Recommend
42 
 Thumb up
 Hide
47 Posts
1 , 2  Next »   | 

Space Empires: 4X» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Surprisingly Disappointing rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Argothair _Bialyvich
United States
California
flag msg tools
Avatar
I expected to love Space Empires 4X -- my favorite game right now is Eclipse, and I'm so obsessed with the old Full Thrust franchise that I design custom ships in my head on the bus. I've never met a space-themed board game I didn't like -- I'll play Alien Frontiers, Eminent Domain, Solarquest, Twilight Imperium, you name it. I'm also a pretty big fan of 4X games, at least for the computer -- I love Civilization, Alpha Centauri, Master of Orion, and Stars!.

So when I saw Space Empires 4X, I got really excited. I brought in a couple of my regular heavy-strategy-gaming friends in different combinations, and played about five games with 2 or 3 players each. I also tried the solitaire variant once.

The Good

There are a few redeeming features I wanted to mention up front, before I get into the criticism.

(*) The planet chits are colorful and fun to try to protect; even though the planets are all functionally the same, I still felt like I was saving Deneb from an alien menace.

(*) The tech tree is reasonably well-balanced; I didn't feel like there was any particular technology that was a "must-have."

(*) The rules for combat make sense once you figure them out; there aren't a lot of 'special cases' that you have to keep going back and looking up.

(*) Having the ability to hide the identity of virtually all your ships was incredibly fun; having to guess whether an enemy ship was a mine or the only scout in the area that could take out my fleet of fighters reminded me of Stratego, in a good way.

The Bad

There are also a few minor flaws. I don't want to cover them in any depth because other reviewers (especially Gazpar) has already done a great job, and I think the variant starting scenarios help with them. Basically, though, there is a single, boring, opening strategy that is easy to figure out how to use, and there is never any reason to do anything else in the opening. There are too many chits and too much bookkeeping for the amount of strategy that's actually involved -- there's enough luck in the game that there's no reason to spend 20 minutes using pencil and paper to secretly track which of your Destroyers has +1 Offense vs. +2 Offense, because with ten-sided dice, 90% of the time it's not going to matter anyway. Think about it -- if a technology gives you a +1 bonus to your 1d10 roll, then on nine of those ten possible rolls, you'll get the same result with or without the bonus. For the most part, this stuff is forgiveable, though -- if you're tired of tracking tech on a ship-by-ship basis, you can just house rule in some instant upgrades, as my playgroup eventually did.

Ugly: Overpowered Scouts

What's unforgiveable is that there's ten pages of rules about how to customize your ships, and it all boils down to one rule of Strategy: build Scouts. Lots of them. Make sure they have +1 Offense and +1 Defense (the max for Scouts), and then crank 'em out like there's no tomorrow. Once you've colonized your outermost colored planets, put max Shipyards on your front lines (1 / planet / turn) until you can spend your whole income each turn on constructing ships on your front lines, and then spend about 90% of your income on Scouts.

Why does this work better than all other strategies? Well, let's go through the list. As far as hit points, you can't do better than 1 hit point per 6 credits on a mobile ship. Destroyers will cost you 9 credits per hp, Cruisers are 12/2 = 6 credits per hp, Battleships are 20/3 = 6.67 credits per hp, and so on. So scouts do as good or better than other ships on hit points per credit.

As far as offense, you are almost always going to do better with Scouts than anything else. Scouts hit on a 1, 2, or 3 on a 1d10; that's 0.05 hits per credit per combat round. Destroyers hit on a 1, 2, 3, or 4 on a 1d10 but cost 9 credits; that's only 0.044 hits per credit per round, or "h/c/r" for short. Cruisers hit on a 1, 2, 3, 4 but cost *12* credits; they offer 0.033 h/c/r. Granted, cruisers will cost the scouts -1 chance to hit, so the scouts are only hitting on 1s and 2s and therefore are scoring the identical 0.033 h/c/r...unless you have twice as many scouts as cruisers, which you should, because scouts only cost half as much. In that case, you get your +1 chance to hit right back, and are outhitting the cruisers 0.05 > 0.033. Similarly, Battleships hit on 1-5 but cost 20 credits; they score 0.025. They give you -2 to hit, but you will definitely get your +1 bonus for outnumbering them two to one, so you are beating them 0.033 > 0.025.

