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Subject: Is the rulebook poor? Are there rules that are easily overlooked? rss

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Mark Johnson
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@22:49 (Not sure if I linked it correctly)

In Board Game Opinions top 10 of 2017, they mentioned they had played almost 10 games of Gaia Project and almost always incorrectly in various ways. Just wondered if the people consider the rulebook poor. Also, what are the most easily overlooked rules (regardless of whether you're a 'TM game' newbie or not)?

I own this game and so, regardless of whether or not the rules are good, I need to learn this game. I would just like to play it as close to correctly as possible. I've only played TM a handful of times. What are the most easily overlooked/complex rules of the game?
 
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Re: Is the rulebook poor? Are there rules that are easily overlooked rules?
Quote:

In Board Game Opinions top 10 of 2017, they mentioned they had played almost 10 games of Gaia Project and almost always incorrectly in various ways. Just wondered if the people consider the rulebook poor. Also, what are the most easily overlooked rules (regardless of whether you're a 'TM game' newbie or not)?

I own this game and so, regardless of whether or not the rules are good, I need to learn this game. I would just like to play it as close to correctly as possible. I've only played TM a handful of times. What are the most easily overlooked/complex rules of the game?


I think the rulebook is very good and easy to understand. And Board Game Opinions actually has a video that teaches the rules almost perfectly in 45 minutes (the 2 errors are mentioned in the notes of the video). I highly recommend that tutorial.
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Re: Is the rulebook poor? Are there rules that are easily overlooked rules?
I think the rulebook is well done (not exceptional but better than most).

What makes it difficult, for most, is that if they have played Terra Mystica, they are coming to the game and the rules with certain preconceptions. Just as an example, during my first play, I generated power for each of my buildings surrounding where my opponents built rather than for the biggest building. This rule is clearly laid out in the rules, but it is different than you are used to if you are used to Terra Mystica. I think it is these preconceptions that were responsible for our rule mistakes.

That said - after the second game we had everything right. It took another read through of the rules, but aside from two mistakes, everything we played was correct. (1. was the above, 2. was that a Gaiaformed planet does not cost a QIC like a regular Green planet). After our first play, I reread through the rules and I didn't feel like I had any trouble learning/making sure we were playing correctly.
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Ken Thibodeau
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Re: Is the rulebook poor? Are there rules that are easily overlooked rules?
I'm in the process of learning the game and what stumbles me the most is that I have to unlearn TM to grasp PG. I'm confident it would be easier had I not played TM before because subtle tweaks have been made and it is easy to overlook them.

Edit: ninja'ed by Kolby
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Re: Is the rulebook poor? Are there rules that are easily overlooked rules?
fardoche wrote:
I'm in the process of learning the game and what stumbles me the most is that I have to unlearn TM to grasp PG. I'm confident it would be easier had I not played TM before because subtle tweaks have been made and it is easy to overlook them.

Edit: ninja'ed by Kolby


this is intersting. i feel the opposite. having taught this game to people that have played TM and not I'm confident the latter is much harder, at least it has been for me. it's at the point where i'd probably play a different game rather than teach GP to a group not familiar with TM.

it's interesting as i don't feel there's a ton to unlearn. you don't have end of round bonuses, terrarforming and shipping are combined into the tech track, favor tiles move from track to track by game... there are certainly things but so many other things you don't have to teach.
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Well the rules for forming federations is certainly a bit of a clusterfrack, as illustrated by this thread:

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1906761/forming-federation/...

The rest seemed straight forward enough, but Gaia (and TM) are not simple games, so there's lots of rules and therefore lots of opportunity for mistake even if the rules are not terrible.
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fardoche wrote:
I'm in the process of learning the game and what stumbles me the most is that I have to unlearn TM to grasp PG. I'm confident it would be easier had I not played TM before because subtle tweaks have been made and it is easy to overlook them.


I also disagree with this... knowing TM is a huge leg up.
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Ken Thibodeau
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colinmarsh wrote:
fardoche wrote:
I'm in the process of learning the game and what stumbles me the most is that I have to unlearn TM to grasp PG. I'm confident it would be easier had I not played TM before because subtle tweaks have been made and it is easy to overlook them.

Edit: ninja'ed by Kolby


this is intersting. i feel the opposite. having taught this game to people that have played TM and not I'm confident the latter is much harder, at least it has been for me. it's at the point where i'd probably play a different game rather than teach GP to a group not familiar with TM.

it's interesting as i don't feel there's a ton to unlearn. you don't have end of round bonuses, terrarforming and shipping are combined into the tech track, favor tiles move from track to track by game... there are certainly things but so many other things you don't have to teach.


