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Puzzle Strike (Third Edition)» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Top 5 Changes to Look Forward to in Third Edition rss

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Kweku
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Warning: This quick review is about gameplay changes between the 2nd/Upgrade Pack and 3rd edition of Puzzle Strike, and is intended for current Puzzle Strike players. Curious new prospects will find it pretty useless, as will those who are curious about the rules or basic gameplay (I have now added a note about components at the bottom though)

Wondering Whether You Should Upgrade to 3rd Edition? Most of the changes are subtle enough to casual play as to not be a mandatory upgrade for second edition owners, especially since the rules changes can be adopted into any copy of Puzzle Strike. But if you play the game a lot or want to get more into it, there are many things to appreciate -- this latest revision doesn't just make the game more "balanced", it makes it much more FUN.

I go into detail below, but the main reason to upgrade to the 3rd edition would be (I'm assuming you like Puzzle Strike here):

a) You don't already own 2nd Edition Upgrade Pack. If this is the case, just get 3rd edition. It's worth it for the mats, the screens, and all of the new stuff.

b) If you already own the Upgrade Pack, then the Shadows Expansion is a higher priority buy for your Puzzle Striking than the base Third Edition. Whether or not to get 3rd comes down to how much you wish the Puzzle Chips played a bigger role in the game. 3rd edition has a more varied selection of strategies due to stronger puzzle chips. Upgrading to the 3rd edition for the new rules is not necessary as new components are not necessary for the rules changes. Most of the character changes are somewhat minor when compared to the Upgrade Pack (but worlds apart from the naked 2nd Edition).

Here are the 5 categories of changes, from least to most significant

5) Character Changes:

Rook, Midori, Argagarg, Lum and Jaina have been significantly changed from the Upgrade Pack. If you skipped the Upgrade Pack, then pretty much the entire cast besides Setsuki will be unrecognizable and changed for the (much) better.

(So this section is written for Upgrade Pack owners. If you have 1st or 2nd edition with no Upgrade, just skip this.)

Rook: His Stone Wall reaction no longer reflects gems to opponents. It now only absorbs gems, trashing them. I'm torn. Reflecting was fun and unique, and I miss it. But having such a crazy effect basically meant you HAD to rush 4 gems against Rook. This simple change has opened up the strategy space for both Rook and his opponent (Rook himself now has more justifcation to play for the long game instead of just rushing every game, since Stone Wall doesn't really help a rush).

Midori: His Dragon Form has had three incarnations now: Underpowered in second edition, extremely potent in Upgrade Pack (perhaps too much so in some matchups), and has now landed gracefully. He can still choose to discard Dragon Form at start of turn as in the Upgrade Pack, mitigating risk to himself. But he can no longer buy Purple chips while in Dragon Form (previously this would discard Dragon Form, but was still allowed). Great change. His Purge Bad Habits changed to a new, simpler version as well.

Jaina:: This character has changed for the better. Her strategy tended to be pretty straightforward in the second edition upgrade; use Playing with Fire to get a ridiculously fast huge double crash gem payload, or use it to psuedo-trash all of your 1-gems and get a fast double crash gem payload that way. Her new Playing With Fire chip still gives a nod to Jaina's risky kamikaze theme by forcing a self-ante, but gives her both a red arrow, a brown arrow and a draw in exchange, really opening up her strategy space and the puzzle chips she can use well. Especially when combined with all of the new red chips from the Shadows expansion. She's still feels just as "rushy" as before and staying alive against her rush can be quite exciting. She just has more options now that aren't completely overshadowed by her one big goal. Overall, probably even stronger than before... but more interesting.

Lum: Has not seen much change since Upgrade Pack. Jackpot now does less on average, but has potential for a bigger payoff (that feels like a true "Jackpot" when it actually works)

Argagarg: I don't like the changes to this character. Protective Ward is now a cool defensive move (limiting all players ability to Combine chips) but is too similar to a move of Vendetta (Shadows character) to my taste. His Hex of Murkwood is really boring now: "Each opponent gains a wound, or discards two wounds." The idea is to cap the wound output, but "discard two wounds" is NOT a fun effect, and is triggered quite randomly. It's almost entirely luck based. Sad state of affairs for what used to be one of the more interesting attack chips in the game. This was a one-dimensional character before; now he is even moreso.

IF you have the Upgrade Pack, this is the least significant category of changes found in the Third Edition. You don't need to upgrade your game for the character changes alone. But if you don't have the Upgrade Pack, there are too many changes for me to list here and the 3rd edition is definitely worth it if you want to play Puzzle Strike in the future.

