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Subject: Marvel Heroes Review rss

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Mike Compton
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Introduction

I was looking forward to this game and was intrigued by what I had heard about it (that each player controlled their own group of superheroes and a supervillan as well that can attack the other players' teams). The game seemed to have been well received here at BGG so my hopes were high. I also collected comic books for a while when I was younger so there was some nostalgia for me coming into this game. I really wanted it to be good. Nevertheless, I found myself disappointed overall with this game.

Brief Overview of Game Play

Each player controls one of four possible groups of Superheroes (composed of four superheroes each):

The Avengers
The X-Men
The Marvel Knights
The Fantastic Four

The game takes place on a quasi-New York inner city map. The map is divided up into six districts and there are four subsections within each district. The flow of the game is divided up into a series of 5 rounds with 5 rotations of turns within each round. At the beginning of each round, there are a number of “Headlines” that come out for each district. Essentially these “headlines” represent combat scenarios in which you may encounter bad guys and have to fight them. These headlines are of several types (Mystery, Crime, Danger). There is also a certain skill listed underneath the main description (such as science, mystic, protection, etc.). The skills listed correspond to specific character skills that can be found on the character cards for the various superheroes that can be used in the game. There are also “plot points” that are used by each player to get their superheroes ready for action before each round begins.

On a player’s turn within a round, they can do things like move their superhero, give medical attention to a superhero, or begin “troubleshooting” a headline (which is really where most of the action is). Each headline has a certain “trouble” rating – which is essentially the number of dice you roll to determine, in broad terms, how many bad guys or extra problems there might be as part of fighting the headline. A superhero may move to an area and may fight the headline alone or they may have a “support” hero along with them. Each headline grants a number of victory points to the person who successfully defeats any villans involved in that headline.

Combat

Combat consists of a series of dice rolls that have to be processed through a series of modifiers present on the villan’s card, any modifying cards for the villan, and the superhero’s modifiers on the superhero’s card as well as any modifiers on the “supporting” hero’s card. There is some simultaneous decision revelation prior to combat but it is essentially a choice of which set of dice modifiers your character – be it villan or hero – will use in combat. And, here we come to the source of my disappointment. In essence, the game is pretty much nothing more than a dicefest in which the rolls have to be tediously processed through the various modifiers. When looked at from a larger view, all of the mechanics in the game - including the card drawing - seem to simply be window dressing for the dice rolling.

The main aspect of the game that had intrigued me was the concept of controlling a supervillan as well as a set of superheroes. Herein, again, I was disappointed as the supervillan you control is not able to actively engage the superheroes. What I mean by this is that you cannot, for example, on your turn declare that Dr. Doom will now attack the Fantastic Four. Instead, you control Dr. Doom only after the Fantastic Four decide to go after a headline. In other words, you have to wait for the other player to initiate any combat and then, again, combat is simply a series of dice rolls being processed through a series of modifiers. There are other familiar "sub-villans" that can be played in the form of cards that can be drawn by the players during the course of the game (e.g. Venom, the Juggernaut, and Dr. Octopus among others). However, these cards are, again, simply a set of dice modifiers and, in that respect, I found combat to be an unfulfilling experience.

In general, the strategy of the game seems to pretty much be the same as it is with any dice-driven game: hedge your bets with the dice rolling by trying to stack modifiers (of whatever form) in your favor. Granted, there are various ways that this can be accomplished and there are also some resource management skills involved with how and when you use your plot points but, again, a game that is this dice driven does not tend to be my style of game. There have been dice driven games I have played in the past that I have liked but this was not one of them. I won the game of Marvel Heroes I played (all of us who played were new) but I didn’t attribute my win to any great acumen or strategic cunning. I just hedged my bets as best I could and hoped for the best.

Components

With respect to the components, it’s been stated before that the map is lacking in its appearance. However, I don’t really dock any points from the game for that as the art work of the map seems to be presented with the intention of making it look “comicbooky” and, in that respect, the map works. I also liked the miniatures and the art design on the various character cards as well as art design for the rulebook. I also liked the plot points being small chips with speech windows in them (you know, the circles above the characters’ heads in a comic book where their dialogue is written). I also liked the quirky-ness of the “trouble” counter being a very “comicbooky” exclamation point. However, all of the components simply served to reinforce my disappointment that, behind the chrome, the game is pretty much just a dicefest.

Game Length

In terms of time, the game I played took a little over 2 hours which was mostly due to the fact that we were all new to the game. I can see how, with players who have an understanding of the rules, it could move a lot faster. So, my perception is that the time factor can be alleviated by having experienced players. Each player is provided with a game summary that is serviceable in design. However, I can also see how a self-created player aide that simply integrates the various sections on the summary into one cohesive round outline would result in a more understandable aide for a new player.

