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Subject: Alternative rule for Cnut? rss

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Dave Berry
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Yesterday we played a game in which the Danes did badly - they only had 3 armies at the beginning of turn 14, plus Cnut's 6 Invaders, and then lost 4 armies in battle. This left them with 5 armies, of which 4 had to be removed. This led to some debate amongst us as to whether the rules are reasonable to demand the removal of 4 armies no matter what the situation. If the Danes are doing well (especially if they are doing well enough to get the kingship) then fair enough, but if they had few forces in England would Cnut really have taken the majority of them home? This is, of course, pure historical speculation - we have no way of knowing what would have happened.

Anyway, I pondered about this overnight and came up with the following alternate rule: At the end of the Danish turn the Danish player must remove Cnut (if alive). If he has 8 or more armies on the board, he must remove any 4. If he has fewer than 8 armies, he must remove half of them (rounding down).

In yesterday's game, this would have left them with 3 armies instead of 1. This isn't such a great difference that it would have turned the game but would keep the Danes as more of a presence. I'm curious to know what other players think of this.

I guess an argument against this variation is that it might encourage the Danish player to be more reckless with his armies. On the other hand, they have to take some risks if Cnut is ever going to be king.
 
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Stephen Braund
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The Green coalition is the weakest in terms of game play and VP scoring power. Anything to help Green might be a good idea. However if the Danes are in this predicament they are probably having a general hiding handed to them anyway, so there might not be much that can be done to help.

It might be better that if the Danes have fewer than 12 armies they can recoup half the difference - so if they have 8 armies, 12-8=4, divide by 2 is 2, and you recoup 2, only removing 2 (sounds complicated, but is pretty straightforward). 10 armies means removing only 3. 6 armies only remove 1. 4 armies don't remove any. Could be fractions rounded down or up. Maybe if fewer than 12 armies they can recoup half the difference, rounding half armies recouped down.

Historically Cnut would have been more concerned about his powerbase in Denmark - if he had a bad time in England he would have abandoned it altogether, although Brit Danes also represent people of Danish ethnicity in England, not just Cnut's army.

Of course applying an historically reasonable set of events doesn't necessarily make a good game as you can see the above two points are actually in conflict with one another - we want weak Danes to be propped up, not removing themselves altogether. We might say that Cnut was concerned with holding onto England, and wouldn't denude it by removal of a disproportionate force.

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Ken
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daveberry wrote:
Anyway, I pondered about this overnight and came up with the following alternate rule: At the end of the Danish turn the Danish player must remove Cnut (if alive). If he has 8 or more armies on the board, he must remove any 4. If he has fewer than 8 armies, he must remove half of them (rounding down).


I don't know that this "helps." Cnut pulling out of Britain reflects his taking a significant portion of his strength home to put down a challenge to his throne in Denmark. If the Danes do poorly, then that should weaken them in Britain. And, it's worth noting, that the fixed "penalty" reinforces the dynamic of the game that you're actually playing.

Quote:
I guess an argument against this variation is that it might encourage the Danish player to be more reckless with his armies. On the other hand, they have to take some risks if Cnut is ever going to be king.


This is speculation, so apologies if it comes off as something snide and catty - it isn't. How many times have you played? For the Danes to be in the straits that you mention either the Saxons, the Angles or both are doing pretty well. So the map at the time he invades is already very anti-green. Giving the Danes a crutch isn't going to change that significantly.

I've probably played Britannia somewhere around 175 times. I've seen the Romans loose a total of 17 armies in turns 1-3 (atrocious), the Saxons cough up 7 armies on their major invasion, and the Brigantes with a full force pool while the Angles struggle to hold the Pennines. The game can have some very wild swings every once in a while. Don't look to change the rules for those - look for the ways you need to change your play to use one nation to help out the others that still have a chance at good points. Could the Danes (while dying terribly) have done something to help the Welsh, for example?

I don't think this needs a "fix."
 
