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Subject: I am building a bureaucratic force of extraordinary magnitude rss

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J. R. Tracy
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If you have a hankering to experience the madcap, zany life of a
16th century Chinese bureaucrat, then Confucius is the game for you!
Seriously, they've managed to build a credible game around the theme
of the venerable Chinese civil service. Players compete to control
three separate ministries, seek to conquer foreign lands, and set
sail on voyages of discovery. All that activity generates VPs. The
game has a couple different clocks, ending after nine (?) turns or
when all three ministries are controlled.

Your options are constrained by limited actions per turn (from three
to five) and currency (money and 'licenses'). You need to build your
war chest to bribe officials and the like by drawing Confucius cards,
which are evenly distributed across values from one to three coins
and three to one licenses. The inverse relationship can help you out
of a jam from time to time. Money is more valuable in my limited
experience, as it lets you bribe officials as well as act in other
areas, but you do need licenses to build armies and/or sail the seas;
thus a crap Confucius money draw can still be applied to one of the
latter activities.

The spirit of the game lies in the gifting mechanic. Players can
purchase gifts and then give them to opponents; this creates an
obligation on the part of the recipient to the giver. If I give
Steve a lovely if clichéd Ming vase, he may find himself required to
support my candidate for the civil service, or lend his influence
when it comes time to determine control of a ministry. Players can
get out from under an obligation by fulfilling it in particular ways
(such as the ministry-influence mechanic) or by trumping the gift by
offering a superior one in return. Gifts given *or* received also
serve to increase your available actions, a nice touch reflecting the
need to be a part of the old boys' network to get things done.

While others made good use of the gift tool, I found myself strapped
for cash and distracted by the opportunity to bribe officials. I
focused on the ministry-official game via direct action, Dave tended
to favor the civil service exam process (this promotes a 'student'
into a ministry, possibly supplanting an exisiting official), Steve
opted for war-making and exploration as well as some ministry
actions, while Ben dabbled in exploration and ministry control.

Multiple paths to VPs encourages careful plotting and timing of
actions, but a lot of hard work can be trashed by the luck of the
draw. Steve saw his early game success undone by pulling some awful
money cards in the mid and late game. Ben had a 30% shot at
capturing a ministry via a special actions card draw but was denied,
while conversely I had the same draw in the end game (actually a much
better shot, 3/7 I think) and got the card I needed. Dave's student
strategy seemed sound but burned up a lot of actions and he was the
victim of timing on a couple occasions, with the gifting process
leaving him in the position of having to support an opponent's
student against his own protégé! The game came down to a kingmaking
situation with me emerging the victor. I feel my win was due as much
to fortuitous card draws as it was to sussing out a winning
strategy.

I feel we barely scratched the surface of some of the subtleties of
the game, particularly the implications of the obligation-
driven 'preferential voting' scheme that settles ministry control.
I'd like to think our endgame was more a function of our flawed play
than due to an inherent flaw in the mechanics themselves. Overall I
like the options and the decision tension, am a little suspicious of
the luck factor, and quite enjoy the theme. Worth another look but
there are other untried (by me) games ahead of it in the queue.

JR
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J C Lawrence
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I've played about a half-dozen games now. Gifting is the centre of the game. Twice now we've had a 7 or 8 point ministry won by a player with only one bribed official there. They had cleverly arranged gifts so as to force their students to a safe majority in another ministry and to force influence transfers in the single bribed minister ministry via excellent gift placement.

The luck of the money draw really isn't. There are more places and ways to spend coins, true, but licenses directly tie to more VPs.
 
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J. R. Tracy
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clearclaw wrote:
Gifting is the centre of the game.

That's my impression as well, and thus my conclusion my gift-free win is more indicative of overall suboptimal play than something we should typically expect from the game.

clearclaw wrote:
Twice now we've had a 7 or 8 point ministry won by a player with only one bribed official there. They had cleverly arranged gifts so as to force their students to a safe majority in another ministry and to force influence transfers in the single bribed minister ministry via excellent gift placement.

