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Subject: Second review: or how a game doesn't resist being played too much (core set) rss

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Bruno Gaia
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I've played a lot of RFTG over the years.
I own all the expansions and I used to play it a lot with my wife until we moved to something else and I started playing on Boardgamearena, just because it was the fastest game to play there.

And on BGA you only play the core set, the base game.

Thus I don't know if what I'm about to write only applies to the base game or tothe game as a whole, but here it goes:

After hundreds of games I think, I REALLY think that a game of RFTG between two players who know the game is the equivalent of flipping a coin.

No more, no less.

Just have a look at the players stats on BGA. Even the best of all have a success rate very close to 50%. Dangerously close...

More to the point: take two players, one mediocre (around 1300 ELO) and a very good one (around 1800). If the "bad" player gets the right cards, he'll win 90% of the time. The same applies to the "good" player if he draws bad hands.

It happened to me countless times, either being the "good" player or the "bad" player.

It shouldn't happen in an adult game IMHO.

Worse, I once saw my self go down from 1850 ELO to 1400 in a few days, not playing particularly wrong, just getting bad hands after bad hands...

Even worse: some cards are "instant win" or so close to that that it hurts. Get Galactic Federation? Okay, you've won. Get New Sparta and Galactic Imperium, you're close to winning it will hurt even the best players.

Even worsER: having one of the "bad" start word and a so-so hand is a sure way to know you'd better concede before wasting your time.
On the contrary, some worlds (the one with the brown production from start, New Sparta) give you such a head start that it will be infinitely difficult to beat your opponent if you start with a lesser world.

And some worse than worst: some synergies starting hand/starting world are so powerful that... Well forget about the dedication you've put into becoming "good", even a newbie knowing the rules will beat you to a pulp if they get that and all you've got is a half decent hand.
It's not poker: there's no bluffin -especially in 2p games- you get bad cards? Lose.

Edit: Same applies to the difference between starting the game with a hand of cheap cards or starting with expensive and/or useless ones (most of the time the same cards by the way). Getting cheap/ useful cards in your first hand and/or first +5 draw will definitely give you a head start that will be hell on earth to compensate for you opponent if he didn't get these...

All in all, RFTG is not a bad game as such. But I've really come to think that luck is much too important in it and -if you don't plan to buy expansions- you'd better try another "tableau game"

51st State/ New Era is much, much less luck driven (especially New Era+ Winter) for example.

A last nail in the coffin?
I suspect that all the "good players" I've met who keep their success rates around 55% do so by playing mostly bad ones (with very few games under their belts) I realized that when I created a new account and saw a lot of names I already knew as a "good player" rushing to play me once I was looking newb...

What does it prove? Well: that when two players who know the game well play RFTG without its expansions, they'd waste less time flipping coins...

Edit:

A (too) short list of games I've played hundreds of times and still love as if it was the same time over and over again:

Neuroshima Hex (hell mate: ain't this one of the best games in the world)
BattleCON
New Era (better with added Winter)
Steam Torpedoe
Mythic Battles

The expansions I think are absolutely necessary to make RFTG the good game it actually is (once expanded) :

Rebels vs Imperium
On the Brink of War

Anything that adds secondary victory elements will actually mitigate the luck of drawing cards. And the Prestige action of Brink will definitely allow a player who knows the game to mitigate a bad start.

EDIT: after receiving the normal flame-war here, I have to admit that comparing every single game between to similarly able players to flipping a coin was a bit overstated. It doesn't change my opinion though: RFTG looks like it's been designed WITH its expansions and, IMO is meant to be played with at least one or two to really reach its potential.

AND New Era is a superior tableau game IMO, especially with the Winter expansion.
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Sky Zero
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Re: Second review: or how a game doesn't resist being played too luch (core set)
I'd recommend playing for fun, not for ELO scores. RFtG shouldn't be taken so serious. It's good for what it is and after 100's of plays, I'd say you must've got some level of enjoyment out of it. There are certainly some powerful combos, but I'd disagree that any hand is instant win.
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Jade Youngblood
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Re: Second review: or how a game doesn't resist being played too luch (core set)
I haven't played enough to validate or disprove your claim. But I am guessing others will.

