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Subject: Question for the designer about the Deus Ex Machina expansion: rss

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Jeremy Kidder
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Martensdale
Iowa
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My desire is to play the game (at least at first) as closly as possbile to the way it was intended and tested. I am trying to figure out how the expansions fit into this.

So of the three mini-expansions so far it seams clear that from the designer's point of view:

1. The alternate events cards are designed to reduce the effect of the most disasterous events. In other words, the events in the game are the ones designed for it and these 'nerfed' versions exist for those who want a less significant impact by events. The events that came with the game are the 'non-variant' version of the game.

2. By contrast the strategy cards that require upkeep appear to be (from the designer's point of view) the preffered method of play. The designer notes that he almost made them the standard version but did not to reduce complexity. He also notes that he would recomend them to be used in turnoment play. Thus it seams that the strategy cards that come with the game are the variant.

So my question is how do the Deus Ex Machina cards fit into this? Are they part of the original design? Would the designer recomend them for use in turnoment play?

So far I have not used them but before implimenting them would like some input on how they effect the game's stretegy and comlexity and what their intended use is.

I would appreciate any input.

Thanks!
 
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Brad Miller
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Reading this disappoints me. Perhaps I won't be buying it...
 
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Robert Forrest
Australia
Embleton
Western Australia
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Windopaene wrote:
Reading this disappoints me. Perhaps I won't be buying it...


Why would that stop you from buying it?
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Judd Vance
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WICHITA
Kansas
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"Just get that sucka to the designated place at the designated time and I will gladly designate his ass...for dismemberment!" - Sho Nuff.
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I do not speak for Dan. I can tell you what I do know, though.

First of all, let me explain the companion manual and I'll use this to explain the strategy cards.

During the play testing, he or I would come up with a rule idea. It added a cool historical twist or something like that, but you get into a situation where you run into "Rules Creep" (if you are familiar with the engineering term "Design creep.") From my standpoint, adding a rule here and there didn't make it more complicated because I knew the others well. I had been playing it for years, so if you add a rule every other week, what is 26 new rules over the course of a year, right? However, from a new player's standpoint, you have a lot of rules to learn all at once before you sit down to play. The end result is that you end up with a Richard Berg-like game, chalked full of these "chrome" rules. (Don't read that wrong, I really dig some of Berg's games, but old wargamers know what I'm talking about).

Dan wisely kept saying, "We'll add that to the companion book." Knowing you would have a lot of players coming over from A Few Acres of Snow, he kept the rules as simple as possible (and still turned out a game that is a step up from Acres in terms of complexity). By adding the rules in the companion book, it allows the hard core Berg fans, Victory Games and SPI fans, and hard core wargamers who loves historical nuances and chrome to add as many of these chrome rules as preferred.

So with that premise in mind, here is the scoop on the cards.

He and I played the heck out of the game using the original strategy cards that came with the game. All you have to do is a search on the Geeklists and see the "Wargames on Your Table" listings to see the recording of our many games, and the vast majority of these were with the original strategy cards.

Down the stretch, he came up with the idea of the maintenance cost. I PREFER it that way, but I dearly loved the game without it. The disadvantage of that is that adds more rules and more things for the players to track, and I can understand why someone would think the maintenance cost was a fiddly rule that adds unnecessary complexity without a proportional amount of pay off. Different strokes for different folks.

So why offer both? Well, it goes back to the Companion Guide concept: simplicity vs. chrome.

The other reason involves something a lot of people do not consider: when you get a sheet of cards, you get a fixed number. It's not like you buy a sheet of 97 cards or something like that. For example, sheets of 108 are common (think about it: 4 suits, 13 cards + 2 jokers = 54 and 54 x 2 = 108). That is why some games come with a few blank cards to fill in yourself: the publisher "bought" the cards when they bought the sheet, so why not throw them in the game as blanks, instead of throwing them in the trash can?

Likewise, there was room for extra cards in this game. I could be wrong (this is a really a Don question), but I thought there were 28 extras. So how to fill 28 cards? The game had just the right mix of units. He had those finely tuned. The number of locations were fixed. We thought and thought about added strategy and event cards, but we tapped that well dry, so rather than throw the extra cards away, the decision was made to offer both sets of strategy cards, using the premise of "start easy and add complexity by option."

That took care of 15 of the cards.

Some players will object to the severity of some of the random events. Those who have grew up on Avalon Hill and saw that rolling a "1" at 2:1 odds and got "AE" results would not bat an eye. We know that you take your chances and manage the risk. However, some players are not used to this and would think an entire game hinged on a bad event, so for those folks, you had 5 alternate event to tone it down.

Because I am an old school wargamer, I prefer the original events. I am ok with losing your entire fleet to a naval disaster, because that's what happened historically, and I have seen that it is not a game-ender.

That left 8 cards, and deus ex machina was born. It is one card per player and you don't have to use it. It's not drawing the "You win" card. It just adds a touch of flair. You have the opportunity to trade victory points for a one time advantage. Again, added complexity and added chrome. Use if you want to.

If you choose to pass up the expansion, you are basically playing the game that we playtested for years and I wrote those AARs for. If you want to customize the events or take on strategy cards in a whole new way or try the one time bonus, the expansion offers it. I tell people that the maintenance cost/alternate strategy cards make that expansion worthwhile to me. I LOVE that rule, but that's just me.
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Daniel Berger
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Littleton
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Judd's reply is pretty much spot on. I'll also add that the Deus Ex Machina cards were a pleasant excuse to add some little bits of historical information into the game that players can read about.

Who doesn't want to know where "Serpent of Africa" came from?

And they're not mandatory. Don't like them? Don't use them.

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Sergio Macias
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Esplugues de Llobregat
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Reading this excites me. Perhaps I will be buying it...

Oh, who am I kidding? My copy is on its way
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