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Subject: 3-26-11 (host): Rolling on the River. rss

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Mike K
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Those who've read my earlier Session Reports (both from the 26th and those before) know that I seem to have little to no success in any game that I play Alex. So why should this one be any different?

It wasn't. Sorry to kill the suspense.

We chose Egizia since we knew it'd be quick enough to finish, as Alex had dinner plans and we had already played for over 4 hours. Keith and Matt were up for the game, and I had no issues (except the feeling of inevitability regarding the outcome).

Initial turn order: Alex, me, Keith, Matt.

We decided to toss out two cards before play: the '2 free Sphinx cards' card from Round 1/2, and the '1 extra point for every 10 points' Sphinx card; we all feel that latter is broken, and some of us (or at least, me) think the former is, too. And I've seen Alex use that 'extra Sphinx cards' card to great effect; I've used it myself during my one win, though I also had the other broken card too.

But c'mon, he can't abuse the Sphinx section without that card, right?

He ended up hitting that spot for 4 out of 5 rounds, getting 3 very powerful cards and 1 not-so-good card. He also built the Obelisk early and often, getting it up to the 7-level (with a little help) by game's end. As he started the game with (or got early) the Sphinx card that scored for the 7-level, this made sense.

I had hoped for similar success with my starting Sphinx card: 9 points for completing the Pyramid. And I did everything I could to get that bonus.

I hit the Pyramid section ... and only that section ... each of the first two rounds. I got four bricks in the bottom row, two in the row above (after Matt's two), and got at least one brick in every round. (I did get some Sphinx cards late; the last round, I scored the one that earned you points for your 'Wild' build team, which I had at 8 at the end.)

The last two rounds, I endeavoured to score points in every section. I succeeded in Round 4, but had a problem in Round 5 when my plan to get a cheap gravestone was dashed by Matt building 15 bricks in that area, taking four gravestones in the process. To get what I wanted, I needed the next stone to be a 3 or less; it was a 4.

I could still get it (and the 5 after; I had a 3 from before) if I used up my powerful Wild team, but then I wouldn't be able to complete the Pyramid. As it turned out, my decision was made for me.

Heading into the last round, there were still three Pyramid spots left: both 5s and the 6. I figured I could do two of them (for either 10 or 11) and would need only one other to cap it off. But by the time Matt and Alex were done with the other sections, each could only do 3 total in the Pyramid section. Bye bye, 9-point bonus.

So I cashed out for 9 from the stones (and 2 more for the dig bonus, and 5 more for the endgame stone bonus), used the 3 I had left in the column area instead (taking the last 3 and blocking Matt's build in the process), but could only watch as Alex's cards surged his scoring stone well beyond mine.

Final scores: Alex 98, me 83, Matt 78, Keith 68.

Today's results reaffirmed my belief that I really need to get my own copy of games like Automobile (played earlier): it's the only way I'll be able to play games like this and have a chance to actually win!

*Sigh* Well, maybe I'll have better luck next week at EPGS. Only one week away.
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Steve Duff
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Coyotek4 wrote:
...and the '1 extra point for every 10 points' Sphinx card; we all feel that [card] is broken...

Final scores: Alex 98, me 83, Matt 78, Keith 68.


9, 8, 7, or 6 points. The same as pretty much every other card in the deck.

Not broken at all.
 
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Alex Bove
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I hate to reopen Pandora's box, Steve, but the point isn't that the "score 1 scarab for every 10 scarabs" scores a lot of points (you're right that in a 4-p game it's usually worth something like 8-10 points, which is comparable to some other cards). The reason the card is broken is that the player doesn't have to do anything else (other than draw it) to get those points. Every other card involves at least a bit of risk (though admittedly things like "score 1 scarab for each blue worker" are guaranteed to score at least a couple of points), and the cards that score 7+ points usually necessitate a lot of work to fulfill (building high up on the obelisk, lots of stones in the pyramid/columns, etc.). The "score 1/10" is a total gimme. That's why it's broken.

In 2-3p games, the card is also broken because it scores too many points. I've scored above 150 in a 2p game, which makes that card worth 15 points. The only cards even close to that (complete the pyramids, level 9 in the obelisk, both columns, etc.) are nearly impossible to fulfill in a 2er.

If I draw the "score 1/10" card (if my opponents are insane enough to allow it into play) and don't win, I feel that something has gone very badly wrong.
 
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Alex Bove
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Coyotek4 wrote:
but had a problem in Round 5 when my plan to get a cheap gravestone was dashed by Matt building 15 bricks in that area, taking four gravestones in the process. To get what I wanted, I needed the next stone to be a 3 or less; it was a 4.

