Also, are you 100% sure measurements of the galaxy are entirely accurate? devil

BOb
 
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Paulo Vicente dos Santos Alves
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pilotbob wrote:
pvicente wrote:
pilotbob wrote:
pvicente wrote:

The model represents best a Galaxy, that's why I assumed that.


Of course a 2 dimensional model of the galaxy is already flawed.

BOb


Bob

Actually it's a good model of that.
The galaxy is 100 thousand light years in diameter, but only 400 light years in height.


But still, playing a space game where only the x/y axis matter means you have to suspend your disbelief. Remember how Kahn's tactics were very 2 dimensional. There is a Z axis in space. The game assume everyone is on the same Z axis as well.

So, the shape of the board doesn't bother me at all.

Also, are you 100% sure measurements of the galaxy are entirely accurate? devil

BOb


Bob

I rechecked it on wikipedia. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milky_way)

"The stellar disk of the Milky Way galaxy is approximately 100,000 light-years (30 kiloparsecs, 9×1017 km) in diameter, and is considered to be, on average, about 1,000 ly (0.3 kpc) thick.[1]"

It's a bit thicker but still doesn't change my point.

About the z-factor this can be assumed within the tactics technology of the game with much less burden to gameplay than calculating it.

Please don't be infuriated, this is a friendly conversation.
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Cracky McCracken
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Quote:
Note that Prohibited terrain (Lake hexes and hexsides)
does not block Supply Paths.


One of the things i've noticed about SE4X is that it doesn't cost anything to repair damaged colonies (or the Homeworlds)

So if you launch an invasion and are forced to pull back a bit, all of the damage you've done just grows right back.

I'm wondering if a small variant that requires you to pay to repair damaged colonies would help. For example, if a colony gets bombed down to a "one", it would cost 2 CPs and require the damaged colony to be hooked up to an MS Pipeline to it's Homeworld to grow back to a "three". The next turn it would cost 2 more CPs (and still require the MS Pipeline) to grow back up to a "five".

This is a small amount of CPs, and the pipeline requirement isn't too bad, but maybe it would tip the scales a bit and give more incentive and reward for launching invasions against enemy colonies. The CPs spent on repairing colonies is going to translate into slightly fewer ships for the defender.
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Bob
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Cracky wrote:
Quote:
Note that Prohibited terrain (Lake hexes and hexsides)
does not block Supply Paths.


One of the things i've noticed about SE4X is that it doesn't cost anything to repair damaged colonies (or the Homeworlds)

So if you launch an invasion and are forced to pull back a bit, all of the damage you've done just grows right back.

I'm wondering if a small variant that requires you to pay to repair damaged colonies would help. For example, if a colony gets bombed down to a "one", it would cost 2 CPs and require the damaged colony to be hooked up to an MS Pipeline to it's Homeworld to grow back to a "three". The next turn it would cost 2 more CPs (and still require the MS Pipeline) to grow back up to a "five".

This is a small amount of CPs, and the pipeline requirement isn't too bad, but maybe it would tip the scales a bit and give more incentive and reward for launching invasions against enemy colonies. The CPs spent on repairing colonies is going to translate into slightly fewer ships for the defender.


That's a neat idea, Cracky. Hitting a colony and pulling back does decrease your opponents production some already since they would get at least 2 CP less for the colony you hit, plus if you are blockading it they don't get any income from it at all and can't build on it. Still I like any idea that encourages raiding the enemy :-)
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Chris Wilcoxon
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Cracky wrote:
Quote:
Note that Prohibited terrain (Lake hexes and hexsides)
does not block Supply Paths.


One of the things i've noticed about SE4X is that it doesn't cost anything to repair damaged colonies (or the Homeworlds)

So if you launch an invasion and are forced to pull back a bit, all of the damage you've done just grows right back.

I'm wondering if a small variant that requires you to pay to repair damaged colonies would help. For example, if a colony gets bombed down to a "one", it would cost 2 CPs and require the damaged colony to be hooked up to an MS Pipeline to it's Homeworld to grow back to a "three". The next turn it would cost 2 more CPs (and still require the MS Pipeline) to grow back up to a "five".

This is a small amount of CPs, and the pipeline requirement isn't too bad, but maybe it would tip the scales a bit and give more incentive and reward for launching invasions against enemy colonies. The CPs spent on repairing colonies is going to translate into slightly fewer ships for the defender.


