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Subject: On the fence. rss

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Ray Smith
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Once I heard Outpost was being released again, I was ecstatic. As a huge fan of TimJim's Time Agent, and from the description of Outpost, it seemed a sure thing.

Now, I'm not so sure.

The quality of the new release looks phenomenal, and the specific gameplay/engine building mechanic piqued my interest. However, from the various write-ups, the supposed issue of a "run away leader" problem is a huge turnoff for me. This detracts from my wanting the game more than a "kingmaker" problem does.

Could yon masses please help me confirm or dissuade this shortcoming?
Was this a problem in the original version (if yes, why wasn't it addressed)?
Is there any interaction between players to alleviate the problem?
Anyone have any variants in mind to help stick it to the leader to prevent this?

I'd really like to like this game. But as is, it's a no go.
Thanks.
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Kevin Nesbitt
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Ray,

There was a potential issue in the original version where the game had a bias towards someone playing a "Titanium-Heavy" strategy. However, this has been brought under control in the newest ruleset. In addition there are some very subtle changes to some of the cards to add some additional tweaks. This isn't to say the original game had problems, but rather that any game of this age is going to benefit from hundreds of plays. Essentially our expert player was able to present the results of a 20 year playtest!

The game also includes an expansion by Tom Lehmann that was not in the original game. This is relatively new to me as a player, and so I cannot comment on the exact effect it has on gameplay balance other than I noticed that some of the cards act to "police" players in the lead, assuming folks at the table are using them against that particular player, of course. On this topic, I will yield the floor to someone who can speak on it in greater detail (and there are some highly-knowledgeable Outpost players that frequent these forums, so I doubt you'll have to wait long!).

I'm part of the publishing team for Outpost, so consider that I have a degree of bias here.

I hope this helps!
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Tony Hamen
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So here's the deal with Outpost: It is an old design and that's just the way it is. When someone is in the lead midgame it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to catch them. That said, this is becoming one of my favorite games and I am SO glad that I bought the reprint. I had never played the game before I bought it at BGGcon and learning it was a bit of a struggle. That said, it is short. In fact my girlfriend and I can crank out 2 games in under 2 hrs. It is unbelievably fun to build your little colony, and even if you are behind the game will end soon before you have to endure it for too long. The thing about Outpost is it will take you a few plays to realize what you absolutely need to buy in order to Not be out of the running. This isn't inherent in the first play, and in fact my very first play of the game I created a situation for myself where it was IMPOSSIBLE to win. I almost gave up, but thank god I didn't because the game is truly that awesome.

Also a quick note about the Kicker expansion: It is fun with or without it. I'm glad that the reprint includes it because it adds a bit of player interaction but the base game is so solid that honestly it doesn't add or subtract much to the game and in the very least gives you a few more options.

To sum up, if any of these things seem fun to you then get it:
Math
Engine building
45-1hr duration
Good art and wonderful components (reprint)
Auctions
Steep learning curves but rewarding gameplay
Multiple paths to victory
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Ron
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You may want to give The Scepter of Zavandor a close look - it uses the Outpost mechanisms (and basically plays like Outpost) but lasts only 1.5 hours. Therefore, the runaway-leader problem is not present (or if it is, it is at a much lesser extent).

Although it has a fantasy topic instad of that cool SciFi mining theme.
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Einmal ist keinmal
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gentlegiantglass wrote:

To sum up, if any of these things seem fun to you then get it:
45-1hr duration

 
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László Horváth
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gentlegiantglass wrote:
... When someone is in the lead midgame it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to catch them....
... The thing about Outpost is it will take you a few plays to realize what you absolutely need to buy in order to Not be out of the running. ...


So, it's not only runaway leader from the midgame, but also scripted in the early game? Sounds even worse to me...

I also had it on my wishlist, but it seems that a game design this old has problems which a reprint cannot address - be it as good as a reprint can get. I might still get it anyway, but the opinions I hear are definitely turning down the expectations.
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Eric Brosius
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Ray, I'm a big fan of Outpost. It is a game in which skill matters (there's plenty of luck, and if you are playing a game in which the players are roughly equally matched, good luck will make a difference, but skill matters a lot.) The game does not artificially try to herd the players into a pack, score-wise.

