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Subject: Problem with Balance rss

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adam wilson

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Cole Wehrle wrote:
Believe me, this game is plenty tense.


More importantly, it's relatively short. If you are hopelessly behind due to bad decisions the game will be over quickly.
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J Bernardo
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I haven't noticed a problem with balance as of yet; however there are issues of concern.

1) I don't think the WA or Vagabond are weaker factions, but I do think the learning curve to play them well is higher. They are in no way as straight forward as the Cat or the Eyrie, which can feel like an imbalance with new players.

2) Due to the current PnP rules, it is possible for the Eyrie to be knocked out of the game entirely if they lose their final roost. It could have happened in one of our games; however, the Cat wasn't that mean of a player. (But he could have been). I want to see how Cole addresses this in the final release. Currently, in our game group, we're deciding between:

1. Eyrie can't lose their final roost.
2. After turmoil, a new leader can create a new roost if none exist.

This being said, I have been really enjoying the PnP. It's fun and has been hitting the table frequently. The theme is deceptive. It is a mean game. Turtling will lose you the game. You're constantly trying to slow down your opponents engines; otherwise, they will crush you. I've seen the cat score well over ten points in a turn. The Eyrie can be a natural clock for the game if left unchecked and not dealt with early on. The Vagabond and the WA usually start off friendly; however, the Vagabond will eventually steal and slow down WA's card draw. It can be quite a brutal game; however, it is finished in under 90 minutes. Great game, Cole!


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adam wilson

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evilpanda wrote:
2) Due to the current PnP rules, it is possible for the Eyrie to be knocked out of the game entirely if they lose their final roost. It could have happened in one of our games; however, the Cat wasn't that mean of a player. (But he could have been). I want to see how Cole addresses this in the final release. Currently, in our game group, we're deciding between:

1. Eyrie can't lose their final roost.
2. After turmoil, a new leader can create a new roost if none exist.


We had a two player game where the Eyrie jumped out to an early lead, the Cats played the aptly named Chaos victory card and the Eyrie went into turmoil 3 turns in a row to try to avoid losing. Do the Eyrie auto lose if they go into turmoil 4 times? I don't know how this would play out in a 3-4 player game.
 
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Cole Wehrle
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All leaders become available if the fourth one is discarded.
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Fabian
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Just wanted to chime in here: thank you so much Adam for teaching the game on tts. I liked it way more than I thought I should.

I only played in the last game Adam mentioned and boy did it not feel like I was being a pacifist. I was the cats and went for the birds' throat right at the beginning, and I got to use the mob to burn lots of green buildings. I ended up at second place with 36 victory points very close to a win but the stupid raccoon snatched it with an avalanche of points coming in from behind.

The Alliance was indeed very behind, but I don't dare comment on balance just yet, I'd really like to play as them to figure them out.

I love what I played of this and immediately backed it - in the last 6 hours of the campaign. So happy I made it in.
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Ethan Furman
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adam wilson wrote:
We had a two player game where the Eyrie jumped out to an early lead, the Cats played the aptly named Chaos victory card ...

The Chaos Victory card is supposed to be removed in games with less than four players.
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Mark Turner
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Cole Wehrle wrote:
By design, the conflict and noise of the deck/dice will usually produce a situation where 1-2 players at the table will be soundly out-of-contention in the early game. The special victory conditions exist precisely for these players. So, if the WA gets beat on early, they get to play spoiler. This is probably my favorite part of the game so far.


Interesting, and curious. So, in any one game, there will be a loser by design, so they will automatically play the spoiler if they can? But what if they can't? (Or is it always possible?)

That makes this an unusual game. So we know that in the end there will be quite different victory conditions for different factions, but we don't know which faction will be which until after a couple of rounds...

I think the challenge for new players will be communicating all this early on and up front. I liked the way you did a teaching guide for Pax Pamir, also often not intuitive to start with until the game concepts become clear... perhaps you could do one for Root, which is included in the package.

A one page statement which lays out the broad possibilities and game flow at the outset, so noone is left feeling short-changed.
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Sarge Tate
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I will say though that I am not sure the Alliance is ever really out of contention. The one game that I played as them, I thought they were - I was sitting on single digit Victory Points while the cats and birds had over 20 each. Then I was no longer a threat and got left alone for a couple of turns which let me build up enough supporters to start dropping conspiracies that totalled to 10+ VPs and within three turns I was poised for the win while the cats and birds had sunk themselves into a bitter war with no exit strategy.
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Justen Brown
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I definitely think more discussion should be made in game design about creating an engaging experience even if it comes at the cost of balance. Nobody will say Twilight Struggle or A Distant Plain are balanced games, but rarely have I heard anyone say they're not engaging.

