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Subject: Moats Imbalanced? rss

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Tony Hodge
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I'm sure this has been brought up already but after playing the expansion for the first time yesterday I get the feeling that moats are a bit imbalanced.

Sure, if you completely enclose yourself with moats you limit the area you can build in but you can game the system by building 2 moats and still leaving room to build endlessly in one direction. That's 2 points for every room in your castle minus outdoor and corridors. Compared to bonus cards that give you 2 points for each of a single type of room this seems like a no-brainer for a measly 5000.

Is there something I'm doing wrong or are they in fact just a bit imbalanced. As of right now I probably won't play with them again as it becomes a "everybody needs to buy at least 2 because they are the most valuable tiles" addition.
 
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Tina Bushey
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I see the big points you talk about, but even in the few expansion games I've played, I have seen a well planned castle score higher than the moat collectors.
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Ted Alspach
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Now I'm thinking we should have playtested moats before shipping Secrets.
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J Kaemmer
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I've found that almost every game it's worth building at least 1 moat. Especially if nothing more valuable is available to you. A single moat will typically score you 10-14 pts and for 5000 (not exactly cheap) it averages 2-3pts per coin. A pretty good return.

But you could also be pursuing outdoor rooms for money, or completing powerful kitchens and sleeping rooms. What if a big point Living room comes up? That second moat not only costs a turn and a fair chunk of change but also reduces the value of the other moat by at least 1 pt because you could have just built a room instead!


Finally, I will say that the moats are surprisingly constraining. If only medium and large rooms come up having 2 moats is going to bone you. I have run into a few situations where the doors on some high value L shaped rooms end up having almost no chance to be completed because of the moat. Also anything with a door touching the moat is un-finish-able. If you try to leave gaps between the wall and rooms you're wasting valuable space!
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Tony Hodge
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Is 5000 considered "not cheap"? There are only 3 rooms that cost less than 5000 and if the master builder is doing his job right those aren't the rooms you want

I think moats are easily the most valuable single tile in the game. 3 + 1 for almost every room in your castle. No other tile comes close to this. This is supposed to be mitigated by the restrictions it poses but one moat is almost inconsequential and only building out into one direction has never posed much of a problem from what I've seen.

Again, grain of salt with my opinions as I've only played with them once. But I am afraid to play with them again because I feel they kind of overshadow other strategies.
 
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soccastar001 wrote:
But I am afraid to play with them again because I feel they kind of overshadow other strategies.
If you don't play with them again how are you going to discover any other strategies?
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J Kaemmer
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soccastar001 wrote:
Is 5000 considered "not cheap"? There are only 3 rooms that cost less than 5000 and if the master builder is doing his job right those aren't the rooms you want

I think moats are easily the most valuable single tile in the game. 3 + 1 for almost every room in your castle. No other tile comes close to this. This is supposed to be mitigated by the restrictions it poses but one moat is almost inconsequential and only building out into one direction has never posed much of a problem from what I've seen.

Again, grain of salt with my opinions as I've only played with them once. But I am afraid to play with them again because I feel they kind of overshadow other strategies.
3 of 4 slots are cheaper by default. Hallways/Stairs are cheaper, too. Anything in the higher slots could also probably has coins, easily bringing it's cost down below 5000. Swans are even better than cash in hand and, if you are playing with them, need to be accounted for. Don't forget Outside rooms could be considered 10k cheaper if they are easy to finish (food rooms could be 5k cheaper if you just take the money, too). Odds are the Moats are more expensive than at LEAST half the tiles, if not more of them.

I will also say that connection bonuses are much more valuable with the advent of secret passages, and with the right set up can blow the value of moats out of the water. Imagine two rooms with 3pt connection bonuses to each other and a secret passage. Boom. 12 pts AND a room score. I've had a turn net me around 36 pts from completing a living room, moats are nice but certainly not broken. They are situationally better, and recognizing WHEN they are better is what will make you a champ at this game. Not blindly grabbing moats "because they are too good"
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Matthew Sanchez
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toulouse wrote:
Now I'm thinking we should have playtested moats before shipping Secrets.

