James Webster
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So... played a five player game last night. Did Random everything but the Heroes which were picked by the other players by name (they didn't know what their powers were going into the game. Three of the players had never played the game before, myself and another had played it once before. However, all of us have MANY plays of Thunderstone and Ascension under our belts so the mechanics and strategy of this type of game are simple for us to grasp.

Mastermind: Loki
Scheme: Prison Break, standard number of twists
Villains: Enemies of Asgard, Skrulls, Radiation, Masters of Evil
Henchmen: Sentinels, DoomBots, Hand Ninjas (extra henchman group due to scheme).
Heroes: Hulk, Wolverine, Emma Frost, Rogue, Captain America, Thor

Myself and the other guy who had played it warned against the game being way too easy when just played cooperative so we explained to the other players how it is also competitive and you should be also keeping in mind that you want to win as an individual as well.

Well, let me tell you, with five players and the scheme being Prison Break, this seems about as difficult a scenario as you can get. With this scheme, the players lose once 12 villains escape the city. A significant chunk of the villain deck can not be defeated early on even with a perfect starting hand draw of four SHIELD Troopers.

To make a long story short, every full round around the table, maybe one or two of us would get a kill or two in to delay things. However, it probably took about four or five total rounds for us to be overwhelmed and 12 villains to escape.

The key to this seems to be that with five players vs. say two players... the ratio of villain reveal vs. player turns (which is synonymous to player strengthening) is much harsher the higher number of players in the game.

# of players = Ratio of Villains:Player Turns
1 Player = 1:1
2 Players = 2:1
3 Players = 3:1
4 Players = 4:1
5 Players = 5:1

Now, the game's 'auto balancing' (if you can call it that) feature is a variable amount of Villains, Henchmen Groups, and Bystanders making up the Villain deck as well as how many heroes make up the HQ. I don't really think this balances the game at all in any way other than making the piles smaller and so balancing the amount of time that it might take to run out of either of the piles which I believe leads to defeat. Solo play is fairly different in all of this so I'm not even going to address it.

The way the book recommends to balance the game I think is OK... but maybe not the best way. It feels like after playing a five player game and seeing how the villains come at the players relentlessly, it might be better to up the difficulty in this way instead.

I'm curious to see how much more balanced the easy 2 or 3 player games would be if for each player revealed TWO villains per player turn instead of one. Also a houserule that villains KO the highest cost hero in the HQ (instead of just player's choice) when they escape might also make things a bit more difficult.

Just my thoughts so far on balance and the illusion currently that this game is labeled too easy by some people. I think currently we can't say this. The game is too easy in some circumstances, and MAYBE too difficult in others (though I wouldn't even say this... saving the world should be extremely difficult).
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Tony Pecorelli
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Someone posted I think in the variants forum a somewhat mathy post saying that basically to get a balanced villain progression there should be city spaces equal to the number of players plus 2. Obviously, the board doesn't and arguable should account for this, but then it loses the flavor of cards interacting with certain city spaces.

I suppose this could have been remedied by having some of the internal spaces of the city duplicated, or having a staggered track where with certain number of players the villains move on the bottom portion, top portion or both.
__N___R___N
B___T___K___S

B - Bridge
R - Rooftops
T - Streets
K - Bank
S - Sewers
N - Newly named space

1 player uses top track
2 players use bottom track
3 players use the currently named spaces
4 players skip the first top track space
5 players use the full track alternating up and down.

I dunno that can get complicated and awkward. It also could decrease card space interaction depending on the number of players or cause longer card descriptions. Plus it would be a board redesign.

Here's the link to the other thread.
http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/892523/improving-scaling-wit...
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E Reddick
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I play that when a villain escapes, we KO one or more heroes from HQ whose combined cost is greater than or equal the strength of the escaped villain.
 
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Ron Lacock
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artadius wrote:
I'm curious to see how much more balanced the easy 2 or 3 player games would be if for each player revealed TWO villains per player turn instead of one. Also a houserule that villains KO the highest cost hero in the HQ (instead of just player's choice) when they escape might also make things a bit more difficult.


I think you have hit the nail on the head. Fixing the ratio of villains to player turns would make significant improvements in difficulty. For the fine tuning one could use the difficulty solutions in the rules that add power to the masterminds.
 
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After a 6 hours session yesterday with a 4 player group (and a few more shorter sessions with 1,2 and 3 players) I can testify that the game scales up INSANELY with the number of players.

