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Subject: A new variant to try rss

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Sheldon Smith
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I’ve read many wonderful ideas using a different end-scoring method for this game. The assortment of coat-of-arms chits creates an interesting topic. If they didn't have them, it would seem like the idea itself was missing a key feature. Yet, it is clear why the added VP bonus of extra chits can lead to much frustration.

This game can be very close at times - especially with tight players. Each mission is equal in value (5 VP’s), which leads to the likelihood that most games will come down to a "photo finish" of the shield chits and their extra bonuses. For such a deep and highly involved game, it can feel like a terrible waste when the victory is suddenly stolen by pure luck of majority holders of these chits. Mind you, this offense isn’t that serious since it should average out for each player to gain just a couple points. The bonus also serves as a nifty tool to create additional tension & uncertainty at the end.

Even so, I find Louis XIV to be very enjoyable. I love the marker movements, the resource management, and the trickery used to influence the members in the king’s court. Sure, some of the mechanics are a bit fiddly, but they do serve a useful purpose. Because this game often ends with such a narrow victory margin, the added bonus chits make a huge difference – which is a bit unfair. After all, this wouldn’t be an issue if the leaders were normally ahead by 10+ points. I believe it was intended for the bonus to raise the overall chit value, but not to become a game decider. Unfortunately, the latter is often the case, which is why this rule is so controversial. Is the goal of the game focused on the missions, or is it really about how to maximize the number of coat-of-arms tokens?

Before I go into my personal take on this, I would like to first compliment all of the previous suggestions to amend this rule. It's great to see such variety of constructive thoughts – and below is list of what I read so far:

1) Altered timing of the coat-of-arms bonus

2a) Players w/lowest shield total loses chit, players w/highest total gains chit
2b) Players w/lowest shield total gives chit to the players w/highest total

3) Varying VP’s (3/5/7) for mission difficulty

4a) Each player gets a bonus of chit per every 5 acquired
4b) Each player gets a bonus of chit per every X (tiered schedule) acquired

5) Forget the bonus. Lowest shield chit holder gives one away to highest

6) Playing with the coat-of-arms shield tiles face up

7) Place shield chits (awarded by characters) in open view on the Personage tiles


All of these are good variants, but it’s hard to tell if they are over compensating or causing a player’s motives to stray too much from the game designer’s original objective. For example, the 3/5/7 rule might tempt players to gamble on harder mission cards early on (for the higher VP value) - when their “reward chit” collection would have normally dictated the player to opt for a safer and easier card to fulfill. Others seem to just minimize this problem (but not completely remove it).

And now… here comes yet ANOTHER variant for your consideration:

#1 – There is no coat-of-arms bonus scoring (but the matching types will still be useful).

#2 – The coat-of-arms shields should be placed face down next to the player’s private stash of other goods as the player collects them (just like before).

#3 – If (3) chits are collected of the same type (a matching set), a player may do either of the following actions at the end of each Mission Phase:

(A) Flip up (3) shields of the same type to bring back (1) Influence Marker from the general supply to the private supply.

(B) Flip up (3) shields of the same type to collect (1) Louis Gold.

… A player can do any of these actions as many times as he has matching sets. I recommend placing them near the mission cards so they are not thrown out or lost (they still count as 1 VP each!!!).

This variant can provide quite a few interesting decisions. For one, a player may not exactly know (because he hasn’t drawn any Influence cards yet) if he should take a gold or a marker - and may have to speculate a little. Or, he may simply hold tight until the next turn. Furthermore, if a player still has any matching sets left after the 4th round, he can still perform this action (of course, only during the Mission Phase before game end).

… Remember that the end scoring requires players to trade Louis Gold for shield chits at the rate of 3 for 1. Also remember the player with the most Influence Markers in their private supply is declared the winner in case of a tie!

As you can see, the matching shield types will not provide immediate victory points, but they still provide nice benefits that will help players throughout the game or help settle a tie-breaker. These perks seem to be fair and not overpowering, and should do a similar job in raising the implied value from a mere 1 VP to around 1.25-1.33 VP (about equal to the original rule set). I believe this variant will produce larger margin victories in some games while creating even closer games in others - depending on how the game goes and how the chits are played.