Nice..
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Tony Hodge
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"3 of 4 slots are cheaper by default"? You mean 3 of 7? So less than half. Stuff in higher slots having coins on it having coins is situational, same with swans, and completing outdoor rooms (or them even being available to you), stairs/corridors score no points on their own, and skipping a turn for 5000 coins should only ever be done in the most desperate situation. So I would argue moats are toward the less expensive end of the spectrum even though situations can exist where they are more expensive than other options.

Also you are detailing very specific situations where other tiles can be worth more points. Using a secret passage between two tiles to double 3 point connections requires 2 tiles instead of one, and for those both to work for you, and for other players to let you have them knowing you are going to clean up on points. And at the end of all that you get something like that once a game maybe. Moats are always available and will always give you 10-15 points. And I still maintain building two moats provides very little restriction to your choices when you still have infinite space in one cardinal direction.
 
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Bryan Thunkd
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toulouse wrote:
Now I'm thinking we should have playtested moats before shipping Secrets.
You should have played it at least once... as apparently that's all it takes to realize that the game is completely broken. Boy do you have egg on your face now!


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soccastar001 wrote:
I'm sure this has been brought up already but after playing the expansion for the first time yesterday I get the feeling that moats are a bit imbalanced.

Sure, if you completely enclose yourself with moats you limit the area you can build in but you can game the system by building 2 moats and still leaving room to build endlessly in one direction. That's 2 points for every room in your castle minus outdoor and corridors. Compared to bonus cards that give you 2 points for each of a single type of room this seems like a no-brainer for a measly 5000.

Is there something I'm doing wrong or are they in fact just a bit imbalanced. As of right now I probably won't play with them again as it becomes a "everybody needs to buy at least 2 because they are the most valuable tiles" addition.
I don't know I played Castles about a week ago with one of the best players I know and he built 3 (the max) moats and I beat him by 15 points and I built none.

I realize that this is one game, but it felt balanced to me.
 
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Tony Hodge
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TheOriginalJwoo wrote:
soccastar001 wrote:
I'm sure this has been brought up already but after playing the expansion for the first time yesterday I get the feeling that moats are a bit imbalanced.

Sure, if you completely enclose yourself with moats you limit the area you can build in but you can game the system by building 2 moats and still leaving room to build endlessly in one direction. That's 2 points for every room in your castle minus outdoor and corridors. Compared to bonus cards that give you 2 points for each of a single type of room this seems like a no-brainer for a measly 5000.

Is there something I'm doing wrong or are they in fact just a bit imbalanced. As of right now I probably won't play with them again as it becomes a "everybody needs to buy at least 2 because they are the most valuable tiles" addition.
I don't know I played Castles about a week ago with one of the best players I know and he built 3 (the max) moats and I beat him by 15 points and I built none.

I realize that this is one game, but it felt balanced to me.
From a purely anecdotal evidence standpoint, in my first game the two players who built moats won by a large margin vs. the two who built none.

I'm looking at it from a purely mathematical standpoint. The cost to entry is on the lower end of the spectrum at 5000. The amount of points is not just on the higher end of the spectrum but I would argue THE highest scoring single tile in the game. The argument could be made about how this tile restricts your building area but I've seen with building only two and still having infinite space in a single cardinal direction this is of little consequence.
 
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J Kaemmer
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Yes I meant 7 not 4. but including hallways/stairs its already more expensive than half the field. 1 coin on the 6000 ties it with moats. given that even in a 4 player game there will be at least 3 rooms with coins after standard rounds there is a strong chance moats are more expensive than OVER HALF of tiles. That's before we count special abilities and swans. They are NOT cheap. spending 5000 a turn will drive you to the poor house real fast.