4) Panic Time Rule: Panic time is a new rule that can easily be adopted into any set of Puzzle Strike. Basically, if a certain number of puzzle stacks are empty, then the ante increases to speed up the end game. This is actually really fitting thematically, as many puzzle games like Tetris increase in difficulty with faster falling blocks as you progress.

This doesn't enter into every game, but the threat of it often influences buy decisions and I love that. Sometimes you can buy out a stack of cheap puzzle chips JUST to trigger Panic Time because you know your opponent will have a harder time handling the load than you. And sometimes you really really want that last Roundhouse, but you know that if you do you'll eat a bigger gem than you can handle on your next turn.

This rule was mostly created for new players I think who did not know how to end the game, but whats more interesting to me is the tension it adds for experienced players. Just one more source of tension in a game that's already full of it (Tension and excitement are great things to feel while playing a board game)

Panic Time rule can, and should, be immediately implemented into any edition of Puzzle Strike. It has no component requirement at all, so you do not need to buy the new edition for this (or any other) rule change.

3) -$1 Combine: Everyone's heard of the "mono-purple" strategy by now from the 1st and 2nd editions of Puzzle Strike. Something that the Upgrade Pack aimed to fix through character changes and 3 new puzzle chips. While the Upgrade Pack went a long way towards alleviating the problem, the old Combine just limited the design space too much. Too many character and puzzle chips were starting to have to arbitrarily punish Combines just to keep them in check. This was a weird anti-synergy -- Purples were always the heart of the game, yet the restrictions around using them were just growing and growing.

The -$1 tag to Combines is a fantastic change, because rushing is still viable. Combines are still scary. But they are going to hurt your economy in a way that they did not before. There is now some depth to purple management, which is more than welcome. Previously Combine was the most mindless chip in the game -- one of the only truly free plays. And it was also the most important. The game leaked a lot of potential through the old Combine.

Now, there is finally a risk with that reward -- if you load up on too many Combines too early, your economy will suffer compared to your opponents, and if they skillfully fend off your rush while staying just a bit richer than you, you will usually be in bad shape going into the mid-late game.

Brilliant change that leaves the Combine chip just as powerful on the front end as it was before, while affecting the rest of your deck, and once again, adds even more choices to how you play your hand in Puzzle Strike. There are now actually some times where I tactically choose NOT to play a Combine in my hand, which was unheard of previously -- it was the most, obvious, free play in the entire game.

While I'm in full support of this change to the Combine chip, you do not need to buy the new edition to utilize it: just play the game as if your Combine chips had "-$1", or buy the Shadows Expansion which comes with a new set of Combine chips. Just be aware that Rook's Stone Wall becomes really strong if you dump -$1 Combine into 2nd edition.

2) Multiplayer Modes: Puzzle Strike has always been viewed by the majority as a 2 player game, with the option to play 3 or 4 if you really want to try it. The older editions had a multiplayer "FFA" that involved 3 or 4 people sitting at a table, but only really intereacting with one person for most of the game.

The new FFA mode has a lofty goal: it wants to allow a true Free-for-All where everyone can attack who they like, but also stop players from just "ganging up" and eliminating other players.

In the new FFA mode, every player can Crash to whoever they like. This is FUN.

You won't want to gang up and eliminate the other players, though. Because the game ends immediately when somebody is eliminated. And there can only be one winner -- the person with the lowest gem pile.

So there's some very interesting push-pull dynamics going on here between the players, as they try to manuever themselves to be in the best position at the exact moment that someone finally croaks. At any given time, there will be only one player who really wants the game to end.

To compliment this, players can actually Counter-Crash for each other now! A player receiving gems gets the first chance to react, but if he passes then other players may react on his behalf.

I need to play this mode more, but so far it seems very interesting. I had my doubts going into it, but at the very least, this is a unique, interesting approach to FFA Puzzle Strike.

And the different victory condition and exciting shifting alliances actually gives it quite a different feel to 2 player Puzzle Strike. You essentially get two games in one now.

If it doesn't suit your fancy, the 2v2 team mode is pretty conservative and actually plays a lot like a 1v1 (but supports 4 players). For me, 1v1 and FFA are my preferred ways to play, despite originally being more excited about the team rules.

