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Terraforming Mars» Forums » Variants

Subject: Another fast(er) game variant rss

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Jason
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I really enjoyed my first 3p game, even though it lasted around 5 hours. None of us were particularly slow players, but it was the first time looking at the game for two of us and the first non-solo game for the teacher. I know this would be a game where experienced players would get it done a lot sooner, simply by familiarity with the cards and synergies if nothing else. Even though we weren't particularly slow players and had minimal interruptions, I'd like a faster way of playing until I get to that veteran status. It didn't FEEL like the game was dragging, but 3, 4 or 5 hours is just too much for practical purposes.

To get to the point, here is what I'm proposing:
* At the end of every generation, the temperature goes up automatically
* At the end of every generation, if no one else has raised the oxygen this generation, the oxygen goes up
* If the game end conditions were met at the end of the generation, you treat that as "now do production and just buy greenery"
* If a temperature track bonus was triggered automatically, the next player to raise that track gets the bonus (place a cube on the board next to the bonuses to make this easy to keep track of)

This would pretty much guarantee the game would end in 14 generations at most. I'm assuming players will already put down one ocean put down per generation on average.

I feel like this has less of an effect than simply starting at higher initial conditions, or making the ending conditions lower. Cards that require certain conditions will still be spaced out like in the regular game, and none will be locked out because the initial conditions are too high or the ending ones too low.

It will probably make generating heat a little less powerful, though, since the board will be competing with you to claim those VPs. But also, greenery (and thus plants) won't give you as many VPs because the game will likely be snapping up some of those VPs as well. And since the players won't be able to get all the TR raises from increasing o2/temp, MC production will suffer. Steel and titanium production won't really be affected, though.
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Joe Martineau
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I cannot fathom how a TM game could take 5 hours, even if you played Corporate Era. Did you?

How many generations do you think the game lasted? If it was an excessive amount, I am inclined to think you are all playing poorly by not raising the three conditions. The combo of victory points and income for doing so is generally a solid play.
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Jason
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RageGoblin wrote:
I cannot fathom how a TM game could take 5 hours, even if you played Corporate Era. Did you?

How many generations do you think the game lasted? If it was an excessive amount, I am inclined to think you are all playing poorly by not raising the three conditions. The combo of victory points and income for doing so is generally a solid play.


Thanks for your input.
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Örjan Almén
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How many generations did your game take to finish?
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Jonathan Fryxelius
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Yes, 5 hours seems like a record. Are you sure you played it right?
I do like your suggestion of a faster play. As you said, this version would not really change a lot of the balance, it would practically just be another imagined opponent doing some terraforming here and there. However, I usually feel that temperature and oxygen go up pretty steadily on their own, since they are generated from your production. Temperature is also the cheapest parameter to raise with a standard project. Oxygen will rise, since it is worth many VP:s to play greeneries. I think the weak spot is oceans, which only gives 1 VP, does not accumulate by production, and has to be played by card or standard project. But adding one of those every generation would unbalance the game.
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Joe Martineau
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jepmn wrote:
RageGoblin wrote:
I cannot fathom how a TM game could take 5 hours, even if you played Corporate Era. Did you?

How many generations do you think the game lasted? If it was an excessive amount, I am inclined to think you are all playing poorly by not raising the three conditions. The combo of victory points and income for doing so is generally a solid play.


Thanks for your input.


I assume you're being sarcastic, but even the designer here is calling out your ridiculous playtime and asking one of the questions that I did. How many generations?

I'm still curious if you played Corporate Era. If you did, the easy solution for a faster game would be to not do that. If you were drafting, don't do that, either.

Alternatively, you could just make the game end at the 14th generation instead of doing the extra bookkeeping your variant requires (which in itself would probably add half an hour or so to your particular group's playtime).
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Jeff Noel
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I like this idea. As Jonathan said, this is a lot like having a phantom player. Here's a similar idea for a more random/less predictable imaginary player (off the top of my head and completely untested):

Get an opaque bag and some differently colored, but otherwise identical resource cubes (probably from another game). Add a cube for each potential parameter increase, excluding the free raises from the tracks (i.e. 18 red temperature cubes, 14 green oxygen cubes, and 8 blue ocean cubes).

