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Subject: 2 Player Viability? rss

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Chris Smith
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Has anyone tried this with just two pandas?

It looks amazing but from what I could see I instantly thought Catan... Which is DEFINITELY not for two pandas.

Opinions anyone?

Thanks!
 
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Evgeni Liakhovich
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Why does it make you think Catan?
 
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Brian M
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Well, there's only one panda in the game, so you'd need an extra panda piece.



Assuming you meant two players, it works just fine. There's no trading or anything else that requires 3+, and the game is designed for 2-4 players.

But you just get one panda. You'll have to share him
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Yoff Lag
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2 pandas make it strange as the panda-move-action is usually played maximum once per turn (except with "the wind of change" meteo dice result).

On the other hand, the 2 players game is fine
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Paul Beasi
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I played it three times tonight as a two player game. Luck was a major factor in two of the games, but I haven't yet played it with three or four so I can't compare. But I don't think there would be a huge difference other than there being a greater chance that your plans will get screwed up before your turn with more players.
 
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Andrew Frick
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Great 2 Player game! Must have! Predicting 2012 Game of the year!
 
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Todd
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Game of the Year? Really? I just got it, but not expecting it to be in my top 10.
 
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Paul Beasi
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I tried it with a different group of people and have come to the unfortunate conclusion that this game won't be breaking my top 100. It'll probably go up for trade.
 
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Todd
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Why trade? Too much luck?
 
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Paul Beasi
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Entirely luck.
 
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Jay Lacson
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I think its an ideal gateway game. Fantastic components, a lot of tactile involvement from growing/eating bamboo and moving figures, and simple mechanics with a touch of strategy.
 
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Brian M
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A strong luck element, but is got a lot of planning even so. And its just plain fun and very visually pleasing
 
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Clyde W
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seqiro wrote:
Entirely luck.
Look at the list of play testers...do you think they agree?
 
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Paul Beasi
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I've played 10 games with four different groups comprised of different combinations of family, friends, and gamers. Even non-gamers felt that the game came down to luck in the end.

There are very few ways to interact with the other players in a way that hurts them. In my last game, I tried playing specifically to make the garden a mess so as to make the plot objectives more difficult. Not only did it not work, but I ended up coming in dead last.

Every game I've played has come down to which cards were randomly drawn. If a player draws many easy to complete, high value pink cards, she wins. If instead a player draws a bunch of difficult to complete green or low value cards, he loses. And worse, while attempting to complete those difficult cards, he helps the other players with easier variants of their cards achieve their objectives while doing no work toward them.

At the end of the last game I played, in what turned out to be the next to last turn I rolled the wind and decided to take two Panda actions. I drew two cards and one of them was impossible to complete due to pink tile locations and the other was improbable (four 3-segment green stalks of bamboo).

The player to my left also drew two cards and both of them were already completed and playable. He won the game.

I would be thrilled if someone would present me with a strategy that mitigates the luck in this game enough to make it playable. It's a game by one of my favorite designers with beautiful components that I bought and would love to see hit the table.

A list of play testers is not compelling evidence. I've seen far worse games make it through play testing.

 
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Clyde W
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Does the variant make it better?
 
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Brian M
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Quote:
There are very few ways to interact with the other players in a way that hurts them.

This is true, but hardly a "flaw" in the game, though it may not be to your personal taste. I can certainly imagine that trying to "make the garden a mess" would hurt yourself a lot - you're wasting effort on actions that may not even have any effect on other players.

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If a player draws many easy to complete, high value pink cards, she wins.

For the record, pink cards are worth more because there are fewer pink tiles in the deck, while there are more green tiles.

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The player to my left also drew two cards and both of them were already completed and playable. He won the game.

Other than as a family game, you should probably switch to the advanced variant (where cards that are already completed are discarded) after just one or two plays.
 
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Paul Beasi
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I understand the distribution of the tiles and that there are fewer pink tiles than yellow and fewer yellow tiles than green, but the reality is that the gardener objectives really aren't that much different in difficulty whether they are green, yellow, or pink. The plot objectives might hold true for this, but if you've got the card that requires building four connected tiles of one color, working toward that card means you'll just be helping the people who have the three tile version of that card.

Compare Ticket to Ride, another game with random hidden objectives. With the exception of stations in Europe and passengers in Marklin, any track you build is only useful for you. If you're working on a difficult ticket, at least you aren't helping anyone else while you do it. Also, you can see what paths people are trying to build and you can interfere. This is especially useful if you drew crappy, low value tickets.

I can see where this game would be fun for children, but I don't have any. I love games with a random element (I'm not one of the Urban Sprawl bashers and I love card games and dice games), but this one is just too dependent on the drawn cards.

As for the variant, the biggest problem I have is that it's way too easy to cheat. Also, if you fall hopelessly behind, drawing cards that are completed is the only viable catch up mechanism. And therein lies the problem. In the end, randomly drawing is the best way to come back from behind or end the game if you are ahead.

What fun is that?
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Mark Jimenez
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seqiro wrote:
As for the variant, the biggest problem I have is that it's way too easy to cheat. Also, if you fall hopelessly behind, drawing cards that are completed is the only viable catch up mechanism. And therein lies the problem. In the end, randomly drawing is the best way to come back from behind or end the game if you are ahead.

