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Subject: Insight into balancing mechanisms? rss

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Eric Jome
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I have read the rules to Hegemonic a few times, but I have not played it. This means any opinion I might have on the game is completely invalid, but it strikes me as I read the rules that someone who starts winning is going to keep winning. What is there in the game to prevent runaway leaders?

Obviously, the most basic element is the decrease in CAPS earned per turn on the player boards as you deploy more and more elements in the same Logistics class. If this is an effective limiter, though, it seems all players strategies will always play out nearly the same with even investment in all areas - or perhaps it will skew toward a simple rock/paper/scissors environment where specializing in one area allows you to compete. Indeed, if all types are freely interchangable for conflicts, what stops me from becoming the dominant Military Logistics board position as I win more fights, taking command of more Military Logistics to re-inforce my position more and more? At best, someone else would have to specialize in other areas to compete, no?

I could also use some insight into why this game is perceived to be 4x or space civilization management. It seems to completely lack a tech tree, an essential component of the genre. This makes it an area control abstract strategy game and certainly doesn't detract from what it has to offer - but tech trees are defining elements of 4x games. I can see from the rules that there are Technologies, but these seem to be drafted and played at no cost and with no relationship to previously played Technologies. True, you must have a certain amount of investment in the proper type of Logistics, but this is not a tree.

As I'm likely to soon play or teach other players to play, it would be helpful to understand the nuances in the game and correct my mistaken impressions.
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Kenneth Stuart
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cosine wrote:
I have read the rules to Hegemonic a few times, but I have not played it. This means any opinion I might have on the game is completely invalid, but it strikes me as I read the rules that someone who starts winning is going to keep winning. What is there in the game to prevent runaway leaders?

There will be no runaway leader because other players will stop the leader from running away! If the other players aren't picking on the guy in first, then they're not doing their job of trying to win.

This could lead to some issues with 2-player games, which we've discussed a little bit in another thread.


cosine wrote:
Obviously, the most basic element is the decrease in CAPS earned per turn on the player boards as you deploy more and more elements in the same Logistics class. If this is an effective limiter, though, it seems all players strategies will always play out nearly the same with even investment in all areas - or perhaps it will skew toward a simple rock/paper/scissors environment where specializing in one area allows you to compete. Indeed, if all types are freely interchangable for conflicts, what stops me from becoming the dominant Military Logistics board position as I win more fights, taking command of more Military Logistics to re-inforce my position more and more? At best, someone else would have to specialize in other areas to compete, no?

Income actually increases as you build more bases. Retention limit is what decreases, meaning you enter a "use it or lose it" situation as you build more bases.

I have seen all 4 main strategies (there are many more) work very well in this game, and each one has the potential to win. In essence, you could build primarily industrial, political, or martial, or you could build all three evenly.

Industrial is cheap to expand but needs many complexes in order to be strong. This will limit your expansion, but you could become quite powerful.

Political can be very powerful if you build all in one faction, but only having one faction may make you want to attack less often as each faction can only lend an agent power once per phase.

Martial is expensive and difficult to expand at first, but leads to conflict victories early in the game.

You can expand evenly, which makes it easier to expand later as you have influence all over the board, but you will be weak in conflicts. You will have a nice income though with a relatively high retention limit, so you might find yourself as Arbiter more often that others.


To really answer your question, you'd have to see how the game plays. There will never be a game in which all players build out evenly in each area, mostly because the sector pool will not allow it, but also because a winning strategy requires you to adapt. You will constantly adjust your strategy as the game progresses and respond to your opponents' strategies. THAT is what will make one base type a winner over another. Also, the available sector tiles make a HUGE difference when planning which strategy will be most effective.


cosine wrote:
I could also use some insight into why this game is perceived to be 4x or space civilization management. It seems to completely lack a tech tree, an essential component of the genre. This makes it an area control abstract strategy game and certainly doesn't detract from what it has to offer - but tech trees are defining elements of 4x games. I can see from the rules that there are Technologies, but these seem to be drafted and played at no cost and with no relationship to previously played Technologies. True, you must have a certain amount of investment in the proper type of Logistics, but this is not a tree.

The 4X's are:
eXplore - you do this every turn
eXpand - you should do this every turn
eXploit - you do gather resources by owning territories, but not specifically from the territories you control
eXterminate - this will occur regardless of the player type. peaceful or agressive, all players will attack at some point

A tech tree is NOT a requirement of 4X games, that just happens to be a popular feature within the genre.

There is not a tech tree in the sense of build this first > then this becomes available > then this at last. There are varying levels tech which have a prerequisite that a certain number of bases in the appropriate type be built.
(Good idea for an expansion: multi-logistic tech! Required construction in multiple base types instead of just one!)

Technology serves two purposes. If played as tech, it's just tech, but until it is played, players will hold the cards in their hand and use them for conflict resolution. That is why the cards are drafted.


cosine wrote:
As I'm likely to soon play or teach other players to play, it would be helpful to understand the nuances in the game and correct my mistaken impressions.

