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Subject: Considering a Balancing Variant rss

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Greg Purcell
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Considering two three balancing variants. I consider these very gentle tweaks to the game:

1: Underdog variant. No glory for attacking a lower-ranked player than yourself. Glory as usual otherwise.

2: At the end of the game, instead of taking one all-player reward, a losing player may take one winner-only upgrade, in a category of the winner's choice, by paying two (maybe three) leftover tokens to the bank.

3) Any adviser card kept by the player in last place (in total glory) does not count its gold cost, when determining which adviser the winner keeps.

Before you gang up on me, consider this. I was among the playtesters for the game. In fact, I went over to Rob's house to playtest the game, and I mentioned these concerns while the playtest was going on (we had a blast, by the way).

In terms of my background, I like Pandemic, but I loved Pandemic Legacy. I hate Risk, and I hated Risk Legacy. I love games of combat and trading and exploration on the sea (Merchants and Marauders and Navegador are both favorites), and I have high hopes for Seafall. But I'm afraid that there's a little--just a touch--too much Risk in this game, and that it will tank with our group.

In short, Rob and company are very mentally healthy people, raised on Risk, who can deal with repeated loss and extreme randomness, and who can coordinate to take down a repeat winner. The game is balanced for them.

My group are a bunch of crazies who take violence and repeated losses kind of personally. Likewise, neither I or anyone in my group would blame anyone for quitting a game of Seafall who'd lost more than four times in a row. I mean, that person would not even get to fully participate in the "hook" of the game, and each of his or her losses humiliatingly recorded for all time. I am usually that guy. If that happens, the game gets shelved, and we don't get to play anymore.

The variants above are meant to take a little sting out of this dynamic and suit it to fit us, so that we can see the game through to the end. We don't want a "peaceful" game, just one that would be meaningful for all the members of our group.

My only worry is that, by instituting rule 2 and having more people leveling up more often, we could run out of those stickers faster. Plus whatever I've not seen in my playtest of the game.

Anyone out there with a group like mine? Anyone trying anything like this?
 
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David desJardins
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What is "instead of taking one all-player reward"? I don't know what an all-player reward is. The only "reward" that I can think of that everyone gets at the end of the game is a ship upgrade. Getting +2 gold to one field INSTEAD of a ship upgrade at a cost of leftover tokes (which you usually won't even have, or you have reserved to deal with your enmity) seems like no benefit at all.

I'm biased because I'm leading in glory in the game that I'm playing, but to me there is HUGE rubber-banding in this game. If starting with +21 gold isn't enough to let you do something the leader can't, you're not using your advantages right, imho.
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Greg Purcell
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DaviddesJ wrote:
What is "instead of taking one all-player reward"? I don't know what an all-player reward is. The only "reward" that I can think of that everyone gets at the end of the game is a ship upgrade. Getting +2 gold to one field INSTEAD of a ship upgrade at a cost of leftover tokes (which you usually won't even have, or you have reserved to deal with your enmity) seems like no benefit at all.

I'm biased because I'm leading in glory in the game that I'm playing, but to me there is HUGE rubber-banding in this game. If starting with +21 gold isn't enough to let you do something the leader can't, you're not using your advantages right, imho.


Both the keeping and the training of advisors are both rewards all players receive, in addition to a ship upgrade. Again, the winner chooses which category the loser can level up in.

You're right, most people, after erasing enmity and such, won't have the tokens left over. But certain people will have lost so continuously that throwing a game (by not spending a token) will at least be something they can do.

These aren't variants meant to threaten the leader so much as to give the loser some hope. Unless there's some big change from my playtest or the rules as written, the balancing rewards seem pretty weak to me, as they did in Risk Legacy.

My 2 cents. Any non-winners want to chime in?



 
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j n
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It seems like you have a pretty good idea of what your group will/won't like (and as a playtester you probably have even better knowledge than most of us if this would have undue influence on future games).

That said, I'm not sure your number three actually does anything most of the time.

Also I'm not sure how often I would avail myself of number 2 in a losing position. You're talking about either forgoing a ship improvement or not keeping an advisor to get a game upgrade? I feel like I would generally rather do both of those and skip the permanent bonus (unless my advisors were all terrible somehow).

