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Subject: Does Terraforming Mars have a 2 bump enjoyment curve? rss

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tibbles von tibbleton
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Does Terraforming Mars have a 2 bump enjoyment curve? A Scythe thread with this premise for Scythe got me thinking about this and wondered if it was just me or maybe if Mars has similar. The premise being, the enjoyment curve for the game doesn't just go upwards the more you play, it goes up for a few games, then down with more plays, then back up again with even more plays. Applied to Scythe it was like, first you play and it seems awesome and full of variety, then you go in to a valley where you feel like you're on faction+board rails and doomed with a bad luck combo, and then on more plays you learn to turn those bad combos in to good, competitive games.

When Mars first came out, I thought this was one of the most awesome games out there. I loved the different corporations and the deck of unique cards. I'd have rated it like 9.5/10. All my friends and game group members loved it. Then 6-7 games later, all but 1 soured on the game. Not as in hate it bad, but more like an 8ish rating, so it's been pushed aside for the other euros it briefly replaced.

What soured us was the card drafting. Normally we'd like drafting. But what we felt like kept happening was, in any given round, several synergy cards aren't good yet, you might not be able to afford keeping dead weight early. Those aren't good picks. Then there's the synergy cards that were awesome 3 rounds ago, but too late to buy now. Those aren't good picks. Then there's the fact that in say 4p game, odds are in favor of your synergy cards being in opponents' hands rather than your own. Between drafting a mediocre card for myself or a great card for my opponent, I was always hate drafting and chucking the cards for free. And my friends all did similar. We started feeling like whoever wins is the one of us who lucked in to the most synergy cards in their own 4 cards to avoid the hate draft. Or even bigger, who got the most synergy in their initial 10 cards.

But then, even though Mars may have shot up the rankings on a slew of positive first impression scores, it has also managed to stay up there, so I'm feeling like people who have many many repeated plays are getting something that my friends and I are missing...Do you think another 10 or so plays might give that inspiration to push enjoyment back in to the 9s, or just figure it's not for us and move on to other games?
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Daily Grind
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I can only speak for myself but I never soured on it, so my initial response is 'no' it doesn't have a '2 bump curve'. Thats not to say it wont for you though. No one in my group hate drafts, we just try and be efficient engines and the satisfaction from that is evergreen.
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Dave Moser
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Stop drafting?
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Derry Salewski
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I'd say no but I also don't draft so there's that.

This game brings out the weird in people. Like games withot drafting or cubes you had to not knock around recklessly had never been invented before.
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tibbles von tibbleton
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dmoser22 wrote:
Stop drafting?


But then the luck factor is even larger...

I'm assuming it's something like we're undervaluing too many cards for our own engines, hence the hate pick is more tempting, but unsure. Most games we have the far more common issue of everything looks awesome and worth taking.
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John Burt
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tibbles wrote:
dmoser22 wrote:
Stop drafting?


But then the luck factor is even larger...

I'm assuming it's something like we're undervaluing too many cards for our own engines, hence the hate pick is more tempting, but unsure. Most games we have the far more common issue of everything looks awesome and worth taking.


Yes, of course it is. I think that to enjoy this game you just have to accept that there's a lot of luck due to card draws, with or without drafting. As for hate drafting, you're doing it "right" strategically, but obviously it's hurting your enjoyment, so maybe stop hate drafting, or drafting altogether?
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Adam Gross
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I won't attempt to hide that Terraforming is my #1 game for the last few months and still loving it. I have learned that I have to keep adjusting to what opportunities are available. Once in a while, I do wind up with a corporation that I don't get supporting cards for or don't draft cards that work together. Those games are more challenging but I just make tougher decisions and go in other directions. With that said, I want to play!

See all those at PAX Unplugged in Philly!

If you are in the Philadelphia area, please reach out to us on Philly Loves Boardgames! on meetup.com
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Florian Ruckeisen
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tibbles wrote:
The premise being, the enjoyment curve for the game doesn't just go upwards the more you play, it goes up for a few games, then down with more plays, then back up again with even more plays.

