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Subject: A shorter, richer game? rss

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Jason Fordham
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I have just played Aracana (Revised Edition) for the first time today. We played with two players using only the "A" cards.

I have a couple of first-game comments/questions, and I welcome replies from experienced players.

First of all, we loved the game. We loved the art, we loved the theme, we loved the "world," and the design was a lot of fun. Our only critique was the length of the game for what it was.

I don't want anyone to feel like I am attacking the game, so let me further say:

The game is fun. We like the game. But, it seemed long.

1.) How would the game feel if you only had 6 cards (or 8) in each District, save for the Neutral District, due to the Jubilee card being a timer of sorts. We enjoyed the game very much, but felt like 12 cards in each district--giving a potential for 60 rounds, assuming the Jubilee card is the last card in the Neutral District deck (right?) was too much. I know the fun increases as you build your deck, but would less cards in each District deck ruin things? In our game, for example, the other District Decks had "better" cards, due to the shuffle, and it took a long time before we really tackled the Neutral Deck at all, leading to a long game for us.

2.) Would question number 1.) be better answered after I've played with some/all of the B-F variants? I feel like the "A" game was a series of play-play-play-play-resolve-repeat. That was why I felt like a shorter game would be a richer experience--maybe, for us, the game wore thin because of the time it took. Am I short-changing the design, do I just need to shut-up and play more, or have others of you shortened the game, or added a particular variant to add variety to the game and/or balance its length?

Disclaimer: I know things will speed up considerably once we play another time or two, so it's not so much about the speed of the game as it is the length of the game versus what you do in the game. I've played Dominion, and it seems to solve this problem by being overall a shorter time investment.

Thanks!
Jason
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Bruno Mora
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Hi!

Happened the same to me in the first game, but the variants can help you!

There´s one wich uses a "turn deck".
Every turn you take a card and it has a title and a special effect for the turn, and is in that deck that you put the Jubilee card so, there are 12 turns more or less.

See you!
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Jason Fordham
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Bruneleschi wrote:
Hi!

Happened the same to me in the first game, but the variants can help you!

There´s one wich uses a "turn deck".
Every turn you take a card and it has a title and a special effect for the turn, and is in that deck that you put the Jubilee card so, there are 12 turns more or less.

See you!


Is this in the rules or a player variant (I don't have the booklet handy!)

Thanks,
Jason
 
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Justin Fitzgerald
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Well you played set A. Each extra variant layers in more rules to the game (B-G I think). The very last variant is some kind of event cards. I think that's what he's referring to. That's the only variant I haven't played though, so I can't speak to it.
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Jason Fordham
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KakarisMaelstrom wrote:
Well you played set A. Each extra variant layers in more rules to the game (B-G I think). The very last variant is some kind of event cards. I think that's what he's referring to. That's the only variant I haven't played though, so I can't speak to it.


Right. So the "A" game is meant just for learning? Or is it meant to be complete in and of itself?

I am aware of the variants, but usually variants are not "required." I think the "A" game is fun, just longish.

Thanks for the comments so far!
 
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Justin Fitzgerald
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It felt like A was a training game and as additional variants were layered in you got a complete game. I'm not sure if that was the intent or not. But if you compare the use of the term "variant" to games like Dungeon Lords or Dungeon Petz or anything by that designer for that matter, he'll call the "training game" a "basic game" or something, then layer in the additional levels in future plays, since they complicate the rules. For example in Dungeon Petz, the full game is now called the "Full Variant".
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Brett Austin
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I love this game as well. There were a couple of times that the middle deck wasn't seeing much action because the goodies were not at attractive/useless BUT that was only a couple of times. I also found that after a few plays our speed built up; I know you mentioned this but reinforcement doesn't hurt.
The extras to the game didn't add too much timewise, unless you count the initial drafting. As the other person had said, the extras feel like they complete the game in a sense. (I played the original AEG for a bit and loved these extras).
Good luck!
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Joe Villwock
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I've played with 8, 10, and 12 cards in each district - including the neutral district - and I didn't feel that it ended up being less of a game for it. (You can even opt to shuffle the Ducal Jubilee into the bottom 2 or 3 cards of an 8 card neutral district if you're worried about it ending too soon.) As Bruno pointed out, the event deck (the 'F' cards, if I'm remembering correctly) is another great way to limit the game length since you shuffle the Ducal Jubilee into it and one card will be turned over every round.

I think that playing with only the basic cards still feels like a full game - especially at first - but the variants certainly do add more in the way of options and customization.
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Alessandro Maggi
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CalebSkye wrote:
Right. So the "A" game is meant just for learning? Or is it meant to be complete in and of itself?

Quoting all that has already been said, I think that the "A" version can't really be considered much more than a "startup version". The other stuff is meant to be something like "advanced rules", but even while teaching the game to newcomers I almost always use two of those additions: the militia (D) and the tactical discard.

Without them the game seems slower and more luck-driven to me, and they don't really add much complexity at all.
On the other side, without them, acquiring relics and locations can be risky, as increasing the number of these over the number of agents in your deck can potentially lead to draws with fewer options. Discarding a card to draw a militia can be a way of recycling a card not useful at the moment (e.g. a relic in a round where you can't bribe any personality), while with tactical discard you can aim at a large amount of locations without having to bloat your deck with them while keeping the good amount of VPs.