While many of the chips in the 3rd edition were reworded for compatibility with the new FFA and team modes, you do not need to buy the latest edition to try it out. Just play as if all Purple-Shield reactions can work to protect other players. Pretend any chips that refer to "Next Opponent" say "Chosen Opponent" instead.

1) Rebalanced Puzzle Chips This is the real reason I chose to buy 3rd edition despite having 2nd edition + Upgrade Pack already. These "rebalanced" puzzle chips are a lot more fun than their old counterparts. The majority of puzzle chips saw at least some change, and are now on average much more powerful. This really opens up the strategy space in the game. The rate at which you buy Purple chips is no longer nearly as strict. And the best part is that a Purple rush strategy is still possible! It's just that you usually want to compliment it with some strong puzzle chips now too.

Some of the puzzle chips have been only slightly changed (decrease in cost, etc.). Underpowered chips that no one used such as Secret Move and Gems to Gemonade have seen significant buffs. Some have had radical overhauls, such as Mix-Master, which has now become a new, more defensive way to Combine gems, or Knockdown, which stops your opponent from playing Purple Reactions.

THIS is what the 3rd edition is truly all about -- if you've found yourself loving Puzzle Strike, but wishing that the puzzle chips played a bigger role in your strategies and were more fun to use, then this is probably the reason you would get the 3rd edition. But depending on your budget or level of love, you might just prefer to use an errata sheet instead of upgrading your hard copy. The puzzle chips pushed me to buy the 3E because I can't be bothered with errata sheets

Conclusion: Pretty much across the board improvements, as far as gameplay is concerned. The only thing I can complain about is I don't like the rebalancing for Argagarg, which is not even close to a deal breaker.

I initially rated the original 2nd edition of Puzzle Strike a 9. After the 2nd edition's mini-expansion Upgrade Pack came out, the screens, mats, new puzzle chips, and improved characters turned it into a 10.

Now the third edition is an even bigger improvement than what the Upgrade Pack was, and it seems what Puzzle Strike always really wanted to be, and combined with the Shadows expansion, it reaches its near-max potential.

Update - a Note on Components: Now that I've been able to compare components, something which I didn't give much thought to before.

The mats in 3rd edition are actually quite nice. They are no longer moues-pad material (as seen in 2E Upgrade Pack), but in a way they are actually more practical and usable than before. They are thinner and while they are cardboard, they have some sort of thin layer of nice spongy material on the top. I have no idea what it is but it feels good and I LIKE it (to the point where I actually put my 2E mats in the closet and am using the new ones despite them being more expensive material)

For all practical purposes, the screens are the same as what you got in the Upgrade Pack.

Thankfully, the quality of the chipboard material the chips are made of is on par with second edition (so the Shadows expansion remains compatible). The printing in my copy is a bit different from second edition in that the chips in the new one are a slightly darker tint. This isn't a downgrade in quality, just a printing variation, and has zero effect on gameplay

The most obvious downgrade is the quality of the bags. They are much cheaper than the second edition bags.

All in all, the components are still very serviceable, even with the cost cutting. And if you still own second edition, you can mix and match our components at will if it the bags or whatever bother you.

Either way, the "upgrade" is in the gameplay, components are a slight downgrade.
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Cole Wehrle
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This game (and Sirlin Games in general) has been one of the year's most refreshing and surprising discoveries. I think you hit on some of the highlights and some of the reasons why I'm going to kickstart this excellent game.
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Some Donkus
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Gems to Gemonade is good and all, but...

Knockdown's been completely overhauled (Chosen player discards a chip and can't play purple reactions; gives purple arrow) to boost rushdown options and increase combo possibilities.

Training Day now puts the new chip in your hand, which can help buys but also opens up all kinds of new combo possibilities, as well as a new Stolen Purples counter.

Mix-Master is now a red/purple banner, and lets you combine gems right away instead of giving you a Combine.
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Kweku
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Oh yeah! Can't believe I forgot about Mix-Master. Mix-Master is rad. I like there being ways to Combine gems without using the standard Combine chip.

The new Knockdown is definitely a unique new chip. The old one was just "OK" and kind of Vanilla -- I won't miss it.
 
