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Terraforming Mars» Forums » Variants

Subject: Realy hate randomness and bad interaction rss

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Tom Vician
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I was looking forward to try this game, high rating, was expecting nice euro game with good engine. All what i got was imperial settlers in space, whit all its frustration when cards doesn't come.

This is written after basic game without draft.
So what happened in game:
1a - random card that didn't help, cards that you can't use for it requirements
1b - starting hand of 10cards - 1 useful card others players was able to use like 5
2 - some one pick heat award before goal was reached - every body was collecting heat instead of pushing planet temperature(this goal is just bad)
3 - green tile restriction to build next to other your tile - why?
4 - 5player game - game has same time length as 3 or 4p, but you play less action because all push goals.
5 - so many option and necessary calculation - average player get super long time to get his decision
6 - goals like oxygen and temperature doesn't interact with planet only requirement for you cards
7 - nice to have titanium production but no space cards
8 - there is card you can product 1 animal/generation and there is card to steal 1 animal/generation - wtf, cards that reduce your production are bad and ugly since your engine is builded pretty expensively, specially at start
9 - all cards are unique and and make game pretty unbalanced - yes they are similar but it doesn't feel strategically


After game most players was disappointed, i told them its first game and draft would solve some randomness, but without reasonable variant i would not be able to convince them for another shot.

- does any once find algorithm to count card cost?
- does any one have cards in pdf or any other electronic version?

So i am here looking for variant on those points or any other aspect you didn't like. Any constructive criticism is welcomed.
Biggest problem for me is unbalanced cards and it draw. Draft would reduce it, but greatly extend decision time, since you have to compare more cards.

Here are some variants what i have in mind:
- effect that steal something from other players change to: give to less advanced player - positive interaction is better than negative
- some tile space on planed should be unlocked after reaching part of goal
- divide project deck by requirements or other method cost/type
- make some blue cards purchasable by more players
-- global technology - part of setup - adding replayability
-- after some one pay for blue card, other are able to play him to get its effect
-- some technology is unlocked for everybody after reaching some point in goal (like cows for everybody when there is enough oxygen)
- starting cards made only by corporate cards
- action : use combination of resources to draw another card


I will update this after some testing, but it will take time to convince my friend to give it another try.

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Carsten Buettemeier
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Use draft for the beginning and cooperate cards. Now that you've understood the core game mechanisms, you should be better in judging which cards to take and which to pass on.

We had a great evening yesterday playing this in that way.
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Nick Herman
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Quote:
After game most players was disappointed, i told them its first game and draft would solve some randomness, but without reasonable variant i would not be able to convince them for another shot.


I would also recommend that before you introduce houserules, you and your playgroup give it another try with the official draft variant (which I think is a reasonable variant to reduce the randomness).

It seems a bit rushed to me to try to change a lot of things with very limited experience with the game and without trying the official draft variant first.
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James Mathias
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BlackSoulCZ wrote:
I was looking forward to try this game, high rating, was expecting nice euro game with good engine. All what i got was imperial settlers in space, whit all its frustration when cards doesn't come.

This is written after basic game without draft.
So what happened in game:
1a - random card that didn't help, cards that you can't use for it requirements
1b - starting hand of 10cards - 1 useful card others players was able to use like 5
2 - some one pick heat award before goal was reached - every body was collecting heat instead of pushing planet temperature(this goal is just bad)
3 - green tile restriction to build next to other your tile - why?
4 - 5player game - game has same time length as 3 or 4p, but you play less action because all push goals.
5 - so many option and necessary calculation - average player get super long time to get his decision
6 - goals like oxygen and temperature doesn't interact with planet only requirement for you cards
7 - nice to have titanium production but no space cards
8 - there is card you can product 1 animal/generation and there is card to steal 1 animal/generation - wtf, cards that reduce your production are bad and ugly since your engine is builded pretty expensively, specially at start
9 - all cards are unique and and make game pretty unbalanced - yes they are similar but it doesn't feel strategically


After game most players was disappointed, i told them its first game and draft would solve some randomness, but without reasonable variant i would not be able to convince them for another shot.

- does any once find algorithm to count card cost?
- does any one have cards in pdf or any other electronic version?

