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Subject: I would really like to like Navegador, but... rss

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Joel Schuster
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...I cannot.

The game has shiny components, a gorgeous map, sophisticated mechanics and is overall exceedingly well designed. However, it also has a few fundamental flaws which makes it hard to appreciate playing.

I think I understand what the game is about, what it needs you to do to win, but then maybe I am wrong and somebody can shed some light on this.

There are no random elements in the game, apart from the initial placement of the colonies, which is again well done. I like euros with low randomness, where your decisions really matter. I also like some ameritrash. But this is not this, Navegador clearly is supposed to deliver to the eurocrowd.

As I see it, the game is about specializing. You need to find a niche and set a combo that you can press for points. The more you share what you do with other players, the fewer points you will score. Ideally, you max out multipliers in two categories in order to win.

Now here is the inherent problem, the number of well working combinations is limited. You can for instance build ships and explore, taking according privileges. Or you may build factories and churches. You may also colonize and combine that with something else, already sharing a common interest with one of the other two strategies.

I played the game with 3, 4 and 5 players. In 3 players there are some options to avoid each other. As soon as two players share a common field though, the third player wins. In 5 players it is quite chaotic, because there are not as many options as to avoid each other. Some players will eventually interfere with another and so the player with the least impact by others wins too easily.

Also seating order is quite important. If you start with a sugar colony, the player sitting before you can ruin the market and thus the game for you if he also invests in sugar. So you should actually try to avoid committing to a certain strategy too early. You have to keep some options, in case some other player (who might have not fully understood what the game is about yet) accidentially or deliberately copies (part of) your strategy.

On the other hand you have to specialise and so you SHOULD rather commit early. After all, the privileges are only filled up, not added. So a pivilege that you dont take early will not come back again. This is the mechanic that I have to question the most. It encourages some things, I can see that, but it also kills off some options to play the game.

You are all set and fine with an interesting game. But you have absolutely no control over what your opponents do. You can try to read them alright. But especially new players show wild swings in what they do. A player sitting to your right might simply go and abuse his positional leverage on you and thats it for your game.

So for me Navegador comes down to everbody setting up his strategy and then rinse and repeat it until the end. The one who got "lucky" to get no or just minor competition in the fields he chose wins the game. Once you know what this is about, you can actually see very clearly who is going to win half way through the game. There is a point of no return where you cannot change strategy again and really succeed. If you find yourself competing with another player and there is one player with no competition in his fields you already know who is winning. The bad thing is that you'll have half an hour maybe a full hour of rinse and repeat before it really ends. This is particularly bad.

There are also some strategies that are clearly superior to others for some reasons. For instance exploring and building ships seems the best strategy as it also gives you the best control over deciding when the game ends and thus how and when you have to pick your privileges. No other strategy has this control.

Taking building such as factories also gives you some control but not as much and you will have to rely on the help of someone else and you dont decide when privileges are refilled.


All in all, there are just 5 categories (colonies, explore, factories, shipyards, churches). Additional VP by remaining ships, workers and money is negligible compared to maxing out your multipliers. So is spreading your effort. You will never win like that against someone who focusses his attention (and is unmolested).

So there is alot of shiny stuff going on here but what the game comes down to eventually is rather disapppointing. You set up your game, pray and hope you get through with your strategy. If someone copies you or interferes with your fields, you are screwed. There is nothing you can do about it at some point but you still have to keep playing even when you know who wins. The game is unforgiving of things that you have no control over.

I am sure there are many players out there who appreciate the game for what it is. I do not and I regret buying this game. So here is a warning to all out there who might be diasspointed as well facing such issues. I am not a fan of randomness in euros. But in the end I prefer a little randomness over what is going on in this game. At least that is an element everybody has to deal with the same. If you have one player without competition in his fields he has another preliminary which is unfair. I understand that you have to balance the game among yourselves, so all players need to have an eye on what the others are doing. But this is a very fragile construct. Errors done are irreversible.

In order to do that successfully, you would have to do a ton of maths each and every turn. Alot of AP coming along with that as well. You cannot play Navegador on intuition at all. All family game players will get crushed and sunk in this.

You may try to screw the leader at a late stage. It hardly helps to improve your own score though and the effects of reducing that players score remain limited. Usually, in euros you have a race towards points and whoever played most cleverly and efficiently wins.

