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Subject: The endgame: predictability and board position rss

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Charles F.
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Reading about players' differing views on the investor card being part of the game (as in the standard rules), my thoughts turned to what bothers me about the later stages of the game and here are my initial toughts on the subject:

By the endgame, investment choices may often become overly obvious as the multipliers become predictable. The fact that the last turns - in my limited experience - become mostly tax-investment sequences feels somewhat anticlimactic to me.

I haven't thought this over much, but predictability of multipliers in the endgame seems to me to stem from the tax-investment sequence at the exclusion of other actions becomes overly attractive. Slowing down a leading power at this stage of the game thus means abandoning the tax-investment sequence with a power, thereby hurting that very power's own payout and VP multiplier probably more than the targeted leader.

In other words, from a certain point onwards, the financial markets no longer are sufficiently dependent on board position. Seeking to hurt the leader's board position will hurt those powers attempting as much more than the leading power. While others may disagree, I consider this a bad thing.

Multiplayer games need to find a balance between the bash-the-leader syndrome being overpower (e.g. Nero, from what I've read) and the runaway-leader issue (e.g. Monopoly, another terribly flawed game in my book). Of course, in Imperial we're talking about powers rather than players in this particular discussion, but the same issue of predictability seems nonetheless to be there.

Therefore, I'd love to see greater incentives for improving a power's board position and hurting another's (especially, though not only, the leading power's). My tentative suggestion which occurred to me while writing the above:

Once a power reaches a certain credit track threshhold (e.g. 25), all powers simultaneously do the tax phase.

This suggestion of course requires the extension of the credit track either by allowing for higher multiplication stages (say up to 7) or by setting the respective threshholds for the multipliers higher. This would of course have to be finely balanced.

There may be flaws underlying my above approach. If so, please kindly point them out. Perhaps there are better and easier ways to give board position and improvement thereof greater impact on final scoring and reduce the endgame's degree of predictability I happen to perceive less than optimal. Or perhaps I'm wrong about these endgame dynamics...
 
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Alexander B.
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Without the investor card, I don't mind the end game speeding up.

It feels a bit like Leonardo da Vinci in how the game starts fast, slows in the middle, then speeds at the end. As soon as people start paying 2 mil every other turn to jump their favored countries up ASAP, the game is basically over when the investor card is around. It is highly dangerous at this point to try to create and move new armies, as that country will likely not make it to 4x much less 5x.

If you want to figure out how to hold on to the investor card in a 5 player game... the best suggestion I heard is that when it hits 25, everyone gets to buy whatever they want. That helps get rid of the fairly random timing often deciding the game.

I prefer just to not use the investor card, because that still requires some timing, but no so much as to throw the game in most cases.
 
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J C Lawrence
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charlesf wrote:
By the endgame, investment choices may often become overly obvious as the multipliers become predictable. The fact that the last turns - in my limited experience - become mostly tax-investment sequences feels somewhat anticlimactic to me.


It is anticlimactic if you try and continue. The game is already over. Trying to play the game at that point is a little pointless. It has already ended. All you're doing from that point is calculating VPs.

In our last game when a country hit the tax/invest spin cycle, the controlling player announced that and gameplay stopped while we simply calculated out when it would hit 25, and where each other country would be when it hit 25. This took less than two minutes. VP calculation then followed in the standard fashion and the game was done.

Quote:
In other words, from a certain point onwards, the financial markets no longer are sufficiently dependent on board position. Seeking to hurt the leader's board position will hurt those powers attempting as much more than the leading power. While others may disagree, I consider this a bad thing.


I don't find this a Bad Thing but rather a Good Thing as it helps keep the bookkeeping to a minimum. Much like the 18XX usually have their last turns calculated out on paper or spreadsheet I think this is an issue of mis-identifying when the endgame is. It is just earlier. At the point a country enters the tax/invest spin cycle the game is already over. All that is left at that point is some quick calculations to see what the final scores are, but the game itself is over Thankfully those calculations are pretty trivial and fast. Ergo, the endgame occurrs earlier, back when the countries are setting up for one of them to hit the tax/invest spin cycle, back when the game is still interesting.

 
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Hawaka Winada
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Another way to prevent the 'predictable' taxation-investor endgame is to increase a country's power points only if it increased it's tax level during taxation - i.e., only if the majority investor is getting the $1M per tax step bonus. This prevents a non-expanding country from continuing to increase its power level to end the game quickly, and allows other countries to use military action to shrink a country down enough that they can't reach 25 power with their next taxation. It also adds an interesting endgame mechanism in which a country that expanded too fast and reached level 15 tax before accumulating 25 power needs to shrink in size and tax at the smaller size, to allow it head room to expand and gain power with a future taxation. This adds an element of players using dipolmacy or trying to gain control of adjacent countries so they can reduce/tax/expand/tax in staggered sequence.

