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Subject: Same old multiplayer confict game, different clothes? rss

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Jon W
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This game has a lot of appealing qualities on the surface, but I'm getting a strong whiff from the reviews and comments that it's basically the same old conflict game: build up, rein in the (perceived) leader, hope someone makes a mistake and fails to rein you in when you're poised for the win.

Is there subtlety in the build up? Is it difficult to identify the threats and the leader(s)? Does it drive to an endgame where everyone will be one turn away from winning?
 
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Too soon for me to tell anything yet, JW. I did snag a copy, but have only done one brief run-through. I'll try to remember to ping you once I get a better feel for how well it works.
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Stephen Shaw
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My group has only played it once, but we assessed that the game did not tackle the common problems with multi-player wargames:

1) Someone is behind and hopeless for most of the game but forced to complete it.

2) An end that seems as if the first person to stumble on a little bit of luck (whether it be the right creature, another player's mishap, or a slight miss of his leader advantage) wins.

Perhaps a couple more plays will prove our error, but the end REALLY dragged out, and it seemed as though the next player to get the right die roll or turn the right creature card would win, despite a couple hours of strategic wrangling. Anticlimax.
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Fabien Conus
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I disagree with Stephen.

When I teach this game, I always say that rule number one is: you have never lost the game... until you loose the game.

A player can be in a very bad position at one point and do a come back a few turns later. That's really the key to this game. If you do feel hopeless for most of the game, then you didn't understand how to play it.
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Ziggi W
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I second that, the endgame shouldn't have dragged out for you guys so much. Once there are two metropolises (metropolii?) out there, everybody should only be a turn or two away from winning. This is usually done by setting up for a second metro and then using Zeus' ability to get a card that upgrades your collection of buildings or philosophers to get you another metro or getting a card that helps you take a metro from one of your opponents.
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Jon W
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zigfromsa wrote:
Once there are two metropolises (metropolii?) out there, everybody should only be a turn or two away from winning.

Could you expand on this? It sounds as though you and Fabien think everyone should, with good play, be poised to win at the end. Are there differences between the positions at this point (that is, will better play lead you to be "better poised to win")?

The exchange here between you two and Stephen is helpful. His concerns seem to be (a) a runaway loser, and (b) an endgame where the best choice is generally to deny the chance at victory to others rather than take a shot yourself (which seemingly would lock it in for a downstream player if you fail). Perhaps I've misinterpreted that. I'm not too concerned about (a), except that it devalues the process up to that point if you're right (just play reasonably and you'll be in the hunt). So in a sense I hope he's right, though you experienced players think he isn't.

I'm much more interested in your (and Fabien's, or anyone else's) take on (b), because if it's true, it throws the endgame down to one of pure timing and hoping for a mistake instead of something you can plan around and exercise skill in setting up better options for yourself.
 
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Fabien Conus
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(a) there won't be a runaway looser, since once you have only one island left, Appollo gives you four coins instead of one. Going there twice for example would insure the you have at least 9 coins (minimum). And that's more than enough money to get back into the game

(b) the winner will be the one who is smart enough to deny victory to the other player(s) AND take a shot himself in the same turn !

With the many powers and actions that the gods give, that's perfectly feasible. You'll have to wait for the right moment, and not miss any opportunities.

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A solid game that works really well. The tension mounts and the endgame certainly doesn't drag (because exactly as the others said, if everyone is awake at the table, everyone should be able to win in the last turns). There is no runaway leader problem, even with 2 players this is not the case (and i didnt even use the rule where you get 4 gold when you have only 1 island, just forgot about it)...it is a game that can swing wildly because of the creatures, but this doesn't feel imbalanced at all and is exactly the reason everybody is always in the race......
In short a great game, i can't see any flaws and as a bonus, it plays very well with 2 players, whether you would like it is a matter of taste...it certainly didn't disappoint me, in fact it pleasantly surprised me....9/10
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Stephen Shaw
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See, I agree that (other than for the one player (not me) who was attacked on 2-3 occasions and truly OUT of the game) the rest of the players were poised to win. All those players were of the opinion that the winner would be more determined by timing and a lucky event or die roll than the skill and timing that he used to buid up his defense and infrastructure.

But I suppose I should can it and play a couple more times to test this theory -- I just know that with my main gaming group, that possibility is remote, as people were left with a very bad taste indeed.
 
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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I miss the cigar, Stephen, but the new avatar is certainly 'striking'.
 
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Ziggi W
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waddball wrote:
zigfromsa wrote:
Once there are two metropolises (metropolii?) out there, everybody should only be a turn or two away from winning.

Could you expand on this? It sounds as though you and Fabien think everyone should, with good play, be poised to win at the end. Are there differences between the positions at this point (that is, will better play lead you to be "better poised to win")?

