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Subject: So close to getting this. rss

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Joshua Davis
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So I am very interested in this, and I'm very tempted to get it. I just have too questions.

How random is it? I'm not randomness averse, but does the randomness in this game get frustrating?

Also how slow is the build up. In a 30 minute game. How much time is just setting up?
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Deep Fish
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These seem like astute questions to ask about an abstract/strategy game involving random draw of pieces/tiles per player turn and >1 opponent.

That said, I think some randomness outside complete information can be positive for games. To compare to video-games, the roguelike genre is about refining your approach over numerous plays and variable conditions (some more beneficial and others more harmful). IE larger patterns emerge/are visible from experience.

The youtube intro here from the designer, talks about the game having a long development history and that diverse strategies are still being formulated: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSzsCftcxBc

So I am hopeful (not "hypeful", note!!), that indeed this game has the right balance. On the other hand, I am looking for an abstract that is quick to learn and not perfect information in the sense that Go requires a lot of learning. Element seems about right for that criteria for me.

I am also happy to hear that the designers do have ideas for expanding the gameplay with future element stones (colours and effects). I hope that it is therefore commercially successful in the way Onitama seems to have become. I wonder if they have ideas about variable win conditions? the round robin rule however seems one of the game's biggest strengths at the 4 player count?
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Mike Richie
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I'll try to answer these questions for you. I'm the designer, so I might be a bit biased, lol.

The balance between random and strategy was a key component into the design. I myself love abstracts, so I knew that the random couldn't be too much, or it would derail a player's strategy.

As each type of element can replace one other on the board, and given the fact that each element builds differently, you always have something to do with the stones you draw. That is (I've been told quite a bit) part of the fun. It's on the go decision making, using the tools at your disposal.

A player can also draw fewer stones in order to move their Sage (player piece) more.

No two games play the same. As for set up, the early game quickly gives way to mid game, where each player is in a constant state of balancing attack and defense.

The round robin works equally well in three or four player and the head to head.

I hope these answer your questions. Thank you for your interest in Element.
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Deep Fish
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Really interesting info. Thanks for taking the time to divulge this.

Did you ever try and calculate the number of combinations possible in a game such as this to compare to other games (eg Tak, Hive, Go, Onitama)?

This game is at the top of my "wish list".
 
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The board is 11x11. How did you come to choose this number?

Did it come about due to time, number of moves and combinations possible from play-testing?

I keep seeing really strong statements of the quality in the game design such as this one:-

http://ddoplayers.com/2017/01/31/element-from-rather-dashing...

"Don’t expect to play this game one time, and then have it mastered. It will take time, element is one of those rare games that you can bring out and I think a non gamer would enjoy.

Luck plays a small factor into the game, as you at the mercy of which stones you draw, but designer Mike Richie has made a fun game that you will want to play over and over, to see how you can improve from your last play."

And with loads of replay value which I think a small does of luck/chance space aids with imo. Ie not deterministic being the twin to randomness I think (?) to segue way back to the OP's question. :-)
 
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Mike Richie
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The Board size of 11 x 11 came after playing with several different sized boards. Too big and the game dragged. Too small and the games did not last long enough to form meaningful strategies. Also, at 11 x 11, there are 121 spaces on the board. There are 30 of each stone for a total of 120. You cannot run out of stones and not have a winner.

As for possible combinations, we are looking at astronomical numbers here, even more possibly than Go due to the four different Elements, the Rule of Replacement, and the movement of the Sages. I too would be curious as to how many there really are.
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Flawed Hero
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CloudBuilder wrote:
So I am very interested in this, and I'm very tempted to get it. I just have too questions.

How random is it? I'm not randomness averse, but does the randomness in this game get frustrating?

Also how slow is the build up. In a 30 minute game. How much time is just setting up?


The randomness does not get frustrating for me. It's a very good balance. There's no set up time other than placing your pawn. After that there's hardly any early game, and not much scripting. The main reason is you always pull different pieces. The game itself plays quick; rarely have we had one go 30 minutes. Most of us want to play again a few times. Amazing game and it'd be a shame to miss out on it.
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CloudBuilder wrote:
So I am very interested in this, and I'm very tempted to get it. I just have too questions.

How random is it? I'm not randomness averse, but does the randomness in this game get frustrating?

Also how slow is the build up. In a 30 minute game. How much time is just setting up?


1. Q: How Random?

To begin with the random stones mean you are not very effective. But as you learn how the game plays, you become more consistently effective. In terms of randomness and decision-making, the randomness invariably leads to interesting decision-making, so I think it works beautifully and hence is not frustrating lack of agency randomness.

2. Q: The Build Up in Early Game?

At first due to being ineffective, there was sedate periods. Recently (15 games in) I find I see patterns and new patterns more types of and sooner. You might think there's no danger and hence no tension and hence early game would feel redundant (in some ways golf can feel like this with putting being so crucial!) but it does not work that way: The early game is so different because of all the combinations and so you are interested all the time in the emerging state of the board and state of other players: Remember some Sages really do "wrestle control" of some part of influencing the elements powerfully either defensively or offensively - and this can "ratchet" slowly as easily as reverse as quick as lighting.

I prefer the early game, as I feel like there's more strategy (with 4p) as everyone is evenly balanced and you're looking for the first imbalance: It gets frantic in late game like a Mexican Stand-Off! With 2p, it's an arm-wrestle to control and corner the other Sage into a smaller part of the board - and still with a twist if they can slip out of the trap in time!
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David Forby
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I can see this going fast with decisive players and slow with players that are very cautious. Much like Chess or Go.

I wonder how a different game would stack up, one with hexes and a hex map but the same rules. This could allow for 2 new Elements. Maybe a Death Element and a Life Element. It could also expand it to a 5 or 6 player game. In my groups we rarely play a game of less than 5 players and 7 seems to be the high end for us. So the more player of a game possibilities would be good. The quick play here is also a key to making the game go quick to keep players engaged.

I like the base 4 element motif and I am considering adapting some of the rules here for an abstract game I am making for my own use based on the movie The Fifth Element. In a Circular type of board where the pieces need to move to the 4 elemental spots at the outside of the board in order to keep the Darkness at bay and empower the 5th Element to rid the world of Darkness. I say Fan based game due to the fact that I doubt that I could ever get permission to sell it. I plan on using the 4 stones down to nearly pawn sized as the pieces for the game and have some of the iconography from the Temple in the movie as the board. Should be fun to make but I digress.

After reading the rules from my local game shop that had it on display, I really need to get this game.
 
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Kurt Bieberbach
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I've only played five games of this and only two player and my opinion should be read with that in mind.

I personally don't find much of an early game in Element, which I like. Basically, after the first two turns, I almost always have the feeling that I could win if I could just figure out the optimum placement of my pieces. I'm also nervous that my opponent can do the same. I know this isn't true but I really like how quickly the game gets to this point.

Fun game! I'm looking forward to more plays. I told my daughter that this is a game I could see taking to a deserted island.
 
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