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Subject: En passant, or how does chess contribute to an attempt to break the Halifax Hammer rss

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Tom
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On 12 September 1759 the British army stunned the French forces, landing near Quebec. Had the French been organized better and had they patrolled the movement on the river St. Lawrence, they would have been prepared better and could have had the chance to prevent the British from landing quietly on the hills nearby their own capital city, by fighting them earlier in a naval battle.

However, that hasn't occured, which gave the Wolfe's men the advantage of being prepared for the batte against Montcalm on land.

This introduction may not be extremely accurate (to say the least), but it was not my point.

Actually, this is exactly what happens in A Few Acres of Snow every time during the Halifax Hammer when Quebec is besieged: The French always "don't expect it". And always lose. Since it's a game in which we are altering history by exploring other possibilities, let's allow the French to sometimes "be prepared" for this kind of attack.
"How to do it, Tom?", you will ask.

Surprisingly enough, chess, a game that is even more surprisingly ranked much lower in the BGG ranking than Snow, comes to the rescue. Namely, one move from chess: en passant. Players in another thread have been comparing aFAoS to chess today and I thought that Martin Wallace's design lacks exactly this kind of move (with some proportion, of course). For those who don't play chess, here's what it is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/En_passant

I'm thinking about a fix, that potentially could not require any other changes (but could be combined with plenty of other solutions if needed), an en passant move in A Few Acres of Snow.

Let's introduce a new action to the rules, let's say, the Naval Capture, which is a free action and can be played only as the first action during your round. It can be used when your opponent uses a ship/location card with ship to go by your own location in order to besiege or settle another location (e.g. he wants to settle Halifax while going by your Port Royal). Then, if you have in your hand the location card of the location he went by (Port Royal), you can use this action to prevent him from doing it - he then fails at the attempt to settle and his cards go to discard pile. The location card you used in this action is discarded too.

When he uses the naval way to besiege your location (e.g. you have Canso and he wants to besiege Louisbourg from Halifax), if you use Canso (after he besieged Louisbourg) in the Naval Capture action to prevent him, his siege is immediately resolved as lost by him and he loses one military card.

This is thematic, because it was that easy for the British to capture Quebec only because the French didn't expect the attack. Now the French are given the possibility to prepare for it by holding certain location card(s) in hand. Of course, it comes at a cost of having less space in French hand for other cards so it's not obvious they'll choose to prepare themselves. This is even more historically accurate: in reality, a part of French soldiers who were meant to observe the river, were off harvesting - basically, the French were making more money in the game's terms. Now the French player can prepare for a siege that the British is possibly planning or concentrate on gathering more furs. There's a choice for them instead of an auto-win for the Hammerers.

I'm sure Martin Wallace knew those distant naval sieges were a kind of broken strategy because he didn't allow the French to besiege Boston from Louisbourg or Port Royal. But he also wanted to keep the game historically accurate by allowing to besiege Quebec from Louisbourg. He just forgot to introduce a mechanism which sometimes stops this obvious attack. Historically, it was a risky move for the British (at least in it's last phase, when moving ships downstream the river in the night, right under the nose of the French), while currently in the game it isn't risky at all.
This modification allows to interrupt especially the siege at Quebec by playing Gaspe, Tadoussac or Fort Beausejour (to be tested if 3 cards is not too much here, if it this then the Fort Beausejour would be excluded from blocking Louisbourg-Quebec route), card when the British attempt to start a siege from Louisbourg. If the British want to avoid this risky move, they need to settle locations closer to the aim first or use a different strategy.

For now, it's just a concept that needs to be tested and polished, but I can see that it weakens the naval sieges strategy, which is mostly the British domain and which is broken, while is not altering the other aspects of the game too much.

I will be grateful if you comment and discuss this idea.
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Ken Dilloo
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Re: En passant, or how chess contributes to an attempt to break the Halifax Hammer
Not exactly sure how this would play out, but it is certainly a cool idea. I could see it just turning into a waiting game, for the British, of the French player using the card(s) blocking them, but that could be an interesting twist. How long would the French player be willing to hold certain cards, without using them, for other things, to use as blockers?

