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Subject: Variants 1 & 2 rss

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Anthony Rubbo
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This topic was touched on briefly in another thread, however, I was wondering, what do people think of the variants listed on the separate rulesheet found in Hacienda? Were these variants the original way the game was meant to be played? Aside from just being a different way to play, do people feel one way of playing offers a better game experience than others?

Thanks!

- A
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Rodney Somerstein
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I have played Hacienda about 6 times now with a variety of combinations of these variants. My preference is to play using just variant 2. The reasoning behind this is as follows. First of all, scoring as you go along makes things much easier for most people. There is no particular reason to wait until the middle and then end of the game to count up the scores. All that does is makes it harder to tell who is in the lead. This especially makes a big difference for new players who otherwise end up being surprised how much various elements score.

Also, allowing animals to score when coming to market based on the number of markets they are touching pushes people to work on closing off the markets so they can keep scoring by doing so. It makes for some interesting fights as other people work their way toward markets. Also, it causes some choices as to whether to cluster your pieces around a market to take advantage of it or to spread out/place near other markets. The only downside is that the scoring for the markets is different than in the basic game, but this is easily corrected with a new score summary or paste-up on the original.

Variant 1, in my opinion, places too much of an emphasis on animals and introduces much more money into the game. The money is offset by the higher cost of water and haciendas, but just doesn't seem necessary. The extra emphasis on animals doesn't seem to be offset by anything. Since animals both score and earn more money than in the base rules, there is less reason to go after land. Just connect using animals or place 3 land tiles to get 6 points then use animals to fill in all of the remaining spaces. The game ends more quickly because of this. I think that having an approximately equal balance between land and animals makes for a better game.

All of that being said, I think that Hacienda is probably the best game to come out of this last Essen and one that I look forward to continuing to play. Especially with the map generator that is available to keep producing new boards.

-Rodney
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Geeky McGeekface
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Actually, my experience is about 180 degrees different than Rodney's. With the standard rules, it pretty much seems that the basic strategy is to form long chains of land tiles or, as we like to call them, huge tracts of land. These give you good victory points, allow you to place worthwhile haciendas economically, and let you rake in big bucks when hooking up to multiple markets. There are other ways of attacking the game, but the long land chain strategy seems hard to beat. Consequently, players take far more land cards than animal cards, which is not only unbalanced, but can cause the game to stretch out too long. I've only played with Variant 1 once, but I thought it was a sizable improvement. Now animals are more in demand, as they not only can score you points, but large herds are needed to increase your income when connecting to markets. The balance between the two types of cards seemed much better and one strategy no longer dominated. The game plays more quickly as well and doesn't overstay its welcome. It remains to be seen whether players have enough time to buy water tiles, but I think with experience we will. Now that I've tried Variant 1, I have no desire to go back to the basic rules.

Variant 2, on the other hand, holds no appeal for me. As far as I can see, it only changes two things. You have to score following each play, which seems like a considerable bother to me. I'd much rather score only twice a game. You can usually tell how each player is doing by looking at their position. The other change is that there is no longer any midgame scoring. But I like the midgame scoring. It gives you an intermediate goal that pushes you to raise some cash early on, since everything you construct in the first half gets scored twice. I don't think it would kill the game to score continually, but I prefer it the other way. Other than that, gameplay should be identical.

So I strongly recommend Variant 1 and don't really care about Variant 2. But like Rodney, I think this is a very good game however you play it. If you want to play your first few games with the basic rules to see what you think, I'm sure you'll still enjoy it. I do think you should always use the asymetrical board, as that makes for better gameplay.
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