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Subject: Nations B-Side Balance/Tiers? rss

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In my admittedly limited experience (6 games), with a mix of player counts 4 and under, I've noticed that some Nations tend to be very powerful/consistently average higher scores. I'm wondering if this is due to being early on the learning curve, or if more experienced players feel the same way. Egypt seems to be a consistent threat to come in 1st or 2nd in our games, followed by Greece and Rome. Persia and China players have thus far struggled (especially China).

Partly, I think this is because the latter 2 are more situational/affected by an unfavorable opening board (Persia needs a lot of colonies, China would like to pick up a good urban building upgrade, etc).

I'm curious if other players have either noticed similar balance issues, or have good strategy advice for us to help make Persia/China more competitive?
 
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Daniel Corban
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Each civ has a strength and weakness that will be heavily reliant on the card distribution over the course of the game. Egypt is one of the more difficult to play well. They start with no military, and focus on gold. If you find they are winning more often, it is due to group-think giving them an easy win. They should struggle more often than not, since they will usually need to focus heavily on stability or military to prevent large losses.

The game is so variable that whatever you think you are seeing is simply the result of those particular play sessions combined with inexperience.

I don't believe that any of the civs need to be made "more competitive". You select your civ after seeing the initial card display. If you feel a particular civ will be weak (e.g. No colonies for Persia, no golden ages for Greece), then select the civ you believe will be strong, or just use the A-side for whatever civ you must choose.

As for Persia, their strength is not completely in colonies. Their strength is in the Ziggarat, which affords them easy stability early in the game. Colonies should be a long term goal, and unless fate is really against them, they will have 4-6 VP in colonies by game end almost every time.
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Agree that Persia's main strength is in the Ziggurat, they benefit from early stability based events for sure. I'm also thinking Egypt's strong finishes have possibly been because Rome has been a less popular selection in our games. I'm curious about China strategies though. They've consistently placed last or 2nd to last in all the games they've been selected. Any ideas on what my group is doing wrong with them?
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Scott Russell
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Egypt does well in our games, too. Usually by ignoring the military and building up stability.

I have not seen China win, but have heard of it happening. To me, they seem the weakest.

Although I think the variation of the starting position is usually overwhelmed by the opening board. I also think some countries suit some players' play styles better than others.
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Brice Coullaut
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glundee1 wrote:


Partly, I think this is because the latter 2 are more situational/affected by an unfavorable opening board (Persia needs a lot of colonies, China would like to pick up a good urban building upgrade, etc).



The balance of the B side is in the nation choice phase too. The choice runs in the inverse turn order, so generally the last player should pick first a strong military nation like Rome/Greece to try to pick the colonies, other players in the middle should pick a balanced nation like Persia/China and the first player should pick Egypt or China which are the best nation at the beginning if they catch a strong card on the first board , for instance : Egypt -> Sphinx/Hatshepsout China -> LightHouse.

Persia seems strong because of his third colony space, but if you play after Greece/Roma, you can't benefit of this power.

That said, all is situationnal and the large part of the game is made by the progress card drafting, so all race seems very close.
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Rick Shattuc
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China seems quite strong to me, but I've only played with 5. That extra meeple should get you 20 to 30 extra resources during the game. I think the power of the extra resources is why China is only given 3 vp at the start. In our last session, playing China, I got 5 vp from golden ages and 12 vp from books. I only had a significant military in the second half of the game.
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Brice Coullaut
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niccolo wrote:
China seems quite strong to me, but I've only played with 5. That extra meeple should get you 20 to 30 extra resources during the game


I agree, China is not weak.

If you calculate the gain of the extra worker :

- 3*8 = 24 wheat saved during the game
- 2*3 = 6 ressources due to the work of the extra meeple if you put him on a building of age I
- 1-4 (according to your difficulty level) ressources because you haven't to bring the extra meeple at the growth phase .

