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Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm» Forums » Variants

Subject: If you were to "balance" toy shop... rss

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Matt N

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What would you do? Let's assume no goals, where ELC + toy shop is a giant favorite instead of a 60% favorite.

Option 1: Increase the cost.
4-5 cost means that it can't be played and traded on the first turn without some help from your opponents.
6 cost means that it can't be played on the first turn.
VP value would probably have to go up as well, probably to 2-3.

This would prevent or hinder the ELC + toy shop first turn play, which is crushingly good without goals.

Option 2: Change the type of good from the world.
This causes it to trade for less; however, brown/green worlds are relatively easy to produce on using developments. So, changing the world to a novelty goods world would deny the toy shop player cards, making it focused solely on the 2x VPs strategy. It would also make expanding colony a more useful card, as expanding colony + toy shop would be equal to two production worlds with consume powers (like prosperous world + ELC).

Mixing both options is fine I guess, although it would be pretty weird.


So, would either option make sense for your idealized version of Rftg, keeping in mind that these changes would weaken other starting worlds like Old Earth?

By the way, responses I'd prefer not to see:
-The game is fine as is, we shouldn't second guess Tom (that's why this is in "variants", so you can figure out whether it would make sense to you or not)
-I hate that card, just get rid of it (not productive
 
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Chris Linneman
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While I don't think Alien Toy Shop is hugely unbalanced, I would like to see its cost at 4 and VPs remain the same. I think it is similar to Plague World and the disparity between cost and VPs should be 3.

-Both worlds give a valuable good but ATS' is one card better--so it should cost 1 more.
-Both worlds have a better than average consume power.
-One is windfall and the other is production but each has its own benefit. Other worlds (Volcanic World/Radioactive World) that only differ by windfall/production status do not vary in price.

That said, the easiest fix for me is to play with goals. I always play with goals now and find ATS to be a situational card--really good sometimes but often discarded as cash.
 
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Rob Neuhaus
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First things first. Data shows the ATS is obscenely strong. See the graph here. http://racestats.mastersofspace.net

Even with goals, my intuition says that at 6 cost/1 VP, ATS would still a decent card. Of course, if you want to keep the relative balance among produce/consume unchanged, you'd need to compensate by making other P/C cards stronger. Galactic Ren is probably a good target for a boost as the most infrequently played 6 dev. Perhaps giving it the Galactic Saloon consume power would be fittingly synergistic and make it quite solid, rather than total crap. Or perhaps something weaker like draw 2 cards on consume would be good enough.
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Rob Neuhaus
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QBert80 wrote:
That said, the easiest fix for me is to play with goals. I always play with goals now and find ATS to be a situational card--really good sometimes but often discarded as cash.


By situationally good, you mean it is played 1.7x as much as any other world in the game while still maintaining a quite high winning rate?

If you look at other cards with similar cost - trade value, they typically have no useful powers, or indeed, negative ones (empath world, refugee world) as opposed to one of the strongest consume powers in the game.
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Mark Delano
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I'm not as concerned with balance on ATS, however it violates my aesthetic sensibilities by being the only card in the deck that can generate more than 1 (undoubled) vp chip each turn all by itself. All other cards at best get 1 vp chip per turn per card.

Tourist World requires two other cards (goods) in order to generate 3 vp chips, netting 1 vp chip per turn per card. Galactic Trendsetters requires one other card to generate 2 vp chips, netting 1 vp chip per turn per card. All of the other production/windfall worlds with consume for vp powers generate 1 vp chip per turn per card.

So these solutions don't appeal to me. I'd change ATS to consume any Alien good for 1 VP and 2 cards.
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Kory Stevens
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Upping its cost would be simple enough, if it cost 5 or 6 and worth 2 or 3 points it might be ok, though in danger of becoming a bit weak.

An interesting idea I just thought of would be to have it start with no good on it. It can only produce as a windfall, but does not start with a good on it as a windfall. Again, I have some concern it might make it too weak, perhaps it should be worth 2 points now, would need some playtesting.

Honestly though, I would have no problem with it just being a blue windfall good. Sure it would be a pretty good combo with the expanding colony, but I think expanding colony needs that. Would it get to keep the Alien keyword when its good was blue? Might as well, I guess.
 
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Dave J McWeasely
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I once suggested swapping the consume power off of ATS and onto Alien Library (the $6 windfall). ATS now scores 2 vp at the end of the game (up by 1), and Alien Library only scores 4 (down by 1). This keeps the power in the game, but eliminates the early ATS bootstrapping trade to a killer production engine.

