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Subject: Movement problems rss

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Christopher Dearlove
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There's a view that I've heard from a number of people who have played the game once or twice (always the introductory scenario) that goes something like the following.

You start with a hand that's got little or no Move ability in it. Everything worth getting to takes movement. Your ideal is one of the starting actions that allows you to redeal or add cards. But others have taken them, or you did and things are no better. So what do you do? Well, obviously you can play cards sideways as moves. But you probably don't get far enough and others get where you want to go, and also you are burning the cards you are going to need later.

And that is genuinely seen as a major strike against the game.

I've been lucky enough (and I now don't play with four due to downtime, and other issues, which helps) not to have been cripplingly caught by this, but certainly have at least had partial issues. That's in more games, but I don't think I've quite made ten yet (close).

So what's the answer here? An ideal answer kills two birds with one stone. The first is to explain what you do when stuck with all your moves late in your deck. (Of course later the problem can reverse - all moves when you want to fight, compounded if using non-moves to move. But that's not seen as as big an issue.) The second (which a good answer to the first goes some but not all the way to answering) is how do you persuade the people who otherwise won't play the game for this reason to reconsider. (I do know at least on who adds an all-player mulligan, which of course unbalances the start cards.)

 
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Alex Brown
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The reality is that Mage Knight has a lot of detractors who want it to be a game it isn't. There are many, many people who love the game for what it is, and the BGG ratings scale is some evidence of this. Still, you can't please everybody, and given it plays at about an hour per player and doesn't have any sort of leader-bashing mechanics, it can be unforgiving for the unengaged player.

For those who are genuinely interested in understanding why they are bad at the game and want to be better, if you get stuck without a lot of movement early, you're moving anyway. It just means you will have more movement later when everyone else has less, allowing you to move further afield and gain access to better opportunities.

It's an inexact science, but that's the general theme and part of what makes the game fun.
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David desJardins
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The right answer is that it's definitely true that you can draw good or bad starting hands (more generally, on the first round your cards might be in a favorable or unfavorable order), and, because of the snowball effects in the game, that can make a big difference to your overall success.

The options are to live with this or to adopt some house rule to reduce it.
"No movement" is only one example of what can happen, but certainly one of the most frustrating.

I personally think a house rule that seeds every start hand to have at least one movement card would be very reasonable. (I.e., shuffle your movement cards, draw one, then shuffle in the rest of your cards, and draw four more.)

A mulligan (if you have no movement cards, you can discard your whole hand, reshuffle and redraw) would be reasonable too.

Another idea I had is that you could play any card sideways for Move 2, on your first turn (only).

I don't think variants like these would "unbalance" the tactics cards or heroes, at all.
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Dave Heberer
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Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean that really got out of hand fast.
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Alex Brown wrote:
The reality is that Mage Knight has a lot of detractors who want it to be a game it isn't. There are many, many people who love the game for what it is, and the BGG ratings scale is some evidence of this. Still, you can't please everybody, and given it plays at about an hour per player and doesn't have any sort of leader-bashing mechanics, it can be unforgiving for the unengaged player.

For those who are genuinely interested in understanding why they are bad at the game and want to be better, if you get stuck without a lot of movement early, you're moving anyway. It just means you will have more movement later when everyone else has less, allowing you to move further afield and gain access to better opportunities.

It's an inexact science, but that's the general theme and part of what makes the game fun.


What I understand this to mean is:
This turn, you are moving. You are going to move slowly in the beginning, and fast later in the turn. Pick somewhere far away to go and get a book, this turn is a loss. Don't bother bitching about it, you haven't played nearly enough to have an opinion.
 
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i7dealer wrote:
Alex Brown wrote:
The reality is that Mage Knight has a lot of detractors who want it to be a game it isn't. There are many, many people who love the game for what it is, and the BGG ratings scale is some evidence of this. Still, you can't please everybody, and given it plays at about an hour per player and doesn't have any sort of leader-bashing mechanics, it can be unforgiving for the unengaged player.

For those who are genuinely interested in understanding why they are bad at the game and want to be better, if you get stuck without a lot of movement early, you're moving anyway. It just means you will have more movement later when everyone else has less, allowing you to move further afield and gain access to better opportunities.

It's an inexact science, but that's the general theme and part of what makes the game fun.


What I understand this to mean is:
This turn, you are moving. You are going to move slowly in the beginning, and fast later in the turn. Pick somewhere far away to go and get a book, this turn is a loss. Don't bother bitching about it, you haven't played nearly enough to have an opinion.


