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Subject: 2 games in, faction balance seems off. rss

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Joe Nothin'
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So far we've played 2 games, and the factions don't seem balanced at all. Rusviet are great - they have an amazing ability and great mech upgrades. Polania and Crimea are fine - good powers (with Polania having the only power that actually introduces more resources into the game) but middling mech upgrades. And than, at the bottom, Saxony and Nordic with bad powers and middling mech upgrades.

Worst of all seems to be Saxony, actually - Saxony's power seems to favor a play-style that the entire game really doesn't want you to play, and is very niche. It doesn't come into play often, and for most of the game the Saxony players just play without a special ability, which puts them at a disadvantage. The mech powers are OK, but underwhelming - they can jump other players easy, yes, but unless the fight in a tunnel they have nothing to help them actually win, and even than it's too costly to fight. Overall, it seems that Saxony are just a badly designed faction that is at odds with the spirit of the game.

I now you'll ask, so I'm putting the information here - I've won both games; the first with Rusviet and the second with Crimea. In both game whoever played Saxony was way way behind, and the player who played Saxony in the first game got to play Rusviet in the second game and came in second place with 111 points to my 116. Both are skilled players and played good, so it's not a skill thing. Saxony just seem to be mechanically weaker, and needs the other players to play bad (end up on a tunnel with no power and bad cards, etc.) with no tools to force it.

Did anyone else notice this? Is there anyway to fix this via house rules of any kind?
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Mike Jaquette
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Hi Joe, Scythe is a fantastic game and there is much more depth to the factions then what is seen at first glance. I suggest you play at least 3-5 more times and give yourself a chance to discover some of the more subtle interactions between the player boards and faction mats. At that point if you still think there are balance issues, this question has been asked MANY times on the forums and a wealth of information has been written. Jamey is a designer of the highest quality and many will attest to Scythe's balance.

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I just beat Crimea and Nordsk with Saxony. It isn't as straight forward as some, but if played well they are good. Not one wants to attack you because they are afraid of giving you stars. I ran my popularity and eventually my power way up, I won with on1y 1 combat star.
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Joe Nothin'
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Squatting Monkey wrote:
I just beat Crimea and Nordsk with Saxony. It isn't as straight forward as some, but if played well they are good. Not one wants to attack you because they are afraid of giving you stars. I ran my popularity and eventually my power way up, I won with on1y 1 combat star.


I don't think it's impossible to win with Saxony, they just play at a disadvantage. I am also unsure what would it matter that they didn't want to attack you; if you had just one combat star than your power wasn't even in effect. If they didn't attack you, they were probably doing something else - which seems better than spending resources on combat.

Also, Rusviet is great at combat and better than Saxony - you can take workers with you and dump 2-3 combat cards on a fight, it's great. In our last game, everyone finished the game with a hand of about 7-10 games (other than me, I was playing Crimea and using them as resources all the time. GREAT power), so it doesn't seem hard to punch a Saxony player all the way home.

Again, it doesn't seem impossible, just unreasonably harder to do. If you managed it, all the more power to you, you are an awesome player - but as you mentioned, it wasn't due to the faction - you just out-played the other guys.
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JoeNothin wrote:
Is there anyway to fix this
yes, play more games.

you've only played 2. Saxony being way behind after two games means your playgroup just hasn't figured it out yet. you could either keep playing until someone figures it out or look up strategies online, but i'd be far from looking at house ruling anything after only 2 plays
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Joe Nothin'
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dr00 wrote:
JoeNothin wrote:
Is there anyway to fix this
yes, play more games.

you've only played 2. Saxony being way behind after two games means your playgroup just hasn't figured it out yet. you could either keep playing until someone figures it out or look up strategies online, but i'd be far from looking at house ruling anything after only 2 plays


I don't think it's fair to make one of the players just keep smashing his head on this until he just randomly wins. It's... it's just not fun. It also doesn't seem to be fair to have whoever's gonna play Saxony read tons of strategy guides until he finds something he can do that doesn't require anyone else to play bad.
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I won with 18 points last time in a four player game, playing the Nordic faction.
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In Regards to Saxony they do seem to be the weakest, though also depends which technology board you get.

