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Subject: Failed game at first attempt. Thoughts sought. rss

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Mike Poole
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Did I get your attention with that title? Hope so.

I played my first game ever of VotK last night as a two player and something wierd happened. Well not so much wierd as me probably playing like an idiot. But maybe not. The long and the short of it is that about half way through the game, when the Age III cards kicked in, I was left with three cards in my hand with a total value of 4 (2 starter cards and an amulet value 2 I think). I had entombed a good few but I wasn't able to buy anything and I couldn't use the action on the cards to do anything with them. As a result the game froze as I couldn't do a flipping thing. I could have sat there and watched my playing patner have turn after turn and grind me into Egyptian dust but it all seemed a bit pointless so we ditched the game and started again.

Now it was probably down to me getting overvealous with entombing and trying to get an efficient super-thin deck going, but I clearly ended up shooting myself in the foot. I was tired at this point and probably wasn't thinking straight (excuses, I know) but it was still a shame that this could happen. I haven't played a game before where it ground to a halt like this. I am a bit concerned that this can happen as I'd consider myself a seasoned, if not expert, gamer so when teaching it, I think I might have to give a word of warning to those I teach it to, to not let your deck get too thin and don't entomb too quickly lest you end up with insufficient value in your hand cards to afford the Age III cards. The thing with that is that I like to teach people the rules and let them find out how the game works themselves. I don't like to tell them how to play.

We started a second game and I focussed more on getting more cards into my deck, especially ones with higher gold values, and entombing fewer and it went better, even though unfortunately we didn't get to the end of the game due to an interuption due to a screaming child, to see how it completely unfolded.

I'll definitely be playing this more and don't worry, I won't be dismissing it because of this (I'm not that much of an idiot) but I just found it interesting and mildly concerning.

Anyway, anyone else experienced this? Perhaps these are useful words of warning for others playing/teaching the game?

Or it may just be further evidence that I'm a nincompoop.

(Don't answer that.)
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Mark Gerrits
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I warn players repeatedly that prices will go up halfway through the game and that they SHOULD BE PREPARED. Usually one player ignores that advice and is somewhat crippled for the second half of the game.

Personally I try to get some 2-gold cards quickly and don't start entombing coloured cards until I've gotten rid of almost all my starter cards (by entombing, sacrificing or dumping them on other players as quickly as possible). I've won with a 4 card deck, so tiny decks certainly aren't a problem if you go about them correctly.
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Ben O'Steen
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The gear change got me on my first 2 handed run through. I hadn't weeded one hand of rubbish cards when the third 'age' kicked in and I spent a few turns just sacrificing and entombing the starter cards until the few 2/3 gold cards I had coalesced. I was being ruthless with the other hand of cards, throwing cards to my "opponent" and sacrificing regularly (Draw three, entomb, discard, give to opponent -> Sobek statue? and using the Food Offering card IIRC). This worked wonders

Edit: putting quotes around "opponent" as I was playing Rahdo-style in prep to teach the game later.
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Mike Poole
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Thanks, Mark and Ben for you replies and also not sticking the boot in about my poor attempts to play the game.

Us bearded types have got to stick together.
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Mark Gerrits
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Bannoran wrote:
Whats with all this entombing all the starting cards ? Offering table and box of food I can agree with. I definitely would not be entombing all my urns or shabtis for that matter.

I definitely want to explore other strategies besides the super-thin-deck strategy I've developed so far. But here's why I've been entombing/sacrificing/dumping those cards:

Once your deck is small enough, urns become much less useful as you'll probably be drawing the cards in your discard next turn (or the same turn, with draw card actions) anyway. And once you get cards which let you take and entomb from the pyramid directly, the shabtis become less useful too. All things considered, I'd rather get rid of them as soon as possible and get a good economy going quicker.
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Mark Gerrits
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Bannoran wrote:
Runkst wrote:
Bannoran wrote:
Whats with all this entombing all the starting cards ? Offering table and box of food I can agree with. I definitely would not be entombing all my urns or shabtis for that matter.

