Daniel Cucco
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I recently purchased A Few Acres of Snow, but before it even arrived I got to try it, realized I didn't like it all. It happens to be a very desirable game right now, so I realized I could probably trade it .After taking a look at the wishlist there are six top contenders, but they are all rather different so deciding is going to be a challenge. Especially given the fact that my gaming group is rather picky, and I don't want to get something that won't ever make it to the table or be shelved after one play.

Wishlist
1. Dominant Species, 2. Chaos in the Old World, 3. Puzzlestrike, 4. Agricola, 5. Cyclades, 6. Hansa Teutonica.

You can factor in all expansions when talking about above games, since if my friends like something, we usually quickly purchase all the additions.

Helpful Information about my friends
A. Games I really enjoy that my friends will actually play: Puerto Rico, Game of Thrones Board Game, Caylus, Dominion w/ expansions, Bang!, Tigris and Euphrates, Citadels.
B. Game Group Size: 3-5 (most often 4)
C. Turn Length: Multiple players in my gaming group get incredibly ancy if they have to wait a long time between turns with nothing to do. Dominion is probably our most played game because of the incredibly small downtime between turns.
D. Luck is Bad: Everyone we play with hates luck. We like our games to be as based on solid mechanics/skill as possible. We permanently shelved Fluxx and Roborally after one play each.
E. Metagaming: Our group has a lot of meta-gaming that goes on. King-making, ganging-up on players, making illogical decisions out of a desire for revenge are not uncommon. This is a lot of fun for games that are "supposed" to have negotiation like Game of Thrones, but less fun in games where table-talk rules are less clear. In our group sometimes negotiation becomes far more important than strategy in games where that should not be the case.


My perspective

I think Dominant Species is an incredibly cool concept, and I've had my eye on it since before it came out. There are two reasons I haven't sealed the deal on it. The fact that it is a long complex game makes me wonder how much it would get to the table. I'm not sure how individual turn length is, but it seems like a game where people could suffer from AP, and hold up others. Out of the games I listed above, Caylus makes its to the table the least, because of the above reasons. I've also heard meta-gaming/negotiation can influence the game a lot, so I'm not sure how it would hold up with this group.

I'm not sure how I feel about Agricola. It's been insanely popular since it came out which keeps me very curious about it. I almost bought it a few times, but I'm just not sure why I would need another worker placement game with Puerto Rico and Caylus on my shelf. As much a I don't feel like I need another game with that mechanic, I can't stop wondering why this game is so insanely popular, and what I'm missing out on. Also I like that there are different decks available to keep replay-ability high a la Dominion.

Chaos in the Old World and Cyclades both seem like really fun non-luck based war games similar to Game of Thrones. Most importantly, they seem faster paced and better with variable player numbers. Game of Thrones is a few times a year only affair for us, because of how long it takes to play ( allow everyone to meet 1 on 1 in private rooms to discuss possible alliances/tactics every turn). I have no idea how to decide between CitOW and Cyclades though... they both seem fantastic.

I don't know much about Puzzle Strike and Hansa, other than I read some reviews on here and they both seem like a lot of fun. Dominion is the only card drafting game we have, so puzzle strike would provide a nice alternative. Hansa just seems like a really solid game, albeit I'm not sure how much replay-ability it has.


So there it is. I have six quite different games here, and because of the variety I really can't make up my mind at all!



 
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Aaron Gelb
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Well, let me chime in here.

I have Chaos in the old World. There is a bit of luck, first of all. I do believe combat is rolled using D6, however, there are factors that players can use to sway the odds, like choosing special upgrades for units, playing faction specific cards in spots to change the rules, etc.

Also, the ebb/flow of units in areas is a lot less permanent than say, in Axis and Allies. Each player has a limited number of minions, so if you lose one battle based on a bad roll, its not necessarily the end of the world. There are also event cards, which can help or hinder a player, but again, not game breaking. Usually it helps or hinders everyone, save a few events.

Granted there should be some luck in a game, I feel, as long as it isn't game breaking, and as long as the game gives you options to deal with the "hand the universe gave you."

There definitely can and will be gang up on the leader since the victory point track is visible to all players.