At the beginning of every generation but the first, draw a cube from the bag, raise the corresponding global parameter (randomly placing any ocean tiles as described below), and set the cube aside. If a temperature cube was drawn, draw and resolve an additional cube (ignore this effect for the third temperature cube drawn in a given generation). Any bonuses this would trigger are gained by the next player to raise that parameter. If the corresponding global parameter is maxed out, there is no effect (aside from the extra draw from temperature cubes).

Ocean tiles placed this way are randomly placed into one of the ocean reserve spots, with location determined analogously to the random starting cities from the solo rules: When an ocean cube is drawn, reveal the top project card. Starting from the top left, scanning down and right (as if reading a book) and wrapping back around to the top left as needed, count out valid ocean locations until you reach the megacredit cost of the revealed card. Place the ocean at that spot, then discard the revealed card. For example, if no ocean reserved spaces are currently used, revealing a card cost of 4 (or 16/28/40) would result in the ocean being placed at the Viking Site.
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Jason
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Lord_Aethan wrote:
Yes, 5 hours seems like a record. Are you sure you played it right?


Since you asked a lot more politely, I'll answer you.

As I said, we had minimal interruptions, but not NOT interruptions. Probably about 30-45 minutes. And then we had teaching as part of that, which was about 30 minutes or so. And we had to look up some rule clarifications on BGG - probably another 15 minutes. And none of us had even played an actual game before, so even the teacher was getting the hang of playing multiplayer as we went.

Also as I said, I don't expect this to be typical once you get the hang of it. But I've run into that with a LOT of games, particularly ones where you have instructions on a card where there's a lot of unique cards (and TM really fits the bill there). We played with the basic generic corp cards, so we started by looking through 10 cards and trying to figure out what the heck we should do as a strategy when we had yet to really fully understand what strategies look like in TM.

And yes, we're sure we played it by the rules, as we've all read through the rules several more times since. It's such an interesting game - really good job. I don't think you'd need to speed up play once all players were familiar with the game. I'm thinking this would be a variant you'd really only use when you had mostly new players. The first game of big intermeshing games like this is very much a learning game anyway.

Quote:
I do like your suggestion of a faster play. As you said, this version would not really change a lot of the balance, it would practically just be another imagined opponent doing some terraforming here and there.


Yes, I feel like it's adding "a player that knows what they are doing and plays really quickly."


Quote:
However, I usually feel that temperature and oxygen go up pretty steadily on their own, since they are generated from your production.


Right, I was wondering this myself. We stopped keeping track of generations around 7 or 8 when we realized it wasn't actually a mechanic in multiplayer. It was easy to forget to advance it, mainly. I wish we'd kept on, though, so I could see how many generations we did. But if we took about 14 generations anyway, this wouldn't do it enough. It might have to be something like having o2 automatically advance on even/odd generations no matter whether someone advanced it anyway. Would get a little more complicated, though.

Quote:
I think the weak spot is oceans, which only gives 1 VP, does not accumulate by production, and has to be played by card or standard project. But adding one of those every generation would unbalance the game.


Agreed. I couldn't figure out a good way to handle oceans and don't have enough experience yet to know if how we played them quickly is in any way typical. Possibly start out letting each player place an ocean on the board? They wouldn't get any benefits, but it'd just let them kickstart things. Possibly after looking at their starting cards, but my concern there is that this would be slow and defeat the purpose.
 
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Steve
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jepmn wrote:
Right, I was wondering this myself. We stopped keeping track of generations around 7 or 8 when we realized it wasn't actually a mechanic in multiplayer.

Yes, why does the rulebook tell you to mark generations if it doesn't actually do anything unless you're playing solo? If it's only for solo why isn't that called out in setup--am I missing something?

Edit: Also used in the 3+ player variant. Still doesn't make sense for it to be included in the general setup rules, but at least I get it.
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Jordan Booth
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If you use the drafting rules, tracking the generations will remind you which direction to pass the cards.
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David Gårsjö
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I've had the same experience as you, especially with temperature, and towards the end it was more or less like we raised it just to put an end to the game. I was a big producer of heat myself, but I should have been gaining more points if I just kept playing cards.

