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Subject: Four-way game rss

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Edward Hamilton
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This weekend I had my first crack at a four-player game with all the new CE units included. We played using most of the optional rules, but using the basic production and research systems, no ship experience, and instant upgrades, in an attempt to get the game to finish in a single play session. We played with a "to the death" victory condition assumption, but with the agreement we could call the outcome early based on relative strengths.

Our gaming group is made of university students, faculty and staff. Our players last night were:
Blue - Kim
Red - Kyle
Green - Jeremy
Yellow - Me


Each player initially started with a different strategy. Blue went mostly for exploration, building additional cruisers with exploration tech and searching for minerals and wrecks. Red fortified internally and maximized colonization, nebula-harvesting and pipelines. Green went heavily into ground combat, after the early discovery of two NPA planets. I went for a fast kill, building lots of shipyards early, and chased ship size down to Titans.

I was adjacent to Blue (Kim) and Green (Jeremy), and decided the easier target would be blue after seeing multiple large fleets building up in Green space (many of which were actually ground troops, but I didn't know that at the time!) My objective was to knock out Blue early, and hope that Red and Green would fight to a draw.

Developments occurred in this order:

1) My first fleet entered Blue space around turn 5 under the pretense of massing next to an NPA planet (Kim accused me immediately, with good cause!), using a flagship, battlecruiser, cruiser, and two scouts. All Blue ships were scattered, and mostly retreated back into safe shipyards on the border. Within two turns, I had bypassed the border systems, knocked out an internal colony, and destroyed several pipelines and a destroyer.

2) Green assembled an attack force of cruisers to defeat a weak alien stack of mostly 4-1's, along the Red border. The first invasion force failed against the militia, but after an upgrade to Ground 3 the second attempt (with Grav support) yielded no casualties. By this point Green had discovered a new NPA planet on the other side of his space, close to my border. All the ships shifted that direction, and invaded that planet even more easily.

3) By this point I had a battleship and a titan to add to my fleet, and a fairly clear path to the Blue homeworld. With the Green fleet massing on my border, I elected to pull back.

4) With the "Instant Upgrades" option in effect Green was able to quickly upgrade movement tech, and by turn 8 was at movement 4. Using a force of fast cruisers (and a follow-up transport group), Green drove into the other side of my territory, conquering two planets. The first was undefended, and the second required a battle between three cruisers and a flagship (for Green) and a base and a shipyard (for me). The invasion succeeded with the loss of two cruisers.

5) Building one titan a turn, I surrounded the two fleet groups, pocketing them against the map edge. A few attacks resulted in killing one or two ships per strike, but slowly enough to allow Green to bring up new battlecruisers to keep me occupied with new fast-moving threats, and defend one of the planets with a base and shipyards.

6) Meanwhile, Red elected to march ships through the center of the map to attack me as well, figuring I was unable to respond (sheesh!). I lost one colony's production to a single lousy scout blockade, while the rest of the Red fleet stopped to kill some aliens.

7) Green, by now with the largest production in the game, sent a new fleet against Red, catching some slow ships that had been weakened after the NPA engagement.

8) On the final turn of the game, Green managed to simultaneously destroy my flagship and Red's flagship, the latter by an amazing series of rolls that allowed a trio of Green dreadnoughts to knock off a Red titan, battleship, and two cruisers with only one loss. (Having stolen my Attack and Defense tech by invasions didn't hurt either.)

At this point, we called the game in favor of Green. Although we probably could have united to end the growing Green menace, it was now midnight and it was clear that Green was ahead of the game barring a rebalance of power due to diplomatic realignment.

Everyone seemed to be having fun with the new expansion, and one of the best moments of the night was when someone remarked that it would be great if the titan could reduce a planet to rubble like the Death Star, and I held up a "destroyed planet" tile and said "yep, that's already in the game". The final series of rolls that resulted in both flagships dying provided a very elegant climax that involved everyone whooping and laughing quite a bit at the ineptitude of the titans' gunnery, with no hard feelings on either side.

Post-game dissection revealed that Green had found two useful alien tech cards, one granting half-maintenance for cruisers and battlecruisers, and one granting -4 to dreadnought production cost. This served to explain the suspiciously large Green fleets!

The game did demonstrate the difficulty of using "last man standing" as a victory condition in a multiplayer game. With the VP model, I probably would have succeeded in a fatal strike on blue, but instead it just left me spread thin and exposed to Green and Red incursions. Next game I think we'll try playing teams, since I also like the dynamic of players getting to strategize together and coordinate attacks.

One rule question that emerged: What happens when ground troops are on a planet that is hit by orbital bombardment? Do they die when the colony is destroyed? I assume so, but we couldn't find any mention of them taking damage from bombardment.
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Guido Gloor
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hamiltone wrote:
One rule question that emerged: What happens when ground troops are on a planet that is hit by orbital bombardment? Do they die when the colony is destroyed? I assume so, but we couldn't find any mention of them taking damage from bombardment.

