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Subject: Doing the math, part 2: Specialization in a 2p game rss

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Kevin B. Smith
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The following contains massive spoilers. If you enjoy learning a game on your own, stop reading now.
Spoiler (click to reveal)

First, I need to say that my focus is on 2-players, partly because that's how I would most often play the game. Secondly, because it's easiest to analyze. I'm only looking at up to 4p for similar reasons. I'm also going to ignore knowledge cards for this article, partly because they are harder to analyze.

I am also assuming that both players get up to 6 workers as quickly as possible. It's hard for me to imagine that doing so is not the best strategy, and necessary to win. I hope I'm wrong.

Two of the Councilors have special abilities that directly relate to gathering resources and building parts (Artificer and Explorer). One has an ability that seems best suited to working in the navy (Champion). I would argue that the Priest is also best in the navy, while the Astrologer is probably better with resources, but could help with the navy. The Scholar doesn't seem significantly better in one pursuit than the other.

In part 1, we established that in a 2p game, you need to put 8 workers in the navy each turn. The question is whether that should be all 6 from one player and 2 from the other, or 4 from each, or if it should vary from turn to turn. In a 2p game, it makes the most sense for one player to only work the navy, while the other player collects resources and builds parts. There are 2 reasons for this:

1. You can't usually trade resources. If both players end up with resources, you might have enough to build a part, but split between the 2 players. If one player gets ALL the resources, and the other player NEVER gets resources, the resources are never in the wrong place.

2. One of the players can have a councilor whose special ability helps gather resources or build parts (e.g. Artificer or Explorer). Assuming both players don't have such an ability, it makes sense for the one who does to specialize.

The Priest works well in the navy, because collecting one energy per round cancels a flood every 3 rounds, and at the optimal staffing level the Athenians will cause a flood every 6 rounds. The Champion works well in the navy because with their extra courage token going into the navy each round, one fewer worker is needed.

So after the Athenian navy is at full strength (about round 6), the navy player puts all 6 workers in the navy, along with a courage token. The other player puts 2 workers in, leaving 4 workers available for other tasks. (Or 5 if the navy player is the Champion).

In a 3-player game, the players need to put 11 workers in the navy (or 10 if one is the Champion). Again here, one player would be putting all their workers in the navy. Then, either the other 2 players specialize, or they don't (I don't know which is better). If they specialize, then player 2 would put 4-5 workers in the navy, and use their last 1-2 to get energy or cards. Player 3 would gather resources and build parts. Without specialization, Players 2 and 3 would each put 2-3 workers in the navy, and use 3-4 for resources and parts.

In a 4-player game, one player still has to be entirely in the navy, while the other 9 workers would either come from 6-3-0 or 3-3-3 (or some other non-specialized grouping).

If the navy player (or players in 4p) is putting all his or her workers in the navy every round, is that any fun? There are no decisions to make. No dice to roll. No cards to collect. It seems like at any player count, at least one of those players is an automated "navy" dummy, effectively reducing the true player count by one.

Discussion welcome.

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David desJardins
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I don't see how you can call this a "spoiler". There's nothing more than what one might conclude from reading the rules.
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Kevin B. Smith
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DaviddesJ wrote:
I don't see how you can call this a "spoiler". There's nothing more than what one might conclude from reading the rules.

Better to tell people it's a spoiler when it's not than the other way around. I wrote the disclaimer before writing the article.

I would maintain that my references to what we learned in part 1 is clearly a spoiler. Also the effects of specialization on the relative fun each player will have.
 
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Matt Shinners
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I've got to say, these 'spoilers' are making the game seem like no fun whatsoever.
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Kevin B. Smith
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MattShinners wrote:
I've got to say, these 'spoilers' are making the game seem like no fun whatsoever.

If I'm correct, I have to agree. My real hope as I write these is to have someone come along and say how wrong I am. I have a possible variant "solution" cooking in the back of my mind, however.
 
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Jimmy Smith
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While I'll admit that being a player who places all their workers in the navy each round can get rather dull, I disagree that there are no dice to roll...of course there is!!

And there are decisions that can be made. For example, if the card "Hopelessness" gets drawn, all courage tokens are lost, so relying on courage tokens continually could eventually come back to bite you at a critical point (It certainly did in my our first game. There was one turn where we used four or five courage tokens in the navy, and someone drew the hopelessness card. It crushed us. Granted, we didn't know at the time such a card existed although we could have.).
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Kevin B. Smith
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jmsmith2434 wrote:
While I'll admit that being a player who places all their workers in the navy each round can get rather dull, I disagree that there are no dice to roll...of course there is!!

Yeah, although I think technically the first player rolls the navy die, rather than the person who put the most workers in. I suppose if you wanted to give the navy person something to do, you could have them always roll the die. Whoop-dee-doo.

Quote:
And there are decisions that can be made. For example, if the card "Hopelessness" gets drawn, all courage tokens are lost, so relying on courage tokens continually could eventually come back to bite you at a critical point (It certainly did in my our first game. There was one turn where we used four or five courage tokens in the navy, and someone drew the hopelessness card. It crushed us. Granted, we didn't know at the time such a card existed although we could have.).

The navy player probably won't get any courage tokens, so they wouldn't be making that choice. I agree that other players contributing to the navy have to choose whether to substitute courage tokens for workers. Yes, that choice has some risks.

Thanks for the reply. I am hoping to learn from this thread.
 
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Brian M
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I'm very much in agreement with you about the strength and dullness of having one person do as much of the navying as possible.

We came up with a navy battle variant to spice the game up. It requires fewer workers for the navy, but a variety of resources that changes from turn to turn, encouraging everyone to diversify and for everyone to help with the navy.
 
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Kevin B. Smith
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Tonight, we played 2 players with a dummy 3rd player. Unfortunately, I forgot to give the dummy a hero card, and with that we probably would have won.

The dummy player seems like a reasonable variant to avoid the problems I described here. With it, each (human) player only has to put 2 workers into the navy each turn, meaning they have to make decisions about where to put the other 4 workers each.

I can't imagine playing this 2p without a dummy.
 
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Kevin B. Smith
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Originally, my plan was to have a multi-part strategy series, with the conclusion being that this game is mathematically unwinnable, and that anyone who is winning must be getting the rules wrong. However, my plan went awry when I was able to win a game.

If you do the math ignoring knowledge cards (as I did above), I think you'll find that the game is unwinnable, assuming average rolls and card draws. However, in a different strategy forum thread, it was pointed out how strong the knowledge cards are, and that proved to tip the balance. Between those cards, and the rewards you get for building components, the game shifts from unwinnable to winnable.

I have now traded the game away, because even after getting past the frustration of it seeming hopeless, and even after solving the navy problems with a robot dummy, it still just wasn't all that fun for me or for my wife. I suspect it will be fun for a lot of people, so I don't want to rain all over it. For me, it just needs some house rules or further development to live up to its potential as a great game.

Anyway, I wanted to bring some closure to my multi-part rant. Thanks for reading.
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