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Race for the Galaxy: The Brink of War» Forums » Rules

Subject: Doesn't Prestige seriously unbalance the game? rss

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James Graham
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We played our first two games of Brink of War last night and hated them, despite being fans of the game up until this point.

The main problem seems to be with Prestige. The +1 VP rule each round seems to give the first player to get a Prestige point a massive advantage and make the game solely about a race to get as many Prestige points as possible. No other strategy seems to have any significance.

I'm entirely open to the possibility that we were playing it wrong. On our second game we switched the +1 VP and +1 card rewards around (so the Prestige Leader would get an extra card unless they gained Prestige that turn, in which case they got a point), but that still seemed over balanced. Could it be that we got it totally wrong and that you only look at Prestige earned EACH ROUND instead of the total for calculating Prestige Leader?

As it stands, I'm not sure we'd use these rules again. Can anyone convince me that this doesn't simply turn the game into another glorified game of Monopoly?
 
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Eric Jome
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jamesgraham wrote:
The +1 VP rule each round seems to give the first player to get a Prestige point a massive advantage...


There've been a few threads about this already, if you care to look for them.

Tom has said that he feels there's a whole new learning curve with Prestige and that old ways of playing the game may need to be rethought with this new mechanic. When we first started playing with Prestige, we had the same reaction you are having. And many people seem to feel that way, too.

With the advent of the Brink of War in Keldon's desktop application, I've had a chance to play a lot of games quickly. Early prestige seems very important to winning. It is not a game breaker; I've beaten the AI a few times when I've never held the prestige lead. But that's definitely an uphill battle to put it mildly. More often than not, an early prestige lead, say gaining a point a turn for the first three or four turns, that will determine a winner, either me or the machines. I play nothing but 3 player with everything turned on, btw...

I find that working with Prestige means rethinking your tableau from the best cards to "the best card right now" - you don't want to get left out of the prestige game and should find a way to get some points as soon as possible.
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Serge
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I don't even know how to respond to this recurring sentiment anymore, without sounding condescending...

Please just play a lot more games, with the rules as written. Trust us, it's pretty much perfectly balanced as it is, there's just an adjustment learning curve to the new expansion's intricacies.

Edit: apostrophe.
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Troy Adlington
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Try Keldon's excellent AI

You don't need prestige to win. Unless you are all chasing prestige, then, guess what? A Self fulfilling prophecy
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James Graham
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entranced wrote:
I don't even know how to respond to this recurring sentiment anymore, without sounding condescending...

Please just play a lot more games, with the rules as written. Trust us, it's pretty much perfectly balanced as it is, there's just an adjustment learning curve to the new expansion's intricacies.

Edit: apostrophe.


But how many games would I need to play before 'getting' it? There are only so many days in the week and I'm working on most of them. By contrast there are lots of games to play.

What you seem to be saying is that it is a rule that only really appeals to hardcore gamers with the time and inclination to figure it all out. Casual gamers, by contrast, are liable to have a problem with it.
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ackmondual
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Someone mentioned that PL (Prestige Lead mechanic that gets you 1 VP and sometimes +1 card for having the most PP at the end of the round) is too powerful not b/c of those immediate benefits, but also from all the good stuff that comes outside the PL. Sure, Pan-Galactic Affluence will likely leave everyone else in the dust as far as PL and GP (Galactic Prestige, that most goal of having 3+ PP), but there are other cards that people build that would soley be for the PP. If I'm not going military worlds at all, Alien Booby Trap is mostly a worthless card. Ditto with Alien Burial Site. If I got a brown good with bonuses on trade, then this card doesn't really give me maximum benefit.

Another discussion with what you proposed instead with PL, give one card instead of 1 VP... that's overpowered in other ways... namely, the cardflow is excellent early to midgame.

