Robin Zigmond
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I'm a big Feld fan, and so is my wife, so there's no way we're not going to end up buying this - despite the fact that the other 2 in our main gaming group aren't really into him (Bora Bora was hated by both of them, for example). But I must say that, having read the rules (which I downloaded from the kickstarter page, even though I have no intention of backing as, being Europeans, we'll pick up the Pegasus version), I came away quite underwhelmed.

So I am asking those who have played this - those who have playtested, or played prototypes at conventions, or anyone else who has managed to get a game of it - what is it that makes this game unique? Why would I choose to play it and not Trajan, Bora Bora, Luna or Macao? When I first heard about it I was quite excited by talk of programming bots, but having read the rules, it seems that I misled myself - I had imagined some mechanism to create long chains of actions, but instead it appears that "programming a bot" is just a preparation for taking a particular action later in the turn. I'm finding it very hard from just the rulebook to understand what it is that goes on in the game - as far as I can tell, most of the VPs come from some kind of area scoring system, with a few set-collection things tacked on. (I admit I could be totally wrong on this, and this is one of the things I'd like to see some discussion on.) I'm also concerned that there are only 4 rounds and that you don't seem to get too many actions in each one - it seems that you can only program 3 different bots each turn, so wouldn't that mean you can only take 3 actions per turn, that is just 12 in a game? I'm sure I'm missing something here (and something major, not just "such and such a card gives you a one off bonus of an extra action", which I think I saw a bit of in the rules) - but what?

Just so I don't sound all negative (although I must stress that I'm still sure I want the game - I'd just like to be told why I want it, other than because of the designer ), one thing I do like the sound of is needing crystals in order to advance your score past a certain point. It reminds me of one of my favourite features of Sail to India (which I played fairly recently), where you can't score victory points unless you have a spare cube handy to actually record them. Although even this doesn't necessarily sound too interesting - it just means that you have to go after crystals every so often, depending on how much you're about to score.

So, this is going out to anyone who's played this: what does it feel like to play the game? What's cool and different about it, and what kind of decisions are involved? (And please don't just tell me to watch such-and-such a video - I may look at one or two if everyone says they're particularly good, but I'm primarily after someone putting into words what they feel is really going on in this game.)

I have faith in Feld, but I still want someone to tell me why this game is his next must-have
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Steve Duff
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robinz wrote:
I have faith in Feld, but I still want someone to tell me why this game is his next must-have


FELD!

All I need to know.
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Keith McNeil
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The publisher has added a video to the Kickstater page that gets into the gameplay a bit, I'd recommend watching it. Hopefully more are forthcoming.

I just checked and, inexplicably, the video is not on the main page. You have to go to Update #2.
 
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book_worm71 wrote:
Hopefully more are forthcoming.


I hope so too; that video wasn't very illuminating. I really want to see a run-through of how this plays before I commit.
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I sort of agree with what you say. I didn't find any of the game mechanics to be particularly more interesting or unique than other Feld games. Nothing really stands out. I think I will still get the game because I like most of his games and I also love point salad games. It has enough ways to score points (bot majority, submarines, crystals, octopods, lab upgrades, etc.) and optimize my moves to have me interested.

Edit: I should have pointed out I have not played the game, this is just from reading the rules.
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robinz wrote:
it seems that you can only program 3 different bots each turn, so wouldn't that mean you can only take 3 actions per turn, that is just 12 in a game? I'm sure I'm missing something here (and something major, not just "such and such a card gives you a one off bonus of an extra action", which I think I saw a bit of in the rules) - but what?


Well, 4 without any special Research cards. Once per round you can spend 3 Time tokens to place a bot.

But I wouldn't consider the Research cards to be "minor" - they seem to be a major part of the game. And there are some that could easily give you 1 or 2 extra bot placements per round. Such as the one that allows you to move your Engineer sideways in the Headquarters, or the one that lets you spend 2 Time tokens to place a bot immediately.

I do see where you're coming from, though. It's hard to picture how all the mechanics will work together with multiple players without actually seeing it being played.
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Not to mention there's only a week left to back the project... not much time to make a decision!
 
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Update #2 wrote:
There's obviously a lot more to the game then you have seen here. This is merely a basic overview so that when we do a game turn demonstration video you'll have some sense of context for what we are doing.

If you've read the rules, this may have seemed elementary, but we know not everyone enjoys reading the rules or has the time to do that during such a short campaign. Speaking of the rules, we are also currently trying to get you a more recent version of the rules that we are aware may be available.

