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Subject: Blog: Team Tracy Mod - A Thunderbirds House Rules Modification rss

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Brad Grier
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I did a blog on this, but thought I'd summarize the blog here to get your thoughts.

Basically, we sucked at the first two attempts, and decided to mod the rules (and keep with what we thought was the spirit of Thunderbirds) by doing this:

1) All Characters are participating in the game, no matter the number of players. In our case that left two characters without human players. Every human player controls one character, but extra characters are controlled by the group.
2) We altered the Turn Overview. In our game, Turn order varies during a 'round' depending on the strategy the group decides is going to be executed for that round. As each player takes a turn, they flip their character card over so we can remember that player has played. The same applies to group-controlled characters. Once all character cards are face down, the round ends and the character cards are reset, and a new round begins.

Questions, comments, feedback? Always welcome!

-- Brad
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Clive Jones

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My immediate instinct is that those changes combined would make the game far too easy.

There are several forum threads here in which people found the game too hard, but then got the hang of it after realising they'd misinterpreted the rules and/or got a bit of tactical advice. Have you read any of them?

One thing, especially, that I'd say is that though it's a Leacock game and resembles Pandemic in some respects, it's not the same game. Approaching it without preconceptions could work better than trying to adapt Pandemic strategy.

Another point well made elsewhere in the forums is that Thunderbirds is a more genuinely co-operative game: things will run a lot more smoothly if players plan their turns together to put the right resources in the right place at the right time, give one another lifts, etc.
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Daniel Wilmer
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Also replied on the blog to the same tune, bit of a double post?
 
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Brad Grier
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Thanks for the feedback...

clivej wrote:
My immediate instinct is that those changes combined would make the game far too easy.


Yeah, possibly. though the way the disaster cards were coming up and our rolls weren't, that game wasn't easy... And if we find it so, we can always scale it by using tougher schemes.

Agreed on everything else, and that's pretty much the way we played. The rules tweak seemed the best way to thematically play a game and still have fun from it.

 
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Brad Grier
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Thanks for the feedback. If it is considered double post then I apologize. Not sure if the blogs are read as frequently as the forums..

 
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Marcel
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bgrier wrote:
Thanks for the feedback. If it is considered double post then I apologize. Not sure if the blogs are read as frequently as the forums..

I don't read blogs, though I did go to your blog post and replied there. I definitely do not consider it a double post, I would think however that a post like this makes more sense in the forum then in a blog.
 
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Andrew Keddie
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I think this makes sense in the forums.

I think it makes MORE sense in the 'variants' forum.
 
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Chris Milis
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Hi Brad and all,

I have been thinking of doing something very similar myself, I have played a few times mostly solo and find the game very frustrating rather than fun, which is not what it should be. I want to love and enjoy this game with my family. I don't like that disasters are coming in and half the team cannot act and that to swap the characters you need to miss a turn to activate the other character. Having all the team able to act seems more fluid and real. Being able to choose who can do what, also feels more real as opposed to being stuck in a que to activate due to the order in which they were dealt.

Maybe rolling a dice to see if 4-6 the space station character can move the disaster's back one space?

Another option maybe to deal x4 or more disasters at the beginning of the turn so the team can tackle them? If at the end of the turn the disaster track is full then you lose?

I think this game is fantastic in all other ways and if I have to slightly modify it so I can enjoy it more than so be it, I don't want to sell it or gather dust on a shelf!

All the best,

Regards,

Chris
 
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Robert Bracey
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It being too difficult is a bad reason to implement these sort of rules. Especially as this is usually a result of weak play rather than any intrinsic difficulty (you are not losing because of the dice rolls - if you want to check just replay the game and lose it again, you cannot be unlucky every time).

Now what is awkward is two players fairly obviously picking Virgil and Alan and loading the other characters on TB2 and TB3 to drag them to mission locations - and (this is critical) doing basically the same thing with more players. Now if you do not like that thematically then that seems like a good reason modify the rules.
 
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Paul Bach
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bgrier wrote:
1) All Characters are participating in the game, no matter the number of players. In our case that left two characters without human players. Every human player controls one character, but extra characters are controlled by the group.
2) We altered the Turn Overview. In our game, Turn order varies during a 'round' depending on the strategy the group decides is going to be executed for that round. As each player takes a turn, they flip their character card over so we can remember that player has played. The same applies to group-controlled characters. Once all character cards are face down, the round ends and the character cards are reset, and a new round begins.