As for Keldon's AI, some people were right, the AI does overvalue PP when it shouldn't... namely, just to get PL, and especially when there aren't any PP related goals out there. I do chalk this up to him/it simply having a bad hand and draws too. However, the AI is also excellent at kicking your ass with PP. However, in this case, it's important to note his tableau. It's not all about PL and PP. The AI will also have several high scoring 6-costs and/or many/all of the goals

Otherwise, PL isn't the only way to go. Not by a long shot. Your traditional fare of Free Trade Association + blue worlds and P/Cx2, getting 2 to 4 military strength and spamming windfall worlds with Terraforming Guild, and having high military strength and the worlds to go with them are all still viable paths to victory. Worth noting is the super search has no criteria for prestige, so that does make all the other paths stronger.

Last but not least, I don't completely ignore PP. I may not bother competing in PL, GP, or the 5-VP first goal (since getting 1 VP per start of round does help go for that), but I try to get at least one PP so that I can use the OPG Prestige Bonus in desparate times. Other PP are nice to fuel specific PP powers, like Interstellar Causis Belli, Alien Booby Trap, and Galactic Power Brokers.
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Jeffrey Speer
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The short answer is no.
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Scott Everts
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I recently picked up this expansion. My gaming group hasn't played RFTG is quite awhile but we've been interested in trying it again. I've already added the first 2 expansions to my set but fear putting this one in. I'd like to leave Prestige out of our first few games (maybe never use it) but wonder what would happen if the cards are added in? There's some really cool cards but many of them have Prestige icons on them. I suppose you could just use them as "spend" fodder. Wonder if I should only include cards that have no Prestige icons at all?

We're a very casual group and really enjoyed the original base game. But wonder if I should of bothered getting any of the expansions since they seem to add a ton of new rules. If we played this weekly it would make sense, but we don't. I love the game but would like to keep it less cumbersome to play when we do it so sporadically. But its nice to have some of the new cards since many of them are fun.
 
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Martin G
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jamesgraham wrote:

What you seem to be saying is that it is a rule that only really appeals to hardcore gamers with the time and inclination to figure it all out. Casual gamers, by contrast, are liable to have a problem with it.


It is possible that this third expansion to the game may not be marketed at casual players.
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Eric Jome
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entranced wrote:
I don't even know how to respond to this recurring sentiment anymore, without sounding condescending...


Well, I'd like to see someone write a good strategy article about prestige...
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Tom Lehmann
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ScottE wrote:
We're a very casual group and really enjoyed the original base game. But wonder if I should of bothered getting any of the expansions since they seem to add a ton of new rules.

The base game and each expansion was designed to be a good "stopping point". Add the expansions in *slowly* and a casual group can gradually -- if they want to -- build up to TBoW. Adding lots of expansions at once is probably a mistake.

TGS, no goals (very easy for casual players)
TGS, goals (try it for variety, drop goals if you don't like them)
TGS, RvI, no goals, no takeovers (only after you've play TGS by itself)
TGS, RvI, goals? (with more goals, players may find them more interesting)
TGS, RvI, takeovers? (depends on your group style)
TGS, RvI, BofW, no goals, no takeovers (adds search and prestige)
TGS, RvI, BofW, goals
TGS, RvI, BofW, takeovers (takeovers are more frequent with BofW)
TGS, RvI, BofW, goals, takeovers (if your group wants everything)

Done in this manner, you have nine more "recharges" of the base game, gradually over time. Enjoy!
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ackmondual
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jamesgraham wrote:
entranced wrote:
I don't even know how to respond to this recurring sentiment anymore, without sounding condescending...

Please just play a lot more games, with the rules as written. Trust us, it's pretty much perfectly balanced as it is, there's just an adjustment learning curve to the new expansion's intricacies.

Edit: apostrophe.


But how many games would I need to play before 'getting' it? There are only so many days in the week and I'm working on most of them. By contrast there are lots of games to play.

