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Subject: A few thoughts from a playtester rss

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Ryan Dalton
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Update 4/14/2017: I wanted to make a comment that I have played the game in a newer iteration since writing this and will post my thoughts below when I get some more time. Its important to note that the game has made incremental changes in its mechanics in a few key ways that deprecate what I wrote below. However, this being said, it has improved even moreso, and I am even more excited for the final product.

I don't want to label this as a review as it's not representative of the final product, but thoughts as to how the game plays and feels. This is directed to those who are still on the fence during the last stretch of the Kickstarter (There's a little over a week left, and the major stretch goals as of today have been hit). I won't dive into exact mechanics and rules as I'm sure that the most recent playthrough video can convey this, would like to provide another perspective for any who wants to read.

Disclaimer: I was not asked to do this by anyone at Red Raven Games, but am doing it of my own accord. Also, if I refer to Ryan during the review, it's Ryan Laukat, the designer (not myself as we share the same first name).

Also, several things have also changed since I had playtested the game - a game board was added (with randomized large planet tiles to increase replayability), technologies on player boards and discovery tokens on minor planets (something that was not in the version I played). I believe that all of these things are much to the games benefit and am looking forward to playing the version that contains them.

Essentially, this game to me feels like a hybrid-Euro that includes tight resource management (standard for Ryan's games), card management, and an interesting variation on action-selection + the "follow mechanic" that I'm not sure I've seen before in another game.

There are some random elements that also shake things up a bit - event card timing on planets, some dice rolling in battles, distribution of goods on the board and attribute cards, but I feel like most of these things are either equally balanced among the players, or can be easily mitigated through clever play, and as such, I do not see them as a downside.

Thematically, the game feels on a smaller scale than what we are used to with most games that share this theme. Players represent remnants of powerful entities sent to another part of the galaxy, and it is up to them to expand by building up small-scale infrastructure, conducting diplomacy, taking part in missions (through cards), while also either befriending or making war with various races that reside on this sort of fringe of planets.

Ryan has said in a recent Q&A that the game that has inspired EotV2 is Star Control 2, an old PC game I have heard of but am not familiar with. After reading a brief overview of Star Control 2, it seems fairly clear based on my play that the theme of this game hits the nail on the head with what he is aiming for, as I commented in my feedback that I didn't feel like I was a big empire in space but that we were smaller yet very powerful groups manipulating and influencing other planets and using their races for our own ends. Understanding this, with what I thought was initially negative feedback, is actually positive feedback in this case.

Back to the standout things about this game that I find excellent - the follow mechanic allows you to copy the action chosen by the player OR take a pass-related action which lets you either collect income or replenish your command points. Both are important as command enables you move your ship to grab resources/get planets and also play cards that cost command. Money is important as it lets you recruit further units and build buildings amongst other things. You want both, when you do a pass action on follow, you can only get one or the other.

This seemingly simple component of the game is HUGE - its incredible how much timing comes into play here and how often I found myself having to make tough choices between whether I wanted to take the same action or get the money or command points I knew that I would need for future actions. Clever play and timing will really help a player get ahead here in how they manage their action selection. It creates a situation where you are paying attention to everything everyone is doing and judging on whether you want to follow suit or get resources to plan ahead.

Another standout, and one that I believe is difficult to illustrate in the kickstarter is how much variety and interesting elements the cardplay adds to the game. Each player has a hand of cards that represent missions and actions that a player can use to get ahead, or satisfy the conditions of to gain extra victory points and benefits. All the cards double with a power number shown being used for battles or diplomacy. This acts as a double edged sword, as a card can secure you a victory in a fight, but won't be around to gain its benefit after. On the flipside, it allows you a useful way to dump cards that may not situationally apply to you with their text portion. Cards often have a cost or condition associated with them to play it. Simply put, I love it. It reminds me a bit of Terraforming Mars with diverse card effects mixed with Blood Rage cardplay in battles.

Speaking of battles, the battle system in the game is nice and snappy, and has some good elements of mitigation to balance the fickleness of the dice. Players roll a die for each unit participating, take the highest, and then add the shield icons to that then both play a power card face down before revealing their totals. Neutral races also get a power card drawn from the deck face down. There's always a slight element of uncertainty this, and it feels great - similar to blood rage - where a certain amount of units will help push you towards an advantage, but there is the possibility of your opponent playing a high value power card to disrupt your plans.

I feel like I'm getting a bit long-winded here, but would like to to elaborate on a few more aspects of the game that I enjoyed - the player board. Each building you build provides you with a different effect (cities increase income, outposts guard planets, academy's increase command limit) but the buildings gradually become more expensive to buy. You can decrease their costs by exploring or conquering spaces that contain resources that cover up the cost on the player board. Its extremely intuitive and allows you to specialize in making the strategy that you want to play cheaper. Also, building more buildings will uncover VPs that will earn you more at the end of the game. Thematically, your worldship is also big enough that it can fit a few buildings on it which is a nice touch as well.

