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Subject: Thoughts on Seafall through Prologue and Game 1 (spoilers through game 1/box 1) rss

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Ian Webb
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Disclaimer: My fiancee and I are playing the campaign as a 2-player game. Though my thoughts might come off as critical I can't overstate how much we both love it.

With that being said as someone with an eye towards game design, it's quite an interesting experience to play through the game and try to think of some of the more...controversial design choices from a creator's point of view.

Firstly, the prologue's twist ending. On paper, I love the idea. More so I think than my fiancee, but nonetheless, I think it's a great storytelling device. Where it fails, in my opinion, is the execution. If they expect us to pick our favorite leader from a limited set at the outset of the game, spend a game getting attached and then kill him/her off at the end of the prologue they shouldn't have left us with the dregs we cast off (harsh but true). We both think that this could have been solved in a couple of ways.

One, they could've had secretly boxed away a new set of leaders. This, in my opinion, would've been the best solution. A good surprise to lessen the emotional turmoil of losing your preciously named leader.

The second solution would've been just to have a greater swath of leaders to choose from at the outset with a better balance of ethnicities and ages.

What we have is an old African gentleman (who unfortunately doesn't fit the narrative of an heir come freshly to adulthood ready to take on the world), a woman of possibly Hispanic origin, a handful of Caucasians, and an Asian man and woman. Now, while I applaud the diversity, what should've happened was a clear pairing off of ethnicities, male and female. Now I know some wouldn't want to play as male and some wouldn't want to play as a female, but in an interest to conserve budget I think this would've been the smarter financial decision. I question the thinking behind including an elderly black man in a game where you first play your elder, and then the heir from the same family. Especially when you consider they only included one leader of apparent African descent. Who was he supposed to have sired?

Now, this is all one aspect of the matter, the last and perhaps most grievous is the wording chosen at the end of the prologue used to convey the narrative. "Destroy all leaders" We actually destroyed two of the unused leader cards before we figured out what they were telling us to do. How difficult would it have been to say "Destroy all Leaders in play"? This led to a shortage of leaders for us and the decision was made to "head canon" that the leaders we had been using were, in fact, retracing the steps of their parents in an effort to understand the past.

These issues, unfortunately, soured the end of a game night we had been previously enjoying immensely.

The next night we started the first game and, again, had a fantastic time. I leapt ahead to win the game by snagging a milestone with a final score of 11 to 6. During the end game steps we discovered that we aren't a fan of the design philosophy behind the balancing mechanics of making sure the winner doesn't get too far ahead.

What we have is a set of rules that boil down to "the loser gets something and the winner gets nothing." Winning shouldn't ever get you nothing. All players should get something. It feels like a punishment for winning. What should have happened was making sure that that the losers got more, but that the winner still gets something.

Again, we left the game with perhaps more melancholy than we were expecting.

At any rate, we're both very excited about discovering new islands and research tonight, with the opening of box 1, and again, we both really love the game. Can't say enough good things about it.
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Chris Willott
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The winner doesn't get nothing. They get a permanent upgrade somewhere. And only get nothing in terms of advisors if the losing players all choose low-gold advisors.

As far as the beginning of game bonuses, this is actually quite an underpowered handicap system. Or maybe it's appropriately-powered. Our first campaign saw little catchup despite huge beginning bonuses.

I understand that that's how it makes you feel, but it's still worth it to win.
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Ian Webb
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I think you misinterpret what I'm saying. It's obviously worth it to win mechanically speaking. It's how it makes you feel that is troubling.

The advisor situation is exactly what I was referencing. I was unable to keep anyone as I didn't have one cheaper than the one she chose to hold. Which for a storytelling legacy game the encourages you to name the people you hire and develop stories around them, it isn't the greatest feeling to win and then lose what you feel is a personally developed aspect of your legacy.

Does that make more sense?
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Chris Willott
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Absolutely - I certainly felt like I was missing out (when everyone else was getting huge starting bonuses and I got "nothing"). And not getting an advisor at all was definitely a pain -- but I personally felt that it was a little way for the losers to get back at you and avoid sour grapes if they wanted revenge.

That being said - I was tempted to avoid winning to keep a particularly useful advisor. I eventually tried to win and failed, so I won anyway?
 