What you seem to be saying is that it is a rule that only really appeals to hardcore gamers with the time and inclination to figure it all out. Casual gamers, by contrast, are liable to have a problem with it.
[shrug]. The same # of games it took your groups to get the ins and outs of the base game, exp1, and exp2? Given this expansion's higher complexity, I'd say roughly 75% of the amount of the games it took for the previous 3 (base game + 2 expansions)?

Also keep in mind, the game plays quite differently when you have 2p adv. game, 3p, 4p, and 5 to 6p ranges. What works for well for one # of players may not be as viable for another # of players.

That's the tradeoff with this and other games like this.... Sure, you need to play many times to get everything, but that usually transtlates into the game having enough depth to keep you from coming back. Otherwise, I'd say play something simplier instead, like Ra, Settlers, or Ticket To Ride. Or, play RftG without the 3rd exp.
 
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James Ludlow
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jamesgraham wrote:
But how many games would I need to play before 'getting' it?


I don't know. How many times had you played Race prior to this expansion coming out?

By the time the 3rd expansion was released, I was the newbie in our group with only ~400 games played. Some of the people I play with are over 1000 plays. So we approach the 3rd expansion differently than someone who has only 50 plays on previous expansions.

I can tell you this though. Even with all the prior experience, the 3rd expansion is hard. It's very hard to play correctly, and I'm sure I'm no where near even the beginning of the learning curve. I have not, however, seen that prestige is the be-all-end-all. It's an alternate currency and alternate win condition, and sometimes you win with it. Sometimes you don't.

Games of Race are like hands of poker. You're playing odds and variance, and your bets don't always pay off. Over the long term (thousands of hands / games), the skillful players will win more than their fair share of games. Sometimes in Race, like in Poker, you can play terribly and still win because the deck just hits you square in the face with every card you needed. You can't judge the game's skill level on a handful of plays.

 
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Tom Lehmann
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jamesgraham wrote:
The +1 VP rule each round seems to give the first player to get a Prestige point a massive advantage and make the game solely about a race to get as many Prestige points as possible. No other strategy seems to have any significance.

In a 4p game lasting 10 rounds, if we assume a player put down a prestige card on round 1, and -- on the strength of doing just that -- gained 9 VPs plus 1 VP for the PP, then this play netted them 10 VPs and a card (in the absolute best case -- no competition, 0 cost, etc.).

1) Has your winner's gross margin of victory (from the top to the *bottom* player) always been less than 10 VPs in every prior RFTG game? If not, then getting early prestige clearly isn't everything there is to winning the game.

2) This assumes that there is no opportunity cost to placing a prestige card on round 1. Look at the cards generating prestige. How many of them "fit" with early opening strategies, ignoring prestige? For example, let's take Pan-Galactic Security Council (gray, 1/1P).

Placing it for an early Prestige costs you your first Settle, which is typically used for a cheap windfall world, so you can sell its good for lots of cards and get going, which is what every strategy article emphasizes.

Sure, you may get 1 card for PL, but you're now behind 1-2 rounds of ordinary expansion -- you now need another Settle and a Trade to get going, while other players are busily using the cards they've gained so far to toss down Banks, Credits, production worlds, and so on, to set up their infrastructure for the rest of the game. Factoring this in, you've probably lost 1-2 tableau spots and several cards of benefit down the road. This can easily translate into -5 VPs by the end of the game. Suddenly, that gain from early Prestige looks a lot less attractive...

3) This also assumes that it is costless to keep your early P lead. If a player places a prestige card in the mid-game, say, Pan-Galactic Mediator when they already have a pay-for-Military power, then that player can suddenly take away the PL from you, costing you 4-5 VPs. With PGSC, you can usually defend at the cost of a net 1 card per Consume, gaining another VP for each Prestige you generate. If you have to defend three times, say, you have lost 3 cards and gained 3 VPs. What does -3 cards in the late mid-game cost you? Typically, a chance to place a 6-cost development worth 6-10 VPs. So, now, you've gained 3 VPs at a cost of, say, 8 VPs in order to maintain the late game PL, worth about 5 VPs. Overall, this entire exercise has turned into a wash... or, maybe, a slight gain, given that the other 3 cards that you would have paid for the 6-development probably turned in a 3 cost development for 2 VPs instead.

