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Subject: Events - is there any point? rss

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Anthony Simons
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I played my first game of Spies! yesterday, and while I can sense the subtleties of many of the mechanisms (to me they deal with the theme very well), the event chits baffle me.

In the rules it states that players must either discard an event or else pay one AP to play an event. The rules also state that a power can benefit from the event only if one of their spies is present in a named city - more importantly, this city must not be a home city.

This implies (unless I'm missing something) that a significant number of events played by a player will never benefit the player (wrt to drawing chits and gaining funds).

The question I have is, what incentive do the players have for ever playing such an event? Spend what might be a valuable AP to help your enemies? Whatever for?

I duly note that some asterisk-marked special events affect the overall game; but still, why bother?
 
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Andrew Walters
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This is a tricky little bit of the game, and it has a big effect and requires careful management.

Spies *can* collect income in a home city, just not one of their *own* home cities. So if I'm France and I hold an event that gives goodies to spies in Paris and Scapa Flow, I want to move one of my spies to Scapa Flow so I can collect the goodies next turn. I won't get anything from Paris, but someone else might. Before my next turn someone moves a spy into Paris. Now I can...

...play the event anyway for the income, benefitting myself and the other player. This is good if you need cash now and the other guy has enough cash so a little more won't help him much.

...leave the spy in Scapa Flow and hope the other guy moves out of Paris soon.

...abandon the whole idea and move that spy somewhere where he will do some good.


This means that when someone moves a spy into Ankara or Athens you might just move one in too, to piggy back on their event's income. Or to make them nervous about playing a Drop or whatever. Certainly there are some cities, like your opponents' capitols, where you can just leave spies to earn yourself goodies or prevent them from giving only themselves goodies.

Successful event play means you get more chits than other players, plus some extra cash. Careless play wastes AP and benefits your opponents as much as it does you.

It's not pointless, it's a neat little game mechanic that adds some spy flavor. Do I benefit both of us or give up something myself to avoid giving you something? Also, spies tend to hang about in spy-like places hoping for things to just happen. Very thematic.
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Anthony Simons
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That's a great answer, thank you; it confirms that there is a point to some events, and confirms that I have been following the rules correctly.

However, it seems I wasn't clear about this; there are a number of events which can never benefit the player playing them (or only in rare situations), and if an event is never going to benefit you anyway (and carry a benefit which can only be exploited by other players), it will always be discarded.

So again, what incentive is there for playing such an event? Are they simply there to be discarded when the player would rather not play something else? If that is the case, then it's not a clever use of events, IMO - nothing a tweak or two wouldn't solve, I'm sure!
 
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Andrew Walters
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Can you give examples?

I looked through
and I think RS 18 and BR 31 are what you're talking about.

I can think of two reasons you might play them. First, you might make a deal with someone. Let my spy pass through your country (relatively) unmolested and I can do something for you with my next event. Second and more likely, these events make the less-than-five-players game work. If you and I are playing two player, will I, as the Allies, ever move my British spies into Russia? Nope. This creates strange imbalances. But with RS 18 in my hand I can send my spies into Russia to collect goodies. This spreads out my spies more, into places they *would* be in a five player game but otherwise would *not* be in a two player game. I'm not looking at the rules right now so maybe there's a special rule in the two-to-four player rules that negate this, but I think this is the answer: it prevents distortion in smaller games.

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Anthony Simons
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The main tiles are Rs18, Rs20, Fr28, Br31, Br35 and It10. Lesser concerns (only because they list a single external location) are Ge6, Fr25 and Br33.

God points on deal-making and fewer players; but I don't think either are designer intent - I cannot know that, of course. I also don't buy that either are sufficient incentive to avoid discarding them. I mean, with ten tiles in your starting hand and seven rounds to play, you have enough events to benefit you without playing these - and you would still be able to make a deal in the bargain - to benefit other players/nations.

What this basically boils down to is event tiles which are going to be discarded, except for a infinitesimally small percentage of cases which are barely likely to arise.

Maybe I'm just not looking at this the right way, but I see zero incentive to use these tiles at all - ever! I would say enabling other players to more effectively steal your secrets is not a wise action to take - and if there is no incentive and/or ruling to make you play such an event, it's getting discarded.

Looks like I haven't missed anything. whistle
 
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Andrew Walters
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I think a lot of games get played with less than five players.

Also, remember that while this game has a lot of "Euro-like" features in its game play, this is an SPI 1981 game. It wasn't designed for perfect symmetry, but for historical accuracy. It's quite a different mindset that produces a different game.

And I wouldn't say "infinitesimally small percentage of cases". If you throw out those tiles and I'm playing Germany/Italy in a two player game, I will immediately send all my spies into France and Britain. *With* those tiles I'm sending a healthy chunk of my German spies into Italy and vice versa, so I can give myself some chits and pounds. This restores the spying-on-your-allies flavor and prevents you from having too many spies available for offensive use. Otherwise allied countries feel like they're all one country, not allies.
 
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Anthony Simons
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andreww wrote:

And I wouldn't say "infinitesimally small percentage of cases". If you throw out those tiles and I'm playing Germany/Italy in a two player game, I will immediately send all my spies into France and Britain. *With* those tiles I'm sending a healthy chunk of my German spies into Italy and vice versa, so I can give myself some chits and pounds. This restores the spying-on-your-allies flavor and prevents you from having too many spies available for offensive use. Otherwise allied countries feel like they're all one country, not allies.

As just about every tile has significant reference to home cities, I doubt I would be changing tack over the loss of one or two tiles from the mix. Still each to his own; thank you for the discussion.

Would you recommend keeping things as they are, then, or would you agree with, say, the variant suggested in the files here (nations scoring for their own national events)?

Would this depend on the number of players?
 
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Andrew Walters
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I haven't played in a bit, so I'd be inclined to play a couple times as is before tweaking. The game went through several editions and I can't recall anyone saying it was broken.

Certainly tossing the "I'll never play them" events changes things a bit because it thins the mix and you're more likely to get to the events you want to play and get to them earlier in the game. Not sure how much that effects play balance or in which direction.

While I really like Spies it is an '80s design. It could be streamlined and enhanced if someone had the time. I'm not talking about a variant or eliminating a few events, but a real re-engineering. I think you could do without the money altogether and just have chits as the option limiter, but you'd have to introduce a way to make the options expensive in money expensive some other way. We've learned a lot about games in the last thirty years.
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Steve Winter
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"Good points on deal-making and fewer players; but I don't think either are designer intent."

I can't speak to designer intent, but I can say that deal-making is a huge part of this game, and I can't imagine it wasn't Prados's intent. At the high level this game represents, espionage is all about deal-making: we'll help you or overlook your transgressions in exchange for you doing the same for us. The first time we played this game, we completely missed that point and as a result, we hated the game. It seemed like you couldn't accomplish anything. But after thinking about it more and learning more about how espionage nets actually work, we played a second game with a different mindset -- that you need to be cutting deals all the time, with friends and "enemies" alike -- and it was great. The game becomes all about the deal-making. Someone whispers "Vienna" in your ear. You trust him. It means he's going to play an event that names Vienna on his next turn. You can act on that, pass it on to someone else, pretend to pass it on but lie and name a different city, use it to lure an enemy spy to the right or wrong city for trapping or sanctioning.

Played correctly, this game is only partly about the secrets on the map. It's really about the tidbits of information you whisper to each other and pass on notes during the negotiation phases.
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Joe Mclaughlin
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For a long time I have played it as mandatory for each player to play an event but it does not cost you an action point to do so. More events in play keeps the game more lively and means that some of the events that only help other players may still come out.
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