Now, let me say this. This game is straight up FUN!

If you like americtrash but one that is clean, streamlined and not clunky, this is it.

If you like Warhammer, its a bonus. But if not, as long as you like fantasy settings you'll love it. The game board is sweet, and the mechanics are very very clever and cool.

Game play is fast, fun, and very little down time for a game of this type.

The expansion lets you play 5 players. Each faction is different, and I think I've won with 3 out of the 5 gods..maybe 4 out of 5. It seems quite balanced.

Also, the game doesn't take all that long, again, especially for a game of this type.

I highly recommend this game even if you buy another on your list. But if you want something to change up the taste of Euro, or uber luck driven. The mechanics are what make this game sweet and unique. The victory dials, the unit upgrades, the card play system is VERY cool, as is the action point system. Don't miss out on this game.

Haven't played the others games on your list, except that I've heard that Dominant Species, while a greatly crafted game, takes quite a long time to play, and thus I know I won't be able to get it on the table more than once, and the steep learning curve of the game demands you have repeat plays.

Chaos in the old World is one of my favorite ameritrash games in my collection, and it hovers somewhere between awesome and pretty effin' awesome.
 
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Jim Bolland
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From your list, I've only played three: Agricola, Hansa Teutonica, and Puzzle Strike.

Agricola is really, really good, but we seldom play it with 5 players because of the downtime. You'll notice the downtime even with 4 players, but it's bearable.

Hansa Teutonica seems like the best fit of the three I've played (and you'll want the expansion for sure), except that there can be some downtime - it depends on how prone players are to analysis-paralysis.

Puzzle Strike is, in my opinion, just not balanced enough.

I thought I'd mention a game that's not on your list that just might fit perfectly with your group of meta-gamers:

Genoa (formerly known as Traders of Genoa) is pure negotiation. Everything in the game is negotiable. It is fantastic with 4 or 5 players. There is no downtime because everyone is involved in every negotiation.

If you had 7 players in your group, you could try Diplomacy ... devil
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Ed Bradley
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Chaos is superb but your group won't like the significant luck factor of the demo combat.

Dominant species sounds perfect for you. It won't run very long with 4 especially with practice.
It's a marvellous game.
 
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Geoff Hall
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I've never played Puzzle Strike and I find Hansa Teutonica to be a good game but exceedingly dry but I love all 4 of your other choices.

From what you said I'd say that your best bet is either Dominant Species or Agricola and I'm leaning towards Agricola tbh. I think Dominant Species is far more prone to politicking getting in the way of pure skilful play. Don't get me wrong, it's an excellent game and I really enjoy it, I just think that Agricola is probably the closest to what you're asking for.

Also note that Puerto Rico really isn't worker placement, it's role selection and the two games don't feel even vaguely similar. I've not played Caylus so I don't know how close the comparison there but there's a reason that Agricola is rated so highly here. It's just a damn good game.
 
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I do not think Chaos int he Old World has a significant amount of luck. The puporse of dice for combat is quite clear and doesn't produce significant swings, rather, good play minimizes those swings.

That said, while efficiency is the main driver of the game, there are plenty of "Take that!" cards that a bad player can use to hammer other for no reason. I don't see the game being fun if your players take revenge or something like that. But really, I don't think any game is, not playing to improve your position and choosing to play for reasons outside of the game will probably ruin any game.

It's also only playable with 4, I don't think 3 results in a good game and while the expansion adds another player to the mix, I haven't heard too many good things about it's balance.
 
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Oliver Kiley
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Our group has somewhat similar preferences as yours, and Cycladeswas a big hit. Per your criteria:

(A) Complexity wise its well within limits of what your group already enjoys. Probably most similar to Game of Thones from what you list, but much shorter in playtime.

(B) Game scales from 2-5 quite well with the variable board/map setups.

(C) The pacing/turn length is pretty quick. The heaviest "thining" part of the game is during the bidding session, where players bid on which god they get the favor of for the turn. But the bidding is a good back-and-forth battle of wits. After bidding, resolving your actions for the turn is really quite straightforward and snappy if you have a plan in mind. Overall, the game plays pretty quickly and there is a surprising amount of depth for how fast it is.