For me China is a bonus of 31-34 ressources for the entire game. On the other side of the balance, you have only one colony slot and the special ability is very weak but disable one building slot. Optimal play for China is to have a good raid military unit or a cheap military unit in order to be abble to buy Raid and not to be always the least military. Forget colony at early ages and try to build a strong economy based on gold. Keep growing and if you can bring the bonus on the wheat stock event.
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Steven Durst
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I agree, not sure why some people think China is weak as I would choose them more often than not. Having that extra worker without having to pay for him is huge. The only time I've seen China fall on their face is when my friend was playing them and lost out to the event in turn 1 that sent one of his workers back to the track, thus completely negating China's advantage. He was an unhappy camper for sure.

Personally I find all the nations to be fairly strong, especially since you pick after seeing the opening board.
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Wario83 wrote:
The only time I've seen China fall on their face is when my friend was playing them and lost out to the event in turn 1 that sent one of his workers back to the track, thus completely negating China's advantage. He was an unhappy camper for sure.


Not really, the negative of that is the same as for all others: losing bonus resources or the option of growing. He still had one more worker that did not need upkeep for the whole game.

China is the one I think was the trickiest to balance. That they start with just the resources they do is important.
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Update... I've now won twice in a row with China. whistle
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My experience is that Rome is very powerful with a small player count. They have a lock on military and so win many events + control colonies and wars. Persia has a shot against them due to stability but the other nations will have problems.

My experience is that China is good. The extra person is very nice. Egypt is one of the weaker ones. The special power isn't worth much and they don't have good early resources.
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p1q0 wrote:
My experience is that Rome is very powerful with a small player count. They have a lock on military and so win many events + control colonies and wars. Persia has a shot against them due to stability but the other nations will have problems.

My experience is that China is good. The extra person is very nice. Egypt is one of the weaker ones. The special power isn't worth much and they don't have good early resources.

I think most would agree that Egypt is one of the stronger nations.

Their coin advantage can be pressed every turn, to afford them more possibilities on each turn when it comes to buying cards. Their drawback of less food can be tricky, but investing in food, is investing in resources that you usually can't use for a few turns. Coins always have a constant need.
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Pap Qaq
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crambaza wrote:
p1q0 wrote:
My experience is that Rome is very powerful with a small player count. They have a lock on military and so win many events + control colonies and wars. Persia has a shot against them due to stability but the other nations will have problems.

My experience is that China is good. The extra person is very nice. Egypt is one of the weaker ones. The special power isn't worth much and they don't have good early resources.

I think most would agree that Egypt is one of the stronger nations.

Their coin advantage can be pressed every turn, to afford them more possibilities on each turn when it comes to buying cards. Their drawback of less food can be tricky, but investing in food, is investing in resources that you usually can't use for a few turns. Coins always have a constant need.


I will give them a re-look. Trading 2 coin for 2 food doesn't seem like a huge gain to me as you will just have to make up the food somewhere else. It also makes population growth even trickier. Their bonus - an extra advisor - has never had a huge impact on my games. When compared to Rome for example, Rome gets 2 military at no cost and therefore a big jump on picking up colonies - which are free - whereas Egypt still has to pay for wonders. And then Rome has the big military, which benefits them in events, war and to a lesser extent battles.
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James Rousselle
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What level of difficulty did the nations have?

Our group tends to play at king level.

The strengths/weaknesses of each nation change as the difficulty level changes.

Our group pretty much agrees that Persia is the best B side because of the 2 stability building and 3 colony slots. Rome starts off well, but in the long run, Persia catches and passes him up--well, at least, that is the experience of our gaming group.
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We now usually play on King, although I occasionally opt for emperor. I've come around to thinking the factions are fairly balanced now.
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David LeRay
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Parian wrote:
niccolo wrote:
China seems quite strong to me, but I've only played with 5. That extra meeple should get you 20 to 30 extra resources during the game


I agree, China is not weak.

