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Bios: Megafauna» Forums » General

Subject: Gene card distribution problem - game plays itself while players sit and watch rss

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Kristof Bodric
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Hi everybody,
First of all, let me just say that I love the idea of Bios Megafauna and am reluctant to criticize it, but myself and some other players have come up against some really serious problems, which I believe are related to the statistical distribution of the cards in the game.

My friends and I have experienced situations where we were surrounded by sea tiles (CO2 was high so empty slots were sea slots) and not a single M-gene mutation card was coming along to allow us to leave even our homeland tiles, making the game extremely repetitive and its full potential untapped. I have also heard similar complaints from other users.

The worst of it came on Sunday, when all three players were wiped out (Lazarified, if you like) by a combination of catastrophes and low CO2 levels which inverted their homeland biomes. This happened at the end of the Jurassic period. For the remainder of the game (the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods) the game effectively played (with) itself, while we were desperately flipping the leftmost card in the hope of drawing a single useful gene (M, B, or G) but to no avail. The game ended with a humongous stack of tiles in the tarpit with no one to claim them.

Now the fact that this could have happened at all, plus the other game where my friend and I were trapped on our homeland tiles, as well as similar reports from others suggest that there's some problem with the game itself, as such malfunctions should not occur with such high frequency (2 out of 4 games).

I suspected the culprit was in the distribution of the cards, so I counted them and came up with the following results: Only 14 of the 66 (21.2%) mutation tiles have B or G genes on them, while almost all the Mesozoic land tiles and a large number of Cenozoic land tiles require them, many in multiple instances (BB, BG, GG). With sea tiles, the situation is even more problematic. Only 9 out of 66 (13.6%) have M genes on them (one of which has MM - which would require a previous M if the animal is to survive). Add to this the random distribution of cards in the period decks and you may easily end up with extremely few M, B or G genes, all of which may well be in the Tertiary deck, effectively denying these genes until the late game.

Now I'm aware that these genes can be acquired through genotype cards, with only half of the genes of the new species required, but this too is no easy task.

The workaround I suggest is separating the B, G and M cards before setup and creating half the period decks and starting five (rounded up) from them and the rest from the remaining cards, which would still allow for decent randomization and replayability, but would make the game smoother. Also Lazarus players should be allowed to resurrect themselves with an inheritance tile at the cost of, say, negative victory points.

Please post your opinions
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Giles Pritchard
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Some games I play I get worried about the balance and the mechanisms. Other games I play, I play for the story that unfolds. Megafauna falls into the second category for me.

Sierra Madre make games that explore their themes in interesting ways - which is why I love them - I won't play them exclusively, because I also like other styles of game - but I do find them highly enjoyable - even when struggling against the swings of fortune.

Not saying that rearranging the deck in the way you suggest isn't worth doing - if it helps you enjoy the game go for it I say.

Cheers,

Giles.

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Kristof Bodric
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caradoc wrote:
Some games I play I get worried about the balance and the mechanisms. Other games I play, I play for the story that unfolds. Megafauna falls into the second category for me.

Sierra Madre make games that explore their themes in interesting ways - which is why I love them - I won't play them exclusively, because I also like other styles of game - but I do find them highly enjoyable - even when struggling against the swings of fortune.

Not saying that rearranging the deck in the way you suggest isn't worth doing - if it helps you enjoy the game go for it I say.

Cheers,

Giles.



I'm with you on the story bit. That's exactly what I enjoy about this game and I'm not complaining about "the worst player winning and the best being wiped out". But you'll agree that sitting out half the game as tiles get shifted around and no animals is going a bit too far. At least some participation is required to make the game interesting.
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Giles Pritchard
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vidra wrote:
caradoc wrote:
Some games I play I get worried about the balance and the mechanisms. Other games I play, I play for the story that unfolds. Megafauna falls into the second category for me.

Sierra Madre make games that explore their themes in interesting ways - which is why I love them - I won't play them exclusively, because I also like other styles of game - but I do find them highly enjoyable - even when struggling against the swings of fortune.

Not saying that rearranging the deck in the way you suggest isn't worth doing - if it helps you enjoy the game go for it I say.

Cheers,

Giles.



