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Subject: 2-Player setup variant (minor change) rss

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Tom Lehmann
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I've enjoyed exploring Navegador quite a bit over the last six months.

It seems to scale from 3-5 players quite well. At 2 players, however, we've noticed an issue with the number of colonies (which is fixed at 30 for all numbers). Since so many colonies per player exist, this forces both players to pursue colonies fairly aggressively in 2-player games; otherwise, leaving the colony "victory suit" mostly to your opponent simply gives them too many VPs, as compared to any other "victory suit".

For example, in a 2-player game, one player could mostly stay out of Cathedrals, buying just a second one. If their opponent then builds the rest and gets "full" privileges from them, this opponent will score 8*9 = 72 VPs. If something similar happens with colonies, where a player mostly stays out of them, buying just 6 (which is 20% and generally enough to run an economy), then their opponent can score 24*4 = 96 VPs. This seems high to us, compared to all the other victory suits, where a player going "whole hog" typically can earn about 70-80 VPs.

Yes, we could simply accept this as a feature of 2-player games, but forcing both players to enter a given "suit" in a substantial way reduces one of the major charms of Navegador for us, which is the ability to pursue wildly different strategic paths that, if well executed, can win.

The variant we play is to remove 6 colonies from the 2-player game, so that a "whole hog" colony strategy (getting ~80% of them) is now worth 19*4 = 76 VPs. We do this by removing the highest and lowest valued colonies from each commodity type. Then we mix the colony tiles face down and set them out, placing 3x Sugar colonies in the two 4x spots; and 2x Gold and Spice colonies in each of their two respective 3x spots. This results in one colony left over at random from each set of colonies mixed face down, which is then set aside without examining it normally.

That's it. It's a simple setup variant that keeps the 2-player strategic space in Navegador as flexible and varied as in 3-5 player games. Enjoy!
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Tim Seitz
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Tom:

I have not tried your variant, but I am slightly surprised with your ingoing premise. I certainly don't have your designer chops, but I hope you can elaborate a little more.

I think it's okay for a game to have strategies with different payoffs.
 
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Nate Straight

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Seems the relevant statistic isn't the expected number of points for a whole-hog strategy, but the expected number of points divided by the expected number of actions that strategy is likely to require.
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Tim Seitz
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That's another good point.

The slight difference for games like Navegador is that your expected-points-per-action (PPA) metric is likely to be decreased by additional players competing in that strategy and possibly increased by players competing in complementary strategies (in this case: exploring benefits colonization). If, a priori, a strategy has the highest PPA potential, it might not be the best choice when viewed in the context of player choices.
 
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Michael Collarin
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
I've enjoyed exploring Navegador quite a bit over the last six months.

It seems to scale from 3-5 players quite well. At 2 players, however, we've noticed an issue with the number of colonies (which is fixed at 30 for all numbers). Since so many colonies per player exist, this forces both players to pursue colonies fairly aggressively in 2-player games; otherwise, leaving the colony "victory suit" mostly to your opponent simply gives them too many VPs, as compared to any other "victory suit".

I agree the game plays better with more than 2. However, where I disagree is that the number of colonies "forces both players to pursue colonies". One of the keys to this game that I've picked up is to do what the other player(s) are not.

I wrote up a 2 player review a little while back, found here. In that 2p game, my counterpart went for colonies and I darted across the seas gathering up Navigation tokens, ships and shipyards. She filled her board with colony and cathedral priviledges and I filled mine with navigation and shipyard priviledges. Since I was sailing across, I could trigger the end game before she had a chance to sail in behind me and colonize all of the East Indies. The key for me was actually NOT stopping to pursue colonies.

Just because there are more colonies per player, doesn't mean both players have to pursue those colonies. There are also more navigation tokens, churches, factories and shipyards per player.
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Alan Goodrich
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Having a few games of 2 player Navegador under my belt, I'm torn by this suggestion. On the one hand, in the games I've won, I have pursued an aggressive colony strategy and it did let me win handily. At the same time, I think my opponent lost more because of inefficient sequencing of actions.