Spoiler (click to reveal)
I think improving ships is about as good as any other game end upgrade, and I'd want to keep an advisor that would give me a good shot at achieving a milestone in the next game, because those are going to be worth glory *and* permanent improvements typically


That said, I've only played a couple of games so far, but none of this looks like it would break the game from where I sit.

EDIT:
GorillaGrody wrote:
Both the keeping and the training of advisors are both rewards all players receive, in addition to a ship upgrade. Again, the winner chooses which category the loser can level up in.


Training an advisor should definitely NOT be something you can choose not to do, IMO. You're supposed to train an advisor even if you can't keep it, so that the pool of advisors continues to improve for everyone.

But I didn't notice that the winner got to choose the loser's upgrade. That makes it seem even less likely that I'd want to take it.
 
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Greg Purcell
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lactamaeon wrote:
It seems like you have a pretty good idea of what your group will/won't like (and as a playtester you probably have even better knowledge than most of us if this would have undue influence on future games).

That said, I'm not sure your number three actually does anything most of the time.

Also I'm not sure how often I would avail myself of number 2 in a losing position. You're talking about either forgoing a ship improvement or not keeping an advisor to get a game upgrade? I feel like I would generally rather do both of those and skip the permanent bonus (unless my advisors were all terrible somehow).

Spoiler (click to reveal)
I think improving ships is about as good as any other game end upgrade, and I'd want to keep an advisor that would give me a good shot at achieving a milestone in the next game, because those are going to be worth glory *and* permanent improvements typically


That said, I've only played a couple of games so far, but none of this looks like it would break the game from where I sit.

EDIT:
GorillaGrody wrote:
Both the keeping and the training of advisors are both rewards all players receive, in addition to a ship upgrade. Again, the winner chooses which category the loser can level up in.


Training an advisor should definitely NOT be something you can choose not to do, IMO. You're supposed to train an advisor even if you can't keep it, so that the pool of advisors continues to improve for everyone.

But I didn't notice that the winner got to choose the loser's upgrade. That makes it seem even less likely that I'd want to take it.


Well, the number three rule allows the loser to keep any advisor they want without fear of giving the winner an advantage.

It could be that the number three rule may be a bit too soft. Perhaps three tokens buys you the upgrade, and you don't lose any rewards...
 
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David desJardins
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GorillaGrody wrote:
Both the keeping and the training of advisors are both rewards all players receive, in addition to a ship upgrade. Again, the winner chooses which category the loser can level up in.


Well, honestly, if you're trying to help the people who are trailing feel better about the game, then I don't think that forcing them to give up one thing they want to get some other thing is going to be good. ESPECIALLY not forcing them to give up a short-term benefit (like keeping an adviser) to gain a long-term benefit (like more income for the rest of the game). The goal is for the players who don't play as well to at least win once in a while, right? Even if they have not much chance to win the whole campaign, because they just don't play as well. A big short-term bonus does more for that.

Here are a few other suggestions that I think would fit your needs more. Note these are mild spoilers because they use mechanisms revealed only after the start.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
1. Increase the number of advisers a player can keep. For each bonus you get for having less glory than the leader, you can use it to keep an additional adviser, instead of the other options (or even in addition).

2. Increase the number of bonuses a player gets for having less glory than the leader (e.g., 1 per 3, or 1 per 4, instead of 1 per 5).

3. Give players extra glory outright. E.g., for every 10 glory you're behind the campaign leader, start the next campaign with +! glory.
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Matt S
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GorillaGrody wrote:
1: Underdog variant. No glory for attacking a lower-ranked player than yourself. Glory as usual otherwise.


In theory I like this, but I can see it getting a little in the way as the next to lowest rank player has the option to raid the person with a lower rank and its the "Best" move that they should normally take. Now that person is being punished for taking what should be their next best move.

Maybe instead of no glory awarded, remove one dice from the dice pool for every two ranks lower rounding up. This still gives lower ranking players a boost without removing the reward for the higher ranking players.

