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Subject: The rules for "Longest River" need to be clarified rss

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Ken H.
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Source of the Nile is a very interesting (and old) game of exploring Africa. It has a good heavy theme, derived from a high level of detail. The downside of that level of detail is that the rules can be a little complex. In particular, the rules for mapping rivers are especially hairy. I recently played a solitaire game and ran into some gaps in these rules. I was playing multiple expeditions (as though there were multiple players). In other words, solitaire but not solo, I guess you could say.

Anyway, this game does not seem to be very actively played these days, so I don't know if anyone is going to be familiar enough with the rules to discuss this issue. Then again, with BGG it's always worth a try. Here goes:

The way the rules are phrased, the points for discovering the longest river go to the player who publishes the hex that is "farthest from the mouth of the largest river system."

This sentence really doesn't work. The two main problems are:

(1) Farthest how? As the river flows, or as the crow flies?
(2) What happens if the river system has two mouths?


Regarding #1: How to determine the farthest hex.

The only guidance the rules provide (in section 25.0) is that you must "count the shortest possible route from hex to mouth". Well, the shortest possible route would be as the crow flies.

A better rule (and I think the intended rule) is "count the shortest possible route to the mouth along the river's course." That means that if the river has an offshoot into a lake, you don't count the offshoot as part of the distance, unless it is on that shortest path to the mouth. Conversely, if the whole river basin extends for 20-some hexes around a mountain range, you DO count those 20 hexes, even though it would have only been 2 or 3 hexes if you went straight over the mountain.

Regarding #2: Complex river systems

In section 10.32 there is a rule that says a river cannot exit at two mouths.

Uhhh... okay, but what if it does?

This is like a rule in a card game that says you "cannot" draw a red card, when it is in fact physically possible to do so. What happens if you do? Would that hypothetical rule mean that you have to put it back and draw again? What if the game has already moved on and it's too late to change anything? Or, what if there is only one card left?

Okay, that's getting too philosophical. Here is the problem:

Suppose you have mapped two rivers, and it turns out that they are both flowing from the same hex. That hex is currently unexplored. (Note: this is NOT an isolated corner case, or some obscure situation that would never really come up in a game. It DID happen, and as far as I can tell, it looks like it could happen fairly often).

According to 10.3212, when that unexplored hex is explored, it HAS TO BE a swamp (or lake). You don't even draw for a terrain type -- you just automatically make it a water hex. The reason given is because a river can't have two mouths. Non sequitur? Or just a case of vague (read non-existent) definitions? Is a river the same as a river system?

And what happens then -- I now have a body of water with two rivers flowing out of it (and they flow to different mouths). Is that hex the source for both rivers? If I publish that hex, surely I don't get points for longest river AND second longest river for a single hex. The rule on scoring for longest river uses the phrase "river system", so I would assume that these rivers are now a single river system, and it will only count for longest river OR second longest river, but not both.

The problem there is, as demonstrated, a river "system" can have two mouths.


So, do you count the shortest path to the closest one? The "shortest path" rule implies that you shouldn't count to the farther mouth, but then again, the wording of the rule obviously doesn't even consider that there might be two mouths. Also, if you always use the closer mouth you run the fairly high risk of anti-climax, where somebody spends the whole game exploring the Nile, only to find that it merges into some two-bit river with a closer mouth, thereby cutting his distance in half.

Possible interpretation: In case of more than one mouth, do not count upstream. Count downstream (or neutral) only. If you have to go upstream and then downstream to get to a different mouth, then don't use that mouth. If two mouths are both downstream, then use the one that is further away. In other words, you are looking for the farthest hex within a single tributary of the river. A given river system will have multiple tributaries, and each tributary will have it's own "farthest hex". But, only the hex that is farthest of all in the whole system will count for points.

What about a tie, where two tributaries are the same length, and different players have discovered the farthest hex in each tributary? Ties aren't a problem, because whoever publishes first gets the points. Remember: you can only score points for "longest river" if it gives you enough points to win, so the game always ends right after somebody claims longest (or second longest, etc.) river.


Of course, the problem with that interpretation is that lakes and swamps also form part of the river "system", and yet they have no direction of flow (no "upstream" lakes, etc). In fact, a lake or swamp can have multiple rivers flowing in AND out of a single hex. It is not uncommon (I think) for the center of the continent to have a huge swamp that joins several of the major rivers. You will usually have to count multiple swamp hexes to determine the shortest path to the river mouth. That's why I put the word "neutral" into the interpretation above.

One thing I like about this interpretation: since the game is called "Source" of the Nile, the emphasis should be on the source and not on some arbitrary point in the river system. The "source" means that you have gone upstream as far as you can possibly go, and there is no where else to go. Thus, my "count downstream only" rule rewards finding the actual source of the river system.
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Jay Richardson
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Quote:
A better rule (and I think the intended rule) is "count the shortest possible route to the mouth along the river's course."

I agree. The comment in the 3rd paragraph of the Introduction saying that "news of rivers of great length and volume were accorded great importance" would seem to support this interpretation.

Quote:
Suppose you have mapped two rivers, and it turns out that they are both flowing from the same hex. That hex is currently unexplored.

According to 10.3212, when that unexplored hex is explored, it HAS TO BE a swamp (or lake). You don't even draw for a terrain type -- you just automatically make it a water hex. The reason given is because a river can't have two mouths.

This seems clear so far...

Quote:
Is a river the same as a river system?

I agree that the rules are lacking in precise definitions here. I would define "river system" as being everything that flows to a single mouth. In the example you gave, I would say that you have two river systems (because there are – or eventually will be – two mouths), both of which flow from the single lake/swamp hex.

In other words, "river system" would include tributaries as well as the main river, but it would not include other rivers that might flow from the same source.

