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Subject: The "pause the game, a Topple card just came out" problem rss

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Erik R.
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My game group has developed a bit of a following for Pax Porfiriana, and we just tried Pamir for the first time last night. I'm glad to report that the game went well, and I think we all enjoyed it...except for this one thing:

A Topple card comes out onto the market, and this otherwise well-oiled game immediately comes to a screeching halt so that the table can collectively analyze every possible game winning scenario.

The AP during this moment is worse than in Pax Porfiriana, because the Topple card itself doesn't have an incentive to be bought under a certain regime, or even by a certain player. Players looked at ALL 4 possible win conditions, rather than just one -- and determining the winner now has two thick layers to the process.

Worse than AP is that some players just felt like resigning after determining "oh, she's clearly set up to win, let's just call it here" - even two turns before said player was going to act. Whether or not the resignation was a problem, the extra deliberation about calling the game or not just adds more delays.


It was only our first game, so this is by no means a criticism of the game at this point. I just wondered if anyone ran into this issue, and if they had any advice on how to unravel it (besides "don't play with AP players" )
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Martin G
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The topples in Porfiriana can be used for all four conditions too.

I can only suggest experience really. There's a lot to process on first play.

I think I actually find it slightly easier to count up wooden pieces than Prestige points on cards plus hacendado flips, spies etc.
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Matthew Totonchy
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This came up in a couple of the games I've played. It sounds to me like your group also wasn't using much negotiation. I initially thought the negotiation rules to be a bit too open as players can freely exchange money allowing multiple players at the table to collude to do whatever actions necessary to prevent someone from winning during a topple. This actually makes the topple slow down the game even more because not only are all conditions for successful topple identified, the players come up with a plan to stop it from happening. It becomes a bit more like trying to solve a puzzle than making decisions. One outcome of this is that it can often put other players into a good position to take advantage of opportunities that arise and grab a victory for themselves. I imagine this is an intended part of the design.

One way our group has solved this issue is reducing the number of players. I find that playing with 3 players is best. 5 player games have far too much down time in between turns and the topple showing up only exacerbates this issue. After playing around with player count, I found that 3 players was by far the best player count. I would recommend playing with 3 and seeing if that helps your topple slow down issue. 4 players is okay but I probably won't play with 5 players anymore unless I'm teaching new players for future games.

Perhaps not coincidentally I like playing Pax Porfiriana with only 3 players. That is partially because of the downtime and lack of ability to really plan much when there are 4 other players manipulating the market between your turns. But also because of the way the topple procedure works in relation to the number of regime points necessary to successfully topple.
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This is the second thread I've seen this week where somebody was worried about AP after their first play of a game. I don't get why people are in such a hurry. Do you really expect to play like a veteran the first time out?
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Jack Francisco
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I haven't gotten it to the table yet, but are Topples all that much different than games that have intermediate scoring periods where you stop to award points in-game?
 
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Martin G
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Quote:
Perhaps not coincidentally I like playing Pax Porfiriana with only 3 players. That is partially because of the downtime and lack of ability to really plan much when there are 4 other players manipulating the market between your turns. But also because of the way the topple procedure works in relation to the number of regime points necessary to successfully topple.


3p is my favourite count for Porfiriana too, but I have a strong feeling that I'm going to prefer 4p for Pamir. It just seems more interesting when you're forced to have at least one 'partnership' in an empire.
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senorcoo wrote:
I haven't gotten it to the table yet, but are Topples all that much different than games that have intermediate scoring periods where you stop to award points in-game?

Yes, at least in Porfiriana. Intermediate scoring is "we all get some points, i should make sure i'm in a good scoring position but if i'm not i'll have a chance to catch up later." Topples are "can i win the game immediately, and if not what do i need to do to stop everyone else from winning?"
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Matthew Totonchy
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qwertymartin wrote:
Quote:
Perhaps not coincidentally I like playing Pax Porfiriana with only 3 players. That is partially because of the downtime and lack of ability to really plan much when there are 4 other players manipulating the market between your turns. But also because of the way the topple procedure works in relation to the number of regime points necessary to successfully topple.