This variant also adds significant playing time of course..
 
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John Weber
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One thing that can make the endgame (tax-investor-tax loop) less predictable that I have found actually happens is that people invest so much to get that new bond they don't have the 2 million to push the country marker on the rondel at the critical time. Since personal money is hidden and money for moving the rondel comes out of personal money and not the company's treasury (a mistake I soon corrected), therefore, sometimes you make a dangerous assumption that the rondel will move more than three spaces.
 
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J C Lawrence
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D-Rider wrote:
Another way to prevent the 'predictable' taxation-investor endgame is to increase a country's power points only if it increased it's tax level during taxation - i.e., only if the majority investor is getting the $1M per tax step bonus. This prevents a non-expanding country from continuing to increase its power level to end the game quickly, and allows other countries to use military action to shrink a country down enough that they can't reach 25 power with their next taxation. It also adds an interesting endgame mechanism in which a country that expanded too fast and reached level 15 tax before accumulating 25 power needs to shrink in size and tax at the smaller size, to allow it head room to expand and gain power with a future taxation. This adds an element of players using dipolmacy or trying to gain control of adjacent countries so they can reduce/tax/expand/tax in staggered sequence.

This variant also adds significant playing time of course.


More significantly this variant would tend to act as a significant levelling mechanism such that with competent play all countries should end in the x4 bracket with only one country in the x5.
 
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Pierre Philippe Goyer
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I totally agree with you as I did pointed it out in the thread “Economic flaw in Imperial?”. Maybe you phrased it better than I, and I believe we could adjust it in an easy way. Your solution seems good but the components would be seriously altered.
Our group brainstormed on that topic yesterday and we came up with some ideas that remain to be tested and we will shortly. Your opinion would matter to us. We love the game and hate to see it shelved because of an obvious strategic winning tactic independent of what is going on the board. Try these simple twists:

1- Remove the Investor Card. ( I finally arrived to that conclusion)
2- The White blank Card is now used as a Priority card like 1830.
3- Start:Give a random Flag and its respective Bonds (9M and 4M) to every player along with 5M cash. ( you can’t buy any 6M Bond without cashing in interests) Place the money in the respective Treasuries. Give the remaining Flags to the owners of the 4M if any.
4- For every Nation from the start, the Bonds 5 to 8 have to be issued by the government to be bought by players. Keep 2 piles, one face-up bonds 1-4 and one tapped bonds 5-8. The latter is not available.
5- At the end of the Taxation phase, the government may issue One Bond in a progressive way (the 12M before the 16 M...etc...). Switch the Bond to the face-up pile to show its availability.
6- At the End of every Nation’s turn, every player starting with the priority card and going clockwise may buy One (or upgrade) available Bond from that Nation. Then pass the priority card to the player to the left of the last purchase if any.

The effects of these changes are multiple.
First, the players have too much to invest from the beginning; and there is also a lot free money at the end, to buy those high credit free VP Bond that penalize the early investors.
Second, Nations have too much cash in their Treasuries because of all the Bonds that keep the money going in, no matter how the Nation is doing on the board. The Nation’s profit is ridiculous compare to the input of the sold Bonds. The number of military units is rarely damageable. To keep the Investor-Taxation cycle viable, you will need to issue Bonds or perform well on the Board. Because the Government now controls how many Bonds are issued, it can keep a low profile, and avoid the availability of the high credit Bonds that gives free bonus VP near the end. If the Nation does well on the board, the government might be able to be the only one who has its high credit Bonds. If you have the priority card, issuing a high credit Bond could be lucrative.
Third, Nation with low treasury will more often pass the Investor space and play something useful on the board and chose to concentrate on powering up its Bonds knowing that no player will buy its high credit Bonds near the end.
Fourth, no more the 2M or 2 VP that in our opinion is not necessary. Of course, this was probably implemented to avoid passing your turn with no money to buy the cheapest Bond if you had the Investor card.


We are eager to try those. Will keep you posted.
Comments are very welcome.

Happy gaming

Owll
 
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J C Lawrence
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John Weber wrote:
One thing that can make the endgame (tax-investor-tax loop) less predictable that I have found actually happens is that people invest so much to get that new bond they don't have the 2 million to push the country marker on the rondel at the critical time. Since personal money is hidden and money for moving the rondel comes out of personal money and not the company's treasury (a mistake I soon corrected), therefore, sometimes you make a dangerous assumption that the rondel will move more than three spaces.


Not arguing your point, but most of us (locally at least) play with open money via poker chips.
 