In Navegador you have that as well. Along with some serious issues in seating order, run away leader and specialisation which takes all the control away from you. I simply cannot appreciate that. For all the shininess within the box I would have really loved to. But I found out the hard way that Navegador is not for me.

RANT END.

Happy gaming to all of you that enjoy this
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Nick Case
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Umbratus wrote:

I am not a fan of randomness in euros


Yet you rate Fire and Axe: A Viking Saga 8.5, a game that utterly revolves around dice throws in combat.

The game may not be for you but you say the structure is to find your specialisation, rinse and repeat. I have to disagree. The essence for a winning strategy is to be flexible, see what others are up to and adapt to exploit the gaps and/ or block them off.

What people miss with the game is the option for diplomacy and negotiation. I know there are BGGers who loudly decry negotiation unless expressly allowed in the rules (the same rules that make no mention of leaving the table for a drink, or call of nature!), but in my experience such gamers often lack the social skills to exploit such avenues and resent those who can. By brokering deals with other players, run away leader issues are negated and we have an even wider vista of opportunity open to us in this game.
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Romain Jacques
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You made some valid points, it is a lot easier to win when no other players are competing where you specialised. However, I think it is still possible to do well and even win if the player that is competing in your field of competency is behind you. You will screw him/her not vice versa. So, what matters the most is what players in front of you are doing.

I am not sure about your statement here:
"For instance exploring and building ships seems the best strategy as it also gives you the best control over deciding when the game ends and thus how and when you have to pick your privileges. No other strategy has this control."


I've seen a lot of games finished because there were no building left. I think it depends on the dominant strategy choosen by the players: factories or colonies.
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The other Euro guy
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A nicely written, well-argued review. Light on rules-rehash and component-breakdown but heavy on opinion and analysis. Thumb earned.

I think your central complaint is legitimate to some degree, but I think you overemphasise its signifance. Games rarely seem to play out in the formulaic way that you describe - at least in my experience. The game is full of tough choices and has some refreshing mechanics so it is one that I enjoy.
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Joel Schuster
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Nick, I also said I like ameritrash. I also highly rate other dicey games. In wargames or in thematic games I am actually fine with some randomness.

Euros, I prefer flat on randomness, because they are built around mechanics, not around theme. I actually say that I would have preferred a little more randomness in Navegador.

You can argue whether Fire+Axe is a euro or if its trash. For me its so thematic it doesnt classify a a euro. Its a go between at best. It also has quite simple maths for the random dice. Anytime you throw a die it either has a 1/3, 1/2 or a 2/3 chance to succeed, there isnt anything else in F+A. Simple and efficient, you can judge your odds from there.

You'd have to do a ton of maths in Navegador with a serious group who all know the game very well. This is beyond fun for me.

But then, dont take offense anybody if I dont give credit to your favorite game. I just utter one opinion among many

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Chris Berger
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I have to partially agree with you. I do like Navegador (I didn't like it after the first game, but after a second play, I am now eager to play it some more), but I do have a little problem with the multiple paths to victory in the game. I guess I don't like games that have multiple disparate paths to victory. In Navegador, specialization is heavily rewarded, so you have to pick a path and take it. Whereas in a game like Through the Ages, there aren't multiple "paths" so much as several ingredients that you can mix together in different ways to win. You may go heavy military in one game and not so much in another, but it's not like you can win if you ignore farming, mining, and science.
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Simon
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Good review Joel

as has already been said, you've analysed the game well rather than just describing it.

I've only played this game twice, but i agree that is a game of find the nich, and not alot more beyond adapting and defending that nich
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Martin G
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Superb review. This is *exactly* why I lost interest in Navegador.
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Joel Schuster
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I also disagree with the suggested diplomacy part. I like diplomatic games, Game of Thrones among others. In euros such as this, I am reluctant indeed to indulge in diplomatic affairs. Of course there is banter and table talk, but diplomacy is different.

There are still only 5 fields in which you can specialise and there are 3-5 players which all want to take 2 out of these 5 fields. You will have to stand on each others shoes no matter what you talk.

Talking in this game would actually just prolong the agony. What would it come down to ? The one with the best "social" skills, talking others into letting him get away with having 2 fields for himself, better contest the fields of someone else wins ? No thanks.

Last game we played, of course I pointed out who is going to win half way through, and win he did. We were beyond the point of no return, so anybody threatening the winning player at that point would have thrown away his own game, letting go of his own setup strategy.