Their main power to place more than 1 star on stuff is bad. If your trying to fulfil missions you might get two missions that are in two completely different directions.

You can also do more combat but here is the thing, you are already hampering your power by trying to do more than two battles, in addition to spending more turns trying to amass power you also need to get power cards all wasting coins and turns while your opponents cover more territory and generate power as well.

Remember if you are fighting it means you aren't getting towards the power cap star which is basically cancelling the star you get from winning more than 3 fights. So basically you have a faction that is pushed towards doing a certain action that is actually quite hampering if this game.

Now if combat was actually good or useful things might be different.

Now as other people have said play more games. Sure I have played this 4 times and I have not seen Saxony get close to other peoples scores
 
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Saxony is a faction that rewards aggression. One of the nice things about Scythe is that each faction requires that you look at thr game in a different way. With Saxony, I'll often walk a worker across the river and produce an early mech (if production permits) to get an early factory card. If anything, the problem with Saxony that I've seen is that it requires a more ameritrashy mindset in a very Euro game.

We see threads stating that certain factions are under or overpowered a few times a week. One week, Rusviet is too strong. Another, it's too weak and someone insists that a houserule is necessary to buff it.

There was a study done a few months back, looking at BGG submitted win rates among factions. The results were surprisingly balanced, with slightly skewed rates in favor of Crimea (this was during a period everyone was convinced Rusviet was broken). I'm on my phone and running out of battery or I would link it.

I personally enjoy games with depth of strategy that require repeated plays and different mindsets to play well.
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mavericklancer wrote:
Saxony is a faction that rewards aggression. One of the nice things about Scythe is that each faction requires that you look at thr game in a different way. With Saxony, I'll often walk a worker across the river and produce an early mech (if production permits) to get an early factory card. If anything, the problem with Saxony that I've seen is that it requires a more ameritrashy mindset in a very Euro game.

We see threads stating that certain factions are under or overpowered a few times a week. One week, Rusviet is too strong. Another, it's too weak and someone insists that a houserule is necessary to buff it.

There was a study done a few months back, looking at BGG submitted win rates among factions. The results were surprisingly balanced, with slightly skewed rates in favor of Crimea (this was during a period everyone was convinced Rusviet was broken). I'm on my phone and running out of battery or I would link it.


But the entire game disincentivizes aggressiveness, and nothing the Saxony player has gives him more tools to actually win fights if the other players are half-decent. The closest thing the Saxony player has to a combat advantage is -2 power to the other player when fighting on a tunnel space, and anyone with half a brain can avoid that easily.

It just seems that up until the moment he has 2 combat stars and 1 mission star, the Saxony player effectively has no faction power, and by that point in the game it's practically over. I mean, all the other factions have powers right from the get-go, and have them for the entire game - even Nordic's power is available for the entire game, even if it is mostly useless (and they have great mech upgrades).

mavericklancer wrote:
I personally enjoy games with depth of strategy that require repeated plays and different mindsets to play well.


Yeah, me too - that's why I don't want to play a game that's unbalanced and decided by who draw the short straw at the beginning and got stuck with the weak faction. Nothing you said points to Saxony being balanced.
 
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Hi Joe. For what it's worth my group has reached a similar conclusion as you that Red, Yellow and White are good (with red very slightly in front) but that Blue and Black lag behind somewhat which has the potential to be really problematic at higher levels of play. This is our conclusion after many more plays than you guys have logged.

Many people here don't see it that way and believe the game is more or less completely balanced. To be fair there have been many threads saying that some faction is too good or too weak, sometimes for the same faction which feeds this. If there's one thing that bugs me about these threads its that the go to response is usually either opinion (I personally disagree with you), anecdotal (I won with such and such faction vs this other faction) or just that you need to play more. While these may be true they don't actually provide brain food to try and re-evaluate tactics that might not have been considered before. Although there have indeed been some attempts to talk about the balance directly and even some tactics I have never seen any tactics or advice to convince me that blue and black have reliably ways to play which overcomes their balance issues rather than rely on inexperienced/misplays from opponents to win.

Red: You hit the nail on the head with this one. The main "complaint" for them is that they can sometimes draw a real dud with their factory card but my group has seen strong early factory cards from them enough times that we don't accept this as a "flaw" (anecdotal I know but there seems to be enough "good" factory cards that they usually get one). Their abilities are strong and their combat ability is arguably the best in the game for the exact reasons you listed.

