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Subject: 2-player session rss

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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Randy Weston - The Spirits of Our Ancestors
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I just finished my second 2-player session of Ghost Stories with my long-time wargaming buddy, Dick Jarvinen, and thought I'd post a short report, as well as an analysis of how the 2-player game compares with solo play.

Last week I taught Dick the rules, and we played three games. We started at Standard Level, won, then played twice at Nightmare Level and we lost badly both times.

In tonight's session we started at Nightmare Level. We didn't rush, and talked freely in order to figure out our optimal moves. In our first game, he drew Red / Dance of the Spires and I drew Green / Strength of a Mountain. The center tile was the Taoist Altar, which isn't much help - we never used it, despite returning there repeatedly to pick up Power Tokens. Still, we managed to pull out the win.

It had been close, though, so we decided to play a second game at Nightmare Level. This time we drew the Herbalist's Shop for the center, which made out task much easier. Despite facing a particularly tough series of ghosts at the very beginning, we won again. Dick played Blue / Second Wind and I had Green / The God's Favorite in that one.

We decided to bump it up to Hell Level for the third game. Dick played Blue / Heavenly Gust, I had Yellow / Enfeeblement Mantra, and the center tile was Pavilion of the Heavenly Wind.

It started out pretty well, but we had a run of Tormentors that ultimately led to our doom. I think we rolled the Curse Die 5 times in two trips around the table, which led to extra ghosts, Qi loss and general havoc. The 2nd Incarnation arrived before we had finished cleaning that up, and we didn't live to see the 3rd.

Now that I've played enough 2-player games to have a pretty good grasp of it, I have some thoughts about how it compares to the solo game. Bottom line: several factors make the 2-player game tougher.

First, you've got one extra Power Token in the solo game. I don't think that's as big a deal as some have suggested (two Taoists working together can cycle them pretty efficiently) but it is a factor.

The other Power-related issue is concentration. In the solo game, I'll often combine all the combat powers available when fighting an Incarnation. Grab a token of the right color or use Enfeeblement with Yellow, an extra die or re-roll ability with Green, and a 2nd attack as well if Blue has Second Wind. In the 2-player game, you can never use your opponent's power, and he can't use yours. That makes a substantial difference.

A parallel issue is the difficulty of concentrating Tao Tokens. With only 4 available per color, you sometimes end up with them split between the players when one player needs them all, and it often isn't convenient for both to move to the same location.

This problem actually gets bigger the more players you have. In a 4-player game it will sometimes not be worthwhile to visit the Herbalist's Shop because most of the tokens are in circulation, and if you whiff on the roll you've wasted your turn. When you're fighting a major ghost, you'll want to have a bunch of a certain color in one spot, and that's going to be tough to manage.

There is a mitigating factor to token concentration in that with more players, the risk of losing Tao Tokens is distributed - rolling a "lose all Tao" Curse can be a killer solo. But all in all, I think the impact of token concentration is inversely proportional to the number of players.

My take is that the 2-player game is a level, possibly a level and a half, tougher than the solo game. Dick and I have won 2 of 4 at Nightmare Level, and I'm guessing we'd remain somewhere around that 50% success mark over time. In contrast, I'm now winning well over half of my solo games at Hell Level.

I've yet to play with 3 or 4, but I think I'll play some games using 4 Taoists just to see how that compares in terms of difficulty to the solo and 2-player versions. If I do that, I'll post an update.


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Chris Ingersoll
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Sphere wrote:
There is a mitigating factor to token concentration in that with more players, the risk of losing Tao Tokens is distributed - rolling a "lose all Tao" Curse can be a killer solo.


Only if it happens during your turn (and, if during your Yang phase, you have no access to green's power). For the three neutral boards' Yin phases it's a third blank on the die. I think it's pretty much a wash overall.

Everything else I agree with.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Vyolynce wrote:
Only if it happens during your turn


What I meant was during any player's turn. I don't see the question of whether green is in play or not as a concentration issue, but rather as a category of its own.

In a solo game, the 'lose all tao' face of the curse die is effectively blank for roughly 75% of the ghosts, 50% in a 2-player game, etc., so that element clearly favors fewer players. That's during the Yin phase of course.

But Yin phase curse dice on a green board are ignored/re-rolled if there is an active green player, and this can be exploited by using the Pavilion of the Heavenly Winds to send Tormentor ghosts to the green board. If green is neutral, this is lost entirely, which never happens with 4 players but is a factor in 3 out of 4 solo games. Being green is a big deal solo.

In the Yang phase, if you aren't green yourself you'll try to buy it whenever you zap a ghost that has a curse die for its reward. That works the opposite way, in that the green board has to be neutral or you can't purchase its power. Consequently, with good power token management you'll nearly always use the green power when attacking such a ghost in a solo game, but with more players that becomes harder to achieve.

For a seemingly simple game, there are certainly a lot of complex factors to consider. For me, that's what makes it interesting.



 
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Chris Ingersoll
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Hell, unless I've already withered my target to zero I'm pretty sure I take the green power every time I make an attempt. Doesn't matter if the ghost curses or not. laugh
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Dick Jarvinen
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Just jumping in a bit here (I'm D,J., the other half of George's team).

Normally there is very little to add to George's reports as they are always comprehensive and well presented.

The only note I would like to add is that the time I had the red power (move 2 spaces), I found it incredibly valuable, at least in that particular game. I've seen a few comments where the red ability was a bit disparaged but either in that particular game, it just worked well, or it just happened to fit my style of play.
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Dean Heine
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Vyolynce wrote:
Sphere wrote:
There is a mitigating factor to token concentration in that with more players, the risk of losing Tao Tokens is distributed - rolling a "lose all Tao" Curse can be a killer solo.


Only if it happens during your turn (and, if during your Yang phase, you have no access to green's power). For the three neutral boards' Yin phases it's a third blank on the die. I think it's pretty much a wash overall.

Everything else I agree with.


Ooops. I played that the loss of Tao tokens due to a haunter playing solo counted for all the boards. No wonder I was getting continually smashed on initiation. Thanks for that.

Cheers Dean.
 
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