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404: Law Not Found» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Can you spell unbalanced? aka: 404 - Lookup Table Not Found rss

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tl;dr: the game doesn't work with 6 players. It likely doesn't work with less players, either.

What got me hooked?

The background story is really compelling; the idea of the game is essentially a good one. The prospect of a Move Programming game without RoboRally's drawback (one player who has lost the others is pretty much unstoppable) sounded good. Oh, and I also loved the geek references it contained. Wasting 1£ for a PnP wasn't too much.

The PnP experience

While the PnP did work, there were several glitches with it. First, a big thanks to whoever put those pieces together - it certainly cost me more for the ink than for the Kickstarter support because almost all cards are almost completely black on the back. Thanks! Well, if I had thought about that earlier, I could have left all back sides unprinted (except for the few chip cards), as I ended up using card protectors originally intended for Magic: The Gathering to conceal my craptacular cutting of the cards. The board was simply too fiddly; double the size would have improved things considerably. The wildcard icon on the game cards is also rather unintuitive; the text ranges from typos ("Destory all items") through easily improvable (replace "than a map ..." by "than a single map ..." in Navigation) to borderline unhelpful (Cloning). The icons on the action cards could also use some overhaul (is the hand pickup or drop? can I lock the door so that nobody can use them? what is this folder good for??). I'd say the same about the event cards, but that topic with the meteors has already been mentioned elsewhere; the only thing left is that the number in the top left sometimes is an ordering number (actions), sometimes a difficulty indicator (objectives) and sometimes an enemy ship strength (events). Consistency is something different... The "space" room, by the way, does not contain a Floor zone. It doesn't have any zones. But pickup and drop is only from/to zones... oops. But anyway, all these issues are no deal breakers so far.

So. With 4 out of 6 people not even having read the rules (which like 80% consists of case distinctions in one way or the other - in prose...) and nobody having played before, we tried to get a game going. (Which explains why nobody noticed there was an iconography at the end...) This failed miserably. We started shuffling the different decks (card protectors with different background color for the win!), setup the board with the initial placement of all items (nothing on the board tells you which goes where), placed the event card, and dealt everybody 4 objective cards. Or better: we tried to deal everyone 4 objective cards of the 16 ones provided in the PnP. For 6 players this means: we need at least 24 cards to play by the rules. Nobody bothered to note that the provided PnP was only suited for 4 players! Since we didn't want to waste too much time printing a second game, we ended up fudging the card from the rules plus another one we made up, and crippling the directive card draft mechanism slightly, with the disadvantage that all objectives were in play. Luckily we didn't know by heart which ones exist anyway, so this was okayish for a first game.

The game experience

Most of the game consists of looking things up in a lookup table in one way or the other. And that lookup table is sometimes distributed over several parts of the rules. (Try to figure out where the monkey walks to. Hint: the flow chart (which is absent from the iconography at the end, in opposite of the human's flow chart) is not enough to determine which door it takes. You need to look that up elsewhere in the rules. And question: will the monkey go through space if that is the shortest route?) [Just compare to last years best game, "Terra Mystica": while you have lots of rules as well, they're all intuitive and hinted to on the game material.] Still, this is something one can live with.

But that, by itself, wasn't even the worst. The worst was that the influence on the game is almost not existent. You can play 3 actions out of 5 randomly drawn, but when you finally have the combination required to actually do something (note, e.g., that any of the humans will hop off whenever they can, so whatever you want to do with him better fits into three tiny actions, one of them being pickup...), then somebody will push you, steal your item, or at least have you end up in the wrong room. Which means: you did not only not archive anything, but you need another turn to come back to the previous position, if that is at all possible. Sometimes, your precondition to do something useful also depends on the event cards. So, you can easily have 3-5 turns (1/3 to 1/2 of the game) wasted trying something utterly trivial. Which also means the Nav Computer is an utterly useless construction. Exchanging one active event and an inactive event, with the result of knowing the last event in the game to happen, is pretty weak. However, getting the old Nav Map into the Nav Computer already can take half the game, with the gain of being able to sort the few remaining events. Both is a neglectable gain for the price it takes to do that. And, for the interruptions, even if most move cards don't push with >= 4 players, then that's simply not the only interference. Taking away items one needs (e.g. to destroy), hiding the items you need under a pile of cruft, etc pp. And note that with 6 players and alltogether only 9 rooms (including space) you have someone else in the room you're seldom alone in a room, and if a push happens, you will have a chain reactions of pushes until finally an empty room is found. Seriously - it doesn't scale to 6 players in any way or shape.

