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Subject: SeaFall Automa v1.1 rss

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Becq Starforged
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SeaFall Automa v1.1

Note: This is not a Scythe-style automa that you play against, and it will not allow you to play SeaFall solo. What it will do is take the existing two-player game (which is allegedly playable as is) and tighten up the resources somewhat by simulating some of the actions additional players might take. No permanent changes are made to the non-player factions (no stickers are place on or by those factions), so if real players want to join in later in the campaign, simply stop using the automa and follow the rules for adding players. Further, if actual players drop out, the automa can be used from that point on as described below; ignore any stickers relating to the factions that are no longer playing.

Setup:

The automa should not be used during the prologue, but can be used from game 1 onward. If this is the first game the automa is being used, choose two unused provinces to be automa provinces, and one province box along with the corresponding enmity tokens to the left of each player (going around the table clockwise, you should have a player, and automa faction, the other player, and the second automa faction).

The only components the automa needs are the faction boxes and enmity tokens. All other components (ships, province boards, etc) are unused. The automa does not use title cards.

Winter Phase:

Ignore the automa for purposes of the astrolabe. The automa does not harvest. If there are any automa enmity tokens on the board, remove them (they will not cause permanent enmity or affect further raids).

General rules:

The automa does not perform province raids, nor can his province(s) be raided. The automa's ships are not moved around the map. The automa does not score glory or claim milestones. The automa doesn't research. The automa *does* perform island raids, exploration, building, and trade. Any items (advisors, treasures, etc) that are placed in the automa province boxes are not used for the remainder of the game, but are NOT destroyed or removed from the game permanently. The automa does not participate in the end-game sequence, including distribution of title cards or placement of permanent enmity. No stickers should be placed by or on the automa faction unless specifically stated in these rules.

After each player completes his turn (ie, twice per round), perform an automa turn as follows. Note that the player who just finished taking a turn performs the steps, and while most decisions are decided randomly, if any decisions need to be made on behalf of the automa (like naming something), the player who just finished taking a turn makes the decision.

A. Advisors/Treasure Phase

Roll a d6. If the roll is *greater than* the current year number, the automa buys an advisor (select one randomly from those in the forum by shuffling the advisors in the forum and drawing one, then returning the remaining advisors to the forum). If the roll is *less than* the current year number, the automa buys a treasure (select one randomly from the treasure deck by shuffling it and drawing one). If the roll is equal to the current year number, the automa does neither. Place any advisor or treasure selected into the corresponding automa province box. The automa is assumed to be able to afford the chosen card.

B. Action Phase

Roll a d6 (optional: if the players agree, roll a d8 to cause the automa to consume fewer resources). Based on the die roll, the automa player performs an action as follows:

1: Trader. The automa buys goods from the island that has at least one and is nearest to the province end of the map. If there is only one goods cube available on the island, the automa buys it; if there are two or more cubes the automa buys two. If more than two goods cubes are available, roll randomly to decide which goods are taken. Discard (to the supply) any goods bought by the automa. If there are no goods available on any island, the automa does nothing this turn.

2: Builder. Roll another d6. On a 1-2, the automa builds a structure. On a 3-5, the automa builds a ship upgrade. On a 6, the automa build both. For each item built, determine the least expensive item(s) of the indicated type, and randomly select an item from those items at that price (shuffle and draw, then put the remaining items back). The automa is assumed to be able to afford the item; there is no need to track gold. Put any chosen structures or upgrades back in the box, they will not be available for the remainder of this game (but will be available the following game). If there are no items of the designated type (ie, no structures of any price, if a 1-2 was rolled), the automa does nothing this turn.

3: Explore. The automa explores an unexplored site with the lowest available difficulty (regardless of whether it's dangerous or not). If several sites are tied for the lowest difficulty, the automa picks the one closest to the province side of the board. The exploration is assumed to succeed. If any decisions need to be made, roll randomly to make the decisions. If there are no unexplored sites, the automa does nothing this turn. Ignore any instructions that cause stickers or other permanent changes to the automa's province/ships/etc, but place exploration stickers on the island as directed.