If you calculate the gain of the extra worker :

- 3*8 = 24 wheat saved during the game
- 2*3 = 6 ressources due to the work of the extra meeple if you put him on a building of age I
- 1-4 (according to your difficulty level) ressources because you haven't to bring the extra meeple at the growth phase .

For me China is a bonus of 31-34 ressources for the entire game. On the other side of the balance, you have only one colony slot and the special ability is very weak but disable one building slot. Optimal play for China is to have a good raid military unit or a cheap military unit in order to be abble to buy Raid and not to be always the least military. Forget colony at early ages and try to build a strong economy based on gold. Keep growing and if you can bring the bonus on the wheat stock event.


I find China is best when there is easy access to a "real" 3 resource building on Turn 1 for a quick upgrade. China's default 3 resource building is 2 books, 1 stability (Pagoda). Stability does not give a tangible income, and books are the least practical resource early on. If China can get something like Granary (2 wheat ,1 rock) the extra person can really shine early on.
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M Van Der Werf
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Since there is a draft mechanism it just depends on what the board shows a lot I think. The differences only matter much for the snowball early on anyway I think. The biggest differences for most are there starting buildings and bonus.

Rome seems best when some 4 and 5 power colonies show early since they have garanteed first shot at those by just building a military unit right away. Overall they seem pretty good at lower player counts though as they can compete for early events nicely, military they can score highly without trouble and stability events they can do nicely with the aqueduct.

Greece seems somewhat overshadowed by Rome to me. The golden age bonus feels a bit lackluster and they'll typically be beat towards an early colony by rome unless it's 6 strength. If rome isn't there or a good amount of golden ages card show they are fine but typically i'd prefer Rome in the situations where greece is good.

Persia feels decent, the ziggurat is nice building early on as you can respond to stability events very well and the third colony later is good although the fact Rome probably snatches up early ones and the stability building makes it difficult to actually get this third one.

China feels fine, an extra worker is quite the bonus although the passing first bonus is hard to use. I think they are not one you want to pick early especially as picking late, thus being start player, helps to get that pass first bonus right away. Their initial buildings stink a bit so you do want to pick them later and have a good building you can take right away though that produces some real resources to start booming economy instead of some books.

Finally Egypt feels quite solid, help on wonder building is useful and starting off with more gold income is pretty good as gold is a valuable researce early. Although a later pick too I think because you really want a 1 or 2 good cards to get you going, 1 of which probably a military.

All in all I felt Rome and Egypt are more often good while Greece feels a bit weaker because there are few cases where Greece feels good but Rome not simply better.
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Ole Richard Tuft
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Just a few thoughts:

China shares a peculiarity with Greece in having a lack of production redundancy in their starting buildings. Rome can build over the farm with anything and still produce stone and wheat. Egypt can build over the temple without losing access to books and gold, while Persia can overbuild the quarry and still produce stone and gold. This starting lack of flexibility may be hurting China a little bit.

China is also struggling for resources. 5 stone and 6 workers means the Chinese must either choose stone as his first bonus, or rely on a golden age or his military just to place all his workers. And with 1 food at start, making axemen isn't very tempting. China needs better buildings (or military units) to get mileage out of that extra worker, but is also low on gold, and and how many buildings are likely to show up? 3.7 in the first round of a 4-player game. Competition for those may be stiff, and some of them (City Wall, Lyceum, Ziggurat) can't be build without losing access to food or gold (while the Pagoda is useless as China already has it).

How many resources is China's extra worker worth over the course of the game? People mention getting 30+ extra resources out of it, but is that really the case?. Let's calculate a bit, making some assumptions:

* We assume that the Chinese player buys 1 building in each round, always building over the least efficient building. To keep it simple, we disregard the axeman-spot, so that 3 building-spaces are available.

* We assume that the workers are equally spread across the buildings. This is highly debatable, as players will of course try to maximize the use of higher-level buildings, but haven't we all had to put more workers into lower-level buildings just to raise the output of that specific resource?

