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Subject: The biggest gaming disappointment in a long time... rss

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Greg Lott
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I'm a moderate Star Trek fan, and a huge 4x fan so I was really excited when I heard about this game. I read the rules and loved the way exploration seemed to be handled and even the free swinging single leg thing seems somehow thematic given the extra-dimensional concepts of warp travel. It defied spacial logic in a perfectly thematic way. I also loved the scope of the game; you start pre-kirk when Earth was just wrapping its collective intelligences around the concept of warp capability and takes you post Picard after advancing your culture and technology on your path to become the dominant faction in the galaxy. Sign me up! The problem, however, is that all this cool exploration, tech tree manipulation, and epic setting is all simply window dressing to a game that is essentially a glorified King of Tokyo. In a three player game, you will quickly find yourself in one of two positions:

1. You have the highest culture production. The other two factions will now attack you to take it from you.

2. Someone else has the highest production, so you now scheme with the third party to kill the leader.

This is all fine and dandy, except this happens QUICKLY! By the time you have an advancement and maybe a level in weapons quickly. If that... All civ games ultimately come to this point, but usually you at least get to build for a little bit. I've seen someone get level 2 shields once. Because culture victory is not that far away and there's just no time to do anything with your tech tree. 20 culture, that's all you need. Someone always seems to get 4 culture nodes within a couple turns, and by that time have a couple Ascendancy. At that point, the rush is on. One guy runs for the finish line, the others try to kill him. It's all very un-Star Trek like.

There's a part of me that wants to fix this game. It's almost like it was created by two different designers.

Designer 1: Lets have this fantastic exploration mechanic coupled with a gradually progressed tech tree. We'll reveal these cool exploration cards that remind everyone of their favorite Star Trek episodes all the while giving that feeling of wonder and excitement as they explore strange new worlds. We'll have some added diplomacy with trade negotiations. Whew, I'm beat! Thats it for today, I'll let designer #2 finish it tomorrow.

Next day, Designer 2: Lets make it a race for culture! Wrap it up, ship it out!!!

Next day, Designer 1: Nooooooo!!!!

All this intricate design is foiled by a single-minded win condition which always boils down to military conflict. Oh, I'm sorry... There are two win cons. Culture and holding all the opponents home systems. So there's military victory condition 1 and military victory condition 2. How about a technology victory? Or a true culture victory not based on some weird production thing? How exactly does one 'produce' culture anyways?! Culture should be obtained by meeting other races, and promoting some internal infrastructure that strengthens and propagates your races way of life. How about a production/economic victory? You know, like almost every other civ game out there? This one-way linear victory path is simultaneously mind-boggling and tragic. Since everyone is doing the same thing, you can assess your sitiuation with a glance. In other civ games, the leader isn't always super clear. Not here though. You have one path, and if you aren't doing the best at it by turn 4, set those phasers to kill!

All in all, this a thematic ride spoiled by an uninspired end-game and as a fan of the show and this type of game in general, I couldn't be more disappointed.
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Ian Gill
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Totally different to our first experience.

There are only 8 culture nodes in 27 discs so to get three extra than your start of one, by one player, must be going some in "a couple of turns".

Then, to save up 20 tokens for Ascendancy, without needing to spend any to colonise or build the nodes themselves, the player would have to be really focussed, and have no worries about being attacked etc if the nodes were close to an opponent.

We did feel it was a bit to hard to get research nodes in our first game but there are actually more available than culture....we just seemed unlucky


I fully agree it appears heavily weighted towards being a military game (klingons and Romulans are two of the sides so I didn't except it to be much different) but I wasn't expecting a deep development/building game either. To make it such would mean it being an even longer game ! I want a game that has the possibility of finishing in an evening.

I already suspect Star Trek Fleet Captains has a better feel for the exploration aspects.

However, we all enjoyed the game and looking forward to the next.




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Ian Gill
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Quote:
How about a technology victory? Or a true culture victory not based on some weird production thing? How exactly does one 'produce' culture anyways?! Culture should be obtained by meeting other races, and promoting some internal infrastructure that strengthens and propagates your races way of life. How about a production/economic victory?


