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Subject: Why choose the Reserve cards at the beginning of the game? rss

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Rafael Fuentes
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Having still very limited experience with the game I have a question/suggestion... Why do we have to pick the Reserve cards at the beginning of the game? I ask this because we don't have a very good idea of how the game will develop by just looking at the board and the initial placement of our restaurants; at least I find it very difficult (again, I have played the game just a few times, so take this with a grain of salt).

But I wonder... Wouldn't it be more strategic to pick the card once the bank breaks for the first time? By then we'd already have a better idea of the status quo of the game and the strategy the players are pursuing.

With better information we could then pick the best reserve card to serve our purpose better, or even the card that messes most with our oponents plans... "Oh, I see you are going with a short term strategy and I might need some more time to pull off mine... well, I then pick the $300 card."

I also came up with this question/idea because I don't like games that are "scripted", games that once you go down a path you have to stick to it in order to maximize your scoring. And I feel that if I pick the $100 reserve card then I just have to do my best to score as many points as possible, fast but steady income, before other players can develop their structures for big point scoring rounds in a longer game.

I know that this would be in conflict with the "first to have $20" milestone but I'm just going to throw this out there to hear your opinions. Maybe the designers could drop by and tell us what went behind this design choice?

Cheers.
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Max Maloney
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Fremen wrote:
I feel that if I pick the $100 reserve card then I just have to do my best to score as many points as possible, fast but steady income, before other players can develop their structures for big point scoring rounds in a longer game.

Don't the cards selected by the other players in the game affect the length as well? I think that's the point. You have to balance playing to the game length you seeded with the contingency that other players picked differently. In a 4P game, if you put in a $100 reserve card and the other three players all put in $300, going for a full short-game strategy could seriously backfire.
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Rafael Fuentes
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Dormammu wrote:
Fremen wrote:
I feel that if I pick the $100 reserve card then I just have to do my best to score as many points as possible, fast but steady income, before other players can develop their structures for big point scoring rounds in a longer game.

Don't the cards selected by the other players in the game affect the length as well? I think that's the point. You have to balance playing to the game length you seeded with the contingency that other players picked differently. In a 4P game, if you put in a $100 reserve card and the other three players all put in $300, going for a full short-game strategy could seriously backfire.


Yes, no doubt. But I still fell that by the time the bank breaks for the first time we can make a more educated choice regarding the reserve card we want to use.
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Cole Wehrle
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Fremen wrote:
Dormammu wrote:
Fremen wrote:
I feel that if I pick the $100 reserve card then I just have to do my best to score as many points as possible, fast but steady income, before other players can develop their structures for big point scoring rounds in a longer game.

Don't the cards selected by the other players in the game affect the length as well? I think that's the point. You have to balance playing to the game length you seeded with the contingency that other players picked differently. In a 4P game, if you put in a $100 reserve card and the other three players all put in $300, going for a full short-game strategy could seriously backfire.


Yes, no doubt. But I still fell that by the time the bank breaks for the first time we can make a more educated choice regarding the reserve card we want to use.


It will also be a non-choice. The optimal choice would be obvious.

I think of the reserve pick as essentially an element of setup. They might as well be randomly dealt to each player. However, by giving players a choice, there's a little bit of a deduction built into the early game as players guess at what kind of cards others may have chosen based on their play. I rather like the little deductive dance.

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Rafael Fuentes
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Cole Wehrle wrote:
Fremen wrote:
Dormammu wrote:
Fremen wrote:
I feel that if I pick the $100 reserve card then I just have to do my best to score as many points as possible, fast but steady income, before other players can develop their structures for big point scoring rounds in a longer game.

Don't the cards selected by the other players in the game affect the length as well? I think that's the point. You have to balance playing to the game length you seeded with the contingency that other players picked differently. In a 4P game, if you put in a $100 reserve card and the other three players all put in $300, going for a full short-game strategy could seriously backfire.


Yes, no doubt. But I still fell that by the time the bank breaks for the first time we can make a more educated choice regarding the reserve card we want to use.


It will also be a non-choice. The optimal choice would be obvious.

I think of the reserve pick as essentially an element of setup. They might as well be randomly dealt to each player. However, by giving players a choice, there's a little bit of a deduction built into the early game as players guess at what kind of cards others may have chosen based on their play. I rather like the little deductive dance.