The exchange here between you two and Stephen is helpful. His concerns seem to be (a) a runaway loser, and (b) an endgame where the best choice is generally to deny the chance at victory to others rather than take a shot yourself (which seemingly would lock it in for a downstream player if you fail). Perhaps I've misinterpreted that. I'm not too concerned about (a), except that it devalues the process up to that point if you're right (just play reasonably and you'll be in the hunt). So in a sense I hope he's right, though you experienced players think he isn't.

I'm much more interested in your (and Fabien's, or anyone else's) take on (b), because if it's true, it throws the endgame down to one of pure timing and hoping for a mistake instead of something you can plan around and exercise skill in setting up better options for yourself.


I'm not sure a runaway loser is really even possible in this game, the bonuses you get for having one island really are so good that sometimes a better strategy is to leave your opponent with two islands. I've won a game wherein I was down to one island with 2 armies army on it and one ship nearby, I had 3 philosophers and no metropolis. Everyone else was only a philosopher or a building away from a second metropolis. I figure this would make me the runaway loser by a long margin, however I had a huge stash of cash and a few priests, I bid heavily on Zeus, won him, bought a satyr and stole a philosopher for my first metropolis, I then rummaged thru the deck, found a pegasus and attacked another island which had a metropolis, won that fight and won the game because Zeus was the last god up. Granted that luck had some effect there, but if my oppoents had been a bit more experienced they may have tried to shut my Zeus strategy down, although that's doubtful, they were too busy outbidding each other over the other gods once I had put a hefty price on Zeus.
As for the endgame, I'm not too sure what your concern is, there is definately a mix of timing and luck involved, but careful prep in earlier rounds minimises the effect of luck and timing. The fact is that because everything is constantly changing in this game, anyone can be the leader or be one step from winning, this makes the endgame a mad scamble to figure out your own moves whilst trying to determine how an opponent can win in that round too. Bidding on gods and planning your money supply becomes very important at this stage.

All in all, this game reminds me of my favourite mechanic in Puerto Rico, anyone and any strategy can win the game.
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Jon W
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zigfromsa wrote:
As for the endgame, I'm not too sure what your concern is, there is definately a mix of timing and luck involved, but careful prep in earlier rounds minimises the effect of luck and timing.

My concern boils down to whether there's much actual skill involved in the endgame, or if it's yet another in a long line of games where it's really more about who gets picked on the least or "lucked" into an obvious oversight by your opponents.

Put yet another way: assuming good/reasonable play by everyone at the table, what is the determining factor in Cyclades? Your story was interesting, but it sounds like the determining factor there was that your opponents didn't "shut your Zeus strategy down".
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All in all, this game reminds me of my favourite mechanic in Puerto Rico, anyone and any strategy can win the game.

This is the first PR reference I've read about this game. Which favorite mechanic do you mean?
 
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waddball wrote:
My concern boils down to whether there's much actual skill involved in the endgame, or if it's yet another in a long line of games where it's really more about who gets picked on the least or "lucked" into an obvious oversight by your opponents.


Some games feel more like this is a problem than others, but I don't see how you could possibly have a game with direct combat between multiple players, but where the group couldn't work together against an individual. And people do make blunders - to a substantial degree, skill could be described as an ability to consistently avoid making blunders.

No real input there, I know, but I guess I'm saying that I've played many superb multiplayer games which, with the wrong group, could certainly devolve into the negative scenarios you describe.
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Ziggi W
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waddball wrote:
zigfromsa wrote:
As for the endgame, I'm not too sure what your concern is, there is definately a mix of timing and luck involved, but careful prep in earlier rounds minimises the effect of luck and timing.

My concern boils down to whether there's much actual skill involved in the endgame, or if it's yet another in a long line of games where it's really more about who gets picked on the least or "lucked" into an obvious oversight by your opponents.

Put yet another way: assuming good/reasonable play by everyone at the table, what is the determining factor in Cyclades? Your story was interesting, but it sounds like the determining factor there was that your opponents didn't "shut your Zeus strategy down".
Quote:
All in all, this game reminds me of my favourite mechanic in Puerto Rico, anyone and any strategy can win the game.

This is the first PR reference I've read about this game. Which favorite mechanic do you mean?


The endgame is partially luck dependant, ie. if you get the monster cards you want when you want them or if the attack dice roll well for you. I'm not saying it's a major factor, it is possible to simply win by outbidding and outmaneuvering your opponents and not depend on luck at all. It's merely an option that you can use to win, ie. build up two metropolii slowly, piece by piece, or take a chance on battles and monster cards, or both. I'd say winning is more dependant on how accurately you can determine everyone's chances of winning and what they need to do and how you can make sure that your strategy is the winning one. I suppose that's my favourite part of the game, being able to quickly figure out what everyone else wants to do and changing my plans on the fly. I enjoyed that game theory aspect in Agricola too.

I also don't think getting picked on is too much of a problem in this game, it is possible, but the rules clearly say that no one can be eliminated prematurely and having one island can be a huge boon. Also there isn't much incentive here to pick on a specific person for too long, others will try to take an island here or there or outbid a certain person on a god, but in the first case unless the island is really juicy the aggressor doesn't gain much and can stand to lose a bit more, in the second case, the person whom is outbid can find a decent option somewhere else.

