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Subject: Odd Man Out rss

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I feel the need to post this here, as I've seen a ton of people asking, theorizing, and debating about the balance of alliance/s vs a non-allied player. As with many others, I was skeptical about the viability of being a non-allied player in a game that rewards being in an alliance so heavily.

This is not my own work, this was included in KS Update #9: "Broken Alliances", or "When the Solo Path is Best".

The post can be found here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cmon/rising-sun/posts/1...

As this game is reaching peoples' doors, I'm sure there will be even more questions posed in this forum pertaining to the difficulty of being the odd one out. Perhaps consider, before claiming that there is no way to win as the non-allied player, that you may not have exhausted all strategical or tactical options.

Odd Man Out

Ok, so you're playing 3 or 5 players. If everyone is going to constantly go buddy-buddy then someone is going to be left out. You look around, everyone is gaining those sweet sweet bonuses with their allies... What do you do?

Something to realize is that by not being in an Alliance, several bits of freedom are open to you that aren't accessible to other players:

There are only two copies of each Mandate in the deck. Knowing this, you can burn through them to prevent alliances from gaining those benefits (and consequently, keeping all the bonuses for yourself).

Harvesting by yourself means you're the only one gaining the benefits, this is a huge bonus to have over the other players - when Allies Harvest, their general "power-level" will probably remain the same, when a solo player does it, they gain a spike over everyone else.

Marshaling allows you to build a new Stronghold - you and only you. This means that later on, when other player's Recruit, you'll Recruit 1 more than them, effectively giving you the bonuses they receive as well. In the lategame, however, you'll gain more bonuses from both Recruiting and Marshaling than anyone else.

Train: Upgrades are powerful, and gaining first pick, as well as the -1 discount, go a long way.

Betray: Since you're not in an Alliance you have no real fear for playing this effect. This is one of the strongest advantages that becomes available to you when you are not in an Alliance, as you're able to completely re-write the playing field with one effect - an effect that other players have locked themselves out of unless they're willing to break their Alliance and lose Honor for it.

Having a proper insight to the board-state, and knowing what actions would be most beneficial to other players, is going to be key if you find yourself in a situation where you're not Allying - it's a lot easier to coordinate with yourself than it is another player. If you've seen that Player A is trying to gain victory through Virtues, you know they're going to want to Train a lot... Well, burn that Training mandate and claim the bonus for yourself, or starve alliances of resources by taking all the Harvest options.

Allies During Wartime

Wartime becomes interesting when you're the odd-man-out of Alliances as well. When determining the victory in any providence, Allies won't fight each other, meaning in the end whomever has the highest Force will gain control of that area uncontested- this means it's going to be very important to keep tabs on even your Allies during this phase - who knows if they're trying to play you!

Perhaps more importantly, however, is the fact that if you're not in an Alliance you will be fighting while others aren't. Why is this a good thing? Well if you lose a Battle, the victor has to disperse their Coins to the losing sides - as mentioned before, Allies aren't fighting each other, meaning Coin isn't changing hands.

In a three-player game, however (assuming two of them are just allying constantly) then one player gets to decide where most of the conflict happens - by doing this, you can manipulate it so, even if you lose (intentionally or not) earlier Battles, you can snowball victory later.

For example: You (Player C), as the odd-player, are in 3 Battles (of the 5 that will appear that age). Battle 1 has you against Player A - you lose, he gives you 4 Coins. Battle 2 has you against both Player A and B. You know you can't win so you Seppuku/Imperial Poets/whatever method to earn some points, but spend minimal Coins. Player B wins and disperses 4 Coins among A and C.

Battle 4 let's say only the allies are involved - no conflict, so no Coin changes hands. Going into the last War, Player A and B are down 4 and 2 Coins respectively. You, meanwhile, are up six Coins - this is an enormous swing moving into the last conflict. You're going to be at a huge advantage even if both other player's are involved.

Another important thing to note is that many of the Virtues, aka the primary way to earn points outside of Provinces, usually trigger off of some Wartime aspect - such as Taking Hostages, committing Seppuku, etc etc... If you're not in a conflict, you aren't going to be able to trigger these effects, so if, again, you're in a 3 player situation where they just won't break that alliance then they're further limiting the ways in which they can earn points - take advantage of this, perhaps even hoarding these Virtues for yourself so you can benefit from them!

The Art of Subterfuge

So this might not be for everyone, but I feel it's an important thing to discuss: Making Allies hate each other.

Ok, so maybe that's a bit too extreme, but learning how to undermine alliances can be a useful tool for achieving victory. Of course, don't go into this with the intent to ruin friendships, but understand that, in the end, there is going to be one winner in the game, and while gaining bonuses for having an Ally is nice, always remember that you're still directly competing with them to win.

Knowing this is important, however, as being in an Alliance just for the sake of being in an Alliance can be very detrimental to your endgame. Again, the primary way you're going to win is by winning Battles, and the ebb and flow of War - the Coin it brings, the way it shapes the map for the next Season - are all very important elements, and ones that allies might be missing out on by the very nature of being in an Alliance.

