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Subject: Gaia Project as a 2 player game rss

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Sharon Khan
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Shefford
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This is part of my series of reviews of how multiplayer games work with just 2. For the full list see: My 2 player game reviews.

Rules - how are they different in a 2 player game?

There are only two rules differences in a 2 player game.

Firstly, the board is smaller. With a multiplayer game you use 10 map tiles to build the board. With a 2 player game you use just 7, and three of the tiles you flip to their "2 player side".

Secondly, at end-game scoring a neutral player is added to each of the end-game scoring tiles, with a number indicated on the scoring tile itself, to mimic a third player being present to compete with, and they block the appropriate scoring bonus.

How is the game different with 2?

The main difference is clearly the space on the board, and the lack of other players competing with you and blocking you. The smaller board does limit the number of planets of your own colour and the green and purple worlds, so it does maintain some of the feel of the multiplayer game, but there is nothing like as much competition as the 4 player game on the larger map. You know fairly early on the few planets that are going to be under competition and can plan accordingly, whereas with 4 there is constant competition and blocking in most games. It's more like the 3 player game that way, where the larger board, but one player fewer, makes it feel more open. The other side of this is also the reduced amount of power you gain from building next to each other, as there are fewer opportunities to do so with fewer players. The smaller board encourages you to be neighbours a little, but it's still different from gaining power from three opponents.

Apart from the board though, there is surprisingly little difference between the 2 player game and the multiplayer one. The neutral player successfully mimics a third player for final scoring, although the fact that its total is known in advance does remove a level of uncertainty about your end-game points that would be present in a multiplayer game, where people keep changing their end-game totals.

The competition for the bonus tiles and power actions is also slightly reduced in a 2 player game, but in reality this only affects a couple of action spaces, and the QIC actions on the final turn(s), as even in the multiplayer game everyone is generally going different paths, and unlike Terra Mystica where you expect 4 power for 7 cash and 4 power for a dig to go almost every turn as some of the first two actions, the power action spaces just aren't as competed for in Gaia Project.

There are a few races which I suspect are slightly weaker, or stronger, in 2 player games - ones where you're affected by your neighbours being weaker, whereas ones that offer bonuses for things like purple and green worlds being slightly stronger, unless your one opponent decides to deny you them on principle. As the races vary in strength anyway, this variability in strength of races by player count isn't really an issue.

Verdict:

Unlike Terra Mystica, which I love with 4, like with 3, and only tolerate with 2 (or 5), Gaia Project scales very well from 2 to 4 players. There are subtle differences in feel between the player counts, but the game itself doesn't suffer because of them, and is a very satisfying game experience.
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Phil Hendrickson
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I agree with your comments. FYI, we use the 3-player variant setup (in the rule book) that has only 8 space tiles, so the board size is scaled to the number of players. Then all player counts, 2-4, feel similar.

I would never play Terra Mystica with 2 players, as it is too spread out. I like TM best with 4 or 5, though with 5 everyone must be experienced players and be committed to a 3+ hour game.

Indeed, probably the best thing about GP is how it scales well for two players. It allows me to get the TM-style game experience with my spouse on any evening, even when other players aren't available.
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Chad Weaver
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I've played several times with 2 and several times with 3 or 4. I'd say the biggest difference is that in 2p, competing for green and purple planets is mandatory. There are many races/scoring bonus setups that will be nearly impossible to defeat if they are allowed to pick up most/all of the green. In 3p or 4p, others will compete for those and you may be able to play a strategy that ignores them.
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GJ Davies
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We made a house rule in TM for 2 players: starting dwellings (except very first) must be placed within 5 hexes of another dwelling). Simple, but it really compacted the board.

Also, played with only one of EVERY Favour tile and one of every Town tile.

Haven't tried any tile restriction in Gaia Project yet.
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Steven Hall
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DrumPhil wrote:
I agree with your comments. FYI, we use the 3-player variant setup (in the rule book) that has only 8 space tiles, so the board size is scaled to the number of players. Then all player counts, 2-4, feel similar.

I would never play Terra Mystica with 2 players, as it is too spread out. I like TM best with 4 or 5, though with 5 everyone must be experienced players and be committed to a 3+ hour game.

Indeed, probably the best thing about GP is how it scales well for two players. It allows me to get the TM-style game experience with my spouse on any evening, even when other players aren't available.


How fortunate you are, to have a spouse who will play GP with you! I am forced to venture forth in a (sometimes fruitless) search for opponents.
 
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