There is also no way to directly beat on the leader (though tactical bidding can slow the leader down a little.) This means that, if one player plays much better than the others in the early part of the game, it's possible for that player to get out to a lead that is more or less unassailable (as Kevin says, the new Kicker expansion reduces that effect somewhat.) This is not unlike Puerto Rico, Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization, Power Grid or Caylus (to pick four Euros in the BGG Top 10.)

However, among players that are well matched, it's common for the game to end with very close scores at the top. I've played it more than 50 times (including 21 times in 2011) and I don't expect anyone to win by more than 10 VP unless something really unusual happens (like the time we let Dan buy all four Data Libraries. He killed us, though if the Scientists and Laboratory upgrades hadn't come out, it might not have gone so swimmingly for him.)

The criticism that is more reasonable is that sometimes there can be a fallaway trailer. If a player chooses a risky strategy and things go against him or her, it's possible to get boxed in so that there is no reasonable way to catch up. Again, once you know the game, it's a risk you sometimes will take.

I should also mention (in response to another comment on this thread) that a playing time of 45 minutes to an hour is only realistic for my group in a 2-player game (and we're pretty fast.) It takes us something like 20 to 25 minutes per player in the game.
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Jack Stalica
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PzVIE wrote:
You may want to give The Scepter of Zavandor a close look - it uses the Outpost mechanisms (and basically plays like Outpost) but lasts only 1.5 hours. Therefore, the runaway-leader problem is not present (or if it is, it is at a much lesser extent).

Although it has a fantasy topic instad of that cool SciFi mining theme.


I just had a 4 man game of SoZ last Friday that lasted 4.5 hours between seasoned (and very competitive) players. I won by a single point and it was (and is) a great game.

...But it does not take 1.5 hrs to play. No way.
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Ron
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jstalica wrote:
...But it does not take 1.5 hrs to play. No way.


We did that. But I'm the guy who always hurries the others meeple
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Ray Smith
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Geez, you folks aren't making this any easier! gulp

As Eric states, if most games with equal ability players are usually within 10 or so points of each other at game's end, that is a definite plus against the runaway leader problem.

Does anyone have any further experience/comments about the Kicker expansion? Does it provide more interaction and permit enough screwage against a leader?

Thanks to all! meeple
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Jack Stalica
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PzVIE wrote:
jstalica wrote:
...But it does not take 1.5 hrs to play. No way.


We did that. But I'm the guy who always hurries the others meeple


My guys wouldn't stand being rushed.
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Christopher Dearlove
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rdsmith wrote:
However, from the various write-ups, the supposed issue of a "run away leader" problem is a huge turnoff for me.


If you don't know what you are doing, a leader will run away early. Or at least the pack will fragment (there could be more than one leader or more than one trailer).

If you have some idea what you are doing, it will take longer before it happens.

If you are experts, by the time it happens, that's about the end of the game anyway.

How long it takes to get to where it doesn't happen depends on how good you are at learning, both from this game in particular, and other games. I know people who straight in at their first game bypass the first step I list above because they understand the issues of recognising critical bottlenecks, the need for income, good rates of return of victory points for cash and so on, based on extensive experience with that sort of game.

Oddly I've had an upswing in playing it recently. But it started with a game with my TimJim copy, but has continued with my Stronghold copy.

Edit: Just in case anyone assumed otherwise, I'm not claiming to be an expert. But not a beginner either.

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Paul King
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Scepter has a mechanism to hamper the leader, and the big point cards don't give extra production as well, unlike Outpost. So it is a bit less of a runaway leader game.

But I never felt that the Titanium strategy was even close to overpowered. A Research/New Chemicals strategy can be as good - and watch the Orbital Labs ! They're a steal at $50.
 
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Jack Stalica
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rdsmith wrote:
Geez, you folks aren't making this any easier! gulp

As Eric states, if most games with equal ability players are usually within 10 or so points of each other at game's end, that is a definite plus against the runaway leader problem.

Does anyone have any further experience/comments about the Kicker expansion? Does it provide more interaction and permit enough screwage against a leader?

Thanks to all! meeple


I just received my two copies and although I haven't played Outpost yet, I have read the rules - and they seem familiar and fine. I have played Scepter of Zavandor and and Phoenicia (both descendents of Outpost) than it struck me as simpler than the former and longer than the latter. Phoenicia has the advantage of being far quicker to play - but the rules are atrocious. I like both of these games for the superb auction mechanism and the engine-building aspects, so it was a no-brainer for me to get the improved "original".

