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Subject: Multiple paths to victory? rss

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Mike Bialecki
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I have read the rules to Infamy and watched the videos. What doesn't come across very well in any of them is the idea of multiple paths to victory. I know one can win via Reputation or Infamy, but are there specialized ways to go about achieving either of these victories, or is it just a case of getting the cheapest things possible as often as possible until you've reached a victory condition? For example, can one focus on accumulating henchman like crazy to earn one's 15i? Are there strategic "engines" that can be built using the reputation tracks?


Also, do the different faction scheme decks focus on different parts of the game? For example, one faction's scheme deck might offer different sorts of bribe advantages while another's focuses on defensive or cancel abilities. Do the three reputation tracks have distinct specializations depending on faction? In other words, are there distinct trends among the three factions in their Scheme decks and reputation tracks or is there just a hodgepodge of abilities scattered equally throughout all of them?

I think answers to questions like these would really help people understand the game better.


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Travis R. Chance
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Mike, good questions. Allow me to answer longwindedly so below!

SCORING

As you stated, the two ways to win the game are to earn 5 rep in a single faction (ostensibly taking over the faction) OR to earn 15 or more infamy (gaining enough power to rival the existing factions as a new upstart faction). Rep wins are much harder to achieve, but rep gives the players abilities; there are far more ways to achieve infamy, but they are essentially abstract victory points with no inherit advantages beyond winning the game.

There are a number of ways to score rep and infamy, most of which weave and compliment one another--players do not pick a single-minded path and hope it works out. Players will not hit a dead end with their strategies in Infamy; instead, they have to adapt to the game state, as there is no preconceived strategy that works best from in every game, every time; it entirely depends on which contacts come up, which missions are available, and what schemes, if any, you draw. As a freelancer, you have to be fluid and seize opportunities as they arise.

Here is a list of ways to score in the game:

1.) Missions: these are the primary means to scoring in volume. Almost all missions garner a player rep in a single faction AND infamy--not one or the other. The rep value is usually 1 (with a few exceptions), while infamy can be anywhere from 2-4. In addition to these points, missions also give players a text reward of some sort: access to schemes, recovering bribes, sabotaging missions, etc. Needless to say, they are the optimal way to score points. Ideally, players will want to gain resources from winning contacts, which means they their chances of going after a mission is greater (rather than collecting resources by taking the resupply action instead of completing a mission). The cost of missions definitely provides an ebb and flow, as players who complete them will have to spend downtime to resupply for the next one.

2.) Henchmen: at the end of each night round, players gain 1 infamy for every 2 henchmen they have, as they are becoming known by amassing an army. There are a few certain ways to gather henchmen: in either Sector 4 or 6's resupply zones on the board, as well as the contact the Cloner. Schemes and missions also can garner them--though the PKD Militia specialize best in gaining them. Also, some missions use henchmen as part of the cost.

3.) The Liaison: successfully bribing this contact offers raw scoring: 2 infamy or 1 rep in a faction of your choice. Obviously, when she is available, bidding wars occur. A popular strategy is to simply win the Fixer, which gives you a favor--you use this to immediately win a Contact during the Contact phase. Then use the favor on the Liaison--I call this the 'cheat your way to the top' rep strategy (which is why I made the level 4 rep ability for each faction be tied to how many missions they have completed for that faction). HOWEVER, she also is valuable for players trying to win by way of infamy. With players only seeing 10 of the 13 contacts over the course of a day and night round, there is no guarantee she will show up at all.

4.) Schemes: Each faction has schemes that provide scoring, both for infamy and rep. Schemes that offer scoring usually ask that some condition of sorts be met first, like being in a sector with a watchdog or a hazard, or completing a specific type of mission. The Megacorp scheme deck is a sub-strategy in and of itself, where a player amasses a large hand of schemes, gains the ability to play more than 1 scheme (which is the standard) by winning the Informant or being at level 3 in Megacorp, and then unloads these cards in a single big turn. (All of the schemes that offer rep do, however, cap, stating things like: 'If you have 3r or less in this faction, gain 1r in this faction.')

