Eric
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I keep trying to get a handle on this fascinating game. There are frequent references in this forum by more experienced players about the comparative economic strengths of the factions - for example, the Yengii are often described as having a "strong" economy while the Faderan have a "weak" economy.

I thought I would try creating a table comparing the starting resources and "production frontier" of the different factions, linked below, to try to understand these differences. Before getting too far into it, I'm a very new player and have no doubt that I'm missing various aspects of the faction's starting balance. I'm also quite certain that Tau has tables that would blow this out of the water. But I hope the table is at least an interesting "jumping-off" point for comparing the innate economic strengths of the factions.

To create this table, I counted the total value of starting resources as set out by the game itself (1 for small cubes and ships, 1.5 for large cubes, 3 for ultratech). I determined their "Starting production" by subtracting the value of all outputs on the starting cards from the value of all inputs (that is, the difference between the two numbers printed on each converter). This number represents the maximum value increase that could occur if the faction managed to run all of its starting cards on Turn 1. It also values starting colonies as a production of "1", since that's the usual value of their converter. I wasn't sure how to value starting research teams, so I set them out as a separate row.



Some faction-specific notes to the Table:
* Eni Et - the first production value is the total production available for the Eni Et's own use. The value in parentheses is the total production value possible, including all of the converters that are open only to other players.
* Im'dril - the first production value is the maximum value converter (Microgravity Assembly) that they can run with their starting fleet support. The value in parentheses is their total production if they manage to get 8 fleet support.
* Unity - the first value in starting resources is the "base" value of their resources. The second value is the value if their starting "wild" resources can be traded away at the rate suggested in their faction sheet (ie. small wild cubes trade for large cubes, large wilds trade for two smalls). Their production value also shows this - the value in parentheses is what they would get if they could trade their two wild resources from Adaptive Fabrication at this rate.
* Zeth - the first production value is the amount available only to them (through "Cascading Deception"). The second value in parentheses is their production if they run "Envoys" (a little complex, because Envoys only generates donation goods packaged with an envoy). The third value is what would happen if they ran all of their stealing converters in addition to the other two - they actually lose a point of value if they run "Smuggling Network".

Some takeaways for me from this table:
* The Eni Et are surprisingly strong from a "base" production standpoint. Their own starting converters can create ten value per turn, which is much stronger than some of the other factions. Of course, if they also manage to farm out their interest converters for half the value of their output, they can easily get the highest production in the game. Their principal limitation seems to be their low starting resources (lowest in the game). Also, some of that production is the creation of a victory point, which have a much lower value early in the game.
* This may stand to reason, but the Im'Dril production frontier is really, really high - almost double most of the other factions. If they can get their fleet support up, they can produce an incredible amount. Interestingly, they also start with the highest value of starting resources.
* The Caylion have been described as a "high-economy" faction, but their values don't seem to be significantly above the average.
* The Kjas have decent production but need to find a way to trade away or convert their ships into actual resources.
* The Yengii have a strong economy, but perhaps not as clearly strong as I expected. They start with a mid-to-low number of resources and their base production of 12 is high, but not significantly higher than the K'tz and Kjas factions. It seems like it will be tough to convert this into points, given their low sharing bonus - obviously licensing needs to make up much of this difference.
* The Unity production frontier is surprisingly low. They have the lowest value other than the Zeth (who make up for it by extorting resources) and the starting production of the Im'Dril (who will quickly make up for it by building more fleets). They're also lower than the "low-economy" Faderan, without Relic Worlds and the "free" victory point production of Acknowledgements to help level things out. This is true even if you use the "higher" values for wild resources suggested in their faction sheet. To me, this suggests that the Unity may have to trade at an even more extortionate level to maintain production parity with the other factions.

The low levels of Unity and Yengii and the surprisingly high production of the Eni Et also suggest another limitation of this table - it doesn't account for the difficulty of acquiring the appropriate inputs for the starting cards. The Eni Et certainly suffer from not being able to run their starting cards easily, and I believe the Yengii benefit from having cards whose inputs and outputs largely synergize with one another. I think the Unity also benefit from being able to accept essentially any garbage resources as inputs, as well as gaining flexibility when trying to assemble resources for a research team due to their large output of wild resources - it is a lot easier to run their economy at full tilt.

The table also has various other limitations - it doesn't account for ease of upgrades, future path of techs etc (the Im'Dril will have a harder time using shared techs due to their fleet support problems, the Zeth cards only upgrade with a single technology and thus will improve more slowly), etc. But I think it's an interesting way to compare their initial starting positions and view some of the "hidden" asymmetries in the game.
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Jacob Davenport
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I wondered the same things when I first was introduced to the game, which is why I wrote a computer program to play it against itself to see where better balancing was needed. A few thoughts for you, some which you've already implied.

Start with the Eni Et:

One of their starting factories creates a victory point. On the first turn, a victory point is not worth much, since it cannot be plowed back into a factory and be made more useful. So don't count that in its output.

Choral Song creates 2.5 in value, but requires 5 white cubes to run. There's often a lot of competition for white cubes, and even when there is not, it's hard to get that many. So this factory is not as good as a theoretical factory that turns one small cube into two small and a large, even though such a theoretical factory also creates 2.5 in value. Factory efficiency is very important, and to win you want to run your most efficient factories, not necessarily the ones that produce the most value.

Since Choral Song takes a lot of input, the Eni Et won't be able to run all their starting factories for several turns, so that also suggests that the Eni Et do not have nearly the output in a game than suggested by adding up the value of their factories.

Im'Dril: Yes, as Tau says, they would win any nine turn game. Good thing it's just a six turn game, keeping them from always winning.

Caylion: Remember, their colonies produce double, and that's true even after they are upgraded. So, consider that it costs them four ships and a large cube to get a factory that produces a free large cube each turn. That's better than any factory created by Age I technology.

Kjas: I've found that I often have extra ships to sell, so yes, ships become resources.

Yengii: Their factories are not very efficient, even though they have a bunch of them. Their challenge is that they must invent at least four times in the game, and then they have to get people to buy those licenses. Most of their income will not be from their inefficient factories.

Unity: Are you counting large grey as 2 and small grey as 1.5? Even if you do, they have a crappy economy, improved only by their willingness to take any color of cube. That's hard to calculate, which is why you can only see their value by running them during an actual game with actual opponents. Thus, my computer simulations.
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Eric
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Thanks, those are all great points! I see how the costly input and "victory point" output of the Eni Et might make them a lot less productive than the math would suggest.

re: "to see where better balancing was needed" - just to be clear, I am in no way questioning the balance of the game. TauCeti very clearly put a lot of work into balance, including extensive playtesting, and certainly has a far deeper understanding of these mechanics than a new player like me. I just wanted to prepare this to get a better sense of the factions' relative starting positions and (hopefully) glean some insights about what sort of things they should focus on.
 
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Jacob Davenport
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Oh, I didn't think you were being critical. When I first got the game, it was very different, and yet well balanced. After major changes, he was still able to do a good job balancing the game even without my computer simulations.

The starting position changes drastically based on the opponent races, and on the players themselves. I'm going to play the Eni Et wildly differently from a new player, and I'll play them differently if the Im'Drill are in play versus if the Unity is in play, versus both. All these variations in player styles, skills, and possible race combinations makes the game very replayable for me.

TauCeti has written a strategy guides for a few of the species, and although I'm a very good player, I've found them really interesting.
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