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Terraforming Mars: Venus Next» Forums » General

Subject: Too much synergy between Hoverlord and Venuphile? rss

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Daniel Wigren
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One of the my favorite elements of Terraforming Mars is the milestones and awards as they bring great player interaction. What milestones should I aim for, what awards will be taken and how should I position myself for that? Great questions that are a big part of the game.

The game became even better for me when Hellas and Elysium was released. Not only because of the new maps that were very interesting, but most of all for the new milestones and awards. I really appreciated the game design of these. First of all they interact in a great way with the map. If I aim for the Desert Settler (award for placement below the equator) I won´t get the great bonuses on the equator. But they also avoid having synergy with each other. Polar explorer (milestone for having 3 tiles on the bottom 2 rows) is not played together with Desert Settler. Tycoon (milestone for having 15 green and blue cards) is not played together with Magnate (award for most green cards) and Excentric (award for most cubes on blue cards). Builder (milestone for having 8 building tags) is not played together with Contractor (award for most building tags), and so on. Very few milestones give an advantage when you compete for the awards.

In Venus Next the milestone Hoverlord (have 7 floaters) and the award Venuphile (most Venus tags in play) is introduced. As I interpret the rule, both of these should be added to the game when you play the expansion. For me, this raises the question if they have too much synergy? So far (base game and Hellas and Elysium) there has been no clear synergy between the milestones and the awards, but if you play with both Hoverlord and Venuphile, there is a clear synergy. There are 10 blue cards in the expansion that can add a floater to a card (7 that don´t have a requirement to play), so you will have to play a combination of these to get the Hoverlord milestone. All of these 10 cards have a Venus tag.

This potential problem becomes evident when you play with one of the new corporations "Morning Star Inc." (you start with a Venus tag and draw 3 Venus cards as your first action) and "Celestic" (Venus tag + draw 2 floater cards). With both of these corporations, after your first action, it will be clear to you if you can grab Hoverlord in the game or not (both of these companies have a great chance of grabbing it). You will also have a big advantage against your opponents in the amount of Venus tags you start the game with (3 or 4 tags more than your opponent on average, not counting your starting 10 cards, that may or may not have more tags than average). With these companies, the setup will a lot of the times be that it will be a pretty easy road to claim Hoverlord, and it will be a very easy road to win Venupile.

In my opinion, to be able to know before the game starts that you will win an award and/or a milestone diminishes the player interaction that were so great on the maps. There are of course companies that are better for certain milestones/awards, and there are tactics that are better for certain milestones/awards. But so far, no tactic or company have been really good for winning both a milestone and an award. This changes in Venus Next. Do you guys agree with this? Is there a reason for this? Is it even a problem?
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Daniel Wigren
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Another potential problem with Hoverlord is that is a very narrow milestone. To be able to grab the milestone, you will most likely have to play at least 2 blue cards that can add a floater to a card in the first 2-3 rounds. Since there is 10 cards in the deck that can do this (and only 7 without a requirement), and there is 250 cards in the deck, there is a very slim chance that this will be possible. The 2 new corporations however, they can reveal cards until they get venus tags/floater cards, and that increses the chances drasticly to get atleast 2 blue cards that can add floaters.

In my opinion, for a milestone to be great, several people should be able to compete for it. This is the case with all the milestones in the base game and Hellas and Elysium. However, since Hoverlord is so narrow, several people can most likely not compete for it (for it to happen, these 2 players need to get 4 out of 10 cards in the first 2-3 rounds, and that will happen very rarely). So when you go for Hoverlord, you are only required to complete the objective before all 3 milestones are taken. In many other cases, you are also competing against an opponent that is aiming for the same milestone as well (so even if you complete a milestone as the 2nd player, you can not claim the milestone you aimed for).

For the reasons in the original post, in combination with the above, our playing group is considering just to skip Hoverlord and not play with it. Is this a too drastic move?
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Ido Abelman
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I think you are incorrect on several accounts.

