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Subject: Problems w/ odd numbers of players? rss

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Eric Raabe
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Last night we sat down for a game of SoE for the first time. We only got through one war but everyone was interested in trying it again. About the the only problem we saw was with the uneven alliances. With 7 players we had 4 on 3 alliances and since we couldn't attack eachother we decided to work together. We also realized that we had the military resources of 4 nations against 3 nations, and with teamwork we should be able leverage the board. And we did - with general mutual assistance we started engaging in multiple battles where teamed up we had overwhelming odds. We took away the smaller alliances control markers (there weren't that many neutrals to occupy 7 players) and destroyed their military units in the process. At the end of that first war the lowest scoring member of our bigger alliance outscored the highest scoring member of the smaller alliance. We had a much larger standing army but took enough control tokens to pay for it while the "losers" barely had enough control income to pay for what remained of their armies.

Is this usual? If it had continued the I'd imagine the last spot would have been the highest bid just because everyone would want to be in the larger alliance. It also seemed harsh to the people in the smaller alliance as we were purposely attacking to take out army tokens, and these cost pop, which is essentially a fixed resource.
 
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Allen Doum
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Re: Problems w/ odd numbers of players
Then what did you do in the next war? Keep the same alliances? And if so, why?

The idea that because you are allied with someone doesn't mean that you have to help them. The weaker players in any alliance gain nothing be helping the stronger players win.

The bidding system makes it hard to form the alliances that a player wants, because it generally means that a player would have to win multiple auctions to have other players ally with him.
 
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Anthony Simons
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Re: Problems w/ odd numbers of players
You need to play out all the wars for the best effect. You don't want to play lapdog to the strongest player for subsequent wars or he will always maintain his lead; you need to break that initial alliance to take him down and herein is the element of balance requisite to the system.

It's all about maintaining a balance of power until it is the right time for you to upset the balance in your favour.
 
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Darrell Hanning
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Re: Problems w/ odd numbers of players
I think what really sets this game above other games on the same or similar theme is the bidding-for-alliance mechanism. (Which is actually a misnomer.)

For the players who have overlapping areas of interest, it's important to get them on opposite sides for the turn. For those players who feel they were on the "outside" on the previous turn (due to being on the smaller alliance, for instance), it's important to "break up" the alliances formed on previous turns.

And obviously, if you anticipate getting pounded by a specific player this turn, you want to do everything you can to get him on your alliance...

If three out of seven players are working these angles, they can certainly shake things up.

If there's only one game that makes me wonder what was MW thinking in designing Tempus, it's this game. Did he just need the money, perhaps?
 
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Eric Poolman
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Re: Problems w/ odd numbers of players
I suspect any given member of the 4-player alliance would have done better by being less earnest in their attacks on the 3-player alliance, and concentrating more on setting themselves up for the second war (particularly if someone actually spent money just to eliminate another player's troops -- the beneficiaries of that move are the 5 players not involved in that fight.) In game theory terms, the 4-player against 3-player strategy isn't stable, because the 4-player team members will do better by "defecting" -- not doing their fair share of the fighting, while still receiving the benefits. And once the 4-player team members realize that, they no longer cooperate so well, and the 3-player alliance members don't suffer so much.

Or put another way: only one place in the top four matters, and once people start playing that way the cooperation that kept the four on top falls apart.
 
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Dave Eisen
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Re: Problems w/ odd numbers of players
The other thing to note is that it is in fact good to be in the larger alliance. I've never played 7, but I've frequently played 5, and yes, 3 players working together can beat 2.

But this is something all know and something determined by auction. People will pay for the right to be on the side with more players on it and this should be self-balancing.

I actually prefer Struggle with 5 over 6 because I like the dynamic of different sized alliances.
 
