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A Few Acres of Snow» Forums » Variants

Subject: Seriously considered options rss

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John Sizemore
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garygarison wrote:
Dearlove wrote:
skipsizemore wrote:
Until you figure something out, though, I'm content to play the game with people who haven't read this whole debate, and to play as if I hadn't read it myself.
You can even play with people who have read it all - provided you play British, and don't go down the thin deck route (except to point out to the French player that if he tries it you will, and will be better at it).
This is tantamount to playing Race for the Galaxy and all agreeing to not pursue a Settle/Develop rush strategy -- it corrupts the very nature of the game itself. Much like you cannot build anything in RftG without settling or developing, you cannot use military effectively with a big bloated deck. How thin is thin?

No, it isn't at all. RftG, as the name implies, is all about building your machine and getting it running before the other guy. That's how it's intended to play.

Thinning your deck down to be a perfect n-turn Quebec-killing machine is (one can only presume) not a strategy that the designer anticipated for AFAoS. The game can be interesting and entertaining when played more casually without that strategy, so why not enjoy it as it was intended to be enjoyed? People playing the game without knowledge of this strategy usually play it more or less the way I assume it was intended. They seem to like it very much, so why should one feel compelled to play it in an unsatisfying way? If you know of an exploit in a video game, do you feel that you must employ the exploit in playing the game? Is the game just ruined for you once you know the exploit exists?

If it's essential to your enjoyment that you must play the absolute winningest strategy that anyone has discovered, then (until it is fixed, anyway) this just isn't the game for you.
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skipsizemore wrote:
Thinning your deck down to be a perfect n-turn Quebec-killing machine is (one can only presume) not a strategy that the designer anticipated for AFAoS.
Again, how thin is thin? Going for a balls-to-the-wall siege of Quebec is most definitely an option designed into the game, as the instant win condition for that ploy is explicitly spelled out in the rules.
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Dearlove wrote:
I think I have a better understanding of Martin's views here than you do.
What are Martin Wallace's views then? He has been notably absent.
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Shoot, I'd be happy to hear from even one of Martin Wallce's stable of playtesters regarding the siege rush strategy. This question in the other thread was never addressed:

garygarison wrote:
Alan Paull wrote:
I can pretty much guarantee that Martin himself will have carried out hundreds of play tests personally with AFAoS before it was released, and there will have been many hundreds of play tests during the design and development process...Also AFAoS will have had solo tests by designer and developers at every stage and blind play testing with several groups, in addition to 'normal' play testing. Martin also takes his games to conventions for play testing. So I would guess that AFAoS will have had hundreds of tests at conventions, let alone elsewhere.
And so the outpouring in this thread comes as utter shock to all involved?
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garygarison wrote:
Shoot, I'd be happy to hear from even one of Martin Wallce's stable of playtesters regarding the siege rush strategy. This question in the other thread was never addressed:

garygarison wrote:
Alan Paull wrote:
I can pretty much guarantee that Martin himself will have carried out hundreds of play tests personally with AFAoS before it was released, and there will have been many hundreds of play tests during the design and development process...Also AFAoS will have had solo tests by designer and developers at every stage and blind play testing with several groups, in addition to 'normal' play testing. Martin also takes his games to conventions for play testing. So I would guess that AFAoS will have had hundreds of tests at conventions, let alone elsewhere.
And so the outpouring in this thread comes as utter shock to all involved?
Does he have a "stable of playtesters"? I heard people mention they played a prototype at a convention, but no one has appeared claiming anything beyond that.
 
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This statement by Alan Paull suggests that at least he was in that inner circle of playtesters. It was in fact he who I was obliquely questioning.

Alan Paull wrote:
Some play testers at least had extensive deck-building skills, I can assure you. I played an early version at Conference of Wargamers and (along with others) was able to play abusive strategies and break that early version. [I've played a lot of deck-building games, including several years MtG, lots of Dominion, and so on, though I don't consider myself anywhere close to professional level.] Playing to break the game is what a lot of play testers do. The designer made extensive changes in response to this play testing, and I'm sure made further changes in response to the rest of play testing.
As an aside, he goes on to state:

Quote:
Also, in defence, I would say that AFAoS is more robust than, say, Twilight Struggle. [duck-and-cover!]
By chance, Anna and I have gotten back into TS recently after a long hiatus, and the brilliance of its design still impresses.
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I think what you want Snow to be is not what Martin wanted to design. He wanted there to be quagmire. I hope this doesn't sound too harsh, it's a gentle suggestion—if that's not fun for you, there are lots of other games out there.

