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Subject: And we so wanted to like it... rss

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Alex Treacher
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I bought a copy of this a year, maybe two ago, from an eBay seller for quite a reasonable price. I'd read the (scant) info on BGG and my interest was piqued... It finally got to the table last night for our Tuesday Night Games group. We've all played business games before and like them, and most of us like negotiation within games as a mechanic. Some of us had read the rules over the week and we went through the explanation beforehand as a reminder and to bring those who hadn't had the chance up to speed.

Off we went; a five player game using the normal rules and the 'marked' half-coins. Although we've seen the posts here that suggest house rules we thought it was fairer to give the game a try first with the 'standard' rules before applying lots of changes. We'd expected a harsh game to ensue but it far exceeded 'harsh' and it ventured far, far into the territory of 'brutal'. Some moderate share trading occurred in the first round as we were working out how much we could afford to buy.

The random factors in the game were larger than we expected; a couple of players were dealt combinations of asset cards and contract cards that weren't even close to being compatible, negotiations got one small contract to change hands and into play, but one player wasn't able to get a contract out at all.

Mind you... the players that were able to fulfil the bigger contracts ($HK40M to $HK50M-ish) soon ended up wishing that they hadn't as the players who held penalty cards that imposed fines of around $HK40M unleashed them to cripple the players who looked likely to get income. Some voting stock was sold, a half-coin was called in only to trigger a reciprocal coin right back from that same player, effectively cancelling the half-coin.

We played through about three or four turns before running out of time and running out of steam. We'd expected that - as a learning game - we wouldn't finish it during the evening, but we were surprised how long each turn took. The negotiations meant that each turn (after the first which took ages due to constant checking with the rules) took around 30-45 minutes each.

The overwhelming opinion was that the game was - and this was a surprising admission for us - far too harsh. The negative aspects of the game (by which I mean a player's ability to damage another player) outweighed the postive, corporation-building aspects. This wasn't a business game... this was a wargame with nukes as weapons and cardboard boxes as armour. It was like duelling with hand grenades... Contracts weren't the money-making 'fuel' of the game, they were enormous magnets that attracted all kinds of trouble towards the owning player.

Were we too aggressive? Too confrontational? It's very hard to know having never played the game before. But being used to playing confrontational games, taking other players down and improving your relative position seems to be the obvious thing to do... It was carnage! Assets were being destroyed, fines were played, loans were called in at inconvenient moments and contracts were broken.

Perversely we were finding it highly amusing. We'd passed the "it's a bit harsh" and the "damn, it's brutal" stages and we'd reached the stage of "oh, this'll be so funny if we do this"... We wrapped up around midnight and totalled up net worth for each player, which ranged from $HK211.8M for the fifth place $HK757.8M for the winner. The fifth place player had lost all their voting stock though...

And while we certainly had an evening of foolishness and laughter (and pancakes) the game turned out to be a disappointment. Reading the rules it had seemed to promise so much, but it unfortunately failed to deliver. The 'screwage factor' (while obviously a vital part of the game) seemed too large, and the random elements felt like they were overshadowing player skill.

The underlying concept of the game is fantastic, and I'd like to work out ways to tweak the rules to make it more playable. But as the rules stand at the moment it's akin to playing Russian Roulette in a phone box with hand grenades; liable to be rather indiscriminate, painful and somewhat messy...

Once some serious re-working has been done on it, we might even play it again one day. I'll re-read the variant rules suggestions to see what others have suggested. The ideas off the top of my head that I'd probably consider would be:

1. Either drop the half-coins completely, or explicitly define whether a coin can be played in response to a coin.
2. Auctioning the starting assets and/or contracts instead of randomly dealing.
3. Reduce the 'big financial penalty' cards to 10% or 20% of their power.
4. Define whether losing the fifth voting block is automatic elimination. (I suspect the intention is not, but one is extremely vulnerable in that situation anyway.)
5. Consider increasing the maximum amount of shares that can be purchased in a single stock action.
6. Rebuild the stock market display; I can think of several ways to very easily make it clearer.
7. Tint the banknotes. The money is beautiful, but how many times did different players put notes on the wrong stacks in the bank?


There's a great game in there, but the rules need some surgery... I don't think I'll suggest it next week again though; I might not survive!
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Tom Swider
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Prodromoi wrote:
I bought a copy of this a year, maybe two ago, from an eBay seller for quite a reasonable price. I'd read the (scant) info on BGG and my interest was piqued... It finally got to the table last night for our Tuesday Night Games group. We've all played business games before and like them, and most of us like negotiation within games as a mechanic. Some of us had read the rules over the week and we went through the explanation beforehand as a reminder and to bring those who hadn't had the chance up to speed.