Who will like this game

I suspect that the main group of people who will like Marvel Heroes are the same people who tend to like games where dice are the predominant driving force of action. This game will more than likely not appeal to casual gamers simply because of the amount of rules that go into processing the various modifiers for the dice rolls.
 
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J
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Just to clarify: You played it just once?

I think many people that only play this game once will be disappointed.
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Hilary Hartman
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Though I disagree with your assessment of Marvel Heroes being a dicefest, I liked the majority of your review.

I've enjoyed the two games I've played. Heck, I even won both of them and I used different teams. The first game was a near blow-out, as the Avengers left the X-Men way behind. The second game was closer between the Marvel Knights and the X-Men.

Maybe your opinion will change once you've a few more games under your belt. There are a great many options in this game, and it is--by far--the game that captures the feel of a comic book. For me, anyway.

Nice review.
 
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Ryan Goodwin
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I agree, good review, even though I don't agree with it. In particular, I disagree this is a dicefest. Yes, dice are used, but only to resolve combat and to determine the trouble level, which are both part of the troubleshooting action. There are 4 other actions (not including card play) that don't include dice...

I also think this is a game that gets better after a few plays. At least it did for me. Maybe it will get worse for other players.

 
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Mike Compton
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Thanks for the feedback. I would perhaps be willing to give the game another try but my honest impression is that the entire game revolves around the dice rolling. The other actions and mechanics in the game are there simply to set up the modifier system for the dice rolling in combat. I do like the fact that there is an attempt at a runaway leader fix in determining who goes first in the round and also with the progressive powers of the supervillans (the third being a loss of 5 VPs) but the game still comes down to the dice and, thus, the game is just not that interesting to me.

Think of it this way, if you take one mechanic out of any game, would you still have a game left? For example, if you took out the shipping aspect of Puerto Rico, you could still fashion a game out of what's left and make it just a building game. If you took the building aspect out of Caylus and just had a string of communal buildings available for the entire game you would still have a game. Even further, if you took out the "tickets" aspect of Ticket to Ride, you would still have a game with the longest train reward and the points rewarded for building all along the way. These games wouldn't be great with these subtractions (and some people may say they aren't great even as they stand )but you could still make them work. On the other hand, take the dice rolling out of Risk. Now what do you have? Nothing. My point with this line of reasoning is that Marvel Heroes may appear multi-faceted on the surface but, really, take the dice rolling out of it and what do you have left? Nothing. You would have to come up with some sort of combat system that involved points on the cards or something.

So, I'm not saying that Marvel Heroes is a bad game. It's just not a very elaborate game. Just because there are lots of rules surrounding the modifiers doesn't mean that the game is very intriguing. Now I don't mind some dice games (I personally love "Can't Stop") but Marvel Heroes is just not my style of game.
 
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Juhani Nurminen
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compman wrote:
Thanks for the feedback. I would perhaps be willing to give the game another try but my honest impression is that the entire game revolves around the dice rolling. The other actions and mechanics in the game are there simply to set up the modifier system for the dice rolling in combat. I do like the fact that there is an attempt at a runaway leader fix in determining who goes first in the round and also with the progressive powers of the supervillans (the third being a loss of 5 VPs) but the game still comes down to the dice and, thus, the game is just not that interesting to me.

Think of it this way, if you take one mechanic out of any game, would you still have a game left? For example, if you took out the shipping aspect of Puerto Rico, you could still fashion a game out of what's left and make it just a building game. If you took the building aspect out of Caylus and just had a string of communal buildings available for the entire game you would still have a game. Even further, if you took out the "tickets" aspect of Ticket to Ride, you would still have a game with the longest train reward and the points rewarded for building all along the way. These games wouldn't be great with these subtractions (and some people may say they aren't great even as they stand )but you could still make them work. On the other hand, take the dice rolling out of Risk. Now what do you have? Nothing. My point with this line of reasoning is that Marvel Heroes may appear multi-faceted on the surface but, really, take the dice rolling out of it and what do you have left? Nothing. You would have to come up with some sort of combat system that involved points on the cards or something.

So, I'm not saying that Marvel Heroes is a bad game. It's just not a very elaborate game. Just because there are lots of rules surrounding the modifiers doesn't mean that the game is very intriguing. Now I don't mind some dice games (I personally love "Can't Stop") but Marvel Heroes is just not my style of game.