Many games require "correct play" when gearing down from the larger player counts to just 2, and this might be one of them, but I'd really need more plays to feel assured of this. Even then, unless the game is semi-broken (that is, it forces both players to pursue colonies at the exclusion of other things), having to keep an eye on colonies and check an opponent collecting them is simply another element to track and manage. With 2 this reminds me more of certain Winsome games with 2 (like Chicago Express) - certainly Navegador has more paths to victory and is less opaque, but the need to manage game timing is relentless and primary. I've only played with 4 once, but I enjoy it with 2 more; it seems like there's a lot more on your plate to consider, and I felt with the higher count that turn order locks you in to certain strategies.
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Tom Lehmann
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MCOLL81 wrote:
In that 2p game, my counterpart went for colonies and I darted across the seas gathering up Navigation tokens, ships and shipyards. She filled her board with colony and cathedral priviledges and I filled mine with navigation and shipyard priviledges. Since I was sailing across, I could trigger the end game before she had a chance to sail in behind me and colonize all of the East Indies.
The issue isn't the privileges, it's the sheer number of colonies. Your opponent didn't get the colonies and lost. Had your opponent got all the remaining colonies, would she have won?
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There are also more navigation tokens, churches, factories and shipyards per player [in 2-player games compared to 3+ player games].
Yes, but not *to the extent* that there are colonies. For example, in your session report, we find you got 10 of the 12 navigation tokens, scoring 7*10 = 70 VPs for them. That's about as well as you could have done there. It's well shy of someone who scores 25/30 colonies for 100 VPs (4*25).

Of course, scoring 2 categories "fully" (navigation, shipyard) will still beat someone who scores only 1.5 categories (cathedrals, 1/2 colonies).

I've seen 2-player games where both players each score "fully" two categories and split the remaining one. If the split categories isn't colonies, then the player who scores fully colonies wins.

It's hard to produce any sort of exact metric on the number of actions involved in doing things, but note that colony acquisition can potentially be done at 4/action (with 8+ workers, 4+ ships, and enough money), whereas cathedral tokens can never be acquired at more than one per action, navigation tokens at one per action (counting Henry as a separate action), shipyards at two per action, and factories at 3/actions (if you have all 9 workers, otherwise, the limit is usually 2/action).

So, *at the limit*, this argues that 24 colonies could be grabbed in 6 actions; 15 factories in 6 actions (half at 2/action, half at 3/action; since it's hard to stay at exactly 9 workers when you are also picking up privileges); 7 Cathedrals in 7 actions; 7 Shipyards in 4 actions (6 of them at 2/action); and 10 navigation tokens in 7 actions (where Henry gives you 3 of them as "free actions"). The actions to gain privileges are exactly the same for all suits (though a bit of efficiency can be gained in replacing spent workers cheaply with Cathedrals).

It's not obvious from just this that grabbing lots of colonies is inherently "slower" or more costly in actions than any other path (especially if the colony player eschews exploration and therefore doesn't need to replace many ships and spend actions moving them forward, and instead uses Henry to shift them forward "for free" as needed for purchasing colonies).

I stand by my contention that once you peel away the layers of complexity and start getting very efficient in 2-player games, players will be both be forced to split the colony suit much more evenly than the other suits, simply due to the sheer number of colonies present per player.
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Tim Seitz
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
It's hard to produce any sort of exact metric on the number of actions involved in doing things, but note that colony acquisition can potentially be done at 4/action (with 8+ workers, 4+ ships, and enough money), whereas cathedral tokens can never be acquired at more than one per action, navigation tokens at one per action (counting Henry as a separate action), shipyards at two per action, and factories at 3/actions (if you have all 9 workers, otherwise, the limit is usually 2/action).

...

It's not obvious from just this that grabbing lots of colonies is inherently "slower" or more costly in actions than any other path (especially if the colony player eschews exploration and therefore doesn't need to replace many ships and spend actions moving them forward, and instead uses Henry to shift them forward "for free" as needed for purchasing colonies).
What happens to the colony player if the other player decides to avoid exploring and instead end the game on buildings?

If the other player supports the colony player by exploring, then yes, the colony player will probably have an advantage. But if the other player avoids exploring, and focuses purely on his other strategies, then the colony player will be hard-pressed to stay on pace, as an explore+colony strategy is action-intensive (since you also need to do quite a bit of ship-building, go to market for money, and get workers to buy privileges, not to mention landing on privileges).