Ha, interesting discussion indeed. Like you, I’d rather TEACH it to people that know TM because I could emphasize where the differences are. But for me, who LEARN GP from the rulebook, I have to make sure I don’t have preconceptions that make me overlook small differences and assume things for granted.
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I can only speak form the perspective of already being used to TM and from there learning the rules was a cakewalk as there is a good foundation of the core concepts to build on.

Easiest rules to miss (from the top of my head):

1) Declaring federations is by far the one most prone to errors. As the thread above shows, some edge cases were played wrong even by lead play-testers.

2) Forgetting to flip a federation tile in order to advance to L5 on a tech or to get an advanced tech

3) Differentiating between getting a tech (which results in a tech step) and getting a tech step via knowledge

4) Power in Gaia Bowl can't be accessed until after the income phase (also not for building satellites), where it returns to bowl I (II with Terrans). Be sure to stress this with TM players, as this might trip up some one planning for the next round in their first game.

5) Don't forget potential income from tech tracks.

Other than 1) and 2) I think the game is incredibly elegant and has a very smooth flow. It is like with TM, once you have learned the rules, you will probably be able to play the game for the rest of your life without ever needing to consult the rulebook again.
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Lapsus wrote:
fardoche wrote:
I'm in the process of learning the game and what stumbles me the most is that I have to unlearn TM to grasp PG. I'm confident it would be easier had I not played TM before because subtle tweaks have been made and it is easy to overlook them.


I also disagree with this... knowing TM is a huge leg up.


Same for me. I’ve taught this game to ~12 people now. I basically only had to explain differences between this and TM to those already familiar with the latter. Although I think the rules for this game are fairly intuitive, and rules overhead is slightly greater than medium, there is enough going on that new players stumble pretty hard out of the blocks a lot of times.

I think the rule book is good but not exceptional. There are a few rules that needed clarification, mostly related to faction abilities, terminology and some edge cases. And, unfortunately, the rule book came with a sheet of errata (two instances needed correction), but at least they caught that and rectified it before shipping.

Some of the rukes that new players seem to struggle with are explained well in the rules:
-spending 4 knowledge moves you up a tech track. Gaining a tech tile moves you up a respective tech track. You have to flip a federation tile, be on rank 4 or 5 of the respective tech track AND be in position to gain a tech tile in order to take one of the advanced tech tiles, then move up any track of your choice. Advanced tech tile must cover a pre-existing tech tile. Seems pretty straightforward to me, but I’ve seen new players struggle with those concepts for a few rounds.
-significant difference in leeching power in GP vs TM, but straightforward.
-satellite building rules seem fiddly in certain cases, but again, pretty simple rules.
-spend QIC to build on Gaia Planet, no terraforming cost, unless you have a gaiaformer on the planet, then you don’t have to spend the QIC, only building cost. Again, not complex but seems to cause a little confusion.
-Return power from Gaia area to bowl I in phase II, after income phase. I make sure to point out why that’s significant in the rules teach, but still, with all that’s going on, it catches new players flat-footed on occasion.
-no partial terraforming, that’s a difference between GP and TM. Plus, aside from the Gaia planet discs, there are no terrain discs. This is a significant improvement, imo.

These are just a couple rules outside of the individual faction abilities that I’ve noticed seem to cause some confusion.
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Count me in on those who found it easier to explain to people who already knew TM. Yes, you need to mention the differences, but they are well-defined. One thing I do say though is "please ask if you want to do something which we didn't discuss but can be done in TM - it may be different in GP".
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fardoche wrote:
I’d rather TEACH it to people that know TM because I could emphasize where the differences are.


This. Exactly this.

For my group, I learned GP from the rulebook. I found it pretty good (not counting the fact that my English copy included a piece of paper with a couple errata). The only part which confused me on first read through was forming a federation, but a visit to these forums cleared that up for me.

When learning the game myself, I found that already knowing TM was ultimately more of a help than a hindrance. Because of my TM knowledge, I could recognize that GP largely had the same overall game structure and elements. So when I read the rules, I wasn't trying to build up my mental picture of the game from nothing - I had some mental scaffolding supplied by my TM knowledge.

I quickly learned that GP differed from TM in many ways, but this just made me read the rules carefully, knowing that I couldn't assume any given TM concept would apply.

When it came time to teach everyone else, I found that it is orders of magnitude easier to teach someone who already knows TM. So many of my explanations started with "Just like TM" or "Unlike TM". Just the fact that so much of the iconography caries over from TM is very helpful, plus things like the power cycle, leeching, upgrading buildings, SH/PI powers, etc. Teaching the game to a TM veteran is very easy. Teaching the game to someone who doesn't already know TM is probably a little harder than teaching them TM, because I think TM is just a little less complicated. But not by much.

