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Subject: How Big a Problem is the Blocking Factor? rss

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Steve G.
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Having watched both the Dice Tower and Rahdo reviews, I noted they both mentioned (in not so many words) that the strategic element of the game can be pretty heavily undermined by players getting blocked out of spots that are critical to their plans. Now, I understand that competition for spots is a pretty central component of worker placement, but if getting blocked is out of a player's control (such as due to turn order), and then they don't have any way to mitigate the blockage (even if it's costly or less efficient), then we're talking about a game that has the potential to leave a bad taste in a lot of player's mouths.

The reviews were overall positive, but this seems like a big snag that they only get around by playing nice. I wanted to ask some experienced players before I bothered to take the shrink wrap off.
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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steveg700 wrote:
but if getting blocked is out of a player's control (such as due to turn order), and then they don't have any way to mitigate the blockage (even if it's costly or less efficient)[...]

If you would be blocked due to turn order, you should plan for that and set the turn order to your liking ahead of time.

Blocking is part of worker placement.
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Mike
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The denial of opportunity to other players is a major part of the strategy of this game. If not for that it might just be another points optimisation game. Players need to keep turn order in mind and be constantly aware of what the other players are doing, in terms of strategy and their available options. So I disagree that players getting blocked and having their strategy undermined is a bad thing, rather that player had a poor strategy. Strategies in such situations must evolve and be flexible.

Being first player is important in mitigating loss of a valued action, but someone going earlier in order sacrificed an action to do that, and the first player only gets one of many choices first.

This game features conflict in the form of action denial, and that is either a pro or a con depending on an individual's preference.

For me it is a big pro.
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Mark Langston
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sdiberar wrote:


Blocking is part of worker placement.


This... so much this. I really don't understand why everyone is making such a big deal out of being blocked off. In fact, this game is LESS "mean" than some other games in that you can always use a higher ranked worker to get what you want if need be.
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C Bazler
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whitecarlton81 wrote:
sdiberar wrote:


Blocking is part of worker placement.


This... so much this. I really don't understand why everyone is making such a big deal out of being blocked off. In fact, this game is LESS "mean" than some other games in that you can always use a higher ranked worker to get what you want if need be.


Exactly. Most WP games block you in all spaces if anyone goes there. In this game, you only might be blocked from the space you want, with several spaces where no one can be blocked as long as they have a coin.
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Mark Langston
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cbazler wrote:
whitecarlton81 wrote:
sdiberar wrote:


Blocking is part of worker placement.


This... so much this. I really don't understand why everyone is making such a big deal out of being blocked off. In fact, this game is LESS "mean" than some other games in that you can always use a higher ranked worker to get what you want if need be.


Exactly. Most WP games block you in all spaces if anyone goes there. In this game, you only might be blocked from the space you want, with several spaces where no one can be blocked as long as they have a coin.


That's what threw me when I watched rahdo and the Dice Tower's reviews of the game. Shouldn't those guys KNOW that this is THE main feature of this type of game? It made me feel like I was missing something...

Anyways, I've played this game once so far, and I really enjoyed it. I got smoked, but it was easy to see where I had made mistakes. I hope to do better next time!
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Runcible Spoon
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steveg700 wrote:
Now, I understand that competition for spots is a pretty central component of worker placement


I think some posters here, based on their responses, have missed this portion of your statement.

steveg700 wrote:
...but if getting blocked is out of a player's control (such as due to turn order), and then they don't have any way to mitigate the blockage (even if it's costly or less efficient), then we're talking about a game that has the potential to leave a bad taste in a lot of player's mouths.


To address your concern directly turn order is also manipulated by worker placement. People who are consistently doing poorly because of turn order effects are not playing well because turn order is easily manipulated.

To echo what others have said, this game is somewhat forgiving in that many but not all spaces cannot be blocked at all but rather 'blocking' (used in a very loose sense) really just raises the cost to use the space.

I suspect this might have a bit more conflict, especially 2p, than Rahdo and Jen go for and less conflict than the dice tower crew like. In short, I think it falls in between their preferences which actually is a zone I like.

I would take the shrink wrap off and give it a spin. I think it is especially good 2p (you can have a little more long range planning with fewer players).
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Steve G.
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Runcible Spoon wrote:
steveg700 wrote:
Now, I understand that competition for spots is a pretty central component of worker placement


I think some posters here, based on their responses, have missed this portion of your statement.

Hehe, yes, thanks for pointing this out and restoring my faith in humanity.

I was rolling my eyes reading post after post that seemed to miss me pre-empting the pat response that it's just the nature of worker-placement. Naturally, Richard and Tom both play enough worker-placement games to understand how they fundamentally work. Knowing that about them I have to figure that the blockage here in Ancient Word is something especially onerous.

