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Subject: Session Report - Three Player Game rss

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Connor Alexander
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Hey all,

Played my third game of Android over the weekend, again with the wife and this time with a friend of ours who was new to the game. As usual it took quite a bit of time to setup and explain the rules to the newcomer, roughly an hour before we got it going.

This time I was playing Raymond, the wife was playing Caprice and our friend was playing Rachel.

This game I wanted to try something completely different: ignore the murder altogether. As Raymond it seemed that focusing on the conspiracy would be a solid plan. As I drew the same suspect for both innocent and guilty it looked like I'd have to put more effort into the murder than was worth it.

Early game I followed up on leads quickly, focusing completely on burning through the first conspiracy pile. Before long two links were both attached to society favors, so by the time we got to the 'favor' pile that's what I was picking up. I was also blazing through my 'Lost Love' storyline with baggage far in the positive.

Caprice was my competition in New Angeles, and was following up on evidence as well but focusing mostly on the murder. She was off to a bad start after a few painful dark cards and bombed her first story. Rachel, meanwhile, stuck to the moon early game, focusing on the murder and collecting money.

By mid game I was in fairly good shape: I ended up dropping a warrant on Jinteki and collecting my first Jinteki token while collecting a nice pile of Society Favors, each currently worth 2 VP. I had made no headway on the murder and did not intend to. Rachel had dumped the most evidence on the suspects and it looked like she was in fairly good control of the murder.

By late game things started to get a bit silly. Week 2 started off bad for me: I was ready to buy 2 Jinteki tokens at the beginning of my turn (as an event was in play that gave a 2-for-1 deal) and got moved all the way across town and lost half my time. The next turn I lost even more time to damn dark cards. I wasn't very happy, but was still in decent shape. Rachel was maxed out on money, but also got hit by some bad dark cards and got drug down to earth. Caprice was starting to catch up a bit, and managed to snag a few conspiracy tokens by starting to finish what I had begun.

By the latter half of week 2 I finally managed to get back to Jinteki (the turn before the event would have rolled off the board) and got 2 more tokens there. On the way back I added a few more tiles to the conspiracy, grabbing a few conspiracy tokens myself. Rachel was struggling to get back to the moon to follow up on the last few leads there. Second to the last turn in the game was huge for me, as I managed to follow up on several leads to great effect (helped out by some beneficial light cards) and grabbed a few more society tokens as well. The last few leads I followed up on completed the puzzle and netted me a whopping 4 conspiracy tokens.

Last turn of the game, however, a cheap shot dark card (with only a 2 light shift cost!) forced me to discard all seven society favors I had accumulated. 14 points gone in one action. A strategy I had been following all damn game. Not because I entered a bad location, not because I made a wrong move, just a single 'play at the beginning of the turn' card. What the hell?

In the end it didn't matter. Because of my positive story (+14 points) my huge stack of conspiracy tokens (something like 21 points worth) my accumulated Jinteki tokens and 2 society favors I was able to grab on my last turn I ended the game with over 50 points. Second place was Rachel, who had gotten both guilty and innocent suspect correct in addition to a solid money bonus, but she was over 20 points behind me. Caprice was third in the low 20's.

So, I won by a landslide, but it was a frustrating victory. Early game I had made a point to turn the conspiracy towards one type of favor and collect a large amount of favors of that type. It was difficult, but by the time I had accomplished it I felt quite good. Then it was all taken away in one cheap shot action. To make matters worse I still won by a landslide due to my large number of conspiracy tiles, which made all of my favor-vp work seem rather pointless. So, get lots of conspiracy tokens, finish your story well and win? I suppose my problems are twofold: certain dark cards are way too powerful, and conspiracy tokens are worth way too many VPs. Being able to nearly double the points given out for solving the murder with conspiracy tokens alone shouldn't happen.

Anyways, that was my third game. I probably won't play again for awhile (the game lasted 4 hours all told) and I anxiously look forward to seeing some house rules fly around the board. I think there is a good game here, I really want to enjoy it, but there are some things that really need to be fixed.
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Oshio wrote:
This game I wanted to try something completely different: ignore the murder altogether. As Raymond it seemed that focusing on the conspiracy would be a solid plan. As I drew the same suspect for both innocent and guilty it looked like I'd have to put more effort into the murder than was worth it.