Above all else, I wanted to make sure this variant would accomplish 3 things:

- To protect the best player from being thwarted by lucky shield draws
- To keep a purpose for the varying patterns shown on the coat-of-arms
- To maintain a similar level of tension and uncertainty during the end game scoring

I haven’t tried this out yet, but I thought about this for quite some time now. I’d love to hear your opinions on this variant, or if you had any success with it. While it may seem silly or pointless to even try to fix a game that has surely been thoroughly tested by the game designer, I do believe this idea accomplishes all of these goals.

What do you think?
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Re: A new variant to try :-)
This actually feels right to me.
It adds some extra thinking and decision-making which is a good thing.

Next time I manage to get Louis to the table I will try this.
 
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Dick Hunt
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Re: A new variant to try :-)
EyeInSky wrote:

3) Varying VP’s (3/5/7) for mission difficulty



The drawback I see to that is that it would tend to dictate everyone's method of drawing new Mission Cards. If the first player to complete a mission draws a Moderate Mission Card to replace his completed card, that pretty much forces the next player to complete a Mission Card to draw a Moderate as well, and so forth. You might draw tougher cards than your predecessor in order to try and get ahead of him in the score, but it certainly doesn't seem like you'd draw easier missions than he did. Sure, Easy missions aren't as hard to complete as Moderate missions, but are Moderates really twice as hard to complete? They'd better be, because this system of scoring would require you to complete twice as many Easy missions as someone else does Moderate ones. And if a guy completes a Hard mission for 7 points, I'd have to complete three Easies to catch up! I'm not sure the degree of difficulty between mission levels is that much, especially when your ease in completing missions is so dependent upon your luck in drawing Mission Cards. For example, if I have a leftover Crown counter after Round 1, taking a Hard Mission Card is a snap--that leftover Crown counter means I've already got this so-called "Hard" mission half-done!

So while I rather like the idea of assigning different point values for completing different missions, I'm afraid my method of doing so would have to be significantly more complicated than a 3-5-7 point scale.

Examples:

It's much easier to complete any mission if you use a Crown on it. I'd award more points for missions completed without using Crowns than I would for those that used Crowns. The Crowns make it easier to complete missions, but should be worth fewer points when used to do so.

Let's face it, some completed Mission Cards are worth significantly more than others, even when comparing two cards that are supposedly of the same difficulty level. For example, let's compare two of the Moderate cards. There's one that lets you place an influence marker on Game Board 5 at the beginning of each influence phase. There's another Moderate card that lets you place 1 influence marker on whichever board King Louis is standing upon. Should those two Mission Cards both be worth the same 5 points? Not in my opinion! I'd rather have the latter of these two cards, and because it's more useful throughout the game, it should be worth fewer points when completed than the former card.

And look at all those lovely "defer your turn" Mission Cards. Those are handy as hell to have, especially if you've got extra Influence Cards in hand as well! I think that completing a Mission Card that allows me to defer my turn should be worth fewer points than a less valuable card. I'd much rather have that "pay 2 Louisdor to defer your turn" card than that measly "take 1 Louisdor from the bank" card. Both are Easy Mission Cards, but the former is far more valuable after I've earned it, which, in my opinion, should make it worth fewer victory points than the card that gives me a wimpier during-the-game advantage.

Of course, the value of each individual Mission Card is subjective, so we could argue the worth of each card all day long. Just try taking the entire deck of Mission Cards, irrespective of their "degrees of difficulty," and putting them in order from Best Ones To Complete down to Weeniest Ones To Complete. The better the advantage the card gives you, the fewer points it should be worth.

You might be surprised at how much crossover you get between the degrees of difficulty. For example, I think the Moderate Card that lets me trade one of my Influence Cards for a new one from the deck (basically, it's a turn deferral card) is FAR more valuable in game play than the Difficult Mission Card that gives me 3 Louisdor from the bank on each turn. The extra 3 Louisdor might have little value to me in a game where money is plentiful, but the ability to defer one turn in every round is always valuable as hell!!!