I ran out of time earlier but I was rather confused by this comment.
In most Civ games I have played, culture is simply another resource/product generated at the expense of 'achieving something else'. Even in games where a card gives some named cultural advance, the underlying game mechanic is that you 'buy' culture.
In this game, to increase culture you find other planets or existing civilsations and instead of increasing production or research you can aim to develop cultural improvements. There is a sacrifice to do so, and so I am not sure why this is much to different to a host of other civ games.

If you want a game to emphasis a production/economic victory then there are loads, and they tend to be more Euro in that you sit back in your own area and focus on optimising your systems.
However, whilst there is only one measure of victory, culture, to achieve victory in ST:A, you still need to have good production and technology otherwise your opponents will be superior and steal all your gains. To me, having one measure of achievement doesn't remove the need for you to develop across all the options.

Thus the winner will be the player who both generates sufficient culture AND has developed a production engine and infrastructure that can hold onto their superiority. I don't see that as a bad thing.

My actual potential issue with the game is player elimination, ie a player is out of the game but there is no victory without two home systems being captured. I prefer games where everyone gets to play until the end.

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Greg Lott
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Posco wrote:
Totally different to our first experience.

There are only 8 culture nodes in 27 discs so to get three extra than your start of one, by one player, must be going some in "a couple of turns".

Then, to save up 20 tokens for Ascendancy, without needing to spend any to colonise or build the nodes themselves, the player would have to be really focussed, and have no worries about being attacked etc if the nodes were close to an opponent.

We did feel it was a bit to hard to get research nodes in our first game but there are actually more available than culture....we just seemed unlucky


I fully agree it appears heavily weighted towards being a military game (klingons and Romulans are two of the sides so I didn't except it to be much different) but I wasn't expecting a deep development/building game either. To make it such would mean it being an even longer game ! I want a game that has the possibility of finishing in an evening.

I already suspect Star Trek Fleet Captains has a better feel for the exploration aspects.

However, we all enjoyed the game and looking forward to the next.






Sure, you expect combat in a game with Romulus and Klingons, but when you play the federation and go on the attack it feels very wrong. The game is simply way too heavy on the military side. You cannot win without a very strong military. This is not a common flaw amongst all other 4x games and I expected better from this title.
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Greg Lott
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Posco wrote:


Thus the winner will be the player who both generates sufficient culture AND has developed a production engine and infrastructure that can hold onto their superiority. I don't see that as a bad thing.





No, the winner is the person who can generate the most victory points and has the military to protect it or its the person who, through military, can take points from the other people. Military. Nothing else. In my eyes it's definitely a bad thing. I know there are other games that give me what I want (i.e. Better games) but I see the hype engine on this thing running full steam ahead. I fell into that hype and found a game not nearly meeting expectations so I felt a dissenting opinions was needed.
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Paul Ferguson
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ferris1971 wrote:
is all simply window dressing to a game that is essentially a glorified King of Tokyo.



I don't see the connection with STA and KOT. One is a heavy strategy 4X where you make your path to victory. The other, a light Yahtzee game where the dice tell you what to do.

As for it being simply a game of collecting 20 culture, you can't win the game without controlling your home world. If players are getting to heavily invested in culture generation, hit their home world and try for the other player and win the game that way.
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George
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The first part of your review had me wondering if extending the game length would help... starting with no Ascendancy, making Ascendancy cost 6, starting farther apart, etc.

But then you started complaining about the win conditions, so perhaps a longer build-up wouldn't really help your main concerns.
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Guðmundur Skallagrímson
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I think I understand what you are saying in the OP. In my last game I tried a peaceful cultural victory as the Feds with my own planets while being generous with trades and respecting my rivals' boarders. So naturally I lost my homeworld. I was forced to build a military to try and defend it, and to focus on military to get anywhere close to Earth from my starbase. I don't mind the narrative too much, as I've seen the peaceful humans take up arms in the show against their enemies when necessary.

