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Subject: Alternate Express Setups ? rss

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Victor Caminha
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Last saturday I taught HF to a friend who is a newbie to boardgames but was very interested in learning the game and is quite smart also. After almost two hours of explanation (all the rules + poster map + hidden agenda) we were ready to start.

Short learning session report: Even though I helped him a lot with the logistics regarding the card usage on rockets and the expenditure of WTs, he did quite well, building his first factory on Europa and built another on Ganimedes at the last turn after my third industrialization (Phaeton, Lutetia and Callisto). I was proud for what he said: "I don't care about VPs. This game is not about VPs, it should reward those who race to do something BIG."

At that game, however, I wanted to go back since my earliest session of HF and begin with the standard 4 Water Tanks. This way, I could experience how much slower the game would progress compared with the non-official variant of 16 WTs of my later sessions. The game lenght was 270 min (compared to the 120-150 min of my shorter 2-player sessions) and while I still consider the standard setup too long to try again, it made me think about ways to speed up the game, specially in earlier stages. So far, here are my pros and cons for each option:

- Fattened Initial Reserve: Begin the game with more WTs, like 12 or 16 WTs.

PROS: Greatly shortens the time needed to build your first rocket and thus the game lenght overall. Make the initial auctions a bit more exciting.

CONS: Its a "spoiled kid" start. Players start with that "OMG, I am so rich I can do anything now!" feeling but after the earlier rush for auctions and boosts the need for WTs seems lessened until the beginning of the next mission or an unexpected event (winning elections, the apperance of a new card coveted by multiple players)

- Default express setup: 6 starting cards per player

PROS: It speeds the game and you may have a workable combination straight away. If not, you can always sell them for 3 WT.

CONS: The initial car draw is too strong (e.g Laval Nozzle and Project Orion) and will force players to work around the cards received instead of trying combinations from scratch. If Shimizu's in the game this will force other players to boost as their first operation just to avoid Japan acquire cards without cost (and if Shimizu is the starting player, swallow it).

- Round income: I am thinking about this after last session. At the beginning of each round (including the first round), all players receive an amount of water tanks. I am considering to try 2 WT/round -1 for each factory and Space Venture the player possesses (no negative WT as tax, though)

PROS: It doesn't direct a player's strategy like the default express setup and does not turn the initial players' turn into a spending spree. No book keeping needed beyong giving WTs at the beginning of each round (not each player turn). It benefits players who are behind the factory/venture race.

CONS: This is the slowest express setup.

Any suggestions?
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chuck dunn
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we seem to average 3 hours with the base game of 4 wt s to start,(with 3-4 players) ... this is fine by us ... all that hype about too long a game needs to be ignored .. the play varies greatly with the slow build too the ideal rocket.. initial plans are scrapped as pieces of the rocket puzzle come together over the course of the initial 5 rounds or so. Much of the meat of this game to me is involved in the building up of the rocket set to get the objectives done ... actually increasing the game end to 9 or 11 factories is our next "great step" as we have spent the time building up great techs then game ends too soon to actually use them to go interstellar...

Again the base rule of any game I'm involved in is that the game doesn't start till the third hour .. having such a game as high frontier max out at 3 hours bothers me.

Using the fast start of 6 cards to each player seems a bad idea as they won't want to play it the normal way after such a huge beginning from the learning game ..

Fattened starting wts seems bad as well as the variable player powers will affect this negatively..

Round income would seem tough as well since there would be no moment of empty reserves from the other players to grab tech when they are unable .. water midgame is plentiful in my opinion no need to cause a glut.
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James Moore

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wykthor wrote:

At that game, however, I wanted to go back since my earliest session of HF and begin with the standard 4 Water Tanks. This way, I could experience how much slower the game would progress compared with the non-official variant of 16 WTs of my later sessions. The game lenght was 270 min

Sounds like you're comparing play times with an inexperienced player to playtimes with an experienced player. My suggestion would be that this slowed things down much more than you think it did.

Personally, I don't like any of these variants, and I'm dubious that they really speed up the game in any significant way. The slowdowns we see are when people need to think about what they're doing, and have to take extra time to make a decision. (And don't get me wrong, decisions are what makes a good game - this isn't a criticism.) None of these variants would change that. In fact, I think that having more WT might make the game _longer_ since it's sometimes harder to optimize when you have more resources.

