Recommend
8 
 Thumb up
 Hide
8 Posts

Archmage» Forums » General

Subject: Thoughts after my first (Tabletopia) game rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Philip Morton
msg tools
Avatar
Got to play my first game of this on Tabletopia last night and wanted to get my overall thoughts down. Caveat that since the game isn't printed yet, I don't know whether any of this is going to change.

It was fun, and it gave me what I wanted out of the theme--it's a reduced set of Master of Magic, but you're definitely casting spells while contesting territory on a map. Spells get flung around a lot, it's not a "scrabbling for resources to cast one spell" affair (or at least this play wasn't). I'm not sure I like every spell but there's more than enough of them to have me wanting to keep playing to try out focusing on different spells (and maybe different strategies for acquiring the spells), which is a big factor that draws me back to games.

It was a three-player game and I ended up in the middle points-wise; I believe the scores were 17-15-13. It seemed like we had a mix of "much territory, few spells" (me), "lots of spells, very little territory" (the winner--he didn't lose most of his territory until near the end of the game, though, so this doesn't really qualify as a comeback), and a mix of territory and spells points. Spells are definitely worth more than territory, which is fine, just something to keep in mind. I was happy to see the scores fairly tight, but that might just be an artifact of the limited point sources.

You're kind of...pushed into a set of spells based on what terrain you find. Terrain is pretty easy to claim in the initial exploring rush, significantly more effort to take it away from opponents. Your starting+planet income is enough to get you the first level of a spell, but I don't think you want to chase the tier-3 of that color without having any income from terrain. There's spells to handle mana-fixing and wildcard mana creation (Transmute, Wellspring, Divination), but only if you've got the colors to research and cast them. If you're looking for higher-level research you're going to have a much easier time focusing on the colors you have terrain for (and Blood).

I kind of like this effect overall because it's a push to use spells you might not otherwise have focused on. There did seem to be...significant differences in how useful the spells were, though.

Various thoughts on spell balance based on what got used during the game:

Of the level 4 spells, I had Corrupt and Fortify, another player (the winner) got Automaton (Automation?)

Corrupt seemed very niche, compared to things like Automaton or Time Stop (nobody got Time Stop in this game, but after seeing how movement / end of turn actions typically worked, it looks even more powerful on paper than it did before playing). There wasn't a single opportunity to cast it at max effect (corrupting two apprentices of each opponent); it never even managed to place two tokens on one opponent. At least two of the opportunities to cast it would have only placed a single token total. I think it ended the game having been cast three or four times and not a single corrupted apprentice ended up promoted. It's hard for me to estimate whether it interfered with research during the game; it seemed like people were happy to let the corrupted apprentices hang out maintaining availability of the first-level spells, and the existence of those single-corrupted-apprentice zones on their boards meant it was never going to be possible to target a zone with two corruptible apprentices--at best I could corrupt a solo apprentice in a different color. (I assumed you can't put another corruption token on an apprentice who's already corrupt, but since none of them ended up promoted anyway, it would have been pointless.) It doesn't even stop them from researching higher spells using the single-corrupted-apprentice color, since the tower action can train a new uncorrupted apprentice into that color and then promote immediately using him (leaving the corruption-soaking guy). At the end of the game, one opponent did have a redundant apprentice that couldn't be promoted without using a corrupted one, so it seems like it was worth one point at least (although I'm not sure even without corruption that the tower action would have been worth more to them than the territory-taking movement they did instead on the last turn). I would have much preferred if Corruption ignored already-corrupted apprentices when determining the lowest population zone to hit (granted I'm likely biased having not been on the receiving end of it).

Automaton, on the other hand, appeared to be worth a flat point every time it got cast, and it's effectively a net neutral resource cost (three relics spent, two relics and a follower saved on training).

Fortify felt decent. Not as impressive as Automaton, but at least I didn't regret having turned in my level-two spells to purchase it (can't say the same about Corrupt). I'm pretty sure it contributed to the bloodbath mostly staying on the other side of the map from me. I'm not certain it was worth losing Gate to get, but I'm not certain it wasn't.

I'd have to see games using Obliterate and Upheaval to judge how they stack up. Upheaval certainly looks more interesting.

The Decay spiral that I was worried about happened, but it wasn't as bad as I was expecting. (I was the second-most-decay-spamming player, though, so while I got hit for four relics in a round or two, it wasn't as often as the lowest-decay-spamming-player). Gather actions and blood income were definitely producing me more resources than Decay was taking out--this might be because I was left alone with a decent-sized territory, but for most of the game it looked like the other two players had comparable territory. I'm not sure whether the two- or four-player maps have the same available territory per player, but I am still concerned at Decay-spam's potential effect in four-player where the max loss is six per round.

