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Subject: The rule that never was rss

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Derek Carver
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Cobham
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We played this truly excellent game for the first time last week. But I interpreted a rule completely incorrectly. There's nothing remarkable about that but my interpretation seemed so very logical that none of the other players who all kept a check on the rule book spotted the error. So I mention it here just in case I'm not the only person in the world to have done this.

Players will know that each area of Amsterdam depicts a Special Action related to that area. There are six different areas so there are six different actions. I - in fact, 'we' - assumed that to perform a particular action one needed to have built a Business building in that area. But no. Not at all. Players can perform any of the six available actions even if they have no Business building there. The presence of such a building means that the action is free (as opposed to costing 1 coin) if you have the majority of buildings in that area.

To be honest I feel that our incorrect interpretation tied the Special Actions into the game more securely. I guess it made it a more difficult game to play but we all managed OK and nobody suspected anything was wrong.
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Geo
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I suspect that playing with the wrong rule would change the balance of the game.

A majority strategy in the city would be harder to achieve, since players will have to place business in many areas to be able to perform the special actions.
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Jeffrey Allers
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As I told Derek, I thought about this rule quite a bit when developing the game, and ultimately decided on greater flexibility for the players.

The initial feedback from gamers has been mixed, with some warning that the game is very "unforgiving" and others wishing that it was even more so.

My decision to allow all special actions to be available to all players every round was to keep the game from becoming too unforgiving. However, if players want the "ultimate unforgiving intense experience", playing the game with Derek's unintentional house rule certainly pushes the experience in that direction.

And, for the record, it certainly makes more thematic sense. Why can I take an action in a city district when I have no presence there?

On the other hand, unless you are experienced with games that can knock you out early if you make a planning mistake in the first round, I would not recommend playing Nieuw Amsterdam with this variant the first time.

I would have to test this more to see if there are balance issues. As it is, the City is the one area of the game where power can change hands constantly, with each new house that is built. The city income for each district is already an incentive to build at least 1 house in each district, so I'm not sure that Derek's variant would really change the balance that much, unless all players but one ignore the city altogether--something that doesn't usually happen. In a 2-player (and possibly 3-player) game, however, it could make the game unbalanced.

In conclusion, nothing is "holy" with a ruleset, even though I worked very hard to come up with the best possible rules for the target group I was aiming for. The threshold for gamers where "challenging" becomes "frustrating" is not always easy to gauge, but I felt that I was pushing it enough with the rules as published. However, I have nothing against variants for players who have a higher threshold! And I'm open to learning from their feedback, so that I can make more informed decisions with my next "gamer's game."

Many thanks to Derek and everyone else who has given me feedback in the past few months! I hope you continue to enjoy the game!
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Thomas Büttner-Zimmermann
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The problem would be: The players that don't get a City Action in the first round are handicapped!
- They can not perform special actions (Which you need for Agriculture!!)
- They receive no income -> harder to get city actions next turn!

I see this as a big problem! It would switch the game to: You NEED to build in the city in the first turn. Otherwise, you are screwed...
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Andrew Bond
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jeffinberlin wrote:
And, for the record, it certainly makes more thematic sense. Why can I take an action in a city district when I have no presence there?


The way we explained this to ourselves when we played was as follows...

If you have a building in the district, you use its ability (for free) - if you don't, you have to hire someone else's (albeit paying the bank, not that person).

Great game BTW.
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Nick Case
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jeffinberlin wrote:
And, for the record, it certainly makes more thematic sense. Why can I take an action in a city district when I have no presence there?


I really dont care about continuity of theme as long as the rules are balanced. But to answer your question, none of the actions are free, they all cost something regardless of the 1 coin fee (wood usually). Businesses in districts that specialise in a trade (lumberyard etc) would form guilds and impose a commission/ tax for all except the heads of the guild. I can see no problem with this as the theme.

Derek's variant presents a much harder game with less flexibility but perhaps gives a more predictable experience insofar as predicting what other players are able to/ will do. If you have land tiles, you wont need the coin for corn district. If you don't then you must go there to avoid the loss of businesses and VPs.

I agree with the previous poster, the demand for city tiles increases considerably with this variant and the increase of businesses pumps more cash into the game. How that affects balance, I'm not sure.
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Mik Svellov
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jeffinberlin wrote:
And, for the record, it certainly makes more thematic sense. Why can I take an action in a city district when I have no presence there?
Why wouldn't I be able to buy corn from the corn market without living there? Won't they sell to visitors?
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Warren Smith
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Great Dane wrote:
jeffinberlin wrote:
And, for the record, it certainly makes more thematic sense. Why can I take an action in a city district when I have no presence there?
Why wouldn't I be able to buy corn from the corn market without living there? Won't they sell to visitors?
Indeed. I never suspected any thematic disconnect with the rule as written.

Thanks for sharing, Derek.
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Steve Duff
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I'll bet this error is pretty common, I played my first game at bgg.con this way.
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Derek Carver
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I fully agree that my (incorrect) interpretation of the rule makes the game more challenging and I would not recommend it to newcomers without giving them a warning (which I always do anyway with all of my games). In fact I came unstuck on my first play because I did not put a building in the district where I could buy grain - something that is in short supply early on. But this was our first game so it was a learning experience. Now I know, of course, that I could have bought it anyway!

But, as I mentioned, our incorrect reading of this rule didn't spoil our game at all and, in fact, the group is now divided as to how they want to play it in the future! So you might find it worth giving it a try. We were 5 players incidentally.
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Olivier D.
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Almecho wrote:
The problem would be: The players that don't get a City Action in the first round are handicapped!
- They can not perform special actions (Which you need for Agriculture!!)
- They receive no income -> harder to get city actions next turn!

I see this as a big problem! It would switch the game to: You NEED to build in the city in the first turn. Otherwise, you are screwed...


Well since everyone starts with 2 houses in the city (setup), everyone will get up to 2 types of special actions to play on turn 1, depending on how people spread their houses, so there's always a way.

The income "problem" already exists in the game. Remember you can pay for auctions with any combination of resources, so clearing land/getting ships actually helps just as much as building in the town.

If you play with this variant, you may want to reveal the action tokens before players place their houses in the town, so people know how the actions will be grouped and plan accordingly.
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Peter D
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geocentrix wrote:
jeffinberlin wrote:
And, for the record, it certainly makes more thematic sense. Why can I take an action in a city district when I have no presence there?


The way we explained this to ourselves when we played was as follows...

If you have a building in the district, you use its ability (for free) - if you don't, you have to hire someone else's (albeit paying the bank, not that person).

Great game BTW.


it isn't free unless you have the majority in the region
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Andrew Bond
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duckworp wrote:
it isn't free unless you have the majority in the region


You are quite right. I must have written that comment after my first play and I was not accurate in my description. Thanks for pointing it out. Fortunately, in our subsequent plays we have applied the rule correctly - only free if you have an outright or tied majority.
 
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Henry Ho
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Just played this game...and love it! Great game!

I think a good compromise to using a Special Action in a district you don't have a business in is to be charged 2 coins (instead of just 1 coin)...with the extra coin being charged for "travel" cost. If you own a business in that district, you are already there so it didn't cost you any extra for travelling there.

We thought about playing with the "must have business to do Special Action" variant, but ruled against it, because that would make the game so unbalanced, as everyone would be bidding crazy for the City action token(s). That would become a very unfriendly game...and would be no fun for plenty of players.

 
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