Other advantages of larger ships include firing first, and the opportunity to add additional combat tech beyond just +1 Offense/Defense. Firing first is almost useless, for two reasons. First, weapons are pretty weak -- they've got less than a 50% chance of dealing damage in any given combat round. If I've got 10 Scouts (60 credits) facing down your 3 Battleships (60 credits), and you fire first, you can expect to take out 3 * 0.5 = 1.5 hull points on your first shot. Even if you get a little bit lucky, I've still got 8 Scouts left, with their +1 numerical advantage bonus, and so they're going to fire back with 8 * 0.2 = 1.6 hull points. Even if you get the initiative, I can still deal more damage with a damaged fleet of Scouts than you can with your intact fleet of Battleships. Of course, you may not get the initiative...if I can manage to fight in a Nebula or Asteroid belt, your initiative is worthless.

Finally, adding additional combat tech is a losing proposition. The board just isn't large enough and the game isn't long enough. Let's say you're collecting full income from 12 planets (5 credits apiece) for 12 turns. That seems high to me; if it were lower, tech would be even less useful. I'm assuming you break even on the opening income you get from your first few planets vs. the opening costs you spend on building colony ships and miners and shipyards and losing the occasional scout to a black hole or whatnot. Anyway, you'd be looking at a total disposable game income of 720 credits. To even float a Battleship hull requires 70 credits. Stacking it up with Attack 2 and Defense 3 costs you 140 credits -- anything less than that, and you don't need to bother with Battleships. You need some Engine tech, because you have fewer ships than I do -- you can't evenly distribute battleships across a large territory; they have to be mobile. Let's say you spring for Engine 3 at a cost of 50 credits. So you're now spending 260 of your 720 credits on tech -- roughly 36%. You can afford to build 23 Battleships. By contrast, I'm going to buy Attack 1 and Defense 1, at a cost of 40 credits -- roughly 5% of my stack. I can afford to buy 113 Scouts. How will my 113 Scouts stack up against your buffed-up 23 Battleships? Well, I probably only hit on a natural 1, so I'm getting 11 hits per combat round, enough to take out three or four of your battleships, or 16% of your force. You're hitting on a roll of 7 or lower, so you're getting 16 hits per combat round, enough to take out 16 scouts, or 14% of my force. Of course, if I can force combat in an asteroid or nebula, your combat tech advantage is wiped out; you're hitting on a roll of 5 or lower, so you're only taking out 10% of my force per round.

So even if you commit your entire game's production to one particular tech strategy, your odds still come out relatively bad compared to Scouts. Of course, in real life, you need to change your strategy from time to time. Battleships don't look so great once I pop out eight Mines at a total cost of 60 credits (including tech), which forces me to reduce the size of my Scout fleet by ten ships, or about 9%. If you traded battleships for mines, you'd lose 140 credits worth of ships, or about 35% of your fleet. On the other hand, if you build five advanced minesweepers at a total cost of 60 credits (including tech), it forces you to reduce the size of your fleet by 3 battleships, or roughly 13% of your fleet. So by paying 9% of my fleet, I can force you to invest resources that cost you 13% of your fleet.

It also doesn't hurt that Scouts and Destroyers (the little guys) are the ships you need to fight off advanced technologies. If you come after me with a Carrier fleet, my Scouts are just sitting there waiting to be equipped with Point Defense technology. If you come after me with Raiders, it's not so hard for me to build a couple of Destroyers to scan them.

At the margins, can you get away with a fleet that's got 30 Scouts, 10 Destroyers, and 5 Cruisers? Sure, that won't wreck you. Sometimes it's nice to have the extra defensive point on a Cruiser, especially in smaller battles, and sometimes you've got an extra 3 credits floating around or you're short on shipyards, and so you'd rather have 1 Destroyer than 1 Scout. That's fine. But basically, the player reference card, in all its complicated glory, boils down to this: whoever has the most ships, wins. That's tragic -- you may as well go play Risk.

Ugly: Overpowered Defensive Bases

As if that weren't bad enough, anytime you get a serious attack going, I can plop down a couple of defensive Bases - one on each of your likely targets. These puppies are absurdly overpowered. I pay only 4 credits per hit point, get the strongest weapon in the game, pay no maintenance, don't need to use my shipyard, can upgrade it for free as I develop new tech, and I get the shielding of a Battleship without needing more than one level of Hull tech. Is there ever a reason *not* to build Bases? Is there any fleet I can build that even makes sense to attack a planet with a Base? Suppose I have 2 Shipyards, 1 Base, and 2 Destroyers on my 5-point colony planet. This is the worst-case scenario, where you snuck up on me, and I only had one turn to build. I spend 30 credits to erect my defensive perimeter, and will fire at A7 + 2C3 + 2D4, for an expected offense of 2.1 hits per combat round with 7 hit points. The Base, which has the best weapon, is also the hardest to land a hit on, because of its 2-point shielding; it's not clear where you even want to concentrate your fire.

