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Subject: Is this game really for two? rss

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G. Gambill
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I just played my first game with my wife. We played with the correct two player rules as stated in the rulebook, to turns in a row for each player after the first player takes he firs, single, turn.

This was really uninspiring. There were very few instances of real competition, and there were times that there were no stories Ina beat at all, or never more than two, so the values were rather static, even with the exclusive story scoring. Really, the entire game came down to majority scoring for the individual beat bonuses. Hmmmmmm.......

Is this game really for two? I'm very hopeful that it will play different and much better with more players. Two was kinda flat for us in the first play. What have others found?
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Bryan McNeely
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Awful with two.

You are spot-on about the gaining majorities is all that really matters. In fact, it is a major flaw.

I think it would have been better to start the game with scoring markers on 15 points and allow unfinished newspapers to earn negative points. Not going lower than zero just means a person can spend their first move outnumbering the opponent for the good tiles, then spend the second move going to press.

Since the race to four coins is what triggers end game, why wouldn't I just mad-dash for the good tiles, hold on to majorities and just go to press every time I can? Giving players two consecutive moves makes the game far too 'easy' to exploit.

Our first game was a runaway once I realized making a pretty newspaper meant nothing. ...and the advertisement was hardly an issue because of this.

We are going to reserve our verdicts for this game 'til after we have a few 3+ games under our belts, because we think there are some clever mechanisms to enjoy, but yuck, the two-player variant needs work.
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Carlo Gozzi
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2 players is very tactical... and i do think it's very competitive but i agree with you that the general feeling is not the same that when you play with 3+ players

It really depends on your playing mood...
Of course it plays very differently with more players, i think the game shines at 4 players & 2 players

I remember having a blast playing 2 players when i play tested it with one of the designer last summer

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Dave Anderson
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This is discouraging. I just got it in the mail and was looking forward to playing it with my wife. Now, I appreciate the reaction by the OP, but I also tend to think that, since a game was play tested, that's more experience than an individual's reaction. So, any other advice/experience about the two-player game? Any others have a similar experience to the OP?
 
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Matt
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Two players is a different experience than 3-5p. There aren't as many stories, so the board feels tight. Bonus points can be pretty important depending on what cards come out. One player can try to rush the end of the game, but that gives the other player opportunities to build a better newspaper and to take stories with higher star values.

We liked the 2p experience during playtesting or we wouldn't have put it in the rules, but we also understand not everyone is going to like everything about the game. We do hope you'll give it a try.
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Robert
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We always knew (and have told everyone) that 2 player Penny Press was a different experience than multi-player Penny Press, but, as Matt and Carlo have already stated, we have played it as a 2 player quite a bit and we have had lots of fun with it. As far as we are concerned 2 player Penny Press is not a marketing gimmick, but a fully supported variant of the game. If we had not felt that it was fun we would have put 3-5 players on the box.

But we hear what you are saying, and an interesting exploit has been brought up: the ability to publish 0-point papers and just grab a few stories for end game bonus scoring. This strategy never came up in any of our play testing of the 2 player game. Is it really a valid winning strategy? At the very least it goes against the spirit of the game, and it sounds super boring if you have to play against someone that has decided to play like that.

So Matt and I are going to work on the 2 player game this weekend, and after this weekend, until we fix whatever is wrong. We are not going to shoot from the hip with a quick solution, because we want to get it right this time. We will have official, working rules for 2 player Penny Press, without exploits, and you won't have to house rule anything, and we will post them on the geek and the Kickstarter. They just won't be done by tomorrow.
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Dave Anderson
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RobertDD wrote:
We always knew (and have told everyone) that 2 player Penny Press was a different experience than multi-player Penny Press, but, as Matt and Carlo have already stated, we have played it as a 2 player quite a bit and we have had lots of fun with it. As far as we are concerned 2 player Penny Press is not a marketing gimmick, but a fully supported variant of the game. If we had not felt that it was fun we would have put 3-5 players on the box.


That is good to hear! That makes me excited to get it to the table! I explained the rules to my wife two days ago and we were eager to try it out!

RobertDD wrote:
But we hear what you are saying, and an interesting exploit has been brought up: the ability to publish 0-point papers and just grab a few stories for end game bonus scoring. This strategy never came up in any of our play testing of the 2 player game. Is it really a valid winning strategy? At the very least it goes against the spirit of the game, and it sounds super boring if you have to play against someone that has decided to play like that.