When I read this I thought, Man, I hope he doesn't rely on favors to score all his points. There's a memory card that's going to kill him.
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Allen Doum
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Trying to concentrate on any one thing or the total exclusion of others doesn't strike me as the way to go with this game.

The conspiracy bonuses could help all players, as to the conspiracy tiles, I would expect other players to suspend what they are doing to finish a row.

But, then again, I need to play it more times.
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Connor Alexander
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AllenDoum wrote:
Trying to concentrate on any one thing or the total exclusion of others doesn't strike me as the way to go with this game.

The conspiracy bonuses could help all players, as to the conspiracy tiles, I would expect other players to suspend what they are doing to finish a row.

But, then again, I need to play it more times.


I agree with you, but a careful manipulation of the puzzle allowed me to leave it so that players would need to dedicate at least 2 leads on their turn in order to score a row or column. They did not commit to that so it allowed me to spend my turn following up on 3 leads, spending them all on the conspiracy and scoring 2-3 tokens as a result. Was it the best move on either part? Probably not, as I said before this is our third game. But it ended up working for me. In the future I am sure all players will pay more attention to scoring conspiracy tiles after the windfall I received this game.

I'm still not convinced that solving the murder is necessary.
 
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Oshio wrote:
I'm still not convinced that solving the murder is necessary.


It's not, as the rulebook demonstrates in the scoring example. But it is the largest single source of VP.
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Daniel Hammond
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Nice review. I really want to play this game (conceptually) but don't have a big gaming group here. Your review helps cement this feeling I have had since reading the rules... the balance isn't there. Did the game designer have in mind that you needed to know every single dark card in your deck before you started playing so that you knew that one card could undo countless (can you imagine counting the actions) actions you took to gain those favor tokens? The concept and genre seem great but the game design seems weak to me for a 4+ hour game. I have commented on different concerns I have had in multiple threads but I noticed the designers ignore negative comments regarding design while commenting on more positive feedback. I still look forward to trying it, dissecting it and analyzing some of the quirkier rules and effects.
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Joe Niezelski
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dlhammond wrote:
Did the game designer have in mind that you needed to know every single dark card in your deck before you started playing so that you knew that one card could undo countless (can you imagine counting the actions) actions you took to gain those favor tokens? The concept and genre seem great but the game design seems weak to me for a 4+ hour game. I have commented on different concerns I have had in multiple threads but I noticed the designers ignore negative comments regarding design while commenting on more positive feedback. I still look forward to trying it, dissecting it and analyzing some of the quirkier rules and effects.


Yeah, it's a good idea to glance through your character's decks if you don't want to be surprised. However, with regards to Raymond:

Raymond's Strategy Sheet wrote:
Become familiar with his memory cards and learn ways to avoid them.


Now, one of his memory cards forces him to lose all normal favors (it's triggered when he has 7 cards in his hand). Anyone who glances through the 4 memory cards, like the strategy sheet recommends, will know that it's not a good idea for Raymond's player to depend too much on normal favors.

A minute or two more spent flipping through his dark deck will show that there are a number of cards in there that cause him to lose favors as well. This is to counteract Raymond's strength, which can be seen in the above session report. Even though he lost his tokens, he still won the game.

I would actually argue that the game would be imbalanced and poorly thought out if Raymond didn't have the weakness that is being griped about here.
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Simon Crowe
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I was wavering on buying this game and, oddly, your negative comments have actually had a positive effect on my opinion. It seems like you would have won by loads of points without this card being played on you, so this is obviously a balancing attempt in the game and shows that the idea is to try and get your VPs in a more balanced way.
 
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Chris J Davis
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The issue with Ray's favours in this game is just one example of why I am losing all faith in Kevin Wilson as a game designer. Scott Nicholson's comments (found elsewhere on this site) about Android being a four hour long "take that" game are perfectly valid, as KW seems to design his games using a very large mallet rather than a pen and paper. There are never any elements of finesse, subtlety or elegance in his games - they all seem to consist of cards that simply say "blam! - you're dead!".

For silly little games such as Munchkin this would be fine, but for what are supposed to be quality, epic-scale games from FFG (look at Descent and Arkham Horror for other examples) this, for me at least, is simply unacceptable.