It's possible a 2-player colony "whole-hog" strategy is only over-powering if the other player cooperates with a complementary strategy.
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Tom Lehmann
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out4blood wrote:
I think it's okay for a game to have strategies with different payoffs.
Yes, provided they vary in some other dimension(s) (investment needed, time, tempo control, synergy with other paths when pursuing mixed strategies, risk, high variance, etc.).

For example, in Puerto Rico, coffee is just better than sugar except for the initial investment and the limit on ships that leads to player "voting" on which commodities will ship (when players shift from trading to shipping). Similarly, at a larger strategic viewpoint, the fact that there are double-sized buildings in PR is very important to allow a building player to cut short the end of the game before shipping players can fully exploit their harbors and wharfs.

In games where actions are the "true" currency (either action points, such as Tikal, or actions on a rondel, as in Navegador), then balanced payouts are more important, as everything reduces -- ultimately -- to actions and players will simply eschew inefficient paths.

Even then, this is still mostly an issue in 2P games; with more players, players can play "contrarian" to good effect, as player contention for the most efficient path will dilute its efficiency bonus.

The problem in 2P games is that if one path is just better, play becomes much more constrained and stylized, as both players are forced to contend for it.
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Tim Seitz
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
Even then, this is still mostly an issue in 2P games; with more players, players can play "contrarian" to good effect, as player contention for the most efficient path will dilute its efficiency bonus.

The problem in 2P games is that if one path is just better, play becomes much more constrained and stylized, as both players are forced to contend for it.
I think this is the crux of the issue and where we might diverge in design philosophies. I see 2-player strategic constraint as a Good Thing. Without it, the games have a tendency to settle into each player optimizing their own engine without regard for their opponent's actions. Having a better "strategy" forces players to interact and compete for a prize scarce resource.

In Navegador, this manifests in the race for snatching the appropriate privileges and building up high counts in their respective "suits." Making all strategies equal would seem to decrease the tension as each player just lets the other player have their respective privileges because they are both on different paths.

I do agree that 2-player Navegador is very different from >2-player Navegador, but I don't see that as a bad thing.
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Tom Lehmann
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out4blood wrote:
I see 2-player strategic constraint as a Good Thing. Without it, [2-player] games have a tendency to settle into each player optimizing their own engine without regard for their opponent's actions.
This is only true if a game lacks good tension between mixed and specialized strategies.

Again, I'll use Puerto Rico as an example. "Pure" shipping or building strategies can do quite well in PR, but so can "mixed" strategies, where a player does both.

Because the tension between pure and mixed strategies in PR is done so well, 2-player PR games can go in all directions -- a horse race between two pure strategies or a cat fight between two mixed strategies or a clip-their-wings race where one player tries pure and the other tries mixed, partly to interfere with his or her opponent just enough so that the advantage for going "pure" is diluted. That's four fundamentally different ways a game can go, which keeps 2P PR from becoming too stylized, imo.

In general, I prefer games that have a good balance between pure and mixed strategies at 2P as opposed to games which force interaction by having an overpowered pure strategy that both players must contend for.

In Navegador, truly mixed strategies don't seem to work very well -- the rewards for specialization are just too high. However, the equivalent sort of exists since one often has both a "major" and a "minor" victory suit. In 3+ player games, the winning margin often seems to come down to how well one executes their minor suit (since major suits tend to be capped in VPs due to the privilege limit and only so many available items).

In 2P Navegador, players will generally have one major suit and then can pursue either a second major or two minors. In my experience, the contention and interaction between players revolves around the minor suits. The reason I'm bothered by Colonies being potentially worth so much is that if one lets this be your opponent's major suit, then you've spotted your opponent ~30 VPs (assuming your opponent executes well).

My "ideal" version of 2P Navegador would be one where any suit could be players' major suit -- so the game doesn't become too stylized -- and the tension between pursuing/interfering with a second major or two minors would still provide "enough" player interaction (where, obviously, what constitutes "enough interaction" will vary from one person to another).
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Tim Seitz
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I appreciate the explanation. Hearing your thoughts on the subject is fascinating.
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
In 2P Navegador, players will generally have one major suit and then can pursue either a second major or two minors. In my experience, the contention and interaction between players revolves around the minor suits. The reason I'm bothered by Colonies being potentially worth so much is that if one lets this be your opponent's major suit, then you've spotted your opponent ~30 VPs (assuming your opponent executes well).

