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Subject: Designers' notes no.3 : The optional actions (+ cat cost) rss

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Gordon Lamont
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Fragor Games Hameln

Designers' notes no.3 : optional Actions (+ cat cost)

(This is the third in a series of articles addressing some of the issues encountered by players. We will be posting a new article every week. Hameln is a complex game and some of the strategies and tactics may not be apparent after a first play).

The purchasing of optional actions can be the difference between winning and losing a game. However, money is tight and you want to get some value for your hard-earned cash. Here are our thoughts on the optional actions (including a discussion about the value of the cat). Enjoy !


1. Bribing The Pied Piper

Control of the Pied Piper has a significant impact on the flow of the game. Good placement of the Piper means that you can bring a phase to an end without any disadvantage. It can also dissuade other players from activating certain houses, preparing children or finishing the round. This is more sharply focused in the last phase when houses do not score points at the end if they are over-run.

Thinking ahead can give you more options when it comes to your turn. For instance, having the Pied Piper in an area with at least one of your extra houses (those apart from the marketplace) might give you, on your next turn, the opportunity for ending the current phase with little harm to yourself.

Moving the Pied Piper to the '3 florins per child' space, can put pressure on those with children in the Church hall, especially as the round nears its end. It can also dissuade other players from preparing children, especially if they don't have a lot of money. Likewise, the opposite is true. If you have a number of children in the hall meeple, you may want to move the Piper to the '1 florin' space to give yourself some breathing space. This gives you a better chance of paying for them when the round ends.

Sometimes the Pied Piper can be influenced with a very small amount of money especially if money is tight as the end of the phase approaches. Do not forget that a player bringing a phase to an end does not have the opportunity of moving the Pied Piper.


2. Buying of Influence

Buying of influence is an act which benefits no-one but yourself. If you are in last place on the influence track, it is sometimes possible to have 2 turns in a row by using this action. The benefits of doing this vary, but keeping a close eye on the church hall is important for getting your timing right. Moving up to 1st can give you first pick of the Church hall (e.g. you prepare a child to marry and buy influence allowing you to take your next turn before a rival devil ), or allow you a chance to gain money, making you more attractive than the other potential suitors. More importantly, towards the end of a phase, it can give you more control over when the phase ends. This can increase your own points and also prevent others from having a further action before the end of the phase.

Combining this action with moving into an influence house can have a dramatic effect on your influence standing.


3. The Cat

At 4 florins, the cat should not be bought lightly. Indeed, it should be bought very sparingly (if at all) in phases one and two. Probably the only reason to purchase the cat in these phases is to free up a female (to prepare a much needed child) or to control when the end of the phase occurs by removing a King Rat. Remember, freed up males can never produce goods more than the value of the cost of the cat.

The cat really comes into its own in the third phase when scoring of the houses occurs. By removing a small rat (and therefore a King Rat) from a house you allow that house to score points at the end of the game. This may be extremely important if the Pied Piper is elsewhere. Theoretically, it could give you a 9 point swing. Also, remember when you free a house that you are also gaining the other occupant points too, so make sure that you are improving your overall standing before buying the cat.

If you don't need the cat, DONT buy it. Money is tight and scores at the end of the game (e.g. 5 points for 1st, 3 points for 2nd etc).

There has been talk of the cat being too expensive shake. It may seem this way on a first play but the cost is correct for gameplay purposes. Reducing the cost of the cat has a severe impact on the game. The timing mechanism of the King Rats is significantly affected. It means that players are able to purchase the cat on a much more regular basis. This causes the game to drag on in a cycle of selling goods and buying the cat. It is expensive but it represents great value in certain situations. Paying 4 florins to gain up to 9 points (a 5 and 3 florin house with an adjoining rat space + 1 for the cat) can be a much cheaper option than a Pied Piper bidding war.

The final price of the cat was developed over a large number of playtests, at various prices. We think the comments on the cat have been due to players assuming how the cat should work (thinking it should be used regularly rather than sparingly). A quick story - we entered into correspondence with one player about the value of the cat. During the course of this correspondence they realized that they would, in fact, have won the game had they bought it !


As usual, feel free to join in any debate about the topic (agree or disagree !), or let us know if you have any questions.

Next week we will be discussing the strategic buying of houses, but until then,

Best wishes,

Fraser and Gordon
Fragor Games



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Daniel Danzer
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Re: Designers' notes no.3 : The optional actions (+ cat cost
Congratulations for your "clarification series". Although I find the rules quite clear, your articles show deeply how this game is constructed: Everything is connected with everything, and the players are connected to each other ...

Maybe your "mistake" was to let Hameln look so nice. With a more geometrical board, abstract figures and all dark grey and brown, with a military theme, nobody would react like some people did

Thanks again for this one!

Daniel
 
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Gary Jackson
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We were one group querying the cost of the cat, but now a 3-game 'veteran' I can more fully appreciate the relative value and agree that 4 is a reasonable value. Our discussion went off in a different direction though, that being a thematic one - once you have a cat why would it only ever eat one rat? This suggested a variant; allowing the owner of a cat as their optional action to eat a further rat. We tried this in the last game - the cat changed owners 3 times (had only been bought once in previous games) and the optional eating happened once or twice, adding a couple of turns to the game length. Seemed to add a little more to the cat option without unbalancing (at least on the strength of 1 game!). I'd be interested to hear if that was tried in playtesting, or if you saw any great risks in using that as a house rule/variant?

Thanks for an interesting game that has provoked a lot of discussion around here. With the complexities of play it is hard to 'get' on its first outing.

Cheers
Gary
 
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