I'm with you on the story bit. That's exactly what I enjoy about this game and I'm not complaining about "the worst player winning and the best being wiped out". But you'll agree that sitting out half the game as tiles get shifted around and no animals is going a bit too far. At least some participation is required to make the game interesting.


Yeah - having no involvement in a game for its duration can be pretty dull - I'm happy to go with you there! I've had one or two games like that of American Megafauna - if it was particularly bad I'd probably wipe the board clean and start over - with the number of cards, tiles and so forth that come into the game it is entirely possible to have a very bad draw.
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Christophe Denoize
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I already encountered this "problem" as well. It was exactly as you described : surrounded by B and G tiles almost from the beginning of the game, and no way to get these genes.
I wouldn't change the cards distribution in a normal game, but for a first (tutorial) game, i would definitely arrange the deck and/or tiles in order to have them match, more or less (at least to avoid a situation where no one can expand or even survive).

I think Bios Megafauna can tolerate some deck light-manipulation, even if this is probably not the author's will. I didn't play enough to be really affirmative about this though. But i can perfectly understand that having turns where no one does nothing except take a new card is boring (thematically, we could say that the Earth has become uninhabitable but ...).

Your idea concerning the more adaptable Lazarous player is interesting. I think I'll keep it if I encounter such a situation too often.
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Jared VZ
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A somewhat related issue concerns shore feeding allowed in American Megafauna. As long as a predator is allowed to enter a hex it could feed on herbivors in a marine biome. This is great for a desperate predator. In my quick reading of the Bios rules, it looks like predators are required to have M DNA in order to enter a marine hex-intuitive, but maybe bad for game play based on the above assessment of marine biomes and M DNA. Anyway, take this with a grain of salt as I've not yet played Bios.
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Kristof Bodric
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Hiya,

Phil has replied to the topic and has amended the rules to include a 5th action. Here's what the man said:

Quote:
I have posted a new page 3 in the living rules pdf files, and also a corresponding revision in the living word rules, adding a optional "roadrunner club" rule. This adds an optional fifth action, allowing one to buy (for 2 genes) a roadrunner adjustment (up or down). This includes marine of course, and is meant to address the Gilligan's Island syndrome, where a player gets stuck in an archipelago with no marine adaptations in sight.


I think this is an elegant solution, as M genes will become easily accessible to players.

I just thing that this option should also be added to the Lazarus resurrection action but at a discount or even free, provided that the Lazarus player cannot afford it (if the Lazarus player cannot afford to pay the required 2 genes, he places all the genes he has on the leftmost card, gains one roadrunner gene and may set himself up on any tile that
can support him)? His animal's size could be 1, for instance.

I do see a possible abuse of the rules. Once a player establishes himself as dominant, a viable strategy for him would be to start hoarding genes to undermine his opponents' ability to catch up. Perhaps the maximum number of genes owned by one player should be limited to, say, 5, after which he can no longer take genes from the cards he picks up, but leaves them on the (new) leftmost card instead. In our last game, one player ended up with all the genes and stopped purchasing cards altogether. This can also stall the game.
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eryn roston
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I also found that in my recent game there was not a lot of options for players based on the biomes on the map and the available genes for purchase. For this game (like some others described) we spent several rounds just choosing and tossing cards to try and cycle through biomes/DNA options, and the game just kinda staganted.

One possible culprit (in my mind) was the early predominance of genotype cards (which if I'm reading the rules right can, can only be used to score vp or to speciate).

I toyed around with the following modifications to the set-up in order to encourage more genes to be frontloaded in the begining of the game:

before setting up each stack of cards, remove all the genotypes. Shuffle the remaining cards and create the initial display of 5 face up cards, and the first deck with only regular DNA cards.

then shuffle the genotypes in with the rest of the cards and set the game up as normal.

it seemed to give players more options/choices.

-E
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Vasilis
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baditude wrote:
I also found that in my recent game there was not a lot of options for players based on the biomes on the map and the available genes for purchase. For this game (like some others described) we spent several rounds just choosing and tossing cards to try and cycle through biomes/DNA options, and the game just kinda staganted.

One possible culprit (in my mind) was the early predominance of genotype cards (which if I'm reading the rules right can, can only be used to score vp or to speciate).