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Hawaka Winada
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clearclaw wrote:
D-Rider wrote:
Another way to prevent the 'predictable' taxation-investor endgame is to increase a country's power points only if it increased it's tax level during taxation - i.e., only if the majority investor is getting the $1M per tax step bonus. This prevents a non-expanding country from continuing to increase its power level to end the game quickly, and allows other countries to use military action to shrink a country down enough that they can't reach 25 power with their next taxation. It also adds an interesting endgame mechanism in which a country that expanded too fast and reached level 15 tax before accumulating 25 power needs to shrink in size and tax at the smaller size, to allow it head room to expand and gain power with a future taxation. This adds an element of players using dipolmacy or trying to gain control of adjacent countries so they can reduce/tax/expand/tax in staggered sequence.

This variant also adds significant playing time of course.


More significantly this variant would tend to act as a significant levelling mechanism such that with competent play all countries should end in the x4 bracket with only one country in the x5.


Could be, not enough plays to claim competence yet. But it didn't happen in two games (a 3-player and a 4-player, both with Invester card) played this way due to reading the rules wrong. Players tended to use one of their countries as a military power to attack others instead of increasing it's power level by taxation, and so not all countries progressed up in power. I suspect the leveling you mention would be more frequent in game with more players, and without the invester card.
 
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Charles F.
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The game is already over. Trying to play the game at that point is a little pointless. It has already ended. All you're doing from that point is calculating VPs.


I don't think that's quite true. There's probably the odd decision that has to be made.

For instance, I consciously chose to forego jumping with a nation from taxation to investment in order to not allow for other players to invest in further bonds (thus endangering another nation of mine about to go on taxation). The investment step would have on the one hand given me somewhat more cash (despite the 2M fee incurred) than the other nation gave me in the taxation step. However, I felt that my relative position would decline given that I'd be allowing others to invest while I could not.

So rather than going on investment, I went on manoeuvre. Really just for the heck of it. Might have just as well gone on factory or production... Totally irrelevant. I consider it deficient design that the board position vastly diminishes in importance and decision-making correspondingly has far less scope. No game ought to be anticlimactic and IMO (particularly considering that some decisions as illustrated above may have to be made) it seems to me an all-too-easy excuse to say the game has already ended and you're just doing bookkeeping (though even if that were the case, it still feels thoroughly anticlimactic).

owll wrote:
Your solution seems good but the components would be seriously altered.


That is certainly a significant drawback. But then it wouldn't be such a bother printing out a credit track on a separate sheet of paper (Age of Steam-style) and then use it rather than the one printed on the map.

Quote:

1- Remove the Investor Card. ( I finally arrived to that conclusion)


Hm, I rather like the decisions involving that card. Merely because the endgame's such a let-down, I personally wouldn't want to part with it. Besides, that alone wouldn't solve my problem with the endgame either.

Quote:

2- The White blank Card is now used as a Priority card like 1830.


Could you elaborate on this one?

Quote:

3- Start:Give a random Flag and its respective Bonds (9M and 4M) to every player along with 5M cash. ( you can’t buy any 6M Bond without cashing in interests) Place the money in the respective Treasuries. Give the remaining Flags to the owners of the 4M if any.


I personally don't want any further randomness in Imperial and don't see how this has anything to do with the endgame. I guess this is something you're considering in the context of your other variant rules, but in itself it has no impact on the endgame issue.

Quote:

We are eager to try those. Will keep you posted.
Comments are very welcome.


As said, I don't fully understand your above points.

I personally am looking for a far simpler variant and believe an extended track, correspondingly higher multiplier and final scoring will adress my one issue with the game (apart from the one already solved (balance concerns) as we begin with Germany rather than Austria).
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J C Lawrence
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charlesf wrote:
I consider it deficient design that the board position vastly diminishes in importance and decision-making correspondingly has far less scope. No game ought to be anticlimactic and IMO (particularly considering that some decisions as illustrated above may have to be made) it seems to me an all-too-easy excuse to say the game has already ended and you're just doing bookkeeping (though even if that were the case, it still feels thoroughly anticlimactic).


Instead consider it a race. Forget all the thematic trappings of war and countries etc. Instead it is a simple race. The players during the course of the game build (financial) rockets. They assemble fuel and engines and nozzles production and feed lines and all the rest of it and then, when the game is over, the rockets are set off to see which one goes the furthest in the remaining time. All player involvement is done, just set 'em burning and step back.
 
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Charles F.
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clearclaw wrote:

Instead consider it a race. Forget all the thematic trappings of war and countries etc.


Precisely that thematic disconnect irks me. Though yet more so the anticlimactic predictability and the vastly diminishing importance of the geopolitical dimension of the game.