To destroy my defenses, suppose you use a mix of 2 Scouts, 2 Destroyers, 2 Cruisers, and 1 Battleship, at a cost of 74 credits. You have an expected offense of A5 + 2C4 + 2D4 + E3 = 2.4 hits per combat round with 10 hit points...a modest but probably decisive advantage. You are going to win, but you are going to take casualties. You cannot afford for the battle (or the next one) to be close, because if it's close you won't have enough firepower left to reduce my Colony from 5 to 0 in one turn. At which point, guess what? I build another Base and another Shipyard next turn, fighting back at a still respectable A7 + C3. So if I can take out half of your fleet, I've basically stopped the strategic threat to my colonies. You've spent 74 credits. I've spent 30 credits on defense, and I lose roughly 50 credits in income - 5 income * the 10 turns that are likely left in the game at the point where you can deliver that kind of fleet to my territory. So for your troubles, you gain a net advantage of something like 6 crtedits - one Scout. Meanwhile, your injured battle fleet is committed deep in enemy territory. It's likely too far away to have a decisive impact on other fronts for most of the rest of the game. This encourages me to wait until I've got a massive economic advantage before coming after you -- unless I can not just nick you, but blast through your defenses, there's no point in coming at all! Why commit to invading your territory with a fleet that can't take more than one planet, leaving my territory relatively undefended, when I can keep building up forces until I'm ready for a killing blow?

Ugly: Cumulative Victory

Once you start winning in this game, you'll keep on winning--there's just no way to stage a comeback. If I launch a successful invasion of your territory, I'll have more resources, and you'll have fewer resources. Your laboratories aren't going to come up with the equivalent of the atom bomb or the Enigma code, because your laboratories run exclusively on credits, which comes exclusively from territory, which I've just conquered. There isn't even much chance of a 'see-saw' based on successful defense...if I build a 200 credit invasion fleet, and you blow it to smithereens on the cheap, and then spend your savings on your own 200 credit invasion fleet, I can still probably muster enough defensive force to stop your fleet before it arrives, because bases and shipyards are so much cheaper than scouts and cruisers. There are no bureaucratic penalties of any kind, and there really isn't any disadvantage to having to defend multiple fronts, because I can conquer the part of your territory that's (a) closest to mine and (b) farthest from our other neighbors. If I weaken you, my neighbor might want to attack me to balance the game...but his selfish incentives strongly favor ganging up on you. But if I started attacking you first, I'll probably have the edge there. It's all kind of a mess.

The Straw that broke the Camel's Back: Merchant Pipelines

One thing that annoys me about this game is that there are very few "civ" elements. It's just a wargame; the planets don't serve as anything more than a focal point for reinforcements. They increase in income, but all at the same rate. You can learn "terraforming," but it's an on-off switch...either you can colonize barren planets, or you can't. There's no interesting strategy or theme to it.

So I got excited about the Merchant Pipelines, which seemed new and interesting at first. It's always tricky to implement trading ships; maybe Space Empires 4X had pulled it off.

Nope. At 3 credits each, merchant pipelines look like a bargain, but on average you'll need 2-3 of them per planet you want to connect to the network. That means you spend about 8 credits up front, in the hopes that it will pay off at 1 credit per turn for more than 8 turns. Of course, if you spend your opening credits to do this, you'll lose out on an extra Miner or Colony Ship, and so you'll be late colonizing and will at best break even. So you have to spend your mid-game credits to build your pipelines, which means they'll only be operating for 8-10 turns before someone has become so dominant that they can't be stopped. You might possibly eke out a profit of 8-10 credits on your whole network over the course of the game *if* nobody deliberately raids you and you don't lose a planet on the network to an invading force. So we're talking about an extra Destroyer, basically.

Is there a clever way to build your pipelines? No. You basically just figure out how many planets it makes sense to connect to your network, and send ships out, launching for the farthest planets in the network first.

Does the 'road' aspect of the pipelines make an interesting difference to gameplay? No, because you can almost always afford to just build shipyards on your front lines -- there's very little need for interior lines of communication, and if you did ever need to move ships around your empire in a hurry, you probably wouldn't be able to, because enemy ships would disrupt your pipelines.

