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Subject: Abstract Euro? Intuitive rules? And query on the weight rating. rss

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Greg Lorrimer
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How abstracted is FCM? I'm thinking of throwing some newbies at it, but if the mechanics are too abstract I'll need to think again. Comments on throwing newbies at it also welcome.

How straightforward are the rules? Intuitive? Fiddly? I realise there are a few, but if they are intuitive and not fiddly then that's fine by me.

And finally, is the weight rating a measure of the play or the rules (or both)? I come across games, sometimes, that have a very heavy weighting but not many rules. Diplomacy and Civilizationcome to mind.

How heavy a rating would you give it, considering rules only and not play? Something like Taj Mahal or Puerto Rico?
 
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Cole Wehrle
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I haven't found FCM to be a hard game to teach. The rules aren't bad and everything is pretty intuitive. In my experience, players struggle most with the marketing.

I've also taught it to several folks for whom this was their first or second modern board game. It went over well. I usually artificially restrict the bank for teaching games to be a step or two lower than the beginner game.

That said, much depends on the personalities of the folks who are sitting down for a game. FCM is a hard game to play well and a mean game. Players are liable to get crushed by their own actions and the actions of others. If you've got a set of folks who wouldn't mind that and likes a good challenge, it's a good pick.
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Morten K
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Hmm it's certainly a step up from both those games. Rules are intuitive and few but it can be hard seeing the consequences of your actions. Opaque you could call it. So it's the game and not the rules that make it heavy. That coupled with it being a very punishing game where one error early on can mean you've lost - unless others make worse mistakes later on of cause - means it isn't a game I would play with newbies. Unless they do not mind that...
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Dave K
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I've found teaching it to be time-consuming because people usually want to know what all of the employees do and what all the milestones do. Telling people that their goal the first game should just be to get a business that functions (ie: they don't have to fire all their employees ) is good enough sometimes helps, sometimes doesn't.
 
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Pete Goch
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The game is difficult in that there is much to keep track of if you want to play the game well. The rules are actually pretty straightforward compared to rules heavy, kitchen sink style, modern euros. The difficulty is that you absolutely, positively cannot ignore what your opponents are up to and expect to do at all well.

You need to know the distance of every restaurant from every house, you need to know what the production capacity (of food and drinks) each player has, the discount capacity, the number of waitresses, their total capacity in middle management and how many employees they can field on a turn. And on, and on and on.
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Gregory Auld
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Cole Wehrle wrote:
That said, much depends on the personalities of the folks who are sitting down for a game. FCM is a hard game to play well and a mean game. Players are liable to get crushed by their own actions and the actions of others. If you've got a set of folks who wouldn't mind that and likes a good challenge, it's a good pick.


I especially agree with this. Mechanically, FCM isn't especially complicated, but it can be really difficult for people to pick up on strategically. If someone just likes to figure their early strategy out as they go or doesn't want to pay close attention to exactly what everyone else is doing, then they're liable to get blown out pretty badly. I've seen players effectively removed from the game because they didn't react ASAP to an opponent telegraphing a big move they were going to make in the coming turns. That kind of gameplay doesn't work for everyone. I personally love it.
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Grant
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Stylemys wrote:
Cole Wehrle wrote:
That said, much depends on the personalities of the folks who are sitting down for a game. FCM is a hard game to play well and a mean game. Players are liable to get crushed by their own actions and the actions of others. If you've got a set of folks who wouldn't mind that and likes a good challenge, it's a good pick.


I especially agree with this. Mechanically, FCM isn't especially complicated, but it can be really difficult for people to pick up on strategically. If someone just likes to figure their early strategy out as they go or doesn't want to pay close attention to exactly what everyone else is doing, then they're liable to get blown out pretty badly. I've seen players effectively removed from the game because they didn't react ASAP to an opponent telegraphing a big move they were going to make in the coming turns. That kind of gameplay doesn't work for everyone. I personally love it.

Another +1 to this.

The rules aren't tough to teach, but the game is completely unforgiving. There is no catch-up mechanism and a player can put themselves completely out of the game very easily.
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Edward Uhler
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https://heavycardboard.com/2015/11/05/heavy-cardboard-episod...


