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Subject: First game: thoughts on pacing, and trading. rss

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Mark Turner
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Played my first game tonight, to mixed reviews.

I personally rather enjoyed it, and won. Two players were happy enough to play it out, and one decided it wasn't for him.

His main complaint was that, as a producer in Maracaibo (the socialist army) he couldn't see the advantage of trading as opposed to grabbing a consumer territory. He missed his early game opportunity to grab Miami, then spent the game grumbling that there really wasn't enough incentive to trade.

He also felt that the mob in Chicago (me) started in relatively too strong a position. (The other players were segadores and yakuza). Perhaps because the mob managed to grab a lot of consumer territories quite quickly. Looking at the map, I'm not convinced that complaint has merit.

The game started off slow, as everyone bulked up their armies. Drugs were traded for soldiers most of the time. The mob took over the east coast, while the segadores and yakuza fought it out, and the socialists tried to control the Caribbean.

Relatively little trading took place (Mostly between the mob and the socialists or segadores when it did), and then boom, the mob mushroomed, got seven points (a lucky fight as the villain), then killed the segadores boss for 3, game over.

This is game that can suddenly end - and it's clearly a game about points rather than money, although money clearly matters.

Combat is sufficiently unpredictable that it's always a risk, although more troops does normally win. (Not always).

I would be very happy to play this again, as I think there's quite a lot going on here - although still need to get a grip on how trading really works. I only hope I can find others to join in!
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Jon Dixon
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Mark

Have to agree I may have missed an early opportunity either to try for Miami or to go (is it Boston) in to top right. But I moved to Panama for one of my secret agenda points with my lieutenant and then we had the event card which meant he couldn't move for a few rounds.

I think by round 3 all everyone else was getting 5-8 cash/drugs and I was producing 3. The trade aspect was pretty much non-existant as was secret objectives.

We had a few rules confusions early on. I just felt by turn 3 I could not generate the revenue to compete. Some limited trading kept me in the game but it didnt feel required (i think by time traded it was between you and Simon). It was a game of watching on the sidelines.

Also the battling to me is a little too rsndom. The one big battle I did have I almost had twice the troops but unlucky card draws on the 3rd or 4th draw lost it.

I wasn't keen. Probably my fault in early plays but I felt I didn't have options each round which lead to dull play.
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Mark Turner
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It's true that a couple of bad events can really hurt a player in this game... and that constraints on action can for a dull experience make.

On the other hand, I feel that the events in general move fast, and once we had grasped the rules, the game unfolded nice and quickly.

While there was indeed a degree of chaos to the combat, you do have a sense of how strong your hand is before attacking, and attackers also have a chance to retreat every five rounds. Less choice when defending of course. On the whole the larger force did win.

I'm not saying it's the best combat system ever, far from it, but once it got going it was relatively light and breezy. And in some ways the chaos discouraged too much speculative combat. Battles needed to be picked.

Anyhow, I do appreciate you giving it a shot, and of course not every game's for everyone. I do feel that there is a fun game here, but itS meant to be relatively fast, and it requires a higher degree of tolerance for random adverse events and early set-backs than perhaps is normal in euro-gaming these days. It could perhaps do with a catch up mechanism. While I didn't feel any one event was determinative, if a player gets hit a couple of times in a row it can feel harsh. All games with a random element can do that though.

One final thought is that the game should be self-balancing. I was lucky to avoid any major battles on my turf (the yakuza took just the one), and the biggest fights were between other people. There may have been an earlier opportunity for everyone to gang up on me instead of fighting each other...
 
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Jon Dixon
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Hi again

I watched the undead Viking video and I may have missed in the rules run through but I didn't realise the producer cities generated 3 dope. I may have done a different strategy and had more enjoyment.

I may give it a second go, if you're up for that. After hearing UV talk about it, seems this is fun if get into the trade & backstabbing. I think we treated it like a pure territory control so lost a lot of it's selling points.

