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Subject: Yawning Portal and "Send Aid to the Harpers" = Too Generous? rss

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Auger Martel Auger Martel
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Hi everyone. Longtime lurker, first time poster. I really enjoy LoW and have been playing it quite often over the last year or two. However, in the groups I play with, the majority of us feel that the Yawning Portal building and the "Send Aid to the Harpers" (and to a lesser extent, a couple of the other Commerce quests) seem far too generous in terms of the cost-benefit ratio.

With the Yawning Portal, a mere cost of 4 coins to get a cube of your choice seems far too under-priced, especially considering that the 8 cost building give you a choice of only two cubes. To be fair, the 8 cost resource buildings do give three resources rather than the YP's two, but the flexibility of choosing your resource and the half price seem to far over-compensate this.

Whenever this building pops up, unless it is very late in the game when people are desperate to turn it a last round juicy quest, people will drop what they are doing immediately and purchase it, which often means deliberately taking the first player position so they can get it provided they have the four gold as the benefit is so great. A couple of games I have seen someone (and myself once) purchasing this and complete the "Recover the Magistrates Orb" quest early (Lets you put a player in an opponents location once a round) which lead them/myself getting three cubes of choice per round (one for someone using YP then using the quest to use it myself). All times this player has completely dominated even with other players trying to slow them down with Mandatory Quests.

Personally I would raise the cost from 4 to 8 so it is more in line with the other 8 cost resource buildings. No other building at all creates such a frantic response from all. Opinions?

Regarding "Send Aid to the Harpers", the cost of a Fighter, Rogue, Cleric and 4 Gold for a whopping 15 points for mine easily makes it the most rewarding quest for a cost-benefit ratio. The fighters and rogues in most cases are easy to get, one cleric is not much trouble and players start with the required gold to complete it. In reality, unless someone is starting with the quest, the cost is more 0-2 Gold to complete it as our group rushes to grab it with the 2 gold + quest space, even if our Lord is not a commerce one. We consider it that good.

Even the "Drawback" of giving someone four gold doesn't seem significant. Unless it is very obvious someone is the "Building" Lord, we will often give it to the player with 8-10+ Gold as giving it to someone with no or little gold might give them the opportunity to cash in a quest of their own (Usually those typical + 4 Gold Quests) without having to use an action. Personally I would knockdown the reward to 10 points, remove the "Give Four Gold" and instead reward one Intrigue Card to the person who completes it. It just seems far to generous compared to other cards with the same cube number requirement who give lower points, or equivalent 15 or thereabout point quests which require much greater resources.

Finally, a couple of the other commerce quests, specifically "Ally with House Thann" and "Thin the City Watch" all seem a little generous. The House Thann hardly requires any rare cubes for it's five required and with the frequent Gold granting buildings and intrigue card, the eight gold in my experience is much easier to obtain for 25 points compared to the massive cube requirements for "Establish Shadow Thieves Guild" or "Bolster City Guard".

For "Thin the City Watch" it seems powerful much for the same reasons as "Send Aid to the Harpers", it's very generous for the costs involved. It's effectively the same quest without the "Give four gold" for 13 points (9 for the points, 4 for the cubes). I would say two cubes in addition to the points would be more than sufficient.

Apologies if this post comes off as complaining or whining, I really enjoy this game and will continue enjoy it. I just wanted to see what other people think as I really do think these couple of quests/and building seem to be on the generous side and our group generally agrees. Especially YP and Send Aid, it's to the point were it is just seems to be an auto selection, since the costs are cheap and the benefits large. We just wanted to get the thoughts of you guys out there, what do you think? Cheers.
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Chad Miller
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People have done the math on the quests and they all seem to be balanced around the equivalence of 1 standard placement = 4VP. That is:

-2 Fighters/Rogues
-1 Wizard/Cleric
-4 Gold
-4 VP

Are all about equal value. By this metric, Ally With House Thann is +3 which is roughly balanced with the other 25-pointers. Gold isn't always that plentiful (I've definitely played my share of 2p games where gold was so scarce that the Aurora Shop was worth first-picking).

"Thin the City Watch" is indeed an anomaly. Most non-plot quests fall in the 0-3 net VP range, while this quest is +5 for some reason.

"Send Aid to the Harpers" is an odd special case. In a 2player game, if you assume your opponent can efficiently spend the gold (according to the metric above), You're effectively getting:

-Spend 12VP
-Gain 15VP
-Give an opponent 4VP

Which is actually -1 net. Of course, in practice you wait until the end of the game and hope your opponent can't spend it, so the valuation of the gold is more like 2VP leaving it at +1 net. Then in a multiplayer game, it gets even better since you can usually wait until someone's clearly not going to win and then choose them to receive the gold. In the extreme case, if you're 100% certain the player getting the gold cannot possibly beat you it's +3 net (or on par with the 25-pointers). The quest is very good there, but it's not a serious imbalance.

