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Subject: A preliminary review rss

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Alex Ringgaard
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I recently got to try out Founding Fathers for the first time and while I'd been looking forward to it for some time I had 2 main concerns. 1. That the game wouldn't have enough bargaining chip (i.e. things the players can use to make deals) for the game to be deep enough and that players wouldn't have enough IP (effectively the games main currency) to pass issues. I happy to say that both were not only an issue but also felt very well balanced.

First, a little info about the game. Despite my hope for a 5 player game we only managed 4 and due to time constraints (and this being the first game where you are sure to get somethings wrong) we only played to the end of deck A. I spent about a hour explaining the rules and it took about 3 hours getting through the A deck. Now it could definitely have been played faster with a bit of experience and we are notoriously slow players so I estimate that each deck will probably take 1.5-2 hours to play though.

The 4 player constellation meant that the president could generally command a majority together with any other player (there was a few exceptions) so all presidencies were run on a "I give you this office and you resolve and vote for the issue at hand". I could easily see this scheme fail in a 5 player game, where it would be highly likely that the president would need 2 players cooperation to pass each issue (which he wouldn't be able to "afford") so forming a government upfront right after the election (with the understanding that the 2 persons assigned offices must resolve issues to the best of their ability and vote them though) could be a much more attractive solution. This would probably cost the president a few points of popularity as the other scheme often left the president with an "unused" office or 2 at the end of his period that he could assign to his own statemen.

My second concern (about enough IP) also turned out to be unfounded. While IP are scarce and jealously guarded there are always enough to solve most issues. It's real consequence is more to put pressure/restriction on which statemen the president actually want to offer offices to. A stateman with an ability of 3+ are a great asset to solving an issue whereas if all positions are filled with incompetent 1's there might not actually be enough IP to go around.

On a more overall level the game gave a great RoR feeling without the myriad of rules that goes with it and while FF does have it's own little nest of complications (mainly in the election tie breakers). It's quite easy to ignore them until the rare occasion where you need them. There is a wonderful sense of political back and forth. And positioning your statemen to become presidential candidates.
An especially good mechanic in the game is the presidential retirement. It keeps players from becoming to powerful. Have a good stateman/large fraction? Chances are one of them will be president next round and retired out of the game.

If you like RoR but need something with a lower barrier of entry then give this a good. Half the rules, all the backstabbing.
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I dont understand you say there not a myriad of rules but it took an hour to explain the rules. What is going on there?
 
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Alex Ringgaard
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Couple of things:
First, I use "Republic of Rome" as a reference frame and I don't even want to think about how long it would take to go through the rules for that (I realise that you would likely not explain all the rules to play RoR).
Second, we played in our regular board gaming club so there was approx 15 other people/explaining rules/forming groups at the same time which can make the atmosphere a bit noisy until people settle down to play.
Third: I was the first time I was explaining the rules, so I could prob. have done a better job of it.
Lastly and probably most importantly: It didn't really take a whole hour. We meet at the club at 18:00, unpacked the game, waited a bit to see if we would get a 5th guy. We started playing the game at about 19:00.

I hope to get to play a full game with 5 people during the Easter and if so I'll try to make a more proper review after that.
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Just curious if you "play in English" or do you translate everything into Danish, either in speaking or even customizing the game materials?
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Alex Ringgaard
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Small addendum:
The thing that by far took the longest to explain was the different election rules, which I managed to do rather poorly. With the extra insight/experience from actually playing the game I believe I could do this much better next time.
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Alex Ringgaard
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heli wrote:
Just curious if you "play in English" or do you translate everything into Danish, either in speaking or even customizing the game materials?

That's actually harder to answer then I initially thought. The game components are all in English, but we do speak Danish during play and I do try to explain the rules in Danish where I can. That said, we (Danes) are taught English as a second language almost immediately upon starting school giving most of us quite strong English skills. And personally I have been speaking English exclusively for 8 years at my work, so probably 50% of what I say during a rules explanation will be in English just to avoid the risk of losing something in translation.

(I've gotten so used to speaking English that I'll sometimes "slip" to it right in the middle of a sentence without noticing. I'm mocked mercilessly about it by my friends )
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you write very well
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You do write very well.

Thanks for explaining about the language factor. I imagine that would add some time too.

