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Just yesterday I completed a solo game of the short scenario, period deck, playing as the US against three bot factions. Please note that I posted a report of the game's progress to the Solitaire Games on Your Table June 2015 (SGOYT) list as well and what you'll find below incorporates good chunks of that text too, so apologies for cross-posting.

However, below I want to go into some more detail regarding a couple of points that arose during the game ---as well as articulate a suggestion for the rules errata---, so I thought I'll post this session report to these forums as well to better reach the real FitLers.

Preamble

I felt kind burned out after the two-month long Forum vs Bots FitL marathon that ended back in April, but now (inspired by Phil's SGOYT entry) I decided to get this beast back on the table again. I'm glad my gaming experience turned out to be one of the best I've had so far!

I wanted to play as the US as I'm intrigued by how the US plays in this COIN: spoiled with highly mobile no-resource-cost firepower it's tempting to go John Rambo on everyone and everything. BUT if you want to win, it seems it's got to be along the tricky and expensive hearts and minds route. On top of that, by the end of the game, if all goes well, you're going to have withdrawn most of your pieces from the board.

And so, immediately after I had set the board, I found myself counting the US pieces on the map thinking how many I would need to withdraw to move over the US victory conditions line and how many troops that would leave me for keeping control of the situation on the board. With 25 withdrawable pieces on the board and the US 13 points below their victory line, I had 12 points worth of wiggle room. Not an impossible sounding equation, I thought.

1st Tour of Duty

But then, the first three bot plays knocked off 6 points of that wiggle room, before the US even got their hand on the board at all! This was going to be difficult.

The short scenario, with its eight card decks, there isn't necessarily an awfully lot of time to get stuff done. I got two moves in before the 1st Coup.



The baddies are up to no good amassing forces north and south!


I felt I was getting very little done in the run up to the first Coup, while the other factions seemed to make good headway in their respective directions. At least Aid and Econ were high and I got some pacifying done.

2nd Tour of Duty

The ARVN bot had focused on furthering its own cause in the form of frequent govern-for-patronage actions, and the US having been limited to mere two actions, one of which focused almost exclusively upon setting up the Coup round. In the mean time, the insurgents had got in a few good rally ops and were now ready to roll.

And so soon enough it got hot & heavy up north in and around Hue as the NVA bot rolled its considerable mass of troops out of Quang Tri starting a major attempt to extend NVA control into South Vietnam. I had, however, foreseen this and had a welcome committee of US troops at the ready. This was conventional warfare and NVA no match to the US firepower. The battle of Hue went down as the heaviest NVA defeat of this retelling of the Vietnam war. Surprisingly, also the ARVN bot chipped in to the effort and, as Hue had temporarily fallen to NVA, they patrolled in a good few troops to participate in the assault.

Nonetheless, despite the battle of Hue, the insurgents kept the US on the backfoot in that I was forced to one assault+airlift combo after another and did not really get to do much of that all important constructive hearts and minds stuff.

I know, sometimes the US probably is better off conceding ground to the insurgents, for after all, the US ought not simply fight for COIN control and let ARVN enjoy the fruits without there being some benefit toward the US support-related goals there. In the present case, however, the US was fighting to keep Hue and Saigon clean and 16 points of support secure so I saw no other option than to flex the military muscle.

All in all, the phase of play leading up to the second Coup was such a nail-biter ---probably one of the most exciting times I've ever had with this game--- as I found myself fighting a war on three fronts. I had to contain a VC that had got all its bases out and thus had heavy presence down in the southern parts of the country while, at the same time, having conventional warfare with NVA who had established themselves a stronghold up in Quang Tri and just kept respawning after each defeat.

And, last but not least, all the while I had to keep an eye on ARVN who, seemingly oblivious to all the commotion around them, had hiked patronage up to something like 24 points with countless govern actions.

Each drawing of a new event card was a moment of palpitations, but in the end, the 2nd Tour of Duty ended with the very last possible Coup card.