The Yawning Portal is indeed just overpowered; it's a 4-cost building that acts like an 8-cost building. Most 4-cost buildings give a +6 main action and a +2 owner bonus. Most 8-cost buildings give a +8 main action and a +4 owner bonus (except the Zoarstar, which is only a +2 owner bonus for some reason). The Yawning Portal has a +8 action and a +4 owner bonus, and the owner bonus is actually strictly better than stuff like House of Heroes since you can pick from any type instead of just two of them. If it's before about Round 5 I'll prioritize buying the YP over almost anything else, and if it's before round 3 I'll be hellbent on buying it over doing literally anything else (up to and including doing things like picking Castle Waterdeep as my second action even if I'm already start player just to make sure I can hit the Builder's Hall first next turn).
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Shelby Buttimer
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I really don't mind the disparity. I think it adds interest to the game.

An "easy" quest that pops up or a "valuable" building that comes up can change the game. Maybe one player really wants that quest and changes their plans to go to the Cliffwatch Inn to get it, freeing up Aurora's Realm for someone who really needs coins. Or maybe someone goes to Castle Waterdeep so that they can be the first player and build that building right at the beginning of the next turn, changing the order of play. "Luck" is, by definition, not consistent. Sometimes great stuff comes up, sometimes nearly worthless stuff comes up.

Then you add in that value can be relative.

I've noticed that depending on which buildings come up some cubes are harder to get than others. Maybe by Round 5, the Plinth is still the only way to get a priest and at least two people are doing Piety quests. So a building that give |?| cubes or priests is going to be really valuable. Same with quests that give priests as rewards.

Or maybe it feels like you can't place an Agent without picking up a warrior or two, whether you want them or not. So now Warfare quests are more desirable, but a building that gives warriors is going to sit there unbuilt.

I think also that different quests and buildings have different values at the beginning and end of the game.

There's a Commerce quest in the Skullport expansion that, as a reward, lets you build all the buildings in the Builder's Hall for free. This is great quest at the beginning of the game, where you can really profit from those buildings. At the end of the game, it's not so worth it.

At the beginning of the game, those piddly little quests that give 8 VP for 3 cubes just aren't worth sending an Agent to Cliffwatch Inn for. At the end of the game when you can't make grand plans, an extra few VP is great.

I can see where you're coming from with the disparity aspect, but I personally kind of like it.



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Ben Caras
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SlebRittie wrote:
People have done the math on the quests and they all seem to be balanced around the equivalence of 1 standard placement = 4VP. That is:

-2 Fighters/Rogues
-1 Wizard/Cleric
-4 Gold
-4 VP



This is a flawed method of evaluation as the product of each placement (resources / adventurers) are only converted to points when quests are completed, buildings are purchased or the game ends. If the resources aren't converted to points until the game ends, you aren't receiving full value. Therefore, the proper metric for comparing quests amongst eachother is the "per action" evaluation.

To use the quests mentioned above as an example, Thin the City Watch has an average points per action value of 9, 50% more than the next two closest and by far the highest in the game. This number is achieved by calculating the number of turns required to complete the quest (in this case, 1 turn for a cleric, 1 turn for a warrior + rogue and 1 turn for four gold. The reward for this quest is four rogues and nine points. The four rogues have a value of two actions leaving you with a net reward of 9 points for one action. Conversely, Ally with House Than has a cost of 5.5 actions (1 cleric, 1 wizard, 1.5 rogues and 2 gold) and a reward of 25 points. This results in a net of 4.55 points per action, which conversely, is the exact net points per action for all of the other 25 point quests.

In the case of Send Aid to the Harpers, the points per action valuation for this quest is 3.75, by far the WORST of any non-plot quest / non-building reward quest. On the surface, the cost in actions for this card is the same as Thin the City Watch (3) but a closer look reveals that it is really 4 actions. The requirement of giving an opponent of your choice four gold adds one additional action to the cost to complete this quest, as you have saved your opponent from completing the action to acquire four gold themselves. The net of 15 VP's divided by the number of actions (4) returns a value of 3.75 PPA (Points per Action). If the quest is played at a point when your opponent cannot utilize the gold and it converts to straight points, the PPA value becomes 4.33 (15 VP - 2 VP =13/3 actions = 4.33); an improvement but not in the top echelon of quests.

It is vital to evaluate the quests independent of any other variables (plot quests, buildings, Lords, number of opponenets, etc...) if the goal is to ascertain their true value. Of course, each game is independent of the other and one type of quest may be more valuable to you than another from game to game (same can be said for your opponent). Knowing the true PPA value of a quest will improve your overall results.

As a side note, the next two best quests after Thin the City Watch (using the PPA valuation) are Recruit for Blackstaff Academy and Heal Fallen Gray Hand Soldiers (6 PPA each).
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Chad Miller
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This is a flawed method of evaluation as the product of each placement (resources / adventurers) are only converted to points when quests are completed, buildings are purchased or the game ends.


This is implicit in my remark that the quests are balanced around this equivalence. I also later specifically outlined how the value of some resources depends on whether they are spent or not. Given that your conclusion is also exactly the same I'm not entirely sure what you're actually disagreeing with.
 