Just this afternoon I played a game with my six-year-old (who loves going for colonies, exploration and money) as a means of testing this out a bit. He did his thing (with a little help from me) for the first half of the game (including buying up a few churches with my prompting), got distracted (went to play with his brother) around Malaca and I finished up for the both of us. I deliberately ignored colonies for the most part, buying two toward the end of the game because it looked like "he" was running away with the game. Likewise (when I took over his side) "he" left the factories alone except for a couple which he bought when cleaning up the last of the churches. We split the explore tokens 7-5 in my favour. I took all the shipyards, he took all but one of the churches.

Results:
...................Me.........Him
Cash............4...........9
Ships...........5...........2
Workers.......9...........8
Colonies.......5x1.......22x4
Factories......15x5......5x2
Explore........7x5........5x5
Shipyards.....9x9.......1x3
Churches......2x3.......8x7
Total............220.......201

So, although "I" won, it was only because I out-played him in both my secondary strategies. An extra church privilege for him would have pulled him within three and there were still three colonies on the board to buy which was another 12 potential points. Had he been older than six and played better for the first half of the game, I suspect his strategy would have been dominant.

Edits: fixed spacing on score sheet; had mis-identified Malaca
 
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
I've enjoyed exploring Navegador quite a bit over the last six months.

It seems to scale from 3-5 players quite well. At 2 players, however, we've noticed an issue with the number of colonies (which is fixed at 30 for all numbers). Since so many colonies per player exist, this forces both players to pursue colonies fairly aggressively in 2-player games; otherwise, leaving the colony "victory suit" mostly to your opponent simply gives them too many VPs, as compared to any other "victory suit".

For example, in a 2-player game, one player could mostly stay out of Cathedrals, buying just a second one. If their opponent then builds the rest and gets "full" privileges from them, this opponent will score 8*9 = 72 VPs. If something similar happens with colonies, where a player mostly stays out of them, buying just 6 (which is 20% and generally enough to run an economy), then their opponent can score 24*4 = 96 VPs. This seems high to us, compared to all the other victory suits, where a player going "whole hog" typically can earn about 70-80 VPs.

Yes, we could simply accept this as a feature of 2-player games, but forcing both players to enter a given "suit" in a substantial way reduces one of the major charms of Navegador for us, which is the ability to pursue wildly different strategic paths that, if well executed, can win.

The variant we play is to remove 6 colonies from the 2-player game, so that a "whole hog" colony strategy (getting ~80% of them) is now worth 19*4 = 76 VPs. We do this by removing the highest and lowest valued colonies from each commodity type. Then we mix the colony tiles face down and set them out, placing 3x Sugar colonies in the two 4x spots; and 2x Gold and Spice colonies in each of their two respective 3x spots. This results in one colony left over at random from each set of colonies mixed face down, which is then set aside without examining it normally.

That's it. It's a simple setup variant that keeps the 2-player strategic space in Navegador as flexible and varied as in 3-5 player games. Enjoy!

Has anyone tried this variant? I think it does a great job of bringing the 2P game closer to the statistical equivalent of the 4 and 5p games. I'd be curious to hear if anyone has tried this and how it played out. I'm getting the game next week and will be playing mainly 2player with the wife, so I'm always looking for rules to make 2player games tighter.
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I too am very interested what the results have playing with this variant have been. I just recently acquired the game, actually about to play it for the first time today. Normally I'm hesitant to install variants on the first go around, but considering it attempts to improve the scaling and allow for creative play this variant is in spirit with what I hope for this game. I'll have to respond back and let everyone know what I think. I'm not sure if this thread received so many thumbs due to it's usefulness or the fact that Tom posted it.
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blakstar wrote:
I too am very interested what the results have playing with this variant have been. I just recently acquired the game, actually about to play it for the first time today. Normally I'm hesitant to install variants on the first go around, but considering it attempts to improve the scaling and allow for creative play this variant is in spirit with what I hope for this game. I'll have to respond back and let everyone know what I think. I'm not sure if this thread received so many thumbs due to it's usefulness or the fact that Tom posted it.

Looking forward to hearing how this played out. Let us know!

Who's Tom?
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
I've enjoyed exploring Navegador quite a bit over the last six months.

