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Richard Irving
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Playing the new FFG "Standard Game", my fears were fully realized. The changes to the game offer no benefits and make the game far more fiddly, far more random and far, far longer than the original "classic game".

Before I get started, the ships are nice looking and have a convenient arrow on their base to indicate initial direction. Too bad they only give you four—presumably to bribe people into buying the inevitable expansions.

Artwork: Aesthetic appeal is in the eye of the beholder, but the new board & components simply make it far harder to play the game—a HUGE mistake. The systems were unnecessarily expanded to fit the larger ID and goods/racial technology counters inside each system—but this forces the paths between the systems to become twisted into a busy mess. The counters may look nice in isolation, but in play since they have similar framing are hard to distinguish in setup & in play. The main effect is to make a visual goulash that is hard to follow where items are bought & sold, how many are available, what the culture buys--which is vital information in this game.

Consider navigation spaces (There are many more elements in the FFG artwork that detract from play)
Original Game: On the original AH board and the Darthkadan print and play version, which number that is assigned is clearly indicated inside the arrows pointing in each direction. (Helvetica numerals on AH/dice of Darthkadan's version). The use of navigation spaces is crystal clear,
FFG Remake: On both FFG's boards, the navigation numbers and arrows are printed in gray and in a hard to read tech-style font next to hard to see arrows—that just fades into the visual noise of the board.

Fiddliness in play: One of the most elegant mechanisms in the original Merchant of Venus is the “The Cup”. Sold goods are dropped into a draw cup with bonus chits for increased demands on various goods and fares who pay you cash to be delivered to specific planets. Each time a good is sold, a new chit is drawn out. This delays replenishment of goods into markets and increased prices to the general lower price/margin goods making them more attractive. Possibly, the most brilliant feature of the game.

FFG replaced each of these elements with following mechanics:
- Sold goods are placed off to the side of the board, sorted by culture number.
- Each time one or more goods are sold at a planet, the market is rotated by returning the top ID tile to the bottom of the stack of three and turning the next one face up.
- If the new price is medium level, one chip in replenished from the off board supply back the system.
- All of the goods in a system are replenished if the “Encounter” random event card shows a gear with the systems number
- One Fare is randomly drawn and entered into play every other turn.

Five clunky mechanisms to replace a relatively elegant one! But Standard Game adds many more fiddly elements: hazard checks, Pirates, Fame points etc. which either detract from the game or have a relatively minor effect that isn't worth the extra overhead.

Market Fluctuation: Markets fluctuate when a player sells goods at a system—which creates a “chicken game” I want the other guy to sell first so I can take advantage. This is an exceptionally poor mechanic, because if carried to its logical conclusion, no one sells. But it may not make much difference anyway, taking an extra turn to fly across the board to sell at the top of the market, you won't make as much as selling at a low price and buying goods to sell on the next turn.

Replenishment: The new replenishment rules create a feast or famine effect. Th single goods being popped every three sales is minimal, so most of the replenishment comes from the Encounter deck and if the card for a system comes out before any goods are sold or is buried at the bottom of the deck, they don't get replenished at all. In a 30 turn game, about 2/3 or the systems were completely sold out at the the end of the game, leaving the players little to do.

Goals: In the Standard Edition each player receives a goal such as selling two goods at a particular system or passing a laser check in the Supergiant. Completing a goal awards 2 Fame points (basically each Fame Point is worth at the end of the game—and Fame is also earned for upgrading your ship or pilot in various ways, defeating Pirates, various Encounter Cards, etc.) and Reward card which grants a permanent award. The problem of goals is that if they can be done without having to go out of your way, those players get a large advantage (mostly from the reward card). Players who get goals that are harder or more expensive to obtain fall behind.

Hazard spaces: The hazards spaces work differently than in the original game—each time you enter the hazard space you roll against your laser, shield or pilot rating. If you roll a die under your current rating, you pass freely. If you roll equal to or higher, you can either stop immediately or spend a laser or shield point (but never a pilot point) to keep moving and then you are immune to further hazards of the same type for the rest of the turn. (Wargamers have a term for multiple die rolls like this: wristage.) Both making the die rolls, and especially failing them, REALLY slows down the game.

Since at the start of the game you start with only 1 or 2 laser or shield points and crappy Level 1 pilot, large sections of the board (Asteroid Belt, Trapped Rogue Planet, upgrading is almost required to have both a decent chance of passing the hazard checks and having shield & laser points to burn should you fail. Upgrading to level 5 for both shields and lasers and upgrading to a Level 2 pilot costs $340, which is pretty hefty sum and takes a while to earn. And that STILL leaves you with 1/3 chance of failure on each hazard check. (Each failure on the laser/shield effectively costs you $40 to replace laser/shield point.)