Now you say that I am talking about "rare" circumstances. You are constantly adding on to your castle. There is almost always a "best" choice given your circumstances and I think the moats 2 and 3 are rarely that. There are so many ways of getting points in this game that you could definitely outdo a moat for the cost in MOST situations. Try playing a Solo game. No really. You gotta learn to value that money like it's your life and only spend on the big stuff occasionally, I don't think you are really grasping the opportunity costs here.

Lastly, Yes you can leave youself a single direction to go unconstrained but do you really think that the doors are actually going to accommodate you? can you possibly believe that building in a single direction and blocking off the ability to complete certain rooms is Optimal? Sure you get 1 moat point per tile but I would much rather complete my living and activity rooms, and a moat will make that awfully hard.

I'm sure that you don't care what I have to say and you have convinced yourself of the imbalance, but I maintain Ted and the gang balanced them quite well and it is rarely worth it to build 2 moats and VERY unlikely 3 will be that good of an idea.

(PS. I mean it when I say you should play a solo game. You'll see what I mean about opportunity costs and hamstringing your space.
 
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Tony Hodge
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It seems you've made up your mind about me already saying you won't convince me. Quite the contrary, I'm perfectly willing to hear other opinions and have my mind changed, I just happen to see things differently.

Speaking from a monetary perspective and ignoring situational things like swans and coins, which you have to because you can't plan for them (besides, technically coins are a rebate not a discount so they don't make the tile "less expensive" strictly and if you use swans for coins instead of points in any but the most dire situation then you are playing poorly), then there are 3 tiles plus the stairs/hallways that are more expensive and there are four tiles that are more expensive then moats. Also consider that cheaper means 5000 compared to 4000, 3000, 2000, and 1000. Whereas the more expensive options are 6000,8000, 10000, and 15000. On the scale of 1000-15000, 5000 is very much on the cheaper side. And, like I said, the master builder is not going to make the cheapest tiles your best options. And the cheaper options might not always be available on your turn, especially when you ARE the master builder and pick last. This is true of the more expensive tiles as well but it is simple economics that cheaper things get bought more often than expensive things. My only point is, not even subjectively, 5000 is a cheap price on the scale of possible options. It's not the most cheap and there are going to be less expensive options every turn, and by sheer points to cost at some point during the game buying two isn't even an option, its a necessity.

Sure, you can score more points other ways but no matter what, I am 100% certain that there are going to be two turns in the game where you will score less points with any other option than getting a moat. You can buy two moats and still lose to someone who bought none, sure. A baseball team can get 14 strike-outs and still lose to a team that got none. But that player that built no moats and still beat you would have beat you by even more if he took two turns and bought a moat instead of whatever he did buy. This isn't a debate about whether buying a moat is the best option. Just that buying two moats is the best option every game, which I think it is.

And I have said several times that building two moats still gives you infinite space in one direction, that's even technically selling it short. It's still infinite space in all directions once you build past the "moat line" in that direction...plus some. Two moats does not make it any more difficult to build whatever you like in your castle than any other game of Castles where you don't build any. In my opinion.
 
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Tony Hodge
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As a more direct question J, if playing with the expansion, are you telling me that you might not buy a moat or two? Can you really imagine a game where every single one of the rounds (what's an average game, like 12-20 rounds?) included a better option than ~15 points for 5000?

Because if you honestly can't then there really is no argument. We are on the same side, we just have different reactions to it. I personally have a negative reaction to a module that includes an automatic best option in every game.
 
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Thunkd wrote:
soccastar001 wrote:
Quite the contrary, I'm perfectly willing to hear other opinions and have my mind changed, I just happen to see things differently.
Really? So after your single play of Secrets, you're not quite ready to close the book on it and call it irredeemably broken? That's incredibly open-minded of you.
Tony is not only open-minded, he's also polite and refrains from making condescending remarks to strangers who don't share his opinion.

