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Subject: How am I supposed to be setting up the map+factions? rss

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Philip Morton
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I'm having trouble keeping straight what order things are supposed to be set up and selected at the start of the game. Some things go in player order, some things go in reverse player order, and the map has three sets of not-entirely-clear rules with nothing explaining what impact the different types of setup will have on the game.

I'm not sure if this would be a more appropriate question under Variants, as it might be influenced a bit by my group's tendencies. We don't like the idea of freely selecting from every race because we expect that we'll groupthink our way into only playing the same combinations, and we don't like the idea of a static map if a dynamic map is an option. We were never really solid on the best way to run things in Terra Mystica for race selection, either (sometimes we handed out random boards and let the player choose a side; sometimes we randomly selected a side for each color and used the auction rules).

Our first game of Gaia Project we used a fully random map and did the "random board, choose a side" thing, and it felt like one player got screwed having no planets at all in the center hexes (and therefore no chance to leech power in the first few rounds). Okay, so that explains why some of the mapmaking variants suggest starting with tiles 1-4 in the center, I guess, but I still feel like I'm missing details. Are 1-4 supposed to be oriented randomly or aligned? (Any loss of randomness feels....bad. I like variability.)

I saw a post where someone had a list of things they try to avoid, like large clusters of planets and all planets of a type on one side of the map, but I don't see how you would actually implement something like that and still end up with a random map. Anything other than full randomness requires someone to be in control of it, map-by-committee sounds like a pain, but my group is...rather sensitive to any perceived unfair advantage, so I'm not sure it would fly if I said "one player makes a map that looks good", unless I could justify it with something like "the player who's going to pick race last forms the map, because that will force them to make something fair."

I'm pretty sure the map, technology tile layout, scoring tiles, and...the turn tiles (bonus tiles?) should all be known before race picking....

How is selecting of all the setup things supposed to go? Races clockwise from starting player, then snake-drafted initial mines again starting from starting player, then bonus tiles in reverse order from last player?

Right now my plan for the races is to select a random side for each color board and let players choose from those. (The goal is to avoid, e.g., Lantids never get played because everyone thinks Terrans are stronger on the same layout.) Are there any problems this causes that I'm not seeing? Is there a better way I should be doing things?
 
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Brent Celmins
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Everything gets set up: the map, the scoring tiles, the tech tiles, the endgame scoring conditions, the round boosters, and then players pick a faction in turn order.

Setup is pretty straightforward in pages 4-7 of the rulebook. For the first game, the rulebook suggests selecting among recommended factions.

Then on Page 19 under Advanced Setup:

Quote:
The first player chooses any one of the seven faction boards, then chooses either of the factions on it and places the board on the table with that side faceup. Continuing in clockwise order, each other player does the same with the remaining faction boards.


By handing out random faction boards to players, you are taking away the first-- and arguably most important-- decision point of the game players have. Each faction has a different strategy and style of play that does better under certain conditions.

There are a lot of considerations when picking a faction. Some are seriously crippled by specific endgame scoring conditions. Others are preferred when the tech tiles come out a certain way.

You can't really make an informed decision as to what faction will perform better under which maps and scoring conditions until you've had several plays to understand how the game works. Randomizing the map on the first play seems like madness to me. TM's static map is still holding up for hardcore players five years later. I plan on using the standard setup in Gaia Project for a while.
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Kester J
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Chrondeath wrote:
I'm not sure it would fly if I said "one player makes a map that looks good", unless I could justify it with something like "the player who's going to pick race last forms the map, because that will force them to make something fair."


Fortunately, this is exactly one of the rules included with the game: player 4 makes the map as part of setup, before picking factions. Note that there's a very important typo in the English rules: they incorrectly state that player 4 makes the map after picking factions instead, which would obviously let them make a very unbalanced map in their favour. The correct rule strongly encourages them to make a fair map.

In general, the setup of GP introduces huge amounts of variability even without the variable map, and you can end up with setups slanted towards particular factions just from the tech and scoring tiles. The rulebook then throws a selection of mapmaking rules at you and essentially says "I don't know, do whatever seems best to you." Every time I've played with a truly random map it's been really quite imbalanced in favour of a particular colour (and away from others, as you describe) and I think it's a bad idea if you want a competitive game. So far I've been encouraging people to just use the basic map from the rulebook, but if you're keen to use different maps each game then my feeling is that you should be using this chance to make a map that is slightly (but not over-the-top) inhospitable to those factions who are advantaged by the rest of the setup.