So i am here looking for variant on those points or any other aspect you didn't like. Any constructive criticism is welcomed.
Biggest problem for me is unbalanced cards and it draw. Draft would reduce it, but greatly extend decision time, since you have to compare more cards.

Here are some variants what i have in mind:
- effect that steal something from other players change to: give to less advanced player - positive interaction is better than negative
- some tile space on planed should be unlocked after reaching part of goal
- divide project deck by requirements or other method cost/type
- make some blue cards purchasable by more players
-- global technology - part of setup - adding replayability
-- after some one pay for blue card, other are able to play him to get its effect
-- some technology is unlocked for everybody after reaching some point in goal (like cows for everybody when there is enough oxygen)
- starting cards made only by corporate cards
- action : use combination of resources to draw another card


I will update this after some testing, but it will take time to convince my friend to give it another try.


Sounds like you don't like this game. And that you need a variant to make it a different game. I would recommend playing it again, maybe even a few times as intended. Card draw is random, but thematically it's a representation of you working with what you have to terraform mars. If you still don't like it after another play or two, I'd suggest selling/trading it and getting something else you do like to play.
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J M
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The cards aren't everything. I won my last game with only two action cards available to me, with some generations doing nothing more than a single standard project.
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Florian Ruckeisen
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Young, rich and sexy wrote:
It seems a bit rushed to me to try to change a lot of things with very limited experience with the game and without trying the official draft variant first.

I fully agree, the draft variant is there exactly for players who dislike the inherent randomness of the regular research phase. Yes it does increase playing time, but for a group whose primary concern is card draw randomness, that's a good deal. The draft variant is, in a 4-5 player game, the difference between seeing 10 cards per round to choose from as opposed to the regular 4.

The draft variant does nothing about the initial draw of 10 cards, tho. If that is a concern too, consider some kind of Mulligan house rule as has been discussed here:
Mulligan house rule during setup
It's debatable whether or not the initial card draw really is an issue, because even if you only see 1-2 cards you want to keep (while other players may keep 5-6 or even more), you don't lose all that much. You save money by buying fewer cards (note that this does NOT apply to beginner corporations, who really do depend on a useful 10-card draw for a good/bad start), you can buy Standard Projects on generation 1 (yes they aren't as cost-efficient as cards, but still useful!), and perhaps surprisingly for a game that has engine-building, "being behind a turn" isn't all that catastrophic in TM.

However, if players feel that they are getting the short end of the card draw and feel that the game puts them at a disadvantage, that alone may be problematic - after all, you want everyone to enjoy the game. For that reason alone, personally I would recommend the following Mulligan house rule:
Any player may discard their starting hand of 10 project cards before they decide which corporation and which project card(s) to keep. If they do, they draw 8 new project cards to choose from. They can do this as often as they like, but each time they draw 2 fewer cards.

I'd stress again, though: Don't tinker with the game before you have tried the draft variant and, if you like, some sort of Mulligan rule.
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Tom Vician
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Och, 4 posts so far and 0,5 constructive. Yes i played the game and i don't like it. I accept that there are people who like it. But if i see game with potential but not working for me and my group of players, i give it a try to fix something. And i would much more like to see change this game into something else than see it at bottom of closet.

So I am looking for any one who feel same and have any idea or willing to test. I thought that variant section of forum is here for this sort of things.

Yes this game is thematically perfect, nice pictures act. but it is some time since i stopped to play games for its graphic.

Use draft for the beginning and cooperate cards. - I am looking forward to try this, but I am little bit afraid of extensive calculating and adding 50% to game time.
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Johnny Goslar
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Your sentiment is the same as mine, rarely any meaningful interaction and a lot of randomness. But I do not see the value in trying to change that, the core seems not to provide and new qualities worth redeeming compared to other games. The only interaction in our round was when one player prepared some turns to get 8 plants to trigger some cards and just the moment before somebody is crashing the moon and destroys his plants for no discernible strategic planning, but just due to strange luck in a one off in a big card pile.
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Dave Goldthorpe
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Having played the game just once myself, yesterday, I still think that at least half of your listed problems come from your perceptions than the reality of the game. For instance, the rule making you build forests next to your existing holdings is perfectly fine. Getting into a mess on heat scoring seems like inexperience and probably won't happen when you understand the scoring better.
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brian giese
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I've played this game 10 times. I've played 5 games with drafts, and 5 games with no draft (teaching games, where a draft would not have been good with all the new players)

Most games were played 4 or 5 people. I've seen players who start with a "bad" hand play against people with an "good" starting hand and still win.

