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Bios: Megafauna» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Roadrunner vs. Predator rss

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Steve Carey
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We very much enjoyed a 4-player session today, and an interesting siutation occurred that I hadn't previously considered. My Archetype (and only) species was "comet bait" (w/6 DNA), so there was a sense of urgency for me to Expand a new species.

I thus created a Predator that inherited M DNA, along with P DNA, from its parent (Archetype) species. I placed this child into an adjacent predator triangle in order to feed on an opponent's suitable Amphibian (M DNA only, same size) in the adjacent sea biome.

My opponent's turn was next, and he picked up a M Mutation card from the display which evolved his prey Amphibian species into marine life (MM DNA). This action rendered my just created Amphibian Predator species extinct because it no longer could feed (being unable to match its prey's Roadrunner DNA).

An excellent, and brutal, action by my opponent. My error was not taking note of the M DNA Roadrunner card located on the far left of the display that he could take for free, improving his species while simultaneously eliminating mine.

On the drive home, several items stuck with me:

1. If you Expand a new (i.e., just 1 animal) Predator species, take careful note of how many Genes your potential prey has, and are there available Roadrunner Mutation cards in the display that he can purchase to cull your new Predator (since the prey is no longer suitable, 14.1b, c, d, and e)?

If using the optional Roadrunner Club Living Rule (4.2e), it only takes 2 Genes in your prey's possession to obtain a Roadrunner DNA your Predator doesn't have, and it's culled. [EDIT] A Predator may freely adjust its size or DNA when its prey Resizes or uses the Roadrunner Club - so a prey's new Roadrunner Mutation card can cull a Predator if it can't match that new Roadrunner DNA.

2. Also be somewhat wary of size suitability - if your Predator's size does not equal its prey (i.e., it is within the allowed 1 size up or down limit, 14.1a), is your opponent likely to resize his prey species in an attempt to cull your animal? This may depend on the Mutation cards and Inheritance tiles that the each species has, depending on their size limits.

[EDIT] An "Easily Missed Rule" is 8.0b, which allows Predators to resize immeditaely (for free) if their prey resizes, so this seems to protect the Predator/Prey relatiionship. But if the Predator resizes, it may lose Mutation DNA cards (or Inheritance tiles) as well if it changes outside their size limits. And if the lost Mutation card is Roadrunner, then the Predator may not have the DNA to feed on the prey, so it would cull.

3. A new Predator species may be better off feeding off its Herbivore or Rooter parent so that it has time to gather additional DNA. [EDIT] This is not prohibited cannibalism because the parent and child are two different species, even though they belong to the same player.

Since a child can inherit from only one Roadrunner DNA track from its parent, 10.3b, this strategy only works if the parent species doesn't have more than one type of Roadrunner DNA.

In sum, a new Predator species can be very vulnerable because a single new prey Roadrunner DNA Mutation card purchase can force it into extinction.
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Vasilis
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Nice write up. Just a note though. The highly recommended Roadrunner Club rule gives a chance to the predator species to survive and it's not the way to force an animal cull.

Whenever any player uses the Roadrunner Club rule to gain a new DNA, all carnivore species that hunt this animal may get a similar change for free very similar to the easily missed rule about size changes. So it's not possible to easily spend 2 genes and get rid of a carnivore.

Getting a new DNA from a Mutation card though, well that story is different and it will indeed cause the carnivore to go extinct as you described.
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Steve Carey
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Bowmangr wrote:
Nice write up. Just a note though. The highly recommended Roadrunner Club rule gives a chance to the predator species to survive and it's not the way to force an animal cull.

Whenever any player uses the Roadrunner Club rule to gain a new DNA, all carnivore species that hunt this animal may get a similar change for free very similar to the easily missed rule about size changes. So it's not possible to easily spend 2 genes and get rid of a carnivore.


Amended - thnx Vasilis.
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If you still have your home biome available to you, a good play IMO in that situation is to introduce your new species as a herbivore in your home biome.

It will outcompete your other species that is likely there, as it should tie for everything and you get to select who loses. You can then relocate your old species into the predator biome. This is very handy if your old species has a lot of roadrunner DNA and you can't inherit it all.

It does require you to have an empty predator triangle, or the ability to compete for it with your old species.
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Kevin Lanzing
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I second Razmus' suggestion to use your homeland as a "species factory", since it is so forgiving.

The roadrunner club's "free predator adaptation" is so sensible and makes predation so much more viable that I wonder why it does not apply to all situations where a prey species adapts a roadrunner defense (ie: buying a mutation/genotype). I have house-ruled it so. While this might seem to swing things too far in favor of the predator, in practice there is almost always a species or two (or three...) that no predator will eat because they are not worth the trouble.
 