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Inno Van
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Re: Problems w/ odd numbers of players
Yes, the larger side can expand easier. Isn't it a shame when they're then pitted on opposite sides of the next war, with all that shared territory to now fight over... devil
 
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Darrell Hanning
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Re: Problems w/ odd numbers of players
Quote:
Yes, the larger side can expand easier. Isn't it a shame when they're then pitted on opposite sides of the next war, with all that shared territory to now fight over...


Precisely my point. The mechanism is right there, in the players' hands, to bust up any type of collusion, and realign the players much as they see fit, for at least one turn if not more. For how many games of military conflict is that true?
 
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Inno Van
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Re: Problems w/ odd numbers of players
>The mechanism's right there

Hey! It's almost like you're saying you actually have to play the game all the way through a few times before you can understand how the mechanics balance out.

That takes time and effort. I think it's much easier to run to the internet and post how a game is unbalanced after only playing it for 20 minutes or so, without even completing one game.
 
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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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Re: Problems w/ odd numbers of players
Alliances should decrease the amount of combat.

Generally, only some of the players can usefully attack you due to the positions of armies and so forth. These are the people that you want for allies, unless you can get more for attacking them. If someone doesn't want to be allied with you, they should pay for the privilege. By the end of the auction there should be few viable theatres of war, preferably ones that will hurt the lead players.
 
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Greg Low
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Re: Problems w/ odd numbers of players
dead jawa wrote:
If it had continued the I'd imagine the last spot would have been the highest bid just because everyone would want to be in the larger alliance.


I find the last player assigned is usually the smallest player, and his position on either team is less relevant. Often the last player is the smallest, because the larger players are more important to assign early.

I also find it odd to just talk about the number of players, as it is very important to consider where the players are. There are Colonial powers (focused on the Far East, or New World), European powers, and Mixed powers (focused on some of each). Adding a Colonial power to a European alliance will not strengthen the group in Europe. Adding a European power to a European alliance will limit expansion.

Unless the four allied powers are very precisely balanced in splitting the VPs of areas, they aren't likely to stick together long. I've seen this occur, but it is a rarity, not the norm.

dead jawa wrote:
It also seemed harsh to the people in the smaller alliance as we were purposely attacking to take out army tokens, and these cost pop, which is essentially a fixed resource.


I'm not sure that attacking to eliminate armies is ever wise. It's all about the VPs. Attacking to defeat armies is only a good idea to me if you also are taking control markers that you need.

-Greg
 
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Eric Raabe
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Re: Problems w/ odd numbers of players
Well we only had time for the one war, which took about 3 hours, after which we realized we probably wouldn't complete the second before we all had to go. Since we couldn't find out for ourselves how things might have gone or how they might normally go this was the best resource to find out. I wouldn't have wanted any of the players discouraged from playing again because of what might or might not have been seen as a problem from our limited play.
 
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Dave Eisen
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Re: Problems w/ odd numbers of players
You might want to try it with fewer than 7 people next time just to reduce the playtime. It's not a quick game by any means, but you can get a 5 player game finished in one evening if you keep the pace up.
 
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Anthony Simons
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Re: Problems w/ odd numbers of players
Three hours is an excessive amount of time for one war - a whole game shouldn't take much more than three hours (maybe four if you're playing slowly). No wonder you didn't want to finish!
 
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Eric Raabe
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Re: Problems w/ odd numbers of players
Everyone was new to the game, even me, so there was a good deal of explanation and hesitency at first. We guessed that the next war would have taken half as long as the first at most. But I'm also partially to blame due to a pregame innovation of my own. I felt that alliance A fighting against alliance B in War 1 was rather dull. The victors wouldn't write history like that - so once the alliances were picked I sent both sides off to create the history of the war, and whichever side had the highest average score, that sides history as accepted as truth.

So both sides got a sheet of paper with blanks for: name of your alliance, name of the enemy alliance, the reason the war is being fought, and the name of the war. Our alliance, alliance A, was the Brotherhood of the Mystic Death Panda, fighting the evil Michael Jackson Alliance. The war was being fought for the just cause of stopping their alliance from, well, you know, and the war would go down in history as The Thriller in Maniller.

