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Subject: Brass - The Cards rss

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Scott Fasnacht
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This came up in another thread, but in the interest of not derailing it entirely for a lengthy side discussion, I'm posting here to discuss the matter.

clearclaw wrote:
As a side thought I checked your view on Brass: you rate it well. Conversely I find Brass a neat and clever game rendered intolerable simply due to the inability to plan well through the cards. I wonder why I'm bothering to play. Remove the cards in Brass and I'd likely think a lot better of it -- and I expect you'd think a lot less of it for the same measure!

I'm not sure what to think of the cards in Brass honestly. They seem a bit clunky, but then you try to consider what the game is like if they don't exist, and there's really no way to make it work like that. If you just left people build whatever/wherever they wanted by not requiring cards, the game would be dull for lack of any variation in the presented scenario.

The cards, on the other hand, apply a changing set of restrictions to the players, which ultimately - though a bit awkward - seem to be the only viable way to add variety without eroding the level of flexibility they do allow. They remove enough options to prevent cookie cutter gameplay by forcing players to consider their own unique situations, but still allow a high number of options to the player. They probably offer more options than most other systems that could make the game opaque enough to avoid mathematical determinism.

Actually the more I think about it, the more the cards look like an ingenious mechanic: They force dynamic play onto a static board, and do it with what seems to be the highest available level of player choice preservation. It's not unlike chess: Though the board starts in the same position every time, games can and do take wildly different courses. This is because each piece has a limited and different way it moves. You can't move a certain piece to all spaces on the board at a given time, but the combination of your options across pieces means you have a great deal of freedom, though still confined by the particular rules of each piece. Similarly the Brass cards each have their particular plays that they allow, and though you start the game knowing every possible tile play on the map, the games vary in interesting ways due to the rules of the cards you get. Without such a restriction in Brass, it would probably be both predictable and deterministic.

Concerning your particular distaste for the short term focus forced by drawing cards, I suggest you should convince some people to play a few games of Brass with larger starting hands, or even where you draw out all cards at the beginning of a phase. I'd be very interested in how the experience would feel for you, and how it would affect the game for players to have more options and better vision from the start. I am certainly willing to admit that the default starting hand size may be too small, and the game may benefit significantly from the better planning and options that increased upfront cards promote.

So I've given some of my thoughts, now I want to know what other players think of the cards in Brass. Are they too restrictive, just right, or too loose? Would the game benefit from larger hand sizes that would afford players both more immediate options and more capability for long-term planning? What are the pros and cons of the cards in Brass, in your opinion, and what would've you done differently?
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Pasta Batman
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Good thread idea. I've only played about ten games, and so far think the cards are, as you say, 'an ingenious mechanic'. They diverge the constraints and incentives among the players just enough, IMHO, to make the playing field a bit murky and players' actions less predictable. Not knowing every players resources and motives with perfect knowledge forces one to have to observe their actions closely, and prepare for contingencies. I like having to deal with some uncertainty. Having to play one's best with the hand that one is dealt, against others in the same predicament, presents new and interesting problems with every game. The only other game I've played that comes close to doing this as well is Tigris & Euphrates with hidden tiles. Without the card mechanic, I'm not so sure I would find Brass interesting for very long. At this point, I don't expect to tire of it anytime soon.

Edit: Forgot to respond to your query about hand sizes and such. To me it seems about right. You got enough cards to plan ahead, but not so many as to be overwhelmed, or able to plan an entire phase of the game (uncertainty, as I said before, is a good thing). As for dealing out the whole deck up front? No thanks.
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Randall Bart
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The_Foz_4 wrote:
The cards, on the other hand, apply a changing set of restrictions to the players, which ultimately - though a bit awkward - seem to be the only viable way to add variety without eroding the level of flexibility they do allow. They remove enough options to prevent cookie cutter gameplay by forcing players to consider their own unique situations, but still allow a high number of options to the player. They probably offer more options than most other systems that could make the game opaque enough to avoid mathematical determinism.

I really like the way you said that.
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Henri Harju
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I think the cards are largely fine. Yeah, sometimes the draw sucks horribly and you will lose just because of it, but that's rare enough.

I think if you want to remove the cards, you will have to implement some other sort of limiting system. I'm thinking that an action point system might be the way to go. Off the top of my head.

