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Subject: Can many interlocking, good mechanisms make a good game? rss

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Nathan Morse
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The look of Cuba suggests that it will be more like Rieneck and Stadler's previous design, The Pillars of the Earth, than it is – which believe it or not is a good thing. Cuba feels very fresh and challenging, although many of the mechanisms are reminiscent of other games. But that's the key: many mechanisms.

colonist Like The Pillars of the Earth, there are some actions that are very limited, with decreasing value (e.g. take 2 victory points or 1 victory point), but there are only a few of these.
colonist Like Before the Wind, players can get big victory points by having the right combination of goods to fill a single ship's needs, and send it sailing; however...
colonist Like Puerto Rico, the ships can be filled a little at a time.
Unlike anything I can recall, the longer the ships are in dock, the more desperate they are to get their goods or products. Accordingly, the victory point incentive increases until they must leave, full or not. (A newly docked ship gives 1vp per item. Next turn, it would give 2vp per item it still needs; third turn, 3vp. Then it leaves even if it's not full.)
colonist Like The Pillars of the Earth and numerous other games, there is a fixed, small number of rounds, which provides a desperate drive to get stuff done – a very palpable sense of urgency on par with The Princes of Florence.
Unlike most games with a small, fixed number of turns, however, there is no built-in escalation, such as the rising minimum work value in The Princes of Florence, or the quasi-scripted arrival of newer, better craftsmen in The Pillars of the Earth, or the availability of stuff you just can't afford at the beginning of the game in Puerto Rico or Caylus. Strangely, though, because of the number of options, this really works, and it makes sense thematically to me.
colonist Like Notre Dame, each player has a small, identical set of action cards, but...
colonist Like Louis XIV, you execute actions with all but one of your cards, so you must make the often tough choice of which action you won't use this round – that is, which action you won't use for an entire sixth of the game.
colonist Like Power Grid and Vino, turn order positioning is variable, and the advantages and disadvantages of your spot in the turn order are extremely tangible, such that you will specifically strive for different positions on different rounds, as it suits your needs.
Unlike anything I can recall (though it feels ever so slightly familiar), the last of the four cards you play has a special importance, in that the number of votes it's worth helps determine the new start player...
If you want to go first next round, you need to save the highest-victory-point-rewarding card you can to play last. Sometimes this is convenient; others, it's torture...
colonist Like Vino and Power Grid, the last player in the turn order gets the advantage.
colonist Like The Pillars of the Earth, there are taxes to pay each round; however...
colonist Like Keythedral, someone is going to get to determine the new laws...
Unlike Keythedral, these laws will affect everyone, and will be decided by one player.
The number of votes on the card you don't play – the "leftover" card – is the number of votes you get to use in vying for determining which two of the four potential new laws come into effect. So, again the more victory-point-worthy the card, the more you want to "throw it away" so you can have the best shot at being the lawmaker.
colonist Like Container, there is a very suspenseful blind bid to determine the one person who will get the prize...
colonist A little like Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation and A Game of Thrones (first edition) (and a number of other games), this is added to the known amount, so you have a hint about who is likely to win; however...
colonist Like in Container, the hidden addend can be as large as the players' funds allow. Also like Container, you have a clue how much money people have to bid, but can still be quite surprised.
Unlike most games with blind bidding (but reminiscent of a couple I can't recall at the moment), these are bribes that are spent, whether you win or lose the rigged election, which adds further to the bias and surprise of who wins the election.
colonist Like The Princes of Florence and Agricola, each player has her own personal plot of land on which positioning is very important; however...
colonist Like is sometimes the case in Caylus, you must build new buildings over productive spaces!
Unlike anything I can recall ever having played, each player has a solitary worker she can place on her board she so carefully (or carelessly) laid out, in order to utilize the still-uncovered spaces in his row and the ones in his column.
Also, another of your cards (Foreman) lets you use any one building on your board, or all of them in the worker's column and the worker's row [note] – but it does not let you move the worker.
colonist Like The Pillars of the Earth, there is a marketplace everyone can use to buy and sell goods and products; however...
colonist Almost exactly like Power Grid – and specifically like the uranium in Power Grid – selling deflates the prices, and buying escalates them.
colonist Like in Caylus and Agricola, most of the buildings are unique, and there are only a couple of the ones that aren't unique. The exclusivity is more at a pain level of Agricola, though, because it goes to one player, who is the only player that can use its function.