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Steve Carey
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I can certainly see the need for a Predator to match Roadrunner DNA when its prey evolves via the Roadrunner Club action, but not when a Mutation/Genotype card is purchased by the prey.

When it Roadrunner Clubs, prey is most likely doing its Predator (and all the animals in its species, which can have collateral effects on other Habitats on the map) a favor in saving it an action by giving it a free Roadrunner DNA (but watch out becoming "comet bait", I know). This is like giving the Predator player a free extra turn, which is a nice benefit.

The strategy element of how the cards lay out on the display(s), and which cards can be purchased the next player turn (depending how many Genes a player has), is a good one I think.

What happens if the prey buys a double Roadrunner card (e.g., SS)... using your variant; would the Predator get SS for free too?

A Predator species can already freely adapt when prey uses Roadrunner Club or Resizes. There needs to be some kind of balance here, and the cards provide that balance.
 
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Vasilis
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Momerath wrote:
I second Razmus' suggestion to use your homeland as a "species factory", since it is so forgiving.

The roadrunner club's "free predator adaptation" is so sensible and makes predation so much more viable that I wonder why it does not apply to all situations where a prey species adapts a roadrunner defense (ie: buying a mutation/genotype). I have house-ruled it so. While this might seem to swing things too far in favor of the predator, in practice there is almost always a species or two (or three...) that no predator will eat because they are not worth the trouble.


I respectfully disagree on allowing free mutation for predators. Choosing what card to buy or burn is an essential part of the game's strategy. Simply removing this chain of thought removes a whole layer of strategy from the game.

The only reason that the predators get a free upgrade when their herbivore uses the Roadrunner Club is to remove the possibility of herbivores defending with a simple 2 gene expenditure at any time.

Relevant Mutation cards are not always available and if they are at the rightmost places on the Display they are expensive. How to manage those cards is an essential and very interesting strategy element of this game. Allowing free predator upgrades makes the game let's say "lighter".
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Kevin Lanzing
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Whenever a prey mutates a defense against predators, by any means, there is a problem. That problem is that it is a perfect defense. If your deer buys an S upgrade and my cougars have none, they lose and die out everywhere. I don't have a choice in the matter. I couldn't prevent it from happening, and I can't defend against it. I couldn't foresee that that card would become available after my turn, or prevent you from taking it. I can't become a herbivore and displace you (even if I had the DNA and a niche advantage), and unless there is a husker present (unlikely) I can't change my diet. I can't migrate to a more favorable biome. I can't buy another card to match your roadrunner, or pay genes myself to roadrunner club out of turn. So my cougars instantaneously go extinct. Harsh, and not really fair. Like real life, you say? Maybe, except that the cougars have so far managed to keep up with the deer, and are likely to continue to do so for millenia to come. There is an ecological arms race going on every generation between every predator and its prey, in which the predators adapt in response to their prey. Bios Megafauna tries to model this in part by allowing predators to resize in response to their prey. Allowing the same for roadrunner DNA is a logical extension of the same basic idea.

I didn't explain my house rule in any detail, and perhaps that was my mistake. My house rule is that whenever a prey species adapts a roadrunner DNA, its predators may match it at an expense of 2 genes per letter. So an SS adaptation would require four genes to match. Quite expensive, which is why predator players must be vigilant.
 
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Steve Carey
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Momerath wrote:
I didn't explain my house rule in any detail, and perhaps that was my mistake. My house rule is that whenever a prey species adapts a roadrunner DNA, its predators may match it at an expense of 2 genes per letter. So an SS adaptation would require four genes to match. Quite expensive, which is why predator players must be vigilant.


Ah, that is indeed an interesting variant Kevin. I've seen players just sit on their Genes (sorry, bad pun) since they're the tiebreaker during scoring rounds. Forcing a decision to cost-match prey Roadrunner DNA (instead of a freebie upgrade) could present an interesting twist to the game.

One question: where do the Genes go when paid?
 
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Vasilis
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While I agree that it sounds like an interesting variant in the end I think that I do not like it very much.

Here is why:

Momerath wrote:
Whenever a prey mutates a defense against predators, by any means, there is a problem. That problem is that it is a perfect defense. If your deer buys an S upgrade and my cougars have none, they lose and die out everywhere. I don't have a choice in the matter.