(D) There is some luck in Cyclades ... dice are used to resolve battles, but the dice numberes are 0-1-1-2-2-3, so its quite easy to stack the odds in your favor.

(E) The meta-gaming has bee very pronounced in our group -- players can all get within an arms reach of winning pretty quickly in the game and I think the game is very conducive to the meta-gaming tactics your list, as players use their cunning, subterfuge, and whatever else they can bring to bear to manipulate play (and players) to their advantage an sneak in a win. Very tense!
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Ed Bradley
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DreadFuzzy wrote:

Also note that Puerto Rico really isn't worker placement, it's role selection and the two games don't feel even vaguely similar. I've not played Caylus so I don't know how close the comparison there but there's a reason that Agricola is rated so highly here. It's just a damn good game.


And how would you describe the mechanic in PR where you choose where to put your slaves in order activate certain buildings/plantations, if not "worker placement"?
 
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Nicholas Kinsman
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I've actually played every game on this list, and they really are quite a different lot. Some comparative thoughts with regard to your comments ...

Dominant Species: One of my favourite games hands down. The player interaction is huge, and if anyone goes out of their way to screw one other player it really is likely to take them both out of final scoring potential. The game is almost 0-luck though (cards and drawn tiles/chits being it) and the downtime tends to be minor under most circumstances since everyone alternates placing pawns and actions resolve in a fixed order. My only hesitancy is that *I* find the game is more fun when it's more crowded. 4 players gives everyone a lot of breathing room. However I imagine some people would like this, so it shouldn't be a breaker for you. I'd definitely recommend this for your group.

Chaos in the Old World: Almost the inverse problem of Dominant Species where you want the 4-players to fill the board. There's a lot of good going on here, and I would be hard pressed to ever call CitOW ameritrash, because your decisions matter a lot. Yes, there are chancy things happening all around you - old world cards, your chaos deck, the dice ... but the game maintains a high level of strategy anyway. There are lots of 'take that!' elements, and turns usually don't run too long (except for poor Khorne, who is usually done long before the other players after the first 3 turns, but he gets to smash a lot of minions, so it makes up for it). I've played the Horned Rat expansion a few times with a friend's copy, but I've never felt it added a lot. Wouldn't hurt you if you had 5 though, and it's easy enough not to use it if you only have 4. This is the game I think you should go with, so long as there is nobody in your group who will refuse to use dice.

Puzzle Strike: It's a lot of deck-builder mechanics, but with a huge focus on interaction instead of acquiring victory points. Some people like this, some don't. Since the order of play dictates who you're attacking, you can't really aim to screw any one person, which very much limits the 'take that!' appeal. There's really no more or less luck than there is with Dominion. Basically, it would probably do you guys fine if the idea of 'Dominion, but throwing fireballs at each other through stacks of gems' sounds appealing. =P

Agricola: I'll be overly harsh on this one, likely, because I'm just not a fan. There can be lots of downtime and it's very easy for your strategy to accidentally be cut to pieces by someone else looking for resources. Arguably worse for these things with more players. Luck isn't a big thing, but if you play with random starting cards it can hugely favour some people. The order the round cards appear in can also be large factors sometimes, even though you know what to expect within a percentage. Very little metagaming outside of someone declaring "I'm taking all the wood for the rest of the game!" or something to that effect. Basically, interaction is hugely limited here, which makes this game the most 'solitaire in a group' of the ones you've listed. Maybe you guys would like it, but it's not the one I would suggest for you in this lot of choices.

Cyclades: Cyclades seems like the basis for a great game that just has a bad win condition with too much public information. The bidding mechanism is fantastic, and the variable powers are nice at changing the pace every turn. The game doesn't tend to overstay its welcome, it's just that the ending is often anti-climactic. You can certainly attack someone 'just because' and it's not usually too detrimental (similar to CitOW, there aren't a whole lot of pieces for people to lose). More commonly you'll spitefully go after the God someone else wants, however this is an interesting dynamic because everyone can certainly still benefit. No idea how the game scales - I've only played with 5. Also no idea what the Hades expansion is about to add. Still probably a good bet for your group.