You have 5 action points to use during your turn.

Build canal - 2 action points.
Build railroad - 2 action points.
Double railroad - 3 action points.
Build industry anywhere on the map - 3 action points
Build industry to a place where you already have industry or you are linked to it via canal/railroad - 2 action points.
Sell cotton - 2 action points (could be 1?).
Take loan - 2 action points.
Develop - 1 action point per tile developed.

Of course this will dramatically change the game and maybe unbalance it too.


 
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J C Lawrence
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The_Foz_4 wrote:
If you just left people build whatever/wherever they wanted by not requiring cards, the game would be dull for lack of any variation in the presented scenario.


Rather, the players will find the quickest route to the cheese. Without some factor to enforce variation, the quickest route to the cheese will be quickly determined, and at that point there is no more game left.

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The cards, on the other hand, apply a changing set of restrictions to the players, which ultimately - though a bit awkward - seem to be the only viable way to add variety without eroding the level of flexibility they do allow.


I see them more as a poor man's Butterfly effect. They provide the opacity and variance of a butterfly effect without also providing the tantalising glimpses of possible transparency. As a result they force the players to use [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategy_(game_theory)]mixed strategies[/url], and preclude any reasonable possibility of a pure strategy. That's a poor mix.

In contrast, for instance, are the private companies in the 18xx, whose only real purpose is to create a significant (huge) butterfly effect in the starting conditions for the game, and they do that very well. The resulting highly variant setup affords a large number of tiny decision points with huge late game ramifications that are very difficult to predict. The chaotic start also provides tantalising glimpses of possible analytical transparency, prompting the players to try to convert mixed strategies to pure strategies, and in the process to create yet more butterfly effects/seeds. Some of that undoubtedly also happens in Brass, with the attempts based instead on sympathetic extrapolations from prior player investments. Ahh, they've done XXX, so they'll likely do YYY in future, so I should ZZZ!. But this is almost necessarily a tactical affair, forced again into that short-term efficiency both by the reliance on supporting cards by the player being responded to, and by the player reacting. That I can see, there's no way to ever reasonably implement non-trivial pure strategies.

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Actually the more I think about it, the more the cards look like an ingenious mechanic: They force dynamic play onto a static board, and do it with what seems to be the highest available level of player choice preservation.


I am less impressed. I've recently been playing a fair bit of Baltimore and Ohio. While I realise the unfairness of discussing a game which hasn't even been released yet, it is a perfect and certain information game with very large butterfly effects which persist through the game via the player's continuous fight for ordering. That said, if Baltimore and Ohio doesn't fit well, Chicago Express could be substituted as another fine perfect and certain information game with large butterfly effects. I've played a lot of Chicago Express, but it is not currently in rotation.

Baltimore and Ohio's butterfly effects come from a fairly nasty ordering game which is present as soon as the game starts, which all the players have direct control over, and where the opportunity costs of fighting for attractive ordering both in the short and long term are highly ambiguous. And that fight for ordering (which companies run in which order and exact ordering of player's total cash in stock rounds) continues throughout the game, continuously injecting unsettling ambiguity into an otherwise perfectly transparent perfect and certain information game. Similarly the auctions (along with markedly inaccurate player perceptions) provide butterfly effects in Chicago Express, with single dollar differences combined with variations in seating position providing enormous ambiguity to a perfect and certain information game. But those same systems in both games also tempt their players to try and see through the ambiguity (eg my joseki articles for Chicago Express), thus attempting to convert inferred mixed strategies to pure strategies as they suspect aspects of the game become determinable.

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So I've given some of my thoughts, now I want to know what other players think of the cards in Brass. Are they too restrictive, just right, or too loose? Would the game benefit from larger hand sizes that would afford players both more immediate options and more capability for long-term planning? What are the pros and cons of the cards in Brass, in your opinion, and what would've you done differently?


I would be tempted to scrap the cards and to replace them with a system of scheduled and known events in each game which fiddle with the economies/markets in known ways at known times. For instance, there could be a deck of cards, each card doing something to one of the economies in a known and interesting extent. At the start of the game the deck of cards would be shuffled, and a subset of the deck would be laid out visibly for review, one card per possible game turn. As each round of the game is executed, the event dictated by that turn's card would be executed.

