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Subject: New player question rss

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Chairman Sheng-ji Yang
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I got this game a few days ago and up till now I've played about 8 games, with two players.

One issue that we had while playing (the standard game) is that the first player to set up, a say 3 produce and 3 consume system (for 1 VP each) easily manages to rush the game to the end by using produce and consume x2 to gain 6VP's, while the other player has none, or very little chance to catch up, because the VP pool empties so quickly.

Even if you're lagging by one vp point it doubles and the lead gets very big, very quickly. The second player knows consume x2vp is coming so he's forced to choose it every round after produce so that he doesn't get hopelessly behind, blocking himself off from other phases he needs to catch up. It ends up a downward spiral with an obvious result.

Is this intended by design or a result of our inexperience?

How can the other player compensate if he's lagging in produce/consume.
 
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Ville
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You should be careful when to call settle. The more settle phases are called the faster the consume engine is ready. Let the player with intent to go for consume/produce strategy to call the settle and choose settle only when it will allow you to play very powerful planet or when opponents hand is empty.

The key in RftG is to try to maximize the phases which give you more benefit and avoid phases where the opponent has the advantage.
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Buz
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Another big issue (certainly in the base game) is that a player running a consume engine will often be behind in drawing cards and unable to leech build phases that you call. If you can jump ahead on card drawing and play a few 6-cost developments, the points should compensate for what you miss out on from the VP chip pool. Remember, if everyone does the same strategy, whoever does it the best will win, so if you can't set up the best engine, you'll have to do something else to win. If you mirror his x2 calls, all you'll achieve is running out the VP pool faster and thereby ensure your loss, but if you let your chips be consumed for either cards or just for a single point and utlize your own phase choices to build (especially if his handsize is low and he can't match them!), you stand a better chance of a net point gain.

You are right in that the base game is slightly biased towards produce/consume. The first expansion remedies this quite a bit, the second biases it slightly away from produce consume, and the third expansion renews the superiority of engine play, albeit slightly.

Keep playing and you'll find ways around the scripted engine play. It's worth the exploration!

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Chairman Sheng-ji Yang
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Thanks for the advice guys!

I'm tempted to take the first expansion to balance the game better but I'll hold off until I get more experienced.








 
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Yee Keat Phuah
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I have played the game around 30 times now with my friends, usually two player.

The first strategy within 5 plays that I figured out is the produce/consume, then after that I figured out the military.

After that, I have no idea how to play it any other way besides produce consume, and don't know what to do when I got the Old Earth as the start world.

After that, I start to see the power of trade, how to get 10 cards on my hand with just one trade action. And how to consume 4 of them to get 4VP and use the other 6 of them to place some big cards!

Still trying to figure out other strategy revolving around the explore, develop and settle powers...

I am going to keep playing, you should to! When you see someone on a produce/consume, place some small worlds that produce as well, so when you know they are going to call produce, you call something else, like explore, then when you know they are going to 2xVP, you can call 2xVP yourself or call Explore/Trade to get cards that you need to place the big world you just explored.
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Rory McClure
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I play RFTG more than any other game, probably an average of two or three games a day. I play the Keldon AI. I have found that I must let the cards dictate my strategy, to a large extent.

If I try to play a certain way it rarely works out.

There is a feel to it cool. Sometimes you have to decide right away because your initial hand, and your start world, are very focused. Sometimes, you sell out in the first round to get a big card down. Other times you have to search and trade to push cards through your hand to find a trend. Sometimes you've gotta take the military, sometimes production, and sometimes you just have to get cards down as fast as you can.

The point about capitalizing from other's role choices is most important in games of three or more, but still plays an important role in the two player advanced game.

More and more, I find military is a trap. I win big with it sometimes, but often my game fizzles at the end and I am overtaken in the last rounds.

Overall, flexibility seems most important too me. If you are too focused on trying to win one way you can miss a winning strategy as it passes through your hand.
 
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Chairman Sheng-ji Yang
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I've now come close to 50 plays of this game overall, with my regular gaming partner (most of them), with the AI and over the net (a few games overall).

While there are possibilities to win by a large margin with the military strategy or some form of set collection and the appropriate six cost development, 90% of the time the winning strategy is a fast produce consume either with: diversified economy, consumer markets or brown planets + appropriate developments or a mix of some sort.

I feel the reason for this is simple. Every other strategy is dependent on the luck of the draw to keep going, whereas producing and consuming is 100% efficient because its self contained, and only requires a decent combination a few turns into the game.

I find this very disappointing, as it leads to players trying other strategies only when put in a tight spot, or when they draw a huge number of cards that favor a certain strategy.

The game feels like a whole segment is lacking to make the other strategies equally viable, although for the aforementioned reason they're always or most often (I think) going to be second best.
 