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Bryan Thunkd
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troybowers wrote:
I suppose users shouldn't post reviews, make observations or ask questions about a game until they've got a dozen plays under their belt?
Yes... that's the logical conclusion to draw from the fact that I think someone should play a game more than once before deciding that the game is flawed... no one should ever post reviews or make observations about games. ??? Come on.

If I've only played a game a single time, I'm going to wait before I post asking if it is unbalanced. There's no way you can get a good feel for that in a single game. The very next game I'd be looking for a way to play against the broken strategy. If I couldn't find a way after a couple of plays, I'd come online asking for advice how to play against it. Only after trying that advice would I really feel comfortable asking if it wasn't balanced.

Was I condescending to someone asking if a game was broken after a single play? Yeah... that kind of attitude should be mocked for the foolery it is.

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Oh, I don't know... I think making an observation after one play is OK, if we're just getting a discussion going. I'm always up for a "hey, what do you guys think of this" type post, even after zero plays - if the poster has just read the rules, for example, and has a concern or wants clarification.

Where I think it *does* get silly is when you get the comments like "I've played it this way once, I have an observation, and I will never play it this way again!" That's too much of a leap, from observation/concern/question/discussion to decided-it's-broken, so I'm with you on that, Thunkd.
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Andy Burgess
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For me, the problem is that this:

soccastar001 wrote:
It seems you've made up your mind about me already saying you won't convince me. Quite the contrary, I'm perfectly willing to hear other opinions and have my mind changed, I just happen to see things differently.
Doesn't go with this:

soccastar001 wrote:
As of right now I probably won't play with them again as it becomes a "everybody needs to buy at least 2 because they are the most valuable tiles" addition.
How willing to have your mind changed can you be if you won't test the opinions that are put to you? Surely you must recognise that it will take a lot more than one play to find all the competing strategies?
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J Kaemmer
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soccastar001 wrote:
As a more direct question J, if playing with the expansion, are you telling me that you might not buy a moat or two? Can you really imagine a game where every single one of the rounds (what's an average game, like 12-20 rounds?) included a better option than ~15 points for 5000?

Because if you honestly can't then there really is no argument. We are on the same side, we just have different reactions to it. I personally have a negative reaction to a module that includes an automatic best option in every game.
With about 6 games of secrets under my belt (all wins) I will honestly say I would almost always buy at least 1 moat. Moats ARE good and a fantastic value... the first time. I can definitely imagine games where there are better options every turn, because I've already played them, and won because of my acumen. I did build a second moat 2 of those games, but that was because it was the best option at the time. I would not say it is automatically the best, by any stretch.

I think 15 points is an exaggeration, too. hallways, stairs, and outside rooms do not count, and your other moat didn't count. Keep in mind you also discard a room card when buying a moat. 11 cards a person, minus the starting tiles, plus maybe 3 sleeping room completions: gives you about 11 rounds; 12 to 13 in a long game if there are a number of hallways/stairs bought, 9-10 rounds if a lot of Food rooms or downstairs rooms are built - If you buy 2 moats that's 7-11 rounds left in the game. If you ONLY built actual rooms (no hallways stairs or outside rooms) you would get 10-14 points a moat. That's pretty good, but I would not say it is TOO good by any means. I can get a return of 2-3 points per coin spent pretty easily on any number of rooms with a little work. I will also probably build at least 1 outside room to get the free stairs/hallway too (easy completion bonuses).

I also disagree with the statement that you can ignore coins. That is a very important piece of info when weighing cost benefit analysis on tiles. Also coins most certainly ARE a discount, because you can pay for a room WITH the coins on the tile: check the 3rd to last sentence under "Each Round" section in the rules.

Quote:
The total amount of coins on a selected tile is kept by the player selecting the tile, and may be used to purchase that tile
This seems to reinforce my point that only 2 or 3 rounds in that distribution of costs comes down quite a bit (3 tiles with at least 1 coin!)