I definitely want to explore other strategies besides the super-thin-deck strategy I've developed so far. But here's why I've been entombing/sacrificing/dumping those cards:

Once your deck is small enough, urns become much less useful as you'll probably be drawing the cards in your discard next turn (or the same turn, with draw card actions) anyway. And once you get cards which let you take and entomb from the pyramid directly, the shabtis become less useful too. All things considered, I'd rather get rid of them as soon as possible and get a good economy going quicker.


Wow that's a lot of cards to entomb before you start entombing business cards. Of course I realise that once your engine is up and running you will be probably entombing a minimum of two cards a turn. I feel a shabti is worth keeping though as you can sacrifice a card an opponent made need to enhance a set. If the game turns into who can get their deck down to 5 cards quickest that will be very sad.

With the right colour cards, you can get rid of your starters quite quickly. Besides entombing them you can sacrifice them, put them in your opponents' discard piles, on top of their decks or in their tombs. Of course, if everybody uses that strategy, there will be some ping pong going on with the cards
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Scott Sexton
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I want to start by saying that I'm not trying to be mean, or troll here, but...

The simple and blunt answer is yes, you should have seen this kind of problem coming. You should also be aware that if you play Dominion and focus only on buying Gold and Action cards you won't have much VP at the end of the game. The rules don't explicitly tell you that, but it should be relatively apparent.

This is a deck builder game and managing your deck's resources to purchase new cards is a very common trope in these types of games. This exact problem can occur in lots of deck builders: Ascension and Star Realms are just two that come to mind.

I would also argue that you pretty much have to go out of your way to destroy yourself financially in this game. Yes, you can slow yourself down a lot if you haven't been trying to collect those 2 & 3 gold scarab artifacts, but I've never seen anyone wreck themselves as completely as you describe.

Further, even if you didn't read through the cards, you should have been wary that the card costs would increase half way through the game because the game has you separate the game deck into two distinct parts. This type of thing screams out that there is going to be power creep.

All that said, I try my best when teaching the game to show that this is a game about balancing your deck's powers vs. your deck's buying power vs. your entombing power vs. your tomb's set collection. That is a lot of plates to keep spinning, and if you don't keep these factors in mind, you will probably be punished by your opponents.

What you are describing as a concern, in my mind is a necessary consequence of less refined gameplay. There should be consequences and risks inherent in the choices you make in a game. That is exactly why this game's balancing act is so much fun. There would be virtually no tension in any game if you weren't punished for making bad choices.
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Mike Poole
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I think that is 2:1 in the nincompoop count then, Scott!

Thanks for your thoughts although I don't fully agree. I'm pretty familiar with Dominion but not with Ascension or Star Realms but I'd say, yes there is deck management in those like VotK but the difference is the strong deck de-construction aspect in the later. In Dominion I'm aware of deck thinning but in VotK you can remove a card from deck by entombing from your very first turn. In fact you are actively encouraged to do so if you want to score points to win the game as this that is the only mechanism to do so. And then in later rounds you will likely entomb multiple cards, with the aim of thinning your deck at the right time and trying to ensure you are left with the cards to close the game out clinically.

Also, in Dominion you can put together a poor deck but you seldom have nothing to do on your turn - you can draw cards, maybe use an action card, maybe buy an Estate. Worst comes to the worst, you ditch that hand and get a new one for the next round which will hopefully let you do something. As you say you may not end up with many VPs and so in that way you are punished by playing sub-optimally.

And that to me is the difference that I noted. In Dominion a poor deck will slow you down. In my case with VotK, the engine ground to a complete halt and stopped working all together. I had no cards to draw, no actions that could be carried out and couldn't afford to buy any cards at all. That is a pretty big punishment to face for sub-optimal play.

I had thought about playing this with my parents and sister as I thought it would serve as a good intro to the deck building genre. However the possibility of their deck grinding to a halt or me having to now direct them more in what they should do or not do on a turn rather than bumble along and learn the game themselves by playing it, has put me off a bit. I do like games with a bit more bite and challenge so I'll still play with other gamer friend's though.
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Dan Hughes
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Even if it is just sub-optimal play (which on a first go of a game can be excused in my view) I feel it is still a flaw of the game. There should always be a way of keeping playing - even if you aren't going to win. Either that or you should be actually eliminated in some way.