GorillaGrody wrote:

2: At the end of the game, instead of taking one all-player reward, a losing player may take one winner-only upgrade, in a category of the winner's choice, by paying two (maybe three) leftover tokens to the bank.


This one is very dangerous in my mind. It has to have an appropriate cost to get one of the winner only upgrades, I am just not sure what that cost should be. It should also not deprive them of the other regular upgrades that happen for all players.

GorillaGrody wrote:

3: Any adviser card kept by the player in last place (in total glory) does not count its gold cost, when determining which adviser the winner keeps.


I think this one is the easiest and the most rewarding for the lower ranked players. Usually you will want to keep an expensive advisor, so this makes the other ranks need to choose a less expensive one to "punish" the highest rank.


Having said all of that I am not sure how "necessary" these things are. I know for my group it would not make that much of difference for feeling of the game. However if these small changes make the game more fun for your group, do it. It is your copy. We do this to have fun.
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Matt S
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Here are a few other suggestions that I think would fit your needs more. Note these are mild spoilers because they use mechanisms revealed only after the start.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
1. Increase the number of advisers a player can keep. For each bonus you get for having less glory than the leader, you can use it to keep an additional adviser, instead of the other options (or even in addition).

2. Increase the number of bonuses a player gets for having less glory than the leader (e.g., 1 per 3, or 1 per 4, instead of 1 per 5).

3. Give players extra glory outright. E.g., for every 10 glory you're behind the campaign leader, start the next campaign with +! glory.


I really like the ideas here. Especially #2 and #3.
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j n
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GorillaGrody wrote:
Well, the number three rule allows the loser to keep any advisor they want without fear of giving the winner an advantage.


I mean, it just helps the winner. If, for some reason, the loser really wanted to keep a 1-cost advisor (perhaps it has a great sticker or something), then normally the winner would not get to keep an advisor, but your rule allows them to ignore that loser's choice. But in the case where the loser picks the high-cost advisor (which they normally will, because the higher-cost advisors tend to have better starting abilities) then the rule does actual nothing, because the winner only cares about the lowest cost advisor chosen.

GorillaGrody wrote:
Perhaps three tokens buys you the upgrade, and you don't lose any rewards...


I feel like this is probably too much, but I don't know for sure. I'd honestly rather mess around with the title cards themselves (with starting bonuses and whatnot), but the rules imply that's going to happen anyway and I'm not far enough to want to mess with any of that myself.
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Greg Purcell
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lactamaeon wrote:
GorillaGrody wrote:
Well, the number three rule allows the loser to keep any advisor they want without fear of giving the winner an advantage.


I mean, it just helps the winner. If, for some reason, the loser really wanted to keep a 1-cost advisor (perhaps it has a great sticker or something), then normally the winner would not get to keep an advisor, but your rule allows them to ignore that loser's choice. But in the case where the loser picks the high-cost advisor (which they normally will, because the higher-cost advisors tend to have better starting abilities) then the rule does actual nothing, because the winner only cares about the lowest cost advisor chosen.



Of course, the rule is meant to help the loser by allowing them to keep a high-cost advisor without fear of consequence. I'm sure we could rewrite the letter of the law to allow for this. Or simply give the loser an opportunity to take from all the discarded advisors and scrap all the other balancing rules.

In either case, I'll run all of this by my game group, only after they have reeled in horror at the "I take half your stuff and set you back to square one" regular catch-up and combat rules.
 
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j n
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I guess I get the intention, but it's only helpful to that player in terms of preventing analysis paralysis.

There's technically no discard pile for advisors (they go to the bottom of the deck) unless you meant the ones not kept by other players. However, it mucks a bit with the end game order (the lowest game glory is supposed to be choosing each of these things first, so the other players have not yet discarded anything).

You could give the lowest player the option of choosing an advisor from the forum if there's one they prefer to their existing options, which is simple and avoids the potential timing issues.
 
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Frank Pelkofer
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GorillaGrody wrote:
lactamaeon wrote:
GorillaGrody wrote:
Well, the number three rule allows the loser to keep any advisor they want without fear of giving the winner an advantage.


