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Twilight Imperium (Third Edition)» Forums » General

Subject: Discussing Distant Suns: Benefits and Drawbacks rss

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Adam Mitchell
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From the beginning my group has liked the Distant Suns option. We have greatly enjoyed the suspense and tension of not knowing what each neutral planet will hold and appreciate the variety of effects you can trigger.

With the addition of Shattered Empires, however, we switched to using Territorial Distant Suns. I was somewhat reluctant to make the change, since I didn't like the idea of deliberately excluding the best and worst Distant Suns effects from the areas surrounding the home systems. I knew this would lessens the uncertainy and the idea of "playing it safe" like this left a bad taste in my mouth. On the other hand, some of the new Distant Suns tokens were so deadly that they could easily stymie a race's initial expansion, to the great detriment of that player's chances of victory. This wouldn't be so bad if TI:3 were only a one or two hour game, but since it's generally six to eight hours it seemed manifestly unfair that someone could be so handicapped by a random event in the beginning.

Even Territorial Distant Suns hasn't been without problems; some races can be disproportionately affected by the use of this option, the Arborec being a prime example. The Arborec are extremely dependent on their intial Ground Forces, which the Distant Suns put in considerable danger. Worsening the situation is that fact that so far the Arborec seem to be positively cursed in regards to Distant Suns; this last game the Arborec player landed on five planets on the first turn: three of these were BioHazard world which each killed the one GF he used to land, one was a Hostage Taking and the last one was a one GF native resitance that killed the landing GF!

The Ghosts, on the other hand, could greatly benefit from Distant Suns if an extra wormhole or two turns up.

I've contemplated taking out Distant Suns to level the playing field, as it were, but the idea of a galaxy full of bland, neutral planets which you can effortlessly subjugate with a single ground force is one I find singularly unappealing. In the final analysis I believe the suspense and strategy the Territorial Distant Suns option adds is worth the possibility of slight imbalance.

Other thoughts, opinions or anecdotes?
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Nathan Phoenix
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Be happy your group likes DS at all. Mine will not try it. They took one look at the potential negative effects and every one of them voted against it (we choose which optional rules to use democratically)
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John Middleton
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I always play with distant suns despite the hazards that may crop up.


After all, they are exploring and conquering new planets to exploit, not buying coffee at the corner store. Danger and risk should be a part of that.
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Rich Shipley
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I wouldn't want to play without DS again. Balance is overrated. I'd rather get kicked once in a while than have exploration be a by-the-numbers excersize.
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Simon Bourigault
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I have played with and without distant sun. Okay, it adds suspense and tension, which is cool, but c'mon : If one player starts and fails two invasion while at the other end of the galaxy, another one finds 4 TG, it is not fun ! In TI3, you have dice rolling and card drawing, that's enough.

Not to mention : it tends to slow down the opening, that is to say boring part of the game.
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Henrik Johansson
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I play without DS with my group. The main reason is that DS add time to an allready long game and it's hard enough as it is to get my friends to commit to a game of TI. Second I personaly don't like things that add more randomnes. The dice are far to random as it is for my taste.
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Dave Taylor
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I don't mind the extra randomness of Distant Suns, but I do mind the extra time. We've played with and without, and using them definitely adds additional time to the game. We don't ever use them anymore.

(I finally got Shards of the Throne, so I'll probably try to get my group to play one game with both DS and FF counters. I would guess that will be the one and only time we do that.)
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Dave Taylor
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Smuggler wrote:
I personaly don't like things that add more randomnes. The dice are far to random as it is for my taste.


If you haven't already tried them, you might like Diplomacy or the original Avalon Hill Civilization. Neither has any random elements at all. (The Advanced Civilization expansion does add some randomness to the trading cards.)
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Simon Bourigault
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Blackadder23 wrote:
I don't mind the extra randomness of Distant Suns, but I do mind the extra time. We've played with and without, and using them definitely adds additional time to the game. We don't ever use them anymore.

