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Subject: Industria: The best bad game, or the worst good game I've ever played. rss

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J e f f T o m a k
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I’ll start right off and say it: this is not a great game. It is, however, fun to play - if you can deal with its flaws, which are apparent.

The game takes place over several epochs, depending on the number of players. The goal is to acquire the most victory points, which are earned in the following ways:

1) Each 5 dollars you have at the end of the game is one victory point
2) Most buildings give victory points when they’re built - however, some do not.
3) All technologies give victory points when they’re built.
4) Connecting lines link various technologies to each other, and buildings to each other - each link is worth points at the end of the game.

That’s about it for points. Easy enough - but how do you acquire technologies and buildings?

You buy them - from each other - in auctions.

Oh, ok - so how do you get cash?

- Everyone gets the same income -1 dollar per round.
- You get one dollar from any opponent who builds a technology or building which requires a resource that one of your buildings produce
- Your main source of income, though, is from the auctions.

So, a typical round goes like this:

1) Everyone gets one dollar. Sweet.
2) The starting/active player reveals the top four tiles from the epoch they are currently in. He chooses a tile to put up for auction. It’s a once around auction, players bid if they want it, or pass if they don’t want to outbid the previous player, until all of the players who are not the auctioneer have bid or passed once. The auctioneer has the following options:
a. Sell the tile to the highest bidder, at which point the bidder passes the cash he offered to the auctioneer, and the bidder snags that tile, or
b. Refuse to sell to the highest bidder, at which point the auctioneer keeps that tile and pays nothing for it, and passes the remaining tiles still available to be auctioned to the left. That player then becomes the auctioneer for the remainder of the round.
c. If no players offer a bid, the auctioneer is forced to take option b.
3) #2 continues until all four tiles have been auctioned.
4) Players may then build one each of any technology or building they have purchased in that, or any previous round. In the case of buildings, they must pay the base cost, and either produce the resources needed to build it (or pay one dollar per resource to the player that produces it instead). Technologies have no base cost (so they feel more like bonus point structures, as they don’t produce anything themselves), but their resource costs must be similarly covered by your own production or paying off the players who produce those resources. If you build an out-of-epoch structure or resource (i.e. if you have a building from the first epoch and you’re building it in the second), you don’t get the victory points for it. There is, though, still a technical reason to build some buildings and technologies which produce key resources, link to other structures or technologies you already have, or otherwise reduce the cost of building other structures.
5) The starting player marker passes to the left for the next round of auctioning.

I have to grant that it’s an interesting mechanic, but it feels rigid and clunky. If you get a good swath of tiles to sell, you’re in a great position: you can sell two of them for a ton of cash, and keep the third for free for a quick build. If you don’t pull a good batch of tiles - well, perhaps you’ll have better luck next round. My observation in each game I’ve played is players will occasionally be prone to huge surges, drawing a couple tiles that other players need, and for which they will pay a significant premium to secure them. Other players can easily get left in the dust if this happens multiple times in a row, but I’ve only rarely seen that happen. On that level, it seems technically balanced, but when you’re in the midst of it - it seems almost scatterbrained. I’ve seen one player draw four critical buildings and technology tiles, with the next player drawing two resources and much less-loved building. There’s a huge discrepancy there, and it happens every epoch - a building or tech is pretty much pareto optimal to a resource tile, except in specific circumstances where no one is producing that particular resource AND you need it to complete a key building. This happens, on average, about once per game as far as I’ve observed - not enough to warrant some special value for resources above their 1 dollar sellback value, which is normally what they sell for. I understand that any tile drawing game is luck-based, but when tile drawing feeds into auctions, the balance factor that auctions typically generate is actually lost entirely. This is where most of the game time is spent, and all of the conflicts arise - you have a pile of cash relative to anyone else, and a tile comes up that you REALLY need. Do you outbid by one, to secire top bidder, or do you have to bid more, else the auctioneer won't give it to you? It's an interesting question, and an interesting mind game - but it only comes about because of the game's own eccentricity, (the player with that pile of cash didn't do anything particularly special in order to get it - he most likely just got a great sequence of tiles to sell) so the game just sort of hobbles on in its quasi-balanced way. It's like a game of diplomacy where a country or two fold after the first round. As their neighbors gobble them up, you have a new balance - but that's not because the game is great; it's because the game just broke a little bit, and it's entirely up to the players, not the game, to restore the balance - with some players CLEARLY getting a bad deal in that new balance. Some see this as a positive trait, and I can see why on some level - but I view it as a negative.

The saving grace for this game is its extremely scatterbrained feel. It’s almost too easy to deny other players critical buildings or technologies - keeping rivals away from strong linking bonuses drags their score back into the pack, and there’s a strong incentive to do so whenever possible. Buildings are extremely similar in cost and VP value - some resources are used more than others, but it’s never much of a big deal at the point where auctions themselves are your primary source of income, which is largely luck driven anyway. I’ve never really felt in control of my strategy when playing this game, feeling entirely at the mercy to the tiles I get to auction, and my fellow players who block my linked buildings and techs.

I have the German edition, and I think it helps a lot (no one at our table speaks the language). The game feels so much more abstracted this way, and the feeling of a loss of control feels much more realistic when you don’t even really know exactly what you’re building at any time during the game. I could, of course, look it up - but this might actually ruin the game for me.