I enjoy the game alot, but I am certainly not pro and still have under 100 plays.
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Ben Friedberg
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Re: Second review: or how a game doesn't resist being played too luch (core set)
It's interesting to me that you say

Quote:
it isn't poker
...

for me, R4tG is only about 60% the cards you play and 40% making good use of your opponent's chosen phases... ESPECIALLY in the advanced 2 player game... The double bluff happens in nearly HALF of the games that I have played...

perhaps this is just an extension of the 'multiplayer solitaire' fallacy...
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David desJardins
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Re: Second review: or how a game doesn't resist being played too luch (core set)
If Elo ratings jump around a lot, that's the fault of the person who set the Elo parameters, not of the game.

Some people like games with more luck, some people like games with less luck. But the point of playing the game is to enjoy playing the game, not to demonstrate your personal superiority. People can enjoy games with more luck and games with less luck, equally well. People enjoy Chess and also Backgammon, even though they have very different levels of luck (you could say all of the same things you say about RFTG, about a single backgammon game).
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Re: Second review: or how a game doesn't resist being played too luch (core set)
I don't think there are any cards which are so good they are an automatic win. Some cards + combos are hard to beat, and some start worlds are better than others but if two fairly good evenly matched players played 10 games with the best start world against the worst I doubt it'd be 10-0, more like 6-4. Obviously there is some degree of luck, but that's part of what make it fun.

Edit - there's plenty of stats threads linked from Ultimate Statistics Compendium: World Records, Ignoble and Goofy Awards, Thread List including some which rate start worlds - this one suggests you're correct that Alpha Centauri & New Sparta are the best, but they're not automatic wins (both approx 25%).
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Bruno Gaia
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Re: Second review: or how a game doesn't resist being played too luch (core set)
skyzero wrote:
I'd recommend playing for fun, not for ELO scores. RFtG shouldn't be taken so serious. It's good for what it is and after 100's of plays, I'd say you must've got some level of enjoyment out of it. There are certainly some powerful combos, but I'd disagree that any hand is instant win.


As you pointed : yes I've had some fun playing RFTG

This being said, as you may have noticed, this review/opinion was not about playing for ELO ratings or not.

It's just that I suddenly realised that RFTG's core set is too much unbalanced and therefore too luck-dependent.

Now what's been implemented in the expansions sure does mitigate this effect, especially the special "prestige" actions, plus the fact that with many more cards you're less prone to be disappointed by killer combos or the lack thereof.

And don't get me wrong: I used to think very highly of RFTG and then started wondering and now I think it's time for me to realise that no matter how many qualities this game has, its main flaw might bea bit too much for me.

So I surmise it might be for some othere people too, hence the review.
 
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Bruno Gaia
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Re: Second review: or how a game doesn't resist being played too luch (core set)
Also: as I come to think of it, this "review" was inspired by the fact that I recently realised that RFTG was the only game I play online where I often made apologies for the lucky hands I had.

Yeah, I know, sounds ludicrous, but I do that, when I have disgracefully lucky hands I make my apologies to the guy I'm playing with. And I realise I've been doing that a lot lately and only on this game.
 
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Eric Matthews
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Re: Second review: or how a game doesn't resist being played too luch (core set)
Luck element discovered in a card game; more news at 11


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Re: Second review: or how a game doesn't resist being played too luch (core set)
Ganybyte wrote:
Luck element discovered in a card game; more news at 11




Lol I don't resent the sarcasm.

Luck element sure happens in card games (and other games too) it's just that I feel that RFTG -the base game- has slightly too much of it to be considered a real "gamer's game" IMO.

I'd say, past 20% luck, what you've got is not a game for "adults", but that's the euro gamer in me speaking.
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David desJardins
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Re: Second review: or how a game doesn't resist being played too luch (core set)
brunogaia wrote:
I'd say, past 20% luck, what you've got is not a game for "adults", but that's the euro gamer in me speaking.