So Matt and I are going to work on the 2 player game this weekend, and after this weekend, until we fix whatever is wrong. We are not going to shoot from the hip with a quick solution, because we want to get it right this time. We will have official, working rules for 2 player Penny Press, without exploits, and you won't have to house rule anything, and we will post them on the geek and the Kickstarter. They just won't be done by tomorrow.


That is great of you guys! It may be fine as is, but I appreciate your willingness to try and keep improving!
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Robert
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I am linking the post from user PawnPusher here. He reported on another thread that he's been playing 2-player Penny Press and his experience sounds much closer to our test play experiences:

pawnpusher wrote:
I've played twice, both two-player games with the same opponent. My opponent mentioned that it seemed like a chess match to him. I agree that's it was very calculating. He was first player in both games. He went to press first in the first game, but I started placing my reporters so that he would have to give up serious points to keep going to press earlier than me. I went to final press first both games, and won both games.

I feel that the game is a race to go to press first. I agree that going to press first is generally more valuable than filling one's layout.

In real journalism getting your paper out first leads to a sales advantage. I really like games that accurately portray their theme, and the successful strategies of the game mirror those in real life.

BTW, both games were played during lunch, one yesterday and one today. Set-up, play and clean-up for each game took less than an hour.

Link: www.boardgamegeek.com/article/19114201#19114201

This is not to invalidate any remarks on this thread, we are still going to take a very close look at the 2-player, but I just wanted to post another view.
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Jimmy Hensel
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Robert,

Thanks for quoting me. I want to add that I enjoyed both of my plays so far and look forward to many more. While racing to press gives advantages, I still feel that one has to be careful not to let the opponent get too many points through good layout with lots of stories.

In my first game we were both racing to press and the final point spread was about 10. In the second my opponent made a major mistake in placing his reporters early, it cost him the game. However, he was able to score around twenty points on each of the two times he went to press before my final edition. If he hadn't made his mistake, I think it would have been a close game.
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G. Gambill
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pawnpusher wrote:
Robert,

Thanks for quoting me. I want to add that I enjoyed both of my plays so far and look forward to many more. While racing to press gives advantages, I still feel that one has to be careful not to let the opponent get too many points through good layout with lots of stories.

In my first game we were both racing to press and the final point spread was about 10. In the second my opponent made a major mistake in placing his reporters early, it cost him the game. However, he was able to score around twenty points on each of the two times he went to press before my final edition. If he hadn't made his mistake, I think it would have been a close game.


I'm glad people are finding some fun in the two player game. I'm going to try it more for sure before I decide how I really feel about it but the race aspect for me was not quite engaging enough. Maybe if there were more reporters available in the two player game there would be more tension? Just an idea to toss out there. With only 5 ( I think it's five I'm not sitting with the rules) the "bidding" aspect is kind of blunted in a way it would not be with more players involved.
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Jimmy Hensel
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I felt pretty tense with 5 reporters in both games. I would look to identify the key stories that my opponent would need to go to press. Then I would consider how many reporters do I want to put on that story to keep him from going to press while at the same time not putting too many there to cripple my effort to make a reasonable score if went to press the next turn. I wanted to put myself in the position of making him take two more actions before going to press while allowing myself the flexibility of being able to go to press after just one more action regardless of how he played.

Frequently, I'd plop down enough reporters on the key story so that it would take him two actions to match my bid with the idea that I'd reassign a reporter to another story I could grab for one action and go to press as my other action. Thus snatching the key story before he could get it.

The "bidding" aspect isn't really like bidding in poker. In poker you always have an opportunity to call or raise. In the two player version of this game you can "match and snatch" without giving your opponent any further opportunities to acquire the story. I don't think the number of reporters blunts the bidding as much as the two actions per turn in the two player version.
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Robert
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Hey guys, sorry in advance for the wall of text, but I want to get a discussion going on our findings, especially since they do not match the statements made at the beginning of this thread.

We played through a few 2 player games, using some guide lines on how the 2 players are supposed to behave.

When both players go for 0-point, 1-story newspapers, placing and scoring on each and every one of their turns, the scores will be low (bonuses only) and the game is boring. The first player has a slight advantage because he often manages to publish a 2-story newspaper for his first paper (which scores some points).