Similar results could have easily been achieved without such a "blam! - you're dead!" effect to them. Raymonds dark cards could all (or most) have had the text "Raymond must discard one normal favour of his choice" included on them. This would mean that it would be difficult for Ray to keep hold of favours, but that they would attrition slowly, rather than all disappear as the result of one card. Also consider other possible options:

"If Ray currently holds more than 6 normal favours, he must discard one favour of his choice for each card he holds in his hand." - balanced by the fact that this only has a devastating effect if Ray holds both a lot of favours *and* a lot of cards.

"You may choose for Ray to either discard one normal favour of each type or four normal favours of the same type." - balanced by the fact that only if Ray holds at least one favour of each type or four favours of one type will the card have its full effect.

"Ray must discard one normal favour of his choice for each Kate favour he holds." - balanced by the fact that Ray will certainly hold Kate favours that he can use instead of the normal favours he is being forced to discard.

Then compare to:

"Play at the start of Ray's turn. Ray must discard all of his favours."

Blam - you're dead.

Where's the balance in that?
 
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Chris Ingersoll
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bleached_lizard wrote:
"Play at the start of Ray's turn. Ray must discard all of his favours."

Blam - you're dead.

Where's the balance in that?


I don't have my copy of the game with me, but I want to say that the actual text of the card in question is "Choose a type of favor. Raymond must discard all normal favors of that type."
 
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Chris J Davis
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Vyolynce wrote:
bleached_lizard wrote:
"Play at the start of Ray's turn. Ray must discard all of his favours."

Blam - you're dead.

Where's the balance in that?


I don't have my copy of the game with me, but I want to say that the actual text of the card in question is "Choose a type of favor. Raymond must discard all normal favors of that type."


Still bad enough. The point is that *all* (yes, ALL) game effects of this type should follow these two simple golden rules:

One player should not be able to undo a disproportionate amount of another player's hard work without investing a (near-)equal amount of hard work themselves.

AND

Any negative effects of sufficiently high strength should include some way to cancel or mitigate the effects that are simple enough to achieve with an appropriate amount of preperation.

Of course you CAN break these rules. But the more often they are broken within any particular game the more pointless the players' decisions become which leads to what is generally considered to be a "bad game". KW seems to break these rules with wild abandon, often including things in a game simply because because they are thematic or because of their "cool" factor, game balance be damned.
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Jukka Kelanne
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Vyolynce wrote:
bleached_lizard wrote:
"Play at the start of Ray's turn. Ray must discard all of his favours."

Blam - you're dead.

Where's the balance in that?


I don't have my copy of the game with me, but I want to say that the actual text of the card in question is "Choose a type of favor. Raymond must discard all normal favors of that type."

It's actually one of the memory cards and it can be countered with having less than 7 canrds in hand . Don't have the game with me right now but it goes something like this: "Play when raymond draws a card and if raymond has 7 cards in hand. Raymond must discard all of his favours.", not sure about the drawing thing..
 
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Connor Alexander
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Scrowe wrote:
I was wavering on buying this game and, oddly, your negative comments have actually had a positive effect on my opinion. It seems like you would have won by loads of points without this card being played on you, so this is obviously a balancing attempt in the game and shows that the idea is to try and get your VPs in a more balanced way.


I both agree and disagree with you.

On one hand, you're right, I would have won by a huge amount of points if that card wasn't played and it did 'balance' my score a bit.

On the other hand, it was incredibly easy to win my story and accumulate all of the conspiracy tiles that I did (indeed, I won my story by investigating the conspiracy as much as I did). If the other players had focused on the conspiracy more, then I wouldn't have had nearly as many conspiracy tokens and probably would have lost. It was NOT easy to set up the several links I did to the society favors section and accumulate the number of favors I did. THAT was the action I was proud of and the one that I felt I had worked hardest on. So for all of those tokens to be, poof, gone, without me doing anything (the card played against me was the 'he must discard all favors of one type' and could not be countered) really felt cheap. And for me to still win with the points I had just accumulted on the way without really working for made the victory feel even cheaper.

Should I have gone through my dark deck and studied every card? Um, I guess. But nothing on my strategy sheet said 'don't accumulate favors'.
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Chris Ingersoll
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dzyan wrote:
Vyolynce wrote:
bleached_lizard wrote:
"Play at the start of Ray's turn. Ray must discard all of his favours."

