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Star Trek: Ascendancy» Forums » General

Subject: House-Ruling to Solve Problems with Downtime and Luck rss

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Hey guys,

Me and my brother are serious Star Trek fans and have an eye on this game. We really want to have it, but the reviews that have come out have made us pause.

We have come to believe that there are three signature problems with this game:
(1) Huge downtime (comparable to Xia and Mage Knight);
(2) luck (players win or lose depending on random events and system allocation;
(3) balance of power (players need to gang up on the one ahead).

We don't have a problem with (3) since we think this is fairly typical in a competitive game of this type. Problems (1) and (2) are a bit more troublesome for us though.

Can anyone see the possibility, or has tested, house rules to mitigate downtime and luck? Above all, we are mostly worried about the downtime issue. We have played Mage Knight a few times and Xia once. We have stopped playing them BECAUSE of the downtime issue. Downtime problems really throw our group and those games just don't make it on the table.

I heard Tom Vasel suggest a turn-mechanic similar to Kemet where everyone does their "construction phase" or "building phase" at the same time, to then go on with taking one action each going round the table so that players don't get bored. Has anyone tried this, or sees this option as a viable way to alter/house-rule Star Trek Ascendancy. We'd really like this game, but we won't buy it if we believe that the downtime issue cannot be addressed.

Any thoughts/advice would be much appreciated.

Thanks,
Benno (& Tom)
 
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Maldus Alver

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Tends to be that way for all 4x games. Eclipse is known to have much randomization and Twilight Imperium is notoriously long for a game.

So far the best thing I heard of is simultaneous build phase but some people argue that it doesn't allow for reactionary builds. Still I think the command section should give you enough clues as to what your rivals are capable of accomplishing.
 
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David Montgomery
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Downtime is a problem in three situations - 1) When you're first learning, 2) When you go first in one round and then last the next, 3)Near the very end when someone or everyone has a lot to figure out because they're trying to win.
Situation 1 is completely understandable and shouldn't be a judgement point. Situation 3 is also very forgivable because that's a natural finish to a game.
Situation 2 is mitigated once you're able to bid for turn order. If you want to go at a specific point in the round, bid high. If you don't care, then don't.
If players plan what they're doing ahead of time then rounds don't take that long. Exploration does, but everyone is naturally involved because they want to see what comes up and then share in the pain/agony/victory/other emotion of the encounter.

As for luck, I look at it this way, one bad thing is likely going to happen to everyone. If I get two bad things, I'm still not out of it. If I get 5 bad things, now I'm likely the swing player to help someone else win. But all those things are going to even out over the course of games. In my last game, I hit tribbles on turn 1, I hit another encounter that destroyed a ship at a crucial moment, I was the last one to make contact, my dice rolls were terrible, and I still managed 5 Ascendancy, and would have won if my homeworld hadn't been conquered on the last action of the game.
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Dave Summers
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The downtime issue is really overstated. If you think about your turn while others are taking theres, you can blast through a turn. Calling it a phase makes the build phase seem long, but really it's just "I'm going to build these ships and these nodes, here's the tokens". You can even get the tokens ready before your turn, most of mine take under a minute. Then the command phase is usually short unless it involves battle, which obviously involves other players anyway.

You could build separate stacks of systems for each player with the same proportions of phenomena, red alerts etc. But it's so much fun! Exploring the unknown and reliving episodes, it's easily the most Star Trek-like part of the game. I've never seen a game where someone gets so unlucky they don't have a good shot at winning.
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Chris Schenck
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Do some more forum reading on these topics that have been discussed in many threads. Downtime can be an issue if the players are new or distracted, but not notably more than in any game of this nature. Luck is really a non-issue once you realize why it exists. Here's why: http://boardgamegeek.com/article/24297010#24297010
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clarence neal

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I believe the downtime issue has been severely blown out of proportion. I have played games of Ticket to Ride with more downtime.....I guess that it is a matter of opinion tho.
I highly recommend this game...It plays fast, has simple rules, is easy to learn.
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Lou Lessing
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Downtime's really not that bad. As others have said, there is some but it's no worse than TI3, which has action threading, but also has actions that take longer to resolve and a higher player count. You have plenty to think about, talk about, and do while it's not your turn. I've never been someone to be bothered by downtime in games in general, so maybe I just don't get it, but I really don't think downtime in this game is that big a deal.

The variants you're talking about might work but I don't feel great about them.