 
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Mark Turner
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Of course I'd always be delighted to play any of these games again. The trouble with the cult of the new in our golden age of board games, is that a game often only gets one outing and that's it. And highly thematic games with conflict tend to be a little harder to get to the table. Still waiting to play Homeland a second time, for example!

I am also on the fence about how the trading works in practice, and who knows, we may see some tweaks and house rules emerge. (although not much discussion going on here). Perhaps if the drugs sold for 5 million instead of 4? But I assume there was a fair amount of play testing to find a sale price that worked, and I also suspect there were some event cards we didn't experience.

The dealing and trading was the main selling point of the game to me, and something I hadn't seen before: the concept of producing and consuming areas, with area control battles offering the different strategies of either controlling a lot of one or the other, and then trading, or fighting to control both consuming and producing territories. To some extent the goal cards determine the broad push. My 'villain' required some sniping, although in the end accounted for less than a half of the victory points.

Regarding the map, last night I counted the distance between starting areas and valuable territories, and it really is more balanced than the geography might suggest. Every faction has a series of good options within 2 or three steps from the starting territory. The socialists being able to grab Miami in their first turn (with the lt) is a big deal, for example, allowing an early production/consumption territory.

And yes, I'm sorry of it wasn't clear capitals produced three drugs (and worth extra victory points). It was on the player sheets, but quite a few little bits and bobs to absorb for the first play, and I hadn't played before either! Such is the price of being a guinea pig.

I am not hitching my wagon to this game - there are issues with it I am unsure about, and it was a kickstarter punt - but given its fairly crisp gameplay, and after getting to grips with a couple of nuances, I feel a second play would pan out quite differently.

I don't see it as a brain burner epic. I see it more as a fairly fast, light romp, with some quickfire battles, a deal here or there and a sprint for the finish line.
 
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Elodie B
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Mark and Jon, I just went through your discussion and felt like adding two things.
First, you say that Jon, as a producer, didn't see the advantage of trading. I don't know if you gave the game another try yet, but trading dope between players instead of owning both producer and consumer territories allows you to make profit faster. Instead of moving your dope one step at a time until you reach your consumer territory (and then wait for your next resource phase), you can agree on a deal with someone else who will sell it for you. Since you can move dope during your deal phase, it goes one step further already. And when comes the turn of your business partner, if he stands on a consumer territory he can immediately get rid of it and you share the benefits after. Doing so, you also avoid to spread too many of your troops along a thin line that can be so tempting to attack when you are carrying loaded bags !
Second, about the bad luck you had with that event card that prevented your lieutenant to move, it sure can be frustrating and slow you down especially if, as Mark says, you are affected by events twice in a row, but you played for 10 respect points, and when you play for 15 points the course of events is much more balanced, it will basically strike everyone and above all, you are likely to get all (or almost) of your Clan event cards, which is not assured in a shorter game. Also, everyone's strategy will be more calculated, the risk of a sudden victory decreases, you can't go from 3 points to 15 with the snap of a finger. So you can try that
 
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Mark Turner
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Bee Rex wrote:
trading dope between players instead of owning both producer and consumer territories allows you to make profit faster.


Yes, I see that, but not much faster. Far as I can see, it only removes one move from the equation, at the price of half your profits. I do understand why you would not want to spread troops thin, but the advantages of owning both a producing and consuming territory seems pretty overwhelming. But I guess that's where the fighting comes in.

Sadly, I haven't played again yet. The complete lack of marketing and support on this forum for this game unfortunately means it hasn't crossed anyone's horizon in my game group, and so it's an uphill struggle to get to the table. I will try again, though!
 
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Elodie B
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MrMT wrote:
Far as I can see, it only removes one move from the equation, at the price of half your profits.


It is true that letting an ally sell your dope means you cut down your benefits, although when you don't have direct competition with another producer you can always raise your prices. If you partner with someone you will earn less money but faster, and it is one Clan you won't have to fear an immediate attack from and reversely for them, since it would be too bad to damage a profitable relationship.
Then indeed, both producing and selling on your own will grant you a slower but bigger income, so the best strategy won't be the same depending on the advancement of the game.
 
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