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Star Wars: Imperial Assault» Forums » General

Subject: Is lack of information a problem? rss

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Tomer Mlynarsky
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Let's say there is a mission where the rebels lose condition is everyone are wounded and not finishing the mission in X rounds.

The map includes a room and the imperial player has an optional event at the end of round Y and one of the options is to blow up a room causing all figures in it some red dice damage.



Now, what if the rebels are all either wounded or very close to it and having the room blown up is the difference between winning or losing.

Is it fair that the rebels don't know that's going to happen?
Wouldn't that completely ruin people's fun knowing that "oops, if you only moved a single space outside the room you might have had a shot?"

This is a strategy game at its core, but the fact that the players can't really think of an optimal solution here seems like a really bad issue. I mean it could be the opposite event for all they know, that everything outside the room will be blown up.

I'm asking because I ran into a similar issue during preparing for a session. The rebels were essentially digging their own grave because they didn't know that an event would kill them.

What do you do in this situation? I'm pondering if when we get to the actual session, should I warn the players about the incoming death trap they're unaware of?
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William Roop
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GrandMasterFox wrote:
Let's say there is a mission where the rebels lose condition is everyone are wounded and not finishing the mission in X rounds.

The map includes a room and the imperial player has an optional event at the end of round Y and one of the options is to blow up a room causing all figures in it some red dice damage.



Now, what if the rebels are all either wounded or very close to it and having the room blown up is the difference between winning or losing.

Is it fair that the rebels don't know that's going to happen?
Wouldn't that completely ruin people's fun knowing that "oops, if you only moved a single space outside the room you might have had a shot?"

This is a strategy game at its core, but the fact that the players can't really think of an optimal solution here seems like a really bad issue. I mean it could be the opposite event for all they know, that everything outside the room will be blown up.

I'm asking because I ran into a similar issue during preparing for a session. The rebels were essentially digging their own grave because they didn't know that an event would kill them.

What do you do in this situation? I'm pondering if when we get to the actual session, should I warn the players about the incoming death trap they're unaware of?


In the campaign I played (base game only) as the Imperial player, giving away the hidden information would have wrecked most of my chances to win. I only won 4 of 12 games as it was. The first couple of scenarios do a good job of introducing the element of surprise to the rebel players as well as teaching them to keep to task instead of getting into a "kill em all" mentatlity. I played vs 2 players and they quickly got in the habit of sending only 1 character into trigger situations. If you REALLY felt the need to give information up, you could be nice and announce where the next trigger point is, but even THAT is pretty obvious to any rebel team that is paying attention to the mission briefing at the beginning.
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Jeppe Nybo
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The information asymmetry is an intrinsic part of the game design and one of many balancing factors. Balance, though is tricky in a game like this, with a nearly infinite number of potential combinations of Rebel Heroes, choice of upgrade, equipment, rewards, Imperial Class, agenda cards, and so forth before you even get to the individual mission (part of it being the information asymmetry) or, perhaps the most significant, player skill.

So it is probably a bad idea to cut away the information asymmetry in general, but nothing stops - either side - from playing in suboptimal ways (which might include sharing otherwise secret information) that makes the game more fun and interesting in specific situations that are otherwise starting to look like a landslide victory.
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Pasi Ojala
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Get the Imperial Assault Campaign module for Vassal from http://www.vassalengine.org/wiki/Module:Star_Wars:_Imperial_Assault
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GrandMasterFox wrote:
I'm pondering if when we get to the actual session, should I warn the players about the incoming death trap they're unaware of?

The rebels learn it quickly that interacting or opening things can trigger mission events. That happens in all missions, so it should not become as a surprise once they have played Aftermath.

So, if you feel they do not notice that themselves, point it out. But I would never reveal exactly what the triggers are and what will happen. Also, the imperial player sometimes has choices between options, so you don't even know if and until the event happens.
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Tomer Mlynarsky
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Okay, I wanted to avoid spoilers and use a made up scenario, but as I want to focus my point here, here's the actual scenario I was thinking about:

Spoiler (click to reveal)

I was simulating the mission Brushfires.

Playing as the rebels, I had no choice but to put them all near the big ATST who was hulking over the last explosive in the top right corner. Since it wasn't going to move and being adjacent to it gives you immunity for it, it seems like the logical thing to do from the rebel perspective and attack it until it dies.

However, being the imperial player at the same time, I knew that once they kill it, it will blow up for 2 red dice which would have been enough to kill the last 2 remaining healthy ones.


