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Subject: Short review after 1/3 of a two player game.... rss

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Steve S
United States
Morgantown
West Virginia
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5-6/10.

One Sentence: Too much moving stuff around: too few interesting decisions.

The title is the introduction: it was only two of us, and we only made it through the town phase (the first 1/3 of the game). Thus, this review is, to some degree, unfair. Nevertheless, I will post it, because I have a few thoughts that are similar to what several others have alluded to (specifically, the idea that 'the kitchen sink' was thrown in, that there is too much going on, too many 'events,' etc.). Think of it as a 'first impressions' post if it doesn't qualify as a fullblown, informed review.

Read other reviews to understand the basics of the game, because I want to talk a bit about a few specifics. In particular, the turn process. You have 6 action points per turn, to spend on either buying permits or a buildings. Those permits/buildings 'cost' action points based on where they are on the row of exposed cards (1 to 6 AP per permit or building, depending on whether it is on the bottom of the row or the top of the row). Thus, you can quickly see that it would be nice to buy a 1 AP and 2 AP permit, and a 1 AP and 2 AP building (for 6 AP total), and build two buildings in your turn. This is probably the 'default' action (assuming the permits are the right type). If they aren't (i.e. if the permits are for commercial buildings, but the 1AP and 2AP buildings are residential, for example), of course you can't do that-you may get the 2AP commercial permit, but have to go up to the 4 AP building for the cheapest commercial building. Furthermore, I assume with deck knowledge, you probably begin to appreciate the value of different buildings (maybe the gas station in the 4AP slot really is twice as valuable in the 2AP slot, so its worth paying twice as many APs for).

Nevertheless, all things being equal (particularly for a beginner), 2 is better than 1, so your decisions in the early part of the first game seem almost self evident. Once you've used your APs, you then place your buildings on the map. There are, for the beginner, two variables to be worried about: how much it costs to build, and how much prestige you will gain for building in a particular place (based on existing adjacent buildings). Once again, no real decisions need be made: minimize cost, maximize prestige, and move on.

What happens when you move on? You replace the cards you have taken, and each card has a payout. Thus, if you've built 2 buildings, and taken the aformentioned 4 cards, you flip 4 cards, and have to check the payout for each card (each card has a number on it, which represents a payout in either money or prestige, which requires checking the map for the appropriate column, counting buildings to see who has the most in the column, and checking a table on a separate player aid to determine the payout for each player).

This lasts for about 4 turns, after which you start encountering 'events,' or special 'calculate a bunch of new payouts' cards, which seem to happen with blinding frequency. At about the same time, elections heat up, and you then have to recalculate various quantities (who has the most residential buildings I think yields the police commissioner, who has the most influence tokens becomes mayor, and so on), in order to calculate who wins each election, after which you determine your payout from each election as well.

I may not have made it clear from the last two paragraphs, but there is alot of background logistical activity (all the payout calculations) for each turn, given the quantity and quality of decisions made each turn. At the end of our 1/3 of the game, we were left with the impression of alot of shuffling stuff around, but not alot of fascinating decisions/tradeoffs. Many games have an 'end of turn' phase, or 'cleanup' phase, and this game felt like that 'cleanup' phase constituted 3/4 of the game, while the actual 'play game' phases were only 1/4 of it or so (and with 4 players, it would be lots of cleanup, lots of waiting for others to play, and just a bit of actual play).

As rank beginners, of course, we were missing alot. I would imagine with deck knowledge(i.e. knowledge of the different buildings and their value), as well as understanding of events and the benefits of various political offices, we would have more to think about in terms of what building to build, and where to build it. Perhaps long-term strategies would emerge (ex: I want to be police commissioner, so I'll build alot of residential buildings, even if they cost more AP, and so on). But my concern is that it doesn't change the actual decisions in the game that much. My understanding that the 3 AP building is more valuable than the 1 AP building, given my current holdings and my strat, will simply let me pick the 3AP building instead of the 1 AP building: it won't create more decisions or actions, it will just allow me to make a more educated decision. And I'm still left with 2-4 decisions followed by alot of 'cleanup.' Furthermore, with more players, I'd imagine there's more chaos, so there is even less incentive to 'plan ahead (i.e think strategically).' Suppose I want to emphasize residential buildings: if each of 4 players goes the 1AP -2 AP building route, I can't even see what buildings will be up my next turn, so I can't plan one turn in advance.

Furthermore, certain cards dramatically alter the value of spaces on the map (early game, we were building in cheap locations-paying in the range of 3-7 dollars to do so. A 12 chit, placed as a random event, will increase that cost to 15-19. Is it worth it? I think a great deal of deck knowledge would be necessary to know), so attempting to control a part of the map seems equally difficult.

