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Subject: Use of optional dominance evaluation rule rss

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Matt Smith
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I played a two-player game this week with my wife, and we used the official optional rule for determining dominance. The normal rule for determining dominance says to count the number of spaces needed by each team to trigger the Finale. With the optional rule, you instead count the number of story steps needed by each team to trigger the Finale.

Basically, the main difference of the optional rule is it takes into account the active plots when determining dominance, not just the current locations of the story markers. For example, if Sauron has three 2-red plots in play, even if his red marker is well back on the story track, it will quickly catch and pass the hero's marker, assuming the plots remain in play for a couple of turns.

After the game, we both thought this optional rule was significantly more fair to both teams. I'm considering using the optional rule in all my games going forward, but I wanted to get input from others first.

So, what are your thoughts on this optional rule? If you've used it, how was it received by the players, both Sauron and Heroes? Do you think it's more accurate/fair, or not?
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Rich Chamberlain
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I hadn't thought of the Advance Dominance rule until I read your post.

Reading the rules now and thinking back to the last 4 player game I played I think it would be a more reflective option in deciding Dominance - especially since the Heroes are usually dominant 90% of the time. In fact using the basic version it is hard enough to get equal dominance.

Thanks for the reminder of this rule. I'll definitely give it a go next time.
 
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Sean D.
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I haven't used the optional Dominance rule yet. I will have to try it out in the next game. At first glance, I think I prefer calculating it by where the story markers are at the time, not what the potential position will be in 2 turns or something, but I can't say for sure until I actually use it a couple of times.
 
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I've also been thinking about trying it out, mainly in the interest of evening out the distribution of event cards a bit. We should start to see the higher-numbered Stage II cards for a change.
 
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Matt Smith
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Hector131 wrote:
I haven't used the optional Dominance rule yet. I will have to try it out in the next game. At first glance, I think I prefer calculating it by where the story markers are at the time, not what the potential position will be in 2 turns or something, but I can't say for sure until I actually use it a couple of times.

Both the standard and optional dominance rules look ahead to see which team is expected to trigger the Finale. Both rules do this by evaluating a frozen snapshot of the current game state:

- The standard rule essentially says the team that is closer to the Finale space will likely trigger the Finale.

- The optional rule says whichever team will require less story steps (i.e. rounds) to trigger the Finale is closer to triggering it.

It just seems the optional rule is better, as it's an assessment of how many more turns each player is projected to have left, instead of knowing how many spaces a token is from the end of the track.

In Stage I, the heroes will still often be dominant, unless Sauron can get out an advanced plot that matches his starting plot. If he does this, one of his markers will start moving three spaces per story step, compared to two spaces for the heroes' marker. If this happens, Sauron should be considered dominant, even if his active marker is behind the hero marker.

By Stage II, plots have usually started to be discarded and replaced, so it can be hard to tell just from the marker positions how Sauron is really doing. By looking at which markers are moving and how fast they're moving, the optional rule gives a better assessment of Sauron's position relative to the heroes.

By Stage III, usually one of Sauron's markers has outpaced the other two. However, having one marker in Stage III doesn't mean Sauron is close to triggering the Finale. His active plots may not move that marker if the heroes have had recent success discarding plots.

My last game was a good example of how the optional dominance rule worked. I started with a ring plot, the placed another ring plot. By the time my starting plot was discarded, I replaced it with another ring plot. So, Sauron was dominant early. However, by the time my ring marker was in Stage II, I had run out of ring plots and was placing army (red) plots. So for couple of turns the heroes were dominant, because their marker was ahead of my army marker, and both markers were moving at the same rate.

I then got back-to-back events that moved the army marker. With my red marker now moving three spaces per turn, it would eventually catch the hero marker in phase III. From about the middle of Phase II until I caught the hero marker, the optional rule calculated Sauron as dominant, because my red marker would pass the hero marker in phase III and reach the Finale space first.

Then the hero dropped my army marker pace back to two spaces per turn. Since our lead markers were together and moving at the same pace, we were now tied. That's the way the game ended (tied for dominance).

With all the discarding and playing of plots, we thought the optional rule really did a nice job of reflecting the true balance of power between the teams.
 
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David desJardins
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mvettemagred wrote:
Both the standard and optional dominance rules look ahead to see which team is expected to trigger the Finale.


Not really. The standard dominance rule is looking at who has made the most progress so far. It's not correlated with who's most likely to make progress in the future. Obviously, the Sauron player has more valuable plots to play later in the game.
 
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Jim Cote
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Isn't think kind of like comparing a 100m dash to a 4K run? If the goal in the 100m is to cross the finish line first, it doesn't matter if another runner would IF the race was longer. This doesn't seem so much a balancing tweak as it does a change of goals.
 
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Matt Smith
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ekted wrote:
Isn't think kind of like comparing a 100m dash to a 4K run? If the goal in the 100m is to cross the finish line first, it doesn't matter if another runner would IF the race was longer. This doesn't seem so much a balancing tweak as it does a change of goals.