5.) Gravity Hub: In Sector 2, there is a special resupply zone that offers a different ability dependent upon whether it is a day or night round. It's night round ability is simply: gain 1 infamy. when you couple this with the night ability of the Smuggler (duplicate your resupply action), it's a nice little scary trick.

Like I said, rep wins are much harder to achieve. Even though you acquire your first rep for free by simply resupplying at that faction's HQ, there are simply more ways to score infamy. With this in mind, the rep abilities of each faction provide flexibility that supports the notion of winning by infamy as well.

FACTIONS

Now, about the factions, their individual scheme decks, their rep tracks, and mechanics and strategies more specific to each. There are strategic and mechanical overlaps between factions, similar to the color wheel in Magic: the Gathering, where one of the factions is the best at something, while another is okay at it. Factions are also experts at something that no other faction can do as well. Additionally, each faction is keyed in on one of the resource types, meaning their missions will almost always require that resource in some quantity.

We posted the Freelancer Sheets in the image gallery, which details the abilities players can gain in each faction; if anyone is curious, check this out. The rep tracks absolutely reinforce the strengths and primary strategies of each faction, though they overlap well with each other to give players an almost customizable feel to how they play the game--think tech tree here.

I will summarize each faction, and their strengths, below:

1. Harada Cartel: these guys are very focused on bribes: recovering them, making rivals spend them, and utilizing them outside of the Contact Phase. Many of their schemes will say 'do this or do that or spend X bribes and do both.' They also are the best at stealing resources. Their primary resource is compound.

2.) Trust Megacorp: schemes, schemes, schemes. These guys are obsessed with schemes, not just their own, but other factions' schemes as well. As they are essentially corporate spies, they are also very good at gaining rep in the other factions. Many of their cards reward them for diversifying their rep across more than just one faction--it isn't uncommon for a Megacorp player to attempt to win by taking over one of the other factions, in fact. They also can manipulate the Terran Watchdogs in various ways to earn infamy and attack rivals. Their primary resource is data.

3.) PKD Militia: these guys are very much focused on game state disruption. They Sabotage missions, putting them on the bottom of the mission deck so there are fewer to complete each round, also increasing the odds of replacing them with more of their own missions. They add hazards to resupply zones, making them more dangerous to navigate for others while they use the chaos to their advantage. They are also able recruiters, focusing on gathering henchmen to bolster their cause. Their primary resource is weapons.

I hope this offered a little more insight into the game. There are some quite insightful reviews posted here on the geek from people who have demoed the game in the last week that may also prove helpful.
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Travis R. Chance
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Another thing worth mentioning is the level 2 rep abilities for each faction. Something I think is quite cool is how, during the Contact Phase, faction contacts evolve in value. When players bid on contacts, they are not only factoring what they gain from that contact, but also placement order during the Sector Phase. Once players achieve 2 rep in a faction (or more than one faction), suddenly the faction contacts gain a third layer of value.

Of the 13 contacts, 7 are tied to factions. Each faction has a single contact that simply provides 2 resources of their core type: Chemist (Cartel) gives you 2 compound, Arms Dealer (Militia) gives you 2 weapons, Hacker (Megacorp) gives you 2 data. The other contact for each faction has a special ability that reinforces that faction's strengths.

Cartel's level 2 allows players to recover 3 spent bribes after resolving a Cartel contact--meaning they get a big refund on bidding on their own guys, which ostensibly gives them more bribes to use, increasing their bankroll.

Megacorp's level 2 allows players to draw 1 Megacorp scheme after resolving a Megacorp contact. This helps to reinforce the scheme strategy, giving a player hidden info and unexpected tricks/scoring up their sleeve.

