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Subject: Balance issues can become untenable. rss

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TJ
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I've played well over a dozen times now and have to say I really like this game. I've played as every character and I've won as almost all of them at some point (I don't think I've won as Tuco yet); overall, I think the game works best with 5 players and random characters.

Problem: Recently I played a 4 player game where we chose our own characters. Here is what happened:
-Player 1 chooses Ghost (the most powerful character, IMHO and always my first choice).
-Other players choose remaining characters.
-Player 1 goes first in round 1.
-Player 2 goes first in round 2, player goes first in round 3, player 4 goes first in round 4.
-Player 1 goes first AGAIN!

So being the first player lets you get the best character, and let's you go first in 2 of 5 rounds! This creates a huge imbalance, and with Ghost it's pretty hard for the other players to do much to you unless they table talk quite a bit and make a concerted effort.

So, any solutions? Can anyone think of a fair bidding system for turn order? Or drafting for characters? or would it be easiest to just separate the order of drawing characters from the turn order?
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Lars Wagner Hansen
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It's not always a big advantage to move first. Many times I would prefer to wait to see what my opponent does.

The problem is Ghost, not moving first/last.
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Ugur Dönmez
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First off (and probably the least useful answer to you), I don't think Colt Express is the kind of game to be overly concerned with balance issues. I have also never seen Ghost as particularly overpowered or that hard to hit.

Regarding solutions, I think the most effective and practical would be: last player gets to choose his character first, and the first player last. I wouldn't go adding a drafting or bidding segment to a half hour game.
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Jorrig von Knorrig
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We played it the other day, and although Ghost was doing fine he did not win. Hiding the first action is not always so useful. If Ghost doesn't move first, everybody else could punch him. Or push the marshal into his coach. We've seen different characters win. First came Django with the shooting bonus, then my Cheyenne who was punching and robbing the others of their money. I think this is quite well balanced.
Moving first is nice in the first round, but loses its appeal later on. Sometimes it is better to know what your opponents do so that you know you're safe on a certain action.
By the way, we distributed randomly. Otherwise, you could pick characters in reverse playing order and make the last one to pick go first.
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Jonathan Maisonneuve
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1) Going first is NOT an advantage.
2) Ghost is not the most powerful character.

Problem solved.
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Benjamin Wack
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Hi,

Some stats based on over 11,000 games on BGA :

Character
Played with
Won with
Ghost
20
24
Doc
19
20
Django
17
16
Tuco
15
14
Cheyenne
20
20
Belle
19
24


Those are percentages, so for instance, only 19% of the players choose Doc, but 20% of the winners had picked Doc.

It should be noted that in about half of the games, the players let the game decide their character for them.

Whereas these figures tend to show that Ghost and Belle are indeed good picks, they're not as overpowered as many posts on this forum could lead to believe. And if Django and Tuco have a low winning rate, it's more because few people choose them than because of some intrinsic drawback.
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Barry Miller
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Game Knight wrote:
First off (and probably the least useful answer to you), I don't think Colt Express is the kind of game to be overly concerned with balance issues.

I can't agree more. This is always my first thought when I see threads about balance issues in this game. Colt Express is meant to be a light, fun game with "zany" unpredictability as it's main attraction... so that concerning one's self with balance issues is mental energy better spent on addressing balance issues with other, more weighty games instead.

But that's just my opinion.

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Fernando Robert Yu
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This game isn't meant to be taken seriously. Who cares who wins as long as you had fun!
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Randall Ingersoll
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freddieyu wrote:
This game isn't meant to be taken seriously. Who cares who wins as long as you had fun!


I agree! Although I much prefer to win, I have won and I have been totally skunked with a score of 0!

It is a fun game. Don't take it seriously!

(Belle is my favorite with 5 or more, Doc is my favorite with 3 or 4.)
 
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Pap Qaq
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Quinarbre wrote:
Hi,

Some stats based on over 11,000 games on BGA :

Character
Played with
Won with
Ghost
20
24
Doc
19
20
Django
17
16
Tuco
15
14
Cheyenne
20
20
Belle
19
24


Those are percentages, so for instance, only 19% of the players choose Doc, but 20% of the winners had picked Doc.


Can someone explain these numbers? For example, they don't seem to add up to 100, or more than 200, or anything else. What exactly are the representing?
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Nico
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The first row tells you the percentage this character was used in a game and the second row tells you the percentage this character won the game. It does not sum up to 100% since there are 3-6 player games possible and 6 different characters to choose from.
 