Which is not to say I don't like the game, as I do, however it is not as elegant as it could be.

I was the other player in this particular match and while there was certainly some enjoyment in watching Mike flail around like a upended tortoise my victory was pretty hollow as the game ground to an anticlimactic halt.
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Ben O'Steen
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If a player has messed up so bad to not even have enough cards left for a full hand, surely they should forfeit or surrender? I don't understand why you'd carry on past that point? Given that this happened halfway through the game, they were logically eliminated anyway.

If you wanted to make the game more forgiving of entombment exuberance, add a house rule. If you are unable to buy anything, you can discard your entire hand to take back any card from your tomb and add it to your discard pile. Your opponent is still going to win, but it might help you feel like you can do something for a few turns while they get all the good cards.
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Mike Poole
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dghughes wrote:
There should always be a way of keeping playing - even if you aren't going to win. Either that or you should be actually eliminated in some way.


Nail on the head, Dan.
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Mike Poole
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benosteen wrote:
If a player has messed up so bad to not even have enough cards left for a full hand, surely they should forfeit or surrender? I don't understand why you'd carry on past that point?


Yes, I did surrender/forfeit. However as Dan said it was a hollow victory. He prefers to beat me fair and square then rib me ceaselessly about it for the next few weeks (only kidding, Dan ).

benosteen wrote:
Given that this happened halfway through the game, they were logically eliminated anyway.


Indeed, but not as part of the rule set. And so I don't think it would be a great occurrence for new players, especially ones that you don't want to put off this game or the hobby in general.

benosteen wrote:
If you wanted to make the game more forgiving of entombment exuberance, add a house rule. If you are unable to buy anything, you can discard your entire hand to take back any card from your tomb and add it to your discard pile. Your opponent is still going to win, but it might help you feel like you can do something for a few turns while they get all the good cards.


House rules are always possible but I prefer to see the eventuality covered as part of the rules but I do appreciate house rules inevitably cover those bits of games that either the rules don't cover or not clear.

I like the idea of adding a possible action that if you can't either buy or carry out an action on your turn, as your first and only action for that turn you can recover one card from your tomb to be added to your discard pile but you forfeit the rest of your turn i.e no entombing. Effectively that card would then become part of your hand in the next turn. The penalty would be the pointless entombing action putting that card in the tomb and also the 2 lost actions of that turn. Think that could work as an acceptable penalty but to allow the game to continue.

As Dan says, we'll surely play the game again.
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Ben O'Steen
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Those are all fair points - it's a subjective aspect. I'm okay with a game giving you enough freedom to completely muck-up. I've done it enough times in games myself!

Star Realms has a catchup card, the 'Explorer'. Better than a basic Scout card (worth 2gp, when Scout is worth 1) and costs 2. Perhaps a 0 VP card pile, always available, might let people recover from their mistakes?

"Incense" - O VP, worth 0 gold, cost 2 gold, w/ action "Sacrifice to gain 2 gold in next purchase".

Flavour text can be something about the use of prayers and incense during preparations for the dead.

Could be a set of perishables, even things like natron, just for variety's sake.
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Mike Poole
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I haven't played Star Realms yet. It's been getting good buzz recently. Is it a good addition to the deck building genre would you say in comparison to VotK? Can't see it as available here in the UK either?
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Ben O'Steen
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mischip wrote:
I haven't played Star Realms yet. It's been getting good buzz recently. Is it a good addition to the deck building genre would you say in comparison to VotK? Can't see it as available here in the UK either?


The only experience I have of it is through the rather good Android app (free demo, paid upgrade for online multiplayer, campaign, etc). Great for casual gaming on the tube/train, interesting decisions, short playtime. Not sure I'd want to play it in real life, as a lot of the cards combo with each other and keeping track of it all might be annoying. E.g. bonuses to combat kicking in when another card in the same colour is played.

(The app needs to add an option to turn off animations IMO, but a good app nonetheless. You get a decent amount for free and it's quite cheap to unlock everything.)
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William Crispin
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It seems to me that many games with a tipping point between VP and money share this issue. If you buy too many VP people early in Saint Petersburg, the latter half of the game will be rather painful and pointless for you.
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Jim Marshall
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I think in a relatively short game like this it's not an issue - chalk it up to experience, and learn for the next session. (I suspect there's almost been as much time spent typing on this thread as the time taken to play this game).