Yellow/White: Have shown they can hold their own, Yellow with their wild card resources and combat card management, and white with their strong economy boost early on coupled with a very good movement ability and a counter to a common tactic.

Blue: Is starting to raise some concerns with our group as their abilities are showing themselves to be less and less useful compared to the above colors as we get better and better.

Black: Has been the questionable Faction from the start. Their movement ability is phenomenal, their combat ability is garbage and their innate ability is... very good... on paper. Our issue with their innate ability is not that its bad, it actually can be good, but rather that they have basically no control on how good it is. Some of the objective cards are just plain impossible or place such bad restrictions on your gameplay that their existence puzzles us. Being able to do both your objectives doesn't really mean much if one of they is hard as balls restrictive (Anyone want to create a permanent foothold?). As for combat, combat in this game depends heavily on drawing good combat cards (assuming competent opponents). Saxony players have tried out arms racing their opponents. It just does not work if your opponents don't want it to. Worse still, Failing to draw good combat cards (which has happened obnoxiously often for black, again anecdotal) has been a huge detriment especially as players got better and better at not leaving vulnerable units lying around. As you also noted, black's combat ability is rather terrible as it does little to really assist them in winning in most situations especially compared to a faction like Red who gets to use more cards in battle.

I'm sorry to say that our games and analysis has lined up pretty well with yours and so far I have not seen a compelling reason to change that opinion.
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The game was play tested over 750 times, I'm pretty sure that process has given the designer more insight to the balancing of the game, than your 2 plays.

Also you're talking about X,Y or Z faction being better/unbalanced compared to others, but since in game, they're never separated from an action board, there's actually, in a sense, 25 factions.

I presume in your 2 plays, that you haven't seen all 25 combinations?
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JoeNothin wrote:
got to play Rusviet in the second game and came in second place with 111 points to my 116.



Scoring over $100 is very rare, except in low-player-count games with little combat. If you score over $100, there’s a good chance you might be missing an important rule. I would recommend you read Highlighted Rules on page 31 (in fact, I would recommend that to everyone after your first game).
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Darador wrote:
JoeNothin wrote:
got to play Rusviet in the second game and came in second place with 111 points to my 116.



Scoring over $100 is very rare, except in low-player-count games with little combat. If you score over $100, there’s a good chance you might be missing an important rule. I would recommend you read Highlighted Rules on page 31 (in fact, I would recommend that to everyone after your first game).


Fair enough, but I went and looked and we didn't miss anything though. We've played by the rules to the T. I guess we just had one of those rare games.

Closest we had was that on the second game I misremembered the Rusviet Mech upgrade that allows the use of power cards with workers; I remembered it was a card for each worker, but the Rusviet corrected me mid-game and said it was just one if you have any workers - this did have an impact on my decisions, but didn't come into play in the game itself at any-point.
 
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I recommend you to check this article:
https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1604464/faction-discussion-...

Maybe this puts the faction to a different light (or not).

The most memorable win of Saxony was in a 3 player game in my group.
The saxon player totally gave up the popularity track.
The other players had to react to the aggression which pushed them away from the strategical path they planned. The dominance in territories was worth enough to overcome the lack of popularity.
It was a risky play, because if the game lasted longer it would favor the other factions.
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allstar64 wrote:
Hi Joe. For what it's worth my group has reached a similar conclusion as you that Red, Yellow and White are good (with red very slightly in front) but that Blue and Black lag behind somewhat which has the potential to be really problematic at higher levels of play. This is our conclusion after many more plays than you guys have logged.

Many people here don't see it that way and believe the game is more or less completely balanced. To be fair there have been many threads saying that some faction is too good or too weak, sometimes for the same faction which feeds this. If there's one thing that bugs me about these threads its that the go to response is usually either opinion (I personally disagree with you), anecdotal (I won with such and such faction vs this other faction) or just that you need to play more. While these may be true they don't actually provide brain food to try and re-evaluate tactics that might not have been considered before. Although there have indeed been some attempts to talk about the balance directly and even some tactics I have never seen any tactics or advice to convince me that blue and black have reliably ways to play which overcomes their balance issues rather than rely on inexperienced/misplays from opponents to win.

