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Subject: Curiosity Killed the Victory Point Leader rss

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Ed
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Liberte is a game that leaves me wondering at the end of each game whether I enjoyed myself. Other games in this category include Ra and Samurai. It doesn't leave me feeling "wow, what a great game, I can't wait to play that again." But neither do I feel the loathing and revulsion that comes from a game of Apples to Appples. There's something in this soup; I'm just not sure if it's an exotic spice or spoiled meat. Today this question was called again in a five-player game at Fanboy Planet. It sounds like a gay bar, but actually it's a comic book store in Santa Clara.

I'm fairly good at explaining rules. For a game like Liberte that doesn't have the most intuitive ruleset (to put it charitably), I always read the rules before each game and get clear in my mind about how I plan to explain things. But ugh, today's explanation was a chore. One of the group joked that explaining rules to them was like herding cats. I don't mind answering questions, but god help me when people try to guess at the rules and force me to refute them. Relax, everyone, if you let me continue, it will all be clear in due time.

I started with a weak hand, mostly single block cards, and the open draw pile was no help. A common complaint levied against Liberte is the awkward mechanic for drawing cards into one's hand. Similar to Ticket to Ride, players may draw from a face down pile or from one of three open cards. This works well in Ticket to Ride because train cards are all of equal value -- a green card doesn't have any more inherent value than an orange card -- so chances are fairly high that if you don't like the current selection of face up cards, other players will eventually take them and reveal more desirable replacements.

The problem with the open draw in Liberte is that the cards are not of equal value. Cards range in value from one to three. As a result, when the open draw becomes filled with single block cards, which has happened in every game I've played, nobody wants to draw from the face up cards. For one thing, why not take a chance of getting a better card from the face down pile. For another, why give the player after you the choice of taking a face down card or the possibly more desirable card you just revealed for the open draw.

I say all of this because today the initial three cards in the open draw were ALL single block cards. During the entire game, not one face up card was taken!

After several rounds of placing blocks and drawing even more single block cards, it became apparent to me that I had very little chance of winning on victory points. I simply did not have the cards needed to generate enough votes for either the government or the opposition. The only hope was a sudden death victory.

At the end of Turn One, the score was:

Dan 5
Mark 3
Adam 2
Robert 0
Ed 0


My first chance at a sudden death victory came in Turn Two. Dan and Robert each had three-block stacks of radicals in the Paris region, and the radicals had a handful of outlying provinces. The placement of red faction blocks in a few key provinces could trigger a radical landslide.

My problem was I had almost no red blocks on the board and once again a hand full of single-block cards. The only advantage I had going for me was two Terror cards, which I used to remove the two large red stacks from the Paris region and guillotine the more powerful red faction cards on the table. I needed a sudden death victory, but this wasn't the time.

In the Battle Box, Adam, Robert, and I each had two tokens, but the battle ended in a tie, with Adam and Robert each advancing cards of equal value and me sitting the battle out.

At the end of Turn Two, the score was:

Dan 8
Mark 8
Adam 4
Robert 0
Ed 0


At the start of Turn Three, hoping for some luck, I discarded all but one card and drew six new cards into my hand. The one card I kept was a three-block white faction card that I had managed to keep from the beginning of the game and had used to try to seed counterrevolutionary provinces with white blocks. Only two of those blocks had survived to Turn Three. With the tied battle from Turn Two and four provinces already under royalist control, the white faction needed only two more provinces to trigger a royalist counterrevoltion.

Just as I started to assess my chances of prevailing in a CR sudden death game, Dan, one of the victory point leaders, surprised me by pulling the trigger himself. He placed white faction blocks in two more CR provinces and forced the end of the game. We counted our white faction blocks on the board and the white blocks on the cards in our hands and our personal displays, and nobody was more shocked (and disappointed) than myself to learn that I had won the game. Among the six cards I had drawn at the beginning of the turn was another three-block white faction card. With two white blocks on the board and six white blocks on the cards in my hand, I had just enough to beat out the victory point leaders, Mark and Dan.

The final score for the CR sudden death condition was:

Ed 8
Dan 7
Mark 7
Adam ?
Robert ?


I like winning but not like this. I won the game not due to superior gameplauy, but due to a lucky card draw and a bad decision by Dan to pull the sudden death trigger. This was Dan's first game, and I think curiosity got the better of him. He was tied for the lead on victory points. In hindsight, it probably would have been better for him to use his superior hand to continue battling with Mark for election wins, while denying Robert and I the opportunity to pull one of the sudden death triggers.

Needless to say, today's game was pretty unsatisfying. I won, but it was a cheap win. I'd rather lose to superior gameplay than win due to dumb luck. The fact that this is possible in Liberte is a strike against it.
 
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Robert Stetler
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ed95005 wrote:
Liberte is a game that leaves me wondering at the end of each game whether I enjoyed myself. Other games in this category include Ra and Samurai. It doesn't leave me feeling "wow, what a great game, I can't wait to play that again." But neither do I feel the loathing and revulsion that comes from a game of Apples to Appples.


As one of the players of that game, I agree completely with that impression. I keep thinking this is probably a solid game, but just can't help thinking I'm missing the why. (Can't agree on Samurai, have no uncertainty in labelling that one an enjoyable game.)