Blam - you're dead.

Where's the balance in that?


I don't have my copy of the game with me, but I want to say that the actual text of the card in question is "Choose a type of favor. Raymond must discard all normal favors of that type."

It's actually one of the memory cards and it can be countered with having less than 7 canrds in hand . Don't have the game with me right now but it goes something like this: "Play when raymond draws a card and if raymond has 7 cards in hand. Raymond must discard all of his favours.", not sure about the drawing thing..


No, I remember that one (because I had it in my hand during my first game and was constantly asking Raymond's character how many cards he had), but the OP specifically said it was a two-shift dark card.



bleached_lizard wrote:
Still bad enough. The point is that *all* (yes, ALL) game effects of this type should follow these two simple golden rules:

One player should not be able to undo a disproportionate amount of another player's hard work without investing a (near-)equal amount of hard work themselves.

AND

Any negative effects of sufficiently high strength should include some way to cancel or mitigate the effects that are simple enough to achieve with an appropriate amount of preperation.


So you have no problem with Raymond's player putting himself in the vulnerable position of putting all of his eggs in one basket?

And there is a way to cancel that card; Raymond has a light card (3-shift, IIRC) that cancels a dark card being played against him and prevents any further dark cards from being played that turn. "Not tonight, baby" or something to that effect. Raymond can draw cards like nobody's business thanks to his "Wrapped up in Himself" card (although not without its own danger, as was just discussed); the cure is probably more common than the disease this time, unless ALL of the other players are drawing his dark cards like mad.

Of course, if someone in my game were amassing a majority of the 12 Conspiracy Tokens that are possible to score and then hoarding high-scoring favors, I think that some ganging-up might be likely to happen.
 
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Chris J Davis
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Vyolynce wrote:
dzyan wrote:
Vyolynce wrote:
bleached_lizard wrote:
"Play at the start of Ray's turn. Ray must discard all of his favours."

Blam - you're dead.

Where's the balance in that?


I don't have my copy of the game with me, but I want to say that the actual text of the card in question is "Choose a type of favor. Raymond must discard all normal favors of that type."

It's actually one of the memory cards and it can be countered with having less than 7 canrds in hand . Don't have the game with me right now but it goes something like this: "Play when raymond draws a card and if raymond has 7 cards in hand. Raymond must discard all of his favours.", not sure about the drawing thing..


No, I remember that one (because I had it in my hand during my first game and was constantly asking Raymond's character how many cards he had), but the OP specifically said it was a two-shift dark card.



bleached_lizard wrote:
Still bad enough. The point is that *all* (yes, ALL) game effects of this type should follow these two simple golden rules:

One player should not be able to undo a disproportionate amount of another player's hard work without investing a (near-)equal amount of hard work themselves.

AND

Any negative effects of sufficiently high strength should include some way to cancel or mitigate the effects that are simple enough to achieve with an appropriate amount of preperation.


So you have no problem with Raymond's player putting himself in the vulnerable position of putting all of his eggs in one basket?


Firstly, it seems that Raymond wasn't putting all his eggs in one basket, as he still went on to win the game.

Secondly, you're right in that it's perfectly valid that a game can punish a player for putting all of their eggs in one basket and have it not work out. But that's not the point. The point is that after spending the whole game working on that strategy it shouldn't come crashing down just due to the simple playing of ONE CARD. There was no other preperation or work involved in the leading up to the playing of that card. It was just one single action that undone all of the Raymond player's hard work throughout the course of the game.

Vyolynce wrote:
And there is a way to cancel that card; Raymond has a light card (3-shift, IIRC) that cancels a dark card being played against him and prevents any further dark cards from being played that turn. "Not tonight, baby" or something to that effect. Raymond can draw cards like nobody's business thanks to his "Wrapped up in Himself" card (although not without its own danger, as was just discussed); the cure is probably more common than the disease this time, unless ALL of the other players are drawing his dark cards like mad.


That's just one "magic bullet" created to cancel another magic bullet. KW doesn't want Raymond to be able to make good use of favours, so he creates a magic bullet card that simply makes Ray discard all of his favours. Then to keep this "in balance", he creates another magic bullet to cancel the first magic bullet. I've seen this before in KW's games (see Descent: Gauntlets of Power -> Crushing Blow -> Magic Feat that cancels any one OL card) and it's laughingly referred to as "game balance".

