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Subject: Ulm - good game, but... rss

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Girts Gosko
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Hello,

Ulm is a good board game, I like mechanisms there and I am euro style board game fan. However, there are some significant drawbacks in Ulm, which should be fixed somehow - by variants and/or expansions. The main drawbacks are:
1) randomness in cards you get. Yes, you can choose 1 from 2 random cards in many cases, but that's still luck driven.
2) randomness when drawing action tile from bag. Yes, you can spend one sparrow token to change it with one from loading docks, however it doesn't seem so fair to me. Because loading docks only at the beginning of game contain all possible actions, after once they're used - almost never. Also, why are you punished with expenses for just being unlucky!?
3) player order - when playing advanced variant last player is always last to get actions most suitable in current round.

I seriously see those as issues and I have some ideas, how to fix them:
1) There should be some cards laid out already face-up. For example, player count + 1 (3 player game - 4 cards face-up). When you choose card action, for any 2 equal action tokens you can choose one of the cards face-up or open from face-down pile 3 cards and choose one, discard others. If you have 2 different action tokens you can choose from face-down pile one of 2 cards. As soon as one of the face-up cards are taken, immediately replaced by new card. Of course, there should be made some adjustments in some seal actions as well...
2) Simple change, but makes much more sense - draw too action tiles from bag and choose one. Drop another action tile in bag OR spend one sparrow, exchange ONE of drawn action tiles from bag with one from docks and THEN drop one those 2 action tiles in bag. Make action with that, which left in your hand. This should hugely decrease negative luck effects in this step.
3) Players by order should just have some small, but good compensation, for example, second player - additional sparrow, thirds player - additional action tile, fourth player - additional coin, but it's just an example. Could also just change player order round by round in clockwise manner.

I really hope, there will be some "randomness fixing" expansions and/or better rules variants in future...
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mortego
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House Rules to fix those things:
1.) When drawing a card instead search the deck for whatever card you want.
2.) When drawing a tile instead search the bag for whatever tile you want.
3.) For first turn each round in the advance game the player who is further on the scoring track goes first.

The cool thing about "house rules" is that they can be whatever you want them to be.

For me, I like the randomness Ulm offers, a good balance of luck and startegy but hey, that's just me.
Good Luck!!!!


Wait, I just came up with something for both the cards & the tiles:
Instead of drawing tiles blindly from the bag players can choose one of the tiles already on the loading docks and then replace it with a blind draw.

For the cards, in old drafting days of Magic The Gathering they use to Rochester Draft cards so maybe some variant of that where at the start of each round cards are flipped face up next to the board in order, say, one card per player +1 so in a four player game there are five cards to choose from and you can take the first card drawn for two unequal tiles or choose from the first two with equal tiles and for each one past that spend an Ulm Sparrow token so the fifth card would cost two equal tiles plus 3 Ulm Sparrows. At the end of the round scoop up the cards that weren't chosen and put them on the bottom of the deck and draw cards from the deck for a new round.
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Michael Frost

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Just curious as to how you see these as "serious" issues or "significant drawbacks". On what basis? Some details might help. You're making claims without offering any support for them:

1. How many times have you played Ulm?
2. What were the player counts for each game?
3. What were the final scores for each game by player count and starting order?

(I'm assuming you weren't a play tester.)

Ulm is the perfect medium weight Euro. You appear to want to redesign the entire game. Change its very essence. Seems like you're wanting some heavier weight game, one that would be more strategic and be longer. Which, I think, would entirely defeat the joy that is Ulm. Life isn't fair. Either then or now. Or in Ulm. Sounds like you might enjoy some Feld games like Bora Bora or Trajan? Or any of Uwe's heavy agricultural and other games?
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Matthias M
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Girts wrote:
[...] I seriously see those as issues and I have some ideas, how to fix them: [...]

Why don't you try your variant ideas first and then report back?
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Girts Gosko
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MPMelanchthon wrote:
Just curious as to how you see these as "serious" issues or "significant drawbacks". On what basis?


The basis is basic logic and math. When you draw one card from many blindly - it's quite a big random, many times bigger than just throwing a die. When you draw from bag one tile from 5 possible, it's also quite random. I do not say that random is bad, however I prefer to choose from 3 random options, for example, not just accept that one. The game is well designed. I would like to try with such house rules, I express my ideas, anyone can try them, including you yourself.

MPMelanchthon wrote:
Ulm is the perfect medium weight Euro. You appear to want to redesign the entire game. Change its very essence. Seems like you're wanting some heavier weight game, one that would be more strategic and be longer. Which, I think, would entirely defeat the joy that is Ulm. Life isn't fair. Either then or now. Or in Ulm. Sounds like you might enjoy some Feld games like Bora Bora or Trajan? Or any of Uwe's heavy agricultural and other games?


