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Subject: Rare Techs in Bag? rss

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Peter Bakija
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So SotR comes with 6 new Rare Techs. IIRC, RotA has 12 Rare Techs. The SotR rulebook suggests only using 12 Rare Techs in the bag. Which would require either pulling 6 RotA Rare Techs out of the bag to use all the new SotR Rare Techs. Or mixing all the Rare Techs together, and randomly selecting 12 of them to put in the bag. Both of these seem like a significant pain in the ass, setup wise. And it seems like removing random RotA Rare Techs from the bag is a horrible idea, given that much of the RotA Rare Techs are arguably important balance fixes.

Anyone have any insight into this? Like, we just threw all the Rare Tech in the bag and didn't worry about it, and it didn't seem like it made any difference--we got some Rare Tech reasonably often, and it didn't seem like we drew too much Rare Tech.
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Chris K.
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bakija wrote:
So SotR comes with 6 new Rare Techs. IIRC, RotA has 12 Rare Techs. The SotR rulebook suggests only using 12 Rare Techs in the bag. Which would require either pulling 6 RotA Rare Techs out of the bag to use all the new SotR Rare Techs. Or mixing all the Rare Techs together, and randomly selecting 12 of them to put in the bag. Both of these seem like a significant pain in the ass, setup wise. And it seems like removing random RotA Rare Techs from the bag is a horrible idea, given that much of the RotA Rare Techs are arguably important balance fixes.

Anyone have any insight into this? Like, we just threw all the Rare Tech in the bag and didn't worry about it, and it didn't seem like it made any difference--we got some Rare Tech reasonably often, and it didn't seem like we drew too much Rare Tech.


We just leave them in the bag and count up when they are drawn using either some kind of tokens or just Improved Hull Upgrade Tokens to keep track of how many came out and then if any more rare techs are drawn just discard them from the current game and redraw.
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Chris K.
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As to the effect of having too many Rare techs:

Each Rare tech is an additional, usually cheaper, slot filler on a technology track. So the more of them come out in the game, the more VP people will get in their Tech track. This is more prevalent in 6 player games, where just not getting all the tech for a track is a real problem in completing it for full 5 VP without rares.
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J.C. Hamlin
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It is not even an optional rule, it is a recommendation without any reason or justification provided on why. Since not having RotA rare tech available can bring back the game breaking scenarios of the base game, we've decided to ignore this recommendation in our play and at the World Championships.
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Peter Bakija
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chrisdk wrote:
As to the effect of having too many Rare techs:

Each Rare tech is an additional, usually cheaper, slot filler on a technology track. So the more of them come out in the game, the more VP people will get in their Tech track. This is more prevalent in 6 player games, where not just not getting all the tech for a track is a real problem in completing it for full 5 VP without rares.


Huh. Interesting.

I was assuming they suggested use 12 total Rare techs so as to not change the likelihood of drawing Rare Tech (adding 6 Rare Techs to the bag increases the chance of drawing a Rare Tech by 50%, assuming you are already using the RotA Rare Techs; wait, there are 10 original Rare Techs, so playing with 12 of them isn't even sticking to the original number...). At the cost of removing some incredibly vital Rare Techs from the bag--it strikes me as significantly problematic to remove, say, Point Defense, Distortion Shield, Anti-Matter Splitter, Neutron Absorber, Flux Missile, and Conifold Field. So I guess they are just, like, "add two random SotR Rare Techs to the bag"?

I can't imagine that having 16 Rare Techs in the bag is likely to have much of an impact on the number of Rare Techs picked as opposed to 10 (I mean, like, it might result in a few more out on the table over the course of the game, but probably not that many), and really cause any specific problems.
 
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Chris K.
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bakija wrote:
chrisdk wrote:
As to the effect of having too many Rare techs:

Each Rare tech is an additional, usually cheaper, slot filler on a technology track. So the more of them come out in the game, the more VP people will get in their Tech track. This is more prevalent in 6 player games, where not just not getting all the tech for a track is a real problem in completing it for full 5 VP without rares.


Huh. Interesting.

I was assuming they suggested use 12 total Rare techs so as to not change the likelihood of drawing Rare Tech (adding 6 Rare Techs to the bag increases the chance of drawing a Rare Tech by 50%, assuming you are already using the RotA Rare Techs; wait, there are 10 original Rare Techs, so playing with 12 of them isn't even sticking to the original number...). At the cost of removing some incredibly vital Rare Techs from the bag--it strikes me as significantly problematic to remove, say, Point Defense, Distortion Shield, Anti-Matter Splitter, Neutron Absorber, Flux Missile, and Conifold Field. So I guess they are just, like, "add two random SotR Rare Techs to the bag"?

