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Subject: Your experience with The Cult rss

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Just a Bill
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I'm still trying to wrap my head around this design. I see the potential, but the incentives seem to create a common pattern, and my experience with it has not been great. I think I've become a Cult member twice, and don't recall it being particularly fun either time. One time I don't really remember very well, and the other time my unearned win was decidedly anticlimactic (I was kind of relieved when the game was over, like how you feel at the end of a predictable movie).

It seems like the pattern is two or three players teaming up early and riding the rails to victory, but my experience with this alien is pretty limited. Maybe the invitations were handed out too early or too freely, but both times it seemed like a no-brainer for me to join, and then there wasn't a whole lot to do other than wait for the joint win and swat at a non-member once or twice. Hand management wasn't required, since you get free virtual negotiate cards when encountering your cultmates. And because of all the cult rules, betrayals are minimized: I couldn't spring a surprise attack on another cultmate, or ally against him. The betrayal mechanic is scripted rather than organic, and I don't think renouncing or denouncing happened in my games.

I'm wondering if those experiences were outliers. Maybe I just don't "get" The Cult and everyone else is finding the gameplay really compelling. Maybe this is another flavor of the "noobs invite too many allies" phenomenon, but on a higher scale because you're getting invited one time, early on, to (likely) win the whole game, and the natural (initial?) equilibrium is easy joint wins — without the usual betrayal risk of a joint win. Maybe I've just not seen The Cult at its true equilibrium after experience matures the meta. Or maybe I just need to make it my mission to always oppose The Cult and try to make them lose, realizing that I will usually fail while enjoying the rare success.

Anyway, I'd enjoy hearing how others are perceiving, playing, and responding to The Cult ... and for those whose groups have used it repeatedly, how your meta is evolving. So far, I am a non-believer and want to figure out whether I'm missing a Truth here or The Cult truly is just a cult that looks interesting on the surface but lacks real depth.
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Jack Reda
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I've only had The Cult show up in a couple of games so far, but here's what my experience has been, and why ultimately I do like this alien.

-In one game, I joined early, so I could bump my score up fast, with the intention all along at renouncing later to try winning alone, which I did. But it wasn't easy. However, I was able to hold onto a pretty high attack card and some reinforcements through the whole game until I needed them to win alone.

-In another game, there were a couple of non-Cult members that managed to deliver a pretty crippling blow to the Cult with a win that caused all of the foreign colonies to lose their ships. It was nice to see that result (and not just because I wasn't in the Cult myself at the time).

-There was one game where everyone won the game, when the only Cult holdout negotiated with one of The Cult's members for a 5th colony all around. Maybe this will become a much more common occurrence in CE than it has been in the past, but the luster of this kind of rare outcome it still there for me.

This kind of non-confrontational alien is unusual in CE, and I like that too. Many players and groups have a wide range of style and gameplay, and while I think most are more apt to focus on the combat side of encounters, I think some prefer the negotiating side of CE. This is clearly an alien for that group, and I figure with 196 aliens, The Cult will come up infrequently enough that it will be a welcome change of pace. Time will tell.
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K
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Bill Martinson wrote:
So far, I am a non-believer and want to figure out whether I'm missing a Truth here or The Cult truly is just a cult that looks interesting on the surface but lacks real depth.


As is the case with a lot of aliens, player count may matter a lot here.

My thoughts in small games have been the same as yours Bill. I adore the concept of The Cult (as I love negotiating, love teamwork, and love unique aliens that aren't all about combat) but in small games I don't think I've really liked the tuning -- I think being in The Cult when invited IS a no brainer, and once inside it, your plays are so scripted for the rest of the game that counter intuitively, it doesn't increase the actual Negotiating side of CE -- it decreases it.

But in a large game, I can see it being a lot more interesting, because the non-Cult members will outnumber Cult members much more significantly for much more of the game -- I imagine this creating a sort of counter-Cult coalition forming up, which might be a lot of fun!
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Jefferson Krogh
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"Counter-Cult Coalition" is the name of my next rock band.
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Johann Gambolputty
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My biggest problem with The Cult is that the player who chooses the power gains no more benefit from it than anyone who joins, other than being able to decide who to invite. While unmistakably having a huge impact on the course of the game, the actual power barely gives you any interesting decisions to make, other than picking which allies you think can most benefit you.

If The Cult player (the person with The Cult sheet in front of them) was a Cult Leader instead of just another member, I think I might view the power more favorably. The first thing that comes to mind would be that when a member gives up the Cult, the Cult Leader gets to choose where the lost ships come from, and take the cards randomly from that player's hand. This is more thematically appropriate, and would be much more dangerous than just needing to have 4 useless cards and some spare ships. (perhaps reducing the number of lost ships to 2, in this case)

As-is, I think The Cult would be better off as a Hazard Card, or some maybe some new type of game effect that that gives different alliance types and options to players (kind of like a variant of the Team Cosmic rules).
 