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Serge Levert
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Hast3 wrote:
90% of the time the winning strategy is a fast produce consume either with: diversified economy, consumer markets or brown planets + appropriate developments or a mix of some sort.

The balance gets better and better the more expansions you add. Heh, i wonder if that was intended? :P
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Chairman Sheng-ji Yang
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entranced wrote:
Hast3 wrote:
90% of the time the winning strategy is a fast produce consume either with: diversified economy, consumer markets or brown planets + appropriate developments or a mix of some sort.

The balance gets better and better the more expansions you add. Heh, i wonder if that was intended?


You know, it doesn't sound like much of an endorsement to say that one needs the expansions to make the game work properly (or better)

The lowest price I can get them for in these parts is 20 euros and that's the price of certain complete games shake

I won't even go into how much I paid for the original lest the US based players die of shock.
 
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Christopher B
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That reminds me about this:

Quote:

One may be able to decipher how many plays a reviewer or player has by which section they most sound or play like...
[...]
50-100 plays:
- playgroup discovers consume engines
- consume engines always win
[...]


Taken from entranced's post here: http://boardgamegeek.com/article/4973229#4973229

Even the number of plays fit perfectly.
Don't want to imply anything here. Just had to think about this and thought it was funny
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Chairman Sheng-ji Yang
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countcb wrote:
That reminds me about this:

Quote:

One may be able to decipher how many plays a reviewer or player has by which section they most sound or play like...
[...]
50-100 plays:
- playgroup discovers consume engines
- consume engines always win
[...]


Taken from entranced's post here: http://boardgamegeek.com/article/4973229#4973229

Even the number of plays fit perfectly.
Don't want to imply anything here. Just had to think about this and thought it was funny


LoL

However! I insured myself against this by saying they win most of the time.

Obviously playing more leads to playing better even with sub optimal cards in hand - which is true for just about any game.

But it does seem that even veterans admit its imbalanced (only they don't care since they're already galaxy-fiends, and have all the expansions in three copies)

I guess my gripe is one of a thematic sort: I find the other ways to win more fun, only you don't get to win as much with them which in turn ain't no fun at all.


 
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Tom Lehmann
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Hast3 wrote:
90% of the time the winning strategy is a fast produce consume

90% seems high. I suspect it's partly an artifact of playing mostly (only?) 2PA games and versus the AI.

In 3+ player games, p/c tends to occur over 2 turns, where the same two turns will often see both develop and settle called on both turns. This tends to place far more tempo pressure (up to 4 cards per p/c cycle) on the p/c player.

In 2PA, a p/c can often keep up with one of a dev/settle pair, further expanding their engine as needed. To place enough tempo pressure on a p/c player, the opponent must often hammer whichever one of those phases the p/c player is weakest in with 2x Dev or 2x Settle calls. If your 2PA games are seeing p/c wins without a lot of 2x Dev or 2x Settle calls, that is an indication that there are some p/c counter-tactics still to be learned...

The AI in 2PA basic game, while pretty good, tends to underuse develop strategies imo. Opening E+1/dev to place a development infrastructure card (Investment Credits, Public Works, Interstellar Bank, or a +Military card) and then repeating this several times, will often build up both infrastructure and card selection without giving the AI much of an engine.

The advice above about being careful with Settle calls is extremely important in 2PA basic games.

And, against the AI, sometimes a non-Settle opening will result in the AI wasting a lot of action bonuses by repeatedly calling $ (a "naked" trade), expecting you to call Settle for it.

Quote:
Every other strategy is dependent on the luck of the draw to keep going, whereas producing and consuming is 100% efficient because its self contained, and only requires a decent combination a few turns into the game.

Another advantage of a dev opening is that by building your hand-size and gaining card selection over the first 2-4 turns, you have to do less mid-game exploration as the AI p/c engine swings into action, thereby allowing you to place more tempo pressure (via 2x Dev or Settle calls) on the AI.

If you aren't A) consistently beating the AI at least 2 out of 3 times in 2PA basic and B) aren't consistently ending at 11-13 cards in tableau when facing AI p/c engines, then you probably aren't appreciating the power of both development strategies in general and non-settle openings.

Quote:
I find this very disappointing, as it leads to players trying other strategies only when put in a tight spot [...]

This sentence, in particular, indicates to me that dev strategies are not fully appreciated in your play group...

I apologize if this sounds a bit condescending. Serge's article about "stages" of RFTG players is meant to be humorous, but -- like most humor -- does contain a kernel of truth: often players do feel like they have "solved" RFTG when they discover how powerful p/c strategies with decent card flow are, only to later find that counter-tactics do exist and that there are further strategies to explore.
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Chairman Sheng-ji Yang
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For clarification: almost all my games are played with my gf (40+ games), that being the two player basic game, so I can only reliably speak from that experience. I've played under 10 games against the AI and I've won most of them, but that sample is too small to mean anything. I prefer not playing against the AI so that I can develop my skill at the same tempo as my partner to keep the game fun for both of us.

