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Subject: [Video Review] Confucius rss

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Tom Vasel
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Quick Comments: Folks who like cerebral games such as Brass will enjoy this - it's a well designed game. I don't find it fun, however.

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John Paul Sodusta
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TomVasel wrote:
Quick Comments: Folks who like cerebral games such as Brass will enjoy this - it's a well designed game. I don't find it fun, however.


Thanks for doing this Tom. Certainly you have piqued my interest for this game.
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Daniel Danzer
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Still a convincing recommendation for the right bunch of people for a great game! Well done.
 
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J C Lawrence
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Worker placement is not such an accurate description. Selection of an action does not prevent anyone else from selecting the action and doesn't increase their costs should they select that action. It merely increases your costs should you want to select that action again.

There are only two random factors in the game: money card draws and Emperor's Rewards card draws. The randomness of the money cards is not much of a factor; they merely suggest investment directions without mandating it. The Emperor's Reward cards are a different matter and are often swingy. As a result there is an increasingly popular variant to reduce the random factors of the Emperor Rewards cards: Variants for Emperor's Reward cards

The Chinese history tie-in is actually pretty weak. It is sort like calling a World-War II game Henry IV. The name and the implied historical period just don't jibe. That said the tie-ins to Chinese character-traits, as reported by several Chinese nationals that I've taught and played the game with, are strong. More than one has commented that this is exactly how that life-stlye works.

Perhaps unsurprisingly I enjoy Confucious quite a bit. I agree that it is a serious heads-down game. However I also find it fairly forgiving of mistakes -- as long as those mistakes weren't huge. Big mistakes are punished brutally. smaller errors however, the sorts of things easily goofed by small oversights are simply not such a problem as the presumed error almost invariably launches or realises a threat elsewhere which may be profited from.

I agree that the game is better with more players, but I find it quite playable with 3 players and inf act prefer teaching it with that number as I find it more readily absorbed by new players with smaller player counts.

My one point of surprise in your review is that you didn't mention the very small scoring range for the game (usually low 20s to high teens) and the tie breaker rules: that the winner of the military Vp doesn't have to have invested int he military at all, that the winner of the Admiralty VP doesn't have to have invested in fleets at all, and that in fact the winner of the entire game doesn't have to have the highest score, just so long as they control the Admiralty and other players are tied for the victory. I would have thought that the tie-breaker rules in particular are so unusual as to warrant calling out.
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McDog
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clearclaw wrote:
The Chinese history tie-in is actually pretty weak. It is sort like calling a World-War II game Henry IV


You've stated elsewhere that whenever a game begins for you there is no theme, it's a puzzle or contest and the theme is gone. That's what I understood from your comments anyway.


If I understand you correctly wouldn't all games pretty much fall into this category for you? Nothing has a serious tie-in with theme because it's all numbers and nothing more in the end. Pure math, with human interaction being the variable?




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J C Lawrence
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Rastak wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
The Chinese history tie-in is actually pretty weak. It is sort like calling a World-War II game Henry IV


You've stated elsewhere that whenever a game begins for you there is no theme, it's a puzzle or contest and the theme is gone. That's what I understood from your comments anyway.


If I understand you correctly wouldn't all games pretty much fall into this category for you? Nothing has a serious tie-in with theme because it's all numbers and nothing more in the end. Pure math, with human interaction being the variable?


Once I am playing the game, yes, theme is no longer part of my decision making process. However that doesn't mean I can't (and don't) enjoy an articulate and well presented theme. Themes are pleasing spice for games much like art is. Confucius' theme is a bit off in this regard.
 
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Seth Jaffee
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I think this review concentrated a lot on the fact that Confucius is an "action selection" game (which isn't really accurate) with gift giving (which is indeed unique), and not much (or at all) on the fact that it's an area control game. I also don't think it's quite so complicated as Tom makes it out to be:

There are three ministries, and the players with the 1st and 2nd most influence in each when it fills up scores points. In addition, there are the military and overseas expeditions Tom mentioned, they're main purpose is for VPs of course, as well as powerful special cards which will help you win majorities in Ministries.