This was answered by Jim in that thread over there. They die along with the colony when it takes its last hit.

Interesting session report Did you try playing without instant upgrades, do you prefer playing with it? To me, it's a pity not to play with ship upgrades only at an SY with rules that support the more realistic approach
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Andrew Young
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Good report. I think this is a really fun game, the biggest weakness is the VP model. Even the variant ones seem to not fully tie this one in a nice bow. The Last Man Standing syndrome is definitely an issue
 
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Niko
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medievalbanquet wrote:
The Last Man Standing syndrome is definitely an issue

It certainly seems to encourage turteling or at least only a slow expansion. I haven't managed to get enough people together for more than a two player game, but all the session reports have convinced me to play with teams only.

hamiltone wrote:
The first invasion force failed against the militia, but after an upgrade to Ground 3 the second attempt [...]

There should be no second attempt to invade NPA planets. Invading them is quite restricted compared to player planets: no invading after round 2 of space combat, no bombarding before invasion, can only be invaded if you have terraforming 1, and only one attempt which has to happen right after the space combat in which the last NPA ship is eliminated.

Did you use empire advantages? I am wondering how those would influence a multiplayer game.
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Guido Gloor
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Ze_German_Guy wrote:
medievalbanquet wrote:
The Last Man Standing syndrome is definitely an issue

It certainly seems to encourage turteling or at least only a slow expansion. I haven't managed to get enough people together for more than a two player game, but all the session reports have convinced me to play with teams only.

I'll have to play with a group like yours some time. Whenever somebody in our groups tries turtling, they're overtaken left and right by faster builds
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Edward Hamilton
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Ze_German_Guy wrote:

There should be no second attempt to invade NPA planets. Invading them is quite restricted compared to player planets: no invading after round 2 of space combat, no bombarding before invasion, can only be invaded if you have terraforming 1, and only one attempt which has to happen right after the space combat in which the last NPA ship is eliminated.

Did you use empire advantages? I am wondering how those would influence a multiplayer game.


We didn't attempt to use any empire advantages, in part because some of them weren't compatible with the simplified research/upgrade model, and in part because we had players of different experience and I was worried that new players wouldn't know how to choose or bid on them properly. We skipped unique ships for the same reason.

Yes, that invasion wasn't done properly by the rulebook. Also contrary to the RAW, I specifically told everyone that alien technology cards would be only available from invasions and not from colonization after "subduing" a system. It seems to me like the automatic subduing rule made it less appealing to attempt an invasion, since the cost of building the invasion troops and transport would be greater than the 9 or so resources gained by starting the captured planet at 3 CP instead of 0. It also seems more consistent with how technology gained from invasions of player planets currently works. But I should probably play through by the rules, and see if player behavior changes.

I do want to strongly encourage use of the invasion rules by making them feel easier and more rewarding than just bombing and recolonizing. Do you feel like there's still an adequate incentive to build up a force of marines to invade, as opposed to just building a single colony ship? I'm trying to consider aspects of the risk/reward balance that I've overlooked. Although SE is pretty houserule-friendly, I don't want to houserule something that breaks the game in ways I don't expect.
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Jim Krohn
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Quote:
Do you feel like there's still an adequate incentive to build up a force of marines to invade, as opposed to just building a single colony ship?


Yes! For so many reasons, yes. Try it and see the difference.
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Niko
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hamiltone wrote:

It seems to me like the automatic subduing rule made it less appealing to attempt an invasion, since the cost of building the invasion troops and transport would be greater than the 9 or so resources gained by starting the captured planet at 3 CP instead of 0.

Remember that you do get one free ground unit for every 3 colonies producing 5 cp each economy phase. Also, you will most likely get to keep most of the troops. Both make it much cheaper in the long run than building colony ship after colony ship.

Last but not least are factores that can't be expressed in cp. First and foremost building shipyards for upgrading and reinforcements. Combine that with unique ships which can function as shipyards and you get instant upgrading at newly conquered planets.
Of course this only works with the full rules and probably won't be obvious to new players.
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David Jackman
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Ze_German_Guy wrote:
hamiltone wrote:

It seems to me like the automatic subduing rule made it less appealing to attempt an invasion, since the cost of building the invasion troops and transport would be greater than the 9 or so resources gained by starting the captured planet at 3 CP instead of 0.

Remember that you do get one free ground unit for every 3 colonies producing 5 cp each economy phase. Also, you will most likely get to keep most of the troops. Both make it much cheaper in the long run than building colony ship after colony ship.

Last but not least are factores that can't be expressed in cp. First and foremost building shipyards for upgrading and reinforcements. Combine that with unique ships which can function as shipyards and you get instant upgrading at newly conquered planets.
Of course this only works with the full rules and probably won't be obvious to new players.


Not to mention seeing the opponents production sheet and stealing 2 technologies.
 
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