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Subject: Back to Basics...the Base Game, that is rss

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Michael Link
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I play RFTG with my wife on a nearly daily basis, and at least once a week 4er with friends of ours. We're up to nearly a hundred games now (low I realize with all the experts on this site) and have just started playing with Brink of War.

She suggested going back and playing with only the base game to see how much our understanding of the game has changed since adding on the expansions. She never felt like we played enough games with only the base anyway...in all fairness we only played about 10 games before adding TGS. I pretty much consider TGS to be part of the base game rather than an expansion anyway.

So for the last two days it has been back to basics, and here are some thoughts on it, now playing the base game only, but with more experience (since the last time we played only the base game, we barely understood what we were doing):

1. It's much easier to set up. Much less shuffling, no goals, no military sliders. Seriously, it takes less than half the time to get up and running.

2. I really miss the added trappings. The goals frequently add a tie-breaker for me if I'm considering two or more strategic paths. It is painful not to have them. The takeovers, and more importantly the threat of takeovers, add a nice spin to the military side of the game.

3. Less 6-cost developments make certain strategies less doable. I'm mainly looking at Uplift Code and Terraforming Guild here, especially as someone who loves windfall worlds. I'm not familiar enough with the BoW 6's to specifically comment, but I suspect this is even far more apparent.

4. The lack of start world choice hurts. The last time we played with base only, none of us even appreciated the difference between the start worlds. Now I realize both why the preset hands are what they are and why it's great to get to choose your start world. Both games I was stuck with cards that didn't fit well with my start world, did things like double explore and naked trade/produces to try to gain back tempo. It fell flat.

5. The scores are much lower. We now average around 40-60 points each most games with RvI. I scored 58 in my first 4er with BoW. It's actually somewhat challenging to break 30 with only the base game; I think a lot of this is fuelled by faster produce/consume engines that burn out the VP chips before the tableaux get "pretty".

6. Luck plays a bigger role. There are less ways to mitigate luck in only the base game (no goals, fewer big military worlds, no prestige/search card, etc.) and the game ends quicker. So if you get even 1-2 turns behind in your engine, even if at no fault of your own, it's pretty much over. It is much harder to skillfully make a comeback without the additions of the expansions.

Please add any others you can think of. Thankfully, it will be back to RvI tonight with progressively more BoW in coming weeks!
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Serge Levert
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theright555J wrote:
2. I really miss the added trappings. The goals frequently add a tie-breaker for me if I'm considering two or more strategic paths. It is painful not to have them.

By far the most jarring aspect of playing the Base game for me now is the lack of goals. I feel lost without them and the game feels plain, like something is sorely missing.
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I'm on board with all the comments so far.... The lack of goals is disconcerning, if nothing else other than being used to them. It's like living in a time without eurogames and cellphones. I got by just fine. However, I wouldn't want to go back to that time. I like them

One thing that noticeably bothers me about 'going back to the basics' is the special hilights and symbols are meaningless. They were there to future-proof the whole series, and now, they're ignored again. UPFILT, TERRAFORMING, IMPERIUM, and the 'X' chromosome are nothing. Heck, even REBEL and ALIEN have little meaning. ATI gives you points for itself and also Alien Rosetta Stone World. Galactic Imperium works on the many Rebel military worlds, but in the base game, there are only 7 of them. In a crazy world, I'd insist a computer program de-highlight or remove these things as you "devolve" into previous sets of RftG, or if special "base game" or "expansion #1 only cards" be used. I kind of feel like someone learning a new game, and the games explainer covers 20 minutes of corner cases that would occur only at best, 5% of all the games. These things now stand out for no good reason.

I recall a 6p game of RftG with all 3 expansions. Several people mentioned they didn't know what to do. Someone explained all of the new stuff that exp #3 offers. Then we began. Those guys still looked confused. A little probing revealed that they never played RftG before, let alone the 3rd expansion. The one guy who taught the exp #3 material continued the game anyways. He simply couldn't go back to just the base game. Later on, I played a game with the newbies using just exp #1 w/o goals. It wasn't too bad, but it did feel empty. You get Terraforming Guild and get 16pts out of it, and then, there's nothing more after that. I prefer all 3 exp, but the basics aren't too bad. Especially if it gets newbies more familiar with the series to get them to play added expansions and be more comfortable doing so.
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Malachi Brown
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theright555J wrote:
1. It's much easier to set up. Much less shuffling, no goals, no military sliders. Seriously, it takes less than half the time to get up and running.

My group never uses the sliders. It's not that hard to count up military when it matters, and it matters so rarely that it's not worth the effort for us to get them out of the box.
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Malachi wrote:
theright555J wrote:
1. It's much easier to set up. Much less shuffling, no goals, no military sliders. Seriously, it takes less than half the time to get up and running.