Imprison spam, on the other hand, was a really nasty spiral. In this case I was the one on the double receiving end, although since the other players were lower on followers than I was (bloodbath, plus they had way more followers tied up in spells) it felt like we all equally ended up sitting at zero followers. The last few rounds of the game involved a lot of "Okay, I'll go over here to train and....no, can't do that, don't have any followers...Okay, I'll take this territory and then gather...oh, can't take the territory because I have no followers..." At one point I rescued my six imprisoned apprentices and four of them were back on the prison before I had a chance to make use of them. (Hmm...maybe giving up your action to free your apprentices should return them to you at the start of your next turn, instead of immediately?) I'm pretty sure it was a bad move for me to have traded Imprison for Corrupt.

Stoneskin was about as useless as I expected, the one time it got used I'm not even sure the follower was worth the loss of the blood relic. The other players got heavy use out of Subjugate, though, so obviously a blood relic for a follower was frequently a worthwhile trade for them....Possible relevant factors for Stoneskin feeling worse is that for most of the game I had significantly fewer spells and I wasn't part of a bloodbath on the other side of the map, so I didn't really run low on followers until the Imprison spam started. Even so, Subjugate is...more controllable? I might be willing to spend mana to trade blood relics for followers when I know how many times I'm planning to trigger it that turn, less certain it's as good when it's under my opponent's control how often / whether it triggers at all.

Gate was really good though it didn't get cast much (got upgraded out of too quickly). It's better than it looked before the game; I hadn't thought about using your movement normally and then gating to whatever Journey's End action you want to take.

Wellspring got some use, but since I wasn't on the casting end it's hard for me to tell how useful it was.

Vines was okay as a deterrent. It was really hard to see the Vines and Wellspring tokens on the board, but I'm pretty sure that will be easier with a physical copy.

Fiery Chasm never got used, I'm interested to see how it works out. It was odd that it places one in your current territory until we realized you're probably expected to use it and then move away. It seems like the best use would be if you could catch someone in a corner and trap them behind a line of chasms, but maybe it would also just be good for making an area awkward to reach...

Quicken was as good as I expected it to be, I just wish I'd been able to get hold of more Time mana.

Befuddle might have saved some heartache, but nobody ended up with it.

It definitely seems like you don't always want to combine up to the highest thing you can reach; better to maintain ownership of useful spells you already have. It does free up apprentices pretty well.

There was lots of potential counterplay in the spells, but by the time you're getting hit with them (specifically Imprison and to a lesser extent Decay) it's difficult to redirect your research to the counter. I'm not sure what the counterplay for Automaton is (other than Befuddle, which stops everything).

Some rules / layout issues:

Casting cost on spells: even after having read the thread complaining about master spells costing 3 with a big number 4 in a circle on them and thinking "This is a non-issue, it's well defined", I still attempted to pay 4 before catching myself. Too many games have trained me to look for the casting cost as a number in an upper corner. Maybe if it was possible to move the VP number somewhere like the bottom middle of the card?

I also kept thinking until a few castings in that the costs had to be one of each color; shook that fairly quickly after getting into the higher level spells and dumping the more plentiful mana, but it's the sort of thing we're going to misremember after not playing the game for months.

The M:TG player in me says that both of those issues would be solved if the VP was somewhere else (or nowhere, since VP is determinable by spell level) and the corner had one, two, or three symbols with each symbol being multi-colored. Not sure I can think of a design that would look good that small and be able to have three colors/symbols on it though.

I also forgot about construction of your tower giving you a free mini-aoe-gather and a free Tower action, until someone pointed it out.

Remembering planet movement is going to be a significant issue; my group is going to forget SO MANY planet movements. In the online game we ended up pausing half a dozen times to add up everyone's remaining planet distance and make sure we were all in sync. I have no idea what could be done (design or by convention) here to make this easier. On paper I was thinking that the one guaranteed relic income would encourage people not to forget as they'd be planning their turns around needing it, but relics seemed to flow pretty freely so that didn't really happen.
7 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul Gipson
United States
Joplin
Missouri
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Hey Chorno!

