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Subject: 6 Reasons why I prefer using cubes for goods rss

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Matt Kearse
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Introduction

Firstly let me say that RFTG has been my favourite game for about 3 years now. It's closest I've ever seen to the perfect game and for that I give great thanks to the designer Tom Lehmann. But nothing is ever quite perfect for me. I often tweak game rules (e.g. 8 house rules I always play with), and not just for RFTG.

I'm a big fan of using colored cubes instead of cards to represent goods in RFTG. I use the cubes from El Grande which come in the perfect colors for RFTG. There has been plenty of discussion around this. e.g.

Rationale for cards as goods, vs. using tokens
ressources, why not counters?
Using cubes instead of cards for resources
What if there were cubes?
Questions for the player base before I introduce this to my group.
Why Use Cards As Goods?
Am I missing something?
Is deck-cycling in the designer's intention?
Small annoyance with good production mechanic.
Cubes as Goods
Tokens for goods

But none of these threads cover all of the reasons why I prefer cubes. I believe there are 4 main areas where using cubes for goods have an effect - learning the game, aesthetics, logistics, and game mechanics. In all 4 areas I prefer the effect of cubes over cards.

Learning the game

It's easier to teach/learn. See Teaching 3 New Players and I Get Beat!

Aesthetics

The is one of the more important areas for me. The game just looks much nicer with cubes. I hate covering up the card art. I still love looking at the artwork on the cards in my tableau while waiting for other players to make their decisions, despite having played probably about 500 games of RFTG. Some people put good cards underneath, which works but it creates a small logistics issue - and it still doesn't look as nice.

Logistics

- Setup/Clean up. Using cubes adds a small amount of setup and cleanup time getting cubes out of a bag and putting them away again. Not usually an issue though because someone can be doing that while someone else sets up/cleans up some other components in the game.

- More Space on the Table. Since goods cards need to be offset from the world they apply to, you need a little more space on the table. This isn't usually an issue for me, but it sometimes is on a small table with 4 or more players.

- Less Shuffling. I'd rather spend my time playing the game rather than shuffling. I especially don't like interrupting the game part way through to shuffle. Using cubes you don't have to shuffle as often, leaving more of your time for playing the game. A good shuffle (which is important to stop related cards clumping together) takes about 3 minutes in my opinion.

- Easier Consuming. Its easier to consume when you have lots of goods and consume powers. Just move all the cubes to their consume destination (shuffling them around until you are happy with the decisions you've made), then take them off one at time as you apply them. Of course we are free to move them again after consuming based on cards seen from earlier powers, but that rarely happens.

Game Mechanics

There is a tiny change to the mechanics of the game.

One advantage of using cards instead of cubes is that later in the game (after the first shuffle) you might still draw cards nobody else has ever seen. I personally don't think this is particularly important. I frequently discard cards that opponents (or even myself) would happily draw later. However, averaged over the entire game by using cubes you'll see more cards nobody has ever seen and less cards you've previously discarded that will end up back in your hand later. This last point is the main reason why I think cubes are better. Still, I think the effect is quite minor. So small that I really don't care. And most of the time with all 3 expansions it actually has no effect on the game state since we almost never go through the entire deck in our 2 or 3 player games anyway.

For me a major part of what makes RFTG a great game is the sheer number of tricky decisions you need to make. For anyone who considers the effect of using cards significant, I'd like to hear of a situation where your decision about what action to call or what card to play or what to discard is affected by the presence/absence of cubes. I struggle to think of one, but assuming someone can provide one, can you also explain why that decision makes the game better when using cards for goods? Or is the reason for using cards because people think more interesting decisions will arise during the game. For me, it seems cubes provide greater card variety and therefore slightly more interesting decisions to make.

One more little point - it seems to me that using cubes for goods has a smaller effect on the game mechanics than adding an extra player (e.g. going from 3 to 4 players). Anyone worried about the effect on the game mechanics of using cubes should first make sure they have their ideal number of players.

Certainly many people (the designer included) have different opinions and preferences than me regarding the effect on game mechanics. But most importantly, in my opinion, the effect on game mechanics is small enough that it doesn't make the game play any more or less fun either way.

Summary

The strongest reasons for my cube preference are aesthetics and logistics both of which I think clearly favour the use of cubes. Cubes also help with teaching/learning. The effect on game mechanics is tiny, but in my opinion if you must consider that tiny effect then I still think cubes are best for game mechanics too.
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David Kahnt
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I actually do not like using cubes for the simple reason (other than it's in the rules that way) that using cards make every game 100% unique.

What I mean is if you use cubes, potentially every singe game will use every single card and all the strategy that might amount from this.

I like the fact that certain cards might never be seen when used as goods.

But that's just me.

-DK
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Randall Bart
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You left out the best reason: It gives Tom angst.
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Edward
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DKahnt wrote:
I actually do not like using cubes for the simple reason (other than it's in the rules that way) that using cards make every game 100% unique.