That's exactly the sort of gameplay I expect and look forward to in future playings; we had one ministry resolve that way.

clearclaw wrote:
The luck of the money draw really isn't. There are more places and ways to spend coins, true, but licenses directly tie to more VPs.

Yep - the inverse money-license relationship rewards/demands a diverse approach on the board to successfully surf the vagaries of the Confucius draws.

JR


 
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Benjamin Keightley
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I really love this game, and I think navigating its insane chaos is a very unusual challenge. I agree that the luck of the money draw really just means players need to be prepared to spend only a little or a lot on any given turn, and there are plenty of cheap as well as expensive things to buy. Poor planning will make anyone susceptible to bad card draws, but a versatile board position and gift pool should ensure that you always have something to do.

After last night's game, my new feeling is that the bonus cards are a little too lucky. Chaos is the order of the day here, but it's basically 'fair' chaos: I have, at every moment, a very good overview of everyone's position and incentives (to borrow a word--hi, J C). That is, except for bonus cards, which are hugely variable in worth to every player, randomly drawn, and secretly held. I love the swinginess of the cards, I love the chaos they create, but I don't appreciate their random draw.

Proposed variant: At the beginning of the game, shuffle the cards and keep them face down. Flip over the top two (three?) cards; when a player wins a bonus card, he selects one, keeps it face up in front of him, and flips a new card to replace it. I feel like this would preserve the crazy chaos of the game but continue to allow each player to have a 'complete' picture, letting him make more informed decisions. I also don't think it adds much, if any, complexity to the game.
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J C Lawrence
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Coca Lite wrote:
Proposed variant: At the beginning of the game, shuffle the cards and keep them face down. Flip over the top two (three?) cards; when a player wins a bonus card, he selects one, keeps it face up in front of him, and flips a new card to replace it. I feel like this would preserve the crazy chaos of the game but continue to allow each player to have a 'complete' picture, letting him make more informed decisions. I also don't think it adds much, if any, complexity to the game.


The more I think about this proposal the more I like it. There are a few questions:

- Does the draught pool refill immediately when a card is taken (this is significant for the cases in which players take more than one card with a single action via the navies)

- May a player draw blind?

- Size of the draught pool

I hadn't thought these through when I proposed the variant on #bgdf_chat. My general view is that the Emperor's reward cards as currently implemented are unnecessary complication to be polished out by development. I've spent a few hours looking at doing that but the cards are tied deeply into the rest of the system and can't be removed easily without grossly affecting other key game relationships.

The more cards are in the draught pool the higher the probability that one or more of the cards will be specifically useful to any given player. Additionally the exposure of the cards in the draught pool increases their value for the players as they know what they are getting/competing for. There's also an argument that the card values are decreased because they are also revealed to the other players, however this value change seems small.

Fleets are the only way to acquire multiple cards with a single action. We've had players send 15 fleets out in a single action in more than one of our games, thereby taking three cards at once. I strenuously doubt that any player will ever send out 20 fleets with a single action and thus take 4 cards at once. I'm willing to discount that contingency or cover it with a special rule that the last card is blind. 15 fleets is rare enough as to provide a reasonable outer bound.

Allowing the draught pool to immediately fill as cards are drawn allows such a fleet player to benefit from luck of the draw without any foresight by other players. If not a step backward, this is not an improvement.

Blind draws effectively recreate the (overly) chaotic system which we're trying to address. Blind draws would be better if the drawn card were then revealed by the player, but that's a band aide atop the problem, not an actual improvement. Of course the player drawing immediately after another player's draw may also profit from the blind flip as the draught pool is restocked. This could be prevented by also revealing the next N cards which will be put into the draught pool as other cards are taken. I like this idea but am unsure if the complexity is justified.