Because where the hazard spaces are located , “Galactic West and South” can be painful to reach being blocked by multiple hazard spaces until you upgrade, effectively making them off limits at the start of the game, limiting opening turn options.

Encounter Deck: Speaking of the Encounter Deck replaces the mystery markers (aka taters/turds/?'s, whatever you like calling them) The difference in the original game, it was often worth exploring for unique relics, which could give you an edge for the rest of the game and the penalties usually minor. In the new Standard game, the benefits are far more meager (usually allowing you stop to conduct trade for particular items or some bonus that may accrue to another player) and the penalties far more severe (like Pirates), throwing off the balance making exploring them way too hazardous until your ship is upgraded.

Pirates: When a pirate is encountered (except if you land on one by exact count—in which case you automatically lose), you can choose to flee with pilot rating, withstand their attack with your shield rating or fight them off with your laser rating. You roll a die add their rating--Not unlike the hazard checks. A few of the pirates have negative ratings that are beatable, but any with 0 or higher rating will require multiple upgrades to have a reasonable (or even any) hope of defeating them.

If pirate's total is equal to or greater than your pilot/shield/laser rating you rolled, you lose a good or $20 and the rest of your turn. If you win, you can continue moving and get a reward. The problem here is the reward for defeating pirates with lasers grants a reward card which is far better than the minimal rewards for using shields or piloting. This makes lasers the best choice for an upgrade.

Ship/Pilot Upgrades: If there is any area where Merchant of Venus can be improved, it is on ship designs—nearly everyone buys the same type of ship with a Shield. (I even created a variant (“Green Taters”) to do just that!) The Standard Game radically changes how ships are built and upgraded.

The is only area where I think Standard game improves over the original:
- Each ship needs a pilot, and you start with a level one pilot. Pilots allow you a number of dice use up to their rating on throttling (must be a 1 to add a 4th die), navigation and activate some “racial ship technologies”. Pilots can be upgraded at Galactic Base to level 2 and Level 3 home system system for $60. Upgrading a pilot also increases the rating for passing pilot hazard checks and fleeing pirates.
- Ships almost always roll 3 dice (+ Throttle), meaning there is no risk reward for getting a large, but slow ship.
- Each ship has two holds. Up to 2 extra holds can be purchased for $40 each. A ridiculously cheap price given that carrying an extra good will generate a net profit.
- Laser & Shield points are available for $40 each, which are somewhat overpriced, but necessary.
- Red, Yellow and Combined drives no longer take up hold space in Standard game, but can't have both a Red & Yellow drive—you basically pick one to increase your speed.
- The racial ship technologies have some clever ideas, but some are clearly too powerful (Variable Shield & Laser, Fuzzy Dice), some are practically worthless (Not so Fancy Spoiler, Stealth Field). Some take up space in a hold, some take up space in a new Ship Upgrade space, some take no space at all. They all have differing prices and the price, by and large, do not track well with their abilities.
- One of the upgrades, License to Drill adds the ability to lay down tokens which are collected every other turn for $10 each. Fiddly mechanic with a miniscule advantage that's hardly enough to bother with.

Ship construction could have a myriad of interesting choices: speed vs. cargo capacity, limiting you only to a few upgrades, etc. But these ship rules have almost no tradeoffs—you can build almost any ship you want, limiting the strategic choices in the game.

The standard game takes roughly an hour per player about twice the game length of the original game, most of it in elements that add lots of randomness, lots of fiddliness for little effect and are very imbalanced as well. FFG's Merchant of Venus is a major disappointment.

Fortunately, the resolution of the rights dispute with Stronghold Games, allowed at least a version of the classic game to be included in this edition. (Though there are a few changes.) I highly recommend sticking to that version.
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Scott M.
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Will you be doing a classic side review as well to balance out the entire review?
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David Etherton
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Wow, I bought the new FFG version and have three people willing to play it for the first time this Sunday, and I've been agonizing over which version I should play. Sounds like I need to stick with the classic version.

(Really sad part is that I own the original version and bought this for the extra "version" and the nicer components).

Thanks,

-Dave
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Cameron Chien
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This review sounds like the player went into a game of FFG's version expecting to hate every change.

Cameron
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Ian Noble
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Couldn't disagree with you more on most of your points. I've played both versions and I'm about 60/40 willing to play the new version vs the "classic" version next game.

In our 3 player game, we only had a couple areas that sold out of goods and the total play time was about the same as the classic version we played before.

