Matt Schoonmaker-Gates
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Overall, I like Sidereal Confluence, and I’m very glad I added it to my collection.

Things I like


1)Simultaneous Play
a.There are no turns. I have had literally no down time when I play the game. The game engages all players most of the time. It is great!

2)Cooperative Competition
a.You don’t win this game by taking advantage of people. Most of the trading is fair. Since the approximate value of everything is well defined, even beginners will know a bad trade when they see one.

3)Same play time with 4 players or 9 players
a.How long a game takes is a big deal to me, so this is awesome! Also how many games go to 9?!

4)Asymmetrical but “balanced”
a.Asymmetrical: Each race is super different. I’m excited to try different races, and see which ones I like more, and which ones I’m better at playing. In general I'm not a huge fan of asymmetry, mainly because I'm concerned about balance, which I am a big fan of...
b.Balanced: Everyone has their own definition of balance. Each race is not equally likely to win the game, but also each player starts out at a different skill level. The game designer discusses balancing in LOTS of detail in a thread on BGG, and how they conducted millions of computer simulations and used statistical analysis to balance the races and cards. That's freaking awesome. I also really appreciate that the game gives each race a difficulty to play, so you know that the Caylion are easier to play, and the Yengi are hard. You definitely feel like different strategies are viable, and there aren’t any cards that you would never use. Simply put, I think the game is VERY balanced. At the very least, the game designer says it is balanced, and I believe him based on everything he has put out so far.

5)Pure Negotiation
a.I like negotiating and trading.

6)Engine building
a.I like turning stuff into more stuff. You do that a LOT in this game.
b.You can improve how efficient your cards are by upgrading them. I really like that! There’s this awesome phenomenon where people share technologies with you that you don’t have the resources to use, but you can instead use the tech to upgrade a card that you ARE using. Very cool, and keeps the economy humming right along.

7)Lots of skill / little luck
a.I can see how you can get better at this game the more you play. The first game or two, you might make some not great trades. But as you play more, new things you hadn’t seen before are suddenly revealed.

8)The game holds your hand
a.I’m not a huge fan of games that are hard to play decently, where one small mistake and you’re sunk. I like that this game:
i.Tells you what a fair trade is
ii.Gives you basic advice for your race so you can play the race competently on your first try

9)Involvement from game creators
a.The designer (and others involved with playtesting) have been very involved on the forums. They’re answering questions, and going into detail about all sorts of things about the game.

Things I don’t like or like less

1)Complexity
a.The rules are simple, which I like. But, there are a LOT of cards on the table, even from the beginning. You keep getting more cards, so the complexity/options grow. I definitely feel like I have to think really hard when I play this game (if I want to do well). You’re thinking “Should I take these cubes and run them through my own converter, or should I use them to develop this technology, or should I trade them to that player over there who is desperate for it.” You have lots of options, and can always be looking for an edge if you want to. These aren’t bad things, but it means depending on my mood, I may not want to play this game.

2)Scoring points isn’t much fun
a.This is my personal biggest issue with the game. I really like building my engine, upgrading cards, trading with people and turning stuff into more stuff. But then how you win is through points, which is mainly (I think) earned through discovering techs. To do that, you need a lot of ONE type of resource, which can be hard obtain. Then when you discover it, it is a bit anti-climactic. It just feels like there’s a bit of a disconnect between the fun stuff and the scoring points. So it means I have a lot of fun playing the game, but I don’t win . I can see that if I play the game more, I’ll get better at planning for the techs. But there’s still a disconnect.

3)Complexity & scoring points on last turn
a.On the last turn, you can score a ton of points from one tech. In a recent game, my neighbor and I realized that he could discover his tech card only if I traded him some octagons. It was going to be worth like 12 points to him (a LOT), and it was hard to figure out a fair trade where I could benefit a lot as well. I wish I had more time to crunch the numbers, but it was the last round and I wanted to make other trades too, so we just went for it. I definitely benefited a lot from the trade, but I’m fairly certain he got the better deal and he ended up winning (just barely. I got 5th out of 7).

