Josh P.
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Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium is the second expansion to Tom Lehmann's Race for the Galaxy.




The first expansion, Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm, was criticized by some for not providing enough bang for the buck. It added solo play and goals, but if you weren't into these variants then it was just a few new cards. RvI improves this by providing twice the new cards as TGS (44 vs. 22).

The new cards vary, but in general work to stress the theme of the expansion. A lot of new Rebel and Imperium cards have been added to the mix. (Imperium Lords, a card I almost never used due to there not being many Imperium cards, is now a very good card, providing 2 vp for each Imperium card in your tableau.) New high-victory point worlds like Alien Monolith and Rebel Stronghold have also been added. And some new 6-point developments benefit military strategies a lot.

There are also new cards that benefit Uplift, Genes, Novelty, and Rare strategies, but the focus is definitely military.

On top of this, new takeover rules have been added. Takeover rules are a bit complex at first, but not really difficult to add to a regular game. However, they should probably be kept out of games with new players until they have a grasp of the basics.

My main gripe with these new rules is the 2p RvI variant. In this variant, one player starts as the Imperium side and the other as the Rebel side. Each player gets a starting world and development that reflects their alliance (though the development starts in hand, not in tableau). The problem with this variant is that the two players can get takeover powers very early in the game and the game becomes an arms race with a big runaway leader problem. I played it twice and hated it.

Outside of the 2p vaiant, there are so few takeover cards in the new mix that it doesn't come up too often. Usually, I would not worry about defending against takeovers, and just try to win as quickly as possible (it is a Race after all). There may be a threat of a takeover looming somewhere, but it will rarely affect how you play.

Some users will not like the conflict and will want to turn these rules off (the rulebook actually suggests that you alternate between on and off). I prefer to play with takeovers off.


(New bits used for takeover - not really necessary)

Takeover FAQ: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/424148

If you are not playing with takeover rules, the rulebook says to continue using the takeover cards as they still provide other benefits, however I want to discuss why you might want to pull these cards out.

I've played over 150 games of RftG, about 100 of those with TGS expansion. However, after adding RvI and playing 10 games or so, something seems off with the card balance. With the addition of this expansion, a pure military strategy seems too easy and too powerful. Production often gets neglected for military (even when the starting world and/or opening hand is production heavy). There are too many 6-cost developments that benefit military strategies and way too many Rebel cards.

So I've removed Rebel Alliance, Imperium Seat, Imperium Cloaking Technology x2, and Rebel Pact (the only six cards that reference takeovers) and I play without takeover rules.

This cuts out two of the 6-point developments that benefit heavily off a military strategy (there are still several others, however). There are still 12 Rebel worlds in the deck (11 of them military). This is pretty high, but few of these worlds allow a way to increase military power. (Though in my opinion too many Rebel cards do dilute the deck a bit, slowing down access to non-military stratgies. However, further tweaking of the deck may get too extreme.)

I've played several games with this new balance and it just feels better. Military is still incredibly strong, but it is not so overpowering. Even with these changes, military is fast. Perhaps there are too many low-cost developments that boost military (Imperium Troops and Mercenary Fleet are two new ones), but I don't want to tweak my deck too much. However, solid production strategies can usually deplete a pool of victory points around the same time the military players start dropping the big stuff down.

I am interested in what other players think: Is this a good idea or is the very concept of tweaking the balance blasphemy? Do you find the strategies to be just as balanced as before or has the balance been thrown off?

Final Thoughts

Pros:
1 More new cards than TGS. (If you are only going to get one expansion and don't care about solo play, get this one.)
2 Continues to build on existing strategies in new and interesting ways.

Cons:
1 Takeover is an interesting idea, but feels like a different game. You'll either love it or hate it. Avoid the 2p variant.
2 Balance of game might feel skewed towards military heavy strategies. Play and tweak as needed.
3 New rules and some new mechanics are definitely "advanced" and might intimidate new players. If you are teaching this game to new players, consider removing the RvI cards altogether prior to playing your first game.

Cost: Depending on what you use in this expansion, it might have the same "bang/buck" problem that some noted with TGS. If you are into goals, solo play, takeovers, and variants, then there is plenty in this box to justify $25 MSRP. However, if you are just looking for more cards for the base game, then 44 cards might not be worth $25.

In conclusion: I like this expansion a lot. It is very rich in theme, but since that theme is a military struggle, the entire game takes a much more military shift than I would like. I am glad takeovers can be turned off, but I still worry that by leaving takeover cards in you are diluting your deck and reducing the chance of getting non-military strategies working well in a quick manner. Just my two cents.



Edit: Added conclusion, streamlined and clarified a few points.
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Alton Todd
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I had similar thoughts myself. I think I will give your suggestions (removed Rebel Alliance, Imperium Seat, Imperium Cloaking Technology and Rebel Pact) a try in a few 2p games.