All this adds, multiplies, and interweaves to challenge the players to compete with one another to work the game's "machine" to their advantage. Though it would lose a couple of very nice elements, I think this game (like Agricola) could even be quite interesting in solitaire play, especially due to the number of choices at your disposal at any give moment. The main thing it would need for that to happen is a little more randomization to keep it fresh for one player, and you can get a little bit of that by selecting a different player board each time. Oh, did I forget to mention that you can choose whether to play with congruent but different player boards, or identical ones?

Bravo, Stefan Stadler and Michael Rieneck!
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Thomas P. Felder
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I appreciate the work you put in your review, however, naturally, while mentioning every time a game in which the described mechanism also shows, to really be usefull, the article should list every game with the mechanism... Otherwise, it's just misleading, IMHO.

But then againg. Good job.
 
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James Di Vito
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Great analyisis, thanks!
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suPUR DUEper
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Sternenfahrer-MUC wrote:
I appreciate the work you put in your review, however, naturally, while mentioning every time a game in which the described mechanism also shows, to really be usefull, the article should list every game with the mechanism... Otherwise, it's just misleading, IMHO.

But then againg. Good job.


Are you serious????
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Tony Chen
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Quote:
Like Vino and Power Grid, the last player in the turn order gets the advantage.


First player has the advantage.
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Nathan Morse
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Sternenfahrer-MUC wrote:
I appreciate the work you put in your review, however, naturally, while mentioning every time a game in which the described mechanism also shows, to really be usefull, the article should list every game with the mechanism... Otherwise, it's just misleading, IMHO.
I wish I could, but two sad tragedies stop me from doing that:
1. I haven't played all the games with those same mechanisms.
2. My memory isn't even good enough to recall all the ones I have played that use them.
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Nathan Morse
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Zodgrod wrote:
Great analyisis, thanks!
Thank you!
 
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Nathan Morse
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drunkenKOALA wrote:
Quote:
Like Vino and Power Grid, the last player in the turn order gets the advantage.
First player has the advantage.
Heh heh. Yes, to be fair, I oversimplified: In all three games, being first is advantageous in ways A, B, and C, but disadvantageous in ways X, Y, and Z, while being last is advantageous in ways X, Y, and Z, but disadvantageous in ways A, B, and C.

To be more specific: In Power Grid, it isn't really turn order anyway, but rather rank in the race toward victory. That being said, last place gets the cheapest fuels because she gets to buy first. She also gets to connect to cities first. Those are two huge advantages I usually use to catapult into the lead at [hopefully] the right moment.

In Vino, going first is generally advantageous, but in order to become first, you need to earn the lowest income. So, yes, if you were talking about Vino, you're right: What I said is all confused and wrong. I was trying to get a lot of thoughts down on just a few hours of sleep....

In Cuba, going first lets you hit certain things first, and gives you the tiebreaker on votes; however, going last gives you the tiebreaker on start player. There are times that I very specifically hope to be last in the turn order one turn because I want to be assured that I can be first in the subsequent turn. In Cuba, though, it's not as easy as putting yourself last in the turn order, since you can only make yourself first. ...but you can subtly set up temptations to help the player to your left want to be first at the right time. Of course, none of us would do something that devious, would we?
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Tony Chen
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So going last is good because it allows you to go first next round? But why would you do that? Why not go last next round so you can go first the round after that?

worker: no competition
foreman: no competition
tradeswoman: usually better to go first (grab resource with alternative action, sell at higher price); better to go last in the very rare occasion of buying something another player sold
architect: always better to go first
mayor: always better to go first

Basically, it is always better to go first.

Maybe you meant to say: first player has the advantage, but last player has an advantage: tiebreaker for turn order next round. The way you wrote it sounds like it's always better to go last, when in reality the only good thing about going last is it lets you go first next round.
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Mark C
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Like your review. Puts more info in a smaller space to compare mechanisms rather than a long dry description of rules.
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James Ludlow
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drunkenKOALA wrote:
tradeswoman: usually better to go first (grab resource with alternative action, sell at higher price);


If you use the alternative action, how do you also sell the resource?