I can't imagine that having 16 Rare Techs in the bag is likely to have much of an impact on the number of Rare Techs picked as opposed to 10 (I mean, like, it might result in a few more out on the table over the course of the game, but probably not that many), and really cause any specific problems.


Well, in a six player game nearly all techs come out of the bag and since you redraw for Rare Techs it is very likely that you will have all 16 out. It basically means an extra 5 - 10VP at the table in more completed science tracks. (Edit says: there are 96 Tech Tiles in the bag, in a 6 player game 92 (20 + 8*9) of them come out. Since Rare Techs are drawn in addition to regular tiles it is very likely that ALL of them will come out, no matter how many there are. Including the Ship Pack one there are 17 Rare Techs)

And personally I don't consider each individual rare tech such an important game changer. Since only a few of them would be forced to stay out I think it would be VERY unlikely that they just happened to be only the most important ones. Paricularly since in our way you will not know just which ones will end up staying out.

On the other hand, I never bought into the whole "the basegame is completely terribly unbalanced and only the Rare Techs fixed it" narrative, so I am probably a bit biased about how dependent my enjoyment of the game is on them.
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Peter Bakija
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chrisdk wrote:
Well, in a six player game nearly all techs come out of the bag and since you redraw for Rare Techs it is very likely that you will have all 16 out. It basically means an extra 5 - 10VP at the table in more completed science tracks.


Interesting. But how often do you really think that when science tracks aren't full, it is as the result of their not being enough tech on the table, as opposed to just not having the actions and science to complete the tracks? Like, generally speaking, games where I don't fill my science tracks are almost always the result of just not having the actions and resources to get all that science. I can't think of a single game I have played where I *could* have filled my science tracks, but for the lack of available techs; I can think of many (most?) games where I don't fill my science tracks, simply due to mundane "not enough actions and science" reasons. I mean, granted, I mostly play 4 player games, so it is rare that supply/demand is a significant issue (usually only Quantum Grid and maybe Monoliths are an issue, in terms of "I wanted that but all three were already gone; and that also is just 'cause those are boss tech, not 'cause they were needed to fill a track), and I can see how in a 6 player game, supply/demand could become a problem. Bt still, you think the availability of 6 extra Rare Techs is going to result in an explosion of people filling up their science tracks when they wouldn't have otherwise?

Like, just for anecdotal illustration, the game I played the other day, 2 of 4 players maxed out their science (Team Evolution, as he got the +1 Tech evolution; Team Draco, as he got a lot of actions way early, and he generally plays very defensively while maximizing science); I (Mechanema) maxed out the center track (one of those was a Rare) and got, maybe, half full on the other two tracks (this was completely due to actions and science, rather than lack of available tech); Team Time Rift ended the game with, maybe, a total of 9 techs on his board (they start with strong tech, and he got some important tech from the future, so had minimal need to get tech. He also came in 2nd with, like, 50+ points). That seems like a pretty typical game, from my perspective, and I can't see how a lot of extra Rare Tech is likely to change that particular dynamic.

Quote:
And personally I don't consider each individual rare tech such an important game changer. Since only a few of them would be forced to stay out I think it would be VERY unlikely that they just happened to be only the most important ones. Paricularly since in our way you will not know just which ones will end up staying out.


What system do you use? Pull out all the rare techs, mix up the 16 (17?), select 12 at random, and put them back in the bag?

Quote:
On the other hand, I never bought into the whole "the basegame is completely terribly unbalanced and only the Rare Techs fixed it" narrative, so I am probably a bit biased about how dependent my enjoyment of the game is on them.


The narrative is not "the base game is completely and terribly unbalanced and only the Rare Techs fixed it". The narrative is "the base game has a few balance issues, and the Rare Techs helps make them less of an issue". As such, it seems generally counter productive (for my money) to weed out some of those Rare Techs for reasons that remain unclear, at best.
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Chris K.
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bakija wrote:
chrisdk wrote:
Well, in a six player game nearly all techs come out of the bag and since you redraw for Rare Techs it is very likely that you will have all 16 out. It basically means an extra 5 - 10VP at the table in more completed science tracks.