BTW Glad you said what you said, I hate to really say anything bad about RftG because it’s such a great game. Well done. thumbsup

I guess sometimes even the best of chefs can add too much salt to an already great soup.
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Hannu Pajula
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I would like to see if your opinions would change after 50 or so games. At first, when using the full set of Rebel vs. Imperium, we also noticed that military heavy strategies seemed to be taking over (pun intended). However, after more than 60 games of RvsI and over 150 games with new starting worlds, I don't think that RvsI favours any path above others.

If anything, Rebel vs. Imperium has added more ways of winning. High scores can be hit with very harmless looking tableaus. Every now and then, someone manages to get just the right cards to create an absolutely steam-rolling military machine or consume circus and win the game with huge numbers, but I don't have any problem with that.

Quote:
Continues to build on existing strategies in new and interesting ways.


Agreed. This is what makes RvsI a perfect expansion.

Quote:
Balance of game might feel skewed towards military heavy strategies. Play and tweak as needed.


After dozens of games, I haven't seen any need for tweaks.

Quote:
New rules and some new mechanics are definitely "advanced" and might intimidate new players. If you are teaching this game to new players, consider removing the RvI cards altogether prior to playing your first game.


Agreed. However, Gathering Storm could be easily used.

Quote:
If you play without the takeover rules and cards, then the expansion is really just 38 new cards for $25 MSRP. That's a pricey upgrade.


For replay value, it is definitely worth it. I felt the same for Gathering Storm. Even if it had only two dozen or so extra cards, the effect on gameplay was worth the pricetag, IMO. Don't look at the contents. Look at the game.

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Eric Jome
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joshp wrote:
I am interested in what other players think: Is this a good idea or is the very concept of tweaking the balance blasphemy? Do you find the strategies to be just as balanced as before or has the balance been thrown off?


I like to play the game as other people play it. So, I am not inclined to remove anything unless the rules specifically allow for certain removals. We will rarely if ever use even published variants in the rules of the game so strong is the desire to play the game as intended - so we almost never draft either, for example.

As soon as you start saying that such and such a card is useless or such and such is too good, you open up an uncomfortable area where each individuals opinion means more than the rules of the game... and suddenly the game doesn't have any standard rules anymore. Where does the removal of cards stop? Where does it end making up new ones and adding them in?
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John Richert
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I was beginning to think the same thing, but after playing the game and tweaking strategy, I found that while military is ramped up, the other strategies are still very viable. Last night I scored 74 points on a Green produce/consume strategy. My opponent simply could not do anything that I could not do better. I was settling green worlds for 1 or 2 cards. I had plenty of cards to burn on any development because I was getting 6 cards on a produce, not to mention any cards from the consume powers.

I will say this, the game is much more about the race now. Plus, explore is a much better option than it was previously, especially with the new phase I powers.
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Serge Levert
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joshp wrote:
I am interested in what other players think: Is this a good idea or is the very concept of tweaking the balance blasphemy? Do you find the strategies to be just as balanced as before or has the balance been thrown off?


Not gonna pull any punches here, imo it's blasphemy. It never ceases to amaze that ppl can play a few games and decide that they can balance better than thousands of games of playtesting did. :P
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Josh P.
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cosine wrote:
I like to play the game as other people play it.


While I understand that drive, there are now a plethora of ways other people play: goals or no goals; takeovers or no takeovers; 2p RvI, standard 2p, or advanced 2p; with one expansion, both, or none. There is no standard of play.

Tom has weighed in on this already. His words don't support all my points, but it's an interesting read nonetheless: http://boardgamegeek.com/article/3710039#3710039

entranced wrote:
It never ceases to amaze that ppl can play a few games and decide that they can balance better than thousands of games of playtesting did.


I don't think I can do it better without help, and what you say doesn't really help, now does it? You are of course entitled to your opinion, but if you want to see progress then give my recommendation a try and get back to me with some honest feedback.

No game as complicated as RftG should be called perfect. It is a work in progress. If Tom sees that the balance is off, he can correct it by shifting the balance in the next expansion, but if no one gives any constructive criticism then no improvements can be made.

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Tom Lehmann
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Well, Josh, if you are going to drag me into this, then I suppose I can comment.

1) I completely disagree with your characterization of the 2-player game as just a race to see who finds Military first. As I've mentioned in other threads, the Rebel Cantina player can A) choose to duck completely, placing out other non-Rebel military worlds (and remaining immune to the Imperium Seat); or B) with the aid of the Rebel Pact, defend and then counter-attack with the Rebel Alliance; or C) go toe-to-toe by placing out Military and the Rebel Alliance. In the last case, sure, then drawing more Military faster than your opponent is obviously a good thing, but this is a *choice* which the Rebel Cantina player has made, not a requirement of the scenario itself.