Militia's level 2 allows them to gain 1 henchman after resolving a Militia contact. On a personal note, this is one of my favorites, not for the potential points that this can score you, but how it increases the value of their contact the Saboteur. The Militia level 1 rep ability also increases this contact's value by allowing you to gain 1 weapon for sabotaging a mission. For a player with 2 rep in Militia, Saboteur becomes a powerhouse that disrupts the available missions, as well as giving you a weapon AND a henchman.

Lastly, we have the 7th faction contact, the Peddler, who is in ALL 3 factions. While he has a decent, flexible ability in giving players a single resource of their choice, he is a highly contested contact as players reach level 2 in factions (as he is a 3rd contact to trigger these abilities). A player can diversify to achieve level 2 in multiple factions and then bid aggressively on this contact, as he triggers any and all applicable level 2 abilities.
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Matt
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Just to follow-up with what Travis said, and offer my own opinion, the 3 factions are to me one of the coolest things about this game. I touched on this a bit in my preview here, but to sum it up here, one of my favorite things in games is having specialized powers. This game has that in spades. At a very basic level, the three factions differ in resources they work with the most. But then there is the faction sheet, which Travis mentioned, and which I linked in my thread referenced above. This kind of gives the player an idea of what a faction specializes in, with regards to how they will approach the game. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, are the Scheme cards for each faction, which further differentiate the factions, and focus on their strategies. In my opinion, you really feel like you are working with each of these factions, and the game really helps you immerse yourself in this universe.

And as Travis said, I really don't see someone pursuing the same strategy every time. And trying to just make the most efficient choice available is going to be tricky, because of the other players doing the same thing, and also because of the balance of the different parts of the game. Bid too much on something, and you can't utilize other good contacts. Focus too much on one type of resource, because of missions available, and then watch a player sabotage all of the missions you attempt to complete. Focus on scheme cards and watch the other players get around you and leave you behind on the scoring track. You really do have to balance every part of the game, with what's available. And I think that is a large part of what makes this such a great game, and is a big reason why I backed it.
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Mike Bialecki
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Quote:
There are a number of ways to score rep and infamy, most of which weave and compliment one another--players do not pick a single-minded path and hope it works out. Players will not hit a dead end with their strategies in Infamy; instead, they have to adapt to the game state, as there is no preconceived strategy that works best from in every game, every time; it entirely depends on which contacts come up, which missions are available, and what schemes, if any, you draw. As a freelancer, you have to be fluid and seize opportunities as they arise.


So the game is more tactical and less strategic.

Quote:
1.) Missions: these are the primary means to scoring in volume. Almost all missions garner a player rep in a single faction AND infamy--not one or the other.

Quote:
Ideally, players will want to gain resources from winning contacts, which means they their chances of going after a mission is greater (rather than collecting resources by taking the resupply action instead of completing a mission). The cost of missions definitely provides an ebb and flow, as players who complete them will have to spend downtime to resupply for the next one.


This is what worries me a little in regards to my own taste in games. Missions are the primary way achieve the victory conditions. The primary way to get the resources necessary for Missions are through Contracts. You win contracts using an auction system where everybody starts with 12 bribe units that reset at the end of each day/night cycle. As far as I can tell, Missions are mixed in a random pile. Therefore, I fear it might come off as series of "Auction for Contracts - Gain resources - Fulfill missions" cycles. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. You refer to this as an Ebb and Flow. And that's fine. However, I enjoy games with an acceleration, where the game comes to a crescendo. Also, auctions are one of my least favorite mechanisms and can get extremely monotonous. With that said, Princess of Florence is one of my favorite games which can almost be described as I just described Infamy. The difference is that players begin to accumulate permanent and asymmetrical advantages that allow them to do more and more with each round of the "cycle". The game accelerates as players get stronger and stronger.


Quote:
Another thing worth mentioning is the level 2 rep abilities for each faction. Something I think is quite cool is how, during the Contact Phase, faction contacts evolve in value. When players bid on contacts, they are not only factoring what they gain from that contact, but also placement order during the Sector Phase. Once players achieve 2 rep in a faction (or more than one faction), suddenly the faction contacts gain a third layer of value.


