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Subject: a good game, but far from perfect - I don't understand the hype rss

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Lourenco Bray
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EDIT: After playing more games and reading comments in this thread I feel obliged to edit my original post and add that my opinion is based on 2 player games and that this game is more fun with at least 3 players (not that it isn't fun with 2 players, it's just not as good as with 3 or even 4) Have fun!


First, let me start off by saying really like playing Terra Mystica. For one, it has no negative feedback. There aren't fights and wars between factions where you destroy their things and they destroy yours. And you can't go bankrupt and watch your "empire" collapse. It allows for a more positive game experience, one my girlfriend is particularly more keen! She hates the conflict inherent in other games I also like the theme and the different species.

But nevertheless, here are a few things that, while they might be subjective and don't prevent me at all from enjoying the game, make me think this game is not as good as other games I usually play (like through the ages or eclipse) and thus make me puzzled with all the hype Here is why:

1) It's a nearly complete information game. This means that from round 1, if you had a computer and a algorithm to run, you could devise a nearly optimal strategy to max victory points that would only be marginally influenced by opponent actions in terraforming, cult track scoring and bonus card choosing. This affects replay value and it's particularly strong in a 2 player game, the type I play the most, because there is less interaction on the board between cities (more empty space).

2) There is a difference between "luck" like dice rolling and random elements that give re-playability and complexity. For instance, in Eclipse, a game where you also explore and develop, the board is always different because the tiles are shuffled and drawn. In Through The Ages, events, cards etc. come from decks that are shuffled. Some cards are hidden in opponent hands. They also have a deep impact in your choices, every turn. Here the board is the same on every game and I fear with time I will know it by heart and learn patterns.

3) back to the board... i think the map doesn't really go well with the nice theme. Maybe it's the terrible artwork. I don't think it makes sense, even in an imaginary world, that the landscape would be broken into small cells that have abrupt changes between them and areas repeat themselves in a loop. It's obviously necessary for the game design, but either they could have changed it or work on the art. The map doesn't look like anything remotely "real", even for a fantasy game. It's just an abstract board. In my opinion, they could have done a map with more detail and changes and smoother transitions to make it look more real, like a general landscape that would have details like a bit of sand (and thus good for nomads), a small lake or pond or a beach, a small wood, a larger wood, a forrest, a mountain, etc. Something that would give you pleasure to look at.

3) In this game, you have a cult bonus track that gives some bonus if you do certain actions. But it also narrows (even more) the game play, like if they hurdle the players into a certain direction. I'm not fully aware of the impact this has.

4) Interaction is a way to add complexity to a game without randomness (through the ages is particularly good at this). There is interaction when I choose a bonus card that my opponent wanted or I do a special action that he can't do that turn or I terraform a territory he wanted, but it has very little interaction between players... I thing it even hurts the theme. For instance, some species are "evil" (so they seem) like darklings or chaos magicians and it the descriptions it says they are dangerous or cause chaos... but that never transfers to the game play. The theme is broken here in the good vs evil dichotomy. In Eclipse you have military strong species that will always play more aggressive than others. In Through The Ages, Napoleon is really evil and dangerous, while Gandhi won't let you attack others and make it harder for others to attack you. So it makes sense. It would make sense to trade resources or forge alliances etc. They even talk about it in the introductory text and that doesn't translate in the game...

5) the artwork is bad (those mermaids, dear God...)


Well, feel free to disagree and discuss... I might be missing a lot. Again, this is subjective and I really like playing this game nevertheless. I just don't think it is a perfect game, at least for me, like Eclipse or Through The Ages that I would rank much higher Cheers!

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Mark O'Reilly
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The board without player pieces on looks fairly bland, not the most inviting thing to look at, but the faction player boards?, I think they look great.
What's up with the mermaids?