What I'm saying is you have a fluid amount of movement each round but primarily you want to use Movement cards with mana because overall that makes the most efficient use of resources. However, I'd argue that much of the skill in the game comes from what you decide to turn sideways and every round you will have to make choices between preserving potential against what you can do now.

This is a hard, brain-burning game. It's unusual for an adventure game to be presented this way, though Prophecy pre-empted this, at a simpler level.

As with all bitching about games, say what you want. I'll argue with the content, not the experience of the source. In this case, I don't think movement is a problem in the game and I am happy to argue why I think that's the case. Whether someone decides to play or not is up to them.

I do think however it's worth recognising that this is a solo, co-operative and competitive game. Where snowballing might be a problem in competitive play (and even then maybe only narrowly), it's definitely not a problem in co-operative or solo (which also avoids downtime).
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Dave Heberer
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Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean that really got out of hand fast.
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I have commented previously, and whole-heartedly concede that as a non-competitive game the situation described by the OP is an interesting part of the game. But to think of it as a competitive situation I would argue that the person with the bad first shuffle is going to:

a) have a bad time
b) lose against equally experienced players

I posted a session report that said how I really had a mediocre time with the first scenario with exactly this problem. I was treated pretty poorly for having an opinion. This post asked for specifics about how to mitigate this situation through play and I caught a strong whiff of the "It's not for everyone, except everyone loves the game so you must be broken" story rather than an actual answer to the dude's question. That's why I jumped in.

They make this an xBox game yet? I'd play it then for sure. But sadly I never play solo boardgames.
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Alex Brown
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I have to say if I want to play a 2er, 3er or 4er competitive game, Mage Knight is not a game I'd propose playing. I'll concede I prefer the game modes in this order: solo, co-op, competitive. I prefer solo by a far margin, because downtime is my biggest issue with the game.

Still, I'd argue 'bad first shuffle's as common occurrences. David has posted the odds of having a hand with no movement cards elsewhere, and it's almost insignificant. Furthermore, although I can understand problems with snowballing and contesting the best opportunities as real issues in the competitive game, I don't think they are so bad as to not play the game. With David's summary, I'd 'live with' the problems.

I do think though that no game is for everybody however, and Mage Knight is not even close to being in the 'broadly accessible' category. It's long, involves significant investment to learn the rules, and it takes a lot to be able to maintain the focus, or even enjoy the focus, it takes to optimize every turn.

I think overall this is an optimization game, but the flavour and complexities are much more enjoyable than straight-up economic games. As an optimization game, I'd rather just play it solo, or to beat the system with friends. As a competitive game, I'll play it because I love it, but I'd rather just play Twilight Struggle, Yomi or Claustrophobia for a head-to-head battle.
 
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I do think, the longer the game, the more useful it is to have some mild catch-up properties, rather than snowball properties (I'm viewing these as opposites). In a generic race game (with neither catch-up nor snowball properties), by the halfway point you will not infrequently know your chance of winning is very small. That's not such a big deal in a 30 minute game, it's a lot more of an issue in a 4 hour game.

If there were one thing I would improve in MKBG, it would be to somehow slightly reduce the advantage of a strong start and the disadvantage of a weak start. Because I do think that the opening is more important than is desirable for a game of this length. The first level-up is such a big jump in power, for example.

It doesn't keep me from playing the game, but I think it's ok to point it out as an issue.

It's exacerbated when you play with more players, because not only do you fall behind by not getting the level-ups that the other players get, but you fall behind because they get out ahead of you and deplete the sites that you need to exploit. I think this could possibly be addressed by designing some different scenarios and map layouts for more players. (I've thought of building maps with more than one portal, for example.)
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David and Alex make very good points.

I have had this happen to me and understand the frustration. I primarily play 2 player competitive but without PvP, I'm trying to play the game quickly before we include this mechanic. The first few times I played this game I found my opponents played so slowly that the game was unbearable with 3 player that had never played before.

Christopher and Dave may complain about lack of control, but I think David makes the most intelligent comment on game length. It is easy to contrive a scenario where you get uber screwed in this game because so many parts are random. My main problem with Christopher and Dave's arguments is that they don't lead anywhere. It is just a game why not make some intelligent rule changes like David suggested. If you don't want a luck based game play some chess or other complete information games.

Tactics, in my opinion, act as a balancing factor that further mitigate the problem of unlucky draws. However, I don't think any sort of suggestion will ease the pain of sitting through a four hour game that you can't win though.



 
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Christopher Dearlove
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hayes13 wrote:
Christopher and Dave may complain about lack of control


Actually I didn't complain about lack of control, I raised an issue that others have commented on to me and indicated I'd partially seen it. And the issue was much more subtle than lack of control.

We also have had a David and a Dave, but I don't see either complaining about lack of control either.