I'm not one for modding the rules*, but if I were going to use the extra characters, (I assume you are using them as player characters with their card effects in play and turning over a disaster card at the end of their turn,) I think I would limit myself to four characters per round, switching them out and switching the order and the end of each round of play.

I'm not sure if that would make it easier or harder than your mod, but it would keep it closer to the 4 player max and not allow the disaster track to accelerate too much before the second round even begins. If my assumptions are right then unless the lead disaster is handled quickly or a player character is up in TB5, then with six disasters in the first round it is an automatic loss before the first player gets a second turn.

At least with the rules as stated the disaster track can handle a new disaster for each player character and at minimum get back to the first player before they draw the disaster card that pushes the lead card to the skull and defeat.

If my assumption is wrong and you are treating the extra characters as NPCs and not advancing the cards on the Disaster Track, IMO you are making the game too easy, you might as well just stick to four characters and give each an extra action or two.

*I have never been a good enough player at any game to feel I have mastered it enough to second guess the designer.
 
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Brad Grier
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mag74b wrote:
bgrier wrote:
Thanks for the feedback. If it is considered double post then I apologize. Not sure if the blogs are read as frequently as the forums..

I don't read blogs, though I did go to your blog post and replied there. I definitely do not consider it a double post, I would think however that a post like this makes more sense in the forum then in a blog.


Cool. I find different communities have different customs... and I'm often slow to catch on Thanks!
 
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Brad Grier
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CommissarFeesh wrote:
I think this makes sense in the forums.

I think it makes MORE sense in the 'variants' forum.


Yup, I agree, and only noticed that after I posted this here. I couldn't find a way to move it there... if you know of one, I'd appreciate the pointer

 
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Brad Grier
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Hi Chris, thanks!
ThunderCC wrote:
I have played a few times mostly solo and find the game very frustrating rather than fun, which is not what it should be. I want to love and enjoy this game with my family. I don't like that disasters are coming in and half the team cannot act and that to swap the characters you need to miss a turn to activate the other character. Having all the team able to act seems more fluid and real. Being able to choose who can do what, also feels more real as opposed to being stuck in a que to activate due to the order in which they were dealt.


Yeah, that's what we were feeling after two plays.

ThunderCC wrote:
Maybe rolling a dice to see if 4-6 the space station character can move the disaster's back one space?

Another option maybe to deal x4 or more disasters at the beginning of the turn so the team can tackle them? If at the end of the turn the disaster track is full then you lose?


Cool! I'll keep those in mind during our next playthrough. Thanks!

ThunderCC wrote:
I think this game is fantastic in all other ways and if I have to slightly modify it so I can enjoy it more than so be it, I don't want to sell it or gather dust on a shelf!


Agreed. Our group is a very mixed bag of game experience, but we all seemed to like the variant play rather than the 'stock' play.

Thanks again for the insightful comments!

-- Brad
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Brad Grier
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RobertBr wrote:
It being too difficult is a bad reason to implement these sort of rules. Especially as this is usually a result of weak play rather than any intrinsic difficulty (you are not losing because of the dice rolls - if you want to check just replay the game and lose it again, you cannot be unlucky every time).

Now what is awkward is two players fairly obviously picking Virgil and Alan and loading the other characters on TB2 and TB3 to drag them to mission locations - and (this is critical) doing basically the same thing with more players. Now if you do not like that thematically then that seems like a good reason modify the rules.


Thanks for this.. good food for thought. One of our goals was to try and stick to theme, as we see it, and for our play/skill level, the arbitrary play order didn't cut it.

-- Brad
 
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Brad Grier
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PaulRadagast wrote:
bgrier wrote:
1) All Characters are participating in the game, no matter the number of players. In our case that left two characters without human players. Every human player controls one character, but extra characters are controlled by the group.
2) We altered the Turn Overview. In our game, Turn order varies during a 'round' depending on the strategy the group decides is going to be executed for that round. As each player takes a turn, they flip their character card over so we can remember that player has played. The same applies to group-controlled characters. Once all character cards are face down, the round ends and the character cards are reset, and a new round begins.


I'm not one for modding the rules*, but if I were going to use the extra characters, (I assume you are using them as player characters with their card effects in play and turning over a disaster card at the end of their turn,) I think I would limit myself to four characters per round, switching them out and switching the order and the end of each round of play.

I'm not sure if that would make it easier or harder than your mod, but it would keep it closer to the 4 player max and not allow the disaster track to accelerate too much before the second round even begins. If my assumptions are right then unless the lead disaster is handled quickly or a player character is up in TB5, then with six disasters in the first round it is an automatic loss before the first player gets a second turn.