I DO find it unnerving if that is going to be the story everytime, and I think that's what the OP is talking about. Culture-leaders will be attacked, and the best (only?) defense is to build a competent military. Yeah it makes sense, and it's a fine strategy, but is that the only way to play? If the answer is "yes", then I too feel a little empty that there's not more to the politics of the game.

I think my next game will be on a larger table. Sorry, Klingons.

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David Jones
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ferris1971 wrote:
No, the winner is the person who can generate the most victory points and has the military to protect it or its the person who, through military, can take points from the other people. Military. Nothing else.


The only reason I disagree with this is that there are a few threads around here that talk about the diplomatic aspect of the game. It doesn't really seem feasible that any of the three races in the game can defend against a coordinated attack from the other two sides. You can't win on just military. You have to figure out who you want to convince to help you gang the leader and then make sure you come out ahead after all of that is over.

That said, I still have to agree with you that, overall, it ultimately becomes a disappointing experience. The games I've played so far turn into a situation of who ever is "lucky" enough to get the best culture infrastructure get beat up on by the other two players. That person then has to align with somebody who just picked up them in order to attack the new leader. The process just repeats itself until you hit a point where, not through skill but through random timing, somebody just happens to get their fifth ascendency while they are on top. At the end of the day, I feel like I'm just playing a three hour Rube-Goldberg version of Coup. Even if you disagree with this assessment, I'm not sure how this experience captures the essence of Star Trek.
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Geoff Conn
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Interesting thread. I was underwhelmed when the first shots came out for this game, but the buzz was pretty positive so Im subbed to reviews for it.

Now I have to wonder how much of the disapointment in this thread would be due to the 3 player dynamic. Of course military might must be an option or its just a culture race. The question is, how might this game play with a 4th or more players? As it is now, its too easy and too obvious that 2 ill gang up on the leader, there is no risk and its all but required.

But if they have to watch another player while doing so, then it gets interesting imo...
 
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Darrell Hanning
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If you don't like the victory conditions (and I'm not entirely crazy about them, myself), figure out conditions you do like.

You could make the game end when all system disks are in play (or all that can be put into play, as agreed by all players), and set a different victory criteria - most total production nodes of all types (production, culture, tech), most points of advancements completed, most planets explored, etc. You're not stuck with what GF9 came up with.

And if you come up with a good alternative, post it so others can try it. It could even lead to a modification to the game, with a future expansion.
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Ian Gill
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Quote:
Sure, you expect combat in a game with Romulus and Klingons, but when you play the federation and go on the attack it feels very wrong. The game is simply way too heavy on the military side. You cannot win without a very strong military. This is not a common flaw amongst all other 4x games and I expected better from this title.


4X, I thought one of the x's was exterminate. That will never happen without a huge incentive to fight.

No matter, we obviously see things differenty. To me, A civ game where a strong military (either for defence or attack) does not play a big part is just a development game.

Now, if you dislike the game because the federation fights against enemy fleets a lot then that is more a problem with the theme. I personally don't mind that as the Federation can't invade, only use Hegemony (which benefits from Ascendancy not military strength) but i remember a lot of ship battles in ST !

Now there is one big issue with the game and I wouldn't have bought it if that wasn't going to change.....3 player only! Never really works well and I have pre-ordered the expansions.

I think negative comments about a game can be very informative and I never look just at the 10s, but the 4s and 5s as well.
However, the original post stated that getting culture nodes to win can happen really quickly. From my one game, and the rules, I just cant see that being possible for the reasons I gave. So, by all means give the negatives you feel but that looks like exageration to me and is therefore unfair criticism.
 
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Tommy Roman
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Others have commented on this before, in that the Federation has an early game advantage in acquiring culture, while the Klingons and Romulans really have to work at it. Mid-to-late game changes when the Klingons and Romulans likely have stronger martial elements and are poised to contest systems and their resource nodes. In a 3-player game, there's probably not going to be a tremendous variety regarding paths to victory.