A crap opening draw can make a huge difference in this game. Both you and I opened with a hand full of one cube cards - you slightly edging out in having a single 3 (to my single 2) and more variety in colors (I had white as my single non-red). In fact as my first game when I looked at my opening hand (and the face up draws) I had the impression that 2 cube cards were incredibly rare - and was thus shocked to see so many 3s (there's such a thing as a 3?!?!) hit the table, repeatedly from the same players. So I found myself in the opening round forced to pick just two regions and burn multiple cards to stack on them, only (in one case) to have Dan outdo the whole mix with one card (spent most of round one slowly fighting for the other region against Mark). Meanwhile Mark was busy spending 3 cube cards spreading little one stack piles in regions all over, relatively unopposed and gaining a decent point amount as a result. I had pretty much given up on gaining any points that first round, I just wanted a presence in government to hopefully pull something the following round.

Ditched a lot of garbage at the end of the round, and gained a decent hand the following turn. But had to burn both the "top deck draw" Terrors to putting the brakes on the two point leaders. Who patently ignored each other, Mark in fact drawing the wrath of one Terror earlier than I'd have liked when he special card played to move in on and nibble at that *one* region I had control of instead of hitting Dan (otherwise Mark pursued the tried and true "spread little stacks where no one is at" approach, mostly unmolested in his efforts). Having drawn again a hand mostly of red, with two good white, I also found myself placing stacks where I wouldn't risk triggering a counter revolution result on the following turn (as those regions were looking very white already), instead of where I'd have a better chance keeping the biggest stack.

Which was why I was rather ticked when I latter got nailed by you - sudden death condition threat or no, I was wondering why I was in dead last position yet burning my late drawn juice on the point leaders, only to have Mark, Dan, and then you nailing what little build up I had made while the point leader buildup ran unabated. Then when the battle box (my lone realistic stab for victory points) turned from something I clearly had locked up against Adam into a "lets screw things some more" in which my back up general was nailed (and not by Adam, the only person with a real vested interest there) and then you tossed things into the box with little hope of doing anything other than forcing a tie, I again was thinking of Mark and Dan's lead wondering whether everyone else was seeing the big picture. When Dan finally unknowingly threw the game when he might have otherwise won on points if he had been patient, I felt like I (in fact most of us, it seemed like only Mark had any handle on the game goals and actually had an opportunity to pursue them) had been more a witness to the game than a controlling participant.

I'm not ready to write this game off by any means, but for a game so obviously requiring a thought matrix of issues to contend with, it seems unusually vulnerable to boiling down to simple luck of the draw. It sort of felt like playing a game of El Grande, if the power cards weren't a per player set number deck but were instead drawn from a random communal pile - thus removing a key element of game balance inherent in El Grande. I was left with a view pretty much in keeping with what I'd already heard of the game (and why it remained on my consider list instead of my buy list). And after this session the game still - oddly enough - remains fast on my "consider" list.
 
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anoni mouse
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after reading through what you have both said here and reviewing the game in my mind I have to say I did enjoy the game very much. I do haw ever share the disappointment of open draw pile. I look at it and figure it could easily be removed and no one would miss it.

The Sudden Death mechanic could almost be converted to a situation of giving someone VPs instead of ending the game. But that is something that would require more thought and work then I care to give at this point in time.

There is no doubt I did enjoy the game and I still have it on my I would like to have list. But at this point I have not been able to drop the cash on a copy of the game. I would like to see it get to the table again.

Now on to my side of the game
The first round for me was a learning round. Taking in how everything worked and what not. Yes I did start of with what I can tell now was a relatively good hand for our game, 3 of the cards were 3 blocks 2 were two blocks and one was an anyplace one block. When the round ended I was surprised when I came in second. I was expecting to be dead last. It was during the scoring that I noticed the clever thing that Mark had started, however it never really sank in until the end of the second round(more on that in a minute)

In the second round I stared with and drew several cards for the Paris region so I had very little choice but to fight for that area. I think this was also one of reasons I was able to tie Mark after the second round. It was during the scoring of this round that what I saw during the previous scoring round sunk in. I had noticed that Mark was slowly seeding the board with little baby stacks making it easy for him to build up. but at the same time making his position on the board less threatening to the rest of us. After seeing this I came to my final decision... I had to make a rush for an all or nothing win.

Why I tried for the sudden death victory.

I knew what I had both on the board and in my hand, obviously. I had been watching Mark's slow and steady progress and knew I was going to lose my tie with him at the end of the round, if it had made it that far. I knew for a fact that I could have easily had the majority of white blocks on the board if I pushed the sudden death situtation. I was mainly banking that no one would have drawn enough of the right cards to edge me out. So for the most part my gamble for the the sudden victory was more a desperate stab then anything else and it failed by the narrowest of narrow marginsshake.
 
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Bertrand Russell
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thumbsup It's always nice when a session report is commented on by the other players. I recently picked this up in fear of not being able to get it in the future. I hope you guys let us know how your next play goes.

Have you checked out the dagger variant posted here (http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/69328)?
 
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Mario Aguila
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ed95005 wrote:
The problem with the open draw in Liberte is that the cards are not of equal value. Cards range in value from one to three. As a result, when the open draw becomes filled with single block cards, which has happened in every game I've played, nobody wants to draw from the face up cards. For one thing, why not take a chance of getting a better card from the face down pile. For another, why give the player after you the choice of taking a face down card or the possibly more desirable card you just revealed for the open draw.

In my groups we had the same complain until we discovered the Dagger variant...what a change in our games!!
check it out at http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/69328
 
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