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Subject: My opinions rss

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Daniel Boboc
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I don't know in which category this post should be included: as a review or as a strategy post because I will focus my opinions based on the strategic depth of the game.

Anyway, based on the fact that I rated Madeira as an 8.5 game and Panamax 9, I was very sure that this game will be a hit too. And I was so wrong.

Starting with the components, the box artwork is great, the quality of the components is acceptable, but the artwork is so-so.

The game is about producing goods and converting them into points via local market on the main board or fulfilling contracts where there's no competition since everyone has the same set of contracts available at the start of the game. There is also an element of building your own end game scoring based on the things you want to score at the end of the game with the multipliers you choose any time you do the consolidate action which is more like a reset action where I feel you lose a tempo.

The main mechanics are action selection by taking a worker from a corresponding box and area control in the local market.

I have played so far 3 four player games and 1 three player games so I am far from being an expert at this game, but I feel the strategy is very limited. In the first game I was overwhelmed by the multitude of actions available and I played terrible, but at the end of the game I figured out what this game is about. The other games I won using the same strategy. I think there is no balance between the contracts and the area control on the map. You have to focus on being on the map, you have to be present in all the areas and score on at least 3 of the regions, if not all 4. You have to dominate 1 or 2 of them to score the most points. Some will say this is not easy since you have 3 opponents, but is achievable if you build the right factories. You have to fulfill 1 or 2 contracts that increase you income early in the game, and other than that, you fulfill contracts only to make room in your factories for another production. The key is to produce a lot. To produce a lot and as many times as possible, that's why the coal bonus is the most important in most of the times. You have to increase your coal track according to your factories needs and you can almost completely ignore the knowledge track after you reach level 2 since there are so many ways you can get lvl. 2 blueprints during the game. In a 4 player game, I focused on building 3 factories, 1 of each level, all of them with maximum capacity production which is very important since you have to produce as much as possible. I ended the game with 5 or 6 contracts fulfilled, 2 of them for the benefit of increasing the income early in the game and the rest of them for victory points. The end game bonus multipliers, I used the same every game: I put the 5x's and/or the 4's (depending on which I could get) on the "level 2 machinery", "regions" and "trains" bonuses and the others on "contracts", "coal" and "factories" but the 2x or 3x are not that relevant most of the times.

I am not consider myself an expert at this game and maybe there is a strategy that's more optimal than the one I described above but for me this was a disappointing experience. And I haven't played this game with casual gamers, all of us were experienced euro gamers.

Other things I didn't like about this game:
-fiddly setup
-colored meeples action selection which I found that is not too relevant after the first 1 or 2 consolidation rounds. I ended up twice taking 4 colors of workers because I had no choice but sticking with my one way strategy and most of the time I ended up with 3 colors. The players who looked to end up their round with 1 or 2 colors had to slow down and got hurt a lot more than paying the 3k extra.
-factory bonuses are cool, but very limited and some of them are way better than others. After the first game most of the time is obvious which one to choose when you decide to build one.
-the fun factor for me is low because some of the actions will be repeated multiple times while others will be used maybe once or twice during the game. The "produce goods" action will be the most used one, "put goods on local market" will be the second most used one.

My final rating for this game is between 6 and 6.5.
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Jimmy Okolica
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Interesting. I'm only at 5 games so I'm about at the same point as you.

I agree with what your strategy but I'm not convinced it's the only one. Certainly you have to be present on the board. It's an area majority game, after all. But I'm not convinced that you have to be dominant. Is 2nd place enough? What about supplemented with a strong ship strategy? There are only 3 end-game scoring spots that can be greater than 4: coal, knowledge, and machines. So, sure, focusing on one or two of those is going to be strong. And having the coal you need to produce is strong so I see going heavy in coal, but what if the people you're playing beat you to the punch? Can focusing on Knowledge and going Factory/Machine strong work? I haven't tried taking the higher factories with lower coal requirements but I've been curious.