It doesn't get better when you consider the directives. Some are of a style you can work towards to, e.g. "2 enemy ships have been destroyed": if one is destroyed, you only need to destroy another. However, there are lots of directives that can only be archived at the start of the game, e.g. "destroy feeding": once the bananas and pies have been taken by different players wandering off with them you have no chance at all to get them back. The same is true if you need the singleton object, the alien artefact: already getting one item from another player is almost impossible if only few of your moves push (which are likely not the directions the target player is at). Have fun chasing the alien artefact if you need to hit an enemy ship with that while all enemy ships are approaching only to notice there won't be any further enemy ship once you finally actually got hold of that item! The same is true for any objective that requires living items: sooner or later enough people will have let enough fresh air vacuum in that nobody will be alive anymore - and guarding the living one you need is difficult to impossible, and cloning also cumbersome (in particular once players have wandered off with the cloning jelly and the fuel). So, there are lots of directives that you either manage to fulfull in the first few rounds, or never at all. Congratulations sitting on three of those with half the game to go. And then, there are a few directives that are totally no-brainers: "Organize Science" aka make the science room empty. The monkey escapes sooner or later anyway, just pick up the scientist and that's it - only wait till all players have wandered off to greener pastures. That one should be like difficulty 0, because it is likely to happen even if you don't work towards it. So if you get one of those lucky objectives - well, lucky you. Otherwise it depends on luck (events at the right time), luck (the right action cards you need), luck (player interaction), and possibly a tiny amount of experience (if you haven't understood that humans escape from you, or what the nanolathe actually does for you, etc, then you won't do the things needed first, and to have a chance to win).

Final thoughts

I'm sure playing it a second time would somewhat improve the experience, just like having someone explain the rules would have been helpful. Did I mention the rules could need some serious overhaul? Because "just starting" doesn't work with them. (And may not be possible in any way, due to the "at the beginning or never" character of many objectives.) However it is unlikely I ever again find someone in my group wanting to play this - as in, there are now 6 people "burned" which certainly won't buy this game, and most won't play again.

At the end of the day the game promises a lot, but doesn't deliver. The balance between "enough influence" and "enough player interaction" is the big obstacle. At least, for a "not much influence fun game" the envisioned 1h play time is too long (and the rules too many), if that was the intention. If "serious game" was the intention, then it simply failed.

PS. We took, rule digging, material fudging and playing, altogether 3,5h. That might explain a few things.

What to do to rescue this?

* Make the material such that you don't have to look things up all the time. Little hints on the material itself save your life! (The room cards are a step in the right direction, though I don't see any reason why this info is not on the game board itself.)
* 3 out of 5 is insufficient. Increase both values, allow to keep cards for the next turn, maybe allow to skip actions you don't want anymore, whatever.
* There is no plannability around the events. Maybe make the next 3 face up or something.

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JT Schiavo
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I can understand your grievances. Rules need a few more passes for organization and clarity. Player Aid cards that explain the iconography would do a great deal of good, but are currently a locked stretch goal and may not actually serve as anything more than a playmat instead of an educational aid. The game is inherently chaotic and often your action selection gets ruined.

What type of games do you and your game group prefer to play? Have you played a game like RoboRally (where your plans often fail to execute as intended) or Galaxy Trucker (where you watch your plans fall apart, literally)? Does your group prefer something strategic, or do they prefer something slapstick?

I haven't played the game yet, and I don't know if it will really fit in with my gaming group, but just from reading the rules I can tell that some groups would love the chaos and others would feel nothing but frustration.
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Carcer Carcer
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You seem to have a had bizarrely unusual experience with the game. Right off the bat I'm going to point out that when the game has 4+ players shoving is only supposed to take place when the movement card used has a highlighted priority - which is only about 20-25% (greg could probably tell you exactly) of the movement cards available. If you experienced a game which had shoves happening all of the time, it's possible that this rule was overlooked - the game definitely does become frustratingly unplayable if shoves happen more often than that, it was a problem we had in playtesting, but since fixing the card distribution I never experienced another problem with it. Also do note that when a robot is shoved they must be shoved into an empty adjacent room if one is available rather than into a room containing other robots, to reduce the occurrence of these shoving chain-reactions, and when you move into a room that already contains more than one robot only one of them is shoved. Shoving chain-reactions have actually been quite rare in my experience.