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I'm pretty sure the map, technology tile layout, scoring tiles, and...the turn tiles (bonus tiles?) should all be known before race picking....

How is selecting of all the setup things supposed to go? Races clockwise from starting player, then snake-drafted initial mines again starting from starting player, then bonus tiles in reverse order from last player?


Yes, this is all correct.
 
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John john
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After 6 games with player 4 makes the map after picking factions, the board is too unbalanced. Some player can't play easy regardless scoring tiles.
 
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Robert
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BEWARE!

There's an error in the English rules regarding when the 4th player modifies the map!

The errata is here: Errata Variable Game Board Setup

Quote:
Page 19, Variable Game Board, correct text:
Do not assemble the board as normal. Instead, before players have chosen their factions, the last player in turn order assembles the game board. Alternatively, players can agree to assemble the game board together.

The rules read "after" which makes no sense because the last player could then set up the board in his/her favor.
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Robert
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In reply to the OP: as you have found out the hard way, maximum randomness of the map is not desirable.

Which is why I described elsewhere how I set up randomized maps without putting the burden of "balancing" the map on some poor player just because he/she happens to be 4th. It's taking a TM expert to propose a somewhat balanced TM map (which then needs further tweaking since some faction might turn out to be OP), so why should a normal GP player be able to do this in a minute or three?

DocCool wrote:
My approach is to keep the center four map tiles fixed, and position the rest around it randomly. Rotate each outer hex until
- no two planets of same color are adjacent or in the same cluster (also for Gaia planets, but not for Transdim planets)
- no cluster of five or more planets exists
- (optional) for each faction color, there are two "outer" map tiles with a planet of this color whose connection passes through a map tile without that color
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Space Trucker
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Chrondeath wrote:
Our first game of Gaia Project we used a fully random map and did the "random board, choose a side" thing, and it felt like one player got screwed having no planets at all in the center hexes (and therefore no chance to leech power in the first few rounds).

Honestly this just had to go wrong, especially in a first game...
Randomly assigning factions usually leads to some players getting good/bad positions and "just shuffle all sectors, then play" is not a variant suggested in the rulebook for a reason.

Chrondeath wrote:
Okay, so that explains why some of the mapmaking variants suggest starting with tiles 1-4 in the center, I guess, but I still feel like I'm missing details. Are 1-4 supposed to be oriented randomly or aligned? (Any loss of randomness feels....bad. I like variability.)

Options suggested in the rulebook are:
- fixed beginner's setup (I'd strongly suggest this for at least the first game - I mean you have never seen it before, so it can hardly lack variability)
- fixed sectors 1-4 in the center, random sectors 5-10 at the border and last player rotating sectors 5-10 to balance them (I'd suggest this next after the fixed setup, until it starts feeling repetetive)
- random sectors 1-4 in the center, random sectors 5-10 at the border and last player rotating all sectors to balance them (I'd suggest this only once you have a feeling what "balanced board" means)
- all sectors sectors 1-10 random and last player rotating all sectors to balance them (I'd suggest this only once you really have a feeling what "balanced board" means)

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Ryan Wolfe
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Does "rotate" include "flip", or are the tiles supposed to stay with whatever side up they are initially (randomly) placed with?

I know the solid vs empty number thing matters for the default set up. Does it matter for the advanced set up?
 
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Scott Lewis
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I'm no expert, but I don't think you should flip it. The back side of those tiles that have two sides have a few less planets, and are used to prevent an over-glut of planets for lower player games.
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Space Trucker
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0 hr wrote:

Does "rotate" include "flip", or are the tiles supposed to stay with whatever side up they are initially (randomly) placed with?

I know the solid vs empty number thing matters for the default set up. Does it matter for the advanced set up?

Of course it matters - else there wouldn't be two sides. If you flip it, you'll change the number of planets in game. E.g. with sector 6 you'll have one brown planet less - which will surely harm balance. Besides on other backsides than 5-7 you wouldn't have any planets at all. So just rotating around the vertical axis - no flipping, no exchanging, no removing,.... meeple
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Robert
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Asking somebody to "balance" a GP map by rotating sectors sets high expectations and is going to be a tricky business, even when that somebody has a dozen games or two under his belt.

