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Subject: Concerns about Custer and the Sabers card rss

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Brian Jones
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Hi John, I just saw the new Kickstarter was up and have backed. I play a lot of Rummy games, and own all of the Mystery Rummy series by Mike Fitzgerald. But I am a little concerned about two aspects of the game:

First, and the more important of the two, how easy is it to have Custer escape? My concern is that the Custer penalty is a completely random event in the game. The player who happens to draw Custer is just out of luck and will lose 20 points unless they can have him escape, and it seems that all other players will actively work to make sure this does not happen. This is a problem for me, especially since the penalty seems so high - that is 1/5th or 1/6 of a winning score in most games. Hopefully I'm missing something - I do see that the player who plays Sitting Bull is the only one who can play the Sundance card to negate escape, so at least that seems unlikely.

There are negative cards like this in many Mystery Rummy games, but they are usually chosen as a risk/reward play by a player, with an option to discard them or take a smaller hit through card play. There doesn't seem to be any reward here, just a -20 penalty for the poor sod who draws him.

Ok, 2nd and less important concern: The single Sabers card is able to remove up to 9 Braves cards (half the total) from the table, with no protection from it available. In what percentage of games does this card make it into play? How much of the 102 card deck is usually drawn down in a 3 or 4 player game? Because the negative power of this card seems greater than any other card except for Custer. I would think just the presence of this card would cause many to play conservatively and not play Braves early, or just discard them as they seem likely to be killed off.

Sorry for the long post, but I'm trying to get a feel for the game and keep coming back to the Custer mechanic. Thanks

Edit: just read the designer's session report, and it seems that Custer escaping is a rarity. Not sure if anything has changed since the last Kickstarter though, so hopefully John will chime in here.

Also, I think this should probably be posted to the General forum instead of Rules, but I'm not sure how to move it.
 
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John Longstreet
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First, Let's talk about the Custer card. Yes, I can say that it is a Random penalty to draw the -20 card. But the draw seems to have a drastic effect on the play of that hand play all players. Generally, The Custer card owner wants to extend the hand and collect as many melds, points, and escape if things are going well for himself. On the other hand, opponents try to go out quickly and post a huge negative number on the Custer player.

Some times players will stuff [or hold in their] hand staff cards to hide them from the Custer owner to keep him from picking them up and possibly escaping. And all is not doomed but getting Custer; my wife constantly beats me although she "gets" him often in our games. The Sitting Bull card and Sundance, well, if you can get that combination, 6 + 2 = 8, you've scored the highest two card combination in the game, even if Custer is not on the Table or has Escaped already.

The Saber card. 1/102 poor odds. But it comes into play! Although I have never seen it take out 9 braves in a 4 player game. I think 7 was the most. Don't be afraid of it. Saber can only be played once per scoring game and you can only lose three points. If you thinks it becomes too unfair "house rule" it out of the game.

Oh, by-the-way, read my designer blog on the game page. In the first paragraph I describe the greatest play I have ever seen with the Custer Card!
 
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Brian Jones
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Thanks for the reply John. I agree that the other players may have to play slightly differently if the Custer card is out early - the problem is that in about half the games that the card appears it will do so too late for anyone to effectively play "around" it. What happens in those games where 8-10 rounds in, BAM, someone draws the Custer card and the two players on their left each are near going out. That's a pretty nasty penalty, and it is completely random with the player having nothing to mitigate it.

Have you considered making the Custer penalty scale to the number of players and/or the game end point total?
I don't see the 20 points being as much of a problem in a two-player game played to 150, but with 4 players going to 100 - that is so punitive it seems tough to come back from. And it seems that in most games one of those 4 players is likely to get it twice, effectively taking them out of the running because of a random draw (not a big deal in a 20-30 minute game, but this is a 1 hour game!)

I just want to make sure I'm clear here though - is it true that in the majority of games the Custer card results in the drawing player scoring fewer points than the rest of the table? How many fewer?
How extensively has the game been playtested at each of the player counts? and by that I mean how many different playtest groups, number of players and total games played.

Drawing the Saber card would not be 1/102 odds - this is the reason I asked what the average total deck draw over the course of a hand is, for this card and Custer. Just starting hands leaves a count of 24/33/40 out of 102 at each of the player counts, and I'm guessing that at least another 30-40 cards come off the deck in the majority of games, maybe more than that.
But I agree, this one doesn't bother me nearly as much as Custer.

I hope you don't feel like I'm being overly critical of the game, it interests me very much. It's just that this is a first published game from a young company that most people have no experience with, so I am a little wary. Thanks again for the quick response.
 
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John Longstreet
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Yes, There is consideration to produce 4 Custer Cards. -20, -15, -10, and an even harsher -25. Players choice and number of players and win total could be one of the determining factors before starting the match.

I had seven different main people and their groups play test the game. 2-player overwhelmingly was played. The two groups I had control over loved 3-player and the team 4 player [which is really a four player/two player game].

As far as being wary about my company, fine. I'm not in this to make any money. I don't expect to make any money, and if I make any money I'll give what I can away to the needy.

Brian, your questions are good, and in the next few days FatherGeek will come out with a written review. Maybe his unbiased insight into my game will let you know if this is something you want to support or not.

John
 
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Brian Jones
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lmjarl wrote:
Yes, There is consideration to produce 4 Custer Cards. -20, -15, -10, and an even harsher -25. Players choice and number of players and win total could be one of the determining factors before starting the match.

I had seven different main people and their groups play test the game. 2-player overwhelmingly was played. The two groups I had control over loved 3-player and the team 4 player [which is really a four player/two player game].

As far as being wary about my company, fine. I'm not in this to make any money. I don't expect to make any money, and if I make any money I'll give what I can away to the needy.

Brian, your questions are good, and in the next few days FatherGeek will come out with a written review. Maybe his unbiased insight into my game will let you know if this is something you want to support or not.

John


I'm glad there is thought about including 3-4 different versions of the Custer card, I think it may improve the game.

I didn't mean to say that I am wary about your company financially, or worried about the game not being delivered. I have supported a number of games on Kickstarter, and seen quite a few more, that could have used a bit more development and playtesting. I just wanted to get a feel for how the game was tested at certain player counts, as the Mystery Rummy games I have played are very different depending on number of players.

Thanks again for the answers John, I am already a backer of the game on Kickstarter and plan to remain so.
 
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John Longstreet
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Brain,

No, your good questions should and need to be asked. And Like all games on BGG if I had predict how people would end up answering "Best played with" I would say two. I also like most of the mystery rummy games at two except Wyatt Earp, which I like at three.
I'm enjoying our conversation, but will be out of pocket for the weekend.
 
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