Red: You hit the nail on the head with this one. The main "complaint" for them is that they can sometimes draw a real dud with their factory card but my group has seen strong early factory cards from them enough times that we don't accept this as a "flaw" (anecdotal I know but there seems to be enough "good" factory cards that they usually get one). Their abilities are strong and their combat ability is arguably the best in the game for the exact reasons you listed.

Yellow/White: Have shown they can hold their own, Yellow with their wild card resources and combat card management, and white with their strong economy boost early on coupled with a very good movement ability and a counter to a common tactic.

Blue: Is starting to raise some concerns with our group as their abilities are showing themselves to be less and less useful compared to the above colors as we get better and better.

Black: Has been the questionable Faction from the start. Their movement ability is phenomenal, their combat ability is garbage and their innate ability is... very good... on paper. Our issue with their innate ability is not that its bad, it actually can be good, but rather that they have basically no control on how good it is. Some of the objective cards are just plain impossible or place such bad restrictions on your gameplay that their existence puzzles us. Being able to do both your objectives doesn't really mean much if one of they is hard as balls restrictive (Anyone want to create a permanent foothold?). As for combat, combat in this game depends heavily on drawing good combat cards (assuming competent opponents). Saxony players have tried out arms racing their opponents. It just does not work if your opponents don't want it to. Worse still, Failing to draw good combat cards (which has happened obnoxiously often for black, again anecdotal) has been a huge detriment especially as players got better and better at not leaving vulnerable units lying around. As you also noted, black's combat ability is rather terrible as it does little to really assist them in winning in most situations especially compared to a faction like Red who gets to use more cards in battle.

I'm sorry to say that our games and analysis has lined up pretty well with yours and so far I have not seen a compelling reason to change that opinion.


I think the Crimean's issues are with the mech upgrades - the ability to go from any zone to the starting zone of unplayed factions is a very niche ability that becomes much less powerful with more players on board. Stealing a power card is good in edge cases, but not if the other player has alot of cards and also very random, so it's not amazing.

However, the ability to turn power cards into resources is awesome and very useful. I think it's my favorite ability, and trumps the fact that they aren't my player color and they have the ugliest mechs.

About Saxony, I agree. They are just weak, and to use them fully you need other players to play bad. Its amazing this got through play-testing.
 
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Ydnad wrote:
I recommend you to check this article:
https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1604464/faction-discussion-...

Maybe this puts the faction to a different light (or not).

The most memorable win of Saxony was in a 3 player game in my group.
The saxon player totally gave up the popularity track.
The other players had to react to the aggression which pushed them away from the strategical path they planned. The dominance in territories was worth enough to overcome the lack of popularity.
It was a risky play, because if the game lasted longer it would favor the other factions.


I've read it before I posted this. It didn't give my any insight - that post assumes victory in every combat, which is insane; combat is very resource consuming, you can't win all the time, and even trying to win some of the time will make you easy pray.
 
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Bryan Cole
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FWIW, in my last game (last week), I lost as the Russiets to Saxony (with the Nordics coming in second). The Saxony simply out-played me. Our group has had about 10 plays now. I've won with all the factions. I'd say they are certain faction/player board combination that are stronger than others but overall, I think player skill far outweighs any intrinsic imbalance.

The Saxony's ability to dominate the tunnel network and mountains is their strongest trait.
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JoeNothin wrote:
I've read it before I posted this. It didn't give my any insight - that post assumes victory in every combat, which is insane; combat is very resource consuming, you can't win all the time, and even trying to win some of the time will make you easy pray.

Well, since most of the time Saxony is the aggressor they don't choose a battle which they can't win.
About the resources: no one can be equally good in bolstering / gaining combat cards / gaining popularity / doing all the other stuffs. So it's all about creating a beneficial asymmetry.
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bryancole1 wrote:
FWIW, in my last game (last week), I lost as the Russiets to Saxony (with the Nordics coming in second). The Saxony simply out-played me. Our group has had about 10 plays now. I've won with all the factions. I'd say they are certain faction/player board combination that are stronger than others but overall, I think player skill far outweighs any intrinsic imbalance.