Think of that before suggesting radical changes that change the core design.

AndrewE wrote:
skipsizemore wrote:
AndrewE wrote:
My preferences for the direction of the game is firmly planted on the side of fairly radical changes

It would be a shame, I think, to radically change the game in order to address the few overpowered strategies.
I fully agree. However, I don't propose radical changes to address the narrow problem of a dominant strategy. I propose radical changes because it is my opinion that some core mechanics need adjusting, entirely aside from the dominant strategy.

---

Dearlove wrote:
I don't think I'd agree with that characterisation. When do you pick up massive military? Feeding them into a siege. (No one builds up a massive military in advance of starting a siege.) When does this become a problem? When the siege ends and the military goes back into play. So that's the time to attack that problem, at the end of a siege. Is this thematic? Well, there's a good question for a historian, did the British military scale down after e.g. the taking of Louisbourg
You pick up massive military in the process of feeding them into a siege, because right now that's the only way to do it without totally sabotaging your deck. The problem manifests at the end of the siege when it all goes back into your deck, and you claim that therefore that's when to attack the problem, but I disagree. It may be the time to attack the problem, but we can also attack the problem earlier.

So right now nobody buys military without the intention to throw it on a siege at the earliest opportunity. I claim that, right there, is the problem. I claim that carrying some quantity of military in your deck ought to have positive defensive qualities that aren't hugely outweighed by the negative card drag affecting absolutely everything else.

People don't buy massive militaries before a siege. But who's to say they shouldn't? A military already bought beats a military you could buy because it arrives faster. I think that would be an interesting dynamic, the aggressive player stocking up on military while the defensive player tries to do other things while leaving open the possibility to expand military quickly enough if the aggressive player follows through. It creates tension - how far can the defender afford to fall behind on military in deck and not get burnt by losing a location? But right now it doesn't happen because buying military and not immediately using it is too expensive.

As for theme, I think throwing theme under the bus in the pursuit of better flow, better balance, and better anything else is a trade to make every day and twice on Sundays. Of course, if you can have all that and theme, even better, but I think a good game should be generated first, and then theme made to fit, rather than the other way around. For example, I thought of the idea "winning a siege means both sides lose a military card" because I thought it was a decent idea in terms of gameplay first, and then later attached a theme to it (attacker winning a siege means the defender loses a military as a casualty, and the attacker loses one to leaving a garrison behind, while attacker losing a siege means the attacker loses a military as a casualty, with no penalty for the defender, because he already owns the place)
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tssfulk wrote:
I think what you want Snow to be is not what Martin wanted to design. He wanted there to be quagmire. I hope this doesn't sound too harsh, it's a gentle suggestion—if that's not fun for you, there are lots of other games out there.

Think of that before suggesting radical changes that change the core design.


This! There's a reason it's remembered as "The Seven Years War" and not "The Lightning Assault on Quebec"
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out4blood wrote:
skipsizemore wrote:
I don't have a copy of the game in front of me to look at the numbers, but #10 actually sounds fairly brilliant to me, in theory. It's thematically satisfying, and makes it difficult to push the broken siege strategy without also pushing the settle and improve strategy (and fluffing up the deck). One would have to do some analysis to see whether this would put a sufficient brake on the military build-up, but it sounds like the right direction.
This doesn't work for pretty basic reasons. British have a develop advantage and they already start with +1 disks. This restraint just hampers the french even more.

One tester who tried it said this:
Quote:
We restarted, same sides, and gave the French a fortified Lb, 2 turns, and tried the fix of "you can only have as many RI/SA as you have cities+plus forts". This doesn't work, of course, because the Brits simply expand faster than the French so they end up with 6 RI/SA allowable to the French 3 and start a siege and it's pointless.

An alternative for the British is to just grab the settlers and settle rush, since the french can't effectively counter with military, and with only Quebec and a crappy Intendant, they cannot compete.

Yes, the numbers don't work like this, and yet I think the germ of the best answer is in here. The ideal solution, to my way of thinking, would be one that forced a player wanting to win militarily to support their military buildup through settlement. This pushes both players toward a more balanced strategy, and leads to the kind of hairy management problems, and longer game, that the designer intended.