4: Raid. The automa raids an island site (that is explored and not covered by an enmity token) with the lowest available difficulty number (regardless of whether it's dangerous or not). If several sites are tied for the lowest difficulty, the automa chooses the one closest to the province side of the board (roll randomly between appropriate sites if the players can't agree on which is closest). The raid is assumed to succeed; place an enmity token (of a color not used by players) on the raided site and discard (to the supply) any goods on the site.

5 or more: Nothing. The automa does nothing this turn. It can be assumed to be sailing to the next island, repairing ships, taxing, selling goods, or other actions that don't affect the board.

----------------------

Any thoughts? Ideas to improve it? (Note that I'm deliberately trying to make it as simple as possible, so try to keep additional complexity to an absolute minimum. The only real goal here is to create a mechanism for "using up" resources. Note also that I didn't do anything with research for now, because (a) I know very little about it, and (b) I'm concerned that some of the research cards might be important to have in the hands of an active player, for purposes of exploring the deep ocean.

If response is positive, I'll look into formalizing this and adding it to the files section.
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Re: SeaFall Automa v1.0
EDIT: Moved from here.

KoalaXav wrote:
This sounds like all kinds of problems waiting to happen.

Could be. Since I can't playtest it, we'll have to wait and see. Perhaps there is some tweaking to be done. In particular, I suspect that as the game world grows bigger, there may be a bit more downtime between meaningful actions (ie, more time spent sailing to the next island). If this turns out to be the case (and is not mitigated by increases to ship speed), then it might be a good idea to slow down the automa, as well. Perhaps by rolling a d8, instead (and the automa does nothing on a 5-8). If fact, you can downtune the automa in general by doing that if you want less resource pressure.

However -- worst case scenario -- the players could also decide that the automa isn't working for them, and stop using it. The can even put back some/all of the resources taken (though exploration sites are harder to undo). Since the automa didn't chance the map (except by exploring), removing the automa should be painless.

Quote:
Aside from the obvious problem of not knowing how the changes to the game rules will affect it long-term when colonies and other unknowns come into play, here's some of the things that stuck out as worrisome.

Yup, there might be unexpected stuff forthcoming, but the general rule is that the automa is only there to hoover up some of the resources and to speed up exploration -- not to actually act as another player. While I didn't mention colonies (I'll add that), the automa won't found colonies, either. Your competition is the real player, not the automa. Since the only purpose of this automa is to tie up some resources, I think the game will play at least as well with the automa as without -- it will still be a two-player game, but with resources that dwindle a little bit more like a four-player game.

Quote:
1) Automatic successes. You could reach a point where all he easiest sites are explored and the AI is reaping the benefits of sites beyond the player's current capability, possibly recovering valuable treasures, milestones, and player upgrades.

While it says automatic, it really isn't automatic. Basically, 1/6 of the time (so about once per year per automa), the automa succeeds at exploration, and 1/6 of the time, the automa succeeds at raiding. That (roughly) one turn per year is the turn that the automa can be thought of as playing that adviser it nabbed earlier in the game, bring the second ship in for support, etc. But to simplify things, the actual players aren't keeping track of the automa's advisers, ship positions/damage, etc. There's also 1/3 of the time devoted to that issue -- that's the time the automa doesn't do anything meaningful, and one possibility is that that is because it is failing to do something (or experienced a near failure, and needs to repair).

Quote:
2) Doesnt move / Can't be raided. This deprives players of a potential resource, but more importantly denies them the chance to steal those valuable treasures and other plunder the AI takes effortlessly.

So take them from your real opponent, instead! The whole point is to tighten up the game to require more player interaction, after all...

Quote:
3) Ignores enmity. The idea of an AI hat can raid indiscriminately when I have to budget my enmity upsets me. One of the key points of a Legacy game, is that your actions have consequences. Sometimes long-term consequences that you don't understand the full weight of until a few games later. But you've created an artificial system that blindly ignores consequence in the game.