So, pulling all this together: If you ever find yourself not in an Alliance - don't think of it as you're missing out of the buffs that it brings, focus on the freedoms you are now allowed versus the other players.

Other players must now worry about losing Battles during the War Phase without even being able to contest! Not you.

Other players must worry about a sudden Betrayal by their allies just before War. Not you (in fact you can just play it as freely as you want).

Other players must worry about the power they are giving their allies with their Mandates. Not you.

So, while no one is arguing that making Alliances at the right moment (and for the proper time) is a key strategy of the game, you should never feel that its the only way you're going to win.

Just like in politics and war, being able to adapt to situations as they appear, and not locking yourself into one strategy or viewpoint, are key tools to achieving overall victory.
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N Jones
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Thanks for posting this here. Now go get yourself an avatar.
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Mike Beiter
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A good read.

I have 100% faith in the designers in this mechanic and I can definitely see the way the odd player out can come out on top.
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Alex Hirsch
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Wow, after reading this, I almost don't want to get into Alliances! Especially when you're the first player and get ton0lay an extra mandate.
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Mr. Octavius
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Reezark_SP wrote:
Wow, after reading this, I almost don't want to get into Alliances! Especially when you're the first player and get to play an extra mandate.


Honestly, if you're getting to play an extra mandate in a round you should be demanding bribes in order to ally with anyone.
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Lionel Jacques
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Great post - here - get some other swag with geek gold!
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Eric Matthews
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I think after real multiple plays in groups that actually negotiate we'll see some threads wondering if the un-allied players' freedom is too powerful.

Mark my words, once people start actually playing, there will be threads suggesting a strategy of remaining un-allied for the whole game ON PURPOSE. And I even predict someone out there to start talking about variants to solve the "overpowered" un-allied player.

e
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Rob Barger
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I think the good thing about negotiation in a game is, it should self balance the game, no?

If Jason always wins, or if the Koi clan always wins, then the table as a whole SHOULD be able to self balance those "advantages". Then as Jason/Koi start to fall behind in the early rounds, SOMEONE else will have to be in the lead, which means eventually someone will cave and align themselves with Jason/Koi, or betray an alliance, assuming that everyone is truly playing to win.

I love Bloodrage, I love Kemet, I love Tammany Hall, I love GoT 2nd edition. I haven't yet played Cosmic Encounter but I really want to. Hoping this is a good mix between area control, battles, negotiation, bling bidding, etc!

My copy was just delivered today, playing tomorrow night, and I'm hoping I love Rising Sun also!

Gotta go get some Sapporo beer and Sake, ttyl!
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Eric Matthews
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Robbonj wrote:
I think the good thing about negotiation in a game is, it should self balance the game, no?


Yes! And there is definitely a contingent of BGGers who think the whole idea of players self-balance is an "excuse for lazy design" rather than a feature of negotiation games.

It's a matter of personal taste, but negotiation games kinda need at least a perceived imbalance to encourage players to negotiate beyond basic transactions.

More than most games I'm curious how this will pan out in the community. Blood Rage definitely had some backlash for feeling more euro than people expected with all those dudes-on-a-map aesthetics and monsters minis. I think the backlash for Rising Sun will be from people who actually dislike negotiation and ultimately will dislike the Revolution! style betting used for combat. This game will be divisive when people start actually playing it and don't realize ahead of time how different it is from most area control and dudes-on-a-map games.


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Casey Smith
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Ganybyte wrote:
Robbonj wrote:
I think the good thing about negotiation in a game is, it should self balance the game, no?


Yes! And there is definitely a contingent of BGGers who think the whole idea of players self-balance is an "excuse for lazy design" rather than a feature of negotiation games.

It's a matter of personal taste, but negotiation games kinda need at least a perceived imbalance to encourage players to negotiate beyond basic transactions.

More than most games I'm curious how this will pan out in the community. Blood Rage definitely had some backlash for feeling more euro than people expected with all those dudes-on-a-map aesthetics and monsters minis. I think the backlash for Rising Sun will be from people who actually dislike negotiation and ultimately will dislike the Revolution! style betting used for combat. This game will be divisive when people start actually playing it and don't realize ahead of time how different it is from most area control and dudes-on-a-map games.




Granted I havn't played it yet, but the game seems a lot more forgiving to someone that wants to solo.
 
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Troy Hughes
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Great article, thanks!

Question for the group: do alliances in your games tend to last throughout the game?

In the two games I've played (both 5-player), alliances (and the odd man out) changed every season depending on needs.

Factors included which two players would be getting two mandate choices that season (different each season, with the turn-one first player being the only one who got a second turn of choosing two mandates), what order the battles were going to come up (and which provinces people had already gotten the card for), and just a general willingness to deal and negotiate. (My favorite offer to the Lotus Clan in Spring - "I'll give you x coins if you choose the Marshall action when I'm your ally - but only WHEN you choose the Marshall action.")

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