My group never uses the sliders. It's not that hard to count up military when it matters, and it matters so rarely that it's not worth the effort for us to get them out of the box.
I found it helps, and does save time having to count. However, it seems to even out since it also takes time to update. Either way, I need to look at other people's tableaux anyways to check for other stuff. Namely, temp military powers, just how much Rebel Pact is worth towards defense, and the all showstopping PGSC.
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Serge Levert
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ackmondual wrote:
One thing that noticeably bothers me about 'going back to the basics' is the special hilights and symbols are meaningless. They were there to future-proof the whole series, and now, they're ignored again. UPFILT, TERRAFORMING, IMPERIUM, and the 'X' chromosome are nothing.

This is especially evident to me when going back to RvI, for the 5 cards that have a prestige symbol.
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Matt N

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theright555J wrote:
6. Luck plays a bigger role. There are less ways to mitigate luck in only the base game (no goals, fewer big military worlds, no prestige/search card, etc.) and the game ends quicker. So if you get even 1-2 turns behind in your engine, even if at no fault of your own, it's pretty much over. It is much harder to skillfully make a comeback without the additions of the expansions.


I disagree with this. Maybe BoW is less luck-based than the base set (subjective and due to the presence of the search card), but the previous expansions added to luck. Hunting big military worlds or spamming developments are all much more luck-based than produce/consume, which has very little variance (stemming entirely from the actions of the other player(s) ending the game earlier or later).

Early 6 point consume strategies do add a lot of luck, but those were quite rare compared to how often you'll go hunting for a power card to synergize with your tableau these days.

One change that I'm curious about is the use of the search card with the base set. Has anyone tried it? It seems like it would be used a lot more to get out of bad starts, and it could reduce some of the inherent gamble with the big military strategy.
 
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entranced wrote:
ackmondual wrote:
One thing that noticeably bothers me about 'going back to the basics' is the special hilights and symbols are meaningless. They were there to future-proof the whole series, and now, they're ignored again. UPFILT, TERRAFORMING, IMPERIUM, and the 'X' chromosome are nothing.

This is especially evident to me when going back to RvI, for the 5 cards that have a prestige symbol.
For my first few games of BoW, I kept forgetting to take a PP when building any of those 5 cards. However, it wasn't b/c I forgot about the new rule with prestige. When I built anything else like PGSC, Alien Booby Trap, or GPB, I did take my PP. It dawned on me that I got so used to ignoring the imprinted PP symbol on those original 5 cards that I had to "train myself" to not completely ignore that purple star.
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Andrew
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I really enjoy going back to earlier versions of Race for the Galaxy in Keldon's AI, particularly the base game. It's a simpler, slower and less swingy experience. There isn't the icon overload of later cards, and without goals, Prestige, Improved Logistics, Terraforming Guild, Pan-Galactic Affluence, etc, it's a less demanding experience.

One of the major changes is that I'm extremely wary of going a military route without an economic component to my tableau. The relative lack of high-scoring military worlds and 6-cost developments, and the prevalence of produce-consume strategies makes it easy to be stranded with lots of military but no way to get enough points and close out the game quickly enough. Many games end due to VP depletion with just a handful of cards in all tableaux.

Also, 6-costs are much less important; you're unlikely to get more one or two of them down, and are quite capable of winning without any. I think this is because cardflow is tighter - military worlds are less common so you have to pay for settles, there are fewer discounts and card-drawing powers - and builds are less frequent (half the time players are calling double-consume).

I don't think start world matters as much; due to the smaller deck and fewer combos, there's less variance in what you draw. It's pretty easy to turn up production worlds, and experiments in "always going produce-consume" have come back reasonably positive.
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Brendon Russell
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ackmondual wrote:
entranced wrote:
ackmondual wrote:
One thing that noticeably bothers me about 'going back to the basics' is the special hilights and symbols are meaningless. They were there to future-proof the whole series, and now, they're ignored again. UPFILT, TERRAFORMING, IMPERIUM, and the 'X' chromosome are nothing.

This is especially evident to me when going back to RvI, for the 5 cards that have a prestige symbol.
For my first few games of BoW, I kept forgetting to take a PP when building any of those 5 cards. However, it wasn't b/c I forgot about the new rule with prestige. When I built anything else like PGSC, Alien Booby Trap, or GPB, I did take my PP. It dawned on me that I got so used to ignoring the imprinted PP symbol on those original 5 cards that I had to "train myself" to not completely ignore that purple star.


I found the same thing - I was hyper-aware of the prestige symbol on the new cards, and had mentally blanked it out on the old ones.
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Instead of setting RFTG and everything, I just play 7 Wonders instead for the moment
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Michael Link
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Malachi wrote:
My group never uses the sliders. It's not that hard to count up military when it matters, and it matters so rarely that it's not worth the effort for us to get them out of the box.


We used them our first game of RvI and then they were vetoed on game 2

However, in that game I had a sweet P/C engine going where one of the production worlds was Rebel Miners. One of my opponents, notably the one likely in second place by quick tableau scan, put down Imperium Seat. Now this was our second game of RvI but I had been studying the takeover rules, quickly calculated total+temp military for both of us, and realized she could take over my world and seriously cripple my P/C engine while advancing the endgame favorably.