I do not think house rules I said would complicate game. It would be still medium euro game. For example, Ticket to Ride has option to choose from face up cards and it is still a light euro game.
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Girts Gosko
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MetalPirate wrote:
Girts wrote:
[...] I seriously see those as issues and I have some ideas, how to fix them: [...]

Why don't do try your variant ideas first and then report back?


Yes, you can try those house rules too and then comment here.
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Matthias M
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Girts wrote:
Yes, you can try those house rules too and then comment here.

Why should I do this? In my personal opinion, the three important mechanical characteristics of any euro game, i.e.

* weight of the game
* playing time
* amount of luck

are in an almost perfect relationship for Ulm. This and the unique triple-action-selection mechanism are the two main reasons why I can recommend Ulm to others. Perhaps you should look for other categories of games. On the analytic side, I am not sure whether you realized all mechanisms in Ulm that do indeed care for some luck mitigation. Sparrow tiles, "draw X choose 1", multiple copies of identical cards in the deck, double use cards, the action field for searching the discard pile (if you go for a card set collection approach, use it!), and many more.

Ulm does not contain too much luck and I think that most people who played Ulm more than just once or twice will agree. Sorry.

If you think you need house rules or variants to enjoy the game, then go on, enjoy the game the way you want. However, I always find it strange to read forum posts like: "game X has problem Y, I think that variant Z would help". Do you really think that games aren't playtested? I would rather like to read things like: "I had an idea of variant Z for game X. I played the game 10 times each with and without it and those are the key observations comparing the results: ..." THIS would be an interesting read. I am not against variants, definitely not. But if someone just presents untested ideas, claiming unknown "problems" as reason their "necessity", I always trust the author/publisher more. They tested the game. Many times.
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mortego
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MetalPirate wrote:
Girts wrote:
Yes, you can try those house rules too and then comment here.

Why should I do this? In my personal opinion, the three important mechanical characteristics of any euro game, i.e.

* weight of the game
* playing time
* amount of luck

are in an almost perfect relationship for Ulm. This and the unique triple-action-selection mechanism are the two main reasons why I can recommend Ulm to others. Perhaps you should look for other categories of games. On the analytic side, I am not sure whether you realized all mechanisms in Ulm that do indeed care for some luck mitigation. Sparrow tiles, "draw X choose 1", multiple copies of identical cards in the deck, double use cards, the action field for searching the discard pile (if you go for a card set collection approach, use it!), and many more.

Ulm does not contain too much luck and I think that most people who played Ulm more than just once or twice will agree. Sorry.

If you think you need house rules or variants to enjoy the game, then go on, enjoy the game the way you want. However, I always find it strange to read forum posts like: "game X has problem Y, I think that variant Z would help". Do you really think that games aren't playtested? I would rather like to read things like: "I had an idea of variant Z for game X. I played the game 10 times each with and without it and those are the key observations comparing the results: ..." THIS would be an interesting read. I am not against variants, definitely not. But if someone just presents untested ideas, claiming unknown "problems" as reason their "necessity", I always trust the author/publisher more. They tested the game. Many times.


I won't be implementing any house because there isn't a problem with ULM as the O.P. suggested.

As for the O.P. asking others to try their house rules I think there was a mis-communication somewhere, I think the O.P. thought we wanted to try his house rules.

I'll be playing Ulm this weekend, SWEET!
 
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Michael Frost

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Though, unless I'm missing the data, Girts, you haven't provided any specifics about your actual game play. Is interesting that your logic and math lead you to conclusions that neither the game designer nor so many players (myself included) appear to share. I'd really love to know your play data. Has actual play caused any real problems or been less than fun?
 
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Girts Gosko
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Is it really so hard to understand, that drawing top card blindly from deck of cards is a pure luck for powerful option!? You do not have to be math doctor or genius to understand that. The basic idea is - I spend resources (two action tiles) to get some card blindly. For planned action, which requires resources, that is extremely luck based outcome. Those cards are too powerful to get them in so random way. And please, read also other people comments for this game. Many are complaining for luck in card draw and many consider that as a problem. Everything else is fine in this game!
Off topic: Seems that German commentator passion here is understandable as this game is as German as it gets.
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Michael Frost

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Is it really so hard to understand that studying actual play data results is the only way to see if a game has any real issues? All you do is express your opinions and make unsubstantiated claims. But where is there any evidence that there is any real play issue with the actual game as designed? The play testers appeared to have found it positive. As have so many real world players (myself included).

Play the game any way you want. And if you want to eliminate "pure luck", then you can pretty much do that in even the heaviest Euros. Then we'd have to analyze everything in the game for "pure luck". Take just first person or last person benefits or lack there of. Etc.

Is there anything more "pure luck" than going first in a game of chess? Unless you've figured out some absolutely non-luck way to determine first player in chess...
 