The one thing I do agree with you on, is that if a player is dealt a bad mission card at the beginning of the game, it makes that path to victory pretty much useless for them. Fortunately, I was dealt a pretty easy one so I was able to focus on completing missions the entire game.

Luckily there is a version for everyone included in the box!
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Greg R.
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I've played the original a couple of times and I've play the new version but only the Classic game so far three times. I enjoyed the "new" Classic game but I will said that it gets boring with less than 3 players and the board is a bit busy so make sure you play in a well lit area.

I plan on trying the standard game soon. I am bummed about the lack of the "bonus cup". I may have to house-rule to include it. I don't know, we'll see. Or like Richard said, I may just have to stick with the Classic game.
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Scott Lewis
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Zeede wrote:
This review sounds like the player went into a game of FFG's version expecting to hate every change.

That's what it sounded like to me, too; that he went into it already hating it, and just looking for reasons to justify the hatred.

Nothing WRONG with not liking it, of course, but I don't think there was any hope of this being a positive review for this particular player.
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Eric Brosius
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Zeede wrote:
This review sounds like the player went into a game of FFG's version expecting to hate every change.

Rich Irving is a very knowledgeable Merchant of Venus player (he has GMed the game at WBC for years). He has also (as mentioned in his review) designed variants, so he's not opposed to trying to improve the game. I give his opinion a lot of weight.
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Scott M.
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etherton wrote:
Wow, I bought the new FFG version and have three people willing to play it for the first time this Sunday, and I've been agonizing over which version I should play. Sounds like I need to stick with the classic version.

(Really sad part is that I own the original version and bought this for the extra "version" and the nicer components).

Thanks,

-Dave


Play the standard version and make up your own mind.

I have played both and love the changes from old to new.

Dont be a nostalgia lemming....
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Matt Shinners
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Eric Brosius wrote:
Zeede wrote:
This review sounds like the player went into a game of FFG's version expecting to hate every change.

Rich Irving is a very knowledgeable Merchant of Venus player (he has GMed the game at WBC for years). He has also (as mentioned in his review) designd variants, so he's not opposed to trying to improve the game. I give his opinion a lot of weight.


I think that's exactly what the two posters above are saying - he's very knowledgeable about the original, which prejudiced him against the FFG remake. Even if he's tried to design variants, those are his variants that attempt to improve things he thinks needs improving. When you've spent so much time fixing what you think needs to be fixed, you can discount the stuff that other people feel needs fixing.

I didn't read the whole review, and it seems to be well thought out. However, when you start a review with, "my fears were fully realized", you've already lost me as I don't think you gave the game a fair shake.
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Scott M.
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Eric Brosius wrote:
Zeede wrote:
This review sounds like the player went into a game of FFG's version expecting to hate every change.

Rich Irving is a very knowledgeable Merchant of Venus player (he has GMed the game at WBC for years). He has also (as mentioned in his review) designd variants, so he's not opposed to trying to improve the game. I give his opinion a lot of weight.



Exactly, Jaded to the original so much that any change that was not a full reprint of a 20 year old game was doomed to fail in his eye.

Edit: Matt said it better...
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David Etherton
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atraangelis wrote:
Play the standard version and make up your own mind.

I have played both and love the changes from old to new.

Dont be a nostalgia lemming....


Fair enough. Problem is that I only get one shot to make sure the game goes over well enough to warrant a replay, so I'm trying to figure out which version I want to play first. Many people have played the original version to death and are happy to move on to additional rules; I'm not in that position, and am a bit worried the standard version will be a bit harder to teach. I'll probably have to flip a coin to decide. Thank you for your feedback though, it sounds like if I go in without any preconceptions I'm likely to enjoy either version.

-Dave
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Christopher Ross
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I have only played the original game once with 6 players and it took FOREVER! I enjoyed it though.

Perhaps I don't have the depth of experience to have this level of disgust for the FFG new version. I've played the new version 3 times now and I've read up on a lot of the people who are comparing the versions.

It seems to me that the FFG version is not meant to be the same game as the classic. Thus, I don't think that the comparisons are really apt. It sounds to me like there was much less luck or randomness in the old game except for things like "the cup" that actually are less random in the new game. It also sounds like the most successful players would find a few short routes and grind them to max out to the dollar amount to win the game.

Thus, the new game does seem to have a lot less to do with those features that people most often talk about with the old game. It is harder to grind your way to victory because the board is laid out in a way that makes that harder and the goods don't replenish fast enough. It also sounds like there are a lot more objectives in the new game than in the old which could be cut throat capitalism.