No takeover was ever even attempted, and I went on to win. After the fact, I pointed out to her that I thought she could have taken over my world. She replied that she had no clue she could even have done that. The lack of military sliders helped me big time, because it caused all the other players to forget that takeovers exist.

For this reason I now insist on playing with the sliders.

EDIT: And before someone calls me a bad sport, in our first 4er BoW game, this same opponent started with Imperium Warlord and I started with Rebel Freedom Fighters. I prestige developed Rebel Alliance on turn 2 and made a big deal out of fishing the little "specialized attack" chit out of the box and even explained how Rebel Alliance's takeover power works. 2 turns later, Smuggling Lair was played. It ended up in my tableau next turn and the player never recovered. They were warned!!
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Malachi Brown
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theright555J wrote:
The lack of military sliders helped me big time, because it caused all the other players to forget that takeovers exist.

This sounds like a problem with your group or the newness of takeovers at the time. With experienced players, fiddling with sliders is just a meaningless distraction the vast majority of the time. Not to mention the fact that if someone forgets to modify the sliders it creates a worse situation than not having them, in my opinion.

In other words, to each their own.
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Michael Link
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Malachi wrote:
This sounds like a problem with your group or the newness of takeovers at the time. With experienced players, fiddling with sliders is just a meaningless distraction the vast majority of the time. Not to mention the fact that if someone forgets to modify the sliders it creates a worse situation than not having them, in my opinion.


Agreed. When the group is more used to takeovers, we will probably go back to omitting the sliders, although I do like using them. Your points are well taken.
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Tim Taylor
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Came to this discussion late, but I have something to add.

In order to expand our gaming group, we had to teach a fourth and fifth player (squeeee!). We pulled out all the expansion cards (except the latest Gambling World, which is better than the original IMO).

We play the base game with these two new guys to get them used to the game and also to allow us more experienced players a different game experience.

For us, going back to the base game was like playing a whole new version of RftG since we started adding in expansions long before we were competent players. So this time around, playing the base game is a vastly different experience.

Here's the kicker: the other two experienced players both have said how much they enjoy the simple elegance of the basic game. So now they are both against adding in the Gathering Storm expansion (or any other for that matter)!
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I tried six games of base set against the AI, 3 player. It is a much smoother experience than playing through Brink of War. I felt much more focused on a single strategy from the start, just because there wasn't much else to pursue - for better or for worse.

Consume powers are much harder to get. I remembered the struggle for consume powers that used to define a produce/consume strategy as much as getting production worlds or draws. Consume 2x is much stronger overall relative to other strategies, but tougher to implement due to the lack of cards like Galactic Exchange or Galactic Markets. Cards like expanding colony and even gambling world can actually be vital components of a produce/consume strategy with some frequency, although they aren't my top choice still.

It's tougher to change your strategy midstream. The 6-costs (except Alien Tech and Galactic Survey) for settle-based strategies are much weaker than expansion cards overall, and there seem to be fewer powerful combos that dictate you abandon your current path (which is frequently produce/consume). Military worlds that you can't play get discarded much sooner than they would in later expansions.

You have to trade more often against produce/consume. With a severe lack of production leeches that score well, you're stuck in the develop/trade or settle/trade mentality much more often. It's tough to win in these situations against a 6 point produce/consumer, even for an expert player.

Old Earth used to be good. Once upon a time, I was happy with Alpha Centauri, Earth's Lost Colony, and Old Earth as my top three starting worlds. The trade power always came in handy, the consume powers were a big benefit, and consuming windfalls was less of a big deal because you were likely getting goods from production anyway. With Old Earth, you almost never run into the awkward situations (best exemplified by damaged alien factory) where you have a couple of production worlds but not enough consume powers and your opponent abruptly switches to produce/consume. Nowadays, it's a slow starting world and just sort of a bloated export duties if you get a card like Galactic markets out or many mixes of production worlds and developments.

Speed strategies are rare. There just aren't enough ways to score well for lots of junk worlds. There's no terraforming guild for points, no imperium lords for points/draws, no rebel alliance for points, no prospecting guild or pan-galactic hologrid for general worlds. There aren't the develop phase draws that fuel a fast develop rush to run out the clock unless you have exactly public works and interstellar bank. While I very much enjoyed the one game (more than two years ago) where I rode a develop strategy until the end in the base set, that strategy was actually fairly innovative for me because I didn't go for a production leech or stop to settle/trade anything. Nowadays, that would just be yet another obnoxious develop strategy in 2pa.


I do very much appreciate that I can just play a few games of the base set with the AI without having to sort through the deck and pull out all the cards, then put them back in when I'm done. The various computer versions have done a lot to keep me thinking about Rftg even when I can't play face to face.
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