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Subject: expansion with new players? rss

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Geoffrey Ingram
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New Jersey
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I'm going to be playing a six player game of eclipse with mostly new players, its a local gaming group so most of them have played a lot of board games but not necessarily games like eclipse. I think I'm going to make it all Terran but I was wondering what peoples opinions are with including the rise of the Ancient content. I love the expatiation, I think it adds a lot to the game and fixes some imbalances but I'm not sure if it would be adding to much to a already fairly complicated, if intuitive, game.
 
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Miguel
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
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The special technologies are okay to introduce right away, because you only need to explain them as they come out. I wouldn't do the rest, though (the basic ancients are enough in the first game). I wouldn't do the goals either.
 
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J.C. Hamlin
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Medina
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I would suggest playing with everything that helps balance the game against runaway players and plasma missiles:
(1) All the new technologies (helps balance against missiles)
(2) Alliances (two players can group together to help balance a leader or someone with missiles)
(3) Developments (helps balance poor starts of one type of resource)
(4) New strong GDCS (prevents an early takeover of the GDCS by a player with a strong start)
(5) The new races. Magellans are really a nice easy to play middle-of-the-road Terran-like race but with better ability to deal with aggressive neighbors than Terrans can.

And also these, which don't help balance the game, but don't hurt anything being in the mix:
(4) New sectors (except hives and ancient homeworlds)
(5) New discovery tiles
(6) Extra ship parts

Ancient Hives and Ancient Homeworlds are very nice systems, and add something interesting for a player to have to deal with, but don't really help balance the game and add a bit of rules complexity.
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Steven Townshend
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Illinois
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I teach Eclipse regularly. I use everything except:

- The Rise of the Ancients races (exception: the Magellans)
- Ancient homeworlds (they lock up the board for new players, who get stuck in their starting sectors)
- Advanced GCDS (I use the one from the base game to encourage new players to expand)

I use the rest and people don't seem to have trouble understanding. The Rise of the Ancients technologies smooth out some of the rough edges in the base game. The RotA races are a bit too quirky for brand new players; I also discourage them from playing Eridani and Draco since Eridani requires you to know what you're doing with your head start, and Draco is a magnet for aggression. Magellans from RotA are straightforward though, as are Planta, Hydran, Mechanema, and Orion (for an aggressive player).

So far this has worked well for me.

Edit: Ninja'd by J.C. Hamlin, but I'm basically in agreement.
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Chris K.
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Drammattex wrote:
I teach Eclipse regularly. I use everything except:

- The Rise of the Ancients races (exception: the Magellans)
- Ancient homeworlds (they lock up the board for new players, who get stuck in their starting sectors)
- Advanced GCDS (I use the one from the base game to encourage new players to expand)

I use the rest and people don't seem to have trouble understanding. The Rise of the Ancients technologies smooth out some of the rough edges in the base game. The RotA races are a bit too quirky for brand new players; I also discourage them from playing Eridani and Draco since Eridani requires you to know what you're doing with your head start, and Draco is a magnet for aggression. Magellans from RotA are straightforward though, as are Planta, Hydran, Mechanema, and Orion (for an aggressive player).

So far this has worked well for me.

Edit: Ninja'd by J.C. Hamlin, but I'm basically in agreement.


On a recent con I had a highly successful teaching spree (Full week con, all of the 12 new players, representing about two thirds of all primary boardgamers at that mixed RPG/BG con, were up for at least another game, most kept playing Eclipse for most of the rest of the week).

My setup for the teaching game (at least one newbie at the table):
- 4 to 6 player games, ideally 6
- For 5 Player games use the Warp Sector Overlay
- All Terran
- No expansion material at all
- Use the turn order variant (we used red and black poker cards to have alternating turn order markers)
- Use the DGT Cube Timer to keep things moving

In my experience people will have enough to think about in terms of their strategy and approach if they don't have to factor in the races differing advantages and drawbacks. And since some races depend on being played agressively from the get go, they are ill suited for teaching games: Either (more usual) people are too reluctant to do it and therefore squander theit chances at the win, or equally bad, they stomp an ill prepared neighbor who then has a decent chance of being soured to the game.
And yes, this is even true for VERY experienced board gamers.
The turnorder variant was important since on the first attempt without it some people were frustrated by the fact, that "being lucky to sit next to someone with few actions" was more advantageous than "playing to get the first player", since it reliably gave you the second action.

