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Subject: Question: External Investment Track rss

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Sheldon Smith
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We had a fun evening playing Tinners' Trail tonight. There is a nice build up of tension as the game progresses toward the last round. When the last round hit, everyone was having a blast figuring out their best options.

While I'm sure there is more to learn, there were some "fun factors" that we immediately picked up on:

1) Getting to build a mine for 1 Pound - because other players were on the 9+ time track (or passed).
2) Getting to build a mine for a good deal because the only players left that can bid have little money left.
3) Trying to overcome the increasing cost of digging - due to the increasing water.
4) Even prospecting, speculating, and setting up the board is fun. It adds a nice variety.
5) Deciding when it is important to pass early so you can be first next round.
6) Deciding whether to select the adit, train, or 3-stack of steam pumps.

There is one aspect of the game that has me really scratching my head... and is possibly my only minor complaint about this game. I'm trying to figure out what the importance is of having the ruleset limit players on the external investment track.

There seems to be something wrong or "clunky" with this system. Even though the rules allow a maximum of 2 cubes per "spot", I don't see how this has any true impact. For one, players have 12 cubes they can use in this area. 12 cubes!!! How often is it that you could possibly use more than 3 cubes per turn? Secondly, if 2 opponents take a favored spot, you can still reach the desired result by placing on other spots. Either way, the victory points are all the same. 2 cubes in 4 rounds is a total of 8. Too easy.

It seems to me what this game needs is either:

A) Reducing each players cubes to less than 8 (I'm wondering if 6 might be an ideal number).

B) Create a different scale of VP's to encourage cheaper spots first (a'la Amun Re style) where the rewards get harder & harder as higher fees are paid. This method would slightly penalize players who take the "quick & easy" points (by placing less cubes) while rewarding those willing to invest "slower" (and use more cubes). However, I think this type of scale doesn't make "real world" economical sense. But at least it would provide interesting choices to encourage players to grab spots with better value that is relative to THEM (save a cube for less VP vs. more cubes for more VP).

C) Create an upward scale where it rewards players who spend higher amounts. Players who aren't as high on the initiative track would inevitably have to spend a little more to stay ahead or face the reality of not gaining the same VPs if they choose to spend the same amount across cheaper spots. Now there is a true potential cost of losing VALUABLE cubes (since players may be forced to use 2x-3x as many on less efficient spots).

D) Or, perhaps this game needs a little of both. A different incrementing scale of VPs & Money along with less cubes for players to use on this investment track.

I'm also wondering if I might be missing something. We have only played one game so far, and as novices maybe there is a nuance to this external scoring track that hasn't come to light yet. But all I know is the way it currently stands there is no tension or decision angst at all during this phase.

Does anybody else feel the same way? Can someone shed some light to what I might be missing here?

Thanks in advance,
Sheldon
 
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You mean there's an overwrought, clunky mechanic in a Martin Wallace game? I'm shocked! laugh

Glad you like it though- I'll have to give it another chance sometime.
 
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Nils Miehe
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Hi Sheldon,

we had similar thoughts in our games. It never occurred that someone was blocked from placing one of his/her cubes.

But in retrospect (after Essen I was too busied to play Tinners Trail ) I can see a possibility to block someone:

When a player has placed his first cube in a way that he can only place a second cube on the field for which he has to pay 5 pounds then other players with a higher remaining ammount of money (who are thus more flexible) could block this field. But I've seen noone trying something like this and also wouldn't like it if it happens as I prefer winning by being better at the rest of the game and not by being better at tactically placing my cubes.

In my eyes the 2 cube limit could be completely ignored and it would only improve the game for me.
 
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Daniel Corban
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I swear there was already a big thread/discussion about this somewhere. I even commented in it. Oh well.

Yes, the investment phase is unnecessarily clunky and wastes time. One suggestion, which makes the investment phase fast and no longer cause random harm to a player is to require all players to place their cube in the highest spot they can afford every time they place a cube.

To me, it seemed obvious that the investment VPs should have been more efficient if you invest more. For example, if you place a cube on the 40 spot, you get 5VP (8 per VP), but if you place in the 10 spot, you only get 1 (10 per VP). It looks like Martin literally did rip the fixed scoring from Princes of Florence and added the unnecessary "arbitrarily screw a player" mechanic.

In my last couple games I went through many different outcomes for the final round and determined that if every single opponent intentionally wanted to screw one person, they could, but otherwise it wouldn't matter. I am not exaggerating. If even one player didn't pay attention or decided to not block that particular player, it didn't matter where anyone placed because everyone would be able to spend all of their money. That is a lot of overhead to potentially "bash the leader". One person would have to be the ringleader and tell everyone else where to place in order for this to work.
 
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Andrew Swan
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dcorban wrote:
One person would have to be the ringleader and tell everyone else where to place in order for this to work.

In our group, this could well happen, sadly!
 
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JP LaChance
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The blocking on the investment track can happen more in 4 player games. When it does happen it makes the when to pass out of a round more interesting. with each player only placing one cube in turn order on the investment track it happens quite a bit in 4-player games.