However, once the Cardassians (and Ferengi thereafter) arrive, it will be interesting to see the subsequent interactions and its effect on overall strategies.
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Ian Gill
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ferris1971 wrote:
Posco wrote:


Thus the winner will be the player who both generates sufficient culture AND has developed a production engine and infrastructure that can hold onto their superiority. I don't see that as a bad thing.





No, the winner is the person who can generate the most victory points and has the military to protect it or its the person who, through military, can take points from the other people. Military. Nothing else. In my eyes it's definitely a bad thing. I know there are other games that give me what I want (i.e. Better games) but I see the hype engine on this thing running full steam ahead. I fell into that hype and found a game not nearly meeting expectations so I felt a dissenting opinions was needed.


Exactly, and how do you get that military......production and infrastructure. If you cant afford ships and move them to where you want, and match the technology of the enemy, you cant fight.
 
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Ian Gill
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guthmundur wrote:


I DO find it unnerving if that is going to be the story everytime, and I think that's what the OP is talking about. Culture-leaders will be attacked, and the best (only?) defense is to build a competent military. Yeah it makes sense, and it's a fine strategy, but is that the only way to play? If the answer is "yes", then I too feel a little empty that there's not more to the politics of the game.

I think my next game will be on a larger table. Sorry, Klingons.


For example, A great Civ game in my opinion is Clash of Cultures. No matter how well I am doing getting buildings and technology, if I don't have an effective military I will be attacked and lose, especially so if I am looking like I am leader.
I can't see the distinction between the emphasis on military in the two games.
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Tim Earl
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Posco wrote:
For example, A great Civ game in my opinion is Clash of Cultures. No matter how well I am doing getting buildings and technology, if I don't have an effective military I will be attacked and lose, especially so if I am looking like I am leader.
I can't see the distinction between the emphasis on military in the two games.


Agreed. It's also thematic. The Federation has had to fight off enemies many, many times.
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David Jones
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Posco wrote:
but i remember a lot of ship battles in ST !


I don't remember any all out wars in ST, outside the Dominion war. I don't remember very many planetary takeovers, much less a major power ever losing control of its homeworld.

Quote:
However, the original post stated that getting culture nodes to win can happen really quickly. From my one game, and the rules, I just cant see that being possible for the reasons I gave.


I've played a game where the first three planets explored by one side each had a culture node, plus the one they start with meant they had four culture per turn going by the third turn of the game. On the opposite end, I've played a game where the first planet explored was destroyed by the crystalline entity and the second planet couldn't be colonized without the player having three ascendancy, effectively putting them in a culture hole behind the other players.

Quote:
4X, I thought one of the x's was exterminate. That will never happen without a huge incentive to fight. No matter, we obviously see things differently. To me, A civ game where a strong military (either for defence or attack) does not play a big part is just a development game.


Strictly speaking, I cannot disagree with this. In line with my comments above, the conflict we see in Trek cannon is mostly border skirmishes. For that matter, in ST:IV we see that when an enemy becomes weak, it can be opportunity for peace, not a casus belli. This then makes me question if 4X is even a good fit for Star Trek in the first place. Would you say that Antike is a 4X game or just a Civ builder with a military aspect? Either way, how Antike handles its combat is closer to the "border skirmish" conflict we see in most of Trek. You can add a military aspect to a Civ game without it having to dominate game play or actually having to exterminate other players. (See also Through the Ages.) I honestly can't recall if GF9 actually marketed this game as 4X, so I'm not going to aim my next comment directly at them. If you want a 4X with a Trek theme on top of it, I guess Ascendency does its job, but I have to reiterate my comment that maybe 4X isn't really a thematic fit. I was more hoping for a civ building game with a Trek theme on top, and in this respect the game fails.
 
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DarrellKH wrote:
If you don't like the victory conditions (and I'm not entirely crazy about them, myself), figure out conditions you do like.