As to the viability of expert players beating an early and intelligent ATS-ELC combo, I simply don't believe the story of a 60% win ratio with a develop strategy. Develop strats aren't that good in Gathering storm - there are only 4 devs worth a damn, and they don't come up often enough for that to be sustainable that often. I think that bitrot has munged up this claim and made it into a myth with a tenuous relationship to the original data.
 
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Rob Neuhaus
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MrWeasely wrote:
As to the viability of expert players beating an early and intelligent ATS-ELC combo, I simply don't believe the story of a 60% win ratio with a develop strategy. Develop strats aren't that good in Gathering storm - there are only 4 devs worth a damn, and they don't come up often enough for that to be sustainable that often. I think that bitrot has munged up this claim and made it into a myth with a tenuous relationship to the original data.


I am pretty sure the data point was that Tom could beat a non-intelligent ELC+ATS (settle/consume first turn, P/C for the rest) 40% of the time.
 
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frunkee wrote:
I'm not as concerned with balance on ATS, however it violates my aesthetic sensibilities by being the only card in the deck that can generate more than 1 (undoubled) vp chip each turn all by itself. All other cards at best get 1 vp chip per turn per card.

Tourist World requires two other cards (goods) in order to generate 3 vp chips, netting 1 vp chip per turn per card. Galactic Trendsetters requires one other card to generate 2 vp chips, netting 1 vp chip per turn per card. All of the other production/windfall worlds with consume for vp powers generate 1 vp chip per turn per card.

So these solutions don't appeal to me. I'd change ATS to consume any Alien good for 1 VP and 2 cards.


The main thing that keeps ATS underwraps compared to those other combos as GT + other world w/goods or TW + 2 other worlds w/goods is that ATS requires you to call produce, as unless you get a yellow good on ATS and ATS only, no VP for you. As part of a bigger P/C engine, it's deadly, but at least the player is being forced to call Produce on his own after each Consume. Nevermind the onslaught that ensues in a 2p adv game for this post. Things get hairy when an ATS owner now has a power that lets him produce on a yellow windfall.
 
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Matt N

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I haven't heard of a develop strategy beating ELC + toy shop. I ran a test using the Alien Nightmare scenario versus ancient race + G-Fed in hand and promptly went 0-4, with my closest loss being by one point when I have G-Fed + new economy. It could win with increasingly perfect cards, but I already had 3 other developments with consume powers.

I thought it was two experts with goals, with one of them using ELC + toy shop in hand and the other with a random hand, playing each other however they choose. The problem I'd have with this is that the other player knows that the ELC player has toy shop in hand, so he can naked trade... I don't know if that would distort the data.

There's also the possiblity that they mixed the results for ELC + toy shop and other 3 card combos (windfall starter + artist colony + tourist world). The problem there is that ELC + toy shop has 1+5 cards that they can use next turn to do whatever + produce, so it's much stronger. At 8 chips per turn, you'd be crushed without a crazy strategy (aka terraforming logistics... and that one's tenuous).
 
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Rob Neuhaus
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ackmondual wrote:
The main thing that keeps ATS underwraps compared to those other combos as GT + other world w/goods or TW + 2 other worlds w/goods is that ATS requires you to call produce, as unless you get a yellow good on ATS and ATS only, no VP for you. As part of a bigger P/C engine, it's deadly, but at least the player is being forced to call Produce on his own after each Consume. Nevermind the onslaught that ensues in a 2p adv game for this post. Things get hairy when an ATS owner now has a power that lets him produce on a yellow windfall.


This is an oft repeated argument and maybe it even sounds nice in theory (especially when it's said by the people involved in the game creation..), but it leaves a lot to be desired. I really want to know who is producing for a player with both reasonable production and galactic trendsetters, and who has the balls to not call produce, despite having reasonable production and galactic trendsetters?

Furthermore, I want to know what happens when you lay down your GT and don't get a produce, I lay down my ATS and don't produce? Well, you just spent a lot of money on something that manages to be worse than Terraformed World, and I spent barely half as much for something with a good worth 5 cards, and got myself closer to the 3 alien and all color goals, plus I have synergy with Terraforming Guild and the Alien Tech Institute. And you, well I hope that your Gal Ren is worth a lot without a produce coming. Good luck.
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Rob Neuhaus
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Here is a game where a develop strat beat ELC + toy shop. I think I had 95% chance to win the game going into the last turn, but infocynic top decked Free Trade Association for the win on tie breaker.

http://genie.game-host.org/game.htm?gid=7598
 
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Kester J
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Rob, I don't suppose you have the separate stats for ATS in multiplayer games? It definitely seems to require a bit more finesse there, and I'd be interested to see how strong it turns out to be compared to advanced 2-player.