Regarding the availability of actions, drawing 5 cards means you have ten options available to you, not five - admittedly these are paired into mutually exclusive alternatives on each card, but in practice I found it was very rare to not be able to do ANYTHING useful in a turn, even if occasionally you end up using a pickup/putdown action as filler once you've moved to the place you want to start next turn.

All of the directives have things you can do to work towards them, even if it's in a passive rather than active way - for instance, in the case of destroying two ships, making sure the missile tube is loaded and trying to keep the soldier in that room alive will ensure that he downs any enemy ship as soon as it appears. There's also a lot of objective synergy that may not have come up in the limited selection of objectives in the PnP you played - for instance, to use your example, Destroy Feeding requires you to get rid of all the pies and bananas somehow. I am pretty sure that almost every other objective that involves those items involves feeding them to humans or monkeys (except in the case of Improvise Feeding, which requires you to turn a human corpse into a pie) - the point is that if the other players are taking the pies and bananas, they almost certainly have objectives that involve getting rid of them by having people eat them, so if left to complete that objective they will also inadvertently help to complete the Destroy Feeding objective.

More players does make the game appreciably more chaotic, but certainly not to the extent that you described in my experience! It's a shame that you had such a bad time with it. I'd like to make sure nothing was overlooked and assure you that your experience is atypical for the game. I'd definitely be thinking that this may show us that six-player games are not good introductory games for first players and 2-3 player games to let someone get the hang of the rules and options available to them may be worth recommending before expanding up to a larger game.
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Greg
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I'd echo a lot of what Carcer is saying, but I'd like to be a little more cautious before thinking of your experience as sitting on the edge of the bell curve. I wish I'd been a fly on the wall while you played so that I could see how it all happened.

There are defininte problems with the print and play, this is my first time trying to provide something in this medium and I've made a lot of mistakes. I've been asking everyone who backed at the PnP level (£5) what they thought about it and have been recording feedback to make sure that the final version doesn't suffer (Though the recommendation I'm going with is to make trial PnPs have more whitespace for cheap printing while keeping the final art for the final PnP regardless of print cost).

I don't want to get bogged down in the smaller issues that are "not dealbreakers", most are being looked at in one way or another. The cloning card is explicitly in the known issues section of the rulebook. I found out that the graphic designer has been typing text from the spreadsheet to the cards rather than copy-pasting (this is important as the proofreader is involved between me and him so type-os introduced there survive) but in the final version the chief editor will get involved after that step in any case. Space has a single zone marked 'space' and doesn't have a floor for obvious reasons, since humans in space explicitly don't act and meteors only influence robots on the ship it's not required (there's an edge case with the monkey that can be cleaned up). Ach, I just said I didn't want to get involved with these - they're not really the main point are they?

It's about player agency, the extent to which your actions determine your chance of winning the game. My benchmark for this is the proportion of times in which an expert in a game beats a less skilled opponent, if a game is all luck you'd expect the less skilled player to win 50% of games, if a game is all skill you'd expect the expert to win every game. Over the course of dozens if not hundreds of tests I've observed a definite advantage for the more experienced player. So I'm really curious about the nature of the experience that you've had that makes it seem so heavily dependent on chance.

Chance is a factor, of course, 404 isn't Go but I haven't observed it being nearly as extreme as you make out.

The big question that I have is in whether you played the shoving rule correctly. I'm not sure if "Even if only 25% of cards push" means that you played it that way and it didn't help or that you didn't play it that way and think it wouldn't help. The odds of chain pushing being as common as you describe in a particular game seem astronomical. You'd have to move into a room with another robot (approx 5 in 9), have a shove card (1 in 4), have no empty adjacent rooms that you didn't come from (approx 5 in 9 squared) and the pushed robot would also need a shove card programmed this phase (1 in 2) for a net chance of about 2% on any given move. Even making an unlikely assumption like every robot moves every action of every turn you'd only expect to see three chain pushes per game.

