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Subject: Fifth player disadvantaged? rss

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Valdir Jorge
Canada
Montreal
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I haven't played this game yet for real, but last night I went through the rules and simulated a four-player game solo to get to know the game well before showing it to my gaming friends. It seemed to me that taking over one of the water holes is very important. As there are only four water holes, the fifth player would seem to start with a disadvantage. Is this real or am I seeing ghosts?
 
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Steve K
United Kingdom
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I've only played it twice (3 player) but I think you're mistaken.

It's true that there are initially 4 small water holes on the board, and players do score points (at game end & half-time) by having tiles adjacent to water holes, but a bigger objective seems to be to link to markets. Markets provide both points and income - and with income you can choose to buy a larger watering hole (more adjacent hexes) as one of your three actions which you can then place where you like.
 
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Jay Little
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Eden Prairie
Minnesota
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I was personally amazed that there's no balancing mechanism for going later in the turn order. In the asymmetric map, the first 4 players all have the opportunity to make a 2 action move that places land and then an animal to connect a market, while being adjacent to water. And still have a third action to draw a card or commit another animal.

Meanwhile, the last player must use all three actions to connect to a market in this way, including the use of a pompas terrain card or a non-money making animal card in order to do so.

So they lose out on the water terrain scoring and actually have to invest more actions unless they deliberately make an aggressive opening move to place tiles at an already occupied market/watering hole, a decision that forces them into confrontation with another player for purely arbitrary reasons.

(these four points added on last edit) I also realized that the last player is disadvantaged by several other factors:

1) The last player has fewer overall turn options to purchase water or hacienda. As limited resources with a discrete counter mix, these two scoring items are harder to acquire for the last player in turn order. Each water source has to "get past" 4 other players in order for the last player to purchase one. Getting one for free doesn't disincentive other players from purchasing additional ones -- so they're all contested. It's just that the last player has the worst position to purchase and benefit from these.

2) The last player has far fewer potential turns/actions than the other players due to the half and end game conditions. When the animal draw pile is exhausted, a scoring round is triggered. If this happens early in the turn, the last player has fewer options -- it's quite likely that few, if any, animal cards will be left face up to select from, so the common draw and play an animal in the same turn option is not available, leaving them with fewer opportunities to take scoring/earning turns at the end of a round.

3) Since they don't have access to water immediately, they have 1 fewer total action available to them over the course of the entire game if they want to even the playing field -- they have to invest an action to purchase water which other players get for free. If the others get just 1 or 2 VPs from their initial water placement, it's worth it, since they didn't have to invest anything in that.

4) Simply to balance out starting positions, that person also has to spend 12 gold to normalize the situation. This means investing cash (and 1.2 VP) to get water they need a maximum return on -- they can't afford to spend the action AND the gold if they're only to score 2 or 3 total VPs for the water/hacienda placement, unlike someone who starts with this option for free.

I just don't get it.
 
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Nate Sandall
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We did notice that the fifth player is disadvantaged, but there is some strength in the position in that you can often choose to take the last animal card of the round or let the play go one more turn. The game is quite subtle and the strategy not automatically apparent but every time I play I figure out something new and a different way of looking at the flow of the game.

One thing I have noticed is in a five player game that if everyone at the table is focusing on animal cards and building herds then if you focus on getting land cards and building a huge plantation you will likely beat the other four. The converse is also true that if everyone is focusing on getting the land cards and you're getting all the animal cards then you will likely do very well that way. There's a balance to be gotten and I hope to figure out the best way to consistently do well regardless of my turn order.

Be careful of groupthink with this game. I'm not convinced that water scoring is too powerful or that any one strategy is more powerful than any others.
 
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Ryan McLelland
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Draper
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I have played with 3, 4 and 5, and I don't see any problems with the turn order. It really seems like your group is convinced you of a certain play. I have seen the last player win, and the first. I think there is power in each position.
 
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Myke Madsen
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ynnen wrote:

2) The last player has far fewer potential turns/actions than the other players due to the half and end game conditions. When the animal draw pile is exhausted, a scoring round is triggered. If this happens early in the turn, the last player has fewer options -- it's quite likely that few, if any, animal cards will be left face up to select from, so the common draw and play an animal in the same turn option is not available, leaving them with fewer opportunities to take scoring/earning turns at the end of a round.


Not having four face-up animal cards would only apply at the end of the game, since during the mid-game scoring you immediately start in on the second half of the animal deck. In the games we've played (mostly 4 or 5-player) animals in the last round of the game aren't really the best use of your actions. The last animals are typically bought by the person who wants to end the game early solely for that purpose. YMMV.

As for the original question, I'm not sure I see a big disadvantage to going last. In fact we were thinking it may be advantageous to go last (or close to last) for two reasons:

1) You can see what areas of the board the other players initially commit to and play your initial land cards accordingly.

2) The last seat can have the opportunity to force the midgame scoring or endgame immediately without anyone else getting a turn. You'll never have a scoring round catch you off-guard. Either you're triggering it or you know before you take your last turn.
 
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Dennis Murray
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Quakertown
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We played for the first time tonight, and I went last in a four player game. I ended up winning in exactly that way... I bought the last three cards in the animal deck to force the ending, and won the game with a tie-breaker. I didn't feel going last was a problem at all.

Dennis
 
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Mark Haberman
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I've only played once, but it seems much of your success in the game would be in avoiding the other players. Going last would allow you to see what all of the other players are up to, and start in a less crowded area of the board.
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