One problem still is hand size. One of, if not the biggest problems of the HH is the the Brits can get cards back (like raid/ambush blockers) more quickly. So, they could probably get the siege cards back before the French player could get their blocking card(s) back. Although, it does give the British player something to think about in the risk/reward equation.
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Re: En passant, or how chess contributes to an attempt to break the Halifax Hammer
It's interesting. Two of us were discussing something similar to make amphibious assaults more difficult. We were discussing that the French could counter an amphibious assault past a controlled French settlement/town by playing a ship card.
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Re: En passant, or how chess contributes to an attempt to break the Halifax Hammer
I like this idea! Definitely worth a try!!!
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Tom
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Re: En passant, or how chess contributes to an attempt to break the Halifax Hammer
bigloo33 wrote:
One problem still is hand size. One of, if not the biggest problems of the HH is the the Brits can get cards back (like raid/ambush blockers) more quickly. So, they could probably get the siege cards back before the French player could get their blocking card(s) back.

It is possible. I have some thoughts on how to change the flow of the entire game, Tim is already developing a nice ruleset and I've recently shared my ideas with him. Maybe also noahboa's Limited Governor could work with this rule well - I think it would. But it is also possible any other fix will not be needed.

The Naval Capture though is meant solely and directly to stop the overpowered naval sieges that are so far the most burning effect of utilizing the British thin deck.

But still, there are 3 cards that can under these rules block an assault on Quebec from Louisbourg, so the probability of getting at least one of them from the draw deck, even if not holding it in the hand on purpose for eternity, is quite big. If the French deck consist of 15 cards, probability of having one of these 3 cards on hand is almost 74% if I counted correcly (if not, correct me, please). With thinner deck even higher. So the effectiveness of the Halifax Hammer at the point when the British control Louisbourg drops from 100% to only 26%. And I didn't even include the blocking when besieging Louisbourg or when settling Halifax (though chances for it are much bigger to succeed for the British).

Heck, it could be even necessary to weaken the Naval Capture action if it's proven too strong But so far, I like the fact that losing Louisbourg doesn't mean losing the game for the French. Later on it could be adjusted (e.g. by excluding Fort Beausejour from the cards blocking the Louisbourg-Quebec route - now I think it will probably be necessary to not make the new rule overpowered, as 3 cards is very much in a thinner deck, also in reality this fort is on the other coast, so should be able to block the same route as Port Royal. But let's first try it as the third card blocking the Quebec siege).

Blocking with a Ship like Kent suggests could also be a good option here, though it wouldn't allow to stop the British from settling Halifax at the beginning and would not give this high probability of preventing the siege at Quebec, as it is only one card.

It seems that plenty of you like this rule. You can treat it as an unofficial scenario and try it in your next game!

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Re: En passant, or how chess contributes to an attempt to break the Halifax Hammer
I like this idea very much, specially because it brings a new way of thinking, not just an adjustment. I hope it works to slow down the HH strategy and make the brits player a bit more creative.

I also like the suggestion of Tim to reduce British merchant money a little bit. It is so much easier to them to make six coins at once that I would agree to limit it in five at the most.

Since timing is very important in this game, I think that the second edition rule about the Home Support should be extended to the entire game. If the draw pile has only one card left and you need more than one card to refill your hand to five cards, you should not be able to get the discard pile shuffled right away. One should be short handed for one turn, then shuffle the deck at the end of the next turn and get the hand back to five again. During a siege with thin deck, it might happen to spend one turn without cards in your hand!



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Tom
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Re: En passant, or how chess contributes to an attempt to break the Halifax Hammer
The longer I think of it, the more I'm convinced it's a necessary addition to the game. Originally in chess, pawn could had been moved only by one square and there wasn't an en passant move. In aFAoS it would be represented by the ability to settle/attack only neighbouring locations, or at least not surpassing the locations controlled by the opponent. When in chess the pawns were given the ability to move by two squares and surpass opponent's pieces, the en passant move was introduced to balance it out. In aFAoS mainly the British were given the crucial ability of surpassing many of French locations in one move, but currently there isn't any rule which is meant to balance this ability. Ability that with the specific way of playing (thin deck) breaks the game.

The Naval Capture also protects Trois Rivieres better as I mentioned in the other topic already, as it becomes extremely difficult to be taken when attacked from Louisbourg, therefore preventing the British from this cheap move when they can't take Quebec quickly enough. No need to revise location cards connections which is sometimes mentioned.
So far, in theory, I see a very positive impact of this rule on the game's aspects that were considered broken or imbalanced.

On top of it, it should work well with both 1st and 2nd edition base rules.

If someone tries this variant in his/her game, please let us know how it went
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This is the best potential fix I've read so far on this forum. Most of the other "fixes" hurt the British more than the French. This can also substantially help the British, as well (although probably not in the same way as the French). I see this as similar to using a card that blocks a raid or ambush: have on of the cards and your protected, if not, you're screwed. This can give more motivation for the British to take over other places along the way, first, to remove the use of those locations from the French. However, this begs the question: "should the game-ending point capture requirement be raised from 12 to say 14 or 16?". I personally found 12 to be a little low, but it could be just how I was playing.