2) We went to a lot of trouble to provide an easy "official" way to turn takeovers off, without having to go to house rules and eliminating certain cards. If you don't like takeovers -- but care about not further fragmenting the RFTG player base -- then I would recommend using the mechanism we have provided. My comments were not intended to support an "open season" of house rules within the RFTG community (although any customer, of course, can choose to play the game however they wish).

3) Throwing out a bunch of stuff you personally don't like (you don't mention either the solitaire game extensions or the new goals provided in RvI in this "review") and then complaining about the expansion being overpriced strikes me as a bit disingenuous. (If you instead said that RvI provides a lot of material, but given how much of it you choose not to use, the resulting price/performance ratio is too high for you, I wouldn't have any problem with this.)

My apologies if these comments come off as a bit harsh, but I think that A) your post is really advocacy for a variant in the guise of a review and B) that you are quoting my post in a different thread in ways I didn't intend in an attempt to counter criticism of your variant.
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JW
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I had the same complaint after my initial 10 or so games of 3player RvI; in that a pure military fast tableau finish strategy seemed too strong and production strategies seemed left behind. I then started this thread to ask about people's opinion about it.

I think that at the beginning, pure military seems stronger because people are noticing the new cards which are more likely to be military, and they just go for that to try out new things. I then started to want to prove that production was as strong as military, so started doing a production strategy regardless of whether it was the best option at that time, and ended up losing a few games to military. I then decided that military was stronger than production in this expansion.

However, after 20 more games, I can no longer share your complaint. After being more familiar with the cards, I've won quite a number of times with a production strategy (with and without goals), setting up my produce consume engine while the military player was still looking for cards. I've also done a few military + produce consume hybrids (especially when starting with Rebel Cantina). The problem in 3 player games is that a production strategy is more likely to in if someone else is going production as well. I found that if I was the only production trying to fight against 2 military players who's settling and developing every turn, I more often than not get left behind.

I say, stick with the cards inside and play a couple more games first before actually deciding to take any cards out. If military seems the stronger option for the particular hand, then roll with it. A production strategy will come up soon enough, once everyone has had their Rebel vs Imperium fix.

With regards to your mention of theme, I too find that RvI is very rich in theme, and I've made up my own 'background story' regarding this problem:

With the new influx of Rebels and Imperium, everyone is afraid of the threat of war, and trading diminishes. Everyone starts shoring up their defenses, hoping to attract as many Rebels as possible into their fold. Or they decide to join the Imperium in the hopes that they will be protected from attacks.

Until someone realises that "Hey, where are the battles? War isn't here yet!". And then trading begins again, slowly, but surely. Even the Rebels and the Imperium decide to join in.


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Josh P.
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
1) I completely disagree with your characterization of the 2-player game as just a race to see who finds Military first.


Tom Lehmann wrote:
this is a *choice* which the Rebel Cantina player has made, not a requirement of the scenario itself.


Everything we do is a choice. However, choices can be influenced. The availability of these cards pushes people into making certain choices. My point was that when given these cards, you are tempting people to play a military race. They can choose not to, but it seems much easier to go with military. If I put a big red button in front of you, wouldn't you be tempted just a little to push it?

Tom Lehmann wrote:
We went to a lot of trouble to provide an easy "official" way to turn takeovers off, without having to go to house rules and eliminating certain cards. If you don't like takeovers -- but care about not further fragmenting the RFTG player base -- then I would recommend using the mechanism we have provided.


I have tried, but there is still too much military. Imperium Troops and Mercenary Fleet are more big red buttons. The military player is too fast and too strong. If you don't agree, that's fine, but I still think the balance is off.

Tom Lehmann wrote:
Throwing out a bunch of stuff you personally don't like (you don't mention either the solitaire game extensions or the new goals provided in RvI in this "review") and then complaining about the expansion being overpriced strikes me as a bit disingenuous.


Not really meant to be a complaint, just an observation. I don't mind spending my own money on it, but I feel my review would be disingenuous if I told everyone this is a must buy. A game with so many variants is going to be played differently by different people, and therefore everyone is going to get something different out of it. I meant to point out the cost as a potential con for purchasers, not a hard and fast rule. People should look at everything the expansion offers and see how much bang for their buck they are going to get out of it. If someone is going to use everything packed in the box then it is a great buy. I've revised my original post to reflect this.

Tom Lehmann wrote:
My apologies if these comments come off as a bit harsh, but I think that A) your post is really advocacy for a variant in the guise of a review


I definitely advocate that all players do what work best for them. That was a part of my review and, being controversial, it was the part to get the most attention. However, it was not my sole point. No offense taken, but I still stand by my opinion.

Tom Lehmann wrote:
and B) that you are quoting my post in a different thread in ways I didn't intend in an attempt to counter criticism of your variant.