Such a system would likely not do much to inject butterfly effects into the early game, except by extrapolation from the player's attempt to optimise for the future they see, but it may provide enough ongoing butterfly effect as the player's try and tailor their positions to the event stream. I'm not sure that much can be done to put real butterfly effects into the Brass early game without major structural rewriting (though I really don't know the game well enough to comment).
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J C Lawrence
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pastabatman wrote:
The only other game I've played that comes close to doing this as well is Tigris & Euphrates with hidden tiles.


FWVLIW, and unsurprisingly, I'm not fond of Euphrat & Tigris in large part due to the random tile draws. I'm generally not a fan of games which ask players to make the most they can out of a random collection of stuff. I'd like the game a whole lot more if the tile draws were more deterministic. Of course that would also be a radically different game...
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The way I like to think of the cards is that they represent in a somewhat abstract way the idea of having a variety of business opportunities that you, as a wealthy industrialist, can choose to make use of or pass up. So a Bolton card might mean that you have contacts in Bolton that would allow you to start a factory there (say you know someone with a vacant site in Bolton, who you used to go to public school with or something). This of course is just a conceit I like to apply to the cards, and it doesn't go a long way to "justifying" them in theme terms.

The thing about the cards is that they are, I think, necessary to seed the game with random elements, else the game might become sterile. There are other games that do things like this: Puerto Rico has its plantations, Caylus has its random ordering of the pink tiles. But is the influence of Brass's cards on the game too much? I don't think it's a good thing that any game of Brass might be lost solely due to a bad hand of cards. How might we alter the importance of the cards so that they still inform the game, without ever controlling it?

Some ideas:

1) Let p be the number of players. At the start of each phase, remove an additional p cards from the deck and deal one fewer card to each player. Give each player a special wild card which when played can be used as a location card naming a location of the user's choice. In other words, a card that works like using two cards to build, but on its own.

2) Same as in 1), but each player gets 2 wild cards instead of 1. However, each Wild Card not used during the phase is worth 3 points at the end of the phase.

3) "Greasing the wheels". When you want to build an industry in a particular location but you don't have the cards to do it with a single action, you may pay a bribe in order to build it with any card you want. The bribe is half the value of the industry tile, rounding up. (Do not include the cost of coal or iron cubes in calculating the bribe.) The bribe is not placed in the Amount Spent box, as it is illicit expenditure; it goes directly to the bank.

4) Same as above but instead of paying money, you are moved back one income bracket, just like when you take a loan of £10 (except you don't get any money).
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Philip Eve
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Hammerite wrote:
3) "Greasing the wheels". When you want to build an industry in a particular location but you don't have the cards to do it with a single action, you may pay a bribe in order to build it with any card you want. The bribe is half the value of the industry tile, rounding up. (Do not include the cost of coal or iron cubes in calculating the bribe.) The bribe is not placed in the Amount Spent box, as it is illicit expenditure; it goes directly to the bank.

4) Same as above but instead of paying money, you are moved back one income bracket, just like when you take a loan of £10 (except you don't get any money).

Something that only occurred to me after submitting this post is that these ideas would make it much less inhibitive to do a wild-card build towards the end of the Rail Phase. This might or might not be viewed as a good thing. (I think it could make things interesting.)
 
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Darrell Hanning
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Is there anybody following this thread that did not know on which side JC would weigh in?

I like the cards. I don't expect life to have completely deterministic transparency, and I don't expect my games to, either. In both cases, I like to know my overall situation, have the ability to pick a general strategy, manage the resources I have available to me, and see which way Fate tries to pull the rug out of under me, rather than simply rely on variance in groupthink to provide salt to the recipe.

The one thing I definitely do not care for in the 18xx games is what JC seems to treasure - having that same, precisely-known, boring set of circumstances at the beginning, every single time. After a while, it gets to feel like the movie Groundhog Day, in a game. I don't find that particularly stimulating.
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Darrell Hanning
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Hammerite wrote:
I don't think it's a good thing that any game of Brass might be lost solely due to a bad hand of cards.