Adding talk you add play time. You dont add to the depth or the excitment of this game, which is behind all the shininess rather small.

I am happy if this works for you Nick, but I'll pass on the option to make this even last longer while you dont get to more interesting decisions. Diplomacy doesnt give you control over a game. Euros are usually quite controllable. Ameritrash is not but then it has its theme and flavor. I dont think Navegador gains that when you throw in some diplomacy.
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Joel Schuster
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arkayn wrote:
I guess I don't like games that have multiple disparate paths to victory. In Navegador, specialization is heavily rewarded, so you have to pick a path and take it. Whereas in a game like Through the Ages, there aren't multiple "paths" so much as several ingredients that you can mix together in different ways to win. You may go heavy military in one game and not so much in another, but it's not like you can win if you ignore farming, mining, and science.


This ! Paths exclude each other, which is bad. I am totally not against player conflict or specialization. Its implementation just doesnt really hold up to consecutive plays here, once you figured out what it comes down to.

Maybe someone who really played this game alot, say more than 20 games, can comment on this.
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Joel Schuster
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Romain wrote:
I've seen a lot of games finished because there were no building left. I think it depends on the dominant strategy choosen by the players: factories or colonies.


I have also seen the game end both ways. I also agree it depends on what players do. I think sailing to Nagasaki has more to do with exploration and shipyards than with colonies though.

My point regarding control was that the one(s) exploring, trigger(s) when the stage of the game proceeds. Buildings cannot do that.
 
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Brad Musil
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I have been considering Navegador for my next order, so I really appreciate this timely post. I typically only have one other player, so I was wondering if these problems still hold true for 2-player games; it seems to me that many of the problems you alluded to would be less palpable in a 2-player game, since there is no one else left to reap the benefits of 2 players cancelling each other out by pursuing the same strategy. Also, is Navegador even worth playing 2-player?
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The other Euro guy
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Anonymous Apathy wrote:
...is Navegador even worth playing 2-player?


It is certainly playable, but I don't think the game is at its best.
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Umbratus wrote:
You cannot play Navegador on intuition at all.



I can answer to many things but as I was reading I found this statement that immediately stroke me as the most important one, answering all the others immediately. I have to say that I think that this statement is wrong and that's based on my experience with the game.
In my last game I played with 3 others, I was struggling to make some income from the beginning of the game until the very end, everything I wanted to do someone interfered in any way possible screwing my plans completely exactly as you describe, yet I didn't make but very few elementary math calculations near the end, played fully by intuition trying to adapt to the difficult situations and finally took the game. I play mostly like this in my last games and most of the time I win with any number of players so far. I'm not an expert in any way but as far as I am concerned, the game can for sure be played by intuition and with a very nice extra benefit: I personally enjoyed the experience far better than if I would have burned my brain with math.

Of course I don't mean that what I write should necessarily change your mind on the game... it's evident from your text that you don't like it and it ends here. I also had similar feelings for other games that other people enjoy a lot and it doesn't mean anything... just sell it, find something else that you and your people will enjoy and case closed!

Long and well written text, thanks for posting!



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David Jones
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Umbratus wrote:

As I see it, the game is about specializing. You need to find a niche and set a combo that you can press for points. The more you share what you do with other players, the fewer points you will score. As soon as two players share a common field though, the third player wins. In 5 players it is quite chaotic, because there are not as many options as to avoid each other. Some players will eventually interfere with another and so the player with the least impact by others wins too easily. Also seating order is quite important. If you start with a sugar colony, the player sitting before you can ruin the market and thus the game for you if he also invests in sugar. So you should actually try to avoid committing to a certain strategy too early. You have to keep some options, in case some other player (who might have not fully understood what the game is about yet) accidentially or deliberately copies (part of) your strategy.


Yeah, but that's what the wharf is for... oh, sorry, I got confused. For a moment there it sounded like you were talking about Puerto Rico.

OK, that may sound a little bit snide, but to some extent that it sort of my antithesis to your review. Most eurogames do have an aspect where the person with the least competition tends to win. And with respect to seating order, Puerto Rico can be brutal - there are even studies showing that your odds change significantly depending upon your start position, yet it is the #4 board game on the geek. Granted Puerto Rico does have more depth the Navegador, but my point here is that I don't feel your objections are significant enough to explain why it is a bad game. I really think it boils down to a difference of taste in games. I don't particularly agree with your ratings on Dungeon Lords or Pillars of the Earth either. Please don't get me wrong, I'm not saying your opinions are invalid. But when I look at how you've rated games, I can see some distinct differences in the kinds of games we prefer. So, just like with any reviewer, I think your objections to the game need to be weighed against the way you've rated your games. Given that your objections above exist in many eurogames, this is really an issue about game style than game design flaws.