+10 VPs and a card (PL) -5 VPs (cost of getting going slowly) +3 VPs (midgame PL defense) -8 VPs (lost 6 due to cards spend on PL defense) + 2 VPs (other development) = 2 VPs net, in this example.

This hardly seems to overshadow all other game strategies...

Opportunity cost is central to RFTG's design. By looking at the VPs generated from Prestige, without considering the cost of getting and keeping the PL lead, sure, Prestige *looks* quite impressive. And, when a player can manage to get Prestige in a way that fits with his other strategies, so the opportunity cost goes down some, Prestige is pretty nice. Learning how to do this -- and when to ignore Prestige and use the Prestige Opp card for an early Search -- is part of the learning curve for this expansion.

Finally, since 1 card is worth *more* than 1 VP for most of the game in RFTG, changing the PL to generate cards, not VPs, is actually making Prestige more powerful than it is...
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Scott Everts
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
ScottE wrote:
We're a very casual group and really enjoyed the original base game. But wonder if I should of bothered getting any of the expansions since they seem to add a ton of new rules.

The base game and each expansion was designed to be a good "stopping point". Add the expansions in *slowly* and a casual group can gradually -- if they want to -- build up to TBoW. Adding lots of expansions at once is probably a mistake.

TGS, no goals (very easy for casual players)
TGS, goals (try it for variety, drop goals if you don't like them)
TGS, RvI, no goals, no takeovers (only after you've play TGS by itself)
TGS, RvI, goals? (with more goals, players may find them more interesting)
TGS, RvI, takeovers? (depends on your group style)
TGS, RvI, BofW, no goals, no takeovers (adds search and prestige)
TGS, RvI, BofW, goals
TGS, RvI, BofW, takeovers (takeovers are more frequent with BofW)
TGS, RvI, BofW, goals, takeovers (if your group wants everything)

Done in this manner, you have nine more "recharges" of the base game, gradually over time. Enjoy!

Wow, thank you so much! That's exactly the information I needed on how to integrate the expansions into the game for ramping back up. We're all pretty rusty and I feared throwing everything in would just confuse and frustrate us.

Going to print that out and put in box!

Thanks again! thumbsup
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Aaron Eggman
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No! BoW is such a great expansion! Play Keldon AI and this will show you that prestige is only a apart of ones strategy but is not everything!
 
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jamesgraham wrote:
But how many games would I need to play before 'getting' it? There are only so many days in the week and I'm working on most of them. By contrast there are lots of games to play.


Skip one step of the learning curve by taking it on faith that Prestige isn't all-powerful. Don't automatically aim to be Prestige Leader. Only play Prestige cards if they're cards you might have played anyway, that fit well with your tableau and your hand.
If you do this, it won't take long to see that Prestige is not overpowered at all.

Basically, if everyone goes after the Prestige Lead, then everyone has invested actions and resources into getting it, but only the player who comes out ahead sees a payoff on that investment. If the other players had not tried and failed to get Prestige Lead, the resources they spent would have gone towards scoring points in some other (probably more reliable) method. If you believe so strongly that Prestige is overpowered that you'll focus all your efforts on trying to get it, you're giving the game away to whoever does get it.

By the way, how many turns do your games usually last? Eight to ten is typical; if you're somehow playing really slowly and taking a lot more than that, then Prestige will be worth correspondingly more until you learn to finish the game sooner.
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Wei-Hwa Huang
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Prestige Lead reminds me a bit of Longest Road in Catan.

There was a period in my Catan-playing days when it seemed like whomever got the Longest Road would win. So then everyone would try to go for it. Whomever got it won, because everyone else was spending resources trying to build more roads so they could take Longest Road.