As Tom explained, many games include mitigation in the form of redundant worker spots so that you can somewhere else and get something similar to what you need (e.g. Manhattan Project, Le Havre, Francis Drake, Yedo, Kanban), or simply have enough turns in the game that being "hosed" for one round just means you'll spend a round gathering some resources (like the occasions one has to prospect in Puerto Rico). In contrast, the impression is that in Ancient World, one blockage can do you in.

Quote:
steveg700 wrote:
...but if getting blocked is out of a player's control (such as due to turn order), and then they don't have any way to mitigate the blockage (even if it's costly or less efficient), then we're talking about a game that has the potential to leave a bad taste in a lot of player's mouths.


To address your concern directly turn order is also manipulated by worker placement. People who are consistently doing poorly because of turn order effects are not playing well because turn order is easily manipulated.

To echo what others have said, this game is somewhat forgiving in that many but not all spaces cannot be blocked at all but rather 'blocking' (used in a very loose sense) really just raises the cost to use the space.

I suspect this might have a bit more conflict, especially 2p, than Rahdo and Jen go for and less conflict than the dice tower crew like. In short, I think it falls in between their preferences which actually is a zone I like.

I would take the shrink wrap off and give it a spin. I think it is especially good 2p (you can have a little more long range planning with fewer players).


Thanks for the detailed explanation. I definitely won't be playing two players. It'll be three or four.

When you say turn is easily manipulated, isn't that a two-way street? Someone can manipulate it specifically to put their 3 where you want your 3 to be. Perhaps a big part of the issue that there's only six turns in the game, so it doesn't seem like if your plan hinged on you getting to Learn this round that it's something that can easily wait. I don't think Tom and Sam really mind conflict, they just want reactive mitigation options, not just proactive jockeying.

Still, they all liked it, which is something to bear in mind.
 
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Ryan Laukat
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I should mention that Tom and Sam mixed up a rule that made their experience more cutthroat than normal. They were counting Titans as Empire cards when determining if they hade enough capacity.
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Steve G.
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Yeah, I saw that mentioned in the comments. Not sure what the impact of that is exactly.
 
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Ryan Laukat
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It means that everyone would need about twice as many District cards, which means that the location for buying District cards would be twice as crowded. If someone placed a high-skill worker there, it could completely cut off every other player in the game.

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Matthew Gabbert
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steveg700 wrote:
Yeah, I saw that mentioned in the comments. Not sure what the impact of that is exactly.


It meant they ran out of Capacity in their cities prematurely. This made blocking the Expand action much more important since it not only interfered with players' Build plans more frequently than it should have, but also made attacking Titans seem less beneficial.
 
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Runcible Spoon
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steveg700 wrote:
Thanks for the detailed explanation. I definitely won't be playing two players. It'll be three or four.

When you say turn is easily manipulated, isn't that a two-way street?


You are welcome and yes it is a two way street but a more complex two street than one might initially suspect.

There are other benefits that come with changing the player order, you can flip two damaged buildings (i.e. you can start using their powers again) and you gain a coin as well. So jockeying for simple turn order is more complex than in many games. Timing the jockeying so that you can take advantage of the other two abilities that come on the space are important as well.

It doesn't seem like turn order changes all that often, some but not a ton (well a bit more at higher player counts). I actually think avoiding additional costs with your other moves is at least important as turn order.

Regarding the mistake made by the dice tower crew (whose reviews I generally like by the way) I would say it is probably a step or so above being a minor mistake. Not a huge deal, but it would definitely change the importance of many things in the game...suddenly military is a less important because titans are of less value, as mentioned the district expansion spot will be artificially inflated as will anything with knowledge (so you can buy districts) and income generation (so you can buy districts) and all of this maneuvering probably leads to players scoring fewer points overall because fewer banners will come out which means a player lucking into getting the right banners (by luck I mean they for example go for red early and it just so happens to be the case that more red comes out than others) might happen more often, or if it doesn't happen more often you could say the effects of a situation like that will be exaggerated, because fewer banners total are being scored in the game.

So yeah, it is the kind of mistake that has a snowball effect.

I hope that helps.
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Bartosz Popow
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Many people also treat numerous game where you place markers of your own on the board as worker placement games (Rahdo does), even though they are actually not worker placement games (imho). In my view denial of action (aka action drafting) has always been an inherent part of the "worker placement" term. I don't even consider games where anybody can select any action with their worker (regardless whether it's already been chosen or not) worker placement games. With that said, I also think that The Ancient World is less cutthroat than other worker placement games, simply because a chosen action does not automatically block you from choosing it, it imposes certain restrictions; I like this twist to the regular mechanism.
 
