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Subject: Frustration or fun? You make the call! rss

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Geoff Speare
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We played a four person game of Leonardo -- the first game for three of us, second for the fourth.

The overall theme for this session report is that the game was engaging, but a lot of the time you were planning based on information that was effectively incomplete. You are competing with people for resources in different areas, but unless you are a robot you don't know for sure what direction people are going in. That makes it tough to plan; some people found it frustrating. Personally, I was not frustrated, though I could certainly understand the feeling.

We used the expert starting rules, so we each got 3 favors to spend on stuff. (I might have preferred starting with the basic fixed start positions, just because we didn't really know the value of things...but it worked out OK.) I picked money, a guy, and my second workshop. The other choices as I recall them were:

-- money, guy, resources
-- guy, guy, resources
-- guy, guy, workshop

I made the mistake early on of discounting the money received from early inventions and went mainly for extra apprentices and workshop upgrades. This proved problematic for two reasons: 1) you spend money really really fast, and without an income source you will be hurting quickly; 2) the "set collection" rules, where you get points for building different types of inventions, add up to a lot of points. I had figured this was a "slowly accumulate money" kind of game, when it turned out to be more of a "keep spending all that you have to make the final push" game.

Anyway, three of us proceeded to make an assortment of mistakes during the next few turns. My mistake was forgetting you can't put a mechanical man on a workshop that's already inventing something -- and I forgot this after looking at the upcoming cards and planning my whole round. Another player misread the gold inventions, thinking they took 20 hours instead of 15. The third player counted on an invention coming up at the end of turn 7, but nothing was invented so their research was in vain.

In short, everyone played far from a perfect game. The general sense was a lot of attempted guessing at what everyone else was going to do, guessing which mostly proved fruitless. There were several cases of people being beaten to the punch on inventions; I didn't think that was going to matter, but again the "set collection" bonus made it significant when one person got the invention card and someone else didn't.

One person managed to build two gold cards in the final two rounds; I built a gold and a silver, and got beaten to the punch on a copper that would have put me close to the lead. The person who beat me out got 8 gold for that plus the set collection bonus, giving them the win handily.

It was definitely an interesting game, vaguely in the same design space as Caylus and Princes of Florence but not really like them in the details. I want to play again; I'm not sure if I consider it a good game, but either way it needs more than one play to find out.



 
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Greg Durrett
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I've been thinking about the guessing aspect as well. I wonder if the designers felt that further tension needed to be introduced and so adopted the idea of hiding the components rather than having them visible while working on an invention.

If the components under each laboratory were instead visible to all, it would make the competition for resources in the city a much more "informed" competition (let alone the race to complete an invention first). Certainly, keen players can deduce much from observing the other players' component choices and size of card stack under the laboratory, but I wonder if this aspect of the game fits well with everything else that's going on.

The game as is works fine for our group, but I can see your point. It would be interesting to try it with open knowledge of the components in each lab, and weigh the potential loss of tension against possible reduced frustration as you put it.

I'm curious to see what the more designerly BGG contributors think about this...
 
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Alexander B.
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Guessing right seems helpful but not critical.

One gets about 70% of the benefit even if an invention is completed later on average.

What balances this, IMO, is that bidding well, NOT spending money but getting freebies whenever possible, and determining when to try and gain advantage in the market and when to gain advantage in the lab race are all very important also.

In addition, it is possible to get many clues as to who is going for what by watching what resources they are buying.

Finally, don't forget that everyone is guessing, so in the long run, this luck aspect should cancel out some. In the end, it seems like that lends about 15% luck into a game that is otherwise almost entirely skill: not bad at all IMO.

However, I do agree that the game is probably a bit better with 3 than with 5 players because this lowers the luck a good bit. In a 3 player game it is possible to figure out what players are working on about 90% of the time and this lowers the luck in the game to almost none.

 
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Geoff Speare
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diamondspider wrote:
One gets about 70% of the benefit even if an invention is completed later on average.


I thought this at first, but don't forget that you lose any chance at getting the invention card which helps toward getting the set bonus at the end. I agree with the rest of what you said, maybe this one is better with 3.
 
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John Weber
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After about 10 plays, I'd have to say the game is best with 4 but almost as good with 3. 5 seems too chaotic, and 2 it's just too easy to get about everything you want. 4 seems the happy medium.
 
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:C.h.r.i.s. M.c.G.o.w.a.n:
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Have played 2 four player games of this using the beginner setups provided in the instructions. In the first game I was always one round too late trying to complete inventions or lost out on the card in the bidding wars. I also overspent on resources that I didn't need. Also made a mistake or two by not having cash to buy a worker for 2 and also not being able to upgrade a lab or place a robot since I was working on an invention. I heard the rule, but didn't listen closely enough.

In the second game (including 2 first time players) I refined things a little bit and conserved cash early, acquired as many free resources as possible, waited 2 rounds before I started inventing and did the "peek" ahead at the next 4 cards twice to help me put things in line so that I could get one of each of the five symbols for the 20 point bonus. I felt much more in control of my destiny and executed my plan for a nice 60 points.

Looking forward to more plays of this one.
 
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Geoff Speare
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Followup: after a second play, my concerns pretty much vanished. While I did abysmally, the second-guessing and semi-hidden resources were not at all a negative. I'll happily play this again.
 
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