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Nathan Morse
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Gamer_Dog wrote:

Like your review. Puts more info in a smaller space to compare mechanisms rather than a long dry description of rules.
Thanks!
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Nathan Morse
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drunkenKOALA wrote:
Maybe you meant to say: first player has the advantage, but last player has an advantage: tiebreaker for turn order next round. The way you wrote it sounds like it's always better to go last, when in reality the only good thing about going last is it lets you go first next round.
I guess I've not successfully conveyed my message: There are advantages to going first, but if you think you need to go first next round (for instance, to get 15vp out of the soon-to-be 3vp-per-item ship, for which your opponents have no appropriate goods or products), then you may be better off trying to be the last player now, so you can be first when it really matters.

Let me put it another way: In Agricola, Caylus, and Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery (to name three), it is perspicuously advantageous to be the start player, and the fact that all three allow you to declare yourself the new start player is a testament of that. That decision isn't as cut and dried in Cuba, Vino, or Power Grid. That's an agonizing factor that I really enjoy in a game: Choosing from options that all have tradeoffs. In Cuba, you generally want the advantages of going first, but sometimes have a greater need for the advantage afforded by going last. Good times!
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Tony Chen
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jdludlow wrote:
drunkenKOALA wrote:
tradeswoman: usually better to go first (grab resource with alternative action, sell at higher price);


If you use the alternative action, how do you also sell the resource?



I thought it would be understood that that was an OR statement.
 
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Mikkel Øberg
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TedW wrote:
Sternenfahrer-MUC wrote:
I appreciate the work you put in your review, however, naturally, while mentioning every time a game in which the described mechanism also shows, to really be usefull, the article should list every game with the mechanism... Otherwise, it's just misleading, IMHO.

But then againg. Good job.


Are you serious????


Hopefully not, it is an insane requirement for two reasons:

1) The amount of work divided by the gain in the end is a very large number.

2) When you state "like Caylus" og "like Puerto Rico", few people are in doubt of what your trying to state.

Excellent review by the way ;-)
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Nathan Morse
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Gregaria wrote:
Hopefully not, it is an insane requirement for two reasons:
1) The amount of work divided by the gain in the end is a very large number.
2) When you state "like Caylus" og "like Puerto Rico", few people are in doubt of what your trying to state.
Excellent review by the way ;-)
Thank you! Yes, I rarely think that Game A "stole" Mechanism B from Game C; on the other hand, numerous designers merrily admit what game "inspired" their game. So, I tried to express that in my wording - but mostly I was trying to get about 27 thoughts down at once.
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Nomadic Gamer
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A try at summarizing the original post.
PR (with players powers even) with a moving target of several ships to load different cargoes at different time (for different VPs)[at different times] which can be semi-freely bought/sold/grown/dug-up/exchanged for VP's (like Caylus) up in a Louis XIV round- table- order with random laws which may screw/help no-one/anyone BUT you might control IF you have money by making an economic engine that does not spiral upward but ends suddenly and shortly.
Game over.
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Nathan Morse
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laugh That's not too far from the truth! The endgame feels more like it does in Agricola, though: Nothing sudden about it; you are keenly aware you won't have time to do X, Y, nor even Z.
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Albert Gao
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What a awesome review!
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Nathan Morse
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Thanks!! modest
 
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I love this review style - very helpful!!
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Nathan Morse
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Thank you! Maybe I should do more like this. It's just what struck me ith Cuba, but it was kind of fun to drum up....
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Hey, I've created a video channel! Hover over my avatar to get more info! :) - Josh -
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zefquaavius wrote:
Maybe I should do more like this.


Definitely!


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zefquaavius wrote:

:star: Unlike anything I can recall (though it feels ever so slightly familiar), the last of the four cards you play has a special importance, in that the number of votes it's worth helps determine the new start player...
:star: If you want to go first next round, you need to save the highest-victory-point-rewarding card you can to play last. Sometimes this is convenient; others, it's torture...


This is like 1960 Making of the President.
 
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Nathan Morse
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Interesting. With two 2007 releases using that same mechanism, one wonders if they had a shared influence, or just the classic case of multiple people having the same good idea at once....
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