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Subject: Aggressivley its own design - Review from GTM#102 rss

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Peter Hansell
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I am posting this review here with permission from Game Trade Magazine because it was so generous and positive - Thanks Peteloaf.

Game Trade Magazine
Issue #102 August 2008.

Wealth of Nations

Simply put, Wealth of Nations may be one of the greatest economic simulation games ever to have been published. You build industries in order to produce Commodities. Commodities allow you to "feed" you Industries and establish more Industries.

Commodities can be bartered, sold, and bought, and selling and buying directly affects the value of commodities on the market. If you can control the production of a specific commodity, you can manipulate its worth. Victory Points to win the game are based on Industries and cash on hand at the end of the game. A major attraction in this game is that it is completely knowledge-based. There is no luck involved except for the decision of who will be "first player" at the beginning, and the "switchback start" servers to mitigate that element of the game. The startup commodity packages ensure that each game is different.

Wealth of Nations may be one of those rare games that have elevated the entire endeavor to a genius level. It shares some design elements with other games - a bartering phase, the tile-laying technique, and the design of the tiles that are similar to those of the more complex train games. Yet it would be a mistake to make any comparison. This game is so aggressively its own design that it defies evaluations based on other games. Certainly this game is being touted as a civilization-building game, and it is, if you believe that economics is the underpinning of all civilization, but the comparison to classic civilization- building games also does Wealth of Nations a disservice. Once again, to understand the strategy and the mechanics of this game, players must take it for itself.

After our first run-through, my gaming group was left simultaneously scratching their collective heads, agreeing that the depth of strategy may be unparalleled, and figuring out when next to play. Wealth of Nations is not for everyone. Analysis Paralysis is certainly a danger, the rather abstract graphics may be off-putting to some, and the intricate planning and time involved may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But there will be those of us for whom this game has infinite replay value.

Heather Barnhorst.

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Les Marshall
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I have played this game with two groups.

The first played it to death, realized that certain strategies soon became obvious, and have moved on. I only got to play twice with them. Their single largest criticism while learning the game was that the debt function didn't model real world debt structuring at all. You can assume as much debt as you want with a predictable curve to the interest. Specifically, each note you take yields progressively less capital. However, there is no debt service, meaning you never actually have to pay back the loan or pay interest during the game (you do yield a fixed amount of victory points for unpaid notes). This means that debt taken early and held the longest its actually far more efficient than real world debt would be.

The second group played exactly once and would not play again. The primary reason is the end game. Players typically try to achieve a market monopoly in at least one commodity which they hoard until the end game. (This does model the way people behave so thats fine) However, once the game ends you must count out the value of your hoarded goods counting each cube on a chart which shows reduced values per cubes sold. This means a fairly prolonged time sitting there with pen and paper counting your goods and adding the huge column of figures (a 10 key would help here).

I would say that finding a house rule to speed up the end game valuation would be very valuable in an otherwise interesting game.
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Peter Hansell
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Both of these items are going to change in the expansion. They have been pointed out before and need to be improved. My plan is to post the rules in progress as well as the official final rules on the geek when they are ready.

Rulesjd wrote:
There is no debt service

This is a problem as you have correctly identified. I do like the diminishing returns on the loans but it turned out that it is not enough of a penalty. There will probably be a $1 per turn per note cost for each note that you hold. This will be in addition to a payback penalty ($5) and the existing -3vps for each note at the end of the game.

Rulesjd wrote:
The second group played exactly once and would not play again. The primary reason is the end game.

I would like to change the end game so that it is a single calculation for each pile of cubes. It is either going to be a fixed value or one tied to the current market price. I am afraid that tying it to a market price will encourage players to game the prices up on the last few turns.

Peteloaf

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Karl Rainer
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Quote:
I would like to change the end game so that it is a single calculation for each pile of cubes. It is either going to be a fixed value or one tied to the current market price. I am afraid that tying it to a market price will encourage players to game the prices up on the last few turns.



... I imagine you could accomplish the quick-end calculation and the consideration of gaming prices by including a table, which has along one axis the final market price, and the other axis the number of cubes of one commodity held by a player, and the cells would give the total value of that pile. The value could be calculated based on diminishing returns; for example 15 cubes of food, with a final market price of $10, would show $45 (based on $10 + 8 + 6 + 5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 + 1+ 1+ 1+ 1+ 1+ 1 or some such similar curve, calculated to avoid gaming the market). Then each player could look up their final amounts independently and the calculation for final dollars would be a breeze for each person.
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Les Marshall
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Peteloaf wrote:
Both of these items are going to change in the expansion. They have been pointed out before and need to be improved. My plan is to post the rules in progress as well as the official final rules on the geek when they are ready.

Rulesjd wrote:
There is no debt service

This is a problem as you have correctly identified. I do like the diminishing returns on the loans but it turned out that it is not enough of a penalty. There will probably be a $1 per turn per note cost for each note that you hold. This will be in addition to a payback penalty ($5) and the existing -3vps for each note at the end of the game.

Rulesjd wrote:
The second group played exactly once and would not play again. The primary reason is the end game.

I would like to change the end game so that it is a single calculation for each pile of cubes. It is either going to be a fixed value or one tied to the current market price. I am afraid that tying it to a market price will encourage players to game the prices up on the last few turns.

Peteloaf



That would be interesting to see and might cause me to hold onto this game.
 
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Peter Hansell
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Rulesjd wrote:
That would be interesting to see and might cause me to hold onto this game.


I think thank you is the right response to this.

In my fantasy I see several expansions to this game that will take it in several new directions.

I really love the core system in this game and I have played it through many iterations. When we published it the evolution was frozen at a single point - internal version 63 becomes public version 1.0. For me it has never really stopped development because the same yearning to make changes doesn't go away when box is shipped.

Peter
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Jennifer Norris
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I am excited to see the new rules for the expansion.
 
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Bruce Murphy
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I'm looking at this game too, and see the notes for expansions and alternate rules to fix a few of the criticisms. Is there any news on when those might be available?

B>
 
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Rob Rob
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Is TableStar going have a booth this year at the San Diego ComicCon?
 
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Peter Hansell
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Hi - no booth. We are retrenching this year!
 
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L Gravel
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Peteloaf wrote:
Both of these items are going to change in the expansion. They have been pointed out before and need to be improved. My plan is to post the rules in progress as well as the official final rules on the geek when they are ready.

Rulesjd wrote:
There is no debt service

This is a problem as you have correctly identified. I do like the diminishing returns on the loans but it turned out that it is not enough of a penalty. There will probably be a $1 per turn per note cost for each note that you hold. This will be in addition to a payback penalty ($5) and the existing -3vps for each note at the end of the game.

Rulesjd wrote:
The second group played exactly once and would not play again. The primary reason is the end game.

I would like to change the end game so that it is a single calculation for each pile of cubes. It is either going to be a fixed value or one tied to the current market price. I am afraid that tying it to a market price will encourage players to game the prices up on the last few turns.

Peteloaf



I'm late as usual. We just bought the game, have played it several times and really enjoy it.

For the record, I don't mind these two aspects. Yes, the debt is not real world. But then, we could list all kinds of things the game doesn't model perfectly (what, no property taxes?). In my view, the realism vs. fun ratio of the debt rules is reasonable. And I'm somewhat fond of the gamey result -- a player is encouraged to decide up front how much debt to take out, then play the remainder to see if that debt level was optimal in conjunction with his (excuse me: her) other strategic choices.

The end game doesn't bother me. It takes us about 10 minutes vs. 3+ hours to play the whole thing. And it's mitigated by a bit of suspense to find out how everyone placed.

Jim
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