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Some missions allow you to return samples from planets and gain money. I can't find any restriction in the manual about doing this multiple times though.

We had several sessions now where one profitable route (usually Moon 25$) was available and this resulted in several players 'planting' a probe on the Moon to harvest samples and doing continuous sample return missions to Earth gaining huge amounts of extra money which created a snowball effect that allowed them to do even more things during their turns etc.
Today's last session was completely ridiculous as almost everyone tried to exploit this money route which exploded the game's economy in a bad way.
Not to mention the explosion in game duration because of all that extra money allowing them to do many explorations, revealing new missions (outer planets expansion) which created multiple paths to victory BUT with them in charge because of all that extra money.

Moreover, the huge amounts of money available created multiple game component sortages and we had players buying 12x Junos, 4x Ion Thrusters and so on, which frankly is ridiculous and cumbersome since we didn't have that many cards available and it's not really fun having players buying 4xSaturn in a single turn while in previous sessions a Saturn investment needed serious planning to perform.

So, either we are missing something rules-wise here or this was NOT the game designs intent? I don't know... This made the game un-fun because budget management is only fun when the money is strict not when there is a money making route that adds game time and breaks the whole economy balance.

Can anyone help here? Is what I described legal and is this the actual game design intent here? It seems weird and this may be the only time that I didn't enjoy a Leaving Earth session...
Maybe, the sample missions should be limited to the number of sample cards available or something along these lines?

Thoughts?
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Re: Is it possible to perform several sample return missions for money?
Bowmangr wrote:
Some missions allow you to return samples from planets and gain money. I can't find any restriction in the manual about doing this multiple times though.

We had several sessions now where one profitable route (usually Moon 25$) was available and this resulted in several players 'planting' a probe on the Moon to harvest samples and doing continuous sample return missions to Earth gaining huge amounts of extra money which created a snowball effect that allowed them to do even more things during their turns etc.
Today's last session was completely ridiculous as almost everyone tried to exploit this money route which exploded the game's economy in a bad way.
Not to mention the explosion in game duration because of all that extra money allowing them to do many explorations, revealing new missions (outer planets expansion) which created multiple paths to victory BUT with them in charge because of all that extra money.

Moreover, the huge amounts of money available created multiple game component sortages and we had players buying 12x Junos, 4x Ion Thrusters and so on, which frankly is ridiculous and cumbersome since we didn't have that many cards available and it's not really fun having players buying 4xSaturn in a single turn while in previous sessions a Saturn investment needed serious planning to perform.

So, either we are missing something rules-wise here or this was NOT the game designs intent? I don't know... This made the game un-fun because budget management is only fun when the money is strict not when there is a money making route that adds game time and breaks the whole economy balance.

Can anyone help here? Is what I described legal and is this the actual game design intent here? It seems weird and this may be the only time that I didn't enjoy a Leaving Earth session...

Thoughts?


From the rules, page 12:

Sample Return

Samples can be collected from the surface of any solid body — that is, a planet, a moon, or an asteroid. Sample return missions are completed by the first space agency to bring such a sample back to Earth.


So no, that play wasn't legal, since only the first sample returned completes the mission and earns the money. After that the mission is no longer available.

You do realize that each mission can only be completed once right? Once completed the missions, including collecting samples, are no longer available for anyone to use.
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Re: Is it possible to perform several sample return missions for money?
That's true about Sample Return Missions - only the first player to complete can do them, however can't samples still be collected from any solid body and turned in for money/research without a mission as well (I know this wasn't the question this time)?

I know there was a rule problem that was fixed in rulebook 4h:

buffalohat wrote:
This is a really good catch. In playtesting, I think no one ever got to a fully upgraded lunar sampling system in time, so we never noticed that you could get into an infinite loop. But you're right, it is possible, which is a problem.

Multiple samples are certainly allowed from the same place, too. Taking a sample is a regular action, as is cashing one in.

I'd like to suggest two fixes to this problem:
A) You can only cash in samples at the start of the year.
B) The value of a sample goes down by $5 for each sample already cashed in this year. (So the first sample would be worth $25, the next $20, then $15, etc.)

Do either of those sound good?


buffalohat wrote:
I've decided to go with option A -- you can only cash in samples at the start of the year. It's the smallest change to the way the game works, it makes very little difference to the result (except in avoiding the infinite loop), and it's easy to add to the rulebook. (And I'm posting a new version of the rules - 4h - with this change implemented.)


