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Subject: Production/Resource Changes rss

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Nigel Grout
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Fredericton
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I noticed that you dropped the rules that defined the size of the economy as well as the VP award to the player that contributes the most resources in a shortage.

I thought that was an interesting play balance issue.

What was the reasoning behind that rule change?

Other than that, a great looking game that my crew wants to get their hands on as a time-balance issue for those days we can't stare TI3 in the face!

Cheers
 
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Sheamus Parkes
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I won't go into great details unless Adam wants me to, but I was among those who play-tested the "crisis" mechanic. It just was not fun. It broke up play and caused all sorts of interruptions. All too often, you would get your resources and then have to give them up to a crisis before you could even utilize them.

Anyway, I too am excited that Adam has gotten his game to the manufacturing stage!
 
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A. B. West
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Beech Grove
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Yes, this is one of those things that looks better on paper than in reality - which is why play testing is so critical. We played that mechanic with 6 different groups - only one of which really enjoyed it. It especially broke down with more players (e.g. worked alright with 3-4, didn't work at all with 6). In the end, we had to rethink it.

The result is a simplified game - but I truly hope players see it isn't a simplistic game. There's still some pretty nifty mechanics in the economy - e.g. balancing your portfolio between metal/energy and food, playing buy low/sell high, planning your future needs between resources and galactic marks, getting 'out of step' with opponents and harvesting when no one else can, etc. But admittedly, the impact is a greater focus on space conflict and politics. Play testers seemed to want that result anyhow. After all, it's called Galactic Emperor so I'd better get to blow up ships while manipulating the galaxy with my masterful Machiavellian machinations.

And then there's Dan's answer. Dan is my co-designer or more directly, my foil in game ideas. Here's his reply:

This is Dan, answering through Adam's account. I helped with some parts
of the game, including this one.

Excuse me if this answer is far more wonky than you wanted. The short
answer is "The current method is better."

The long answer....

Part of the ethic of GE is to present players with interesting decisions
in all aspects of the game, including the resource/economic build up.
Adam wanted to have a deliberately "limited" resource supply, so that
when a significant part of the galaxy was explored and claimed, and the
Steward role was pulled, someone getting their turn late in the round
might find that there was no resource left to harvest (food) or generate
(metal and energy).

However, we didn't want the player high and dry - we wanted to give him
an interesting decision to get the depleted resource.

The first way we tried was during the Merchant turn - you could buy some
from the player with the most of the resource, but you have to pay an
extra "tax." It worked, but it was a bit fiddly, and it helped you not
a whit if resources ran out during Steward. It annoyed players to be
unable to generate during Steward. Yes, the players who DID have the
resource bettered them in strategy... but it wasn't particularly
appreciated.

So the second method was "calling a crisis" during Steward. There was a
mechanic where everyone simultaneously "bid" a resource, and the winner
got a victory point (the market leader had to bid at least one). We
thought it clever. People liked the mechanic, and it fixed the monopoly
problem.

However... it was not particularly well-received by some (and yes,
Seamus's group was part of that). We anticipated that the "crisis
declaring" player might decide against calling a crisis - if his need
wasn't dire, why award a victory point to another player? The was fine,
it's a valid decision point. What we DIDN'T anticipate was that the
market leader usually didn't like it either - even when usually getting
a victory point, the player would view the crisis as interrupting his
plans to buy cool ships, exert political influence, or buy devastating
technologies. Gamewise, a victory point should've been fine
compensation, but emotionally, his plans just got derailed. People
liked the bidding mechanic, they just didn't like the result.

Plus, we disliked the harvest cycle around the table, then the generate
cycle around the table on Steward. A lot of players wanted to just do
both at the same time on their turn because they didn't understand how
scarcity worked in the game.

Plus, we didn't like that players had to "remember" to keep food around
for Steward in order to generate metal/energy. It was a potential
"gotcha" for new players. Bleah.

And last but not least, players would mess up and play the crisis wrong
in one way or another, partly because it didn't regularly occur.
Special cases like that are also against the grain of the GE ethic.

So... we worked on it. And worked on it. And worked on it. Did I
mention that we worked on it? Adam tested a game with no limits at all
(the usual suggestion), players just harvested everything. Hated it.
Dumbed down, no strategy in the build up early game, blah. Plus, there
was an real-world economic issue with creating a bajillion resource
cubes to cover the potential number in circulation. Not a fix that
would satifsfy us.

Serendipity actually helped us get to the answer. One other recent fix
was switching to a Direction card given to the throne holder instead of
the Turn Number cards. It made it much easier for players to track
whose turn it was, there was flow around the table. The fix worked
great. But as a result, we had more room on the card frame, because we
needed 5 fewer cards.

So we eventually came up with Storage Container cards. We split
harvesting food over to the Merchant turn. Strategically, you can get
more funding on sectors than other players, allowing you to have a much
better Steward turn. If you had a lot of sectors, you wouldn't even
have to generate all of them, which would also set you up for exploiting
the Steward turn. No one has to do a weird food to metal/energy
calculation on a turn, there is no temptation to short circuit that.
Plus, that food funding sitting on sectors can provide extra incentive
for hostile takeovers on Regent or Warlord. Also, players with lots of
food sectors don't need to call the Steward turn, so even though food is
less valuable, there is a strategy angle there as well. But even if you
lack food sectors, you can still buy food and get your sectors funded.
Best of all, this is all within the flow of the game, no special
exception type rule needed. If you read the Merchant and Steward turns
in the final version, they're straightforward.

So anyway, the upshot is that there's been another round of serious
playtesting, and everyone really, really likes it. We did lose some
stuff along the way - the crisis mechanic was cool, and there is no
scarcity strategy with resources because they never run out (players
know to spend when their container is getting full). But we also gained
a lot - there's different strategies concerning resources, no one gets
irritated with feeling cheated out of "rightful" resources, and it flows
more smoothly than ever. And we don't need to put a gazillion cubes in
the box. Even nicer, the "resource reset" aspect of the Black Hole
explosion because unnecessary, and it got axed, so now there's no
"pause" in the progression to the ending fracas with warships.

If there is a lesson here, I would say that scarcity type mechanics in
games are fine (think Puerto Rico or some other Euro games that use it),
but it just didn't gell in GE because the resources themselves are not
the goal - they're a means to getting cool stuff. If the game itself
was focused purely on resources, like some Euros, I think the "buy from
the leader with a tax" or the "declare crisis" mechanics might was been
viewed much more favorably.

It doesn't feel like a compromise at all in the playtests. We're very
excited about it. GE has a real nice arc, good tension throughout,
building to a frenzied conclusion.
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Nigel Grout
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Fredericton
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Thanks - I got a better understanding of the "pain" of playtesting. LOL

And I concur with the concept of "If I'm going to be Galactic Emperor, I want to blow stuff up real good!" ;-)

Cheers
 
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