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Subject: A lunch time solution? rss

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James Caddick
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I came to Race for the Galaxy as a fan of Puerto Rico looking for a two player game I could play during my work lunch-break. Our previous game, Agricola, was taking too long to play, required the transport of too many bits and pieces and was difficult to set up in a coffee shop. So we plumped for Race for the Galaxy reasoning that it would be a quick, 2 player game that only needed cards to play.

My initial reaction to the game was that the rules were not clear. It wasn't until I started translating everything into Puerto Rico speak that I began to understand what was going on. Settle = settle, consume = captain, produce = craftsman, explore = prospecter, develop = build. VPs = shipping points. Tableau = buildings spaces. (Yes I know the comparisons aren't perfect but they helped me get a grip of what was going on).

I have never been especially interested in a game's theme, but I had read some reviews where people had claimed that the theme really worked in RftG. Indeed my friend said he had read a review where the reviewer tells how he deliberately made sub-optimal plays just so that his tableau was convincingly thematic! Lol. I'm sorry but the theme seems paper thin to me. It does not feel like you're building a galactic empire at all, but then how can a game made up entirely of cards and a few victory points ever hope to achieve that? The artwork is fine, and the iconography is helpful once you've worked out what's going on. But this is a digression because the theme of a game is about as important to me as the colour of the instruction booklet.

In terms of variation RftG scores well. Most of the games I play are your more traditional Euro game fare - 2 hours long, lots of thinking, lots of components. So it's nice to play a game that can comfortably be done and dusted in 30 minutes. I also like the ingenious way the cards are used for currency, goods, developments and settlements. The large deck allows for plenty of replay. The game allows several discrete routes to victory - production and consumption, military conquest and settlement amongst them.

I was surprised how little I agonised about which cards to keep and which to discard. I had thought that everytime I came to pay for a development or settlement I would be wracked with indecision. But so far, and perhpas this is because I'm by no means an expert, the decisions have seemed pretty straightforward to me. I haven't quite worked out whether I consider this a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand analysis paralysis can be quite detrimental to my enjoyment of a game, but on the other hands, what's the point of playing a game where everything is straightforward?

It seems to me that the real decisions come when choosing whether to specialise or to diversify. Should a player try to identify his opponent's strength and avoid choosing that action at all and concentrate elsewhere, or should he attempt to build up his tableau so that he is not completely shut out when his opponent chooses their preferred action?

In the end the game feels just a little too lightweight for me. I can't imagine that a post-game discussion would reveal many deep strategical insights. The appropriate strategy seems to be largely driven by the cards that you pick up making any comparison of how each player did to be very difficult. It's a relatively fun way to spend an hour's lunch, but will likely only be a stop-gap for me until I have the time to play something more meaty. I cannot imagine RftG displacing games like Prince of Florence, Agricola, Tigris & Euphrates, El Grande, or Puerto Rico from our game nights.
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Brian Preston
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I was also looking for a decent lunchtime game that could be played with 2-3 people, was replayable, quick, and had enough interesting decisions to have some depth. I've found RftG to be an excellent solution given these constraints.
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David Gibbs
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Dominion might be another good choice for lunch time gaming.
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Mike Smeding
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For 2 people, I find RftG to be really good for a 20 min game. Even with 3, it shouldn't take more than 30 min if everyone know's how to play.

If you have 4 or more people I think RftG would become too long for lunch break, but then just pull out BANG! It's a great game for 4 or more at lunch.
 
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Wei-Hwa Huang
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TaxpayersMoney wrote:

I was surprised how little I agonised about which cards to keep and which to discard. I had thought that everytime I came to pay for a development or settlement I would be wracked with indecision. But so far, and perhpas this is because I'm by no means an expert, the decisions have seemed pretty straightforward to me. I haven't quite worked out whether I consider this a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand analysis paralysis can be quite detrimental to my enjoyment of a game, but on the other hands, what's the point of playing a game where everything is straightforward?


Among experienced players, the agonizing over which cards to keep tend to come in two forms:

(1) You have a strategy planned that uses the cards you have. You draw new cards that suggests a new strategy that seems viable. Do you stick with your old strategy, or go with the new strategy?

(2) You have three cards that all work together very well, if only you can
get them all into your tableau. However, it seems likely that if you delay the game long enough to get the money to put them out, you might lose the game as other players get more points. Do you raise the money first, or do you choose two of them to play and forget about the third one?

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It seems to me that the real decisions come when choosing whether to specialise or to diversify. Should a player try to identify his opponent's strength and avoid choosing that action at all and concentrate elsewhere, or should he attempt to build up his tableau so that he is not completely shut out when his opponent chooses their preferred action?


Yes. :-) The best strategy is to engineer things so that your best choice of action helps your opponent(s) very little, and that their best choice of action helps you a lot. The trickiness comes in because it is too easy to overbalance -- if you make it so that you get a lot off of your opponent's best choice of action, then it no longer becomes their best choice. On the opposite side, your best choice of action can often end up being a choice that helps your opponent more than your other choices, simply because it helps you even more.

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In the end the game feels just a little too lightweight for me. I can't imagine that a post-game discussion would reveal many deep strategical insights.


I have had many a post-game discussion with deep strategical insights. But your mileage may vary.

Quote:
I cannot imagine RftG displacing games like Prince of Florence, Agricola, Tigris & Euphrates, El Grande, or Puerto Rico from our game nights.


It certainly has displaced all of those from one game night that I regularly go to. However, it has not managed to displace Tichu. :-)
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Eric Brosius
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James, another experience that would improve your impression of the game would be to play ten games against a top player and lose nine of them. It may seem that there are a lot of easy decisions, but I've found that the best players win a remarkable percentage of games when they play against average players like me.
 
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James Caddick
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Eric Brosius wrote:
James, another experience that would improve your impression of the game would be to play ten games against a top player and lose nine of them. It may seem that there are a lot of easy decisions, but I've found that the best players win a remarkable percentage of games when they play against average players like me.


Hey, I have that kind of awful win ratio against my friend who learnt at the same time as me. I didn't mean to say that I've got the game figured out, just that there doesn't seem to be as much depth of strategy as in the other games I play.
 
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Eric Brosius
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What I'm saying is that a lot of the depth isn't obvious to new players.
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James Caddick
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Quote:
What I'm saying is that a lot of the depth isn't obvious to new players.


Point taken.
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Branko K.
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dagibbs wrote:
Dominion might be another good choice for lunch time gaming.


Dominion requires much more tablespace and isn't as transportable as RftG. Also, it's hard to eat when you need to shuffle so often.

Btw, I'd love to use RftG as... ok well not as a lunch-break game but a coffee break one (if I extend my coffee break a little). However, since I cannot find anyone to play RftG with even in the best of circumstances, it's even more ludicrous of me to start thinking I could expect to play this in a specific time I find convenient.
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James Caddick
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baba44713 wrote:
dagibbs wrote:
Dominion might be another good choice for lunch time gaming.


Dominion requires much more tablespace and isn't as transportable as RftG. Also, it's hard to eat when you need to shuffle so often.

Btw, I'd love to use RftG as... ok well not as a lunch-break game but a coffee break one (if I extend my coffee break a little). However, since I cannot find anyone to play RftG with even in the best of circumstances, it's even more ludicrous of me to start thinking I could expect to play this in a specific time I find convenient.


Well if you ever happen to be in the London Victoria branch of Caffe Nero then look out for us and we'll give you a game!
 
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