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Eclipse: Rise of the Ancients» Forums » General

Subject: Alliances too Strong in a 4 player game ? rss

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V J

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I've played a couple 4 player games with Alliance rules.

In both games, the players that allied together completely crushed the other 2 players. I know some people will then say the other 2 players should then ally to counteract the other alliance, but we don't want all games boiling down to 2 vs 2 games.

Seems that if you are in the lead, you just need to ally with someone not too weak in order to ensure your victory.


What are everyone's thoughts on alliances in a 4 player game ? Is it potentially broken?
 
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Chef D
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If anything I think alliances are a bit weak. They are only a net gain of 1 point and they really don't prevent late game surges to gain territory. While these border alliances do offer some resource benefit at the beginning of the game, they are often not significant to make them game breaking.
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Mathue Faulk
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Funguy wrote:
If anything I think alliances are a bit weak. They are only a net gain of 1 point and they really don't prevent late game surges to gain territory. While these border alliances do offer some resource benefit at the beginning of the game, they are often not significant to make them game breaking.

And players only have to focus on one of the alliance members in order to break it. If one player is obviously hurting in points, then it's no longer smart for the higher point player to remain in the alliance...
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V J

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What if the 2 allied players are both relatively strong.

Then, it's a no win situation for the other 2 players.

We don't want games where the winner is already pre-determined at turn 5 because of an alliance.
 
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Tom Tjarks
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Turn five is a significant distance into the game. you could argue that you might need to pay more attention to the paths to victory that those players are taking and already know it by that point.

(My apologies, I'm not trying to be rude. I rewrote that several times over and tried to keep the tone neutral. But it sounds very direct every time I read it. *sigh*)
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V J

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I guess my main point is if you are clearly the most powerful person. All you have to do is ally and victory is all but ensured.

So you could race to take the center as quick as possible and then find an alliance partner.
 
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Mathue Faulk
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vyperx wrote:
What if the 2 allied players are both relatively strong.

Then, it's a no win situation for the other 2 players.

We don't want games where the winner is already pre-determined at turn 5 because of an alliance.

If the 2 allied players are both clearly the strongest players, then weren't the other two going to lose anyway? And if they're not significantly stronger, then you only have to take down one player to take down both scores. It's hardly predetermined.
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Simon Kamber
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That was my thought too. In a four-player game, it seems like ir would be an obvious tactic for the two strongest players to pool more than half the military power behind an all-out attack for a good oldfashioned domination.
 
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Mathue Faulk
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vyperx wrote:
I guess my main point is if you are clearly the most powerful person. All you have to do is ally and victory is all but ensured.

So you could race to take the center as quick as possible and then find an alliance partner.

And if you ally with the wrong person, then they can completely sink you. It's about picking the right ally, not just any ally. The scores average, so if I score 46 points, but my ally only scores 10, then our alliance score is 28...which is hardly a winning score. Victory is not ensured just by forming an alliance.
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Simon Kamber
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mfaulk80 wrote:
vyperx wrote:
I guess my main point is if you are clearly the most powerful person. All you have to do is ally and victory is all but ensured.

So you could race to take the center as quick as possible and then find an alliance partner.

And if you ally with the wrong person, then they can completely sink you. It's about picking the right ally, not just any ally. The scores average, so if I score 46 points, but my ally only scores 10, then our alliance score is 28...which is hardly a winning score. Victory is not ensured just by forming an alliance.


But if your alliance represents the majority of the military power in the game, it is not about VP anymore. You can simply crush the other two players.
 
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Loren Cadelinia
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The other players would only need to focus on 1 player (of the alliance), as the scores will average out. This may cause the higher VP player to unallie.

If the alliance crushes the other two players, then those players were probably playing sub-otimally enough that they would be lose in a 4 player free-for-all anyway.

If the alliance were focusing more on 1 player than the other, the other could easily turtle and VP up. The alliance would lose on points. Forming an alliance is both a benefit and a risk
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Purple Paladin

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I have played a game pre-expansion where the two strongest players decided to have a cease fire of sorts, then "team up" to make sure one of them would win.

I found it a bit "loophole'ish", and a bit against the spirit of the game; and us other 2 players pretty much just threw up our hands the rest of the game after that. But quite legal I suppose. So Alliances just seem to make people like that above officially teamed.

Although the fact that they now both win kind'a adds an extra yuk to the feeling of the game after that I would think. At least before, it was some consalation that at least one of them would still lose pulling the same thing.


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Simon Kamber
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Eclipse: Rise of the Ancients » Forums » General
Re: Alliances too Strong in a 4 player game ?
dyepbr wrote:
The other players would only need to focus on 1 player (of the alliance), as the scores will average out. This may cause the higher VP player to unallie.