Don't think of it as having no consequence, think of it as not keeping track of the consequences. It sounds like you'd rather have a four player game -- which is encouraged. I can't imagine that the automa will result in a better four-player experience than an actual four-player game. But I think it will make a two-player experience a little bit closer to a four-player experience in terms of resource availability ... while still being a two-player experience in terms of player interaction.

Quote:
I can't imagine any system that has you playing against a die that can't make tactical or strategic decisions is going to feel satisfying. It would be like playing Axis and Allies against dice. (Roll two dice. On an 11 or better, you lose the game!)

Again, if you want a four-player game, play the game with four players. And since the automa can't score, you are still playing against the real player, not the automa. The automa is ONLY reducing the number of resources present.

Quote:
Rather than trusting a Legacy game full of unknowns and variables to a script designed by someone who doesn't know the variables, I recommend any of these three options.

1. Grab a friend. Play a three player game like was intended.

I heartily recommend this over the automa. I only posted this automa for the people who can only play two player, but are concerned that the experience will suffer due to abundant resources and no reason for player interaction.

Quote:
2. Just try it with two players. In the GenCon video Rob said something to the effect that it's designed for three to five, but would probably work with two. If you want to be guinnea pigs, be guinnea pigs with the rules as written, not with AI.

Sure. And if you don't like it two players, you can switch to using the automa. And if you decide you prefer it without, you can switch back.

Quote:
3) If neither of those options are feasible or desirable, look for a game with a similar theme playable by two. Islebound for instance.

Also an option. You make it sound as though I'm trying to force people to use the automa. It's only a tool for people who desperately want to play SeaFall, but feel they can't because of the "3-5" printed on the box.
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Re: SeaFall Automa v1.0
EDIT: Moved from here.

clydeiii wrote:
If a box says 3-5, I'd never play it with 2. Pure and simple. Especially if there are spoilers which would ruin my ability to play it at 3-5.

Zero interest in this game at 2 because it wasn't designed or tested at that count.

Then don't play it two player! I posted the automa for the people who *can't* play 3-5, but would still like to play SeaFall. Rob has said that the game is playable with 2, but that resources might be too abundant -- this automa seeks to fix that in a minimalist way for two-player games. But if you can play 3-5 instead of 2+automa, then you should absolutely play it that way!

As an aside, if you are playing a three-player game and are thinking that the game would be more awesome if there were only a shorter supply of resources to encourage more player interaction, then using a single automa turn per round might be worth considering. But I'd recommend trying it without the automa (ie, the game as designed and test) first.
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Re: SeaFall Automa v1.0
I've got to decide if it's worth $50 to be a playterster for free to make this game work.. We do like the theme and concept.
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Andrew Pillow
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Re: SeaFall Automa v1.0
I have a few problems with the automa.

Each of the actions doesnt reflect how the third player would react with the basic rules and future rules (such as ship to ship combat which is implied in the rules) aren't accomodated. For a legacy game like Pandemic Legacy you could change the automa for each unlock, but in seafall some unlocks could be done in different orders.

As for the actions themselves.

Advisors The rule on how to randomly choose the advisor isnt made explicit. Also at the end of the game, there is no way to upgrade a taken advisor. This is important as there is no way to raid the automa meaning if a vital advisor is taken it is taken for the entire game with maximum punishment.

TradingFine in the basic rules, but when ship to ship combat is unlocked I assume that stealling goods will be a thing. This could mean that wood is rarer than it should be if the automa takes the only supply of wood in the game early on each year.

Builder: Fine with this, but should be added if there is no space for a building/upgrade then the action does nothing, otherwise at towards the end of the game people will be in a position they cant upgrade to win the game/complete milestones.

Explore This is my biggest problem. The Automa automatically succeeds but doesnt unlock milestones. This could lead to a situation that the automa completes tasks and blocks progression as completing a milestone becomes impossible.
Also even if that isnt a problem, islands will be explored faster than they would be in even a 5 player game as the automa can always succeed. This would mean the real players can't explore as their explore skill isnt strong enough to succeed as the automa has explored all of the possible explore sites just leaving the guaranteed fail explore sites.