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Tony Hodge
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MercifulBiscuit wrote:
For me, the problem is that this:

soccastar001 wrote:
It seems you've made up your mind about me already saying you won't convince me. Quite the contrary, I'm perfectly willing to hear other opinions and have my mind changed, I just happen to see things differently.
Doesn't go with this:

soccastar001 wrote:
As of right now I probably won't play with them again as it becomes a "everybody needs to buy at least 2 because they are the most valuable tiles" addition.
How willing to have your mind changed can you be if you won't test the opinions that are put to you? Surely you must recognise that it will take a lot more than one play to find all the competing strategies?
It what way is saying I probably won't play with them again the same as outright dismissing something and saying I won't play with them again? I'm saying that unless, through discussion, I come to see things differently then yes, from my initial impression, I am not really interested in playing with them for the reasons I've described. Even then if someone in my game group wanted to give them a shot I would still definitely play with them for their sake. Especially if they pre-empted it with "I know how you feel about these, let me show you what you're missing."

Besides, I think the idea that you need to play a board game 'x' number of times before you're qualified to comment on it is a silly, misinformed notion. If you hate a dish the first time you eat it should you have to eat it a few more times before you can tell someone not to go to that restaurant? How many film reviewers watch a movie more than once before writing their review? It's not like this is my first board game, I'm pretty experienced with them and have a pretty good idea about when there are problems with them. Am I wrong sometimes, absolutely, and that was the impetus for me posting this forum topic.

In fact, due to Bezier games track record in my eyes for both games and expansions (I own several of their titles and expansions) I was more certain I would have my mind changed than not. I expected either that I misread or misinterpreted a rule and was scoring them wrong, there was some sort of errata, or my math was just plain incorrect. The reason I'm debating is because none of that has come to pass and I'm trying to convince others of an issue with it that I feel it is important to share. But above all I haven't been mean or unfriendly.
 
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MercifulBiscuit wrote:
For me, the problem is that this:

soccastar001 wrote:
It seems you've made up your mind about me already saying you won't convince me. Quite the contrary, I'm perfectly willing to hear other opinions and have my mind changed, I just happen to see things differently.
Doesn't go with this:

soccastar001 wrote:
As of right now I probably won't play with them again as it becomes a "everybody needs to buy at least 2 because they are the most valuable tiles" addition.
How willing to have your mind changed can you be if you won't test the opinions that are put to you? Surely you must recognise that it will take a lot more than one play to find all the competing strategies?
Well, that first quote is the last thing Tony posted whereas the 2nd quote is the very first thing that Tony posted before hearing everyone else's arguments to the contrary. If the order that those quoted statements were posted in was reversed I would agree with you.
 
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Rick Teverbaugh
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I think, Tony, the problem I have is that you seem to be trying to make just as big an impression with your once-played impression than the impression I have knowing how well Bezier playtests all of its games. I have no issue with an opinion after one game play. But I have always had and will always have a problem with a review after one play and certainly feel the same way about comments of "overpowered" or "unbalanced" after a single play.
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soccastar001 wrote:
Besides, I think the idea that you need to play a board game 'x' number of times before you're qualified to comment on it is a silly, misinformed notion. If you hate a dish the first time you eat it should you have to eat it a few more times before you can tell someone not to go to that restaurant? How many film reviewers watch a movie more than once before writing their review?
There's a difference between doing something that is a simple pleasure like eating and doing something that is a mental challenge. There's no need to have a dish several times before giving an opinion on it. Tasting the flavors isn't particularly challenging. There's never a point when eating a meal that you're mentally taxed by the experience and unable to comprehend what you are experiencing or you're left in doubt about how to proceed.