What fun is that?


Assuming the Advanced Variant doesn't include panda objectives (which is how I interpreted the variant), I think what should be added to the variant to reduce the cheat factor is that everyone is required to claim a completed objective as soon as the conditions are met on their turns (we've been doing this anyways in our games).

This can be hard to remember for more than 2 players, though (maybe your land objective was completed by someone else 2+ players ago).

I had another idea that everyone be required to completed objectives as soon as possible (even on other player's turns), started writing along those thoughts and scrapped it. Got way too messy.

Because your objectives can be completed inadvertently by someone else, using the advanced rule still requires honest players.

So I thought about another variant (in addition to the "complete as soon as possible on your turn"): you can only complete objectives if you made the change that causes it to be completed. Haven't thought it through enough to want to try it, but it seems too game changing.

If we take it back to the original variant, you need honest players, which pretty much takes this game out of being viable in tournaments.

I like the game - have the mechanics down after one game, nice theme and components. Last game had me lost because my opponent moved the panda such that it prevented me from completing my panda objective - that game was a 1 point win (good nail-biting stuff). I also had a previous turn in that same game that had me hoping she didn't place an improvement on a pink land that I was grooming for a "4 height pink bamboo with no improvements" objective. If this "I hope my opponents don't do X" feeling is what the authors were going for, they got it.

I just hope something official is made to appease more discerning gamers.
 
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Yoff Lag
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seqiro wrote:


As for the variant, the biggest problem I have is that it's way too easy to cheat. Also, if you fall hopelessly behind, drawing cards that are completed is the only viable catch up mechanism. And therein lies the problem. In the end, randomly drawing is the best way to come back from behind or end the game if you are ahead.

What fun is that?


I don't get it : do you play with cheaters ? The game with that variant is easy to cheat with; does that mean your gamemates will do ??
I mean, cheating is available in any game - either you have groups of friends who like to cheat and you too and the fun is where the cheat is the least obvious, either you ban cheating as there is absolutly no fun in playing with one cheater amongst fair players.

From my perspective, the luck is there but many variants should be tried to lessen the impact : the official one or, as said in another thread : no consecutive draws and / or 1 from the max-5-hand objective card must be shown to other players and / or anything you want to make it more tactical.
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Paul Beasi
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I'm guessing when I get my review done I'm going to get flamed heavily. I am honestly trying to give this game a fair shake. But even with all of the house ruling suggestions, I still do not see a viable solution to the problem that the outcome of the game is primarily determined by the cards you draw.

No I don't play with cheaters as far as I know, but even accidentally picking up a card and not realizing that it was already completed could lead to inadvertent "cheating". But regardless, I don't think the variant mitigates the problem enough.

I think perhaps I misunderstood the target audience. I was expecting a light tactical game. I really liked the art, I liked the concept, and I have great respect for the designer with all of the other games of his I own getting a BGG 9 rating from me. But I just don't like the end product. It's not for me, no one in my game group wants to play it again, and I feel disappointed with it. I'm sure there is an audience for it. If my pre-teen niece and nephew lived closer, I'd love to get their reaction to it. Last year I gave them Forbidden Island and it was a hit with them. But then, I like that game too.

Anyway I feel bad for thread jacking the OP here. My opinion remains the same after playing 2, 3, and 4 player games that if you enjoy the game at all, the number of players is irrelevant.
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Jay Levy
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Considering in my last game, I won by preventing my opponent from completing an objective until I completed mine and won, I'd say it's not completely luck. I watched the moves he was making and started blocking the completion of the bamboo he was trying for until I could set up the win.

I'm not suggesting there isn't luck, but if you pay attention to what your opponents are doing, you can affect the outcome of the game.

Also, if you have a game group that cheats, you need a different game group. End of story.
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Mark Jimenez
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In my last 2p game (Advanced Variant + French tile rules), I messed up my opponent by going all panda after the 3 or so objectives. She started with the 4x4 height green bamboo card, then later got a 4 height yellow with no improvement bamboo card.

I had not intended to mess with her but did come up with an idea that if she's going to concentrate bamboo, I might as well leverage of her work and eat the bamboo. Sure that part isn't luck, but those drawn cards of her were.

For 2 players, the game goes fast. If your opponent spends every action towards finishing goals, and you have to back peddle and draw another objective because you see no way to complete one, then you're already seriously behind.

In my last 2 games, I didn't get more objective cards until I completed what I had. My opponent drew earlier. I suppose the pros/cons of this is that I know what objective I want to go for, and that's secret, while I can see what types of objectives she needs to do. Not sure what to think about that. She said she had to draw earlier because the 4x4 green bamboo seemed to tough to complete.

Yet another possible line of variant: some kind of dummy player/action to thwart plans in 2 player - just no idea right now how to implement that cleanly.
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Brian M
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Quote:
I think perhaps I misunderstood the target audience. I was expecting a light tactical game.