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Ken
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stevebritgimp wrote:
The Green coalition is the weakest in terms of game play and VP scoring power.


I'll disagree with this whole-heartedly. In my experience:

1. Yellow (Purple in the old game) has the most difficulty racking up huge scores. They'd qualify as "weakest" the way that I read your statement above.

2. Red has the most consistent ability to get to a good score.

3. Green has a great deal of variability in their scoring, with reasonably wide swings from game to game.

4. Blue has the most variability (but when they score well, look out).

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Anything to help Green might be a good idea.


I'll salute you for doing it, but Green is my favorite color to play, and I've done quite well with it.
 
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Stephen Braund
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perfalbion wrote:
stevebritgimp wrote:
The Green coalition is the weakest in terms of game play and VP scoring power.


I'll disagree with this whole-heartedly. In my experience:

1. Yellow (Purple in the old game) has the most difficulty racking up huge scores. They'd qualify as "weakest" the way that I read your statement above.

2. Red has the most consistent ability to get to a good score.

3. Green has a great deal of variability in their scoring, with reasonably wide swings from game to game.

4. Blue has the most variability (but when they score well, look out).

Quote:
Anything to help Green might be a good idea.


I'll salute you for doing it, but Green is my favorite color to play, and I've done quite well with it.


Yes, it appears from stats we had last year that the colour scoring was quite balanced - however, I still think Green is the chair to avoid. If the Welsh are left alone, then Green can be very powerful - but that isn't in your hands.

Yellow's best chance is to post a big score. If they do, the other players may end up bashing each other to the extent that they can't catch Yellow. I agree that Yellow is the biggest assymetry in the game - Yellow/Purple just isn't 'like' the other players.

Red is a good colour, just needs to avoid getting mired in any internecine conflicts - screw up the Saxon MI and you'll be relying on charity. A lot of players are too aggressive with the Saxons and don't emphasise build up. I prefer Red and Blue because you feel like you have your own destiny in your hands - succeed or fail.

Good luck to you if you like Green - I think that Green could have done with something to spice it up, given that two of its nations sit and do nothing much, and the Danes arrive late and are rather brittle on attack. Green only gets 1 MI and 2 3 leaders. Green is relying on the Welsh not getting thumped and enough conflict in England to mean there isn't a strong force waiting for them. A lot rides on the Welsh getting York and the Jutes getting Kent on Round V.

But hell, I too have notched up 3 figures in this game - and it plays different every single time, and yes, I've seen big green monsters, including a massive Dane controlling nearly all of England which I had to take on with my Normans - it was like attacking the freakin Death Star. I would just avoid Green/Black/Brown if I had the choice. I know one Norwegian player who ALWAYS plays Green, and almost always wins. shake People have always disagreed about balance with this game and its earlier versions and long may it go on!!!

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Ken
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stevebritgimp wrote:
Yes, it appears from stats we had last year that the colour scoring was quite balanced - however, I still think Green is the chair to avoid. If the Welsh are left alone, then Green can be very powerful - but that isn't in your hands.


It's more than being "left alone," it's successfully being pushed back or hurt. If for whatever reason the Saxons and Irish are having success pushing the Welsh out of areas and killing them, then you're game will be hurt. But the defensive terrain doesn't make this easy to do in Wales.

Quote:
Yellow's best chance is to post a big score.


We've very different views of things.

I don't think Yellow has the ability to post a big score. Yellow consistently lands around 195-205 points (in my experience), and has enormous trouble getting above that level. So Yellow's "job" in my mind is to share the pain as much as is possible to both eke out more than that while holding down the other players. Yellow will win when they can suppress other player's scores.

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I think that Green could have done with something to spice it up, given that two of its nations sit and do nothing much,


I'm not sure if you're referring to the Welsh and Caledonians or the Jutes and Caledonians. If it's the Welsh, I couldn't consider them sitting and doing nothing.