Doing production phases simultaneously will make the game significantly more defensive. Doing actions one at a time will make it a whole different game. I think it would still work, on some level, with these changes, but understand that they would not be minor changes at all. The game's entire movement system is built around you being able to do several actions in a row -- I actually can't think of anything else in this game that you could change that would have farther-reaching consequences. If you owned the game already I'd say try it out and see if you like it, but I definitely wouldn't buy this game if you think you won't enjoy it without this house rule.

I also don't think you should buy this game if you're going to be bothered by luck. There's a lot of luck in this game. There's also a lot of skill, but if you're someone who hates rolling single d6s, this might not be the game for you. The worst offender is for-sure the exploration system, and that's a shame, because it's also kind of the best part. I'd be reluctant to get rid of too much here.

There's a built-in mechanism to take a little bit of randomness out of the exploration phase. To setup the system pile, you shuffle the planets, take 6 facedown, shuffle the phenomena with the remaining planets, and put the 6 planets you took out on top of the pile. This guarantees everyone 2 planets on their first turn, assuming they explore twice. You can pretty easily extend this make the first turn even safer, by only including non-hazardous planets in the top 6, and/or by doing the same thing to the exploration deck. (Take out all the red cards and maybe the level 2 and 3 warp capable civilizations, shuffle the other cards and set aside 6, shuffle the cards you took out back in and put those 6 on top.)

If you're Star Trek fans, I think you'll enjoy it, even with the luck. This game has very good Star Trek feel. Surprisingly good, I'd say. If you're looking for a super serious competitive 4x, you should probably look somewhere else. ST:A is pretty light, pretty swingy, and pretty random.
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Grish
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brisingre wrote:
ST:A is pretty light, pretty swingy, and pretty random.


...and fun! laugh
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Marc Bennett
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i personally dont have a problem with the downtime or the luck i think it is just the right amount of both. STA isnt a super deep 4X game but that is fine, it is well designed, everything makes sense. they will most likely add more mechanics slowly with expansions and that is fine too.

the luck does exactly what it should do, makes exploration an unknown quantity. right now there is a slim chance of a fleet destroying catastrophe but the fact that chance is there makes you hold back with good reason.
 
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Daniel Hooten
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So.. downtime... just got done with a 6 hour long game last night and I'd have to say there was almost zero downtime. When not 'your turn'.. the other 2 players were constantly planning their builds / next moves.. and more importantly, we were all "playing the players" during our downtime.. constant maneuvering/backstabbing/threatening/coercing.. etc.. all above board between players.

To me, this is one of the huge things about this game that everyone seems to gloss over. This game is as much or more about playing the players than it is actual game mechanics. If you go two turns without at least one trade agreement trading hands, you aren't playing properly.
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Marc Bennett
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siggy_77 wrote:
So.. downtime... just got done with a 6 hour long game last night and I'd have to say there was almost zero downtime. When not 'your turn'.. the other 2 players were constantly planning their builds / next moves.. and more importantly, we were all "playing the players" during our downtime.. constant maneuvering/backstabbing/threatening/coercing.. etc.. all above board between players.

To me, this is one of the huge things about this game that everyone seems to gloss over. This game is as much or more about playing the players than it is actual game mechanics. If you go two turns without at least one trade agreement trading hands, you aren't playing properly.
totally agree
 
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stephen biggs
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BennoNZ wrote:
everyone does their "construction phase" or "building phase" at the same time


Problem with "at the same time", is it isn't actually at the same time. If say the Klingon was planning a surprise war. They could wait till other players had used most of there resources and then build a large number of ships on the starbase closest to whichever player had built fewest ships.
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Barry Miller
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Am a little unclear about what you mean when you say that you find luck to be troublesome? I mean, does that mean that you don't play games that use dice or card draws? Not trying to be snarky, but I'm always intrigued by gamers who have issues with randomness or luck in their games, as I'm quite the opposite. Perhaps it's because I like a lot of theme in my games, and there's nothing more thematic than the random or lucky event or outcome happening in your life on a daily basis.

Also, about everyone taking their Build Phase turns before everyone takes their command phase, that won't work. (Tom Vasel is certainly an experienced gamer, but the problem with his reviews is that I get the feeling that he doesn't play a game enough, before reviewing it, to identify a complex game's true faults. Plus I've noticed that he doesn't always know how to play a game correctly. Not always, but I've noticed that sometimes he evaluates a game based on playing it wrong or by not fully grasping a game's intricacies due to lack of plays).

Anyway, everyone doing the building phase first won't work because one player's Building Phase must be informed by the previous player's Command Phase. This has been discussed in many other threads, so there's plenty to read on the subject!

 
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