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Subject: Is the game tight and well-balanced or meaningless? rss

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T.W. Man
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In advance, I'll say that I've only solo'd the game a few times and haven't gotten round to actually playing this with real people.

I've done several trial runs and every game I've ended up with a maximum point difference of about 6-10 points between first and last. Reviewing, there doesn't seem to be a single point where you can say: the green player ran away with the game on this call.

On the one hand, this seems very good: a well balanced game where everyone can keep into contention and exploit little mistakes. On the other hand, the end results feel a bit... well, random and meaningless.

Somehow, it feels more like 90 minutes of play and ending up with a die roll to see who wins. Do you understand what I'm saying? Am I missing something here?
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Joshua Gardner
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I wouldn't go as far as to say that it is as random as a dice roll, but my experience with the game has been that the score is always close in the end. There is never a 'clear' strategy that runs away with the game.

I find the game to be a satisfying experience, but I agree with many of your observations.

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J Knoerzer
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It is funny I had the exact oppisite reaction to this game. I found it quite unbalanced. I feel that certain starting boards are better then others. Though the buidlings are the real problem. There a couple of buidlings (the names are escaping me) that are way to powerful. For me the game seems just a race to get those buildings.
 
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David Gibbs
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The one game I played of this I had a run-away victory.

Play solo, it is hard to out-think yourself, and IIRC there is a simultaneous blind selection that is hard to do "cleanly" in a solo game. So, I would tend to expect solo games of most Euros without luck swings to come out quite close.
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Morgan Dontanville
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All games are meaningless but for the enjoyment of playing it and in the sharing of the experience with those you enjoy.

Cuba is a multiplayer game. With most multiplayer games, the chaos that comes from diplomacy, caprice, strange motivations, mistakes and experimentation trumps any kind of solo prediction.

Science can accurately predict the trajectory of an object in space, and comfortably predict what will happen when two objects collide, but three or more objects colliding are beyond our capability to math out. Imagine what happens if you add internalized decision making into the process.

Anyway, I've enjoyed my games of Cuba. I've seen comebacks, but the point spread usually isn't very tight.
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Roberta Taylor
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My husband and I play this 2p a lot, and we usually come within about a dozen points of each other. We love the neck-in-neck feel that this game usually generates- we often spend most of the game measuring every gain against each other.
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Game tends to be tight. May not be so in a 4p or 5p game. Maybe 2 ppl are in contention to win within 2pts of each other, but maybe the others can be up to 11 pts behind the lead. Still, this is a game I really do enjoy and would like to play it more often if possible.


bullseyetm wrote:
I wouldn't go as far as to say that it is as random as a dice roll, but my experience with the game has been that the score is always close in the end. There is never a 'clear' strategy that runs away with the game.

I find the game to be a satisfying experience, but I agree with many of your observations.

Can you provide examples of the buildings then? If you don't remember their names, then at least describe what they did.
 
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Joel Moots
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We've never had a run away game. It's hard to stick to a strategy -- you have to adapt based on the ships and what happens in parliament. Very, very enjoyable.
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Adam K
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I've experienced a couple of games where people get ahead with over 15 points. However, I have managed to score 15 vp on a nicely planned shipping which balanced it quite well.
We mostly end up very close and some people find that bad, because they think one should suffer from bad decisions.

One in my gaming group said:
"I have been screwing up the whole game and still I'm just 5 point behind the winner."

My best answer to that statement is that everyone screws up all the time and you always think that your situation is worse.
Cuba is a typical game where you always need one more action to make that perfect round, but no one gets the last action.
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benji
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I find Cuba very enjoyable, not random at all. The only big randomness would be a lot of shipping turnover which results in new boats turning out to being very well suited to your opponent. Once you play with other players, you will see each player going for a different strategy and the game will have a different feel than for a solo play. For the exact reason that the game is tight, there can be a runaway leader in the sense that a big gap in point is difficult to create, hence also difficult to reduce.

About the buildings, I can see a few buildings that are clearly not much help (unless of course very special circumstances) but I do not think there is a building too powerful that makes the game unbalanced.
 
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Greg Jones
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Well, any time two players of equal skill play (e.g. yourself and yourself), it comes down to a die roll.

But your question is one I often have, often about Knizia games, which are notoriously well-balanced. I have a similar experience with Blue Moon City.

I don't think Cuba is meaningless. I have played a lot of 2-player games, and some strategies are pretty dominant. That couldn't happen if the game was so balanced that all strategies are equal. A dominant strategy is not dominant in that it gets a much higher score than the others, so it doesn't break your observation. It's just dominant in that it consistently wins by often a small amount.

That could be considered another flaw in the game, but I think the dominant strategies can be beaten, it just takes some thinking to come up with a counter strategy. Cuba is very much a supply and demand game, and that makes it susceptible to group manipulation or "groupthink". There is a supply and demand in the Tradeswoman market. There is a supply and (fixed) demand for the ships. As the supply and demand for a commodity vary, the value of the buildings that produce or consume that commodity vary. So if someone seems too strong, you can devalue their buildings. This dynamic probably tends to result in close scores, because any advantage can be put in check and made to be at most a minimal advantage. It should especially be true in more than 2-player games with skilled players. Attack the leader tactics should keep the scores close.
 