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Barry Miller
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Depending on what the base is that's being measured against, then either the percentages MUST add to 100% or as Joe says, they should be over 200%. (Disclaimer: I'm not a statistician).

Let's look at an example in two ways:

Let's first look at measuring against the number of characters played (We'll also measure against the number of games played, later below).

Let's examine ten games played by two players:

For the first five games, Player A chose Doc and Player B chose Belle. Then for each of the remaining five games, each player chose:
Game 6: Django, Tuco
Game 7: Ghost, Cheyenne
Game 8: Tuco, Ghost
Game 9: Cheyenne, Django
Game 10: Belle, Doc

Tally from above, of Number of games per character:
Doc: 6
Belle: 6
Django: 2
Tuco: 2
Ghost: 2
Cheyenne: 2

Total Character plays: 20
Doc: 30%
Belle: 30%
Django: 10%
Tuco: 10%
Ghost: 10%
Cheyenne: 10%

Total percentage from above adds to 100%, of course. Can't be more. Can't be less.

But now let's say we add-in a couple three-player games, such as:
Game 1: Doc, Ghost, Tuco
Game 2: Tuco, Belle Django
Game 3: Tuco, Ghost, Doc

So our new tally (combining both the 2-player and 3-player tallies):

Doc: 8 games
Belle: 7
Django: 3
Tuco: 5
Ghost: 4
Cheyenne: 2

Total Character plays: 29
Doc: 28%
Belle: 24%
Django: 10%
Tuco: 17%
Ghost: 14%
Cheyenne: 7%

The above still adds up to 100%!


BUT, now let's measure against a different base. Let's measure against the number of games played instead of the number of characters played:

Using same tallies as above, there were 13 Games played:
Doc played in: 62% of the games
Belle: 54%
Django: 23%
Tuco: 38%
Ghost: 31%
Cheyenne: 15%

Total percentage: 223%

This is where we see the percentages NOT adding to 100%! (It's over 200%) They won't add to 100% because as Nico mentioned above, we're now measuring using variable conditions, none of which fit into the same set.

Just thought I'd throw this out there in case it helps.



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Benjamin Wack
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Guys, you're reading too much into this. Joe's right, it's player-centric.

For each character there's a flag that's set if it's chosen in a given game.
So for 2p games, that's 4 flags set.

Over all the games, count the flags for a given character, divide by the total number of players, you get the figure for your character (so, like I said, Doc was picked in 19% of the games).

Wash, rince and repeat only for winners, and you get the second line.

So the little extra over 100% is just because 2 players use 4 characters.
 
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Edu Avalon
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I agree that colt express is the kind of the game in which you have so fun playing, that you are not too obsesed on who will win. Having said that, personally I've found the girls (Belle and Cheyene) and even Doc better than Ghost. Particularly if there are 5 or 6 players, in which game become almost unpredictable. In any case, difference between characters is not so big: Nobody could say that you will have very few options to win with Tuco or Django.


meeple
 
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Benjamin Wack
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jwreschnig wrote:
And unfortunately because characters may have abilities that work better or worse in synergy than alone (e.g. Belle's ability may not be so good if the other target is also "you"; Ghost's ability may be more useful if it can actually be Tuco moving), that means the numbers are completely useless to say anything about balance.


The numbers may be a bit off, but they're still infintely more valuable than personal opinions thrown on a forum by a bunch of people, based on a dozen of games.

Anyway, like it has been said, this debate is moot because perfect balance is totally unrelevant to this game. If it's really important for someone, they shouldn't use the character's abilities, but it's their loss.
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Roman F
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freddieyu wrote:
This game isn't meant to be taken seriously. Who cares who wins as long as you had fun!


I appreciate the sentiment, but in defending the OP: It doesn't mean that more competitive gamers can't enjoy the game, that there aren't balance issues, and that they can't be addressed in some way.

To me, the bigger issue is how much worse Django and especially Tuco are vs. Ghost/Belle/Cheyenne/Doc, all of whom have a nice advantage. It just kinda sucks to get stuck with Tuco. That's not to say you can't win with Tuco because you absolutely can, but you're at a slight disadvantage vs. everyone else.