I can compare it to Yggdrasil (if any1 knows it). The number of rounds it takes for everyone to be effective is pretty large, so the more players there are, the longer it takes for a player to be effective. So if you play with 2-3 players, the games feels very easy as everyone gets effective before the situation becomes really bad. However with 4-5 players, it really takes a long time and usually you lose before you can do anything (at least in the hard schemes).

Our 6 hours session ended up in only 3 wins(!) out of at least 10 games we played. Now I must mention that the Scheme greatly affects the difficulty of the game. Some felt impossible (although we did manage to win after a few tries) and some seemed too easy. With the easy ones I suggest raising the difficulty as suggested in the rulebook to make it more interesting. We did it and it was really fun and much more intense.

I feel the need to point out that our group plays the game coop only! We help each other all the time and we never screw each other up. And still the game is really hard with more players. Also we all have a lot of experience with coop games as well as deck building games so we're not novice in that regard.
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R N
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There are actually two main types of Schemes in the game:
1. Schemes which rely on something escaping (Bystanders, Villains, etc).
These do not scale well with number of players because the villains advance faster per round while the player decks advance slower per round. The bystander related schemes are somewhat more balanced because they add fewer bystanders when there are more players (but the effect scales strangely).

2. Schemes which rely primarilly on number of scheme twists revealed.
These do scale reasonably well with the number of players because the villain deck grows with the number of players (14 cards per player) so these will reveal at about the same rate per round regardless of number of players. You still have some problem with the HQ becoming clogged though.

*****
It is also worth mentioning that some villains have an ambush/fight/escape that is effectively another scheme twist depending on the scheme you have selected, which means you can make a scheme a lot harder by picking certain villain groups.

For instance;
When you combine Radiation Villains with Prison Break you are effectively increasing the number of schemes twists by 2 because of The Leader.

When you combine Enemies of Asguard with Legacy Virus you are effectively increasing the number of scheme twists by up to 5(!) because of Frost Giant and Ymir. Normally the heroes will lose this scheme in about 10 rounds if no wounds are prevented, with Enemies of Asguard it is more like 7 rounds if no wounds are prevented.
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Tim McCormley
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artadius wrote:
Just my thoughts so far on balance and the illusion currently that this game is labeled too easy by some people.

Well, it's definitely been easy around here with 1,2, or 3 players. And by easy I mean no contest all. Haven't tried it with 4. But maybe we played the easy schemes, if there are any. We selected them at random.

After reading your report I tried the same villain and scheme with 5 hands (playing them all myself in pure cooperative mode) and I can attest that it gets FAR more difficult than with 3 players.

Tim

Edit: Fix quotes.
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Azure Khan
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I know this thread is a little older, but I'd like to share that when we did Prison Break, we got Loki, and ended up with Skrulls and Hydra as the other villains, and Emma Frost as one of the heroes. It got a little funky when Emma was being forced to activate her ability to help clear the board.

We won, but I think we only had one villain left.
 
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Carl Forhan
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I have played about 6-7 games with either 3 or 4 players, and we have won probably 2/3 of the games so far. I can definitely see where some Schemes in a 4-5 player game could really be difficult to stop, and that was in fact what happened to us on Prison Break during one game.

I wonder if you could simply allow each player to start with a random 2 or 3 cost Hero card to help offset the ramp-up to "player effectiveness"? Or maybe give everyone +1 or +2 Attack for the first round only (kind of a SHIELD trooper surge to kick off the battle)?
 
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B Fresh
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artadius wrote:
The key to this seems to be that with five players vs. say two players... the ratio of villain reveal vs. player turns (which is synonymous to player strengthening) is much harsher the higher number of players in the game.
Yes, this gets to the heart of why difficulty increases with number of players. In a 2-player game, you must only wait a single turn until you can strengthen your deck. In a 5-player game you must wait 4 turns (4 times as long!). The mechanic of this game is that you must be able to build a strong enough deck before time runs out. So, difficulty is mostly determined by how quickly you can build a good deck.

The game is designed such that the number of players will determine the difficulty level. However, that should not be the case. The game should have Easy, Medium, and Hard modes no matter how many people are playing the game.

When the game is too easy, the manual suggests adding more Scheme Twists to the villain deck and upping the fight points of the Masterminds. These fixes gives small boosts to the enemy, but they don't address the real problem with difficulty scaling - namely that 2 or 3-player games will be able to attain strong decks rather early on.