While I rather like the idea of varying the point values of the Mission Cards, I'll bet it would be hard going to get my gaming group to agree on which cards should get what point values!!
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Dick Hunt
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Re: A new variant to try :-)
EyeInSky wrote:
I’ve read many wonderful ideas using a different end-scoring method for this game. The assortment of coat-of-arms chits creates an interesting topic. If they didn't have them, it would seem like the idea itself was missing a key feature. Yet, it is clear why the added VP bonus of extra chits can lead to much frustration.


Agreed. Because you get no control over which coats-of-arms you're earning during the game, whether or not you have bonus-earning sets of them at game's end is completely random. This hasn't really been an issue yet in my group's games, but I can certainly see where it might bother some folks. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see this issue raised in my own group pretty soon, because the more I play Louis XIV, the more I'm seeing it as a giant luck-fest. I hate that feeling, too, because we all loved this game right from the start. The luck problem in Louis XIV is undeniable, however.

Quote:
This game can be very close at times - especially with tight players. Each mission is equal in value (5 VP’s), which leads to the likelihood that most games will come down to a "photo finish" of the shield chits and their extra bonuses. For such a deep and highly involved game, it can feel like a terrible waste when the victory is suddenly stolen by pure luck of majority holders of these chits. Mind you, this offense isn’t that serious since it should average out for each player to gain just a couple points. The bonus also serves as a nifty tool to create additional tension & uncertainty at the end.


In my opinion, the fact that all the mission cards have the same 5-point value is a much bigger crime than the random point swings I see caused by the coats-of-arm bonuses. While making all the mission cards worth 5 points makes for much easier math, I think this game needs a better method for awarding the points you get for completing missions. I'm working on a variant for that, but it's guaranteed to be far more complicated than a simple missions-completed-times-5 system.

Having said that, doing something a bit different with the coats-of-arms wouldn't necessarily be a bad idea, either!

Quote:
Even so, I find Louis XIV to be very enjoyable. I love the marker movements, the resource management, and the trickery used to influence the members in the king’s court. Sure, some of the mechanics are a bit fiddly, but they do serve a useful purpose. Because this game often ends with such a narrow victory margin, the added bonus chits make a huge difference – which is a bit unfair. After all, this wouldn’t be an issue if the leaders were normally ahead by 10+ points. I believe it was intended for the bonus to raise the overall chit value, but not to become a game decider. Unfortunately, the latter is often the case, which is why this rule is so controversial. Is the goal of the game focused on the missions, or is it really about how to maximize the number of coat-of-arms tokens?


This is a good point. The scoring goal in Louis XIV is basically to match everyone else completed mission-for-completed mission, and then win enough of the randomly-awarded coats-of-arms bonuses to eke out a narrow victory at the end. If you fall a mission short, you'd better earn quite a pile of coats-of-arms in order to make up for it. If you're a completed mission behind anyone and you don't have a sizeable lead in coats-of-arms collections, you're doomed. My most frustrating losses occur when I fall a mission behind, but can't get a lead going in coats-of-arms, either. It drives me crazy when an opponent completes more missions than I and manages to keep up with my coats-of-arms production, because that's when it feels like there's no way to come from behind in this game.

This is why the game is starting to feel like a huge luck-fest for me:

1: Everyone starts with two randomly assigned missions, one easy and one moderate. If I'm the only player with two missions that require the same mission chit, I'm at a randomly drawn disadvantage right from the start.

2: If my two randomly assigned starter missions give me a reasonably lame combination of bonuses while an opponent(s) starter missions are a significantly more potent combination of bonuses, my degree of difficulty in this game is significantly higher right from the start.

Example:

I start with:
easy: scepter/anything gets me 1 Louisdor from the bank per round
moderate: scepter/scroll gets 1 coat-of-arms per round

you start with:
easy: scroll/anything gets you a 2-Louisdor defer-your-turn per round
moderate: scepter/ring gets you a card-trading defer-your-turn per round

We both start the game with 10 potential points, of course, but you've got a huge advantage over me if these were our starting hands. My two cards both require me to spend scepter chips in order to complete the missions, so I have to fight for at least one crown chip in order to complete both my missions. And because one of your cards requires you to spend a scepter chip as well, we're both fighting to get a scepter chip!! If you beat me out for that scepter chip, I now must get two crown chips in order to complete both my missions while you can still complete both your missions without any crowns at all!