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My main problem with Christopher and Dave's arguments is that they don't lead anywhere.


I explicitly asked for comments on an possible argument, to see if it led anywhere. And I'm still not sure which Dave we are referring to.

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It is just a game why not make some intelligent rule changes like David suggested.


I was looking for comments on people's reactions. Making rule changes is a possibility. (I'll go off on a tangent on rule changes in another post.)

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If you don't want a luck based game play some chess or other complete information games.


And there you jump to a false dichotomy. The nature of games like Mage Knight is that they have a high degree of intelligent planning, with randomness that poses new problems, and makes some things easier than others. The question is how much that randomness should cause significantly different luck levels (and of course whether it does, but you seem to be taking it that it does). If the game is completely wrong on this point then, yes, another game may be the answer (but not necessarily all the way to chess). If the game is just not quite right (which is the most here in my opinion - this was my game of 2011) then a modification may be in order. My point in starting this thread was to discuss if this is the case, and if so whether people do try modifications or not.

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Tactics, in my opinion, act as a balancing factor that further mitigate the problem of unlucky draws.


Clearly that's their purpose. And I alluded to them (except not having the rules to hand I didn't use their proper name) and considered the issue that they might not be available/work.

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However, I don't think any sort of suggestion will ease the pain of sitting through a four hour game that you can't win though.


The point of course is to either identify that doesn't happen, or try to minimise its likelihood.

But actually I can live with sitting through a game I can't win, though I'd rather it didn't happen often. What I can't stand is sitting through a game I can't do anything in. That happened to me once, but it was in large part due to bad play.
 
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hayes13 wrote:
However, I don't think any sort of suggestion will ease the pain of sitting through a four hour game that you can't win though.


It's very player-dependent. Some people can really enjoy the process of having their hero get stronger and more capable, even if they know they aren't going to have the highest score at the end of the game. I think it's more generally frustrating to people to have "nothing to do", as opposed to "no chance to win". If all of the sites near you have already been defeated, or are too difficult for your character, that's a lot more frustrating than just seeing that there's stuff you can do but that someone else will still have a higher score than you.

As I said before, particularly for games with more players, I think I would like to find a way to expand the map so that people don't run out of "things to do", even if they fall behind, until the game is effectively over. I think that may be easier with the expansion, just because there are more tiles and more different ways to build the map.
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Christopher Dearlove
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Before I quote bits, thanks for your analysis. Are these hypothetical, or do you do any of these? (And has the designer - his name is off screen and I will spell it wrong if I try - ever commented on the subject?)

DaviddesJ wrote:
"No movement" is only one example of what can happen, but certainly one of the most frustrating.


Playing the introductory scenario, you need at least 4 movement points to get anywhere, and for only one player is that enough, the others need 5. So even a single move, if also unlucky enough not to get any matching mana, is not good, though obviously not as bad.

Quote:
I personally think a house rule that seeds every start hand to have at least one movement card would be very reasonable. (I.e., shuffle your movement cards, draw one, then shuffle in the rest of your cards, and draw four more.)

A mulligan (if you have no movement cards, you can discard your whole hand, reshuffle and redraw) would be reasonable too.


Hadn't considered the former, worth adding to the mix.

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Another idea I had is that you could play any card sideways for Move 2, on your first turn (only).


Slightly less clean I think. But that's just me.

These, and to a slightly less extent the below, fit what I look for in not playing a game out of the box. (I said I'd go off on a tangent in my last post.) I like, as far as possible, to play games by published rules. Out of awe at the designer? No. You only need to be involved in some playtesting (by which I don't mean just commenting on a final design) to know how arbitrary some rules are. But playing straight if possible avoids problems when you often play with new people. Which I do. But if introducing changes, the best sort is the "agree up front, do up front, then forget" sort.

Quote:
I don't think variants like these would "unbalance" the tactics cards or heroes, at all.


Probably not, it was just a concern that it might be the case.
 
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Dearlove wrote:
Before I quote bits, thanks for your analysis. Are these hypothetical, or do you do any of these?


I haven't tried any variants. Just brainstorming at this point.

Quote:
Playing the introductory scenario, you need at least 4 movement points to get anywhere, and for only one player is that enough, the others need 5.


Well, you only need 2 movement points to move to an adjacent space, and make progress. If you move and play Crystallize, for example, that's a perfectly fine turn. You get two new cards and then you can do something else on the following turn. There's a potential problem with other players getting out ahead of you and using up the opportunities, but, in general, if you do less on one turn that just means you're going to have more cards for future turns. That doesn't have to be a huge problem.
 
