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Subject: Strength of bookkeeping track? rss

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John H
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Preface to my questions:

Don't own the game yet, but will be playing for the first time in a few days. After reading the rules thoroughly and looking at the discussions in the forums here, I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the bookkeeping track.

The main scoring dynamic of owning shares of the companies seems pretty straightforward to understand. This is clearly where the bulk of a player's points will come from in a high score.

The diamond track seems relatively straightforward to navigate and understand. Several early game impressions have implied that focus on the diamond track can be well worth it in shooting for a high score.

The bookkeeping track seems another beast altogether. Books need to be obtained and placed strategically on the track, sometimes being placed ahead of the current line and sometimes replacing current books possibly. It may be necessary to spend pounds to flip a book to move past it. A bookkeeper action card is needed in addition to other strategically simultaneously played action cards that help fulfill requirements to move past or onto books on your track on that turn. After all that, the inkwell only lands on one book that gives a bonus that turn. That seems like a lot of work requiring intricate planning.

********

My questions to those with some playing experience -->

a) In general, does a focus on the bookkeeping track seem to yield rewards commensurate with the effort needed to advance on it?

b) Are there major drawbacks to essentially ignoring the bookkeeping track in your general strategy? (It seems players will pick up points for obtaining books through a variety of actions in other areas, so something on that track can get accomplished with an occasional bookkeeper action even without any special focus on it?)

c) Can a strategy with a strong and consistent focus on the bookkeeping track be competitive most of the time? (Obviously not ignoring the stock ownership area too much)

Thanks in advance to anyone who can weigh in with some thoughts on these questions.



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Shawn Fox
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My opinion based on 3 plays is that the bookkeeping track does not sufficiently reward the effort that it takes to make it work. I think it is fairly competitive as far as points per action, but it takes far more brain cycles to manage it than it does to just try to gain extra stocks in the best companies or use the diamond merchants. In my opinion, since it is more difficult (from a thinking/planning perspective) to use the bookkeeping track, it should offer a higher point reward than the diamond track but I don't think that it does.

[edit] Also, you can safely ignore either of the diamond or bookkeeping track. I think you need to get to 4 card slots by mid/late game but you certainly do not need 5. I've tried going to 5 card slots early and it is really hard to get enough cards back each turn to fill all 5 slots.
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Miguel Duran
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My finding was that you cannot completely ignore the Bookkeeping track -- doing so is at your peril. I've only played the once at a convention two weeks ago, but the 10 points I squeaked off the BK track were the difference between first and second -- and my closest opponent (who I beat by 3 points) had scored somewhere between 30 and 35 off books. I had gone 60 off diamonds, but only by focusing almost entirely on diamonds and starting with a set-up very much advantaged in doing so.

I don't know that books will prove to be as strong as diamonds in terms of being a primary path to victory, but I don't think they're intended to be. As is, however, neither is a must-have. In a 4P game, my winning score was 171 and my nearest opponent was 168, so clearly books and diamonds, while important, were only a piece of the puzzle.
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John H
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Thanks to the replies so far! Very helpful. The rule that makes me intrigued about trying to generally ignore the bookkeeping track is the one that allows you to take 1 pound for every bookkeeping point you earn as a reward somewhere. Money seems tight (and counts as VP), so using Bookkeeping points to get pounds to help fund expansion and sharebuying and to end up as VPs in the late game seems like a viable option; (One I might try in my first game and report back on!)

Though of course, as in every game of this general type, there will be competition for cards and resources, so if aside from getting good company shares, making good use of the bookkeeeping track is the path of least resistance, I am sure it would do well to try to make it work. I have had some success in first games with Euro-type multiple scoring paths simply zigging while others are zagging, even if I had little concept of the nuances of the game.
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Gary Barnett
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Only played the once so far, but initial impression is much as you say. Certainly much, much easier to negotiate the diamond track. I botched up my efforts to advance on the book track certainly!

I guess that if everyone competes heavily for the diamond merchant cards leaving you free reign on the books, it becomes more viable. I also think in retrospect that maybe spending the extra bookkeeping points on some of the C tiles may be more viable as some of them are easier to fulfil (though they cost double).

One person entirely ignored books in our four player game and came third by £10. It was very close however and the most anyone ended with was £15 from the book track!

However, I definitely want to make the books work. I really like the puzzle aspect and think it would be great to bound around that track in one huge jump!
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Christian K
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Very interesting discussion there, I am following with interest
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John H
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Played my first game last night and enjoyed it immensely. I wrote up a long session report with impressions and a bit of advice for first time players

Here are some other observations relevant to this thread.