When one player (P1) goes for the 0-point, 1-story newspapers and the other player (P2) tries to actually make good papers there are a few things that happen:
1. Since P1 only takes a single story from the board, but the headline cards puts 2 or 3 stories back on the board, the news beat values rise significantly throughout the game. This benefits P2 (because P1 is not scoring.)
2. P2 will not get 4 publications done, but that is really an advantage as, instead of spending a turn on publishing, he will spend a turn claiming yet another story, which means both more points and more stars for P2.
3. P1 will get the stories he absolutely wants, there's little or nothing P2 can do about that. P2 will therefore be wise to go for the less appetizing stories and not even compete with P1 for the best ones.
4. P2 will blow P1 out of the water every single time, and not just by a few points either. P2 will score 8-14 point publications, 3 of them, and taking at least 2, probably 3 end game bonuses. P1 usually takes the largest bonus, possibly the 2 largest ones, but with no points during the game there's little else and the values just don't add up to enough points to win.

We are now convinced that the 0-point strategy is absolutely not a valid one against a well playing player.

I think one of the misconceptions that was stated above is that Penny Press is a race to 4 coins. It isn't. While it is important to not lag behind too much on the amount of times you publish, ultimately it is about scoring points and collecting stars.

But that's not the end of it. In my example above P1's play style makes for a very short, boring and uninspired game. The current rule change we are contemplating is:

- In a two player game players may take a second turn right after the first one, but if they do then neither one of their turns can be a publishing turn.

This is NOT an official rule change at this point. We will be doing some exhaustive play testing before we present any official solution. However, if you wanted to play with this rule and give us some feedback that would not be bad.
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Jimmy Hensel
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RobertDD wrote:


4. P2 will blow P1 out of the water every single time, and not just by a few points either. P1 will score 8-14 point publications, 3 of them, and taking at least 2, probably 3 end game bonuses. P1 usually takes the largest bonus, possibly the 2 largest ones, but with no points during the game there's little else and the values just don't add up to enough points to win.


Did you mean "P2 will score 8-14 point publications, 3 of them, and taking at least 2, probably 3 end game bonuses."?

When I was racing to publish first, I always went to press with at least two stories leaving at most three spaces at bottom uncovered.

I agree that repeatedly going to press with only one story is a recipe for disaster.
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Robert
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pawnpusher wrote:
RobertDD wrote:


4. P2 will blow P1 out of the water every single time, and not just by a few points either. P1 will score 8-14 point publications, 3 of them, and taking at least 2, probably 3 end game bonuses. P1 usually takes the largest bonus, possibly the 2 largest ones, but with no points during the game there's little else and the values just don't add up to enough points to win.


Did you mean "P2 will score 8-14 point publications, 3 of them, and taking at least 2, probably 3 end game bonuses."?

When I was racing to publish first, I always went to press with at least two stories leaving at most three spaces at bottom uncovered.

I agree that repeatedly going to press with only one story is a recipe for disaster.

Corrected. Thanks.
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G. Gambill
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I've had a chance to play this game with four players twice now since my initial post. I must say the game is quite thematic and fun at this count. It is clear to me, at least, that this is the way I want to play this game. There is much more tension, more chance for unexpected, clever play, and it just feels more thematic to me as big groups of reporters all scurry to cover the new, hot story that will drive their circulation, while another reporter goes sniffing around an undervalued beat that suddenly becomes gold when the next card flips and the end game marker moves up by two!

I have played again with two and feel the exact same way that I did originally. There is a difference between a game working mechanically, and a game working as an experience. Does it work with two? Sure. So does Princes of Florence. Will I ever play either of these at that count? No. There are way too many other games that shine at that count. This one shines best and brightest at the high player counts, and it plays in such a reasonable time frame that it is unique in that regard.

It seems to me that people are suggesting that I and others are accusing the publisher and or designers of being dishonest about the player count listed on the box. That is NOT, what I'm saying. It does play with two. It is just impossible, in my opinion, to imagine that anyone would consider this optimal for the game and the experience and theme it is trying to portray.

I appreciate the time that the designers are taking to respond to the forums, and their openness to explore possible changes. I would suggest that no changes are needed. If you enjoy the two-player experience, that's fine, but I believe that this game should not be judged with this player count. I'm a little worried that if it is, it will not get the credit it deserves.
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Robert
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ggambill wrote:
I've had a chance to play this game with four players twice now since my initial post. I must say the game is quite thematic and fun at this count. It is clear to me, at least, that this is the way I want to play this game. There is much more tension, more chance for unexpected, clever play, and it just feels more thematic to me as big groups of reporters all scurry to cover the new, hot story that will drive their circulation, while another reporter goes sniffing around an undervalued beat that suddenly becomes gold when the next card flips and the end game marker moves up by two!

I have played again with two and feel the exact same way that I did originally. There is a difference between a game working mechanically, and a game working as an experience. Does it work with two? Sure. So does Princes of Florence. Will I ever play either of these at that count? No. There are way too many other games that shine at that count. This one shines best and brightest at the high player counts, and it plays in such a reasonable time frame that it is unique in that regard.