First, it's not true there were no clear synergies between milestones and awards in the base game. There we have mayor/gardener who lead to landlord, and also builder will often be claimed by a player who is in good position to compete for miner. Less clear synergies in Hellas/Elysium - but rim settler can go with space baron, polar explorer might be done with greeneries which leads to cultivator, and specialist on steel or energy leads to industrialist (in fact that is exactly what a celestic player did in my first game with Venus - he got the energy raising floater card and ignores hoverlord in favor of specialist, later funding industrialist).

On the other hand the synergy between hoverlord and Venuphile is really not that great... As you say you might get hoverlord with maybe 2 floater cards. Usually those cards remove their floaters to function so if you hoard the floaters to get hoverlord you don't build up the engine as efficiently. In the meanwhile someone else can build more Venus cards than you. There are also some event cards and the card "atmoscoop" that get you extra floaters without getting extra Venus tags - that's anti-synergy. Dirigibles is good for both the milestone and the award (accumulate floaters until you have 7 and then use them as payment for Venus cards). But cards that synergize with several milestones/awards do exist.

If anything hoverlord synergizes with "excentric" on hellas, much better than "tycoon" which you mention btw (you don't need a lot of cards for excentric, just a couple of resource generating ones and support, similar to how you don't need a lot of lot of Venus cards for hoverlord).

Also this is not true: "so far, no tactic or company have been really good for winning both a milestone and an award". Tharsis republic is good for mayor and banker, mining guild is good for builder and miner, ecoline is good for gardener and landlord, Saturn Systems (and possibly phobolog) is good for rim settler and space baron.

About the narrowness, is rim settler not as narrow? You need 3 out of 14 cards, while as you say hoverlord might need 2 out of 10 (I'd say 1 out of those 10 could be enough if it's the one that gets 2 floaters each turn or the one that starts with 3 floaters, and maybe if you got one or more of the floater adding events). I've actually never seen any of those 2 milestones claimed, but I haven't played with them a lot. But is it really needed that several players will compete for each milestone? I find that rarely happens in practice for many of the regular milestones, especially I'd say planner from the base game. Often you are trying just to claim the milestone before 3 are claimed, and not before someone else claims it.

I see no reason to remove hoverlord, if the designers found it balanced I trust them. And from my plays it seems ok although I haven't seen it claimed yet - people prefer to spend their floaters usually. Did you actually play with it yet? Your post make it seem like you haven't played yet. I wouldn't remove an element before I played with it enough to be sure it's harmful for the game.
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Daniel Wigren
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Let's keep this civil and not come with accusations straight away. You say that you haven't played with them a lot, but don't assume I haven't.

You are very correct that you don't want to hoard floaters. Hoverlord feels a lot like Planner (16 cards in your hand). It's a waste of tempo to hoard them, but if you play it correctly it won't cost you too much tempo, and you gain some of that tempo back in later rounds.

With Morning Star and Celestic we have noticed that it is almost a guarantee to get both Hoverlord and Venuphile. And with those corporations I can claim Venuphile about 3 generations earlier than most other awards with other corporations (and be sure of a victory). Combined with a fairly easy milestone in Hoverlord for these corporations (and almost impossible for the other corporations), this could be an issue. That's why I made the post. I don't mind if a corporation has a very easy time to win 1 milestone/award. But could it be too easy for Morning Star and Celestic to claim 2 because of the synergy between the corp/milestone/award?

I am not going to argue over small details, but I don't agree that the synergys between the companies and the milestones/awards you bring up are "really good". Some are decent (Ecoline/gardener/landlord for example, but it will have a hard time to claim Gardener in time without sacrificing tempo), most I don't agree with at all (to claim Banker before everyone has passed in the last round, or you lead with 20+ production, is suicide).

Rim Settler is my least favorite milestone of the 15 on the maps. It is narrow indeed, but since we draft cards in our games there can be competition for that milestone. If someone has Saturn, 2 companies can have 2 jovian tags each after only 3 cards are played. With that said, Hoverlord is even more narrow, and that's not a good thing imo. I like the broader milestones better.
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Ido Abelman
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Sorry if I came out as accusing. Something about the original post made it seem like it's mostly theoretical, so I wondered if it's backed by experience. Actually now it seems likely you have more experience with the expansion than me (I played only 3 times with it) so I'm the more theoretical one

Anyways in general I personally dislike tweaking. I prefer to work "within the system" trusting the designer that he made it interesting and fun enough even if not completely balanced. But it's your game, so do what you want if you think it will make it more fun. Removing milestones and awards is much easier than anything else in the game because they are so decoupled from anything else.