That's a good analogy, and is exactly why the optional rule is better. The game can change from a 100m to a 4k and back again several times throughout the game. I don't want to be running a 4k, only to have the finish line moved up and not have the game recognize it.

For example, if you are the hero team and your marker is 8 spaces from the Finale, you can expect to have 4 more turns left, unless one of the rare cards happens to move your marker back one space. Sauron plays a plot that moves the red marker 3 spaces per turn, and he already has a plot in play that moves the red marker 2 spaces per turn. His red marker is currently 10 spaces from the Finale space. Wouldn't you want to have the game recognize that Sauron is now only 2 turns from ending the game? Don't you think the events should favor the heroes until they can slow down the red marker?
 
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David desJardins
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mvettemagred wrote:
Don't you think the events should favor the heroes until they can slow down the red marker?


No. I don't want the game to favor the player who is doing worse. I don't mind if the game favors the player who has had worse luck, though. It is hard to draw the line between the two.
 
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Matt Smith
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DaviddesJ wrote:
mvettemagred wrote:
Both the standard and optional dominance rules look ahead to see which team is expected to trigger the Finale.


Not really. The standard dominance rule is looking at who has made the most progress so far. It's not correlated with who's most likely to make progress in the future. Obviously, the Sauron player has more valuable plots to play later in the game.

True. I didn't write that statement very well. But you point out why the optional rule is more complete. It doesn't just look at the current state of the track, which just represents what has happened so far. It looks at the components in play (the plots) that affect the story track. Thus, the optional rule both looks at past progress and projects future progress.

Obviously, for the heroes to be dominant at the end, it doesn't matter so much where the non-active Sauron story markers are. What matters is which plots are in play, and how quickly the game will end if those plots remain in play. You can't predict what plots Sauron will play, but you certainly can take the active plots into account. Shouldn't the game do the same?

As a hero player, if Sauron has one ring plot in play, but his ring marker is 10 spaces behind your marker, are you really concerned about that plot? I'm sure you perform the same calculation that the optional rule does. You calculate if and when Sauron will overtake your marker, and if you need to be concerned about reaching the Finale as the dominant team. The optional dominance rule performs the same calculation, which causes the events to favor the team that is truly behind. I'm struggling to see how this could be unfair or unbalancing. It just aligns the dominance calculation with the overall strategy of the game; i.e. end the game in the dominant position.
 
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Jim Cote
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mvettemagred wrote:
Don't you think the events should favor the heroes until they can slow down the red marker?

This is an issue called the End of the World Effect in wargaming. Does the player who dives across the finish line win? Or is it the player who WOULD HAVE WON if the game lasted longer? If the goal is to reach the finish line, then diving is a proper play.

Thematically, if Sauron cannot win by the end of the game, then the events of Lord of the Rings conintue to unfold as they will. He's got so many turns to prevent this.
 
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Matt Smith
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DaviddesJ wrote:
mvettemagred wrote:
Don't you think the events should favor the heroes until they can slow down the red marker?


No. I don't want the game to favor the player who is doing worse. I don't mind if the game favors the player who has had worse luck, though. It is hard to draw the line between the two.

To me, it seemed the Events mechanism was clearly designed to be a balancing agent. The only reason to assess dominance when playing events is to have pro-Hero events when they are behind, and have pro-Sauron events when he is behind. Otherwise, you might as well just draw and resolve the top event from the proper deck. If that's really what the designers intended, then I prefer to use a more accurate assessment of dominance. The rulebook even states the optional rule is more accurate.
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Matt Smith
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ekted wrote:
mvettemagred wrote:
Don't you think the events should favor the heroes until they can slow down the red marker?

This is an issue called the End of the World Effect in wargaming. Does the player who dives across the finish line win? Or is it the player who WOULD HAVE WON if the game lasted longer? If the goal is to reach the finish line, then diving is a proper play.

Thematically, if Sauron cannot win by the end of the game, then the events of Lord of the Rings conintue to unfold as they will. He's got so many turns to prevent this.

I think we're saying the same thing, but I'm not sure. Using your analogy, the hero runner runs the race at a nearly steady pace (2 spaces per turn). The Sauron runner's pace changes throughout the race. Sometimes he's sprinting, sometimes he's walking. Also, his position relative the heroes changes throughout the game. He could be walking with the ring marker directly behind the hero marker. Then that marker stops completely, while the red marker, which is much further behind, starts sprinting.

If I'm the hero runner, I want to know not only where the other runner is, but how fast he's running. Since I can't change my pace, I want to know if I need to change the other runner's pace, and how quickly I need to change it. Otherwise, I might as well just ignore the other runner and hope my unchangeable pace is fast enough. As the hero team, I wouldn't suggest this strategy in MEQ, as you'd rarely win. You've got to know both Sauron's position and pace in the race.
 
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Jim Cote
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Agreed with the technical stuff. But I think the normal Domination evaluation (who is closest) is better than the optional one (who would win if the game went on indefinitely), because there is a thematic time-pressure. If you don't get closer to the finish by the end of the game, then your speed is irrelevant.
 