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T.W. Man
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LupusX wrote:

We mostly end up very close and some people find that bad, because they think one should suffer from bad decisions.

It's especially this sentiment that prompted my observation. Again, I admit to having played this only solo (2p and 3p) to try and get a feel to this game. It just felt that during the game, one player would usually feel very inefficient compared to the other players, but still end up within striking distance.

This could mean several things, e.g. a mistake only costs you about 1VP per round (which seems too light a penalty), or my judgement on bad play is still off (which is likely to be).

Maybe I should have one player purposefully misplaying on a significant (though not a grand) level, just to see how large the scope is for point spreads. And get some real games played
 
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T.W. Man
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sisteray wrote:
All games are meaningless but for the enjoyment of playing it and in the sharing of the experience with those you enjoy.

Cuba is a multiplayer game. With most multiplayer games, the chaos that comes from diplomacy, caprice, strange motivations, mistakes and experimentation trumps any kind of solo prediction.

Science can accurately predict the trajectory of an object in space, and comfortably predict what will happen when two objects collide, but three or more objects colliding are beyond our capability to math out. Imagine what happens if you add internalized decision making into the process.

Anyway, I've enjoyed my games of Cuba. I've seen comebacks, but the point spread usually isn't very tight.

This almost feels like purposefully misunderstanding me. I don't want any kind of scientific 100% prediction. Nor am I looking for meaning in a deep kind of way.

I just wanted to share my initial impression that the ingame decisions felt like they mattered less than they should have, judging by the final outcome. And yes, I'm eager to try this game out with real players. Just haven't gotten round to set it up.

Apparently, consensus is that Cuba is extremely tight. And that the players do feel that good decisions matter to determine the course of the game. But perhaps good decisions and mediocre decisions are too difficult to distinguish so everybody drops more points than they think they are. Which can explain why people end up so close together.
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John Clark
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I am not sure I understand the question. Is the question implying that the result of the game (which player wins) is irrelevant to the decisions the players make through the game, OR is the margin of the result irrelevant to the decisions?

In the first case, if the result has no correlation to the decisions, then you simply have a luck game, just like Candyland. However, if the same player wins most (or all) of the time then the game is obviously not a luck game and the decisions do matter to the result, in the sense that some players make better decisions than others. I am not sure how you could test that playing solo. I guess you could have one 'player' make random decisions (pick cards at random from their hand etc) and the other 'player' make actual decisions and see what happens.

In the second case, I think you have to understand what a normal margin of victory is. In some games a score of 50 to 43 (for example) is a close game (e.g. Incan Gold or For Sale) and in other games it is a big win (e.g. Puerto Rico or AOE3). I can't see how you can determine that until you have played quite a few times.

I think that a game where 50 to 43 is a really big win is actually quite smart, since the experienced player (who presumably won) knows that it was a big win, and the new player (who lost) still thinks that it was a close game! Everyone leaves happy(ish)!

I guess there would be a range of opinions out there on how many points a game should give you if you play badly - some people would say bad decisions should not result in ANY points, but there are not many games out there like that. In most games all of the players will score at least something.
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Morgan Dontanville
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TeeWee wrote:
sisteray wrote:
All games are meaningless but for the enjoyment of playing it and in the sharing of the experience with those you enjoy.

Cuba is a multiplayer game. With most multiplayer games, the chaos that comes from diplomacy, caprice, strange motivations, mistakes and experimentation trumps any kind of solo prediction.

Science can accurately predict the trajectory of an object in space, and comfortably predict what will happen when two objects collide, but three or more objects colliding are beyond our capability to math out. Imagine what happens if you add internalized decision making into the process.

Anyway, I've enjoyed my games of Cuba. I've seen comebacks, but the point spread usually isn't very tight.

This almost feels like purposefully misunderstanding me. I don't want any kind of scientific 100% prediction. Nor am I looking for meaning in a deep kind of way.

I just wanted to share my initial impression that the ingame decisions felt like they mattered less than they should have, judging by the final outcome. And yes, I'm eager to try this game out with real players. Just haven't gotten round to set it up.

Apparently, consensus is that Cuba is extremely tight. And that the players do feel that good decisions matter to determine the course of the game. But perhaps good decisions and mediocre decisions are too difficult to distinguish so everybody drops more points than they think they are. Which can explain why people end up so close together.


Sorry to pontificate. It wasn't intended to be anything other than my feelings about how this game works with multiple players. There are key features to this game that are great examples of what I was talking about.

Foremost, limited worker placement is essentially the same as a card drafting game, parallel to drafting games, the minor decisions that other people make can create serious inadvertent ripple effects. The law cards really throw things for a loop as well, especially when people point out what the results of some of the laws are in order to gang up on people (the diplomacy that I mentioned).

When players collude you can point out other people's needs and collectively strip away available buildings required by a certain player. The game isn't that long and the game curve ratchets up dramatically, so you can really throw someone for a loop and knock them out of any kind of efficiency.
 
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