It was fun playing last night. I am glad you could get on! You summed up everything pretty well. The planet / turn counter ... while a cool mechanic, definitely stopped play many times while we figured out if we forgot a planet or not. Many times we just had to be ... "Should we play one more or one less round?"

Automoton definitely felt pretty powerful, and I am not sure how to counterplay against it.

You said,

Quote:
I'm not sure what the counterplay for Automaton is (other than Befuddle, which stops everything).


But I do not think Befuddle will work, because I think it only works on Tier 1 and Tier 2 spells.

Befuddle would have stopped the imprisonment, but the problem is, when all of your people are in prison, you cannot react and train mages to get the people you need.

I really thought by denying Tony (the winner) of almost all of the land on the board, would even out the fact that his early automoton was pretty much granting him all the spells for end-game scoring, but even though I got him down to his tower, 1 wilderness, and a single town. It still didn't work

Not having seen how end-game scoring works though, I definitely thought you were winning with your impenetrable wall of wards and entangling roots.

One thing I will say, even though it was very late, we spent almost an hour after the game was over, chatting about the game and how it is played, and what spells we didn't see, and what we could have done. Which is always a good sign.

I would agree that some spells, definitely have a more general effect, and some are more niche.

I really enjoyed my quicken, subjugate, divination strat ... while it didn't win, it was fun being the archmage prophet, and running through the board converting everyone with my own person blood & time gospel!
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Philip Morton
msg tools
Avatar
TaylonMoon wrote:
Quote:
I'm not sure what the counterplay for Automaton is (other than Befuddle, which stops everything).


But I do not think Befuddle will work, because I think it only works on Tier 1 and Tier 2 spells.

That's right, we did talk about whether that would have worked and decided it wouldn't.

Quote:
Befuddle would have stopped the imprisonment, but the problem is, when all of your people are in prison, you cannot react and train mages to get the people you need.

It seems like maybe the best response to multi-imprisonment would just be to hit the camps and let the six apprentices stay imprisoned...but then I think I had six free apprentices when the imprisoning started, so new ones for me would have been immediately usable, while you guys were low enough that you would have had to recruit some just to become prisoners before getting to that state.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tim Heerema
Canada
Hanover
Ontario
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
Hi guys,

Your feedback seems to line up fairly well with some of our other blind test opinions. While I feel the spell balance is closer than your initial impressions, I am very interested and mindful of initial impressions because I know that people won't continue to explore the game in more depth unless they enjoy their first few plays.

The reason I delayed in responding, is that I wanted to discuss things with the developer - Dann May. We are considering the following changes and may reach out to you to playtest these changes further if you are willing:

1. The planet system - It does take some getting used to. I think the problem gradually lessens in frequency as you build it into your mindset for the game, but it's still the number one thing people get wrong when playing. Your comments are consistent with other playtesters' feedback. Thus, we've spent significant time talking about ways to do this differently while keeping the heart of the mechanics intact. I won't go into depth here, but if you're interested in further playtesting, we do have an alternate way of doing the planets. It is a little more complicated, but at the same time harder to forget... Let me know if you're interested.

2. Automaton - this spell will likely change in the following way:
Instead of taking the follower from your supply, we've been playtesting the idea of taking him from a Ruins location on the map. Not particularly hard to accomplish with some focused effort, but does create some more interesting depth to the spell. Puts the follower back into the "management required" portion of the game, but keeps it immune to Imprisonment. Also, ties the spell to the map and makes it a little more interactive. Thematically, think of it more of a power suit or something similar - need the widgets from the ruins to build it and will amplify the power of the follower to make him an apprentice.

3. Imprison - I think the power of this spell can be especially punishing when you are running tight on followers. That is its intent. The cap of 6 followers per player limits this to some degree. However,the main counters are Stone Skin (which is not at all useless when used repetitively - some playtesters have called it "overpowered") and Subjugate. These spells are generally much more efficient than Gathering more followers through Camps or Towns. And I think planning for follower shortage early in the game is also a key strategy. Don't wait until your tight on followers before you manage them - a hard lesson for many first time players.
That being said, I am 100% in agreement with your comment about getting your rescued followers back at the start of your next turn. Somehow that idea got missed in the posted rule set, but needs to change. Then a player will at least have a burst of followers to spend - hopefully enabling a great turn - following the turn where you forfeited your Journey's End.

4. Decay - Yes, in a multiplayer game this can get a bit annoying if overused. But, keep in mind the following: the player casting it gives up a relic to cost you two. The player casting does not get to specifically target the resource you lose - you lose something you have the "most of". Befuddle is a good way to stop the hemorrhaging...