I think that they are both good games but they are not the same game. I will be looking forward to playing the classic game on the other side of the board sometime when I can play with someone who is more familiar with it than I am and I will teach the new game in exchange. I like them both and I'm glad that FFG and Stonghold could work out a deal to get this game republished with better components and more easy to understand rules (Jeez ... how did anyone ever slog through those Avalon Hill rules).
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Joel Berg von Linde
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Hmmn, judging by your review, I think I'm going to really like the standard game (I haven't played the old version, so I guess I am also the target audience for the new one), and I would in most cases value form over function (and I dont have any eyesight problems), so sounds like an improvement in that regard as well. Nice review though, if you sift through the nostalgic bitternes, there is actually some nice information on how the game plays in there.

I do however really really fail to see how putting less of something in a game (4 starshps as opposed to I'm guessing 6 in the original?) is in any way a 'bribe'??!? Either that or bribes work differently in america
 
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rri1 wrote:
Playing the new FFG "Standard Game", my fears were fully realized. The changes to the game offer no benefits and make the game far more fiddly, far more random and far, far longer than the original "classic game".


I went in expecting to hate it, and I did!

Surprise!
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MattShinners wrote:
Eric Brosius wrote:
Zeede wrote:
This review sounds like the player went into a game of FFG's version expecting to hate every change.

Rich Irving is a very knowledgeable Merchant of Venus player (he has GMed the game at WBC for years). He has also (as mentioned in his review) designd variants, so he's not opposed to trying to improve the game. I give his opinion a lot of weight.


I think that's exactly what the two posters above are saying - he's very knowledgeable about the original, which prejudiced him against the FFG remake. Even if he's tried to design variants, those are his variants that attempt to improve things he thinks needs improving. When you've spent so much time fixing what you think needs to be fixed, you can discount the stuff that other people feel needs fixing.

I didn't read the whole review, and it seems to be well thought out. However, when you start a review with, "my fears were fully realized", you've already lost me as I don't think you gave the game a fair shake.


This would be a fair assessment if he didn't itemize every complaint and explain his disappointments. Indeed, he went so far as to describe the mechanics of each differing point so well that I can see a couple that, unlike him, I think sound pretty neat.
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Cameron Chien
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The nicest thing about the FFG version is that it gives you different paths to victory. Passenger delivery and gaining fame are both viable methods for making end-game credits.

I think the OP totally overstates how much time the hazards add to the game. Oh no, a laser check, roll a d6, see if I passed. Total elapsed time: five seconds.

Plus, you can agree upon playing to a fewer number of turns to make the game shorter, and I think it is a BIG improvement to not have to worry about adding up everyone's net worth every single round like you have to near the end of the original game.

Also, License to Drill is VERY lucrative if you acquire it early on. You will easily make back the 50 credits you spend on it and more. To dismiss it as pointless really shows the bias of the review (and to be fair, EVERY review has bias).

Our group really enjoys the game, but would like the game to be shorter, so we'll probably play with the Lightspeed variant, but keep all of the races hidden (the exploration is half the fun of the game, IMO), and play to 24 rounds. We also use the Demand chits variant, and we fix the prices of the goods at the neutral level. We may just use the Bonus cup from the original game, we aren't sure yet.

That's the only part of FFG's re-imaging that really fails to deliver, IMO. The market cycle tokens. They don't deter you from selling, they're annoying to remember to keep cycling, and just aren't well implemented, IMO.

Cameron
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Christopher Ross
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The benefit of revealing some cultures in the light speed variant is that it gives you a chance to start with some goods, technology, and upgrades and you can start your game at one of those cultures you have discovered rather than from Galactic Base. I think the light speed variant really works for a shorter game.
 
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hanibalicious wrote:
MattShinners wrote:
Eric Brosius wrote:
Zeede wrote:
This review sounds like the player went into a game of FFG's version expecting to hate every change.

Rich Irving is a very knowledgeable Merchant of Venus player (he has GMed the game at WBC for years). He has also (as mentioned in his review) designd variants, so he's not opposed to trying to improve the game. I give his opinion a lot of weight.


I think that's exactly what the two posters above are saying - he's very knowledgeable about the original, which prejudiced him against the FFG remake. Even if he's tried to design variants, those are his variants that attempt to improve things he thinks needs improving. When you've spent so much time fixing what you think needs to be fixed, you can discount the stuff that other people feel needs fixing.

I didn't read the whole review, and it seems to be well thought out. However, when you start a review with, "my fears were fully realized", you've already lost me as I don't think you gave the game a fair shake.