The only other source of income is mining, but the game doesn't let you build more than two miners, and you should basically always build a second miner.

Conclusion & Solutions

So, to sum up, you're playing a "space" game where the planets are all identical, the technology has no effect on anything but warships, the only warship you want to build is the smallest one, and there's nothing to spend your credits on but warships. The only aliens or NPCs in the game you can interact with are a doomsday machine that shoots first and asks questions later. You have no government type, no racial advantages, and no bureaucracy. Where, in all of this, is the empire-building? If you replaced the nebulae and asteroid belts with mountains and forests, would anyone still be able to tell that they were fighting in space?

I tried fiddling with the rules to nerf Scouts and improve other ships...I gave ships an extra attack die for each extra hull point, reduced the Scout's weapon from an E3 to an F2, and limited players to 2 defensive Bases each. Play got more interesting, but the Scouts still won. I *want* to love this game. I'm tempted to keep fiddling with the rules to see if I can make them balanced. But, honestly, I'm just struck by how relentlessly un-fun the rules are to play with. I'm fighting the math at every turn. This game has a great set of ideas...the ideas just haven't been turned into a playable game, and it's not clear that there's any simple set of adjustments that could do that. I wish we could see what rules the developers were playing with before they simplified things. I loved their personal, handwritten note in the box about how they hoped we enjoyed the game that they'd spent countless hours playing and playtesting. Apparently Space Empires 4X is supposed to be the three-hour version of an old game that was played among friends for days at a time. I appreciate the effort to make the game shorter. I just don't think the game they shipped us is worthy of the same name as the game they grew up with.
46 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Merric Blackman
Australia
Waubra
Victoria
flag msg tools
designer
Ramping up my reviewing.
badge
Happily playing games for many, many years.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
Other advantages of larger ships include firing first, and the opportunity to add additional combat tech beyond just +1 Offense/Defense. Firing first is almost useless, for two reasons. First, weapons are pretty weak -- they've got less than a 50% chance of dealing damage in any given combat round. If I've got 10 Scouts (60 credits) facing down your 3 Battleships (60 credits), and you fire first, you can expect to take out 3 * 0.5 = 1.5 hull points on your first shot. Even if you get a little bit lucky, I've still got 8 Scouts left, with their +1 numerical advantage bonus, and so they're going to fire back with 8 * 0.2 = 1.6 hull points. Even if you get the initiative, I can still deal more damage with a damaged fleet of Scouts than you can with your intact fleet of Battleships. Of course, you may not get the initiative...if I can manage to fight in a Nebula or Asteroid belt, your initiative is worthless.


I just want to pick this apart a bit. Assume the Battleships have Defense Tech 2 and Attack Tech 0. Scouts have Attack 1/Defense 1.

Round 1: 3 Battleships vs 10 Scouts. Battleships fire first (6 vs 1), dealing 1.5 damage, destroying 1 scout. Scouts fire back (5 vs 4) dealing 0.9 damage in exchange.

Round 2: 3 Battleships vs 9 Scouts. Battleships fire first, dealing 1.5 damage and destroying 2 scouts. Scouts fire back (5 vs 4) dealing 0.7 damage in exchange.

Round 3: 3 Battleships vs 7 Scouts. Battleships fire first, dealing 1.5 damage and destroying 1 scout. Scouts fire back (5 vs 4) dealing 0.6 damage in exchange. At this point, they've hit 2.2 damage, and the Battleships still haven't taken a loss (3 hull points)

Round 4: 3 Battleships vs 6 Scouts. Battleships fire first, dealing 1.5 damage and destroying a further 2 scouts. Scouts get to do 0.4 damage in return. Battleships have taken 2.6 damage.

Round 5: 3 Battleships vs 4 Scouts. Scouts have lost superiority, but it doesn't matter because ones always hit. Battleships deal 1.5 damage, and destroy 1 scout. The Scouts deal 0.3 damage... they've almost destroyed a Battleship!

Round 6: 3 Battleships vs 3 scouts. The Battleships destroy 2 scouts, and the remaining scout finally destroys a Battleship.

Round 7: 2 Battleships destroy the remaining scout.

