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Subject: Game ends too quickly? Strategy or variant ideas sought. rss

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Nathan DeBardeleben
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I've played AE all of two times now and both times were relatively different. Each time I've played we have had 4 players.

(1) The first time we had some pretty intense combat where no one got above about the 3rd level of tech. One was a rammer, another went for a battleship, another was trying the peaceful teching route, etc.

(2) The second game everyone seemed to fall into a passive role and we all teched to level 4 in a tech - each being the first, second, third, and fourth in that tech tree.

In both games I feel the game ended just when it was starting to get interesting. We seem to turn around and go "oh sh*t, there's only a few VP left" and people quickly do some mining or build a city or something similar.

In the second game we took the variant idea of adding more VPs and it still didn't feel like enough.

I'm starting to think that the VP bonuses for achieving the first level of that tech is too high. For instance - you get N VP for being the first civilization to reach tech level N in a color. That means in my game (2) above, each player got 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 10 VPs. Considering the game ended 19-19-18-17, that means that over half of the VPs for each player were handed out purely from teching.

We are considering house ruling it that the first person to discover a new level of a new tech gets *ONE* vp, so instead of 4*4 + 3*4 + 2*4 + 1*4 = 40 points being available just for uncovering tech it would be 16*1 = 16 points.

It just seems as soon as you get to the interesting tech the game is over. Perhaps it's different with less players.

Further, moving on from that discussion of houseruling somewhat, what would you suggest a player do to stop that? AE appears to me to be so finely tuned that if you expend your resources trying to stop another player then the other players (in a 4 player game) merely keep keep teching. I want to play this game as a reactionary game where I adjust what I'm doing to what others are doing but it feels like a Mexican Standoff where everyone instead just turtles and techs.

Thoughts? Ideas? Strategies? Variants/house rules?
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Henry Allen
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It is so interesting how different groups seem to play this game so differently. We've rarely seen level 4 tech in a four player game. Perhaps try fighting to stop others from getting level 4 tech to make things interesting? When we do see level 4 tech it is game over because of the power that player yeilds so attempting to go for it is very dangerous (because you will be teamed up upon to stop you getting it).

To get level 4 you have to get at least one planet with a research center outside of your starting quadrant. It is very hard to 'turtle' and tech up outside of your starting quadrant unless everyone is just letting it happen.

Also keep in mind you get points for shooting down starships and killing stuff off of planets and in the end it is a points race. So any time you succesfully attack you are staying in the points race (and setting another player back in terms of board position & possibly the tech race). You may also be helping yourself in the tech race if you are clearing off that planet you need to hit level 3 or 4 or whatever.
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Jeff Kayati
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I've rarely seen Tech 4 in my games. I simply can't imagine all four players getting there.

You are limiting yourselves to just one planet with two research centers, correct?

I've found that when one player occupies the third color of any planet, that player becomes a target for the other players.

Perhaps the groups that I've played with are just more combative than yours.
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Chester
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Its hard to imagine 4 players each getting to level 4 tech. I suspect suboptimal play (if you have an eye towards controlling game tempo [the VP supply] and snagging VPs before anyone else can get them). Getting 4 VPs is a LOT, and if a player gets to Level 3 tech, they usually are declaring themselves a target. Other players would have to passively allow it to happen....and that doesn't seem wise.
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Diego Whitetower
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I agree with Jeff; in two plays, I can't see anybody reach lever 4 tech, so find near impossible that all players make it.

 
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Chuck Parrott
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It is virtually impossible without conflict. In a 4 player setup the best any player can do is a 3rd tech with the planets in their home sector. Someone has to cross over and poach a planet from a neighbor to get to level 4.

That's grounds for open conflict in our group and the blockades are on.

Not sure how you can passively reach level 4 with one player let alone all the players.

As far as extending the game, you can add more vp's to the pool if you want. Make it where even if all the tech vp bonuses scored you still would have to mine or attack to empty the pool and end the game.
 
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Nathan DeBardeleben
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Given the suboptimal play posts I'll link this sub-statement from Ian (the game creator) in another thread:

In most of the 4 player games I play at least 1 if not two players will reach 4th level.

I still think this is a bigger issue than (apparently all commenters but me) are giving credit. Further, no responses have addressed my point that the game becomes a standoff. Defending in the game is imo considerably easier than attacking (not the least reason of which being the randomness incurred by flicking for attacking but not defending) which gives the advantage to the defender.

My real point is the standoff nature of the game at this point.

Whatever, doesn't matter. Just my experience and I still find the game totally great and one of my current favorites.
 
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Nathan DeBardeleben
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What randomness exists in the game at all - just three things:

1: What 2 planet colors you get 1 of in your sector and what 2 planets you get 2 of in your sector.

2: How well you flick (that is, how well you are able to make the flicking of the ships go where you desire)
2a: How warped your board is - particularly warped boards make #2 considerably more random

3: And of course what your opponents do - which may or may not be highly random.

Given that flicking is highly dangerous when it comes to other starships (you might ram them, giving them points should they have appropriate tech) and at the same time destroy your ship resulting in no points (assuming you don't have tier 4 tech in purple, which as aforementioned should rarely happen - or the game should be about over if it does). Therefore your ability to use your ship for things like blockading, attacking a planet, etc are based on randomness more so than a tech approach.