I think there's also a philosophical issue. You list player interaction as luck, but I don't think that it is. I know that this is an ongoing debate, but I continue to hold that you can (to an extent) predict and influence other players moves and that the extent to which a player is capable of this is a variable skill. There is a fair amount of interaction in 404, in interviews and the video and similar I've spoken about the nature of tricking other players into completing your directives or about how to make use of the information in the directive draft. I imagine this is a player style thing, if you categorise interaction as luck where I classify it as skill I'm always going to think that you're getting more agency than you're experiencing.

Ultimately the point of providing a draft of the rules and a rough print and play is to let people make their own mind up about whether they'll like it or not. I don't believe in hoodwinking audiences, I'd rather have everyone who buys the game love it than have a larger audience that was ultimately disappointed. Obviously I'd have prefered that you loved the PnP and were looking forward to 404, but I'm satisfied that it has done it's job if it red flagged that parts of the game that just aren't for you. If some of your players felt there was a kern of something interesting in there then I hope you get a chance to have a go at the final version with a smaller group sometime, but if not that's okay too.

I wish you good luck in finding outstanding gaming experiences in the future
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Micah Rose
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It sounds to me like nobody read the rules completely, the game was played with more players than the PnP was designed for, and rules were misinterpreted or ignored. You admitted that the drafting rules weren't followed. From what you said about chain reactions, I think you may have ignored the card priorities and had everybody do their actions at the same time. If that was done, and the shove rules were misinterpreted, the game would be terribly frustrating.

I think that you should give the rules a more thorough read, sit down with the recommended number of players, and re-evaluate then. Maybe you still dislike the game, maybe you find that a lot more balancing has gone into it than you thought. Also stating that the game likely doesn't work with less players when you haven't played it by the rules once, have only played a PnP version that wasn't made for the number of players you threw at it, and doesn't have all the components isn't fair to the game.
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Greg
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I think that in fairness the limitations of the PnP for six players are entirely my responsibility. It was intended to be playable by six, when it came to limiting the directives I simply took out too many and shouldn't have. I don't think it'd be fair of me to blame that on anyone else.

I'd also like to draw attention to the fact that
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and their friends went to a lot of trouble to back, download, print and play the game then devoted an evening to play it and wrote an honest review based on what they experienced. That's a lot of effort that most people don't go to. It does sound like some rules may have been played wrong and it does seem a little unfair to read a report so different to the average game I've seen but ultimately the criticism "The game designer should have written the rules more clearly" is at least as valid as "The players should have read the rules more carefully".

This is not to say that I don't appriciate people jumping in to defend 404, I think it's a great game and it certainly makes me feel a lot better to know that people who've played it have had a great time with it I just want to be fair to the original reviewer and acknowledge their efforts too.
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JT Schiavo
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A game can be made or broken based on how easy the rulebook is to read and understand. I am usually the rule reader and teacher for all games in my gaming group. Every time a new game has it's shrink broken, the rulebook goes straight to me while everyone else fawns over the bits and pieces. There are several good games where I had to keep the rulebook handy for half a dozen plays just to make sure we were following everything right. Often, we were missing some important detail.

In Nothing Personal - We weren't using arrows to limit make a move options.

In Battue - We ignored the six card hand limit the first half of the game, leading to a runaway winner with a hand of thirteen cards.

In Android: Infiltration - We didn't realize the first player marker rotated so one player controlled the flow of play for our entire first play.

Structuring the rulebook to be easily accessible, putting information where people look to find it, and conveying the intent of rules and mechanics are all an important part of a product that impacts everything else the product does.
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Micah Rose
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I played minor elements of Pandemic and Smallworld wrong for nearly a year, and they both have pretty clear rules. In Pandemic we reshuffled the deck and played till eradication of all diseases (which is actually a nice variant). In Smallworld, we only redeployed all tokens, not leaving the ability to select who was redeployed. Everybody makes mistakes with rules, and a clear rule-book makes a lot of difference.

A game I like a lot is Exodus: Proxima Centauri, and it has a terrible rulebook, but the creator of the game supported it very well and made clarifications here on the geek whenever needed. I'm glad to see that it will be done for this game, too.

I can't tell you how many times I've had a bad experience with a game because of misplaying the rules, but that is exactly why when a game is confusing or takes longer than it should have, I review the rules and give it a second play (or three in the case of Talisman). Sometimes the game is better the second time around.

Funny how I never review the rules when I have a blast the first time, though.