Our plan right now is try and film the moves of a 2-player game tomorrow afternoon so that you can see the gears and mechanisms in action. Personally, that's how I learn best but we wanted to take this step first. My goal for sharing the 2-player gameplay video is Friday evening, but it may occur over the weekend.
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I almost wish this game did not have such a cool theme. Owning or having played all Feld's games, I know we'll be burned again by the lack of real theme integration. I mean, we can pretty much see it already - "programming bots" is just action selection, "Catching octopods" = "score points", etc etc.

However, what also I'm sure about is that the game is still going to be a blast, and that you'll only know that once you play it. I had that with Trajan, Bora Bora, and even Amerigo, among others - when you read the rules you see nothing but a collection of mechanisms. Then you start playing and after couple rounds it clicks! All the tasty agonizing choices! FELD GOODNESS!!!
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I pulled my pledge after I read the rules. Nothing stood out to me to cause me to buy it sight unseen. I'm also guessing that once it comes out I'll be able to get it for the same price maybe less.
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I'm going to attempt to convince you with 2 points, the two points where I see the most "game" in AquaSphere:

1) Notice how the headquarters board where the engineer programs the bots changes each round according to the programming card. This means that certain actions will be denied you simply because you take a certain direction on the programing path. Furthermore, the action that you would want to take after another action may not be possible, either because it conflicts in direction with the other action or comes later in the cue. This means you have to find the most efficient way to use actions given these circumstances, and that seems to be where a lot of the game is. If it were a pure choice as to "I can get octopods here, I can get gems here, I can put out a submarine here," then yeah, that's kinda rough. But no, you have to account for the specific order you can do actions in this round and whether they will even be available to you when you want them! So you need to either save bots for that occasion, or wait to take the action later when you would have wanted to take the action sooner.
Notice that the next configuration of program tiles is always available to see. This produces "stractics" or "tactegy" (your choice), a term I like to use for having to make tactical moves while always looking ahead to the next round (Luna does this beautifully, oh so beautifully!).

2) Take into account the limitation of the resources. It's not just "I get points for catching octopods," but its "I got to get those octopods before my opponent gets them!" Or "I need to get that card right now, otherwise my opponent will get it or it will be covered by the next card once the round ends, slowing down my access to it!" All of the stuff out on the board is fair game for any player to get, and a lot of the game is going to be racing to get them first. This is one of the great things I'm seeing Stephan Feld do in his games: while not making a racing game, he makes the game feel like a race! The players race to get the first of such-and-such a unique card/tile/position/resource, etc.... Again, Luna does this beautifully with grabbing temple tiles and trying to get your actions done before other players pass on you!

Once of the things I'm impressed with in Feld games are his random elements that set up the situation at hand. While they are all what we've seen before, the new configuration makes a subtly new game situation every time you play (note the center tiles with their resource determination, the labs, the cards, etc...). Just awesome! Again, Luna does this beautifully with the random isle setup, random temple tile sets, and random placement of the figures on the islands (some of which may even start on the same isle, if not all!). Or to name another game that's not Luna , nor even Feld , I'll mention Le Havre, which does it beautifully with the random order of the resource tiles and the semi-random ordering of the 3 stacks of buildings.

As you can see, I think AquaSphere is actually pretty similar to Luna in a lot of ways. Luna was what I thought of immediately when I read the rules to AquaSphere. I would actually love it for Ralph or someone to comment as to how they feel compared to each other. My main observation is that contrary to Luna, which gives you utter freedom for the order of actions you take, AquaSphere only gives you 3 actions (maybe up to 5) per round, and the choice of the actions is restricted by the programming tiles, which looks like a fun game!
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Ambrose wrote:
As you can see, I think AquaSphere is actually pretty similar to Luna in a lot of ways. Luna was what I thought of immediately when I read the rules to AquaSphere. I would actually love it for Ralph or someone to comment as to how they feel compared to each other. My main observation is that contrary to Luna, which gives you utter freedom for the order of actions you take, AquaSphere only gives you 3 actions (maybe up to 5) per round, and the choice of the actions is restricted by the programming tiles, which looks like a fun game!