Lots of adults play bingo. And slot machines. If you think that just because people are older they have to like the same things you like, you need to look around at the world a bit more.
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Re: Second review: or how a game doesn't resist being played too luch (core set)
This is one of the reasons why I don't play boardgames online: too much focus on win rate. Why don't you just play the game and have fun and not worry about your win percentage?
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Re: Second review: or how a game doesn't resist being played too luch (core set)
AtkinsonWH wrote:
I'm actually new to the game and have only one play with the base game under me. I really did enjoy it and so I snagged the base and all three released expansions. Looking forward to getting a game or two out this weekend with my wife so I'll have a better idea of the game as a whole then.

Do any of you have some recomendations for what to be looking for in terms of general playing? Some pointers on how to make the game more enjoyable for early players?

Just curious as I know there are some games, such as Kingdom Builder, that if you go into it not knowing about how some of the mechanics work then you're going to be truly lost the whole game.

Thanks

I'd suggest to add the expansions gradually and only after you feel like you have seen everything of the base game (and then of base + the first expansion and so on).

Adding them all at once will probably cause confusion and slow down the game a lot.
Also, everyone has a different preferred setup, so adding in the expansions gradually and trying to play with and without goals, takeovers and prestige will help you find what you like most.
 
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Re: Second review: or how a game doesn't resist being played too luch (core set)
AtkinsonWH wrote:
Fede__ wrote:
AtkinsonWH wrote:
I'm actually new to the game ... truly lost the whole game.

Thanks

I'd suggest to add the expansions gradually and only after you feel like you have seen everything of the base game (and then of base + the first expansion and so on).

Adding them all at once will probably cause confusion and slow down the game a lot.
Also, everyone has a different preferred setup, so adding in the expansions gradually and trying to play with and without goals, takeovers and prestige will help you find what you like most.


Thanks. This is quite helpful actually. Did you find that each expansion was indeed themeatically true to the description for it? Or did the back story seem to be somewhat more for fun than actually found as a flare in the game itself?

The takeover mechanic in the second expansion, Rebel vs Imperium, does ring true to the theme. Military strategies also get a boost there.

But that suggestion was more about the extra mechanics and the cards themselves (as you progress through the expansions, some get more complex bonuses) than the theme. I do find the cards to be thematic and like a lot the art, and certainly while you build your tableau you can see it as a story unfolding, but I'd connect theme more to the cards than to the expansions themselves.

Hmm, seem messy, but I hope what I mean is understandable.
 
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Re: Second review: or how a game doesn't resist being played too luch (core set)
Desiderata wrote:
This is one of the reasons why I don't play boardgames online: too much focus on win rate. Why don't you just play the game and have fun and not worry about your win percentage?


I wrote it before : I didn't write about ELO to complain about ups and down in ELO, just to explain how I came to the conclusion that there was indeed too much luck for my tatse.

90% of my games I play IRL for fun.
 
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David desJardins
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Re: Second review: or how a game doesn't resist being played too luch (core set)
brunogaia wrote:
I wrote it before : I didn't write about ELO to complain about ups and down in ELO, just to explain how I came to the conclusion that there was indeed too much luck for my tatse.


But the volatility of Elo ratings is determined by the rating system parameters, that the implementer chooses. Not by the amount of luck in the game.

This is like complaining that someone is too short because their height is measured in meters instead of feet.
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Re: Second review: or how a game doesn't resist being played too luch (core set)
DaviddesJ wrote:
brunogaia wrote:
I wrote it before : I didn't write about ELO to complain about ups and down in ELO, just to explain how I came to the conclusion that there was indeed too much luck for my tatse.


But the volatility of Elo ratings is determined by the rating system parameters, that the implementer chooses. Not by the amount of luck in the game.

This is like complaining that someone is too short because their height is measured in meters instead of feet.


Well I've played enough games to know that there's only one way to go up like mad or plunge and it's a lucky streak (or unlucky), ELO parameters don't change a thing in my argument, sorry.
 
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Rob Neuhaus
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Re: Second review: or how a game doesn't resist being played too luch (core set)
Game 1 doesn't influence Game 2.

Nothing should really influence the streakiness of your game results other than your own probability of winning the games (luck is a factor here), whether or not you are getting better or worse from game to game, and whether or not your opponents are getting better or worse from game to game.