*We assume that a worker is only taken off when the building is overbuild, so except for the first round, the only placement-cost is for placing one worker in the recently constructed building.

With this plan of building, and evenly-spread workers, what is the average resource-gain pr worker?

Round 1: 2 level 0 buildings, 1 level 1 building = +1.33 resources pr worker (cost to place is 3, output is 7, so 4 divided by 3)
Round 2: 1 level 0 building, 2 level 1 buildings = +2.33 resources pr worker (cost to place is 1, output is 8)
Round 3: 2 level 1 buildings, 1 level 2 building = +2.67 resources pr worker (cost to place is 2, output is 10)
Round 4: 1 level 1 building, 2 level 2 buildings = +3 resources pr worker (cost to place is 2, output is 11)
Round 5: 2 level 2 buildings, 1 level 3 building = +3.33 resources pr worker (cost to place is 3, output is 13)
Round 6: 1 level 2 building, 2 level 3 buildings = +3.67 resources pr worker (cost to place is 3, output is 14)
Round 7: 2 level 3 buildings, 1 level 4 building = +4 resources pr worker (cost to place is 4, output is 16)
Round 8: 1 level 3 building, 2 level 4 buildings = +4.33 resources pr worker (cost to place is 4, output is 17)

= 24.66 resources

More utilization of higher-level buildings will result in better numbers, but at the same time I do have the feeling that workers are switched around a bit more than in this simple example. Maybe the extra worker doesn't quite add up to 30 extra resources, but it may not be too far off.

Edit: I'm afraid my example is unrealistic. While 3.7 buildings on average are available in the first round of a 4-player game, the average will drop in later rounds as cards that are left over in the top row transfer to the next round. In my experience, those left over cards are likely to be anything but buildings. With fewer opportunities to upgrade buildings, the output of that extra worker will drop. I suspect the extra worker is worth far less than 30 resources.
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Ole Richard Tuft
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Parian wrote:
niccolo wrote:
China seems quite strong to me, but I've only played with 5. That extra meeple should get you 20 to 30 extra resources during the game


I agree, China is not weak.

If you calculate the gain of the extra worker :

- 3*8 = 24 wheat saved during the game
- 2*3 = 6 ressources due to the work of the extra meeple if you put him on a building of age I
- 1-4 (according to your difficulty level) ressources because you haven't to bring the extra meeple at the growth phase .



This makes no sense to me. Using your logic, if I play at Prince level, and do not buy an extra worker during the first round, haven't I then:
* Saved 24 wheat
* Gained 3 extra resources because I didn't use the growth phase to take an extra worker.
So I have gained 27 resources by choosing not to take a worker?

What I think must matter here is the average production output gained by having an extra worker, and I suspect that is far less than 30.
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Stephen Simpson
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After a few games under my belt I feel the top tier are Rome, Egypt, and China (haven't played enough to separate these three but Rome/China seems to be better than Egypt to me) then Greece then Persia.

I don't understand the design for Persia, admittedly Ziggurat is a great first round building, but to play to their strengths maxing out colonies early to play a low footprint game seems ideal.

Problem is they cannot colonize first round if Greece or Rome is in the mix, as they start too far behind on military power (unless a 4 military colony pops out and they go before Greece). It really feels like they need to purchase a better military unit to get started colonizing.

Secondly, they need to purchase a food source.

So on their initial board, they need to purchase two cards just to get to a decent footing.

Granted, I've only played about 8 times, and it's possible early access to Ziggurat balances this out but they feel weak to me.
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Simon Maynard
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Even if Persia can't get a colony in the first round, that doesn't negate the usefulness of having three colony slots. There's no reason why they won't fill out their slots after round 2 and that provides huge benefits.

If Persia knows that it is unlikely to gain a colony in the first round, they can instead focus on getting a better military unit for the subsequent round.
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