EDIT: ninja's everywhere
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Re: Is it possible to perform several sample return missions for money?
In the current version (4k) of the rules (see Rulebook v4k) look on page 28 (condensed rules/start of year), page 30 (exploration/minerals), and page 31 (exploration/alien origin).
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Re: Is it possible to perform several sample return missions for money?
Although the rule was fixed to prevent exploiting the moon for as much as you want in a single year, it is still possible to reap huge profits. Many people add house rules, at least to solitaire, to prevent this.

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Re: Is it possible to perform several sample return missions for money?
reverendunclebastard wrote:

From the rules, page 12:

Sample Return

Samples can be collected from the surface of any solid body — that is, a planet, a moon, or an asteroid. Sample return missions are completed by the first space agency to bring such a sample back to Earth.


So no, that play wasn't legal, since only the first sample returned completes the mission and earns the money. After that the mission is no longer available.

You do realize that each mission can only be completed once right? Once completed the missions, including collecting samples, are no longer available for anyone to use.


I meant performing simple missions (non-objective) just to get money but I know that the title may be a little misleading. I'll edit it.
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So from your answers it seems we played it correctly and it is indeed possible to explode the game's economy via repeating money missions. Well, that's a bit... disappointing because now that we know this is possible it will always lead to those ridiculous 'harvest' the moon downward spirals of doom where there are tons of money around to be able to do everything and buy all the components, do all research etc. This is simply not fun as I said.

Is there an official, semi-official or at the very least unofficial home rule that is commonly used to prevent exploiting those kind of missions?

Reducing the profit for each sample mission seems like a good idea but adds even more bookkeeping to the game. I think that allowing as many samples to be collected as there are sample cards available seems like a good idea and maintains the 'space race' flavor of the game.
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Bowmangr wrote:
Is there an official, semi-official or at the very least unofficial home rule that is commonly used to prevent exploiting those kind of missions?


I always play it such that each player can bring home a sample from each place at most once. That way, if you got through the hassle of exploring places not required in missions, at least you might get something out of it, but not the broken amounts the game allows it for. After all, this is a game about space exploration, and realistically, one ton of samples should lose value pretty quickly if brought home in dozens.
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piman wrote:
Bowmangr wrote:
So from your answers it seems we played it correctly and it is indeed possible to explode the game's economy via repeating money missions. Well, that's a bit... disappointing because now that we know this is possible it will always lead to those ridiculous 'harvest' the moon downward spirals of doom where there are tons of money around to be able to do everything and buy all the components, do all research etc. This is simply not fun as I said.

Is there an official, semi-official or at the very least unofficial home rule that is commonly used to prevent exploiting those kind of missions?

I think it would be helpful if you could describe in detail what happens in your games; not just "money spirals out of control", but what exact ships people are launching for the trip and when, and how much money is coming back in successive years.


Today we had a player receiving 50$ every two turns. I don't think that I need to describe exact ships not to mention how tedious this would be anyway. He was behind on research before he started to gain all that money and in 4 turns he could consistently launch 2x Saturns, buy a huge missions worth of components in one single turn and so on! Do I really need to explain in more detail how game breaking that was?

Quote:
At the end of the game, money doesn't win. Eventually that money can't go back into the money loop. The multiplayer game is a race, and if someone else scrapes together a Mars mission with some ions and a prayer, it doesn't matter how many saturns the others stockpiled.


The moon 25 mission is really easy to survey and put together and when you finally have a 'harvester' (the probe, planted on the moon to pick the samples) you can go back and forth really easy and really early. No amount of racing from the other players will allow them to catch up with this. They either have to follow with sample harvesting or lose the race because they get outspent & outtech-ed eventually.

Quote:
I think the downside of limiting the available samples is that it could be used to thwart someone else's mission with no intent of doing it yourself. Get a probe to Europa, grab all the samples, and just sit there laughing at the person who carefully planned the return mission.


You are right. I didn't phrase the proposed home rule correctly. The limit should be on RETURNED samples not on samples that are currently sitting inside spacecrafts.
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Several examples of lunar mining missions are worked in this thread: Minerals on the Moon provide infinite wealth?.
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piman wrote:
Bowmangr wrote:
Today we had a player receiving 50$ every two turns. I don't think that I need to describe exact ships. not to mention how tedious this would be anyway.