To more directly address your concerns, I do have to admit that you have some well argued points. The endgame can get to be a bit wash/rinse/repeatish and if you've taken the wrong privilege during the first or early second age, you can end up with useless or not enough multipliers. (My gaming group mitigates this somewhat buy using an add to rule instead of a fill to rule on privileges.) In my opinion, the flaw with Navegador is that the game is usually won or lost on privilege management. This means that one action on the rondel has a disproportionally higher affect on the game that the other six/seven. So why do I still think Navegador is a great game? For me, the game provides a nice eurogame feel and strategy, but by limiting the player choices with the rondel, decision making is easier and faster. Quite often people will describe a game as light, medium, medium-heavy, or heavy, but you rarely see a game described as light-medium. But that is exactly where I would rate Navegador. Sometimes I want play a thinking euro but I don't really want to exert my brain over it either. Not only does Navegador hit that nitch perfectly, but I've yet to play another game that does.

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Steve
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davypi wrote:
Granted Puerto Rico does have more depth the Navegador...


Really? I've played a lot of Puerto Rico, but have just gotten started with Navegador. In what way(s) is Navegador lighter?
 
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David Jones
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stevepop wrote:
Really? I've played a lot of Puerto Rico, but have just gotten started with Navegador. In what way(s) is Navegador lighter?


PR requires a lot more thought with respect to shipping strategies. You have to work through what each player will do before seeing what is best for you. In Nav, you you simply go to the market when prices are good for you.

PR has a very strong "screw your neighbor" aspect. When you select a role, you need to both help yourself and hurt (or at least not help) the next player. In Nav, it more reactive than proactive. Its more difficult (but not impossible) to hurt the player on your left; you are more frequently to create a setup where that the player on your right is feeding you.

There is no competition over roles; for example, you can't be blocked out of going to the market. The only real way in which you "block" people in Nav is if, say, you buy a certain colony or building before the next person who wants it. Navegador is more about racing to achieve your goals while PR is about denying your neighbors.

Nav can have alliances. For example, if you have sugar colonies and gold factories, it becomes advantageous to coordinate your moves with the player who has sugar factories and gold colonies. Players with lots of churches/shipyards can coordinate to advance ages making them more expensive for other players. I have seen alliances formed in PR, but those situations are few and far between.

There are less building choices in Nav and, consequently, fewer strategies as to how to use them.
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Mark Delano
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Going to the market before another player can also mess them up. Similarly beating them to the last privilege, or the next exploration marker can throw a wrench in their plans.
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Clyde W
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arkayn wrote:
I have to partially agree with you. I do like Navegador (I didn't like it after the first game, but after a second play, I am now eager to play it some more), but I do have a little problem with the multiple paths to victory in the game. I guess I don't like games that have multiple disparate paths to victory. In Navegador, specialization is heavily rewarded, so you have to pick a path and take it. Whereas in a game like Through the Ages, there aren't multiple "paths" so much as several ingredients that you can mix together in different ways to win. You may go heavy military in one game and not so much in another, but it's not like you can win if you ignore farming, mining, and science.
I've only played this once, but the paths seem fairly intertwined. If you're going for a shipyards win, you'll be able to make lots of ships for free and possibly get some exploration bonuses as well. If you're going for churches, you'll be able to get more privileges than everyone else. And of course, colonies/factories allow you to generate enough money in order to facilitate those other strategies... All of the paths seem quite intertwined to me, but perhaps I"m just missing it.

In addition, I'm confused by the OP. If you see someone starting to specialize, why not take their privilege? I like games that allow others to spend a lot of actions doing something then you can come in a pull the rug out from underneath them. To me, I can see this game being like Carcassonne: you can either play it nice and sing folk songs around the fire with each other, or you can go into full screw-your-neighbor mode and do lots of mean actions (sometimes which don't actually help you much). The trick is figuring out the right balance, no..?
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Joel Schuster
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clydeiii wrote:
I've only played this once,...


So, play it again, and then again

I try to avoid judging a game after a single play. After one game, everything seemed fined for me with Navegador. But it didnt hold up to consecutive plays.
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