One possible way to implement something along these lines without TOO much extra hassle would be to split the Available military cards into two piles: the "readily" available, and the "potentially" available. Players could only buy units from the readily available pile. They could move units from the potentially available pile to the readily available pile by settling. This would leave the problem of deciding which units for each side start the game readily available, and which units could be moved over when. Tweaking these numbers could probably offset much of the advantage the Brits could gain by taking both neutral settlers at the outset. Making the settlers ambushable (I never have understood why they aren't in the first place, since they had to be the fattest prey in the area at the time) would also help with this, but we're only looking at solutions that don't require new or replaced components for now.

Maybe a militia could be moved over to the readily available pile when a new settlement is established, and a readily available militia could be upgraded to a regular infantry whenever a settlement is upgraded to a town. Another tweakable parameter would be where dead troops go when they're ambushed or lose a siege -- the readily available pile or the potentially available pile. Again I don't think penalizing players who lose settlements would be necessary, since they've already suffered a point swing and had a card rendered worthless.

The details would require some thought and testing. But what you'd end up with, I would hope, would be a game where the two sides need to keep up with each other in settlement in order to be able to match forces in a big siege. In order to be able to build up a big siege, you'd have to settle and improve a few places, (ideally) get rid of a lot of the new location cards, and save up some money at the same time. By the time you do all this, the game should be getting close to the end through settlement, anyway. The Brits building up for the whole game to prepare for a big siege on Quebec would pretty well mirror actual history, I believe. In the meantime, you'd want to look for good opportunities to make smaller sieges and raids work for you.

Anyway, I like designs that push toward balanced strategies, and I like games whose victory conditions are complementary rather than contradictory. The winner should be the player who capitalized on small advantages here and there to put himself into the position of being able to win by any of the victory conditions.

So, if it were my design, I would look for a solution like this. Playtest it, balance it, and simplify it as much as possible, and I think you'll end up with something like the excellent game that AFAoS should be.
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tssfulk wrote:
I think what you want Snow to be is not what Martin wanted to design. He wanted there to be quagmire. I hope this doesn't sound too harsh, it's a gentle suggestion—if that's not fun for you, there are lots of other games out there.
If your comment is directed to me, I assure you that I too want a quagmire. It was a quagmire before the siege exploit made itself know. Now that it is known, though, we can't simply put blinders on and, in the name of fun, just play as if everything is still fine. At least I can't. Until Martin Wallace fixes what needs to be repaired in Few Acres, it will remain for me a game I cannot enjoy.
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garygarison wrote:
I'm not trying to be difficult here. I'm merely questioning whether the game is in fact playable if one opts to put on blinders to the thin deck military strategy.

I think you've lost the context here. This was someone (sorry, not digging back to find who) who thinks he can play. Actually I think I could too. But it's not a "here's a rigorously defined formula, everyone do the same" thing. If you are thinking "I'm not allowed to do exactly that, bit how close am I allowed to get so I can maximise my chances of winning while not breaking the letter of the restrictions we are using" then you won't be able to play. Or at least you'll need to do work to get there, work probably better spent elsewhere.

But I don't think it worth taking this branch line of discussion further, but rather to return to the reason for this thread.
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AndrewE wrote:
But I think the core issue is that your deck is ridiculously terrible after a huge siege. This proposal feels like an attempt to attack that problem from an angle from an angle I don't really like. I think the parent problem of that one is that military in your deck is just so incredibly bad for getting anything else done that it makes military an all or nothing path. This proposal feels like an attempt to treat the symptom of that, rather than the cause.
I've got to agree with this. The thin deck strategy is a separate problem, but even when addressed, once the British are tooled up, an all out military strategy becomes irresistible because it's the most effective use of cards in the British hand.

If this is not addressed in some form, you're going to wind up with a one dimensional game.
 
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mikecl wrote:
AndrewE wrote:
But I think the core issue is that your deck is ridiculously terrible after a huge siege. This proposal feels like an attempt to attack that problem from an angle from an angle I don't really like. I think the parent problem of that one is that military in your deck is just so incredibly bad for getting anything else done that it makes military an all or nothing path. This proposal feels like an attempt to treat the symptom of that, rather than the cause.
I've got to agree with this. The thin deck strategy is a separate problem, but even when addressed, once the British are tooled up, an all out military strategy becomes irresistible because it's the most effective use of cards in the British hand.