So being logical about it, is it really reasonable to expect the rebels to realize that
Spoiler (click to reveal)
it will blow up in a short radius and kill them?


That's why I wonder should I at least give them a heads up. Now generally speaking, whenever I play games, I usually give other players advice, even if that advice is actually how to kill me better.

I prefer to have more of a challenge and the other people to understand the games better. So maybe it's part of that.

But I also can't help but wonder, as a rebel player how would this scenario make me feel? If I get blasted by an "unknown trap" that I didn't know was going to come up and kill me? It sort of takes away the whole point of strategy from the game if you there is nothing that you can tell yourself retroactively that you did it wrong.
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Jason
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Unit capabilities are not hidden information, players are free to look at what units can do. So just letting them know that the AT-ST blows up isn't "cheating" at any point, however, if they have no desire to read what it does...
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Thomas with Subtrendy
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Mechanically speaking, lack of information is much less clunky than in many other games (such as Betrayal at the House on the Hill) strictly because one player knows everything and can help facilitate the game.

Balance wise, I'd just consider it to be a built in advantage for the Empire to be able to plan a little more. That being said, eventually the Rebels will learn what is likely to trigger events in games, and they'll be sure to be careful when taking actions such as opening doors- as well they should.
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Drew Dallas
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I'm going to give you a slightly different perspective. If we were playing this game together and you gave me information like this without me asking I likely wouldn't play the game with you again.

What it boils down to is I want to play the game without being monday morning quarterbacked, especially by my opponent. Hidden information is a huge part of the game and part of the fun playing as the Rebels, even if I lose because of it. If we were playing this game together if you started giving me tips as the imperials that would ruin the immersiveness and fun of playing as the rebels for me. And given that the actual situation you describe isn't even hidden information it likely would annoy me even more that you were 'reminding' me of its ability.

Now this might not apply to your group dynamics but in my group unless someone is a newb or playing learning games it is considered very bad form to quarterback them.
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Pasi Ojala
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Wired_Wolf wrote:
Unit capabilities are not hidden information, players are free to look at what units can do. So just letting them know that the AT-ST
Spoiler (click to reveal)
blows up isn't "cheating" at any point, however, if they have no desire to read what it does...

That part is a mission-specific effect resulting from an event. It is not open information. Future events are never revealed -- some of them never even happen. If a consequence/effect is intended to be known by the rebels, it is included in the mission briefing.

Probe Droid's Self-Desctruct ability is open information though.
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Tomer Mlynarsky
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Like Psai said, it is hidden information. We're not talking about Droids which can suicide, but rather a mission event that states

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Once you kill the AT-ST, it blows up. This happens as a mission event and not listed publicly on the card.

What is listed on the card is that when you are adjacent to it, it can't fire, therefore creating the false impressions that you should hug it.

But alas, you go boom and that specific boom can be the difference between winning and losing.


Well, we'll see how it goes. Game is in about an hour.
Maybe they won't even get to that point.
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Tomer Mlynarsky
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Okay, the situation did not occur during the mission.


However, a different situation happened. The players flat out asked me:


Spoiler (click to reveal)

If I the detonators can explode. I have an optional event to blow one of them up when it is being carried. The players specifically asked if they blow up on the ground.

So I said "No".

When the event came up, I thought about it but decided the other option is just as good and just picked it (adding an additional bomb).

They still lost.


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Bryan Hedrick
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I have played almost 50 games across several campaigns, playing both the rebel and imperial sides with several different groups. Although I have played both sides, I have been the Imperials player more often than not.

Without fail, across several games and numerous campaign, the single element the rebel players have liked the least (including myself when on the other side of the fence) is the hidden information aspect.

Rebel players feel* that the scenarios have too many "gotcha" moments. True, the players often know that if they interact with a door, terminal, etc., "something" will happen. Often the "something" is very thematic, which is great for story telling. However, whether that "something" is often strategically balanced is less clear. If nothing else, my rebel players consistently believe that the game sends mixed messages as to the decisions it "rewards" (for example sometimes rushing is the only possible way have enough time to win, sometimes rushing puts you in an impossible situation).

Although most of the groups I've played with enjoy the game greatly overall, I did have one group move on mid-campaign because they were not enjoying it specifically because of the "gotcha" moments the hidden information provided.