Anyway, regarding the OP question about the rulebook, I found it to be adequate. Not spectacular, but it gets the job done, provided you read it carefully (and search the forum when confused).
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This thread indicates that someone has made a summary of changes for TM players trying GP. I'm afraid I cannot find it.

If there is such a thing, I would be most grateful to be pointed to it.

Many thanks.
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Having TM under your belt makes it far easier to enter into both the rules and spirit of Gaia Project, I think. Understanding how to pace expansion, use many of the abilities, etc. Unlearning the differences of Terra Mystica were not at all difficult for me (except for the aforementioned Federations), and I actually just went back and played TM this afternoon with no problem flipping back and forth between the rules of the two games. (Side note: Terra Mystica is still very fun, even after 7 games of Gaia Project.) I am surprised that people are finding otherwise (how the heck do you pack all of Gaia Project into the mind of a new player! ).

Rules you could trip over:
- Federations. Read them rules carefully.
- Gaiaforming means you will NOT need a green cube to mine a the newly made green planet.
- the research big buildings can be built in either order
- watch out for the new mechanic of gaining and discarding power tokens: you both cycle and spend power, AND gain and lose disks!
- 4:1 knowledge-to-research-step actions have no impact on tech tile acquisition
- acquiring blue advanced techs means taking a step on any track


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- you need a green federation marker to flip to take an advanced technology, and also one to proceed to level 5 of a research track. If you only have one, you can't do both.
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I never played TM.
I find the rulebook OK. Could have been better, but good enough.
I found the Federations rules quite easy.

The rule I missed: at the end of the game, you earn 4VP for each level above 2 in the tech track. I thought it was 4VP for each track where you have 3-4-5
The icon about that on the board is not easy to read.
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Archange227 wrote:
I never played TM.
I find the rulebook OK. Could have been better, but good enough.
I found the Federations rules quite easy.

The rule I missed: at the end of the game, you earn 4VP for each level above 2 in the tech track. I thought it was 4VP for each track where you have 3-4-5
The icon about that on the board is not easy to read.


I agree with this. The rules and icons are not clear on this. The example makes it clear what is meant.
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For me the rulebook is pretty good. Many pictures/examples and well structured, despite its' 24 large pages it's easy to find what you are looking for. They've definitly invested a lot of effort to explain the game as well as possible.
In the German rulebook there were only very few slightly unclear special cases. It's not absolutely flawless, but for me clearly above average (and definitly very far from a "poor" rulebook).
In the English rulebook (Z-MAN) unfortunatelly some inaccurities have occured during translation - those points are clarified/corrected in the FAQ uploaded here: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/155926/gaia-faq-and-e...
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Eeeville wrote:

In Board Game Opinions top 10 of 2017, they mentioned they had played almost 10 games of Gaia Project and almost always incorrectly in various ways. Just wondered if the people consider the rulebook poor. Also, what are the most easily overlooked rules (regardless of whether you're a 'TM game' newbie or not)?

I own this game and so, regardless of whether or not the rules are good, I need to learn this game. I would just like to play it as close to correctly as possible. I've only played TM a handful of times. What are the most easily overlooked/complex rules of the game?


The rulebook is fine, the issue if that if you have previously played a lot of Terra Mystica you can find yourself making assumptions as you read the rulebook. For example you skim read the section on taking power and just assume it works the same. I'll be honest there was a bit of excitement at the game so perhaps not enough time was taken reading the rulebook before the first game.

The other issue is that a lot of the rules you can get wrong don't break the game so it's not obvious from play that something is wrong. It's only once you use the new rules you realise the impact.

Using the gaining power as an example. Playing with the TM version nothing bad happens so you don't realise the rule is incorrect. Yet once you switch to the GP version you find players taking power more often and especially later in the game, this helps players manage resources. I think of the power bowls as the grease that helps the main engine.

As for rules often missed. I think the rest of the thread lists most of them. The ones I'd add/highlight are:

The Gleens build on a Gaia Planet for 1 ore not 1 QIC (like everyone else).

The Swarm (red) can build from there satellites. So if they place it next to a planet they can build on that planet without increasing the navigation track. also they count as 1 towards a federation.

The brown faction with the 3 value power rock can discard another purple disk from bowl 2 to move the rock into bowl 3. This makes it easy to very quickly circulate the rock.

At the start you can only access adjacent planets until you get 2 levels up on the navigation track.