Interesting. But how often do you really think that when science tracks aren't full, it is as the result of their not being enough tech on the table, as opposed to just not having the actions and science to complete the tracks? Like, generally speaking, games where I don't fill my science tracks are almost always the result of just not having the actions and resources to get all that science. I can't think of a single game I have played where I *could* have filled my science tracks, but for the lack of available techs; I can think of many (most?) games where I don't fill my science tracks, simply due to mundane "not enough actions and science" reasons. I mean, granted, I mostly play 4 player games, so it is rare that supply/demand is a significant issue (usually only Quantum Grid and maybe Monoliths are an issue, in terms of "I wanted that but all three were already gone; and that also is just 'cause those are boss tech, not 'cause they were needed to fill a track), and I can see how in a 6 player game, supply/demand could become a problem. Bt still, you think the availability of 6 extra Rare Techs is going to result in an explosion of people filling up their science tracks when they wouldn't have otherwise?


Well, first of all, 4 player games are very different in this regard, so I am not surprised we have different experiences.

To me there are three reasons why Rare Techs change the balance in regards to the science tracks:

Availablity of enough tech for a track
Without rare technologies you need to research all but one tech available in a track to fill it. In a six player game, there are not enough techs to go around even for the lowest ones (5 each). Assuming that every player wants to work on one track as a priority and a second as optional and they happen to distribute perfectly (which they never do), you have 4 people working on a track, plus whatever somebody would buy because they need the ability. So for the higher parts, one person will miss out, since only three are available. For the middle parts, one person will miss out if it's an attractive tech. And for Plasma Cannons and Improved Hull: Someone will always miss out for one of those since just about everyone buys them if they can.

My experience is that in a winning score people will have one track completed, a second mostly filled if they were focused on going for science and working on a third they only complete if they are particularly lucky or the Hydran. Generally the filled tracks include at least one rare technology and having another "joker" available makes the difference of getting those final 2 VP for the last slot on another track rather than just 1 VP in the third. I expect to see a difference if there are about 2 jokers per person around compared to about 3 per person.


Costs involved
This goes straight to your "not enough science production" argument. There are plenty of cheap techs in the Rares. 9 of them are at minimum cost 6 or less and getting to those on a rebate of 2 or less. They are basically cheaper than about half the techs in each track, sometimes considerably so.
So just getting two of them easily saves you enough science for another midling tech for another 1-2 VP.

Size of the VP Pool
I am not saying that anything is exploding there. Only that about 5-10 additional VP are available for the taking in the Science Pool.
Every VP Source in the game is a Maximum Pool that people gain shares from (and leave part of unused). Increasing the size of one of the pools is bound to have an effect, particularly on races that have an especially easy or hard time accessing the pool.

bakija wrote:

chrisdk wrote:
And personally I don't consider each individual rare tech such an important game changer. Since only a few of them would be forced to stay out I think it would be VERY unlikely that they just happened to be only the most important ones. Paricularly since in our way you will not know just which ones will end up staying out.


What system do you use? Pull out all the rare techs, mix up the 16 (17?), select 12 at random, and put them back in the bag?


As mentioned above we use tokens to count up whenever we draw a Rare and once 12 Rare Techs have been drawn we just discard any further ones drawn afterwards and redraw as normal.

bakija wrote:

Quote:
On the other hand, I never bought into the whole "the basegame is completely terribly unbalanced and only the Rare Techs fixed it" narrative, so I am probably a bit biased about how dependent my enjoyment of the game is on them.


The narrative is not "the base game is completely and terribly unbalanced and only the Rare Techs fixed it". The narrative is "the base game has a few balance issues, and the Rare Techs helps make them less of an issue".


Well there was a longish (6 of the 10) list of "incredibly vital" techs in your post and a mention of "game breaking scenarios" in JC's. And then there are the pages and pages of discussion whenever anyone mentions "Plasma Missiles" anywhere on BGG.
Hence I felt entitled to a bit of hyperbole in describing how differently we consider the essentiality of having the full array of these techs available in every game.

Afterall, in a regular game before there was a decent chance that not all of the Rare Techs would come out and I don't think limiting to 12 will change these probabilities for an individual tech all too much. (Admittedly I haven't done the math)

I consider some of them game changing, if they are present (particularly Cloaking Device, Anti Matter Splitter and Neutron Absorber) but I wouldn't go so far as considering any one or larger subset of them essential for game balance.

Rather the opposite actually. The three mentioned above I consider extremely unbalancing factors in the right hands that create considerable challenges for the people NOT getting them.

In terms of Anti Missile tech, in my opinion there are enough to make sure that at least some of them show up.

bakija wrote:

As such, it seems generally counter productive (for my money) to weed out some of those Rare Techs for reasons that remain unclear, at best.