This is what I'm looking for. You read my mind. So the acceleration or growth comes from the Reputation track. Are there also "permanent" Schemes? Schemes that are played in front of you to give permanent abilities for the rest of the game? Are there more and more powerful Mission cards as the game progresses to give that crescendo feeling? That's what I'd be hoping for.

I'm still on the fence with this one, but I really appreciate your detailed responses. Regardless of whether or not I pledge, I think your responses will go a long way in helping other potential backers truly understand the game.

Thanks

ps. The look and theme of the game is AWESOME! And the "subtle" shout-out to Phillip K. Dick has not gone unnoticed
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Travis R. Chance
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Hey, Mike. I wanted to reply below:

Regarding the game being tactical vs. strategic:

All of the possible victory paths I mentioned are available during any game. However, dependent on which contacts come up in what order, mission availability (as well as what factions are represented by those missions), what sectors get blown up by hazards, schemes, and, obviously, what your rivals are doing, will help to shape your choices in the game--as opposed to coming in to the game saying something like, I wanna be Cartel and go for a rep win. In this capacity, the game emulates your role as a mercenary out to turn any opportunity to your advantage. Things like henchmen will always be viable--just less so if the Cloner doesn't come up or if the Militia bomb the crap out of the henchman resupply zones

Regarding the rinse, repeat, lather aspect:

Yes, players gaining resources from contacts is optimal, but this isn't the only way players gain them. Resupplying on the board is another way. Schemes can provide resources. Contacts aren't the sole outlet. They're just the best one, as this would allow you to complete missions rather than resupplying. And you can win the game in ways beyond aggressive mission completion: henchmen is a passive strategy, Megacorp scheme combo, and Fixer/Liaison are all non-mission strategies.

Beyond this, there are a lot of layered decisions to make. Someone may go after a mission just for the reward (example: they may have more rep in Cartel, but they may zig and take a Militia mission for a sweet non-point payout). Others may complete a mission just to take it from someone else, and, in the process, find that a new door has just opened.

In terms of the auction, I have had a lot of people sit down to play the game with the caveat 'I do not like auctions' in my year of designing and testing this game. And, genuinely, in every instance (seriously, every single one), the verdict is that the auction element is dynamic, much more than they might have expected, fun, and original. The pay to play mechanic is a cool twist on auctions, sure, but there is so much more to the game than this. (Sorry if my claim here sounds arrogant or exaggerated, but I am being sincere here.)

The decisions you make during this phase of the game radiate out into everything. Winning the first contact means guaranteed placement, but winning the last contact lets you play your schemes first and control the movement of the watchdogs at the beginning of the next Contact Phase.

About acceleration:

There are no permanent schemes. I tried these in testing, and they just added an additional thing for your rivals to track, which really gunked up game play. Rep abilities accomplish this end. It's worth mentioning that these abilities, when combined between factions, combine in very cool ways. Think of them as modular parts to a customizable whole. There are a number of contacts that also offer you abilities as well, but only for the round that you have them. The Accomplice lets you place another pawn, but you can't gain rep that round. He combos quite well with the Smuggler's day and night ability. The Sector Chief lets you drop another Watchdog, blocking out another sector, while you are allowed to enter these sectors unopposed.

Missions come out at random, though the more powerful missions do cost more, which means that they are never completed in the early game.

In terms of a crescendo, games end with insanely tight scoring. The last round is always a nailbiter, which adds a lot of tension to the game. Infamy isn't a snowballer, where the leader stays on top. Ultimately, your experience will be enhanced by the players and how they try to craft their path to a win. No two games will be the same, I can promise you that; and therein lies the fun (to bring us full circle here).

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Mike Bialecki
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One last fairly important question. What is the duration of the game for the average group (i.e. not a group that includes the designer )?