Some scenes from the game. Top left: Hue and Saigon succumb to NVA and VC onslaughts. Top right: a major US/ARVN offensive has reestablished control in Hue. Bottom row: VC keeps relentlessly respawning and are almost ready for doing the next big "spread". The COIN factions are within reach of their victory conditions.


3rd Tour of Duty

The final phase of play leading up to the third and final Coup was going to be a short sprint of max 8 events (for the 2nd Coup was the last possible card). During the Coup leading up to the final phase of play, I decided to make a run for it with maximal pacification followed by a sizeable withdrawal hoping to be able to hold on to our hard hats just long enough to see this thing through. And so, after the Coup, I had 55 points support+avail, that's a victory margin of +5, while all the bots were at negative margins. I felt I was, both, ready to claim victory should the final Coup come early, and ready to battle it out too with 13 troops remaining on the board.

But then, as I reveal the next upcoming event, I see it's the final Coup! This should be ok for the US, shouldn't it?

No. The problem was, the current card to be played before the final Coup had NVA and ARVN the first two factions eligible. So the US would not even get a hand on the table before the final Coup was upon us!

The NVA bot was the first to go, but their play was harmless. So far so good.

But then, the ARVN bot steps to the fore, and oblivious as always to anything else than drenching themselves in patronage, these guys go on to do some more of just that! They train+govern and increase patronage by 4 points while reducing support by the same number.



The game end. ARVN govern in the 2-pop spaces Hue and Quang Tin has sealed the deal in their favour.


With that the ARVN bot won the game by moving up to a positive victory margin of +2. The US finished with a positive margin too, but as victory in a 1-player game works a bit differently than when no bots are involved, the positive US margin has no bearing here.

Conclusion

The ending was a bit of an anti-climax. Yet, in a way the ARVN bot won exactly in the manner it should, namely, by leaving the fighting to the others while focusing on governing for patronage. I've got myself to blame too for lifting those two pop spaces to active support while I did not make sure that the US cubes outnumber the ARVN cubes in those spaces preventing govern for patronage.

A couple of concluding remarks:

thumbsup The short scenario: I had played the short scenario once before, and this time I was surprised to find how good it plays. Sure, there isn't always all that much time to get even the bare essentials done, and I suppose an unfavorable run of cards can lead to an imbalance. Yet, the way the cards came out this time was just perfect: it was a very close game, and I had very little room to game the bots, yet I felt I was also able to exercise real agency in my decisions. I thought the medium scenario would be my thing, but I think next time it'll be the short scenario again.

thumbsup What a pleasurable solitaire game this is! Loved every second of it! I've established a good grasp of the ways of the bots so it all flows pretty smoothly now. During the long scenario in our Forum vs Bots game, I felt there were times where we were able to game the bots a little bit too much. However, as noted above, this time there was much less time and opportunity for gamey moves.

thumbsdown A thumb down is clearly an exaggeration, as this is a mere minor feedback regarding the rules, but I was slightly confused by the rules regarding victory in a 1-player game, and here's why.

The first place chronologically in the rule book one looks for info on how victory works probably is 6.1 Victory Phase, and this section directs the 1-player gamer straight to 8.9. Also, at 8.0 Non-Player Factions, it says "Important: If playing solitaire, be sure to read the special 1-player victory conditions (8.9) before you start!"

However, the all-important piece of info regarding 1-player victory resides in the first sentence of 7.1: "If any Non-player Faction (8.0) passes a victory check (7.2), all players lose equally." This is easy to miss given that everything else points to 8.9. Furthermore, reading the section 7.1 further, one might get the impression that if a non-player passes a victory check AND "whenever any player does so ... the Faction that reached the highest victory margin (7.3) comes in 1st place". That is, one might think that if a non-player and a player both pass the victory check, then victory will be down to the margins, yet I believe this is not how 1-player victory works.

I would suggest, in the errata perhaps, putting all info regarding 1-player victory in one place, say in 8.9 1-Player Victory. The info currently missing in 8.9 is the above quoted sentence from 7.1. as well as the info that ties go first to non-players also at 7.1.
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Oerjan Ariander
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Um, Masil? Rule 7.1 applies to games with 2 or more players. (If there's only 1 player, a rule saying that "all players lose equally" would be pretty meaningless, don't you think?)