Oxygen was not the same (for us at least), since it is a bonus effect when placing greenery, and greenery generates VP as well (especially when placed next to your city).

There are only 9 ocean tiles, so those ran out more quickly. There are also cards which give you two tiles, and that has a large impact when there are only 9.

Maybe i is like Jonathan replied, that raising heat is a good investment since it is relatively cheap, but using that cash to play cards or even place a tile is just more fun! That, I think, is the main reason in our games: Raising temperature is... well, boring!

I will definitely try Jason's variant, I like it!

ps. Our game ended after about 4.5 hours with 4 players. First play for two persons.
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Jason
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Just got done with my second play, this time with 4 players, three of which had one play under their belt already. I kept track of generations this time and we went 8 generations. First we ran out of temp, then o2 then lakes. It was quite different than my first play where lakes went very quickly. I think it took us about 4 hours with a break for food.

I still think I'd like to try this variant for times when I'd like to play a shorter game. We almost had to call the game due to one player's schedule. It's a great game, but any time a game can go over three hours it makes working it in a bit more difficult with the people I play with.

People didn't really focus on o2/greenery until after the temp had already been raced up. We had a lot of big heat producers, and a lot of temp-raising events. It was only once people really exhausted that track that they turned their focus to the greenery. It was also a game where we only wound up with maybe 2 cities per player, which I found odd compared to my first play. Personally, I only ever even SAW two cards with cities on them, and I actually got the 16-cards-in-hand Planner milestone. I also only saw about four blue cards my entire game.

I think this variant would probably have shaved 30 minutes to an hour off the game. I wouldn't want to play like this every time, but I probably would with a majority of new players or when we knew time might be tight.
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David Gårsjö
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I was thinking about a couple of other variants:

Start raising temp and 02 levels after a certain number of generations. Maybe after the 10th.
or
End the game when two of the three (O2/temp/sea level) are maxed.
 
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Jacob Lee
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jepmn wrote:

To get to the point, here is what I'm proposing:
* At the end of every generation, the temperature goes up automatically
* At the end of every generation, if no one else has raised the oxygen this generation, the oxygen goes up
* If the game end conditions were met at the end of the generation, you treat that as "now do production and just buy greenery"
* If a temperature track bonus was triggered automatically, the next player to raise that track gets the bonus (place a cube on the board next to the bonuses to make this easy to keep track of)

This would pretty much guarantee the game would end in 14 generations at most. I'm assuming players will already put down one ocean put down per generation on average.


I've tested this variant with 3 and it works great! I can sort of see how it changes the game balance a bit, but priority number one for me was to bring the time down and this did it. We don't know the cards very well, so we went the full 14 rounds. I think 10-12 rounds will become normal. Thank you for sharing this!
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Jason
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EmperorJacob wrote:
jepmn wrote:

To get to the point, here is what I'm proposing:
* At the end of every generation, the temperature goes up automatically
* At the end of every generation, if no one else has raised the oxygen this generation, the oxygen goes up
* If the game end conditions were met at the end of the generation, you treat that as "now do production and just buy greenery"
* If a temperature track bonus was triggered automatically, the next player to raise that track gets the bonus (place a cube on the board next to the bonuses to make this easy to keep track of)

This would pretty much guarantee the game would end in 14 generations at most. I'm assuming players will already put down one ocean put down per generation on average.


I've tested this variant with 3 and it works great! I can sort of see how it changes the game balance a bit, but priority number one for me was to bring the time down and this did it. We don't know the cards very well, so we went the full 14 rounds. I think 10-12 rounds will become normal. Thank you for sharing this!


Thanks so much for doing a real world test and reporting back on it! I'm glad it helped speed up a game that might have otherwise went slow because you didn't know what you were doing yet. I found it funny when I was accused of playing poorly on my first game. OF COURSE I played poorly. X)
 
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Jacob Lee
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Seriously, it works so well I won't go back to real rules. Saving 1+ hours is more important.
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Jason
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EmperorJacob wrote:
Seriously, it works so well I won't go back to real rules. Saving 1+ hours is more important.