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Ido Abelman
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The inherent Achilles heel of the cult (the option to lose foreign colonies when any cult member loses) reminds me of Ace's disadvantage and creates a team vs. team dynamic. In my game with the cult we had pretty much a 3 vs. 3 situation and we almost managed to destroy their colonies but they had a surgeon and used his power to mount a strong defense and give colonies. This was a case where the cult was exceptionally strong but it did make me want to see the cult in other situations.
 
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Jefferson Krogh
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t20a1h5u23 wrote:
If The Cult player (the person with The Cult sheet in front of them) was a Cult Leader instead of just another member, I think I might view the power more favorably. The first thing that comes to mind would be that when a member gives up the Cult, the Cult Leader gets to choose where the lost ships come from, and take the cards randomly from that player's hand. This is more thematically appropriate, and would be much more dangerous than just needing to have 4 useless cards and some spare ships. (perhaps reducing the number of lost ships to 2, in this case)


Then no one would ever try to leave the cult, and then The Cult would be even more powerful, and you'd remove a major point of tension built into the design.

The Cult doesn't really need to be more powerful. ;P
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Johann Gambolputty
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Kobold Curry Chef wrote:
The Cult doesn't really need to be more powerful.

True, but in my experience, playing as The Cult feels like playing without a power. Sure, you have all the Cult benefits, but everyone else who you invite to join has those benefits as well, in addition to their own power.
 
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Jefferson Krogh
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t20a1h5u23 wrote:
Kobold Curry Chef wrote:
The Cult doesn't really need to be more powerful.

True, but in my experience, playing as The Cult feels like playing without a power. Sure, you have all the Cult benefits, but everyone else who you invite to join has those benefits as well, in addition to their own power.


I don't think I can reconcile you having two contradictory thoughts:

a) The Cult doesn't need to be more powerful;
b) The Cult doesn't feel like a power.

If it feels totally different from every other published alien, then it is working as intended.
 
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Johann Gambolputty
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Kobold Curry Chef wrote:

I don't think I can reconcile you having two contradictory thoughts:

a) The Cult doesn't need to be more powerful;
b) The Cult doesn't feel like a power.

If it feels totally different from every other published alien, then it is working as intended.



Haha, yeah, I suppose that is a bit of a contradiction. The abilities of The Cult are certainly a power, and are certainly strong. The part that makes it not feel right to me is that the only difference between the person playing The Cult and all members is the ability to invite others to join. While certainly an important and involved decision, it's not enough to compel me to ever choose the power: I'd rather be invited into the cult than be The Cult.

I agree with Bill that the use of the power doesn't seem to give you lots of choices. Once you've invited your allies, you just have to wait to encounter eachother and eventually win (or be betrayed). It feels more like a souped-up version of the Alliance Hazard than it's own, unique alien race.


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Just a Bill
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Kobold Curry Chef wrote:
If it feels totally different from every other published alien, then it is working as intended.

I wouldn't use that as proof of quality ... Grumpus and Locust both feel totally different from every other published alien, too.

t20a1h5u23 wrote:
I'd rather be invited into the cult than be The Cult.

Yes, thank you. Somehow I could not put my finger on that until you said it.

The other members have the flexibility: they still have their own powers, and have the option to renounce at the last minute and go for the solo win. The Cult player himself doesn't really have that option, though: he has to have his Super flare, and it normally can't be a surprise because it takes him multiple turns to purge everyone else from the cult. Even if there's only one member to purge, he has to do it before he knows who will be the defense in the current encounter. (Now I'm thinking the Super flare should have let him denounce any or all other cult members.)

So with Johann's comment I'm realizing that The Cult is one of those few aliens that spends nearly its entire power making other aliens like itself. CEO's Martian, and the beta versions of Tide and Vox, had this same characteristic: it's better to play against them than to play as them, because you can get their equalizing effect in addition to having your own full power.

Let the other guy spend his entire power on the shared effect. Meanwhile I'll be over here declaring upsets or grabbing planets or predicting winners or doing some other fun thing.
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Jack Reda
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True but the Cult can choose whom to invite into the cult and let the other guys use their powers for the shared effect. You have the control over who helps you win. Makes it much easier to work against a specific threat. It's not a non-power, just a matter of taste. Especially if someone doesn't like shared wins that much.
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Just a Bill
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I'm not really saying it's a non-power (although I guess I associated it with some designs that approach that line), and in general I'm fine with shared wins. I guess I just like my shared wins to be less ... scripted?

Probably SirHandsome is right that it works better in larger games. My experiences were in smaller ones (4, maybe 5 players) and it was kinda boring being a member of The Cult.

Thinking about the time I won as Tock-Tock, maybe I just don't enjoy leisurely coasting across the finish line and winning because of a scripted mechanism rather than earning the victory. Truthfully, I'd rather suffer an interesting loss than fall into a low-effort win.
 
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Jack Reda
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Frankly, I'm kinda the same way, and I wouldn't want to have that experience very often. In fact, the Cult and Tick-Tock are aliens I wouldn't pick most of the time, however I do like having them show up in the game now and again. I rather enjoy how they change the game dynamics.
 
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