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Sean D.
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I am not sure how much balancing actually happens from the event deck because it is still a random card draw.
In our last game when the heroes were dominant, event cards #12, 13 and 14 were drawn were drawn in Stage I. So you can still end up with interesting things happening despite the odds against it. That is why at first glance, I prefer calculating Dominance based on what has happened so far.

I will try it out the optional rule next game to see how it actually affects the game though before making any final decisions.
 
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Rauli Kettunen
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Hector131 wrote:
In our last game when the heroes were dominant, event cards #12, 13 and 14 were drawn were drawn in Stage I.


I know, I've seen the first Event be I:14, next draw, Heroes dominant, 10, 11, 12 . Or when Sauron is dominant, you get 1,2 and 4.
 
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Matt Smith
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Jim,

I absolutely respect what your saying, but I don't think it applies to MEQ. I see you have it on order. Have you had a chance to play it yet? The hero team must look at how fast Sauron's markers are moving, not just where they're located. I think the dominance rule should do the same, which is why I like the optional rule better.

If a Sauron marker is ahead of the hero marker, but there are no plots in play to move that Sauron marker, is Sauron really in a dominant position? The standard rule says yes, the optional rule says no (assuming Sauron's other markers won't reach the Finale before the hero marker).

According to the rulebook, the optional rule is more complex, but more accurate. Since I suspect players on both teams will already be calculating how many turns they have left based on both the story markers and the active plots, performing that very same calculation when determining dominance will be a natural thing.

Using the optional rule or not all comes down to this: Do you want the Events to help the team that has not done as well so far, or do you want the Events to help the team that is projected to not reach the Finale in the dominant position?

I think there are valid arguments for both rules. Personally, I like the optional rule that takes both past performance and current state into account. But, if you just want to have past performance be the determining factor, use the standard rule.

Good discussion, guys. Thanks for contributing. thumbsup
 
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Matt Smith
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Dam the Man wrote:
Hector131 wrote:
In our last game when the heroes were dominant, event cards #12, 13 and 14 were drawn were drawn in Stage I.


I know, I've seen the first Event be I:14, next draw, Heroes dominant, 10, 11, 12 . Or when Sauron is dominant, you get 1,2 and 4.

Yep, I've had this happen too. The "draw three, resolve one" method is supposed to make this occur less often, but it still happens.

Still, if the draw is 1, 7, and 14, and I'm the hero team, I'd rather have 14 happen instead of 1 if Sauron is projected to be dominant in the Finale. Since I can't speed up my own marker, give me all the help I can get to slow that Sauron player down so I have a chance to be dominant at the end.
 
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Jim Cote
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It's on its way as we speak. I have not played it yet. I speak solely from game design and (presumably) thematic reasons. It's quite possible that I will feel differently after having played it.
 
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Matt Smith
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ekted wrote:
It's on its way as we speak. I have not played it yet. I speak solely from game design and (presumably) thematic reasons. It's quite possible that I will feel differently after having played it.

It's a great game. I hope you get a chance to try both dominance rules.

Once my group understood the game well enough to start calculating how many turns were left based on the active plots, the standard dominance rule started to not feel right. We started asking questions like, "If it looks like Sauron will trigger the Finale, why are the Heroes still considered dominant?" It didn't make sense to us. Once I discovered the Advanced Dominance rule, it all clicked. It's easier for new players to counts spaces, but experienced players will prefer to count turns remaining. At least, that's how I suspect things will evolve. But the game is still so new, we'll have to see how things progress as groups get more experience with it.

Anyway, I'll be playing my first 3-hero game this weekend, so I'll see how the advance dominance rule works in that game.
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David desJardins
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mvettemagred wrote:
To me, it seemed the Events mechanism was clearly designed to be a balancing agent. The only reason to assess dominance when playing events is to have pro-Hero events when they are behind, and have pro-Sauron events when he is behind.


No, that's not the only reason. A different reason would be to compensate the side that's been less lucky so far. That might or might not be the side that's behind.

In the current system, the heroes are almost always dominant until late in the game, if Sauron does somehow become dominant that's because he's had great luck in drawing matching plots of a single color. And so compensating the heroes for that might be desirable.

On the other hand, if the heroes just play badly, I feel no inclination to help them.
 
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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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After reading the optional rule, it seems so much more intuitive than the existing rule. I'll be using it from here on out.
 
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Ted Kostek
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I assume the optional rule feels like too much when you are first learning the game. I know I felt a bit overwhelmed, and any bit of simplification was appreciated.

Now that I've got a few games under my belt, I'd be willing to try a more complex rule.

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David desJardins
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kostek wrote:
I assume the optional rule feels like too much when you are first learning the game.


It's not any more complicated. Just different.
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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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kostek wrote:
I assume the optional rule feels like too much when you are first learning the game. I know I felt a bit overwhelmed, and any bit of simplification was appreciated.

Now that I've got a few games under my belt, I'd be willing to try a more complex rule.



To me it's less complex, significantly less. I just couldn't quite understand the regular rule. And we had to do the calculation every turn anyway to see who would win the game if nothing changed.
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