Also related to all this is that the missions are not necessarily supposed to be perfectly balanced in a branching campaign (i.e. some missions are SUPPOSED to be harder for one side or the other based on who won the last campaign mission). Other threads have discussed how FFG has a somewhat spotty record on getting this right (missions that should in theory be easier for the rebels turn out not to be). I think the hidden information is just another balancing issue that FFG sometimes swings and misses on: sometimes the hidden information is a fun, thematic, fair surprise that the rebels can anticipate and adjust to. Other times, it seems like a complete "gotcha" that no one could have predicted, and the only way the rebels could have any chance of winning is if at least one of them had played the mission before.

Honestly, I go back and forth depending on how the last mission went on whether I think the game would be better if the scenarios had no hidden information (like Descent 2E).

* I will note that the Win-Loss record is pretty evenly matched, although the imperial player has won slightly more (without doing the math, I'd say maybe 55%). However, a lot of the rebel wins are side-missions, and the rebels I have played with don't have a great record in campaign missions. Regardless, the perception of every rebel player I have played with has been that the deck is stacked in favor of the imperial and winning a campaign mission feels like a great accomplishment.
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Torsten Hasforth
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I concur with Bryan and have previously posted the following:

The way most of the current scenarios are set up there are often built in surprises. I am the imperial player and my play group (who are strong on tactical skill and weak on role play inclination) have a hard time dealing with the surprises that turn the scenarios on their head.

They say, and I sympathise with them. That they might as well not plan. They are left with the tactical element but need not bother with the strategic element in how to handle the individual scenario. Because for all they know or rather fear the scenario might be turned on its head after turn 4. They have gotten used to the whole, every time a door opens stormtroopers spring into action, but there are more fundamental scenario reversals than that. Some scenarios are not of the setup reversing kind but some are and the rules don't oblige me to tell. Actually most scenarios are built on the premise of me not telling.

Spoiler (click to reveal)

Let me illustrate it with Imperial Hospitality for those that have played that scenario. In the scenario opening it is clear that they have to liberate the prisoner but there is a bonus for destroying the terminal by turn 4. What they don't know is that if they fail to destroy the terminal the door to the prisoners cage will in any event be opened. Exposing the prisoner to my rightful imperial fury. And the scenario explanation gives them no way of knowing this. So from the start they can go straight for the prisoner, but if they go for the terminal, which the scenarios teases them to do, they might lose it all throug no fault of their own. The next time we play I hope to appease them by revealing more of the scenario to give them the full view of what will happen. Which I feel is a bit of a shame as I fool myself into thinking that the scenarios were play tested and there is meaning to the madness of their set up?


And from this point on I have played with full disclosure. It might make it easier for the rebels, but my victories feel so much sweeter and well deserved.
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Dean L
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Two points:
1) If the rebels just have 4 health left between them then the Imperial has almost won. If they can't heal up they're taking a risk doing anything that might trigger an event. It's especially bad an idea to stand close together. The hidden information issue enforces a degree of caution. Rebels can't just run around with very low health.

2) A lot of the mission effects that players have no idea about are often clued in the flavour text. On occasion if there's an event that's particularly punishing I might emphasise the hint in the flavour text.
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Bryan Hedrick
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Deano2099 wrote:
A lot of the mission effects that players have no idea about are often clued in the flavour text. On occasion if there's an event that's particularly punishing I might emphasise the hint in the flavour text.


I won't argue the point too strongly, because honestly I'm having a hard time remembering off the top of my head, but I can't recall all that many situations when I thought "wow, that was really unfair to the rebels" and then later concluded that the flavor text was subtly dropping strategy hints.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
For example, the most recent "gotcha" instance I played through was the Battle of Hoth scenario from Return to Hoth. In that mission, the intent is clearly for you to use the turret on the tank. However, the turret doesn't appear until the end of round one, AFTER you may have already used up all four turret shots. My rebel group looked at the map, decided they needed to split up to the four corners of the map to reactivate the shield generator AND that it was possible that they might never regroup adjacent to the turret. So, because they might not have another chance to use the turret, they decided to use all four shots on round one to thin the Imperial herd before splitting up.

This is not a foolish strategy on its face, but we all know that the scenario drops an elite tank, the intended target of the turret, which "level 0" rebels are going to have a hard time with. If you've played the scenario before, you simply know to save the turret shots, and after that its clear sailing for the rebels because the Imperial player just won't be generating enough threat to keep up. If you haven't played the scenario before,however, you have no idea. In fact, its just as likely in other scenarios for the game to punish rebels for not "taking the shot when they have it."

There are times when the game seems to reward being able to read the scenario designer's mind more than the actual strategic decisions themselves.


Regardless, when you get to the point that you are reading flavor text with a "wink, wink, nudge, nudge", I think you are getting pretty close to the line of just saying: "hey, let's stop being cute and just make all this hidden information open."