Our review covers all this and more quite indepthly.
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Clyde W
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The rules are pretty easy (for a Splotter) but the strategy is totally opaque.
 
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kalvin connor
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Mechanically, there is quite a few things going on as there is so many different employees and milestones.

However, all of them are easy to understand, it just takes awhile to get there. Also, vets of the game understand selling goods much better than others. I can just look at player boards and know exactly whats selling and where and to whom. But then I have to explain each house to new players every time.

It plays easy but the depth is rather far. You will have a lot of people excuting many different strategies and you have to figure out which is goinb to work out
 
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Adrian Todea
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You need to be really good at scenario based analysis in my opinion.

"If I do this, then they would counter with that, and if he does that I need to respond with this". And sometimes you can't wait even for 1 turn to see what they're actually doing, you have to think ahead a few moves, not just your own moves, but the other players' as well.

If you can compute all the myriad of possibilities in your head you can then choose the option that's best overall. Very hard to do, but very rewarding if you pull it off.
 
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Flo P
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Just played my first game yesterday and in my opinion the weight rating is off on this one (4.21 at the moment of writing this post). I would have expected something like 3.5, as the rules are very intuitve and the calculations involved are not that hard (the hardest calculations I have encountered during the game was whether it was worth to disocunt my goods -4$ in order to take a couple of extra houses from my opponents and even for something like this you can just use some quick and dirty heuristics and still be decently competitive).

I come from a Terra Mystica / Gaia Project background and find both harder (weight: 4 for me) as the calculations are a lot more involved (planning ahead with 5 different ressources, where your calculation can't be off by even 1 or your plan is screwed + the timing involved) and the decision tree seems more opaque to me (in particular Gaia Project offers a lot of alleys that 'seem' euqally good). Also, if compared to something like Tzolkin (which literally melted my brain the first time I played it, as you cannot plan your turn properly due to the wildly changing board-state), a rating of 4.21 (FCM) vs 3.63 (Tzolkin) just seems ridiculous.

So my suspicion is that there are some votes from gamers in there that got very frustrated during their session, as this game has the potential to rub people the wrong way if you ruin their economy - an aspect that is a little reminiscent of Monopoly. I observe this phenomenon with my own ratings as well, ultimately any type of rating is just an opinion expressed as a number and as such will never be 100% objective, but a reflection of the experiences gathered throughout your gaming sessions. So if you have a hard time during your session, the perceived struggle will be harder, which in turn might lead people to give higher weight ratings.
 
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Spencer C
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bluesheep wrote:
Just played my first game yesterday and in my opinion the weight rating is off on this one (4.21 at the moment of writing this post). I would have expected something like 3.5, as the rules are very intuitve and the calculations involved are not that hard (the hardest calculations I have encountered during the game was whether it was worth to disocunt my goods -4$ in order to take a couple of extra houses from my opponents and even for something like this you can just use some quick and dirty heuristics and still be decently competitive).

I come from a Terra Mystica / Gaia Project background and find both harder (weight: 4 for me) as the calculations are a lot more involved (planning ahead with 5 different ressources, where you calculation can't be off by even 1 or your plan is screwed + the timing involved) and the decision tree seems more opaque to me (in particular Gaia Project offers a lot of alleys that 'seem' euqally good). Also, if compared to something like Tzolkin (which literally melted my brain the first time I played it, as you cannot plan your turn properly due to the wildly changing board-state), a rating of 4.21 (FCM) vs 3.63 (Tzolkin) just seems ridiculous.

So my suspicion is that there are some votes from gamers in there that got very frustrated during their session, as this game has the potential to rub people the wrong way if you ruin their economy - an aspect that is a little reminiscent of Monopoly. I observe this phenomenon with my own ratings as well, ultimately any type of rating is just an opinion expressed as a number and as such will never be 100% objective, but a reflection of the experiences gathered throughout your gaming sessions. So if you have a hard time during your session, the perceived struggle will be harder, which in turn might lead people to give higher weight ratings.