This is the second allusion to this possiblity, in this thread. Is it something people simply enjoy positing, or has it actually happened to you? Because as many times as I've played this game, I don't recall ever having a hand that convinced me I was just flat-out screwed. In fact, the last time I played I was convinced my canal phase hand was the worst I had ever seen, yet I somehow managed to win the game. I never look at my hand in terms of how much it's going to keep me from winning; rather, I look at it as a puzzle to be solved.
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Philip Eve
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DarrellKH wrote:
This is the second allusion to this possiblity, in this thread. Is it something people simply enjoy positing, or has it actually happened to you?

It's never happened to me. I posted that because I misread Henkka's post as saying it had happened to him. When I went back and re-read it, I saw he had merely suggested the possibility of it happening. In general I would agree with you that the key to the game is to be flexible and that a good performance can be put in even with a hand that is not what you want it to be.

Sometimes if you have positioned yourself for a particular strategy in the Rail Phase and then your cards don't help that strategy, it can be a hindrance, but I don't think a good player will lose a game purely because of that.
 
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DarrellKH wrote:
Hammerite wrote:
I don't think it's a good thing that any game of Brass might be lost solely due to a bad hand of cards.


This is the second allusion to this possiblity, in this thread. Is it something people simply enjoy positing, or has it actually happened to you? Because as many times as I've played this game, I don't recall ever having a hand that convinced me I was just flat-out screwed. In fact, the last time I played I was convinced my canal phase hand was the worst I had ever seen, yet I somehow managed to win the game. I never look at my hand in terms of how much it's going to keep me from winning; rather, I look at it as a puzzle to be solved.


Agreed. I've never come close in any of my games to feeling the cards determined too much, and certainly, if you are losing there are places you can improve yourself regardless of the cards you are dealt. I too enjoy fighting against randomness and fate, trying to make the best of an unknown situation. I like perfect information games too, I find them more tantalizing in a way because they offer the promise of a perfect strategy while (in the good ones) also creating much uncertainty, but there is nothing inherently "better" about perfect information games. They just provide a different experience - I happen to like tactical play that is blinded (to a degree) by chance.
 
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Hammerite wrote:
Sometimes if you have positioned yourself for a particular strategy in the Rail Phase and then your cards don't help that strategy, it can be a hindrance, but I don't think a good player will lose a game purely because of that.

My thought is that a hindered good player will likely lose to unhindered fellow good players. You could argue that a good player should avoid a strategy which might become hindered by the wrong type of cards.

For example, in my last game of Brass (BTW a tournament game on your fine online site, Philip), I followed the plan of going for the level-3 cotton mills in the canal era, with the idea of building lots of rails and the remaining level-4 cotton mills in the rail era. This is an expensive strategy which requires a fair number of loans in the absence of a decent income. Usually a couple of level two coal mines (for +14 spaces on the income chart) will be enough to offset the negative income from the loans. In this particular game, I could not get a location card or a coal mine card for any of several suitable coal mine locations in my network. I was already playing catch up (due to the fine play of my opponents), so doing a double card play just to build a low VP coal mine seemed like a losing proposition so I kept doing other things hoping to draw the right card for the next turn. In hindsight another strategy probably would have worked better with my set of cards.

In summary, there is no question some sets of cards are better than others regardless of the type of strategy you hope to follow. But this is not a deal breaker for me. Brass is solidly in my Top 10 list because it is very thematic (despite the flying iron), and has lots of brain-burning goodness. There are so many subtle things you have to pay attention to to do well in this game. The luck of the cards presents a different challenge each game. They often force you to adapt and explore new strategies. They guarantee no two games will be exactly the same.

Like clearclaw, I love the 18xx series of games where the game itself doesn't throw you curve balls (no luck elements) but the other players certainly do. But I see no reason to reinvent Brass just to remove the luck elements and make it more 18xx-like. I like variety.

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J C Lawrence
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DarrellKH wrote:
Is there anybody following this thread that did not know on which side JC would weigh in?


There was no need to be surprised. The thread started with a quote from me around how I wasn't impressed with Brass.

Quote:
I don't expect life to have completely deterministic transparency, and I don't expect my games to, either.


Neither do I. I particularly appreciate ambiiguity in games.

Quote:
In both cases, I like to know my overall situation, have the ability to pick a general strategy, manage the resources I have available to me, and see which way Fate tries to pull the rug out of under me, rather than simply rely on variance in groupthink to provide salt to the recipe.