As regards advanced 2-player, I don't think the card would be underpowered at cost 4, which would eliminate the turn 1 settle/trade unless you're prepared to take a risk.


Edit: If I was allowed to change any one thing about the game, I'd take away Terraforming Guild's "Produce on any windfall" power. This would have the nice side effect of making ATS slightly less powerful, amongst other things.
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Matt N

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rrenaud wrote:
Here is a game where a develop strat beat ELC + toy shop. I think I had 95% chance to win the game going into the last turn, but infocynic top decked Free Trade Association for the win on tie breaker.

http://genie.game-host.org/game.htm?gid=7598


Er, did you whip out terraforming robots + brown world on the second turn? Or did you play terraforming robots and then play the brown world 3rd turn or later?
 
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Rob Neuhaus
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The stats limited to multiplayer games. This mostly a hack that will disappear when I get the stuff more organized.

On the other hand, it was only 2 lines of code changed, in case thats any incentive to get your hands dirty .

http://racestats.mastersofspace.net/multiplayer/
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Rob Neuhaus
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I am pretty sure both the brown world and the terraforming robots came out on the second turn and that I produced on the second turn.
 
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Kester J
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rrenaud wrote:
The stats limited to multiplayer games. This mostly a hack that will disappear when I get the stuff more organized.

On the other hand, it was only 2 lines of code changed, in case thats any incentive to get your hands dirty .

http://racestats.mastersofspace.net/multiplayer/


Cheers! I'm actually surprised by how similar they are. The main difference is the increased variance, but that's to be expected with a much smaller dataset.
 
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Rob Neuhaus
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The cheap gray stuff at the bottom left in two player looks a lot better in 3+ player. Military looks a lot stronger as well. Smuggler's lair is stronger. But yes, overall, not all that different. ATS, Gal Fed, and TG are still in a league of their own. Animation between the two graphs would be so cool..
 
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Kester J
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frunkee wrote:
I'm not as concerned with balance on ATS, however it violates my aesthetic sensibilities by being the only card in the deck that can generate more than 1 (undoubled) vp chip each turn all by itself. All other cards at best get 1 vp chip per turn per card.

Tourist World requires two other cards (goods) in order to generate 3 vp chips, netting 1 vp chip per turn per card. Galactic Trendsetters requires one other card to generate 2 vp chips, netting 1 vp chip per turn per card. All of the other production/windfall worlds with consume for vp powers generate 1 vp chip per turn per card.

So these solutions don't appeal to me. I'd change ATS to consume any Alien good for 1 VP and 2 cards.


I like your reasoning about chips per card here. Your proposed consume power really does change the whole flavour of the card in making it more of a card engine than points, which I'm not so keen on.

Just musing, but to keep the flavour, perhaps 2 alien goods to 3 chips would work? It still violates your 1 chip per turn per card rule, but not as badly, and 2 reliable alien goods is very hard to get. It's probably a bit too situational as a consume power, but then an alien windfall for 3 cards isn't too bad in itself: ATS with no consume power would still see a fair bit of play.
 
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Juraj Sulik
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As response to OP, I would change the ATS power of consuming for 2 points to just 1 point. 3-cost alien windfall at reduced vp worth fills the gap between genes 2-cost windfalls and alien 4-cost+ windfalls. It just needed some downside, some risky drawback of losing this precious windfall. Consume for 1 vp would be good enough. It would still be used primarily for trading, but then can become worthy boost in consume/produce crank.
We've already tried a few games playing ATS like this (and also Terraforming Guild giving just 1 vp for windfall worlds) and liked it. No one ever feels like folding his cards when someone pulls out ATS in the first three turns (or gets 16+ points for Terraforming Guild... again).
 
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Chris Linneman
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People are quick to harsh on Terraforming Guild but you have to remember that most windfall worlds are worth only 1 or 2VPs and have no powers. So yes Terraforming Guild is frequently worth more than 10VPs but that is balanced by it usually appearing in a below-average tableau. When you consider its powers, yes it is too strong, but 1VP/windfall world is too big a nerf. I would just remove its windfall produce power or only award 1VP/Terraforming card (or both?)
 