I think the mermaid looks cool
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Jonathan Maisonneuve
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#1 & #2: Chess too.
#3: It doesnt drive you. It gives you a bonus if you happens to do that, but it might not serve your strategy to do so.
#4: There is alot of interaction in the game. Power Action, Bonus Tiles, Cult Tracks, Terraforming and building. All these influence how other players will play.
#5: It is not that bad. I like the artwork in general.
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Renato Tavares
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I disagree... A perfect game IMO!
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Philip Thomas
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I like it a lot better with 4 or 5 than with 3 (haven't tried 2 but would think it would be worse than 3). There are some 2 player variants out there using less of the map etc which you might be interested in.
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birchbeer
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Where do I find the 'head-scratcher' emoticon?
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James Mathias
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There is a huge difference between not liking art, and it being bad.
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Kristof Bodric
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I guess some games simply don't click with us, which may be for a number of reasons. I think Terra Mystica owes its popularity (I would avoid the word "hype" because it suggests exaggeration and absence of merit) to the fact that it "clicked" so well with such a large number of people, myself included.
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Michael Off The Shelf Board Game Reviews
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I am not going to comment on your entire post but I will speak up on your #1.

That is actually a common complaint about Terra Mystica when it is played as a 2 player game (I also mention the same in my review). There are 2 remedies.
1: There is a file somewhere on the 'Geek that shows a fairly good 2 player board to play the game on. The file basically cuts out approximately 1/3rd of the game board allowing Terra Mystica to have the competition that makes it such a rich 4/5 player game.
2: Buy the expansion when it releases which is rumored to have a 2 sided board to use for 2 player games.
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Martin Larouche
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I don't agree with most of your points.

1) What's wrong with complete information games? Chess, Go and nearly all abstract games out there would like a word about replayability being reduced because of perfect information. Opponent's actions are a huge game changer in this game, even in 2 player games.

2) If the "better" alternative is Eclipse... i think Eclipse is one of the most overrated thing that ever made it to the top 10. The randomness of that game simply kills it imo.

3) Yeah... giving you that one. Although if the board was "prettier" i'm pretty sure it would have affected game clarity. There are 7 different types of terrain... they need to be recognized instantly. With better artwork, i think we'd have tons of discussions about whether a specific hex is a swamp or a small lake etc.

3-B) ? I don't get your point.

4) There's TON of interaction in this game... More so than is apparent at first glance. So much in fact that it's usually the way your neighbors act that can decide if YOU will win or not. Winning in Terra Mystica is equally dependant on your own actions as it is about your opponent's actions.

5) Mermaids are perfectly fine.
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Michael Carter
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I think Terra Mystica is a bit too long for how light it is.
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Michael Carter
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deedob wrote:
I don't agree with most of your points.

1) What's wrong with complete information games? Chess, Go and nearly all abstract games out there would like a word about replayability being reduced because of perfect information. Opponent's actions are a huge game changer in this game, even in 2 player games.



Your opponent directly acts against you in Chess and Go, whereas Terra Mystica is just a another Euro where at the beginning you come up with your grocery list of things to buy/do and then the rest of the game is just about doing the work of proceeding down that list with minor adjustments when the store is out of what you wanted. Terra Mystica would be a fine game if it can be consistently played in 1.5 to 2 hours. Otherwise, there are a lot of great economic games that fit in the 2-3 hour mark with four players and have more player interaction.
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Lourenco Bray
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biffta wrote:
The board without player pieces on looks fairly bland, not the most inviting thing to look at, but the faction player boards?, I think they look great.
What's up with the mermaids?



I think the mermaid looks cool


I agree, the faction player boards are good and the pieces are excellent.
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Lourenco Bray
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deedob wrote:
I don't agree with most of your points.

1) What's wrong with complete information games? Chess, Go and nearly all abstract games out there would like a word about replayability being reduced because of perfect information. Opponent's actions are a huge game changer in this game, even in 2 player games.

2) If the "better" alternative is Eclipse... i think Eclipse is one of the most overrated thing that ever made it to the top 10. The randomness of that game simply kills it imo.


Chess has interaction and a constantly changing gameboard (i played chess regularly). You might know what you are going to do and see the board, but your opponent always acts upon you and might do unexpected things and you have to rethink the game. Terra Mystica doesn't change the initial conditions that much.

