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Subject: First player advantage? rss

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Randy D

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Does the player who goes first have a discernable advantage over other players?

If so, has it been tested to give the other players an advantage equal to their starting position such that the start player advantage is nullified? For example, everyone starts with 3 gold, but player2 starts with an extra +1 gold (4 gold total), player3 an extra +2 gold (5 gold total), player4 an extra +3 gold (6 gold total). If extra gold is deemed too powerful, then another benefit idea would be to give 1 extra secret claim card from which to select or maybe 1 extra Tycoon card, etc.
 
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Mike n Phyllis Snedeker
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Our group only has 5 games in so far, but haven't seen a tilt of wins to 1st player to need a "fix"...
 
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Robert Couch
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I worked hard during the development to eliminate any first player advantages that might pop up. There's already a lot to lay out when you're preparing to play the game. I didn't want to have to add another layer of separate player setups on top of that.
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Randy D

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Robert, thanks for the response. It looks like this is something that you had put a lot of thought into and that is good to hear. It is also good to see how much effort you put into keeping the game simple at its core -- it is so easy for a game to quickly become bogged down with so many rules and extra little details to remember that the primary experience of the game becomes lost and muddled. Saloon Tycoon definitely has enough strategic decisions to make that minimizing all those extra little rules & details was a good call.
 
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Paul Smith
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We felt that the outlaws counteract any "first player advantage". People tend to hold back from expanding too fast because they end up with all the outlaws if they do :-)
 
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Harvey Cohen
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RobertCouch wrote:
I worked hard during the development to eliminate any first player advantages that might pop up. There's already a lot to lay out when you're preparing to play the game. I didn't want to have to add another layer of separate player setups on top of that.


Having played the game twice I feel there is a huge disadvantage to the last player since is it very likely the last player will get fewer turns than the others. Plus the other players going ahead of the last player get a leg up on the public goals. For instance, one goal was the first to place two pharmacies. As last player, this goal was unobtainable after one of the players ahead of me bought a pharmacy so I could never buy two before he bought another one.

I avoid games that have no designed options to make up for inherit advantages or disadvantages for player order.

No reason to play a game and start behind the eight ball.
 
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A.J. Porfirio
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cohenhs wrote:
RobertCouch wrote:
I worked hard during the development to eliminate any first player advantages that might pop up. There's already a lot to lay out when you're preparing to play the game. I didn't want to have to add another layer of separate player setups on top of that.


Having played the game twice I feel there is a huge disadvantage to the last player since is it very likely the last player will get fewer turns than the others. Plus the other players going ahead of the last player get a leg up on the public goals. For instance, one goal was the first to place two pharmacies. As last player, this goal was unobtainable after one of the players ahead of me bought a pharmacy so I could never buy two before he bought another one.

I avoid games that have no designed options to make up for inherit advantages or disadvantages for player order.

No reason to play a game and start behind the eight ball.


Hey thanks for playing Saloon Tycoon. We appreciate you giving it a shot.

No offense, but 2 plays is nothing short of anecdotal. I'm not even saying you are wrong as I don't have empirical evidence that 1p doesn't have an advantage, but if he does it is minor (not "huge" as you put it) and I am hard pressed to believe that it is significant enough to worry over having developed the game and played it a lot more than 2 times.

You fail to mention things like the secret objectives, the outlaws, and the tycoon deck that tend to level the playing field over the course of play, but if you really think your losses are entirely due to the order of play and your decisions don't matter from the very first turn, well yeah I can understand you not wanting to play again. However as someone who has played many times more and developed the game, I have to say I disagree wholeheartedly with that assertion.

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Harvey Cohen
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vanrydergames wrote:
cohenhs wrote:
RobertCouch wrote:
I worked hard during the development to eliminate any first player advantages that might pop up. There's already a lot to lay out when you're preparing to play the game. I didn't want to have to add another layer of separate player setups on top of that.


Having played the game twice I feel there is a huge disadvantage to the last player since is it very likely the last player will get fewer turns than the others. Plus the other players going ahead of the last player get a leg up on the public goals. For instance, one goal was the first to place two pharmacies. As last player, this goal was unobtainable after one of the players ahead of me bought a pharmacy so I could never buy two before he bought another one.

I avoid games that have no designed options to make up for inherit advantages or disadvantages for player order.

No reason to play a game and start behind the eight ball.


Hey thanks for playing Saloon Tycoon. We appreciate you giving it a shot.