Quote:
And what happens then -- I now have a body of water with two rivers flowing out of it (and they flow to different mouths). Is that hex the source for both rivers?

Yes (10.317).

Quote:
If I publish that hex, surely I don't get points for longest river AND second longest river for a single hex.

I believe that this could be indeed be possible... if one river was the longest and the other river was the second longest. Since there are two mouths, there MUST be two separate river systems (10.3212). I don't see a rule prohibiting rivers from having the same source, nor do I see how such a rule could be workable.

Quote:
The rule on scoring for longest river uses the phrase "river system", so I would assume that these rivers are now a single river system, and it will only count for longest river OR second longest river, but not both.

No, I disagree. I feel strongly that a "river system" can have only one mouth. These should be treated as two separate rivers that just happen to share a source, so you could possibly score multiple points for publishing that source hex.

This not only seems to be the most logical explanation, but it also avoids all of the problems you described in trying to score a "river system" that has more than one mouth. If such multi-mouth systems were possible, I think they would be specifically mentioned in the rules.

Or, in other words, the very fact that you are finding so many problems in trying to score a two-mouth river system can be seen as evidence that such an interpretation is incorrect.
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Ken H.
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Hi, thanks for the reply! I didn't expect anyone to respond, since it was a very technical rules issue, on a less-than-popular game. I should have guessed a Magic Realm player would take up the challenge....


richfam wrote:
I agree that the rules are lacking in precise definitions here. I would define "river system" as being everything that flows to a single mouth. In the example you gave, I would say that you have two river systems (because there are – or eventually will be – two mouths), both of which flow from the single lake/swamp hex.


My only problem with that interpretation is that it means there is no difference between a river and a river system. The rules already say that a river can't have two mouths. I was assuming "river system" must have different meaning, given that is possible to have some sort of complex water way that does, in fact, have two mouths.

At any rate, now that I think about it, neither interpretation prevents a river from having two mouths. Consider the lake mentioned above, which was the source of two separate rivers. It's possible that the lake itself is fed by a third river. In that case, the source of this third river is actually the source of both rivers that flow from the lake. So is that third river a river "system" unto itself, or what?

I mean, as much as I like to have precise definitions of terms, I can't really conceive any way to define things that would get around the core problem, which is that a river (or river system) CAN have two mouths, despite a direct rule to the contrary. The only definition that would come close is to change the meaning of "mouth", and say that the third river ends at the lake, and therefore has no mouth. That, at least, prevents it from having two mouths. That seems kind of obtuse, though, like solving my card game example (above) by saying that when you draw a red card, it is actually considered orange, and is therefore legal.

Anyway, I guess the real technical aspects of it aren't so important. The only issues that matter to game play are (1) which river system is longest, and (2) how do you determine which hex is farthest from "the" mouth of that river system. I'm still moderately happy with my solution from the first post.

Quote:
No, I disagree. I feel strongly that a "river system" can have only one mouth. These should be treated as two separate rivers that just happen to share a source, so you could possibly score multiple points for publishing that source hex.

This not only seems to be the most logical explanation, but it also avoids all of the problems you described in trying to score a "river system" that has more than one mouth. If such multi-mouth systems were possible, I think they would be specifically mentioned in the rules.

Or, in other words, the very fact that you are finding so many problems in trying to score a two-mouth river system can be seen as evidence that such an interpretation is incorrect.


I see your point, but I think you're just trading one set of problems for a different set. No matter what you call it -- river, river system, series of connected lakes, crocodile maze, whatever -- the problem remains that the whole mapping system (which is the main feature of the game) does not prevent "it" from exiting the continent at two mouths.

It seems like we would resolve a lot of problems by just saying that each "mouth" (which are all marked on the board) is its own river system. But in practice, it doesn't help that much because everything kind of merges together. How do you tell them apart? That question is what originally put me on to the "downstream only" idea, but even that gets kind of messy when lakes and swamps are involved.
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Robt. Ferrett
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Frankly, when my brother and I play, we just "common sense" the river courses when ambiguities arise--which is fairly common. For example, the rules may permit a river to turn in a direction which would ultimately almost certainly cause it to loop into itself on a later turn...so we'll redraw or roll until we get a more plausible direction.

I would suggest a similar "plausibility test" for resolving your concern about river mouths...if the outcome of the card draw doesn't make sense, keep randomizing until something more sensible comes along.

This is part of the reason that this game isn't for everyone...but I really enjoy it.
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Steve Bachman
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There are 12 named rivers on the board, but only 9 mouths. The mouths are the termination of a river system and may include multiple rivers in it (see the Niles in the northeast). The scoring for "longest river" should actually be called "longest river system" as the rules for scoring it indicate. Basically, you follow the system upstream from each mouth until you can no longer get further upstream (either due to not being mapped or finding the source). The furthest distance that you can travel along the upstream course is the measurement of length used for scoring.

I think the "shortest path to the mouth" may be an error carried over from the Epic Journey scoring rules or be for a rare occasion. The only way to have a shorter path from source to mouth on a river system would be to either measure as the birds fly or two rivers in a river system (from a fork) reconverge back into the same river (creating an island of sorts). The former case doesn't make much contextual sense. The latter would probably be rare, but would make the shortest path statement make sense. If the two Niles converge later upstream towards a common source, the measurement would be through the shorter of the two rivers.

That's how I understand it. I don't think it really opens up any other set of problems.

-Steve
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Daniel U. Thibault
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Ward wrote:
There are 12 named rivers on the board, but only 9 mouths.

1 - Niger
2 - Ogoue
3 - Congo
4 - Cunene
5 - Orange + Vaal
6 - Limpopo
7 - Zambezi
8 - Rufiji
9 - White Nile + Blue Nile

That's 11 rivers, two of which flow into another.
 
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