linoleum blownaparte
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Around 6-7 years ago there was an explosion of "worker placement" games like Caylus, Agricola and Le Havre.

This was followed by "dice placement" games where your workers were dice that were rolled to see what you could do with them: games like Kingsburg, Alien Frontiers, and Troyes.

Of Alien Frontiers,
Ben
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writes in his review (emphasis mine):

"Although Alien Frontiers’ innovation on the dice-placement system would seem to be beneficial to mitigate dice randomness, it guts from the game much of what is appealing about the worker placement system: strategic blocking. By tying some of the best spots on the board to particularly rare combinations of die rolls, Alien Frontiers replaces player competition for scarce spaces with a random constraint on those spaces. The system actually hampers your ability to plan around another player’s wants and needs, so you end up playing a much more solitary game."

1. Do you agree or disagree that this is a problem with dice placement games? Is this a bug or a feature?

2. Does the same problem exist with any game that uses worker-placement as its central mechanic but randomizes what workers you have available each turn?

3. What would you think of a "deckbuilding placement" game? A game that uses a Dominion deck-cycling and build-your-own-deck mechanism, and the cards you draw are the "workers" you can use to take actions?
 
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chris thatcher
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Anyone that has played Alien Frontiers will know its one of the most vicious worker placement games. You are constantly messing with each other via the alien cards, and blocking the ore spots with high numbers. I dont think his critisms hold up regarding this game at all.

I've only played Alien Frontier and Castles of Burgundy as dice placement games, both great, both different.

Im not a fan of Dominion in regards to your last question.
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Pete Goch
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Disagree. Given the wide variety of ways you have to manipulate your dice via alien tech it's quite easy to generate the pip counts need to block opponents if that's what you want to do.
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Michael Carter
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There is some friction between the players in Alien Frontiers, but I found it to be dull and the game fell flat for me on both plays.
 
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Sam Cook
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Linoleum, you may want to check out Copycat since it is a hybrid deck building worker placement game.
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linoleum blownaparte
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Thanks for the replies. And man, trust Friedemann Friese to come up with the weirdest games...
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Drew Hicks
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I don't agree that it hampered that at all. In fact, this ability sometimes lets you see what other players can do (since what they can do is limited) and interfere with them MORE, making them use more dice for the same effect, or waste dice. For example, if a player has a 3 of a kind, blocking a 3 of a kind space will force them to break them up and place them elsewhere.
 
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Brandon
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I don't have any experience with those other games but Bora Bora doesn't suffer from the described problem. In that game, you can only place dice that are lower in value than what's already on the resource, so placing a low-value die blocks the other players from placing there as well (while higher values typically give you more choices in what to do with that resource). To mitigate some of the luck, there are god cards to allow you to place a die regardless of its value or to place a low die but have it take the value of a six when using the resource.
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Alex Despres
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It's hard to imagine a more potentially aggressive and player-blocking game than Troyes. Often, the best option is to buy another player's die or dice even if you're just wasting it in order to stop them from a particularly juicy placement. I don't think the criticism of Alien Frontiers generalizes well to Castles of Burgundy or Troyes.

Alien Frontiers doesn't always use dice placement itself to block others. Some worker placement games do - you jockey for player order in order to beat others to that critical spot, perform the action first, and box out the other guy. In AF, as noted by others, some of the blocking is done by techs instead of by placement of dice. Your own rolls can block you. And sometimes, those wrong rolls force you to be flexible and completely change what you're doing.

The criticism quoted above seems to me to be based on frustration that the reviewer couldn't do exactly what he wanted precisely when he wanted. Essentially he's unhappy about not getting the right roll to pursue a specific strategy or block someone else from it. I guess the moral there is to not play a dice worker game if not getting to perform any game action whenever you want makes you mad. If that element of randomness turns you off, you may want to stay away from Alien Frontiers. Also, avoid rondel games (like Imperial or Navegador), card-driven games (like Twilight Struggle or Manhattan), and even games with unreliable resource generation (like Settlers). In all of those mechanics, there's a random or nonrandom non-player element that serves as an additional constraint to play.

I find games that limit player actions in predictable or unpredictable ways interesting. They're often (but not always) tactical rather than strategic and present a different flavor than totally open information games with absolutely no randomness. I love Hansa Teutonica and Troyes both, but the sort of thinking I employ in one is different from that in the other. I agree that dice worker games combined with bad rolling can monkey with long-term strategy, but that's not why I'm playing them. I play to be presented with interesting random tactical choices each turn and be challeneged to make the most of what I have right then, not of what I wish I could have.

So, yeah, feature, not a bug.

Edits: i can't grammar today
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It's a somewhat accurate criticism. Dice placement games differ from worker placement games mainly in that you options are limited not only by what spots your opponent has taken but what the dice gods allow you to do. Mitigating that added randomness is usually a key factor in what makes dice-placement games interesting. Sometimes a roll of the dice will fall on the far end of the bell-curve and sabotage/benefit a player, but without that possibility you might as well be playing a generic worker placement.

As for a deckbuilding/worker-placement game, I think it's high time the hot mechanic of 2006 and the hot mechanic of 2008 get together and make a baby already.
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