Furthermore, a tech approach would almost assuredly result in the relatively low tech that allows you to launch on planets that are blockaded. Since those launched ships can be placed anywhere in orbit, the launching player does not incur this attack randomness - he simply places his ships so that they are close enough to instantly shoot you down - oh, and in the process, he gets VPs.

So let's say you're tech heavy. You would argue - just go there and beat that guy up. I'd argue that I have the tools to recover from that and in the process gain VPs. Now if perhaps you received no VPs for destroying ships orbiting your own planets, then we'd have a different story.

Moreover, to me it appears that the tech benefits almost always benefit a defender - making it easier to defend.

1: Oh no, they're on to me - good thing my research stations are + defense.
2: Blockaded! Yes but I can launch and get free VPs even in that situation!
3: You're aggressive, well now I'm aggressive too and get VPs for ramming you!
4: Everyone's ganging up on me! But now I can recruit 3 troops/turn instead of 2!
5: Move and take another action, you can't do that, because you're not level 4 gray like me!
6: Everytime I try and do something, you ram me - but I get VPs now for it!

on and on. That's just 6 of the 16 and I'm sure much of the remaining 10 fit into the same bill I just can't recall instantaneously.

I really think the VP rewards for teching are too beneficial on top of their inherent rewards themselves. 4VPs for getting (first) to 4th tier and then opening up VPs for each ship ram (purple), recruit troops on empty planets elsewhere (B destroys A's planet, C then takes a turn and puts 3 troops on it without moving a finger to flick a ship into range with tier 4 brown), etc.

Furthermore, besides the VP rewards being too high (imo) for the tech benefits they incur, they also rush the game end so quickly that I've never seen the tier 4 abilities used for more than a 1 round before all the VPs were exhausted meaning that they're frankly not that interesting because they constitute such a large portion of the VP pool. Again considering a 4 player game with ~40 VPs, someone teching heavy down 1 tree is likely to get all first-to-that-color-level rewards for 10 VPs - or 1/4 (just less than, since 40 VPs is low) of the entire pool of VPs just for teching down ONE of the trees.

Just some thoughts. But one of the replies pointed out - each group of players is different. Perhaps my group is more cautious with an eye on scoring VPs and less on combat. Teching appears to be a perfectly valid, if not superior way to maximize the VPs you get.

I will point out something that didn't occur to me until recently.

If one player is going tech heavy, down a particular tree, as I've pointed out that nets them 10 VPs for that color. If the other players do NOT join this arms race, instead letting that player get those points, the researcher is unlikely to be able to end the game. The reason for that of course being if he wanted to tech out the other trees it would require way more planets than possible (due to research station limitations). Therefore, perhaps the best approach to a heavy techer is to not join them in this battle and instead use a more repeatable approach to gaining VPs - that is mining/combat.

While the tech approach is certainly strong, it might only be strong (in terms of VPs) in that it rushes the end game if everyone else also depletes the VP supply likewise.

Hmm.... yes, that does sound smart.
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Henry Allen
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ullapool wrote:
While the tech approach is certainly strong, it might only be strong (in terms of VPs) in that it rushes the end game if everyone else also depletes the VP supply likewise.

Hmm.... yes, that does sound smart.


You could be on to something. In our 3 player game last night two of the players ended up fighting back and forth quite a bit (while still doing some expansion and tech upgrades) while the player who came in last had almost no conflict the whole game. The player who wasn't involved in conflict did the worst and the player who won had orange level 3 as his highest tech (while the two losers each reached a level 4 tech on the last turn).
 
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Nathan DeBardeleben
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I played again over the weekend with 4 people - only one of whom had been in my normal crew of players. Same basic results - the highest techer was the winner. The two new players both verbally expressed that they felt they didn't feel they could stop the techer because doing so was to expend turns they needed to be working toward more assured VPs on their own and that if they attacked him, while they could get some VPs themselves and slow down the techer, the 3rd and 4th players (that is, those not stepping in) would easily continue unabated.

Again, the game turned into very tactical noncombative.

My current proposal for a house rule is to reduce the VPs from each tech tree from 1-2-3-4 to 1-1-2-2 - cutting the amount of VPs in each tech tree from 10 down to 6, or a reduction of 16 points in total that can be achieved through teching.

I think this would both lengthen the game, provide players more time / turns to use their tech, and also make teching a viable strategy to use the benefits of the tech rather than a means to an end (VP acquisition).
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Scott Aikens
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ullapool wrote:
What randomness exists in the game at all - just three things:

1: What 2 planet colors you get 1 of in your sector and what 2 planets you get 2 of in your sector.


If I am reading this correctly, you are creating game scenarios where EACH QUADRANT contains SIX PLANETS and ZERO ASTEROIDS.

Edit: I believe the rules are written for each quadrant to contain FIVE PLANETS (one of each planetary color and one additional randomized color) and ONE ASTEROID; those six units are to be distributed randomly throughout a quadrant.

If you're creating scenarios which allow multiple tech-friendly planets of the same color in any one quadrant, you are inherently creating the problem you're trying to resolve with house rules.

For your next game, include only FIVE planets (two of a random color and one of each other color) and ONE asteroid in each quadrant and I believe you'll soon recognize the elegance of the rules as they currently exist.
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