The game really is about an evolving stat with multiple paths to victory. I think a person could have a lot of discussions about what is really a bad starting hand/vs good starting hand for a long time.

I don't think this game is for everyone. It can take a while to play, and there are a TON of cards that do a ton of different things while still having many many cards that do similar things as well. I can see a person being overwhelmed by options, or not liking the idea of starting the game with a plan, but having to modify/change their plan based on the card draw.


This game has taken over as the main game being played with a few of my gaming groups and I've been loving it, but I can see some concerns with people that feel the cards add to much randomness. I just think between standard projects and overlap of card types, there is always going to be a strategy that can be used by a player.


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Chris McLeod
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BlackSoulCZ wrote:
Och, 4 posts so far and 0,5 constructive.


You mean thank you?

People took time out of their day to answer your question and their assessment was that the whole notion of adding a variant to a game that you were very inexperienced with was a bit premature.
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Chris Toth

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Thought I'd give a reply to your concerns in this thread as in the hope that you might give this game another try:

1a - random card that didn't help, cards that you can't use for it requirements
1b - starting hand of 10cards - 1 useful card others players was able to use like 5


I agree with the other comments that you may want to use the drafting mechanic. Typically you don't play your first game with this mechanic, but using it at the beginning draw and then between rounds will allow you to pick from a wider array of cards.

2 - some one pick heat award before goal was reached - every body was collecting heat instead of pushing planet temperature(this goal is just bad)

Honestly, I have to take issue with your gaming group's strategy here. The heat award is worth 5 points if you win the award, 2 point for the contender. If you raise the temperature 5 steps, then you have effectively made the same number of victory points as the award, which might negate your other players battling over the award. You might even gain an extra point (by placing a ocean tile).

3 - green tile restriction to build next to other your tile - why?

Hmm... Not sure what to say here. City tiles can be placed anywhere on the board. If you want to branch out and place something green on the other side of Mars, build a city or play a card to give you a special tile placement and place it somewhere else.

4 - 5player game - game has same time length as 3 or 4p, but you play less action because all push goals.

I actually agree with you here, I don't think that 5 players is optimal for first time players. I think the sweet spot for this game is 3-4 players. You just get to do more engine building at those player counts which feels much more satisfying for new players. At 5 players and even 4, the game has more of a racing pace, something like Race for the Galaxy where you feel like you are just getting your engine going, and then the game is over. More fun to play at this player count with people who know the game.

5 - so many option and necessary calculation - average player get super long time to get his decision

Not much to say here either. Playing with players who have AP (analysis paralysis) can be super annoying. I just try to take a deep breath and remember that it can happen to anyone, and try not to play these kind of games with those kinds of players.

6 - goals like oxygen and temperature doesn't interact with planet only requirement for you cards
7 - nice to have titanium production but no space cards
8 - there is card you can product 1 animal/generation and there is card to steal 1 animal/generation - wtf, cards that reduce your production are bad and ugly since your engine is builded pretty expensively, specially at start
9 - all cards are unique and and make game pretty unbalanced - yes they are similar but it doesn't feel strategically


These last ones feel like you are mad at the cards. The cards do have ways to work together to create a synergy with other cards, or with corporation powers, or with the board. There is a strategy to use almost every card with great efficacy. That's actually why I love this game! You have to adjust you plan depending on what cards you get, but you are never completely shut out of options. You draw a card and think, "how could I use this, and is it worth it?" Most of the time there is a cost and a benefit, sometimes you lose energy to gain steel production or megacredit production. So maybe energy can't be in your focus, that might mean you will have to find a card to increase you heat production. Maybe you don't get that card, so you won't be doing much heat production or energy this game. You can still win the game by focusing on plant production or placing cities next to your opponents greenery tiles. There is always a strategy to score points, you just have to find it.

anyways I hope you give this game another shot. The drafting variant may be the fix for your card woes. I hear your concern that it might increase play time, but as you get more familiar with the cards and what they do, this will get faster. I might also suggest limiting your player count to 4 or less for a run though. 5 can get unwieldy until you know the game better.
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Matt Smith
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A couple of things to note:
1. The official draft variant doesn't involve drafting the initial hand of 10 cards. The designers tried that during testing and decided it was not necessary and consumed a lot of time. More experience with the game allowed players to make use of any starting 10 cards, even if it was only using 1 or 2 cards and selling the rest.