 
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Carcer Carcer
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It does sound like there are more problems with the PnP than I realised - personal advantage of not having to have used it, I guess. Still, I've been in plenty of games myself where a misunderstanding of the rules caused a significant difference in how a game plays, and it's obviously worth making sure there wasn't a similar problem here before we draw any conclusions about the game itself. Of course, sometimes you just don't get along with the game. I can imagine the interference elements being far more frustrating to someone who isn't so deeply engaged with the theme as we've normally been. When your robot gets bumped off course and accidentally fires someone out of the launch tube rather than lock them in a cage, that's hilarious; when an event beyond your control causes you to go off track and then throw away an important resource for no reason, that's just annoying.
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Greg
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I know how you feel about being the rule reader, I generally serve the same function in my gaming group I think part of the problem the OP had was here is that they didn't use a rules reader but started playing from the book.

I think that the organisation of information isn't bad, no blind test groups had an issue with it, the rules appear in the order of the turn sequence, cross-reference each others with page numbers, the book has a working index and the back cover of the book looks like this:



It is fair to say that too much of the rules is in prose at the moment. For instance here is the shoving rule as it currently appears (the bolded lines are bolded in the rulebook)



That did just spend half a page saying:

"If you move into a room with another robot then you might shove them. Do this if your action card is highlighted or there are less than four players. Move the shoved robot to an adjacent room of your choice (not the one that you came from or one containing another robot if possible.) You may take one of the shoved robot's items and add it to your stack."

There are more efficient ways to communicate that information.

With respect to problems in the PnP, I just made a update about it on the project page. Really the two main issues with the demo are the lack of whitespace and the insufficient directives, I could fix the second trivially so I uploaded that and supplied a new download link for it.
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Throughts & Feedback
First off: thanks for your friendly feedback. I'll try to answer a few of those questions, but it seems the replies are coming in faster than I can respond...

crinaya wrote:
Player Aid cards that explain the iconography would do a great deal of good


Actually while that would be nice but it's none of the "blocker" things. I'd change the iconography in a few places to make it more intuitive, but once you've learned the icons, it wouldn't matter anymore.

crinaya wrote:
What type of games do you and your game group prefer to play? Have you played a game like RoboRally (where your plans often fail to execute as intended) or Galaxy Trucker (where you watch your plans fall apart, literally)? Does your group prefer something strategic, or do they prefer something slapstick?


We certainly play more strategic games. I have played RoboRally like 10 years ago, but the main grievance wasn't destroyed plans (more like excessive length with multi-board plans that some players liked and the result that whoever was leading after a while would be almost impossible to overtake for the next hours). I have played Galaxy Trucker as well and would play again, but it's far from my most liked game.


Carcer_1337 wrote:
Right off the bat I'm going to point out that when the game has 4+ players shoving is only supposed to take place when the movement card used has a highlighted priority


Yes, we took care of that rule.

Carcer_1337 wrote:
Also do note that when a robot is shoved they must be shoved into an empty adjacent room if one is available rather than into a room containing other robots, [...], and when you move into a room that already contains more than one robot only one of them is shoved.


Dito.

Carcer_1337 wrote:
Shoving chain-reactions have actually been quite rare in my experience.


I think we had two or three of those. Note with 6 players there are not that many empty rooms left (the one you came from being not relevant as you can't shove back). If I remember correctly we had like two or three of those in the game. The problem is that it makes the range of locations that your turn can be influenced from almost unrestricted (contrast that with RoboRally). On the other hand, it is not enough shoving to hunt an item from another player (e.g. said singleton item, the alien artifact). In our game one player ran off with it...

Carcer_1337 wrote:
Regarding the availability of actions, drawing 5 cards means you have ten options available to you, not five - admittedly these are paired into mutually exclusive alternatives on each card, but in practice I found it was very rare to not be able to do ANYTHING useful in a turn, even if occasionally you end up using a pickup/putdown action as filler once you've moved to the place you want to start next turn.


You're confusing this a little. To do something useful you might have to
have three cards for the sequence you want to do, because it can't be done in less actions. I think a big part of the frustration came from the fact that everything involving placing humans somewhere suffer from that very human escaping at the next turn, so you have three actions to: pick up the human, carry it to the right room, dropping the human into the right zone and usually activating the machine. Makes 1 + n + 1 + 1 actions. Ooops. (Nobody in our group publicly realized that you need to steal the human's kit first to immobilize him. Besides,
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would have an unpleasant surprise if he dropped the solider with his kit into the launch tube and then tried to launch it, since it would have jammed then...)