While I do agree that players' understanding of the game will (hopefully) evolve with more plays, which may alter their enjoyment, I don't know that it necessarily takes on that "2 bump" form. Or at least, it's possible to skip steps on the way.

For instance, some first-timers skip the initial excitement phase you described and go straight to the "OMG the game is all about luck of the draw / luck of drafting" phase - there have been a few reviews and vocal commentators in that vein here.

There's also those who never experience the luck-of-the-cards factor as something that's strong enough to sour the game for them. Arguably, I'm in that boat - I acknowledge that luck is a factor in TM (even with drafting), but despite that it's been my favourite game for over a year now. Main reason being that I think it's very rare for games to be won/lost by luck alone.

(Well, and then of course some people's enjoyment curve in TM will never go up even after 25 plays, because the game is just not their cup of tea.)

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We started feeling like whoever wins is the one of us who lucked in to the most synergy cards in their own 4 cards to avoid the hate draft. Or even bigger, who got the most synergy in their initial 10 cards.

Since you're already putting a lot of emphasis on this part of player interaction, I'd suggest to sort of go all the way and consider who is ahead or behind the most when deciding how much effort to put into hate-drafting (or countering their ground game and milestone/award plans, for that matter).

In general, in a completely even 4p game, when deciding between a good draft card for myself or denying my opponent a card that's even (a bit) better for him, I'll keep the good card for myself. Because hurting the opponents' engine only helps me against that one opponent, but furthering my own helps me against all of them.
If, however, that one opponent is ahead and "needs to be stopped" more, then I'll be willing to invest more into hindering him.
If someone is clearly behind, then they don't need to be hate-drafted at all.

I won't deny that "favoured by draft luck" can happen, and it can't reliably be avoided. Sometimes a guy gets 1 great card and 3 duds, while the guy next to him gets 2 and 2, so he has to give the "lucky guy" another good card. People absolutely can get ahead that way.

However, the game doesn't end there. The more ahead "lucky guy" gets, the more obvious it should be for all opponents that they should stop him. There's a number of ways to do that (you don't need to employ all of them of course, it's just a selection of options to take if they present themselves):
- prioritize hate-drafting against him more
- interfere with his ground game via your placement of cities, special tiles and such
- fund awards he doesn't have any stock in
- compete for his likely milestones if you can
- hit him with every damn asteroid and production reduction you can sauron
- adapt your strategy to whatever he's strong at. He has big plant production? Deplete the O2 track with your own plants, standard greeneries, and the likes of Steel Works. He has big card discounts and/or fat VP generators? Focus on terraforming and ending the game quickly, as time works in his favour.

Once you have caught up to him, you can go easier on the bashing (or switch targets to someone else if need be).

Now I don't mean you should go "all out" and focus entirely on bashing the leader. You still should do what's good for you and not "die for the swarm". But the beauty of TM is that you can adapt your play in subtle ways: Placing a special tile in an annoying spot where it costs you just 1 plant or 2 M€ in fewer placement bonuses; playing an asteroid 1 generation later which costs you 1 or 2 M€ (because later TR increase), but lets you destroy more of his plants; playing Ants even though you think they're a little expensive for the VP they'll get you, but they let you disrupt his Regolith Eaters. You might call it the "100 small stings approach". ninja

Granted, this hinges in large part on determining who's ahead, which isn't always obvious. It also kinda requires that players are willing to do at least some baby steps to "bash the leader(s)" (it really sucks when you're the only one doing it while everyone else just lets them do their thing). And some setups just don't offer as many angles of attack as others (can't kill his plants if he doesn't have any in the first place).

But I'm convinced that lucky draws can be countered by adapted play to quite some extent, and the drafting phase isn't the only time to do so. cool
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RyuSora
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Thats called cult of the new.
How many games do you actually play 20 times in a row? I would assume the answer for you is 0, some (most) people simply few the need to always play something new and rotate between games, so when you finally played a game a few times in a row you all felt 'soured' about the game, but that was just your brain saying "hey bro, where is the 2017 releases? Why are we playing a 2016 game?". This is completeley normal in boardgaming.

