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Subject: Can one exclude the secret objective cards? rss

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Derek Carver
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I am very interested in this game. I know opinions have varied but it seems to include a number of good and attractive ideas. But our group has put an embargo on any game with 'secret objectives'.

Unfortunately I don't know anybody who owns PANAMAX so I would like to hear from players whether these cards could be excluded from the game without upsetting play. In other words, are they an important part of the game's structure or can they be dispensed with?
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Scott Seifert
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You could play with them revealed and it wouldn't really harm the game.

If it's the potential imbalance of people going after different goals, you could deal out the 4 "Favored Nation" goals (practically symmetrical) at the start of the game instead of the normal set up, and then have the other goals be obtainable in the usual way.

But if that's still not enough, I think the game would play just fine without it. I would probably let the players take 6 or 7 personal money instead of the usual 5 for getting a size-3 ship through the canal, to make up for the loss of the financial advisor option.
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Jon Ben
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Carver wrote:
I am very interested in this game. I know opinions have varied but it seems to include a number of good and attractive ideas. But our group has put an embargo on any game with 'secret objectives'.

Unfortunately I don't know anybody who owns PANAMAX so I would like to hear from players whether these cards could be excluded from the gsme without upsetting play. In other words, are they an important part of the game's structure or can they be dispensed with?


They don't provide a huge number of points, but they do encourage slightly divergent play. The game will work just fine without them. It might be nice to still have a choice b/w player money now or VPs for end of game when a 3-ship arrives at the ocean. Perhaps set the value of all Financial Advisers to 8 or 9 VP, and have players start with none. The limit of 2 scoring F.A. cards would probably still be needed to stop some weird spamming of them from dominating.

For what it's worth I also loath secret end-game scoring. I've found that the F.A. cards are so minor in this game they don't really bother me much. If you can convince your group it might worth trying them out.
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Jon Ben
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golden_cow2 wrote:

But if that's still not enough, I think the game would play just fine without it. I would probably let the players take 6 or 7 personal money instead of the usual 5 for getting a size-3 ship through the canal, to make up for the loss of the financial advisor option.


It gets a bit wonky if you can make more personal money during the game b/c that can be used to buy stock. It's safer to let them take the card and have it be valued at something higher than 5. If they want cash they have the 5 coin option for refusing the card.
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Mark Buetow
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Yeah, um...embargoes don't really fit with the whole theme of Panamax...
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Paul Grogan
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There's at least one other thread with a lot of comments about leaving out the financial advisor cards.

Bottom line, it works absolutely fine and is still a good game without them. Just give $5 to each player who earns one instead.

Now, there are people out there who love these cards and think the game doesn't work without them - that's their opinion of course, but I've played many games without them and it works fine.

A number of people also think it plays better with them, but I know a number of people who think it is a better game without them.

So, its up to you.
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Edward Uhler
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Another option is X amount of community cards and players can try and go after as many as they want of those community ones.
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David Larkin
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When teaching give each player one of the cards that awards points for collecting flags of one nation, don't worry explaining about the others until people are getting the hang of the game, or leave them out all together until you are ready for them
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Chris Hoboken
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I wouldn't suggest excluding the objective cards, although I don't think there's anything wrong with simply making them open knowledge. Generally by the end of the game you'll be able to deduce everyone's FA cards anyway, and there's not much to be gained from blocking rather than maximizing your own points.

For me,the FA cards serve to increase the number of interesting decisions I have to make in a game of Panamax. I have the Euro MFN card but only need a Chinese flag to eliminate the cost of moving dice. Do I take a Euro contract or a Chinese contract? Do I take a contract that advances my MFN points or one that will let me load on to a cruise ship/rail line? I have the offshore accounts card, so should I tank my stock price early to make it easier to pay out dividends later? There are lots of similar examples.

Removing the FA cards also drastically devalues the size 3 ships. If all I get for sending a size 3 ship through is 5 dollars, there's much less incentive to buy it in the first place, particularly since it's more difficult to load and launch. If you simply must remove the FA cards, then I would give players a choice between 5 dollars up front or a generic FA card that's always worth x points at the end (somewhere between 12-15 would probably be about right).
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Derek Carver
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My thanks everybody for your helpful comments.

I can immediately bring to mind two otherwise truly excellent games where these hidden objective cards are extremely powerful - as well as being unbalanced - in that they bring a large number of points at game end, dwarfing the efforts players have been making on the scoring track for the previous two hours!

Some games attempt to get over this to a certain extent by making them common knowledge, whilst one other popular title makes each such card apply to all players, which is a good idea if a designer feels he must have them.

If they are simply dealt out at the start of the game as a sort of 'add-on' it can be easy to dump them; but if they are built into the fabric of the game then it isn't so easy, of course. (On the other hand, if their effect is nowhere near as dramatic as the above example, which seems from what has been said is the case in Panamax, it can be possible to live with them if the game is enjoyable)

Derek

As gamers know, these 'hidden objectives' have only recently become a fairly regular feature of games. A publisher explained to me that a problem they found with game buyers in their country was that they often didn't want to finish playing a game if they realised they were not going to win. But these hidden objectives revealed at game end meant that the winner wasn't known until the game was over and a player in apparently last place could end up winning. So everybody stayed round the table to the end! This is why they started to introduce them and the idea has clearly caught on.
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Paul Grogan
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Yeah, I'm also not sure they have a 'minor' effect on the game. I've played a few games now where the winner was decided simply on the cards he got. In one game, one of my cards was worth zero, and there was almost nothing I could do about it. It was the one that paid money for each share from a company that paid dividends, which in our game was precisely zero (it was an odd game).