3p is my favourite count for Porfiriana too, but I have a strong feeling that I'm going to prefer 4p for Pamir. It just seems more interesting when you're forced to have at least one 'partnership' in an empire.


I thought that would be the case in Pax Pamir and insisted on playing a few games as 4 players. I think I still like it better with 3p, and it doesn't lead to any fewer situations where multiple players maintain the same loyalty.

Actually the main issue I'm seeing in the game right now is that one empire gets screwed early on and it is very difficult for someone to switch to an empire that doesn't have much if any infrastructure and try to pull out a win when other empires have multiple people working for them. I found this problem to actually be much worse in the 4-5p games we played. If two empires have 2-3 loyal players, it makes it much more challenging to switch to an empire that has no infrastructure on the board and get a win, but at the same time it is very difficult to win if you have the 3rd most influence in a nation. I think this issue may be mitigated by more aggressive destructive play by those behind and by more player experience. It will also help to play the nation building variant.

I've played 9 games now of the release version of Pax Pam and I think in 8 of those 9, one empire never really made a showing even when a player switched loyalty and tried to make a go of it.
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Jim Marshall
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Three plays in (two 3p, one 4p) and I have enjoyed them all, as have the other players. No issues here for me.

Sure you have to be more careful when a scoring card comes up. Hardly unique in that, and part of the experience for me (as it is in Pax Porfiriana).
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Erik R.
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qwertymartin wrote:
The topples in Porfiriana can be used for all four conditions too.

I can only suggest experience really. There's a lot to process on first play.

I think I actually find it slightly easier to count up wooden pieces than Prestige points on cards plus hacendado flips, spies etc.


They can, but I've found in our games of PaxPor, people really do associate the matching Topple/Regime, because the boost from the topple card does make a difference.

I think the wood pieces are easier to count, too, but there are more things to count..and perhaps less time between the Topple appearing and the impending winner to do anything about it.

qwertymartin wrote:

3p is my favourite count for Porfiriana too, but I have a strong feeling that I'm going to prefer 4p for Pamir. It just seems more interesting when you're forced to have at least one 'partnership' in an empire.


Yeah, I agree. We liked the informal alliances in the game. This was something that comes through a lot better in Pamir than Porfiriana.

Gazpar wrote:
This came up in a couple of the games I've played. It sounds to me like your group also wasn't using much negotiation.


You're right, we didn't use negotiation at all. That's something I want to explore more.

Gazpar wrote:
One way our group has solved this issue is reducing the number of players.


I'm thinking perhaps the same. We played with 5 players.


Sphere wrote:
This is the second thread I've seen this week where somebody was worried about AP after their first play of a game. I don't get why people are in such a hurry. Do you really expect to play like a veteran the first time out?


It was a table of people who all learned to play Pax Porfiriana together, so I think we all already had an idea to expect a challenge again - but the general feeling at the table was that the game suddenly stops when the Topple card comes out, and there was very little anyone could do to rebound.

senorcoo wrote:
I haven't gotten it to the table yet, but are Topples all that much different than games that have intermediate scoring periods where you stop to award points in-game?


The main difference is that it's a situational card. You need to buy the Topple card when it comes out to trigger the potential game-end. But it's not just a matter of "counting points", because the points that matter depend on the (often shifting) regime in play.

Basically, it's not as much about the tally of points as it is setting up the condition for your points to matter. At that point, if you're not winning the Topple, you're most likely trying to do everything to stop the player who is.

In Pax Por, I think it might be that players had a little more stopping power to divert the winning conditions. I'm not sure yet, but it felt a bit more limited in Pamir.
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Erik R.
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I also want to reiterate, this is not a criticism on the game at all, I just want some input on how to run the game better the next time. How can we keep the game moving when that part of the game happens?
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Martin G
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karkador wrote:
I also want to reiterate, this is not a criticism on the game at all, I just want some input on how to run the game better the next time. How can we keep the game moving when that part of the game happens?