Initial conclusions:

- Daught pool is three cards wide
- Draught pool is not refilled until after the player's turn
- Emperor's Reward cards may only be taken from the face up draught pool
- Players must keep their Emperor's Reward cards revealed to all players

Possible extension:

- After player turns the draught pool is refilled in order from an addition set of face-up cards
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Daniel Danzer
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Hey, how about creating a new thread continuing this in "variants" - would be easier to find for interested people.
 
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J C Lawrence
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duchamp wrote:
Hey, how about creating a new thread continuing this in "variants" - would be easier to find for interested people. ;)


In my copious free time I'm working on an article for the Variants section.
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Seth Jaffee
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clearclaw wrote:
Gifting is the centre of the game.

That's clearly the intent, but I'm not convinced it's entirely true. I would like to play some more to find out, but frankly I think the Gifts would be more interesting if they had a game end repercussion. I.E. if they were good during the game, a little harder to get rid of (no free action to ditch one), and were worth points if you had other players' gifts in front of you at game end.

Quote:
Twice now we've had a 7 or 8 point ministry won by a player with only one bribed official there. They had cleverly arranged gifts so as to force their students to a safe majority in another ministry and to force influence transfers in the single bribed minister ministry via excellent gift placement.

I'm either not understanding this or not believing it. Was no other player trying to win the region? Was everyone of the opinion that they should simply have 1 influence in the ministry and then rely on gifts to get them more?

I think the game succeeds in one respect, you can pile on influence to attempt to secure 1st or 2nd in a Ministry, or you can use Gifts instead. Both of these strategic paths have their up-sides and down-sides.

Quote:
The luck of the money draw really isn't. There are more places and ways to spend coins, true, but licenses directly tie to more VPs.

I agree with this.

Eric was of the opinion that since the money was used for lots of things, and the licenses for only 2 things, that the luck of the draw was more significant than you suggest. I disagree with him, though I see where he's coming from. I wouldn't mind seeing an action which somehow turned licenses into money, or officials (maybe in a particular ministry - Hubu maybe) bribable with licenses instead of money. Or maybe just some dudes need licenses and some money (depending on what's printed on them).
 
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J C Lawrence
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sedjtroll wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
Twice now we've had a 7 or 8 point ministry won by a player with only one bribed official there. They had cleverly arranged gifts so as to force their students to a safe majority in another ministry and to force influence transfers in the single bribed minister ministry via excellent gift placement.

I'm either not understanding this or not believing it. Was no other player trying to win the region? Was everyone of the opinion that they should simply have 1 influence in the ministry and then rely on gifts to get them more?


5 player game.

One player had bribed 3 officials.
One player had bribed 2 officials.
Two players had bribed 1 official.

During resolution one of the two 2-bribe players had to transfer influence first as they had older/weaker ministers. By force of gift they transferred their influence to one of the 1-bribe players, making them a 3-bribe player. The remaining 1-bribe player was also forced by gift to transfer their influence the same way, in sum making a 4-bribe win for a player with only 1 actual bribe.

Quote:
I wouldn't mind seeing an action which somehow turned licenses into money, or officials (maybe in a particular ministry - Hubu maybe) bribable with licenses instead of money. Or maybe just some dudes need licenses and some money (depending on what's printed on them).


These don't seem like improvements.
 
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Seth Jaffee
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clearclaw wrote:
5 player game.

One player had bribed 3 officials.
One player had bribed 2 officials.
Two players had bribed 1 official.

During resolution one of the two 2-bribe players had to transfer influence first as they had older/weaker ministers. By force of gift they transferred their influence to one of the 1-bribe players, making them a 3-bribe player. The remaining 1-bribe player was also forced by gift to transfer their influence the same way, in sum making a 4-bribe win for a player with only 1 actual bribe.

Perhaps I was misinformed. I was under the impression that the player with 1 bribe (weaker) would have to give up his influence, then the other 1 bribe player would have to give up his influence, etc. It might be the case that the low man (1 weaker bribe) had to give it up to the other singleton, in which case now there are 2 2-bribes - maybe that's what you mean. The was-1-now-2 bribe might have been stronger than the original 2-bribe and then received his influence due to gifts?