**************************

1) A data point echoing Shawn Fox's point: 4 action slots at some point seem somewhat necessary to win.

The winner of our game had 4 action card slots, picking up his extra slot via the diamond track in the middle rounds (T3 or T4). The player who got 5 action slots (1 extra from each of diamond and bookkeeping tracks) finished a somewhat distant second, almost eclipsed by me who screwed up and only had three action slots all game. Last place also had only three action slots all game. It seems that to focus on either the diamond track or bookkeeping track (but not both necessarily) as soon as is feasible is a good thing to get that extra slot if nothing else. Two extra slots seems like overkill, as it dilutes your card pool and focus overmuch it seems.


2) Ignoring the bookkeeping track completely or almost completely seems a viable strategy.

Every time I got book points, I took pounds with them or else books that came with pounds from the turn track. If I had had the requirements I could have used the bookkeeper action card at some point to move the inkwell to get a bonus with the books I did have, but it was never worth it. However, the pounds I collected from all the book points enabled me to buy whatever I needed, whenever I needed it. Ignoring the bookkeeping track does mean that you need to move down the diamond track to the extra slot at the very least as soon as is practicable, given point 1. (If I had done that properly, I am pretty sure I would have had a victory.)


3) Point 2 being stated, I discovered in play the allure of the bookkeeping track. The bookkeeping track potentially allows you to get an action slot, VPs, and added bonuses at the expense of very few actions.

The diamond track is very straightforward, but requires consistent effort in purchasing merchant cards and playing merchants in action slots, which detracts from the other efforts in your game. The bookkeeping track does not require this focus. It is difficult to move on the bookkeeping track for the reasons I gave in the OP of this thread, but if you can meet requirements, one single action card can move you far along the track. Book points can come from the map, max bonuses, and a few other places. You can pick up books without going out of your way in other areas, and use bookkeeper actions sparingly if you can meet requirements (though of course, this is a big if). You may have to play non-synergistic action cards and action tiles on the turns you move the inkwell to meet requirements, but you should still get use out of what you do. On the other hand, focus on diamonds will require more effort and actions that distract from your efforts in expansion and share-buying.

***********************************

These were the things about the bookkeeping track that jumped out at me after one play. I am interested to see how possible it is to pull off dramatic bookkeeping track moves with a limited number of bookkeeper actions.

I also am wondering how far down the diamond track it is worth it to push, if going diamonds over books-- to the action slot point is a no-brainer, but whether to more or less stop then and focus on stocks or keep increasing diamond track VPs is an open question for me that only experience will help answer.

Anyone with opinions or experience regarding these choices is encouraged to share their thoughts!

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Miguel Duran
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In my one play (hurry up and release in the US already!), I earned 64 points off the diamond track. I had bought three diamond merchants, rented the board diamond merchant twice, and also invested stock in a company track that allows the gain of extra diamonds, so it was a pretty sell-out strategy. I won by 3 points so it was very close, but it seems to me that once you're heavily invested in diamonds, the movement up the last few bits of the track is so fast that you might as well go all the way rather than stop at, say, 45 points for diamonds. But my next closest competitor only took about 15 points for diamonds if memory serves (and went heavy into books), so it's hardly necessary.
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Gary Barnett
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I had my second game on Monday evening, three player. I went for the book track. I scored the maximum of £60 from books, and won with £168 total (also £56 from Mombasa Co), well clear of the next person (who gained £50 from diamonds). It is definitely viable - quite powerful actually - but also expect to be frazzled at the end!

I think I acquired at least two (maybe three?!) extra bookkeeper cards plus I hired the bookkeeper tile from the board at least twice. I should have kept a record! It is all a bit of a blur in retrospect!

I thought acquiring extra bookkeeper cards would be a bit wasteful, but actually it did work out. It helped that I managed to get up the Mombasa track quite early to the point where I was getting a purchase discount on cotton. This also helped me to pick up some share cards.

In at least two rounds I played two bookkeepers (card plus tile) which, if you pick the right books with your first bookkeeper's book points gives you a double move and double benefits (especially the one giving three book points)! Near the end of the game these benefits seem to give a much better return than exploration when the board is full and movement costly.

I reached the end of the track in round seven (with a double bookkeeper effort), but still managed a couple of extra books for the £2 bonuses. I ignored diamonds totally and tried to expand companies into board spaces that gave books or track moves or money.