Besides, computers sort of killed chess because of this (after Deep Blue II defeated kasparov it was a symbolic death for all complete information games). A consequence of computers with deep analyzing capability is that you began to have grandmasters at tender age because of training with this tool. Chess capability became mostly about memory. It always was, but before computers you had to read books and play with people. Kasparov mentions this in a interview. He says some kids have much higher ELO rating than Fischer had, but they are not as good as he was because he created new things. Of course, today he would be crushed by those super kids & computers. Precisely my point here. Grand Masters study games, situations, openings, and from experience. And they can recall all that they learned. It is not creative intelligence. That's why many chess players shifted to poker because of the incomplete information and bluff and psychological aspects (and the money). Witch Leeds me to point 2)

2) saying Eclipse is "random" is the same as saying poker is a game of luck... The concept to grasp is expected value. Good eclipse players are usually seen taking what seem like apparent chances (like in combats for example) and beginners usually only fight in the last round or when they are 100% sure they will win. Have you ever played eclipsed against a good player? A good eclipse player, like in chess, will almost always defeat a weaker player. Almost always. I don't mind that almost, but you need like 10 games to see a pattern emerge and start to understand that you are making mistakes and that it's not luck. I've played poker online for years, sometimes 6 tables at the same time and using software like Pokertracker to record all my hands. I read about 10 poker books... And yet, on friday night poker with some friends, there was always someone who said the game was about luck or that complained about luck when he had just done a mistake or he would brag about a hand that he won because he was lucky in the river but that he would lose 92% of the times if he kept doing it. In short, I think the random elements in eclipse give it a great replay value and complexity.

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Lourenco Bray
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Grumsh wrote:
I am not going to comment on your entire post but I will speak up on your #1.

That is actually a common complaint about Terra Mystica when it is played as a 2 player game (I also mention the same in my review). There are 2 remedies.
1: There is a file somewhere on the 'Geek that shows a fairly good 2 player board to play the game on. The file basically cuts out approximately 1/3rd of the game board allowing Terra Mystica to have the competition that makes it such a rich 4/5 player game.
2: Buy the expansion when it releases which is rumored to have a 2 sided board to use for 2 player games.


thank you! I will certainly buy an expansion that has a board for 2 player games. I really can see how this game is better with 4 or 5 players and my impressions probably would be very different. Thank you!
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Dave Eisen
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aguia77 wrote:
Grumsh wrote:
I am not going to comment on your entire post but I will speak up on your #1.

That is actually a common complaint about Terra Mystica when it is played as a 2 player game (I also mention the same in my review). There are 2 remedies.
1: There is a file somewhere on the 'Geek that shows a fairly good 2 player board to play the game on. The file basically cuts out approximately 1/3rd of the game board allowing Terra Mystica to have the competition that makes it such a rich 4/5 player game.
2: Buy the expansion when it releases which is rumored to have a 2 sided board to use for 2 player games.


thank you! I will certainly buy an expansion that has a board for 2 player games. I really can see how this game is better with 4 or 5 players and my impressions probably would be very different. Thank you!


Only place I have heard about a 2 player board in the upcoming expansion is in the wishful thinking of gamers who want to see such.

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Michael Off The Shelf Board Game Reviews
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dkeisen wrote:
aguia77 wrote:
Grumsh wrote:
I am not going to comment on your entire post but I will speak up on your #1.

That is actually a common complaint about Terra Mystica when it is played as a 2 player game (I also mention the same in my review). There are 2 remedies.
1: There is a file somewhere on the 'Geek that shows a fairly good 2 player board to play the game on. The file basically cuts out approximately 1/3rd of the game board allowing Terra Mystica to have the competition that makes it such a rich 4/5 player game.
2: Buy the expansion when it releases which is rumored to have a 2 sided board to use for 2 player games.


thank you! I will certainly buy an expansion that has a board for 2 player games. I really can see how this game is better with 4 or 5 players and my impressions probably would be very different. Thank you!


Only place I have heard about a 2 player board in the upcoming expansion is in the wishful thinking of gamers who want to see such.


I got the impression from this thread about 2/3rds down and this thread which the 1st thread feeds off of.

Its 20 some pages to wade through but a designer was quoted somewhere in there I think.