Keep up with the newest rulebook releases as we work with Oliver to clear up confusion

The hardest element to explain is the differences between power and influence for all the base types. Each one handles power and influence a little differently, and it can be confusing for new players. Fortunately, Oliver has designed a handy, half-page player aid that graphically and textually explains exactly how everything works. I have just used that as my guide when explaining the game.
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Oliver Kiley
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Thanks Ken, that was a great (and helpful) response.

The retention limit mechanism does help mitigate the effect of players that get a strong early lead in one line of development, because as Ken points out, you can't carry over much money from turn to turn if you are really specialized. I often find that if I'm in a lagging position, if I can play defensively for a turn, conserve my money (and use the capitalize action to make more money), then I can have a pile of caps in the following turn. This can be used to quickly expand, build power, and attack a weak point in the leader's position in fairly short order (and with the big pile of money I'll probably be the arbiter too, giving me a turn order advantage).

As mentioned, other players working together is crucial to balancing the playing field. On the political side of things, players can lend political power to each others agents. The sabotage action, which allows agents to blow up outpost or complexes, is a HUGE balancing mechanism, because players can combine arms on the leader to knock down a dominant military (usually late game) or industrial (usually early game) power center.

The board tends to change dramatically over the course of the game. One or two attacks on a leader can weaken adjacent positions, and open up once impregnable locations to further attack.


The board tends to change dramatically over the course of the game. One or two attacks on a leader can weaken adjancent positions, and open up once impregnible locations to further attack.

I have to go AFK for a while, but I will follow up more later.

Cheers!
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Eric Jome
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wizcreations wrote:
A tech tree is NOT a requirement of 4X games, that just happens to be a popular feature within the genre.


Another excellent resource for understanding 4x is the Wikipedia article on it. In the design section, this lists Research and technology as a primary component frequently included - it gives players more to do than simply repeatedly and constantly attack one another and adds variation in play and style.

It's clear that the style here is to not span the same kind of time period as a classical civilization building game, though. At this time scale, then, having a tree of advancement seems less important than activating existing technologies based on the scale and style of your empire - hence, the tie to Logistics development.
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Kenneth Stuart
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As you say, Wikipedia says a tech tree is typically or frequently included. Tech is present in Hegemonic, and having just read the Wiki article, it seems that just having tech is what they classify as important, not having a tree. There are quite a few other games on BGG in the 4X category with no tech tree, and some of them even have no tech at all.

Really though, board games can be so vastly different that it hardly matters what family you classify the game in. Don't be distracted by the classification because that is such a tiny detail that has no impact on how the game plays. Focus instead on the game itself!


I like your explanation in your last paragraph. It does make sense that the advanced civilization in Hegemonic is just using existing technology and the prerequisite for use is the appropriate logistics development to support the tech.
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Oliver Kiley
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Quote:
It's clear that the style here is to not span the same kind of time period as a classical civilization building game, though. At this time scale, then, having a tree of advancement seems less important than activating existing technologies based on the scale and style of your empire - hence, the tie to Logistics development.


Agreed, that's a good way to think about it.

One thing that I think sets Hegemonic apart thematically is the scope of the mechanics are more abstracted and generalized as befits the scale of the game (galactic control over millennia).

I'm currently on a 4X video game binge, trying out a bunch of the newest offerings (Sins: Rebellion, Distant Worlds, Endless Space, as well as some iOS games like Ascendency and Starbase Orion). I'm looking for one that has a specific level of abstraction + detail (and not really finding it). In particular, I'm looking for a game where I don't need to be buried in the minutia of incremental tech-tree advancements, spaceship design, fuel + logistical costs, etc. I want to strategize at the biggest scale and have that be the dominant play element, not the tactical micromanagement.

I say all this, because that desire is largely what I intended to achieve in Hegemonic (i.e. a 4x boardgame format). Your player choices operate at a pretty high level; you are not juggling multiple types of resources, you don't build up massive armies (the "fleets" are really proxies for concentrations of martial power for example), you don't have detailed technology trees, and the conflict resolution isn't detail driven.

But what you get by abstracting away many of these details is a game that plays more to the strategic aspects of galactic control directly, instead of being funneled through detailed sub-systems in the mechanics. This probably won't appeal to everyone (nothing ever does anyway!), but I think there are a lot of players that will like Hegemonic more than the alternatives for this reasons; and I think it brings a fresh perspective and approach to the genre.

But I could be crazy too!
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Randall Shaw
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Crazy like a fox. cool

Hegemonic appeals to me for precisely the reasons you give.

I particularly like the 'high scale' and the fact Politics have specific game effects/mechanics that go way beyond the typical.
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Ben Rubinstein

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This game looks like it's shaping up to be awesome! Personally I can't stand tech trees, and am really intrigued by a game that doesn't use them. I really don't understand the OP's sentiment that technology in a tree is somehow important, and I doubt I'm the only one.
 
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