Before this is dismissed as purely positive enthusiasm from someone who loves all Red Raven Games (which I do) there are a couple of (maybe?)negative points that made me hestitate to back the game initially (I have backed it since then) - When I played it felt fairly easy to play a peaceful strategy and as a result there was minimal combat between the players in the game, less than as I was expecting. This is something that ultimately I think players can approach either way, by making warfare to capture and steal territory from each other, or playing it peacefully and dominating the diplomatic area-control component of the game (something I didn't touch on much but is also a strong point). The fact that the game is not combat-centric is, in my opinion, ultimately a strength as it still remains a viable option. Also, some of the event cards that came out on planets were slightly wordy and hard to remember initially, but I believe that Ryan has replaced portions of these with his excellent iconography and am not very worried about it.

I'm going to wrap it up by repeating that the most recent version I played was prior to shortly before the Kickstarter began, there have been a few changes to mechanics and components (all improvements from what I understand), all that I believe will only enhance the strong points I talked about above. I'm very excited about this game - I think its a strong middleweight Euro-hybrid that is going to satisfy a lot of people with how much content is in it and how different it is from other Space conquest games out there.

So what does it feel like? Like a lot of Ryan's games, its remniscent of other games, while also entirely being its unique thing (paradoxical I know, but you will understand if you've played anything by him). Theres a little bit of Ryan's other games in there (Islebound/City of Iron/Above and Below) with some nods to Terraforming Mars (card play) and Blood Rage (playing cards in battle). There's some Glory to Rome with the follow mechanic (although it has a unique twist with the pass actions), and even some Terra Mystica (Player board manipulation with buildings and spaces giving bonuses/discounts).

Hopefully, I've helped anyone make a decision who's been on the fence about it. I'm happy to answer questions about points I talked about that aren't entirely mechanically focused (those should be directed to the folks at RRG, not me as the game has changed) that are more focused on how the game "feels".





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Scott Lewis
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Daltonovich wrote:
Ryan has said in a recent Q&A that the game that has inspired EotV2 is Star Control 2, an old PC game I have heard of but am not familiar with.

As a complete aside, I would highly recommend Star Control 2 even today In fact, you can find it updated for modern computers under the name "Ur-Quan Masters" - exact same game, the source code was released to the world and people have taken it and fixed it up. While there are some bits that do have the 90's-era-game reminiscence, it's a fun game.

(And for what it's worth, when you start out, you can't help but think "what am I supposed to do next?" And that's part of the point, based on the background of the story - your character is not quite sure what's going on, and needs to find out!)

Anyway, just thought I'd recommend the game itself.
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Big Tom Casual
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Loved reading this! It supports what other playtesters have said, which is that the card play is way more deep, interesting, and integral to the experience than the kickstarter is able to convey.

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Ryan Dalton
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CasualToast wrote:
Loved reading this! It supports what other playtesters have said, which is that the card play is way more deep, interesting, and integral to the experience than the kickstarter is able to convey.



Thanks! I had the same thoughts and felt that I should make it known. I left the game thinking about how I could've used my cards in hand more efficiently (as well as pursued actions more efficiently for that matter) - it left me wanting more plays to explore. I think that it allows for a ton of depth in this (and *ahem* possibly further expansion opportunities whistle).
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Mark Bigney
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Star Control II is the greatest game ever made. If Mr. Laukat says his game was inspired by it in any way, I will give him money. I will support anything that is inspired by Star Control II.
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Joe Huff
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I backed the game day one, but the mention of Star Control II makes me want to back it again! Such a good game.
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Ian Kissell
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I played Empires of the Void once, and everyone walked away angry and stressed because of how in your face the game was. I play a lot of area control games, and that has never happened to me before. I hint maybe it is because everyone is so close together, and they could take you stuff fairly easily. I like the look of this edition, but am nervous about trying the game again. Any thoughts on if the game is more or less cutthroat?
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Ryan Dalton
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KissellMissile wrote:
I played Empires of the Void once, and everyone walked away angry and stressed because of how in your face the game was. I play a lot of area control games, and that has never happened to me before. I hint maybe it is because everyone is so close together, and they could take you stuff fairly easily. I like the look of this edition, but am nervous about trying the game again. Any thoughts on if the game is more or less cutthroat?


I never played the first EoTV (its the only RRG I have yet to play)so can't make the comparison, but can understand the frustration.