Raid No real problems with this as the sites are renewed each year. It does make exploring as the second player a little worse.

Sailing No problem with this either.


If you can fix the explore action and tweak the other actions that are weak I think this might work (until the unlocks change everything I said).
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Re: SeaFall Automa v1.0
Thanks for the feedback!

pillinjer wrote:
I have a few problems with the automa.

Each of the actions doesnt reflect how the third player would react with the basic rules and future rules (such as ship to ship combat which is implied in the rules) aren't accomodated. For a legacy game like Pandemic Legacy you could change the automa for each unlock, but in seafall some unlocks could be done in different orders.


Just to make it clear, this "automa" is specifically not intended to simulate an actual player for the real players to play against.

When asked about the two player game, the designers said that it would be playable, but that the players would likely find that resources were abundant, thus reducing the amount of player interaction. The automa is intended to address that issue only, in a minimal impact way. Basically, the idea is to have the game work exactly like a two player game with the one exception that resources (goods and opportunities for exploration or raiding) are consumed between player's turns as if there were other players using up those resources.

Quote:
Advisors The rule on how to randomly choose the advisor isnt made explicit.


I'm not sure what you meant by this. The automa rules indicate that "... the automa buys an adviser (select one randomly)". What would you suggest to make the description more explicit? Do you mean that the exact means for selecting the adviser randomly needs to be specified? d10/2 would be ideal, or d6 (reroll 6) would work. But the bottom line is that any agreed upon randomization method is fine for this.

Quote:
Also at the end of the game, there is no way to upgrade a taken advisor. This is important as there is no way to raid the automa meaning if a vital advisor is taken it is taken for the entire game with maximum punishment.


Fair enough. How about this: after both players have upgraded their chosen advisers, two of the automa's advisers are upgraded, as well. The players each choose (in the same order as upgrading their own advisers) one adviser discarded by the automa, and upgrade that adviser as they wish, using the normal rules (for example, they must choose retired adviser cards that have not already been used this game). Note that all of the automa advisers (including the upgraded ones) will be returned to the adviser deck for the next game -- none will be "kept" by the automa. Note that this isn't strictly necessary, but will result in advisers improving more rapidly (as rapidly as a four-player game).

Quote:
TradingFine in the basic rules, but when ship to ship combat is unlocked I assume that stealling goods will be a thing. This could mean that wood is rarer than it should be if the automa takes the only supply of wood in the game early on each year.


I assume you mention wood because it is the starter resource on the first island? Keep in mind that by game 1 (I didn't recommend the automa for the prologue) there will probably be an assortment of new goods available on the several closest islands, due to prologue exploration. Also, the first player is guaranteed a chance at the first island's goods during the first turn, and the automa only has a one is six chance of buying goods before the second player has a chance to. So if wood is rare, the players will likely grab it before the automa.

And yes, if the automa was a real player, the players could rob their ships (once ship raids are available). But then again, the automa players could rob the real players, too. To avoid a bunch of arbitrary die rolling against a nonplayer, this is abstracted by just having goods disappear from time to time. If the game was strictly balanced for two players, there would have been fewer goods available to begin with, so having goods slowly get used up should result in more good availability (should the players choose to grab the goods early) than a blanced two player game.

Quote:
Builder: Fine with this, but should be added if there is no space for a building/upgrade then the action does nothing, otherwise at towards the end of the game people will be in a position they cant upgrade to win the game/complete milestones.

When the automa constructs buildings, they are simply discarded, so space is irrelevant. That said, the automa will only build about 1/6 of the time, so about 2 per year (both automa players combined), or about 6 in a typical game. There should be plenty of upgrades available for the players, since there are 21 to start with -- but if the players want a specific upgrade, they may need to prioritize building it.