You could make the game end when all system disks are in play (or all that can be put into play, as agreed by all players), and set a different victory criteria - most total production nodes of all types (production, culture, tech), most points of advancements completed, most planets explored, etc. You're not stuck with what GF9 came up with.

And if you come up with a good alternative, post it so others can try it. It could even lead to a modification to the game, with a future expansion.

This !! I like that planets explored idea also he borg npc may create a more exciting mix of co-operative (or semi-coop) and development
 
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Posco wrote:


There are only 8 culture nodes in 27 discs so to get three extra than your start of one, by one player, must be going some in "a couple of turns".


Sorry to nitpick but, while you are right that there are 8 Culture Nodes, there are also 6 White Nodes. Thus there are a TOTAL potential of 14 Nodes available in the game - or almost a 50% chance any system discovered will be able to have at least 1 Culture Node on it.

As such this does tend to lead to an accelerated Culture VS Production design.

I do agree with the OP. The game felt like it had a really great structure and I still think it an excellent game at its base. The exploration mechanic is good. The combat is simple, streamlined, and yet there is room for tactical consideration. The asymetry of the factions are unique, but also "somewhat" balanced and thematically accurate.

However I also agree again, the game does seem to wrap up too fast.
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Geoff Conn
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davypi wrote:
Posco wrote:
but i remember a lot of ship battles in ST !


I don't remember any all out wars in ST, outside the Dominion war. I don't remember very many planetary takeovers, much less a major power ever losing control of its homeworld.




The Organians halted one. Several references made to pre TOS wars. Alternate timeline showed an all out war. Borg invasion. Many more.

http://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/104806/what-were-th...
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My first game last night held a similar experience as the OP. However, I attribute it to the fact that the game was new to all of us. I need a few more plays to really grok the game.

All three of us turtled up, expecting a slow build up to conflict. What happened though is that the Klingon player's first four planets all had Culture nodes available. Some were Warp capable systems so the culture node was blocked by another node, but the Klingon player was able to use Planetary Bombardment to get rid of the nodes and build the culture nodes.

We also didn't make First Contact until Turn 6. This gave the Klingons time to really build up his culture engine.

This forced the me (Federation) and Romulans to rush Kronos to stop an Ascendancy victory. Unfortunately, we got in each other's way. You can't do a planetary invasion or hegemony attempt if a rival has ships or fleets in the system.

I was able to backstab the Romulans and capture both homeworlds, but couldn't hold them through to the end of the turn. In the end, the Romulans pulled back to let me fight the Klingons but I couldn't keep Kronos to prevent the Klingon Ascendancy victory.

We all made a few mistakes with rules. I forgot to collect culture each time I discovered a Phenomenon.

I will alter my gameplay approach in the future. Things ramp up extremely quickly if a player has 4-5 culture nodes. If a player gets three culture nodes, I'll probably go on the attack.

For his part, the Klingon player felt that fighting 2 on 1 was hopeless. He was interested in how the dynamic would change with a 4 player game.

 
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Greg Lott
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itmo wrote:
ferris1971 wrote:
is all simply window dressing to a game that is essentially a glorified King of Tokyo.



I don't see the connection with STA and KOT. One is a heavy strategy 4X where you make your path to victory. The other, a light Yahtzee game where the dice tell you what to do.

As for it being simply a game of collecting 20 culture, you can't win the game without controlling your home world. If players are getting to heavily invested in culture generation, hit their home world and try for the other player and win the game that way.


There was some hyperbole in my comment, but I feel like the comparison is more or less valid. They are both basically king of the mountain/monkey in the middle. STA tried to act like it's more, but it always devolves into the same thing.

Taking control of your opponents home world as they're about to win is your solution to my problem? Did you even read my post? That's what you always have to do, and that's exactly my problem with the game; it always breaks down into a militaristic conflict.

Btw, it's been stated but saying there are only 8 culture nodes in the planet deck is a little disingenuous when there are also 6-8 open nodes. It's not unheard of to be generating 3-4 culture by turn 3. At least one guy probably will... And that's when the dogs of war start barking... Every... Single... Time.
 