Don’t get me wrong. I have fun when playing this game, though I can’t adequately explain why. Maybe it’s the fact that the game is so fiddly, and so at the mercy of the board and your opponents, it has that Galaxy Trucker appeal - where even the most finely crafted strategies invariably get shattered to bits as the rounds go on. Since it happens to everybody, no one is particularly upset about it. I’ve never seen a wide margin in terms of final scores, so the lack of a runaway leader (due to flaws or grand design, I know not) actually keeps people more engaged - the clunkyness actually becomes quite endearing.

This is either the worst good game, or the best bad game, that I have ever played. I’m a fan of it just for that.
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Eric Knauer
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It will be interesting to see what the new rules changes consist of:

http://www.boardgamenews.com/index.php/boardgamenews/comment...

While the game play will mostly match that of the first edition, Ystari and Schacht have made slight changes that should increase player tension. According to Ystari publisher Cyril Demaegd, Schacht has said, “I thought the previous one was 90% finished, and this new version is at 100%.”

New box art is pretty sweet.
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I like M.S. games and take a look at Industry when it is released later this year. Supposedly it is "revamped" version of Industria. See boardgame news for more info.
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J e f f T o m a k
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On that note, I've always considered Industria to essentially be the special needs brother to Brass - at the point where this is getting remade, and another brass iteration is due to come out, I wonder if the logic will hold.

Edit: Regardless, the box art does look cool.
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Jordan Stewart
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That art looks like the dudes from Ticket to Ride got off the train in Metropolys.
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Ed Sherman
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I wanted to like Industria, but it just felt like a poor imitation of Ra.
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Larry Levy
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edosan wrote:
I wanted to like Industria, but it just felt like a poor imitation of Ra.

Ed, I don't even begin to understand that statement. Industria is a tense, long brain-burner. Not a game I'll want to play every day, but one I invariably enjoy a lot when I do. In fact, it might be my favorite Schacht game.

Ra, OTOH, is a lightish and relatively quick auction game with an interesting scoring system and an innovative auction mechanic. For me, the game is spoiled by how lucky or unlucky the last player gets with the Ra tiles (every game I've played has been dominated by this), but most people don't seem to mind this. However, the two games have a very different feel as well as large tangible differences. Honestly, I think the only thing they have in common is that they're both auction games.
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Maarten D. de Jong
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Huzonfirst wrote:
Ra, OTOH, is a lightish and relatively quick auction game with an interesting scoring system and an innovative auction mechanic. For me, the game is spoiled by how lucky or unlucky the last player gets with the Ra tiles (every game I've played has been dominated by this), but most people don't seem to mind this. However, the two games have a very different feel as well as large tangible differences. Honestly, I think the only thing they have in common is that they're both auction games.

You know, that's the weirdest thing. I can't really understand your statement meeple. If in your games the last player standing has such a free reign of the board that his getting lucky or unlucky determines the outcome of the entire game, then my immediate conclusion would be that your group doesn't place sufficient value on being the last one standing. Under usual circumstances such a player may not have more than one or two Ra tiles left ahead of him. The only exception is, of course, when the other players did very well earlier on in the era, so that whatever the last player draws won't affect matters much. There will always be cases where good play will be beaten by luck of the draw, but if, as you say, every game is dominated by such an effect, then something else is wrong.

For what it's worth, I agree with Ed. Industria struck me as a grating experience of artificially-induced shortage of money, incessent passing around of small amounts of money, and very little sense of progression through the various ages. To explain the latter: The building rules are very focussed on the current age, meaning that I have a strong sense of always playing the here and now. Prices, abilities and rewards don't really change either. Ra may not be a 'pure' auction game in that it restricts your bidding power, but even so things progress in a much more fluid fashion with sufficient amounts of tension to keep the ride interesting.
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Larry Levy
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Well, the last player can get screwed just as easily as he can get lucky, so I'm not sure why we're undervaluing it. And, assuming he uses decent judgment, it's something that happens to the last player (through the luck of the tile draws), not something where he has free reign.

Anyway, I wasn't trying to argue which of the two games were better (although my prejudices may have seeped through a bit). I'm simply saying that Ra and Industria seem like very different games to me. The occasions when I would suggest one are very different from the occasions where I would suggest the other.
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Brian Cherry
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potomak wrote:
I’ll start right off and say it: this is not a great game. It is, however, fun to play - if you can deal with its flaws, which are apparent.


This is exactly how I described Patrician to a new player this weekend...
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Jim Temple
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Riptcord wrote:
I like M.S. games and take a look at Industry when it is released later this year. Supposedly it is "revamped" version of Industria. See boardgame news for more info.

I know this is an old thread, but for anyone interested in more info, Industry now has its own BGG entry, and Mr. Schacht has provided a summary of the changes here:

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/500137/industry-work-in-prog...
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B. Perry
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potomak wrote:

1) Each 5 dollars you have at the end of the game is one victory point


I believe it's each 3 dollars. Also, you get points for matching symbols. Good review.
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Ed Sherman
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Larry Levy wrote:
edosan wrote:
I wanted to like Industria, but it just felt like a poor imitation of Ra.

Ed, I don't even begin to understand that statement.


I don't understand your lack of understanding. In both games you auction off groups of items in a lot to make non-mutually exclusive sets.

(Thread necromancy FTW!)
 
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