I mean, it just helps the winner. If, for some reason, the loser really wanted to keep a 1-cost advisor (perhaps it has a great sticker or something), then normally the winner would not get to keep an advisor, but your rule allows them to ignore that loser's choice. But in the case where the loser picks the high-cost advisor (which they normally will, because the higher-cost advisors tend to have better starting abilities) then the rule does actual nothing, because the winner only cares about the lowest cost advisor chosen.



Of course, the rule is meant to help the loser by allowing them to keep a high-cost advisor without fear of consequence. I'm sure we could rewrite the letter of the law to allow for this. Or simply give the loser an opportunity to take from all the discarded advisors and scrap all the other balancing rules.

In either case, I'll run all of this by my game group, only after they have reeled in horror at the "I take half your stuff and set you back to square one" regular catch-up and combat rules.


I think it's interesting that in your game group, the last place player would be worried about trying to limit themselves in order to slow down the first place player. In my group, the last place player would never do this. They would simply remind the other players that #2 and #3 have the obligation to pick a cost 1 adviser if they expect to ever win the campaign and keep the cost 4 adviser with a clear conscience. "It's simple: only one us has to make the sacrifice and all of you have more to lose than I do. I have no incentive to fall further behind just to help any of you."
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Greg Purcell
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countertorque wrote:
GorillaGrody wrote:
lactamaeon wrote:
GorillaGrody wrote:
Well, the number three rule allows the loser to keep any advisor they want without fear of giving the winner an advantage.


I mean, it just helps the winner. If, for some reason, the loser really wanted to keep a 1-cost advisor (perhaps it has a great sticker or something), then normally the winner would not get to keep an advisor, but your rule allows them to ignore that loser's choice. But in the case where the loser picks the high-cost advisor (which they normally will, because the higher-cost advisors tend to have better starting abilities) then the rule does actual nothing, because the winner only cares about the lowest cost advisor chosen.



Of course, the rule is meant to help the loser by allowing them to keep a high-cost advisor without fear of consequence. I'm sure we could rewrite the letter of the law to allow for this. Or simply give the loser an opportunity to take from all the discarded advisors and scrap all the other balancing rules.

In either case, I'll run all of this by my game group, only after they have reeled in horror at the "I take half your stuff and set you back to square one" regular catch-up and combat rules.


I think it's interesting that in your game group, the last place player would be worried about trying to limit themselves in order to slow down the first place player. In my group, the last place player would never do this. They would simply remind the other players that #2 and #3 have the obligation to pick a cost 1 adviser if they expect to ever win the campaign and keep the cost 4 adviser with a clear conscience. "It's simple: only one us has to make the sacrifice and all of you have more to lose than I do. I have no incentive to fall further behind just to help any of you."


This level of metagaming just does not naturally occur to us, just as we don't perform the "plot against the king" function in a way that translates as fun for us. As the commenter says above, the rule simply allows the last player to opt out of that part of the game. But you're right, it may be too weak an incentive to keep the loser interested in the game over multiple losses.
 
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Greg Purcell
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Okay. Update. I didn't get past the sales pitch and initial rules explanation for this game. Two of our members ran screaming from the 15+ game commitment, and another couldn't make it, but seems interested. That leaves us with three.

Just the barest description of the way emnity worked in relation to the island's garrisons and resources, and the trading of it back and forth between players--which flummoxed me somewhat in the playtest, and still flummoxes me today--turned their hair white.

We will try again with more intrepid explorers later in the week. We may have to give it a few games before we even think about tinkering with it.

Certainly a far cry from, "it's Pandemic. Let's play and see what happens."
 
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Greg Purcell
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GorillaGrody wrote:


Just the barest description of the way emnity worked in relation to the island's garrisons and resources, and the trading of it back and forth between players--which flummoxed me somewhat in the playtest, and still flummoxes me today--turned their hair white.



"But I spend at least a half an hour every week consorting with the ghost of John Nash about which toilet paper truly earns the title 'super-absorbent,' and while I don't mean to pat myself on the back or anything, I had no trouble whatsoever picking up the enmity system from the very moment I read the rules."