It's a joke. Whether dozens of actions and victory points resolve positively or negatively for a player basically comes down to whether a player holds a single card at the right time or not. There's no finesse, there's no long-term strategy involved. Just one card: blam - you're dead. One other card: psyche - oh no I'm not.

It's this heavy-handed, created with an iron mallet approach to game design that I'm growing tired of in KW's games. Luckily with Descent I've house-ruled the hell out of it to turn it into an enjoyable, balanced game. Hopefully I can do the same with Android.
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Chris Ingersoll
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bleached_lizard wrote:
KW doesn't want Raymond to be able to make good use of favours, so he creates a magic bullet card that simply makes Ray discard all of his favours.


Plus other cards that make it difficult for Ray to get/keep favors. There are several cards that can only be played against him while he has a Kate favor, for instance. It's not just this one card.
 
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Allan Clements
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Oshio wrote:

Should I have gone through my dark deck and studied every card? Um, I guess. But nothing on my strategy sheet said 'don't accumulate favors'.


Actually Raymonds strategy sheet states:

"and his ability to gain and hang onto favours is minimal"

see the strategy sheet:
http://new.fantasyflightgames.com/ffg_content/Android/ray_st...

The warning about favours was there, for Raymond I would not recommend getting more than 1 of each favour at any one time. Use them up quickly and no one will feel it worth while to remove so few favours from you and if they do it does not hurt as much.

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Antero Kuusi
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There is no single one magic bullet here. The dark deck for Raymond has several cards that punish him for hanging on or going after the favors. And the strategy sheet outright says it (as referenced above). If you try to play a strategy that is specifically your character's weakness, you should not be surprised if you get burned.

Every character has dark cards that hurt them if try to go after their "weak" route. For example, try uncovering the conspiracy with Louis, and watch in frustration as your actions go to waste due to dark cards. However, you are not going to be burned by "discard all favors" type cards with Louis, as favors are his strong points. Similarily, you are not going to be stopped uncovering the conspiracy with Raymond, but are going to lose if you try to go for favors.
 
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Chris J Davis
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It's fine to say that each character has strengths and weaknesses, and that obviously you are going to get burned if you try to persue a path your character is weak in. However, my point was meant to be that there are more subtle ways of going about it.

We played again last night, and the new player (an experienced gamer, especially with FFG and KW's fare) simply couldn't believe the sledgehammer effect some of the cards had: "Your turn ends", "Gain 2 trauma" (so, -6VPs just by playing one card), "lose one conspiracy token and gain 1 trauma" (so again, -7VPs by playing one card). Those last two cards together would almost completely negate the efforts of both of your plots.

There are much more interesting and subtle ways in which character strengths and weaknesses can be built into a game that allow players to pull off elegant and well thought through strategies that simply can't arise from the types of games KW designs. If you're going to include such strong disincentives for a character to do (or rather, not to do) something, then you might as well make it a restriction on the character card instead ("Raymond may not hold more than two favours at a time"). Another good example of this is the card that makes Raymond end his turn and lose all of his cards if he enters the Challenger Memorial. The card might as well read "Place this card in play faceup at the start of the game. Raymond may not use the Beanstalk to travel between the Earth and the Moon". It would amount to pretty much exactly the same game effect.
 
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Antero Kuusi
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bleached_lizard wrote:

We played again last night, and the new player (an experienced gamer, especially with FFG and KW's fare) simply couldn't believe the sledgehammer effect some of the cards had: "Your turn ends", "Gain 2 trauma" (so, -6VPs just by playing one card), "lose one conspiracy token and gain 1 trauma" (so again, -7VPs by playing one card). Those last two cards together would almost completely negate the efforts of both of your plots.


There's a natural explanation here. One trauma is -1 VP. Those -3 VP markers are there to reduce clutter if you have three trauma tokens. So, you had tripled the effects of those cards...

And at least in my experience the most destructive effects are from fight cards, so there is often a "less bad" option available.

Quote:

If you're going to include such strong disincentives for a character to do (or rather, not to do) something, then you might as well make it a restriction on the character card instead ("Raymond may not hold more than two favours at a time").