Quote:
Explore This is my biggest problem. The Automa automatically succeeds but doesnt unlock milestones. This could lead to a situation that the automa completes tasks and blocks progression as completing a milestone becomes impossible.
Also even if that isnt a problem, islands will be explored faster than they would be in even a 5 player game as the automa can always succeed. This would mean the real players can't explore as their explore skill isnt strong enough to succeed as the automa has explored all of the possible explore sites just leaving the guaranteed fail explore sites.

I think you may be overestimating the automa and underestimating the players. The automa "players" will be exploring, on average, one site each per year (ie, two total per year). I think that any player that can't successfully explore one site per year is failing to prepare for the exploration action. Consider that if you have even the starter ship (2d) with any upgrade (+0d), plus a second ship to assist (+1d), plus a weak exploration leader (+1d), you should be able to survive exploring any site up to difficulty 5 most of the time (2 successes on 4 dice).

Another thing to consider is that the automa fails to do anything 1/3 of the time. This represents turns lost to failed endeavors, or repairing after close calls, or just sailing. So while the automa succeeds at exploring when the die is a 3, that doesn't mean that there weren't other failures that the players aren't told about because they aren't relevant.

I do see some potential for the "explore a difficulty 6 site" to interact poorly with the automa. I think the chances are low, but it is theoretically possible for the automa to explore all of the difficulty 6 sites before either player manages to. And this possible issue could recur with future milestones.

Here's one easy kludge: the automa *can't* explore the last site needed for a milestone. And in general, perhaps a rule that "the automa can't perform an action that would make it impossible to complete a milestone" would ensure that this doesn't break the game.

This technically affects raiding milestones, too ... but as you pointed out, the sites will be cleared for raiding the following year, so this shouldn't prevent the players from completing them.

Quote:
Raid No real problems with this as the sites are renewed each year. It does make exploring as the second player a little worse.

I'm not sure what you mean here. How does the automa's raiding affect the second player's exploration?

Quote:
If you can fix the explore action and tweak the other actions that are weak I think this might work (until the unlocks change everything I said).

I'm still not convinced that the rate of exploration is a problem ... do you still think it is? Out of curiosity, what do you estimate an average player will accomplish each year? Each automa player will (on average) explore once, raid once, build once, buy goods once, and do nothing meaningful twice. Do you think players will, on average, do less than this? If so, a simple fix is to use a d8 for the automa instead of a d6. This scales down the automa's activities (ie, does nothing half of the time) without adding any complexity.
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Re: SeaFall Automa v1.0
Wow, Becq, do you know if anyone from the dev team behind Seafall have taken a look at this? For the first time, I'm really interested in taking a punt on the game, because this seems fairly solid and well thought out!

edit: one thing that occurs to me... when a game is 3p minimum, one of the reasons might be to address runaway leader syndrome that would go unchecked in 2p. if that's potentially an issue for Seafall, I wonder if the dummy action d6 roll might get amended to:

1. trader
2. builder
3. explore
4. raid
5. sail
6. attack evaluation

so once player combat is available, on a 6 the dummy will consider whether one player or the other has opened up an insurmountable lead*

If not, it'll be a regular sail action, but if so, it will attack that leading player and auto-succeed at a raid against the player's most valuable target (random selection if there are targets of equal value). Afterwards, the struck player receives an enmity token, and once a player has received two (or three?), the dummies will no longer consider attacking that player on a 6. The token provides no other function, since the player can't fight back.

*I have no idea what this "insurmountable lead" threshhold would be, having never played, but there must be some metric that's reasonable?
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Becq Starforged
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Re: SeaFall Automa v1.0
Wow! Rahdo just ran through my thread!

Regarding the designers looking at this ... I don't know. If they have, they haven't mentioned anything to me. I'd be happy to hear their feedback, though, if they have!

Regarding runaway leaders, you're right: this automa does little to address that issue directly. However, all of the game mechanisms built into the 3+ player game apply here, too. The leader will still have a limited choice of advisors to carry over (and the trailing player gets to control this completely through his own decision). The turn order still favors the trailing player, and the leading player has the real player AND an automa before him in the turn order. The rules imply that the turn order cards will gain abilities later, and those balances will still be in effect.