Wins are most often either fast produce consume or a more drawn out game where a six cost development can swing the game if neither player has managed to build a very efficient engine, or they're both equally in VP's overall.
Military strategy wins big or gets left behind towards the end, if the appropriate developments or high value rebel/alien cards don't show up.

You're right in that that there is almost no develop strategy in our games, the cheap developments commonly end up as fodder for settle/develop.

I can see how its possible to pressure a player in the advanced game but we haven't really found a way to do so reliably in the basic game, especially if the p/c player has a good way to draw cards during those phases, which often means he participates in settle/develop as well. The other player ends up in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" sort of situation.

It would be silly of me to claim that I've "solved" the game or to pronounce it broken after a mere 50 plays - my purpose rather was to point out that it is somewhat discouraging that other strategies tend to fail so often when faced with the simplest of p/c engines in the 2p basic game.
Even more so because I'm winning most of the games, and I'm starting to feel that the "fourth turn diversified economy/consumer markets" is akin to cheating.

I do thank you for the input, and since you've been so kind to reply to my post I'd like to ask you one thing:

When playing the two player basic game, what was the approximate winning percentage of various strategies during playtesting? Or, simply, in what ways did you envision the players to win the game, most of the time?


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rain
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I think Tom has answered many of the original poster's questions well, but I wanted to point out that most complaints also generally have a kernel of truth to them as well.

I have played Race a few times (1500+) and after switching back to the base game recently (to play on boardgamearena.com), I was surprised at how strong engines are in that format. Develop and settle (military or civilian) strategies are viable and can win in base RftG in a competitive setting, but a Produce/Consume engine is the main way to win in the base game. Even something as simple as a 4vp + 2 card engine can crush an opponent in the base game, which would be unthinkable in the later expansions. Playing base game requires very different priorities than other formats.

I don't think this is a weakness of Race--it would be far to complicated to include everything in the base game, and getting your head wrapped around at P/C engine is the most important step of learning the game for a new player. I also won't be over-apologetic and claim that the game is perfectly designed. For something with so many different working parts, it would be impossible to completely balance it before release. It could easily take a decade of test play if you were working with a standard number of volunteer playtesters. However, it is certainly well-enough balanced to be enjoyable for any reasonable amount of play. I am not tired of it yet. Definitely you need to change gears based on which cards are in the deck, but all complex card games are like that (Magic, Dominion, etc.). If the players in your circle (which could just be the AI, for some) are getting too repetitive in play, branch out a bit and play someone new. Both the keldon.net server and boardgamearena.com have good communities, and they will be happy to show you how they can beat you with or without engines in the base game

A final word from my humble experience: it is definitely good to notice what are strong themes in your current format of Race, but never make the mistake of playing the format, rather than the cards you draw. You must always be flexible, since the path to winning may require a detour from the expected
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Serge Levert
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Note that Tom was referring to 2pa (2 phases per turn). By basic he meant the base game (no expansions).

Hast3 wrote:
I can see how its possible to pressure a player in the advanced game but we haven't really found a way to do so reliably in the basic game

2pa vs 2p basic (1 action) isn't that different. It's still 2 actions per engine crank, which can still both be build phases for pressure.
 
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Chairman Sheng-ji Yang
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If I'll be getting any expansion it'll be the first one so I'm wondering will it sufficiently shift the balance if I play without goals (so just the new cards) or is everyone presuming the goals are included for the balance to be at its best?

Or should I wait for the new, "reboot" expansion and purchase that instead?


 
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Serge Levert
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Hast3 wrote:
If I'll be getting any expansion it'll be the first one so I'm wondering will it sufficiently shift the balance if I play without goals (so just the new cards) or is everyone presuming the goals are included for the balance to be at its best?

Without goals, i think the first expansion is still engine-heavy, though less so. I find goals to be helpful in diversifying strategies. For example, the dreaded ELC+ATS (super engine, don't ask) is much easier to beat with goals.

Hast3 wrote:
Or should I wait for the new, "reboot" expansion and purchase that instead?

Up to you, but the reboot is quite a ways away (spring 2012). ~4 months is a lot of time for a hardcore rftg player, but it's not long enough to properly pace through the first 3 expansions.
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Chairman Sheng-ji Yang
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entranced wrote:

Without goals, i think the first expansion is still engine-heavy, though less so. I find goals to be helpful in diversifying strategies. For example, the dreaded ELC+ATS (super engine, don't ask) is much easier to beat with goals.