I do tend to agree that maybe improving the rate of return on the investments horizontally as it decreases vertically would be a good addition to the game. Maybe an expansion board would take care of this.
 
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Ik ben een kleine boefje
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Hi all.

Yes, I do agree with you. This is the only complaint we had with this game during our sessions. Well, some pals said that there is a lot of luck involved in this game, but this doesnt really bother me because is a fast game. The minor problem with Tinners is just that its investment phase is not as good as it could be, in my humble opinion.

We even talked about the possibility of tweaking or changing the investments track, may be with an expansion board, but we were a little bit worried about changing too much the game. We thought that the solution could be, as Daniel pointed, higher profits for higher investments. But then, one issue that arised was that changing the investment track could turn out in high first turn investments resolving the game in one player´s favour from the very first turn (or at least condeming the players with poor prospections in the first turn and thus without a lot of money to invest in their first investment option).

Blocking is still possible of course, but is not common and needs, as Daniel said, the nasty scenario in which three players are trying to screw one single opponent. Not very neat for us, so in our games the investment blocking option is rarely seen.

Take care.
 
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Daniel Corban
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custom golf clubs wrote:
The blocking on the investment track can happen more in 4 player games.

I have played the game half a dozen times with four players and blocking never actually happened. Players would try to figure out a way to block, but it was not possible, except in the cases I mentioned above (final round and everyone conspiring against a single person).
 
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Sheldon Smith
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Okay... I think I got it!!!!!
How about this idea...

1) Normal cube placement in standard player initiative order.

2) Incrementing cube cost based on # of players in position:
- First cube in a box cost ONE cube.
- Second cube in a box cost TWO cubes (1 on spot, 1 is tossed out).
- Third cube in a box cost THREE cubes (1 on spot, 2 are tossed out).
- Fourth cube in a box cost FOUR cubes (1 on spot, 3 are tossed out).

3) Each player has 12 cubes to use at their disposal throughout the entire game. USE THEM WISELY!!!

Note: In a 3 player game players should only have 9 cubes (and the cost is 1-3 per spot respectively).
 
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Gary Jackson
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Not sure exactly what problem you are trying to solve here?

I don't see the placing of cubes to score VPs as a particularly important part of the game, and wouldn't want to promote a mechanic-for-the-sake-of-it over the lovely theme-specific mechanics that have come before. Our group has noted the rules suggesting that there is the possibility of screwage on the cube placement and decided to ignore it - perhaps largely as it turns out as it is nearly impossible to do as it stands. But I see no reason to promote such plays?

Gary
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Sheldon Smith
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Hi again,

Thanks to all of those who shared thoughts on this. I'm starting to think the only way it works (as designed) is if everyone has a lot (or very little) money. Let's say a game starts with little water (but with lots of copper & tin). In a setup such as this, players would be floating with tons of available cash. Players could easily afford 3 (maybe even 4) spots per row on a given turn. I can imagine the highest spots being the most sought-after. In this case, the 2 cube limitation should work really well. On the contrary, when money is very low, I can also imagine the victory point track having a good purpose. Players would be fighting for that 10 spot - but may have to settle on the 5 or overspend on the 15.

Where the design doesn't seem to work is when money is average. I think this would probably cover the majority of games, where players may want to invest an amount of 15 - 20 (give or take). In this situation, it is not too difficult for a player to make up the difference by going on other places. For instance, a 20 can easily be made up by going on 15+5, or 10+10, or 5+5+10, etc.

But even in the most ideal scenarios (high/low money), the VP external investment track still feels "clunky". When it works, I guess it could provide some tension but the result isn't nearly as satisfying as the other phases this game has. At its worst, the system feels pointless with virtually no effective decision making. Ultimately, it only serves to add another 15+ minutes to the playing time. So the end result is a game that feels "90% complete". I feel this problem can become significant since it's the only way to score VP's). The VP track sort of feels slapped on in "as-is" condition.

This problem doesn't prevent me from playing again because I still really like the game. I hope Martin can fix these issues before the 2nd edition is printed. Maybe instead of the negative VP or "cube cost" variants, perhaps all that needs to be done is to slightly alter the ratio of VPs vs money depending on the actual SPOT chosen (not just per row/turn). It doesn't have to be a huge difference to have the impact it needs, and it probably wouldn't add too much more time to the 15-20 minutes the VP track already adds.

If this is done, I think the VP track should satisfy all conditions - whether money is plenty, tight, or average. I also don't see this fix causing imbalance - as it would only raise incentive for a player to pass earlier in order to get to that "pole position" spot. If anything, a better VP track would make the angst of passing even more meaningful and fun!

Sheldon :-)
 
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Jason Matthews
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Sheldon, as a big fan of Tinner's, I must say you are entirely correct. The whole VP mechanism is clunky and uninteresting. It strikes me as something that was once an important element of the design, but was made less significant by other changes and was never revisited.

Jason
 
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