Hansa Teutonica: A great game, but probably not the best for you guys. Turns can wind up taking a while for no real reason, and we've found this game can get dragged down by one person playing badly, making a compounding problem if someone actively attacks another. There's 0 luck, on the plus side, but I still think you'd do better with some of the above games.

So yeah. I think CitOW is your best bet, closely followed by Cyclades. Dominant Species is a game you guys need to try sometime because it certainly COULD be a hit. Puzzle Strike should be a strong consideration depending on how much you think you'd like a competitive Dominion type game. The other two are likely less than ideal (although both good games).
Hope it helps make the choice slightly easier. =P
 
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Adam Tucker
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Megasabin wrote:
Wishlist
1. Dominant Species, 2. Chaos in the Old World, 3. Puzzlestrike, 4. Agricola, 5. Cyclades, 6. Hansa Teutonica.

You can factor in all expansions when talking about above games, since if my friends like something, we usually quickly purchase all the additions.


I've played all of these; some admitted biases:
I think Dominant Species is a quite well designed game that should only ever be played on Microsoft Surface (or comparable), because Domination is the fiddliest mechanism I have ever encountered (for comparison purposes, I will state that I find Arkham Horror to be, at most, minimally fiddly).
I'm not really a fan of Puzzle Strike - there isn't really much in the way of deck building, it's more like deck managing.
I'm not generally a big fan of area control games, but Chaos in the Old World and El Grande are the two biggest exceptions. I have not had the chance yet to play CitOW with the expansion yet.
There are few people I regularly game with that are all that big on direct conflict games (and I, myself am not generally a fan), but that being said, I like Cyclades quite a bit, and though I don't itch to play it all that much myself, I'm not likely to turn it down if offered, and would definately recommend it to fans of direct conflict games. Additionally I find auctions in games (as opposed to an auction game) have a likelihood to bog games down and take players away from the game play, but the style of auction in Cyclades (and Homesteaders and Vegas Showdown) does not seem to have that issue.
I don't get to play Agricola or Hansa Teutonica as much as I would like to, as I really enjoy both of these games. Hansa Teutonica has area control aspects that I surprisingly enjoy as well.

Megasabin wrote:
Helpful Information about my friends
A. Games I really enjoy that my friends will actually play: Puerto Rico, Game of Thrones Board Game, Caylus, Dominion w/ expansions, Bang!, Tigris and Euphrates, Citadels.

In and of itself, I don't see enough from this list to guide your recommendation that isn't covered in items B-E.
For reference and comparison sake, I will note my opinions below:
Puerto Rico: Not a fan, I find the game to be relatively mediocre and do not like the left-right binding (further enforced by the fact that every game with a new player that I have been apart of has been won by an experienced player sitting to the left of a new player).
Game of Thrones Board Game: Probably not up my alley, but I would still like to try this at some point
Caylus: Huge fan - unfortunately have not played near enough
Dominion w/ expansions: Huge fan (not as popular of a deck builder with some of my regular play group though)
Bang!: Not a fan, most of the time there is just other stuff I would prefer to play
Tigris and Euphrates: I really do not like this game, there is some good game design in here, but the potential for luck to have a large impact and it essentially being an abstract really take away from anything I might like.
Citadels: Not a fan, most of the time there is just other stuff I would prefer to play

Megasabin wrote:
B. Game Group Size: 3-5 (most often 4)

+______Dominant Species: As far as I can tell, plays just fine 3-5
-/++/+_Chaos in the Old World: Not as good with 3, excellent with 4, I have heard good things about playing with 5 with the expansion
-______Puzzle Strike: Only plays up to 4, plays better with fewer players
+______Agricola: Plays equally well 1-5
+______Cyclades: Plays equally well 3-5 (some players don't like it for 2)
+______Hansa Teutonica: Plays equally well 3-5 (not enough experience with 2)

Megasabin wrote:
C. Turn Length: Multiple players in my gaming group get incredibly ancy if they have to wait a long time between turns with nothing to do. Dominion is probably our most played game because of the incredibly small downtime between turns.

