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Subject: Unbalanced? rss

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First, I need to point out that I’ve only played this game once and with three players; I assume this isn’t the optimum number of players. Nevertheless, I need to address a problem or my gaming buddies will most probably not give it a second chance.

To be completely honest, we got the feeling that the game is unbalanced; one of the players even said it felt “almost broken”. We have divined the following problems, admittedly based on very limited experience of the game:

1. The blue and green planets on the green space hexes play too important a role. If a player is lucky enough to draw space hexes with blue and green planets, and even more so establish a Greenium or Bluium monopoly, it seems that player more or less automatically will win the game. Since resources only are produced during the turn of the colony’s owner, the owner can deprive other players of Bluium or Greenium, make quick transports to Terra Prime, make deliveries, rake in LP, and collect as many green demand tiles as possible to make the game end quickly.

2. There isn’t really any incentive to explore beyond the yellow space hexes, barely even beyond the green ones. It’s more effective and considerably faster to simply deliver Greenium and Bluium and claim green demand tiles. Delivering Yellium is considerably less effective due to longer pick-up and delivery times. Military expeditions are not really an alternative either, since shields and weapons require cash, and the most effective way to get cash is to deliver Greenium and Bluium, and getting cash that way means helping others fill demands and claim LP, as well as contributing to finish the game faster. I guess you partly could compensate by establishing colonies farther away from Terra Prime, but while you do that, others can simply continue to deliver Greenium and Bluium and rake in LP.

3. Military expeditions seem to be too difficult, especially when it comes to red space hexes. Even you manage to arm your ship to the maximum, i.e. by purchasing one shield module, two weapon modules, and the battlestation tech upgrade, the probability of victory is only 66.6 % per ship, targeting computer not included. If there are three hostile alien ships, the probability of total victory drops to 29.6 %, again targeting computer not included. I don’t think this is reasonable, considering how long time it takes to arm your ship and how long you have to travel to recharge your shields after combat, unless you happen to find a red planet; again, while you prepare for your military expeditions, the other players can make easy deliveries and win the game.

I hope I’m completely wrong in my assessment of this game, because I really like the theme, the mechanisms, and the artwork, and I’d like to give the game a second chance.
 
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Oliver
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I don't know if I can say anything about balance, but I can say I've played some very close games of Terra Prime, and winning always involved me exploring the red tiles and destroying the aliens I encountered.
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Scott Lewis
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Butsudoka wrote:

1. The blue and green planets on the green space hexes play too important a role. If a player is lucky enough to draw space hexes with blue and green planets, and even more so establish a Greenium or Bluium monopoly, it seems that player more or less automatically will win the game. Since resources only are produced during the turn of the colony’s owner, the owner can deprive other players of Bluium or Greenium, make quick transports to Terra Prime, make deliveries, rake in LP, and collect as many green demand tiles as possible to make the game end quickly.

Getting a monopoly on a planet color definitely helps, but they really won't be able to just keep taking the resources; there's not enough actions for that. The other players would do well in those cases to collect from other blue/green planets than the one the owner is going for; he can't possibly collect from them all every turn. Sure, it may give points to that player, but chances are, if that player has a blue or green monopoly, he probably doesn't own many planets of other colors, and would have to rely on other people's planets.

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2. There isn’t really any incentive to explore beyond the yellow space hexes, barely even beyond the green ones. It’s more effective and considerably faster to simply deliver Greenium and Bluium and claim green demand tiles. Delivering Yellium is considerably less effective due to longer pick-up and delivery times. Military expeditions are not really an alternative either, since shields and weapons require cash, and the most effective way to get cash is to deliver Greenium and Bluium, and getting cash that way means helping others fill demands and claim LP, as well as contributing to finish the game faster. I guess you partly could compensate by establishing colonies farther away from Terra Prime, but while you do that, others can simply continue to deliver Greenium and Bluium and rake in LP.

I disagree. While the green and yellow systems tend to be closer, there are no Yellow planets in the green zone. Plus, in the red zone, you get 2 points just for exploring, many more points for colonizing, and there are lots of aliens and asteroids there to boost your score. What's more, if you establish a good route, you can make a run out to the red zone, use a red planet to teleport back home, and be good to go; the net distance ends up being not much different than a Yellow-zone run.

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3. Military expeditions seem to be too difficult, especially when it comes to red space hexes. Even you manage to arm your ship to the maximum, i.e. by purchasing one shield module, two weapon modules, and the battlestation tech upgrade, the probability of victory is only 66.6 % per ship, targeting computer not included. If there are three hostile alien ships, the probability of total victory drops to 29.6 %, again targeting computer not included. I don’t think this is reasonable, considering how long time it takes to arm your ship and how long you have to travel to recharge your shields after combat, unless you happen to find a red planet; again, while you prepare for your military expeditions, the other players can make easy deliveries and win the game.