Personally, I think it's poor design if:
a) There's a thematic disconnect.
b) The endgame's anticlimactic. Any game should finish with a bang!

Fortunately, there's enough I enjoy and admire about Imperial. Just the endgame's a let-down as far as I'm concerned and something I thus wish to fix for my future games.
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clearclaw wrote:
John Weber wrote:
One thing that can make the endgame (tax-investor-tax loop) less predictable that I have found actually happens is that people invest so much to get that new bond they don't have the 2 million to push the country marker on the rondel at the critical time. Since personal money is hidden and money for moving the rondel comes out of personal money and not the company's treasury (a mistake I soon corrected), therefore, sometimes you make a dangerous assumption that the rondel will move more than three spaces.


Not arguing your point, but most of us (locally at least) play with open money via poker chips.


Agreed, open personal money is the only way to play this game (and, of course, poker chips are the only way to represent game money devil ).
 
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J C Lawrence
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charlesf wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
Instead consider it a race. Forget all the thematic trappings of war and countries etc.


Precisely that thematic disconnect irks me.


Ahh. I have a fondness for games with easily removed themes so the ease of considering Imperial a race game, or any several other possible metagames is attractive.

Quote:
Though yet more so the anticlimactic predictability and the vastly diminishing importance of the geopolitical dimension of the game.


If you consider that the endgame consists of the setup for the investor/tax spin cycle, not the final skid out to the end of the multiplier scale, then I find the endgame very climactic. There is a real challenge and struggle and uncertainty over whether what you've setup is enough to carry you to victory. Then again I consider the geopolitical game basically uninteresting as it has little to do with the thing you're struggling for: victory points.
 
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Only played the game once with some incorrect rules, but I did clue my game group in about the tax/investor cycle at the end game, which of course we then proceeded to do.

What if you could only move the Rondel 3 spaces MAX? It would take 4 turns instead of 2 to do the tax/investor cycle and would give other countries/players time to do other things (i.e. catch up possibily).

In the game I played, I ended up with good bonds in the weaker countries at the end, and they were well positioned militarily, but there wasn't enough time for me to do anything once everyone else started tax/investing. I was virtually forced to do the same thing just to try to eek out some more victory points.

Of course if I played again, I would have invested in different bonds and not been in the same situation, but just the idea of a spin cycle at the end of the game, doing nothing else, seems like a flaw. Also it felt like as we were going through the spin cycle that the rich just got richer (so what was the point).
 
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J C Lawrence
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DrakeStorm wrote:
Of course if I played again, I would have invested in different bonds and not been in the same situation, but just the idea of a spin cycle at the end of the game, doing nothing else, seems like a flaw. Also it felt like as we were going through the spin cycle that the rich just got richer (so what was the point).


My last three games have revealed that the tax/invest spin-cycle isn't quite as simplistic as I've represented. In particular in both of my last two games (less so in the one before), one country has deviated from the routine and thrown a Maneuver into the mix in order to successfully extend the game because the expected country falls short of the x5 and so allow a different country than expected to be the one that reach the x5 slot. Clever. Nice.
 
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Charles F.
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clearclaw wrote:


My last three games have revealed that the tax/invest spin-cycle isn't quite as simplistic as I've represented.


Precisely what I've been saying. Occasionally, such deviation from the tax-investment course makes sense. This is why IMO your view regarding this phase of the game not as the endgame and really a matter of accounting is way off.

Quote:
What if you could only move the Rondel 3 spaces MAX?


Removing tactical options at the disposition of players is IMO the totally wrong way to solve this issue. Any variant ought to open up new options rather than ruling out ones already in the game.
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J C Lawrence
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charlesf wrote:
clearclaw wrote:


My last three games have revealed that the tax/invest spin-cycle isn't quite as simplistic as I've represented.


Precisely what I've been saying. Occasionally, such deviation from the tax-investment course makes sense. This is why IMO your view regarding this phase of the game not as the endgame and really a matter of accounting is way off.


I still consider the tax/invest spin cycle the end game. The game is still basically over. There are max only two, possibly three decisions to be made across all the players once the spin cycle starts. This doesn't happen every time, just in those games where the spinning company is close enough to the edge that it can be discombobulated by someone who profits from that -- a smallish fraction of all games.

My point above and is that 2 or 3 decisions is more than the 0 I'd previously represented, Not quite an automatic, but not far off.

Quote:
Quote:
What if you could only move the Rondel 3 spaces MAX?


Removing tactical options at the disposition of players is IMO the totally wrong way to solve this issue.


It would also make the game decisions much less interesting. We pay to move ahead a lot, long before the spin cycle.

Quote:
Any variant ought to open up new options rather than ruling out ones already in the game.


Or to change the value relationship of currently present options.
 
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