My favourite games, like Chicago Express and the 18xx, don't rely on groupthink at all but rather variance in individual human interpretation of highly ambiguous situations. Throw a single different human at the table, or even have a given player change their mind, even ever so slightly about the value or viability of something, and a completely different game results.

Quote:
The one thing I definitely do not care for in the 18xx games is what JC seems to treasure - having that same, precisely-known, boring set of circumstances at the beginning, every single time. After a while, it gets to feel like the movie Groundhog Day, in a game. I don't find that particularly stimulating.


I don't understand. Just as the 18xx start identically before the private companies are resolved, Brass starts identically every game until you get your hand of cards. Once the privates have been resolved, or you have your hand of cards, the game proper starts. The only real difference is that the 18xx (typically) allow the players to make significant decisions around how the game will start first.

DarrellKH wrote:
Hammerite wrote:
I don't think it's a good thing that any game of Brass might be lost solely due to a bad hand of cards.


This is the second allusion to this possiblity, in this thread. Is it something people simply enjoy positing, or has it actually happened to you?


The last four games of Brass that I've watched (all oddly enough in the last fortnight), have all ended with a discussion around how some player simple did or did not get the cards they needed at certain points in the game and how that determined their fate in the game. These are not weak or inexperienced players, Eric R in particular is one of the strongest players (of most any economic game) around. I wouldn't go so far as to to say the apparency is that with sufficiently good players Brass becomes primarily a card game, but the tendency seems to be there.
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Scott Fasnacht
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Barticus88 wrote:
I really like the way you said that.

Well thanks, I try

@JC: Concerning your discussion of butterfly effects, JC, I have to say that I don't see a substantial difference in the quality of a "perfect information system" (supposing such a thing actually exists, which I debate) versus that of an imperfect one like Brass. Both exist in order to preclude definitive analysis, which ultimately is the point of including any such system - it defines what a game is, as anything sufficiently transparent is really a puzzle instead. I would argue that to the extent you can determine the outcomes of the butterfly effect it uses, such a system has failed in its primary purpose which is to obscure the outcome.

I also suggest that the hint there could be a perfect strategy does not necessitate there actually being one, or at least one that can be determined. You may think you see a glimmer of the solution, but if the butterfly effect of the game is effective to any extent, it must preclude the possibility of you ever being able to actually determine the answer. That you enjoy the notion there could be a perfect way to play does not mean you can find it, nor does it indicate a superior system of providing the required opacity. If the game provides opacity, you don't actually see the future perfectly in spite of trying to apply the term "perfect information." Ultimately I see little difference except the ridiculous illusion that you could ever predict the future of the game, which seems a rather sad fallacy to cling to.
 
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The_Foz_4 wrote:
...I have to say that I don't see a substantial difference in the quality of a "perfect information system" (supposing such a thing actually exists, which I debate) versus that of an imperfect one like Brass. Both exist in order to preclude definitive analysis, which ultimately is the point of including any such system - it defines what a game is, as anything sufficiently transparent is really a puzzle instead. I would argue that to the extent you can determine the outcomes of the butterfly effect it uses, such a system has failed in its primary purpose which is to obscure the outcome.


I think you have missed my point regarding the irregularity of the transparency. We played 1830 last Saturday. It became clear that the CanPac was going to be an excellent company with a huge diesel run (~$80 IIRC) long before it actually had that run (two SRs and associated ORs), and that the diesels would almost certainly run a long time (they ran 5x). As a result the CanPac sold out quickly as players committed their portfolios for the end-game. In the same game the C&O had similar access to great diesel runs (modulo some track-tile-shortage uncertainties), had even more capital to hand and could get a diesel before the CanPac could by upgrading a 4-train. The C&O didn't sell out and in fact never sold out because of those uncertainties, and those uncertainties lead to other small ambiguous decisions which in turn lead it to a slightly smaller diesel run for the C&O (~$56 IIRC). The result was that a small difference in the ability to forsee each company's future success, an unevenness in the transparency of the game, made a huge difference in the game's development and end-result. I especially value and look for that sort of curdled, sometimes murky, sometimes clear character of butterfly effects. Certain outcomes become known while others remain uncertain, providing spots of clarity at various timescales combined with generous doses of ambiguous fog.