Leder needs to be particularly careful how they advertise Root as it's very much designed from a school of conflict simulation but is presented to an audience that has little experience with them.
 
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Adam Olejarczyk
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How to win as Birds Dairy #1:
https://imgur.com/a/SO1hK

After few turns, bird army march around and got roast on board. Forces of Alliance, Vagabond and Marquise the Cat join and try to prevent them from victory. I even go to turmoil to handicap myself to help Green player get more points since i will end game in few more turns. The Last battle with cats was on Mouse territory. Bird Commander lead his army to suicide mission to fight Cat empire. 5 warriors of Birds vs 3 warriors of Cats. Winner could be only one in this fight. Battle was draw 2 my hits to 2 hits of my opponent. Cats fall back to keep with some mouse support from woods but this doesn't matter for Birds. They just lay down roast and claim their victory.

The best part was when Woodland Alliance just played Chaos Victory Condition. Ye fun card to play when your opponents do well and you can just quack them over even if you play horribly.
 
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Sarge Tate
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My second game, Alliance won but cats were sitting on 39 points so it was tight. Vagabond was waaay behind and birds we hovering just above 30.

Again, maybe the Eyrie player just wasn't very good but it was fairly easy to force him into turmoil every four to five turns or so by looking at his decree and blocking the actions that he was going to be forced to take next Daylight.
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Andrew Gross
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Cole Wehrle wrote:

By design, the conflict and noise of the deck/dice will usually produce a situation where 1-2 players at the table will be soundly out-of-contention in the early game. The special victory conditions exist precisely for these players. So, if the WA gets beat on early, they get to play spoiler. This is probably my favorite part of the game so far.


I have a very, very high degree of confidence that you are in a small minority of people that would find it interesting or fun to be out of contention to win by conventional means early in a game, but have a highly random chance of pulling out a deus ex machina victory due to drawing a random card. I have equally high confidence that the overwhelming majority of players consider a game that even allows kingmaking to be flawed; one that actively encourages it is so contrary to every reasonable conception of 'fun' that I am familiar with that I almost cannot grasp what I have just read.

Even if I found other parts of the game so compelling that I was willing to overlook this strange design philosophy, it wouldn't matter, because I know literally zero people that would ever want to play again after being put in that position, regardless of whether their lucky card came through or not. I'd rather not burn my credibility with them by introducing them to the game in the first place.

The only other time I can recall being this perplexed by a design philosophy was when Yomi introduced Master Menelker, and David Sirlin stated that his design goal was to make it frustrating and irritating to play against that character. To this day, I cannot fathom how a game designer could think that was a good goal to pursue. I put "by design people are going to be out of the game early" and "they get to play spoiler" in the same bucket.
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Andrés Santiago Pérez-Bergquist
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andrewgr wrote:
Cole Wehrle wrote:

By design, the conflict and noise of the deck/dice will usually produce a situation where 1-2 players at the table will be soundly out-of-contention in the early game. The special victory conditions exist precisely for these players. So, if the WA gets beat on early, they get to play spoiler. This is probably my favorite part of the game so far.


I have a very, very high degree of confidence that you are in a small minority of people that would find it interesting or fun to be out of contention to win by conventional means early in a game, but have a highly random chance of pulling out a deus ex machina victory due to drawing a random card. I have equally high confidence that the overwhelming majority of players consider a game that even allows kingmaking to be flawed; one that actively encourages it is so contrary to every reasonable conception of 'fun' that I am familiar with that I almost cannot grasp what I have just read.

Even if I found other parts of the game so compelling that I was willing to overlook this strange design philosophy, it wouldn't matter, because I know literally zero people that would ever want to play again after being put in that position, regardless of whether their lucky card came through or not. I'd rather not burn my credibility with them by introducing them to the game in the first place.

The only other time I can recall being this perplexed by a design philosophy was when Yomi introduced Master Menelker, and David Sirlin stated that his design goal was to make it frustrating and irritating to play against that character. To this day, I cannot fathom how a game designer could think that was a good goal to pursue. I put "by design people are going to be out of the game early" and "they get to play spoiler" in the same bucket.


