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Subject: Too much famine? rss

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Tommy Ryytty
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I have now played four games in short time and two later games has suffered bit of high famine level.

High famine level is caused by exploration. Eg. if in four player game every player build explorer and uses it twice, it means eight exploration marker, which means something like six more famine. If this happens eg. in four round time span, it means that famine level is ten (if no one hasn't build fountains), which is very tough situation.

Experienced players can handle situation, but even then it causes much of troubles and main target is (too) long time just somehow handle famine and graves situation. This also basically means that playing time increases. But for Newbies this causes bigger problem and couple of mistakes in row can easily affect elimination situation or at least dancing in the edge of blade rest of the game.

Famine is important aspect for Antiquity, but I feel that it is too tough in this form and game loses something.

I have thought some solutions to this problem. Clear answer is just remove famine caused by exploration. But I assume, that also famine decrease caused by fountains has to removed also. Or it affect only if famine level is above ten. One solution is add second granary, which helps much at least in the beginning game.

Famine caused by exploration feels somehow artificial and as it was added afterward. I'm interested to hear if why this designed this way. Is simple form of famine (eg. just added one more every round) just too easy or is this added to increase complexity of structure or something?

Anyway game is brilliant. I love to see this kind of peaceful complex building games designed above all several "conquer the world"-games.
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Mikko Saari
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That's one reason I tend to avoid explorers, preferring to get my crops through trading or the faculty of biology. Both of which are, of course, fairly expensive ways, but also more reliable.

But I agree, having some sort of softer option would be nice in some situations (at least with four players and newbies included), because the famine can be so brutal it's not fun anymore. The easy game without any famine isn't an option, because that's not fun either, that takes way too much out of the game.
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Lacombe
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[Thread necromancy.]

I'm still quite a n00b to the game, but after having played with 2, 3, and 4, and with my recent 4-player experience being a game in which my wife and I ["have played before"-experienced players] taught two newbies the game, based on that experience I'm finding I agree with the sentiment that something a bit softer would be a very good option for 4-player games.

I'm actually kind of surprised there doesn't seem to be any other expressed concern in the forums here. Is everyone just playing 2 and 3-player games only? The above analysis of the quickness of the famine rise in 4-player games seems on the money, and it seems that differs quite substantially from a 2-player game [with the 3-player experience being in between].

I actually reset the famine [to its current half-way point, which was something like from 12 to 6 after 4 or 5 rounds] partway through the game, before we called the game from a time constraint. Things were looking extraordinarily grim. Nobody was in any kind of position to make progress, and I doubt the game would have been practically winnable at that point without adjusting famine.

I guess the correct procedure in 4-player games is aggressive and collusive fountain-building; otherwise, the game just seems to run away with itself. In a 2-player game, if one player finds themselves in need of reining in the famine, they can make proportional strides [through fountains] to match every continued increase [through exploring] by the player who isn't currently struggling with it.

But in a 4-player game, just a few explorations from each player will quite rapidly push the famine level up extraordinarily high before enough [any?] players have a chance to pick up the luxury goods needed to cope with it by fountain-building. I guess this just needs to be a "groupthink" thing in a 4-player game, that the players just don't start exploring for a few rounds because of what it will do?

When it gets right down to it, the expected rate of famine increase in the early rounds [before fountains are feasible] seems to be exactly double in a 4-player game compared to a 2-player game; and that just means that the problem will get worse since it's going to be doubly hard to keep up with other requirements / conditions while attempting to get the stuff necessary to start reining in the ever rising food shortage.

But, again, I'm a novice player at best. Maybe the 4-player game is just a "veterans only" play mode, for all practical purposes? It's kind of a shame, as the game really seems to thrive on butting heads and interaction for resources / positioning. I guess 3-player might be the newbie-friendly sweet-spot? This all makes me wonder what the most common playtest / development player count was for the game.

What I might suggest as a variant wouldn't be the silly individual famine board idea, but maybe just that the famine can only rise once per turn due to exploration [and once as usual at the end of the round, obviously] regardless of how many red arrows are drawn. I suppose this would have to be balanced out with a similar rule for decreases due to fountains, probably. Is there an easier answer for 4p?

[/Thread necromancy]
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Lacombe
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NateStraight wrote:
What I might suggest as a variant wouldn't be the silly individual famine board idea, but maybe just that the famine can only rise once per turn due to exploration [and once as usual at the end of the round, obviously] regardless of how many red arrows are drawn. I suppose this would have to be balanced out with a similar rule for decreases due to fountains, probably. Is there an easier answer for 4p?