Personally, I like dice very much, because they make the game interesting and unpredictable. A game with no randomness is boring, because you will always know what will happen and you will use only a handful of tactics to play the game, because there is no need for anything else.

Now, games with dice have a thing called adaptability. If you are sure you will win if you do a single thing, but you fail at it due to bad rolling, you have to adapt to the new situation(and to the possibility of failure as well) since everything did not go as planned. I think this is a very good thing. Granted, some games are very poor because they are entirely random, with no planning or anything like that at all, being only dependant on luck.

Marvel Heroes is NOT one of these games. Here the dice are used to amplify the playability of the game, not to determine it outright. There are many strategic decisions to be made, some of which will fail because you cannot completely predict what will happen in combat, which is good. This way each session is exciting.

You could play Marvel Heroes without dice, if you simply used a rock-paper-scissors approach to the game, which while simple, would not be nearly as fun. Therefore it stands to reason, that the dice are a very good thing, because they enhance the gameplay.

Marvel Heroes does revolve around the combat aspect of the game(and therefore the dice), because it was designed that way. It has many other things in it as well, each of which enhances gameplay. Each part in itself isn't anything superbly awesome, but the game itself is greater than the sum of it's parts.

By the way, Risk doesn't use dice normally, it's an added option.
 
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David Spangler
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I thought this review was good, well-written, and fair in that the writer honestly expressed his opinion, gave his point of view based on his biases, which he stated, did not shaft the game for being what it is, and offered a reasonably balanced description. I happen to enjoy die rolling and find this game offers a lot of choices and therefore stragegy. So I would come to a different conclusion than the reviewer. But I'll admit it isn't the superhero game I would have liked to see; I agree that I would have designed it to allow the villains a more proactive role than they have here. I think I would have reversed the approach, and had the players being criminal empires run by a mastervillain, and made the villain pieces the main characters, developing and building plots and schemes. But as in this game, I would also make each player a superhero who can gain allies, form a team and discover and destroy other players' schemes and take out their lesser villains and henchmen to weaken their empire. Eventually, the superheroes would have to confront the supervillains and masterminds, once the latters' "defenses," diversions, and deceptions had been breached. But that would make a different game. Better? Not necessarily, just different. But then you would have to play strategically and tactically as both the criminal mastermind with his or her empire and as a superhero with his or her team. I think this would have offered even more strategic choices.

If Marvel Heroes were to be the only super hero board game ever designed or published, I would be disappointed, as it leaves territory and design possibilities unexplored and untapped. But I hope it will be one of many, and standing on its own, I find it a great game as it is.
 
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Mike Compton
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Good comments on this thread so far.

DSpangler wrote:
But I'll admit it isn't the superhero game I would have liked to see; I agree that I would have designed it to allow the villains a more proactive role than they have here. I think I would have reversed the approach, and had the players being criminal empires run by a mastervillain, and made the villain pieces the main characters, developing and building plots and schemes. But as in this game, I would also make each player a superhero who can gain allies, form a team and discover and destroy other players' schemes and take out their lesser villains and henchmen to weaken their empire. Eventually, the superheroes would have to confront the supervillains and masterminds, once the latters' "defenses," diversions, and deceptions had been breached. But that would make a different game. Better? Not necessarily, just different. But then you would have to play strategically and tactically as both the criminal mastermind with his or her empire and as a superhero with his or her team. I think this would have offered even more strategic choices.


I think the first sentence in the section quoted above sums up my feelings. Marvel Heroes wasn't the superhero game I would have liked to see. It is what it is - but it's not what I would have preferred. By the way David, the gaming scenario you're describing sounds very intriguing and would possibly make for some very interesting choices.
 
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Michael Denman
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How many train games are out there? How many business games? Empire-building games? These games tackle their subject matter from various angles. Something for everyone. One game can not be all things to all people.

How many superhero games are out there? OK, now take away the typical trash displayed on the shelves of Toys R Us. SLIM PICKINGS. Marvel Heroes came at the subject matter from one angle. It remains to be seen if others will take it on from other angles, but you can't expect Marvel Heroes to cover everything about comic books just as you... or you... or you would prefer.

I think the game is a milestone within the genre. X-Men Alert is the only other superhero boardgame that was ever worth replaying. Both games have dice. You could work around that in a design, but I think you're leaving your subject matter behind when you do. Comic book battles don't typically follow an exact pattern whereby you can coldly calculate the success or failure of every move (well, unless you're the Mad Thinker). There is a largely unknown element which is what makes them interesting. When the the Thing takes a swing at the Trapster, do we KNOW he'll connect every time? Maybe he will. Maybe Trapster will dodge out of the way (rolls a high defense). Maybe Trapster will fortunately slip and avoid getting hit (doesn't roll a high defense, but the Thing rolled a low attack). The reviewer suggests that this game will appeal mainly to those who love dice in their games. No. This game will appeal mainly to comic book fans. When I'm playing Puerto Rico, I don't want to be rolling on a storm table to see if my goods successfully shipped. That's not what that game is about. Doesn't make me like the game any less though.