I don't think it'd be tedious? It's the same info you'd write on the planning pad, which I do at least a half dozen times a game.

But the reason I want to know the exact ships is that I want to know how much it costs to set up. You're saying he averaged $50/year, but if he paid $30 to do it, the profit suddenly looks a lot smaller.

I guess I'll try to work it out. You said "$50 every two years" which sounds to me like an ion thruster carrying rockets there and samples back. That's reusable, so let's ignore the cost (inc. assuming it's researched).

Working backwards (edited to fix a poor landing choice):
- Falling back to earth is free.
- The ion thruster handles the the orbit transfer.
- Taking off from the moon with two samples totals weight 2; at difficulty 2 this requires two Junos. That's $2.
- Landing on the moon with two Junos totals weight 2; difficulty 2; that's two more Junos, for a cost of $2 (total $4).
- Orbit transfer was free again thanks to the ion thruster.
- Now we've got to get 4 Junos and an ion thruster - weight 5 - off of Earth, and we've got some options. I think the best way to do this is a Saturn, so $15, total $19.

So you've paid $19 to get $50. Plus you need 3 rocket types you've researched enough to feel comfortable investing most a year of pre-moonmoney income in.

I didn't double-check my work, so maybe I calculated wrong or picked something suboptimal. But this doesn't necessarily seem game-breaking to me. What concerns me is how fast it could explode if you've got enough cash to be sending Saturns back and forth with your samples. But that's a lot more work than I want to figure out, and it doesn't even sound like that happened in your game.


After he planted a probe on the Moon, he continuously brought 4 Junos to the moon orbit landed using two and took off using the rest bringing 2 samples which then docked with Ion Thrusters and went back to Earth orbit. this happened every two years and when he started gaining some money he could do this twice with different missions.

We actually had to utilize unused player's spacecraft tokens and cards because he had at least 8 spacecrafts at all times moving things around, accomplishing missions because all the others struggled to keep up with R&D.

It really is a snowball effect and all you need to do is send 4x Junos to Moon orbit and dedicate some Ion thrusters to haul samples back and forth. The cost of the technologies needed to perform this doesn't really count because it's not like you don't need them anyway.

After he had enough money to use 2x Saturn he always had room to bring the Junos and Atlas required to perform the mission. From that point on, the profit exploded and broke the game. We didn't have enough components, we had to keep track of several spacecrafts, the game's duration was elongated because of all this mission planning to "this is not fun anymore" levels and so on. The most ridiculous turn I remember was when he bought 10x Juno, 4x Atlas, 2xSaturn with ease...
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Next time we do a significant update to the game, I've been planning to reduce the payout for lunar samples. When valuable minerals are discovered on the moon, I'd like lunar mining to be part of the game, but not to completely overwhelm the rest of the game.
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buffalohat wrote:
Next time we do a significant update to the game, I've been planning to reduce the payout for lunar samples. When valuable minerals are discovered on the moon, I'd like lunar mining to be part of the game, but not to completely overwhelm the rest of the game.
Will you only be changing the moon? Seems like other locations have a similar exploit (See, e.g. https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1587404/planetary-resou...)

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Bowmangr wrote:
From that point on, the profit exploded and broke the game. We didn't have enough components, we had to keep track of several spacecrafts, the game's duration was elongated because of all this mission planning to "this is not fun anymore" levels and so on. The most ridiculous turn I remember was when he bought 10x Juno, 4x Atlas, 2xSaturn with ease...


Aside from not having enough components, why does this "break the game"? More money means the game finishes in fewer years, though the years take longer of course. It seems that the total length of the game is defined by how many brain cycles it takes to figure out how to complete all missions, which should be independent of how much money is available each turn. (Getting $250 on one turn and spending it all seems exactly the same as getting $25 over 10 years and simply not executing any timed maneuvers -- why should one of these take longer than the other?)

As to other players falling behind -- why did they not follow the same strategy? Thematically, if an economic goldmine is discovered in the solar system, everybody would try to exploit it and space exploration would accelerate like the computer revolution, which is basically what the game simulates (putting aside the question of whether this actually results in a fun gaming experience or not).