I suggest you play a couple more games before judging. Certainly, the rules are very intuitive, but weight is a weird combination of rules complexity and skill ceiling. I agree that 4.21 might be a hair on the high side, but I would suggest 3.9-4.1 would be mor appropriate. Certainly not <3.63.
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Flo P
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UanarchyK wrote:
I suggest you play a couple more games before judging.


Thanks for the reply, I certainly will try to get more games of FCM under my belt, as I was left very intrigued by my first session. Sorry if I didn't stress this point enough in my first post, but I want to make clear that my opinion is just a first impression and that I was trying to compare to the collective oppinion on the game and I was wondering that I was so far off in my personal judgement. You are right, maybe I will discover additional layers and elements of the game that will complicate the process of parsing the decision tree, but for now I am just baffled by the rating, in particular when I compare it to my experience during Tzolkin (which on the other hand, might be underrated?).

The thing you are probably hinting at with your comment is the poker behind FCM - reading your opponents plans and preparing appropriately. However I think that the game actually does a good job of letting the players digest all the information available, as there is a clear turn/phase structure during which you can deduce what your opponents are going for. One person on the forums here mentioned that there is a memory aspect to the game, as you have to remember who hired what kind of staff, but the way I was taught the game you are allowed to ask the persons what kind of staff and how many of them they have during phase 5 (and you can also just look at most of their staff during the phases before), so I don't find this to be true. Maybe this was illegal and made things easier than it should be (I'd thank you for pointing this out if it was the case), but my opponents played the game 5 times before so I would be surprised if they still made mistakes. Essentially you will be interested in only a couple of things in their hand: During the early game: who are your competitors for milestones and during the mid/late game: who has what production capabilities, a free marketing person, how many waitresses and who can potentially open a new restaurant in your vicinity.

All in all I didn't find this to be much to keep track of, most of the time I was able to quickly identify my one or two potential competitors (we played a 4p game) and focus on their moves and counteract appropriately (getting discounts early enough, making sure you are first on turn order for third tie breaker, etc.) I think that FCM lends itself to play a lot by intuition, as the incentives are clear: making more money is good and denying your opponent money (even if you loose some that way) is equally good.

There was only one situation where I actually had to calculate an exact sum in order to make sure I reach the CFO milestone, everything else can pretty much be eye-balled by using a big-picture heuristical approach (also known as gut feeling whistle). This is so different from all the Euros I am used to where you are constantly running on the edge of being as efficient as possible without breaking your engine/plan (see Terra Mystica/Gaia Project). In FCM I don't care so much whether I make 42$ or 45$, in the end I still make money, whereas those games have you turn over and double check every penny/cube at your disposal in order to make sure you can actually execute your plan, while at the same time juggling possible future income / insecure public property ressources and timing issues that are thrown into the equation.

My ramblings might lead you to believe that I think this game is easy, which is not the case! I think it is a fairly thinky, highly interactive gem of a game that is approachable and doesn't leave me burned out (I could have immediately played another 3h session after the first game) - so anything between 3.5 and 4 would have been appropriate in my opinion. At the end of the day it doesn't matter anyway, I just came here to ask around and see whether an omission of a central game element was part of the discrepancy I experienced when looking up the collective opinion on this game.
 
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Flo P
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As an addendum to my previous post:

Thinking a little closer about it, I think I can nail the perceived weight discrepancy down to the following (note that I tend to compare this game to the only other interactive Euro I know well so far: TM/GP, so I probably run into the risk of talking to myself here if people haven't had a lot of experience with those games. I am fully aware that FCM and TM/GP have nothing in common, I am only using the comparison for the means of a relative weight gauge):

Euros like TM/GP have you planning anywhere from 5-10 turns in the future, mentally allocating virtual ressources you haven't gathered yet and travelling down different permutations of potential VP generating avenues while making sure you get the amount and timing of your virtual ressources right, such that they can actually be acquired and feed into your combo chain. All in all it involves a high amount of planning and running through the motions in your head without having any mental crutches and means of verfication in the form of a physical representation of what you are doing.

