First off let me say that I really, really like TNS. It is firmly in my top 10 games and I own about 150 and have played well over 250 different games in just the past 4 yrs.
Every time I play the game, there is a either a single player who gets super hosed by the dice or a single player who gets outrageously lucky with one of the happening cards. In each case, a player is either unable to win or pretty much has to try to lose because of the random element and when it occurred.
As others on this form have said, it can be frustrating to have a game ripped out from under you due to randomness or have it handed to your opponent by the same randomness. But I'm not here to whine about the die rolls or figure out a way to remove all the randomness... I just wonder if there is a way to tweak those elements to make it a little less random. I have read the designer's point of view and totally have no issue with the argument that in order to be historically accurate, there needs to be the randomness of experiments and external forces that can influence progress... but if the result of that stance is 1/4 players having a crappy time, I'd prefer to find a happier medium somewhere.
So for those who play this game a lot, what are the 2-3 cards that are the worst offenders? Either cards that strip away victory or grant it to a player? I don't remember the name of the card, but in my last game, the first card in turn 1 gave whoever got it research for everything in Astronomy or something. Turned out that player had a lousy research bonus and him being first was randomly determined, so he didn't even have to exhibit any foresight to rest first... so he was basically handed a very easy path to victory which he then marched down and won comfortably after 2 hrs of play.
I know there are other cards that can similarly give a player in the right situation a big boost. What are they and could we just pluck them from the deck? Would we nerf those cards slightly to leave them in, but lessen their power?
Of course, I understand that if that happening card happened 3 turns later, it might have only granted a player 1 free research, but the result in this case was a battle for second after exactly 30 seconds of play... not ideal.
As for the dice roles, I'm less worried about them, but could see myself trying some sort of variant that grants a failed experimenter some sort of +1 or bonus for future experiments on that same tech... something like "learning from your mistakes." to lessen the sting of repeat failures.
Any other suggestions to tweak the random elements?
I also love The New Science, it's somewhere in my Top5 :-)
I love it like it is, unpredictable and pretty tense, but if you want to vanilla it a little there's a card that let's you mess with other's cubes, so they practically loose a turn (if you do your job right). That's the most powerful, imho. You can remove that.