Not if he is winning anyway. If his targets are both focusing elsewhere, he will have an even easier time attacking.

Quote:
If the alliance crushes the other two players, then those players were probably playing sub-otimally enough that they would be lose in a 4 player free-for-all anyway.

Huh? The two strongest players against the two weakest players sounds like it would be lopsided in any game. If the strongest player wants to dominate in a free-for-all, he has to be strong enough to dominate three other players. If two players want to dominate, they just have to be strong enough to dominate two other players. There is a big difference.

Quote:
If the alliance were focusing more on 1 player than the other, the other could easily turtle and VP up. The alliance would lose on points. Forming an alliance is both a benefit and a risk

But the point is that they are strong enough to beat both. Each of the players in the alliance is stronger than either of the players outside the alliance. So they don't need to focus, they just fight one war each. If the other players focus their defenses on one alliance player, the other just tramples over his target that much faster, and then its two against one.
 
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Petri Savola
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Alliance rules don't work very well in groups which give equal value to allied victory and individual victory. I consider the individual victory much more valuable and will rarely ally with anybody unless it's my only chance to win.

That said, we've also noticed that alliances aren't very enjoyable when two strongest player ally with each other. That's why we introduced a house rule where alliance members have to pay 1 influence disc on the alliance token as long as they are part of the alliance. This small modification often keeps strong players from allying, because they will lose a disc by doing it.
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Loren Cadelinia
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Dulkal wrote:
Not if he is winning anyway. If his targets are both focusing elsewhere, he will have an even easier time attacking.


As said before by turn 5, if two players are clear winners, above is moot, as 1 of the 2 alliance players that are dominating should win the game.

Edit: and if there is 1 clear winner anyway, alliance or not, he should be favored for victory.

By turn 5, almost every game is still up in the air, especially with hidden victory points, unspent resources etc. I've only played 1 game, where 1 player was clearly dominated by turn 5, nearly to the point of elimination, but ended up taking 2nd overall. Point is, by turn 5, as players play more with each other, the disparity between player states should be thinner by turn 5.

Dulkal wrote:
Huh? The two strongest players against the two weakest players sounds like it would be lopsided in any game. If the strongest player wants to dominate in a free-for-all, he has to be strong enough to dominate three other players. If two players want to dominate, they just have to be strong enough to dominate two other players. There is a big difference.


I understand what you are saying, but this is only a snapshot of a single point in time. This may be true if the game rule was to make alliances only possible after turn 5 (and if there were clearly 2 stronger and 2 weaker players).

This is not the case, as players could allie at any point in the game. In my games, the strongest players at turn 3 are different from those at turn 4, and again different at turn 5 etc. It's fluid.

Dulkal wrote:

But the point is that they are strong enough to beat both. Each of the players in the alliance is stronger than either of the players outside the alliance. So they don't need to focus, they just fight one war each. If the other players focus their defenses on one alliance player, the other just tramples over his target that much faster, and then its two against one.


If each alliance player are fighting 1 war each, this is no different than a 4-player free-for-all, where the two stronger players are beating on the two weaker players. Alliance or not, if the two weaker players are losing their 1 war each, then they deserve to be losing on the military VP. The losers are the same in both scenarios.

What would be different is the winners. With the alliance, the stronger players are avoiding/refusing sole victory, something that I would imagine would change in most gaming groups over time, otherwise I don't see Eclipse being that group's go-to game (50% of the gaming group would call the other 50% "bullies")

Weaker players will round the curve overtime, stronger players will want to get better by challenging each other, player state disparity will be thinner by turn 5 and be more fluid throughout the entire game.
 
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Loren Cadelinia
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Petri wrote:
I consider the individual victory much more valuable and will rarely ally with anybody unless it's my only chance to win.


This too!!
 
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Simon Kamber
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dyepbr wrote:

As said before by turn 5, if two players are clear winners, above is moot, as 1 of the 2 alliance players that are dominating should win the game.

I am not talkikg about clear winners, I am talking about military strength.

My point is that part of the balancing mechanism in the game is that military is only part of the victory condition, because military can only take you so far. If you try to win by crushing other players completely, you will eventually be facing an informal alliane against you. If nothing else, the defenses you have to break will be the armies of more than one player. To effectively eliminate all other players, you have to be stronger than all of them combined. That is never ever going to happen with enough time left on the clock to acually execute the finishing moves.

With an alliance, the two of you have to be stronger than the two of them combined, which will be possible very often. This is different from the free-for-all with two strong players beating on two weak players, because in the latter case, both strong players know that one of them will lose, so they have to guard against each other. To dominate militarily, either of them will have to destroy the other.