In solo games you use rule 8.9 instead, and the parts you quoted from rule 7.1 do not apply. That's the reason why rule 8.9 doesn't mention them.

In 8.9, the bits you're looking for are found in the 2nd sentence ("The player ... never wins during a Victory Phase") and the 1st bullet point ("• To succeed, the player must avoid a win by any Non-player through each Coup Round and have the highest victory margin(s) after the final Round.")

Regards,
Oerjan
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Thanks for this, Örjan. I'm still not sure if I get this right though.

Oerjan wrote:
Um, Masil? Rule 7.1 applies to games with 2 or more players. (If there's only 1 player, a rule saying that "all players lose equally" would be pretty meaningless, don't you think?)


I guess I thought that "all players lose equally" was written like that to cover all cases from where there are 3 players and a bot to one player and three bots. Ok, but 7.1 does not concern 1-player games, I know that now. (Although surely the bit in 7.1 about ties going to non-players also applies to 1-player games.)

Oerjan wrote:
In 8.9, the bits you're looking for are found in the 2nd sentence ("The player ... never wins during a Victory Phase") and the 1st bullet point ("• To succeed, the player must avoid a win by any Non-player through each Coup Round and have the highest victory margin(s) after the final Round.")


Yes, that phrase "must avoid a win by any Non-player" is key. What counts as avoiding a win? There's an old thread (https://boardgamegeek.com/article/17508757#17508757) I dug up yesterday when trying to figure out the answer. There, upon Eric posing the very same question, a reply reproduces the passage from 7.1 ("all lose equally"), a reply that you and Volko give thumbs to as if confirming the correctness of involving that passage. You also post later in the thread seemingly confirming the answer.

What am I missing here!? To get a concrete example, in my game described above, does my US having a victory margin of +1 mean I manage to "avoid a win" by the ARVN bot with the margin of +2 when we go into the victory check of the final Coup round?
 
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Having thought about this in light of the "7.1 does not apply in 1-player games" and the "must avoid a bot win" rules, I suppose the only possible conclusion is that in 1-player games, a bot passing the victory check (i.e. it having a positive victory margin) leads to bot victory unless the player has a higher victory margin. Is that right? In the case of this session report this would mean that the US player faction (margin +1) did lose to the ARVN bot (margin +2). Whereas in Eric's example in the thread linked above, the player faction VC (margin +5) does not lose to the US bot (margin +2).

By contrast, in a 2-player or 3-player game the bot wins if it passes the victory check regardless of what the player margins are.
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Rule 7.1 is about ranking victories in multiplayer games. It does not apply during Solo games. (Which is why rule 8.9 doesn't mention it.)

The rule that defines how a faction wins during Victory Checks is 7.2, and it does apply during Solo games. (Which is why rule 8.9 explicitly refers to it.)

Regards,
Oerjan
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FWIW, like masil, I found this a bit confusing. But the Example on page 21 ("A solo US/ARVN player using Difficulty Option B avoids Non-player victory by keeping both US and ARVN margins equal to or above both NVA and VC margins upon each Victory Phase beyond the 1st Coup card.") seems to help clarify what is intended.
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I'm sorry guys but I still don't know how to parse the meaning of the phrase "the player must avoid a win by any Non-player" in the section 8.9 1-Player Victory. Let me try to spell out my trouble to solve the problem I'm having.

As Örjan says above, "The rule that defines how a faction wins during Victory Checks is 7.2". Now, what 7.2 does is, it lists the victory thresholds for each faction WITHOUT saying anything about ties (that info is in 7.1) and situations where both, a bot faction and a player faction, have reached their victory thresholds.

But, in any case, to say that 7.2 defines how a bot faction wins seems to me to equate winning with a bot faction reaching its victory threshold. By implication, the phrase "the player must avoid a win by any Non-player" would come out as saying "the player must avoid any bot faction reaching its victory threshold".