Now, random chance may help the Battleships or help the Scouts, but by no means can the Scouts be said to have an overwhelming force... once defense technologies are taken into account. They just don't have the firepower.
48 
 Thumb up
0.30
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Merric Blackman
Australia
Waubra
Victoria
flag msg tools
designer
Ramping up my reviewing.
badge
Happily playing games for many, many years.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Argothair wrote:
At which point, guess what? I build another Base and another Shipyard next turn


Clarification: You may not build a Base and Shipyard at a Blockaded planet.
27 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Guido Gloor
Switzerland
Ostermundigen
Bern
flag msg tools
The statement below is false.
badge
The statement above is correct.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Well, the game definitely is much more of a wargame than anything else - if you don't like those in general, I guess you will never like this one. If that surprised you, I can also see how you're surprised by the game in general, and since unmet expectations often lead to disappointment, I can see where your anger comes from.

Concerning bases, the rules do restrict them to two per player (one per chit, and there's only two chits), so you might have misplayed those.

Concerning scouts, they're rather powerful indeed, particularly on small maps. I found that the larger the map gets, the less of an advantage scouts have, because they can't hit as early and thus can't really cripple the economy as much as on a small map. Scouts are not actually overpowered in my experience, but powerful indeed.

Concerning merchant pipelines, I found their road aspect to be utterly dominating compared to their income (though that still does add up over the course of the game), but you can always opt to not build any if that suits your fancy.

Personally, I love the game, find it to be very thematic for how boiled-down to the essentials it is, and your review didn't anything to change that. But indeed, it is a wargame at heart - just like Eclipse, which I like a lot less, is a traditionally Euro economic efficiency engine with artificially limited choices at heart. One of the core things that makes me think that Eclipse is a silly game is how I can't build tech X because my neighbour just built it - there's just no thematic justification for that.

It's really a matter of (vastly) different preferences.
38 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Merric Blackman
Australia
Waubra
Victoria
flag msg tools
designer
Ramping up my reviewing.
badge
Happily playing games for many, many years.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Argothair wrote:
Once you start winning in this game, you'll keep on winning--there's just no way to stage a comeback.


Although I've quibbled with some of your other points, I agree that it's very difficult to come back after a successful invasion of your territory. Strangely enough, it's one of the reasons I love the game - mainly because it keeps the playing time down.

My experiences with the game suggest that it's rare you can just launch one invasion and be done with the game, though. The defender *should* have an advantage at the beginning due to them being able to react better to your techs and the attacker being at the end of a long supply chain. However, once you make the breakthrough, the game ends quickly after that.

I can well see why this can be considered a problem with the game.
14 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ed Bradley
United Kingdom
Haverhill
Suffolk
flag msg tools
badge
The best things in life aren't things.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I'm going to have to try this scout rush strategy. It's never been a factor in my 16 games but we tend to play the larger maps all the time.
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Darrell Hanning
United States
Jacksonville
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
We will meet at the Hour of Scampering.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I've seen the "build scouts" strategy used before, and it fails against bigger ships, simply because the modifiers, combined with the hit points bigger ships can take, cut through the scouts like sickles through wheat. The only time it has any degree of success is early in the game, and their fragility still prevents them from being able to maintain a sustained offensive.

As to the record-keeping being something excessive for little gain, that is a disingenuous appraisal, at best. The average difference you're keeping track of is something somewhat more profound than one chance in ten, unless everyone in your group has the same, unimaginative approach to tech in this game.
33 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
. .

Apex
North Carolina
msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
The scout rush is a good surprise move once. It's not a long term strategy...unless you don't like winning.

I'm not a huge fanboy of this game, but most of the things you've noted as downsides to the game are simply due to poor play. The review feels like you've only put in 1 or 2 games and haven't explored all the advanced rules or played in larger games using the big map.
10 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Cracky McCracken
United States
Ohio
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
There are too many chits and too much bookkeeping for the amount of strategy that's actually involved -- there's enough luck in the game that there's no reason to spend 20 minutes using pencil and paper to secretly track which of your Destroyers has +1 Offense vs. +2 Offense


I'll say it again for the benefit of anyone reading this review who is "on the fence" about buying SE4x. The bookkeeping in this game is very easy... couldn't be easier in fact.

Doesn't mean you'll like the game, but jeeesh... you don't even have to erase anything. shake
25 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
jumbit
China
Zhejiang
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Master of Orion also suffered from a "smallest ships are the best" problem. Although it took a lot of playing to get to that point where you had figured out the strategy. A pity that 4X designers still fall victim to this flaw (or its opposite, rush to build death stars).
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Debien
United States
Round Rock
Texas
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Regarding Scout Swarms. I did a write up on them here:

In Which Casualgod Discovers the Power of the Scout Swarm

So, on the small map, the Scout swarm is indeed a very strong, hard to counter strategy. On larger maps they start to lose their edge though as larger ships or specialized strategies start to come into their own.