All I'm saying is that while I think you've hit on one strong strategy, after only 5 plays, I'm not convinced you've discovered the only strong strategy. And that's what makes the game interesting to me. Discovering the space and trying to find multiple strong strategies. I've already played Nippon more than Madeira so I don't feel qualified to say this, but I don't see why Madeira has more strong strategies than Nippon. Meanwhile Nippon is much more streamlined and easy to teach.

Anyway, nice post and I'd personally suggest putting it in the Strategies Section.
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Thomas Dunagan
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Interesting thoughts. As of right now this is my pick for best game of 2015.

Amazing game, blew away my expectations since I thought Madeira was excellent. I'm not sure if I would say it's better than Madeira quite yet, but to me it has more depth.
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Antonio Nessuno
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I agree with the charges. This game is totally repetitive ... Longevity very low.
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Brad Keusch
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I absolutely love the action selection mechanic. It actually adds a decent amount of interaction, deciding whether or not to get into a certain color of worker because you can see what's coming, and you can see what colors other people probably want. You need to get deep into your available spaces to get those juicy X5 bonuses, but if the right colors aren't there it can be really inefficient to restructure and pay almost all your income in salary. The one thing I don't particularly like is that it really seems like the silk factory that gives a one time $5000 bonus seems REALLY powerful at the start of the game, it basically seemed to give the player who got it an extra turn that made it so none of us were able to catch him the rest of the game. It also seems like a bad early game (especially turn 1) can reallllly hurt you. But I only have one play, I am fiending for some more.
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Daniel Boboc
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Thanks for the feedback.

From your text I extracted some of your ideas and I will post my own opinion:

1. Ships - it is very nice to have a lot of ships on the map, but I think there is not much time to put them along with the trains. I prefer the trains since it gives you the bonus you need to win a lot of points in the scoring phases. I don't think there is enough time to put a lot of both trains and ships on the map since you have to make a lot of money which means a few extra moves that could normally been production for example.

2. I consider focusing on knowledge the biggest waste of time and money in this game. There are simply too many blueprints on board, and some of them you will get almost accidentally (you have to be present in that area, or the only 5x bonus left is 2 blueprints, for example). Also, as I said before, end game bonuses will not change the game decisively, unless you put those multipliers random.

3. Higher factories with lower coal requirements can be an option, especially later in the game, but that depends strictly at your progress on the coal production track. If you decide to buy a higher level factory and by the end of the turn (before reset) you won't be able to advance as many steps as you need to produce coal for all your factories, than the lower requirements factories can be a solution. But I usually do as much as I can to buy a normal factory since some of the bonuses are really nice and can be decisive in some point of the game.

As I was saying, I am sure that there could be some better strategies than the one I describe, but in this point I am very skeptical. This game is very fast paced in terms of resource optimization and production that you don't have any move to waste.

About Madeira, I have played several times, I think neither that game is very deep once you know how to handle it, but I really like the mechanics there and feels to me more fun to play than this. This game feels repetitive to me. There is practically no variability since the regions are always the same and the variations of the goods demand isn't too relevant. Also, as I said before, the color of the meeples which fool a some people isn't too relevant either.
 
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Phil Triest
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Scaraoski wrote:
About Madeira, I have played several times, I think neither that game is very deep once you know how to handle it, but I really like the mechanics there and feels to me more fun to play than this. This game feels repetitive to me. There is practically no variability since the regions are always the same and the variations of the goods demand isn't too relevant. Also, as I said before, the color of the meeples which fool a some people isn't too relevant either.
Really? There are so many different avenues that allow you to claim victory. Juggling your corruption (I prefer that term to 'pirates') whilst looking at what round scoring goals you have and of course what people are in each round make this one very deep as far as Euros go. You'd get the pants beat off you by the guy who I play with.
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Sonic Youps
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I must admit that after 5 plays, i am a little bit disappointed and for the same reasons as Scaraoski.
First of all, i enjoy playing the game, i like the theme, the pace of the game, the economic engine building aspect... but i want to play it more and for this, i need to see more winning strategies.

