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Subject: Starting Order Problem rss

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Mikko L
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We have an experienced group of board gamers, and many of us enjoy Amun Re, including me. Unfortunately, we have noticed a little game balance problem: the starting order is too important.

Usually it's not worth it to pay 10 for any of the first provinces, but 6 is too low (bidding 6 will leave you with 14 money, while bidding 10 will leave you with only 10). So the lucky guy who gets to be the pharaoh in the 1st round, will bid 6 for the best province, and gets a nice advantage compared to the others. It's a small advantage, but it's hard to beat when playing with experienced players.

If the players who are late in the starting order would get a small bonus money at the start, it would balance things a lot. Are there any adjustments in the rules or rules variants, which would fix this problem?
 
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Adam Smiles
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I don't know that I agree with your belief that the starting turn order is that important, but there are ways to fix it if you wish.

One way to fix this for your group is to have players bid money for turn order. If going first is that powerful, players should be willing to pay for the right to bid first. So you might have a situation where the starting player bids 2 gold and starts with 18, another player pays 1 gold to go second and starts with 19 gold, and the other players are randomized to seats 3,4&5, because they don't want to spend any of their money.
 
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Mark Haberman
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Well, the second player gets first choice at the second auction, and the third player gets first choice at the third auction, and the fourth player gets first bid in the first auction in the second era... and so on. It's hard too say which player has it best, and it depends greatly on which plots come out. The only player who really might have an advantage is the first player in 5-player games, since he gets to bid first on 2 auctions. But then it's nice to be last at the end of the 3rd and 6th auctions so you can see what other people are buying.

Maybe the guy at spielbyweb would be kind enough to post winning percentage by seat. He's done that sort of thing before.
 
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Matthew M
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habermanm wrote:
Well, the second player gets first choice at the second auction, and the third player gets first choice at the third auction, and the fourth player gets first bid in the first auction in the second era... and so on.



Hrmmm? Player order for subsequent rounds is determined by who offered most at the sacrifice, is it not?

-MMM
 
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Adam Smiles
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You need to re-read your rules Mark. After the first round, the starting player is determined by the offerings made to Amun-Re, so there is no guarantee for turn order for any round other than the first.

Also as you get deeper into the game, the value of each province to each player starts to vary more. Players are holding various cards which may make some regions more attrative and others less so.
 
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Seth Ben-Ezra
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Wow. I've played this game a lot, both FtF and online, and I completely missed that rule. That makes a lot of sense.

Seth Ben-Ezra
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Mikko L
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asmiles wrote:
I don't know that I agree with your belief that the starting turn order is that important, but there are ways to fix it if you wish.

When the first provinces are drawn, it's usually very clear what's the correct price for each province. Usually going first to the best province for the right price is the best choice. Other players must take worse provinces and still pay the correct price. The last player has to take the worst deal. The effect is that the last player "loses" about 2-4 money compared to the first player, and since the game is dynamic, the difference can be even 15-25 money at the end. That's well enough to decide the game.
 
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Petri Savola
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I have about 100 games of Amun-Re under my belt and I have just once encountered this as a problem. 5th player has great disadvantage if the province draw is something like 3 camel provinces, Berenike (8 income) and Mendes, because Mendes with 6 farmers will not produce any income, because the camel owners are likely to sacrifice low. In this scenario the first 4 players would bid 6 on the camel provinces and Berenike and the last player would either have to bid 10 or go to Mendes with 0 - both options are very bad.

However, usually, if you bid 6 for your first province and the others get their provinces for 0-1 you will have 5 money less and that's a lot. You're not likely to get many gifts, you can't afford many cards, you can't race for the largest pyramid bonus (unless you take Memphis), etc. 6 is a valid bid for some good provinces, but it doesn't make the game.

It's recommended to randomize the starting player though, so the same player (eldest) doesn't always start first.
 
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Matthew M
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cpsof95 wrote:
The last player has to take the worst deal. The effect is that the last player "loses" about 2-4 money compared to the first player, and since the game is dynamic, the difference can be even 15-25 money at the end. That's well enough to decide the game.


If the last player is losing 4 gold relative to the first player he should probably consider overbidding someone else.

-MMM
 
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Brian Newman
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If I were the last player, I would just take the province nobody wants for 0 and let them pay 21 for their provinces that earn them back 6.
 
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Maarten D. de Jong
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Petri wrote:
I have about 100 games of Amun-Re under my belt and I have just once encountered this as a problem.

Allow me to sidestep for a moment---how can people have 100 games under their belt? My record for playing a more complex game more than once in a row is 3 times (with E&T), and my mental and physical state afterwards began to resemble the cloth we used to clean the table with. Now do this 35 times---I think my head would explode. Of course, there are other activities in between, such as eating, sleeping, making love, swimming, and the like, but still: you play nothing but Amun-Re for a few months on end.

May I be the first Homo sapiens sapiens to welcome you, a space-faring alien visitor, to our humble planet known to us as Earth?
 
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Matthew M
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cymric wrote:
how can people have 100 games under their belt?


Probably playing on BSW or some other web-based multiplayer boardgame site.

-MMM
 
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Leonardo Gonzalez
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This should not be a problem. Usually being the last player is more comfortable then being the first.
Also why would the first province be so important?
 
