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Subject: Thoughts on the 2 player game rss

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Jack
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I reviewed Forged in Steel a few months ago (https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1640759/building-west-forge...), and since then I have played it several more times, mainly as a 2 Player game. Since I’ve had quite a few people ask how it plays with 2, I thought I’d put down my thoughts – I’d be interested if others had similar experiences?

Firstly, I’ve exclusively played with 2 using both the 2 player variant from the companion guide (available direct from Knight Works or as a black and white download on BGG), which extends the length of each decade by 2 cards, so all my observations will be based on this. I’d say this probably only increases play time by about 20%, so unless I was really stuck for time I won’t be likely to play it without this variant. The board feels about the right level of full at the end of the game, and I have never felt the game drags at all.

Second, I always (at all play counts) play with the official Power of Elections variant (also in the companion guide) – in general, my experience has been that the slight increased rules overhead definitely offsets the huge points advantage you can gain from the mayor in decade 1 with the base rules, however for reasons I’ll go into later, I am tempted to try without the variant at 2 player only.

Now the caveats are out the way, I should importantly add that at 2 players, FiS plays very well. It definitely doesn’t feel like it’s missing any of the full experience, and while several things are very different, this isn’t necessarily in a bad way. I’d definitely be happy with the game even if it only played to 2.

My main observation is that predictably, any role or card that attacks another player is much more powerful. With 2, the zero sum nature means anything that is costing your opponent points is equal to anything that gains for you – so, for example the card Fire (destroy 1 building, 75% chance of destroying anything else in the block, which can be another 3) goes from being alright, to one of the strongest cards in the game. Similarly, Flood (destroys a lot of opponents houses) goes from a card I’d usually play for MM, to an event I’d rarely pass up. It does make the game feel a little bit meaner, but I don’t think too much – most cards are still constructive, but it does feel a lot more head to head.

For similar reasons, the seize action seems a lot better (fewer people adding unrest meaning lower chance of riots also helps) – especially towards the end of the game, I’m far more likely to spend 4MM seizing an opponents commercial building, than 3 to buy one. With 3 or 4, I found seize wasn’t used that frequently compared to other actions, so it was nice to see this make more of an appearance.

edit - for the next 2 paragraphs, see comments below, I'd misunderstood a bit of wording for the mining official role, it's still very powerful, but not quite as much as I had thought. Looks like the potential issue had been foreseen!

This also means there’s a huge difference in the balance of the roles – this would be the only point where the scaling doesn’t work quite so well. My experience (maybe this would be reduced if not playing the extended 2 player game) is that the mines are usually full by the end of the second – if not the first – era, so the points swing for mining official is HUGE – 1 point for you/denied to opponent for each of the 12ish mines is a giant swing, even once you get to the point of no longer getting bonus points on initial placement. Initially, I thought, mob boss is incredible with 2 – however this seems to reduce over time as people get wary of it and spread out their houses more – the slight reduction in map clutter with 2 allowing for this. I suspect playing the normal length game this would be even worse. At first I was happy enough that these 2 balanced out - each player would take one each – but I am starting to suspect that it may we worth slightly nerfing the mining boss bonus to say, a max of 5 extra VP per scoring phase. I’d be interested if anyone else has thoughts!

This is the main reason I’m tempted to try without power of elections variant – I’d be happy to see another player vacuum up the points from city cubes as mayor in era 1 if that meant I had first pick of mining official! However I think this wouldn’t last long – there usually aren’t many city cubes in the 3rd decade, so would be back to mining official being super powered.

Riots and unrest seem pretty different with 2. As said above, fewer people adding unrest cubes means they happen less often; but when they do happen, they can be a lot worse - or better if you’re in control! It makes me more willing to take risks with adding unrest, but when I push my luck too far, it can really bite me. I like it!

Finally, some very specific thoughts about component limitations with the 7 card variant. Given that with 3 x 5 cards it’s not uncommon to run out of houses, it’s perhaps unsurprising that playing 7 means this happens even more. It’s not quite as often as you might expect, since more are likely to be destroyed, and the immigration phase is usually milder (due to slightly fewer factories and commercial buildings being on board), but you definitely feel more of a pinch. I’m tempted to allow each player a handful of houses extra from the unused player colours, but I worry this would add yet another complexity/thing to get wrong in the already complex scoring phase. I don’t think it’d break anything having the extras however, so am also considering trying to source some extra pieces in a couple of the colours to test this out.

I’ve also found it’s very possible to start running out of ownership cubes in your colour, which I’ve never seen being even close to happening in 3-4 Players. I wasn’t sure if these were meant to be limited – there’s enough for them to realistically not run out in a 5 card per era game, so we weren’t sure how best to do it. We felt it best to treat them as not being limited, since the conservation aspect made less sense (and seemed less fun) than with houses, so made enough space by using the ones in the mining track and replacing these with other colour cubes – the mining scoring is quick and simple enough there was less room for confusion, but some clarification would be good as to whether they were meant to be limited – giving it’s an edge case while using a variant, I don’t think it’s a problem. Has anyone else come up against this, and how did you resolve it?

So anyway, that’s my thoughts on Forged in Steel with 2 – quite different, but still excellent. Likely to be my game of the year, and so even if you only play with one other person, I still highly recommend it!
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Wade Broadhead
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Jack, love the post and the ideas. I really enjoy the 2 player for the speed vs decision ratio it can deliver. It's not always perfect but most games are still pretty close even if I have been destroyed by good friends and family. shake

As for your mining comment, I do believe the role token says 4VP max for mining official so that's the max someone could get just from that role. More later. Thanks again for the ideas.
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Jack
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Thomas Müntzer stands alone amidst his heavily outnumbered insurgent peasant army and realises divine intervention will not be forthcoming.
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re: mining official - that's makes more sense, I'd interpreted the 4 point limit being you were limited to that many points per mine, ie. if the mining track was at the top, you didn't get any extra. Since I'd never seen any of the tracks max out it seemed a weirdly specific exception for a rare cases. This will definitely make the role feel a lot less swingy with 2!

I've added a note to the OP above the relevant paragraph noting my mistake.
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Chris Stimpson
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I guess I'm not a ruthless enough player. In turn 3 of the FiS game in which I introduced my wife to the game (2P), I actually discarded the Tuberculosis card, since playing it would have effectively wiped her out - she had 4 houses adjacent to her mansion in Prosperity Level 2 Mesa Junction.

On the other hand, I'm still married....

I do, seriously, worry about the brutality of some of the cards in a 2P game. Spanish Flu, TB, Fire, etc. can wreak havoc on your opponent, and the game gets dangerously close to the 'luck of the draw'. You could eliminate some cards in a house rule, but if you start that, I don't know where you'd end.
 
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