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mortego
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Girts wrote:
Is it really so hard to understand, that drawing top card blindly from deck of cards is a pure luck for powerful option!? You do not have to be math doctor or genius to understand that. The basic idea is - I spend resources (two action tiles) to get some card blindly. For planned action, which requires resources, that is extremely luck based outcome. Those cards are too powerful to get them in so random way.


I know deep "strategy" games are light on "luck", after all if a game has a lot of luck to it it might not be a strategy game at all, it might be thematic (AT). In this particular "strategy" game (Euro) luck in the form of drawing blind cards from the 33 card deck may seem counter to tendencies in strategy games.....BUT, for me, this is one of the things that drew me to this game; the blind draws from the deck and bag and what's better is that I can CHANGE that blind card draw if I have the descendant that let's me draw two cards and choose one for 2 unequal tiles or the actual ability to pay with two equal tiles to draw TWO cards and choose one, that has Magic The Gathering written all over it! And for the blind tile draws, I can use Ulm Sparrow tokens to mitigate that draw (or use the descendant that does that if I can get it).

This game is SOOOOOOOOO awesome in my opinion beCAUSE of the luck-factor. Honestly, I don't think this game is for you. Try Brass or Shipyard or Power Grid they have very little luck in them.


Girts wrote:
And please, read also other people comments for this game. Many are complaining for luck in card draw and many consider that as a problem. Everything else is fine in this game!


Yes, I have seen "some" people complain but there are literally hundreds who enjoy this game as is, I know this because otherwise they'd be here, too, making complaints.


Girts wrote:
Off topic: Seems that German commentator passion here is understandable as this game is as German as it gets.


You're way out of line with this comment.
 
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Girts Gosko
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MPMelanchthon wrote:
All you do is express your opinions and make unsubstantiated claims. But where is there any evidence that there is any real play issue with the actual game as designed?


Prove that you are not a camel!? I do not have evidence for it.
That's all, folks!
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Patrick Menard
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Girts wrote:

1) randomness in cards you get. Yes, you can choose 1 from 2 random cards in many cases, but that's still luck driven.


Cards can make a big difference. In a game I played last night, I had 2 card actions on the 2nd turn. First action drew a bale and steeple. Second action drew a bale and steeple. (ended up keeping the steeple from the first and bale from the second). So I had some bad luck at the start.

As the game progressed, I drew exactly what I needed. I ended up with 3 bales, 3 art, a complete cathedral, and the siege card for a total of 58 points from cards alone (I think my total was 85). I've had other games where I had 8 card action and ended up with less than 20 points, so the card draws probably have the largest affect on points.

I've thought of giving all card draws an extra card (so a matched set would draw 3 and keep 1, mixed set would draw 2 and keep 1). You'd still end up with the same number of cards, but you have more to choose from.

Another option would be to have a face-up pool of cards like in ticket to ride. You'd have the option of taking some random face-down cards, or one of the face-up cards.

Overall these would inflate scores, but also keep the scores closer together (the game where I had 85, I won by over 30 points).

Quote:

2) randomness when drawing action tile from bag. Yes, you can spend one sparrow token to change it with one from loading docks, however it doesn't seem so fair to me. Because loading docks only at the beginning of game contain all possible actions, after once they're used - almost never. Also, why are you punished with expenses for just being unlucky!?


You'll get three actions, one of which will be the random one from the bag. You can use a sparrow token to possibly swap with one on the docks. The odds of getting a specific token are inversely related to how many are already out of the bag (action grid, docs, players stash). So you can know the rough probabilities of the action you might draw, with the option of the sparrow to mitigate.

So while you can't always pick the 3 actions you'd like to perform, you can prepare yourself for the different tiles by having resources available (coins, tiles) in case you get card/seal actions.

I usually spend the first few turns gathering resources as a buffer rather than just spending them as you get them, so by mid-game, I can usually take advantage of any action tile drawn.

Quote:

3) player order - when playing advanced variant last player is always last to get actions most suitable in current round.


I agree with this one as being a big issue. I've gone back to playing mostly the basic version as a result (also because of introducing to more new players).

I had thought about a bidding variant for turn order (with additional bonuses for the different slots in turn order), but it might over-complicate things. A simple variant would be just to rotate first player, but depending on which roof come up when you're first (or more importantly when you're 4th) it can still give a big advantage to certain players.
 
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Adam P
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No Way.

What game do you want to play? There are so many others. This game is fine the way it is, the randomness keeps it interesting. Otherwise someone out there will be able to develop the best strategy and this game would be boring.
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Rodrigo Lima
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There are several ways to use a thing like letters, being bought-like more often or in the neighborhoods of the city. Ulm is a game of luck for those who still do not know using all the combos of the game.
This is normal ... People play a 3x game and they move on to the next one, that is, they are specialists in mechanics, but they are bad strategists ...whistle
 
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