We do know there is a new game board that comes with the expansion, the real questions is whether it will be double sided or not.
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Bijan Ajamlou
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aguia77 wrote:
deedob wrote:
I don't agree with most of your points.

1) What's wrong with complete information games? Chess, Go and nearly all abstract games out there would like a word about replayability being reduced because of perfect information. Opponent's actions are a huge game changer in this game, even in 2 player games.

2) If the "better" alternative is Eclipse... i think Eclipse is one of the most overrated thing that ever made it to the top 10. The randomness of that game simply kills it imo.


Chess has interaction and a constantly changing gameboard (i played chess regularly). You might know what you are going to do and see the board, but your opponent always acts upon you and might do unexpected things and you have to rethink the game. Terra Mystica doesn't change the initial conditions that much.

Besides, computers sort of killed chess because of this (after Deep Blue II defeated kasparov it was a symbolic death for all complete information games). A consequence of computers with deep analyzing capability is that you began to have grandmasters at tender age because of training with this tool. Chess capability became mostly about memory. It always was, but before computers you had to read books and play with people. Kasparov mentions this in a interview. He says some kids have much higher ELO rating than Fischer had, but they are not as good as he was because he created new things. Of course, today he would be crushed by those super kids & computers. Precisely my point here. Grand Masters study games, situations, openings, and from experience. And they can recall all that they learned. It is not creative intelligence. That's why many chess players shifted to poker because of the incomplete information and bluff and psychological aspects (and the money). Witch Leeds me to point 2)

2) saying Eclipse is "random" is the same as saying poker is a game of luck... The concept to grasp is expected value. Good eclipse players are usually seen taking what seem like apparent chances (like in combats for example) and beginners usually only fight in the last round or when they are 100% sure they will win. Have you ever played eclipsed against a good player? A good eclipse player, like in chess, will almost always defeat a weaker player. Almost always. I don't mind that almost, but you need like 10 games to see a pattern emerge and start to understand that you are making mistakes and that it's not luck. I've played poker online for years, sometimes 6 tables at the same time and using software like Pokertracker to record all my hands. I read about 10 poker books... And yet, on friday night poker with some friends, there was always someone who said the game was about luck or that complained about luck when he had just done a mistake or he would brag about a hand that he won because he was lucky in the river but that he would lose 92% of the times if he kept doing it. In short, I think the random elements in eclipse give it a great replay value and complexity.



Best thing i read in a long while. Please write à eclipse review
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Destrio Dai
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I believe I read somewhere that computer AI hasn't been able to defeat a lot of experienced top level Go players, so not all complete information games are dead.

1 is only a problem if you have AP players. Not everyone can math out complex abstract game turns to 100% certainty within a reasonable amount of play time. Also opponent turns can sometimes drastically change board state and to account for all those possibilities is a waste of everyone's time if it extends the turn too long.

2 I think you mention luck as to how it relates to calculating probabilities in games, but I don't see how it directly relates to whether or not TM is good. Most games have a randomizing element, dice, finite card deck, or your opponent doing something.

3 Theme might be pasted on and/or easily replaceable but that being a problem is a matter of opinion

4 I don't understand the first statement or its purpose. Player interaction does add some sort of randomness to the game because each player will play a given game differently, but it doesn't make the game more complex. Maybe increasing player count makes it more complex, but only in terms of board state and not rules wise, usually.

5 Art is a matter of opinion

Disclaimer, I only responded to this thread to provide some counter points because your comments about Chess and computers was interesting. I have only played Eclipse once and never played Terra Mystica.

I would postulate that for your 2 player group, this game is not good. Maybe TM doesn't work well with 2. Also, your partner likes non-conflict or indirect conflict games whereas you might prefer something more direct, like Chess. That dynamic probably hurts your enjoyment of TM more than anything.
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birchbeer
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aguia77 wrote:
deedob wrote:
I don't agree with most of your points.

1) What's wrong with complete information games? Chess, Go and nearly all abstract games out there would like a word about replayability being reduced because of perfect information. Opponent's actions are a huge game changer in this game, even in 2 player games.