I think that's a fair thing to be of concern. In the more recent version of the game I played, it felt like it was totally a viable option to play a non-aggressive strategy (focusing on diplomacy/cards/buildings), but that didn't mean that your territories/ships wouldn't still be at risk for getting attacked.

I will add one more impression here, if it helps - I felt that the game was designed to be non-punishing. Losing in a battle means that a players units retreat back to their respective worldship (effectively losing territory, which means losing a few points) but experiencing losses doesn't put a player out of the game. Everyone seems to be in that cycle of wanting to do more of everything but not able to do it all, so it never felt like there was a snowball effect that can occur in other games.
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Have you played Tiny Epic Galaxies? That has a follow mechanism where any player can copy someone's very last action if they spend a resource. It is often very beneficial as you don't have to wait to roll the right dice to do that action on your own turn, but part of the strategy can be ordering your actions to make sure your last action isn't really a followable action. Does the follow mechanism here cost anything, or require strategy to avoid others following you?
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Ryan Dalton
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BuffyLeigh wrote:
Have you played Tiny Epic Galaxies? That has a follow mechanism where any player can copy someone's very last action if they spend a resource. It is often very beneficial as you don't have to wait to roll the right dice to do that action on your own turn, but part of the strategy can be ordering your actions to make sure your last action isn't really a followable action. Does the follow mechanism here cost anything, or require strategy to avoid others following you?


Following is always available (it doesn't cost a resource to follow like in Tiny Epic) but you may be forced to pass (taking money or command points) if you don't have any available and can't copy the action as a result (for example, being out of command, and someone taking a movement action, you would not be able to follow the move as you are out of command points).

You can definitely cherry pick actions to affect timing and minimize other players' efficiency - this is something that seems like the strategies involving will become more emergent through further plays.
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Buffy Leigh
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Interesting! Thanks for the info.
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Samuel Helderman
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Awesome post. I went ahead and backed this on Kickstarter! Super stoked about it!
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Jeffrey Secrest
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It's an interesting point about the follow mechanism. It's been around but really didn't catch on. Because it only entered the gaming communities consciousness recently with TEG, some gamers might come to the conclusion that a version of it in EotV II's design is only to take advantage of a new and shiny concept.

Having not demoed or play-tested it myself, take my opinion for what it's worth. This follow mechanic seems to help with game flow and keeps non active players even more engaged throughout the round. It adds an additional layer of tactical decision making when deciding what action to take on your turn so you can limit how effective your opponent's follow actions might prove to be. It makes player's wise use of resources (command points, goods, money) even more vital! Even if the active player chooses the least ideal action for you to follow gaining income is always worthwhile. I will add that I own TEG and even though I like it's follow mechanic I truly believe that EotV II's will do more to make it a great game.
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AccidentalCultist wrote:
This follow mechanic seems to help with game flow and keeps non active players even more engaged throughout the round. It adds an additional layer of tactical decision making when deciding what action to take on your turn so you can limit how effective your opponent's follow actions might prove to be. It makes player's wise use of resources (command points, goods, money) even more vital! Even if the active player chooses the least ideal action for you to follow gaining income is always worthwhile.


Your thoughts here are spot-on and offer some great insight.

Its funny how simple of a concept the mechanism is (either copy the leading player's action or take income / replenish command), yet how novel it feels in practice.

Its definitely a strong component of the design and I wouldn't be surprised to see if it get copied in other games down the road.
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Daltonovich wrote:
AccidentalCultist wrote:
This follow mechanic seems to help with game flow and keeps non active players even more engaged throughout the round. It adds an additional layer of tactical decision making when deciding what action to take on your turn so you can limit how effective your opponent's follow actions might prove to be. It makes player's wise use of resources (command points, goods, money) even more vital! Even if the active player chooses the least ideal action for you to follow gaining income is always worthwhile.


Your thoughts here are spot-on and offer some great insight.

Its funny how simple of a concept the mechanism is (either copy the leading player's action or take income / replenish command), yet how novel it feels in practice.

Its definitely a strong component of the design and I wouldn't be surprised to see if it get copied in other games down the road.


I'm frankly surprised the Follow mechanic isn't more prevalent in modern designs. It's such an easy way to ensure constant player engagement and virtually eliminate downtime in games. All players have to stay vigilant during other players' turns so they are ready to take a follow action that best suits them on the current board state. It's brilliant, really. The only game I've ever played with that mechanic is, indeed, TEG, so I'm really interested to play another game with the mechanic and see how it differs in feel and execution.
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Nathertater wrote:
Daltonovich wrote:
AccidentalCultist wrote:
This follow mechanic seems to help with game flow and keeps non active players even more engaged throughout the round. It adds an additional layer of tactical decision making when deciding what action to take on your turn so you can limit how effective your opponent's follow actions might prove to be. It makes player's wise use of resources (command points, goods, money) even more vital! Even if the active player chooses the least ideal action for you to follow gaining income is always worthwhile.