Again, I'm not sure where I ultimately fall. There are missions where the hidden information is a complete non-issue. There are missions where the hidden information adds a lot of fun. There are missions where the hidden information feels the exact opposite of fun, and is completely random in which strategy it decides to reward. I still haven't decided if, for my group, whether the really thematic moments created by the hidden information outweighs the "wow, this scenario was unfair" moments.

All of this is why I have high hopes for the app. I think many people (my group at least) would be much less put off by a punishingly difficult co-op than a inconsistently balanced many versus one game.
 
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Ray PG
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carolina_bryan wrote:


Without fail, across several games and numerous campaign, the single element the rebel players have liked the least (including myself when on the other side of the fence) is the hidden information aspect.


I haven't played it as much as you (or as much as I liked) but a few days ago a group I introduced the game to had the same complaint. I depends greatly on the players, if you have guys who approach this game strategically and spend a long time thinking about their moves and discussing tactics with each other, they may get really annoyed with the hidden information part as was the case here.

If you get a couple of real Star Wars fans together who just enjoy it for the story, the characters and the unexpected events the opposite is true I suppose.
 
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Dean L
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There was one mission (Generous Donations maybe) that I though was unfair. But it was clued in the flavour text. Other than that it's not been a big issue for us.

One thing that might help is to make sure that you're playing that the number of reserved groups in the Imperial's hand is open information. Possibly also the type (imperial or merc). So Rebels may not know what is coming, but they are clued into how many groups come out through mission effects.
 
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Bryan Hedrick
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I'll also add that another problem with the hidden information is that, when information is hidden, you are entirely reliant upon the Imperial player not making any rule mistakes. If the imperial player misreads or misinterprets a scenario specific rule, the entire mission can be broken.

Conversely, if there is no hidden information, all the players can work together to ensure the scenario is played correctly.

Again, I admit that taking away the hidden information robs the game of some of its RPG flavor. However, I am really leaning towards thinking that making all of the information open makes it a better board game.
 
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Dean L
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carolina_bryan wrote:
I'll also add that another problem with the hidden information is that, when information is hidden, you are entirely reliant upon the Imperial player not making any rule mistakes. If the imperial player misreads or misinterprets a scenario specific rule, the entire mission can be broken.


The Imperial player should be reading the rules out loud directly from the book so the only place that should really happen is if they mis-understand a trigger, and those aren't particularly ambiguous at all.
 
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Mr Suitcase
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This is an element my group did not find fun, possibly because they were punished very badly by an event in the first scenario.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Half the party was cut off by the door closing again during the first scenario



When I try it again, I may consider making it free information, or a half-way solution -> perhaps letting them know what the triggers are, but not what occurs when they trigger it.

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Tomer Mlynarsky
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Well we just came back from a session... And I think QED.

In this campaign, I'm playing one of the rebels and we were doing Davith's side mission. Naturally if you don't get how pissed I am... We lost


Spoiler (click to reveal)

The mission says that you need to get to a safe and interact with it. Then the mission will advance.

It was obvious that something will happen after it, but Occum's razor would suggest that we probably need to open the safe, then runaway for the exit.

Well, we were half right. You need to open the safe and run for the exit - just that it's not the exit you came from but rather, the person who opened the safe automatically gets an item from the safe and needs to get it to a completely new exit point on the map behind a corridor.

Of course since the empire player knew about it but we didn't, she turtle up that hallway making it impossible for us get through and thus lose the mission since we only had 1 round left. She already had 6 units completely covering a narrow 2-square-wide corridor. Passing through that will require 6 movements points alone and no way to be done (while also going all the way from the safe) in the last round we had.

Had we known about it, we could have easily cleared up that hallway. But we had no idea we would have to get out from another place entirely making us feel like we just wasted an hour for absolutely nothing.


Even the person playing the empire flat out admitted the mission is stupid and that the hidden information alone makes it impossible to pass this mission.

Since the players can't possibly expect that to happen, they'll always lose if the empire player isn't a complete moron.

Afterwards we talked about it a little and the entire group (including the empire) basically came to the conclusion that this is a great skirmish game, but is really bad as a campaign.

The design is simply terrible because they couldn't decide if it's an RPG or a strategical board game.

In an RPG, random surprises that bash you in the face are perfectly
accepted, but it's still assumed that the DM is not a regular player. While a DM will always win if he so chooses (he literally has god like powers), a DM accepts the fact that he's going to lose most of the time since he is the person that runs the game rather than just playing it.