The game specifies that every player start with 12 cards - 4 Shield Troopers and 8 Shield Agents. During the course of the game, players add better cards to their decks and tend to get rid of the vanilla Shield cards. I think that one solution to scaling difficulty would be to change the number of Shield cards in a person's starting hand.

Example for 2-player game:

Each player starts with 18 cards consisting of 6 Shield Troopers and 12 Shield Agents.

Or, you could also have players start with Battle damage

Start with 4 Shield Troopers, 8 Shield Agents, 4 Wounds
 
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Patspats
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This is the exact issue I've had with 5 player games. I made a reddit post on r/boardgames about it too. Most people have just said: 5 players is the hardest mode, but not impossible.

I feel the variance of villains/super villain/scheme can very easily make it almost impossible. Especially with "escape" scenarios.

I think what might be able to balance it out is the ability for players to more reliably "fight" villains on the 1/2nd round.

My suggestion:

Start with 6 trooper/6 agents. This means that on average you will have first 2 round hands of 3/3. With 3 fight you can take out henchmen and 3 recruit is enough for an officer/low end heroes. Also you DO have the possibility to hit 4/5 fight more reliably.

Thoughts?
 
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Kelly Overholser
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Perhaps for the first round of the game, no cards are drawn from the villain stack? This would give the players a chance to gear up before things go bad, and you could add it to smaller games without unbalancing things too much (since it's five free turns in a 5P game, but only two free turns in a 2P game).

Though, that would suck if someone drew a lot of attack for their first turn...
 
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Yeah. I thought of that too Kelly.

The FUNDAMENTAL "problem" is that your deck doesn't build up fast enough in the first 2-3 rounds to keep up. So you end up doing nothing for 2-3 rounds as the villains/schemes/master strikes pile on and sometimes set you back even further (good luck defending a master strike without any cards).

Often times this can lead to 3-4 rounds without any real progress and most players unable to fight villains as they are still "building" up their deck.

This is what I want to test out.

5 Player game alternative opening hands:

5 S.H.I.E.L.D Agents
5 S.H.I.E.L.D Troopers
2 S.H.I.E.L.D Officers

What does this do? Well a few things.

1. You recruit power is overall stronger. The potential for big recruit hands is higher. You can have UP TO 8 (previously the maximum was 6) recruit on turn 1 (very unlikely) and as LITTLE as 1 (previously the minimum was 2).

So it's not a huge swing in either direction, but being able to recruit 2 cards in those first turns is critical to "keeping up". The down side is your minimum level goes lower (due to more Troopers) but 1 vs 2 recruit won't make any difference except with Spider Man.

2. Your fight power is overall stronger. The potential for big fight hands is higher. You can have UP TO 5 (previously the maximum was 4) recruit on turn 1 (very unlikely) and as LITTLE as 0 (previously the minimum was 0).

Being able to reach 3 fight more consistently is a BIG deal. That with the off chance of hitting 5 means that if you hit some stronger early villains it's not as big a deal.


Overall effect: More recruit = more heroes faster. More fight = ability to fend off early villains more reliably.

I have NOT tested this yet, but I will give it a try. The goal here is to try to find a more proper balance on a 5 player game, as currently you get completely destroyed in the first 3-5 rounds and sometimes can barely catch up.
 
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Paddy Schell
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First off: This game can't be too easy, because only 1 player can win. Defeating the Mastermind is only the first (major) step in the game. Besting the other players is a completely other matter. This game is not cooperative but has a cooperative feel to it, though in the end it is a competition between the players.

Secondly, I would recommend cherry picking the heroes, when facing a 4 or 5 players game. You simply can't win with Spider-Man in a big game.

To access the first superhero card players usually have to reach turn 3 (at least). Until then they have to play with S.H.I.E.L.D. cards. This often makes 8-10 villain cards without the players being able to defeat a single one of them. Also the first superheroes usually ain't the best fighters.

This being said schemes become more difficult, once their win condition relies on cards escaping.
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Lloyd Kochinka
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So far, I have yet to play a 4 or 5 player game. I have played a 3 player game once, a handful of 2 player games and even more single player games. The 3 player game I kept simple (scheme/villains) because I was teaching my son. So far, all the multiplayer games were wins. Although 1 or 2 of our two player games have been close early on, but once caught up, it's easy to fight back.