Hmmm... so you see it as set up variability. Good point. So basically as you said you could just deal them randomly. But I understand what you are saying. This doesn't dramatically detract from my enjoyment of the game. I'm just considering options to make this element a more strategic one. I wouldn't consider it a non-choice as it is still difficult or at least not obvious what the players are going for at that stage of the game. Thanks for the input, Cole.
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Joris Wiersinga
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Ok... let me try to summarize our considerations.

First, we almost always design our games in such a way that players have an influence on the overall duration. Originally, this design principle was taken from game theory: if you know exactly how long a game will last, you can in theory deduce the best strategy by analyzing it backwards. If the game ending is variable (or rather, unknown), this is not possible and all kinds of strategies that promote cooperation over optimization, flexibility over scoring points, etc become more important. Frankly, in our long and complex games you might have these elements anyway. But from the start we have very often added mechanisms to our games that influence game length in a non-standard manner.

Specifically, in engine building games like FCM or for instance R&B, we find that it is interesting if you do not know for sure how much flexibility you will need. The fight between a focused, nimble but fragile company and a sprawling, costly but adaptable one is something we enjoy. It has a huge impact on how you need to play the game.

During playtesting, we experimented with letting people set the duration when the bank broke. We had a milestone that allowed you to influence the reserve cards. But it doesn't work: whoever is ahead will try to limit the reserve, and if you are behind you either limit it (if you have lost anyway) or if you have an engine, you add money. The decision is uninteresting, and often leads to kingmaker scenarios if people who are losing anyway can influence the duration significantly at that point. We also experimented with letting only the first person to have $100 influence the cards- but again, they chose to maximally lower the reserve in 100% of the cases.

So we felt it was more interesting to take this decision upfront. The key decisions around being nimble or sprawling are made in the first couple of turns (although you can later adjust quite well). All players can influence the setting, but none of them really knows the overall duration. You can deduce quite a lot from what other players do, however. We enjoyed this idea of information becoming slowly more available.

We also felt the nimble player would have a disadvantage if he played his strategy in a very long game, so we added the 20$ milestone. It gives these players sone opportunity to adapt- they need the time as they are normally not ready for a long game. Of course, any sprawling players can immediately react to changes in strategy they see occurring. And you can okay some mindgames with this.

As to whether the choice of the card itself is a strategic decision, opinions differ. Knowing what your card is and guessing/deducting what other players have played is certainly part of strategy. But Jeroen enjoys shufflibg his reserve card, outting one down at random, and theb adjusting his play style to this random choice. For sure, there are starting positions that are much better in a short game, or much better in a long game, so you can use the choice strategically, bit this is hard.

Many playtesters commented that this decision felt hard and arbitrary at the beginning of the first couple of games. Hence, we advised a short introductory game that does not use the reserve card mechanism.

By the way, the mechanism itself was ported from an unoublished prototype we worked on in the late '90s (yes, we're old) called Virus. It was a game in the videobox series, so short and rather simple. It was never published and we reused the mechanism (in a slightly altered form) here.

Joris
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Christophe Denoize
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Very interesting, thank you Joris.
We know what we have to do with these reserve cards during our first games : pick any one randomly
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Shingo Ishikawa
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Thanks Joris for your comment and reasoning behind it. It's wonderful to get insight in the design process of splotter games. In fact I'd love to have series of these for each splotter titles.
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Tyler McLaughlin
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The choice of reserve cards isn't so Arbitrary. I already know lots of things by the time I'm expected to choose a card.

 
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Joris Wiersinga
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e.e.goings wrote:
The choice of reserve cards isn't so Arbitrary. I already know lots of things by the time I'm expected to choose a card.



True, but it is hard if you don't know the game or cannot oversee the consequences of what you know.

Joris
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Joris Wiersinga
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shingoi wrote:
Thanks Joris for your comment and reasoning behind it. It's wonderful to get insight in the design process of splotter games. In fact I'd love to have series of these for each splotter titles. :D


A cool idea but also a lot of work...
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Tyler McLaughlin
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Agreed. With a few plays under your belt, This is one of the most interesting decisions the players make.

joriswiersinga wrote:
e.e.goings wrote:
The choice of reserve cards isn't so Arbitrary. I already know lots of things by the time I'm expected to choose a card.



True, but it is hard if you don't know the game or cannot oversee the consequences of what you know.

Joris
 
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Ingólfur Valsson
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A middle ground between the base rules and this variant would be to select the reserves after the first turn. At that time you should know more about your (and others) strategy to make a more informed decision.
 
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