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Gerrit Gottschalk
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Very good overview over some of the more profound 3rd edition changes. One little correction though: Panic Time activates when a certain number (two in a 2-player game) of bank stacks are empty. This doesn't mean just puzzle stacks, though those will be the most common. I had a game a few days ago, where Panic Time triggered after the last Double Crash Gem was bought. It was quite a crazy game. laugh

I agree that Argagarg is one of the least exciting characters, but he is unique nonetheless (probably the most defensive character and nobody uses blue chips better than he does) and at a decent power level. The previous Hex of Mirkwood was just too good and had to be nerfed. Getting repeatedly wounded by the opponent is already quite frustrating. Randomly losing because Hex hit you at the right time and you didn't go monopurple rush or didn't had a blue "become immune" reaction at hand just added insult to injury.
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Kweku
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thanks for the correction on Panic Time!

As for Argagarg, to clarify, I don't have a problem with him being changed; I actually welcomed it. Protective Ward really needed a revamp, and it would have been interesting if Hex of Murkwood involved some sort of choice or interesting side effect like Persephone's wounding chip.

He seems a bit uninspired is all; by the 3rd edition the bar has been raised because everything else is so interesting. A look at the official PS forums where multiple testers or players express concerns with the shallowness of his gameplay/character seems to support that

Ultimately I'm 300% happy with the rest of the changes in the update though. And Shadows I consider practically flawless.
 
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Garcian Smith
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I think that making him simpler is good for having a new player play as him, so it's not really a loss. September is so far away!
 
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Kweku
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Now that the game is out, I released the "Upgrade Pack" for this review, to make it the ultimate guide for 2nd edition owners wanting to know what the deal with 3rd edition is. Also, I criminally omitted mention of the new 3-4 player modes before (besides a passing acknowledgement), which I've gotten more of a chance to try now so I added in my thoughts on that.

Also added a brief component comparison at the end, now that I know the components are in fact different (hint: second edition has the better components, ranging from extremely marginal in the case of the screens to significant in the case of the bags)
 
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Brian Modreski
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Well, it's good to know that some companies bother to playtest their games after releasing them. shake
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Anthony Martins
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StormKnight wrote:
Well, it's good to know that some companies bother to playtest their games after releasing them. shake


In defense of designers, sometimes certain issues only come out at high-level tournament play; once people have really dug their teeth into the system; especially systems that have so many moving pieces.
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Kevin Heckman
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Quizoid wrote:
StormKnight wrote:
Well, it's good to know that some companies bother to playtest their games after releasing them. shake


In defense of designers, sometimes certain issues only come out at high-level tournament play; once people have really dug their teeth into the system; especially systems that have so many moving pieces.


In defense of other designers, a sufficiently long development time combined with a dedicated play testing community, e.g. Dominion, will allow these issues to be ironed out in play testing instead of charging the fans for each successive incremental iteration.
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Kweku
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Many well tested games have had flaws discovered later, and the more common approach seems to be to try and water those flaws down with expansions. that does seem like the less offensive short term solution, since buying something "new" that is 70% old just doesn't digest that well with many people. But as a PS player I have to admit that the bottom line is that I'm both glad I got to play the original and Upgrade pack for 1.5 years, and that there's an enhanced-gameplay version out now. Kinda sad that the components are worse though, but that's probably due to Sirlin trying to keep the price down since there have been so many complaints against his MSRPs

As far as gameplay enhancement goes, there are actually a few other games that I love with some heartbreaking flaws that I actually wish those developers would address, heh
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Michael Ralston
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dysjunct wrote:
Quizoid wrote:
StormKnight wrote:
Well, it's good to know that some companies bother to playtest their games after releasing them. shake


In defense of designers, sometimes certain issues only come out at high-level tournament play; once people have really dug their teeth into the system; especially systems that have so many moving pieces.


In defense of other designers, a sufficiently long development time combined with a dedicated play testing community, e.g. Dominion, will allow these issues to be ironed out in play testing instead of charging the fans for each successive incremental iteration.


DoubleJack.
 
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Brian Modreski
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Quizoid wrote:
In defense of designers, sometimes certain issues only come out at high-level tournament play.

And I wouldn't criticize designers much for those. But many of the upgrades and fixes to Puzzle Strike were being pointed out on BGG after people had played the games only a few times. IIRC, for example, the -$1 on Combines was suggested by a player who was repeatedly told that he'd only played a few times and didn't understand the game well enough. My girlfriend and I pegged some of the chips that were later changed as problematic on our first play (though we assumed at the time that we probably just didn't know the game well enough).

If brand new players spotted a problem within a few plays, there's no excuse for having made it through playtesting.

Also, most companies don't produce "errata" as an overpriced upgrade pack that they then almost immediately obsolete.

Also also, most designers don't blow their own horn nearly as much Sirlin does about what an awesome designer and how great at balance they are. You carry on like that, you better back it up.