If you're not using the event deck, another suggestion to make the game quicker is to make sure you get more personalities in the districts' decks than locations or relics. You can do so by dividing the stake cards by type before the set up and randomly picking up X personalities, Y locations and Z relics, so that the sum equals the number of cards you will have on the board (for a 2/4 players setup is 5x12=60 cards, so you can pick X=25, Y=15 and Z=20, for example, or any other combination you see fit). By ensuring your game will have a fair number of personalities, bribing will be more frequent and each player will have more chances to get stronger agents to acquire more stakes.
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Jason Fordham
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Thanks for the great ideas!

Jason
 
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Ian Johnston
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One thing to keep in mind when playing is that if you feel you are ahead you may want to end the game, and so start digging into the neutral district (I am a fan of this).

It is also worth noting that at least 1 guild leader allows the player to place cards face down on the neutral district.

Lowering the amount of cards in each district does help and I usually teach the game with significantly less cards in each district.

However, if you are considering using objectives, then having less cards can handicap players simply due to bad luck.

As stated though using the event cards ensures the game ends in a set number of rounds, which means 1 there is some more randomness because of the cards, but more tactics because players know they are on a shorter timer and can plan accordingly.
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Jason Fordham
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I've had another play since posting this--this time with only 8 cards in each district. It was definitely a lot more fun with this number of cards, considering we are still only playing the "A" version of the game.

Next, we plan to add one or two variants. I think we'll begin to love the game as the complexity slowly increases.

Thanks for the responses!
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Tomas Hejna
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CalebSkye wrote:
I've had another play since posting this--this time with only 8 cards in each district. It was definitely a lot more fun with this number of cards, considering we are still only playing the "A" version of the game.

Next, we plan to add one or two variants. I think we'll begin to love the game as the complexity slowly increases.

Thanks for the responses!

Note that there are 12 fiefdoms with 9 cards each + 1 virtual fiefdom as universal/general with again 9 cards (i.e. "All Fiefdoms"). And I can understand to your length complains very well - as I have had the same experience from the AEG previous version.

NOTE: Actually, I have recently found out that there are only 8 cards in fiefdom "The Rampart".

Right now I'm toying with one variant - let's call it a "Real City" in example - in which you randomly choose 5 (or 4) fiefdoms to play with (via Objectives), then sort out their 9 cards from the game Stake pool (or eventually, you may keep them sorted in a box already). Afterwards secretly remove 1 card at random from each of them and shuffle the rest to form the game's Stake piles.

You may also add one universal card (i.e. "All Fiefdoms") to the Neutral district in the middle (so there will be 9 cards in total).

At the beginning of play, there should be the 4 (or 3) Guild's/Enemy districts/fiefdoms with 8 cards in each of them and the 1 Neutral district/fiefdom in the middle with 8 or 9 cards.

Furthermore, if you wish to use the Objectives, you will have to (of course) sort them out as well - so there can be dealt only the actually presented districts to each player (there are 2 Objectives per each of 12 fiefdom). And because now there will be more cards than in a usuall/normal play, the Objectives have to be adjusted slightly to match the new situation. Add to them one additional requirement: you may score the Objective only if there is no other player with more Stakes from the matching district than you have.

Also, deal just exactly 2 Objectives to each player at the beginning of the game as there can be made no choice (they are not enough in number to be choosen from in 3 or 4 player games). You may deal the original 4 & keep 2 in the 2 player version eventually - if you wish so.

And, I highly recommend one additional rule on scoring each Stake to only one Objective at the same time (so if you have the same district's Objective twice, you will have to win 6 cards from it in total to be able to score both of them).
(I missed that it is already written in the revised rules)
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Tomas Hejna
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We tested the Real City variant this evening in 2 player game. Here are my feelings about it..

What I liked:
- the new Objectives. Finally they are something real to count with and the play actually matters on them. Although we both were able to score both of them each, it was so-so. And the tension for them was really great!
- better orientation in the Stake pile's structure and what could be the next one (Relic/Personality/Location)

What I'm neutral with:
- the 9 cards in the middle still does not guarantee that much faster play, next time we will probably try the Events - instead of emptying the Neutral deck. We made almost 20 rounds up to the end.. (I believe it was 17 or 18 actually)

What I disliked:
- some of the districts are shifted in favour of particular Arcana and one player can be in slight (or more serious with few mistakes) disadvantage just from the beginning (depending on guild/district combination)
- the time it takes before the game is ready to start and that you have to be more careful so no mistakes are done on districts preparation
 
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Tomas Hejna
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After another play, we have to change the Objectives' second condition to:
You may score the Objective only if you are the player with most Stakes from the matching Fiefdom/Disctrict at the end of game. Also, every "All Fiefdoms" Stake card must be assigned to exactly one Fiefdom at the end.

And for the next play I'm toying with an option to keep just 1 Objective and discarding the other at the beginning of play. It seems that it would be enough (so far) and it still would shift the game in a very interesting way.

Right now I keep all the Stake cards separated by their Fiefdom, with both Objectives on the top of each matching pile. This speeds the play preparation a lot. Furthermore, I keep all 9 cards in play for each shared District (i.e. no random discard) and I add "Harlequin" and "Watchpass" cards in the neutral District. For the "Rampart" Fiefdom, I'm adding one additional Stake - the "Safe" card as the missing 9th card (but still as "All Fiefdoms").
 
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