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Subject: Playing with Sand rss

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Seth
Netherlands
Eindhoven
Noord Brabant
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Caveat: this article sprouts my opinion for 3 to 5 player games. I have no experience playing with 2.

In the beginning, when this game was fresh, people stated that FCM was a pure sandbox. Anything would go and there where infinite possibilities on who you could hire and when and absolutely stay in competition for the win. Not much later opinions started to shift towards scripted plays, or at the very least limited choices in the opening moves, stating that beyond the Recruiting Girl (RG) or Trainer (Tr.) (some would even like to go so far as to say Recruiting Girl only) there was little point in picking up a first turn Marketing Trainee (MarT) or Errand Boy (Eboy), let alone any of the others.

For me personally, I’m with one foot and four toes in one camp and my tiny toe in the other. See, I tend to agree that on an individual player level there are only two relevant choices for the first turn hire: Recruitment Girl or Trainer. I have yet to see any good results with Errand Boy or Marketing Trainee apart from the occasional win by a very experienced player at an otherwise newbie table.
But, and this is important, on an individual level this limit in choice is only for the first turn. With RG as an opener, I’ve seen people successfully continuing their game with a second turn RG – Eboy and RG – MarT combo’s, as well as exotic plays like RG (2x) and RG – Waitress (Wai) or the entirely feasible Eboy – MarT or MarT (2x). With trainer there are slightly less configurations in my opinion, but still enough to keep things fresh.

So if I’m that much in favor of declaring: Sandbox! Why do I keep a tiny toe in the Scripting section? Well this has to do with my personal observations that more and more games are “scripted in a if-then-else” kind of way, for a big part depending on relevant distance of players towards each other (yes, yes and board set up too, I know, I know), with more distance in between players, usually seeing more variation in openings. I’m also noting a heavier leaning to T1 RG => T2 RG – MarT or RG – Eboy above all other T2 hiring options.

This means that for me the Sandbox is not in the choices per player, but for the collective board as a whole. Per game, you will see 2-4 RG picks and 1-2 (I’ve never seen 3-4 Trainers get picked first turn, never) Trainer choices. But from turn 2 and onwards these games diverse in all kinds of ways to some spectacular permutations. Only time will tell if this level of Sandboxiness will prevail or if on a meta level games will start to fall into similar patterns each time.

As an example of the diversity (as well as the opening scriptiness) this game displays, I have made two decision trees that came out of the first two rounds of a tournament currently in play via boardgamecore.net.
In it, 16 players at 4 tables per round all try to outwit each other partly by branching out their trees to suit their individual needs. In all cases you can see that the players feel that their opening move is guided by either a necessity for Trainer or Recruiting Girl. And as far as tables go, opening moves are limited to either 1 Tr. – 3x RG or 4x RG. But after that first round things spread out pretty quickly. Meaning that from turn 4 onwards no table is the same in terms of hiring / training choices anymore.

So is it a Sandbox? Definitely! But not from the get go and definitely not on the individual or table level (from the start). And where for the individual I feel things are still a bit hazy as to whether or not the Sandbox is big enough. I wholeheartedly support the idea of a Sandbox from a collective perspective. I’m convinced the diversity is there, early, and that the box is big enough for all the kids to find their flavor of fun.

Cheers,

Seth

Below, you can find the decision trees in question. How to read them? Each change in color marks when first a table becomes unique and then all players hiring and training choices have become unique. This can happen in one instance of course, hence the skipping of a shade when appropriate. The purple color marks which combo won a particular game.

Round 1


Round 2
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