Perhaps it is just me, but I like the approach of Android much more. Even when the restrictions are derived from the "background" of the characters that kind of limitations seem always very arbitary and jarring. Trying to do something you are not good at and failing utterly, instead of just being arbitrary being denied it, seems much more lifelike and fitting to the theme here. Staying in Raymond's theme, an alcholic is not prevented from going into a bar. There will just be bad (perhaps very bad) consequences if he does. I like that the player has the freedom to do the "stupid" things, but has then to deal with the (sometimes very bad) consequences. Perhaps this is one of the theme vs. mechanics things once again.
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pyton wrote:
bleached_lizard wrote:

We played again last night, and the new player (an experienced gamer, especially with FFG and KW's fare) simply couldn't believe the sledgehammer effect some of the cards had: "Your turn ends", "Gain 2 trauma" (so, -6VPs just by playing one card), "lose one conspiracy token and gain 1 trauma" (so again, -7VPs by playing one card). Those last two cards together would almost completely negate the efforts of both of your plots.


There's a natural explanation here. One trauma is -1 VP. Those -3 VP markers are there to reduce clutter if you have three trauma tokens. So, you had tripled the effects of those cards...

And at least in my experience the most destructive effects are from fight cards, so there is often a "less bad" option available.


*smack!* BIG d'oh! blush

pyton wrote:
Quote:

If you're going to include such strong disincentives for a character to do (or rather, not to do) something, then you might as well make it a restriction on the character card instead ("Raymond may not hold more than two favours at a time").


Perhaps it is just me, but I like the approach of Android much more. Even when the restrictions are derived from the "background" of the characters that kind of limitations seem always very arbitary and jarring. Trying to do something you are not good at and failing utterly, instead of just being arbitrary being denied it, seems much more lifelike and fitting to the theme here. Staying in Raymond's theme, an alcholic is not prevented from going into a bar. There will just be bad (perhaps very bad) consequences if he does. I like that the player has the freedom to do the "stupid" things, but has then to deal with the (sometimes very bad) consequences. Perhaps this is one of the theme vs. mechanics things once again.


Yes, I agree it's certainly a theme vs mechanics issue. However, I'm strongly of the belief that a game can have a very strong theme without having to sacrifice interesting, balanced, integrated mechanics (look at Battlestar Galactica as a shining example).
 
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Bruce Glassco
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I've been reading through these session reports for a while, and I just want to point out that this experiment was actually somewhat successful. Specifically, this was the first game report I've read where the winner did NOT solve the mystery.
 
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BruceGee wrote:
I've been reading through these session reports for a while, and I just want to point out that this experiment was actually somewhat successful. Specifically, this was the first game report I've read where the winner did NOT solve the mystery.


I am becoming increasingly convinced that a careful player playing Rachel or Raymond can ignore their guilty hunch, as long as they are careful to resolve their plots in the positive, push the other player's plots into the negative via dark cards, and collect as many other VP as possible by other means -- especially conspiracy bonus vp, and jinteki/haas tokens. I think assassination is also key, and while the first few plays of this made me think it wasn't worth the cost/benefit, I have now won a game simply because I assassinated the leading player's guilty hunch.
 
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Calavera Despierta
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pyton wrote:
Perhaps it is just me, but I like the approach of Android much more. Even when the restrictions are derived from the "background" of the characters that kind of limitations seem always very arbitary and jarring. Trying to do something you are not good at and failing utterly, instead of just being arbitrary being denied it, seems much more lifelike and fitting to the theme here.


And in all the debates of Euro vs. Ameritrash, this seems the key difference of design that is most frequently overlooked. In my mind, most Euros do exactly this: impose arbitrary limitations on players. The limitations to be solved in Euro games are so abstracted that they ultimately amount to pitting the player against the game, rather than in Ameritrash where players are pitted against each other. Strangely enough, players ARE pitted against the game itself in Android (and I know many people consider Android to be a clandestine Euro) but the limitations, rather than being arbitrary and mechanical, are so closely linked to thematic considerations, that each choice feels meaningful in a way that really only happens in theme-heavy Ameritrash. This, to me, is one of the reasons why Android is a flawed, but ultimately inspiring, work of literature or art. The game play is frustratingly HUMAN. Which itself explains why so many pasty-faced cube-fondlers dislike it.
 
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