But, that was a card I started with and it got me nothing. Another player took a card pretty much at random because he was learning the game, and it got him about 25 or something.

There are many other threads about these cards, with some people saying they are all completely balanced (which I totally disagree with), and others saying they are totally imbalanced, but that is ok (which again, I disagree with). But I do know some people who like the game with them. I just think they need to be tweaked slightly.
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Chris Hoboken
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They are objectively not balanced. For example, the 2 FA cards referencing cruise ship passengers pay out different amounts for the exact same objective. However if you use the variant where everyone starts with 1 MFN card, then there's no issue. If you want the better FA cards, you have to rush through a size 3 ship. Of course there are pretty big tradeoffs there in terms of cost and time, particularly if nobody else helps you load or move the ship.
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Thomas Leitner
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I played the game today and it left me wondering about the FA cards. I've played Panamax more than ten times, and like the FA cards less each time I've played. I don't consider then well balanced at all, and it's my opinion that they introduce too much randomness (for my taste) into an otherwise nearly perfect game.

In my plays, the biggest offender has been the card that gives money for each acquired flag. I think I'm going to remove that one going forward.

I was going to start a thread asking about others' experience playing without them when I stumbled across this thread.

I like the idea of handing out random MFN cards at the start while allowing players that take the risk of launching their three hold ships to pick through the remainder cards.
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Rami Finkelshtein
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Curiously what do people think about removing some of the FA cards before the game starts?

Basically just taking a set number out. Often I see is that if one of the considered "stronger" cards is not in the starting set then often players will try to rush to fish it out of the FA pile. However if the FA pile was made up of unknowns each game it would require your strategy to be fluid since you are not 100% sure that you could pick up the FA card at all...

I get that people who don't like the secret goals will still not enjoy this but I feel that this does balance out some of the more/less powerful FA cards as their distribution is not known at the start of the game.
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Chris Hoboken
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DaFink wrote:
Curiously what do people think about removing some of the FA cards before the game starts?

Basically just taking a set number out. Often I see is that if one of the considered "stronger" cards is not in the starting set then often players will try to rush to fish it out of the FA pile. However if the FA pile was made up of unknowns each game it would require your strategy to be fluid since you are not 100% sure that you could pick up the FA card at all...



Again, it devalues your size 3 ship quite a bit if you start randomly removing some of the FA cards. In fact, I'm already beginning to question the value of the size 3 ship in the game as it stands. I've skipped buying it in each of my last 2 plays. In the first play, I won with a score of 130 with only my starting FA card (which in my group is always a MFN card). Second place was my gf with 122 and 3 FA cards (she didn't play her MFN card but had both offshore accounts and intl expediters). In the second game, I finished in second just a few points behind. In both games I focused heavily on buying stock and helped my company out only to the point where I didn't have to pay maintenance out of personal pocket. I used most of my movement moving other people's cargo where I was a majority shareholder. I finished each game with 6 shares of stock.

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Paul Grogan
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podling wrote:
Again, it devalues your size 3 ship quite a bit if you start randomly removing some of the FA cards.

I think the suggestion is that if you remove them, then when your size 3 ship arrives, you get cash instead. maybe $10 or something - personal money. Or just a 10vp counter to stop you spending the money. Something like that.

I've seen FA cards worth anything from 0 to 3020. And that wasn't down to any skill of the players, just the way things happened.

EDIT: My bad. I said 30 above and meant ~20
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Chris Hoboken
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PaulGrogan wrote:


I've seen FA cards worth anything from 0 to 30. And that wasn't down to any skill of the players, just the way things happened.


I'm not sure it's even possible to get 30 out of any card other than offshore accounts, and I've never seen that one pay out over 18. If someone got 30 out of OA (or any other card) then it most certainly was down to the skill of the player.

I'm pretty sure the best card is International Expediters. I saw someone get 18 out of it once, and lose. Never seen higher than 18. If you used all 4 actions every turn loading cargo (ie, never moved a ship), hit the rail line all 3 turns, and grabbed a flag from your initial contract, you could score 32 with IE. But you've never moved a ship, never taken an executive action, and almost certainly finished in last place. Most of the time it's worth about 16 points and it's biggest strength is just that it doesn't require you to go out of your way to collect points.

I've seen luxury cruises earn 20 once, but that 4th cruise ship token isn't earning your company much money or gaining you anything on your clipboard, plus it's pretty tough to get 4 passenger tokens before they run out. Usually that one is worth 10 or 15.

Offshore accounts might net you high teens, but even then there's usually a cost in terms of stock price and/or bypassed executive actions. Anything over 20 from offshore accounts is definitely due to player skill and is balanced out by lower points elsewhere.

MFN cards are worth 9-12 usually, 15 on the high side and that involves giving up useful clipboard actions generally. You would need 10 flags from your MFN to get to 30, and while technically possible it's certainly not something you just back into, and the cost wouldn't come close to justifying the 30 points.

So yah... I'm at a loss to see how anyone could get 30 points from one FA card and not have it be due to skill on their part. I suspect you're either exaggerating or playing one or more of the cards incorrectly.
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