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Subject: Who Playtested This? rss

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Mr Pretty
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I'm 2 games past the prologue and I can already tell there are some horrific balance issues with the milestones.

This should have been caught and fixed in play testing.

The game needs to be longer earlier or the milestones all need to be worth at most 1 glory. It might even be better if they were worth 0 but that would probably make it so some would never be done if you are super competitive... All they are doing so far is ruining the game. This little fix might mean less overall plays but the overall experience will likely be better.

Also, all our people are gun-shy with the risk of enmity. And this seems like it is supposed to function as the great balancer of the game... It probably would have been better if everyone started each game with all your enmity already distributed... or maybe even with everyone having permanent enmity forced on everyone in a paper rock scissors like fashion. I dunno, that's pretty brutal... moral of the story is there is something that isn't right about this system, at least in the early game. Maybe this should have been something unlocked that was more of an effect from jerk moves towards each other that the game could have been subtly tracking up until that unlock?

You can screw me over, roll a magic dice roll at the end to take back all the enmity you gave me for screwing me and all of a sudden we are friends again? No! That just makes us bigger enemies! So the enmity doesn't even accurately track my hatred of my opposing nations!

Instead it should be that I roll at the end of the game to see how many enmitty I get to move from someone else into whatever nation's column I want to punch in the face.

Anyway... sorry for the rant... probably a little overkill there... but I am curious how the milestone thing got through play testing. It just seems like a no brainer...
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David desJardins
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It sounds like you got beat to the milestones?
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Jeff M
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You are not alone in having issues with the milestones.
There has been more than one complaint about how the system works voiced by video reviewers.
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Mr Pretty
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Well yes... but is that fun? Is that the game they wanted? Whoever gets the milestone first wins?

We have played for 9+ hours and I feel like this is still a prologue! That we aren't even playing the game yet.
 
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Mr Pretty
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I am not alone... but that doesn't help anyone.

Is it fix-able in a variant rule?
 
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David desJardins
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MrPretty wrote:
Well yes... but is that fun? Is that the game they wanted? Whoever gets the milestone first wins?


Seems that way, yeah. Everyone starts with the same shot. And if someone else gets the milestones and wins in game one, then you should have the edge on them in game two. I have some problems with the game, but the milestones that are visible to everyone and everyone can pursue don't really seem like one of the problems.
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Has anyone played Food Chain Magnate?

Milestones are a central part of that game - and they're exclusive and powerful.

But there are tons of them! There's sometimes competition and bitter disappointment over who gets a particular one if two players are going for the same playstyle -- but more often, you're scoping out what the other players are going after and choosing goals that will counter it.

I think an approach more like that would have increased the fun of Seafall quite a bit.
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DaviddesJ wrote:
And if someone else gets the milestones and wins in game one, then you should have the edge on them in game two.


You should, yes.
 
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David desJardins
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Hexprone wrote:
DaviddesJ wrote:
And if someone else gets the milestones and wins in game one, then you should have the edge on them in game two.


You should, yes.


The game gives you a big edge in the next game. You get to keep a better adviser. You get first shot at the new advisers. You get additional bonuses. You get to move first. If you can't translate that into a better shot at the milestones, that's not the game's fault.
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Sure, I should git gud, that's fine. I probably did make a number of errors -- not as many as the poor dude who is sixty (yep!) points behind, but a lot.

That's not really the point. A person designing a legacy game is planning a shared experience for several people over many hours and weeks. Fifteen games at 2-3 hours each is a solid work week at the table. If the game is set up such that disparate skill levels or luck levels lead to very different levels of enjoyment, no one's going to stick around for the victory lap forty hours later. And that's a failure of design.
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David desJardins
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Hexprone wrote:
If the game is set up such that disparate skill levels or luck levels lead to very different levels of enjoyment, no one's going to stick around for the victory lap forty hours later. And that's a failure of design.


If the game is set up so that the people who play well get exactly the same results as the people who play badly, that's also something people aren't going to stick around for and a failure of design.
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There's got to be a word for a game that lies between those two extremes.

But ... Seafall kind of is set up to reduce the importance of skill. There's so much luck involved - particularly with milestones - and also so many unknowns you can't plan for - particularly with milestones.

An unfortunate choice because it levels the playing field while still creating divisions between players.

Keeping competition meaningful while also keeping playgroups on the same page is a problem that Pandemic Legacy was able to sidestep by being co-op, and Risk Legacy got a pass on out of sheer novelty (plus, everybody already knows Risk is terrible). Daviau really was confronting the issue for the first time in Seafall, and many of his ideas are great.

I'd like to see enmity get an outing again -- in a tougher form, more explicitly the center of what a game is about. I think it would play better in a game where you could see the consequences of choices more clearly and make strategic trade-offs rather than just charging ahead and hoping.
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j n
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Some amount of this is just baked in to being a competitive legacy game.