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Ben Caras
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If you can't see the difference in the two approaches to quest evaluation mentioned above, nothing more that I say from this point forward is going to change your mind.
 
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Ben Caras
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Oh, and to throw your other argument under the bus, you're also completely wrong about Yawning Portal. It is not undercosted at 4 gold.

If your opponnet places an agent on the Yawning Portal, they net two adventurers of their choice. Assuming max value (Clerics / Wizards), this is the equivalent of two placements. However, the owner benefit is an adventurer of their choice. Again, assuming max value, the net for this placement is one adventurer. That's no different than if your opponent had placed their agent on The Plinth or Blackstaff Tower.

Buildings serve a few purposes. They speed up the completion of quests, enabling more quests to be completed, and thus producing higher scores. And while different buildings may seem to be more powerful than others from one game to the next, none of them are disproportionately priced.

Take for example, a game where each player has a lord that excludes a bonus for arcana or piety quests. In that match-up, the Yawning Portal is merely an extra spot whereas Smuggler's Dock, The Skullway and Helmstar Warehouse are all-stars. Conversely, Yawning Portal and The Three Pearls shine in a game dominated by Lords with bonus' for Arcana & Piety quests.
 
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Chad Miller
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Quote:
If your opponnet places an agent on the Yawning Portal, they net two adventurers of their choice. Assuming max value (Clerics / Wizards), this is the equivalent of two placements. However, the owner benefit is an adventurer of their choice. Again, assuming max value, the net for this placement is one adventurer. That's no different than if your opponent had placed their agent on The Plinth or Blackstaff Tower.


Then explain why House of Heroes costs 8. By this reasoning, the payoff for the space and the owner bonus are the same (except that in practice Yawning Portal's owner bonus is strictly better)

Your rationale also completely ignores that if you are the one who uses the Yawning Portal, you get 2 placements to your opponent's zero. This is exactly why it is generally beneficial to use your own buildings.
 
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Ben Caras
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There is no guarantee that every building will be used every turn. To that effect, if Yawning Portal is used, there is also no guarantee that the player making the agent placement will retrieve clerics and / or wizards nor is there a guarantee that the building owner will select a cleric or a wizard.On the other end of the spectrum, were both players involved to select a combination of warriors or rogues, the building would then be undercosted. And while the temptation will always exist to select a wizard or cleric for max value purposes, it isn't always the best decision based on current game state.

And yes, it is absolutely more benficial to use your own buildings (in most scenarios but not all scenarios)but that arguement applies to ALL buildings, not just Yawning Portal. It's a common element amongst all buildings so when comparing one versus another, it must be elimnated.

House of Wonder (as well as Fetlock Court, New Olamn and the Tower of Luck) costs 8 because the player that places an agent there is undoubtedly receiving a placement advantage. On every occasion, the yield for the placing player is two placements worth of adventurers. Because of that, these buildings are more likely to be used each turn and provide the owner with a better return on investment. Keep in mind that the owner of a building has sacrificed a minimum of two placements to acquire said building (once for the gold and once for the actual purchase) and if a building is used on fewer occasions than its purchase price placement equivalent, its owner will have not reaped the full benefits. The two-placement equivalent that these buildings represent make them more of a "blue chipper".
 
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Chad Miller
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Quote:
There is no guarantee that every building will be used every turn.


There is a virtual guarantee that the Yawning Portal will be one of the ten or so best spaces every round on every board. As jgsugden pointed out in his buildings tier list, in a 5-player game there's a greater chance that the Yawning Portal is used 2 times/round than that it is used 0 times/round.

Quote:
To that effect, if Yawning Portal is used, there is also no guarantee that the player making the agent placement will retrieve clerics and / or wizards nor is there a guarantee that the building owner will select a cleric or a wizard.


So your argument is that the building isn't as strong as I'm saying because you can play it wrong? As it stands the owner bonus is strictly better than "Cleric or Wizard" even though that's what it works out to be most of the time.

Quote:
House of Wonder (as well as Fetlock Court, New Olamn and the Tower of Luck) costs 8 because the player that places an agent there is undoubtedly receiving a placement advantage


So is the player using the Yawning Portal if it's played correctly. Using your own metric:

-House of Heroes: Main effect is two placements, owner bonus is (up to) one placement
-Yawning Portal: Main effect is (up to) two placements, owner bonus is (up to) one placement

Literally every sentence after this one could be applied to the Yawning Portal.
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Ben Caras
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There is a virtual guarantee that the Yawning Portal will be one of the ten or so best spaces every round on every board.


Comparisons of "equals" involve absolutes. Your argument contains subjectivity.

Quote:
So your argument is that the building isn't as strong as I'm saying because you can play it wrong?


Seriously? Not every quest requires a cleric or a wizard.



 
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Chad Miller
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Comparisons of "equals" involve absolutes. Your argument contains subjectivity.


I'm going to take this as a tacit admission that you're making this up as you go along and make this my last reply to you.

Quote:
So your argument is that the building isn't as strong as I'm saying because you can play it wrong?


If you're playing some variant where you only place one agent/round, I suppose I'll have to reevaluate my opinion.
 
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