Perhaps a kind of in-between variant to allow for players who want to do a lot of exploring or fountain-building to intentionally tweak the track:

- Famine level changes during a turn by the amount of the maximum red arrow / fountain count found / built by any individual player that round.
 
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Steve Duff
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Yeesh, famine is bad enough in 2 players, I can't imagine ever playing this with four then.
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Lacombe
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In our game tonight, I'm pretty sure three of us explored in the first turn, netting most of us 2 graves on the very first turn, and pushing the famine level to 4 for the second turn.

A few of us built granaries turn 2, but a few of us also explored again. Net result: 2-4 graves each, and it all just snowballed from there.

This certainly is a collective mistake we'll never make again, but damn the explorers are tempting early on.
 
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Martins Livens
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Explorers are tempting only for certain strategies and is risky business.
IMHO there is no need for corrections in 4 player game, if your group tend to explore too much, surprise them by being prepared to it.

Rule of thumb: Prepared explorer builds granary.
Both buildings are fine and easy to use, but did you considered how much space they take and how many times in a game you used explorer compared to space it took?
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Paul Smith
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NateStraight wrote:
In our game tonight, I'm pretty sure three of us explored in the first turn, netting most of us 2 graves on the very first turn, and pushing the famine level to 4 for the second turn.

A few of us built granaries turn 2, but a few of us also explored again. Net result: 2-4 graves each, and it all just snowballed from there.

This certainly is a collective mistake we'll never make again, but damn the explorers are tempting early on.

I'm confused as to why everyone is exploring when they see the famine track shooting up. New players would (understandably) just follow what everyone else is doing, but why would you push the famine track up if you're not prepared for the consequences?
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Lacombe
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SaiSaysPlayGo wrote:
NateStraight wrote:
In our game tonight, I'm pretty sure three of us explored in the first turn, netting most of us 2 graves on the very first turn, and pushing the famine level to 4 for the second turn.

A few of us built granaries turn 2, but a few of us also explored again. Net result: 2-4 graves each, and it all just snowballed from there.

This certainly is a collective mistake we'll never make again, but damn the explorers are tempting early on.

I'm confused as to why everyone is exploring when they see the famine track shooting up. New players would (understandably) just follow what everyone else is doing, but why would you push the famine track up if you're not prepared for the consequences?


The issue I see is that in the 4 player game you might be prepared for the individual consequences (or at least relatively prepared), but not for the aggregate consequences of multiple players doing exploration. Just out of sheer probability, the exploration in a 4 player game willl happen twice as fast unless players see that and adapt.

Especially on the first turn this seems an issue, since you can't know if anyone else will explore. It's a good (or at or at least it seems "not bad" to me) to explore early if you're the only one who does it. Individual incentives then in the first simultaneous blind planning phase tend toward a few potential explorers being built.

But then if the cities are revealed and three players have manned explorers, what then? I guess the players should just all ignore their chosen actiions and pass on the exploration? It seems a lot of groupthink is necessary to overcome the temptation for early exploration that, if chosen my even half the players, will spiral famine out of control.

I'm just going to tell players next game not to build a first turn explorer, I suppose. But it would be nice if there was a way to allow a proportionally similar number of players to explore as in the 2 player game. If half the players choose an exploration tack in q 2p game, nothing bad happens at all (or at least happens exactly half as quickly).

I guess the real answer is simply not to explore as early in a 4 player game, but this has to be done by all players (or at least more than half) or the snowballing will still happen. It's not like the equivalent economic death spiral in Age of Steam or Container that only has local consequences; here, a player or two can knock everyone's game out of whack.
 
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Paul Smith
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NateStraight wrote:
I guess the real answer is simply not to explore as early in a 4 player game, but this has to be done by all players (or at least more than half) or the snowballing will still happen.

It really depends on which Saint you're planning to worship. Maria and Christofori get big benefits from exploration. If you're planning on Nicolo or Barbara exploring is usually a bad idea. A Giorgio player will explore primarily to make the game more difficult for everyone.
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I think that the trick isn't to *not* explore early, but to explore for the right reasons. I've played a pair of 3 player games and never run into any exploration/famine issues, nor were they prevalent in either game. It was always a concern, but always very managable. Let me throw a few questions out to you to try to get some thoughts churning.

1)Why are you exploring?

Exploration has one positive, one neutral, and one negative goal. The positive one is to acquire a seed for use in a future farm. The neutral is the trade off, you don't pollute the space you get the resource from, but instead you up the famine, trading pollution for grave in a sense. The negative is to put famine pressure on your opponents. (This last one is unreliable, you might get wine, and fairly useless. A one famine tip isn't likely to undo your opponent unless they were playing it right on the edge in the first place) As a simple means of acquiring goods, Exploration is horribly inefficient and unpredictable.