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You may think you see a glimmer of the solution, but if the butterfly effect of the game is effective to any extent, it must preclude the possibility of you ever being able to actually determine the answer.


While that's true globally within a game (or else the game is already over and determined), there's no requirement for it to be true locally for smaller portions.

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If the game provides opacity, you don't actually see the future perfectly in spite of trying to apply the term "perfect information."


Perfect information describes a quality of knowledge about current game state and possible future states, not predictive ability or transparency.

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Ultimately I see little difference except the ridiculous illusion that you could ever predict the future of the game, which seems a rather sad fallacy to cling to.


Why sad? Surely that is the only thing players do!

The primary operation of games is to provide their players with ambiguous decisions. The primary operation of players is to resolve those ambiguities through manipulation of the ambiguous items. As the game progresses, certainty and transparency increase as ambiguity is removed from the game. Ultimately all ambiguity is removed as the winner is determined (albeit often considerably before the game itself is recognised to have already ended). In this guise the entire function and goal of the players it to attempt to predict and define future game states (including victory) with their ambiguous decisions. In this way players fight to predict and define the future of games, and that is all players ever do in games.

That's what players do: they fight to translate an unknown state (I don't know who will win) into a known state (I win). They fight to predict and define a future with them as victor, and every game succeeds in delivering this struggle over prediction and futures as the game ends and victor(s) are declared.
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There are approaches to game design that appeal to different tastes in gaming. My take on this discussion would be to contrast the chaos quotient in a rail game like, say, 1830 to another "resource" management game like Settlers of Catan.

In 1830, the only random element in the game is deciding who will be the starting player in the bidding for the Private Companies. From that point on everything is deterministic and, like chess, it is also a "perfect information" game. In 1830, you can see what actions are available to all players, how much their companies are worth, what their runs will score and how much money they have in hand. There is a strong attraction for that type of game by many. Skill and experience are the two most important elements to competitive play.

On the other hand, there is an equally strong market for games that ramp up the element of "chance," the extreme example in my mind being Settlers of Catan where the core mechanic is the 2D6 roll that begins each player's turn. I'm not saying skill and experience aren't valuable but, in the end, the dice control you rather than the other way around (if you seriously doubt that, rather than hijack the thread just point to a link that disproves my contention). Maybe there are better examples of highly chaotic games and game devices but the contrast between my two examples is stark enough for illustration purposes. The point is that these chance elements act as a sort of "leveller" giving the impression at least that everyone is in the game right to the end and the right combination of events can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The more socially oriented games that the Euros generally represent take advantage of many techniques along this line.

My feeling toward a lot of Martin's designs is that he comes down somewhere between the two poles of randomness. The card draw in Brass will certainly influence what you are able to do, but I've never seen a hand where there is simply nothing you can do (strong contrast to Settlers in this regard alone). While most players dislike having to use the "combine actions" rule, it does permit you at any time to build anywhere on the board. I've found that there is usually something more efficient you can do with the cards you're given, but if you must have that cotton mill in Manchester before it is too late, you have that option. Besides, most of the actions in Brass don't require a specific card - any card will permit the building of links, selling of cotton, upgrading building levels and taking loans.

However, I would argue that skill and experience will count for a lot more in Brass than in Settlers so I wouldn't even put it in the middle of the scale, but this assessment is purely subjective and likely reflects a slightly greater tolerance for the randomness quotient in games than others might have. I admire Brass a lot and have found a lot more depth to it than I expected from my initial exposure - I'm still learning and enjoying the ride!
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Just a brainstorm idea - what if some cards were face up (like ticket to ride). When you replenish your hand you can take from the face up and/or face down pile.

Not sue how many cards shopuld be face up.

(I've only played 1.75 times and so far think the cards are fine)

Brian
 
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clearclaw wrote:
I see them more as a poor man's Butterfly effect. They provide the opacity and variance of a butterfly effect without also providing the tantalising glimpses of possible transparency. As a result they force the players to use [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategy_(game_theory)]mixed strategies[/url], and preclude any reasonable possibility of a pure strategy. That's a poor mix.

An excellent point of game philosophy. One where we greatly disagree. A pure game should be short: half an hour is ideal. A long game should be a mix of different things, some of them coming at you by surprise.

