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Subject: Special Skill Cards Seem Unbalanced rss

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Brad Musil
United States
Shawnee
Kansas
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This game offers a nice, unique theme, and incredible components for the price ($19.96); it's certainly one of the best values I've come across. Fortunately, the game play is interesting as well.

However, in my view, the skills cards are very unbalanced--we picked the same two cards (the Researcher and the Ship) every time. The extra swarm tile is pointless, as it's easy enough to come across similar tiles by using your ships. The Protection card is equally worthless--why would you ever take that when your number of researchers (that would earn you bonus points via the Researcher skill card) exceeds the number of times you MIGHT get attacked in a round? Perhaps the Protection card has more value in a multi-player game, but it seems virtually useless as is in a 2-player game.

We are thinking about the following changes to the two weaker skills cards:

-Protection: 1/2 the damage (so, instead of you losing x points and your opponent gaining x points, they simply gain x points).
-Swarm Tile: +1 bonus point when part of your longest contiguous chain during end-of-round scoring.

Some have commented elsewhere that the extra swarm tile can be useful at times, and I suppose I agree with this, but the infrequency of said usefulness still renders it significantly weaker than the other cards.

Thoughts?
 
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Gláucio Reis
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Rio de Janeiro
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This really is an excellent (and overlooked) game that can be found at deep discounts. It's easily my favorite connection game, and no doubt great value for the money, even at the normal online price I paid.

Regarding your concerns, while I also tend to take those same two cards, I don't think they are that unbalanced. The protection card is actually worse than what you said, as it just reduces each damage by one point, but it would be overpowered if it halved the damage. However, I think you underestimate it. Since reducing damage also reduces the gain of the attacking player, you become a less interesting target than other players in the same VP zone. In a two-player game, it's still good because you have a net gain of two VPs per damage over your single opponent, and of course you will be the target of every attack.

The golden tile is probably the weakest bonus, I concede, but I don't think they have to be perfectly balanced. If some are stronger than others, it just means that the players have more incentive to go earlier for the turn order cards. Notice that the action cards are not totally balanced, either. The most obvious case is the blue one with a researcher action and a ship action, which is by far the best card in the game.
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Matt Logan
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Peoria
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It's my hunch that the special skill cards are intentionally unbalanced. This adds an extra incentive to buying turn order cards during the purchase phase. If you are stingy with your VPs, and refuse to buy a turn order card, then you will end up going last and you get the crappy golden swarm card (at least in a 4 player game).
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jbrier
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Aventura
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Wow, I disagree completely with the golden tile being under powered. It is not only the most versatile tile but also just an extra tile, period. I can see how in the two player game, where players on average get more ship actions, there is an abundance of tiles and less concern about having the right tiles for the routes you want to build; but in the multi-player game I definitely find the tiles to be a constraint and the golden tile often helps in this regard.

The card that reduces the damage you take from disasters does seem weaker than the rest in most situations (although its power as a deterrent shouldn't be discounted), but as mentioned above I don't think the cards are necessarily meant to be balanced (nor do they need to be, as players bid for turn order).
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