Note: One of the biggest reasons Dominion has become less favorable among deck builders with some of the players I game with is the possibility for draw and play your entire deck turns that can last a while (especially, if you can get a significant amount of cash and multiple buys) - this is largely my fault, I have a tendency to glom on to such strategies.
-______Dominant Species: Due to the way action selection and action execution are separate, much can change between when you selected an action and what you thought you were going to do with that action, and when you get to execute the action and what might be the best thing(s) to do with the action given the different game state. AP can be a problem if you have players that are prone to it; potential for AP increases with the number of players; potential individual amounts of AP increases with the number of players.
+______Chaos in the Old World: Once around action execution and interactivity of play means this should not be an issue here.
|______Puzzle Strike: Small possibility for action chains, some potential for AP, but turns should, on average, be shorter than Dominion. However play will, for the most part, only affect the current player and the player to their left (others can tune out for the turn).
+______Agricola: Once around action execution and interactivity of play means this should not be an issue here (note: interactivity of play is more subtle than CitOW). AP can be a problem if you have players that are prone to it
+______Cyclades: Few long drawn out turns, interactivity of game state pushes players to stay engaged during other players turns.
+______Hansa Teutonica: At most 5 actions in a turn, and actions are simple and quick, with some subtle and not so subtle interactivity among potential actions.


Megasabin wrote:
D. Luck is Bad: Everyone we play with hates luck. We like our games to be as based on solid mechanics/skill as possible. We permanently shelved Fluxx and Roborally after one play each.

Well obviously some amount of luck is okay: the only combinatoral game you have listed is Caylus, and Bang! has a very significant amount of luck.
+______Dominant Species: Not quite a combinatoral game, but should easily be low enough luck for your group.
?______Chaos in the Old World: Individual card draw from asymmetrical decks, random events, dice for combat - the solid mechanisms/skill still steam rolls luck everytime in this game.
?______Puzzle Strike: Slightly more luck than Dominion, as how well your game develops depends much more strongly on the luck that influences the games of the players to your left and right, and there is no solid deck thinning mechansims and a forced buy every turn.
?______Agricola: The Family Game (don't let the name fool you, it is as good as the Full Game - only your play preference will dictate which way you want to play) is combinatoral. The only luck players complain about in the Full Game is the initial draw of cards - there are many variant to adjust this if your group finds it to be an issue (toss specific cards, draft cards instead of a straight draw, draw 10 discard 3, draft 7 from 10, etc.)
?______Cyclades: Random draw of monsters, random (draw if playing with less than 5 and) order of gods, (muted probabaility) dice rolls for combat. This can actually have more luck than CitOW, because there can end up being 1 or 2 die rolls that are significantly more important to the outcome of the game than all other rolls, but still for the most part this game is far more reliant on solid mechanisms/skill than luck.
+______Hansa Teutonica: Combinatorial game.


Megasabin wrote:
E. Metagaming: Our group has a lot of meta-gaming that goes on. King-making, ganging-up on players, making illogical decisions out of a desire for revenge are not uncommon. This is a lot of fun for games that are "supposed" to have negotiation like Game of Thrones, but less fun in games where table-talk rules are less clear. In our group sometimes negotiation becomes far more important than strategy in games where that should not be the case.

I (and most of the players I regularly game with) are not huge meta-gaming fans, but hopefully my insight on how the games play is accurate, despite the fact I enjoy most of the games.
+______Dominant Species: Table talk rules are less clear here, but the game still seems ripe for meta-gaming.
++_____Chaos in the Old World: This game's strategies pull players towards all ganging up on one player in multiple different ways. I am not sure it's possible to play this without a meta-game.
-______Puzzle Strike: You can only attack the player to your left, I don't think there is even a potential for a meta-game here.
|______Agricola: I can see how it would be possible to play this with table talk and a lot of meta-gaming, but I (again, I am not a meta-gaming fan) don't think the game would be better for it.
+______Cyclades: With a direct conflict game, like Cyclades, I'm not sure you can play it without a meta-game.
?______Hansa Teutonica: Table talk rules are again less clear here, but I'm less sure it would work (as compared to Dominant Species) and I'm less certain that it wouldn't (as compared to Agricola).