The follow up games were (only ROTA available at the con):
- All Races, incl. Expansion
- Rare Technologies (the only thing I would be willing to introduce in a newbie game as well)
- Developments (another strong candidate for inclusion in newbie games, but so far I wouldn't do so)
- Expansion Discoveries
- Alternate Galactic Center Defense
- most Expansion Tiles (sometimes)
- No Ancient homeworlds or Hives (except some games later in the week where people wanted a larger challenge)
- No Alliances (we feel they limit the fun and interaction in games up to 6 people)
- DGT Cube Timer

Edit says:
You don't have to worry about balance in a newbie game. It will be completely and utterly unbalanced by people finding their paces and understanding of the game anyway. Therefore all the balancing expansion material is very optional.
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I usually just shuffle out all ancient hives and have at it. I've rarely to encounter someone who can't figure out the basics of playing the different races -- and those I do are generally so lost that having them play Terran wouldn't make a lick of difference -- the last thing I want to do is introduce people to a brand new game by offering the blandly 'vanilla' experience of all Terran gameplay. (I mean, really? Who plays Terran? Let alone force someone through a whole game of just Terran! The most enjoyable part of my first game was in choosing a race.)

Of course, I steer people away from the more touchy races -- Lyra and Empire especially -- but everything else is fair game. No point as I see it in neutering the game down for novices; then again, I come from a generation of boardgamers raised on 4x PC games, and tend to play with the same generation, so being lost in an overwhelming haze of options at the very beginning is all part of the magical allure of a new game.

This has worked just fine for me in games of 6 players with up to three newbies. Slow going, but not the end of the world. I haven't tried a new player game with 7-9 participants, however.
 
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Mistah Frooza
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I use all of it, all the time. I have taught this game to people who know their boardgames but just haven't tried this one yet, and I've taught it to people who really don't have any experience in heavy/modern board games at all. I've taught it with all expansion content, with none, and with varying amounts of "some". Having the expansion content in hasn't really made any big difference in how quickly/easily people pick up the game.

One key thing that keeps new players on track regardless of what content you include is making them be humans. I always make new players always play humans, no exceptions. Usually once they start playing and they see how it works, they realize why I've forced them to be human and they usually go on to play humans for their next 1-4 games afterwards. I know that when you're first pitching the game it can be hard to get some players off the idea of playing an alien race, but if you put your foot down they'll always (in my experience) get why they need to be human a little ways in. To help prove this point I usually play one of the aliens I have a harder time with (Eridani, Planta, Draco) when there's new players at the table, so they can easily see the advantages they have over me as humans.

The other thing to keep in mind is what I think of as "basic mechanics" and "consequential mechanics". Basic Mechanics are the core stuff people need to understand the game, like the six major actions, passing, combat, and settling your economy. Consequential Mechanics are things like what specific tiles and technologies do. Consequential Mechanics arise out of the Basic Mechanics and have to be explained as you go, but they don't need to be understood initially for someone to start playing the game. RotA adds lots of Consequential Mechanics, but doesn't do much to change the Basic Mechanics of the game, therefore it doesn't really add that much to the plate of someone who's learning in my opinion. Sure, it'll take them that much longer to understand the nuances of all the tech and how to use it, etc, but no one grasps that after their first time playing with or without the expansion.

Recently got to break out Eclipse for the first time in a long time after a difficult cross-country move which saw me not playing any big games for awhile. It was an 8 player game, half of us knew the game, half of us were brand new. We used all the expansion material. It went great. All of the expansion content (which includes the promo tiles such as Supernova) actually helped the new players get excited about the game; the fact that the galaxy was diverse, sometimes dangerous, and full of different possibilities excited the players. New players quickly grasped on to the value vs difficulty of Ancient Cruisers and other mechanics without it confusing them much or taking them long to understand in general. Plus, things like Alliances really captured the attention of the players and got them more invested in the game than they otherwise might have been.

So, to sum up, I actually think that the expansion content, which is very fun and exciting, can actually help new players engage with the game. This game is massive and even without expansion content it's too much to take in, so you might as well let them have it all in my opinion. In my experience it's always worked out just fine.
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