That the gamestate is normally fluid does not matter, because it will be a slippery slope. If the two strongest players on turn 3 attack the weaker players mercilessly, the weaker players will still be weaker by turn 5. It will, in effect, be similar to a two-player game, only the military forcu is even greater because the teams are stacked and the distance between players is smaller.

What this risks doing is strongly emphasizing the military aspect of the game at the cost of all other sources of VP, because military domination by itself becomes a viable victory condition regardless of VP scores.

Of course, if you accept a metagame where certain kinds of victory are inferior to others, you can discount an allied domination as an inferior victory. But a game mechanic that only works on the assumption of unspoken metagame mechanics that are not universally adhered to is unfortunate.
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Loren Cadelinia
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Dulkal wrote:
With an alliance, the two of you have to be stronger than the two of them combined, which will be possible very often. This is different from the free-for-all with two strong players beating on two weak players, because in the latter case, both strong players know that one of them will lose, so they have to guard against each other. To dominate militarily, either of them will have to destroy the other.


Those aren't different scenarios with regards to the question at hand. The OP asked if alliances were too strong in a 4-p game, in part implying that alliances in 4-P is OP and that it is unfair for those that are weaker players. In both scenarios the 2 weaker players are the losers either way. The only difference between the scenarios matters not to the original query.

In a 4-player free-for-all, if both strong players know that one of them will lose, perhaps they should re-evaluate who they are attacking, to put them in a better position to win.

Dulkal wrote:
That the gamestate is normally fluid does not matter, because it will be a slippery slope. If the two strongest players on turn 3 attack the weaker players mercilessly, the weaker players will still be weaker by turn 5.


If this is how games are to be played, then what's the point of playing beyond turn 3? Determine who is the strongest player by turn 3, declare him the winner.

Perhaps our game groups are different..


If these landslides are apparent and if indeed this is how it plays out, the scenario you describe is no different from a 4-player free-for-all, where the strongest players are refusing/avoiding attacking each other, knowing that 1 of them will lose.

In an alliance, the strongest players need to keep fighting their 1 war to maximize VP. If they attack together on 1 war, only 1 player gets each hex, in which they must share VP through average. Thus, the combined military dominance you speak of comes at VP cost.

If it's not such a landslide, and if players of an alliance are sharing a war, sharing military dominance in a hex means they are weaker on other fronts for another player to chip away at 1 of the stronger players, or turtle and VP up.

Dulkal wrote:
Of course, if you accept a metagame where certain kinds of victory are inferior to others, you can discount an allied domination as an inferior victory. But a game mechanic that only works on the assumption of unspoken metagame mechanics that are not universally adhered to is unfortunate.


Weaker players, in any game, will need to get better if they want to start winning. They will need to get to a point where they are no longer "out" of the game by turn 3, as you speak of.

Stronger players, alliance or not, continually pounding on weaker players game after game - where does that remain fun?


A tip for weaker players - Try forming diplomatic relations early with a perceived stronger player.
 
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Mr Suplex
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I am in the OP's play group and I really wanted to like Alliances, but they simply don't work in a 4 player game. Simon gets why, it seems others don't.

In a nutshell, Alliances allow a player with an early lead to solidify his position and almost always guarantee a win. Whoever has a clear advantage early in the game should ally with the strongest player they can, every single time. There is no down side to doing this. Most likely anyone will be willing to ally since the lead player is a large benefit to them, but even if the weakest player allies it helps the lead player. By allying, he takes out one potential rival, he deflects attention away from himself (attack the weaker member of the alliance strategy), and he creates a second military force that can help him protect his interests (the ally will often be willing to protect the lead player's assets since they help his score). The lead player can use these advantages to create such a lead for himself that he can always just dump his ally if necessary, at minimal point loss.

People suggesting that "you only have to hurt one to break the alliance" are, in my opinion, speaking pure theory and have no actual experience in this situation. All the alliance has to do is make sure they do more damage than they take, and this is pretty easy when you are the strongest and have a coordinated effort. Even if the weaker player is badly damaged, the lead player can evaluate that and just break the alliance turn 8 and win anyway since everyone spent the whole game beating up his ally.

People suggesting that the two weaker players "played poorly" and "would have lost anyway" are deluded. In a non-Alliance game, the lead player and the second strongest player would be competing with each other and this would create openings for the people struggling and give the a chance to catch up. When these two strongest players are no longer competing it is next to impossible to stop them from further solidifying their position and winning.

As has been alluded, the main problem is the shared victory aspect. Its too easy to just steamroll the two other players. The game also seems like it will constantly devolve into "Eclipse 2v2 Edition", which has zero appeal to me.

Alliances may work fine in larger games (although I have my doubts as the shared victory mechanic still seems lame and broken to me), but in 4 player games the mechanic simply doesn't work; any rational player with an early lead will just ally with the second strongest for a win/win situation for them both. These two players would compete in a game without alliances and keep each other in check, ensuring that most players would at least have a shot at the win.