2)Were are you placing your initial cities?

I don't believe myself or a single one of my opponents could actually *reach* two exploration icons early in the game. It is possible to, but that often results in a city that is placed horribly for resource gathering. More often than not we ended up placing our cities OVER an exploration token. It is my belief the tiles are set up to promote this. You can explore, or you can be well prepared for the future. A little now or a lot later.

3)What buildings are you building?

The granary is really a no-brainer. Unless we have been playing it wrong I can't imagine anyone not building this. One wood becomes three 'food' with no allocation of manpower. It gives you breathing room to gather resources and plan forward. Want that biology building? Then you don't need to explore ever. Alchemy? Keep the farm production rolling in. Hospital? Sure it requires a man, but that's 5 more 'food' worth of protection from famine(Yes you need to place the graves, but if you notice they appear at the end of the round, and are cleared during the city phase, meaning no real impact... unless you cover your hospital(Don't)


I hope these little food-for-thoughts have helped, I personally love the pressure in this game, and the many ways to mitigate it and recover. I feel it strikes the balance in a much more enjoyable way than say Agricola ^^
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Martins Livens
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SaiSaysPlayGo wrote:
NateStraight wrote:
I guess the real answer is simply not to explore as early in a 4 player game, but this has to be done by all players (or at least more than half) or the snowballing will still happen.

It really depends on which Saint you're planning to worship. Maria and Christofori get big benefits from exploration. If you're planning on Nicolo or Barbara exploring is usually a bad idea. A Giorgio player will explore primarily to make the game more difficult for everyone.


IMHO exploration is only for most benefit of St. Georgio or St. Nicolo.

Reasoning:

1) from exploration you frequently get food (seed) and actually most opening strategies are food oriented;

2) hungry saints are St. Cristofori, St. Georgio and St. Nicolo. But St. Cristofori needs diversity thats hardly obtainable by explorer alone, you probably need Biology, and then your explorer is wasted space. St. Georgio use food for ins, so extra farms will help, or extra luxury for making Stables. St. Nicolo needs diversity so much, that Philosophy is a must - so one seed food and one luxury by explorer would be ideal;

3) Barbara needs all different building so you will build explorer at some moment, why not at start? Up to you;

4) saying that St. Georgio don't need extra food is nonsense. Steady food engine is what you need the most;

5) never played with St. Maria, probably all depends on what winning conditions you want to meet.
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marc magner
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just asking here, but if famine is becoming too much of an issue, especially 4er, has anyone ever built a fountain?

i've found fountains tend to be one of the most under utilized buildings in the game - they are very strong buildings especially early...

1 lux to build
1 space occupied
a one time (-1) To FAMINE
(-1) to pollution each turn without manning...

 
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easterly1 wrote:
just asking here, but if famine is becoming too much of an issue, especially 4er, has anyone ever built a fountain?

i've found fountains tend to be one of the most under utilized buildings in the game - they are very strong buildings especially early...

1 lux to build
1 space occupied
a one time (-1) To FAMINE
(-1) to pollution each turn without manning...



I agree that fountains are underestimated by many.
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Are fountains, then, the general answer to the 4-player multiplicative effect on famine growth?

I mean, no one is denying here that, in theory / probability, the rate of famine growth due to exploration in a 4-player is exactly double that of the 2-player game, right? [I don't think anyone has yet, anyway.]

Seems strange to me that the relative value / cost of exploration [and fountains, by extension] would be so vastly different in 2-player and 4-player games. I certainly wasn't expecting such a different game.

I ran the probabilities just now, and let's say that a game with 2 "early" [first turn] exploration is "extremely brutal". If we assume the probability of a player choosing to explore is 50%, the probabilities are:

2p: 25% that 2 or more players choose exploration [2 explores happen]
3p: 50% that 2 or more players choose exploration [2 explores happen]
4p: 69% that 2 or more players choose exploration [2 explores happen]

On the first turn when you have no knowledge about what the other playe is planning, the choice to pursue an early exploration tack seems fairly random / probability-driven. Even if the probability isn't 50%, the above discrepancy would still exist.

It's simply more probable in a 4-player game [by quite a significant margin, especially over the 2-player game] that a bunch of exploration happens early and that the famine level drives up to an unmanageable level. It's also worse because fewer [proportionally] players have the extra food.

I guess what I'm looking for here is commentary on this observation [counterpoint to it?] and an explanation from an experienced player on how / if the exploration decision differs across player counts and what 4 players, in particular, should do.
 
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NateStraight wrote:
Even if the probability isn't 50%, the above discrepancy would still exist.