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Dearlove wrote:
Playing the introductory scenario, you need at least 4 movement points to get anywhere, and for only one player is that enough, the others need 5.


Well, you only need 2 movement points to move to an adjacent space, and make progress. If you move and play Crystallize, for example, that's a perfectly fine turn. You get two new cards and then you can do something else on the following turn. There's a potential problem with other players getting out ahead of you and using up the opportunities, but, in general, if you do less on one turn that just means you're going to have more cards for future turns. That doesn't have to be a huge problem.


As you say - provided I get a move with my next one or two cards. In practice that means I'd like a couple of moves, or a move and the right mana, in my first six or seven cards. Good odds, but not perfect.
 
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Dearlove wrote:
DaviddesJ wrote:
Another idea I had is that you could play any card sideways for Move 2, on your first turn (only).


Slightly less clean I think. But that's just me.

Until you win your first game of Mage Knight, start your games with a custom unit, the Bumbling Fool: level 1, no influence cost, no armor, and two abilities, "play two cards sideways for Move 2 apiece, disbanding this unit" and "play two cards sideways for Influence 2 apiece, disbanding this unit".
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GreedyAlgorithm wrote:
Dearlove wrote:
DaviddesJ wrote:
Another idea I had is that you could play any card sideways for Move 2, on your first turn (only).


Slightly less clean I think. But that's just me.

Until you win your first game of Mage Knight, start your games with a custom unit, the Bumbling Fool: level 1, no influence cost, no armor, and two abilities, "play two cards sideways for Move 2 apiece, disbanding this unit" and "play two cards sideways for Influence 2 apiece, disbanding this unit".


I'm really not sure what point you are failing to make here. And that's despite the point that whether you've won a game is completely missing the point. To argue otherwise would suggest there's skilled play that overcomes the handicap. Which would be ... ?
 
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Dearlove wrote:
And that's despite the point that whether you've won a game is completely missing the point. To argue otherwise would suggest there's skilled play that overcomes the handicap. Which would be ... ?


I think the point is that once you've played enough to win the game you know whether you like it, and whether you're willing to play a game in which you sometimes get bad draws. But a handicap for new players, particularly one that increases flexibility, is a way to avoid the problem of people having one frustrating experience in their first game and never seeing the things about the game that they might enjoy more.
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Ivan Myers Jr
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You get to see your hand before picking turn order cards. "Planning" and "Great Start" can help a low-movement starting hand. If other players took those cards then you should be able to go before them in turn order by picking "Rethink", which might help the movement issue as well.

One thing that you have to take account of is that players who get great movement hands and go before you will also have to pay the cost of exploration (2 movement points). It's small, but it's a cost you won't have to pay as you move later in the turn.

One small house rule you could implement: allow a mulligan (or two) at the start of the game.

Finally, for the "catch-the-leader" issue, because of the way Mage Knight's scoring works (the stuff that makes you more powerful also is your VP) there isn't much of a way to get around that for the conquest scenarios; though I don't think it's as bad as some have mentioned. I haven't played a game of Mage Knight where I didn't think I had a chance to win throughout. I've even had a guy catchup to me by going back and taking my Keeps over from me (bonus points at end of game), though he ended up losing because he forgot to get rid of the wounds in his deck (he was using Arythea, who has some skills that are powered by wounds).

But if the catch-the-leader stuff is really bothering your group you can always play other, more objective based scenarios or even make up an objective based scenario that has scoring that doesn't count your fame. That way, no matter how powerful a player gets they can still be beat if you're better at achieving the objective.
 
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Another small house rule for helping less experienced players who end up with later turn order and/or bad hands: Handicap points - Give less experienced players a few (0 to 3 based on their skill in the game) tokens to represent handicap points. Throughout the game they can spend these points as if they are playing a card sideways.
 
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MangaFox wrote:
"Planning" and "Great Start" can help a low-movement starting hand.


Great Start can hurt, too. If you have a no-movement hand, and you choose Great Start to try to get some movement, and you draw more non-movement cards, you can be even worse off. Because now, just playing a couple of cards inefficiently doesn't even let you draw more.

I agree with using tactics cards as part of your strategy. But that doesn't necessarily reduce variance; it can increase it. Getting a great raw with Great Start is even better than usual. Getting a poor draw with Great Start is even worse than usual.
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MangaFox wrote:
But if the catch-the-leader stuff is really bothering your group


Two misconceptions there. It's not catch the leader in general, just the specific case of starting movement free/light, and it's not my group, it's different people I've played with who independently have made the same point.
 
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DaviddesJ wrote:
MangaFox wrote:
"Planning" and "Great Start" can help a low-movement starting hand.