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I do agree with the earlier post that there are 6 open nodes which I hadn't included, but that was actually because you then have to take into account the number of cards in the encounter deck that make it hard to get nodes from any system you encounter (eg level two or three civ for a start).
So, in theory, it is about 50% chance of finding a node that you 'might' be able to use for culture, depending on the encounter. So, on average, with no encounters that screw up the turn, you would have to explore 6 systems to find the three possible nodes.

It also costs 3 culture to colonise and build a culture node, two culture to take it over by hegemony (assuming the dice actual are in your favour early game) or convert it, or you might get really lucky and take over an already built culture node.

I think you are deliberately exagerating the chance of getting four culture by turn 4 and I am not sure it is even possible by turn three. But, even then it is another 5 turns, not colonising another planet, before you could afford the four Ascendancy to win.
When you are not colonising your production/research becomes restricted compared to your opponents which leaves you weaker.

But I then return to my early point, that any player who does this without the developing production and infrastruture to be able to hold on to that position is going to be attacked and lose.

I fully agree, this is a game where combat is a big part, and it is clear it is not what you wanted or expected. Fair enough
There is also big randomness in what you find and there may be the chance to go for culture early on. However, I just feel you are vastly overstating the chance that experienced players would attempt a rush victory, even in the very few cases it might be possible.

We played again last night and all three players independently chose to avoid trying for too much culture early on (even so there was no opportunity by turn 4 to get to 4) because it is the trigger for being the 1st target. Combat did start when one player hit 3 Ascendancy with four nodes, but was quickly attacked and lost one node straight away and was in a bad way when we had to finish due to time. 6 weapon/shield levels had been improved and about 9 technology cards developed.

Worked for us and, so far, trying to develop culture nodes early appears like a suicidal tactic, even when the stars aligned to allow you to do it, so no one is risking it.
Yet the game has an inbuilt timer because even a few culture nodes will eventually put a player in a position to win, which forces the players to compete militarily.

Is it a great game....I don't think so....but, for me, it has the potential to be a good empire style game, but probably only with four players.

We have no issue with the culture grab victory condition so far because it is a game of chicken and we already recognise it it extremely high risk, and so a learned behaviour.
I actually have more of an issue with the victory condition of having to capture two homeworlds as it could lead to one player being eliminated, yet the game continuing for quite a some time after. When a player gets eliminated I like a game to end quickly.




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Ian Gill
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ferris1971 wrote:
itmo wrote:
ferris1971 wrote:
is all simply window dressing to a game that is essentially a glorified King of Tokyo.



I don't see the connection with STA and KOT. One is a heavy strategy 4X where you make your path to victory. The other, a light Yahtzee game where the dice tell you what to do.

As for it being simply a game of collecting 20 culture, you can't win the game without controlling your home world. If players are getting to heavily invested in culture generation, hit their home world and try for the other player and win the game that way.


There was some hyperbole in my comment, but I feel like the comparison is more or less valid. They are both basically king of the mountain/monkey in the middle. STA tried to act like it's more, but it always devolves into the same thing.


Absolutely. Now I know this I will never play Twilight Imperium 3 with just three players.... it is basically just King of Tokyo. I never saw how those two experiences could be so comparable until now.

And Twilight Imperium "always breaks down into a militaristic conflict". Just so limited and predictable.




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Andrew Russell
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Sure, you expect combat in a game with Romulus and Klingons, but when you play the federation and go on the attack it feels very wrong.


Remember this series covers centuries. Outside of TNG television era, the Federation went to war loads of times. The Xindi and Romulans just before they founded, the Klingons over the next century, and the Cardassians the century after that. Sure, for the years leading up to and during TNG the Klingons were their allies, the Cardassians were quiet and the Ferengi were not nearly as big a problem as they first thought; so they put families and kids on their starships. Then the Borg and Dominion happened and starship bridges stopped looking like a wine lounge. To say the Federation doesn't attack based on TNG era is like saying the USA doesn't attack on the basis of the 1990s.
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