Regarding Puerto Rico, i meant to say aspect not mechanic.
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Stephen Shaw
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And that's where I find trouble -- most are poised to win. The final victor is determined by a turn of the monster card or a stroke of dice luck, or opportunism that your opponents had overseen. This, to me, is not a victory of strategy, but a victory of pure momentary opportunity after a game that you have tried to apply strategy for over an hour.

And, as Chad Ellis put in his recent session report, there's a great deal of kill the leader and kingmaking going on, such that it really doesnt feel as if your strategy had much to do with your victory.
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Fabien Conus
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waddball wrote:

Put yet another way: assuming good/reasonable play by everyone at the table, what is the determining factor in Cyclades?


Remember Connect Four ?

During the whole game, you have to try to prevent your opponent from winning, while at the same time trying to win yourself.

At the end, the winner is the player who manages to get in a position where no matter what the opponent does, he will win.

Cyclades is exactly like that (although a bit more complicated )
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Ziggi W
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sshawmd wrote:
And that's where I find trouble -- most are poised to win. The final victor is determined by a turn of the monster card or a stroke of dice luck, or opportunism that your opponents had overseen. This, to me, is not a victory of strategy, but a victory of pure momentary opportunity after a game that you have tried to apply strategy for over an hour.

And, as Chad Ellis put in his recent session report, there's a great deal of kill the leader and kingmaking going on, such that it really doesnt feel as if your strategy had much to do with your victory.


The kill the leader and kingmaker strategies are not your best options, perhaps that's also why I like this game.
In Cyclades, the optimal strategy is not always present and it's very easy for your opponents to behave irrationally and attack the obvious leader even though it's not in their best interest to do so. I personally enjoy goading my opponents into making bad moves like that but that's just me.

To be frank, the situation on the board changes so often and you have to reevaluate what the others are doing so frequently that you constantly need to be on your toes. This is what happens in real life, to me that is the hallmark of a good game.
If you wanted a game about pure strategic planning on your part that is impacted very little by the other players you will not find it here, if you want a game wherein every action you make has various reactions from your opponents (like life itself) and you have to constantly wonder what someone's "angle" is, then you will find it here.
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Jon W
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FabienC wrote:
At the end, the winner is the player who manages to get in a position where no matter what the opponent does, he will win.

Sure, but C-4 is a 2p, no luck abstract. Expand it to 3p and it would be a tedious A blocks B blocks C blocks A ad nauseam sort of game (you'd have to set yourself up for a 3 option threat, because two players will always play before you).

I'm pretty sure, just given the type of game Cyclades is, that what you describe here can't happen if your opponents don't want it to. And that's OK, because they shouldn't to the exclusion of their own position, there is some randomness, and hopefully there's enough "problem space" that seeing all the threats is difficult.

But I still can't tell how this really plays out, despite your (and others') helpful comments. Most of the SRs point to "my opponents didn't see that I could do X, so I won," but then, most are written after the first game or two. True of comments, too. Mostly what I'm looking for is if it has some subtlety, some capacity for clever play. I'm still open-minded about it, and looking forward to reading more as more people try it.
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waddball wrote:
Put yet another way: assuming good/reasonable play by everyone at the table, what is the determining factor in Cyclades?


The auction.

How players manage their money, particularly with the auction, is probably the most important of several determining factors.


Edit: And this really isn't a typical "military conflict" game, since actually attacking other players is fairly infrequent in comparison to the other actions, and must be well-timed.
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Fabien Conus
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waddball wrote:
Most of the SRs point to "my opponents didn't see that I could do X, so I won,"


I disagree with this statement.

I played another game last night and I can tell you that you have to find a clever, and well planned way to put yourself in a position where no matter what you do, the other players won't be able to stop you. And believe me, everything was very open and everybody could see where I was going, they simply couldn't stop me (yes, I won this game ). There was no luck involved.
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FabienC wrote:
waddball wrote:

Put yet another way: assuming good/reasonable play by everyone at the table, what is the determining factor in Cyclades?


Remember Connect Four ?

During the whole game, you have to try to prevent your opponent from winning, while at the same time trying to win yourself.

At the end, the winner is the player who manages to get in a position where no matter what the opponent does, he will win.

Cyclades is exactly like that (although a bit more complicated )


I liked that statement, but I will have to disagree.
Cyclades has dice and cards and a random offer of turn order/benefits. Obviously, if you get really lucky you can pull out a victory because of that.

That said, this contributes to the tension of the game. This is not chess and some decisions are more risky than others.

However, luck is not the only factor present in the game. It is one of many, because without strategy, tactical planning, sound bid decisions and an eye on your adversaries game, you are probably not going too far.

Can you win because of a lucky shot? it is possible;
Can you win without playing well? No. You have to play at least as good as everyone else and - if you play better - you might not need that lucky shot mentioned above.

 
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