No offense, but 2 plays is nothing short of anecdotal. I'm not even saying you are wrong as I don't have empirical evidence that 1p doesn't have an advantage, but if he does it is minor (not "huge" as you put it) and I am hard pressed to believe that it is significant enough to worry over having developed the game and played it a lot more than 2 times.

You fail to mention things like the secret objectives, the outlaws, and the tycoon deck that tend to level the playing field over the course of play, but if you really think your losses are entirely due to the order of play and your decisions don't matter from the very first turn, well yeah I can understand you not wanting to play again. However as someone who has played many times more and developed the game, I have to say I disagree wholeheartedly with that assertion.


I've been playing board games for 40 years and I'm very experienced at recognizing imbalances and whenever game with a turn based format allows some players get fewer turns by design, then they are disadvantaged. Now granted there is huge variance in this game, some Tycoon cards are powerful while some are barely worth having, but you shouldn't have to hope you get lucky and get the good cards to make up for getting fewer turns. If two players get 12 turns and two get 11, you honestly believe the is no inherit disadvantage to the players getting fewer turns? Sorry, not buying it. And without an on-line database of thousands of plays to prove it, we will never know for sure. But I trust my experience with hundreds of strategy games and thousand of plays that you either need equal numbers of turns or a mechanism to account for the imbalance. Just because the cards can swing the game enough for some people do not to notice does it not make it balanced. Ask the people you play with if it is alright if you always go first and see if they say "no problem." I'm guessing they won't agree.
 
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Ryan Feathers
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Huh arriving about a month too late to this, but I'll still put in my thoughts:

The game does have a mechanism for dealing with supposed imbalance in the number of turns: It's the outlaws and the take that nature of some of the tycoon cards. Through the usage of such mechanics players in the lead tend to be punished and held back, such that players who may have been disadvantaged can make up the difference.

With that being said, you're undoubtedly correct that unequal number of turns means that some players are being disadvantaged. I agree that I'd expect a game to have some sort of method for dealing with this if it was attempting to be a strategy game. As I said though I think Saloon Tycoon does have such a mechanic built in.

Next off, I think it is highly unlikely this game is targeted at you anyhow though. It would seem Saloon Tycoon is aiming to be a relatively light game with easy to grasp rules, and quite a bit of take that cards. I don't think it's trying to be a finely wrought perfectly balanced strategy game that will attract heavily competitive players. Looking at your profile and rankings, it is clear you really enjoy those strategically deep Euro games. And that's fine, I also like those the most! But I think it's clear Saloon Tycoon isn't trying to be that game. Saloon Tycoon is much more designed in that german family school of design that spawned stuff like Catan, Ticket to Ride, Zooloretto and the like.

And while many of those games are quite good and have reasonable strategy, none of them are finely wrought perfectly balanced affairs. Neither is Saloon Tycoon. It's focus is on an easy to play game that is fun for families, newer gamers, and what not. It presumably wasn't aimed at the hardcore Euro enthusiast who prioritizes mechanics, balance, and depth of strategy.

Finally, I agree with AJ. Two games is nothing short of anecdotal. While you may claim to have thousands of games behind you, I doubt any players can truly tell if there are significant balance issues after only two plays of most games. There is more depth than that in Saloon Tycoon and it will take more than a few plays and hunches to really reveal any balance problem. As you admit the only way to truly know is thousands of plays among expert players. Now that isn't going to happen here and it isn't going to happen for most games. But do you really think there is such an imbalance in this game such that the last player basically is guaranteed to lose among quality opponents? I would grant that you may be correct that turn order has some impact on who is going to win, but even some of the most successful Euro games have such issues. (Agricola and Puerto Rico for example have enough games to document that player order has a significant impact on winning)

I personally think Saloon Tycoon may have a small advantage to the 1st player compared to the last player but it is relatively minor and no worse than many other very popular highly successful games. It is not such a crippling flaw that prevents Saloon Tycoon from functioning as lighter strategy game. The winner will more so be determined by who plays well, who gets better cards, who has secret objectives that synergize well than it is determined by the player order.

Finally though if you're such an experienced player of Euro strategy games, surely you have heard of popular house rules for many games such as bidding victory points for turn order? Heck, Terra Mystica even made this an official variant for their game for the players that were concerned about balance issues there. In top level tournament play of Puerto Rico (at least at the WBC) they bid victory points for seat order. It would be trivial for your to implement such a rule in your games to eliminate the supposed player order problem.

 
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