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Subject: Could Hyperborea could be the next big hybrid game? rss

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Tragic TheBlathering
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When this game was spoiled I was a bit "meh" but I went to mates house on the weekend and we played it 3 players and I think it is a pretty fantastic game. One of the best light wargames I have played in a long time and possible the break out hybrid game everyone has been looking for to unite the efficiency and thematic gamers. Like Eclipse or Chaos in the Old World or w/e.... not that this game is alike to them, it is more about the fact that they are conflict driven wargame type things with some non-typical efficiency style mechanisms you might find in a Stefan Feld game or w/e.

The core mechanism is a action system that to my knowledge is fairly unique. You start with a bag of coloured cubes. That you draw form 3 at a time. Then you have a player board of actions that require cube colour combinations to activate the action. You place the coloured cubes on the matching slots next to the action to perform it, worker placement style.

So if you might want to generate two movement points so you place a green cube and a cube of any colour on the spaces shown next to that icon and then action grants you two movement points, or you might want to move an attack, so you would have to place a green and a red cube next to the move and attack icon. The cool part is that you only take the cubes off the player board once you have drawn all the cubes from your bag. So you can place cubes on actions in a way so they do no trigger. Like say an action that has 3 cubes to activate you can place 2 on it and leave the third cube to be placed on a future turn. Clever use of the board can lead to large action round of multipule actions all triggering at once. On top of that the actions generated go into a virtual pool that you use before the end of your turn. So generating 2 moment from one actions and one Attack form another can be "spent" in any order at the end of the turn and split over any of your units.

There is a very strong efficiency game feel to this part of the game, it is really about optimising your actions as best you can. Also you only reset all your cubes into the bag when you go to draw and the bag is completely empty. As you are drawing 3 cubes at the end of the round you want to make sure you are never drawing 2 or worse 1 cube. So planning is vital to make ever turn count.



So it is sorta like worker placement, but each player has their own action board, so you are not competing for action slots in anyway.

Addded to that is basically a deck building mechanism. A deck builder if you do not know is a card game where each player starts with the same deck of cards or some kind of standard base deck and as the game continues you add new cards to your deck "building your deck" into a more powerful one.

Anyway, this game has a aspect just like a deck builder but instead you are adding coloured cubes to you bag. Each cube colour is linked to a type of action. Say RED for war, or GREEN for movement, BLUE for research, etc etc. So you build your "Deck" of cubes the best way you can to allow you to take as many actions as you want in your chosen path. In the middle of your player board is a bunch of tracks for each colour that you choose from to advance, once you get near the top you can active the track to gain 1 cube in that colour or wait to you get to the end of the track to gain 2 cubes. This allows you to "build" your cube pool so you cubes match the actions you wish to use are the most common in the bag to be drawn.

For example in my first game I went for a technological pacifist route to victory. So I was all Blue, Yellow and Purple with only a little red, while on of my friends was warlike, so had tons of red. So in many ways it is a deck builder, but of cubes rather than cards. There is even "dead" cubes you need to destroy or find some use for. Each time you build a technology you get a Grey cube that has no use, these can really start to clog up your bag... remember by default you only draw 3 cubes a turn. Drawing 3 Grey is not a good idea!

So you start out with a small amount of actions, that are common to all players and printed on the player boards but as the game progresses you gain all these special technology cards I mentioned earlier that add new actions and therefore new locations to dock your cubes. All these slots allow you, over turns, to build up large actions pools to make some really epic moves. Also the technology cards determine the kind of unique actions you can make, and this is the core of the game. Developing your civilisation with its own tech and so its own actions.

It really is a great hybrid game. It has that eruo feel of cube and action management and like a euro there is a lot of action choices and some deep thinking of your overall strategy and what actions you need for it. Then on top of that is a full light wargame, with lots of conflict, area control exploration and stuff. The board is a modular tile based system you see all the time in these kinds of games.

That being said, like Eclipse got some flak from people as it isn't the kind of game they expected (as in they thought they were getting a 4X) this game is also a little misleading. While there is a wargame element with area control, direct conflict and all that it is imo less of a focus that the actions system itself. The map is extremely random. You use only a tiny fraction of the tiles and tokens provided in each game, so there is a large variance, and some map combinations will be more conflict and area control than others. So make sure you play 3 or 4 times before you judge, but in the games I played I was so engrossed with the action system I didn't put a lot of thought into the map. The designers seam to recognise this as the game board is deliberately small, and this is in a effort to foster greater player conflict.. or so it seamed to me. Now do not get me wrong the combat and area control is a vital part of the game, and it works so well in tandem with the action system. I just do not think that someone coming from a game like Heroes of Normandie will be getting the same kind of vibe. This is a hybrid game, a taste of wargaming, a taste of efficiency.. but not a strong taste of either, yet a flavour all its own.

