Why did they do that?
Junior McSpiffy
United States
Riverton
Utah
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Christmas was spent the way Christmas should be: punching pieces and reading rules. But as I was working through two of my games, I came across something that made me scratch my head. So I thought I'd bring it to the geek, because I'm sure there must be a reason that I'm missing. It may be that someone behind the scenes knows the history of it, or maybe it's just a morsel of common sense that I've somehow operated without. So hopefully there is someone who can help out. And I'm sure there's a few other people out there who have picked up on something where the production of a game doesn't match the rules, so please throw them out there. I'm sure someone around here would have the answer....
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1. Board Game: Keltis [Average Rating:6.44 Overall Rank:1344]
Junior McSpiffy
United States
Riverton
Utah
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This is the one that really baffles me. The rules say that when you take your victory points, you keep them face down so others can't see how many points you have.

The points chips are different sizes.

It's not significant or easy to notice. Someone would need to look at your VPs with the specific intent of gauging what VPs you have, and even then it wouldn't be easy, but it could be done. So was there a rule change at the last minute where someone decided hiding points would be good for the game?
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2. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:72] [Average Rating:7.67 Unranked]
Junior McSpiffy
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Riverton
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When I first went through the cards, I thought Rio Grande went the extra mile. There was one extra card for every set. It was remarkable to me, until part of the way into its first playing, someone pointed out that one of the cards has a slightly different colored back. I started looking through, and sure enough, every one of of the card sets has one card that is off-colored (printing, not content). Reading the rules, it says these cards are "placeholders" for different decks.

Huh? Now, if the front of the card was a different color as well, I could see it. It would be unnecessary, but I could at least get it. But if you put a placeholder down on the table and it looks exactly like a regular card, it would lead to far too much confusion: too easy to pick up and forget there should be one left on the table, too easy to base a turn on being able to buy a card only to learn it's really the placeholder, too easy to base a few turns of strategy on collecting these points or that, only to be told that three piles are empty and the game is over when the table looks like there are still ten full stacks.
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3. Board Game: Bug-Eyed Monsters [Average Rating:5.93 Overall Rank:10062]
Wulf Corbett
Scotland
Shotts
Lanarkshire
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This one never ceases to entertain me. When the evil BEMs are kidnapping our women, they can be overcome with Lust. There are Lust tokens in the countermix. Problem is, there are more Lust markers than BEMs, and no rule allowing more than one counter per BEM...

So who does use them? And what other game could I use them in?

Fortunately, the Lust counters are not used in the scenario concerning BEMs kidnapping congressman Dwight D Eisenhower...
 
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4. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:54]
Dick Hunt
United States
Orlando
Florida
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One of my favorite gaming mysteries is why they bothered including the wooden Castillo pieces in El Grande. The rules of the game say "it is useful to track who has Caballeros in the Castillo and how many they have. Otherwise, a player will not know how to plan for the next general scoring round as the Castillo hides the Caballeros that are put there."

Why, yes--yes, it does! And since the rules obviously consider it completely ethical to mentally track this information, why bother hiding it? It's not like hiding the information is going to test anyone's memory! All you have to do in order to track this "secret" information is count a player's Caballeros on the board, count the ones he still has left in his supply, and subtract that from 31, the number of cubes in each color....

I say they should save on the cost of producing the game as well as saving players a bit of unnecessary mental gymnastics. Dump the big wooden pieces that make up the Castillo and replace them with a little fence that keeps the cubes in the Castillo without "hiding" them.
 
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5. Board Game: Key Harvest [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:1310]
Dick Hunt
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Orlando
Florida
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Another example where hiding information from players is a waste of time (see my El Grande entry above) is in a 2-player game of Key Harvest.

This game has a supply of goods that is open information and counter-set limited. Run out of a color, and you can't take that good from the supply until somebody sells some of it back to the supply. When you buy goods from this supply, you hide them behind your little screen so nobody knows who has what--unless they have a pretty darned good memory for what everyone has bought.

This works well enough in a 3- or 4-player game, where mentally tracking this information is probably more trouble than most people will bother taking. But in a 2-player game, the player screens might as well stay in the box. All you have to do in order to know exactly what your opponent is "hiding" is subtract what YOU'RE "hiding" from the number of goods still in the supply! This sudden lack of mystery greatly changes the game's strategy.

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy both El Grande and Key Harvest. I just don't particularly enjoy the "hidden but trackable information" aspect of many board games. This is why I love to play Medici but hate playing Modern Art--the only serious difference between them is that in Modern Art, players hide their money, which only turns the game into a memory contest rather than a game of skill and strategy.
 
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6. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:15]
MK
United States
Coshocton
OH
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Well, if we're on the subject of useless hiding of victory points, this one is up there. You can clearly see how many building points each opponent has acquired, and it isn't all THAT hard to keep track of how many 5 point chips someone has (since usually they'll be trading in a bunch of ones for fives, not earning 5 or more all at once). You should, at any time, be able to tell how many points each player has.

So why hide the points? If anything, open VP for everyone might free up some of the AP that happens in the game - knowing rather than estimating/guessing how many VPs someone has would make it easier to make your choices when it's your turn.
 
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