What I mean is if you use cubes, potentially every singe game will use every single card and all the strategy that might amount from this.

Every single game of chess uses all the exactly same pieces, and yet every game is still unique.
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Matt Kearse
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DKahnt wrote:
I actually do not like using cubes for the simple reason (other than it's in the rules that way) that using cards make every game 100% unique.

What I mean is if you use cubes, potentially every singe game will use every single card and all the strategy that might amount from this.

I like the fact that certain cards might never be seen when used as goods.



Good point. I can see that would be a disadvantage to using cubes I hadn't considered. However I've played hundreds of games with cubes and every game feels quite different. I guess the effect would be more noticeable when just playing the base game with many players. But with all the expansions, there are cards that aren't seen anyway until late in the game at which point even if they happen to work with the strategy you've played up until that point, they are too late to change the feel of the game.

So, after pondering it for a bit, my feeling is the while this is a slight disadvantage to using cubes I think it is too small to worry about. I'm still happy with my preference for cubes even for their effect on game mechanics.
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Chris Berger
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I agree with you. But I probably still won't use cubes, simply because I'm too lazy to get out and put away a separate bunch of pieces when playing RftG. Also, I'd have to discuss before each game either a) (if everyone else is new to the game) how playing with cubes isn't the standard rule, or b) (otherwise) if anyone minds playing with non-standard rules. Thirdly, using cards for everything is kind of a cute/clever mechanic which I kind of admire RftG for.

But objecting to it based on it quantifiably changing the game just seems a little too nitpicky to me...
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I enjoy playing it the way it is for several reasons.....

--I don't want to have to carry extra cubes around. I don't really have them. Maybe I could salvage some from my other games, but then I'd need to remember to put them back where I originally got them, which would be more work which for me, and thus, the advantages you stated for your "Logistics" section would be nullified. I can buy them for..... 10c to 20c each? That'd be around at least $4. It's not bank-breaking, but $4+ saved is still $$ saved.

Hell, I don't even bother carrying around the military track and counters for takeover games.

--It seems more work to have to fish for the correct colored cube for your world.
--You either put cubes away in their own respective bags of their own color, or sort them before a game starts. That seems like as much time there than cleaning up cards used as goods.

--I have no experience with using cubes as goods for RftG, but it just seems like adding "training wheels" unnecessarily. Almost like teaching players San Juan first before playing RftG. RftG is sufficiently complex that I think newbies have more to worry about than how the goods are being represented and work.

--using cards as goods does take up more space on the table, but given how you need space for supplies of cubes in each of their colors, that oughtta come out even. It is a drag that some places/tables, that extra space saved could've made the game work, but I'm going to dismiss that as a rare occurence and a minor thing in the same way your "Game Mechanics" section states that using cubes as goods instead of cards is a "minor change".

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Jason Weed
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You could always just discard the number of cards as goods being produced, since that would have the same effect.
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weed131 wrote:
You could always just discard the number of cards as goods being produced, since that would have the same effect.
Not quite. If you have players who have goods without ever consuming, trading, or otherwise discarding much of them, then those cards are effectively out of the game. If you just discard them without keeping track of them, then when it's time to reshuffle, they shouldn't have gotten shuffled back in.
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Matt Kearse wrote:
The effect on game mechanics is tiny.


This has been proven to not be the case.

It's unfortunate that you teach people a game incorrectly, because now those people, when they play others in a public setting, will wonder where the cubes are and have to be retaught.


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byronczimmer wrote:
This has been proven to not be the case.

Excellent! Someone has the proof I asked for. Where is the proof?
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Matt Kearse
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byronczimmer wrote:
Matt Kearse wrote:
The effect on game mechanics is tiny.


This has been proven to not be the case.


I too would really like to see a proof. I assume any sort of proof would depend on the number of cards in the deck and the number of players. While I can't prove my assertion that the effect is tiny, I can provide empirical evidence that it is tiny in the case of 2 player advanced using all 3 expansions.

I've played about 80 2 player advanced games using all 3 expansions. In all but one of those games we didn't even get close to going through the entire deck, so using cubes made no difference at all in all but one of these games. In the single game where we did need to shuffle (for an explore in the final round if I recall correctly) this was an unusual game. We both did a prestige search and went through a large part of the deck before taking a card. I still claim that even in that single game the effect of using cubes was tiny, but even if we assume it dramatically changed the game, averaged over the 80 games I'd still say the effect of using cubes was tiny.

Taking the other extreme, obviously things will be different for a 4 player game without expansions. I still think the effect of cubes on game mechanics in those games is small but I don't know how to prove it either way. But I can say I've probably played between 50 and 100 4 player games without expansions (about 98% with cubes) and always found those games heaps of fun and every game seemed unique.
 
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G K
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Guess it boils down to personal preference, but using the cards seems like a much more elegant and natural way to me. Have tried oval glass beads too. Guess I like my card games to be cards only as much as possible.

Will agree if you were teaching someone new and used tokens in the proper colors that might help them understand their first games perhaps. Or if you were using a small playing area there may some benefit as mentioned. Otherwise it's not for me.