Megasabin wrote:
My perspective

I think Dominant Species is an incredibly cool concept, and I've had my eye on it since before it came out. There are two reasons I haven't sealed the deal on it. The fact that it is a long complex game makes me wonder how much it would get to the table. I'm not sure how individual turn length is, but it seems like a game where people could suffer from AP, and hold up others. Out of the games I listed above, Caylus makes its to the table the least, because of the above reasons. I've also heard meta-gaming/negotiation can influence the game a lot, so I'm not sure how it would hold up with this group.

All of your fears seem valid, this one is still probably worth seeking out to try with (at least part of) your group at a convention if at all possible.

Megasabin wrote:
I'm not sure how I feel about Agricola. It's been insanely popular since it came out which keeps me very curious about it. I almost bought it a few times, but I'm just not sure why I would need another worker placement game with Puerto Rico and Caylus on my shelf. As much a I don't feel like I need another game with that mechanic, I can't stop wondering why this game is so insanely popular, and what I'm missing out on. Also I like that there are different decks available to keep replay-ability high a la Dominion.

First: Puerto Rico is not a worker placement game, it is a role selection game.
Note: many of the additional decks available for Agricola are small (could not be played by themselves) and/or silly. If you feel Agricola needs a shot in the arm (playing the full deck and going through the E, K, and I decks and combinations of those decks), then I would recommend Agricola: Farmers of the Moor.
Again, this is worth seeking out to at least try it.

Megasabin wrote:
Chaos in the Old World and Cyclades both seem like really fun non-luck based war games similar to Game of Thrones. Most importantly, they seem faster paced and better with variable player numbers. Game of Thrones is a few times a year only affair for us, because of how long it takes to play ( allow everyone to meet 1 on 1 in private rooms to discuss possible alliances/tactics every turn). I have no idea how to decide between CitOW and Cyclades though... they both seem fantastic.

CitOW is not a war game, it is an area control/majority game where (for the base game at least) 3 of the factions would tend to prefer not fighting at all (they have other ways to screw with people).
They are indeed both worthy titles. The only way I can think of picking one to start with over the other would be, if you frequently find yourself with 3 and/or don't like playing/get tired of playing Caylus, Dominion, and T&E with 3, go with Cyclades, other wise pick up CitOW (with the expansion so 5 is playable).

Megasabin wrote:
I don't know much about Puzzle Strike and Hansa, other than I read some reviews on here and they both seem like a lot of fun. Dominion is the only card drafting game we have, so puzzle strike would provide a nice alternative. Hansa just seems like a really solid game, albeit I'm not sure how much replay-ability it has.

Note: Dominion is a deck building game; Fairy Tale and 7 Wonders are card drafting games.
I like the replayability on Hansa Teutonica just fine, you should be warned going in that the game is a bit dry. It may seem like it is a nice bland Euro, but does have significant potential for screwage.
Puzzle Strike seems to be the loser based on your criteria above, but based on the way you describe your group and likes about games, this would still be worth a play if you can find one.
If you want a deck builder with meta-gaming that plays up to 5 players, you may want to look into Nightfall. The turns can go long, but all players have a chance to play off of the chain a player starts on their turn - and the effects can be highly interactive.


If I were to rank your options based on what you've described it would be:
1. Chaos in the Old World
2. Cyclades
3. Hansa Teutonica
4. Agricola
5. Dominant Species
6. Puzzle Strike

 
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Daniel Cucco
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Very Thoughtful post


Thank you for putting so much thought into your post! I want to elucidate one point though. I do not think the meta-gaming in my group is a good thing. Therefore, I actually like games that minimize the meta-gaming, unless the game is supposed to have a huge politicking factor built in, like Game of Thrones or Dune.
 
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Nicholas Kinsman
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Ah, well then ...
Metagaming in Dominant Species can be bad for the game as, again, it's basically removing the involved players from victory if it's taken far. CitOW COULD be somewhat sabotaged depending on which Gods the involved players are. Really case-by-case in this one, but as noted, the game was pretty much designed with the notion of you constantly interfering with other players. It's only a potential problem if you're interfering with a single other player.
Hansa Teutonica, like I said, breaks down if one player is playing just to mess with another. It creates openings for the other players to capitalize on too easily. On the plus side, it won't last long after that.
 
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