Your thoughts here are spot-on and offer some great insight.

Its funny how simple of a concept the mechanism is (either copy the leading player's action or take income / replenish command), yet how novel it feels in practice.

Its definitely a strong component of the design and I wouldn't be surprised to see if it get copied in other games down the road.


I'm frankly surprised the Follow mechanic isn't more prevalent in modern designs. It's such an easy way to ensure constant player engagement and virtually eliminate downtime in games. All players have to stay vigilant during other players' turns so they are ready to take a follow action that best suits them on the current board state. It's brilliant, really. The only game I've ever played with that mechanic is, indeed, TEG, so I'm really interested to play another game with the mechanic and see how it differs in feel and execution.


I'd be interested in knowing more about the origins of this type of mechanic. The earliest design I am personally familiar with that has a similar mechanic, in feel if not in execution, is Puerto Rico. Obviously its successors and close descendants, like San Juan and Race for the Galaxy, adjusted and expanded the mechanic.
 
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darksurtur wrote:
Nathertater wrote:
Daltonovich wrote:
AccidentalCultist wrote:
This follow mechanic seems to help with game flow and keeps non active players even more engaged throughout the round. It adds an additional layer of tactical decision making when deciding what action to take on your turn so you can limit how effective your opponent's follow actions might prove to be. It makes player's wise use of resources (command points, goods, money) even more vital! Even if the active player chooses the least ideal action for you to follow gaining income is always worthwhile.


Your thoughts here are spot-on and offer some great insight.

Its funny how simple of a concept the mechanism is (either copy the leading player's action or take income / replenish command), yet how novel it feels in practice.

Its definitely a strong component of the design and I wouldn't be surprised to see if it get copied in other games down the road.


I'm frankly surprised the Follow mechanic isn't more prevalent in modern designs. It's such an easy way to ensure constant player engagement and virtually eliminate downtime in games. All players have to stay vigilant during other players' turns so they are ready to take a follow action that best suits them on the current board state. It's brilliant, really. The only game I've ever played with that mechanic is, indeed, TEG, so I'm really interested to play another game with the mechanic and see how it differs in feel and execution.


I'd be interested in knowing more about the origins of this type of mechanic. The earliest design I am personally familiar with that has a similar mechanic, in feel if not in execution, is Puerto Rico. Obviously its successors and close descendants, like San Juan and Race for the Galaxy, adjusted and expanded the mechanic.


Supremacy from '84 is an early precursor but Puerto Rico in 2002 is the modern designer euro game credited with adding following to the Role Selection mechanic.

Role Selection itself in modern euros is credited to Faidutti's Verrater from '98 and broke big a few years later with his Citadels)
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darksurtur wrote:
Nathertater wrote:
I'm frankly surprised the Follow mechanic isn't more prevalent in modern designs. It's such an easy way to ensure constant player engagement and virtually eliminate downtime in games. All players have to stay vigilant during other players' turns so they are ready to take a follow action that best suits them on the current board state. It's brilliant, really. The only game I've ever played with that mechanic is, indeed, TEG, so I'm really interested to play another game with the mechanic and see how it differs in feel and execution.


I'd be interested in knowing more about the origins of this type of mechanic. The earliest design I am personally familiar with that has a similar mechanic, in feel if not in execution, is Puerto Rico. Obviously its successors and close descendants, like San Juan and Race for the Galaxy, adjusted and expanded the mechanic.


Glory to Rome and Eminent Domain both have more classic "Follow" mechanisms.
 
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jasonwocky wrote:
darksurtur wrote:
Nathertater wrote:
I'm frankly surprised the Follow mechanic isn't more prevalent in modern designs. It's such an easy way to ensure constant player engagement and virtually eliminate downtime in games. All players have to stay vigilant during other players' turns so they are ready to take a follow action that best suits them on the current board state. It's brilliant, really. The only game I've ever played with that mechanic is, indeed, TEG, so I'm really interested to play another game with the mechanic and see how it differs in feel and execution.


I'd be interested in knowing more about the origins of this type of mechanic. The earliest design I am personally familiar with that has a similar mechanic, in feel if not in execution, is Puerto Rico. Obviously its successors and close descendants, like San Juan and Race for the Galaxy, adjusted and expanded the mechanic.


Glory to Rome and Eminent Domain both have more classic "Follow" mechanisms.


Definitely, and both are successors of the aforementioned rather than predecessors.

Every single one of the earliest reviews for GtR mentions San Juan and/or Puerto Rico in the same way that EmDo was immediately tagged as a Dominion/Race for the Galaxy hybrid out of the gate. (however reductive that may be)
 
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