I toyed around with the following modifications to the set-up in order to encourage more genes to be frontloaded in the begining of the game:

before setting up each stack of cards, remove all the genotypes. Shuffle the remaining cards and create the initial display of 5 face up cards, and the first deck with only regular DNA cards.

then shuffle the genotypes in with the rest of the cards and set the game up as normal.

it seemed to give players more options/choices.

-E


Although I agree that the Genotype cards can swamp the game if they appear early I believe that the new optional {in my mind it's essential not optional} rule introduced by Phil will take care of that problem since most Genotype cards contain Roadrunner DNA in their genome code so players can try to gain the required roadrunner DNA and then buy and play the Genotype card to gain more DNA for expansion.

Maybe you are on to something here and you should post it at the Megafauna yahoo group. I have already posted my thoughts here:
http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/Megafauna/message/2428

If you don't want to get involved with yahoo then me or someone else could mention your idea next time we post something there.

I wouldn't separate the decks though as this can increase the setup time. I'd just discard all Genotype cards drawn during the Display setup and during the whole first Era and replace them with new cards from the unused deck until I get a Mutation card. This way you don't have to separate the deck each time.
I do advise to continue playing using the official rules with the addition of the new rule though and not any other home rules because it looks like it may be a simple and very efficient solution to many issues.
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eryn roston
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good points (I posted on the groups forum too as per your suggestion).

yea I agree re: houserules. I tend to try and avoid them. my little experiment was more to satisfy my own curiousity more than anything else. your point about discarding is good. the only difference is that your way means that those genomes wont ever have a chance to come back where as my way (while increasing set-up time a bit) still gives those guys a shot to come into play later.

-E


Bowmangr wrote:
baditude wrote:
I also found that in my recent game there was not a lot of options for players based on the biomes on the map and the available genes for purchase. For this game (like some others described) we spent several rounds just choosing and tossing cards to try and cycle through biomes/DNA options, and the game just kinda staganted.

One possible culprit (in my mind) was the early predominance of genotype cards (which if I'm reading the rules right can, can only be used to score vp or to speciate).

I toyed around with the following modifications to the set-up in order to encourage more genes to be frontloaded in the begining of the game:

before setting up each stack of cards, remove all the genotypes. Shuffle the remaining cards and create the initial display of 5 face up cards, and the first deck with only regular DNA cards.

then shuffle the genotypes in with the rest of the cards and set the game up as normal.

it seemed to give players more options/choices.

-E


Although I agree that the Genotype cards can swamp the game if they appear early I believe that the new optional {in my mind it's essential not optional} rule introduced by Phil will take care of that problem since most Genotype cards contain Roadrunner DNA in their genome code so players can try to gain the required roadrunner DNA and then buy and play the Genotype card to gain more DNA for expansion.

Maybe you are on to something here and you should post it at the Megafauna yahoo group. I have already posted my thoughts here:
http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/Megafauna/message/2428

If you don't want to get involved with yahoo then me or someone else could mention your idea next time we post something there.

I wouldn't separate the decks though as this can increase the setup time. I'd just discard all Genotype cards drawn during the Display setup and during the whole first Era and replace them with new cards from the unused deck until I get a Mutation card. This way you don't have to separate the deck each time.
I do advise to continue playing using the official rules with the addition of the new rule though and not any other home rules because it looks like it may be a simple and very efficient solution to many issues.
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Roberto Zaghis
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Hello everybody
while I agree that the new "Roadrunner Club" rule woud avoid a possible stagnation of the game, wouldn't it also make Genotype aquisition a little too easy, and possibly create a "Roadrunner Excalation"?

Maybe restricting the roadrunner aquisition to the minimum needed to survive (ie, you cannot aquire more roardrunner genes of the maximum needed to survive on a biome, for example, if there are only M biomes in play, one cannot aquire a second M this way). This would restrict the new aquisition to M dna (IIRC) and won't imbalance the game by making Roadrunner dna too accessible.

cheers
Rob
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eryn roston
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re: the roadrunner club rule. Does this mean you could road runner yourself into flight in 3 turns?
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Gattolardo wrote:
Hello everybody
while I agree that the new "Roadrunner Club" rule woud avoid a possible stagnation of the game, wouldn't it also make Genotype aquisition a little too easy, and possibly create a "Roadrunner Excalation"?