To make matters worse, even if I manage to get my two crown chips, I'm using them to complete two comparatively lame missions. Big deal, my two missions will be worth 3 Louisdor and 3 coats-of-arms by game's end if I get them both completed in the first round of play. Meanwhile, your two missions, which would be easier to complete in the first place, are going to give you 6 deferred turns by game's end, possibly ensuring that you're able to make the last play in every round!!

That's probably a worst-case scenario for starting hands, but I think it's a pretty good demonstration of why the 5-points-per-completed-mission is far too simplistic a scoring method for this game. There's no way that all four mission cards in this example should have the same victory point value at game's end. I think that, because your cards gave you much better in-game abilities than the ones I had, I should get a significantly larger number of VP's for the two missions I completed. The tricky part would be both setting the values of each completed mission card and the more complicated scoring system that would result from doing so.

3. Another huge luck factor in Louis XIV is your hand of Influence Cards. Have you ever had one of those games where your hand of Influence Cards always seems to start you on the wrong part of the board? You desperately need one of those helmets you get from tile #4 and the ring you get from tile #3, and your hand is stuffed with Influence Cards that start you from, say, tiles 7, 8, and 9? I just had a game like that. I fell behind in the first round, and for three rounds in a row after that, I had the crappiest hands of Influence Cards you can imagine. In one round, I started out with two Influence Markers on tile #5, and it had the just-put-three-guys-here side face up. I only needed to put one more marker on that tile in order to earn my crown chip, but two of the Influence Cards in my hand started me on that tile. It was a fairly hideous round of play for me. And this was in the same game where, after completing my easy mission in Round 1, I replaced it with a moderate mission that required the exact same mission chips as the moderate mission I had already failed to complete in Round 1. So I went into Round 2 with two moderate mission cards that required the exact same set of mission chips. I suspected at the time that it was "game over" for me, and the crappy hands of Influence Cards I got after that soon proved me correct.

Okay, that was a bad, unlucky game. It happens. Unfortunately, I've been seeing this sort of game a lot lately in my Louis XIV play. My group has been seeing lots of runaway leader games where one player gets an awesome collection of mission cards completed that gives him abilities that make him pretty much uncatchable before the game is barely halfway done. When one mission card gives a guy 3 Louisdor per turn and another one makes all of his bribes one Louisdor cheaper, you might as well start the game over again, because you're not catching this guy.

Okay, rant over. If you're still reading after all this bitching, I apologize.
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Re: A new variant to try :-)
EyeInSky wrote:
And now… here comes yet ANOTHER variant for your consideration:

#1 – There is no coat-of-arms bonus scoring (but the matching types will still be useful).

#2 – The coat-of-arms shields should be placed face down next to the player’s private stash of other goods as the player collects them (just like before).

#3 – If (3) chits are collected of the same type (a matching set), a player may do either of the following actions at the end of each Mission Phase:

(A) Flip up (3) shields of the same type to bring back (1) Influence Marker from the general supply to the private supply.

(B) Flip up (3) shields of the same type to collect (1) Louis Gold.

… A player can do any of these actions as many times as he has matching sets. I recommend placing them near the mission cards so they are not thrown out or lost (they still count as 1 VP each!!!).


My first thought was "wow, that sounds fiddly." You'd be constantly checking your face-down coats-of-arms to see whether or not you had sets of 3 yet. So why bother with the face-down aspect of this? Since nobody's getting the coats-of-arms bonus at game's end, and since nobody has any control over which coats-of-arms he is awarded when he earns one, what's the point of hiding this information? Why not just have everyone display the coats-of-arms that he earns face up?

It would be interesting in a couple of ways. First, you could see what sets people were earning, and you could worry about who was about to earn the abilities that you're giving to anyone who gets a set of 3. Secondly, it's less fiddly, as you'd only need to turn face down the coats-of-arms that you had already used to get your marker or Louisdor that 3 coats-of-arms earns for you. That method requires far less tile flipping, and also tracks which coats-of-arms sets had already been "spent."