Ralph is traveling right now, but I would like to suggest that's a worthy question---and thoughtful observation---that I may look to ask him myself now. (Note: I have not played Luna but I enjoyed playing Aquasphere quite a bit) and I will be sure to share it with him on your behalf when I speak with him next ... and will report back if he doesn't catch it first here himself.
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I've read the rules and do see a good game here. However, as the OP stated I can't necessarily say that it will be a GREAT game, or something that stands out. I'm on the fence with this one, even though I'm a big Feld fan.
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Ambrose wrote:
I'm going to attempt to convince you with 2 points, the two points where I see the most "game" in AquaSphere:

1) Notice how the headquarters board where the engineer programs the bots changes each round according to the programming card. This means that certain actions will be denied you simply because you take a certain direction on the programing path. Furthermore, the action that you would want to take after another action may not be possible, either because it conflicts in direction with the other action or comes later in the cue. This means you have to find the most efficient way to use actions given these circumstances, and that seems to be where a lot of the game is. If it were a pure choice as to "I can get octopods here, I can get gems here, I can put out a submarine here," then yeah, that's kinda rough. But no, you have to account for the specific order you can do actions in this round and whether they will even be available to you when you want them! So you need to either save bots for that occasion, or wait to take the action later when you would have wanted to take the action sooner.
Notice that the next configuration of program tiles is always available to see. This produces "stractics" or "tactegy" (your choice), a term I like to use for having to make tactical moves while always looking ahead to the next round (Luna does this beautifully, oh so beautifully!).

2) Take into account the limitation of the resources. It's not just "I get points for catching octopods," but its "I got to get those octopods before my opponent gets them!" Or "I need to get that card right now, otherwise my opponent will get it or it will be covered by the next card once the round ends, slowing down my access to it!" All of the stuff out on the board is fair game for any player to get, and a lot of the game is going to be racing to get them first. This is one of the great things I'm seeing Stephan Feld do in his games: while not making a racing game, he makes the game feel like a race! The players race to get the first of such-and-such a unique card/tile/position/resource, etc.... Again, Luna does this beautifully with grabbing temple tiles and trying to get your actions done before other players pass on you!

Once of the things I'm impressed with in Feld games are his random elements that set up the situation at hand. While they are all what we've seen before, the new configuration makes a subtly new game situation every time you play (note the center tiles with their resource determination, the labs, the cards, etc...). Just awesome! Again, Luna does this beautifully with the random isle setup, random temple tile sets, and random placement of the figures on the islands (some of which may even start on the same isle, if not all!). Or to name another game that's not Luna , nor even Feld , I'll mention Le Havre, which does it beautifully with the random order of the resource tiles and the semi-random ordering of the 3 stacks of buildings.

As you can see, I think AquaSphere is actually pretty similar to Luna in a lot of ways. Luna was what I thought of immediately when I read the rules to AquaSphere. I would actually love it for Ralph or someone to comment as to how they feel compared to each other. My main observation is that contrary to Luna, which gives you utter freedom for the order of actions you take, AquaSphere only gives you 3 actions (maybe up to 5) per round, and the choice of the actions is restricted by the programming tiles, which looks like a fun game!
Hi Corin,

Oh how I love to read that someone shares all my thoughts about the elegance of Luna, which still is my all-time-favourite game!
Yes, I know, as a publisher I should not praise my own game, but in the end I only chose to publish it BECAUSE it is so wonderful to me.

And let me say firstly that it is unbelievable how well you describe AquaSphere without having played it a single time! I couldn't have put it better!

I was not aware during the development of AquaSphere that there were visible similarities to Luna. We even threw out a part where some independent figures were travelling through the sectors. THIS would have been an obvious thing.

But now, that you mention it, I'd say there is some similarity - but not in the mechanics, where you usually find parallels: it's more the "way of thinking":
It's this planning ahead for the next round.
It's the difference between actions you should play at once and others, which are not so urgent.
It's the options to be fast in the game (so that you have the first choice in the next round) or to be slow (to know where Octopods remain and to have the final word concerning the majorites on the control spaces).
Then there's the apparent conflict between the big variety of choices of combinations in both games on the one side and the strong limitations (Novices in Luna, Actions and Lab in AquaSphere) on the other side.
Maybe it's not easy to grab where these similar points are and I understand when there are people who don't see it like me.

Coming back to your question: It was not our intention to create a Luna-like game, but it's not surprising that Stefan and I have a very similar approach on what we like to have in games and what not. And this is independent from the mechanics.

This was maybe only a short answer, but I'm afraid I have to care about the rule corrections now ...


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barandur wrote:
Hi Corin,

Oh how I love to read that someone shares all my thoughts about the elegance of Luna, which still is my all-time-favourite game!
Yes, I know, as a publisher I should not praise my own game, but in the end I only chose to publish it BECAUSE it is so wonderful to me.

Luna is also my all-time favorite game! Just with a medieval theme...

barandur wrote:
And let me say firstly that it is unbelievable how well you describe AquaSphere without having played it a single time! I couldn't have put it better!

Next step: getting on your proofing/development/design team!

barandur wrote:
Coming back to your question: It was not our intention to create a Luna-like game, but it's not surprising that Stefan and I have a very similar approach on what we like to have in games and what not. And this is independent from the mechanics.