I was once taken to task on BGG for saying "should have known better" (or similar) when someone raised an issue with the old AH Civilization game. In that game each player has a point target required to win, which varies depending on starting position. Over the course of the game you can buy up to 11 different civ cards of varying cost, each worth a number of victory points equal to its cost. If you buy too many cheap cards you can take yourself out of the running as there won't be enough high-value cards left for you to buy to get you close to your target, which is what had happened to the poster.

Assuming the game was properly explained the player could have worked that out for himself, but given Civ can easily take ten hours to complete it was a bit harsh of me as I suspect that once the penny dropped the rest of the game can't have been much fun for him.

Here, why not just play a second game with the knowledge you've acquired?
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Peter O
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dghughes wrote:
... and while there was certainly some enjoyment in watching Mike flail around like a upended tortoise my victory was pretty hollow as the game ground to an anticlimactic halt.

Poking with (dull) sticks will increase your enjoyment.
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Mike Poole
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Indeed, Jim. This thread was just a space for airing some thoughts. I wasn't looking for someone to 'fix' it for me. It was just an interesting facet of the game's design that I thought would elicit aan interesting discussion, as indeed it has. Thanks to all who have responded!

As said, we'll be having some more games of it and hopefully I'll manage to get to at least the 3/4 point in the game, rather than halfway, before shooting myself in both feet. Progress is progress.
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Tom Cleaver
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Mike

When I was designing Valley of the Kings, I was aware that it would be possible to take yourself out of the game by entombing too many high gold value cards early. Nevertheless, in the extensive playtests that I conducted, that never happened. It was much more common for players to put off entombing for too long, having fat decks of high value cards. Yours is the first (reported) incidence of over-thinning. I'm sorry you had that experience.

Tom Cleaver
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Tom Cleaver
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benosteen wrote:
Those are all fair points - it's a subjective aspect. I'm okay with a game giving you enough freedom to completely muck-up. I've done it enough times in games myself!

Star Realms has a catchup card, the 'Explorer'. Better than a basic Scout card (worth 2gp, when Scout is worth 1) and costs 2. Perhaps a 0 VP card pile, always available, might let people recover from their mistakes?

"Incense" - O VP, worth 0 gold, cost 2 gold, w/ action "Sacrifice to gain 2 gold in next purchase".

Flavour text can be something about the use of prayers and incense during preparations for the dead.

Could be a set of perishables, even things like natron, just for variety's sake.


Ben

Thanks for the suggested actions and artifacts. I may find a use for them in the future.

Tom Cleaver
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Mike Poole
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Hi Tom, no need to apologise for my inept play!

I'm glad to hear I'm the one in a million. It makes me feel kind of special.

I look forward to trying out the game some more.
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Mike Riley

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My most recent strategy is to acquire 2+ money cards right away and entomb 1 starter per turn, if possible. If I can't buy a 2+ money card, I'll typically only buy a 1 money card if it has an action I want to use or I plan on using it as a sacrifice.
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Eric Engstrom
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mischip wrote:
I haven't played Star Realms yet. It's been getting good buzz recently. Is it a good addition to the deck building genre would you say in comparison to VotK? Can't see it as available here in the UK either?


The only trick with Star Realms is that it is the shortest deckbuilder I have ever played (generally, that is, is sort of depends on what cards come up). Acceleration is VERY FAST in Star Realms and you can certainly go from doing 2 damage per reshuffle to 20 damage per reshuffle very easily. There are some fun and interesting situations that arise with base cards, though.
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Ian Noonan
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mischip wrote:
dghughes wrote:
There should always be a way of keeping playing - even if you aren't going to win. Either that or you should be actually eliminated in some way.


Nail on the head, Dan.


I disagree. The game is entirely trimmed of waste cards, don't fatten it up just to make it fool-proof for the 1 in 1,000,000 games that this will be done. You will only make this mistake once - explain it to new players so they won't poleaxe their own game.
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