It's a legacy game, so your choices need to have lasting consequence. There's hidden game components and rules, so you can't know the full impact of your early choices until it's too late. If the impact is small, what's the point of hiding it? (Obviously it's possible for the impact to be too large as well).

It's a competitive game with scoring tracked from game to game. There *needs* to be a way for someone far behind to catch up at the last minute. Making them all "skill-based" without some luck factor most often would make the catchup problem worse instead of better.

I get why these things irritate a lot of gamers. Personally, I'd been thinking about these issues before buying, and went in eyes open. I'm having a blast so far, because I already decided not to be bothered by it.
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lactamaeon wrote:
Making them all "skill-based" without some luck factor most often would make the catchup problem worse instead of better.


I don't agree. Skill is going to create divisions between players in predictable ways, and luck is going to create them in unpredictable ways.

Both are a problem for a game lasting forty hours, but skill is easier for the designer to plan around. A skilled player will respond to incentives like enmity, perhaps even giving up an individual win for a long term advantage, biding his time and then sprinting in the endgame (also: when is the endgame in Seafall? The folks in the poll who've played 14 and 15 games still aren't finished. At 11 games, we're still not sure how to finish. Never mind, separate issue.)

Anyway, a more purely skill-based game could be set up to more reliably keep the players in a tight pack. When the effects of luck are as significant as in Seafall, the moderating effects of those incentives are thrown off. And unfortunately if a skilled player also gets the advantage of luck, it's all over -- perhaps with twenty more hours to slog through to a preordained result.

David wrote before that he'd rather win by a small margin than a large margin in Seafall. I agree that's how the game is meant to work -- but in practice it just doesn't. Someone trying to play it safe and avoid the penalties of Prince-dom by hanging back can very easily be screwed by a sudden lucky turn for an unskilled player -- so the incentive to play cautiously isn't really there. Much better to just zoom out ahead and then, secure in that position, find the easily available ways to minimize the downside of being leader.
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j n
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Hexprone wrote:
lactamaeon wrote:
Making them all "skill-based" without some luck factor most often would make the catchup problem worse instead of better.


I don't agree. Skill is going to create divisions between players in predictable ways, and luck is going to create them in unpredictable ways.


I don't think that's true in a Legacy-style game. I mean, there might be some skill in predicting what's coming next, but that's not usually what we mean by play skill. So even "skilled" players aren't going to act predictably.

Hexprone wrote:
A skilled player will respond to incentives like enmity, perhaps even giving up an individual win for a long term advantage, biding his time and then sprinting in the endgame


I really *loathe* that kind of gameplay myself. I also don't think there's a good way to mix that with a legacy system - a major selling point (IMO) is that things are going to go through some major changes.

Hexprone wrote:
David wrote before that he'd rather win by a small margin than a large margin in Seafall. I agree that's how the game is meant to work -- but in practice it just doesn't.


I disagree that it's "meant" to work in a specific way. It's "meant" to work in different ways for different groups (again, a selling point of the Legacy system).

It's entirely likely that, for a large chunk of gamers, competitive legacy games are just a bad idea (just as legacy games in general are not a good idea to everyone). I think that's fine.
 
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Frank Pelkofer
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lactamaeon wrote:
Hexprone wrote:
A skilled player will respond to incentives like enmity, perhaps even giving up an individual win for a long term advantage, biding his time and then sprinting in the endgame


I really *loathe* that kind of gameplay myself. I also don't think there's a good way to mix that with a legacy system - a major selling point (IMO) is that things are going to go through some major changes.


I would not enjoy any game that rewards people for intentionally playing badly. If I find out that SeaFall rewards players for throwing individual games to win the campaign, I'm going to like it much less.
 
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countertorque wrote:
I would not enjoy any game that rewards people for intentionally playing badly. If I find out that SeaFall rewards players for throwing individual games to win the campaign, I'm going to like it much less.


I'm completely bewildered at this response. Intentionally playing to gain rewards ... isn't playing badly?

Choosing when to wait and when to make your move also isn't playing badly, or being somehow underhanded or a poor sport or whatever.

A legacy campaign is one long game with one victory. Deciding the pace of your gameplay and how aggressive you'll be is a basic decision to make in any game. In a legacy game you have to make that decision in both the long and the short term.
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Frank Pelkofer
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Hexprone wrote:
countertorque wrote:
I would not enjoy any game that rewards people for intentionally playing badly. If I find out that SeaFall rewards players for throwing individual games to win the campaign, I'm going to like it much less.


I'm completely bewildered at this response. Intentionally playing to gain rewards ... isn't playing badly?