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Steve G.
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BartP wrote:
Many people also treat numerous game where you place markers of your own on the board as worker placement games (Rahdo does), even though they are actually not worker placement games (imho). In my view denial of action (aka action drafting) has always been an inherent part of the "worker placement" term. I don't even consider games where anybody can select any action with their worker (regardless whether it's already been chosen or not) worker placement games.


I think this matter has been spoken to multiple times in a relatively short thread.

The issue has been reduced by some to simply be "well, action denial is just part of worker-placement games" and that's that as far as they're concerned. The response to the impact of action-denial so far largely deals in what a player "should have" done to prevent the denial from occurring. In so doing, their defense of The Ancient World is actually very damning of it...

Quote:
With that said, I also think that The Ancient World is less cutthroat than other worker placement games, simply because a chosen action does not automatically block you from choosing it, it imposes certain restrictions; I like this twist to the regular mechanism.


Again, this has already been addressed previously, but in most worker placement games, a spot either allows for multiple workers (so a single move doesn't block you out of a critical spot), or different spots can provide some of the same benefits (allowing multiple paths to pulling off your plan). A single move doesn't actually prevent you from doing what you want to do. It might seem that way, but it was just the final nail in the coffin lid.

Furthermore, a good worker-placement design doesn't just drive you to avoid being denied. It also challenges the player with how to correct course once he's denied his ideal choice. There may indeed be games that seem very cutthroat because it's very easy to be denied, but that's because they pose the question "okay, you're denied, what do you do now besides pack up and go home?"

Those two considerations comprise the balancing act of worker-placement design. The "pack-up-and-go-home" moments usually only arise when a player pushes his luck and stakes everything on a high-risk spot. I'd be interested to see if anyone can think of a well-established, well-regarded worker-placement game that doesn't actually regulate action-denial by incorporating at least one of the two considerations from the previous two paragraphs.

The real question for this thread, however, is if that one move of dropping a 3 does lend itself to "pack-up" moments for players who weren't actually exposing themselves to extreme risk.

Most of the defenses of Ancient World so far aren't very affirming.
 
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Mike
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[edited]

Deleted my post.
I couldn't figure out how to properly say what I was trying to say.

In essence: I don't think Ancient World is any different to other games. I very much enjoy the 1, 2, 3 (4,5) aspect of the worker placement. Whenever someone drops a 3 worker on a spot I need, I change plans...but I admit I need more plays under my belt to judge fully.
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you mean i got blocked from a move i wanted to make?surprise

that's it, I QUIT!!!!!!cry


 
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Runcible Spoon
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steveg700 wrote:
The real question for this thread, however, is if that one move of dropping a 3 does lend itself to "pack-up" moments for players who weren't actually exposing themselves to extreme risk.


There are no pack up and go home moments.

steveg700 wrote:
Most of the defenses of Ancient World so far aren't very affirming.


This is a bizarre statement. Is there an attack present? I thought this was a pleasant discussion.

Perhaps simply playing the game instead of speculating would be a more productive route for you.
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Steve G.
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Runcible Spoon wrote:
steveg700 wrote:
The real question for this thread, however, is if that one move of dropping a 3 does lend itself to "pack-up" moments for players who weren't actually exposing themselves to extreme risk.


There are no pack up and go home moments.

Well, that stance does seem to be in direct contrast with those by the reviewers I initially cited. But there you have it.

Quote:
steveg700 wrote:
Most of the defenses of Ancient World so far aren't very affirming.


This is a bizarre statement. Is there an attack present? I thought this was a pleasant discussion.

Perhaps simply playing the game instead of speculating would be a more productive route for you.


What in that statement would you interpret as an attack? After all, you yourself noted in your first reply that many replies in this thread don't seem to make the effort to read what's been said in the OP. They have heard this complaint before, and have resolved that their stock reply will be that blocking is part of worker placement, and the solution is "just don't let it happen to you". Such reductive, phoned-in responses are not affirming. In truth, you've been the big ray of sunshine in this whole thread.

So, consider this reply:
codedecode wrote:
you mean i got blocked from a move i wanted to make?surprise

that's it, I QUIT!!!!!!cry

Now, do you find this to a very pleasant, constructive, or clever response to encounter at this stage of the discussion? I think it's pretty obvious that the phrase "pack-up-and-go-home-moment" is not intended literally.

As to playing rather than speculating, for me at least it is no small thing to get people together to learn to play an unproven game. I myself at least need to feel confident that its design is solid before I'd act as its sponsor. There are simply too many top-notch games competing for everyone's attention.
 
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Steve G.
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lordofscones wrote:
[edited]

Deleted my post.
I couldn't figure out how to properly say what I was trying to say.

In essence: I don't think Ancient World is any different to other games. I very much enjoy the 1, 2, 3 (4,5) aspect of the worker placement. Whenever someone drops a 3 worker on a spot I need, I change plans...but I admit I need more plays under my belt to judge fully.