My background

I learned about Sidereal Confluence from the designer diary (which was amazing!). After some more research, I bought the game despite not playing it, which I almost never do. I have since played, in order:
1)A 4-player game with 2 casual gamers, all new to SC
2)A 7-player game with all experienced gamers, but I was the only one who had played SC before
3)A solo “3-player game” where I controlled three races, combined all resources and VPs, doubled the ship minimum bids, and went for a highest overall score (or average by dividing by 3).

This review expresses my own opinions about the game. Thanks for reading, and I hope you find it interesting or helpful!
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Jacob Davenport
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I worry about the complexity myself. New players feel a bit overwhelmed by all the factories they have, so I tend to encourage them to simplify by upgrading factories and reminding them that they don't need to or even want to run all of them.

The game even starts with a fair amount of complexity. Even having just four starting cards and a colony feels like a lot.

What encourages me is that all the cards work in similar ways. I think the actual difficult thing for new players is understanding when they can upgrade and when they can invent. It's very intentional that these run during the trading phase, and not some separate phase (as it once was), but that does make new players feel adrift.

Fortunately, an experienced player can walk a new player through a lot of this, and by the end of the first game, most players I've taught feel like they had fun and have a strong understanding for the next game.

That all being said, I love the complexity. It allows complicated and interesting trades. In your example, your resources would allow someone to score 12 points, and if you were the only one to have what he needs, you should sell them for 6 points. On the last turn, one can give away a factory with the resources to run it to give points to another player, so such deals can be done. If the game was too simple, trades would be boring.
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Cris Whetstone
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Very nice summary! To the point. Not a cheerleading type of review but not overly critical either.

I'm fairly certain to pick this up but I'm afraid I won't get it to the table anytime soon so I haven't pulled the trigger. But summaries like these keep it on my mind.

railbaron wrote:
2)Scoring points isn’t much fun
a.This is my personal biggest issue with the game. I really like building my engine, upgrading cards, trading with people and turning stuff into more stuff. But then how you win is through points, which is mainly (I think) earned through discovering techs. To do that, you need a lot of ONE type of resource, which can be hard obtain. Then when you discover it, it is a bit anti-climactic. It just feels like there’s a bit of a disconnect between the fun stuff and the scoring points. So it means I have a lot of fun playing the game, but I don’t win . I can see that if I play the game more, I’ll get better at planning for the techs. But there’s still a disconnect.



Thanks for this 'point'(No pun intended). I have this disconnect in lots of Euro type games. Chasing points disconnects me from the game play so very often. Where in games that are decided by some actual part of the game keep me more interested.

I was a bit worried about this aspect of Sidereal Confluence so I'm glad you pointed it out. It sounds like the game play is enough to keep me going but I do know chasing points so often drops games in my overall personal valuations.
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Matt Schoonmaker-Gates
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Jacob, you make a good point about the complexity allowing interesting deals. In my example, the other player was able to trade me 2 or 3 factories that gave me points, but he didn't give me all the resources to run them, but some of them. So instead of just saying "now I can turn these 6 white into 3 points" I was analyzing "well what was I going to do with these whites if he didn't give me that factory." It's looking at the opportunity cost of the whites. The trade got complex quickly :-).

I'm planning to write some session reports on my games. In short, I played this with some casual gamers and they didn't play super well, but they made it through and enjoyed it. I played the 7 player game with experienced gamers, and people picked it up really quickly. The types of trades being made were already at a much higher level, though I'm sure we were still just scratching the surface.

 
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P.D. Magnus
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WetRock wrote:

railbaron wrote:
2)Scoring points isn’t much fun
a.This is my personal biggest issue with the game. I really like building my engine, upgrading cards, trading with people and turning stuff into more stuff. But then how you win is through points, which is mainly (I think) earned through discovering techs. To do that, you need a lot of ONE type of resource, which can be hard obtain. Then when you discover it, it is a bit anti-climactic. ...