Alliance B presented their history as being the Anti-Phil-ians (that being the U.P. player on our side), fighting us the Evil Demon Worshipping Butt Monkeys. Their reason for the war would better be left unrepeated as well, having something to do with France seducing Russian women that look like men. And they declared this the war of Cinqo De Mayo, however all this just wasn't meant to be as the Brotherhood of the Mystic Death Panda won the war and dictated history.

It definately built comradery in the alliances and was ultimately enjoyed almost as much as the game itself.
 
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Flying Arrow
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Sounds very funny, but also sounds like part of the reason the game went so long.
 
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Zoltan Zoldi
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Does anyone have any experience in a 2 player game?
 
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Darren M
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Quote:
So both sides got a sheet of paper with blanks for: name of your alliance, name of the enemy alliance, the reason the war is being fought, and the name of the war. Our alliance, alliance A, was the Brotherhood of the Mystic Death Panda, fighting the evil Michael Jackson Alliance. The war was being fought for the just cause of stopping their alliance from, well, you know, and the war would go down in history as The Thriller in Maniller.

Alliance B presented their history as being the Anti-Phil-ians (that being the U.P. player on our side), fighting us the Evil Demon Worshipping Butt Monkeys. Their reason for the war would better be left unrepeated as well, having something to do with France seducing Russian women that look like men. And they declared this the war of Cinqo De Mayo, however all this just wasn't meant to be as the Brotherhood of the Mystic Death Panda won the war and dictated history.


Riiight...



You certainly have a creative group. That's all part of the fun of gaming so good on ya's.

SOE is a great game and as others have said... it's got enough nuances that it does take a complete play through at least one game to get a feel for all the dynamics and options in the game. Part of it's charm is the mix of all the mechanisms and how they mesh together and the different strategies you can try.

I've played this game to completion as a 7 player solitaire game just to get the rules down and get a feel for all the options and tactics and that really helps in being able to explain the gameplay and the rules to newbies as it's pretty hard for them to wade through all the options and know what are the best choices for actions/tiles etc when they are first starting out.
 
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Dan Taylor
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Everyone has brought up that the alliances don't need to cooperate, but in the (sadly few) games I played we went a step further - getting someone on your side was in some cases a very hostile move.

Consider that in a seven player game one player may get a good lead out of the first war. The player is doing well, has a lot of forces and poised to unleash his armies on any enemies, provided he's got support from his allies.

He's picked for a particular side, perhaps even the larger side. At which point, for the most part, his allies ignore him unless his help is really needed. What can the player do? He can't backstab his allies, that's forbidden by the rules. If he goes after the members of the other alliance, they might dogpile him. (Since his "friends" are probably not going to help him too much.)

At which point, by the end of the first war, the first place player is no longer the big dog. If he's smart, he's played along, minimized his unrest and is preparing to kick some butt in the third war.

While the game has "alliances," I think it can be confusing for people used to games with team wins (such as Dune) that use the same term. Whereas in SoE, there is only one winner, and anyone playing support to someone else at the cost of their position will lose. Just because you're in the same alliance doesn't mean you all want the same goal, and that goal is certainly not "utter defeat of the opposing alliance."

And, as others have said, if during the second war you keep the exact same alliances (for some odd reason), I guarantee by the third war the knives will come out.
 
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Darren M
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I agree... SOE certainly has some convoluted but interesting game play in terms of the alliances and how you want to position yourself not only in the alliance bidding but also in how bold you want to be in your actions in the 1st war. Certainly being overly agressive early on leads to you becoming everyones default target next round... after all the most common group think seems to be... "If I can't directly help myself with an action I'm taking... the next best thing to do is go after the leaders (or the ass who stole my areas the last round . Being in the middle of the pack and strategically keeping your offensive actions for late 2nd war/3rd war is always prudent IMO.

 
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