FCM on the other hand has the same potential of chess-like pre-planning your moves, however: Due to the higher degree of interaction any plans you come up with are vulnuerable to interference - therefore the gameplay (as I experienced it) shifts more into the reactive regime of the spectrum. There is no point in mentally mapping out your next ten moves when your plans are going to be thwarted anyway. This paradigm shift is what allows the players in FCM to care less about the exact numbers, which is what is usually required when milking a VP engine, and more about how to properly react to what your opponents are aiming at. Reacting to your opponents moves is a lot easier than mentally addressing an exactly calculated plan without forgetting or missing some detail (at least for me), in particular when the game has implemented the decision tree so intuitively, e.g.:

Your opponent is

- stacking up on waitresses > better get some cards that allow to compete in a bidding war.

- getting ready for a new marketing campaign in your turf next turn > try to figure out what kind of product he is most likely going to market, and quickly hire / train the appropriate staff to leech as much as possible

- signaling the threat of opening a new restaurant in a profitable zero distance neighbourhood > try to block him out with a well placed house+garden, in order to force him into a distance of at least 1 or prepare for a discount war

I am sure that there are a lot more examples (after all I have played the game only once so far and there is a lot left to discover for sure), but those were some of the major decisions I encountered during my session. Overall the calculations that are left are usually fairly easy: you simply count distance and during phase 5 you ask your opponents how many waitresses and discount managers (or whatever they are called) they have. This gives you a rough estimation of where you might be under attack.

Additionally the game is broken up in nice individual steps. Every plan has its ramp up phase during which you can react such as to minimize any potential harm done to you, therefore lagging only one or two turns behind before diminishing the full effect of the blow you are going to take. This is probably the most likely point where I might change my opinion with more games, but for now I haven't seen any devious gang-ups on one player or out-of-the-blue wtf-like moves that caught you completely unprepared and left you shell-shocked.
 
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Spencer C
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bluesheep wrote:

FCM on the other hand has the same potential of a chess-like pre-planning of your moves, however: Due to the higher degree of interaction any plans you come up with are vulnuerable to interference - therefore the gameplay (as I experienced it) shifts more into the reactive regime of the spectrum. There is no point in mentally mapping out your next ten moves when your plans are going to be thwarted anyway.


There's a bit too much to react here to for me to try and get to everything, but I will make a brief comment that just as I don't believe a weighty game needs complex rules (see: Go), I also don't believe that interactivity precludes games from being weighty. If anything, I might argue the opposite. Mitigation, expectation, and adaptation are extra dimensions to a given game's calculations if it includes a high level of interaction.

Of course, the real answer to all of your questions is: Well, then vote for the game weight, and if enough like minded people come along it'll drop down.
 
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Flo P
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Excellent remark, I definitely agree that weight isn't an aspect of rules density alone, for what it is worth what I usually perceive as weight is one aspect of the overall impression a game left on me due to its rules complexity, emergent dynamics in play and game length. It isn't a well defined term, so it is hard to discuss a topic like that properly, let alone come up with a numerical value for it - which is why I rely so heavily on comparisons in my posts.

I do not think that interaction precludes a higher 'weight', but it rather makes the overall situation complex enough that the driving mathematics behind it become opaque and the game therefore 'incalculable' for the average brain capacity (or to phrase it in another way: with the amount of variables involved becoming large and/or fuzzy enough a system will seem more random to the observer).

Ultimately this might even be a personal issue (I do have slight AP-tendencies), but I feel that without readily available values - labeling everything with a VP value provides a nice metric for planning your moves ahead - and the mathematics behind those values to simply tap into and exploit, I tend to play a game rather along coarse heuristical guidelines instead of optimally calculated paths. The reactive nature of FCM allows for an empirical 'let's see whats gonna happen and adapt' approach instead of the usual Euro's min-maxing.

UanarchyK wrote:
Of course, the real answer to all of your questions is: Well, then vote for the game weight, and if enough like minded people come along it'll drop down.


I guess my verbose posts lead to the appearance of me having some sort of agenda here, so let me be clear: an isolated number like 4.21 carries no meaning, it is only in conjunction with the aforementioned games that the relative weight difference seems ridiculous. So I might as well try to raise those ratings

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings and reply to them, I will try to play more as you suggested (just discovered boardgamecore.net) and rate the game after I have 5-10 games under my belt. Who knows, maybe I will experience a session that leaves me completely burned out and changes my mind.
 
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