At least with the rules as stated the disaster track can handle a new disaster for each player character and at minimum get back to the first player before they draw the disaster card that pushes the lead card to the skull and defeat.

If my assumption is wrong and you are treating the extra characters as NPCs and not advancing the cards on the Disaster Track, IMO you are making the game too easy, you might as well just stick to four characters and give each an extra action or two.

*I have never been a good enough player at any game to feel I have mastered it enough to second guess the designer.


Well said! Yes, the disaster track was continually beating us down; unlucky character draws, rolls and disasters. Perhaps given enough games, with enough passes through the full disaster deck, the win/loss rate would even out, but for that night, we were looking at these as introductory games, and not really feeling like we were enjoying the introduction. We'd recently learned Mage Knight, and I loved the intro game. I was kind-of hoping Thunderbirds had one too.

And I love that thought:
PaulRadagast wrote:
*I have never been a good enough player at any game to feel I have mastered it enough to second guess the designer.


Thanks!
 
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Nicola Zee
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bgrier wrote:
...
And I love that thought:
PaulRadagast wrote:
*I have never been a good enough player at any game to feel I have mastered it enough to second guess the designer.


Thanks!


It's an understandable misconception that to be good at designing something you must be really great at using what you design. Is Dyson great at hovering? Are the engineers who design cars great at racing cars? A case can even be made that the best designers are so obsessed with the detailed minutiae of the design process they tend to be much worse than the best users at using what they design. The people who win the world-wide competitions for games (whether computer games, board games or card games) are players first and foremost and rarely designers. I suspect if a designer entered such a competition for a game they designed they'd not win!
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Clive Jones

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Nicola Zee wrote:
It's an understandable misconception that to be good at designing something you must be really great at using what you design.

I've won games against their designers on many occasions. (-8

However, beating a designer at playing the game isn't the same thing as beating the designer at designing it.

Sure, if you want to house-rule then house-rule. But it's worth being careful not to break the game, especially if it was designed by someone as able as Matt Leacock.

The changes OP suggested seem like a blunt instrument to me. Things I'd suggest as alternatives, in descending order of preference include:

* Re-read the rules carefully to check nothing's been overlooked
* Look at some of the strategic advice on BGG
* Try a four-player game, even if you have fewer than four actual players
* Persevere
* Give every player a FAB card at the start of the game
* Give players an extra Determination token each time they perform a successful Rescue

Those seem more in the spirit of the game to me. And the skills learned with those tweaks will likely help with the "proper" game, too.
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Chris Milis
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Hi all,

No probs Brad with regard to my suggestions, I agree with Clive's point as not to break the game. So I'll trial different variants to get the right balance for me as I want a challenging, fun adventure with my family as my son is mad for Thunderbirds! (He's 5)

All the best,

Chris

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Nicola Zee
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clivej wrote:
Nicola Zee wrote:
It's an understandable misconception that to be good at designing something you must be really great at using what you design.

I've won games against their designers on many occasions. (-8

However, beating a designer at playing the game isn't the same thing as beating the designer at designing it.

Sure, if you want to house-rule then house-rule. But it's worth being careful not to break the game, especially if it was designed by someone as able as Matt Leacock.

The changes OP suggested seem like a blunt instrument to me. Things I'd suggest as alternatives, in descending order of preference include:

* Re-read the rules carefully to check nothing's been overlooked
* Look at some of the strategic advice on BGG
* Try a four-player game, even if you have fewer than four actual players
* Persevere
* Give every player a FAB card at the start of the game
* Give players an extra Determination token each time they perform a successful Rescue

Those seem more in the spirit of the game to me. And the skills learned with those tweaks will likely help with the "proper" game, too.

Your main point which is to be careful not to break the game is a very good one. In general I like to go for the minimum changes for precisely the reasons you have described.

IMHO most game designers like tinkering with things and most don't mind it when people tinker with their designs but even the most laid back get a bit peeved when almost the first thing someone does is to fundamentally change a game and either not play-test or understand the effects. The really worst thing is when someone changes a game because they think they've found a fault and then claim the resulting modded game is broken

But, I don't think Brad is doing anything like this. He comes across as very respectful and thoughtful. He is not implying the game is broken - just the intro level is - for a number of players - a bit too hard. Now if it's too hard for these players it's going to be even harder for kids and this claim is not me out-designing the designer - just a statement. It is not a criticism of Matt Leacock since it is a question of feedback from play-testers - were any of the play-tester's 10 years old? Furthermore it is not really a criticism at all because it makes sense to err on the side of too hard. For a co-op if the game had been easy chances are the BGG dedicated board gamers would have dismissed it out of hand.