As to having the automa raid the players, there was another 2p proposal that included a dummy province, and with control of the dummy swapping between the players, but favoring the trailing player heavily. You might want to look that one up and see if you like the looks of that (I think it may have been posted a few days after this thread; I'll see if I can dredge up a link later).

Here's my thought process in designing this Automa:

When asked about playing SeaFall 2p, the designers said that it was certainly playable, but that with a relative abundance of resources, there might be less pressure on the players, and therefore less incentive for "player interaction".

One option would be to redesign the game to be balanced for two players. This would involve reducing the number of resources of all sorts available to the players. Not only would there need to be fewer goods sites, but also fewer sites in general (to reduce the "resources" used by exploration and raiding), and fewer structures and upgrades, as well. And all of this, while being careful not to remove any story elements! Tough to do!

Adding a robot or dummy player was another option. The problem with a dummy player is balance -- whoever controlling the dummy can use it as an attack dog, or could set himself up for easy raid opportunities. I have a hard time seeing how this could be balanced. A robot player could be better, but would probably require a fairly sophisticated decision mechanism.

So what's the main difference between a 2p game and a 3-5p game? In a 3-5p game, the players consume resources faster, and when resources start getting tight they may start eying the other player's loot and thinking how much nicer it would look in their own province. Or not -- it's up to them.

What I wanted to do, then was to push a 2p game a little in that direction, while still making the game all about the decisions of the players. As the game goes on, the automa starts sucking up resources a little at a time, a bit like another player or two might. There's no decision-making logic, and there's no random attacks on players; the resources just dwindle at a rate closer to that of a 4p game. That leaves the players with the same choice: there's no dummy player to raid for resources, they only have each other's stuff to start eying... Or not -- it's up to them, just as with the larger player count.

(Oh, and the time footprint is very light -- just roll the die and resolve the action; no decisions need to be made!)

One advantage that I think this has is that there's a lot less balance necessary. At it's core, it's still the same as the 2p game without the automa, but with tighter resources. The most important resources (the milestones and province upgrades) are still up to the players to compete for, and the automa doesn't score glory, so the players are only competing against each other. The exact details of exploration are a bit foggy, but I think the way I've set it up, the story will still come out, but whatever other benefits come from exploration will just be sucked out of the game by the automa, leaving the players to race for other opportunities.

One thing I'd love to have is more input from 3-5p games as to how many actions of each type were successfully done per player. With that sort of information, it might be possible to fine-tune to automa a bit. But as it stands, the each automa will, on average, take 4 "things" from the board per turn, which could be exploration or raiding opportunities, goods, or upgrades/structures. And based on my knowledge at this point, that seems reasonable. If it looks like too much, it would be really easy to use a d8 instead of a d6, (with 5+ being nothing happens). It might make sense to shift toward that in later games, where the action moves further out to sea.

If you like the looks of it, by all means feel free to try it out -- after all, you are a poster boy for the 2p-movement. I'd be happy to work out tweaks to the rules based on your feedback (and anyone else who cares to give it a try). And at worst, if it doesn't work you can revert to the 2p game with no harm done (except a few extra sites explored by a phantom player).

I'll also think on automa raiding a bit ... but I'm still hesitant, based on my thoughts above.
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Re: SeaFall Automa v1.0
Here's the Dummy player variant:

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1624219/2-player-dummy-3rd-...
 
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Re: SeaFall Automa v1.0
Becq wrote:
Wow! Rahdo just ran through my thread!

Regarding the designers looking at this ... I don't know. If they have, they haven't mentioned anything to me. I'd be happy to hear their feedback, though, if they have!

Yeah, i really hope Rob or JR weighs in on this... they're throwing away so much opportunity by not making 2p viable, and this really sounds like a solid start!

Quote:
Regarding runaway leaders, you're right: this automa does little to address that issue directly. However, all of the game mechanisms built into the 3+ player game apply here, too.

Yup, though half of those are campaign balance as opposed to session balance, and I can't help but wonder still that without the added ability to "tear down the leader" if the what remains for catch up mechanisms will work. I guess we'll never know without insight into the original intent of the design though, and will be left to guess...