Why doesn't someone who knows the HH strategy attempt this potential fix on another player (who also knows how the HH strategy works).



Partly off-topic, but still about the HH "broken strategy"
A little of, but it is times like this when a game designer doesn't interact with the people here on BGG that I start to question buying any of their games ever again. I have many GMT games and have had many of the designers personally answer my questions. This goes for many other games, as well, from other companies. It would be nice if Martin Wallace was here addressing this issue with more than one or two posts. I read that he is working on a 4-player version of this game that has a fantasy theme. Shouldn't he make sure the 2 player one works before making a 4-player one. Just my micro-rant.
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Of course it remains to actually be tested, but it seems to me that as British I would simply play the Hammer as normal, siege Port Royal, then Halifax (if settled), then Canso (if settled), then Louisbourg, then Gaspe, then Tadoussac, and finally Quebec if the game isn't already over. In other words, I have a suspicion that this fix prolongs the British victory but doesn't stop it.
 
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Probably the most interesting aspect is that this thread has been here for two full days and

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has yet to chime in.
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A hope for the French is that, by the time you do all of that, the game will be over due to VP ending. It is not difficult for the French to settle Canso or Halifax, near the beginning of the game. The rest of those locations you mentioned are already settled. That would be a total of 12 VP, there. Of course you could just ignore attacking any one of those locations to keep the point total at 10, but it still leaves that opportunity for the French player to block the Siege attempt at least once. I am very interested, however, in seeing if the extra sieges or blocking attempts offered by this potential "fix" are enough to give the French player time to settle and raid their way to a VP win.
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Tom
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baconcow wrote:
I see this as similar to using a card that blocks a raid or ambush: have on of the cards and your protected, if not, you're screwed.

This is how I see it as well. It isn't possible for the French to hold two blockers (a siege blocker and raid blocker - well, it is, but then their money engine is close to non existant) on hand at the same time, so if the French decides to concentrate on blocking naval sieges, I would expect the British to meander between drafting Native Americans and settling strategy. If the French starts blocking raids, then try military assault again.

For now I wouldn't think about changing the game-ending conditions, though.

Quote:
Of course it remains to actually be tested, but it seems to me that as British I would simply play the Hammer as normal, siege Port Royal, then Halifax (if settled), then Canso (if settled), then Louisbourg, then Gaspe, then Tadoussac, and finally Quebec if the game isn't already over. In other words, I have a suspicion that this fix prolongs the British victory but doesn't stop it.

It remains to be seen. But it certainly gives the French much more time to try a settling race than currently. This is for sure a British strategy which should be tested right after testing the effectiveness of the classic Hammer.

There's also Fort Beausejour to settle for the British if they don't want it to become a French location allowing to assault on Pemaquid, while they are busy with besieging Tadoussacs and Gaspes.

And, if it's not enough, there's potentially quite a nice way to make the deck fatter (or more specifically: a mechanism providing a minimum deck size without any form of card counting), but I wouldn't rush with additional proposal until this solution alone is proven to be insufficient.

But thank you for a critical point of view, any potential flaw of this variant should be exposed, discussed and thoroughly tested.


markgravitygood wrote:
Probably the most interesting aspect is that this thread has been here for two full days and

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has yet to chime in.


Actually, Tim has already commented on it
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markgravitygood wrote:
Probably the most interesting aspect is that this thread has been here for two full days and

Tim Seitz
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has yet to chime in.


I know right? Like, I feel so abandoned and out of sorts when he isn't around. That special feeling just isn't there, I agree.

Editeted: for worsererer grammars.
 
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Noahboa wrote:
Of course it remains to actually be tested, but it seems to me that as British I would simply play the Hammer as normal, siege Port Royal, then Halifax (if settled), then Canso (if settled), then Louisbourg, then Gaspe, then Tadoussac, and finally Quebec if the game isn't already over. In other words, I have a suspicion that this fix prolongs the British victory but doesn't stop it.


This may be true, but making the whole thing just a bit harder may be all that is needed. Tom, would fort B be able to block sieges to Gaspe and Tadoussac? Would any location? Might be good to make Fort B useful, even if it has the potential to give up more points.
 
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bigloo33 wrote:
Tom, would fort B be able to block sieges to Gaspe and Tadoussac? Would any location? Might be good to make Fort B useful, even if it has the potential to give up more points.