Getting the third card slot open quite early (I think I did so during round three, but earlier may be possible with very good planning) is pretty important to be able to use the bookkeeper since you then potentially have four card slots to match requirements (if using the bookkeeper tile). I still had to pay to turn over at least three if not four books to progress, however.

It was however hard work! I was frazzled by the end! And I probably got a bit lucky with the Mombasa company to score £56 off that one too!

Great game though!
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Alexander Pfister
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Thanks, Gary, for your session report. It's very difficult to reach the end of the bookkeeping track. Well done!

Generally speaking, play a strategy you feel comfortable with. If you like the puzzle-aspect of the bookkeeping track, go for it. Otherwise focus on diamonds, companies, expansion etc.
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Pini Shekhter
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For our plays it seems that ignoring the bookkeeping track is the best strategy you can go for. In all cases for our plays players that go heavily for books finish last. In my opinion, this is mainly due to the fact that the books have a high luck factor for getting the books that fit the cards you have gotten before, the rewards are pretty small and the cost for flipping a book is crazy. Also, the fact that you only acquire books after you move the ink jar means you need to plan every move, three moves in advance.
We are love euro games with heavy thinking, but the bookkeeping track seems to make smoke come out of everyone's ears and at the end not be worth it. We finish games sometimes on the 180-200 spectrum (at least the winner and another player on a 3-4 player game), but only if the bookkeeping track is ignored.
We resorted to looking at these blue little symbols as though they were coin icons. The game is wonderful and full of enough strategy without the books
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John H
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ShPini1 wrote:
For our plays it seems that ignoring the bookkeeping track is the best strategy you can go for. In all cases for our plays players that go heavily for books finish last. In my opinion, this is mainly due to the fact that the books have a high luck factor for getting the books that fit the cards you have gotten before, the rewards are pretty small and the cost for flipping a book is crazy. Also, the fact that you only acquire books after you move the ink jar means you need to plan every move, three moves in advance.
We are love euro games with heavy thinking, but the bookkeeping track seems to make smoke come out of everyone's ears and at the end not be worth it. We finish games sometimes on the 180-200 spectrum (at least the winner and another player on a 3-4 player game), but only if the bookkeeping track is ignored.
We resorted to looking at these blue little symbols as though they were coin icons. The game is wonderful and full of enough strategy without the books
I agree that it is great that you can still do well in the game, and still enjoy its strategy and gameplay without the books if you desire.

Going into my first play, I shared your opinion on bookkeeping, but after a couple plays, I began to see the allure of this track: You can get an extra action slot and significant pounds for VERY few actions, potentially ("potentially" being an important word ).

I think in a group that tends to ignore books especially, it would pay for a player to give it a try. With little competition for books and inkwell action card/slots, there is potential for some nice moves on it.

Expansion bonuses are a convenient source of book points, (as well as the lesser used first player action slot.), so I definitely think you can move the inkwell a bit on the first bookkeeper card play from expansion-gained books alone. If you can get a setup for hitting the extra action slot in 1 or 2 more inkwell moves, you have an action slot and some auxiliary VPs for 2 or 3 action card plays and giving up the pounds you could have gotten for the book points. That's a pretty great deal. It frees up a lot of action card plays to expand, buy cards, and earn shares.

Admittedly, I have yet to do this, but some players in my games have made it a decent way on the track, and I can see the potential for it to be very helpful. I think next game, I might force myself to try it just to see.
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Alexander Pfister
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Fortunately the bookkeeping track gets easier over time: You might have 4 slots (diamond) and/or acquired better good cards. So, even if you don't focus on the bookkeeping track, I think there is easy money to pick up during the last few rounds.
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Gary Barnett
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ShPini1 wrote:
For our plays it seems that ignoring the bookkeeping track is the best strategy you can go for. In all cases for our plays players that go heavily for books finish last. In my opinion, this is mainly due to the fact that the books have a high luck factor for getting the books that fit the cards you have gotten before, the rewards are pretty small and the cost for flipping a book is crazy. Also, the fact that you only acquire books after you move the ink jar means you need to plan every move, three moves in advance.
We are love euro games with heavy thinking, but the bookkeeping track seems to make smoke come out of everyone's ears and at the end not be worth it. We finish games sometimes on the 180-200 spectrum (at least the winner and another player on a 3-4 player game), but only if the bookkeeping track is ignored.
We resorted to looking at these blue little symbols as though they were coin icons. The game is wonderful and full of enough strategy without the books
Whether it is the "best" strategy may depend. I have won my last two games playing a fairly heavy bookkeeper strategy. I also think that if there is a lot of competition over diamond merchants, it may make books more attractive. Certainly it can match well with early heavy expansion to hoover up book points. But don't ignore the £2 cost C books which are often much easier to meet than the Bs or even the As. Later in the game, with extra action slots and much harder board expansion, the book track does seem to offer excellent opportunities. Don't dismiss it (though I admit my best score is only 169, not 180+).