Is this correct?

Two comments:

1. If I'm right with the above, then it is also true that the phrase from 7.1 "If any Non-player Faction (8.0) passes a victory check (7.2), all players lose equally", while not being applicable in 1-player games (as Örjan has told us), basically says the same as what I arrived at in a roundabout way by relating 8.9 and 7.2.

2. If 7.2 defines "how a faction wins" then surely, strictly speaking, that is a definition for a bot faction only, for a player faction winning will involve more than just reaching their victory threshold: it will involve seeing if other factions have also reached their thresholds, by how much has each exceeded their threshold, resolving ties etc.
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russ wrote:
FWIW, like masil, I found this a bit confusing. But the Example on page 21 ("A solo US/ARVN player using Difficulty Option B avoids Non-player victory by keeping both US and ARVN margins equal to or above both NVA and VC margins upon each Victory Phase beyond the 1st Coup card.") seems to help clarify what is intended.


This does not seem to me to solve the issue I'm having. For the difficulty option B could be read simply as putting in place the additional condition concerning negative victory margins: the player faction(s) must have better negative margin(s) than the bot faction(s).

In other words, the normal rule (if my above interpretation of it is correct) would cover all cases involving positive bot margins while this difficulty option ramps it up by requiring better negative player margins too.
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Masil,

Yes, a solo player must avoid any bot faction reaching its victory threshold during victory checks in a solo game.

The reason for this has nothing to do with rule 7.1, however, because rule 7.1 deals with ties and ranking between different players. In a solo game there is only one player, and he can't tie with himself nor be ranked above or below himself.

The real reason why a solo player must keep all bots below their victory thresholds is that rule 6.1 states:
6.1 Victory Phase wrote:
If any Faction has met its Victory condition, the game ends (exceptions: Non-player option [1.5]; 1-player [8.9]).

while rule 8.9 says:
8.9 wrote:
The player (...) never wins during a Victory Phase (6.1, 7.2).

(this is the exception mentioned in 6.1), and continues with:
8.9 wrote:
To succeed, the player must avoid a win by any Non-player through each Coup Round and have the highest victory margin(s) after the final Round.

OK, so the solo player can't win during the Coup Rounds, only at the very end of the game. This means that a solo game won't end if the player meets his 7.2 victory conditions during a 6.1, but it does end if another Faction - which in a solo game will by definition be a bot - does so.

If the game ends at a time when the rules prevent the solo player from winning (i.e., a 6.1 Victory Phase), who wins instead? Rule 8.9 has the answer:
8.9” wrote:
NON-PLAYER VICTORY: If the player fails to avoid such an outcome, the Non-player with the highest victory margin (ties to VC then ARVN then NVA) wins the Vietnam conflict:

In the solo game, rule 7.1 never enters the computation.

Regards,
Oerjan
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masil wrote:
russ wrote:
FWIW, like masil, I found this a bit confusing. But the Example on page 21 ("A solo US/ARVN player using Difficulty Option B avoids Non-player victory by keeping both US and ARVN margins equal to or above both NVA and VC margins upon each Victory Phase beyond the 1st Coup card.") seems to help clarify what is intended.


This does not seem to me to solve the issue I'm having. For the difficulty option B could be read simply as putting in place the additional condition concerning negative victory margins: the player faction(s) must have better negative margin(s) than the bot faction(s).

Crap, you're right. I wasn't paying attention to their mention of Difficulty Option B. :/

So apparently the point is:

Section 7.2 means that any faction over its threshold "wins" but with possible strings attached to that so-called "victory": it's more of a "potential win", and one must do further checking to see if the faction really won or not... Just because a faction "won" according to 7.2 does not mean that the faction actually won the game. (So why use this confusing terminology, calling it a "win/victory" when it's not necessarily?)

Section 7.1 (for non-solitaire games) tells what to do if more than one faction "wins" during the coup check. (Tie-breaking by highest margin among human players; but a bot trumps humans who "won" so that the humans don't really win.)