2. On another thread the designers said they have a formula they used for calculating and balancing card values based on cost, effect, tags, etc. They were not willing to share the formula, but just knowing there is one is comforting.

I think your main issue with the cards is drawing them at the wrong time in the game. This certainly happens with respect to the card requirements. But other than that, if you're willing to pursue a flexible strategy that evolves over the course of the game, more cards become relevant to your strategy and your options really open up. If you try to follow only one strategy (e.g. big titanium production + space cards), you're putting yourself at the mercy of the luck of the draw. Don't do that.

So the only real changes to how you played the game that I can recommend are:
1. Use the official draft variant for the Research Phase.
2. Don't get locked into a single game-long strategy. This isn't that type of game. Try to balance taking cards that increase TR with cards that increase your production, and go where the cards take you.

Increasing steel/titanium production early is sexy, but if you don't draw the cards to use those resources, the increased production won't help. Increasing plants/energy/heat production is always helpful, as they lead to increased TR. Cards that increase the global parameters are always helpful, as these parameters represent a finite source of TR.

So try the draft, be flexible in your strategy, and see if that affects your opinion on the game. If that doesn't help, sell it.
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Paul Newsham
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You could stage the cards, I suppose. Take all the cards with minimum requirements in one pile (A), all the cards without in another (B). Take half of each and shuffle them together into a third pile (C).

Put C on top of A. Put B on top of C.
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Tom Vician
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seejay wrote:
BlackSoulCZ wrote:
Och, 4 posts so far and 0,5 constructive.


You mean thank you?

People took time out of their day to answer your question and their assessment was that the whole notion of adding a variant to a game that you were very inexperienced with was a bit premature.


No definitely didn't mean thank you. One guy telling its good game and should try draft, ok i take it, thanks him. But comment like try it or sell it in variant section of forum? No thanks, you could save your time.

Yes I am inexperienced with this game, but I am not new to board games and specially this game have same feel like Imperial settlers(IS). Lot of cards in hand to compare(analysis paralysis), draw/draft, shiny pictures. In Imperial settlers at least you can raze card and somehow compensate its value to you. But last game of IS, guy get pick bad start hand and was let far behind in scoring and i luckily pick card moving me from stone age. Yes it is a game and something should make you lose, but luck is worst for me.
In TM you should not pick bad cards or sell them. Little bit missing standard project to draw a card. Some one suggested in other section.

I specially thanks to guys who thinks about their posts, bring their ideas a constructively criticize my post. Those who help me most so far were:
Carsten Buettemeier, Florian Ruckeisen, Chris Toth, Matt Smith, Paul Newsham

eltopo1980 wrote:

2 - some one pick heat award before goal was reached - every body was collecting heat instead of pushing planet temperature(this goal is just bad)

Honestly, I have to take issue with your gaming group's strategy here. The heat award is worth 5 points if you win the award, 2 point for the contender. If you raise the temperature 5 steps, then you have effectively made the same number of victory points as the award, which might negate your other players battling over the award. You might even gain an extra point (by placing a ocean tile).

anyways I hope you give this game another shot. The drafting variant may be the fix for your card woes. I hear your concern that it might increase play time, but as you get more familiar with the cards and what they do, this will get faster. I might also suggest limiting your player count to 4 or less for a run though. 5 can get unwieldy until you know the game better.


For the heat goal: We were 3 of 5 who have some heat production and about same amount in store like 10-16. And about 3 from max temperature. Two other guys didn't have heat or way to finish game. Somehow we end it, lucky card + some heat from guy not interested in goal. But those 3 have think about : how to end game and don't lose first or second place. Yes it probably wasn't best tactical decision to pick this goal in this situation. But it happened and can happen in any average game. Compare to other goals, they are not directly pushing end of game. Its not like game breaker, but it smell fishy.

Yes i will definitely limit players to 4 max. I will try to find algorithm for game cost. But i will get my hands on cards next Tuesday. Going to change those cards that steal or destroy to help less advanced player. Now i have in mind to starting card made only from corporate cards and maybe also cards for research in second generation. And with necessary draft.