I could still get it (and the 5 after; I had a 3 from before) if I used up my powerful Wild team, but then I wouldn't be able to complete the Pyramid. As it turned out, my decision was made for me.

Heading into the last round, there were still three Pyramid spots left: both 5s and the 6. I figured I could do two of them (for either 10 or 11) and would need only one other to cap it off. But by the time Matt and Alex were done with the other sections, each could only do 3 total in the Pyramid section. Bye bye, 9-point bonus.


Yes, this was huge. And in retrospect, I think Matt's best move there might have been to do a 5 build in the graves and 10 to get 12 in the pyramids. I'm not sure if he needed more than 5 to get him over the next graves bonus, though. Getting to 21+ is worth an extra 4 points, so he should definitely have done that if he needed to.

Of course, if Matt had built less in the graves and more in the pyramid, it wouldn't have changed his finishing position, and you would have scored 10 more points for a closer 2nd. So the difference would have been fairly minimal.
 
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Steve Duff
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montu wrote:
The reason the card is broken is that the player doesn't have to do anything else (other than draw it) to get those points. Every other card involves at least a bit of risk (though admittedly things like "score 1 scarab for each blue worker" are guaranteed to score at least a couple of points), and the cards that score 7+ points usually necessitate a lot of work to fulfill (building high up on the obelisk, lots of stones in the pyramid/columns, etc.). The "score 1/10" is a total gimme. That's why it's broken.


We're talking 4 player only here, as I have no problem with halving the card for 2 players. Makes perfect sense to do a 10/15/20 divisor based on player count.

The card may not have as much risk as other cards, but it still has point variability, which is just as important. It's variability is lower, 3 or 4 points, compared to something like an obelisk which is 11 or 0, so that's the source of the lower risk.

The third factor in cards is "work", how hard they are to achieve, IE, do you need other players to contribute, or for them to stay away and not interfere. Again, all cards vary in this, some are easy, some hard, some take lots of help, some can be accomplished alone.

It's certainly not the only card that can give points for doing no work yourself, the pyramid/graves completed and last level reached cards can all give points with zero work by yourself. Higher risk, of course.

Sure, it's a good card, low work, low risk, mid to high points. But there are other great cards too. There's a spectrum of desirability/points the cards give, and this one is near the top, but within the range. That means it's not broken.

Is it a surefire "all players should take this card 100% of the time?" I don't believe it is. There are definitely cards I'd choose over it depending on how the game was going (Obelisk 9th level 11pts, both columns 10 points, 2 in each area 10 pts).
 
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Alex Bove
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I've never seen the obelisk completed with any number of players in the 30+ games I've played. Graves? Only once. I've seen both columns built maybe three times. I agree that the "10 pts. for 2 stones in each area" is a great one, but the only time I would take it over the "Score 1 for every 10" card is if it was Round 5, I'd fulfilled the 10 pt. card, and I knew for certain that there was no way I'd score 100. That pretty much means that I'd take the "Score 1 for every 10" 100% of the time.

This isn't just about the face value of the "Score 1 for every 10" card: it's also about its strategic power if it's drawn early. If I draw that card in Rounds 1/2, I can pursue any strategy and be sure to score something like 10 points at the end of the game. If I get the "10 pts. for 2 stones in each area" card, I have to plan my strategy around getting two stones in each area, which is not always easy (esp. when the graves clog up with high-value spaces, or if early players fill up the lower tiers of the obelisk). This limits my flexibility.

It's even worse with cards requiring completion of a monument. Unless the other players are feeling helpful (or they have complementary cards), I may be on my own. Ask Mike if he would rather have had the "9 points for a completed pyramid" or the "Score 1 for every 10" in our game (and remember that his final score was only 83, so the "Score 10" would have only scored him 7). If he'd had the "Score 1 for every 10" card from the start, he could have been much more flexible in his boat placements, built more in the graves to get bonuses there, etc. He was handcuffed by the "The Pyramid is completed" card. The "Score 1 for every 10" would have given him total freedom at the cost of at most 2 points. I don't see how that's even a choice.

Yes, it's true that it's possible to draw the "8 points for most red fields" in Round 5 when you just happen to have the fields (hooray, you just got a "free" 8 points), and yes, there's a tiny risk that the "Score 1 for every 10" card will only be worth 6 or 7 at the end of the game (if it is, of course, you didn't have a good game and no card would have saved you). But I'll take a guaranteed 8-10 points over a possible 11 (when the penalty for not fulfilling it is zero) every time. You might win 1 or 2 out of 10 games with the 11/0 risk, but I'll win the other 8 with my guaranteed points.
 