The key to fighting aliens is to start fighting them early in your turn, so that you can clean them up before your turn ends. They only "regenerate" after your turn is over. You may take an early hit, but if you have 2 extra weapon modules, you'll likely kill 1 or 2 ships per blast (3 dice at 1-3), and if you manage to give yourself an extra action or two, it doesn't become hard to finish them off. Sure, you may take some damage in the process, but even losing a cargo module is worth the trade-off for killing the aliens.


Anyway, these comments are just results of my personal experience with the game.
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Chris Berger
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I've only played this game once (well, one and a half times, depending on how you count), so I'm not the best one to answer this, but question: if one player explores and finds green and blue planets, isn't it likely that a different player is the first one to be able to colonize on that hex? Because of the "micro-turns" and the placement restrictions, I feel like being the first to explore a hex isn't that much of an advantage unless you can put some space between the other players and yourself.

Also, it seems impossible to always be the one to get your own resources from your colonies - maybe if you have a colony in the closest possible spot, or don't leave it to go to Terra Prime or other colonies, but then you'd only be grabbing one color every turn, and how much can you do with that? Am I missing something here?
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Chad McCoy
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I don't know about 3 players, I've only ever played with 2 and we've never had any balance issues.

devil I am really beginning to despise the "this game is broken" comments. It's an overused phrase that usually reflects only the brokenness of the player. We all come to the table a little broken. Some a little more broken than others.

Alien Frontiers might be a game that you would enjoy more than this one. By all means, though, give this one another try or two. My wife and I really enjoy it, and after playing Terra Prime, she is open to learning Twilight Imperium, which she used to be dead set against.
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Kevin B. Smith
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I have played the game 11 times, of which 4 have been with 3 players. Personally, I think 3 is a great player count.

1. A player could monopolize blue OR green with a lot of tile-draw luck, but not both. Even if they do, then as someone pointed out, the owner can't possibly grab from 2 blue planets in one turn (unless/until they have an extra engine or hyperdrive). Also, you can only colonize one planet per early outing, so every player pretty much has a shot at at least one early planet. I have sometimes done well colonizing an early asteroid adjacent to Terra Prime, since brownium can be used as money.

2. I have read that other folks often win with a delivery strategy, but in my 11 games, a delivery strategy has only won ONE game. All the rest were won by exploring and/or colonizing and/or killing aliens out in the red zone. Colonizing yellow is really important because that's the only way to get extra engines or the hyperdrive (both are very valuable). Colonizing out that far is also worth a lot of points.

3. Cloaking is pretty necessary to go in the red zone, because it gives you the first attack. With that, and 2-3 guns and 2-3 shields, killing aliens becomes pretty easy. Or you can pacify aliens instead of killing them, which I tried once and managed to win, but I think I just got lucky.

So I would say that your first impressions are largely incorrect. Hopefully you can give the game another try.
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Oliver
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peakhope wrote:
Colonizing yellow is really important because that's the only way to get extra engines or the hyperdrive (both are very valuable). Colonizing out that far is also worth a lot of points.


I feel hyperdrive is what won me both of the games I remember (because I won).
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peakhope wrote:
I have read that other folks often win with a delivery strategy, but in my 11 games, a delivery strategy has only won ONE game. All the rest were won by exploring and/or colonizing and/or killing aliens out in the red zone.


I agree with everything in Kevin's post, but I wanted to stress this comment. The one time I attempted a delivery strategy, I was thoroughly trounced by the player who explored/colonized in the red zone. It is just such an efficient way to score points. In fact, my main criticism of the game would be that a delivery strategy does not seem competitive versus optimizing for exploration/colonization. I've not played as many games as Kevin, but I have never seen it win.

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William Hostman
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I have played almost a dozen times, and victory has always involved using others' bases. Completion of demand cards is far more valuable than the 1VP for using someone else's base.
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Thank you very much for your replies! I hope this will be enough to convince my gaming group to give this game another chance, because I really like the feel of this game, and there aren't exactly plenty of good sci-fi games out there. Again, thanks!
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Seth Jaffee
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Butsudoka wrote:
First, I need to point out that I’ve only played this game once and with three players; I assume this isn’t the optimum number of players. Nevertheless, I need to address a problem or my gaming buddies will most probably not give it a second chance.

To be completely honest, we got the feeling that the game is unbalanced; one of the players even said it felt “almost broken”.


To me this sounds a lot like groupthink. I'm certain not everybody will enjoy Terra Prime, but I guarantee you it's not broken

Quote:
We have divined the following problems, admittedly based on very limited experience of the game:

1. The blue and green planets on the green space hexes play too important a role. If a player is lucky enough to draw space hexes with blue and green planets, and even more so establish a Greenium or Bluium monopoly, it seems that player more or less automatically will win the game. Since resources only are produced during the turn of the colony’s owner, the owner can deprive other players of Bluium or Greenium, make quick transports to Terra Prime, make deliveries, rake in LP, and collect as many green demand tiles as possible to make the game end quickly.