Quote:
Quote:
I wouldn't mind seeing an action which somehow turned licenses into money, or officials (maybe in a particular ministry - Hubu maybe) bribable with licenses instead of money. Or maybe just some dudes need licenses and some money (depending on what's printed on them).


These don't seem like improvements.
[/q]
They don't seem like improvements because you don't have an issue with the unbalanced money license use/distribution. Again, consider a game where 1 player draws all 3/1 cads and another draws all 1/3 cards.
 
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J C Lawrence
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sedjtroll wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
5 player game.

One player had bribed 3 officials.
One player had bribed 2 officials.
Two players had bribed 1 official.

During resolution one of the two 2-bribe players had to transfer influence first as they had older/weaker ministers. By force of gift they transferred their influence to one of the 1-bribe players, making them a 3-bribe player. The remaining 1-bribe player was also forced by gift to transfer their influence the same way, in sum making a 4-bribe win for a player with only 1 actual bribe.


Perhaps I was misinformed. I was under the impression that the player with 1 bribe (weaker) would have to give up his influence, then the other 1 bribe player would have to give up his influence, etc. It might be the case that the low man (1 weaker bribe) had to give it up to the other singleton, in which case now there are 2 2-bribes - maybe that's what you mean. The was-1-now-2 bribe might have been stronger than the original 2-bribe and then received his influence due to gifts?


Yes, I mis-recalled/mis-wrote. It occurred as you wrote above.

Quote:
Again, consider a game where 1 player draws all 3/1 cads and another draws all 1/3 cards.


Yep, I'm not so convinced that's such a big problem.
 
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Seth Jaffee
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clearclaw wrote:
Quote:
consider a game where 1 player draws all 3/1 cads and another draws all 1/3 cards.

Yep, I'm not so convinced that's such a big problem.

Really? If 1 player drew all 3/1 cards and the other all 1/3 cards... that would be a SEVERE disadvantage! The resource in this game isn't coins, it's cards... you draw cards hen you get income, and you are limited to 4 cards (not coins) at the end of the turn. If all of your cards are 1coin/3flag and mine are all 3coin/1flag, you will have to pay 2-3 times as many resources for EVERYTHING except buying armies or sending fleets. That's most of the game. That's huge.

Sure, maybe it's a rare, extreme, unlikely case that ALL of your cards will be of one type or the other, but that case is just to illustrate the "problem" people are talking about.
 
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J C Lawrence
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sedjtroll wrote:
[If all of your cards are 1coin/3flag and mine are all 3coin/1flag, you will have to pay 2-3 times as many resources for EVERYTHING except buying armies or sending fleets. That's most of the game. That's huge.


Such a player dominates the navies and has a much easier time making armies. If the provinces are cheap they can soak up those VPs (I'm still waiting to see a player send more than 15 ships on a single voyage -- 15 has been our max so far), their associated general/admiral VPs and the Emperor's Reward cards hand over fist. That's not a bad base.
 
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Seth Jaffee
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clearclaw wrote:
sedjtroll wrote:
If all of your cards are 1coin/3flag and mine are all 3coin/1flag, you will have to pay 2-3 times as many resources for EVERYTHING except buying armies or sending fleets. That's most of the game. That's huge.


Such a player dominates the navies and has a much easier time making armies. If the provinces are cheap they can soak up those VPs (I'm still waiting to see a player send more than 15 ships on a single voyage -- 15 has been our max so far), their associated general/admiral VPs and the Emperor's Reward cards hand over fist. That's not a bad base.

How many cards would it cost to BUY 15 boats? To Invade all those foreign lands?
 
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Joshua Gottesman
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I was going to thumb this just for the thread title....but that would be wrong.


Okay, I did it anyway. Great reference!
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