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Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts» Forums » General

Subject: Premature Musings on Wormhole Prospectors rss

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Jacob Ossar
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Many of the cards in AA have very straightforward powers, or somewhat less-straightforward powers that we have seen before on other cards from previous expansions. One card, though, jumps out at me as having a power that is both novel and a potential game-changer: Wormhole Prospectors. I don't have the game yet, so this is all speculative, but my spidey sense tells me that it is going to be a controversial card. Here it is in all its Francophone glory:



According to the invaluable
Victor VVV
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the Settle phase power on this is "Instead of colonizing, you can reveal the top card of the draw deck and then: If it is a non-military world, you place it for free. Otherwise, you keep it in your hand."

I imagine some people will object that the card makes the game swingy and random. You could pull, say, Terraformed World for 6 VP (5 for the world, +1 for it being a non-military world) or Distant World/Merchant World/Bio-Hazard Mining World for 4 VP (2 for the world, +2 for a Trade power). Somewhat surprisingly (to me, anyway), the card doesn't rule out Alien worlds, so you might also get Alien Robotic Factory or Deserted Alien Library. On the other hand, you could get something that potentially interferes with your strategy like Refugee World with its -1 Military or the 0 VP Destroyed World (admittedly, worth 1 to you because it's a non-military world). And, of course, there's a decent chance that you'll flip a military world, or a development, and not settle anything at all.

One important point is that the settle power is an optional one. Since the power is such a double-edged sword, whether you'd want to use it will be situational. In the early or mid-game if you're caught flat-footed by a Settle with no worlds in hand, or worlds you can't settle (perhaps because you just used most or all of your cards plunking down a big 6-dev like . . . Wormhole Prospectors) you might use the power so that you don't fall behind on tempo. If your tableau is close to full and you don't want the game to end, you might forgo any settle rather than risk pulling a low-VP world. Or if you're behind and the game is about to end, you may invoke the power as Hail Mary pass.

It's the Hail Mary use that I think is going to bother some people. One line of argument would be to point out that RftG in any version is a card game, with an irreducible element of luck. For that matter, Gambling World has been a card in RftG since the very beginning, although, granted, its power is not as earth-shaking as WP's. I think there's a deeper justification, though. Tom's designer diary talks about focusing the non-Orb part of the expansion on returning RftG to its roots as "super-filler". With that vision in mind, having a lot of potential point swing on the last turn or two of the game isn't necessarily a big deal. The possibility of a big swing can make for tense and exciting finishes, and if it means somebody ekes out a spectacularly lucky win, you can just shuffle up and play some more rounds. In the end, a player who trusts too much to luck will lose more than they win to a skilled opponent.

Where the objection might have more bite is in the Orb scenario, which is intended to be more complex and involved. Without the full rules on how the Orb works, though, discussing whether WP makes Orb scenario too chaotic involves too much speculation even for a post like this. I'll be curious to see how thinking about the card evolves as people get a chance to see how it works out in practice.
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Eric Brosius
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In the current game, skilled players win far more often than chance would suggest. The proof of the pudding will be whether this stops happening. There are games that seem luck-ridden in which the same people almost always win (a great example is For the People.) This could be in that category.
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Alex Brown
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The tempo of the base set reduces the impact of 6-dev phase powers. Card accrual is harder to achieve on average. The commitment to a big development is a longer-term goal thanwith first asrc expansions.

The power is very swingy, but with at least base set concerns (not sure about other AA cards yet) you should have options to I) rush them through tee end game or II) take a advantage of their small hand when played early.

These options weren't always relevant in card-easy environments like Brink
 
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Brendon Russell
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Alex Brown wrote:
The tempo of the base set reduces the impact of 6-dev phase powers. Card accrual is harder to achieve on average. The commitment to a big development is a longer-term goal thanwith first asrc expansions.

The power is very swingy, but with at least base set concerns (not sure about other AA cards yet) you should have options to I) rush them through tee end game or II) take a advantage of their small hand when played early.

These options weren't always relevant in card-easy environments like Brink
I noticed there are a lot of Produce phase card draw powers in AA, many of which can draw multiple cards. So my guess is that overall card flow will be around the same level as Base + TGS + RvI.

There are also a lot of tableau rush enablers in AA (again, in theory, having not played with the expansion), which should help counterbalance slower card/VP engines.
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Luke Stirling
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scwont wrote:
There are also a lot of tableau rush enablers in AA (again, in theory, having not played with the expansion), which should help counterbalance slower card/VP engines.