Maybe it 's the small number of play (5 for me) or group think but conlusions for the moment are :
* the winner always ended up between 200 and 220 points
* the winner never uses the knowledge track (or very few)
* the winner always go quickly for a level-3 factory. That is pretty easy, you can in the first turn get 2 Blueprints by selling in local market plus another 2 in emperor's rewards (i'm not even talking of the 2 blueprints you can receive on one of the paper factory)
* at that point (turn 2), you can very quickly upgrade your level 3 factory, get some coal and you are virtually unstoppable..

What concerns me is that every game has been won by this strategy and alternatives never worked (in our group) and by far (30 to 40 points difference). Alternatives i can think of are :
* many contracts
* many low or medium level factories
* many trains and ships

On top of that:
some bonuses have never been used (like turn your locomotives or ships on the 3-side), or almost never (cheaper locomotives or ships).

As i said, maybe it's group think and i would really like to be explained how these altanatives can work !

Thanks for your help
Youps
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jbrier
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I'm in total agreement with the OP.

These "everything but the kitchen sink" Euros can't hold a candle to the elegance or sophistication of Reiner Knizia in his prime. Hardly any of the individual mechanics in Nippon intertwine, and many in themselves are shallow or even worse irrelevant.

Reiner excelled in making games where the answers to the questions being asked weren't of the calculable sort, but rather were ambiguous and depended highly on what other players might do. They were games, not puzzles or turing machines. It seems the lessons he imparted have been completely lost, as most "heavy" Euros nowadays are just an amalgam of mechanics and procedures with little interaction; who can build the most efficient mousetrap in their own little corner.

If I know exactly what a game is about after reading the rules, that's a problem. I like games that are opaque, where it's not readily apparent how to play well. Adding layer upon layer of mechanical permutations to explore isn't the answer. Just look at many of Reiner's medium-weight games: Through the Desert, Medici, Stephensons Rocket, etc... they're much deeper than any of these kitchen sink frauds.

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Phil Triest
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I'm sure this is a solid design but having been in the hobby for a few years now I only pull the trigger on games that are gonna blow my mind. I have sold off/traded plenty of games in the past 24 months that are good but not amazing for me. This one, as impressed as I am with Madeira (a game that has earned its place in my collection), pretty much had to own Madeira to make me pull the trigger. Does everyone else feel this way?
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Phil Triest
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verandi wrote:

I'm in total agreement with the OP.

These "everything but the kitchen sink" Euros can't hold a candle to the elegance or sophistication of Reiner Knizia in his prime. Hardly any of the individual mechanics in Nippon intertwine, and many in themselves are shallow or even worse irrelevant.

Reiner excelled in making games where the answers to the questions being asked weren't of the calculable sort, but rather were ambiguous and depended highly on what other players might do. They were games, not puzzles or turing machines. It seems the lessons he imparted have been completely lost, as most "heavy" Euros nowadays are just an amalgam of mechanics and procedures with little interaction; who can build the most efficient mousetrap in their own little corner.

If I know exactly what a game is about after reading the rules, that's a problem. I like games that are opaque, where it's not readily apparent how to play well. Adding layer upon layer of mechanical permutations to explore isn't the answer. Just look at many of Reiner's medium-weight games: Through the Desert, Medici, Stephensons Rocket, etc... they're much deeper than any of these kitchen sink frauds.

I liked Madeira but I found the bottom left corner with the people of notoriety really tacked on to the overall game play. That's my major gripe with that design. Is Nippon worse than this?
 
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Ran Carnelaine
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I haven't found a Reiner Knizia game I've liked yet, so maybe I'll like Nippon quite a bit then! Still, pretty harsh to be calling them "frauds" just because you don't like their style (or lack of opacity??).

Anyway, thanks OP for sharing winning strategies to watch out for. Seems like people brought up similar concerns in the ratings. Maybe if on my first play I share this with my group, we can all keep each other in check and explore other routes to victory!
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jbrier
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Sir Melancholie wrote:
I haven't found a Reiner Knizia game I've liked yet, so maybe I'll like Nippon quite a bit then! Still, pretty harsh to be calling them "frauds" just because you don't like their style (or lack of opacity??).
It goes without saying that game preferences are subjective. I tried to put my opinion into context by describing my personal taste. With some people it will resonate and therefore be useful. Others will feel the opposite and for them it might also be useful (often the reasons someone puts forth for disliking a game will make me more interested in it).