The gift giving is interesting in that (a) it's original, and (b) the giving of a gift forces an opponent to act in your favor in a couple parts of the game. It's like they owe you for giving them a nice gift, and you hold it over their head whenever your student is up for 'election' and when the ministries are being resolved.

I believe the center of the game is supposed to be this gift-owe system and its effect on the area control scoring in the ministries, as the ministries comprise the bulk of the scoring in the game. I do not think the gift system has utilized it's full potential however. It was interesting, but I'm not sure it was interesting enough for the amount of work it was to keep track of who's gifted who and who is indebted to who.

It was an interesting game, and one I'd like to play again. JC mentioned the unusual tiebreaker rules - I don't think they're as big a deal as he makes them out to be. I don't know how often the game ends up in a tie score-wise, so I don't know how important it is to become the Admiral just in case it does. I guess it's a cute backdoor for a player who is out of contention for the win, become Admiral and hope for a tie - or do what you can to force one. I don't think there's a lot of control in that regard though, beyond throwing what influence you can toward one player so that they're score is close to the leader's, and hope "close" ends up being "equal".
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J C Lawrence
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sedjtroll wrote:
I think this review concentrated a lot on the fact that Confucius is an "action selection" game (which isn't really accurate) with gift giving (which is indeed unique), and not much (or at all) on the fact that it's an area control game.


The ministries are area influence games. The foreign invasions are a race game (who gets there first). The armies are a cooperative game. While it varies somewhat, there are usually about as many points available in the armies as there are in the ministries, and a little less than that with the invasions (fleets). This is balanced by the fact that the ministries grant discounts, the armies grant a small number of Emperor's Reward cards, and the fleets grant more Emperor's Reward cards and strongly reward action efficiency.

Quote:
There are three ministries, and the players with the 1st and 2nd most influence in each when it fills up scores points. In addition, there are the military and overseas expeditions Tom mentioned, they're main purpose is for VPs of course, as well as powerful special cards which will help you win majorities in Ministries.


Most of the Emperor's Reward cards relate to the ministries, true, but several don't, granting straight VPs, more money cards, bought gifts etc.

Quote:
The gift giving is interesting in that (a) it's original, and (b) the giving of a gift forces an opponent to act in your favor in a couple parts of the game. It's like they owe you for giving them a nice gift, and you hold it over their head whenever your student is up for 'election' and when the ministries are being resolved.


Timing the removal of gifts through influence transfers, big donations toward students and larger gifts is another whole sub-game in itself.

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I believe the center of the game is supposed to be this gift-owe system and its effect on the area control scoring in the ministries, as the ministries comprise the bulk of the scoring in the game.


The ministries typically form considerably less than half of the total points available in the game. What's different is that they award points in large lumps, eg 8 at a time, where-as the other sources have smaller granularity.

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I do not think the gift system has utilized it's full potential however. It was interesting, but I'm not sure it was interesting enough for the amount of work it was to keep track of who's gifted who and who is indebted to who.


Uhh, there's a little chart on the side of the board listing the relationships in a nicely condensed form. Everything is right there on that little chart. Additionally each player's received gifts are displayed prominently before them in case you need to side-check.

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JC mentioned the unusual tiebreaker rules - I don't think they're as big a deal as he makes them out to be. I don't know how often the game ends up in a tie score-wise, so I don't know how important it is to become the Admiral just in case it does.


About a quarter of our games have been won by the Admiral on a tie-breaker. Engineering ties among other players, especially if they've gifted you, is not easy but also isn't often not very hard if they've both been playing well.
 
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Seth Jaffee
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clearclaw wrote:
Uhh, there's a little chart on the side of the board listing the relationships in a nicely condensed form. Everything is right there on that little chart. Additionally each player's received gifts are displayed prominently before them in case you need to side-check.

Yes, and we found that all very fiddly and annoying, and the benefit almost nil. Admittedly, upon further play and experience I'm sure we'd uncover subtleties in the gifting system, and the benefits would increase. Unfortunately, I'm not certain the people I played with like the game enough to play it any further :/
 
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J C Lawrence
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sedjtroll wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
Uhh, there's a little chart on the side of the board listing the relationships in a nicely condensed form. Everything is right there on that little chart. Additionally each player's received gifts are displayed prominently before them in case you need to side-check.