The proliferation of synergistic discounts on cards should also reduce the overall impact of Wormhole Prospectors. Having a chance at getting a free card is nice, but when your opponents are playing their cards at a significant discount anyway, then it's not quite as useful.
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Michael Grankin
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Nah, I would say it's fine. To put things in perspective, here is a breakdown of probabilities if you activate the Prospector's power. You will get:

67% - 1 card
13% - 1 point world
11% - 2 points world
4% - 3 points world
2% - 5 points world
2% - 0 points world
1% - 4 points world

These values can fluctuate a little depending on what starting worlds are in play, but change is almost negligible. In other words, in 2 cases out of 3 you get a card, and in 1 case out of 3 you place a planet with average VP worth of 2,88 (including bonuses from the guild itself). This effect is pretty marginal, and I fail to see how anyone would use this power instead of playing guaranteed planet from their hand, even if the planet's usefulness to them is minimal, considering that missed settle (in 2/3 cases) is a harsh setback.

This power is a desperation measure if you have no settles, or settles that you have are so bad that they are not worth spending cards to place them. And even after that, it's mostly just "draw 1 card". Hardly game breaking.
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Jacob Ossar
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It's hard to pass up a chance to say:



But there's nothing like cold, hard numbers to dispel a worry like this. Thanks for your post. I could see WP being something you'd want to drop as part of a develop-heavy strategy (if you had, say, Galactic Federation) as a way of leeching or blunting vs. a Settle-happy opponent. You might even prefer the card to the free world if it would let you pay for a big development next round without having to call an Explore vs. somebody like Alien Artifact Hunters.

Still, I'll bet you anything that sooner or later somebody is going to lose a game because somebody else got a lucky draw or two from Wormhole Prospectors and we'll hear about it.
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Tom Lehmann
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jossar wrote:
I'll bet you anything that sooner or later somebody is going to lose a game because somebody else got a lucky draw or two from Wormhole Prospectors and we'll hear about it.

Yes. In one of the very first AA playtests, Wei-Hwa put it down early and promptly placed Lost Species Ark World, one of the 6/5 Alien worlds, and another couple of sweet planets with it. He won and the screaming began.

Playtests seem to produce this sort of behavior. In a playtest where we were testing a start world (not in AA) with +1 Military and two other +1 specific Military powers, among them +1 vs Alien, the first two times players also started with the Alien Robot Sentry (2 defense Alien windfall) in hand. Players thought that start world was a lot better than it was...

Wormhole Prospectors is a more direct tribute to the late, great Fred Pohl, one of the people whose Gateway novels (about wormhole prospectors) inspired RFTG's backstory.
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Jack Dietz
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It depends on you getting lucky. Which you won't always.

There are 106 cards that are not non-military worlds and there are 54 cards that are non-military worlds. So you have a 1/3 chance to succeed and a 2/3 chance to fail. Failing is balanced by a public card draw, which isn't much of a consolation, but it's something.

Then multiply by the number of settles after you get it out. You can probably get it out after the 1st settle phase. On average there usually 5-7 settle phases (average around 6). So you can use this 5 times on average (you won't get to for the first settle usually). So that is almost 2 free settles if you get it out before the 2nd settle phase, which is pretty good. I feel like it is balanced by your opponents "always succeeding" when they choose to settle, whereas you "succeed" only when you decide to pay the cost and world from your hand.

If Wei-Hwa failed the first two times (44% chance of this happening - not altogether unlikely) I feel he would not have won.
 
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Pete Goch
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Is this a "must place" if you choose to draw and draw a non military world? Or can you choose to just take it into your hand and not settle anything?

I'm assuming it's the former and that it's a bit of a gamble to use.
 
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Serge Levert
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TheOneTrueZeke wrote:
Is this a "must place" if you choose to draw and draw a non military world? Or can you choose to just take it into your hand and not settle anything?

I'm assuming it's the former and that it's a bit of a gamble to use.

In the french translation, you must place it.
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Tom Lehmann
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entranced wrote:
In the french translation, you must place it.

Correct.
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Wei-Hwa Huang
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jcdietz03 wrote:
If Wei-Hwa failed the first two times (44% chance of this happening - not altogether unlikely) I feel he would not have won.


Don't you mean "he would not have won by such a large margin"? ;-)
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Wormhole Prospectors compliments Trade League nicely (you'll either get double pts for worlds with $ powers or devs with $ powers), so for the first time, you have a sort of "interlocking 6s" for trade$ powers. Otherwise, its III power being "instead" does mean I'd much rather III a world in my hand instead.

Playing a few dozen games of AA on Keldon's AI, I swear the AIs just stop calling III when you place Wormhole Prospectors.


IMO, cards like Galactica Federation still have a much larger impact/splash then this.
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