Great Start can hurt, too. If you have a no-movement hand, and you choose Great Start to try to get some movement, and you draw more non-movement cards, you can be even worse off. Because now, just playing a couple of cards inefficiently doesn't even let you draw more.

I agree with using tactics cards as part of your strategy. But that doesn't necessarily reduce variance; it can increase it. Getting a great raw with Great Start is even better than usual. Getting a poor draw with Great Start is even worse than usual.


I see that your getting at but disagree with your analysis of variance (ANOVA bad math joke, for those stats people out there)

First of all variance either increases or decreases given tactics, given everything else considered equal let us just consider Great Start. We are comparing that variance in win percentage given a starting hand, I assume.

Rather then bust out my deck and calculate probabilities, I'll give a heuristic argument and give the odds later if people request. This tactic does have the possibility to help or hurt your starting hand, no question. Yet what is missing from this discussion is the probability that each of these events occur.

When your hand contains no movement cards the probability is quite high that drawing two cards will allow for movement to be drawn, compared with other non-movement cards, also tranquility is probably mentioned by someone as allowing for yet another draw. It balances an extreme hand.

On the flip side a player with a strong starting hand receives less benefit compared with the player who has no movement cards. The potential of Great Start improves bad hands and is less effective stronger, balanced hands. People may argue otherwise based on board etc. Sometimes you can do something really impressive on the first hand. However, we are talking about extremes on this spectrum and overall Great Start has a much higher probability of balancing a hand rather then overpowering one.
 
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hayes13 wrote:
On the flip side a player with a strong starting hand receives less benefit compared with the player who has no movement cards. The potential of Great Start improves bad hands and is less effective stronger, balanced hands. People may argue otherwise based on board etc. Sometimes you can do something really impressive on the first hand. However, we are talking about extremes on this spectrum and overall Great Start has a much higher probability of balancing a hand rather then overpowering one.


The cost of taking Great Start, in terms of turn order, is pretty high. If you get little or nothing in exchange, you're just digging a deeper hole for yourself. I think that's the main issue. You're really gambling to get enough benefit to pay for the cost. If it weren't so costly to take, then I would view it differently. Planning is almost guaranteed to give you some benefit, over the course of the round. Great Start costs you more, in general, yet sometimes it really does you no good at all.
 
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DaviddesJ wrote:
The cost of taking Great Start, in terms of turn order, is pretty high. If you get little or nothing in exchange, you're just digging a deeper hole for yourself. I think that's the main issue. You're really gambling to get enough benefit to pay for the cost. If it weren't so costly to take, then I would view it differently. Planning is almost guaranteed to give you some benefit, over the course of the round. Great Start costs you more, in general, yet sometimes it really does you no good at all.


I don't agree with this advice, generally speaking. Suppose your starting hand was Rage, Concentration, Determination, Promise, Threaten. And absolutely terrible hand!yuk To make things worse, it's a 4-player game, and Rethink is already taken.shake

Of course it would depend on the exact board position. Assume there is something to do if you could come up with 4-5 move points without playing 4-5 cards sideways. Would you take Planning here, intending to play two cards sideways for Move 2, and looking at 3 new cards? Or would you gamble and take Great Start, hoping to draw some move?

I would probably gamble and take Great Start here. Of the 11 cards that I have not yet seen, 5 will help me a lot (March, March, Stamina, Stamina, and Improvisation). My chance of drawing one of them is {1-[(6/11)(5/10)]} = 73% That is pretty good odds to improve my hand. I could also draw Tranquility, which I could cycle to draw one or two more cards. If I choose Planning, I have a 100% chance of playing two cards inefficiently and doing little on my turn, and thus falling behind my opponents. Taking Great Start gives me a very good chance to actually accomplish something on my first turn, even with that horrible hand. IMHO, it's worth the risk.

 
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David desJardins
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MikePustilnik wrote:
DaviddesJ wrote:
The cost of taking Great Start, in terms of turn order, is pretty high. If you get little or nothing in exchange, you're just digging a deeper hole for yourself. I think that's the main issue. You're really gambling to get enough benefit to pay for the cost. If it weren't so costly to take, then I would view it differently. Planning is almost guaranteed to give you some benefit, over the course of the round. Great Start costs you more, in general, yet sometimes it really does you no good at all.


I don't agree with this advice, generally speaking. Suppose your starting hand was Rage, Concentration, Determination, Promise, Threaten. And absolutely terrible hand!yuk To make things worse, it's a 4-player game, and Rethink is already taken.shake


There's no advice in my quoted text. I didn't say anything about whether to take Great Start or not. Just that when you do it creates new risk, because you might make your position even worse.
 
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