While we're on the subject, what, really, is the point of ever putting the coats-of-arms that you earn in Louis XIV face down? You have no control over which coats-of-arms you get when you earn one of them, so why bother hiding this information? Is there really all that much nail-biting suspense involved in awarding the bonus points at game's end? So what if you can see that I have a set of 3 matching coats-of-arms? Is that really going to change your strategy in some way? Are you going to blow off trying to earn more coats-of-arms just because I already have a set of 3, and you're worried that you're wasting your time earning more coats-of-arms?

Another point about your variant: isn't requiring a matching set of 3 coats-of-arms rather expensive? Shouldn't a pair of them be enough? It doesn't seem to me that you'd be giving out a whole lot of bonuses for sets of 3.

And what about giving someone a slightly better reward for waiting until he has a set of 4? Shouldn't turning in a set of 4 matching coats-of-arms be worth more than turning in 3? It sure seems like it to me! That would also add to the angst; do I turn in this matching set for the reward that 3-of-a-kind gets me? Or do I hold out for a while, hoping to get the better reward I'd earn for turning in a set of 4?

Your variant certainly sounds interesting. Other than the constant tile-flipping part that it would add, I'd consider it worth a try at least. In general, however, I don't think it addresses the biggest problem with Louis XIV. I think that the game's biggest problem is its overall luck factor, which is too high. The game play is an absolute blast, but I think the scoring method for completed missions is far too simplistic. I'm working on a variant to address that, but it's not going to be easy to use because it will complicate the game's scoring...
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Jamison Slich
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Re: A new variant to try :-)
hio -

Played a number of times with EyeInSky's variant (except we play with the shields face-up first, and then face-down when we get the trifecta). This variant works great! I think it totally accomplishes the 3 points you made. Thx for the variant!
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Re: A new variant to try :-)
DSHStratRat2 wrote:
While we're on the subject, what, really, is the point of ever putting the coats-of-arms that you earn in Louis XIV face down? You have no control over which coats-of-arms you get when you earn one of them, so why bother hiding this information? Is there really all that much nail-biting suspense involved in awarding the bonus points at game's end? So what if you can see that I have a set of 3 matching coats-of-arms? Is that really going to change your strategy in some way? Are you going to blow off trying to earn more coats-of-arms just because I already have a set of 3, and you're worried that you're wasting your time earning more coats-of-arms?


I wondered this, too. It would be different if other players could alter their coat-of-arms chip draws accordingly, but since it's a random draw, there's no impact. Perhaps it would influence the sheer volume of chips drawn by others, but I doubt it.

Honestly, I thought Dorn was above this kind of thing. It's like arguing that the game of War won't work if someone played with the draw piles face up.
 
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Sheldon Smith
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Re: A new variant to try :-)
mussels wrote:
DSHStratRat2 wrote:
While we're on the subject, what, really, is the point of ever putting the coats-of-arms that you earn in Louis XIV face down? You have no control over which coats-of-arms you get when you earn one of them, so why bother hiding this information? Is there really all that much nail-biting suspense involved in awarding the bonus points at game's end? So what if you can see that I have a set of 3 matching coats-of-arms? Is that really going to change your strategy in some way? Are you going to blow off trying to earn more coats-of-arms just because I already have a set of 3, and you're worried that you're wasting your time earning more coats-of-arms?


I wondered this, too. It would be different if other players could alter their coat-of-arms chip draws accordingly, but since it's a random draw, there's no impact. Perhaps it would influence the sheer volume of chips drawn by others, but I doubt it.

Honestly, I thought Dorn was above this kind of thing. It's like arguing that the game of War won't work if someone played with the draw piles face up.


It's been a very long time since I played, but I think the idea behind keeping the chits hidden was to prevent overly-long "gamey" decisions of examining & analyzing the chits players have. The game is long enough as it is, and it appears the original intent was for a small added benefit. I believe I read the designer wanted to keep the chits hidden in order to keep a reasonable playing time while injecting some fun randomness.
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