I read it before you deleted it. Seemed like a fine response, as it was an actual example of how to mitigate blockage. Unless the example you provided regarding getting blocked from getting Knowledge was flawed in some way, it was one of the more compelling rebuttals.
 
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Runcible Spoon
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steveg700 wrote:
Runcible Spoon wrote:
steveg700 wrote:
The real question for this thread, however, is if that one move of dropping a 3 does lend itself to "pack-up" moments for players who weren't actually exposing themselves to extreme risk.


There are no pack up and go home moments.

Well, that stance does seem to be in direct contrast with those by the reviewers I initially cited. But there you have it.


Fair enough. I'll stand by my statement though and offer a couple of notes that might be worthwhile.

1. You may have noticed a bit of a contradiction in terms of what people are posting. Some say it is more forgiving than most WP games. Others mention a "3" drop to block a spot and one might infer that a "3" drop might be harsh. So we might ask which is it? Is it forgiving or is it a really 'blocking' heavy game?

I think the answer is in between the extremes but leans toward being a bit more forgiving. Below (in #2) is yet another reason it is a bit forgiving (in addition to the other things I mentioned in other posts).

2. There are numerous empire cards that duplicate, or offer modifications too, some of the existing action selection spaces. So if a player builds these they can have access to yet another action to chose from. To re-iterate, but with emphasis on the additional options brought by the cards, I really have yet to see a pack up and go home moment in this game. There are always alternatives. The alternative might not always be the thing you hoped for, but as many have said (including both of us) blocking is in the nature of WP games.

steveg700 wrote:
steveg700 wrote:
Most of the defenses of Ancient World so far aren't very affirming.


Runcible Spoon wrote:
This is a bizarre statement. Is there an attack present? I thought this was a pleasant discussion.


Perhaps simply playing the game instead of speculating would be a more productive route for you.


steveg700 wrote:
What in that statement would you interpret as an attack? After all, you yourself noted in your first reply that many replies in this thread don't seem to make the effort to read what's been said in the OP. They have heard this complaint before, and have resolved that their stock reply will be that blocking is part of worker placement, and the solution is "just don't let it happen to you". Such reductive, phoned-in responses are not affirming. In truth, you've been the big ray of sunshine in this whole thread.


Thanks for the compliment. Perhaps I have inferred a bit too much from the word "defense" which tends to bring up the idea of "attack" (at least for me it does). I still think it is a pleasant conversation so no defense (or attacking) from me at least.

steveg700 wrote:
So, consider this reply:
codedecode wrote:
you mean i got blocked from a move i wanted to make?surprise

that's it, I QUIT!!!!!!cry

Now, do you find this to a very pleasant, constructive, or clever response to encounter at this stage of the discussion? I think it's pretty obvious that the phrase "pack-up-and-go-home-moment" is not intended literally.


Yeah, I wouldn't put that under the 'pleasant' or 'informed' discussion banners. I don't mean to pick on that poster, but I sighed a bit when I read that. I generally prefer informed discussion over those kinds of posts and as a general rule BGG has more of the good stuff than your average website.

steveg700 wrote:
As to playing rather than speculating, for me at least it is no small thing to get people together to learn to play an unproven game. I myself at least need to feel confident that its design is solid before I'd act as its sponsor. There are simply too many top-notch games competing for everyone's attention.


Yeah, fair enough and that certainly is going to be group specific. I didn't mean for it to seem too flippant. I have just had the experience that certain games (for example the resistance) didn't sound appealing from descriptions I had read and videos I watched, but turns out I loved it once I played it. I suppose I was trending toward optimistic as I think Ancient World is a very good game for those that like tableau building and WP.
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Mike
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steveg700 wrote:

I read it before you deleted it. Seemed like a fine response, as it was an actual example of how to mitigate blockage. Unless the example you provided regarding getting blocked from getting Knowledge was flawed in some way, it was one of the more compelling rebuttals.


In another thread I realised I was playing one of the rules wrong. It wasn't related to the worker placement aspect, but I thought I'd better get some more plays in with the game before so I can get a better idea how all its pieces come together.
Cheers.
 
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Przemyslaw Kozlowski
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I played 2 4-player games so far and we actually had a fair amount of blocking going on with one player pretty much monopolizing the Knowledge tokens for most of one game. However, there were enough options available that other players just worked around the blocking. In both games the final scores ended up being very close and the winners being the non-blocking players.

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Steve G.
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Sounds like Knowledge is a hotspot for contention.

Anyways, I'll slap it onto my "want to play" list.
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R 2bin
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Do think the dice tower review mis-read of the rules blows this issue out of proportion a bit (titans taking up rather than adding capacity). Puts a lot of pressure on the district space. Admittedly only played two player but not found this an issue at all beyond the usual jostling for position.
 
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