I've played the harder schemes/villains solo because I honestly wanted to lose. The first single player game to beat me was Dr. Doom and the Dark Portal scheme combined with Radiation villains and Sentinels. Being that I used a randomizer on my phone, it actually inserted 2 extra scheme twists into the deck, which is ultimately what got me.

I can see how changing villains and mastermind can make a huge difference. And it really seems that choosing your villains and henchmen carefully is the easiest way to adjust the difficulty. In a 4-5 player game, having those Radiation villains combined with say, Asgard Enemies and some Sentinels mixed in, you could enter a world of hurt. However, switching the Henchmen to the Hand changes the difficulty dramatically. No detrimental effects when defeating them, plus 1 recruit.

Like I said, haven't played any high player games yet, but it seems like knocking the difficulty down thru villain choice could help some. Although, I do like some of the ideas expressed here. I just hate to complicate the rules/game too much with excess variables. Also, I think that playing with different variations of the starter deck for different scenarios is warranted.
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Sean Miller
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I like some of the ideas for tweeking the initial setup because I too have played tough games with 5 players. Negative Zone Prison Breakout is close to unwinable.

However, the amount of cards in the box do not support some of the hand configs. You could swap out an agent or two for an officer to give you some extra recruiting power, but if you are playing with 5 people, there are only 20 Shield Troopers in box, so everyone can't get 5 troops.
 
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Darth Ed
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Played three 3-player games this evening and lost 2 out of 3 times with The Legacy Virus scheme. This scheme is extremely difficult if you don't have at least 3 tech heroes. We all made a concerted effort to recruit tech heroes whenever we had the chance, but we still ended up taking too many wounds. We finally won once we replaced Rogue with Iron Man and Magneto with Doctor Doom. Doctor Doom is more powerful, but Magneto's Masterstrike (which requires an X-Men hero to avoid) makes The Legacy Virus scheme too difficult since there are no tech-based X-Men heroes and you need tech heroes in order to avoid taking wounds with the scheme twists.
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Eric Whitt
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My thought is just let everyone take their first two turns of spending their initial 8 recruit points before spawning any villans. This should at least give you 2 cards for which you can use to help fend off the villan deck. Because everyone has the same 12 cards, the first two turns are fairly mundane anyway.

sorry for the kinda thread necro, but 5 players really is brutal.
 
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Jonathan Davis
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I was happy to see this thread,as we jumped from a 3 player game to a 5 player game that was absolutely brutal and we got massacred in short order.

Now, it definitely needs to be possible for players to lose a co-op game, so this isn't necessarily a problem. We were just shocked at how the number of players (rather arbitrarily) greatly increased the difficulty.

As people have mentioned, it is because in a 5 player game, 10 villains appear before the first player even has the chance of seeing a new card in his hand.

(We were playing dr doom and the scheme was replacing earth leaders with killbots, which seems to be a rather difficult combination). We quickly drew a couple scheme twists, which made the 'killbot' villains beyond the reach of pretty much every player.

The HQ also quickly became clogged with 7 and 8 cost cards, as the escaping villains blasted through all the lower cost cards at a great rate.

In the end, we couldn't fight anything on our turns, and couldn't buy anything. We felt like our decks were getting worse rather than better (villains were adding wounds and stuff)

We talked about doing something like replacing one or two of the 1 recruit guys with maria hill, but it may simply be a choice of carefully choosing your mastermind and scheme. (Red skull's masterstrike actually helps you, I would argue, early in the game, by thinning your deck of bad cards). Or perhaps you simply have to really carefully vet your hero selections (no spiderman in 5 player games!)

It also seemed reasonable to us to expand the city and HQ slots by 1 each, so that there was 1 more slot than the # of players.

 
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Adelin Dumitru
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The best solution to 5 player games is to have one round when no card is turned from the villain deck. This way you can ensure that you will get a new card in the third round.
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David A
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Another solution that I've read (but not tried yet) is to replace one S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent with a S.H.I.E.L.D. Officer in a four player game and bump it up to two for a five player game.
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I'm also interested in a viable adjustment that the game creators recommend.

Our group's motto when playing: "What's the name of the game?"

Therefore, every single game is randomly selected as either Legendary Mode (+3 Scheme Twists) or All-Powerful Mode (+5 attack Mastermind).

We still win with 5-players, but it's a rare sight.

I can't imagine--at this point--the game being any fun in regular mode for us. Would just be too easy and too many wins.
 
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