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Steve Duff
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I'm sure we're much much casual than you guys, and we just play differently. I've played the four player game just once, and we completed the obelisk. The double column at least once, possibly twice in 3 games.

Were the scores in this game unrepresentative? Calling the card "guaranteed 8-10" seems overly optimistic when three of the four players wouldn't even reach the 8.
 
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Harold Coleman
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I have something else I'd like to add about the two cards removed from this session:

The "1 VP for every 10 VPs attained" - I agree with Alex that the card is powerful, but I also agree with Steve that it's not a game-breaker in a 3 or 4 player game. (NOTE: In a 2-player game, I think the bonus from this card is too powerful and should be reduced to 1 VP per 15 points or the card should be eliminated.) Alex is basically saying that all the Sphinx cards should be such that, if you didn't draw them from the beginning and develop a strategy around the ones you drew, that the card is "broken" if it gives you "free" VPs for doing nothing. The point I'd like to add to this discussion is that if all of the Sphinx cards followed this pattern, there would be little reason for building in that area. There MUST be some cards easy to attain as a bonus for building there. To me the 1 in 10 bonus card is no different from the situation where you initially draw an obelisk bonus card, then later find one or two more of them; you were already trying to build the obelisk and you had to do nothing special for the other obelisk bonuses. Players get rewarded for spending multiple stones in the Sphinx in the form of end game bonuses. It is equally lucrative for all who chose to build in this area and the competition for placing ships there should be cutthroat.

The "+2 cards" permanent Nile card - again a powerful card (and I've read the other posts), but again not a game-breaker. Point #1 - other players can block the person who drew this card from building the Sphinx, gaining their own bonus cards in the process. This happened in one game I played where the person who claimed the card in Rd 1 was blocked in EACH of the next 2 rounds. Point #2 - doesn't claiming a 2-stone quarry and doing one 2-crew upgrade basically accomplish the same thing as the +2 card? The player who claimed the +2 Sphinx cards permanent is giving up some other cards to grab that one. Another player can accomplish the same end result by dedicating his extra quarry and one of his crews to building in the Sphinx. Granted it may cost an extra action to do so, but he has the added flexibility of using those stones/crew in other building spaces if he gets shut out at the Sphinx, something the +2 Sphinx Card holder can't do.

Finally, I'd like to bring up one minor peeve about Egizia - why is there no building bonus for the temple (and similarly the Obelisk)? At least for building the Obelisk you get to move down one stone or grain track. The pyramid gives you a "per row" bonus and building the graves gives you their 2/5/9 end game bonus, but there is no bonus for building the temple unless you happened to draw a Sphinx card that gives you one. Building there only helps the player who happened to draw a Sphinx bonus card for that area. To me, ways to have compensated for the lack of a bonus include a per column bonus (similar to the pyramid rows) or to have more Sphinx bonus cards for building the temple. In fact, the obelisk has the most bonus cards - 5, while the temple and others have only 3.

All things considered, I like Egizia and most others I've played with like it, too. Considering its very high rating and rank among strategy games, I'm wondering how it garners all the negative comments.
 
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Alex Bove
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The +2 Sphinx card also gives its user greater flexibility and better odds in draws, especially in Rounds 1-2. Normally, it's hard to have the stone and/or crew to draw 4-5 Sphinx cards in the first couple of rounds. But the +2 card means that a crew of 1 can draw 3, giving its holder much better odds of getting a good card. I almost never go to the Sphinx in Round 1 because I don't want to draw only one or two cards: the odds of getting something bad outweigh the opportunity cost of placing the boat and using the stone. The +2 card minimizes this risk.

In addition, having the +2 card means I can keep one crew at 3 but use it as if it had strength 5 for most, or perhaps even all, of the game. A 3-strength crew is usually not going to be able to do much in the final round or two, but with the +2 card that puny crew becomes the best possible one for its task. Meanwhile, I can develop my other crews more fully and make bigger builds in the obelisk/graves and/or pyramid/columns.

As for other players locking out the +2 card holder, the only way to guarantee that is if the card holder is last in turn order and all other players block him/her with their first actions. If they do that, the +2 card holder gets free reign to pick any or all of the first three cards along the Nile. That's pretty good compensation, and it suggests that merely possessing the +2 card grants its holder a strategic advantage.
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