I'd go with "avoid obvious imbalances", i.e. most planets of a color in one half of the map, or in the same cluster, or very large clusters (which also will make it hard to create federations around them).
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Space Trucker
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DocCool wrote:
Asking somebody to "balance" a GP map by rotating sectors sets high expectations and is going to be a tricky business, even when that somebody has a dozen games or two under his belt.

I'd go with "avoid obvious imbalances", i.e. most planets of a color in one half of the map, or in the same cluster, or very large clusters (which also will make it hard to create federations around them).
Especially multiple home planets of the same color within low range are critical, as this enables players to expand quickly without investing much into terraforming or long range navigation. Somewhere we had an example of an Ambas player who reported a landslide win with very high score and apparently had most homeplanets within reach of navigation 1 (which an experienced player at last seat should never let happen).
 
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James Wolfpacker
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When I assemble a fully random board, here's what I do to check for balance:

1. Are any homeworlds touching? If yes rotate sectors until no.
2. Are there any clumps larger than 4? If yes rotate sectors until no and #1 still holds. One or 2 clumps larger than 4 might be ok if it has a large variety of planets i.e. no one faction can build on all of the clump using only QIC, 0 or 1 terraform step.
3. Pick a random homeworld (say blue for this example).
4. Check all of the blue planets to see if they are "mostly" NAV3 away from each other and not all to one side of the galaxy or all to the outside. If sector rotation needed then start at the top of the checklist again.
5. If at some point it becomes apparent after a repeated step 4-6 that a sector swap might be needed try swapping 2 outside sectors. If this doesn't work, try swapping an outside and an inside.
6. Repeat step 4 for all homeworld planets clockwise around the terraform wheel.


Usually this results in a fairly balanced board. You might have to accept 1 color getting a bad galaxy.

I will say that once during playtesting, we played a galaxy that we purposely set to have several faction's homeworlds at NAV2. It was fun so don't be afraid to do that either as long as there are at least 5 factions that have that available.


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Philip Morton
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Okay, I think I get the map thing overall: last player is definitely supposed to make the map, is forced to try to make it balanced because he'll be choosing races last, and all the "Why won't you just TELL me how to make the map?" mapmaking variants in the back are options to assist the last player in that task, with the fixed map being the fallback if the last player decides they've got no idea what a balanced map should look like.

That makes sense; I was mentally considering the fixed map to be a tutorial-game-only thing, like restricting the factions to four. (I hate restricted-rule-set tutorials / recommended first game layouts.)

And that at least requires that the faction selection allow all the colors, but then I'm still concerned about the game devolving into the same factions every time or some factions never being played. I believe in all our plays of Terra Mystica, Giants got played once. None of the factions jumped out at us as obviously "avoid this" as Giants did, but I am....shall we say, curious about the combination of setup factors that would lead one to favor Lantids over Terrans (cross-color imbalance within the group could be addressed somewhat by the mapmaking, I suppose).
 
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David Baum
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As an expert variant, and to increase variability even more, you could just set up the planets completely randomly and bid points to go first (and second - fourth). That way, if you think that the setup grossly favors one faction, you would be willing to give your opponent(s) some points to ensure you get that faction.
 
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Robert
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I've found situations where rotating map tiles didn't suffice to avoid imbalances - I actually needed to exchange two outer map tiles in order to satisfy my sense of balance.
 
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James Wolfpacker
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DocCool wrote:
I've found situations where rotating map tiles didn't suffice to avoid imbalances - I actually needed to exchange two outer map tiles in order to satisfy my sense of balance.


Yeah you're right about this. I've had to do this a couple of times and it's not in my procedure either so I'll update it.
 
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Cabal Paxiarch
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"Note that there's a very important typo in the English rules: they incorrectly state that player 4 makes the map after picking factions instead, which would obviously let them make a very unbalanced map in their favour. The correct rule strongly encourages them to make a fair map"

How does one figure this is a typo. The rules clearly state on page 19 that you pick factions before setting the board. Just because one disagrees with this doesn't mean it's a typo.
 
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Robert
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It's not a typo. It's a wrong translation, which the designers have corrected in an Errata. If you read the thread you'll find the link under the BEWARE header.
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