On the other hand, from a strategical board game perspective, the campaign is an instant failure because the hidden information prevents you from having any shot of a strategy.
Sure, you learn to expect that when a door opens, something will be behind it.

But things like the this example and the previous example I gave about Brushfire are examples of situations where it's impossible for the players to win unless they know the rules.

It's like instead of getting the best of both worlds, they actually took the worst of both.

Considering that even the players are playing the campaign a second time around, thus no hidden information what so ever, the campaign will still be a challenge, I see no reason why I should torture the players further with this complete waste of their time.

We're having another session tomorrow with the other group (where I'm the empire) and I've already decided from now on any hidden information that I take into consideration I'm sharing with the players instantly.
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Pasi Ojala
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Get the Imperial Assault Campaign module for Vassal from http://www.vassalengine.org/wiki/Module:Star_Wars:_Imperial_Assault
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In the mission you mention the Shuttle (33B) is a named tile, and named tiles always have a meaning in missions. If the Imperial player did not name the Shuttle, then I understand your complete surprise about it.

(The mission can be won by rebels, but it can also be very hard to win if the rebels take too much time attacking and collecting clues before proceeding to the safe.

The way to the Shuttle can be cleared by other rebels so it doesn't take so many movement points. It helps if you have Diala and/or Fenn with their movement abilities - Force Throw and Tactical Movement, and Davith has Force Speed, move 2 spaces ignores extra movement cost.

It still is a hard mission against a good Imperial player.)

GrandMasterFox wrote:
I've already decided from now on any hidden information that I take into consideration I'm sharing with the players instantly.

Try fully open information in Into the Unknown.
 
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Dean L
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See, if our group were playing that mission, they would go "well he's putting figures in that corridor, so we're clearly going to have to do something there" and then someone else would go "unless he knows we think that and is bluffing" and that's half the fun of the game.

What did you think the Imperial player was doing with those six units?
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Tomer Mlynarsky
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a1bert wrote:
In the mission you mention the Shuttle (33B) is a named tile, and named tiles always have a meaning in missions. If the Imperial player did not name the Shuttle, then I understand your complete surprise about it.

Hmm... Yeah. We didn't know about that... That would totally change our game play. I suppose I'm willing to slightly move myself back from "bad campaign design" to "bad imperial player". But I still think this is a major issue in the game.

I think that if we would start the campaign all over again, same players same imperial with the same characters, we would still have a challenging time - which is perfectly fine. Game shouldn't be a breeze.

It just makes me think that the hidden information isn't needed for balancing really and only causes frustration.

It DOES help set the mood and give the pressure atmosphere, but on the other hand it goes against the strategic nature of the game.

a1bert wrote:
The way to the Shuttle can be cleared by other rebels so it doesn't take so many movement points. It helps if you have Diala and/or Fenn with their movement abilities - Force Throw and Tactical Movement, and Davith has Force Speed, move 2 spaces ignores extra movement cost.

Actually I'm playing Diala and I was the one near the safe. The problem was, I was stunned and didn't bother removing it since I can still interact with the safe.

Also, the best way to win this obviously is with Diala and her movement power (forgot the name, 3xp you can move through hostile figure with no additional costs and +1 speed). However, again... Lack of information... I didn't know I'll need it here and decided to buy something else.

This to me is the core issue here, it's kind of like in D&D. A wizard needs to pick spells to memorize, but can't know in advance what he'll face. That's fine, except if you didn't bring a fire spell and you meet a troll, you'll have a harder time - but still expected to win somehow. Or at least, the DM won't grow stronger because you lost since he is always on "equal" footing to you as far as CR goes.

In this game, the Imperial gets to win and gain more power due to the lack of preparations on the players part which they couldn't know.

a1bert wrote:

It still is a hard mission against a good Imperial player.)

I love hard missions. When I'm the imperial, I keep pointing out to the players (after asking first if they want my help) whenever they do stupid stuff so they'll do better so I'll have a harder time.

Hard is fantastic - impossible is where I have a problem. I don't mind losing a game, so long that I can sit afterwards and go over things and think to myself "Why did I lose? Where did I go wrong? What can I do better next time?" and in this particular issue, I don't see anything I would have done differently (without the information).

a1bert wrote:

Try fully open information in Into the Unknown.

Not familiar with that mission. I only own the base set (the other campaign with Davith is owned by that imperial player).

Next on the agenda as the imperial player is Viper's Den and Imperial Hospitality.
 
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