Thanks again for all your time and attention.
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Travis R. Chance
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First game, without me there dressed as a Cartel Chemist, should take, with teach time about an hour and a half--this is coming in cold, knowing nothing. Once you play with people that know the game, easily 1 hr (45 mins in a 3 player game).

Part of why the pass the Triggerman marker (this gigantoid gun token) exists is to push the bid along (beyond giving people a chance to play with this uber-cool component). The Contact Phase is the meat of the game. The Sector Phase is far quicker, and, if no one has schemes in hand, the Scheme Phase is more of a clean up step.

I am glad to answer any questions that anyone may have. I realize that the videos and rules only give you so much insight (each seeming to hold part of the whole within).
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Travis R. Chance
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Oh, and one other thing: you don't reset your bribes at the end of each day. Those 12 bribes have to last you across two entire round of bidding, wherein you will not know which 5, in the last 8, contacts will in fact be available. You only reset your bribes at the end of each NIGHT round. This means, when coupled with the pay to play aspect, bidding isn't just throw your money at something and repeat. Will you spend out in the day while your rivals pick up contacts on the cheap during the night? Will you watch players engage in bidding wars, knowing full well you just have to win a specific contact, which is worth your entire bankroll?

While I see your point about tactics vs. strategy, there is def planning in the game. Sure, sometimes you have to swoop in when the opportunity affords itself, but ultimately, looking long term is essential.
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David Jackman
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mbialeck wrote:
However, I enjoy games with an acceleration, where the game comes to a crescendo. Also, auctions are one of my least favorite mechanisms and can get extremely monotonous.


If you don't like auctions this might not be the game for you. No game is for everybody. Just stating the obvious here. :)

That said, I think the auction is rather unique from other games i have played.

That said, the game does accelerate. People gain rep powers which drastically change their capabilities. Not only does it accelerate, it diverges, making players good at different sets of abilities.

mbialeck wrote:

The difference is that players begin to accumulate permanent and asymmetrical advantages that allow them to do more and more with each round of the "cycle". The game accelerates as players get stronger and stronger.


You've just described the faction mechanism. :)
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Mike Bialecki
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If you don't like auctions this might not be the game for you. No game is for everybody. Just stating the obvious here.


Yeah. I'm starting to get that. Auctions in moderation is fine for me. However, each Day/Night cycle is 10 auctions. Let's assume the game lasts about 5 cycles or so. That's 50 auctions. You have to truly enjoy the intricacies of this mechanism to enjoy the game. I was hoping for a little more building than bidding.

Dang!

Good luck with the project, Travis.
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Travis R. Chance
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Yeah: each contact phase is 5 auctions (day and night). Crits Happen will have a review up in a few days. Perhaps it will better demonstrate that there is much more going on than just bidding on some guys in a loop. . You're building up your own character as a formidable, canny crook in a very fleshed out thematic environment (only 4 of the 15 abilities you can gain deal with the bidding).

No prob! Glad to oblige
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Matt
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I would honestly say that, from having watched about 90 minutes worth of the game, the auction does not stick out as the "main" mechanism. It's definitely felt, and certainly cool, but I haven't been describing this to my friends as "an auction game". I think that it just feels more like a blending of all of the pieces. It's one of the few games I've played that I would classify as a true hybrid of euro and AT (hopefully that doesn't upset Travis...). It definitely has some euro mechanisms, with the auctions and worker placement, and the faction trees/Scheme card interplay, but it does all that in an incredibly thematic way. You really do feel like you're a freelancer trying to make a name for yourself. You can try to take over one faction, or use each of them to advance your own methods. And the way that the whole game blends all of its pieces together was what really impressed me.

I mentioned in my preview that I posted, and I'll say it again, that this almost borders on a Feldian style game, where there are multiple ways to win, and you have to massage each to maximize your potential, all while doing what you can with what's available. My wife loves Castles of Burgundy, and I have very little doubt that she'll enjoy this one. In fact, I've been trying to think up some 2-player variants, similar to Rialto or Snowdonia, to see how we could play 2 player games and still have it be true to its roots.
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