I'd still say from my limited experience and some theory that it doesn't seem too bad but I need to play more to see. I think it's not so much that the milestones are synergetic with each other (they are not so much synergetic IMO, not more than several other pairs) but that the corporations get a good leg-up on both.

Although is MSI really that good for hoverlord? I won't doubt your experience but it didn't seem so much to me. When I played with MSI in the last game I only got one floater card (dirigibles) while another player got 3. I think he could go for hoverlord though it might have been too late. Celestic is obviously good for it but it's somewhat of a trade-off as you say. I didn't see even the Celestic player claim it in the game I played with that corp, as he went for specialist in energy using deuterium export instead.

MSI does get a very good leg-up for Venuphile - one starting tag and 3 cards guaranteed to have that tag. Celestic gets a leg-up that is not as good - ideally the two cards they get will have venus tags but it might not be the case as some floater cards don't have the Venus tag. In both cases you need to play the cards you get so it's not really free tags, and a lucky (or heavily card-drawing) opponent might get as many cards during the game.

In my first game Celestic did get Venuphile but we didn't compete for it (that player actually got 2 awards and a milestone [not hoverlord] that game but didn't win!). In my last game in which I played MSI I was afraid to fund Venuphile because others went for Venus too. I ended up being ahead on Venus tags anyway, but if I had funded Venuphile early my opponents might have competed more aggressively.

I do need to play more to have a better understanding of those issues. I'll likely not remove the milestone and award but of course, do remove them if you feel that makes the game better for you.
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David Stahle
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wigrend wrote:
With Morning Star and Celestic we have noticed that it is almost a guarantee to get both Hoverlord and Venuphile. And with those corporations I can claim Venuphile about 3 generations earlier than most other awards with other corporations (and be sure of a victory). Combined with a fairly easy milestone in Hoverlord for these corporations (and almost impossible for the other corporations), this could be an issue. That's why I made the post. I don't mind if a corporation has a very easy time to win 1 milestone/award. But could it be too easy for Morning Star and Celestic to claim 2 because of the synergy between the corp/milestone/award?


I very much agree. For me it becomes problematic (in 4-5 player games when there is more competition for milestones/awards and they have a bigger impact on your total score) for the same reasons already mentioned.

1. The strong synergy between them. All floater cards also have a venus tag. If you go for Hoverlord you will most likely also get points from Venuphile. There is no trade-off and therefore less opportunity for the players who missed out on milestones to compete for awards instead.

2. In combination with Hellas & Elysium maps the different milestones & awards give the players a much appreciated variation. Depending on the board/milestones/awards and starting hand different corporations become interesting. In the rules for Venus next Hoverlord and Venuphile should be in EVERY game. This in combination with the relative ease Celestial and MSI have to claim them it makes for less interesting competition and it feels like it provides less variation?

Was it the desingers intent that Hoverlord and Venuphile should be included on all maps as the only permanent milestone/award (when playing with venus next cards/corps)? Are the corps power based on these or are they competitive without them?
 
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Flight Doc
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I wonder if the designers’ vision was to encourage the new cards’ use. If there are no milestones or awards with them in each game, there’s less incentive to play those cards. Don’t forget, nothing prevents someone from funding other awards first. This would require that Venuphile from coughing up more cash to fund his sure thing award. Make him bleed for it, I say.

I do agree that Celestic has an advantage for Hoverlord, but Ecoline has one for the Ecologist and so on and so forth. Let’s not forget, a lot of this game is luck driven (card draws, etc) as well as tactics (board play, etc) and strategy (cards purchased vs more money on hand, etc). So just outplay your opponents. Real life deals some people good hands and others not. This game literally does this. The challenge is sometimes to overcome the odds and crush your opponents anyway.
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