Eventually someone figured out, hey, if I don't go for Longest Road and have everyone else fight over it, I can find other ways to get points and have a good chance of winning. I may not beat the guy with Longest Road, but I'll definitely be ahead of the guys who are going into the Longest Road battle and losing.
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Andy Nichols
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
jamesgraham wrote:
The +1 VP rule each round seems to give the first player to get a Prestige point a massive advantage and make the game solely about a race to get as many Prestige points as possible. No other strategy seems to have any significance.

In a 4p game lasting 10 rounds, if we assume a player put down a prestige card on round 1, and -- on the strength of doing just that -- gained 9 VPs plus 1 VP for the PP, then this play netted them 10 VPs and a card (in the absolute best case -- no competition, 0 cost, etc.).


I'm the player in James' group who won our first two games. The problem in each case was not that I got a point in round 1 and kept the lead, it's that I placed cards in my tableau allowing regular generation of PP.

For example (hopefully remembering the game correctly)

In the first game my start world was Rebel Freedom Fighters. This gave me 1PP for every rebel development or rebel military world I placed. This meant that I was generating PP frequently. I was getting 1PP (worth 1VP) + 1VP + 1 card every round that I layed a rebel development or rebel military world. I got 1VP every round I didn't. Over the course of 10 rounds or so this would be worth (say I gained more prestige than opponents half the time) approximately 10VP + 5PP + 5 cards = approximately 20 points.

As the PP was being generated by laying cards I also got the points and benefits from those cards - I wasn't losing many points by protecting my PL as laying the required cards was a good strategy in itself. Not necessarily the best one, but not sub-optimal enough to lose anywhere near 20 points.

In the second game I can't remember the exact sequence of events but I had several ways of gaining PP. I took advantage of these gaining the bonuses as well as the benefit of laying the cards that won me the PP. I also got 5VP from the PP goal and again probably gained at least 20VP from prestige.

Maybe the issue was that I was lucky and got the "correct" card combinations early on while my opponents didn't. However, it does seem that certain cards and combinations are very powerful in a way that wasn't apparent in the original game or other expansions.

My gut feeling (admittedly based on very little experience) is that PL is so powerful because the methods of generating PP are things that are well worth doing anyway.
 
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Matt N

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I feel like prestige greatly shifts the balance in my experience so far, but the game isn't unbalanced overall. It does bother me a bit how a lot of the cheap cards that give a prestige point are still worth a decent amount of points.

Case in point: Alien burial site. It's a two cost, one point world - except that it gives a prestige point, which makes it effectively a two cost, two point world. Add in the potential benefits of prestige leader (1 VP/turn, getting a card or preventing your opponent from getting a card), and it can score very well while still being a functional world for produce/trade or produce/consume. I would have preferred that the world was worth zero points.

I realize that it looks silly to quibble over one point on a card, but my friend and I have both one-pointed each other in our 20ish tBoW games against each other, so the individual card values do mean something to me.
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Tim Taylor
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I know what you mean.

We just added in BoW into the mix. Admittedly only 7 games played is probably not a good sampling, but Prestige does seem unbalanced.

See, in each game we played the Prestige Leader LOST -- and lost badly.

I'm starting to think of the quest to gain and retain Prestige Leader status is simply a distraction...

TT
 
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I would like to add my voice to the chorus asking a player with much more experience with TBoW to churn out a strategy article.

Last night my girlfriend, a friend of ours and I played a game with prestige. I tried a risky and pretty stupid strategy - I started with Alien Research team and for my first two turns went Dev-Dev and put down R&D Crash Program and then Alien Tech Institute. This left me cardless with no card draw on turn three, so I searched for an alien world and got a 5-cost windfall one I couldn't play. After an explore +1+1 and another settle (5 turns) I had three cards in tableau, none in hand and an opponent's consume had forced me to use the alien good windfall to get a prestige. After that everything else forced me into prestige too - I got alien guardian, and Federation capital and Pan-Galactic Affluence - so I chased prestige. I was certainly not fixating on prestige from turn 1; we were all heartily sick of prestige wins by this point in the night. I was pushing for alien, alien, alien; but my cards pushed me in that direction.