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Enoch Fryxelius
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Tarnop wrote:
You could stage the cards, I suppose. Take all the cards with minimum requirements in one pile (A), all the cards without in another (B). Take half of each and shuffle them together into a third pile (C).

Put C on top of A. Put B on top of C.


There is an underlaying assumption in this discussion that cards with requirements are bad cards, just because you cannot play them immediately.

Your available resources will increase over the course of the game, but your access to cards will not (or only increase a bit). This means that you should keep at least a few cards to play later in the game, cards that works with a long-term strategy. If I draw Anti-gravity technology on my starting hand and have at least 2-3 science cards from the beginning, I keep it. If I have 2-3 cards with 3-4 ocean requirement and at least 1 card placing oceans, I could focus on getting ocean up. If the other players doesn't help, I may even play standard projects, getting TR and placement bonuses in the process.

This is not 7 Wonders: In that game you don't have to think about long term planning when choosing your cards. The cards are divided in 3 era decks depending on their requirement. The point of Terraforming Mars is that you get a mix of cards and you have to decide what to spend money on.

One part of me is actually not so happy about explaining these strategies in detail, as we want people to discover the game themselves. At the same time, we read the forums (because we love to be involved) and all the time people suggest changes and house-rules that would make this game soooo much better...
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Morthai Saichor
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Tarnop wrote:
You could stage the cards, I suppose. Take all the cards with minimum requirements in one pile (A), all the cards without in another (B). Take half of each and shuffle them together into a third pile (C).

Put C on top of A. Put B on top of C.


I staged the cards in 3 phases A, B, C
with 80 cards in the first two and the rest in C. It works wonders and are the perfect numbers for 4 players, with 5 players you have to reshuffle the discard.

Low requirements, cheap cards, and buildup cards in A

Synergistic and Medium stage cards in B

High Cost, high requirements, score muliplier in C
rougthly equal distribution of tags is pretty important.
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Örjan Almén
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Morthai wrote:
Tarnop wrote:
You could stage the cards, I suppose. Take all the cards with minimum requirements in one pile (A), all the cards without in another (B). Take half of each and shuffle them together into a third pile (C).

Put C on top of A. Put B on top of C.


I staged the cards in 3 phases A, B, C
with 80 cards in the first two and the rest in C. It works wonders and are the perfect numbers for 4 players, with 5 players you have to reshuffle the discard.

Low requirements, cheap cards, and buildup cards in A

Synergistic and Medium stage cards in B

High Cost, high requirements, score muliplier in C
rougthly equal distribution of tags is pretty important.


That would make about 50 cards in the last stage which is hardly touched in a game with less than four players. That makes the game work very different in my opinion. Sometimes you actually want to play a 36 M€ event in the first generations to chock your opponents, or to race the heat bonus. If you stage the deck, this possibilities of the game is destroyed. And the many varieties of the game has been tempered with severely.
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Paul Newsham
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EagleEye80 wrote:
Tarnop wrote:
You could stage the cards, I suppose. Take all the cards with minimum requirements in one pile (A), all the cards without in another (B). Take half of each and shuffle them together into a third pile (C).

Put C on top of A. Put B on top of C.


There is an underlaying assumption in this discussion that cards with requirements are bad cards, just because you cannot play them immediately.

Your available resources will increase over the course of the game, but your access to cards will not (or only increase a bit). This means that you should keep at least a few cards to play later in the game, cards that works with a long-term strategy. If I draw Anti-gravity technology on my starting hand and have at least 2-3 science cards from the beginning, I keep it. If I have 2-3 cards with 3-4 ocean requirement and at least 1 card placing oceans, I could focus on getting ocean up. If the other players doesn't help, I may even play standard projects, getting TR and placement bonuses in the process.

This is not 7 Wonders: In that game you don't have to think about long term planning when choosing your cards. The cards are divided in 3 era decks depending on their requirement. The point of Terraforming Mars is that you get a mix of cards and you have to decide what to spend money on.

One part of me is actually not so happy about explaining these strategies in detail, as we want people to discover the game themselves. At the same time, we read the forums (because we love to be involved) and all the time people suggest changes and house-rules that would make this game soooo much better...


I agree with you entirely, but I thought I'd make a constructive suggestion to keep the thread from taking a total nosedive
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