I admit, Nippon just happened to be the last straw and doesn't quite deserve the entirety of my pent up frustration with where the hobby's been headed the last few years. But boy is it a perfect exponent of that trend.
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Jimmy Okolica
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verandi wrote:


If I know exactly what a game is about after reading the rules, that's a problem. I like games that are opaque, where it's not readily apparent how to play well. Adding layer upon layer of mechanical permutations to explore isn't the answer. Just look at many of Reiner's medium-weight games: Through the Desert, Medici, Stephensons Rocket, etc... they're much deeper than any of these kitchen sink frauds.

What do you mean by "kitchen sink" frauds. Players get factories to produce goods to fulfill contracts and get influence on the board. Getting factories needs knowledge and money. Producing goods needs coal. The only thing I've left out is the trains and ships. Even if they're unnecessary add-ons, I think "kitchen sink" is a bit of a stretch.

Is Nippon the next Knizia? Of course not. It's a puzzle game that people will have "figured out" in a few months. That doesn't mean the game ceases to be interesting. If there are multiple strong competing strategies then the game continues to be interesting so long as the people at the table know them.
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Chris Puram
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I don't think it is a puzzle that will necessarily be figured out. There is a lot of player interaction and every game will be different depending on what other players do. This game isn't so much about chasing completely different paths to victory, it's about competing with others to succeed at the primary path to victory. The other "paths" traveled in this game (Contracts and end game objective bonuses) are really ways to supplement the main objective which is to establish dominance over domestic trade in Japan.

 
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Reading the rules (and waiting for my copy, so not entirely neutral the game made me think kind of a Knizia "Samurai" where the objective is to lay your influence on the different regions of japan, in a more complex way in terms of rules and ways to achieve it... (not sure in terms of strategy) And in a more European design way (that I like), a bit of a Wallace way of redesigning Samurai ?
But it seemed by the rules and just watching the board that it was the center of the game.
But perhaps am I totally wrong, anyway can't wait to see by myself !
 
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Bijan Ajamlou
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This site is great becouse of people dare to critizie. Most games are crap but stil people that invest time and money in games have hard time admitting crap when faced with it. Thanks for the great work.
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Adrian Todea
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I've only played once but it didn't blow my mind as Madeira did. I think there is enough interaction going around due to displacing others from the board. I got lucky in that my 1 tile was never displaced and got me quite a few points by the end of the game. I neglected coal completely and just got extra machineries and took +2 coal bonus often.

I think one of the issues with this game is that you don't really have a niche strategy as such, you have to do a bit of everything (contracts, trains, ships, deliveries, etc). And the main board is where it boils down to.
 
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Kent
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Only one play so far, but I disagree with the generalizations that increasingly portray the strategic depth as trivial. The city tile randomization can lock out or minimize the impact of a particular type of good in one or more regions, thus increasing competition for tile placement bonuses and certain factory bonuses, and the variability of the meeples can drain just enough money to disrupt action timings near scoring rounds.

This is a not a game brimming with a point salad of always available resources. The economy is fairly tight. The region bonuses triggered by influence tile placements become more difficult to trigger and coordinate over time. With sufficiently competitive players, the area majority and optimal choice of factories will not be a walk in the park to obtain, either, by any means.

While I agree that the area majorities are important, the point spread is not large enough that a player must dominate every round to win. They certainly must compete, but not dominate every region every time.

It would have been more productive to gather strategy feedback IMO if this post were to have been located in the strategy section. By pitching it as a review, instead of impressions from a single strategy, an echo chamber has emerged, with increasingly contentious comments.
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Russell InGA
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Only played once so far. I am willing to try it again.

(I haven't played any of the other games by the designer.)

I started the game thinking that there was a lot of cool options.

As we reached the end of the game and I could see that I was getting decimated I started feeling like Goods to Board was the only important option in the game.

In thinking about it after the game I worry that the game is "Alhambra with Cruff".


(Brandon our main rules teacher did a good job explaining the rules, though!)
 
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