If this is not addressed in some form, you're going to wind up with a one dimensional game.

I think the discussion Andrew and I had was that Andrew was trying to make the tooled up British deck have other options, and I was floating the possibility (there is nothing I am definitely sold on, I'm trying out discussions on options to understand them better - though I have preferences) of reducing the tooling up after a large siege (while leaving small sieges unchanged - and yes, I realise that has an arbitrary definition issue). We disagree on what is cause and what is symptom. It is an area I really want Martin's historical view on large standing armies and how long they could be maintained for when not in active combat.

 
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I have a new variant up that might make going thin deck really risky: everything is ambushable. Proposed in its own post.
 
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mikecl wrote:
AndrewE wrote:
But I think the core issue is that your deck is ridiculously terrible after a huge siege. This proposal feels like an attempt to attack that problem from an angle from an angle I don't really like. I think the parent problem of that one is that military in your deck is just so incredibly bad for getting anything else done that it makes military an all or nothing path. This proposal feels like an attempt to treat the symptom of that, rather than the cause.
I've got to agree with this. The thin deck strategy is a separate problem, but even when addressed, once the British are tooled up, an all out military strategy becomes irresistible because it's the most effective use of cards in the British hand.

If this is not addressed in some form, you're going to wind up with a one dimensional game.

The really big siege should be an exceptional event that requires lots of preparation, not something that you can automatically make happen a few turns into the game. The variant I have suggested above, or something along the same lines, would address this.
 
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I'm sorry I have not been able to post as frequently as I would like regarding this issue. Please be aware that I am reading suggestions and considering options. I do not want to post a 'fix' until I am absolutely sure it will work. What I do not want to have to do is post a fix to the fix. I also do not want to take a step back an open up an old problem.

I'm going to in Essen next week, which will give me a chance to discuss the game with a number of people who have been involved in these discussions, including Chris Dearlove. The big unknown is how long it will take to test changes until it can be shown they cannot be broken.

Martin
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Quote:
I'm going to in Essen next week, which will give me a chance to discuss the game with a number of people who have been involved in these discussions, including Chris Dearlove.

The doppleganger! zombie

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Are you implying that Chris=Martin? That's not right, for a number of reasons. I could tell you some of the more embarrassing differences, but instead I'll simply state that I have seen the two of them in the same room together a number of times.
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RDewsbery wrote:
Are you implying that Chris=Martin? That's not right, for a number of reasons. I could tell you some of the more embarrassing differences, but instead I'll simply state that I have seen the two of them in the same room together a number of times.

But that assumes you are real too. But that's all right, I can vouch for that. devil
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AndrewE wrote:
Dearlove wrote:
But as we are discussing military options, what are your views on the idea that after a massive siege both sides should have to return military to available empire cards? I haven't seen a good specific proposal to achieve this, but I think the idea is a potentially good one - and I think in keeping with the rest of your thinking.
It's interesting, but difficult. It makes opening a siege with a location card ridiculously powerful. If the defender responds by putting a military card on the siege, you've already won, because you can withdraw, forcing the loss of that card for just one action, just like a successful ambush, but without the potential downside. Edit: oops, better than an ambush, because it's no action loss for the attacker - both sides spent an action on the siege.

In fact, any siege where the defender wins, this rule would make them worse off for it.

Maybe if the defender wins, it stays as is, (attacker drops one, defender doesn't) and if the attacker wins, they both discard one (attacker leaves a garrison). That would help in cases where winning one siege only makes the next easier.

But I think the core issue is that your deck is ridiculously terrible after a huge siege. This proposal feels like an attempt to attack that problem from an angle from an angle I don't really like. I think the parent problem of that one is that military in your deck is just so incredibly bad for getting anything else done that it makes military an all or nothing path. This proposal feels like an attempt to treat the symptom of that, rather than the cause.

On this point about excess military in decks after a long siege. Note I've said 'decks', so the problem is balanced and affects both players. Not good for game flow, but not necessarily unbalanced. It's possible for both players to get rid of 'excess' military; it just takes a long time and both have to do it in a non-risky way - I've seen it done :-).

