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Subject: Player Review: A Minor Lesson in Strategic Bidding rss

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Todd Sweet
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CClim00 wrote:
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We will probably give this game another shot, with 5 people next time. This feels like a game where you need the max players to really get a feel for what the designers had in mind.


I think you summed up your game in that last line Having played several times, I think this game is really made for playing with the 5 player max. Of course, playing by the correct bidding rules will also help the game, since this is basically a bidding/resource management game with a little tile playing.
 
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Alan Kwan
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Thanks for the "review".

CClim00 wrote:
This review is based on one game of Vegas Showdown with the following "settings":

Players: 3
Ruleset: 3-Player Game (one empty premium space at all times)
Rules Modifications: Unknowingly, we broke the inferred rule that you can only modify your bid if you were out-bid. Therefore, there was an instance or two where a player out-bid another player to force him into the Renovate square, and the simply changed their bid afterwards. Those who understand the gameplay will notice that this can severly hurt a player with low income.

Thanks for making this clear: this review would be useful for people who plan to buy a game, play it once, and then immediately give the verdict, dismissing it if whatever understanding they have at that point leaves them unsatisfied. For those who want to find a game they are going to play repeatedly, who tend to play a game several times before giving a verdict, this kind of "review" is perhaps not much useful.

Before we continue, please take a moment to read my strategy article first.

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In our game, the "Strategic placement" aspect was not very strategic. In fact, it seemed rather simple to accurately place your tiles where you needed/wanted them.

This seems to be a common novice's opinion.

In fact, the tiles which are easy to place typically are not too useful in helping you win the game! A novice who keeps getting these tiles will have no difficulty placing his tiles, but much difficulty winning the game against decent opponents.

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As noted above, we played the bidding phase of the game incorrectly, so we were out-bidding each other just to inflate prices and force each other to renovate/publicize instead of purchase (though it only worked when the premier tiles were in high demand and were still expensive).

The wrong rules aside, you just don't understand the strategy. When the premier tiles are expensive, the best option is often to Publicize. You don't have to buy a tile every turn just because you can. The Lounges and the Restaurants have their specific purposes, and it is not profitable to buy one when these purposes don't meet your needs. (See my strategy article.) I rarely feel the need to bid up the Lounge or the Restaurant; their base prices are expensive enough, and not always profitable. If my opponent wants to buy one, I would gladly let him, in most cases.

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One of the bonuses has to do with creating Red Diamonds (which are on the corners of certain tiles and are created by placing tiles adjacent to each other correctly). I focused my endgame strategy on creating these, and it turns out that they really aren't worth much.

To get good scores from red corners, just focusing on them in the "endgame" is not enough. One has to be aware of it from the start, and consciously collect red-cornered tiles all throughout the game.

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The best endgame strategy is to have the highest population, highest revenue rating, and the most cash in hand. It is most likely possible to just hang on to your cash the whole game and simply publicize your empty casino the whole game, and still manage to win because of your surplus of cash-on-hand. That to me is a SEVERE balance issue.

An empty casino may indeed win, against clueless novices who keep buying useless tiles at overly expensive prices (and thus losing Fame for each successful purchase they make). Against a reasonable opponent who knows what to go for, winning that way is entirely impossible. It is possible to win with relatively few tiles - by avoiding the less profitable tiles when everybody is overbidding - and getting only the tiles which really help. But one does need a few tiles in order to win.

Another factor is clearly that, your wrong rules make it impossible to buy anything at bargain prices - a factor which the designer intended to be the main focus of the game. Vegas Showdown, under the correct rules, is won by the player who gets the best bargains - and that is impossible for one who never buys anything.

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Personally, I don't think cash-on-hand should have a relevance to your final Fame score.

Wrong. The game is about getting tiles at bargain prices, and avoiding paying more for a tile than it is worth. Players who cannot figure out tile purchases which earn them more Fame than 1/10 the $ cost plus 1 (for Publicizing), and thus keep getting a loss with each tile purchase, do not deserve to win, against a good player who develops his income well, and bids only on really useful tiles.

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I haven't tried that adjustment, but I may give at a shot.

A good rule of thumb: never attempt a rules "fix" after only one game under the wrong rules.

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This game would be much more fun for us if you could spend cash to mess up another players' casino, or otherwise tamper with your opponents.

Citadels should be good for your group. I can understand that, and I do in fact recommend that game to some of our customers. But personally I don't enjoy Citadels, and I love this game for what it offers.

In other words, I prefer a game of skill in which I can win by playing skillfully and executing good strategy and tactics, rather than a game of "opinion" in which I can win only because the other players have chosen to mess with each other while leaving me alone to roam free.

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We will probably give this game another shot, with 5 people next time. This feels like a game where you need the max players to really get a feel for what the designers had in mind.

IMHO, this game is best for 4 players. The 3-player and the 5-player games have included modifications to make them work fine, but the game is best for 4. Just like Princes of Florence, which is designed primarily for 4 and then adjusted (inadequately, in that case) for 5.
 
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Todd
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Kudos to Alan for a thoughtful, though quite harsh, response to Ed's critique. Alan raises a number of issues for me, as a player who owns the game but has not yet played it, to consider. Kudos to Ed for taking Alan's criticisms in good humor despite Alan's crabby (but probably dead-on) observations.
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