Yes, and we found that all very fiddly and annoying, and the benefit almost nil.


Ahh, that's the single place I check and review for every game design. The next thing I check is what gifts players have purchased but not given as they are potent threats as gifts to players or (especially for the smaller gifts) to the Emperor
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Alan Paull
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clearclaw wrote:
sedjtroll wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
Uhh, there's a little chart on the side of the board listing the relationships in a nicely condensed form. Everything is right there on that little chart. Additionally each player's received gifts are displayed prominently before them in case you need to side-check.

Yes, and we found that all very fiddly and annoying, and the benefit almost nil.


Ahh, that's the single place I check and review for every game design. The next thing I check is what gifts players have purchased but not given as they are potent threats as gifts to players or (especially for the smaller gifts) to the Emperor


Game design note: We found in play testing that, while some players were quite happy looking round the table at the cards for the information about gifts, other players found it difficult to keep track; hence the gift tracker box. Technically speaking the gift tracker box is unnecessary, because all the information is contained in the location of the gift cards. There was a split in the play test community about this - some found it easier with the centralised gift tracker and some didn't. I suspect that there is a subtle difference in how individuals perceive and react to the game environment that affects this opinion.

--

Alan Paull
"If the mat is not straight, the master will not sit." [Confucius]
alan@surprisedstaregames.co.uk
Surprised Stare Games Ltd

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J C Lawrence
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Alan Paull wrote:
Game design note: We found in play testing that, while some players were quite happy looking round the table at the cards for the information about gifts, other players found it difficult to keep track; hence the gift tracker box. Technically speaking the gift tracker box is unnecessary, because all the information is contained in the location of the gift cards. There was a split in the play test community about this - some found it easier with the centralised gift tracker and some didn't.


As you note, the table is redundant and can be derived by looking at each player's display. I used to simply look at the gifts each player has displayed. This had the advantage of also picking up up the gifts they had bought and not given or sacrificed. Now I look mostly at the table as it prevents the obvious tell of reviewing a player's holdings and gifts and then mapping that against board state. I'm not sure it matters very much.

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I suspect that there is a subtle difference in how individuals perceive and react to the game environment that affects this opinion.


Agreed.
 
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Jasen Robillard
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clearclaw wrote:
The randomness of the money cards is not much of a factor; they merely suggest investment directions without mandating it.


While this is true in the early game, the randomness of the money cards has a much greater influence on the end game especially if the remaining valuable actions are money weighted. In fact there are more actions tied to money vs. those tied to licenses so money appears to play a much greater role in the game than licenses due. As such, consecutive low money draws on Commercial Income can be quite devastating.

If you are consistently drawing low income (4-6) while your opponents are consistently drawing high income (10-12), you'll be swimming upstream the entire game.
 
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J C Lawrence
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Baldboy_1 wrote:
While this is true in the early game, the randomness of the money cards has a much greater influence on the end game especially if the remaining valuable actions are money weighted. In fact there are more actions tied to money vs. those tied to licenses so money appears to play a much greater role in the game than licenses due. As such, consecutive low money draws on Commercial Income can be quite devastating.


There are more places to spend coins than there are licenses. Licenses however translate more rapidly into VPs than coins do. Yeah, if players soak up all the license-based VPs early then there could be a problem. That has yet to happen here.


Quote:
If you are consistently drawing low income (4-6) while your opponents are consistently drawing high income (10-12), you'll be swimming upstream the entire game.


Been there, done that, or at least nearly that. It wasn't so bad. I bought ships as fast as I could (which wasn't so fast), and then ran them off 10-15 at a time. I got all the shipping VPs. I threw away a gift to gain more boats when someone else came in there, discarded or transferred influence to remove every gift I received, gifted heavily in reply and drove the students as fast as I could, frequently forcing examinations as my last action and finally I threw out armies when I had nothing better to do (none of them ever invaded). Ultimately I won Gonbhu, came second in Hubu (nearly won it), won all the shipping VPs and both the Admiralty and General VPs. I didn't win either position in Bingbu or the lead in Hubu or the ministry VP, and did no foreign invasions.
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