For instance, if the probability of a player choosing exploration on the very first turn is only 25%, the odds are as follows:

2p: 6% two explores happen
3p: 16% two explores happen
4p: 26% two explores happen
 
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I'm not sure why you chose to start over. You made your beds, now sleep in em'.
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e.e.goings wrote:
I'm not sure why you chose to start over. You made your beds, now sleep in em'.


I'm fairly certain the game was actually unwinnable from where we were at.


We had to call the game shortly after anyway; a learning experience for sure.
 
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I would say your probability matrix only works with new players(and even then the numbers are not anything I can comment on) Experienced players know the risk of exploring, and the effect of a four player exploration fest. I think the player interaction here really mimics the plight of multiple small cities in close proximity. Do we plunder the rich nodes of resources in our immediate vicinity or leave it be, that people might harvest it without direction to feed themselves?(getting a good but making the countryside more barren(famine!)) you take that choice, now apply it among the four city-state heads, and you have mayor/despots eyeing each other and their countryside, weighing the advantages and disadvantages. This can and should lead to table talk and negotiations. This is a part of the game, a FUN part of the game
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Andrew Nichols
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Unwinnable for anyone, I suppose you mean?

To my mind at least, that's always been part of the joy of Antiquity: you're not only fighting the other players but the game structure itself (metaphorically, human avarice). Is it possible that through excessive exploitation of the environment that the human civilizations in Antiquity collapse? Yes, and I think that's a good thing.

More practically, I've played with 4 several times (with newbies), and while famine is a beast, my experience is that after a turn or two of most people exploring, everyone realizes the danger all are in and mostly stop. But fountains are pretty huge, and although they help the whole table, their function in reducing pollution is very helpful as well. If you find that the table has pushed the famine very high, building fountains and encouraging your fellows to do likewise makes sense.
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Andrew Nichols
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marliv wrote:

IMHO exploration is only for most benefit of St. Georgio or St. Nicolo.

Reasoning:

1) from exploration you frequently get food (seed) and actually most opening strategies are food oriented;

2) hungry saints are St. Cristofori, St. Georgio and St. Nicolo. But St. Cristofori needs diversity thats hardly obtainable by explorer alone, you probably need Biology, and then your explorer is wasted space. St. Georgio use food for ins, so extra farms will help, or extra luxury for making Stables. St. Nicolo needs diversity so much, that Philosophy is a must - so one seed food and one luxury by explorer would be ideal;

3) Barbara needs all different building so you will build explorer at some moment, why not at start? Up to you;

4) saying that St. Georgio don't need extra food is nonsense. Steady food engine is what you need the most;

5) never played with St. Maria, probably all depends on what winning conditions you want to meet.


In my experience, Georgio usually subsists off Fish more than planted food, mainly because if you're going Georgio, you'll want to have a manned harbor anyway to quickly move across the board. That said, a Georgio player should flourish in a difficult environment more than most, since they aren't trying to accomplish any kind of longterm project other than lots of inns.

I've never seen Maria win except with Georgio+someone else, so the same considerations apply.

I've always explored with Christofori early before transitioning to Biology to get the last few goods, so I'm not sure how well that would work to wait until you are able to build it.
 
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danweasel wrote:

In my experience, Georgio usually subsists off Fish more than planted food, mainly because if you're going Georgio, you'll want to have a manned harbor anyway to quickly move across the board. That said, a Georgio player should flourish in a difficult environment more than most, since they aren't trying to accomplish any kind of longterm project other than lots of inns.

I've never seen Maria win except with Georgio+someone else, so the same considerations apply.

I've always explored with Christofori early before transitioning to Biology to get the last few goods, so I'm not sure how well that would work to wait until you are able to build it.


Manned labor and fishermans is the best St.Georgio combo, if map supports it.

If St.Christofori makes explorer, I believe then you should make second city for sure, while without it can be played as one city game. How fast you reach Christofori winning condition by that strategy?
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Games where the famine level shoots up like that are my favorite games of Antiquity. But then again, I like a good game that punches you in the stomach. It's just fun to listen to everyone groan about famine, and working to overcome it.
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Andrew Nichols
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marliv wrote:

Manned labor and fishermans is the best St.Georgio combo, if map supports it.

If St.Christofori makes explorer, I believe then you should make second city for sure, while without it can be played as one city game. How fast you reach Christofori winning condition by that strategy?


Well, yeah. I probably wouldn't go Georgio without a water-heavy map.
 
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btw: since no one else has mentioned it... don't be afraid to build over/away the exploration counters... if you don't need/plan on exploring then pave away and take away the option for others.

this is also something newer players tend to be afraid to do ( heck my wife sometimes sets goals to see how many counters she can remove from the game unseen)

with that in mind - i don't think your percentages add up.
 
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