So you are stuck with alot of chaos, and alot of background end of turn calculations, for very few decisions. As beginners of course, we missed much of the long-term value inherent in our decisions. But I would imagine the chaos would eliminate the ability to calculate the long-term value anyway, and regardless, the number of decisions won't go up-they'll just be made with more information at hand.

There also appeared to be one element that was hurt by having so few players. Certain event payoffs (they may have been event cards, and they may have been political office payoffs, I can't remember) are in terms of a set amount (owning media will pay 1 prestige and 1 dollar when its payoff is triggered). Others are based on the number of buildings of certain types one has (ex: residential). If there are 4 players, the average number of residential buildings in a given game will be divided by 4, but with 2 players, it is only divided by 2-so the payoff is much greater. In our game, I had media, and thus got 1 prestige and 1 dollar when the media event was triggered (an earthquake or something). My opponent had 4 residential buildings, and his payoff was 3 prestige +3 dollars per building-or 12 of each! This payoff, which he received twice, was enough to eliminate my lead twice (which ties into my concerns about chaos).

I have played Dominant Species (once), and while I enjoyed it (more than US), I had almost identical concerns about that game.

Take this review/initial impressions with a grain of salt. I'm sure I'll play US again, and I would hope to get into the 2nd and 3rd phases of the game (the City and Metropolis decks). Perhaps once I've gotten all the way through the game, the lightbulb will come on, and I'll see what I was missing. But after a first hour and a half or so, I didn't leave dying to play again.

Steve

Clarification: we stopped after 1/3 of the game because we ran out of time-not because we didn't want to continue.
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Scott Henshaw
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Quick reply to one piece of this: You played the scoring event cards wrong. It is not 3 Pts & 3 Prestige per building, it is per players in first place.
If only 1 player is in first they get just 3 & 3, no matter how many buildings they own.
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Mark Buetow
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I'm beginning to wonder if anyone uses their imagination when they play games anymore...

All the reviews are beginning to sound the same: "too much chaos," "too many events I can't plan for," "not enough interesting decisions." Blah, blah, blah.

Come on, people! You get to BUILD A CITY! You get to be the guy who opens up a Bakery or builds the Post Office. You are the one bringing tech and industry to the town. You get to watch as the town grows into a City and into a bustling Metropolis. You get to cover the event when a fire breaks out. You get to sit behind your City Hall desk and collect people's taxes. You can decide which tenement comes down and where the strip mall is built. You get to argue and wrangle and slide favors and perks until you are holding several offices and reaping the benefits given to you by the hard working citizens of this patch of paradise. This is FUN!

Look, I get that not every game is suited to every player, I really do. But let's start hearing from the people who think Urban Sprawl is FUN! Because, well, it's FUN!
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Jesse Dean
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I will also being writing a review, but its not going to be until after I think I have a strong grasp of the game. I am at 3 plays, and feel I've only scratched the surface.
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J C Lawrence
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Malacandra wrote:
I'm beginning to wonder if anyone uses their imagination when they play games anymore...


Yes, as a tool in order to figure out better decisions, stronger play, and greater insight into the game.

Quote:
Come on, people! You get to BUILD A CITY! ...


Yeah, I don't care. That doesn't matter to me. Victory Points however...
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Ben Wand
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Thanks for the review. For what it's worth, I think it's valuable to read a review where you stopped playing because it wasn't fun... everyone has a different view of what is fun and not fun, and stopping because you aren't having fun is definitely valid!

After all, if every review we read about every game is positive, that wouldn't be helpful. So we need to see reviews from the other end of the spectrum as well.
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Ricky Gray
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I read the first few sentences of the review but got bored with it, so I didn't finish...

Ricky
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Ken Dilloo
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So here is what I don't get. Is this, and DS for that matter, more of a thematic game, or more of a strategy game? Tough to pull off both.

Also, for more experienced players, how many plays of this, and DS, does it take to make sense of some of the chaos and events?

Tastes are always different, but it seems as though some have an issue with the chaos and events, in both games. The standard refrain to this seems to be that these are more of the fun, thematic type games, and that it takes some plays to handle the chaos and events. How many plays?
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Curt Carpenter
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Thanks for making my review appear exhaustively researched by comparison!
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Scott Burns
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Now I want to start a thread that's titled:

"A review after looking at the box art once, while drunk and on painkillers."
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Fire Lord
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SpaceLordOO wrote:
Now I want to start a thread that's titled:

"A review after looking at the box art once, while drunk and on painkillers."