Note that you don’t have to play the alternate victory card, any player can do it, then they become publicly available, and there’s a very high cost to hanging on to card from turn to turn to try to keep it from anyone else. Liberté shows this same pattern, of some players falling out of viable contention from the point race fairly early on, but there’s two alternate victory conditions to angle for instead; as someone who just pulled a Hail-Mary counter-revolution in Liberté on Monday, this makes for exciting, engaging gameplay.
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Alex S
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I think the alt win condition cards are brilliant since they add another layer to the game that only makes it deeper. Nothing worse that being out of contention to win and knowing there is nothing you can do about it.

Also pretty much all games that are not 2 player allow kingmaking. That’s a flaw (or not if you enjoy that type of thing) for all multiplayer games.

I was specifically attracted to this game because it was intially 4 player. And seems to offer a very dynamic and less conventional type of play that I think the majority of people will really enjoy.


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Tucker Taylor
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Cole, what's gained by having the alternate-win-condition cards as part of the deck, as opposed to having them freely available to be jumped on from the start of the game?
 
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Cole Wehrle
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andrewgr wrote:
Cole Wehrle wrote:

By design, the conflict and noise of the deck/dice will usually produce a situation where 1-2 players at the table will be soundly out-of-contention in the early game. The special victory conditions exist precisely for these players. So, if the WA gets beat on early, they get to play spoiler. This is probably my favorite part of the game so far.


I have a very, very high degree of confidence that you are in a small minority of people that would find it interesting or fun to be out of contention to win by conventional means early in a game, but have a highly random chance of pulling out a deus ex machina victory due to drawing a random card. I have equally high confidence that the overwhelming majority of players consider a game that even allows kingmaking to be flawed


This is not a fair characterization of how the special victory cards work, nor have we found players to react in that way.

As far as kingmaking goes, any sufficiently interactive game will feature kingmaking. Our scores are never wholly our own (some games are just better than hiding it than others). The trick is, as always, figuring out how to get other players to help you win.

JazzFish wrote:
Cole, what's gained by having the alternate-win-condition cards as part of the deck, as opposed to having them freely available to be jumped on from the start of the game?


Timing.

The game is designed in such a way that, by the mid game, ~2 alternate victory conditions will be available. In the late game usually all 4 have appeared in one way or another. Because they are not available at the start of the game, they can't be counted on, so players cannot play the early game as if they can rely on getting a specific victory condition. This creates friction between their mid-game positions and the goals required by the victory conditions.

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Adam Olejarczyk
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Koleman2 wrote:
I think the alt win condition cards are brilliant since they add another layer to the game that only makes it deeper. Nothing worse that being out of contention to win and knowing there is nothing you can do about it.

Also pretty much all games that are not 2 player allow kingmaking. That’s a flaw (or not if you enjoy that type of thing) for all multiplayer games.

I was specifically attracted to this game because it was intially 4 player. And seems to offer a very dynamic and less conventional type of play that I think the majority of people will really enjoy.



Alt win condition cards are brilliant but not stupid alternate win con. The problem is they don't make this game deeper but more flat. Since i can just do nothing entire game and just play a card to win. Yes this is funny but some ppl will feel rob from Victory since they commit to this game around 1 hour and half. Baaa i hate how they add forced "chaos" to the game. Me as Bird and friend as Cats got 33 points in game. Woodland slap chaos victory and you know what Raccon HAS TO SLOW DOWN GAINING VP points. You try to make happy place for player but you even make player fall of behind even more frustrated by that card and we big fish just play normaly since whatever whe are already in 33 points. The same goes to this stupid Coalition card. This cards is like "I give up play without me whatever". This victory condition doesn't give hope to player they give despair to players.
 
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Alex S
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I’m guessing the cards haven’t been finalized yet. Chaos victory does seem to be the weakest of the four cards in my opinion.

Always being prepared to counter these win conditions would factor in to my strategy. Screwing over your opponent seems like a major factor of this game as well and one of the reasons these cards are needed. Because of these victory cards the entire game isn’t only focused on points, which I believe can only add to it’s depth.

I need more plays to confirm my opinion but love the idea of them so far.