Well, I am guessing having a discussion to shine a bit of light on the possible reasons is what we are doing right here ;-) .
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Peter Bakija
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chrisdk wrote:
Well, first of all, 4 player games are very different in this regard, so I am not surprised we have different experiences.


Seems reasonable. Yeah, I rarely play games bigger than 4 players, so tech scarcity rarely is an issue around here (we play 4 player Eclipse often; we play 5-6 player Eclipse maybe, like, 1 game in 10; we have played 7-9 player games, like, twice in 2-3 years now). So yeah, I'm totally willing to accept that extra Rare Techs make it easier to fill out science tracks in 6+ player games.

Quote:
Costs involved
This goes straight to your "not enough science production" argument. There are plenty of cheap techs in the Rares. 9 of them are at minimum cost 6 or less and getting to those on a rebate of 2 or less. They are basically cheaper than about half the techs in each track, sometimes considerably so.


Sure, but really, I rarely see situations where one is not filling out tech trees due to not being able to afford crap techs to fill in spots. Maybe, like, once a game, I'll be in a situation where I'll be buying a tech to just fill out a line, and the best option is some cheap Rare Tech. I mean, yeah, it happens, but not that much. Usually the issue is that I'm spending a lot of science to get expensive techs I need, and then not having science and actions at all to fill out the tracks. But yeah, again, in a 6 player game, I can see how this would work out.

Quote:
Size of the VP Pool
I am not saying that anything is exploding there. Only that about 5-10 additional VP are available for the taking in the Science Pool.


In a 6 player game, yeah, I can see this being a thing. In 4 player, probably not as much.

Quote:
As mentioned above we use tokens to count up whenever we draw a Rare and once 12 Rare Techs have been drawn we just discard any further ones drawn afterwards and redraw as normal.


Ah, yeah. So that totally saves a lot of hassle, and circumvents the problem of removing important Rare Techs from the pool.

Quote:
Well there was a longish (6 of the 10) list of "incredibly vital" techs in your post and a mention of "game breaking scenarios" in JC's. And then there are the pages and pages of discussion whenever anyone mentions "Plasma Missiles" anywhere on BGG.


Well, that's 'cause in the base game, well, they are arguably a balance issue (and, well, if they weren't, at least on some level, those arguments wouldn't exist; people aren't, like, waxing poetic about, say, Ion Cannons ever...). And conveniently, the existence of Rare Techs in RotA tends to fix this. The depth of the problem is certainly debatable. Personally, I think it is a balance issue that is fixed nicely by RotA. *Knowing* that some of those important Rare Techs are not going to show up in a game ever shifts the balance back in the wrong direction. But if you are using a system like you suggest (i.e. just draw Rare Techs the regular way until you hit 12 and then cut them off), it ceases to be a problem here, generally speaking (by the time you hit 12 Rare Techs, it is likely that all tech path decisions have already been made).

Quote:
fterall, in a regular game before there was a decent chance that not all of the Rare Techs would come out and I don't think limiting to 12 will change these probabilities for an individual tech all too much. (Admittedly I haven't done the math)


Well, then here is the next question--if the significant issue with adding more Rare Tech to the game is that it makes it easier to fill out tech trees, why even add the extra 2? Why not max out Rare Techs at 10, like the original RotA allotment? Adding the extra 2 still increases the number of available Rare Techs for filling out trees.
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Chris K.
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bakija wrote:
chrisdk wrote:
Afterall, in a regular game before there was a decent chance that not all of the Rare Techs would come out and I don't think limiting to 12 will change these probabilities for an individual tech all too much. (Admittedly I haven't done the math)


Well, then here is the next question--if the significant issue with adding more Rare Tech to the game is that it makes it easier to fill out tech trees, why even add the extra 2? Why not max out Rare Techs at 10, like the original RotA allotment? Adding the extra 2 still increases the number of available Rare Techs for filling out trees.


Well, my admittedly somewhat naive assumption would be: Because their extensive playtesting revealed that as a sweet spot for what they were trying to achieve in terms of balancing the drawbacks of having more that I mentioned with having enough of the Rares hitting the table to keep them an interesting option.
And we do know that the designers put quite a lot of effort into their playtesting.

But ... at least for this part I don't have a better idea what may have played a role in the suggestion.
 
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Peter Bakija
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chrisdk wrote:
Well, my admittedly somewhat naive assumption would be: Because their extensive playtesting revealed that as a sweet spot for what they were trying to achieve in terms of balancing the drawbacks of having more that I mentioned with having enough of the Rares hitting the table to keep them an interesting option.


Sounds reasonable to me.
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