(I finally got Shards of the Throne, so I'll probably try to get my group to play one game with both DS and FF counters. I would guess that will be the one and only time we do that.)


Next time (hopefully in one month), I may try this variant : red DS are ignored. You still have that bit of randomness and luck, but you can be sure it won't slow down the game or ruin one player's game.

That is my main concern about DS : out of 6 players, one of them will have his game ruined.
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Martin DeOlden
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I use the DS tokens most of the time and to use them and cut down on time I have done this variant which does still have some randomness to it but makes for more of a rush to get the better planets.

After placing the board place all the DS tokens and then flip them over.
Everyone will know which planets have the best and the worst on them and some of the better ones will make for a rush to them and can instigate more warfare for those who like that in their game instead of turtling.
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Greg Pratt
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The groups that I play with always use Distant Suns. One does territorial, the other does fully random. I like using them and actually like using fully random better than pulling punches around players' home systems.

I think that it partly comes down to how you deal with the element of chance when it turns against you: some players can't handle it, others treat it as a challenge. I tend to fall into the latter category. My last game for example, I flipped over 10 different Distant Suns and Final Frontier tokens (we were playing with the large galaxy). Every single one that I flipped was a nasty red that hurt me. I dealt with it and managed to finish out the game 1 point behind the winner (and could have won had a last turn battle finished slightly differently).

I concur that leaving out the Distant Suns makes the game more bland. (I prefer the standard setup over the premade maps for a similar reason.)
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Volker S.
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We played a game with open DS and FF tokens. That gave the galaxy more randomness (and wormholes etc.) without the time drawback.´

And there is not so much "my part of the galaxy" if you want to reach the 4 TGs or the free tech before anyone else does...
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muthrali the relentless
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We always use them. It adds to the epicness of the game. Like said above, it also seems more realistic. You never know what you will find when entering an unknown planet!

And yeah, sometimes it can hurt. Once my poor Xxcha fleet got decimated because of a red coin on my first action. And once we had a Muaat player who took his whole(!) startingfleet inclusing his oh so beloved war sun (he is a true warmonger player) into the first planet system, only to draw the Ultimate Kill All distant sun token. He finished second though at the end of the game.
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Michael Cohen
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Ever since we started using Territorial Distant Suns, we've kept using them. They're great fun.
They definitely increase the use of Mech Units, which are immune to Distant Suns tokens, although I think that should be changed.
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Mikael Ölmestig
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We usually play with it, except when we have several other variants that are new to us. I personally don't like it because it makes the start of the game more defensive. This might however be group think. We always use territorial distant suns. The new distant suns in the latest expansion is great however and want to play with it in every game.
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Steve Williams
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We always play with them unless we're trying to squeeze the game into a specific time frame, which pretty much never happens now that my games are always scheduled days or weeks in advance.

I also always play with Territorial Distant Suns; pretty much had to after I saw this excellent idea by another BGG poster: edge markings for the counters. Territorial distant suns are by no means safe. Hostage Situation before Trade has been flipped is an auto-loss, and still a huge blow if you can pay the trade goods. Biohazards and Hostile Locals mean that playing it safe is still correct, always use at least 2 GFs, or invest in Mechanized Units.

One of the primary problems with Distant Suns is Probing, most people completely forget it is an option, and with good reason. It has to be done by a fighter, which means you've gotten a carrier to the system. You then can't land on the same turn you probe. So the option is to guarantee you waste a turn and a Command Counter in order to maybe not lose some GFs? I struggle to think of how this could ever seem more appealing than taking a risk.

I propose less restrictions to probing; let Destroyers and/or Cruisers probe. This could also add some value to the equally uninteresting Secondary of Warfare if the wording of probing were changed to allow ships to probe upon entering the system rather than explicitly during the movement step of a Tactical action.
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I love Distant Suns for the flavor they bring. TI is never going to be fair, balanced, tight game - it's all about flavor and fun for me, and DS adds more. Have a beer and laugh at your, and everyone else's, misfortune; that's what AT games are all about.