All three share can feature a run-away leader (less so with SoZ as it punishes the top two players and helps the bottom two each turn); however in practice this only occurs when some players are inexperienced and some are experienced. Between experienced players (those who know certain strategies and the relative values of each card) the scores should be close together - usually with the two or three most competent (and a touch lucky) players nose-to-nose at the finish.

They are all games with depth that reward study and analysis.

Games like that are winners in my book.thumbsup

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Tony Hamen
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rdsmith wrote:
Geez, you folks aren't making this any easier! gulp

As Eric states, if most games with equal ability players are usually within 10 or so points of each other at game's end, that is a definite plus against the runaway leader problem.

Does anyone have any further experience/comments about the Kicker expansion? Does it provide more interaction and permit enough screwage against a leader?

Thanks to all! meeple


So the main card(s) in the Kicker expansion that deal with hampering another player is the Wily Traders. There are two, one in the A era and one in the B era. The A era wily trader lets you trade an ore, water, or titanium card with another player. You give him a lower card, he gives you a higher one if he has one. This will gain you an average of 1-2 dollars per turn and costs another player 1-2 dollars. It isn't much but it's a fun thing to do. The B one I think lets you trade a lower value research or new chemicals card with another player.

The other A era cards give players a jump start on their economy, like Ice Prospector which lets you fish an extra water card and then discard one. There is another card that gives you an extra ore for every two ore factories you have producing, but this one isn't great because I don't load up on ore anyways. Most of the other cards will just give you some prototypes of things that you can't buy until later like a robot prototype and so forth.

Like I said before, the Kicker cards just put a few more points out there for grabs, but don't really enhance or detract from the game IMO. I think they are fun but the game is great with and without them.
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Ray Smith
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Your very informative responses have swayed me towards a purchase. bag

Thanks to all!! meeple

Uh oh; Hmmm, now where can I squeeze it onto my burgeoning shelves . . .
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Play times for Outpost and Scepter of Zavandor are both highly variable. I have played 5-player games of Scepter that lasted on 3.5 hours, and also 3-player games finished in under an hour.

Certain people can do basic addition very quickly, and certain people cannot. The latter type, if included in your game of Scepter or Outpost, will inflate the play time.
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Eric Brosius
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I just got my copy of the new edition and played my first game with it (a 6-player game.) The winner ended the game with 88 VP. The person in 2nd place had 87 VP. It seemed pretty close to me.
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Eric Brosius
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Eric Brosius wrote:
I just got my copy of the new edition and played my first game with it (a 6-player game.) The winner ended the game with 88 VP. The person in 2nd place had 87 VP. It seemed pretty close to me.


We played another game yesterday with 5 players. The margin of victory was 83-78 (not as close as Monday's game but still no runaway leader.)
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Eric Brosius wrote:
Eric Brosius wrote:
I just got my copy of the new edition and played my first game with it (a 6-player game.) The winner ended the game with 88 VP. The person in 2nd place had 87 VP. It seemed pretty close to me.


We played another game yesterday with 5 players. The margin of victory was 83-78 (not as close as Monday's game but still no runaway leader.)


If worried about this issue then you also need to check if there's anyone who has fallen off the pack.
 
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Eric Brosius
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Dearlove wrote:
If worried about this issue then you also need to check if there's anyone who has fallen off the pack.


The game does sometimes have a fallaway trailer. It's certainly more common than a runaway leader.
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Richard Dewsbery
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I played 4P yesterday. 90VP for the winner, second and third hadn't posted more than 65 points each. Needless to say, it was the most experienced player (because I'd played once before) who managed the walkover (2 data libraries, saved cash into Era 2 with a warehouse, and tried hard to lock everyone else out of New Chemicals until it was too late). Really enjoying the game.
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Eric Brosius
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RDewsbery wrote:
Needless to say, it was the most experienced player (because I'd played once before) who managed the walkover


Yes. If you were playing Caylus with less experienced opponents, a similar thing might well happen. However, people are more surprised by it in Outpost because they think luck must be a more important factor in determining the winner than it turns out to be.
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