The game can go a little long as well I have found, it is the only draw back, but I am nearly positive this was just as it was a new game and it would speed up over a few plays, as even by the end of the first game the turns had greatly sped up as we started to get a feel for how it worked.

Anyway, I was pretty impressed by this one!

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Tragic TheBlathering
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someotherguy wrote:
At first I thought you could avoid conflict, but I believe that those who do (in a game with experienced players) will not be able to win.


I agree. I have played about 5 times and I think that you HAVE to fight. There is what seams like a defensive victory for the blue mages, but I tried it twice and while you are looking good at the start, when the other players are gaining a VP for every model taken out, sometimes 2 or 3 a turn.. it really seams insurmountable.

someotherguy wrote:
The faction powers are so wildly unbalanced that the faction game (the unfortunately-named "Race War" in the rulebook) is unplayable, and it's a shame because many of the faction abilities are clever and interesting.


I have only been playing at my mates house, my personal copy is on pre-order from Advent Games. So I am not sure what this "race war" game mode is. Unless it is what I have been playing the entire time.

Still I have strong opinions on balance. I think faction balance is a very miss understood thing. There is a real difference between balance and having mirrors. In a game with faction powers, like say Chaos in the Old World or Dune / Rex the designers shouldn't strive for a balance between those powers. Out of "balance" powers make the game much much more interesting. Many games with these kind of player powers rely on tactics between the players to even the game out as well as focusing the factions on vastly different styles of gameplay.

All in all I think the player powers are very good in this game, and I do not feel anyone has any kind of massive advantage, though like any good player power game, if the other players are not working together to restrict your power, you can get away on them. This is where "balance" comes in .. player controlled balance though alliances. I feel it adds a great and interesting angle to these kinds of games.
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David desJardins
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TragicTheBlathering wrote:
In a game with faction powers, like say Chaos in the Old World or Dune / Rex the designers shouldn't strive for a balance between those powers. Out of "balance" powers make the game much much more interesting. Many games with these kind of player powers rely on tactics between the players to even the game out as well as focusing the factions on vastly different styles of gameplay.


You mean that this is what you prefer, but someone else might reasonably prefer something different. Right? When you say "should", it sounds more prescriptive, like people should design only to your preferences.
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Tragic TheBlathering
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Well everything anyone says is a personal opinion. Do we really need to preface every single comment ever made with disclaimers like "in my opinion" and "for me it is is like this", "I feel this way but it could be different to others" etc etc? In my opinion this is not only redundant but breaks the force of opinion that people have on a subject.

Of course these are my own ideas on game design and as I said, I think striving for game balance is often a great mistake by many new designers and greatly misunderstood by players. People say they want balance, but they seam to be talking of something else. Most of the truly great player power games are not balanced at all as far as the powers go, but the game itself is balanced though player interaction.

Another good example is Terra Mystica currently number 2 on the geek. The player powers in that game are completely unbalanced, but the game itself is. This and the others I have mentioned are what I am talking about here.
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David desJardins
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TragicTheBlathering wrote:
Well everything anyone says is a personal opinion. Do we really need to preface every single comment ever made with disclaimers like "in my opinion" and "for me it is is like this", "I feel this way but it could be different to others" etc etc?


Well, there are a lot of things that I like in games but I don't think designers should make all of their games that way just because I like games that are like that. Actually, I think they should make some games that I like and make some games that I don't really like but other people will like.

Anyway, I was just curious if I understood you correctly. It sounds like I did.

Quote:
Another good example is Terra Mystica currently number 2 on the geek. The player powers in that game are completely unbalanced, but the game itself is. This and the others I have mentioned are what I am talking about here.


But does it follow that because it's rated highly that all games should be like that? I guess I just think that the variety of having different types of games, rather than making every game fit one principle or approach, has value too.
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Paul DeStefano
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TragicTheBlathering wrote:
Well everything anyone says is a personal opinion.


This implies no one ever states a fact.

David was positing that you spoke as if it was fact when it was not.
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ozzy perez
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I wasn't that impressed overall after my first playthrough but I must admit that the blind bag pulling mechanism stayed in my head.. really enjoyed pulling and managing those cubes for the best possible action. Anyways... haven't been able to stop thinking about how much I'd like to play it again so I snatched a copy yesterday. Looking forward to playing more times because I have a feeling I am going to really be enjoying this one the more that I play it.
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