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Subject: Submarines early and late rss

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Mick Adams
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Just a thought after a few plays (all player counts) and a bit of mathematical analysis but does anyone else feel that whilst getting an extra submarine or two early in the game is very valuable (indeed borderline essential maybe), getting a third, fourth and fifth sub, especially late in the game (rounds 3&4), is generally going to be a much less worthwhile move?

So, the first couple of subs taken early only score you 4-6pts outright compared to 8-13pts for two or three subs taken late but that is far outweighed by three other factors. First, those early subs will bring in maybe another 9-12pts throughout the game from bot scoring at the end of each round, while the third sub is likely to pick up a further 1-2pts at most and the fourth and fifth will almost never score extra points for bots (I really can't see having more than ten bots on the board at any scoring being viable unless your opponents are asleep). So just on points alone, those two early subs will match, and probably exceed, even three late subs. Second, those early subs will bring in 7-8 time tokens throughout the game (of which 5-6 will be usable - the time tokens you get at the end of round 4 will only score you points) whereas subs taken later in the game will only add maybe 2-3 usable time tokens to your pool (plus if you have four or five subs you might even end up having to ditch one or two tokens because of lack of storage). Third, those late subs are going to be much more expensive to deploy than the early subs in terms of time tokens. The first two subs will most likely cost 2-4 time tokens to deploy (I'm not factoring in movement costs here because those are the same throughout the game) but to deploy a third and fourth sub will probably cost 5-6 time and a fifth will cost another 3-4.

All this leads me to conclude that playing the subs in Aquasphere could perhaps get a little scripted. Getting those first couple early is more or less essential, I would suggest, as they're relatively cheap, score a bunch of points overall and provide a healthy supply of crucial time tokens. Those later subs seem much less appealing, however. Sure, they're certainly not totally without value as they'll each bag you probably 4-6pts overall but two factors mitigate this seemingly decent return. First, the cost in time tokens to deploy them can be seriously damaging. Three time tokens spent deploying a sub could instead be used programming a bot of your choice to get an extra action. Second, given this cost, I think other options are usually going to be more attractive in round 3 and especially 4. For example, taking a tech card will bag as many points as deploying a sub but cost much less time (OK, the sub will also provide one or two time tokens during the game but a tech card will also bring other bonuses which will most likely be rather more valuable than 1-2 time). Similarly, getting a lab expansion will probably score you 4-6pts in the final scoring (assuming it adds a new letter to your lab) as well as maybe allowing you to deploy an extra bot for area control. And it might give you an ability (say expanding your tech card storage or allowing you to collect an extra crystal or octopod) that could net you a few more points. And, again, all for a cost of 3-4 fewer time tokens than deploying a late game sub.

I'm very reluctant to suggest a "fix" for this issue, largely because I'm far from certain there really is an issue there. And even if there is, it's really a fairly minor one in the grand scheme of things which still leaves the game a highly enjoyable one. Stefan Feld is a master game designer and I'm sure Aquasphere has been play tested into the ground so it's highly possible that I'm simply missing something crucial regarding the value of late game subs. However, I can't help wondering if perhaps there could be some additional incentive to get particularly those costly fourth and fifth subs deployed. Sure, getting all five out nets you 5pts but it seems to me that the 5pts you get for completing your lab will likely be a better target to shoot for given that lab expansions look (to me at least) to be a better later game option than subs in the majority of circumstances. So, maybe 5pts for the fourth sub at game end and 10pts for the fifth? Or 4&8? Or 3&6 even? Or 1,3&6 for the third, fourth and fifth? Or 2,4&8? Ok, I'm just tossing numbers around now! I'd be interested to hear what others think about this whole issue (non-issue?).


P.S. Possessing the tech card which halves the cost to deploy subs changes all these considerations somewhat (though not, I think, entirely) but should it really be the case that it's only worth trying to deploy all your subs if you have this card?


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Daniel Corban
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This game rewards you for doing what others are not. If it is expensive to get out the last few submarines, this is because others are also doing so. You could find something else to do. Also, the game rewards focus. If you focus on getting time and placing submarines early, via the "white bot" and possibly related cards, you could get out your subs rather early.
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