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Stven Carlberg
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It very seldom seems to turn out in our games that there is any one single "obviously best" province on offer in the first round. Things like amount of cash payouts, number of bonus cards allowed to be bought, number of spaces for farmers, free stones, temples, etc., make this a matter of more subtle judgment.

Likewise, I have never seen the situation arise where four players would all make bids of 6 because the fifth province was so "obviously worst" that they would rather pay 6 for fourth-best than risk taking worst. I gather from your example that it's not impossible... I've just never seen it.

And it's not our bidding style (here the question of groupthink comes into play) just to plunk down a bid of 6 in anticipation that nobody will outbid us. We're bargain-hunters. Much more likely for the first player is the ploy of plunking down a bid of 0 on a province, daring the rest of the table to outbid him, so that he'll have the chance to move to another province of his choice at a reasonable price later in the round. For us it wouldn't be especially unusual for the highest first-round price to be a 3.

But that doesn't solve your problem if the groupthink is different where you play. Adam's suggestion of bidding for the right to be first player is one legitimate approach if that's where you're locked. But my impulse would be to let him have whatever he wants for 6 and look for a bargain myself at 0.
 
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Leonardo Gonzalez
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Quote:
I have about 100 games of Amun-Re under my belt and I have just once encountered this as a problem. 5th player has great disadvantage if the province draw is something like 3 camel provinces, Berenike (8 income) and Mendes, because Mendes with 6 farmers will not produce any income, because the camel owners are likely to sacrifice low. In this scenario the first 4 players would bid 6 on the camel provinces and Berenike and the last player would either have to bid 10 or go to Mendes with 0 - both options are very bad
.

This doesnt sound to bad at least for me. If you get mendes for 0 then buy 3 farmers and if sacrifice bids are to low then a small bid on sacrifice will get you 3 items cheap, then you could get 3 more farmers for a total of 6 farmers on mendes on your very first turn.
 
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Petri Savola
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If you play board games 3 evenings a week and play Amun-Re (almost) every time it doesn't take more than a year to play 100. Many of us like the game and it is quite different every time so it doesn't become boring. We can finish the game in 45 minutes and everytime it's time well spent. But then again, we also used to play Age of Renaissance 3 times a week.

In my opinion getting Mendes on the first round is a very bad deal if there are 3 camel vendors around. Even though you'll get cheap gifts (they're not guaranteed with a bid of 1 though) you'll run out of money if you want to build a pyramid set, cannot purchase cards on the first round and your farmers will have solid income of 1 during the whole era.
 
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Philip Thomas
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Never noticed this. Never seen anyone open with a bid of 6 either! Suppose it is all about the groupthink.

100 games is not unreasonable, I'm sure I have played more hands of Bridge than that, probably even spent more time playing Bridge than the time 100 games of Amun re would take...
 
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Robert Birks
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From my experience (in person, and on spielbyweb.com), I've never found this to be the case. I'm quite happy bidding last in the first round, as there is not often a clear "right" bid that everyone will agree on.
There is more than enough unpredictability in the game to account for a 6 gold difference between best and worst provinces. 3 camel provinces is a very unlikely occurence. Even in games where 2 camel provinces come out in the first round, the farmers can earn some money. SBW games have found that on many occasions...


 
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Mikko L
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Philip Thomas wrote:
Never noticed this. Never seen anyone open with a bid of 6 either! Suppose it is all about the groupthink.

I guess so. I've started a few games on SBW and I have taken my time analysing the first auction. I've been pharaoh in some games, but, excluding the first one, I haven't bid 6 for any province. I've realised that every plot has its pros and cons. If I get a bad plot for 0 in the first round, I can save money and buy a better plot in the next round.

In our live games I think it all comes down to our groupthink where we usually sacrifice high (4-6) to earn the rewards (to win the race for highest pyramid, for example). And since we sacrifice high, the farmer plots are expensive, and the camel plots are cheap. And since the prices of provinces go high, it's advantageous to be the pharaoh, encouraging high sacrificing once again.

I think we don't use sacrifice stealing enough. If you sacrifice 1 to earn a reward, you're actually paying 4 for that (pay 1 instead of getting 3), AND you're driving the water level up. If you're at a low-farmer plot (Dakhla, Berenike, Sawu etc.), I guess you should ALWAYS steal gold from the sacrifice. On the other hand, bidding only 1 doesn't make sense, unless you think most of your opponents steal gold.

But that made me think, if there are 1 or 2 stealers every round (with 4 or 5 players), how on earth can the other two or three guys raise the water level up to 3? If two guys steal and three guys sacrifice, the total sacrifice of three players should be 19 to raise the water level to 3. That's over 6 for each sacrificer! Can it be worth it? Sacrifice 7-8 in the early rounds, to get the rewards, make your farmers produce and kill the camel production?
 
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with 2 players stealing it will definitely be difficult to get the sacrifice to the 3 level unless one or more non-stealing players have a sacrifice correction card to cancel the theives out.
 
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James Faulkner
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Have played several times over the last few months with many different players and starting turn order at the start of the game has not been something that has struck me as giving anybody an undue advantage in the game. If it were possible to exactly value each province (which amongst other things would need you to know exactly how the other players were going to behave over several actions and what order other provinces would show up in) then yes being in last place could leave you with a situation where you end up having to take a relatively poor value province for zero or pay over the odds for another province. Even then the relative disadvantage would be small. Enjoy the game, it has far more subtlety than I thought when I first played it and after lots of games I still enjoy it.
Jim
 
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