I do not have the time or inclination to do an item by item rebuttal of the OP, but I would like to point out that the main strength of the larger ships os the line is the ability to take hits and retreat. When faced with a larger force of smaller ships my strategy will almost always be to fight a round or two and slowly withdraw my large ships as they take hits. Since ships auto heal between rounds in SE4X this type of attrition warfare is brutal against carrier fleets and small ships like scouts and destroyers.

31 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ocean Druen
United States
Buffalo Grove
IL
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Wow harsh cry I respect that you tried the games several times before making a decision - but one thing that I have learned about this game is that it is more rewarding if you can play a variety of opponents (most of the regular fans would have countered your scout strategy easily). I believe that is because different opponents will try different strategies - alowing you to pick up small things to try.

There are counters to the scout rush strategy (big ships with offense and defense is a popular counter - outlined by MerricB) and it is easy to spot because you are building so many ships.

One reason why I love this game is that every strategy can be countered despite what what some have said. Also the luck aspect is "misleading" as the home counters are all the same - if there are no planets nearby, then you have a lot of minerals and wealth coming in to jump start research - shipbuilding etc.

The reason not to build bases, you only have a few of them so if your system is being invaded and your opponent knows where they are (by using a single scout ship or raider etc...) then they can just destroy your other colonies to cut off your income and bleed you to death.

Some games have a cumulative victory, others do not. I have played several back and forth games. This does happen though, especially in games where there is little contact between the two sides and one side miscalculates what the other is doing. This is why scouting the enemy, with probing attacks / raiders / etc... is important.

Some people just do not like pipelines, and I myself don't always use them. A lot depends on what strategy I'm using.

I appreciate you trying to play the game though, several times in fact. I will be the first to admit that it is not for everyone - but making a veiled claim that Solarquest is a better game is overdoing it.
10 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ocean Druen
United States
Buffalo Grove
IL
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
casualgod wrote:

I would like to point out that the main strength of the larger ships os the line is the ability to take hits and retreat. When faced with a larger force of smaller ships my strategy will almost always be to fight a round or two and slowly withdraw my large ships as they take hits. Since ships auto heal between rounds in SE4X this type of attrition warfare is brutal against carrier fleets and small ships like scouts and destroyers.


And this!!thumbsup
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jim Krohn
United States
New York
flag msg tools
designer
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
badge
Ahhh....my misspent youth...
Avatar
mbmb
Quote:
Although I've quibbled with some of your other points, I agree that it's very difficult to come back after a successful invasion of your territory. Strangely enough, it's one of the reasons I love the game - mainly because it keeps the playing time down.

My experiences with the game suggest that it's rare you can just launch one invasion and be done with the game, though. The defender *should* have an advantage at the beginning due to them being able to react better to your techs and the attacker being at the end of a long supply chain. However, once you make the breakthrough, the game ends quickly after that.

I can well see why this can be considered a problem with the game.


Yes, that was an intentional design decision in the game. A successful invasion can often tip the game to the winnable point. At that point call a winner and set the game up again.

Quote:
Master of Orion also suffered from a "smallest ships are the best" problem. Although it took a lot of playing to get to that point where you had figured out the strategy. A pity that 4X designers still fall victim to this flaw (or its opposite, rush to build death stars).


Jumbit, don't assume that the assertion is true in regards to SE4X. The scout rush strategy can work on a small map. It is hard to make it work on a normal map and it will never work on a large map (barring poor play).

BTW, that is one of the things that I like best about the game (as the designer) - the fact that you have to adjust your strategy based upon the size of the map and what your opponent does. Don't forget that there are a whole host of scenario set ups.

Speaking about adjusting to what your opponent is doing - one pursuing the SC rush strategy will give you signs. That warning can be important in adjusting (like making sure you have enough ships so that they don't get the fleet size advantage).

MS Pipelines - The benefit is not only the income, but the road aspect. You mention that one invasion can sink you. That's true and that is why it is invaluable to be able to get side to side within your empire and fight off threats. They are also a great offensive weapon if you can start stringing them across the deep space portion of the map.
38 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jim Krohn
United States
New York
flag msg tools
designer
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
badge
Ahhh....my misspent youth...
Avatar
mbmb
Okay, I just reread parts of your review in order to see if there was something that I should add. I was going to say that, if you feel like SCs are still too powerful, you should just make SC2 cost 2 CPs more and DDs cost 1 CP more. I don't think it is needed, but if it will help you enjoy your game.....