Also also also wik three peruvian llamas.

I like Puzzle Strike. I think it's a fun game. But assorted flaws made us pretty much shelve it after a few dozen plays (Compared to say, almost a hundred for Dominion, 50 odd for Thunderstone and bordering on 200 for Quarriors). I already bought one upgrade pack hoping to improve the game, and it didn't help much. Some of the new changes look like they might - but at this point I really don't want to shell out more money to this guy.

SirHandsome wrote:
Kinda sad that the components are worse though,

On a diversion from the ranting - does this mean that you can't use the chips from 2nd Edition and Shadows together? Would they feel different in the bag?
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Kweku
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luckily you can use the second edition and shadows together. the chipboard feels the same to me (or similar enough?)

as far as the printing on the chips go, the difference is more of a vanity thing. still bugs me a little. I'll have to calm myself down by remembering that people used to play games with sticks and stones in the dirt...

EDIT: after mentioning possible chip printing differences to Sirlin, he confirmed that the printing and material method for the chips is 100% the same -- so any difference is just a printing variation that has nothing to do with anyone's decisions
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Brian Modreski
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SirHandsome wrote:
luckily you can use the second edition and shadows together. the chipboard feels the same to me (or similar enough?), -- the ink on the front appears to be diff

Thanks for the info. Different ink/print styles may look odd, but it shouldn't cause any difference in play.
 
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Stephen Keller
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Brian, your criticisms are certainly something we've heard before and that David Sirlin is sensitive to. I've talked with him a lot about this issue, actually, and whether he should release a third edition of the base game or just an expansion was something he wrestled with a lot actually.

Ultimately I think his decision was for the benefit of new players as much as anything. He wanted anyone who picked up the base game to be playing the most-tuned experience, versus feeling like people with just the base game were left behind. I think it's a tough call, but it really isn't a cynical money grab (though I'm sure my saying this isn't particularly convincing).

The upgrade pack was offered fairly cheaply given things like the rubberized mousepad material for the mats (more expensive to make than you would think), and he hoped that it would solve the balance issues. It didn't, and so when it came time to release Shadows he decided to also update the base game.

I will say that if you want to try out the changes, you can do so pretty easily with the second edition and upgrade pack. I've been playing that way for a while and it works pretty well (the major rule change is the -$1 combine and the new FFA rules). There's a full list of changes at the FantasyStrike.com forums: http://www.fantasystrike.com/forums/index.php?threads/change...

I would encourage you to play a bit with these rules using your current copy of the game -- if nothing else the FFA rules are pretty great.

And of course Sirlin does a lot of playtesting, including pretty extensive playing online. But balance is tricky, and I note that while you thought the -$1 combine is obviously good, I have actually read people complaining about the change (and it was controversial when it was made online) so maybe it isn't always that cut and dry.

P.S. I also really like the combine change, so...
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Matt
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You might have missed the most important bit to look forward to...

Fourth Edition!
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Kweku
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My opinion as a very experienced player who started following the development a few months before the Upgrade Pack came out, is that Upgrade Pack Puzzle Strike actually IS well balanced (certainly, certainly not broken, it's a good product)

So it's not that Upgrade Pack failed to solve the balance issues with the base game (which were mostly with the characters, and Upgrade Pack tightened that right up). The community was happy with it. Combine was changed later not because the Upgrade Pack gameplay wasn't good, but to open up the design space for future chips and characters (like the Shadows expansion), to allow for more interesting characters that didn't have to have weird little handicaps to stop them from being too purple inclined.

that's why there actually are some people who still prefer the gameplay flavor of the second edition + upgrade (though they seem to be the vast minority, and I'm in the -$1 Combine rocks camp)

Buffing the puzzle chips seems like a late realization. Seems like when faced with reprinting Puzzle Strike, Sirlin realized he had a chance to tighten up those as well. So he made a lot of them more fun to play with and more usable. The game is better for it. And then he started to realize he could fix EVERY complaint with the game (such as 3 and 4 player not being as fun as 2 player). But the timing of this decision (right after Upgrade Pack) understandably upset people

stephenkeller wrote:
Ultimately I think his decision was for the benefit of new players as much as anything. He wanted anyone who picked up the base game to be playing the most-tuned experience, versus feeling like people with just the base game were left behind.


Yeah that's a good point, even if I feel like I bought the same thing twice there's a big part of me that's just happy for the new players that will have a better entry point, without having to be confused by stuff like "Upgrade Packs."