Edit: just had a thought What if the coalition and chaos victories were combined?!. The player with the lowest score has to accept the coalition or it turns into the chaos victory condition. This would give the other player an actual choice of forming an alliance instead of against their will. But this would require the creation of a new 4th victory condition to fill in the gap.
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Taylor Sabbag
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You might be dismissing his critique out of hand here, Cole. By your description, it seems that the victory conditions are not too random as they're pretty much guaranteed to have popped up in at least some hands. However, one thing I think andrewgr's critique might be targetting that you may not be refuting is the experience of new players. I have much less doubt that players who play this game a lot will enjoy it than I have about players who are just being introduced to this game. In essence, those who are willing to stick out the first game or two and suss out the ways of winning for the various factions will likely enjoy their continued stay. However, what about those whom are just learning. What has their feedback been? That seems like a tougher target audience to gain feedback from since most playtesters are likely to report after a few ganmes, rather than only their first.
 
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Fabian
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As someone who has played this twice now, the victory cards really don't seem like a big deal. They are super hard to accomplish and you have to announce them a turn ahead of everyone else.

In my last game I drew three of the victory cards as woodland alliance and even though I actually controlled the keep I never used any of them, instead using them to recruit more supporters. I never would have been able to have control of the keep for a whole turn if the cat really didn't want me to have it.

The Eyrie played the chaos card while me and the cat were at 34 points each, which would win them the game the next turn. To counter this I just made 6 points with a conspiracy by discarding some cards. That seems like a pretty easy way to deal with the chaos card. If you've got above 33 points, you're very close to winning already anyhow. Once you know it exists it might even be a deterrent to just keep churning your engine and will make you consider preparing for one big scoring turn.
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T.J.
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In the current game we're playing, alliance fell way behind and played coalition victory. I was a last place then as the Vagabond (we were all pretty close, except for Alliance) and he's been trying to help me ever since. But he hasn't really helped me, and he hasn't had many ways to do so. He worked hard to try to craft something to get me some items but I was already stacked. I might win this turn, and so will he but I don't feel like we've worked together or that he's done much to contribute to our victory. I considered aiding him or trying to make him stronger so he can help me, but it's just much better to go around killing birds and gifting cards to cats.
 
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Alex S
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Perrytom wrote:
In the current game we're playing, alliance fell way behind and played coalition victory. I was a last place then as the Vagabond (we were all pretty close, except for Alliance) and he's been trying to help me ever since. But he hasn't really helped me, and he hasn't had many ways to do so. He worked hard to try to craft something to get me some items but I was already stacked. I might win this turn, and so will he but I don't feel like we've worked together or that he's done much to contribute to our victory. I considered aiding him or trying to make him stronger so he can help me, but it's just much better to go around killing birds and gifting cards to cats.


Here is a perfect example, do you think combining the coalition/chaos cards would be better in this situation? You would probably still choose to form the coalition, but maybe not if you think you can win on your own. At least now you would have that option, and you no longer have to worry about a chaos card showing up.
 
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T.J.
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Koleman2 wrote:
Perrytom wrote:
In the current game we're playing, alliance fell way behind and played coalition victory. I was a last place then as the Vagabond (we were all pretty close, except for Alliance) and he's been trying to help me ever since. But he hasn't really helped me, and he hasn't had many ways to do so. He worked hard to try to craft something to get me some items but I was already stacked. I might win this turn, and so will he but I don't feel like we've worked together or that he's done much to contribute to our victory. I considered aiding him or trying to make him stronger so he can help me, but it's just much better to go around killing birds and gifting cards to cats.


Here is a perfect example, do you think combining the coalition/chaos cards would be better in this situation? You would probably still choose to form the coalition, but maybe not if you think you can win on your own. At least now you would have that option, and you no longer have to worry about a chaos card showing up.


In our game Choas was actually just played by the birds, as they were lagging behind us. I don't think it will help them because I think it's possible I'll be able to close it from 35 to 40 in my next turn (but we'll see).

In any case, as for your question - if it was up to me, I would definitely have rejected the alliance. Scores were way below 33, and so it would have created a really interesting situation for us. But I don't know what it would do for the alliance. What are they supposed to promote their own victory. Try to help us gain points against our will? these are really cool ideas but I don't think they do quite what they're supposed to be doing in the game at this stage.
 
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Alex S
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Very interesting. I’m not sure I like chaos victory or being forced into a coalition you don’t want. Just thought it was a neat idea that combining the two cards might actually improve them.
 
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Part of it is that it feels odd to be placed in a coalition when you don't want to. The other part is that it seems like you don't necessarily really work together in coalition. I'm sure that as players learn more of the strategic depth, you can do more to help your partner but in the case of the alliance helping the vagabond - at least for my limited experience, it seems like they don't have much to do.
 
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