Then I reread this:

Quote:
I tried fiddling with the rules to nerf Scouts and improve other ships...I gave ships an extra attack die for each extra hull point, reduced the Scout's weapon from an E3 to an F2, and limited players to 2 defensive Bases each. Play got more interesting, but the Scouts still won.


And my jaw dropped. Scouts at F2, CAs and BCs with 2 shots each, BBs with 3 shots each and the SCs won?!?!?!

BTW they are already limited to 2 Bases each.
29 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
alex w
Singapore
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
My 2 cents worth.

Book keeping is part of quite a lot of Wargames. For us, the writing and record keeping did not take us anymore than 5 minutes. I've played Wargames that demanded much more. To us, it's part of the fun.

As a wargame, in space, if you are 'taken out' by your opponent (strategy or die rolls or otherwise) and lost the game..... Than, that's about right. Much like your Panzer Lehr or 12SS taken out at Normandy that cost you the game.

Indeed, this game may not appeal to all as noted by the OP.
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Necessary Evil
United States
Glen Arm
Maryland
flag msg tools
Yes, I play the Bass.
badge
Sweet Holy Moses, Fruit F*cker Prime!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I have only played the game twice, and both on small maps. I can see where the scouts shine there, however I trust that those who replied above as to the proper counter are speaking from experience. So i will consider that broken game theory debunked.

As for the bases, you were clearly playing them incorrectly.

The piplelines I think are a play style/strategy issue.

The cumulative victory issue, I have seen on a small map, however it was not cut and dry as to if the other player could have staged a comeback. He had a fleet in my area and was doing a fair amount of damage himself.


The complaint about generic planets etc is a bit valid, however I view this as a play balance/ speed of play issue and am ok with it.

I would be interested to read a follow up after trying out some of the counters suggested to the scouts and after playing on a large map.

For now I am continuing to enjoy this space based war game... for me that's the itch it scratches and it does it well.

-M

PS the book keeping is simple, and in fact you could replace the paper an pencil (for tracking fleet abilities) with a Mat and cubes if you want a more euro feel.

Adding up the income and spending takes a bit of time but it is some of the fun and certainly not hard.




8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Caleb
United States
Seminole
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Jim Krohn wrote:
Okay, I just reread parts of your review in order to see if there was something that I should add. I was going to say that, if you feel like SCs are still too powerful, you should just make SC2 cost 2 CPs more and DDs cost 1 CP more. I don't think it is needed, but if it will help you enjoy your game.....

Then I reread this:

Quote:
I tried fiddling with the rules to nerf Scouts and improve other ships...I gave ships an extra attack die for each extra hull point, reduced the Scout's weapon from an E3 to an F2, and limited players to 2 defensive Bases each. Play got more interesting, but the Scouts still won.


And my jaw dropped. Scouts at F2, CAs and BCs with 2 shots each, BBs with 3 shots each and the SCs won?!?!?!


I took it to mean he tried each of those things (presumably independently), not all at once. But maybe I'm wrong.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jim Krohn
United States
New York
flag msg tools
designer
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
badge
Ahhh....my misspent youth...
Avatar
mbmb
Quote:
The complain about generic planets etc is a bit valid, however I view this as a play balance/ speed of play issue and am ok with it.


Yep, that's what it is. You hit both of the reasons that I went in that direction. It simplifies the math. Play balance is a big deal also. I worked hard to make a random set up in your home space that was random and important, but still balanced. That's part of the reason/need for the minerals. As has been pointed out, if your planets are farther away, it means your minerals are closer. Although I prefer to have closer planets, I never feel as if the set up sabotages my game.
22 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Necessary Evil
United States
Glen Arm
Maryland
flag msg tools
Yes, I play the Bass.
badge
Sweet Holy Moses, Fruit F*cker Prime!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Jim Krohn wrote:
Quote:
The complain about generic planets etc is a bit valid, however I view this as a play balance/ speed of play issue and am ok with it.


Yep, that's what it is. You hit both of the reasons that I went in that direction. It simplifies the math. Play balance is a big deal also. I worked hard to make a random set up in your home space that was random and important, but still balanced. That's part of the reason/need for the minerals. As has been pointed out, if your planets are farther away, it means your minerals are closer. Although I prefer to have closer planets, I never feel as if the set up sabotages my game.