You do have a choice. You could keep an eye out for problematic Roadrunner DNA and take it out before a herbivore player does.
You can proactively take a roadrunner DNA with a Roadrunner Club action so that a potentially catastrophic Mutation of the deer will be rendered harmless.
You can hoard some Genes to not allow the deer to buy the S upgrade in time.


Quote:
I can't become a herbivore and displace you (even if I had the DNA and a niche advantage)


Why won't you do it in your turn if you had the advantage?

Quote:
and unless there is a husker present (unlikely) I can't change my diet. I can't migrate to a more favorable biome. I can't buy another card to match your roadrunner, or pay genes myself to roadrunner club out of turn.


You can do almost all of the above proactively. The whole strategy element of the game is adaptation and specialization. If you have the cougars that eat deer as your only way to victory then it only makes sense for the game to be able to punish you easily for this.

Quote:
So my cougars instantaneously go extinct. Harsh, and not really fair. Like real life, you say? Maybe, except that the cougars have so far managed to keep up with the deer, and are likely to continue to do so for millenia to come. There is an ecological arms race going on every generation between every predator and its prey, in which the predators adapt in response to their prey. Bios Megafauna tries to model this in part by allowing predators to resize in response to their prey. Allowing the same for roadrunner DNA is a logical extension of the same basic idea.


For me the game already models this by allowing players to discard cards from the Display. They are essentially mutations that did not matter in the grand scheme of things. Mutation that players actually get are the Mutation that actually matter and we should be able to see a big result out of this.

Quote:
I didn't explain my house rule in any detail, and perhaps that was my mistake. My house rule is that whenever a prey species adapts a roadrunner DNA, its predators may match it at an expense of 2 genes per letter. So an SS adaptation would require four genes to match. Quite expensive, which is why predator players must be vigilant.


As I've said, this variant is indeed interesting but at the end of the day I believe that it breaks the game.

Why?
Because creating a viable herbivore species requires some planning and a good player will have to measure distances, biome requirements and climax numbers in order to give his animal the best chance of survival.

A carnivore player just has to match DNA and voila, just spread like there is no tommorow. Especially if no other player has a carnivore it's pretty easy to increase your population each turn while herbivore players struggle with a lot of prerequisites in order to survive.

It makes sense for the easy-expansion option {carnivore} to have an easy "killswitch" {DNA mismatch}. If you allow carnivores to easily adapt to any change made by the herbivore players then you'll make the carnivore over herbivore option way too good to ignore for any player even the one with the 5-teeth dentition.

I may be wrong but this is the vibe that I get from this variant.
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Kevin Lanzing
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Bowmangr, all of what you say is true, and yet in practice being a predator is like walking a tightrope over a canyon while people on both sides pelt you with softballs. You can try to defend yourself, but at the end of the day being a predator is much, much, harder than being a herbivore. In all games I have introduced to new players, the lesson they pick up most quickly is that predation against opponents doesn't pay. The only "safe" way to be a predator is to eat your own animals, or immigrants who never fight back. But this isn't very satisfying, from a narrative or gameplay standpoint.

American Megafauna was superior in this regard. All players auctioned for every new adaptation. So predators who saw the writing on the wall could defend against a herbivore looking to become inedible by grabbing that roadrunner DNA before them. It all came down to who wanted it more, and who had the ability to pay. This is only sometimes possible in Bios. I don't think it is at all reasonable to tell predator players "You need to buy every roadrunner that comes up just in case one of your opponents might buy it later", as this rapidly becomes ridiculous and the consequences of following this strategy (or not!) is eventual extinction. My variant only brings the game more in line with American Megafauna, where predators have a plausible defense against prey (pay genes to counteract), and eating your opponents is a defensible strategy.
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Steve Carey
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Every session I've played so far has been different, allowing Carnivores or Herbivores temporary advantages.

For example, in one game I had a Herbivore species with no Roadrunner DNA (it was already "comet bait" with just two cards, BGG and BG, purchased for the surrounding Biomes). My opponent jumped all over me with his Predators, as well he should.

In our 4-player game on Sunday, I created an Omnivore species (difficult to do - the cards were right, plus I used the Roadrunner Club) which won the game for me.

My experience is that new players tend towards being Herbivores while they learn the game, then the go for Roadrunner DNA once they learn the advantages of being a Carnivore.
 
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I find the difficulty of having your prey mutate out from under you is offset by the ease of predation. You don't need the dietary DNA, which can sometimes be few and far between.

I also find that you can usually prey on multiple species, especially in a 4 player game, so if one prey suddenly can't be eaten, your eggs are not all in one basket.
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