Would love to find some easy way to score the game without having to use the VP tokens (or the do it yourself VP cards). This is my pet peeve with race, the tokens just seem a bit clunky. Paper works ok for two players, but is a pain with more. Then I could play Race with cards only!
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Serge Levert
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Matt Kearse wrote:
I too would really like to see a proof.

Fact or Superstition: The effect of the goods mechanic on card distribution
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Randall Bart
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entranced wrote:

I know there is proof that the effect exists. I want proof that the effect is more than infinitesimal.
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Tom Lehmann
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4 player base game, no expansions. 114-4xHW-24 start cards = 86 cards. By the time the first reshuffle occurs, about 12-20 of those cards will have been used as goods. That's a 14-22% that a given card, not seen during setup, was not seen by any player before the first reshuffle.

That uncertainty is part of what makes E+5 reasonable in later rounds, even in the face of card hoarding of perceived "important" cards through the first reshuffle (common in some groups). On average, with E+5, you're seeing at least one previously unseen card, in addition to previously seen cards.
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
4 player base game, no expansions. 114-4xHW-24 start cards = 86 cards. By the time the first reshuffle occurs, about 12-20 of those cards will have been used as goods. That's a 14-22% that a given card, not seen during setup, was not seen by any player before the first reshuffle.


I'm not sure if you did this, but you should subtract out the cards that are still goods when you reshuffle (because obviously they aren't in the post-reshuffle deck). Is 12-20 the number of cards that have been put out as goods and then consumed or traded before the first reshuffle?
 
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Eric Brosius
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You could always pull some number of cards (16?) out of the deck at the start of the game (without looking at them) and shuffle them into the deck when it runs out for the first time.

This would allow you to use cubes as goods while remaining closer to the original game in terms of what cards you see when.
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Tom Lehmann
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Tom Lehmann wrote:
4 player base game, no expansions. 114-4xHW-24 start cards = 86 cards. By the time the first reshuffle occurs, about 12-20 of those cards will have been used as goods. That's a 14-22% that a given card, not seen during setup, was not seen by any player before the first reshuffle.


I'm not sure if you did this, but you should subtract out the cards that are still goods when you reshuffle

I was calculating just cards not seen, whether or not they were "stranded" as goods in the tableau during the first reshuffle.

Of these 12-20 goods, typically, 1-3 of them are stranded during the first reshuffle. Of these, roughly half get traded or consumed at some point in the game.

So, any given card is, very roughly, less than 1% to never be seen by any player over the course of the game. I agree that this effect is fairly small. To me, the importance of using cards for goods is not that some cards will never be seen by players, but that a fair number of cards won't be seen by any player before the first reshuffle.

This reduces the odds that any particular card always gets played (or hoarded across the first reshuffle) and increases the value of E+5 later in the game.

This is why I introduced this rule in the prototype that was merged into San Juan and reused this rule in RFTG.
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Alex F
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Re your aesthetics point: we just put the cards that are being used as goods under the world cards.
Using cards for goods is a sound design choice; for one, it makes the game homogeneous, and prevents clutter with all sorts of auxiliary tokens.
And as said previously, it prevents some cards from entering play.
 
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I think that you begin to understand and enjoy this game when you play the cards you have rather then search for the ones you would like. Knowing that some cards might be hidden from you for the entire game will force you into this way of seeing the game eventualy. So I think that using cubes could change the core thinking and pecreption of the gameplay, makeing it more luck dependent and less strategic.
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Matt Kearse wrote:
DKahnt wrote:
I actually do not like using cubes for the simple reason (other than it's in the rules that way) that using cards make every game 100% unique.

What I mean is if you use cubes, potentially every singe game will use every single card and all the strategy that might amount from this.

I like the fact that certain cards might never be seen when used as goods.



Good point. I can see that would be a disadvantage to using cubes I hadn't considered. However I've played hundreds of games with cubes and every game feels quite different. I guess the effect would be more noticeable when just playing the base game with many players. But with all the expansions, there are cards that aren't seen anyway until late in the game at which point even if they happen to work with the strategy you've played up until that point, they are too late to change the feel of the game.

So, after pondering it for a bit, my feeling is the while this is a slight disadvantage to using cubes I think it is too small to worry about. I'm still happy with my preference for cubes even for their effect on game mechanics.


I like the thought behind this whole thing. I would really like to see a large game where many cards are looked through and how many of those cards became goods. I feel like that percentage is low enough to be negligible. The other nice thing is that if you think about how many cards *you* will never see, that number can be astronomical in a larger game.

I like the cube idea mainly for teaching. Telling someone that "this good is the color of the planet it is sitting on" it tough for new players. Now I can explain how it works and give them a blue cube instead. Nice ideas.

I also really like matthewguidry's point to just tossing a card in the discard for this. That helps get rid of that card, though it doesn't simulate how long it might sit on your location. Still, might be the best of both worlds there.
 
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