Quote:
As to having the automa raid the players, there was another 2p proposal that included a dummy province, and with control of the dummy swapping between the players, but favoring the trailing player heavily. You might want to look that one up and see if you like the looks of that (I think it may have been posted a few days after this thread; I'll see if I can dredge up a link later).

I saw that one, but am not really interested in full player emulation. Your approach is just about perfect IMO, and is very likely more adaptable to ongoing introduced legacy elements.

Quote:
Here's my thought process in designing this Automa:

When asked about playing SeaFall 2p, the designers said that it was certainly playable, but that with a relative abundance of resources, there might be less pressure on the players, and therefore less incentive for "player interaction".

One option would be to redesign the game to be balanced for two players. This would involve reducing the number of resources of all sorts available to the players. Not only would there need to be fewer goods sites, but also fewer sites in general (to reduce the "resources" used by exploration and raiding), and fewer structures and upgrades, as well. And all of this, while being careful not to remove any story elements! Tough to do!

Adding a robot or dummy player was another option. The problem with a dummy player is balance -- whoever controlling the dummy can use it as an attack dog, or could set himself up for easy raid opportunities. I have a hard time seeing how this could be balanced. A robot player could be better, but would probably require a fairly sophisticated decision mechanism.

So what's the main difference between a 2p game and a 3-5p game? In a 3-5p game, the players consume resources faster, and when resources start getting tight they may start eying the other player's loot and thinking how much nicer it would look in their own province. Or not -- it's up to them.

Right, and my only concern is that also, they may choose to "gang up" on a leader if they pull ahead. I have no idea of that is a practical outcome of normal gameplay, which is why I hope that JR and/or Rob will respond, because they would be able to answer these questions easily and provide additional guidance...

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What I wanted to do, then was to push a 2p game a little in that direction, while still making the game all about the decisions of the players. As the game goes on, the automa starts sucking up resources a little at a time, a bit like another player or two might. There's no decision-making logic, and there's no random attacks on players; the resources just dwindle at a rate closer to that of a 4p game. That leaves the players with the same choice: there's no dummy player to raid for resources, they only have each other's stuff to start eying... Or not -- it's up to them, just as with the larger player count.

(Oh, and the time footprint is very light -- just roll the die and resolve the action; no decisions need to be made!)

One advantage that I think this has is that there's a lot less balance necessary. At it's core, it's still the same as the 2p game without the automa, but with tighter resources. The most important resources (the milestones and province upgrades) are still up to the players to compete for, and the automa doesn't score glory, so the players are only competing against each other. The exact details of exploration are a bit foggy, but I think the way I've set it up, the story will still come out, but whatever other benefits come from exploration will just be sucked out of the game by the automa, leaving the players to race for other opportunities.

One thing I'd love to have is more input from 3-5p games as to how many actions of each type were successfully done per player. With that sort of information, it might be possible to fine-tune to automa a bit. But as it stands, the each automa will, on average, take 4 "things" from the board per turn, which could be exploration or raiding opportunities, goods, or upgrades/structures. And based on my knowledge at this point, that seems reasonable. If it looks like too much, it would be really easy to use a d8 instead of a d6, (with 5+ being nothing happens). It might make sense to shift toward that in later games, where the action moves further out to sea.

Indeed... again, fingers crosed for some future input from the developers. My other initial though when reading the variant proposal was wondering whether a D8 would be more approrpirate with more "sail" results, in case that more accurately emulates the reality of the game experience. Maybe in later missions, as players presumably become more powerful and able to do more per round, then the switch to a d6 would come about to up the dummy's abilities as well?

Who knows... we need moar data!

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If you like the looks of it, by all means feel free to try it out -- after all, you are a poster boy for the 2p-movement. I'd be happy to work out tweaks to the rules based on your feedback (and anyone else who cares to give it a try). And at worst, if it doesn't work you can revert to the 2p game with no harm done (except a few extra sites explored by a phantom player).