Carcer_1337 wrote:
All of the directives have things you can do to work towards them


Okay, blame my Engrish here. There are objectives requesting that a thing happens twice. If it has already happened once, nothing can take that back again. And on the other hand there are objectives that become pretty impossible to fulfil if some other player runs off with the right items. Where we're right back again at the "manage to do it at the beginning or you're SOL" aspect.

Carcer_1337 wrote:
There's also a lot of objective synergy that may not have come up in the limited selection of objectives in the PnP you played - for instance, to use your example, Destroy Feeding requires you to get rid of all the pies and bananas somehow. I am pretty sure that almost every other objective that involves those items involves feeding them to humans or monkeys (except in the case of Improvise Feeding, which requires you to turn a human corpse into a pie) - the point is that if the other players are taking the pies and bananas, they almost certainly have objectives that involve getting rid of them by having people eat them, so if left to complete that objective they will also inadvertently help to complete the Destroy Feeding objective.


I have to assume you're right regarding the synergies. Nevertheless there may be thousands of other reasons why someone runs off with the item you want - maybe to nanolathe them, maybe to disrupt your objective, maybe because they had no better idea what to do in the game, maybe because of the full moon, etc.

Carcer_1337 wrote:
I'd definitely be thinking that this may show us that six-player games are not good introductory games for first players and 2-3 player games to let someone get the hang of the rules and options available to them may be worth recommending before expanding up to a larger game.


+1, in particular since a game with 3-4 players would be faster than a 6 player game...

x_equals_speed wrote:
Though the recommendation I'm going with is to make trial PnPs have more whitespace for cheap printing while keeping the final art for the final PnP regardless of print cost).


+1, that makes sense. Thanks for updating the PnP with more objectives, by the way!

x_equals_speed wrote:
I don't want to get bogged down in the smaller issues that are "not dealbreakers", most are being looked at in one way or another.


Surely. They were only my opinion of it.

x_equals_speed wrote:
The cloning card is explicitly in the known issues section of the rulebook.


Okay, indeed it is.

x_equals_speed wrote:
Space has a single zone marked 'space' and doesn't have a floor for obvious reasons, since humans in space explicitly don't act and meteors only influence robots on the ship it's not required (there's an edge case with the monkey that can be cleaned up).


Actually, page 3 states "... interact with rooms (the eight large already marked on the board), ..." - space is missing in that list. And the word "SPACE" somewhere in a corner can only be deduced to be the place of a zone due to the same font being used as for other zones. It's not a square. (We just placed the objects somewhere (but still stacked) into space.)

x_equals_speed wrote:
Over the course of dozens if not hundreds of tests I've observed a definite advantage for the more experienced player.


While I think this to be true, I would naïvely expect there to be not much difference between someone with 2 vs one with 20 games, compared to the difference between someone with no games vs one with 2. And I still think this is too unplannable with 6 players to work.

x_equals_speed wrote:
The odds of chain pushing being as common as you describe in a particular game seem astronomical. You'd have to move into a room with another robot (approx 5 in 9), have a shove card (1 in 4), have no empty adjacent rooms that you didn't come from (approx 5 in 9 squared) and the pushed robot would also need a shove card programmed this phase (1 in 2) for a net chance of about 2% on any given move.


Mabe here is where I am missing something, because I do not see why the robot being pushed needs a shove card programmed for the chain to continue.

x_equals_speed wrote:
Ultimately the point of providing a draft of the rules and a rough print and play is to let people make their own mind up about whether they'll like it or not. I don't believe in hoodwinking audiences, I'd rather have everyone who buys the game love it than have a larger audience that was ultimately disappointed. Obviously I'd have prefered that you loved the PnP and were looking forward to 404, but I'm satisfied that it has done it's job if it red flagged that parts of the game that just aren't for you. If some of your players felt there was a kern of something interesting in there then I hope you get a chance to have a go at the final version with a smaller group sometime, but if not that's okay too.


Well, I'm sorry that I didn't like your game. I gave it a 4 - "could be talked into playing it again". Convince me - I'll be in Essen...


micahjrose wrote:
It sounds to me like nobody read the rules completely, the game was played with more players than the PnP was designed for, and rules were misinterpreted or ignored. You admitted that the drafting rules weren't followed. From what you said about chain reactions, I think you may have ignored the card priorities and had everybody do their actions at the same time. If that was done, and the shove rules were misinterpreted, the game would be terribly frustrating.