Maybe restricting the roadrunner aquisition to the minimum needed to survive (ie, you cannot aquire more roardrunner genes of the maximum needed to survive on a biome, for example, if there are only M biomes in play, one cannot aquire a second M this way). This would restrict the new aquisition to M dna (IIRC) and won't imbalance the game by making Roadrunner dna too accessible.

cheers
Rob


Remember that genes are a significant tiebreaker that comes into play more often than you'd think and that each time you get a Roadrunner you lose 2 genes. It's not a free action.

Genotype cards becoming more viable is actually a good thing because right now they feel worthless and very hard to use effectively. Because the players have no hands they can't make long-term planning so they need to collect the required Mutation cards first then assuming the climate changes, catastrophes do not destroy their species during other players' turns they still need to have the Genotype card in the Display in order to get it to work. All this requires a certain amount of planning which IMHO is not possible to pull off except by luck.

Also note that when a player increases his roadrunner DNA all species that prey on his species get a free upgrade too so it's not always a good thing to increase your genome.

Plus, as it is now it looks like immigrants are always too strong to "fight" so more roadrunner flexibility is a good thing. Phil himself mentioned that he meant immigrants as a way to help expansion. As it is now without that rule immigrants feel like an obstacle and not a way to expand. The game scientific notes present immigrants as 'tough' species that the players have to adapt to in order to win contest against them. This is something that is extremely hard to pull off but seems totally viable with the new rule.

Finally, the great equalizer, catastrophes. Increasing your DNA genome may drive your species extinct after the meteors start falling down.

The more I think of it the more I like this new rule. It just feels right and addresses many issues at once. My opinion may or hopefully may not change after I actually play the game with this new rule...but it's still amazing how such a little change can influence the whole game mechanism.


P.S. You cannot roadrunner yourself into flight in 3 turns because you won't have enough genes.
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eryn roston
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Bowmangr wrote:


Also note that when a player increases his roadrunner DNA all species that prey on his species get a free upgrade too so it's not always a good thing to increase your genome.


woah...where is THAT in the rules? I know that when you change size that predators can also change. I dont remember them getting a free RR upgrade...or is that part of the new roadrunner club action?

Bowmangr wrote:

P.S. You cannot roadrunner yourself into flight in 3 turns because you won't have enough genes.


If I go last in a 3/4-player game, and an 'S' card is skipped twice but not taken, then I will right?

-E


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baditude wrote:
Bowmangr wrote:


Also note that when a player increases his roadrunner DNA all species that prey on his species get a free upgrade too so it's not always a good thing to increase your genome.


woah...where is THAT in the rules? I know that when you change size that predators can also change. I dont remember them getting a free RR upgrade...or is that part of the new roadrunner club action?


It's part of the new action. It may be strategically important to actually position some of your creatures as carnivores in order to gain advantage of this. Needless to say, anything that increases the strategic decisions that players can make in the game I like it.

Quote:
Bowmangr wrote:

P.S. You cannot roadrunner yourself into flight in 3 turns because you won't have enough genes.


If I go last in a 3/4-player game, and an 'S' card is skipped twice but not taken, then I will right?

-E


Too many ifs, too little value in gaining flight in 3 turns as you still need Dietary DNA to thrive in biomes and if you are hoping for a predatory bird then why the other players wouldn't?

Also if you start to pull off that trick then a smart player will try to become a predator of your species in order to gain free S advances from you.
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Bowmangr wrote:

It's part of the new action. It may be strategically important to actually position some of your creatures as carnivores in order to gain advantage of this. Needless to say, anything that increases the strategic decisions that players can make in the game I like it.


interesting. I guess the otherside is that it's harder to evolve your herbivores "away" from their predators which is one way you can mess with an opponents board position.

the other thing is that it totally invalidates the comic strip I just posted!
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Roberto Zaghis
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i hope to being able to test the new rule tomorrow night.
I agree that any rule that increase the player's strategic planning while lowering the effect of luck can only be an improvement.

Not to mention the increased possibilities of fighting immigrants.

Can someone post the new rule in its complete form?

These days I can only access the web thru my workplace, and I have no access to the yahoo group.

Thank you in advance.
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Gattolardo wrote:
i hope to being able to test the new rule tomorrow night.
I agree that any rule that increase the player's strategic planning while lowering the effect of luck can only be an improvement.