By the way, when I explain the game, for elections I only explain the rules that apply at the start of play. Then I say that in the unlikely event Public Support goes all the way to one side or the other there are four candidates, but only from the party in power and we'll go into the details of that only if the situation arises. I add that if we pass the 12th Amendment the rules change, but we'll go over that when it comes up. This gets us going faster.
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I wish you guys could describe the public support mechanic a bit more. It seems one of the main aspects of the game and I have no feel for what is going on here or what players are trying to accomplish.
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Sure. Public Support just represents which party has more support in the country. It's represented by a track centered at 0 and going up to 12 on either side. Its main import is that the party currently having more support is more likely to win the next presidential election. It gets changed by player activities such as publishing newspapers, but also by government actions. Player decisionmaking around Public Support is often tricky for multiple reasons:
- you may have prominent candidates in both parties
- you may have the second best candidate in a party and hope that party does not win because if an opponent wins the election in your party it is likely you will not be able to run in the next election either
- often moving public support in the direction you want comes at the cost of personal popularity and vice-versa
- pushing Public Support too far actually brings more opponents, up to 4, into the presidential race
etc.
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Alex Ringgaard
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heli wrote:
By the way, when I explain the game, for elections I only explain the rules that apply at the start of play. Then I say that in the unlikely event Public Support goes all the way to one side or the other there are four candidates, but only from the party in power and we'll go into the details of that only if the situation arises. I add that if we pass the 12th Amendment the rules change, but we'll go over that when it comes up. This gets us going faster.

I realised this halfway through the election rules Unfortunately, by this time the others had convinced themselves that it was important to understand all 4 variants Also, having not played before I hadn't realised how unlikely it actually is for public support to reach 9 to either side. Next time, I'll definitely only explain the initial election rules and just briefly mention that something different happens is public support swings heavily to one side.
One thing that I did do, that I'd really recommend to others is that while I didn't explain any specific issues, I had skimmed through them beforehand so that when the ones who have later consequences came up I could, in broad terms, mention that these might have ramifications later on. Like e.g. the one where Napoleon seeks aid and you have to refuse him if you want the state of Louisianan later.

About public support I'll add that public support often comes at the expense of influence to the opposite party leader and visa versa.
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thanks for the explanation. Is public support basically something that you control directly by playing some card or something, or is it more driven by random mechanics?
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A combination, though control is almost fully in the players hands. Support primarily comes from 3 sources.

1. Issues: The 4 issues that a president must tackle each term. Often one or more of the possible results of the card will move support 1 square. You have no control of whether the cards for a term will have the possibility to do so, but if they do the president (and the stateman responsible for the issue) obviously have control over which option they choose (though they may not like either ).

2. Drumming up support: 1 of the 3 actions each player can take each turn is to spend 1 influence point (IP) to gain a d6 / 3 (rounded down) influence (So either [0, 0, 1, 1, 1, 2] influence). The main appeal of this option is that it gives influence immediately and is fully under your control. It's disadvantage is that it's random and on average "only" gives (0.83 support pr IP).

3. Newspapers: Sponsoring newspapers is the most cost effective way to buy influence (1.2 support pr IP at its best). however, this take time. To get the max benefit you have to spend 3 term boosting a paper (or collude with some other players to speed it up) before "cashing it in" (which will also take 3 terms). Also, it's only the party leader who can start the process of "cashing it in" so you also need to trust him to do so.
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Yes, I have seen Public Support swing all the way a couple times, but it's not that common. Probably requires a happy confluence of issues and a commitment to the newspapers.

Oh, don't you think it's more fun to get surprised by the future consequences? Sort of like in The Republic of Rome when someone vetoes with a tribune and then learns there is such a card as Murder of a Tribune and after that there is Mob Incited to Violence and pretty soon half a dozen senators are dead. And it all started with an innocent little veto...

Well, on second thought, may be good to tell them.
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thank you very much. So one player may be playing several characters in different political parties?
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It may seem strange that players can control statesmen from both parties, but consider that divisions within parties were frequent during the period 1789 - 1860.
 
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Alex Ringgaard
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All players having statesmen in the 2 different parties actually worked out quite well I thought. Usually (based on one incomplete play ) it seems like one or 2 players will have a key statesman for a party (The one most likely to get to run for president or a high ability statesman) and they will be the prime movers for that partys success (mainly by manipulating the support track) but everyone will want to have a statesman from the party as well, both so you can be considered for vice president and so that you can enter negotiation for partisan offices.
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