I agree that butterfly is better than randomness, because the better player can see more of the butterfly and plan better. However randomness has it's place, and is far superior to bedazzling the player with too many options. It would be possible to deal out all the card for the era at once, and that would allow longer term planning, but it would be too much.

clearclaw wrote:
I've recently been playing a fair bit of Baltimore and Ohio. While I realise the unfairness of discussing a game which hasn't even been released yet, it is a perfect and certain information game with very large butterfly effects which persist through the game via the player's continuous fight for ordering. That said, if Baltimore and Ohio doesn't fit well, Chicago Express could be substituted as another fine perfect and certain information game with large butterfly effects.

Have you played Power Grid China yet? Power Grid is all about jockeying for turn order, and the China rules are deterministic for most of the game. If you like, you can play it completely deterministically; shuffle the later plants, then turn up the deck and just look at what's coming all game long. I don't want to play this, because I win too much anyway, but I'll play if people want to. If you're ever in Seattle, I'll play you Power Grid China. It's your kind of game.


The_Foz_4 wrote:
@JC: Concerning your discussion of butterfly effects, JC, I have to say that I don't see a substantial difference in the quality of a "perfect information system" (supposing such a thing actually exists, which I debate) versus that of an imperfect one like Brass. Both exist in order to preclude definitive analysis, which ultimately is the point of including any such system - it defines what a game is, as anything sufficiently transparent is really a puzzle instead. I would argue that to the extent you can determine the outcomes of the butterfly effect it uses, such a system has failed in its primary purpose which is to obscure the outcome.

Yes.

Bubslug wrote:
On the other hand, there is an equally strong market for games that ramp up the element of "chance," the extreme example in my mind being Settlers of Catan where the core mechanic is the 2D6 roll that begins each player's turn.

Market share be damned, I don't think anyone who has an opinion in this thread is going to praise Catan as the pinnacle of game design.
 
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Barticus88 wrote:
Have you played Power Grid China yet?


I fear I'm not a Power Grid fan, not even slightly.
 
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Barticus88 wrote:
Bubslug wrote:
On the other hand, there is an equally strong market for games that ramp up the element of "chance," the extreme example in my mind being Settlers of Catan where the core mechanic is the 2D6 roll that begins each player's turn.

Market share be damned, I don't think anyone who has an opinion in this thread is going to praise Catan as the pinnacle of game design.

Um, yes...and maybe your troll will be better than mine was...
 
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DarrellKH wrote:
Hammerite wrote:
I don't think it's a good thing that any game of Brass might be lost solely due to a bad hand of cards.


This is the second allusion to this possiblity, in this thread. Is it something people simply enjoy positing, or has it actually happened to you? Because as many times as I've played this game, I don't recall ever having a hand that convinced me I was just flat-out screwed. In fact, the last time I played I was convinced my canal phase hand was the worst I had ever seen, yet I somehow managed to win the game. I never look at my hand in terms of how much it's going to keep me from winning; rather, I look at it as a puzzle to be solved.


I love your point here, and I'm glad someone called people out for repeatedly stressing the idea without any sort of footing for it.

It seems to me that good players will adopt a strategy that fits their hand and leave it open ended enough so whatever new cards turn up can be incorporated. There is also the notion that a particularly zealous strategy becomes more vulnerable to "bad" cards, and rather than a drawback, this seems an appropriate penalty for choosing a very aggressive line of play. Further, the fact that it is difficult for a hand to really screw you is also a testament to the game's design: different locations and strategies that result from varied hands must be balanced well in order to make such varied strategies competitive.
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The_Foz_4 wrote:
There is also the notion that a particularly zealous strategy becomes more vulnerable to "bad" cards, and rather than a drawback, this seems an appropriate penalty for choosing a very aggressive line of play.

Nice observation. The cards associate more risk with the potential reward of aggressive, narrow strategies, and thus discourage formulaic play.
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pastabatman wrote:
The cards associate more risk with the potential reward of aggressive, narrow strategies, and thus discourage formulaic play.

I would also think it discourages creative play.
 
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Malachi wrote:
pastabatman wrote:
The cards associate more risk with the potential reward of aggressive, narrow strategies, and thus discourage formulaic play.


I would also think it discourages creative play.


More simply, it forces an exclusive focus on mixed strategies. Even relatively short pure strategies are unviable.
 
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