It seems to me that people are suggesting that I and others are accusing the publisher and or designers of being dishonest about the player count listed on the box. That is NOT, what I'm saying. It does play with two. It is just impossible, in my opinion, to imagine that anyone would consider this optimal for the game and the experience and theme it is trying to portray.

I appreciate the time that the designers are taking to respond to the forums, and their openness to explore possible changes. I would suggest that no changes are needed. If you enjoy the two-player experience, that's fine, but I believe that this game should not be judged with this player count. I'm a little worried that if it is, it will not get the credit it deserves.


I am really excited that you had a chance to play it with more than 2 and liked it so much. I am sorry you don't like the game as much with 2, but not everyone can like every game. I fully support your analisis that multi-player Penny Press is a very diferent beast from 2-player Penny Press. Thank you for clarifying your experience and adding to the discussion, and for all the nice words about our little game.
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YES, this game really is for two!
Last night Matt and I got together and played the 2-player game a few more times, and we vigorously tried to break it in any of the ways mentioned here on the thread. Spoiler alert: the game would not break. Then we played a few real 2-player games, with both of us just playing our best and trying to win, and we had a blast. The games were quick and compelling, full of tactical decisions, and they had us literally glued to our seats.

On allowing negative points in a 2-player game:
This solution is supposed to discourage people from publishing 1-story, 0-point newspapers, but as it currently stands, publishing 1-story, 0-point newspapers will not win you the game. We feel that there is no need for this extra rule.

On not allowing a double turn on a publishing turn:
We feel that this takes an interesting decision away from the player: “will I go to press and block my opponent with my second turn” vs “will I improve my position and go to press with a better newspaper, but let my opponent have a first go at the new stories that come out.” This mattered a lot in one of our games last night.
In 2-player Penny Press moves seem to revolve a lot around the (fairly abstract) concepts of “initiative” and “tempo”. You will often have to block your opponent from being able to make a good newspaper on his turn while trying to gain a position that allows you to make a good newspaper on your turn. We found that if we take away the double turn on publishing, we would take away an aspect of the game that we actually really like.

On Penny Press not being a real 2-player game:
2-player Penny Press is very different from multi-player Penny Press, and it is clearly not for everyone. We like it ourselves and we belief it really brings something new and different to your game table. We even sent a copy of Penny Press to Richard Ham in Malta, better known as Rahdo, who only does 2-player reviews, because we think it will stand up (due to the wonderful Maltese customs interference his review is still upcoming).

We have decided not to change the rules for the 2-player game. The variant is nice and straightforward as it is and doesn’t seem to be broken, and if it ain’t broke… well, you know.
We remain open to comments and suggestions and are always willing to go back to the drawing board if we have to.

I leave you with a final tip: don’t underestimate the power of the recall action in the 2-player game! The combo of a recall action and an assign action allows you to move any number of reporters from anywhere to a single story, which usually allows you to block that one story you desperately need from being published by your opponent.
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Jimmy Hensel
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Thanks Robert.

Even though I've only played a couple of games, both 2-player, I totally agree with you. I'm glad you decided not to make any changes. I think it is a compelling two-player game as it is.
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Simon M.
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I think this is a beautiful game, and I can absolutely see it working tremendously well with more than two players, but in my experience it just does not work with two. Sorry. I know this is a subjective judgement, and the designers and others clearly feel that the game works well with two, but the depth of gameplay just isn't there - in my opinion, again - with just two players.
 
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No worries, Simon. It's clear the 2p experience didn't go over the way we'd hoped for many people. We do appreciate your kindly-worded post!
 
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I like Rahdo's idea of each of the two players having a dummy player. I think that sounds very interesting. Where the dummy reporter could either help you boost your stories or trying to block your opponent =)
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Chris Cieslik
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There's certainly more room for other 2 player variants!
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We played it for the first time last night...2-player. And it seemed broken. We started off trying to play to the theme, but as soon as P2 figured out that she had a leg up on always publishing the better edition (once a turn or two had passed), that's what she did. She might get 4 or 5 points and P1 might get a scoop point or two, but she was in the driver seat. In the end, she published her fourth at a loss, knowing that she couldn't move backwards and that she had the top two beats by star value and that P1 only had a chance to claim one more (two total) stories and would never catch her. Final score: 51-39 and pretty obvious from about the fourth turn of the game onward.

The 2-player game certainly needs tweaking and it seems to me that allowing negative movement on the board would be the first small step in that direction.
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