Off we went; a five player game using the normal rules and the 'marked' half-coins. Although we've seen the posts here that suggest house rules we thought it was fairer to give the game a try first with the 'standard' rules before applying lots of changes. We'd expected a harsh game to ensue but it far exceeded 'harsh' and it ventured far, far into the territory of 'brutal'. Some moderate share trading occurred in the first round as we were working out how much we could afford to buy.

The random factors in the game were larger than we expected; a couple of players were dealt combinations of asset cards and contract cards that weren't even close to being compatible, negotiations got one small contract to change hands and into play, but one player wasn't able to get a contract out at all.

Mind you... the players that were able to fulfil the bigger contracts ($HK40M to $HK50M-ish) soon ended up wishing that they hadn't as the players who held penalty cards that imposed fines of around $HK40M unleashed them to cripple the players who looked likely to get income. Some voting stock was sold, a half-coin was called in only to trigger a reciprocal coin right back from that same player, effectively cancelling the half-coin.

We played through about three or four turns before running out of time and running out of steam. We'd expected that - as a learning game - we wouldn't finish it during the evening, but we were surprised how long each turn took. The negotiations meant that each turn (after the first which took ages due to constant checking with the rules) took around 30-45 minutes each.

The overwhelming opinion was that the game was - and this was a surprising admission for us - far too harsh. The negative aspects of the game (by which I mean a player's ability to damage another player) outweighed the postive, corporation-building aspects. This wasn't a business game... this was a wargame with nukes as weapons and cardboard boxes as armour. It was like duelling with hand grenades... Contracts weren't the money-making 'fuel' of the game, they were enormous magnets that attracted all kinds of trouble towards the owning player.

Were we too aggressive? Too confrontational? It's very hard to know having never played the game before. But being used to playing confrontational games, taking other players down and improving your relative position seems to be the obvious thing to do... It was carnage! Assets were being destroyed, fines were played, loans were called in at inconvenient moments and contracts were broken.

Perversely we were finding it highly amusing. We'd passed the "it's a bit harsh" and the "damn, it's brutal" stages and we'd reached the stage of "oh, this'll be so funny if we do this"... We wrapped up around midnight and totalled up net worth for each player, which ranged from $HK211.8M for the fifth place $HK757.8M for the winner. The fifth place player had lost all their voting stock though...

And while we certainly had an evening of foolishness and laughter (and pancakes) the game turned out to be a disappointment. Reading the rules it had seemed to promise so much, but it unfortunately failed to deliver. The 'screwage factor' (while obviously a vital part of the game) seemed too large, and the random elements felt like they were overshadowing player skill.

The underlying concept of the game is fantastic, and I'd like to work out ways to tweak the rules to make it more playable. But as the rules stand at the moment it's akin to playing Russian Roulette in a phone box with hand grenades; liable to be rather indiscriminate, painful and somewhat messy...

Once some serious re-working has been done on it, we might even play it again one day. I'll re-read the variant rules suggestions to see what others have suggested. The ideas off the top of my head that I'd probably consider would be:

1. Either drop the half-coins completely, or explicitly define whether a coin can be played in response to a coin.
2. Auctioning the starting assets and/or contracts instead of randomly dealing.
3. Reduce the 'big financial penalty' cards to 10% or 20% of their power.
4. Define whether losing the fifth voting block is automatic elimination. (I suspect the intention is not, but one is extremely vulnerable in that situation anyway.)
5. Consider increasing the maximum amount of shares that can be purchased in a single stock action.
6. Rebuild the stock market display; I can think of several ways to very easily make it clearer.
7. Tint the banknotes. The money is beautiful, but how many times did different players put notes on the wrong stacks in the bank?


There's a great game in there, but the rules need some surgery... I don't think I'll suggest it next week again though; I might not survive!


I agree that the half-coins should be dropped. The mechanism seems more to try cashing in on the novel or movie, and effectively reduces everybody's voting stock by one block (assuming these get played at times of cash shortages).

The money tinting would be another good idea.

I'm a Diplomacy player at heart, and like the harshness of Nobel House. That having been said, there's a lot to be said about the threat of taking an action rather than taking the action. It might be better to pay off some of the players if you were fortunate enough to get a good contract that matches your assets ... allowing them to save face. A player who can't save face will be desperate, and start the death spiral.

I think auctioning off assets at the beginning would not work at all. The point of the random mix is to put the players in a bind from the beginning: you are loaded with liabilities and will go bankrupt unless you work out some deals. This is a stark contrast to most other games where you can make money without much effort, and pulls players emotionally into the game, similar to Republic of Rome. Some of that may even delay a lot of the nastiness. I think I've played about 5 games and it's usually not until 1/3 of the deck goes that somebody starts to pick a fight.

A simple way of making the game shorter is to take about 1/3 of the cards out.
 
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