It would not be that hard to make a variant where some of the planets give +1 or 2 to production... a simple chart would do it, however adding in an additional +1 or 2 for a handful of planets would make the math just that much harder and I am not sure it would add much.

Also Jim, how much of these thing are addressed with the expansions? I know we get unique race powers and alien tech for planets in deep space. Perhaps a set of counters to replace planets with different resource bonus's could be dropped in as a Print and play. (not that i feel the game really needs it.)

(I get the feeling that in the end we will get over time the entire original game that you and your friends used to play)

-M
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Jackman
United States
Indianapolis
Indiana
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
The other disadvantage of scouts is maintenance. In this way, they are like a zergling rush in Starcraft: If you win with it, great, if you dont, it has already likely crippled your economy enough that you will have trouble coming back.

5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Argothair _Bialyvich
United States
California
flag msg tools
Avatar
Some good comments, everyone!

I'd agree that scout rushes will work less well the larger the board is -- my five games all featured small or medium maps and 2-3 players. That said, if a game absolutely has to have exactly four players and a potential five-hour playtime, it's not going to get pulled out by my group more than once a year.

I also apparently misread the base rules -- I thought you could have four in play, but I guess you can only have two, and there is errata that you can't build a base on a blockaded planet, so that is much less of a strategic problem than I thought.

For those of you wondering how the nerfed Scouts still won, it only happened once. I made heavy use of Mines and Decoys, I built a couple of +1 Offense Destroyers to help take out undefended planets, I got lucky during the opening (planets tightly clustered together, which *will* increase your total game income vs. having early minerals), and I got lucky during combat. I'm not saying it would happen every time.

As many of you pointed out, tastes will differ. If you want a pure wargame with a light sci-fi theme, and you've got access to experienced, equally matched players, then Space Empires 4X will probably scratch your itch. Just don't expect anything like the civilization elements of the 4X computer game genre, and keep in mind that the capital ships are less powerful than they look.
16 
 Thumb up
0.05
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jim Krohn
United States
New York
flag msg tools
designer
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
badge
Ahhh....my misspent youth...
Avatar
mbmb
Argothair,

I appreciate your original post and your reply. It has been good to read this thread and I have appreciated the discussion.

SE:4X is definitely a wargame. There are plenty of euro or ameritrash space games. I designed one that had a war feel that had the emphasis on fleets, tech, taking parts of the board, and destroying colonies because I really didn't feel that there was a comparable game out there.

It is very different.

As a simple example, one of companies that I first sent the game to criticized the game because you normally only build 1/3 to 1/2 of the tech tree. I tried to explain that that was purposeful. If you always max out the tech tree you always know what the other player has and the tech decisions become much less important. Yet, you will max the tech tree out in most space games.
27 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bob
United States
Apollo Beach
Florida
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmb
So I think we should try and compile a list of misconceptions about strategies into one stickied thread on the Strategies sub forum.

Hear me out, I am not trying to be sarcastic regarding this review or any others but, I think it would be helpful for new players.

If somebody just nailed you with fighters or high level DNs or an SC fleet it's really easy to think that one of those things is waaay overpowered (and at least all of the above have been reported, I think).

Having a stickied post listing the strategies (or just links to the posts) and their counters would be really useful. If anything, it will help people from being turned off from the game because they think it is only win-able by X strategy. Now they can see there is a do-able counter and may want to pick it up again.

Since everybody else has been dropping change... my 2 cents are:
We've seen SC rush posted before as an "unbeatable" strategy along with at least half a dozen other, different, builds which have been refuted with counters. I think it speaks volumes about the quality of design and level of play testing that almost every major line of build/tech has been criticized as being unbeatable or unbalanced. Also, if you play on Vassal at all or follow some of the threads here about the game, I am so impressed by the amount of meta-game discussion. Very cool.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
jumbit
China
Zhejiang
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
I'd agree that scout rushes will work less well the larger the board is -- my five games all featured small or medium maps and 2-3 players. That said, if a game absolutely has to have exactly four players and a potential five-hour playtime, it's not going to get pulled out by my group more than once a year.

So, you barely explored the gamespace, and yet still posted a highly negative review saying that the game is broken? (facepalm)

Quote:
I also apparently misread the base rules -- I thought you could have four in play, but I guess you can only have two, and there is errata that you can't build a base on a blockaded planet, so that is much less of a strategic problem than I thought.

robot

You going to at least edit your post and say something? Your conclusions are flawed. Maybe change the title at the very least?
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
1 , 2  Next »   | 
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.