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Subject: First Impressions rss

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Paul Sauberer
United States
Austin
Texas
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I played the game twice tonight. The first game was with 5 players and the second was with 3. The experiences were very different, similar to the different feels that Atlantic Star has with 3 players as opposed to more.

The 5-player game was very chaotic. Bids tended to be larger than the later game because there was a greater risk of being left with nothing constructive to do. Planning was very hard to accomplish. The "special Traders" had very little value because there was little control over being able to maneuver into a position where they would pay off. They ended up being more like the old "change of socks" joke.

The major complaint heard around the table was that going second was the key. The most inportant thing to do was cultivate an appearance of harmlessness so that you could get chosen early in the action phase. There were some suggestions that there should continue to be some sort of auction for the remaining positions.

With 3 players, the game was much different. First, you were guaranteed of taking an action, so the bids were relatively low, especially for the first part of the game. However, the auctions were still interesting because there was always a tension as to whether going first was worth it, even if the bid was two. Plus the auction order was more under control and factored into decisions much more.

Planning was much more feasible. Looking ahead was worth more effort because there was much more of a chance that you could actually have a chance to carry out your plans. Relative positions were also ,uch easier to keep track of.

I don't think that I will ever play with more than 4 players. I definitley want to keep the game in a heavy rotation for 3 players. I will try it with 4, but I am not sure what to expect. My guess is that Silk Road is destined to be a strong 3-player game, in the mold of Carolus Magnus in that regard.
 
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bruno faidutti
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PARIS
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I'm glad you liked the game, and I'm a bit surprised since, as it is with most of my games, 99% of the testings were made with 4, 5 or 6, and I played once with 3 to make sure it still worlked - but I think Ted played it more with fewer players.
 
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Ted Cheatham
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Paul thank you for the comments. I also play tested mostly with more players and only a few times with 3 to make sure it worked. Funny thing is I got the exact same comment from another gamer this weekend that he liked it best with 3 for the reasons you state.

And, you mentioned money. Running out of money with 6 can happen with the cash supplied with the game. This really depends on how the tiles come out and the path people take. But, this is not a limiting factor in the game.....and, although you should not have to do this, we simply turn the used board tiles face down and use them as 1 silver each to pay out as needed.
 
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Doug Orleans
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As another data point, I played this for the first time last week, with 5 players, and we also ran out of money, by quite a bit. We had to use about 20 poker chips for the remaining silver. That might have been partly due to the "superfriendly ties" rule for the Grand Vizier (we had many ties).

My problem with 5 players is that it's too hard to pay attention to what everyone is doing let alone keep careful track of how much money and cubes everyone has. This made the "who goes next" selection feel very random. Most of the time we just ended up rationalizing our choices with "you helped me most recently" or "I haven't helped you recently", which felt unsatisfying. I could see this devolving into a negotiation/whining game. I also considered having multiple auctions per turn to determine the turn order, but I think that would slow the game down too much. My other thought was to play with open holdings, which might lead to analysis paralysis, but I'd like to try it that way. Or else just try it with fewer players.
 
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Dave Gilligan
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One issue I have had in two games I have played recently is that other players weren't paying attention. I agree it is sometimes difficult to keep track of who is doing what but its part of the game. When you have players who don't even try to do this it really can throw the game off.

In the one game, we had one player who really didn't care one way or the other about the game. He was reading something and would look up on his turn see what tiles were out there, make his move and go back to reading. Needless to say, when it came time to pass the pawn or take actions like the thief, his actions made absolutely no sense. He would pass the pawn to someone who would clearly benefit from a trade (people paying attention knew this because they saw some trades the player had made or a Grand Vizier round) or in one case stole a cube from me, the weakest player in the game.

In the other game we were at a convention and one of the players was a dealer and he got called away a couple of times to care for some issues. At one point he came back and passed the pawn to a player who had just made a big trade for blue cubes the previous turn. There was a tile to sell blue cubes still left and he made a killing. He also ended up winning the game. Those of us who were paying attention would never have allowed this person to choose that tile. I don't blame the guy because he had a business to run (outside of Silk Road!) but it really demonstrated how critical it is to try and keep track of what people are doing.

I'm not going to claim to have the greatest memory in the world but I can generally keep track of people for a couple of turns prior and base my decisions on that information....and just a general feeling about who has been doing well. If you read my strategy article, you will also see some thoughts I have about passing the pawn.
 
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Guy Riessen
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We've now played this with 3,4 and 5--multiple times with each--and I will say that the 3 player version is quite tense with much look-ahead and careful watch of what each player was doing/collecting. Although the bids for caravan leader didn't really get high, there was almost always bidding--not just for control, but to squeeze cash from the current leader if you thought they wanted to keep the leadership. I think 3 is the sweetspot! 5 was chaotic and no one really felt in control of their own destiny, a lot was trying to make do with what you were presented with little thought to screwage, or manipulating play to minimize your opponent's cashflow. 4 players was pretty decent as well, second only to 3, since it adds the "no action" for one player each turn--but this seemed to strongly favor those with superhuman memory, they had far more control over everyone else since they could truly optimize the screwage, while quietly advancing their own goals.

We've been enjoying it quite a bit, but don't even bother with the money pieces...like with many games ever since I picked up the quality poker chip set. There's just a cool factor to clacking poker chips and stacking/restacking them behind your screens
 
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