Just saving some people the trouble.*



*It is a novel ruleset, with many moving parts and implications for future play. To us, it's complex... complex enough that nearly half of us gave up before we ever started. YMMV.
 
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It's definitely a complex ruleset! I asked my other players to watch the How to Play video on youtube (http://www.plaidhatgames.com/news/734) before we started. It helped a lot (it's very thorough), but it's more than 30 minutes long!

I'd personally read all the design notes articles and the whole rulebook, so I did know the rules pretty well myself, but asking everyone to do that level of prep wouldn't have worked well.
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GorillaGrody wrote:
Certainly a far cry from, "it's Pandemic. Let's play and see what happens."


Well, to me that's a good thing!
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Greg Purcell
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DaviddesJ wrote:
GorillaGrody wrote:
Both the keeping and the training of advisors are both rewards all players receive, in addition to a ship upgrade. Again, the winner chooses which category the loser can level up in.


Well, honestly, if you're trying to help the people who are trailing feel better about the game, then I don't think that forcing them to give up one thing they want to get some other thing is going to be good. ESPECIALLY not forcing them to give up a short-term benefit (like keeping an adviser) to gain a long-term benefit (like more income for the rest of the game). The goal is for the players who don't play as well to at least win once in a while, right? Even if they have not much chance to win the whole campaign, because they just don't play as well. A big short-term bonus does more for that.

Here are a few other suggestions that I think would fit your needs more. Note these are mild spoilers because they use mechanisms revealed only after the start.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
1. Increase the number of advisers a player can keep. For each bonus you get for having less glory than the leader, you can use it to keep an additional adviser, instead of the other options (or even in addition).

2. Increase the number of bonuses a player gets for having less glory than the leader (e.g., 1 per 3, or 1 per 4, instead of 1 per 5).

3. Give players extra glory outright. E.g., for every 10 glory you're behind the campaign leader, start the next campaign with +! glory.


These are some pretty great ideas. I'll run them by the group.
 
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David desJardins
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GorillaGrody wrote:
Just the barest description of the way emnity worked in relation to the island's garrisons and resources, and the trading of it back and forth between players--which flummoxed me somewhat in the playtest, and still flummoxes me today--turned their hair white.


The enmity rules are very poorly written and organized. I think someone should write and post a summary of how enmity works that would be simple and succinct and clear. I might try to do that. I really think that if they were better written and explained it wouldn't be so offputting.
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Having read the designer notes first (http://www.plaidhatgames.com/news/719) I didn't find the enmity rules too difficult to grasp, but there is certainly room for improvement.
 
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Greg Purcell
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DaviddesJ wrote:
GorillaGrody wrote:
Just the barest description of the way emnity worked in relation to the island's garrisons and resources, and the trading of it back and forth between players--which flummoxed me somewhat in the playtest, and still flummoxes me today--turned their hair white.


The enmity rules are very poorly written and organized. I think someone should write and post a summary of how enmity works that would be simple and succinct and clear. I might try to do that. I really think that if they were better written and explained it wouldn't be so offputting.


Please do.

I get RD's intent in putting them there--it's neat that violence bears a lasting effect--but in my playtest group I kept waiting to "get" how they worked, and didn't fully grok them until the playtest was nearly over. It was a big advantage for players who could absorb the mechanics early--they basically "dictated" the complexity of the battle for the "dumb" player (that was me*, in case there was any doubt). Devastating for a game in which these failures to start are recorded permanently.

And of course, there have been some changes to the rules since.


*I speak as someone who has a pretty good grasp of the Merchants and Mauraders combat system, and the market in Navegador. Oh, and as someone who teaches for a living. Just so you don't get the wrong impression.
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I whipped this summary up from memory. It contains no spoilers (I haven't unlocked any chests yet).

Let me know if you see any mistakes/non-spoiler omissions.

(Also, David, if you want to use this as a start on a more detailed article, feel free).