5. Corrupt - This has honestly been the hardest of all the spells to balance... But we've played with it enough times to learn its nuances. If someone gets this spell early in the game and casts it repetitively, it can be very impactful. If someone casts in late in the game when people are tight on followers (and can't as easily bypass it using the free trade) it can be impactful. And even if opponents don't promote your corrupted traitor and leave him at first level, it still ties them down and limits their options. It is a permanent effect. There is no counter to "uncorrupt" apprentices.
So, yes, it does at times feel more like a nuisance, and at times more of a sledgehammer. Timing of when you cast it is key. But, even if it succeeds in stripping 1 or 2 opponents of 1-2 points it's succeeded in its purpose. In a game where scores frequently differ by only 1-4 points, these few points can be huge!
I'm not 100% convinced of the need to change anything here, but as always, I'm open to suggestions if you feel there's a way to tweak it...

I hope that these tweaks and discussion points help to reassure you that we are listening to playtester feedback even now. Hope you'll consent to continue helping us in our quest to make Archmage the best it can be!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul Gipson
United States
Joplin
Missouri
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
3. Imprison - I think the power of this spell can be especially punishing when you are running tight on followers. That is its intent....However,the main counters are Stone Skin


Perhaps I am not understanding Stoneskin correctly in how it is used. How does Stoneskin counter imprisonment? Your comment on subjugate was spot on, and that is actually what I did, i started quickening and subjugating every turn.


Quote:
2. Automaton - this spell will likely change in the following way:
Instead of taking the follower from your supply, we've been playtesting the idea of taking him from a Ruins location on the map.


I think this is a very cool and creative idea, because players could then instead of countering (with spells - like most others) they are countering with map control and the area control mechanics (try and take and hold the ruins spaces).

Quote:
Hope you'll consent to continue helping us in our quest to make Archmage the best it can be!


I would be interested in helping you playtest this game. I was put on the fence again about the mechanics of some of the play, but I really like the ideas and thoughts you have here! Especially with Automoton, that felt pretty powerful to not be limited a little, and it feels good to know you are looking at changing it.

Quote:
5. Corrupt

Philip and I talked about this after the game a bit, he wasn't convinced that his corrupt spell worked well, but I definitely felt its pain. Corrupt is interesting in the way it works, because I think if you are the player doing the corrupting, you do not feel like you are doing much. But if you are the player on the receiving end, it is very annoying. If anything, I lost rounds where I could have promoted mages, but didn't because I was trying to avoid the negative victory points, which in turn didn't give me access to befuddle and perhaps some other spells I could have used to my advantage. Corruption prevents your opponent from doing things, which is hard to measure, but I think it has a bigger impact than the caster thinks it does during the game.

Upheavel
... I haven't been able to visualize just yet, what a strategy around this big spell would look like. I feel like it has potential. How have you guys seen it be used well as a winning strategy? Do you combo it with roots and wards to cut off important parts of the map?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tim Heerema
Canada
Hanover
Ontario
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
Corrupt - Too funny. I've had the same conversation before...

Upheaval - I'm hesitant to post too much strategy advice before people actually get to play the game. I always find that half the fun of exploring a system is figuring out creative ways to turn things to my advantage... Yes, I have seen Upheaval used for defensive effect. But that is not the only way to use it effectively...
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Cory Bezeau
Canada
Hanover
Ontario
flag msg tools
Support your local Brick & Mortar Game Store.
badge
Straw Hat Gamer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
divine_justice wrote:
Corrupt - Too funny. I've had the same conversation before...

Upheaval - I'm hesitant to post too much strategy advice before people actually get to play the game. I always find that half the fun of exploring a system is figuring out creative ways to turn things to my advantage... Yes, I have seen Upheaval used for defensive effect. But that is not the only way to use it effectively...


Lol ... I guess you have ...
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Philip Morton
msg tools
Avatar
divine_justice wrote:
1. The planet system - It does take some getting used to. I think the problem gradually lessens in frequency as you build it into your mindset for the game, but it's still the number one thing people get wrong when playing. Your comments are consistent with other playtesters' feedback. Thus, we've spent significant time talking about ways to do this differently while keeping the heart of the mechanics intact. I won't go into depth here, but if you're interested in further playtesting, we do have an alternate way of doing the planets. It is a little more complicated, but at the same time harder to forget... Let me know if you're interested.