Section 8.9 (for solitaire games) tells what to do if a non-player faction "wins" (then it's game over and the human loses regardless whether they also "won" by section 7.2), and what to do if a human faction wins (then you ignore it, even though they "won" by section 7.2).

Yeah, I still agree with you, this could have been described more clearly in the rules...
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Ok, thanks Örjan, that combination of 6.1 and 8.9 clears it all up for me.

I cannot help the lingering feeling though that the need to piece together info from various parts of the rule book, as well as potential confusion and questions, could perhaps be avoided by having all the info regarding 1-player victory available in 8.9.
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Thanks all. This is helpful for double checking that 8.9 in Falling Sky is clear and easy to use, which I am going to see to right now. ... Volko
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Oerjan, seems to me that 7.1 is essential to define what "a win" (referenced in 8.9) means, as it is not really clearly defined that passing victory conditions in it self constitutes "a win". I would go so far as to say, that both 7.1 and 7.3 (surrounding 7.2) heavily implies that victory margin ultimately determines "a win". That passing victory conditions is not enough in itself.

Which, without the first sentence in 7.1, would imply that you could prevent a win by maintaining a bigger victory margin than the non-player. You could not win yourself, ofc, due to 8.9.

And would of course end us in a deadlock with 6.1.

So I'd say that we should let 7.1 enter the computation, seeing as the first sentence there prevents that from happening.
 
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bombmk wrote:
Oerjan, seems to me that 7.1 is essential to define what "a win" (referenced in 8.9) means, as it is not really clearly defined that passing victory conditions in it self constitutes "a win". I would go so far as to say, that both 7.1 and 7.3 (surrounding 7.2) heavily implies that victory margin ultimately determines "a win". That passing victory conditions is not enough in itself.

Which, without the first sentence in 7.1, would imply that you could prevent a win by maintaining a bigger victory margin than the non-player. You could not win yourself, ofc, due to 8.9.

And would of course end us in a deadlock with 6.1.

Morten, your supposed deadlock in the absence of the 1st sentence of 7.1 is caused by your attempt to apply the 2nd sentence of 7.1 to the solo game. You shouldn't apply any part of 7.1 when you play solo.

(The 1st sentence of 7.3 only applies after the final Coup Round, not during Victory Phases, so can never create deadlocks with 6.1.)

Again:
Rule 6.1 states that the game ends if any Faction meets its 7.2 Victory Conditions during the Victory Phase of any Coup Round. Rule 8.9 modifies this to not apply to a solo player's Faction(s), so during a solo game only the Non-player Factions can end the game early.

If a solo game ends during a Victory Phase (when per 8.9 the solo player can't win), rule 8.9 specifies that the Non-player with the highest victory margin wins the game. The solo player's victory margin is irrelevant in this case.

8.9 is a bit recursive, which is confusing. Its 1st bullet should say "avoid the game being ended by any Non-player" rather "avoid a win by ...", making the reference to 6.1 explicit rather than implied and breaking the circular reference between this bullet and the beginning of the "NON-PLAYER VICTORY" section of 8.9. This doesn't change the actual meaning of the rules though, only phrases them more clearly.

Regards,
Oerjan
 
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If you disregard 7.1, where does it say that having met victory conditions constitutes the "win" required by 8.9?
Without 7.1, how do we resolve more than one faction (player included) meeting victory conditions in 7.2 in terms of determining a winner? (the requirement of 8.9)
6.1 and the totality of 7.0 heavily implies that meeting victory conditions is not enough to constitute "a win".

I don't quite get the insistence on not applying 7.1. That is the one section that makes it completely clear that a Non-player "wins" by passing a victory check. It works equally fine regardless of the number of Non-players, as far as I can tell.

Your suggested change to 8.9 would definitely make it clearer. "avoid a Non-player passing a victory check (7.2)" would be even more clear, I think - to avoid confusion about who actually ends the game when two factions meet their criteria during that phase. I would also change the preceding text to say that a player faction cannot end the game - instead of not winning the game. As ending the game is separate event from determining who wins.