The main downside is you get accused of being a slow player... soblue
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Great discussion. My copy is somewhere between the UK and my house and am really looking forward to it now. I have Nippon in the meantime to keep myself entertained.
 
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Alexander Pfister
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Scores are difficult to compare, because 1 big company gives you alot of money per share and therefore you have a higher score.
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An observation from my half-dozen plays so far:

The VP from diamonds and books is static, while the value of stocks is variable. An obvious statement in itself, but the implication for someone heavily pursuing diamonds or books is that you don't want to see runaway winners/losers among the companies, which will tend to maximize VP value of stocks (for those who made the right investments). Rather, a person who gets to 50/60 on books or diamonds wants to see all companies do OK but not great, thus minimizing the gains of the player(s) who largely ignored the tracks and made a greater investment in the best stocks.

I realized this after a recent game where I got to 60 on diamonds, 10 on books, and to the lesser extent I had stocks even made the right investments, but it still wasn't enough for the win. The reason was that one of the four companies got completely crushed while the other three companies had very high value. The guy who avoided investing in the bad company edged me out for the win, while the guy who invested the most in the bad company was a runaway loser. In another game I saw over the weekend, the same thing happened: two companies did great and two companies got crushed, with the result being the guy who went all out on stocks and ignored books and diamonds ran away with the game.

Which incidentally is why I think there is limited use in talking about 'best scores'. In a stock game, scores in a absolute sense are less relevant. Sessions where the winner heavily pursued diamonds or books should be lower scoring, for the reasons outlined above; it doesn't illustrate that one group is playing the game more efficiently than another.
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Eric Jones
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Add a gold per completed book?
After over a dozen plays....

I'm not sure books can't be competitive, and certainly with the right combination of books, you can do really well, but you have to get pretty lucky to get a large number of similar books. I'm not sure that the books would be overpowered if you gained a gold for each book completed, it seems fair since you have to pay a gold for each book placed, plus the hoops you have to jump through to clear them. That might make books worth the effort. It also would alleviate the distress and confusion I always hear when teaching, about not getting the rewards you bypass.

My group has played this a lot. It's our favorite game out this year. I haven't lost the game yet. I do think the scoring can vary fairly drastically. I think I've won with a score as low as 160s and high as 230 points. The value of the stocks is not a zero sum game, so when the stocks are worth more, the scores are higher. I will say, I have never once maxed either the diamond or the book track, I've also never had 5 card slots. I'm pretty sure that I've never had more then 20-25 points off of books, I have gotten to the 50 point mark on diamonds.

The group think, at least in my group as we've played more times, is that books are generally not worth the hassle. The return for actions spent is just not that good. For the most part, we just take the money whenever we would take a book, or a book that has money, we don't even care what the book does, because we never intend to even try to complete them. We go SO far as to trash the book starting card at the first opportunity for the money, even turn one.
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ejones307 wrote:
... alleviate the distress and confusion I always hear when teaching, about not getting the rewards you bypass.
I think a very minor tweak to the book track rules which would help would be to make the reward from any one of the books passed over. It would give a wee benefit without being too overpowered.
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Celtic wrote:
ejones307 wrote:
... alleviate the distress and confusion I always hear when teaching, about not getting the rewards you bypass.
I think a very minor tweak to the book track rules which would help would be to make the reward from any one of the books passed over. It would give a wee benefit without being too overpowered.
I think that would be a massive change. Given that it's more intuitive than "take where you stop," I would guess that it was playtested and rejected.
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Alexander Pfister
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astroglide wrote:

I would guess that it was playtested and rejected.
Yes, quite a lot. Big steps would be much higher rewarded than now. Playing 2 bookkeeper in the same round would be useless.
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ejones307 wrote:
The group think, at least in my group as we've played more times, is that books are generally not worth the hassle. The return for actions spent is just not that good. For the most part, we just take the money whenever we would take a book, or a book that has money, we don't even care what the book does, because we never intend to even try to complete them. We go SO far as to trash the book starting card at the first opportunity for the money, even turn one.
Interesting. I usually think of bookkeeping as supplemental points and rewards, only playing a bookkeeper about twice during the game. How far I move on the track is largely driven by the situation, but I've never ignored it.