I'll also think on automa raiding a bit ... but I'm still hesitant, based on my thoughts above.

Yup, and you could very well be right. I only mentioned it because in my experience, solid 3p+ gameplay is often predicated on the necessity for those behind to collude and tear down those in the lead, and that pretty much never works in 2p scenarios.
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Becq Starforged
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Re: SeaFall Automa v1.0
It occurs to me that enmity might also be an issue in a two-player game. In a 5 player game, as the players raid islands or each other, they will start covering up each other's enmity stickers. With fewer players, each player's "share" of the available enmity boxes will be higher. And for a two-player game, each player's share of *province* enmity will be 100% of the boxes. So I think the automa may need a feature that crosses off enmity over time (beyond the small amount of enmity that is removed based on leftover fortune and reputation).

Back to catch-up mechanisms to help deal with the fact that players can't gang up on the leader, a possible problem occurred to me. How do you tell who's the leader? The obvious anser is glory, but sometimes current glory isn't an accurate predictor of who's winning.

For example, it's game 1, and one player has 10 glory. The other player has only 3 glory, but has two structures, 24 gold, a goods cube, and the Renowned Builder (available). Who is winning?

Well, the second player is set up to, on their turn: buy a big treasure (2 glory), then do a build action to gain both a ship upgrade (1 glory) and a third structure (1 glory) using the Renowned Builder (1 glory), thereby claiming the milestone (3 glory). That's +8 glory in a single turn, winning the game.

So the player that looked weaker (in terms of glory) had spent a lot of effort building up resources for a winning turn. So is it fair to penalize the other player, who got his score by doing safe and steady explorations, 1 glory per turn?

I suspect that this is why most of SeaFall's catch-up mechanisms are based on either who actually won the last game, or who has most consistently done well (highest campaign glory) -- rather than current game glory.
 
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Richard Ham
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CLICK THIS BEAGLE if you're looking for in-depth gameplay video run-throughs! :)
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Re: SeaFall Automa v1.0
Becq wrote:
It occurs to me that enmity might also be an issue in a two-player game. In a 5 player game, as the players raid islands or each other, they will start covering up each other's enmity stickers. With fewer players, each player's "share" of the available enmity boxes will be higher. And for a two-player game, each player's share of *province* enmity will be 100% of the boxes. So I think the automa may need a feature that crosses off enmity over time (beyond the small amount of enmity that is removed based on leftover fortune and reputation).

Back to catch-up mechanisms to help deal with the fact that players can't gang up on the leader, a possible problem occurred to me. How do you tell who's the leader? The obvious anser is glory, but sometimes current glory isn't an accurate predictor of who's winning.

For example, it's game 1, and one player has 10 glory. The other player has only 3 glory, but has two structures, 24 gold, a goods cube, and the Renowned Builder (available). Who is winning?

Well, the second player is set up to, on their turn: buy a big treasure (2 glory), then do a build action to gain both a ship upgrade (1 glory) and a third structure (1 glory) using the Renowned Builder (1 glory), thereby claiming the milestone (3 glory). That's +8 glory in a single turn, winning the game.

So the player that looked weaker (in terms of glory) had spent a lot of effort building up resources for a winning turn. So is it fair to penalize the other player, who got his score by doing safe and steady explorations, 1 glory per turn?

I suspect that this is why most of SeaFall's catch-up mechanisms are based on either who actually won the last game, or who has most consistently done well (highest campaign glory) -- rather than current game glory.


Fair points all!
 
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Ralph Severson
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Here's a two player variant that my wife and I use. It's simple and it works very well for us.

https://boardgamegeek.com/article/24343904#24343904
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Becq Starforged
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Looks very similar! The biggest difference I see is that you don't have an explore option for the AI. Do you find the exploration rate to be fast enough, given that your AI doesn't help out?

You might also want to consider boosting the advisor usage a bit. On average, your AI is only cycling one advisor per year, whereas a real player will often buy 2-4 advisors during the first year. (My AI might be too aggressive here, but I suspect that won't even be noticed after the first couple of games.)
 
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