The new rotating possibility was interesting, it was definitely easier to make sure everyone's planets were in sync, although it became really hard to track how many turns the game would go, and the ability to tell the remaining length from the planets changes with each player count. I have no idea where the planets would need to start in a four-player game to make the game the right length under that system.

Quote:
2. Automaton - this spell will likely change in the following way:
Instead of taking the follower from your supply, we've been playtesting the idea of taking him from a Ruins location on the map. Not particularly hard to accomplish with some focused effort, but does create some more interesting depth to the spell. Puts the follower back into the "management required" portion of the game, but keeps it immune to Imprisonment. Also, ties the spell to the map and makes it a little more interactive. Thematically, think of it more of a power suit or something similar - need the widgets from the ruins to build it and will amplify the power of the follower to make him an apprentice.

I like this idea, would have to see how it plays. Almost wondering if it goes too far connecting it to the map as well as making the apprentice come from the company, but if you've got enough Matter to get up to Automaton you're probably holding a bunch of ruins anyway.

Quote:
3. Imprison
That being said, I am 100% in agreement with your comment about getting your rescued followers back at the start of your next turn. Somehow that idea got missed in the posted rule set, but needs to change. Then a player will at least have a burst of followers to spend - hopefully enabling a great turn - following the turn where you forfeited your Journey's End.

I assume the being-rescued followers would continue counting against your limit of six on the prison until they actually got released? If you gave up an action while you had less than six, and more got imprisoned before your next turn, would they all get freed or only the ones that were in prison when you gave up the action? If they don't all get freed, will need some way to track who's being freed (lay down the imprisoned ones and stand up the rescued ones maybe?)

Quote:
4. Decay - Yes, in a multiplayer game this can get a bit annoying if overused. But, keep in mind the following: the player casting it gives up a relic to cost you two. The player casting does not get to specifically target the resource you lose - you lose something you have the "most of". Befuddle is a good way to stop the hemorrhaging...

I don't know, my first thought/math on Befuddling Decay is that now you (the Befuddler) are still giving up two relics, but you're saving the Decay caster one and each other player in the game two.

Quote:
5. Corrupt - This has honestly been the hardest of all the spells to balance... But we've played with it enough times to learn its nuances. If someone gets this spell early in the game and casts it repetitively, it can be very impactful. If someone casts in late in the game when people are tight on followers (and can't as easily bypass it using the free trade) it can be impactful. And even if opponents don't promote your corrupted traitor and leave him at first level, it still ties them down and limits their options. It is a permanent effect. There is no counter to "uncorrupt" apprentices.
So, yes, it does at times feel more like a nuisance, and at times more of a sledgehammer. Timing of when you cast it is key. But, even if it succeeds in stripping 1 or 2 opponents of 1-2 points it's succeeded in its purpose. In a game where scores frequently differ by only 1-4 points, these few points can be huge!
I'm not 100% convinced of the need to change anything here, but as always, I'm open to suggestions if you feel there's a way to tweak it...

Yeah, maybe it just felt underpowered compared to Automaton appearing to produce a point per cast. I can see it having a more obvious effect if it was running for more of the game, although "noticeable if you get it early" still kind of seems like an indictment for a tier-3 spell. Maybe part of it is feeling like it's already failing if it fails to put out its maximum number of tokens per cast. The max-tokens thing kind of makes it feel like it's meant as a counter to somebody piling up rank-1 apprentices in various spheres in preparation for a bunch of promoting later, but I'm not sure that's a good strategy (too follower-intensive). Should I be expecting a smaller number of tokens per cast?

I'm not sure I buy it getting better with proper timing. Relics didn't seem to be a major limiting factor--lots of spells got cast every turn, including other tier-3s--and your only real timing decision on a spell like that is "cast it or not" every turn. The six-relic cap and Blood (the relic whose acquisition isn't entirely under your control, and that you can get income of without a gather action) being one of its possible costs makes me even less enthused about holding off casts of it to wait for better opportunities. And having better opportunities occur after you've already got Corrupt seems like it relies on your opponents deliberately handing them to you--all they have to do is leave at least one Fundamental level with only one apprentice, and Corrupt will never get up to putting out two tokens?

I'm sure my opinion on it will change as soon as I find myself on the receiving end...

Speaking of "how many hits of its effect are you expected to get per casting"....how many saved followers per cast of Stoneskin is it balanced around / would you expect to see? Maybe I just don't view apprentice murder sprees enough from the "cripple their company" perspective (if I'm killing things it has so far been because I want the map control)...
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.