2) If the "better" alternative is Eclipse... i think Eclipse is one of the most overrated thing that ever made it to the top 10. The randomness of that game simply kills it imo.


Chess has interaction and a constantly changing gameboard (i played chess regularly). You might know what you are going to do and see the board, but your opponent always acts upon you and might do unexpected things and you have to rethink the game. Terra Mystica doesn't change the initial conditions that much.

Besides, computers sort of killed chess because of this (after Deep Blue II defeated kasparov it was a symbolic death for all complete information games). A consequence of computers with deep analyzing capability is that you began to have grandmasters at tender age because of training with this tool. Chess capability became mostly about memory. It always was, but before computers you had to read books and play with people. Kasparov mentions this in a interview. He says some kids have much higher ELO rating than Fischer had, but they are not as good as he was because he created new things. Of course, today he would be crushed by those super kids & computers. Precisely my point here. Grand Masters study games, situations, openings, and from experience. And they can recall all that they learned. It is not creative intelligence. That's why many chess players shifted to poker because of the incomplete information and bluff and psychological aspects (and the money). Witch Leeds me to point 2)



Computers killed chess? That is nonsense. Chess has never been more popular, especially with the recent successes of Magnus Carlsen. And Carlsen, interestingly, has got where he is NOT through concentrating on openings and computer analysis, but through pure determination; he has the champions heart. While other GMs today are happy to call it a draw once their 'home prep' opening innovation has been neutralized on the board, Carlsen, like Fischer, will not give his opponents such a respite; he makes them play it out to the bitter end, even down to two lone kings as he has actually done!

But while Carlsen's rating is the highest in history, he is still a LONG way from being the best in history. A long way. Ratings are so far out-of-whack right now you cannot begin to compare them. It is now typical for everyone in the top 10 or 15 to be 2700+ players, and now 3-4 of those are 2800+. Really? Is Kramnik stronger today than when he beat Kasparov over a decade ago? His rating is higher but his play is much declined. Karpov topped out as world champion, for 10 years, at barely over 2700. Are players today REALLY stronger than Karpov was at his best? Or Petrosian? Or Botvinnik? Would the amazing Mikhail Tal really be fodder for today's geniuses? How about Reuben Fine or Reshevsky?

Hikaru Nakamura, the former U.S. champion (who boasts a rating well above Fischer's record 2785) had the audacity to claim that Fischer "would almost certainly lose to all of us [top players today], but this is due to the fact that the game has so fundamentally changed. If Fischer had a few years to use computers he would probably be on the same level."

The thing that made Fischer the monster he was was not only a Capablanca-like clarity and accuracy to his play, but his complete sell-out of everything else in life for the sake of chess. Love, marriage, children, SEX, everything was sacrificed for this one goal. Spassky had no chance. Even the entire Soviet juggernaut conspired to break down Fischer's game, his weaknesses, his psychological profile, etc., and yet they failed miserably.

Perhaps the only player in history who could compare to Fischer's mindset was Alekhine, and yet those vaunted computers have proven that Alekhine was not even close to Fischer when it came to cold-blooded accuracy. Conversely, Capablanca was perhaps even more accurate than Fischer, but lacked the killer instinct (and Capa was notoriously fond of women and other leisure activities).

No amount of computer advancement (short of becoming a cyborg) will replace what Dr. Lasker identified as the most important element to any endeavor, not only chess; and that is "the struggle."

Yes, computers allow people to learn at a faster rate, but what you gain in speed you lose in battle-hardened experiences. You have to walk the walk. You have to be hit in the mouth. You have to be forced to face your demons.

Back in the day, before computers, they used to have adjournments and players would stay up all night "burning the midnight oil" to arrive at the heart of a position. It was exhausting work. But it built something in their experience that GMs today simply do not possess, not even Carlsen. It is "the struggle" that matters, not the immediate result.


Also, even the strongest chess computer programs today STILL make plenty of mistakes. People who rely on computers to make moves in correspondence tournaments, for example, are sitting ducks. The top players will use that reliance against them. Computers are great tacticians, but they have not 'solved' chess by any stretch of the imagination. If anything, they have just muddied the waters.

Sorry for the admittedly off-topic rant.