Not a bad idea, though I do see some complaining of yet another to keep track of (not that we can make everyone happy), though it shouldn't need much more than a note on the production sheet.
Another alternative may be to not upgrade affected colonies for one phase then allow it to grow naturally. My reasoning is that since it's a colony I'm assuming most of the resources are still available on planet, they just need some time for the population to come back up via immigration and births.
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Cracky McCracken
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I would mark the damaged colonies with a counter or bead of some sort until they are fully repaired.
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Darrell Hanning
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pvicente wrote:
DarrellKH wrote:
I find it interesting that you assume the board represents an entire galaxy, even when everything about it indicates otherwise - that it is, instead, simply a sector of space of unspecified (but much more finite) size.

Also, if you play with the standard victory conditions, the first player to take an enemy home planet wins the game. Waiting, more often than not, guarantees second place, in those circumstances.


The model represents best a Galaxy, that's why I assumed that.





If by "the model" you mean the game, no, it really doesn't. In comparison, I refer you to the game Outreach: The Conquest of the Galaxy, 3000AD, which does unambiguously represent a significant portion of the Milky Way galaxy. There is absolutely nothing of SE4X that leads one to conclude anything more than a minor, stellar nieghborhood, in which four or fewer races are competing. The number of planets support this, the very scale of the civilizations support this.
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Paulo Vicente dos Santos Alves
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DarrellKH wrote:
pvicente wrote:
DarrellKH wrote:
I find it interesting that you assume the board represents an entire galaxy, even when everything about it indicates otherwise - that it is, instead, simply a sector of space of unspecified (but much more finite) size.

Also, if you play with the standard victory conditions, the first player to take an enemy home planet wins the game. Waiting, more often than not, guarantees second place, in those circumstances.


The model represents best a Galaxy, that's why I assumed that.





If by "the model" you mean the game, no, it really doesn't. In comparison, I refer you to the game Outreach: The Conquest of the Galaxy, 3000AD, which does unambiguously represent a significant portion of the Milky Way galaxy. There is absolutely nothing of SE4X that leads one to conclude anything more than a minor, stellar nieghborhood, in which four or fewer races are competing. The number of planets support this, the very scale of the civilizations support this.



Yes by "the model" I mean the game.

The game's scale is abstract so your interpretation can be correct as much as many others including that the game represents an arm, a few arms (like Outreach) or the whole galaxy and even the local cluster of galaxies.

The number of habitable planets would depend on which factor on a drake equation you are considering. The bigger the scale considered the closer to the "Rare Earth hypothesis" we are.

The fact that the game is two-dimensional and the home world are in the corners points out to a model of the galaxy more than a local sector or arm.

The relatively small number of ships points in other direction of a local arm or part of an arm.

So, the best thing about the design is that it can be any scale, so many players can have fun picturing whatever they think is more plausible and reducing the need to suspend disbelief.

By the way I known Outreach but, unfortunately, never played it. I wish I had.

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Guido Gloor
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pvicente wrote:
So, the best thing about the design is that it can be any scale, so many players can have fun picturing whatever they think is more plausible and reducing the need to suspend disbelief.

That's the way I see it, yeah. Myself, I haven't really imagined nor felt the imagine the game to be any particular scale. The map does a great job of representing itself as a map
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Bob
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haslo wrote:
pvicente wrote:
So, the best thing about the design is that it can be any scale, so many players can have fun picturing whatever they think is more plausible and reducing the need to suspend disbelief.

That's the way I see it, yeah. Myself, I haven't really imagined nor felt the imagine the game to be any particular scale. The map does a great job of representing itself as a map


I agree with Guido, the map is a map indeed :-)

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Paulo, I think what is underlying your point about colonization patterns is an assumption between the distribution of any given type of planet (habitable, mineral-rich, or whatever) and the location of the spiral arms of a galaxy. IIRC, the spiral arms trace out the stellar nurseries, and show the location of the newest O, B and A class stars. The spiral arms don't have any correlation with the distribution of F, G and K class stars, which would be distributed uniformly through the galactic disk, with the notable exception of the galactic core.

If this is the case, then there would not be a cylindrical expansion pattern. Instead, I think it would be spherical, with bits missing to avoid the worst radiation of the stellar nurseries.
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