Sorry if you feel that way. I didn't mean to imply that you approve of these suggestions (and I said as much), but I wanted to point out that there are a great many variants of this game already, and there is no "right" way to play the game.

Tom, thanks for commenting and keeping it friendly. It's a pleasure to have you in the conversation. I really enjoy your game and its expansions, but I feel that RvI might have altered a delicate balance too much. While you may disagree, I appreciate you hearing me out.
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Tom Lehmann
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Josh, while I do disagree with you, I'm glad we are able to disagree respectfully and intelligently. Take care.
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Another suggestion I would make is: make sure you're shuffling the deck really well. If there's a game where a player has a bunch of awesome military cards in their tableau, and those cards stay clumped together for the next game, then you'll probably see the big awesome military cards together the next game.
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Eugene Hung
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I also disagree with the original poster's contention that the expansion biases the game far too much towards military. In fact, I have noticed that the expansion tends to reward more tactical play than strategic -- I have won multiple times now merely by constructing random tableaus without much focus that were point-efficient (and goal-efficient). I think this is an excellent feature of the expansion. If anything, adding takeovers has added a balancing amount of risk to the military strategy. Before the 2nd expansion, I felt a powerful, flexible strategy was to either get a modest military or the CONTACT SPECIALISTS down early so that you could conquer those small windfall worlds for cardflow, and to give you options with all the red worlds going through your hand. Now, with takeovers, getting a modest military gives you the potential to be a target for the CLOAKING DEVICE, a balance that is much appreciated.
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Juraj Sulik
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While waiting for my preordered copy of RvI and reading these posts about military in RvI being too powerful, I remembered my first plays od RftG some time ago (in the dark ages) when I was just a newb. We were all playing military, thinking it was the only viable way to gain mucho points... until someone consumed x2 for 10 points for the first time. That was the moment we all went 'click' and the revolution started, taking us out of the middle ages into the renassaince of produce/consume.
With Gathering Storm on the table a new age has begun by reinforcing the military strategy. Many of us turned their backs on consuming and went pure military again, only to lose to hybrid-consume/low-military rush tableus. The time favored tactical decisions...
I played many solo games against the robot, learning new strategies and improving my tempo. Old Earth with it's sick x2 consuming taught me to build up my synergy as quick as possible and eventually consume back.
Now after a year has passed, I guess the history repeats itself. There's a storm coming...

The unknown future rolls towards us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope. Because if a robot can learn the value of adaptable/quick/produce-consume tableau, maybe we can too.
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Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
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Having played it 5 times now, with this new expansion, I have only gone military once, and that was not one of the 3 times I've won the game. It's often tempting to start with the military start world, but I think you shouldn't be fooled. Military is a quite "easy" strategy as it is straight forward and quite cheap. That doesn't mean it's better.
 
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Francisco Colmenares
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joshp wrote:


entranced wrote:
It never ceases to amaze that ppl can play a few games and decide that they can balance better than thousands of games of playtesting did.


I don't think I can do it better without help, and what you say doesn't really help, now does it? You are of course entitled to your opinion, but if you want to see progress then give my recommendation a try and get back to me with some honest feedback.



But he has a point, Tom has spent at least a year play testing this expansion with thousands of games. Don't you think that if there was some obvious balancing problem that could be seen in just 10 or so games, Tom and the rest of the play testers would have noticed it?

I think you're being a little arrogant. You should at least play 50 to 80 games with RvI as intended to give yourself time to adjust to the new cards and strategies.
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Philip Thomas
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I had considered removing the 2 conquest 6-devs when not playing Conquest, but mainly because of their weakness rather than their strength. Imperium Seat in particular: its ability without conquest (and ignoring the scoring benefits) is +1 Miltiary vs Rebels.

However, all the games I've played so far have had conquest turned on, so its not something I've cared to consider much futher.
 
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Brendon Russell
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Philip Thomas wrote:
Imperium Seat in particular: its ability without conquest (and ignoring the scoring benefits) is +1 Miltiary vs Rebels.


I thought it seemed underpowered without the takeover power as well, but n my experience so far, the scoring benefits have been good enough to offset this. And while the +1 Rebel military seems relatively weak, every point counts when trying to settle the high-value Rebel worlds.
 
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Philip Thomas wrote:
I had considered removing the 2 conquest 6-devs when not playing Conquest, but mainly because of their weakness rather than their strength. Imperium Seat in particular: its ability without conquest (and ignoring the scoring benefits) is +1 Miltiary vs Rebels.

However, all the games I've played so far have had conquest turned on, so its not something I've cared to consider much futher.


I'd suggest not taking out Imperium Seat - in several games, it's netted me ~12-16 pts, and great synergy with Imperium Lords, which in some games could net you 30 pts. between the two of them.
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