I think a 5p learning game is probably the slowest possible configuration. Just give it some more tries
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Gazpar wrote:
Actually the main issue I'm seeing in the game right now is that one empire gets screwed early on and it is very difficult for someone to switch to an empire that doesn't have much if any infrastructure and try to pull out a win when other empires have multiple people working for them. I found this problem to actually be much worse in the 4-5p games we played. If two empires have 2-3 loyal players, it makes it much more challenging to switch to an empire that has no infrastructure on the board and get a win, but at the same time it is very difficult to win if you have the 3rd most influence in a nation. I think this issue may be mitigated by more aggressive destructive play by those behind and by more player experience. It will also help to play the nation building variant.

I've played 9 games now of the release version of Pax Pam and I think in 8 of those 9, one empire never really made a showing even when a player switched loyalty and tried to make a go of it.


I think the best strategy for catching up is to trigger a topple when it will fail, which evens the field a bit. And then switch loyalty to Afghan since those armies and connections are not removed in a failed topple. Additionally, if you have non-Afghan patriots in your hand after the failed topple, use the discard action to take rupees from other players.
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Claudio
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MungSu wrote:
Gazpar wrote:
Actually the main issue I'm seeing in the game right now is that one empire gets screwed early on and it is very difficult for someone to switch to an empire that doesn't have much if any infrastructure and try to pull out a win when other empires have multiple people working for them. I found this problem to actually be much worse in the 4-5p games we played. If two empires have 2-3 loyal players, it makes it much more challenging to switch to an empire that has no infrastructure on the board and get a win, but at the same time it is very difficult to win if you have the 3rd most influence in a nation. I think this issue may be mitigated by more aggressive destructive play by those behind and by more player experience. It will also help to play the nation building variant.

I've played 9 games now of the release version of Pax Pam and I think in 8 of those 9, one empire never really made a showing even when a player switched loyalty and tried to make a go of it.


I think the best strategy for catching up is to trigger a topple when it will fail, which evens the field a bit. And then switch loyalty to Afghan since those armies and connections are not removed in a failed topple. Additionally, if you have non-Afghan patriots in your hand after the failed topple, use the discard action to take rupees from other players.


Nice advice. I still worry that even a barebones infrastructure can stifle the growth of an empire that has no infrastructure. But I'll explore this more next time.
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Claudio
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Gazpar wrote:
One way our group has solved this issue is reducing the number of players. I find that playing with 3 players is best. 5 player games have far too much down time in between turns and the topple showing up only exacerbates this issue. After playing around with player count, I found that 3 players was by far the best player count. I would recommend playing with 3 and seeing if that helps your topple slow down issue. 4 players is okay but I probably won't play with 5 players anymore unless I'm teaching new players for future games.

As a participant in 7 of Matty's plays, I would say that 3 is the best count for us for now. I actually find my ability to parse the gamestate has improved dramatically in the last couple of plays. A table full of folks that have this vision might actually be a joy to play with. The downtime will go down as less effort goes into figuring out where you are and exploring unviable branches of the decision tree. And if everyone gets to that point, the player-induced randomness goes down as well.

I just remember Chicago Express... At first we played with five and thought that was just dumb. So we played with three. As we got comfortable with the levers (and found the REAL levers), we decided 3 was rather boring and delta-heavy, we switched to four which allows for a much broader incentive creation/management pallette. Then, after 30 or so plays, we tried 5 one night because... well... there were five of us. With five experienced players, that baby hums!

Of course, this effect is only possible when you play with a table of experienced players. That is not that common for any game these days. But if you can convince a player pool to commit...
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qwertymartin wrote:
Quote:
Perhaps not coincidentally I like playing Pax Porfiriana with only 3 players. That is partially because of the downtime and lack of ability to really plan much when there are 4 other players manipulating the market between your turns. But also because of the way the topple procedure works in relation to the number of regime points necessary to successfully topple.


3p is my favourite count for Porfiriana too, but I have a strong feeling that I'm going to prefer 4p for Pamir. It just seems more interesting when you're forced to have at least one 'partnership' in an empire.