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Mr Suplex
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dyepbr wrote:
In an alliance, the strongest players need to keep fighting their 1 war to maximize VP. If they attack together on 1 war, only 1 player gets each hex, in which they must share VP through average. Thus, the combined military dominance you speak of comes at VP cost.


They are still netting more VP overall than they are losing, because that is VP they are also taking from opponents. And if they are smart about it they will balance VP gains as best as possible.

dyepbr wrote:
Weaker players, in any game, will need to get better if they want to start winning. They will need to get to a point where they are no longer "out" of the game by turn 3, as you speak of.

Stronger players, alliance or not, continually pounding on weaker players game after game - where does that remain fun?


You are completely missing the point. In a game without the alliance rule, players who have struggled early in the game still have a chance to come back. In a game with alliances, if the two strongest ally, the game is effectively over the moment they ally. Once people learn how to game this point you will see most 4 player Eclipse games being decided by mid game, which is stupid.

"Stronger players pounding on weaker players game after game" isn't the problem. The problem is a mechanic that allows players with an early lead to easily and reliably create an insurmountable advantage that those with slower starts cannot overcome. Our group has played about a dozen 4 player games in Eclipse and this situation never occurred until we (quickly) learned how to abuse the Alliance rule.



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Mr Suplex
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Purple Paladin wrote:
Although the fact that they now both win kind'a adds an extra yuk to the feeling of the game after that I would think. At least before, it was some consalation that at least one of them would still lose pulling the same thing.


Assuming everyone is playing to win, the second place player would eventually go after the strongest player, creating openings for the other two. With the Alliance rule they just beat on the two stragglers for a yawn of a win...
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Jason Rupp
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dyepbr wrote:

Those aren't different scenarios with regards to the question at hand. The OP asked if alliances were too strong in a 4-p game, in part implying that alliances in 4-P is OP and that it is unfair for those that are weaker players. In both scenarios the 2 weaker players are the losers either way. The only difference between the scenarios matters not to the original query.


It's a lot different though.

In a 4 player game without alliances, the two top players will likely battle each other and that may give the players in a weaker position a chance to even out a bit.

However, if you're playing with alliances and the current top two players form an alliance, the two weaker positioned players will continue to fall further behind.

I think it's a valid concern and I won't be using the alliance rules with this expansion. Of course, I've never liked 2 players sharing victory in any game that isn't a co-op.
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Loren Cadelinia
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rrrrupp wrote:
dyepbr wrote:

Those aren't different scenarios with regards to the question at hand. The OP asked if alliances were too strong in a 4-p game, in part implying that alliances in 4-P is OP and that it is unfair for those that are weaker players. In both scenarios the 2 weaker players are the losers either way. The only difference between the scenarios matters not to the original query.


It's a lot different though.

In a 4 player game without alliances, the two top players will likely battle each other and that may give the players in a weaker position a chance to even out a bit.


The comment was in response to the 2 stronger players NOT battling each other, and only fighting 1 war each. Please read entire thread.
 
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Simon Kamber
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dyepbr wrote:
rrrrupp wrote:
dyepbr wrote:

Those aren't different scenarios with regards to the question at hand. The OP asked if alliances were too strong in a 4-p game, in part implying that alliances in 4-P is OP and that it is unfair for those that are weaker players. In both scenarios the 2 weaker players are the losers either way. The only difference between the scenarios matters not to the original query.


It's a lot different though.

In a 4 player game without alliances, the two top players will likely battle each other and that may give the players in a weaker position a chance to even out a bit.


The comment was in response to the 2 stronger players NOT battling each other, and only fighting 1 war each. Please read entire thread.


He did read the thread. You should do the same. The whole point is that the stronger players going all-in on the weaker players and not battling each other is not going to happen without alliances.

Not only does the 'only difference' matter to the original query. It is the whole point of the original query.
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Loren Cadelinia
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Dulkal wrote:
The whole point is that the stronger players going all-in on the weaker players and not battling each other is not going to happen without alliances.


Well, you should know I was responding to your post specifically, where you mentioned that each stronger player only focuses on 1 war each with a weaker player. This happens all the time without alliances, especially when the stronger players positioned their hexes to favor this.

I really hope such players strive for happiness in their gameplay. If play is devolving to a yawn at turn 5, I think group mentality, especially for the winners, should change. Alliances have their place in a 4-player game. It is fun to form them to take down a perceived winner, and it is fun to break them or beat them when playing against them. I would not deliberately do something to make the game less interesting (which has not been the case anyway).

So if alliances don't work in your gaming group, don't use them. I have not found them to be OP in the ways we have utilized alliances, and the small nuances to desuade or beat them. Happy gaming.

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