The Saxony's ability to dominate the tunnel network and mountains is their strongest trait.


Only friendly mountains though. You can go from a mountain to any tunnel, but you can't go from a tunnel to any mountain. This seems to be a common mistake.

Anyway, can you tell me more about how the Saxony player out played you? I'd like to hear more about that game.
 
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I think Saxony may be under-powered compared to the other factions, but not by a significant margin. I believe that's what the play testing data showed.

It's interesting. In my games with new players, Saxony often takes the lead. Camping on tunnels and picking off weak mechs, they start racking up stars and forcing the game to end. It almost becomes a 1vAll scenario.

With more experienced players, they stop putting mechs in vulnerable places when they're low on power and things get trickier for Saxony.
Still, you start with a village, and access to metal and oil, which is a pretty nice combo.

The viability of combat in this game really depends on the actions of other players, and the viability of objectives really depends on what you are dealt. So Saxony does have that weakness, but are overall a strong faction.
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JoeNothin wrote:

Also, Rusviet is great at combat and better than Saxony - you can take workers with you and dump 2-3 combat cards on a fight, it's great.


Woah woah woah .. taking workers with you has absolutely zero advantage. Are you saying that you added a combat card per worker?

"Add Combat Card(s)(Optional): By default, for each of your units involved in the current combat (character and/or mechs), you may tuck 1 combat card from your hand behind the Power Dial"

Methinks you've played wrong in at least this way..
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JoeNothin wrote:
Squatting Monkey wrote:
I just beat Crimea and Nordsk with Saxony. It isn't as straight forward as some, but if played well they are good. Not one wants to attack you because they are afraid of giving you stars. I ran my popularity and eventually my power way up, I won with on1y 1 combat star.


I don't think it's impossible to win with Saxony, they just play at a disadvantage. I am also unsure what would it matter that they didn't want to attack you; if you had just one combat star than your power wasn't even in effect.


Not... Really.

In Scythe, the threat of combat is at least as important as combat. If the other players were avoiding sufficiently afraid of combat that they weren't only avoiding attacking Saxony, they were avoiding positions where Saxony could attack them... That's going to force suboptimal plays, to avoid giving away combat stars. The power, in that case, wasn't to get more stars from what is usually one of the easiest ways of getting them than usually allowed, but forcing other players to alter their play style out of fear of that possibility.
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rorschach9 wrote:
JoeNothin wrote:

Also, Rusviet is great at combat and better than Saxony - you can take workers with you and dump 2-3 combat cards on a fight, it's great.


Woah woah woah .. taking workers with you has absolutely zero advantage. Are you saying that you added a combat card per worker?

"Add Combat Card(s)(Optional): By default, for each of your units involved in the current combat (character and/or mechs), you may tuck 1 combat card from your hand behind the Power Dial"

Methinks you've played wrong in at least this way..


Rusviets have the people's army mech ability, iirc. Forget if that adds 1 combat card for having any workers in the fight, or one combat card per worker in the fight (And I forget if it's only on defense or also on offense)
 
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JoeNothin wrote:

But the entire game disincentivizes aggressiveness, and nothing the Saxony player has gives him more tools to actually win fights if the other players are half-decent. The closest thing the Saxony player has to a combat advantage is -2 power to the other player when fighting on a tunnel space, and anyone with half a brain can avoid that easily.

Yeah, me too - that's why I don't want to play a game that's unbalanced and decided by who draw the short straw at the beginning and got stuck with the weak faction. Nothing you said points to Saxony being balanced.


I am 25 games in and Saxony is not any weaker than the other factions. You are looking at the shallow end of strategy, you need to dive into the deep end. Saxony's power is not about actually getting more than 2 stars in combat, it is about their threat to do so. Same with the -2 power in the tunnels bonus. This means a smart Saxony player can easily take and hold most of the tunnel spaces (severely limiting other player's movement), and with a modicum of power can feel free to linger closer to other players without fear of attack. Saxony is not a weak faction. With the ability to scare the other players off of the tunnels, this also makes encounters much easier/faster to reach. This game is exquisitely balanced, but it does take a bit of player involvement/learning to really unlock the potential of the game. If you want a super-simple game you don't need to learn effective strategies for, this is the wrong game. This game rewards repeated plays.
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