What's worse in a 3p configuration is when two of the three players share a loyalty, either due to a random starting loyalty pick or on purpose. Then all that's left for the third player is trying to exploit the tiniest opportunity in case of infighting between the other two. If those two work together though to get rid of the third... In a 4p game at least the other two can gang up against a common enemy.
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Matthew Totonchy
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MungSu wrote:
Gazpar wrote:
Actually the main issue I'm seeing in the game right now is that one empire gets screwed early on and it is very difficult for someone to switch to an empire that doesn't have much if any infrastructure and try to pull out a win when other empires have multiple people working for them. I found this problem to actually be much worse in the 4-5p games we played. If two empires have 2-3 loyal players, it makes it much more challenging to switch to an empire that has no infrastructure on the board and get a win, but at the same time it is very difficult to win if you have the 3rd most influence in a nation. I think this issue may be mitigated by more aggressive destructive play by those behind and by more player experience. It will also help to play the nation building variant.

I've played 9 games now of the release version of Pax Pam and I think in 8 of those 9, one empire never really made a showing even when a player switched loyalty and tried to make a go of it.


I think the best strategy for catching up is to trigger a topple when it will fail, which evens the field a bit. And then switch loyalty to Afghan since those armies and connections are not removed in a failed topple. Additionally, if you have non-Afghan patriots in your hand after the failed topple, use the discard action to take rupees from other players.


I tried doing this in our last game. I purged my British patriot to revert to 0 interest so I was default loyal to the Afghans but I couldn't prevent the British from successfully toppling on the next topple card that came up fairly quickly.

As Claudio points out, even with the purge mechanic, if the Afghan empire doesn't get anything on the board early you're still starting with zero armies/roads on the board although purging the board does help even things up a bit. In our game I had a good amount of tribes and spies I was able to bring to the Afghan side, but I couldn't get any armies or roads on the board without having them immediately eliminated by a more mobile and larger British force. There was also a drought of military cards in the mid game. I was able to maneuver spies to assassinate the British player's only campaign action but I couldn't get my own armies and roads down before the topple was triggered despite having both cards ready to go in my hand. I think If I had 2 more turns I could have caught up.

Which gets to the issue of starting position but perhaps that should be saved for another thread.
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dasher47051 wrote:
qwertymartin wrote:
Quote:
Perhaps not coincidentally I like playing Pax Porfiriana with only 3 players. That is partially because of the downtime and lack of ability to really plan much when there are 4 other players manipulating the market between your turns. But also because of the way the topple procedure works in relation to the number of regime points necessary to successfully topple.


3p is my favourite count for Porfiriana too, but I have a strong feeling that I'm going to prefer 4p for Pamir. It just seems more interesting when you're forced to have at least one 'partnership' in an empire.


What's worse in a 3p configuration is when two of the three players share a loyalty, either due to a random starting loyalty pick or on purpose. Then all that's left for the third player is trying to exploit the tiniest opportunity in case of infighting between the other two. If those two work together though to get rid of the third... In a 4p game at least the other two can gang up against a common enemy.


I haven't found that to be the case at all. Usually when two players are both loyal to the same empire, the person ahead in interest tries to make sure the empire can qualify for supremacy and maintain his lead while the player(s) without the lead in interest keep pounding on the player ahead in interest, usually caring less about screwing over another empire, or preparing to change empires. It doesn't really make any sense to help an empire you are loyal to become supreme during a topple unless you're ahead in interest in that empire. You would just be helping someone else win unless you can help the empire and also gain an interest lead at the same time. I find it is difficult to do both at the same time because of the limited number of actions, and if one player has a commanding lead in interest I'm not sure it makes much sense at all to continue helping that player's particular empire unless you have a reasonable plan to take the interest lead. My point being that based on my experience thus far, multiple players loyal to the same empire breeds a lot more infighting than beating up on non-loyal players, usually in the form of taxing and intelligence actions against fellow loyalists.

Also in my experience thus far the player count has no bearing on getting all empires on the board. This may of course change as the player pool gains experience. So far the 4 player games have seen the least use of all 3 empires. I will keep experimenting with player count but right now 3p feels the most satisfying in terms of reducing down time and making a 3rd empire more viable.
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Claudio
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Gazpar wrote:
dasher47051 wrote:
qwertymartin wrote:
Quote:
Perhaps not coincidentally I like playing Pax Porfiriana with only 3 players. That is partially because of the downtime and lack of ability to really plan much when there are 4 other players manipulating the market between your turns. But also because of the way the topple procedure works in relation to the number of regime points necessary to successfully topple.