Wow!
 
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Mr Man
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Firstly, thanks for these suggestions. My wife and I having been trying out different options to make the game play faster for us in two-play mode.

Before seeing your post we'd tried having 3 actions per player/per turn. We found that this didn't really speed up the total playtime, nor increase the speed for us during the first 5 to 10 generations, because we simply didn't have enough cash to do everything and resources were limited to take money free actions, e.g. heat to increase the temp. However, later in the game, things moved along a little quicker and chaining card effects was easier as 3 actions could be taken in one round.

We've played a few other variant options and the following (a good chunk based on your post) works really well for us and is how we play with us two; however, I doubt it would work so well with 2+ players - feedback & suggestions welcomed.

Quote:
** At the end of every generation, if no one else has raised the Temperature this generation, the Temperature goes up automatically.

A slight change to your suggestion, and more aligned with the below oxygen rule // No real issues encountered from three games played

Quote:
** At the end of every generation, if no one else has raised the oxygen this generation, the oxygen goes up.

[No change your suggestion // We found that some of the slow burn/early cards that require time to build-up and/or a low oxygen level need to be played right away or they simply can't be used.... no real problems.


Quote:
** If the game end conditions were met at the end of the generation, you treat that as "now do production and just buy greenery".

No change to your suggestion.


Quote:
** If a temperature (or oxygen) track bonus was triggered automatically, the next player to raise that track gets the bonus (place a cube on the board next to the bonuses to make this easy to keep track of).

Nope.... we play no-one gets bonuses from automatic increases. However, as per the normal rules, if a player directly raises the temp, causing them to get the heat bonus indicated on the board (or the temp increase on the oxygen track) then, and only then do they get the indicated bonus.

Quote:
*****> Players start with 5 M€ production <*****

Our first real change to your suggestions. This change helps to get things moving; we've had no problems with this change.

Quote:

*****> Players get Three Actions per round instead of two. <*****

Our second Big change and it can make some, mainly blue cards, on the edge of being overpowered as the extra action per turn can be used to get a deadicated TR point or VP (or 2) increase per round. We've found a few combos that are very powerful, but are just about on the right side of ok.

Example One: If you've got a lot of energy production/cubes 'Ore Processor (One Action: 4 energy for 1 titanium + Oxygen) is powerful

Example Two: If you've got a lot of heat production/cubes 'Caretaker Contract' (One Action: 8 Heat for 1 TR) is a VP per round.

Example Three: If you've got a lot of energy production/cubes 'Physics Complex' (One Action: 6 energy for a cube on the card; 1 cube = 2VPs) is Really powerful ninja and means 2VPs, per turn and still two actions to do other stuff..... same goes for 'Security Fleet'. These are right on the edge of being overpowered when playing with 3 actions, and can enter play early in the game giving the owner/user an action for VP creation option.... we might take them out of the next game.

Final thoughts on these cards/extra action: The limiting factor in the normal game rules is actions per turn; you just can't use these blue actions enough that they become too powerful and also do other helpful things with the normal rule of Two actions. However, in this variant, the limiting factor is largely game/play time - the games ends before you are able to really abuse some of the blue actions cards. That, coupled with you 'only' getting 2 actions on your turn (that's to say, you are using one of your three actions to get the VPs each turn) means the other player gets to do more 'stuff'.... but unless they are careful, they fall behind. I've found that building cities (for 25) and getting a solid plant production going, is a good counter to those powerful 3rd-action blue cards.

Anyway, Thanks Again and feedback welcomed.
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Aaron Cohen
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MrMann wrote:

Quote:

*****> Players get Three Actions per round instead of two. <*****

Our second Big change and it can make some, mainly blue cards, on the edge of being overpowered as the extra action per turn can be used to get a deadicated TR point or VP (or 2) increase per round. We've found a few combos that are very powerful, but are just about on the right side of ok.

Example One: If you've got a lot of energy production/cubes 'Ore Processor (One Action: 4 energy for 1 titanium + Oxygen) is powerful

Example Two: If you've got a lot of heat production/cubes 'Caretaker Contract' (One Action: 8 Heat for 1 TR) is a VP per round.