This would be a fair assessment if he didn't itemize every complaint and explain his disappointments. Indeed, he went so far as to describe the mechanics of each differing point so well that I can see a couple that, unlike him, I think sound pretty neat.

The itemization feels to me more like justifications for his prior mindset, rather than things he gave a fair shake to. IE, to me they read like (paraphrasing): "This is something different, and here's why I didn't like it".
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Soooo what if you never played the Original Merchant of Venus before? Would a newb think this is a good or great pickup and deliver game? Would the Classic version included still be a faster and better game? Is the Standard version better for fun playing solo?

I played a 4 player standard game the other night of this at my flgs and we all enjoyed it even if it was long. I do think it's a little overly fiddly for 4 players though. It seemed to me it would be great solo or with two or three in theory.
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Matt Shinners
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hanibalicious wrote:
MattShinners wrote:

I didn't read the whole review, and it seems to be well thought out. However, when you start a review with, "my fears were fully realized", you've already lost me as I don't think you gave the game a fair shake.


This would be a fair assessment if he didn't itemize every complaint and explain his disappointments. Indeed, he went so far as to describe the mechanics of each differing point so well that I can see a couple that, unlike him, I think sound pretty neat.


Which is why I pointed out that it seems to be well thought out. However, from the very first paragraph he states that he went into the game afraid of what FFG might have done to it. So while he might give good reasons for his complaints, they were predetermined. I can give an explanation for why anything is a good or a bad feature to a game; if he went in expecting the features to be bad, that determination is less helpful to me.
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Thanks for the very detailed and comprehensive review of the new version's standard game.

I know there's fans on both sides, those defending the new edition, and those that didn't like all the changes. Richard being an expert on the original edition did a great job explaining each and every system. This wasn't a "knee jerk reaction" review at all.

A friend of mine picked up a copy of the new edition and it is certainly very pretty. I will admit I found the board a bit busy. It's beautiful but not nearly as clear. The original has that 70's comic book style but super clear where everything goes. Being a graphic designer myself, I've fallen into that trap of beauty over function before. Sometimes simple is better.

My game group intends to try both classic and update within a week of each other so we can get a good grasp on which one we prefer. I know for me, I'm disposed to not liking the new edition but I'll try to keep an open mind.
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I can understand some of the reaction to this review, but I must say I agree with the conclusions. I'd never played MoV before the FFG release, and while I think the standard game is decent in it's own right, the classic version feels much cleaner and more streamlined. I don't have anything against games with lot of mechanics going on (I love BSG and Arkham Horror), but the fun/complexity equation just isn't working for me with the standard game.

I think the ships are a great example...in theory, the greater customization should allow for a much greater variety of strategies, but in practice it means you don't have to make many tradeoffs...why choose between speed and cargo space when you can easily have both?
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Eric Brosius
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MattShinners wrote:
I didn't read the whole review, and it seems to be well thought out. However, when you start a review with, "my fears were fully realized", you've already lost me as I don't think you gave the game a fair shake.

I think that, if you rate a game a '10' and they issue a new edition, you have to expect that they are going to make it worse. If your favorite movie is Casablanca and they bring out a new version with Brad Pitt and Paris Hilton as the stars, it's not prejudice to worry about the possibility that it will be worse than the original.
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Eric Brosius wrote:
MattShinners wrote:
I didn't read the whole review, and it seems to be well thought out. However, when you start a review with, "my fears were fully realized", you've already lost me as I don't think you gave the game a fair shake.

I think that, if you rate a game a '10' and they issue a new edition, you have to expect that they are going to make it worse. If your favorite movie is Casablanca and they bring out a new version with Brad Pitt and Paris Hilton as the stars, it's not prejudice to worry about the possibility that it will be worse than the original.

I think that's exactly what it is: prejudice (or pre-judging). Because you've determined that the prior incarnation is perfection already, anything else is going to fall short. Regardless of the merits of the new version, it's not going to live up to your expectations, even if others rave about it and find the new version far superior.

Such prejudice isn't bad - personal opinion is one's own and nothing about that is "wrong". But I dispute the claim that the person reviewing the new version is doing so without bias or pre-conceived opinions before they even tried the game.

I don't think FFG's version honestly stood a chance of getting a positive review from the OP because of his expectations of the original version. And his opinions may very well be valid for him and others who are expecting the game to feel exactly the same, and for that target audience, it will suit it's purpose, as those who feel the same way about the original game are probably not going to enjoy the new version, not because it's not fun, but because the way they expect it to play is not going to live up to what they were expecting.
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