When looking at navigation distance you can ignore planets. So if the target is 2 hexes away you only need Navigation with a 2 hex range even if a planet is in the way. You don;t trace a path through empty space hexes.

Finally ensure the players know that multiple satellites can be in the same space hex. We had a player drop a long string of satellites and then look smug until someone made a federation through them. He was shocked until we explained this rule to them. He was so used to the more cut throat nature of Terra Mystica he expected satellites to block other players.

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andrew_zz wrote:

Using the gaining power as an example. Playing with the TM version nothing bad happens so you don't realise the rule is incorrect. Yet once you switch to the GP version you find players taking power more often and especially later in the game, this helps players manage resources. I think of the power bowls as the grease that helps the main engine.


i really don't think there's any real change in the frequency with which people take power - at least among my group. people always take power in both games unless all their power is already in bowl 3 - rare or it's round 6 and they'd lose 5 vp's they weren't sure they could make up. clearly the round 6 situation changes things but before that i haven't noticed any difference at all. i admit though that it's early.
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In GP there are Situations were you don’t want to leech because you are starting a GP or a federation, and it wouldn’t help you to move these tokens to bowl 2
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colinmarsh wrote:
andrew_zz wrote:

Using the gaining power as an example. Playing with the TM version nothing bad happens so you don't realise the rule is incorrect. Yet once you switch to the GP version you find players taking power more often and especially later in the game, this helps players manage resources. I think of the power bowls as the grease that helps the main engine.


i really don't think there's any real change in the frequency with which people take power - at least among my group. people always take power in both games unless all their power is already in bowl 3 - rare or it's round 6 and they'd lose 5 vp's they weren't sure they could make up. clearly the round 6 situation changes things but before that i haven't noticed any difference at all. i admit though that it's early.


It probably depends on the group style. In general the people I play with seem willing to take 1 or 2 power but are much less likely to take 3 or more as the game progresses (turn 1-3 probably yes, 4+ more likely no). It's the logic of will spending those 2,3,4 VP's give me a power action that will gain me those and more back. It's sometimes hard to see 3 power movements gaining you 2VP's.

I also notice that mid-late game Terra Mystica opponents can often build/upgrade so your choice is 4,5,6 or even 7 power for points. Yet in GP mid/late game you generally still get the option of 2/3 power for points.

But as I said perhaps my experiences differ to yours.

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If you know you'll start a Gaia Project soon, or form a federation, it makes no sense to give up VP in order to move power tokens from bowl I to bowl II which will then be removed/moved to the Gaia bowl before ever reaching bowl III.

Advanced tactics may even include that you time your building/upgrading next to opponents to the times in the game when accepting power doesn't make sense for them.
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Back on the original topic, I think the rulebook could have done with several cross-references. Everything is in there (apart from some federation edge cases), but in a few cases you need to look somewhere unintuitive.

We played our first game this week, and had confusion over a few things even after trying to look them up in the rulebook:

* The back page of the rulebook illustrating the symbols found on tech tiles doesn't include the white/grey swoosh as seen on basic black techs, only the light blue swoosh as seen on advanced techs. (Obviously these two should really have looked identical anyway.)

* The back page of the rulebook illustrating the symbols found on tech tiles doesn't include the white starburst meaning "immediately gain". That symbol is explained on page 15 under "Research progress", but it could do with being on the back page as well.

* The section on gaining a tech bump on page 15 mentions the "flip a federation tile" cost to go from 4 to 5, but the section on building a lab/academy on page 13 doesn't. It goes into detail on the "flip a federation tile" cost to gain an advanced tech, but just says "If you take one of the three tech tiles in the lower row, you can advance in the research area of your choice" and similar. We interpreted this as saying that when you gain a tech bump by gaining a tech tile, you don't need to flip a federation to go to level 5. It does say "Advancing in a research area is explained on page 15", so we eventually realised we were wrong, but we found it misleading.

* The rules for the various factions are very abbreviated and could have done with several more examples. Things like the way the Nevlas are allowed to convert 3 power into two ore, or the way the Taklons can aggressively advance their brainstone around the power cycle several times a round. It's almost all there implicitly, but a lot of the subtleties could do with having been spelled out.

And it also would have made sense to have a small sidebox somewhere "For Terra Mystica players", drawing attention to the things that work most differently from TM: most obviously federations (no structure limit; forming takes an action) and leech (only leech from your most powerful structure in range; leech range is always 2).
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James Wolfpacker
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Look at the tech board and the advanced techs. There is a graphic there showing a Federation flipping from green to grey.
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