- give tokens when you do something hateful (typically raids, sometimes Captain's Booke entries)
- typically, you put it on sites to indicate that the site has already been raided/depleted for the year
- typically, you will give one enmity to island sites
- against provinces, you will give an amount equal to the plunder value of the area you end up raiding
- can't raid a site if you can't give enough tokens to that site
- if something forces you to give more tokens than you have, lose 1 glory per token you can't give
- give back At War tokens belonging to target (to their Home Enmity) before placing your own
- this may result in no tokens being placed on a site (that site may be raided again/field still produces)

- island effects
- buying stuff on entire island costs +1 per enmity (sticker or token)
- reduce your raid dice pool against entire island by 1 per enmity (sticker or token)
- (can't raid an island if you couldn't collect the appropriate loot)

- province effects
- reduce your raid dice pool against entire province by 1 per enmity (sticker or token)

- moving enmity
- in winter, move enmity off sites to a common regional area (garrison of island, At War section of province)
- still has it's ongoing effects, but the sites may be attacked again

- at war
- each token of yours in a player's At War section gives them +1 die when raiding you
- when giving tokens to players, give theirs back from your At War section first

- endgame
- roll dice equal to your remaining Fortune + Reputation
- 1 success lets you pick back up your token
- 2 successes lets you cross off your sticker
- any tokens at islands or other provinces turn into stickers
- fill blank sticker boxes first
- cover other players' stickers second
- if you run out of space, lose 1 glory per extra sticker you couldn't place
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Yitzhak Kornbluth
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Another thought that might help balance things (if implemented from the start): Each player can only get one permanent bonus per game. So if you get two milestones and win the game, you can choose from the game-win bonuses and those listed for the milestones, but can only pick one of them.

This would also weaken milestones (a good idea, as the winners will usually be those best at getting milestones); this can be further accomplished by lowering their glory value (perhaps even to 0 for those milestones whose attainment would get you glory anyway). If not adjusted for, it would make for longer games and (regardless of adjustments) would probably make for a longer (in number of games) campaign; whether you want that or not is a decision to be made by the group.
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Yitzi wrote:
Another thought that might help balance things (if implemented from the start): Each player can only get one permanent bonus per game. So if you get two milestones and win the game, you can choose from the game-win bonuses and those listed for the milestones, but can only pick one of them.

This would also weaken milestones (a good idea, as the winners will usually be those best at getting milestones); this can be further accomplished by lowering their glory value (perhaps even to 0 for those milestones whose attainment would get you glory anyway). If not adjusted for, it would make for longer games and (regardless of adjustments) would probably make for a longer (in number of games) campaign; whether you want that or not is a decision to be made by the group.

I wouldn't recommend reducing the number of permanent bonus. In fact, I think it would be better to go the opposite direction and award permanent bonuses as part of the catch-up mechanism. I'm not sure what the details of this might be, but perhaps something along the lines of "any player that is more than X glory behind the leader chooses a faction upgrade".

Note that this is easier said than done, as there are a limited number of faction upgrades available to begin with.
 
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Frank Pelkofer
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Becq wrote:
Yitzi wrote:
Another thought that might help balance things (if implemented from the start): Each player can only get one permanent bonus per game. So if you get two milestones and win the game, you can choose from the game-win bonuses and those listed for the milestones, but can only pick one of them.

This would also weaken milestones (a good idea, as the winners will usually be those best at getting milestones); this can be further accomplished by lowering their glory value (perhaps even to 0 for those milestones whose attainment would get you glory anyway). If not adjusted for, it would make for longer games and (regardless of adjustments) would probably make for a longer (in number of games) campaign; whether you want that or not is a decision to be made by the group.

I wouldn't recommend reducing the number of permanent bonus. In fact, I think it would be better to go the opposite direction and award permanent bonuses as part of the catch-up mechanism. I'm not sure what the details of this might be, but perhaps something along the lines of "any player that is more than X glory behind the leader chooses a faction upgrade".

Note that this is easier said than done, as there are a limited number of faction upgrades available to begin with.


That pretty significantly changes the balance. As written, the winner gets a permanent bonus and the losers get temporary bonuses. The temporary bonuses scale with the gap, so you get more powerful the further you fall behind. If everyone gets permanent bonuses, why am I trying to win a game? At that point, we're just playing an interactive story.
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