I'd be willing to try the first or the third. Not that I think they'd really improve the game at all, but they're not obviously bad. "6 starting cards per player," though, doesn't sound interesting. It's a game-changer, and just adds a bunch of undesirable randomness.
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Victor Caminha
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Chuck, I think we have different gaming styles, then . I love medium-heavy and heavy games like of Antiquity, Indonesia and TtA (4 player, full), but having a game which only really starts after three hours is a bit too much for me. Am I right to think your group makes heavy use of HF negotiation (which is almost null here)?

Regarding the non-absence of WT among players in variant #3, it *is* possible to happen as this extra income would be given at the beginning of the round and an auction won out of a player's turn could leave him penniless on his turn. I am curious about your statement, though:

Quote:
water midgame is plentiful in my opinion no need to cause a glut.


What is your criteria for midgame? After the first factory built? If so, those who industrialized first will gain less (1 WT) than the others who haven't built a factory yet.

James, I admit the learning curve makes a huge impact on the downtime of the game. Unfortunately, I have only one friend who is already experienced enough and he outright refused to play with the standard setup when I suggested it, as he is used to the 16 WT opening. One of my hopes with these variant setups is to find a smoother beginning without being too time-consuming for everyone involved.

I agree with your stance on the 6 starting cards and the extra layer of randomness they bring. Right now, I am considering to test the round income.

 
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James Moore

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wykthor wrote:

James, I admit the learning curve makes a huge impact on the downtime of the game. Unfortunately, I have only one friend who is already experienced enough and he outright refused to play with the standard setup when I suggested it, as he is used to the 16 WT opening.

My suggested variation would be to find other players :-).

I think you're mistaking correlation for causation. HF does not have an unreasonably slow game start. HF has a steep learning curve, so it feels like it's got a slow start with inexperienced players.

Chuck: Have you tried the variant that just changes victory conditions? I'm thinking of the one where you only get a point for the first settlement in a solar band, and lots of points for the distant science sites, and nothing else. Factories != victory points, basically - they're just tools. It's high on my list of things to try.
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Stephen Woll
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banshee10 wrote:

Chuck: Have you tried the variant that just changes victory conditions? I'm thinking of the one where you only get a point for the first settlement in a solar band, and lots of points for the distant science sites, and nothing else. Factories != victory points, basically - they're just tools. It's high on my list of things to try.


Could you post a link to this variant? That sounds very interesting to me.
 
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Victor Caminha
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James, you may be right. As I spent a lot of my time in the game helping out the new player, I can't even measure my turns properly. But without experienced players willing to start from scratch, there isn't a solution right now. Perhaps after other players become more experienced they can try the standard setup then .
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chuck dunn
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I consider mid game when 2-4 factories are built ... UN players making lots of WT,(claims..selling use of cycler), ... NASA is potentially upping from its boost mechanic.. Shimizu normally making 3 a round from the multitude of cards it's acquired only the poor ESA and PRC are liable to be a bit low on cash... and the 3 hour start is more metaphor than reality ... knowing from the get go that your going to be there for 3 hours or more is the part I enjoy... 1 hour and start a new game is a bit too lightweight to hold my interest .. not that there aren't fun games that take one hour or so ...

Negotiation is very well used in our games I stress the importance in every game I teach .. trading cards, selling abilities for WT, trading claims to acquire 3 of one kind all are very important methods to run the game smoothly .. wrenching the evil UN off that 5 point start can also require a team effort ..as the elections are quite seldom ..

got to run playing Advanced Civilization with the kid and friends today
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James Moore

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sandswoll wrote:
banshee10 wrote:

Chuck: Have you tried the variant that just changes victory conditions? I'm thinking of the one where you only get a point for the first settlement in a solar band, and lots of points for the distant science sites, and nothing else. Factories != victory points, basically - they're just tools. It's high on my list of things to try.


Could you post a link to this variant? That sounds very interesting to me.

It's in the 16 Feb 2012 Living Rules - 13.2 The Grand Tour Supermap Scenario. I'd be tempted to change one thing in it though - I suspect the two-actions-per-turn Space Venture is too powerful in a longer game like this. I'd just turn that one off. (In this scenario, the space ventures aren't worth points, but you do get their effects.)

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