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Subject: Starting Player Quite Important... rss

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Craig Johnson
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Just received this via backing it on KS and played our first (three player) game tonight, and it went down really well except - the game ends when a player builds his or her third tower segment, regardless of when in turn order this occurs.

What we experienced was that player 2 and 3 were both in position to build their third piece on the same turn, and player 2 therefore got the win purely because he was earlier in the seating order.

That doesn't seem very fair - either the game should be played until equal turns are had (allowing for draws?) or maybe later in the seating order grants one an extra gem at the start, for example player 2 gets one extra pull on his first turn, player 3 gets two?
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Sarah Reed
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Don't know if my opinion will have much weight, but I play-tested Tower a bunch and we found that no one position got the win more than any other position. A lot is up in the air due to the randomness of the gems & build cards and the strategies that players employ.

But if it does continue to happen a lot that the second player usually gets the win then it'd be good to play around with variable starting resources.
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Daniel Theuerkaufer
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@Craig: That's interesting. I haven't played the game yet and I am eager to hear what the designer, Ben Haskett, says in reply. Without having it played yet, I'd say playing the round to end for all players sounds logic to me, to make sure everyone had the same number of moves.
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Jerad Clark
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So, while I do have some games that give players 3-4 a starting advantage (Island Siege) to make up for going towards the end of the round, I feel like Tower has some defensive mechanisms built in that your Player 3 probably should have taken advantage of.

Namely, blocking a key stall with their marker, blocking a 2nd stall with the "Stand-In" apprentice, or purchasing and playing some Black Market cards towards stealing resources from other players.

Give it some more plays... I think you can balance it out with more games under your belt(s).
 
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Craig Johnson
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I should make it clear that we played with just the vanilla rules, but the problem with both the ideas of blocking for player #3 and using the apprentice worker to block, is that it puts them on the defensive from the off.

So whilst player #1 can draw his or her three gems and buy something cheap as he/she has the whole market to choose from, player #3 (for example) not only has the cheapest option removed, he has the rest of that market out of bounds plus if you're saying he has to go defensive right away (spending a gem on an apprentice), then that hobbles him further.

So in fact player #1 has an even bigger advantage than I thought, because of course he gets total freedom of choice of markets, which player #2 and #3 do not have.

Further, player #3 *did* take advantage of black market cards where possible, but was hamstrung a little in not drawing them and when they were drawn not having a great selection of black market cards for steals, etc.

If the game played a little quicker - and maybe with experience it will - then I suppose all this can be answered by playing a sequence of games and moving the start player each time, but I still feel that for a one-off there does need to be a balancing mechanism because of the advantages that player #1 gets.

We will play it again tonight and monitor if the same thing happens - but if the game continues to have tight finishes that end up depending on seating order, then we're gonna have to houserule something up I think.
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Shawna
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Usually games that have this sort of end condition have advantages/disadvantages built in for player order during the game to balance it out. Maybe those will start to show with more plays.
oh, you know why i'm really posting here. devil's snare, oversized clowns nose, enormous q-tip, life-sized meeple, Survivor buff
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Shawna
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Any idea when this game will be available for purchase for non-backers?
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Craig Johnson
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shawnad2006 wrote:
Any idea when this game will be available for purchase for non-backers?


Not sure, we can check....
 
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Ben Haskett
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Hi, Craig! Sarah (one of the principal play-testers) is right--play tests led me to the conclusion that seating order doesn't play a big role in... I guess I'd call it "winning order." It is always awkward for me, as the designer, to see a game's tower built in order (the last game I played was built by players 4, 1, 2, 3 all the way up), but a lot of it really does depend on the players. There certainly is a luck element due to the draw of the gems, but in my experience this has consistently shown to be even over the course of a single game.

On being defensive, I think that it's definitely possible to play that way and still come out on top. To give an example, and to refer again to the last time I played the game, player #4 waited until he had a lot of gems and then swooped into the straw market each time and bought out the whole shop in a single turn. I... never should have let this happen more than once. He drafted his build cards, chose the one with the most straw, and then just waited. If I had been paying more attention to him, I could have made that shop a priority target by shopping there and blocking him. But instead, the first time I was like, "Oh! You bought all three at once," and the second time I was like, "Oh, wow, you did it again," and the third time I was like, "Goodness, you did it a thir... OH CRAP!" After the third time he did this, I shifted my focus to the black market and *almost* got him, but not quite. He was blocked from getting his last resource; he played a Preferred Customer card; Player #2 slapped that down with The Law card; I had just gotten a Common Thief card and was planning to use it on him, but he played a Shady Supplies card on his next turn and narrowly walked away with the win.

On giving other players an extra turn after a third segment is built, I'm only not sure what that would accomplish since the goal of this--for lack of a better term--"resource race" is to finish your third "lap" before the other players. In other words, the goal is to cross the finish line. I had experimented with giving non-starting players a gem bonus (1 for player 2, 2 for player 3, etc.), but this kinda unhinged things since gem quantity is often so much more important than gem quality. Still, I encourage you to experiment with house rules and I'd love to know the results!

Let me make a suggestion for your next game. First, draw four gems from the bag during your draw phase instead of three. You're not the first person to feel like the game goes on a little too long, so that will speed things up considerably. Second, I would suggest playing the advanced mode to give all players a bit more options. To once again refer to the game example above, if we had been playing the advanced version, I could have un-bunched all that straw and distributed it over the board.

Hope that helps!