It seems like placing 3 books and playing 1 bookkeeper for 10 points is worthwhile. For example, if all 3 books are A/B then you've netted ~11 points: 10 from the track - 3 points to buy + 2 points from reward + 2 points for bookkeeper's bookkeeping points. The 3 books to go from 10 to 15 is likely justified by the additional action slot. The move from 15→20 is the part that I'm most skeptical of; after that the rewards seem reasonable again.
(I'm ignoring pounds below books; it seems obvious that you can take a book when you're getting a pound anyway)

The above assumes you play a bookkeeper to an action slot, which takes an action When you use a bonus marker to discard the starting bookkeeper for 4 points, you could instead use it to take the bookkeeper tile for 1 pound; it still seems clearly worth doing for ~9 points (i.e. 5 more points than discard)?

Another consideration is how many cards of a single type you can play in one round. For example, to progress on books you might play 2-banana, 2-banana, 2-expansion, bookkeeper. You might have played more bananas or expansions, thereby getting a majority (or a higher reward from a majority)?

Are the additional pounds more useful for capitalization on company tracks, or buying cards (via bonus marker)? More generally, what's the advantage (of ignoring bookkeeping) that I'm missing?
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ejones307 wrote:
After over a dozen plays....

I'm not sure books can't be competitive, and certainly with the right combination of books, you can do really well, but you have to get pretty lucky to get a large number of similar books. I'm not sure that the books would be overpowered if you gained a gold for each book completed, it seems fair since you have to pay a gold for each book placed, plus the hoops you have to jump through to clear them. That might make books worth the effort. It also would alleviate the distress and confusion I always hear when teaching, about not getting the rewards you bypass.

My group has played this a lot. It's our favorite game out this year. I haven't lost the game yet. I do think the scoring can vary fairly drastically. I think I've won with a score as low as 160s and high as 230 points. The value of the stocks is not a zero sum game, so when the stocks are worth more, the scores are higher. I will say, I have never once maxed either the diamond or the book track, I've also never had 5 card slots. I'm pretty sure that I've never had more then 20-25 points off of books, I have gotten to the 50 point mark on diamonds.

The group think, at least in my group as we've played more times, is that books are generally not worth the hassle. The return for actions spent is just not that good. For the most part, we just take the money whenever we would take a book, or a book that has money, we don't even care what the book does, because we never intend to even try to complete them. We go SO far as to trash the book starting card at the first opportunity for the money, even turn one.

I'm not sure I would even play a game with someone who's won all 12+ plays of it.
 
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Steve Austin
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First two player game tonight. One player had 5 books, but didn't pass over any of them, then gave up on trying to make it work. I ignored books after the second purchase seeing how difficult it was to make them work and went for the diamond track.

There is definitely a higher level of thinking/planning required for books and we didn't feel it was worth it. We really enjoyed the game, but felt that the book track didn't fit with the rest of the game. I was burning all my book action cards after the first couple rounds. We will try to use books more next time and see if we can make it work.

We both made major mistakes in a few rounds: using helmet cards to advance on multiple share tracks, as it is very easy to think helmets are also goods, especially as they both sit on the same action track.

Mistake two: repeatedly forgot to remove cards in right column at end of round.

Good news is that my wife likes Mombasa better than the last five games I introduced to her recently which includes shipyard, myrmes, gold west, snowdonia and orleans.

We actually finished mombasa tonight in one session, which rarely happens.
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Jeff W
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astroglide wrote:
Celtic wrote:
ejones307 wrote:
... alleviate the distress and confusion I always hear when teaching, about not getting the rewards you bypass.
I think a very minor tweak to the book track rules which would help would be to make the reward from any one of the books passed over. It would give a wee benefit without being too overpowered.
I think that would be a massive change. Given that it's more intuitive than "take where you stop," I would guess that it was playtested and rejected.
Why would take any ONE reward be a massive change? I could see that taking all rewards would be a massive change.

I think there needs to be some additional boost to the bookkeeping track or pretty much it'll die. It is pretty much unanimous among our group (~10 players, 2-5 plays each) that bookkeeping is more trouble than its worth.
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