It suggests that reducing the number of military cards in the Empire deck might be worth investigating. The most radical might be something like this:

BR/FR

Siege Artillery 1/1
Regular Infantry 3/2 (including the starting one)
Militia 2/2

BenthamFish
 
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skipsizemore wrote:
Dearlove wrote:
I think I have a better understanding of Martin's views here than you do.

I'm sure you do. But I see this philosophy reflected both in his designs and in his designer's notes. It's really an essential part of the game development process, unless you're out to create a pure simulation. Even then, I suspect, there are many happy accidents where a mechanical compromise can be justified by a real-world explanation.

Some solutions may suggest themselves from the theme (e.g., by asking "why couldn't the British actually have saved their money up and then blitz-sieged around Newfoundland?"). But this usually leads to bloated rules like those that Avalon Hill was so famous for. So far more often one fixes the weakness in the mechanic and then superimposes a thematic rationale over the fix.

There are limits to this, of course, and it may be that a perfect mechanical fix has to be abandoned because it flies in the face of the observed facts about the theme. But I stand by my statement.

Don't worry too much about theme. The game currently avoids all the political stuff in the period - swapping North American territory for Indian or Caribbean colonies for example. It's the game that's important.
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garygarison wrote:
This statement by Alan Paull suggests that at least he was in that inner circle of playtesters. It was in fact he who I was obliquely questioning.

Alan Paull wrote:
Some play testers at least had extensive deck-building skills, I can assure you. I played an early version at Conference of Wargamers and (along with others) was able to play abusive strategies and break that early version. [I've played a lot of deck-building games, including several years MtG, lots of Dominion, and so on, though I don't consider myself anywhere close to professional level.] Playing to break the game is what a lot of play testers do. The designer made extensive changes in response to this play testing, and I'm sure made further changes in response to the rest of play testing.
As an aside, he goes on to state:

Quote:
Also, in defence, I would say that AFAoS is more robust than, say, Twilight Struggle. [duck-and-cover!]
By chance, Anna and I have gotten back into TS recently after a long hiatus, and the brilliance of its design still impresses.

Sorry I haven't been able to reply, owing to our own preparations for Essen over the past few days.

I wouldn't say that I was in the inner circle. I played it many times (as I've said), but not as many as the Treefrog team. And when I was play testing, the thin deck option didn't come up - I honestly cannot recall why, and I can't check my notes, because I'm currently in transit to some large games event in Germany.

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Dearlove wrote:
Don Smith wrote:
Under #1 you might add "Start with a Fort in Quebec". This is an obvious additional deterrent to the thin deck military approach.

Under #6, a recent proposal, which might have significant effect but is simple to implement, is that Drafting cards must be the FINAL action of a turn (whether drafting one or two) including Free actions like Home Support. So it would be expressly prohibited to draft an Empire card and then Home Support it into your hand.

Under #6 as well, what about Home Support being a regular action (not free). Drawing three cards is still a powerful thing (but not overpowering).

All reasonable suggestions. There is a danger of option list expansion if every possible suggested option is added, though these are sub-options. I'm not going to add them now for two reasons, the more important one being the need for sleep. I'll think about adding some or all of these tomorrow (actually, later today for me). Comments in favour of adding or thumbs to Don's posting will bias in favour of adding them.

Don only got one thumb, so I used my judgement. The second of these I thought was in all ways inferior to HS first, and I didn't see any other support so omitted it. The other two, at least one (probably both) of which has been mentioned previously, are now added.

That will probably be the last addition to the list before Essen. Though never say never.

 
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French player opposes British with ambush/raid/settle strategy.

so i think the better solution is:

- both failed ambushes and failed raids are free actions.

or, alternative, mirroring it:

contrasting ambushes/raids counts as an action for the next turn.


if then you want to balance military and settlements:
- you can't have (draw deck+discart pile) more empire cards than location cards.

i think one or both these solution could simply solve the situation.
 
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Christopher Dearlove
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Agzaroth wrote:
both failed ambushes and failed raids are free actions.

9a and 15a.

Quote:
if then you want to balance military and settlements:
- you can't have (draw deck+discart pile) more empire cards than location cards

Doesn't help. Or doesn't help enough, as the standard degenerate strategy does not violate this. At least until a siege ends. And then what do you do? And keeping count is messy at best.
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