I have around 80 plays of tmars, and this is one of the few games i was actually able to play those 20 times in a row (the other euro game i am able to do that is mage knight and spirit island) So give timne to time, and if today you feel tmars is an '8' for you... 8 is a pretty awesome game for sure.
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Marc Espie
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If you hate drafting so much, just don't draft.

This is what I actually do these days, precisely because it is more enjoyable that way.

Yep, there's chance involved, but I don't think drafting helps so much with that chance aspect. Some times, you will end up with only great cards and a big dilemma, some other times you end up with complete crap and no dilemma at all. It doesn't average all that well.
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Marc Espie
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Also, TM is one of my favorite games along with Race for the Galaxy.

Both have one strong point in common: there appears to be a lot of luck involved in the cards, but in reality, the more you play, the more different strategies you'll find that will allow you to adapt to the cards. That's what makes both those games so enjoyable.

(and yeah, there's definitely a second bump involved, in my personal experience).
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Richard Zaleski
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Just played my third game and still love it. Can’t wait to join the tournament at Pax Unplugged.
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Jonathan Kinney
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My two-stage process was a little more unique. Before it came out I built it up in my mind...A LOT. I wasn’t among the first in my game group to play it, so when I did, they had all “graduated” the regular Corp cards. When I played with them, they said “here’s take the Beginner Corp”. I said “no, I’ve played tons of Euros. I’m fine!” And rather than insisting they let me play.

The experience was brutal. I had no direction. I didn’t know the cards. And I had no money. I was just despondent. I played again, this time with a Beginner Corp, and it was better. But I had been soured.

But then something happened. We just kept playing and I just started to get addicted. It was awesome!

I’m up to 80+ plays and will play anywhere, anytime. I went to a con last weekend and played 7 times.

Moral of the story? I am committed to people getting a chance to experience their first game the way it should be played...Beginner Corp and without Corporation Cards. Even if they insist, I know I have the personal experience to justify my reasoning. 😀
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General Norris
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Some thoughts:

- TM does indeed have a problem with poor quality card draws. There's a good chunk of cards that are narrow or poor or simply not very useful at a certain stage of the game. This is a flaw in the game, you can often draw crap for two turns in a row which is kind of awful.

- That said, you probably overvalue combos and cards. Despite being a fairly prototypical game of "snowball economics" the snowball is fairly small and there's a tendence to overbuild. Cards are more efficient than standard projects, but not by that much. You can probably do more with less. (There's a reason why Standard Technology is one of the best cards in the game!)

- In my experience, early game advantages don't tend to pan out as often as they seem they would. In fact, often the player who shot up in income is the player that fails to catch up with its engine by the time the game is over. Terraform faster, end the game before the builders get a sizable advantage or prolong it if you are one.

- You should keep in mind that cards are both expensive and unreliable. This means you should invest in card-drawing engines, rely on board presence or reduce your dependance on draw. Cards that let you draw more cards should always be given a second look even if they are somewhat overcosted. (Conversely, I feel Titanium and Steel production are easily overvalued). Cards that give you discounts are also huge, because they allow you to use more cards.

Hope that helps!
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tibbles von tibbleton
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General_Norris wrote:
Some thoughts:

- TM does indeed have a problem with poor quality card draws. There's a good chunk of cards that are narrow or poor or simply not very useful at a certain stage of the game. This is a flaw in the game, you can often draw crap for two turns in a row which is kind of awful.

- That said, you probably overvalue combos and cards. Despite being a fairly prototypical game of "snowball economics" the snowball is fairly small and there's a tendence to overbuild. Cards are more efficient than standard projects, but not by that much. You can probably do more with less. (There's a reason why Standard Technology is one of the best cards in the game!)

- In my experience, early game advantages don't tend to pan out as often as they seem they would. In fact, often the player who shot up in income is the player that fails to catch up with its engine by the time the game is over. Terraform faster, end the game before the builders get a sizable advantage or prolong it if you are one.