A monopoly on either Greenium or Bluium is possible, especially if you're opponents aren't willing to explore the Yellow zone. However, while it may be possible to monopolize the colonies of that color (and reap the 1vp reward whenever anybody wants a resource of that color), it's impossible to keep other players from picking up your resources all the time. You must produce on all of your empty colonies every turn, and there's no way you can pick up all of the resources every turn (especially if you're also delivering them). You can only hold so many resources (1 Bluium and 1 Greenium to begin), and you can only move so far on a turn.

Your comments make me wonder whether you're playing all the rules correctly.

Quote:
2. There isn’t really any incentive to explore beyond the yellow space hexes, barely even beyond the green ones.

You just said that players were monopolizing Blue and Green colonies, and scoring too many points off of deliveries... those are 2 good reasons to explore and colonize in the yellow zone!

Quote:
It’s more effective and considerably faster to simply deliver Greenium and Bluium and claim green demand tiles. Delivering Yellium is considerably less effective due to longer pick-up and delivery times.

Yellium sells for more, allows you to complete Yellow demand tiles (for more VP), Yellow colonies are worth more points, and Yellow colonies provide extra Engines - which pretty much everybody should want.

I don't agree with your assessment here

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Military expeditions are not really an alternative either, since shields and weapons require cash, and the most effective way to get cash is to deliver Greenium and Bluium, and getting cash that way means helping others fill demands and claim LP, as well as contributing to finish the game faster. I guess you partly could compensate by establishing colonies farther away from Terra Prime, but while you do that, others can simply continue to deliver Greenium and Bluium and rake in LP.

MOST games are finished not by running out of Demand tiles, but by someone planting all of their colonies on the board. The Demand tile game end is a backup, so if all players refuse to colonize, the game will not last forever.

Killing aliens is really good points, and doesn't require as many trips back to base. Terra Prime is mostly about finding ways to minimize your trips back to base, making each trip out more efficient and effective.

Quote:
3. Military expeditions seem to be too difficult, especially when it comes to red space hexes. Even you manage to arm your ship to the maximum, i.e. by purchasing one shield module, two weapon modules, and the battlestation tech upgrade, the probability of victory is only 66.6 % per ship, targeting computer not included. If there are three hostile alien ships, the probability of total victory drops to 29.6 %, again targeting computer not included. I don’t think this is reasonable, considering how long time it takes to arm your ship and how long you have to travel to recharge your shields after combat, unless you happen to find a red planet; again, while you prepare for your military expeditions, the other players can make easy deliveries and win the game.

One of the other responders mentioned Cloaking Device - that's a Must Have for a red zone alien hunter. But it's not really necessary unless you plan to fight multiple clusters of aliens. Shields will do for just clearing out a space to colonize.

Quote:
I hope I’m completely wrong in my assessment of this game, because I really like the theme, the mechanisms, and the artwork, and I’d like to give the game a second chance.

I'm 100% biased, but I definitely think your assessment is off-base. I hope you'll read the replies in this thread and then give the game another go. Just reading this thread has made me want to play Terra Prime again

If you get it to the table again, I'd love to hear if your opinion changes or not - so keep us posted!
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FALCON1717 wrote:
devil I am really beginning to despise the "this game is broken" comments.


Maybe, but I, for one, appreciate the "is this game broken" questions (and the implicit - "tell me why it isn't broken, so I can understand"). I've had the question myself a few times about a few games, but I usually end up skipping it because I don't want to deal with people taking it the wrong way.
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Over half of my plays ended due to running out of demand tiles.
 
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aramis wrote:
Over half of my plays ended due to running out of demand tiles.

This will obviously come down to how the group chooses to play.

I may have overstated that "most" games don't end that way. I certainly wouldn't say that most games DO end by Demand tiles.

And it's rue that originally Demand tiles weren't even a game end trigger, but I wanted to make sure the game would eventually end no matter what.

Sure, I suppose players could just use all Move actions and then the game would never end, but that's not really within the scope of what I'm talking about here
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Maybe the groups I've played with are just too militaristic, but I think we've only ended a game by getting the 3 red dots (which come from a combination of colonizing, exploring (covering asteroids) and killing aliens. (I think that's all the methods, I don't have my game in front of me.)
 
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Wylann wrote:
Maybe the groups I've played with are just too militaristic, but I think we've only ended a game by getting the 3 red dots (which come from a combination of colonizing, exploring (covering asteroids) and killing aliens. (I think that's all the methods, I don't have my game in front of me.)

This has been my experience.

The Demand Tile game end only happens if players do more delivering- which is certainly possible. But much (if not most) of the time the game ends because people kill aliens and set up colonies.
 
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