I don't think that's a misunderstanding; it does deliver a light tactical game. It may simply not be one that you enjoy, and no amount of our attempted persuasion is going to convince you otherwise. However, some of us are busy thinking its a delightful and fun game

Glancing at your collection, I would have expected you to like Takenoko more - you and I generally seem to rate games similarly (and even, I notice, share some complaints about certain games). You certainly like some games with a lot more luck than Takenoko - Castle Panic, for example. However, I notice you also rate TransAmerica a 5, which has something very much in common with Takenoko; letting other people do your work for you. Perhaps that's not a game element you like.

For example, you mentioned that:
Quote:
,,,if you've got the card that requires building four connected tiles of one color, working toward that card means you'll just be helping the people who have the three tile version of that card.

And it means that they will be helping you as they work toward the three tile version, which will make it easier to complete your four tile set - which is worth more points.

There's a strong element in Takenoko of waiting to act (which given the theme of bamboo gardens kind of fits). Instead of pushing for large objectives, you sometimes just want to wait and let the board develop on its own while you focus on smaller objectives. Wait until the board presents a good opportunity to complete your objective with a minimum of effort. If you've got a particularly hard objective (such as four sets of bamboo), try to draw some other objectives to find goals that go along well with it. If you're going for the 4 hex green, its nice if you also get the 3 hex green - or if you can complete other configurations for when you draw tiles that don't have green.

The panda goals are an excellent choice for while you are waiting, since they don't help anyone else*. They are also reasonably predictable.

* Ok, a panda can be helpful to get bamboo down to the right size for size 3 growth objectives, but you usually aren't going to accidentally help another player that way.

Regarding tournament play and/or cheating...

I agree that cheating could be a problem with the advanced variant in tournament play. Though, games being easy to cheat in hasn't stopped some games from having a vast tournament structure built around them anyway (Mage Knight come to mind here - huge tournament support, very easy to cheat in).

However, there's no need to use the advanced variant in a tournament. Lots of games get played in tournaments that have more luck than Takenoko. Heck, I've seen tournaments of DungeonQuest!

Personally, I'd recommend the following if you are worried about cheaters (actually, I think I might recommend if even if you aren't):

You may complete an objective card when you take an action/resolve a weather effect/place a canal that completes the objective.

When another player causes one of your objectives to complete, you may reveal the objective immediately. You may then complete the objective on your turn.

You may not complete an objective at any other time. So if you notice that an objective is already complete, its too late.

When you draw an objective that is already complete in the garden you may, but do not have to, reveal it to discard it and draw a new one.

The main change here is that you can re-complete an objective. For example, if someone has already built a set of 3 green tiles (either accidentally or on the way to a 4 green), you can make a new set of 3 green tiles (perhaps just by adding one more to the existing set), but you can't just claim the one that's already there.

No cheating potential. No drawing a card that immediately scores without any effort on your part.
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Clyde W
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Just played 4p, first time for all of us, and the "advanced variant" ineffect. Didn't appear "entirely luck driven" at all to me, and all four players liked it. Two were hardcore gamers (who came in first and second, with 31 points each, tied, but ties broken to the player with more Panda points), one fairly casual player but is well versed in Euros, and my mom, who was kind of playing randomly but by the end "got it".

We did mod the variant: you can keep the card that already is complete and it you make the board resemble the state again, you can play it out. This seemed to work.

Now, we could've been playing wrong, but if we were, then perhaps we hit upon a more strategic variant. To clarify, the way we played (and I though the rules on this point were ambiguous) was that at the start of your turn, you rolled your dice. You could resolve weather conditions at any time during your turn, not right away (so for instance, if you got Clouds, you could take a improvement hex at any time during the turn). Then you could take an action, and then you could take another action. You didn't have to select which two actions you wished to do then perform them without seeing the result of the first before selecting the second. No clue how you should play, but that seems far better than any alternative. In any case, for instance, if you roll Lightening, this is the perfect time to go for a Panda objective. Draw the card, Lightening the Panda, then move the panda, and perhaps you just scored yourself 3 points on your turn, or you're one action away from scoring a 4- or 5-point objective.

Quote:
Glancing at your collection, I would have expected you to like Takenoko more - you and I generally seem to rate games similarly (and even, I notice, share some complaints about certain games). You certainly like some games with a lot more luck than Takenoko - Castle Panic, for example. However, I notice you also rate TransAmerica a 5, which has something very much in common with Takenoko; letting other people do your work for you.
On the other hand, I think Castle Panic is dreadful and TransAmerica is a lovely, light, quick game you can bust out when playing with both hardcore gamers and people like my mom.

Quote:
There are very few ways to interact with the other players in a way that hurts them. In my last game, I tried playing specifically to make the garden a mess so as to make the plot objectives more difficult. Not only did it not work, but I ended up coming in dead last.
Not sure if this is true either. One of my objectives was a clump of 2 pink tiles and 2 yellow tiles. I noted another player placing a lot of yellow tiles on her turn, indicating that she probably had a clump of 4 yellow tiles objective she wanted to finish. After she placed her third, and did not flip over her card, I swept in and placed a pink in the place that she'd need to place a yellow to complete her objective. She was, needless to say, quite upset, and it got me one step closer to finishing my objective.
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