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Subject: Did anyone actually play this before it was released? rss

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Curt Carpenter
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Kirkland
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I've had this for a while and never got it on the table until yesterday. I had reasonably high hopes, as I'm a Wallace fan in general. Although, at the same time, I also saw the mediocre reviews, so it wasn't exactly unbridled optimism. Furthermore, from games like Liberte and Princes of the Renaissance, I am accustomed to having no sense of strategy on the first play, which is fine. So with that, we played.

None of us had played, but I read the rules in advance (as usual), as well as check the Geek for faqs, addenda, variants, etc. There wasn't a lot here, other than the very important clarification that everything has an implicit default of 1 cowboy that doesn't stack with actual cowboys. This was barely mentioned in the rules, and so unclearly that even after reading the faq, rereading those rules still doesn't make sense to me. Warfrog should be ashamed.

And the bank. A number of posts mentioned issues with the bank. Normally, for issues that involve balance, I don't mind playing it as written first, just to see how it goes. But reading the rules and the analysis, it was painfully obvious that the bank is simply broken. Did anyone actually play this before it was released? Quite simply, it boiled down to this: with the rules as written, building a bank guarantees that you will lose. If not the game, at least money.

The rules as written for the bank say that it costs $10, and you make $2 per building that's not your in the town during income (only twice in the game, excluding the last one, which is too late to spend the money anyway). In my game, the most buildings not belonging to a single player was 4. SO the most the bank could earn is $8 per turn. But the average in my game was more like 2-3 buildings, which means $4-6. So if you optimistically say $6 per income, times 2, that's $12, so you made $2. Woohoo.

But wait, there's more! If someone successfully attacks the bank, they rob it for 3d6, and the money comes from the bank owner! That's an average of 10.5 per hit. And players can do it as much as they want.

So I decided to at least try something to temper the bank, since I didn't want to completely waste 2.5 hours, and ruin all chances of ever getting the game on the table again. So rather than try any of the proposed variants, I just made it simple: when robbing the bank, you roll 1d6 that comes from the bank owner, and 2d6 that comes from the money supply. Turns out that wasn't nearly enough. One player put all his cowboys on the city, and robbed the bank every turn. The bank owner was completely broke and out of the game. Thankfully he was a gook sport about it and continued cheerfully. I don't know if I could have done it. Keep in mind that if you have no money in this game, you can't do anything. Typical Martin Wallace. It's literally a death spiral. And there's no stock to borrow like in Age of Steam, so you're just flat out screwed.

There's enough to like about the game that I want to try to salvage the bank, and see if that's enough to make the game fun. So here is my proposed variant: First of all, a premise: the bank has to be desirable, or why build it?

Proposed variants:
Bank:
1) The bank pays $4 per building that does not belong to the bank owner instead of $2.
2) Robbing a bank pays 2d6 from the owner. Average return of $7.
3) After the robbers get paid, both the bank owner and the robbers may elect to burn the building.
4) Each bank can only be robbed once per turn.

Rationales:
1) Paying out more makes banks desirable as a source of income.
2) Reducing the liability means that getting robbed doesn't completely take you out of the game. And it doesn't make robbing the bank by far the most advantageous thing to attack.
3) The bank owner may want to burn the bank if he doesn't feel like providing sufficient cowboy defense in the town. The robbers may want to burn the bank to prevent the bank owner from getting income and/or victory points. But the robbers may not want to burn the bank if they plan to rob it again.
4) Have to give the bank a reasonable expectation of income, without making the income so high as to offset numerous attacks, which, if they didn't happen, would be astronomical income.

With this variant, expected income is about $12 (with three buildings not belonging to bank owner), or $5 after one successful robbery. Of course it is still possible to lose money with the bank (2 successful robberies would be losing $2 after income, losing 3 robberies would be losing $9), but it's also possible to make more money, especially if defended well, which is now worth investing in. It also makes the decision of when to build interesting. Should I wait until the second action of the third turn, when it is much less likely to be attacked before income? Or will someone else take the bank first? Maybe build in turn two and plan to defend? Maybe bid higher (in the currently very boring) turn sequence auction in order to get the bank? I suspect that these sorts of decisions would emerge, but as yet they are just theories.

Building restriction:
Remove the restriction that you can't build a building if you already own two or more in the city. It forces players to spread themselves too thin. There are already incentives to get into other people's towns (store/hotel/bank), but this just seems to get in the way.

First shot:
Given how random combat is, and the limited number of cowboys available, our group felt that the defender needs a bit more support. Not a lot, but a little. One suggestion that I like is to always grant the defender the first shot, rather than the smaller group of cowboys.

I'm interested in feedback.
 
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John Owen
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I'm surprised that it took you a play to realize that the bank is broken. It should be "painfully obvious" just reading the rulebook.

I bought this game a month ago, and it has seen play twice. Both times, when teaching the rules, I've just flat out told the players that the bank is worse than useless and one would have to be a fool to buy one.

We've played without banks and both games were a lot of fun- a good balance between luck and strategy.

I like the game a lot, and don't think that it's even necessary to create a bank variant to enjoy the game (but I'd also be interested to hear how this goes for any group that tries).
 
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Curt Carpenter
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trawlerman wrote:
I'm surprised that it took you a play to realize that the bank is broken. It should be "painfully obvious" just reading the rulebook.

Yeah, it was. As I said, I played with a variant on the first game. It just wasn't enough. I didn't want to swing the pendulum too far on the very first play.
 
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John Owen
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Sorry about that. Re-reading your post and my comment, it is "painfully obvious" that you did come to the conclusion that the bank was broken before your first play, and I somehow missed that as I got to the conclusion of your report and was too eager to comment, thus making a foolish comment that sounded rude. Anyhow, I didn't mean to sound harsh and really only wanted to concur with you that the bank is indeed broken, but add that the game is still enjoyable with it gone altogether.

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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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St Catharines
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I think that the rules for robbing the bank are hilarious in a thematic way. I just built a bank with the original rules for 10 VP and couldn't have found a better use for $10 (leaving me with $2 after saving up, and the $2 had been earmarked for manipulating turn order).

The bank and train aren't about profitability, but they do strain your logistics and make you think about the 5 VP for most cash going away. They are about increasing a town's size and the competition for majority ownership. If the bank is profitable then it is giving a lot of VP to other players. The robbing rules aren't about money, they are about providing a way for the bank to be removed from the town -- a huge change in VPs for peope with tiles in the town.

Another player considered building the train after I built the bank, but was worried about the 5 VP for most money and decided not to. He got that award by $1.
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Justin
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the game certainly does have a "prototype" feel to it...

i love the theme and other elements of the game so much that i'd probably kick into a fund to have a designer look at the game to smooth out the edges

anyway, i made a player aid. it's at http://www.boardgamegeek.com/fileinfo.php?fileid=10869

i also started a geeklist a while back to discuss variants. it's at http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/8276
 
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John Bohrer
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astroglide wrote:
to have a designer look at the game to smooth out the edges


developer
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Bob Wilson
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John Bohrer wrote:
astroglide wrote:
to have a designer look at the game to smooth out the edges


developer


EDIT: Comment removed per admin request.
 
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Morgan Dontanville
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I love the game but I only play the wounded cowboy variant, $10 trains, and Struggle of Empire pay out rolls for the Banks (personal payout difference of two dice then matched by the "government", 7s bank blows up).
 
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Dave Kudzma
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LordBobbio wrote:
John Bohrer wrote:
astroglide wrote:
to have a designer look at the game to smooth out the edges


developer


What a tool troll tulip!


I would take it easy on Mr. Bohrer. Without him we'd not have had Wallace games AT ALL.
 
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