I'd read that!
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Christian Fuerst-Brunner
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Preacher wrote:
I read the first few sentences of the review but got bored with it, so I didn't finish...

Ricky


me, too! angry
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Testy Testerson
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SpaceLordOO wrote:
Now I want to start a thread that's titled:

"A review after looking at the box art once, while drunk and on painkillers."


"I was a big fan of Power Grid, but then the guy on the front of the box tried to bite me. Needless to say I talked Abe Lincoln into playing something else with me that night"
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Markus
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SDawg wrote:
we only made it through the town phase (the first 1/3 of the game). Thus, this review is, to some degree, unfair


To some degree? You reviewed a game you have not even played.
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Johannes cum Grano Salis
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This reminds me of one of my favorite Lionel Hutz lines on the Simpsons: "Mr. Simpson, don't you worry. I watched Matlock in a bar last night. The sound wasn't on, but I think I got the gist of it."

Also reminds me of those one-star reviews of a book on Amazon simply because the book wasn't available on a Kindle.

J
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Chris Wood
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clearclaw wrote:
Malacandra wrote:
I'm beginning to wonder if anyone uses their imagination when they play games anymore...


Yes, as a tool in order to figure out better decisions, stronger play, and greater insight into the game.

Quote:
Come on, people! You get to BUILD A CITY! ...


Yeah, I don't care. That doesn't matter to me. Victory Points however...


Sir, I read your profile based on your comments on this thread, and I would have to say you are my complete opposite. Not a bad thing, but is is fascinating that someone has a completely different view about gaming. I think that is why I like this hobby so much, there is something for everyone.
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Matthew Tadyshak
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Terrible review. At least play the game before posting a review. Things like this belong in an impressions thread.
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Paul Kemp
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It is interesting that people don't like games with 'chaos'. Personally I do not like games with one path to victory and optimum strategies.

Game designers...lean more towards 'chaos' than predictability, but not too much. After all, a dose of 'chaos' leads to more replayabilty.
 
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Steffen Soller
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I dont understand why someone would do a re


(I felt this was worth just 1/3 of a sentence as a reply...I will finish it once you post a review after playing the whole game)
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Ed Bradley
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Myoman wrote:
I think that is why I like this hobby so much, there is something for everyone.


And for those of us who like "Chad" games there are game by Chad!

By now I hope people are catching on. Chad Games always have a certain amount of chaos; of having to roll with the punches. I know in some of his war games these "event cards" are optional but what kind of lily-liver takes that way out?

I haven't played US yet but both the complaints and the plaudits are BOTH making me more impatient. Just like DS.
 
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Vital Lacerda
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2010 - Vinhos, 2012 - CO2, 2014 - kanban, 2015 - The Gallerist, 2016 - Vinhos Deluxe, 2017 - Lisboa, 2018 - Escape Plan, CO2 Second Chance and Dragon Keepers - Maybe: 2019 - ROTW Portugal and On Mars, 2020 - Kanban Deluxe Edition
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Its funny when people can write about and rate games without even play it until the end. The author, playtesyers, development team take 3 or 4 years designing, playing, testing, changing all the process, until a game is published, and in only one hour and half even without any knowlodge of the full game, some 'illuminati' knows everything about it. Please show some respect for that work and finish the game at least once before talk about it.
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Jerry
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I have no problems with people ending a game early if they are not having fun. Life is too short not to. That said, don't write a review if you haven't finished it. Just like I expect movie and book critics to watch/read the entire work before giving their opinion, I want my game reviews to include a full play without rules mistakes.
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Tom Hudson
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Thanks for a straightforward and honest review. After four plays I share many of your concerns.

Of the five people I've taught the game, only one wants to play it again. Their primary criticism is that for the game's length (veeeery long), there is too much randomness. The longer the game, the more that randomness irritates people.

However, your statement

SDawg wrote:
5-6/10.
Perhaps once I've gotten all the way through the game, the lightbulb will come on, and I'll see what I was missing. But after a first hour and a half or so, I didn't leave dying to play again.


is the take-away point.

It was half-way through our second game before I understood the importance of controlling the politicians at the end of the game. Having the most valuable building of a given type is central to my strategy now.

Anyway, I like the game and plan another play today, God willing. However, the jury is still out. The longer the game, the more its flaws detract from the experience and US is a veeeery long game.

 
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Chadwik
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Hey Vital, while I have your ear: when might your Vinhos game be available to us eager folks in the US?

I want my Vinhos! cry
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Curt Carpenter
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Steve, although I jabbed you a bit about a review after less than a full game, it was just that, a jab. I'm sorry you have to put up with people who are seriously trying to give you a hard time. I don't know what's so hard about not reading a review that one is not interested in.
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