This is among the most brilliantly balanced 4 player games I've played, so it's not surprising we're having discussions of this nature.
 
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Lewis Pulsipher
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Asymmetry certainly makes for more interesting strategy discussions--and more variety in the strategy. But symmetry is much easier to design.

Perhaps when there are more games in Pekka's database, someone who's into stat analysis can try to relate how well one color (or nation) does to another color (or nation) and see if any interesting insights occur.

If I had it to do again I think I'd give the Welsh Cadwallon on one of the York turns. That's the way it is in B3 ("Epic" Britannia).
 
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Stephen Braund
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I do think asymmetry can be overdone - it's like with Maharaja - the Yellow coalition is even more lead-from-the-front and lacks any variability that doesn't kill it. Have played that game against good players and Yellow can threaten, but it basically comes down to Yellow scoring x points and the other 3 trying to get past - which odds-on one of them will do and Yellow comes second. Situation in Brit isn't so extreme, but if I was coming up with a follow-up to Brit I'd go more toward symmetry (without actually getting too close).

Edit: spelling - it's late again ;(
 
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Ken
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Well, I'm happy to collect scores from folks to build the database if there's interest. I've posted excel spreadsheets that handle both the AH and FFG versions of the game, and it's easy enough to track based on those (and also provides a breakdown of the individual nation's scoring).

Would be interesting to see the Welsh with a leader.

Late addition - I'd really love to an "errata option" that replaces Svein and his armies at the end with the Welsh leader when they need him most...
 
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Lewis Pulsipher
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In B3 I may have the Welsh leader who did so well and then was killed, IIRC, by Harold a few years before the invasions. Cannot recall the name right now.

But Svein was much more famous, worldwide.
 
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Ken
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Just to be clear, I mean Svein Ersthriston (I know I spelled that wrong). I know he was historical, but to me he just messes up the end-game. One too many king candidates resulting in many games with no king.

Historically, he pretty much showed up, saw that his claims weren't going to hack it because William had consolidated his power, and pretty much bailed. So I'd prefer to have him not make an appearance a la the old game and find another way to give the Welsh/Green a shot at points.
 
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Lewis Pulsipher
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Yes, he didn't make much impact. He was added in the game to give Green a bit of a chance to be king (and it does happen).

It would be interesting if we had some stats on the survival (and kingship) of the four candidates at the end of each game, and related that to the placing of the colors in the games. I don't think those stats are reported/collected.

In B3 there's more movement at the end of the game, I don't recall all details but lots of opportunity to fight.
 
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Ken
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In around 10 plays of Britannia with very experienced players from the AH/Gibson version, we've seen a King once. And that was because Harold the Saxon never appeared due to elimination, creating a "more traditional" three-way contest that included the Danes (who promptly got run over by William).

In my experience, Svein has created a very "turtle" mentality for the different king candidates because none of them want to be the first to risk an attack against another leader, get mauled, and open the door for someone else to get easy points by killing their leader and/or killing their leader and becoming king. I've yet to see William or Harald take a shot at Harold on the second impulse of their MI for exactly that reason.

So for the group I played with (7 experienced Britannia players), it really changed the end game.
 
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Lewis Pulsipher
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At the PrezCon final, Svein tried to kill Harald and barely failed; Harald killed Svein. Harold tried to kill William and barely failed; William killed Harold. Yellow won the game 236-234 over red, green 208, blue 200.

I wasn't tracking it, but I haven't noticed a great slaughter of most or all king candidates in tournament games.

Oh, in B3 if a king candidate runs away into difficult terrain, he can't become the king; but other candidates can go in and kill him, then come back out. And all get a last move with the leader and those who are with him.
 
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Ken
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lewpuls wrote:
At the PrezCon final, Svein tried to kill Harald and barely failed; Harald killed Svein. Harold tried to kill William and barely failed; William killed Harold. Yellow won the game 236-234 over red, green 208, blue 200.