Up to you, but the reboot is quite a ways away (spring 2012). ~4 months is a lot of time for a hardcore rftg player, but it's not long enough to properly pace through the first 3 expansions.


Hmm, I'll have to think about this. I'd like to diversify the game, but I'm definitely not going to get the second and third expansion, so waiting for the new cycle to start might be a good idea. Or I'll just impulse buy the first one and be done with it. robot
 
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Tom Lehmann
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Hast3 wrote:
When playing the two player basic game, what was the approximate winning percentage of various strategies during playtesting?

Typically, RFTG players move through various stages, where first military, then p/c, then p/c with draw power, then develop, and finally mixed strategies dominate.

Among playtesters who went through all five of these stages with the base game, win %s in 2PA mode (two cards per turn, with 2x Dev and Settles possible) gradually settled down to something like:

25% Big Military
15% Dev-spam
25% prod/consume
35% mixed p/c strategies
~1% junk-rush

Yeah, that doesn't add up to 100%, but I'm just trying to get across a rough sense of proportions here.

Junk rush is where someone just lays down tons of junk cards with 2x Dev or 2x Settle calls trying to rush the tableau out with cheap cards before their opponent can get anything working. Usually, this just doesn't work against experienced opponents no matter how fast you try to push the game tempo in just the base game (w/o Improved Logistics from Expansion 1), but maybe 1 in 100 games, it wins.

As players get better with Develop strategies, "pure" p/c strategies (where the winning tableau often has 8 or fewer cards in it when the game ends) tend to stop winning as much and mixed p/c strategies (where the player is also doing some Military or some Dev-spam and is often ending at 10-12 cards and earning 10-16 victory chips) win a lot more often. In these strategies, you often end with Dev/Cx2 for a final burst of VPs as one or the other player goes to 12 cards in tableau.

This very flexible sort of play style tends to be the most common winning style in base game RFTG, where players will swing into the more stylized and specialized Big Military, Dev-Spam, or "pure" p/c modes if their cards strongly indicate doing so.

So, in the base game, roughly 60% of the winning strategies involve some sort of p/c.

The expansions drop this down to about 20-40% depending on what expansions you use and whether you play with goals or not. Develop strategies get better due to more interlocking 6-devs. Goal-spam (starting with TGS), junk-spam, and Prestige wins (with BoW) will also occur. The increase in the top range of Military Worlds to 9 VPs (starting in RvI), plus adding more Military 6-devs, tends to keep Big Military viable over the expansions.
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Chairman Sheng-ji Yang
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
Hast3 wrote:
When playing the two player basic game, what was the approximate winning percentage of various strategies during playtesting?

Typically, RFTG players move through various stages, where first military, then p/c, then p/c with draw power, then develop, and finally mixed strategies dominate.

Among playtesters who went through all five of these stages with the base game, win %s in 2PA mode (two cards per turn, with 2x Dev and Settles possible) gradually settled down to something like:

25% Big Military
15% Dev-spam
25% prod/consume
35% mixed p/c strategies
~1% junk-rush

Yeah, that doesn't add up to 100%, but I'm just trying to get across a rough sense of proportions here.

Junk rush is where someone just lays down tons of junk cards with 2x Dev or 2x Settle calls trying to rush the tableau out with cheap cards before their opponent can get anything working. Usually, this just doesn't work against experienced opponents no matter how fast you try to push the game tempo in just the base game (w/o Improved Logistics from Expansion 1), but maybe 1 in 100 games, it wins.

As players get better with Develop strategies, "pure" p/c strategies (where the winning tableau often has 8 or fewer cards in it when the game ends) tend to stop winning as much and mixed p/c strategies (where the player is also doing some Military or some Dev-spam and is often ending at 10-12 cards and earning 10-16 victory chips) win a lot more often. In these strategies, you often end with Dev/Cx2 for a final burst of VPs as one or the other player goes to 12 cards in tableau.

This very flexible sort of play style tends to be the most common winning style in base game RFTG, where players will swing into the more stylized and specialized Big Military, Dev-Spam, or "pure" p/c modes if their cards strongly indicate doing so.

So, in the base game, roughly 60% of the winning strategies involve some sort of p/c.

The expansions drop this down to about 20-40% depending on what expansions you use and whether you play with goals or not. Develop strategies get better due to more interlocking 6-devs. Goal-spam (starting with TGS), junk-spam, and Prestige wins (with BoW) will also occur. The increase in the top range of Military Worlds to 9 VPs (starting in RvI), plus adding more Military 6-devs, tends to keep Big Military viable over the expansions.


Exactly what I wanted to know, thanks a lot.
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mar hawkman
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I LOVE junk-spam! It's a really fun way to win. I don't try it every game but it's a very interesting change of pace compared to all the strategies that revolve around careful tableau buildup.
 
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