In contrast, in a game like Ticket to Ride, they released the "1910" expansion which basically replaces some of the destination tickets in the game ("patching" some overpowered tickets) while adding some new ones, and solves a major component complaint in the train cards being too small by replacing all of those with larger cards too. The only actual completely new component (that isn't replacing or slightly adding to stuff already paid for) is one friggin card! (The Globetrotter Bonus)

The company behind the game could have (and IMO should have) released a new edition and started rolling out these changes in the base box so newcomers would not have to buy the expansion to benefit (though it should be pointed out that leaving a way for old owners to Upgrade is ALWAYS good for the customers, and probably why people don't like this situation with Puzzle Strike), but they do not

stephenkeller wrote:
I think it's a tough call, but it really isn't a cynical money grab (though I'm sure my saying this isn't particularly convincing).


That's the most important thing for me. I'm inclined to agree with the above posters that initially, the testing probably wasn't as good as it could have been, but I still believe that Sirlin was doing what he thought was best for the game, before and after release. There's no malicious intent here, so any mistakes are easy for me to forgive. And I do think that admitting there are flaws with a game and actually doing something about it is good. Some people might think that makes me a "sucker" or something, and I had my share of skepticism when the entire game was being changed AGAIN and have even had disagreements with Sirlin -- but in the end I can't really be mad about decisions that I believe were made for me to enjoy his game more. No other motive. I think he honestly just realized he could do better and did that.

And even though I was skeptical, and at times critical to Sirlin directly, the fact that I was super excited for a new revision to a game I already bought to come in the mail means Sirlin was right in the end

Poor wooden deluxe first edition owners though soblue
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Stephen Keller
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SirHandsome wrote:

So it's not that Upgrade Pack failed to solve the balance issues with the base game (which were mostly with the characters, and Upgrade Pack tightened that right up). The community was happy with it. Combine was changed later not because the Upgrade Pack gameplay wasn't good, but to open up the design space for future chips and characters (like the Shadows expansion), to allow for more interesting characters that didn't have to have weird little handicaps to stop them from being too purple inclined.


Yeah, I choose my words poorly. When I said upgrade didn't solve "balance" issues, it really referred to the ability to balance future pieces. The phrase that gets used a lot is changing the combines "expanded the design space" -- by making combines a little less good, a wider range of future puzzle pieces in Shadows and beyond would be more attractive. But 2E with the upgrade is a balanced, tournament-ready game for sure.

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So he made a lot of them more fun to play with and more usable. The game is better for it. And then he started to realize he could fix EVERY complaint with the game (such as 3 and 4 player not being as fun as 2 player). But the timing of this decision (right after Upgrade Pack) understandably upset people


This is I think pretty accurate. The other thing of course is that Kickstarter allowed Sirlin to add in the new FFA rules, the 2v2 rules, and add more components like the screens and game boards while decreasing the price. That's pretty cool, and I guess I understand why people who paid for the 2E+Upgrade (and I'm one of them!) might be upset, it's a really good deal for any new players.

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Some people might think that makes me a "sucker" or something, and I had my share of skepticism when the entire game was being changed AGAIN and have even had disagreements with Sirlin -- but in the end I can't really be mad about decisions that I believe were made for me to enjoy his game more. No other motive. I think he honestly just realized he could do better and did that.


Sirlin believes that releasing a third edition is possibly a *bad* business move, that it would be more profitable to spend time and energy and expansions/new games. And you can see the knocks Sirlin Games takes here at BGG for the decision to release new editions. He really and truly does believe that improving the base game is the best thing for players.
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Just thought I'd chime in with my opinion as a new player. I just got into PS with the release of the third edition, plus the expansion (although I only have the base set for now). I very much appreciate the dedication to tweaking the base set with newer editions and I prefer this approach as opposed to continually releasing expansions to fix issues with the base game, while sometimes adding very little new which is the main thing an expansion is supposed to do. Even if this means I might end up buying another edition of the game later on, frankly if I'm playing the game that much that I still want the new edition when it comes out, I think it's worth it.

The Dominion comparison is obvious, as the approach with that game is to release a ton of expansions. I personally don't really like this. It's just too damn much stuff to keep track of as a new player if I'm trying to get into the game. I'd say "Oh this game is good, but I have these issues with it." and other players will say "Oh dude, you don't have expansion ABC. It totally fixes all those issues. You're not getting the full experience if you don't have it." And to this I would say "Well great. How the hell am I supposed to know that as a new player? I just bought the current version of the base set to start out." So yeah, I prefer the PS approach, because I can just get the current version of the base set and know that even though it's the third edition, it's the current and best one and I'm not relying on the expansion to actually fix issues with the base set. The expansion is just if you want more actual content to play with.