I do think Ghost tends to be the best though it depends on the game's exact set up. On rounds where the second action is in a tunnel, Ghost's ability to disguise his first two moves in huge. On rounds where the Marshall is moving, Ghost is literally the only player who knows how many times the Marshall will move and may therefore know exactly where he's going to end up when nobody else does -- that's a huge advantage. On rounds with different setups, his ability doesn't matter much -- especially when he needs to spend his first action looting and everyone knows it.

Belle is obviously really good, and gets better with more players to hide behind. Cheyenne's ability is very handy too, I've used it to win games. I don't like Doc as much as those two but an extra card is obviously an advantage.

I think Django's ability works ok. The fact that you can move someone with your shot means you can disrupt his plans. Not as good as the other abilities but still useful.

I don't think Tuco's ability is worthwhile and it should probably be replaced with something that is. So you can shoot someone through the roof, bfd. Maybe make it so Tuco can not only shoot through the roof, but his shooting rules on the lower level are the same as the upper level, something like that? Or maybe he can shoot you in the same car?
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Benjamin Wack
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Roman Farraday wrote:
I don't think Tuco's ability is worthwhile and it should probably be replaced with something that is.


Fun fact : the first idea for Tuco's ability was deemed too strong and got replaced by the current one. I couldn't find a reference to what it was in the first place, though.
 
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Roman F
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Quinarbre wrote:
Roman Farraday wrote:
I don't think Tuco's ability is worthwhile and it should probably be replaced with something that is.


Fun fact : the first idea for Tuco's ability was deemed too strong and got replaced by the current one. I couldn't find a reference to what it was in the first place, though.


If anyone can find out, I'd love to know!
 
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George I.
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Good to see that there are other people aware of this imbalance. I've read a couple reviews and I was wondering... "Gods, nobody has mentioned that the characters are imbalanced!"

My view on this is that the characters in the game are not indeed equalized, but the game is so light that's it's not really a big deal; plus, the people I play the game with are usually very casual gamers, so nobody's complaining.

I am the type of the player that will have issues with imbalanced characters/powers, especially in games where you are dealt with one from the beginning and you can do nothing about it. I do consider Colt Express a fun game, really, but I will play it only when I have no other choice, like nobody in the group wants to play anything else. In these cases, I just solve the problem with the imbalanced characters by taking Ghost/Doc/Belle from the get-go and let other figure out for themselves. After all, if my group wants a balanced, fair game, 7 Wonders is always available... It's not my fault that the characters in Colt Express are badly designed...
 
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David "Davy" Ashleydale
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One idea I had was to bid for the characters with how many neutral bullets you'd be willing to start with in your deck.

Sure, Ghost is good, but how would you feel having to start with three neutral bullets in your deck? All of a sudden, Tuco's lookin' pretty good!
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Thiago Cordeiro
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Roman Farraday wrote:
Quinarbre wrote:

Fun fact : the first idea for Tuco's ability was deemed too strong and got replaced by the current one. I couldn't find a reference to what it was in the first place, though.


If anyone can find out, I'd love to know!


It's a little bit late, but here it is
http://de.asmodee.com/ressources/bonus/colt-express-spielreg...

In fact, Tuco would have the actual Django ability, and Django that would have this ability:
"When you are the only Bandit in or on a Car, you can play the Fire action against any other Bandit of your choice anywhere along the whole length of the Train, provided the Bandit is on the same floor as you. Django ignores the Line of Sight rule if he is on the roof."
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David Forby
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I think that given the right circumstances each character is "Broken". And because of this the game is balanced. Now that said, there are some guidelines that I would use:
1. Don't put Belle in a 3 player game.
2. Cheyenne is also one that would suffer in a 3 player game. Less to steal from.
3. If I am teaching the game, I don't play Ghost. Having those extra cards every round is a big help and should be given to a player that has less experience.

Remember that a player goes first only once. (well more but in turn). The way I read the rules is the First player each round moves forward each round, giving each person a first player at least once. So in a full 6 player game: Player 1 goes first on the first, Player 2 goes first on the second round, Player 3 goes first on the 3rd round. Player 4 goes first on the 4th round, player 5 goes first on the 5th round and player 6 goes first when coming into the station. On less than 6 players you get a repeat.

Now that is with 5 cards and 1 station card. I suppose you could play longer but what would be the point, most of the Loot would be taken in only 1 or 2 more cards.