- You should keep in mind that cards are both expensive and unreliable. This means you should invest in card-drawing engines, rely on board presence or reduce your dependance on draw. Cards that let you draw more cards should always be given a second look even if they are somewhat overcosted. (Conversely, I feel Titanium and Steel production are easily overvalued). Cards that give you discounts are also huge, because they allow you to use more cards.

Hope that helps!


I think that both hits the nail and misses it

We're pretty good not overvaluing cards, I think if anything it's undervaluing cards outside obvious synergy. Hence the looking at a hand and thinking, "Dud, dud, meh, good for other player...Guess I hate draft the good and I'll grab a meh option as 2nd pick." If it was between a card we thought was awesome for ourselves and a hate draft, yeah, we're taking our own presumed great card.

But, that's exactly right on the poor quality draws bit. I should have been clearer in the OP, it's not just the drafting we soured on, it's the whole card drawing experience tied to drafting. The whole end result of the card draw phase tends to be us not very excited about what we just drew and glancing forlornly at the discard pile. I think the last 4p game I only had maybe 7 cards and 2 events played over the whole game and yet came in 2nd place. It made me wonder, "How are there 150(?) cool, unique cards here, and yet I'm skipping it all and stuck running on standard projects?"

Which is back to why I'm sorta hoping there's some eye opening realization out there to make more cards seem appealing, as fixing that pretty well fixes my enjoyment of this game. I'd make more first round picks to keep as opposed to hate draft picks. And I don't mind hate drafting as long as whatever I did keep is (in my mind anyways) almost as cool as whatever you denied me.
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Örjan Almén
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General_Norris wrote:
Some thoughts:

- TM does indeed have a problem with poor quality card draws. There's a good chunk of cards that are narrow or poor or simply not very useful at a certain stage of the game. This is a flaw in the game, you can often draw crap for two turns in a row which is kind of awful.


I disagree totally with you here. If you get the very same hand in another game it can be best possible cards for a player. In my opinion, there is no crappy cards, just crappy situations for the cards. And this is where the game actually shines the most, as you actually have to evaluate every card every time it hits your hand, because it can actually be great in many, but not all situations.
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tibbles von tibbleton
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orjanalmen wrote:
General_Norris wrote:
Some thoughts:

- TM does indeed have a problem with poor quality card draws. There's a good chunk of cards that are narrow or poor or simply not very useful at a certain stage of the game. This is a flaw in the game, you can often draw crap for two turns in a row which is kind of awful.


I disagree totally with you here. If you get the very same hand in another game it can be best possible cards for a player. In my opinion, there is no crappy cards, just crappy situations for the cards. And this is where the game actually shines the most, as you actually have to evaluate every card every time it hits your hand, because it can actually be great in many, but not all situations.


For sure, the game has a very low number of pure duds. But, I'm still currently feeling most cards are duds in most situations, which is disappointing. There's a lot I'd only buy in rounds 1-3, others never before round 6, others depend on corp, others depend on board state...Now give the good ones only 1 in 4 chance of being in your hand instead of an opponent's...
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Örjan Almén
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tibbles wrote:
orjanalmen wrote:
General_Norris wrote:
Some thoughts:

- TM does indeed have a problem with poor quality card draws. There's a good chunk of cards that are narrow or poor or simply not very useful at a certain stage of the game. This is a flaw in the game, you can often draw crap for two turns in a row which is kind of awful.


I disagree totally with you here. If you get the very same hand in another game it can be best possible cards for a player. In my opinion, there is no crappy cards, just crappy situations for the cards. And this is where the game actually shines the most, as you actually have to evaluate every card every time it hits your hand, because it can actually be great in many, but not all situations.


For sure, the game has a very low number of pure duds. But, I'm still currently feeling most cards are duds in most situations, which is disappointing. There's a lot I'd only buy in rounds 1-3, others never before round 6, others depend on corp, others depend on board state...Now give the good ones only 1 in 4 chance of being in your hand instead of an opponent's...


Well, if you play the game that categorically, I think you'll have a problem making the most out of your cards. The cards are all situational, so you need to evaluate them every time you see them.