I also think comparing the actual balance between Dominion and PS is kind of comparing apples to oranges. Dominion is sort of naturally self-balancing. Everybody has access to the same cards, and everybody starts with the same base deck. Certain action cards are just better than others at the same cost level, given the ultimate goal of amassing victory points, but this doesn't matter much to the balance of the game, because it's symmetrical. PS is asymmetrical, which is much more difficult to balance, but I find it way more interesting than a purely symmetrical game.

stephenkeller wrote:
Sirlin believes that releasing a third edition is possibly a *bad* business move, that it would be more profitable to spend time and energy and expansions/new games. And you can see the knocks Sirlin Games takes here at BGG for the decision to release new editions. He really and truly does believe that improving the base game is the best thing for players.

And if I can throw my own mini-rant in for a second, this is something I really don't understand. Releasing an improved version of the base set that makes the game significantly better overall is a horrible thing, but shelling out for continuous expansions is fine? People don't seem to balk at buying continuous Dominion expansions, so I don't buy the cost argument. My guess is that it's because the expansions don't invalidate the base set, but frankly neither do the new editions of the base set. Nobody is taking your old version away from you at the kitchen table, and if you play at a tournament level, you should definitely be concerned with creating the best possible version. Frankly, as a new player, the sheer number of expansions makes Dominion a significantly more confusing and intimidating purchase than PS. If that somehow makes me a sucker, then so be it. I know which way I'm having the better time with.
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Stephen Keller
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For those interested in hearing it directly from Sirlin, I think he does a really good job of articulating his position in this podcast at the Giant Fire Breathing Robot website: http://gfbrobot.com/2012/10/03/house-rules-44-interview-with...

Around the 20-minute mark he talks about his motivations in some detail.
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Brian Modreski
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And you can see the knocks Sirlin Games takes here at BGG for the decision to release new editions. He really and truly does believe that improving the base game is the best thing for players.

Puzzle Strike has had, effectively, 4 versions within a 2 year period. That's nuts. Most games have an edition/revision only after several years, and even that sometimes gets flak.

Many board games that do have a revision within a short time provide an upgrade path for previous owners. FFG has been good about this for several games - Runebound, Talisman, Tannhauser. Even Descent 2e, which came out 7 years after the first edition and offers substantially different gameplay provided a compatibility pack to use more of the old material.

So there are several problems with Puzzle Strike v3:

1) No upgrade help for earlier customers.

2) Having JUST MADE an upgrade pack, so there clearly COULD have been an upgrade pack if he'd just waited a bit.

3) Having that many changes in such a short time indicates shoddy original design. He pushed the playtesting out to the customers instead of making it a great game before releasing it.

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The upgrade pack was offered fairly cheaply given things like the rubberized mousepad material for the mats...

As far as I can tell, those were added in just to justify charging more for a what was basically errata. I've got no use for the mats and didn't use them even after getting them, and the screens are barely useful but look awful. Net result? I payed about half the price of the original game for a few chip improvements and now get told "Oh, oops, here, buy another whole game if you really want to get an improvement".

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I will say that if you want to try out the changes, you can do so pretty easily with the second edition and upgrade pack. I've been playing that way for a while and it works pretty well (the major rule change is the -$1 combine and the new FFA rules).

That's a fairly small amount of the changes. Several chips in the base set either aren't very useful (Secret Move anyone?) and don't see much or any use, or aren't much fun in play. Most of these have been changed in 3rd edition. Looking at it, these look like some good changes.
But the "new" FFA rules? The play variants in 3rd edition are houserules that came from BGG. Many of us HAVE been playing them for a long time.

You mention the upgrade pack giving a "balanced game". Well, ok, no one needs to buy Secret Move when it's available. But that doesn't make it a fun chip or a fun game. It looks to me like the 3e changes would improve the fun of the game.

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Sirlin believes that releasing a third edition is possibly a *bad* business move, that it would be more profitable to spend time and energy and expansions/new games.

Base games almost always sell better than expansions. I assume Sirlin knows this and wants to try to get old customers to have to buy the same thing over again without needing to spend much more effort on development. Why bother having to come up with new stuff for an expansion or a new game when you can convince your customers to keep buying the same thing?