Not to mention the increased possibilities of fighting immigrants.

Can someone post the new rule in its complete form?

These days I can only access the web thru my workplace, and I have no access to the yahoo group.

Thank you in advance.


The new rule is pretty simple but incredibly effective I think:

As an action you can spend 2 genes, placing them in the leftmost card of the Display, and increase or decrease by one step a single type of Roadrunner DNA of one of your species {even if that species didn't have that DNA at all}.
If that species has any predators then they may gain the same DNA advancement for free.


That's it. I'm only worried about putting 2 genes up for grabs on the cheapest card in the Display. This may give the next player an unfair advantage. I already mentioned that at the yahoo group. I assume that Phil is testing all the new ideas and he will post his opinion shortly.
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Bowmangr wrote:
That's it. I'm only worried about putting 2 genes up for grabs on the cheapest card in the Display. This may give the next player an unfair advantage. I already mentioned that at the yahoo group. I assume that Phil is testing all the new ideas and he will post his opinion shortly.


Thank you Vasilis.
That's what started my worriesa about a "Roadrunner Excalation". The discrded genes get back to the players quickly.
But then I guess there is no snse in speculating without a few trial games.
I remember (from the yahoo group digest probably) a proposal about putting the genes discarded this way on the rightmost (most expensive) cards.. was it yours?

cheers
Rob
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Gattolardo wrote:
Bowmangr wrote:
That's it. I'm only worried about putting 2 genes up for grabs on the cheapest card in the Display. This may give the next player an unfair advantage. I already mentioned that at the yahoo group. I assume that Phil is testing all the new ideas and he will post his opinion shortly.


Thank you Vasilis.
That's what started my worriesa about a "Roadrunner Excalation". The discrded genes get back to the players quickly.
But then I guess there is no snse in speculating without a few trial games.
I remember (from the yahoo group digest probably) a proposal about putting the genes discarded this way on the rightmost (most expensive) cards.. was it yours?

cheers
Rob


Yes, it was my proposal to put the genes on the rightmost card but since I haven't really tried it I don't know if it will just make that card easier to buy earlier and how much it will affect play.

Anyway, I'm sure that Phil will address most issues ASAP as he does with every single one of his games. That's why he keeps living rules for all of them.

That new rule for example is a pretty good step in the right direction IMHO.
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Phil just posted an amendament to the rules

3.2f. 4-Player game only. Make a deck of 30 cards and from this make a second 5-card display above the first. This Upper Display is treated as the Display except that cards purchased here are replaced from the 25-card deck and generate neither events (6.0) nor scoring rounds (4.4).

Sure the rule mitigate some of the competition with so many palyers, and creates a greater pool of DNA to choose from, without increasing the events.

As usual Phil is evolving the game in the right direction. thumbsup
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Gattolardo wrote:
Phil just posted an amendament to the rules

3.2f. 4-Player game only. Make a deck of 30 cards and from this make a second 5-card display above the first. This Upper Display is treated as the Display except that cards purchased here are replaced from the 25-card deck and generate neither events (6.0) nor scoring rounds (4.4).

Sure the rule mitigate some of the competition with so many palyers, and creates a greater pool of DNA to choose from, without increasing the events.

As usual Phil is evolving the game in the right direction. thumbsup


I agree.
I would even create a 15 card deck for the 3 player game too because it can have similar although not that potent catastrophic events.
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I like both this change and Phil's roadrunner club rule. We have previously tried playing with a rule very similar to his Upper Display rule (we played with a second display which got its cards from the same deck as the primary display) and it worked well in making more DNA options available.
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Kristof Bodric
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The new action seems to have gone far to solve the problem. The ready availability of M genes has made the game more "responsive" in spite of the scarcity of B and G genes. Will report back after a few more sessions.
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vidra wrote:
The ready availability of M genes has made the game more "responsive" in spite of the scarcity of B and G genes.

Well, yes, in my experience the whole DNA/biome mismatch problem usually takes the form of either lack of "M" DNA in the south, or lack of "B" and "G" in the north (with the "M" problem being the most severe). The roadrunner club rule fixes the first of these situations - but what about the other? Is it still common to be locked out of biomes demanding "B" and/or "G" DNA?
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