I have seen two terms used to refer to this game which really make my skin crawl, mainly because I feel like they are tossed around too casually. "Dicefest". To me, a game like Heroscape is a dicefest. The variability of your dice rolls is so great that it is nearly impossible to tell what sort of crazy result might come out of it (just ask the Deathstalker when he's defending). Just because a game has dice... and even if they're a primary component... doesn't make a game a dicefest. Marvel Heroes might very well have more reliance on the dice that some people prefer, but I think that's different than it being a dicefest. When I see that term crop up in a comment, my first thought is always that "this writer really just doesn't understand probability".

The other term is "rock-scissors-paper". Just because there are usually three combat options, I feel many people are throwing this term around. This derogatory term implies that there are three equal choices to make and all that is important is to pick the perfect one to counter the other player's choice. Not in this game. When you have to consider the current combat situation, the possible modifiers, and the fact that you will be rolling some dice when all is said and done, you can't say that all three of your combat choices have equal value.

It's not my intention to come down on the reviewer who started this thread. It's more a case of this being the straw that broke the camel's back and I suddenly have to sound off.
 
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Mike Compton
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Quote:
I think the game is a milestone within the genre. X-Men Alert is the only other superhero boardgame that was ever worth replaying. Both games have dice.


and

Quote:
...but I think that's different than it being a dicefest. When I see that term crop up in a comment, my first thought is always that "this writer really just doesn't understand probability".


I actually liked X-Men Alert - primarily because, even though it is a dice game, it is not nearly as tedious of a dice game as Marvel Heroes. I will admit that the term "dicefest" is a loaded term but I used it intentionally because I wanted to make a point - namely that Marvel Heroes may seem like a more interesting game than it actually is. X-Men Alert was simply upfront about it's "diceyness" and kept things simple by comparision. Marvel Heroes takes a more tedious process just to arrive at the action of the dice. Yes I understand probability but I also understand that the process of arriving at the set of modifiers (re-roll possibilities, the number of dice involved on one side and the other) for any particular diceroll in Marvel Heroes is more tedious than fun for me.

It's ultimately a matter of opinion really. For example, I personally love Caylus but there are many who accuse that game of being "tedious" and "fiddly". I can see their point of view but I don't agree with it. I'm not asking that anyone agree with my point of view regarding Marvel Heroes. I'm just asking that they try and see it from my point of view and that they recognize that reasonable minds can disagree and remain reasonable.
 
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Anders Gabrielsson
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compman wrote:
Think of it this way, if you take one mechanic out of any game, would you still have a game left? For example, if you took out the shipping aspect of Puerto Rico, you could still fashion a game out of what's left and make it just a building game. If you took the building aspect out of Caylus and just had a string of communal buildings available for the entire game you would still have a game. Even further, if you took out the "tickets" aspect of Ticket to Ride, you would still have a game with the longest train reward and the points rewarded for building all along the way. These games wouldn't be great with these subtractions (and some people may say they aren't great even as they stand )but you could still make them work. On the other hand, take the dice rolling out of Risk. Now what do you have? Nothing.


I think this is a bit misleading. If you remove the plantations from Puerto Rico you will also be left with nothing; the same if you remove the workers from Caylus. That doesn't mean Puerto Rico revolves entirely around the plantations, or Caylus around the workers.
 
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Mike Compton
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True. Nevertheless, the point I was ultimately trying to make by introducing these hypothetical alterations was that there is a difference between a game appearing to be multi-faceted and a game actually being multi-faceted. For example, there are several approaches one can take with respect to strategy in Princes of Florence. A player may choose to focus almost entirely on builders and buildings as opposed to playing very many works or vice versa. In Puerto Rico, there is the choice of a shipping or a building focus in one's game play. In each of these games, there is more than one means to score points.

With respect to Marvel Heroes, I found that the choices being presented by the game were simply steps to set up the culminating modifier system for dice rolling in combat rather than being diverging paths leading toward several different methods of scoring or accumulating points. Because of this, I didn't find the choices very interesting to make. For example, with respect to which team member to send into an area, that choice revolved primarily around the possible sets of how many dice can be rolled for "attack", "defense", and "outwit". Again, that wasn't necessarily a very interesting choice for me. Now, if there were different kinds or sets of dice with different actions available depending on the character I'm using, then now we're talking. But if it's not which type, but rather, just how many of the same type of dice can be used depending on the character, that just isn't a choice I find very interesting to make.