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Nolan Lichti
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Looking at the stats, I find it interesting to compare ATS to other windfalls that are only valuable by themselves for points and their good: Pirate World, the Uplift trio, Alien Robot Sentry, Pre-sentient Race and Ancient Race*.

The military worlds have a higher play and win rate than PSR and AR. Even Deserted Alien Outpost has a lower play and win rate than the above military worlds (partially due to its cost, which is offset a bit by its VP value).

So the fact that ATS has a similar win rate as the military worlds (unlike the other non-military worlds), seems to tell us what we already know: ATS is valuable because of its consume power, not necessarily its good.

But does its good push it over the top?

Now let's look at the closest thing I could think of for a non-military windfall world: Galactic Resort. Its play rate is much lower than ATS, but its win rate is almost the same (slightly lower when looking at all games, slightly higher in multiplayer).

I'd be interested to see how ATS does by simply changing its good from an alien good to a novelty. Of course, thematically you may have to rename it while maintaining the Alien keyword for ATI (Alien Replica Gift Shop?).

Edit: Of course, this would allow you to use Colony Ship or Doomed World to place it, which could be significant.

*Rob - Does "Cards played as homeworlds are excluded from the data, so that they don't totally skew the play rate" mean that games where AR is played as a home world aren't counted at all for AR? The play rate seems really low when compared to PSR, which seems odd given that they are basically the same card. If games where AR was played as the home world factored into games where it isn't "played", this would make more sense.
 
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Rob Neuhaus
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FunkCracker wrote:

*Rob - Does "Cards played as homeworlds are excluded from the data, so that they don't totally skew the play rate" mean that games where AR is played as a home world aren't counted at all for AR? The play rate seems really low when compared to PSR, which seems odd given that they are basically the same card. If games where AR was played as the home world factored into games where it isn't "played", this would make more sense.


It just means that when AR is a homeworld, AR is not considered as played in that game at all. I am not sure what you mean by your last sentence. Since AR is a homeworld, it is not as available for regular play as often as PSR, which explains it being played less frequently.

I could add a homeworld normalization factor to make the play rate more meaningful for homeworlds. Instead of computing probability of being played given not played as a homeworld, compute probability of being played not as a homeworld given a card was available to be played not as a homeworld. However, I'd rather spend my time doing cooler stuff with the stats. On the other hand, if you know/want to learn Python, I'd gladly accept changes to the code that performed such a normalization.
 
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Nolan Lichti
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rrenaud wrote:
FunkCracker wrote:

*Rob - Does "Cards played as homeworlds are excluded from the data, so that they don't totally skew the play rate" mean that games where AR is played as a home world aren't counted at all for AR? The play rate seems really low when compared to PSR, which seems odd given that they are basically the same card. If games where AR was played as the home world factored into games where it isn't "played", this would make more sense.


It just means that when AR is a homeworld, AR is not considered as played in that game at all. I am not sure what you mean by your last sentence. Since AR is a homeworld, it is not as available for regular play as often as PSR, which explains it being played less frequently.

I could add a homeworld normalization factor to make the play rate more meaningful for homeworlds. Instead of computing probability of being played given not played as a homeworld, compute probability of being played not as a homeworld given a card was available to be played not as a homeworld. However, I'd rather spend my time doing cooler stuff with the stats. On the other hand, if you know/want to learn Python, I'd gladly accept changes to the code that performed such a normalization.


I hear ya. It sounds like you are computing it as I suspected, which would decrease the play rate of all homeworlds. Basically, it would be ideal to not consider a game at all for the homeworld cards in that game when computing probabilities for those cards. If I find some spare time -- laugh --, I'll take a peek at your code. I'm haven't written in python (I tend to use ruby for scripting), but as long as it's readable, I should be able to grok it.
 
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Rob Neuhaus
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In case you want a hint, the change would need to be in compute_stats.py.


def ComputeWinningStatsByCardPlayedAndSkillLevel(games, skill_ratings):


The function it uses, ComputeAdvancedByCardStats, computes the denominator for every card like this..


total_tableaus = float(TotalNumTableaus(games))


You'd want to re-compute that value and compute a similar value that excludes each homeworld into something like homeworld_not_excluded_tableaus, and then multiply the prob_per_card by total_tableaus/homeworld_not_excluded_tableas[homeworld] for the homeworlds.
 
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