For those groups that don't like the negative Distant Suns, try this: if a player draws a red DS tile within the first three turns, in happens as normal, but they then take the tile and place it by their record sheet. During the game, such a tile can be 'turned in' for a single reroll.
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Andy Day

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DS tokens are worthless. I prefer TI as 3x
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Mike Reilly

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I agree that DS adds a lot of flavor and suspense, but more importantly, I've never seen someone's game ruined because of it.

Sure, someone may get set back, as I have, but really, over the course of six or more hours, the opportunities to come back are there. For one, that player is less likely to be a target. Plus, there are some very powerful cards out there that can take others down a peg. (Once a political card exploded everything I had on Mecatol and the surrounding systems - there went my shot at the goal, at least it was near the end)

If someone complained in turn 1 or 2 that their whole game was ruined because of some unlucky DS, I would tell to stop complaining, play smart, and put your diplomacy hat on - try to strike some deals, maybe an alliance. TI is such a big, complicated game, it is impossible to say what will happen after only 1 or 2 turns. I've seen smart players come from behind to win.

DS are great thematically, and they ratchet up the tension. I don't think our group has ever considered not using them.
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I will always use them myself, mainly for the leveling influence they give the game.

Specifically, the early game for the mobile/strong races is a little weaker while not significantly weakening the early game for the slower/weaker races.

If races like Yssaril or HACAN don't have a guaranteed two planet snatch on turn one because they have to send more forces to take a planet with a DS counter, while races like Norr and Xccha are only guaranteed to take one planet on turn one (without production/secondary) with or without a DS counters, the leveling effect is worthwhile. DS counters are exciting as well.

Slowing the game is minimal with semi-experienced group.
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Leif
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Love the 'Distant Suns' option. For anyone worried about the potential negative results, simply tone it down a bit before the markers are placed. Getting an extra 4 TGs can speed up the game IMO. Also, if someone is getting more than their share of TGs from it, as I did in a recent game, it gets balanced out when someone goes to play an action card to reduce or steal TGs. The guy with the biggest pile of TG is going to be the target.
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Matt Price
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But what about the Final Frontier tokens that destroy entire fleets? Maybe I'm missing something here, but FF tokens are put in empty space and when your fleet encounters a supernova it's destroyed. And encountering a gravity well could also very likely wreck your entire fleet. That could be a spectacular set back and make the remaining hours and hours of gaming drag like torture.

Am I missing something about those two FF tokens in particular? How can that not be seen as cripplingly random and unbalancing? (If I remember correctly, even the nastiest of the DS tokens weren't that bad - am I not remembering this correctly?)
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Scott Lewis
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Since the Final Frontier tokens are only put into empty space (IE, not in systems with planets), there aren't going to be a lot of them. Knowing that there are a couple nasty ones like the Supernova and Gravity Well, though, you just need to be cautious about what you move in to explore those sectors. If you move your whole fleet into an unexplored sector, you are just asking for trouble.

The FF tokens do encourage a little more exploration, and when you explore, you are probably best sending out a "scout fleet" (IE, maybe a couple destroyers or something). If it ends up being really good, you can bring in more ships later!
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Cédric LGT
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I used to be against the use of DS tokens, while my players really liked them. But i recently changed my mind after a game without them.

They do really add flavor to the game, and that's way more benefits than drawback - given you play with the domain variant. The game is slowed a bit on turn one, but the exploration taste really makes up for it. And the randomness part is not that important if you play with the domain variant : you jut have to be cautious...
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another geek
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We re playing only with the Territorial Distant Sun Optional Rule: It has some advantages: the influence on the outcome of the game is low and there is still some flavour.
We never play Final Frontier: the mentioned tokes are boring.
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