I'm not saying that a game has to be really complex to be enjoyable. I'm also not saying that Marvel Heroes is a bad game or that all games have to have a "many paths to victory" element to them to be fun. What I am saying is that the choices in Marvel Heroes were not interesting enough to me to make the game fun enough to try again for me and I'm offering some observations to help illustrate why the game just didn't do it for me. I can see how the game would appeal to other people who derive more of a sense of satisfaction from wading through processes of arriving at the number of dice in a roll (along with any re-roll possibilities) but that person isn't me in this case.
 
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J. Green
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DSpangler wrote:
But I'll admit it isn't the superhero game I would have liked to see; I agree that I would have designed it to allow the villains a more proactive role than they have here. I think I would have reversed the approach, and had the players being criminal empires run by a mastervillain, and made the villain pieces the main characters, developing and building plots and schemes.


There are three interesting computer games that use this approach: Dungeon Keeper 1 and 2, Evil Genius, and Ghost Hunters. I played DK2 over and over; the gameplay was quite addictive. This is the gameplay formula of FF's Descent and, interestingly enough, War of the Ring by the same design team. Playing a game in which the "bad" guy is strategizing and presenting a real, intelligent threat is a lot more fun, in my opinion, than just running up against superficial threats generated by the game system, as in games like Arkham Horror. Fury of Dracula is a game very much like what DSpangler is talking about, and it's one of my favorites, where you have deduction and combat and sort of a Hunter-Seeker dynamic going on.

Without having played it, Marvel Heroes seems like a nice balance between a game in which you only play against the system, and a game where the other player is the sole nemesis, providing a really interesting balance of roles for each player during a single game. It's entirely possible that further expansions for the game will provide 2-player versions that do have more subtle, complex interactions of the kind described by the above poster; certainly Fantasy Flight is aware of those possibilities given that they've already published several games with all those different kinds of player interaction.

I'd say if you're slightly dissatisfied with the game, write to the company and tell them what you'd like to see in an expansion to use the components they've provided in MH in new and more interesting ways to you.
 
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compman wrote:
True. Nevertheless, the point I was ultimately trying to make by introducing these hypothetical alterations was that there is a difference between a game appearing to be multi-faceted and a game actually being multi-faceted. For example, there are several approaches one can take with respect to strategy in Princes of Florence. A player may choose to focus almost entirely on builders and buildings as opposed to playing very many works or vice versa. In Puerto Rico, there is the choice of a shipping or a building focus in one's game play. In each of these games, there is more than one means to score points.

With respect to Marvel Heroes, I found that the choices being presented by the game were simply steps to set up the culminating modifier system for dice rolling in combat rather than being diverging paths leading toward several different methods of scoring or accumulating points. Because of this, I didn't find the choices very interesting to make. For example, with respect to which team member to send into an area, that choice revolved primarily around the possible sets of how many dice can be rolled for "attack", "defense", and "outwit". Again, that wasn't necessarily a very interesting choice for me. Now, if there were different kinds or sets of dice with different actions available depending on the character I'm using, then now we're talking. But if it's not which type, but rather, just how many of the same type of dice can be used depending on the character, that just isn't a choice I find very interesting to make.

I'm not saying that a game has to be really complex to be enjoyable. I'm also not saying that Marvel Heroes is a bad game or that all games have to have a "many paths to victory" element to them to be fun. What I am saying is that the choices in Marvel Heroes were not interesting enough to me to make the game fun enough to try again for me and I'm offering some observations to help illustrate why the game just didn't do it for me. I can see how the game would appeal to other people who derive more of a sense of satisfaction from wading through processes of arriving at the number of dice in a roll (along with any re-roll possibilities) but that person isn't me in this case.


Its an efficiency game, with choices about as complicated as your average euro game. It feels like a euro to me, to tell the truth. However, unlike your average euro, it has some serious push your luck aspects if you choose to play that way... There is where some additional choices come in, if someone plays this way and it works even once, everyone is behind and must find ways to complete two missions in a turn or something.

This was a good "first impressions" review, but frankly, you probably played some rules wrong and the first scenario is not a good example of how the game plays because it is so short.
 
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Mike Compton
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wargamer66 wrote:
This was a good "first impressions" review, but frankly, you probably played some rules wrong and the first scenario is not a good example of how the game plays because it is so short.


Fair enough.
 
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