It seems to scale from 3-5 players quite well. At 2 players, however, we've noticed an issue with the number of colonies (which is fixed at 30 for all numbers). Since so many colonies per player exist, this forces both players to pursue colonies fairly aggressively in 2-player games; otherwise, leaving the colony "victory suit" mostly to your opponent simply gives them too many VPs, as compared to any other "victory suit".

For example, in a 2-player game, one player could mostly stay out of Cathedrals, buying just a second one. If their opponent then builds the rest and gets "full" privileges from them, this opponent will score 8*9 = 72 VPs. If something similar happens with colonies, where a player mostly stays out of them, buying just 6 (which is 20% and generally enough to run an economy), then their opponent can score 24*4 = 96 VPs. This seems high to us, compared to all the other victory suits, where a player going "whole hog" typically can earn about 70-80 VPs.

Yes, we could simply accept this as a feature of 2-player games, but forcing both players to enter a given "suit" in a substantial way reduces one of the major charms of Navegador for us, which is the ability to pursue wildly different strategic paths that, if well executed, can win.

The variant we play is to remove 6 colonies from the 2-player game, so that a "whole hog" colony strategy (getting ~80% of them) is now worth 19*4 = 76 VPs. We do this by removing the highest and lowest valued colonies from each commodity type. Then we mix the colony tiles face down and set them out, placing 3x Sugar colonies in the two 4x spots; and 2x Gold and Spice colonies in each of their two respective 3x spots. This results in one colony left over at random from each set of colonies mixed face down, which is then set aside without examining it normally.

That's it. It's a simple setup variant that keeps the 2-player strategic space in Navegador as flexible and varied as in 3-5 player games. Enjoy!

Played this 2-player variant with the wife last night and all I can say is PERFECTO!!! Really close game with no runaway leader and varied strategies to victory. The wife focused on ships and exploration while I focused on colonization and economy. She won 108 - 98. I let her get away with snagging 1 too many ship privileges...won't let that happen next time!
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michal michal2013
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Hello. I played this variant few times and it works ok.
As for two players are lot of buildings to build. We dont build them all for sure. Second condition to end game is when all of them are built, I added second rule.

I put one unused disk on 20 VP.
Everytime anyone build I lower disk.
So we can build 20 buildings. When disk reach 0, game ends.

I recommend to try. In my opinion and after few games it works cool.
Becouse if we see better score than opponent at any moment, we can build
last few buildings to end game instead of reaching Nagasaki. devil


Best regards

MichaƂ.
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skyzero wrote:

Has anyone tried this variant? I think it does a great job of bringing the 2P game closer to the statistical equivalent of the 4 and 5p games. I'd be curious to hear if anyone has tried this and how it played out. I'm getting the game next week and will be playing mainly 2player with the wife, so I'm always looking for rules to make 2player games tighter.

Played it twice, two player - me and the wife - and it works. Without it you'd pretty much have to invest in getting colonies, whereas over the two games we've seen different options (heavy building for me in the last play)

I have no plans to play the vanilla rules for two player...
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A. Gerald Fitzsimons
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Thanks so much Tom, this is great.

Should any buildings be removed in a 2 player game? One of the end game triggers of all the buildings been taken seems a tough ask in a 2 player game.
 
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
If their opponent then builds the rest and gets "full" privileges from them, this opponent will score 8*9 = 72 VPs. If something similar happens with colonies, where a player mostly stays out of them, buying just 6 (which is 20% and generally enough to run an economy), then their opponent can score 24*4 = 96 VPs. This seems high to us

The variant we play is to remove 6 colonies from the 2-player game, so that a "whole hog" colony strategy (getting ~80% of them) is now worth 19*4 = 76 VPs.

Tom, after playing Navegador a couple of times I now think your variant unbalances the game and that the original designer, Mac Gerdts, got it right; it was balanced all along. You have more experience than I so please correct me if I am wrong.

2 Strategies


Strategy #1
Sailing (which involves not just colonies but also picking up explorer tokens).
Colonies + Explorer = 204 (max points)

Strategy #2
Building
Factories + Shipyards + Churches = 198 (max points).

204/198. I feel that is impressively balanced.

However with your variant of only 24 colonies changes this balance to 180/198. Only 180 for the sailing strategy, an 18 point gap in favour of building instead of a 6 point gap in favour of sailing.
 
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