Of course! Why not!

barandur wrote:
This was maybe only a short answer, but I'm afraid I have to care about the rule corrections now ...



I would be interested in a longer answer someday... meeple

For instance, when playing AquaSphere, does it feel similar to Luna while you are playing it? Does it actively remind a player of Luna? Or does the game feel unique enough that players are absorbed in it and its different mechanics without thinking about Luna?
 
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Ambrose wrote:
when playing AquaSphere, does it feel similar to Luna while you are playing it? Does it actively remind a player of Luna?


For what it's worth, I have only played Luna twice, and not recently, but Aquasphere didn't really remind me of Luna very much while playing it.

Maybe if I was more familiar with Luna I'd have seen more of a resemblance?
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Ambrose wrote:
I would be interested in a longer answer someday... meeple

For instance, when playing AquaSphere, does it feel similar to Luna while you are playing it? Does it actively remind a player of Luna? Or does the game feel unique enough that players are absorbed in it and its different mechanics without thinking about Luna?
No, I wouldn't go this far. I never think of Luna while playing AquaSphere.
It's more that you're way of thinking may be similar, but this is not a kind of similarity which stands out like a certain mechanism.
So when I asked testplayers after a game if they can think about a similar game, then after some thinking some mention Luna. But I never heard that it is too similar or even was bothering someone.
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What underwhelms me about AquaSphere is that you don't seem to be actually building your undersea base, X-Com style (i.e. laying tiles out and gradually building a little complex). I'd buy that game in a second, but this design I think I'll pass on, at least for now.

I am amazed though that the game has raised just $63K with a day to go, isn't that low? It makes Xia's $350K haul seem that much more amazing.
 
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cherryfunk wrote:
I am amazed though that the game has raised just $63K with a day to go, isn't that low? It makes Xia's $350K haul seem that much more amazing.

AquaSphere's Kickstarter has no stretch goals and no exclusives. It's just a preorder. There are certainly those that want the newest hottest game as soon as possible, but I don't think that describes most buyers.

So I think I might like the game. I could Kickstart it now. Or I can instead wait a few months to hear more about it, look for reviews and comments, maybe try it in person... then, if it sounds great, I can pick it up for the same price online. (Or trade for someone else's Kickstarted copy after they discover it wasn't their cup of tea after all.)
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tumorous wrote:
cherryfunk wrote:
I am amazed though that the game has raised just $63K with a day to go, isn't that low? It makes Xia's $350K haul seem that much more amazing.

AquaSphere's Kickstarter has no stretch goals and no exclusives. It's just a preorder. There are certainly those that want the newest hottest game as soon as possible, but I don't think that describes most buyers.

So I think I might like the game. I could Kickstart it now. Or I can instead wait a few months to hear more about it, look for reviews and comments, maybe try it in person... then, if it sounds great, I can pick it up for the same price online. (Or trade for someone else's Kickstarted copy after they discover it wasn't their cup of tea after all.)

Unless you're buying games in bulk, I'd imagine that it may actually save you a few bucks to back the Kickstarter since you'd get free shipping.

I backed off because the rules and videos just didn't draw me in. At this point, I have enough games that I try to be a little more judicious in my purchases...even if it is Feld.
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tumorous wrote:
cherryfunk wrote:
I am amazed though that the game has raised just $63K with a day to go, isn't that low? It makes Xia's $350K haul seem that much more amazing.

AquaSphere's Kickstarter has no stretch goals and no exclusives. It's just a preorder. There are certainly those that want the newest hottest game as soon as possible, but I don't think that describes most buyers.

So I think I might like the game. I could Kickstart it now. Or I can instead wait a few months to hear more about it, look for reviews and comments, maybe try it in person... then, if it sounds great, I can pick it up for the same price online. (Or trade for someone else's Kickstarted copy after they discover it wasn't their cup of tea after all.)


So, I'd like to support this kind of kickstarter -- no stretch goals or exclusives. If you want the latest Feld game, you can get it at online store prices with free shipping.

If you're on the fence, you can wait. No stretch goals or exclusives means you can without worrying about missing out.

Personally, I'm on the fence about this one, but I would kickstart a new Vlaada Chvátil game, for example. Basically, I don't see this as any worse than a preorder (eg a P500).

So, in short, I like that there are no stretch goals or exclusives.
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I just thought I'd come back to this thread, and say that - having got Aquasphere for Christmas and now having played it twice, once with 2 and once with 3 - I really like it. Reading back through the replies now, I can see that Ralph and Corin had it just about right. I can't say it reminded me hugely of Luna (although I have sadly only played that twice, both of them a long time ago), but it definitely does seem to be the closest comparison among Feld games.