Not every game would have economic goldmines -- the moon has a 25% chance for example, right?
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rbelikov wrote:
buffalohat wrote:
Next time we do a significant update to the game, I've been planning to reduce the payout for lunar samples. When valuable minerals are discovered on the moon, I'd like lunar mining to be part of the game, but not to completely overwhelm the rest of the game.
Will you only be changing the moon? Seems like other locations have a similar exploit (See, e.g. https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1587404/planetary-resou...)

The moon is the only one that can be reached in such a short time, so, in practice, it's the one that has the biggest effect on the game.
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rbelikov wrote:
Bowmangr wrote:
From that point on, the profit exploded and broke the game. We didn't have enough components, we had to keep track of several spacecrafts, the game's duration was elongated because of all this mission planning to "this is not fun anymore" levels and so on. The most ridiculous turn I remember was when he bought 10x Juno, 4x Atlas, 2xSaturn with ease...


Aside from not having enough components, why does this "break the game"? More money means the game finishes in fewer years, though the years take longer of course. It seems that the total length of the game is defined by how many brain cycles it takes to figure out how to complete all missions, which should be independent of how much money is available each turn. (Getting $250 on one turn and spending it all seems exactly the same as getting $25 over 10 years and simply not executing any timed maneuvers -- why should one of these take longer than the other?)


Because in this game, the researched technologies are retroactively added to ALL spacecrafts in play. So a player that knows exactly when he will have his explosive money turns later on, will plan and launch spacecrafts on difficult missions (which means more points btw) while having unresolved outcomes on his cards and still have the money to perform all the testing he needs to make absolutely sure that his spacecraft will make the upcoming checks with 100% chance of success.


Quote:
As to other players falling behind -- why did they not follow the same strategy? Thematically, if an economic goldmine is discovered in the solar system, everybody would try to exploit it and space exploration would accelerate like the computer revolution, which is basically what the game simulates (putting aside the question of whether this actually results in a fun gaming experience or not).


This is a race game with various missions and ways to win that lets the players pursue different roads to victory while managing limited resources. When the Moon mine is discovered, the game transforms into a completely railroaded affair of "Exploit the Moon or lose the game" and it leads to players trying to do the exact same steps in order to keep up with the first one. Its simply NOT fun anymore. Multiple choices and paths to victory disappear which I believe is NOT what this game is all about.
Missions that were difficult to plan and execute become easy affairs with all that money, the sense of space travel danger that those missions provide is gone when you have all the money in the world and so on. The 'feel' of the game is somehow lost when the economy explodes via this exploit, not to mention that it definitely makes all other planetary resource missions obsolete in every game that Moon harvest is available. If it was a finite resource then maybe some players could pursue exploiting other planetary resources later on in the game in order to gain some money.

Quote:
Not every game would have economic goldmines -- the moon has a 25% chance for example, right?


In my opinion this is an exploit that goes against the spirit of the game and if this actually is a design choice (which I do not believe it is) then there should be more components available, because when 3 or more players start exploiting the moon you'll easily need double the cards available for spacecrafts, Juno, Atlas and Ion Thrusters.

I'm not the game designer of course but it definitely seems that Moon harvest race was not intentional.
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When I first read the rules, I assumed that the sample return would only apply once per planet/moon. While Joe has confirmed that this was not his intention, I don't think it breaks anything to apply it if you want to.
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Firedrake wrote:
When I first read the rules, I assumed that the sample return would only apply once per planet/moon. While Joe has confirmed that this was not his intention, I don't think it breaks anything to apply it if you want to.


That's what we thought too and it's how we actually played in the beginning. I don't remember seeing anything wrong with that but on the other hand we were new to the game back then and I can't really tell if there is another kind of problem with this 'one shot' rule.

It's these last back-to-back sessions with moon 25$ available which made us realize that if you try to follow ANY strategy other than 'exploit the moon' makes you lose the game because the extra money added to the economy via this mission is ludicrous. We actually didn't manage to finish the game because after 4 hours noone had any fun anymore planning huge missions while having 7-8 space crafts moving around. We actually had to put out pen and paper to write down Junos and Atlas for each player!
Especially one player who didn't exploit the moon and decided to race us elsewhere was really left behind in the space race that he couldn't possibly catch up. This was already apparent on the 3 hour mark. That means he was just sitting there for a whole hour desperately trying to catch up. I wouldn't wish this on anyone...