Just for the record: I am deliberately being a little provocatively thickheaded regarding the difference between "win" and "meeting victory conditions". But I honestly do not see the rules being clear enough about the distinction - or a wanted lack of same, if that was the aim - given the use of the terms.

 
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bombmk wrote:
If you disregard 7.1, where does it say that having met victory conditions constitutes the "win" required by 8.9?

Rule 8.9, "NON-PLAYER VICTORY". Which is why 8.9 as currently written is recursive: it refers back to itself.
Quote:
Without 7.1, how do we resolve more than one faction (player included) meeting victory conditions in 7.2 in terms of determining a winner? (the requirement of 8.9)

Rule 8.9 bullet 1 says that the solo player "succeeds" if s/he has the highest victory margin(s) after the final Coup. Rule 8.9 "NON-PLAYER VICTORY" defines which Non-player wins a solo game if the player does not "succeed".

To be a bit provocative back, I don't quite get the insistence on applying 7.1 to solo games. Trying to do so leads directly to the confusion featured in Masil's original post above. The start of the solo rules explicitly refers to the special solo victory conditions in 8.9; and 8.9 in turn refers to 7.2 and 7.3 (for the definitions of Victory Conditions and victory margins), but not to 7.1 because 8.9 has its own rules for tie-break and victory ranking.

Regards,
Oerjan
 
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Oerjan wrote:
bombmk wrote:
If you disregard 7.1, where does it say that having met victory conditions constitutes the "win" required by 8.9?

Rule 8.9, "NON-PLAYER VICTORY". Which is why 8.9 as currently written is recursive: it refers back to itself.

The application of the "NON-PLAYER VICTORY" part is explicitly dependent on the player failing to prevent a non-player "win" in a Coup round. We have yet to establish where that "win" is defined if 7.1 is ignored.
8.9 might be written recursively, but it never runs recursively, because we never get to the second part.

Or to put it a different way: If we can only determine a non-player winner after the player has prevented a non-player winning, a non-player cannot win. (In a coup round, that is.)

Oerjan wrote:
Quote:
Without 7.1, how do we resolve more than one faction (player included) meeting victory conditions in 7.2 in terms of determining a winner? (the requirement of 8.9)

Rule 8.9 bullet 1 says that the solo player "succeeds" if s/he has the highest victory margin(s) after the final Coup. Rule 8.9 "NON-PLAYER VICTORY" defines which Non-player wins a solo game if the player does not "succeed".


I was not referring to the making it past the last coup.
It is understood that a player cannot "succeed" in a coup round. But given the above mentioned lack of "win" definition, we cannot determine that he cannot prevent a non-player - that has met that factions victory conditions - from "winning" in a Coup round.

7.1 is the only part of 7.0 that determines "winner and rank order" referenced in 6.1.

Taken to an extremely precise and strict reading, you cannot determine a winner during coup round without 7.1. You can only determine if a faction has met its victory conditions.
And as such a Non-player cannot obtain the "win" required in 8.9. Without 7.1.

7.1 is only confusing if you read it outright wrong. It is exceedingly clear that players lose if a non-player meets its victory conditions. Everything else is contingent on the "Otherwise ...".

Just want to be clear:
I think the rules are perfectly fine. I am not in any way confused about how to proceed on this.

I just found the insistence on disregarding 7.1 for solo play interesting, as I see them as being logically required if the rules are read in a stringently logical fashion - especially as they do not seem to conflict with solo play.
 
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Morten,

Please quote the part of rule 7.1 that explicitly defines a "Non-player win"?

There isn't one. The closest you'll find is a statement about all players losing, but that doesn't define the term "Non-player win" any more than 8.9's own statement that the solo player "never wins during a Victory Phase" does.

The only rule in the rulebook which explicitly defines when a Non-player wins the game is the part of 8.9 that is labeled "NON-PLAYER VICTORY"... and as I noted earlier, that definition is recursive.

Regards,
Oerjan
 
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