I think that you should...


I think that you should skip on baseless speculation.

x_equals_speed wrote:
I think that in fairness the limitations of the PnP for six players are entirely my responsibility. It was intended to be playable by six, when it came to limiting the directives I simply took out too many and shouldn't have. I don't think it'd be fair of me to blame that on anyone else.


Yep. Actually just a big fat note on the download "page" (posting) that it is playable only with up to 4 players would have made me just print out the cards twice, and we'd have tried first with a more suitable number of players. Hätte, hätte, Fahrradkette...

x_equals_speed wrote:
I know how you feel about being the rule reader, I generally serve the same function in my gaming group I think part of the problem the OP had was here is that they didn't use a rules reader but started playing from the book.

No no, I read the rules, and tried to explain from that, but it was too much table lookup that we essentially followed the rule printed... I don't think I'm bad at explaining rules for games I have already played, but here I had to explain something I didn't play before.

x_equals_speed wrote:
I think that the organisation of information isn't bad


No, not totally. That doesn't change the feeling of a prose of lookup tables, though.

x_equals_speed wrote:
and the back cover of the book looks like this:


Aha! But we didn't have a book. We had a bunch of printed pages, and page 19 (actually the 19th page, I skipped printing the cover page, due to well-known reasons) happened to show the overview. Which explains why it doesn't immediately spring to mind... (and it still lacks the chart for the monkey).

And, by the way: "Not on floor -> Escape to floor" is clearer than "Am I in a zone other than "floor"? -> "Move to the floor zone of this location", because if a robot is carrying a human, it isn't in any zone at all. (Was that already mentioned anywhere? I don't remember.) Which is why good old
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didn't want to believe it at first .

Anyway. At the end of the day we had a few circumstances that made the experience worse than it could have been which weren't entirely the game's fault. Nevertheless I stand by my basic criticism; you won't be able to persuade me to play it with 6 players again. You might with fewer players, but I'm not convinced it will show more influence of the players on their game...
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It seems that we're more or less on the same page about most things, a few notes in no particular order:

The download link didn't have a note saying "suitable for only 4 players" because it was intended for 6 - when I limited the objectives I forgot that there needed to be a minimum of 24 to make the game work with six. As soon as the first person pointed this out (yourself) the PnP was updated with new objectives within a couple of days.

Similarly the change regarding whether a human needs to be in a "zone" to escape occured becuase a backer pointed out the ambiguity. Or it might have been Rahdo, he got pretty into looking for funnies in the rules while shooting his review so I changed a few things based on his feedback. In any case, I've generally adopted a philsophy of "listen to all backers, don't act on 90% of suggestions (but let people know why) but follow up on the good stuff. I think taking advantage of backer involvement is one of the good reasons to use kickstarter as a platform.

The chain shoving requires the card because a shoved person causes a shove as if they'd moved into the room. Which follows all of the usual rules. I'm still not sure how it wound up being so common, since you'd still only expect a 4% rate given that adjustment. It does sound like there were some edge of the bell curve things going on.

I'm still not convinced by the "you need the correct three action cards in a row" logic, on the basis that it's a minority of objectives that involve handelling humans and that there are other ways to accomplish the goal than a perfect three in a row.

Aww, the rulebook prints as a booklet for me. As in the pages come out such that you can just slap them on top of each other and fold them in the middle and bingo, you've got a booklet. Maybe that's limited to a double sided printer, or the settings got lost somehow during compression. Given the pages are A5 if it's printing as a pile of sheets that must be pretty wasteful :/

I'd love to come to Essen and try to convince you, but sadly I don't get to go this year :'(

The most interesting bit here is about the impact of skill on a game, I find this a really cool area

I hold that it's desirable for experience with a game to provide diminishing returns. I'd want going from 0 games to 1 game to be a bigger jump than any other - Extra Credits make a fairly eloquant argument about this aspect of game design (though of course with reference to comptuer games).