Thanks for this 'point'(No pun intended). I have this disconnect in lots of Euro type games. Chasing points disconnects me from the game play so very often. Where in games that are decided by some actual part of the game keep me more interested.


For what it's worth, to me inventing technology feels like a lot more than spending a pile of cubes for points. Except for the endgame inventions, each one puts a new converter into play. So it changes the options for everyone in the game.
 
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Jacob Davenport
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I understand the dissatisfaction with point gathering. Many point salad games leave me wanting.

I can imagine that the goal of this game was to gather a certain set of resources before anyone else, or that certain resources can be feed into special factories that make it possible to win. But nearly every option presented feels kinda like, you know, gathering points.

One thing I like about points in this game is that nobody knows the score entirely, so everyone feels invested in the game. Even when players feel like they have fallen behind, I encourage them to do their best, because I've seen many times a player think they fell behind but what they really did is crash their economy in exchange for a pile of points mid-game, and they are doing better than they realize.

But, hey, I'd love to hear other goals that make sense in this game than simply getting points. I think there's probably a cool suggestion out there.
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Wei-Hwa Huang
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Continental Drift wrote:
But, hey, I'd love to hear other goals that make sense in this game than simply getting points. I think there's probably a cool suggestion out there.


It might be nice to have a goal that isn't "get more points than all other players at the end of the game". After all, real life isn't like that, where the universe ends suddenly and only one person is the winner.

I can imagine a potential expansion or house rules for the game where each race has a goal deck of 10 goals -- shuffle the deck, get 3 of them randomly, if you get all of them, you win. Multiple winners are possible. If you win before the game ends, you can decide if you're going to help other players with their goals or if you're going to hinder them. Maybe based on how nice they were to you.
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Eric Brosius
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Yes, or scenarios that represent different situations a group of cultures can find itself in. For example, you could have an attack from outside the group of player cultures, and they have to band together to stop it (by delivering certain goods to something in some way.) This would make it a cooperative game. Or there could be some uber goal that everyone is out to achieve first, but that each culture can achieve in a somewhat different way.

You could even do this in such a way that what the real goal is only reveals itself over time (some info at the start, then a little more after Turn 1, and the full thing after Turn 2.)

The fact that we can think about these ideas results from the fact that the game at present is mainly about building an engine, without too much focus on what that engine should do. The engine-building part of the game is very nicely streamlined. So adding "here's what the engine needs to do in this game" parts to the game would be easier than in most games.
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Jacob Davenport
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I did a bit of the goals in Sidereal Cooperation but did not make them particularly dynamic. I certainly could....
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Dylan Thurston
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Where's the thread discussing the computer simulations? It sounds really interesting to read.
 
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Jacob Davenport
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A little discussion in this assistant designer diary.
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Eric Brosius wrote:
Yes, or scenarios that represent different situations a group of cultures can find itself in. For example, you could have an attack from outside the group of player cultures, and they have to band together to stop it (by delivering certain goods to something in some way.) This would make it a cooperative game. Or there could be some uber goal that everyone is out to achieve first, but that each culture can achieve in a somewhat different way.

You could even do this in such a way that what the real goal is only reveals itself over time (some info at the start, then a little more after Turn 1, and the full thing after Turn 2.)

The fact that we can think about these ideas results from the fact that the game at present is mainly about building an engine, without too much focus on what that engine should do. The engine-building part of the game is very nicely streamlined. So adding "here's what the engine needs to do in this game" parts to the game would be easier than in most games.


I really like this idea, with the caveat that one of the goals should always be "achieve the most victory points" (or 1st or 2nd at 6+). So it's really "if you can get two side goals done you can ditch the VP thing" but you can't ever ignore them.
 
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