I'm not surprised in hindsight that I didn't really grasp the game from just reading the rules a few times - I do normally prefer to learn games from reading the rulebook, but Aquasphere is definitely a game where, even if you understand the mechanics perfectly, you need to play nearly a full game before you can even think about what you might be trying to do. (This is something else I think it has in common with Luna, although I think in Luna even a beginner in the first round can come up with some kind of short-term plan.) What I like most about Aquasphere is the careful way you have to work out the timing of everything - which Ralph alluded to. There are some actions which you need to take quickly before an opponent does - grabbing crystals, or particular research cards or lab extensions (perhaps time markers too). There are others where you want to delay so that you can get the majority, especially if you will be catching octopods (you let someone else take the majority having made sure they wouldn't get more negative points from it) - not to mention that you can easily lose more to octopods than you can from grabbing the sole majority. Then there is sequencing actions - just because your Engineer has to move in a certain order to program the bots doesn't mean that you have to use them in that order. But of course, you can only have 2 programmed at one time - so you don't have complete flexibility in programming bots and then using them, but just enough so you don't feel totally constrained. Add to this the ability to program an extra bot by spending 3 time, and the "wildcard" white action which can give you an extra bot of a type you need at the time you need, if you move your scientist to the right place, and you have a game system which I really like and can see being very much worth exploring over future plays.

I don't have enough experience yet with Aquasphere to feel able to write a review, but this seemed a good place to put my current thoughts. It's too early to say if it will become one of my favourite Felds (I thought that of Amerigo about this time last year, and while I still like that game and think it is probably the best of Feld's large 2013 crop, I now don't like it as much), but it definitely offers plenty which his other titles don't. But this is definitely a game you have to play (or watch others playing) to be able to judge (of course that is essentially true for all games, but I find it particularly true for this one).

(One small nitpick though - the thing about the different letters in lab extensions sticks out a bit to me in a bad way. I know one doesn't play Feld games for theme, and I don't normally care hugely about thematic integration, but this whole "letters" thing just doesn't seem to have any real reasoning behind it apart from making lab extensions more desirable, even late on. There's not even any pretence at a thematic explanation for them.)
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robinz wrote:
(One small nitpick though - the thing about the different letters in lab extensions sticks out a bit to me in a bad way. I know one doesn't play Feld games for theme, and I don't normally care hugely about thematic integration, but this whole "letters" thing just doesn't seem to have any real reasoning behind it apart from making lab extensions more desirable, even late on. There's not even any pretence at a thematic explanation for them.)
You are right that we don't give a reason within the rules for the letters. But I think it's easy to explain why a sector has a number or letter: Just think about a REAL lab with 6 rooms - don't you think they have room numbers to identify or address them?

"Hey, Scientist, please go quickly to Sector C, the detectors show some Crystals well within reach" - "Sorry, Engineer, don't have enough oxygen left to get there. Please program a Bot for me to get rid of those damn Octopods here in Sector A" ..."

OK, maybe it's difficult to find a reason, why the expansion of a Lab let you send a Bot to a certain Sector, but hey, this is still a game and not a real-life simulation ...
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barandur wrote:
robinz wrote:
(One small nitpick though - the thing about the different letters in lab extensions sticks out a bit to me in a bad way. I know one doesn't play Feld games for theme, and I don't normally care hugely about thematic integration, but this whole "letters" thing just doesn't seem to have any real reasoning behind it apart from making lab extensions more desirable, even late on. There's not even any pretence at a thematic explanation for them.)
You are right that we don't give a reason within the rules for the letters. But I think it's easy to explain why a sector has a number or letter: Just think about a REAL lab with 6 rooms - don't you think they have room numbers to identify or address them?

"Hey, Scientist, please go quickly to Sector C, the detectors show some Crystals well within reach" - "Sorry, Engineer, don't have enough oxygen left to get there. Please program a Bot for me to get rid of those damn Octopods here in Sector A" ..."

OK, maybe it's difficult to find a reason, why the expansion of a Lab let you send a Bot to a certain Sector, but hey, this is still a game and not a real-life simulation ...


I was actually thinking more of the VPs for the number of different letters in your lab - the bot placement part kind-of-almost makes sense, as you say

(And of course the sectors having identifying letters makes perfect sense, but the letters in your lab can hardly be intended as labels when it's quite possible to have 2 or more parts of your lab with the same letter!)

As I said though - it's a very minor thing in what I so far think is a great game
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