In reality Fort Beausejour is located on the side of Port Royal, but it looks like in the game it is located on both coasts at the same time. Currently I consider it to be the third card to block the Louisbourg-Quebec route, so yes, it would block Louisbourg-Gaspe and Louisbourg-Tadoussac as well.

Since it's covering both coasts, it should block the route Pemaquid-Port Royal too, because it doesn't make a big difference, now that would make it an interesting location. Maybe even the first to be settled by the French or besieged by the French if the British settle it on turn 1?

If 3 cards blocking Louisbourg-Quebec are too strong (with a 10-card French deck including those 3 cards, the probability of randomly drafting on hand one of them raises to as much as about 91%), then I'd recommend it only to block the Pemaquid-Port Royal route. But for now let's lower the probability of HH succeeding as much as possible, later on HH could be strenghtened if needed, as funny as it sounds



I will be out for the next few days starting from now, but I will be glad if you continue the discussion and share new thoughts on this variant.
 
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Doesn't sound too funny, if the fix was easy and balanced, it would have been found by now. Might be helpful to do a rough block route (like the raid one), so people are testing the same thing.

Also, why so focused on Quebec? It gets taken if there, but worse is the coastal wipeout with the develop out strategy. Blocking LB seems eminently more critical, but not enough to completely neuter that path. Also, slowing the path to PR is going to be pretty crucial.
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You are probably right, I've edited my previous post. It gets more and more interesting.
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baconcow wrote:
Partly off-topic, but still about the HH "broken strategy"
A little of, but it is times like this when a game designer doesn't interact with the people here on BGG that I start to question buying any of their games ever again. I have many GMT games and have had many of the designers personally answer my questions. This goes for many other games, as well, from other companies. It would be nice if Martin Wallace was here addressing this issue with more than one or two posts. I read that he is working on a 4-player version of this game that has a fantasy theme. Shouldn't he make sure the 2 player one works before making a 4-player one. Just my micro-rant.
Well you don't need to balance a 4p game, you let the players gang up on the leader. Donezo.
 
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Right, that's what I was thinking. Might not get FrB back in time to block; by the time governor is used, tucked away, and enough military purchased; but it certainly would be a bit of a deterrent.

Brits settling FtB right off would be a major hit to the HH!!
 
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Though now FtB-Gaspe-Tadoussac would be the shortest way to reach Quebec with no risk of naval blocking.
But then they'd need a boat from empire deck or... St. Mary's.
No, just assume that from FtB to Gaspe you go around the whole Nova Scotia, so there are plenty of cards to block it

But, PR should block the attempt to settle FtB just like to settle Halifax.
Ah, there will be a need to create a list of exacly what location blocks what connection, at least for the non-obvious situations.


Regarding location connections and their blocking, refer to this post:
http://boardgamegeek.com/article/9097569#9097569
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Yeah, guess that is right.....who knew anyone would be talking about FtB so much!!
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clydeiii wrote:
Well you don't need to balance a 4p game, you let the players gang up on the leader. Donezo.


Sure you do. While 4 players can play gang-up-on-the-leader(s), the problem is making sure that all 4 players have a roughly-equal starting chance. If not, the game will be a literal mess. One example of this is the new version of Game of Thrones. It comes with a 6-player map and rules for 5 (as opposed to the previous edition that has overlays for both 5 and 6 player maps). Apparently the map is now horribly balanced for 5 players, something that the original version of the game played very well with. Even with multiplayer games like this, balancing is still an important detail. Ganging up can only do so much for balancing. One of the best balancing acts I've ever seen in a multiplayer wargame is Maria (I've yet to get a game of Here I Stand played).
 
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Another issue will be that I often play games with only one opponent.

Even if it is balanced with 4 with the assumption that every player will gang up on the leader, that does not solve the issue when I'm playing a 2-player game.

This solution is unsatisfactory to me and I'm going to want to know that AFAoS 2 isn't going to break a month into its release.
 
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how about blanking the Gaspe card on the british deck, as he did with Kenebec on the french deck?

anyway, it is needed a boat from Tadoussac to Quebec. Now it makes sense removing the boat! But from the british deck, not the french!
 
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kingjames01 wrote:
Another issue will be that I often play games with only one opponent.

Even if it is balanced with 4 with the assumption that every player will gang up on the leader, that does not solve the issue when I'm playing a 2-player game.

This solution is unsatisfactory to me and I'm going to want to know that AFAoS 2 isn't going to break a month into its release.
Well all two player games are broken so just play 4p games from now on.
 
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