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Ian Webb
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That's why I feel like I have a differing design philosophy than Rob Daviau. I'd rather everyone leave the table feeling good about the result, not...salty for lack of a better word. Easier to get people back to the table that way. And not start nonsense in the future.
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Chris Willott
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I thought he did that. As an early winner, I felt good (though I can't remember if I got an advisor) and eager to use my field improvement for a first turn ship upgrade! 2nd place in a five-player: at least you get to keep your advisor of choice.
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Dean L
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iawebb20 wrote:
I think you misinterpret what I'm saying. It's obviously worth it to win mechanically speaking. It's how it makes you feel that is troubling.

The advisor situation is exactly what I was referencing. I was unable to keep anyone as I didn't have one cheaper than the one she chose to hold. Which for a storytelling legacy game the encourages you to name the people you hire and develop stories around them, it isn't the greatest feeling to win and then lose what you feel is a personally developed aspect of your legacy.

Does that make more sense?


It does but that's probably one of those edge cases where the game just doesn't quite work for two players. When you have three or more it becomes a much tougher choice - which of you is going to take the low-cost advisor to stop the winner keeping anything? Knowing full well that whoever does is putting themselves at a disadvantage to the remaining players who can keep the expensive advisors at no loss. So maybe you all keep expensive ones and let the leader keep something after all. It's a cool little mechanic that yeah, would be rubbish with two-players and would likely be one of those systems that would be changed were the game to have official two player rules.

So I wouldn't feel bad about house ruling it. Maybe make it so they can keep an adviser of (value of adviser opponent keeps)+1. Or perhaps that if they roll a success on a single die (which would emulate the unknown element having multiple players adds in). Or let them keep an X+1 adviser but only if it's not the adviser they sticker.
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Des T.
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iawebb20 wrote:

Firstly, the prologue's twist ending. On paper, I love the idea. More so I think than my fiancee, but nonetheless, I think it's a great storytelling device. Where it fails, in my opinion, is the execution.


I liked the fact that the leaders are disposed of. It sets the tone for the game. Our group was in a slight state of shock, but learned an important lesson right away: Anything you get in Seafall can and will get taken away from you.

From my "designer wannabe" perspective, I would have moved that loss to later, maybe in box one, and I'd given them an "awesome ability" to drive the point home even further.

Quote:
Especially when you consider they only included one leader of apparent African descent. Who was he supposed to have sired?


I took the black leader. When he died, I sharpie'd sunglasses on the next leader of "Zion" and went with "He's the blind adopted son." I fully agree with you, in that they should have added 5ish more leaders to spread the diversity better.

Quote:
What we have is a set of rules that boil down to "the loser gets something and the winner gets nothing."


I think you underestimate the power of those permanent boni. I could imagine they're weaker in a two player game, due to an overabundance of resources. In our four player group, the leading player won the first two games. She upgraded her fields twice, and those bonus resources are really helping her in the early game. I'd happily traded off my starting advisor for that.
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Ian Webb
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While the permanent bonuses are excellent (no doubt about that), it has coincidentally happened that due to some random exploration encounter, the other has always managed to get a permanent bonus throughout the game as well. Taking away the novelty of the winner's bonus.

Our games seem to be a study in edge cases.

In other news, in Game 2, we opened box two (by forgetting a rule), and my fiancee made up the gap she was losing by and then some. She was just on fire. This time nothing crazy or disappointing happened, and with colonies unlocked for the next game, we are scratching our heads as to how we can most quickly make use of them as we've been upgrading Sail and Exploration almost exclusively.

Excitement still abounds for what's to come!
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Adam Strong-Morse
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After 6 games, my primary concern is whether the catch-up mechanics are too weak, not too strong. In particular, if the leader is getting a bunch of milestone bonuses, and the winner's bonuses, and has a better sense of how to score points, it can result in a campaign where midway through it looks like the leader is out of reach.

WRT advisors: When I know that I'm going to win the game (or it looks very likely), I look to pick up a very cheap advisor to ensure I get to keep one. When I know that the game's nearly over and I'm not going to win, I'll look to see whether I can pick up a great advisor to keep for the next game. I kinda enjoy the extra dynamic.
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Ian Webb
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That's good advice.

3 games in (including the prologue) and we seem fairly evenly matched. We tied for 6 glory in the prologue, then I won the next one with 11 to 6. The second game she creamed me at 12 to 5. So it has been very give and take.

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