I could see a Variant: Last one standing. You keep playing until only one man is alive. You die if you have 3 or more bullets on a draw before starting the Schemin' stage. You can skip your whole movement to discard one drawn bullet but must deal with what you get, During a stage where you are doing nothing, you may drop a loot token instead of taking the bullet (chosen at time of taking the bullet) the player that was giving out the bullet keeps the bullet card. Essentially you "Held Up" one of the other robbers. If you die then you place your meeple lying down, and put all your loot tokens on the ground. If the Marshal gets into the space he collects up the loot stolen and returns it to the other floors based on what the player that died chooses. You cannot win if you died.

But that would be a different case. Could be fun.
 
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Nico
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Matrix4b wrote:
I think that given the right circumstances each character is "Broken". And because of this the game is balanced.


I don't think so. Especially the characters who don't help you that much but only screw others are not that strong. In which case are Django or Tuco broken?


Matrix4b wrote:

Now that said, there are some guidelines that I would use:
1. Don't put Belle in a 3 player game.
2. Cheyenne is also one that would suffer in a 3 player game. Less to steal from.


Seems reasonable

Matrix4b wrote:

3. If I am teaching the game, I don't play Ghost. Having those extra cards every round is a big help and should be given to a player that has less experience.

You mean Doc. Ghost has no extra cards.

Matrix4b wrote:

Remember that a player goes first only once. (well more but in turn). The way I read the rules is the First player each round moves forward each round, giving each person a first player at least once. So in a full 6 player game: Player 1 goes first on the first, Player 2 goes first on the second round, Player 3 goes first on the 3rd round. Player 4 goes first on the 4th round, player 5 goes first on the 5th round and player 6 goes first when coming into the station. On less than 6 players you get a repeat.

That's not true, not in a normal game played by the rules, since the decks consists only of 4 round cards and one station cards. In a 6 player game the last player never is the starting player. Playing with 5 station cards would be a variant.
 
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David Forby
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Yes, I meant Doc.

Sorry, had the count off. 4 round cards, 1 station card. But you get the idea. In a 6 player game all but the last player goes first at least once.

I am sorry, didn't have the game next to me so I got my numbers a bit wrong. I am also confusing Doc and Ghost.

To answer your question on how Tuco and Django can be broken.

One shoots above and below, Tuco?, basically an armor piercing gun to go through the roof of the train. He could easily shadow someone and shoot the hell out of a person.

The other has a powerful gun, like a shotgun, Django. When he hits you you move just like if you were punched, sans loot drop. This is effective for messing up your opponent and pushing them out of position. If you pay attention you can use this for great effect, getting someone out of position to take the loot that they were going to get. Some can say that this is broken as it happens Every time you shoot. A bit more powerful than Tuco's power.

Now let's compare the other: Extra card each round: He is less worried about being shot AND he gets more choices each round. Less skipping a turn. VERY powerful, this is by far the best ability that I can think of in the game as more options gives more potential.

Cheyenne: Steal a bag (not any other token) when you punch. Well you need to get to them to punch them. An early advantage if you don't go first. Often a person will pick up loot first, if you are after that person, punch them to get them both out of your car and steal the bag. Not really useful later in the game when you spread out and begin picking up loot. The values of the bags might be low. So it is better to pick up a diamond than to punch and loot someone. Limited use.

Belle: Not the Target. If there is another target available you choose them for punching or shooting. Great defensive. It is best to out loot Belle and focus on getting loot than trying to mess with her. She gets shot more in a 3 player game. Less chance of another person being around. But this ability ONLY comes into play when you are next to another person. You stick with the pack when you are playing Belle.

Ghost: First card hidden. While this is great for the first card and this also means that most people wont know what you are doing, you can guess at it. So, limited use again, happens every round and there may be one round where only one card is visible but I would rather have options. Can't tell you how often I skipped the first card to get more cards later in the game. But on the "Broken" side a player that is paying attention can ruin other people's day and throw off the whole round. Rarer that it comes into play but it can and when it does, it feels like cheating.

My favorite is Doc. As he can take a hit and still have some options. AND every round he has more options to choose from.
 
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Barry Miller
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Wow, you guys certainly do put forth a lot of effort and concern toward balance issues for what's supposed to be a simple, jolly, party or family game.

Save the sweat over balance issues for the games where it matters. Just my unsolicited two cents.

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