I think this is sort of my point. While you score points for killing the leaders, in the situation you spelled out above, there couldn't have been an "automatic" end of game king due to leader deaths - two candidates were left. So William or Harald would have had to achieve the "double anyone else" version to get king, which isn't as simple (particularly for the Normans, since William had to have attacked Harold on T16 in the above sequence). With one more leader, the dynamic changes to make it harder for an end of game king to emerge.

Quote:
I wasn't tracking it, but I haven't noticed a great slaughter of most or all king candidates in tournament games.


This is definitely my point. With four leaders who can be king, I need to kill three others to become king at end of game. That's a tall order if nobody "helps me out" by knocking off other leaders and leaving them selves exposed in the process. For the Danes, this is nigh on impossible, since they move earlier than the others and get their leader later than the others. But since he's now on the map (late), the Saxons, Norwegians, and Normans all have to do something about him to grab the kingship.

This has led (in the games I've played) to far more conservative end games, since it's very, very difficult to secure those points for king. The players don't risk as much, and the second impulse of a major invasion almost always ignores the other leaders if it could possible leave your own exposed to the other two that might still remain if you bag the one.

So my "complaint" is that the play hasn't changed to create a wholesale slaughter of leaders, it's created a significant reason not to reach for a wholesale slaughter due to the "Risk" syndrome - the first to do so and either lose or weaken themselves enough creates a significant opportunity for the other players. I hope that makes sense. I've seen the players become more protective of their leaders, leading to a far less fluid end game.

Perhaps bumping the Danish turn to the end of T16 and only allowing Svein to become king by either being the only leader or holding twice the turf of any other would be a good "fix" for the issue I have. It encourages the other three to still go after each other, but leaves the Danes the historic opportunity they had that didn't materialize because William had already significantly concentrated his power. While the Danes would be a target before he arrives, they already are on T15.

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Oh, in B3 if a king candidate runs away into difficult terrain, he can't become the king;


I know you're trying to fix a "problem," but I don't like this particular fix. It's "gamey" and really doesn't tie in to the situation on the map well. If I'm the Saxons and I've got my force pool on the map after Harald/Svein/William show up, it doesn't make much sense for me to put my leader at risk. Granted, that's going to an extreme, but I'd prefer to let the situation on the map dictate where I position my leader and what I do with him.

There's better avenues to "fix" this - You could also lift or increase the stacking limits (say to 6 armies) for the late game invaders so they stood a better chance of overpowering their target or eliminate the disadvantage for attacking in Hilands (it didn't bother William's forces all that much due to superior tactics).

You could also consider penalizing a player a territory or two in "count" for king purposes so that their turf isn't worth as much (due to loss of face in the eyes of the people). It's something that I still get to decide about (do I think it's worth having less turf?) without "requiring" me to do something that would otherwise be silly with the forces I've got on the map. Requiring suicidal play to force a more historical end isn't an answer to me. Finding ways to encourage it, that is (what if Harold/William got 10 bonus VP for physically having the leader in Essex, for example? The same for Harald if the leader counter is in York?).

But a rules fix like the one you're proposing points out a problem with the players more than the game to me. If you don't want to risk your forces coming up to get Harold in the Downlands, then that's your choice. Just provide William/Harald a way to become king that doesn't require Harold's death in the rules.

Nudge me in the right direction. Don't force me to go there. That's what makes a game good to me. Rules that require me to risk something of great value late in the game when others don't have to do the same early in the game might lead to balance, but they also lead to scripted play. I prefer to ad lib.

Edited because I thought I could make my closing remarks clearer.
 
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Lewis Pulsipher
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Historically, I think if any king candidate had run into highlands, he would have lost face enormously, hence my prohibition concerning highlands. We don't know why Harold went right after William--most everyone thinks he should have waited, William wasn't doing anything--but perhaps he was worried about losing face merely by being inactive.

There is no unlimited-size stacking in B3. IIRC, the max is about 5 or 6 with a leader.