Ben

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Daniel Theuerkaufer
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Here are some mechanics other games use to determine player order and balance position (dis)advantages:

1. different number of starting gems for each player
2. let everyone finish his/her move during the final round
3. allow using blocked spaces by paying the one blocking it (Istanbul)
4. pay for the favour to be first player in the next round (Asara)
5. pay to become first/second player in the next round and shift all other players likewise (Russian Railroads)
6. step on a field to become 1st player next round and miss another benefit by doing so (Ancient Terrible Things)
7. invert player order each round (first round goes 1-4, second round goes 4-1, third round 1-4 and so on)

Ben already addressed ideas 1. and 2. These are some things to house rule with if people feel like they need to change something.

We'll have our first play of Tower this week and I guess, from the very beginning we'll play with one of the expansion modules and drawing 4 gems instead of three. That is because it'll be the starter before we play Asara, which is also about building towers, and I don't want us to lose too much time playing Tower. Also, I don't want my group to dislike it and I have hopes that a quicker game makes it easier to run through it fluidly.
 
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Alexey S.
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I've played one 2-player game and a 4-player one. Both times the first player won (and IIRC stages of the tower were built in seating order). What I observed is that first players have advantage, because for them all the market is free (at the start of the game). Later, every player occupies a stall, which limits choices of other players. So, I came up with the following house rule:
Quote:
During setup, each player rolls a die and places his meeple on a market stall, denoted with that number (rerolling if already occupied). No effect occurs, but the stall is occupied until the start of that player's turn.


I haven't tested it yet, but it might improve the gameplay and make more struggle for the first-second player. I thought, that just giving some gems to last players might be very situational (it might do much one game, might do nothing on other play). Otherwise, this rule offsets all players fairly throughout the game.

Would be glad to hear if someone will be testing this tweak as well
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Craig Johnson
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Or you could have players choose a stall to occupy in reverse player order - thus "reserving" a particular stall with preference being given to later players. The first player would still have choice of three stalls, but that might force first purchase to be a little more expensive than he wanted to pay, and act as a bit of a break.

Hope to try these out this weekend - we played a few more times with no restrictions, and yes, being earlier in a seating order helped with winning the game. Also tried with a different group of people, and they didn't like the idea of the game being over when one person wins, they were expecting everyone to get equal goes as per other games - saw this clearly in a subsequent game in that everyone wanted to be first player.
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Daniel Theuerkaufer
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Alexey, Craig, both are great ideas. Craig's idea is like the placement of the first settlements in Catan. A bit like what I suggested under 7. invert player order each round (first round goes 1-4, second round goes 4-1, third round 1-4 and so on).

Let us know, how your tweaks worked for you. Both the die variant and the reverse order placement.
 
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Alexey S.
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I liked Craig's idea at first, but I thought about it for a while. Now it just seems that it would reverse the opportunity. Because starting from the round 2, all players are pretty much tied (if everyone buys, everyone has a choice of 3 market stalls) - the bad thing here is: on the 1st round starting player has more options. So Craig's variant would just give opportunity to the last player instead.

UPD.: Made a control 2-player game with a newbie, made him go first (to see if my experience in 2 matches would give me an advantage). Seems like it didn't - I lost, short on 3 more resources. Although I had some terrible draws at the beginning, I can see him winning if I was a bit more lucky. Gonna try my variant next time we play.
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Alexey S.
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So, I tried distributing meeples across the stalls in the beginning of the game. Didn't notice any changes (anyone was skipping their turns for the extra crystals anyway).

In another thread I'm writing that multiple players are able to finish placing their segments (if they would be given chance to) and offer to break ties with an amount of crystals left in the end.

About the Daniel's variants:
Quote:
1. different number of starting gems for each player
2. let everyone finish his/her move during the final round
3. allow using blocked spaces by paying the one blocking it (Istanbul)
4. pay for the favour to be first player in the next round (Asara)
5. pay to become first/second player in the next round and shift all other players likewise (Russian Railroads)
6. step on a field to become 1st player next round and miss another benefit by doing so (Ancient Terrible Things)
7. invert player order each round (first round goes 1-4, second round goes 4-1, third round 1-4 and so on)


1. I doubt it would help (it could disbalance the game even more)
2. This is a nice option, if we can come up with some tie breakers (check out mentioned thread above)
3. This is allowed in an expansion ("The Apprentices")
4. This and
5. this sound very reasonable. I'd like to incorporate such mechanic, if I can set the right price.
6. No opinion
7. Concerned this wouldn't work, because 1st and last players would get to go twice in a row.
 
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Daniel Theuerkaufer
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4. and/or 5. would need us to either include bidding for the first place or give it a fixed price. The fixed price has the disadvantage that, again, the 1st player is the first one to decide whether to pay for it or not. Leaving less chance for the following players to do so.
 
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Alexey S.
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Yes, but a the same time he is paying for nothing, giving other players some tempo, so that is only fair.
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Daniel Theuerkaufer
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Good point, I agree. And everyone else behind the new start player will also profit of the new turn order. Sounds like a plan!

There is another element than gems in this game that can be used to balance out the start player advantage: cards. I thought about giving more than one build cars to the players following player 1. Like two to chose from. (Only thinking loud)
 
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leonardo balbi
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What about a bid in gems to decide the 1st player ?
 
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Daniel Theuerkaufer
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labalbi wrote:
What about a bid in gems to decide the 1st player ?

As you can see above, I thought about it, too. But it might get too expensive and then only affordable for those that already have lots of gems. I think a fixed price may be better.
 
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leonardo balbi
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So you think the game is broken until this is fixed ?
 
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Jerad Clark
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I've yet to see player order manner, so I personally wouldn't say anything is broken.
 
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Daniel Theuerkaufer
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labalbi wrote:
So you think the game is broken until this is fixed ?

No, I don't think so. In fact, I haven't played it yet. My mind just came up with some ideas as other players reported a potential start player advantage.
 
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leonardo balbi
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I played it only once. I started . My son won .
I need to play more so I can have good number of stats to confirm your theory
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