Example Three: If you've got a lot of energy production/cubes 'Physics Complex' (One Action: 6 energy for a cube on the card; 1 cube = 2VPs) is Really powerful ninja and means 2VPs, per turn and still two actions to do other stuff..... same goes for 'Security Fleet'. These are right on the edge of being overpowered when playing with 3 actions, and can enter play early in the game giving the owner/user an action for VP creation option.... we might take them out of the next game.

Final thoughts on these cards/extra action: The limiting factor in the normal game rules is actions per turn; you just can't use these blue actions enough that they become too powerful and also do other helpful things with the normal rule of Two actions. However, in this variant, the limiting factor is largely game/play time - the games ends before you are able to really abuse some of the blue actions cards. That, coupled with you 'only' getting 2 actions on your turn (that's to say, you are using one of your three actions to get the VPs each turn) means the other player gets to do more 'stuff'.... but unless they are careful, they fall behind. I've found that building cities (for 25) and getting a solid plant production going, is a good counter to those powerful 3rd-action blue cards.

Anyway, Thanks Again and feedback welcomed.


It seems to me that you're missing the rule that blue actions are only usable once per generation, not once per turn within a generation. You put a cube on the card to indicate you've used it and don't remove the cube until production at the end of the round.

--Aaron
 
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Jeff Noel
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In addition to what Aaron said, it sounds like you're misunderstanding the round structure. Players get 1 or 2 actions per turn, but an unlimited number of turns per generation (until they have decided to pass). Effectively you have an unlimited number of actions per generation, and you really only need to do two actions in a turn if you're in a rush to do something before your opponent does.
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Christian Naesseth

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jepmn wrote:
... We played with the basic generic corp cards, so we started by looking through 10 cards and trying to figure out what the heck we should do as a strategy when we had yet to really fully understand what strategies look like in TM.

...

I have never played with the generic corp cards, found that using the specialized corp cards gives the player a direction/strategy that they can pursue from the get-go. My first four player game (all new, I was the only one who had read the rulebook) took less than 4 hrs including teaching.
 
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Mr Man
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MrMann wrote:

*****> Players get Three Actions per round instead of two. <*****


Aaron wrote:

It seems to me that you're missing the rule that blue actions are only usable once per generation, not once per turn within a generation. You put a cube on the card to indicate you've used it and don't remove the cube until production at the end of the round.

--Aaron


Hi Aaron, The rule that blue actions are only allowed once per generation is understood and used during our variant, but as noted/quoted above, we play Three actions per generation, meaning that one of the three actions per generation can be used (in the above examples) to generate VPs (if such a blue action card is in play).

 
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Mr Man
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jeff0 wrote:
In addition to what Aaron said, it sounds like you're misunderstanding the round structure. Players get 1 or 2 actions per turn, but an unlimited number of turns per generation (until they have decided to pass). Effectively you have an unlimited number of actions per generation, and you really only need to do two actions in a turn if you're in a rush to do something before your opponent does.


Hi Jeff0, as noted above the rule that blue actions are only allowed once per generation is understood and used during our variant.

Quote:
Effectively you have an unlimited number of actions per generation
You normally get 1 or 2 actions.... can you example your thoughts around your 'unlimited' actions?
 
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Jeff Noel
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On your turn you can take 1 action, 2 actions, or pass. All players who have not yet passed this generation continue to take turns. The generation only ends once all players have passed. So you can take as many turns in a generation as you'd like until you run out of actions you can afford to take.
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Mr Man
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jeff0 wrote:
On your turn you can take 1 action, 2 actions, or pass. All players who have not yet passed this generation continue to take turns. The generation only ends once all players have passed. So you can take as many turns in a generation as you'd like until you run out of actions you can afford to take.


.... we're down to semantics here, but fundamentally you don't get 'unlimted actions' as you originally stated - you get 1 or 2 actions (or 3 with our variant), per generation.

Either way, thanks for taking time to engage and maybe our variant will make it to your game group; if so, I look forward to hearing about your results and follow-up comments related to this thread.
 
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