It's not as though you start with Gal Fed if you won your prior game by more than 20 points.
 
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Re: Second review: or how a game doesn't resist being played too luch (core set)
rrenaud wrote:
Nothing should really influence the streakiness of your game results other than your own probability of winning the games (luck is a factor here), whether or not you are getting better or worse from game to game, and whether or not your opponents are getting better or worse from game to game.


Human psychology can potentially cause people to play better when they are in a good mood, well rested, optimistic, etc. So that could create some streakiness. Of course, that supports the view that player decisions matter, the opposite of the conclusion that the game is just the same as flipping a coin.
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DaviddesJ wrote:
rrenaud wrote:
Nothing should really influence the streakiness of your game results other than your own probability of winning the games (luck is a factor here), whether or not you are getting better or worse from game to game, and whether or not your opponents are getting better or worse from game to game.


Human psychology can potentially cause people to play better when they are in a good mood, well rested, optimistic, etc. So that could create some streakiness. Of course, that supports the view that player decisions matter, the opposite of the conclusion that the game is just the same as flipping a coin.


Fair enough but it seems that you haven't played RFTG online as much as I have.
The FACT is that there's no way to counter some combos and whenever they rush into your hand by sheer luck you win. Last stop.
Or you lose if you really REALLY don't have a clue how it plays.

I've had the same "ELO movements up and down" my average being 1600 to 1700. But each time I reached above 1800 or plunged below 1500 I can tell that it was due to lucky or unlucky draws and NOT my mood, yesterdays sleep or Red Bull. This being said, of course you're prone to win against opponents that are not as good as you are.
Still, a real beginner getting a good hand will, I really think, beat a good player or even a master that got an average/bad hand. and that doesn't feel right.

This being said, expansions definitely tackled part of this issue.
I'm only writing about the core set.
 
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The interesting thing is (and I think it's a design achievement) that I very, very rarely feel screwed by the luck in RftG. Sure, there are some matches where you continuously draw some disjointed mess, struggling to get things going, while your opponent rides smoothly, leeches like a boss and steamrolls you with 20-30 difference in score, but these are actually rare. Due to open ended nature of the game and flexibility of strategies you always feel like your input is valuable, your choices matter and that you can work things out. Some of my most memorable games came from me losing by narrow margin while fiercely trying to overcome some initial disadvantage. And sometimes, lucky card can turn the tables and bring you a win, and it is still satisfying, because it feels like you did the hard work and that card was some kind of your "reward".

Therefore, I actually don't really mind randomness in Race. Somehow, it works.
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While I agree there is significant luck in RFTG I don't agree with your premise (that games between players are decided by chance), and a number of the facts you quote are simply incorrect.

I'm speaking as objectively one of the better players on BGA currently in the top 100, usually in the top 20, often in the top 10 and for a few sweet months number 1. With over 3,500 games my win rate is 63% much more than the 50% you cite.

I have played the majority (I'd estimate over 80%) of my games against players with a rating of over 1800 and I'm confident that if playing 100 games against a random assortment of bad players (BGA ELO rating under 1400), I would win 90 or so of those games.

Even (or perhaps especially), with the base set alone, this is an excellent game with near endless replayability and a large amount of skill.
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Michael Grankin
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I am a big fan of Neuroshima Hex, by the way, and luck in it frustrates me much more than in Race. Especially if you play Outpost.

- My base is surrounded, I need some firepower!
- Please, have three battle tiles, sir.
- ARRRRRRGGGH!
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brunogaia wrote:
The FACT is that there's no way to counter some combos and whenever they rush into your hand by sheer luck you win.


So what? It's a quick game. Play again.

How do you do in backgammon games where you open with 2-1 and your opponent immediately rolls 6-6?
 
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DaviddesJ wrote:
brunogaia wrote:
The FACT is that there's no way to counter some combos and whenever they rush into your hand by sheer luck you win.


So what? It's a quick game. Play again.

How do you do in backgammon games where you open with 2-1 and your opponent immediately rolls 6-6?


Which explains why I never play backgammon OR Dominion's base set if there's the witch in it (get five gold in your hand: buy witch, you won)

XD

 
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