This was a bad experience for him and even for us. When I gather my friends to play we put Leaving Earth on the table because it's a tense game about who can plan various missions and manage various risks while managing limited resources. 'Various' and 'limited' are the key words here.
When the moon mission is available, both 'various' and 'limited' go out of the window. This was our first session where one player didn't have ANY chance to win whatsoever because he was so far behind the rest. In a 5 hour game being that person 3 hours in, is really bad. Not to mention that Leaving Earth usual duration is 3-3.5 hours not 5 hours. A 5 hour Leaving Earth definitely overstays its welcome....

That's the reason I created this thread, to gain some visibility on this issue, maybe get some input and possibly improve the living rules of the game.
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buffalohat wrote:
Next time we do a significant update to the game, I've been planning to reduce the payout for lunar samples. When valuable minerals are discovered on the moon, I'd like lunar mining to be part of the game, but not to completely overwhelm the rest of the game.


Maybe something along the lines of: each time you sample, you put a marker on the Moon (etc). Then you gain $30 - $5/marker, down to a mimimum of $5 or $10 etc? So being first may give you some significant cash increase and it's in the interests of others to also get there, but it doesn't become overwhelming and the returns are diminishing. Once it's reached the minimum then the benefit stays at that level.

Alternatively something like: each player who returns a sample has achieved a research goal, so they hand the actual exploitation over to a company. They put a marker on the Moon (etc) to represent the mining activity, launch facilities, linear accelerators etc needed, and it pays them an extra income of $(Body Mineral Value/5) per turn e.g. $5 for the Moon. In that way they get a boost but it is a steady income stream rather than massive amounts of cash. Other players will still get their $10 one-off payment when the first mission is done, and could also set up lunar mining companies. This has the advantage that you don't need to set-up and track further missions, as they are all being done "off-camera".





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hemulen wrote:
buffalohat wrote:
Next time we do a significant update to the game, I've been planning to reduce the payout for lunar samples. When valuable minerals are discovered on the moon, I'd like lunar mining to be part of the game, but not to completely overwhelm the rest of the game.


.....

Alternatively something like: each player who returns a sample has achieved a research goal, so they hand the actual exploitation over to a company. They put a marker on the Moon (etc) to represent the mining activity, launch facilities, linear accelerators etc needed, and it pays them an extra income of $(Body Mineral Value/5) per turn e.g. $5 for the Moon. In that way they get a boost but it is a steady income stream rather than massive amounts of cash. Other players will still get their $10 one-off payment when the first mission is done, and could also set up lunar mining companies. This has the advantage that you don't need to set-up and track further missions, as they are all being done "off-camera".



Yes, selling rights - I like it.
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I had a chance to think about this, and although it has not been a problem in solo or multi player game, I think when this money per sample planet happens (any where in the solar system) I will roll the 8 side dice and put that many token on the planet to represent how "rich" the find is. As each sample card is taken, a token is removed, eventually the samples will have run out. This could also be interesting in both the multi & solo games. A "8" token planet is pretty tempting to get in there and get your share, on the other hand a "1" or "2" planet will give you reason to just move on. I 'm looking forward to trying this, at least in the next couple of games just to see how it plays out. the big problem is once I or someone from my game group reads this post on "how to make money" it will be hard to erase it from our mind so this token method just might preserve the fun we are presently having, and avoid what happened to your group. interesting thread on a great game.
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Some restriction on how many can be collected would be needed otherwise the first player there could just collect all available tokens.
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Not seen this issue yet, but wouldn't it be the simplest solution to just limit the amount of samples sold per player per year to 1 or 2? If stockpiling were a concern, then add that unsold samples spoil and are discarded.

But I also like the idea of a planetary mining outpost that provides extra revenue each year without having to worry about moving the rocks around.
 
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I'm new to the game (I played my second half-game yesterday), and for sure I'm missing something... But I assumed you need one probe/capsule to return the sample to Earth. It would make it less profitable, but not too much difficult? (I haven't done the math)

Or you could (also) limit the cargo to 1 sample maximum... Or only cash in 1 sample per turn.
 
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A sample once gathered is a component like any other; you need a probe or capsule to gather it, but not to transport it.
 
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