A card that was worthless to play a few rounds ago might be very well worth playing again depending on what has happened on the board, milestones, awards and other cards that have showed up or been played later on. Another card can go from being able to giving you several VP to worthless by just one other players unexpected move.
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Vergililus De Kat
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No 2 bump enjoyment curve for us.
Even when we bought a ton of new games in Essen, if someone proposes TfM, we won't say no.
tibbles wrote:
...Hence the looking at a hand and thinking, "Dud, dud, meh, good for other player...Guess I hate draft the good and I'll grab a meh option as 2nd pick."...
OK Hang on... So you're drafting to overcome the luck of the draw.
But then you choose to keep a card that's *not* good for you (but for the other player).
And everybody in your group is doing the same and just passing "duds" and "mehs".

So, to overcome the luck of the draw, you end up with a hand of sucky cards so you can dump them?
I guess that kinda defeats the purpose of drafting whistle

Hint: stop drafting and judge your own hand on its merit, then dump unwanted cards, I'm sure you'll end up with better cards
(and a shorter game)

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tibbles von tibbleton
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Sorry, the "don't draft" idea just doesn't make sense to me for purposes of trying to make cards more interesting.

Take that dud, dud, meh, good-for-other-player hand mix again. If we draft, yes, we all hate draft the good, pick up a meh 2nd, then dud, dud. Then we discard 3 and keep the meh. If we don't draft, we still won't bother to keep a card that doesn't work for us nor the duds, so we drop 3 and keep the meh.

The root trouble is that we consider the average hand mix to be dud, dud, meh, good-for-other-player. Whether our perception or the cards, this is what to fix.

To reference another popular game, take Blood Rage cards. Okay, maybe it's cause I've only played it 3 times, but I like drafting those cards. You get your initial shuffle and it's like, "Ooh, I gotta keep this quest, that's an easy 8pts...Wait, dang, this one is 10pts and I could do it...Wow, this doubles any quests, I need to keep this one...Sigh, but if I keep that then I'm passing my opponent this awesome 12pt ship card..." I want to keep half of it and I'm drafting my own good stuff with a side eye on opponent options. I'm not feeling like, if I'm getting junk, I'm making sure you get junk too.
 
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tibbles von tibbleton
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Oh, and to clarify, yes the dud, dud, meh, good-for-other expectancy is hyperbole, it's true. First, if that happens 3 out of 4, the 4th the good card is your own. Second, other hands are also dud, dud, meh, meh

To give a serious example, I did play another game tonight, no drafting. Ended in round 9 and figure a couple free card draws, so call it 45 cards drawn. I ended with 10 green, 3 blue, and 3 events played, 1 card having been a wasted play. I also discarded 2 for cash, I think 1 I had bought and 1 was a free draw. I'd say that's about average for me. Maybe not that exact distribution, but ~16 cards played. That's a keep rate of 35%. What do you think? High? Low? Average?

It's harder to say what fraction I'd say I was excited over vs a meh card (for example, no Arctic Algae, but whee 8 cost power plant). But I suppose as long as it was superior to a standard project that means it was worthwhile and not a dud.
 
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Örjan Almén
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tibbles wrote:
To reference another popular game, take Blood Rage cards. Okay, maybe it's cause I've only played it 3 times, but I like drafting those cards. You get your initial shuffle and it's like, "Ooh, I gotta keep this quest, that's an easy 8pts...Wait, dang, this one is 10pts and I could do it...Wow, this doubles any quests, I need to keep this one...Sigh, but if I keep that then I'm passing my opponent this awesome 12pt ship card..." I want to keep half of it and I'm drafting my own good stuff with a side eye on opponent options. I'm not feeling like, if I'm getting junk, I'm making sure you get junk too.


Interestingly, I feel the same about most hands in TM as you describe of Blood Rage, hard to choose, don't keep too many, I can't afford to keep them, but I'll take that one too.. they're too good.
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Bryan Thunkd
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tibbles wrote:
Does Terraforming Mars have a 2 bump enjoyment curve?
Not that I've noticed.