Choosing when to wait and when to make your move also isn't playing badly, or being somehow underhanded or a poor sport or whatever.

A legacy campaign is one long game with one victory. Deciding the pace of your gameplay and how aggressive you'll be is a basic decision to make in any game. In a legacy game you have to make that decision in both the long and the short term.


You're choosing to look at it as a single game, I think. But, that's not how it's sold or how it's played. It's a series of individual games that inform each other. Within each game, there is a win condition. I think you're saying that the catch up mechanic is an award and it should be valued. I'm pretty sure the catch up mechanic is supposed to act like a handicap in golf. No one is playing golf to get a bigger handicap. That's a violation of the spirit of competitive play. So, if I find out that the best strategy to win the campaign is to throw individual games and build up a big handicap for the end, I'm going to like this game a lot less.
 
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lactamaeon wrote:
I disagree that it's "meant" to work in a specific way. It's "meant" to work in different ways for different groups (again, a selling point of the Legacy system).


I'm seeing pretty consistent reports from different groups of people playing Seafall.

I'm all for player-directed emergent gameplay. But a designer is responsible for controlling the overall shape of a player experience in his game. If there were better controls on the pace of Seafall campaigns, the game would open up more space for a variety of different player strategies. At the moment, there is one way to play.

lactamaeon wrote:
It's entirely likely that, for a large chunk of gamers, competitive legacy games are just a bad idea (just as legacy games in general are not a good idea to everyone). I think that's fine.


I don't agree that the problem is insoluble. Seafall as shipped contains good tools for solving it, clearly intended for that purpose. They're just not balanced well.
 
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Mr Pretty
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Quote:
Seems that way, yeah. Everyone starts with the same shot. And if someone else gets the milestones and wins in game one, then you should have the edge on them in game two. I have some problems with the game, but the milestones that are visible to everyone and everyone can pursue don't really seem like one of the problems.


How can you not see problems with the milestones? Have you even played the game? If anything they seem to help the person that is first in player order. To be fair the milestones aren't the problem directly... its the overabundance of bonus glory. So I guess you could also blame the low glory goal... but they are all really the same problem.

Actually Food Chain Magnate is a great example to compare against... although I haven't actually played it yet... imagine FCM ended after someone got one milestone. On your 5th turn... that is seafall... although I bet FCM actually has some more interesting decisions in the process!
 
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David desJardins
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MrPretty wrote:
How can you not see problems with the milestones? Have you even played the game? If anything they seem to help the person that is first in player order.


So that's helping the player in last place catch up. Isn't that good?
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Mr Pretty
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Quote:
It's entirely likely that, for a large chunk of gamers, competitive legacy games are just a bad idea (just as legacy games in general are not a good idea to everyone). I think that's fine.


I don't agree either. Many of the problems in Seafall is not the fault of legacy, this is the fault of the developer or whoever is in charge of balancing. The game should not be won in 5 turns. You probably need a minimum of 2 years to pass in a game before it feels fulfilling.

I think they were afraid of making it too long, so now it's ruined by shrinking the game into nibbles instead of full games.

So the question is can we make it to the full game or will we quit before we can get there?
 
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MrPretty wrote:
The game should not be won in 5 turns.


That does change as you go on -- you'll rarely see such short games after the very early stages of the campaign. The games get much longer both in number of turns and in terms of ("Groan -- is it my turn yet?" said everybody) absolute length.

By around game 5, we were usually ending our games around the beginning of the third year.
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Mr Pretty
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Actually, in this case, no, that catch up mechanism isn't good.

I don't want to play whoever gets last probably gets first next time. It's way too heavy handed for a game like this. We might as well just take turns putting stickers out and opening boxes to save us all the time of playing the game because we already know roughly who gets to do what after the first game.

I'm worried that the early game is terrible and no fun because it's too short... and seemingly so because they needed to stretch it to last 15 games so they could say it lasts 15 games even though 5 - 10 of them are probably a waste of time. Or they were afraid each individual game was too long so they shortened the early games which ultimately ruined them.

I think the catch mechanism is necessary to stop the runaway leader... but I would not call it "good".

 
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David desJardins
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MrPretty wrote:
I don't want to play whoever gets last probably gets first next time. It's way too heavy handed for a game like this. We might as well just take turns putting stickers out and opening boxes to save us all the time of playing the game because we already know roughly who gets to do what after the first game.


Your set of requirements seems unachievable. You don't want the players who play worse to get far behind. But you also don't want the game to boost those who fall behind. You've got to choose one or the other!

I think there are plenty of problems with SeaFall, and the game doesn't do a particularly good job of solving them. But your specific complaints---and after only two games---seem to me pretty far off the mark. It just seems like sour grapes to me, the first couple of games didn't go well for you.
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