Playing a complicated board game isn't a good parallel for that experience. A board game is a challenge, a puzzle, a problem. Understanding that problem isn't necessarily something you're going to figure out on the first play. In fact, a good board game should continue to elude your understanding. If you sit down and can figure out the game entirely in a single play, there wasn't much depth to it and it probably wasn't very enjoyable as a challenge. We want games to have replay value, and that means that they still need to be a challenge on subsequent plays. So there's a reason that games might need to be visited several times before you really get a feel or understanding for them... we design them that way intentionally!
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Tony Hodge
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iswearihaveajob wrote:
soccastar001 wrote:
As a more direct question J, if playing with the expansion, are you telling me that you might not buy a moat or two? Can you really imagine a game where every single one of the rounds (what's an average game, like 12-20 rounds?) included a better option than ~15 points for 5000?

Because if you honestly can't then there really is no argument. We are on the same side, we just have different reactions to it. I personally have a negative reaction to a module that includes an automatic best option in every game.
With about 6 games of secrets under my belt (all wins) I will honestly say I would almost always buy at least 1 moat. Moats ARE good and a fantastic value... the first time. I can definitely imagine games where there are better options every turn, because I've already played them, and won because of my acumen. I did build a second moat 2 of those games, but that was because it was the best option at the time. I would not say it is automatically the best, by any stretch.

I think 15 points is an exaggeration, too. hallways, stairs, and outside rooms do not count, and your other moat didn't count. Keep in mind you also discard a room card when buying a moat. 11 cards a person, minus the starting tiles, plus maybe 3 sleeping room completions: gives you about 11 rounds; 12 to 13 in a long game if there are a number of hallways/stairs bought, 9-10 rounds if a lot of Food rooms or downstairs rooms are built - If you buy 2 moats that's 7-11 rounds left in the game. If you ONLY built actual rooms (no hallways stairs or outside rooms) you would get 10-14 points a moat. That's pretty good, but I would not say it is TOO good by any means. I can get a return of 2-3 points per coin spent pretty easily on any number of rooms with a little work. I will also probably build at least 1 outside room to get the free stairs/hallway too (easy completion bonuses).

I also disagree with the statement that you can ignore coins. That is a very important piece of info when weighing cost benefit analysis on tiles. Also coins most certainly ARE a discount, because you can pay for a room WITH the coins on the tile: check the 3rd to last sentence under "Each Round" section in the rules.

Quote:
The total amount of coins on a selected tile is kept by the player selecting the tile, and may be used to purchase that tile
This seems to reinforce my point that only 2 or 3 rounds in that distribution of costs comes down quite a bit (3 tiles with at least 1 coin!)

As I expected we are pretty much on the same side. I still maintain that buying 2 is an automatic in every game. But even just you admitting that you would buy one in every game marks it as imbalanced and a poor addition to the game. New content should present new choices. An automatic buy is not a choice.

I certainly don't think ~15 points is an exaggeration (and in case you weren't aware the tilde means "about"). Keep in mind that 15 points is the 3 from the moat plus 12 room tiles besides outdoor and corridors. Between added tiles and extra turns 12 tiles in your castle is far from uncommon. I know one person in our first game got 17 points per moat. But I still maintain from my experience with this game that 10-14 points from a single 5000 tile is more than I'm going to get in most rounds. You said in a previous post that you've seen someone achieve 35 points for two tiles plus a doubled secret passage connection bonus. Well that is 2 tiles you paid for, two turns you spent, and one of your limited resources used to get 17.5 per tile. And that's pretty close to the upper limit for what you are going to get for a non-moat tile. We had a player play 3 moats for 17 points each which includes a free build when he completed his 3rd. That cost him as much as a single tile could cost someone and he was still able to use his secret passages for other connections. Granted, I don't think building all 3 moats is the soundest strategy, he came in second to the guy who only built 2 which is where I think the problem lies.

And I'm not saying that coins are not important when weighing your decisions. I'm saying that if we are measuring the power to value of any given tile it is impossible to include those in your calculation because they are way to variable. For every time the expensive positions are less expensive due to coins, there is another time they don't have any coins on them.

Although I have been apparently playing the coin on the tile incorrectly, I doubt it has ever influenced a game, but I always considered it a rebate and you still needed to have the printed cost of the tile before purchasing it.
 
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