3p is my favourite count for Porfiriana too, but I have a strong feeling that I'm going to prefer 4p for Pamir. It just seems more interesting when you're forced to have at least one 'partnership' in an empire.


What's worse in a 3p configuration is when two of the three players share a loyalty, either due to a random starting loyalty pick or on purpose. Then all that's left for the third player is trying to exploit the tiniest opportunity in case of infighting between the other two. If those two work together though to get rid of the third... In a 4p game at least the other two can gang up against a common enemy.


I haven't found that to be the case at all. Usually when two players are both loyal to the same empire, the person ahead in interest tries to make sure the empire can qualify for supremacy and maintain his lead while the player(s) without the lead in interest keep pounding on the player ahead in interest, usually caring less about screwing over another empire, or preparing to change empires. It doesn't really make any sense to help an empire you are loyal to become supreme during a topple unless you're ahead in interest in that empire. You would just be helping someone else win unless you can help the empire and also gain an interest lead at the same time. I find it is difficult to do both at the same time because of the limited number of actions, and if one player has a commanding lead in interest I'm not sure it makes much sense at all to continue helping that player's particular empire unless you have a reasonable plan to take the interest lead. My point being that based on my experience thus far, multiple players loyal to the same empire breeds a lot more infighting than beating up on non-loyal players, usually in the form of taxing and intelligence actions against fellow loyalists.

Also in my experience thus far the player count has no bearing on getting all empires on the board. This may of course change as the player pool gains experience. So far the 4 player games have seen the least use of all 3 empires. I will keep experimenting with player count but right now 3p feels the most satisfying in terms of reducing down time and making a 3rd empire more viable.

Anyone want to have this conversation here:
Player Counts and Empire Dynamics
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The "topple pause" is something that we talked about quite a bit during development. At it's heart the problem is pretty simple. Because of the two-tiered victory condition, (new) players tend not to spend much time thinking about victory. This is totally understandable. There are plenty of systems and sub systems and the first few plays can be overwhelming. When the Topple appears in the market, the response of new players is usually something along the lines of, "oh, so wait, whose winning?"

With experience this pause gets minimized because the match's power dynamic unfolds gradually over the first several rounds. By the time the topple appears, players know exactly who might be in contention.

So, I'll just echo everyone else's advice here: play more. The "topple pause" you describe will minimize with experience. It will still happen occasionally, but usually only when the game state is odd or interesting enough to warrant some shared analysis. During the development of the game, I was lucky enough to personally take a few groups from their first play to their 10th. One of the things that was most interesting about these groups was that negotiations began to move further and further to the front of the game. With new groups, the most serious conversations hovered around the Topples, but, as players got a better handed on the ebb and flow of the game, the negotiations were spread more evenly around the game.
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Andy Mesa
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I haven't experienced the pause in question in the seven games I've played thus far, because I'm *always* looking at who is currently winning and saying as much to other players to make sure we're after the right people. This is no different than when I play any game with shifting victory conditions (Cosmic Encounter, Dune, Discworld, any COIN game, etc.)
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It not as much the 'topple pause' in my last game as much as it was the 'tediously slow double checking everything' turns that continually take place whenever the topple is still in the market.

It seemed that every player's turn when a topple was for sale took two to three times as long as it would otherwise. And it wasn't for lack of knowing the game (our last was our 7th game this week)

This is not a criticism necessarily, but our 4-player game took nearly three hours before it ended on the third topple. It certainly makes me reconsider the time commitment to play anything over three players.
 
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Hey, wait... I though this game should be played with "setting up for a win" from the first turn? No matter if topple is displayed or not... If i will be ready for it, then when the time comes... You get the idea. What players are doing actually when there is no topple on market? Some trips to see the sea?
My copy arrived today. Hopefully i will take it to the table this saturday (4p game it will be).
 
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