I do understand the argument that "after a certain level of skill is obtained the outcome will be down to chance" and don't have enough data to argue that one way or the other directly (I can only think of one player, maybe two, who've played 20 games to make the comparison that you suggest). I could make an indirect argument based on consistency between players (i.e. player A always beats player B, if the outcome were random rather than skill that wouldn't happen) but it doesn't solve the issue as player B may be below your threshold for the 'certain level of skill' mentioned earlier. I guess I've seen a lot of player Bs so for the groups I've tested with it hits the sweet spot. In general this has been educated gamers aged 20-30 who've been playing hobby games for years but don't play at the competition level.
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hgzwopjp wrote:
x_equals_speed wrote:
The odds of chain pushing being as common as you describe in a particular game seem astronomical. You'd have to move into a room with another robot (approx 5 in 9), have a shove card (1 in 4), have no empty adjacent rooms that you didn't come from (approx 5 in 9 squared) and the pushed robot would also need a shove card programmed this phase (1 in 2) for a net chance of about 2% on any given move.


Mabe here is where I am missing something, because I do not see why the robot being pushed needs a shove card programmed for the chain to continue.


x_equals_speed wrote:
The chain shoving requires the card because a shoved person causes a shove as if they'd moved into the room. Which follows all of the usual rules. I'm still not sure how it wound up being so common, since you'd still only expect a 4% rate given that adjustment. It does sound like there were some edge of the bell curve things going on.


I'm still not sure if I'm following this either.

Robot A is in Science, Robot B is in Weapons, Robot C is in Navigation. If A moves in to Weapons with a shove card, B would have to be shoved into either Science or Navigation at the shoving player's choice since one room is occupied and the other room he came from. If the player chooses to shove in to Navigation, how do we determine if B shoves C?
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crinaya wrote:
I'm still not sure if I'm following this either.

Robot A is in Science, Robot B is in Weapons, Robot C is in Navigation. If A moves in to Weapons with a shove card, B would have to be shoved into either Science or Navigation at the shoving player's choice since one room is occupied and the other room he came from. If the player chooses to shove in to Navigation, how do we determine if B shoves C?


Actually if you get shoved out of Weapons you are by default shoved into Science because the Weapons room has only one exit, but that aside - the way to check for a shove is to see if the moving robot's action card for the action step currently being resolved is highlighted. If A shoves B into C, then (obv. in a 4+ player game) C is only also shoved if B's action card is highlighted. I don't remember this being explicitly clear in the rules - chain reaction shoving didn't come up that much in the games I played, as I've mentioned - but nonetheless it appears to be Greg's intention.

hgzwopjp wrote:
you won't be able to persuade me to play it with 6 players again. You might with fewer players, but I'm not convinced it will show more influence of the players on their game...


Personally I do feel the game is definitely less chaotic with less players. I still don't agree that there's insufficient player agency in the larger version of the game, but there does tend to be a lot more interaction and a necessity to indirectly influence the game with more players, as well as more opportunism in spotting a convenient situation to take advantage of rather than engineering it yourself. In the smaller game as there's much less interference from other players you tend to be taking more direct action to achieving your objectives, and it sounds like you would have more fun in the smaller game. I do hope you find it in yourself to give it another shot!
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Carcer_1337 wrote:
I don't remember this being explicitly clear in the rules - chain reaction shoving didn't come up that much in the games I played, as I've mentioned - but nonetheless it appears to be Greg's intention.


I never would have read it this way from the rules as they currently stand.
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crinaya wrote:
Carcer_1337 wrote:
I don't remember this being explicitly clear in the rules - chain reaction shoving didn't come up that much in the games I played, as I've mentioned - but nonetheless it appears to be Greg's intention.


I never would have read it this way from the rules as they currently stand.


In the rules, it says 'the shoved robot is treated in all respects as if he moved into the room, including having the option to close the door and potentially shove another robot'

Clear as day imo
 
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Mangoose wrote:
crinaya wrote:
Carcer_1337 wrote:
I don't remember this being explicitly clear in the rules - chain reaction shoving didn't come up that much in the games I played, as I've mentioned - but nonetheless it appears to be Greg's intention.


I never would have read it this way from the rules as they currently stand.


In the rules, it says 'the shoved robot is treated in all respects as if he moved into the room, including having the option to close the door and potentially shove another robot'

Clear as day imo


"Potentially shove another robot" is not clear to me. I would have read this rule as "shove the other robot if one is present" instead of "look at the shoved robot's action card to determine if another shove occurs." While it makes sense once told, I don't feel the current wording makes it the automatic assumption of the reader.
 
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It is clear to some players and not others, therefore it goes onto my "rules to rewrite for clarity" list
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