I definitely like your suggestion of re-reading the rules - the first couple of games my husband and I lost spectacularly because I thought the pod could only take 1 pod vehicle whistle

I, also, like your suggestion of trying a 4 character game. My husband and I find the game works better with us controlling 2 characters each.
But (if you will forgive us our tinkering) we do vary the turn order for the 2 characters, so we can choose which of our two characters go first in our turn. This is not totally dissimilar to what Brad is suggesting - it does make the game slightly easier and it gives more choices and choices are what game are (for me) all about. I don't recommend this for everyone but it works for my husband and I - most games are close but that could be because we are just bad at winning games.

I, also, like your suggestion of a FAB card for all characters at the start. This may work well when playing with kids but it might be too much of a boost? The extra determination token would be for me too much of a boost but these things are hard to judge.
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Brad Grier
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Great observation. As we're a small group and game together often, we are always OK with implementing house rules, or our own rules modifications. Even though we honour the effort put in by the designers and playtesters, they're not our group and can't speak directly to our preferences.
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Brad Grier
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Clive J wrote:


* Re-read the rules carefully to check nothing's been overlooked
* Look at some of the strategic advice on BGG
* Try a four-player game, even if you have fewer than four actual players
* Persevere
* Give every player a FAB card at the start of the game
* Give players an extra Determination token each time they perform a successful Rescue


Cool advice! I've filed it away to review for our next session -- thanks, especially for the idea of extra FAB card.

 
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Brad Grier
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Nicola Zee wrote:
clivej wrote:
Nicola Zee wrote:
It's an understandable misconception that to be good at designing something you must be really great at using what you design.

I've won games against their designers on many occasions. (-8

However, beating a designer at playing the game isn't the same thing as beating the designer at designing it.

Sure, if you want to house-rule then house-rule. But it's worth being careful not to break the game, especially if it was designed by someone as able as Matt Leacock.

The changes OP suggested seem like a blunt instrument to me. Things I'd suggest as alternatives, in descending order of preference include:

* Re-read the rules carefully to check nothing's been overlooked
* Look at some of the strategic advice on BGG
* Try a four-player game, even if you have fewer than four actual players
* Persevere
* Give every player a FAB card at the start of the game
* Give players an extra Determination token each time they perform a successful Rescue

Those seem more in the spirit of the game to me. And the skills learned with those tweaks will likely help with the "proper" game, too.

Your main point which is to be careful not to break the game is a very good one. In general I like to go for the minimum changes for precisely the reasons you have described.

IMHO most game designers like tinkering with things and most don't mind it when people tinker with their designs but even the most laid back get a bit peeved when almost the first thing someone does is to fundamentally change a game and either not play-test or understand the effects. The really worst thing is when someone changes a game because they think they've found a fault and then claim the resulting modded game is broken

But, I don't think Brad is doing anything like this. He comes across as very respectful and thoughtful. He is not implying the game is broken - just the intro level is - for a number of players - a bit too hard. Now if it's too hard for these players it's going to be even harder for kids and this claim is not me out-designing the designer - just a statement. It is not a criticism of Matt Leacock since it is a question of feedback from play-testers - were any of the play-tester's 10 years old? Furthermore it is not really a criticism at all because it makes sense to err on the side of too hard. For a co-op if the game had been easy chances are the BGG dedicated board gamers would have dismissed it out of hand.

I definitely like your suggestion of re-reading the rules - the first couple of games my husband and I lost spectacularly because I thought the pod could only take 1 pod vehicle whistle

I, also, like your suggestion of trying a 4 character game. My husband and I find the game works better with us controlling 2 characters each.
But (if you will forgive us our tinkering) we do vary the turn order for the 2 characters, so we can choose which of our two characters go first in our turn. This is not totally dissimilar to what Brad is suggesting - it does make the game slightly easier and it gives more choices and choices are what game are (for me) all about. I don't recommend this for everyone but it works for my husband and I - most games are close but that could be because we are just bad at winning games.

I, also, like your suggestion of a FAB card for all characters at the start. This may work well when playing with kids but it might be too much of a boost? The extra determination token would be for me too much of a boost but these things are hard to judge.


Well said Nicola Zee, et al, we really do like the game, and our House Rules were there to help us get through a game or two and understand the main game flow. As time goes by, we may tighten up the rules, or keep them the same as we introduce the game to some children we game with. Either way, great advice on this by all... Thanks!

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I love the game, but would have said it's too easy, not to hard.

But house rules are fun; knock yourself out!
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