Quote:
When Mars first came out, I thought this was one of the most awesome games out there. I loved the different corporations and the deck of unique cards. I'd have rated it like 9.5/10. All my friends and game group members loved it. Then 6-7 games later, all but 1 soured on the game.
My experience has been that 90% of the people who I know who've played it thought it was great initially... and still do. The only people who've soured on it were the ones who didn't care for it initially anyway.

Quote:
What soured us was the card drafting. Normally we'd like drafting. But what we felt like kept happening was, in any given round, several synergy cards aren't good yet, you might not be able to afford keeping dead weight early. Those aren't good picks.
Sometimes you have to invest in the future. Sure, that's 3 bucks you can't spend now, and it might not be playable for a few generations but you're complaining about only getting meh cards... so you should keep better cards that might take a bit to set up. If you throw away every good card that isn't immediately playable, then I know exactly why you think you never get good cards.

Quote:
Then there's the fact that in say 4p game, odds are in favor of your synergy cards being in opponents' hands rather than your own.
Even if what you say is true, I enjoy "make do the best you can wth what you get" games. Complaining "but I never get a perfect synergy" seems a little petulant. Figure out a way to make the cards you get work.

Quote:
Between drafting a mediocre card for myself or a great card for my opponent, I was always hate drafting and chucking the cards for free.
Are you always getting a card that's great for your immediate neighbor? If not, make someone else hate draft it, and build a hand of pretty good cards for yourself. Since your group is hate-drafty they'll not pass that great card to the guy who wants it. And it seems unlikely that through random chance you always see cards that are great for someone else and never great for you. And if you do see a bunch of cards that would have been great synergy for Bob... well, if you had kept them, maybe they could have synergized with each other for you too.

Quote:
And my friends all did similar.
Once groupthink infects a group, it's hard to see outside it. Try playing with different groups who like the draft and see the game played differently.

Quote:
But then, even though Mars may have shot up the rankings on a slew of positive first impression scores, it has also managed to stay up there, so I'm feeling like people who have many many repeated plays are getting something that my friends and I are missing...
I agree.

Quote:
Do you think another 10 or so plays might give that inspiration to push enjoyment back in to the 9s, or just figure it's not for us and move on to other games?
I think you should rethink some of your assumptions about drafting.
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Florian Ruckeisen
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tibbles wrote:
I should have been clearer in the OP, it's not just the drafting we soured on, it's the whole card drawing experience tied to drafting. The whole end result of the card draw phase tends to be us not very excited about what we just drew and glancing forlornly at the discard pile.

In that case, my long-ish post from before was probably not all that helpful. I thought the issue was about the card draws / drafting leading to results that are uneven between the players.

Quote:
To give a serious example, I did play another game tonight, no drafting. Ended in round 9 and figure a couple free card draws, so call it 45 cards drawn. I ended with 10 green, 3 blue, and 3 events played, 1 card having been a wasted play. I also discarded 2 for cash, I think 1 I had bought and 1 was a free draw. I'd say that's about average for me. Maybe not that exact distribution, but ~16 cards played. That's a keep rate of 35%. What do you think? High? Low? Average?

I would say 'low', but it really depends heavily on several factors - chief among them how expensive the cards you did play were. Also your kind of engine: If you go for card discounts and rebates, or for steel/titanium production, then you're bound to play more cards to make use of that. Plus, if you're Tharsis or Thorgate, then it's a fairly good deal to use standard projects for cities or power, respectively.
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Brett Moon
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The bump theory is indeed a phenomena. Once you've played a couple of times you start to formulate ideas and strategies which may or may not come to fruition. If you take risks and try new ideas - you'll probably hit a few flat spots where nothing seems to work out. But this is more prevalent in interactive games. Once you start recognizing patterns, learn what works, and, in the case of TFM, learn the cards then plans will start coming together more often.

Don't overthink it, TFM isn't a deep game nor does it have a lot a strategic decisions to make besides medium-term cost/resource management. The early and late game cost/resource management decisions are more obvious.
 
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