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People don't seem to balk at buying continuous Dominion expansions, so I don't buy the cost argument.

Those are completely different examples. You buy base dominion, you've got 25ish cards to play with. You buy an expansion, you've now got 50ish cards to play with.

Puzzle Strike, you bought 2nd edition and you've got 25ish chips to play with. You buy 3rd edition and...you've still got only 25ish chips to play with! You're not paying for new content; you're paying for bug-fixes. I don't think I'm alone in being much more willing to pay for new content than for changes to content I've already got!

Dominion expansions don't "fix" any problem other than "I don't have enough variety of cards". And there's no way you're going to fix that problem without releasing more cards!
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StormKnight wrote:
As far as I can tell, those were added in just to justify charging more for a what was basically errata. I've got no use for the mats and didn't use them even after getting them, and the screens are barely useful but look awful. Net result? I payed about half the price of the original game for a few chip improvements and now get told "Oh, oops, here, buy another whole game if you really want to get an improvement".


Based on what I've seen and heard I think you're in the minority there. Mats and screens were huge. Mats now seem mandatory to me for teaching the game to new people and they add to my enjoyment as well. Screens are huge because who wants to hold 10+ chips in their hand? That was a valid complaint levied against the original game and screens alleviate it greatly. Anyway as far as I know the components from Upgrade Pack were almost universally loved (you're the obvious exception)

StormKnight wrote:
But the "new" FFA rules? The play variants in 3rd edition are houserules that came from BGG. Many of us HAVE been playing them for a long time.


I think I've been subscribed to this game since the second edition came out, and have a really good memory, and I'm pretty sure this is just false. I know there were similar team mode variants (I remember yours, for instance), but I'm confident that the new FFA mode was original -- I do remember in its early stages Sirlin himself posted the idea for it as a variant on BGG. But you make it sound like BGG users came up with it and Sirlin implemented it into the game

StormKnight wrote:
As far as I can tell, those were added in just to justify charging more for a what was basically errata...Base games almost always sell better than expansions. I assume Sirlin knows this and wants to try to get old customers to have to buy the same thing over again without needing to spend much more effort on development. Why bother having to come up with new stuff for an expansion or a new game when you can convince your customers to keep buying the same thing?


...nah. I give most board game designers the benefit of the doubt. If he wanted to maximize his profits in shady ways he'd be doing something more lucrative with his time. I remain unconvinced that extreme greed is a motivator for releasing a new version. Someone who's greedy to the point of intentionally burning their fan base also probably wouldn't be making these niche within a niche within a niche games.

StormKnight wrote:
People don't seem to balk at buying continuous Dominion expansions, so I don't buy the cost argument.
Those are completely different examples. You buy base dominion, you've got 25ish cards to play with. You buy an expansion, you've now got 50ish cards to play with.


I agree that that's not really a good example. Buying a replacement for something you already paid for is completely different from buying all new material.

But you aren't paying for "bug fixes" if you choose to buy a new edition of a game. This is proven by the fact that the Print & Play version was updated for free. And if you pay for the online version, you don't get charged for those updates as well.

There's no such thing as a "bug fix" with physical components. So comparing it to something digital doesn't work. A full box of physical components will never be free because they cannot be. That's part of the reality of this hobby, whenever you buy a game there is a risk that it could end up degenerate, broken, flawed, etc. with no way to update without shelling out money (or using something like an Errata sheet, which is possible for Puzzle Strike and any other game, but not much fun IMO)
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I'll skip arguing about most of this. Just not worth it. But I will put in one last word on this point:

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But you aren't paying for "bug fixes" if you choose to buy a new edition of a game. This is proven by the fact that the Print & Play version was updated for free.

If all you are getting is bug fixes, then yes, you are paying for bug fixes!

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There's no such thing as a "bug fix" with physical components.

You seem to be saying that a bug fix is, by definition, free. And that since components can't (or are unlikely to be) free, they can't be a bug fix.

This isn't even true as you've written it - several companies have done free replacements for certain components. This is almost always based on physical defects rather than gameplay issues though.

The knowledge that your customers will most likely have to pay for bug fixes in a physical game is one of the really big reasons to make sure you don't NEED bug fixes.

Now, I'll give you that several of the changes are more upgrades than bug fixes - but it's still nothing a company would make you pay for if the upgrades would be free to distribute (as evidenced by the PnP version, as you pointed out).
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