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Subject: First Impression - Noblemen rss

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Arnold Strong
United States
California
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Played this yesterday for the first time - five players. Two players had played the game before, three of us were new.

It took over an hour to fully explain the game. The three new players all agreed Noblemen was an amalgamation of several Euro games, and one fellow joked that the only thing missing was dice. I found it difficult to keep all the rules and variations in mind, and I've played a lot of these types of games.

The problem I had was how quickly the game went off the rails. One experienced player got Cunning Stroke several times throughout the game, stocked up on Chapels, and he ended up trouncing everyone.

I had the Queen in the first decade, and another new player put a Men at Arms on my newly built four block of Fountains to get the Queen, reducing me to second class Influence status the rest of the game. While he was stocking up dozens of Victory Points by taking the best Title each Masquerade and getting discounts on every building he bought, I ended up getting four or six Victory Points with the worst Title every masquerade and missed buildings by one or two coins. "Oh," the other players said, "you could put your Men at Arms on someone else's Fountains." Easier said than done.

All in all, while the game clearly strives for balance in that you can achieve Victory Points in a number of ways, my impression is that once the ball is rolling against you, it is nearly impossible to recover. Also, if you make a mistake early (say deciding to seek Follys and being unsuccessful getting one or two) you cannot recover (unless you get Cunning Stroke multiple times). So if you can get Cunning Stroke early, get a number of Chapels early, and/or successfully use your Men at Arms early, by the second decade the game can be over.

Just based on my personal experience yesterday - there should be a way to get the Men at Arms off your property. And Cunning Stroke should be limited or removed.

I imagine if every player knows what he/she is doing and knows all the rules (and Cunning Stroke does not keep falling to the same player), it could be a balanced game. For me personally, I could see becoming proficient at the game after four or five plays in order to fully understand the effects of the variants.

But with the steep learning curve, my personal impression is that Noblemen is not a game enjoyable for the uninitiated.
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Jeff Kayati
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Worthington
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An hour long rules explanation seems excessive. The game really isn't all that complicated.

I played my first game this weekend and won the game owning just one chapel and never playing a Cunning Stroke card. How? By heavy use of Bribes and donations to the Church. Second place went to the player who built two Follies and had many Gardens.

My only problem with the game was that with five players it's very cutthroat. With palaces and gardens getting built by several players, you might have only three or four turns every decade. Brutal.

I don't think I'd play with five again, or if I did, I'd use the "family" variant rules posted here by the designer to add some rounds to the game.
 
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Paul Beasi
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Easthampton
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In the few games I have played, I have found that the Cunning Stroke card is too powerful compared to the other cards. It basically gives someone a complete extra turn and that can be a HUGE advantage, especially early.

I really like the game overall, but this card has caused problems in my group. I suppose the draw three keep one mechanism is supposed to improve your odds of getting a good card, but no card is as good as Cunning Stroke. In each of the games I've played, I've never been able to get that card while other players have gotten it more than once. Bad luck I guess, but I can't figure out how to make the other cards as useful.

We're considering weakening or eliminating the card, but I'd prefer to find out that there's a way to do as well without it.
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Arnold Strong
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Much of the hour was taken up by questions - how many points usually win in a five player game? Do the Follys have to be surrounded to score? Are there different ways to acquire men at arms? Are there advantages to placing men at arms on one type of land structure rather than another? Explanation of the cards took a while, as each new player wanted to see the cards. During the game I did not completely understand the point system, i.e. how points are scored using chapels, castles, and palaces, how influence is calculated, etc., but the rules do give examples. Everyone was seeking to understand the basics of how the game was played, as well as what it took to win, how you could foil your opponents, and beneficial moves or courses of action. With the many variants, an hour was not overly excessive.
 
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Seth Jaffee
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Tucson
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BigAhnold wrote:
Much of the hour was taken up by questions - how many points usually win in a five player game? Do the Follys have to be surrounded to score? Are there different ways to acquire men at arms? Are there advantages to placing men at arms on one type of land structure rather than another? Explanation of the cards took a while, as each new player wanted to see the cards. During the game I did not completely understand the point system, i.e. how points are scored using chapels, castles, and palaces, how influence is calculated, etc., but the rules do give examples. Everyone was seeking to understand the basics of how the game was played, as well as what it took to win, how you could foil your opponents, and beneficial moves or courses of action. With the many variants, an hour was not overly excessive.

In general it seems more and more difficult to get through a rules explanation that it used to be. I don't know, maybe it's the people I'm teaching games to, but I find that there are often interruptions with questions that are about to be answered by the explainer anyway, or questions about strategy - like your "what are the advantages of putting M@A on one feature over another?" or "is it better to do A, or do B?"

I think that's unfortunate, because it really bogs down the rules explanation, and it does an extreme disservice to the other players trying to learn as well as the game itself as players may have a bad experience due to jumbled or lengthy rules explanation, etc.

This is not specific to this game, I have just been thinking that for a while now and your post seemed like just the type of thing I had in mind and therefore a good place to make this comment.
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Curt Carpenter
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Kirkland
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sedjtroll wrote:
In general it seems more and more difficult to get through a rules explanation that it used to be.

I have noticed the same thing. When I'm explaining rules, what part of "shut up and listen" is so hard to understand? And no, trying to read the rules yourself while I'm explaining does not count as listening. And while I'm happy to take questions if what I'm saying is unclear, interrupting to ask, "hey what is that thing there which you haven't mentioned yet?" is not an example of a good one.
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Jeff Kayati
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I teach games often, so I have a low tolerance for people who can't focus on learning the game. If I get a question on something I haven't explain yet, I never explain it to them then. I do explain that I'll get to that in a moment with a hand gesture (no not a rude one) to know they need to slow down, listen, and all will be explained.

If I get a question on strategy, they'll get "that's why you play the game, to discover the strategies". I'm blessed with an incredibly large (not in the overweight sense, well not all of us), active gaming group. With four meetings a month and a 100 gamers showing up, I have the luxury of not having to tolerate behavior that ruins my gaming experience.

I feel your pain!

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Andre Bronswijk
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BigAhnold wrote:
I had the Queen in the first decade, and another new player put a Men at Arms on my newly built four block of Fountains to get the Queen, reducing me to second class Influence status the rest of the game.

An experienced player would probably not complete his fountain as long as he is holding the queen. Please don't forget, the first match of a game like this is a learning match. Players will do bad moves in such a learning match, so usually you need more matches to get a good feeling about the balance.

Cunning Stroke is a good card, but it is not unbalanced. After playing Noblemen 30 or 40 times, I think Secret Marraige is the best card. And if you ask another experienced player, then he will probably name you another card as the best card.
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