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Georg D.
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Just some random thoughts:

1) I have the feeling that you have played Terra Mystica only with 2 players so far. If that is right, I would try to get some game with more players on the table. While TM is an enjoyable 2-player game it really shines with more players.

2) You are right that in comparision to chess the interaction is not as high. But there still is much interaction. Just have some looks at the games of the online-league. You will often recognize that players make moves which seem weak but they are nescessary to prevent some actions of other players. The competition for poweractions, certain favortiles, spots on the culttracks or spaces on the map can be very tough.
Of course you will soon recognize some patterns how to play some races and which are the best starting positions for them. But there are always circumstances where it is better to do something else. It is the same as in Through the Ages every player wants to build iron, alchemy and irrigation during Age I and that there are leaders and wonders which will be taken in 90% of the games and others which are only worth the effort under special circumstances. There are some patterns too but still it is always enjoyable too try to get these patterns running or to test where it is best to do something besides these patterns.

3) Of course random elements can help a games replayabilty but if this randomness is not part of the setup it can be quite annoying if the game lasts too long. I have some really bad memories about Eclipse where I was unlucky with my first systems while my neighbour was very lucky and the rest of the several hour game I spend all my energy to defend me while he spent only part of his energy to build up a threat against me. (It didn't helped that the type of technology I wanted most didn't appear for 5 or 6 consecutive rounds.)


4) I never read anything from the publisher or desgner about a special 2-player board. So don't put too much hope in it.
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Maarten D. de Jong
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aguia77 wrote:
2) saying Eclipse is "random" is the same as saying poker is a game of luck... The concept to grasp is expected value.

No, the concept is to grasp the turnover point where, assuming that randomness cancels out and skill remains, it can be demonstrated that win percentages have to be due to skill. Before that point, measured in number of games played, Poker is a game of chance. After that point Poker is a game of skill. People who win at Poker invariably play far more often than the turnover point; people who lose invariably play far less often. Hence the dichotomy about Poker.

Now the above was empirically proven for just one online Poker database, but I'm willing to eay my shoes if the principle is not universally applicable: randomness is randomness (although, admittedly, multiplayer effects muddy the waters considerably). Now then: considering that you need tens to hundreds of thousands of hands to show that you're a good Poker player, and only about a thousand to demonstrate you're bad... hearing the amount of '10' in conjunction with Eclipse makes me wary. For one thing it would signify that many gamers are blind to the fact that Eclipse is a game which very easily and obviously rewards multiple plays, which is kinda hard to swallow given Eclipse's target audience. On the other hand: what does it say about a game if after 10 games it can already be reliably stated that winning was due to skill? What do those skills then entail, precisely? Does that translate into favourable replayability and complexity? For a game containing as much randomness as it does, and takes as long to play as it does, I think for Eclipse the answer has to be 'no'.

In the end though the only question that matters is simply whether an individual gamer is prepared to work at a game long enough for skill to dominate randomness (if present). If he isn't, then that game will forever remain a game of chance; if he is, then it might become a game of skill (because nowhere is it said that playing often will increase one's skill). I daresay that a lot of attraction of Poker stems from the fact that a hand is over and done with in a moment. That is not at all the case for Eclipse! It's not too bad losing badly if you can nearly immediately retry; it is if you're made to sit through several hours' worth of gaming hell.
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Nathan Clegg
United States
Escondido
California
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I think you will find the game more interactive (and just plain better) at higher player counts. I find it most fun at five to be honest. With that level of interaction (read: interference) you will find it is not so predictable after all.

It sounds like you prefer more randomness in your games. That's cool. Terra Mystica just isn't that game.

It's okay if you don't like the art, but that's Dennis Lohausen you are bad-mouthing, one of the best in the business! You must be wrong about it being "bad." :)
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Pas L
Australia
Melbourne
Victoria
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Wildhorn wrote:
#1 & #2: Chess too.


Chess is a direct conflict game, so it's not at all the same.
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Phil Triest
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Sydney
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Yeah the game is OK. There are some solid mechanics but the game constricts your play style according to each specific race's strengths and weaknesses.
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