There's an extra move for each candidate leader, in effect, at thee end of B3--but only the leader and those who start with him--to allow for those final kill-the-last-guy battles.

I suppose listing some of the changes doesn't convey the impact of all of them together. And I don't remember all of them at this point, and am not going to look it up, too many other things need my time!

Lew
 
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Ken
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lewpuls wrote:
Historically, I think if any king candidate had run into highlands, he would have lost face enormously, hence my prohibition concerning highlands. We don't know why Harold went right after William--most everyone thinks he should have waited, William wasn't doing anything--but perhaps he was worried about losing face merely by being inactive.


I may be beating a dead horse, so apologies if I am.

I think you just made my point, though. If it was foolish for Harold to attack William directly and immediately, then why should I be prohibited from parking Harold in the Downlands to wait and see what William does? In a game with the abstracted armies like Britannia, you don't know if Harold is "hiding" or being appropriately prudent.

That's why I would encourage finding "another way." For example, don't let Harold become king if he doesn't attack another candidate with at least 4 armies, simulating defending the throne. Heck, make it 6 armies, 4 if Harold leads them in person.

I'm expressing a bit of a general frustration with the direction of the wargames or war-like games that are coming out. Few of them leave me the wealth of options that the "classics" did (and I consider the AH/Gibson Britannia one of those, the new version stands a reasonable shot at earning that as well). Either my turn's actions are dictated through the cards I'm dealt or the rules flat out force me into things. I prefer having options I get to weigh and select from without the game forcing me down a particular path since it will certainly create situations I don't want to be in because of the mechanics of the rules. I can cope with things that happen on the map, but the rules shouldn't box me in.

Quote:
There's an extra move for each candidate leader, in effect, at thee end of B3--but only the leader and those who start with him--to allow for those final kill-the-last-guy battles.


That's an interesting option. I'm not sure it fixes the "Svein problem" I've got, but I'd have to actually play it out to see.

Quote:
I suppose listing some of the changes doesn't convey the impact of all of them together. And I don't remember all of them at this point, and am not going to look it up, too many other things need my time!


I understand and appreciate the time you've already given to the dialog.

Let me know if you want another B3 playtester.
 
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Jon G
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A couple more tuppence for discussion:

1. I like the extra move for king & army, though it will certainly change T16 strategy... you'll want as many as possible with the king so you can move more with the extra move. And to be fair, things were happening fast enough in 1066 that an extra move makes sense

2. As for Harold hiding in the highlands, keep in mind that he DID take the high ground at Hastings. And William (forced to bring the attack) charged up the hill, got repulsed, and was very lucky he lived long enough to try again later that day.

3. Another thing Svein does add (which may encourage turtling) is a force willing and able to step in if the turn 15 campaigns end in mass slaughter... and this is more or less what Svein tried to do, only to (wisely?) retreat when he saw William's dominance. In the email game we just finished, Harald killed most of the Saxons but was left with two armies. William headed north and killed Harald, but was done in by an Irish raid out of Wales. In the ruins of battle, Svein expanded the Danes from East Anglia to the Mercias, Essex, and York, and held on for a winning kingship as the Saxons and Normans bashed each other to death. One presumes the real Svein would have tried as much given the opportunity.
 
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Lewis Pulsipher
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Taking high ground tactically is only sensible. Running away into difficult terrain strategically (as Alfred did into the swamps of Athelney) is a desperate act. It made sense for Alfred, but everyone knew he was the king.

The game system really isn't made to reflect a series of major events in one year. It was made for faceless migrations and Dark Ages. But no one would have liked it if the game ended before 1066.

Lew
 
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lewpuls wrote:
The game system really isn't made to reflect a series of major events in one year. It was made for faceless migrations and Dark Ages. But no one would have liked it if the game ended before 1066.

Lew


Heh. Can you imagine the outcry if the game ended just before the Norman Conquest? It's pretty funny to imagine reactions if that were the case.
 
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