On the other side of the table, my girlfriend was having a perfect military game. She drew NGO early and played it with cards to spare. She got uplift revolt world, a pile of uplift worlds, uplift mercenary force and hidden fortress. She finished the game with 25+ military. I can't remember what else was in her tableau but we all thought she had it. My stunted little tableau was about seven cards when she put down her fourteenth and finished the game. I won easily by 10 points, mainly because the output of my accidental prestige engine netted me sixteen prestige, tripled through federation capital and PGA.

My problem isn't necessarily that prestige is unbalanced. I can see it's a great mechanic and it is universally available, so it's not 'unbalanced ' per se. I want to be better at this game, and I want my girlfriend to still like it (and me) when we've learnt to play TBoW 'properly'. I've got Keldon's AI and I've watched the prestige leader win almost every time - I have to play a perfect (and I meant PERFECT) game to win without prestige.

So my two problems with prestige are that:

1) You cannot play without it, as far as I can see. There is no other mechanic in the game like this - that is, no other mechanic that I can see that is 95% necessary to a win. You can win without a military, or having never produce/consumed. You cannot win easily without a prestige point. Or are the 100+ veterans telling us in this thread (as they seem to be) that this assumption is just dead wrong? If they are, please tell us how it's wrong - show us some of these "other strategies" that work, because it seems there are a lot of us who aren't getting it and would like to.

2) It's just really easy. In all of the games we've played the person who has had the prestige engine has won comfortably on just the Prestige points. Forget the +1VP per turn - that's just gravy. The PP themselves have scored them the win. I have never found a strategy in Race that is this easy. Produce/consume takes more setup, military needs careful card-draw management. Prestige just seems to happen after a certain point in the game, especially for the person already generating prestige. It really is a rich-get-richer mechanic, and that sucks. I think my group would be happier if it were harder to do.

Anyway, I guess I'm just another frustrated player asking for help. I am enjoying TBoW immensely, I just want to move our games to the next level ASAP, before my group make me take all the lovely new cards out.

Edited for clarity and typos (as I posted in a rush this morning).

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Tom Lehmann
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I question your assertion about Prestige strategies being "easy" -- in your case you got both of the only two cards in the game that multiply prestige; without either one you wouldn't have won (since -16 prestige is more than your winning margin). How is this different than, say, getting both Imperium Lords and the Imperium Seat down in order to get lots of points from Imperium cards, along with points for some Rebel worlds?

You hit a lot of nice combos, plus you both got and were able to afford to put down the Monolith. I've certainly had games where I had the Monolith, but struggled to get it down. To conclude based on all this that the Prestige routes are "too easy" seems to be generalizing from a particular game.

I've seen a number of games where the winner has no prestige but uses Search to very good effect early on. Most heavy prestige strategies are a bit slow to get going (the big exception is RFF); perhaps players who aren't pursuing prestige strategies are not driving the game to a fast enough conclusion?
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Nick Short
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When I got this, I immediately played a dozen games with a friend. After the first couple games, we both were thinking "Wow, Prestige is REALLY ridiculous!" After our 12th game, it still seemed ridiculous. But then we actually looked back at those games. In about half of them, the player with the Prestige lead for all or most of the game didn't win. So it was much more our perception of its influence on the games than the amount it was actually influencing them.

I find that once you learn the strategies of BoW, it is a MUCH faster game. The speed with which games can end really limits the amount of benefit players get from the PL bonus. Sure, you may get 7 points and 4 cards, but to do so you usually have to invest a lot of cards and a lot of "Obvious Actions" (such as producing to keep your prestige engine running). A player going another direction with those resources can frequently get just as many points in other ways.

So in the end, I've found it no more unbalancing than any other "Problem Card/Mechanic" in Race. Remember how broken Improved Logistics was at first? Now I hardly ever see it played!
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Cameron McKenzie
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onigame wrote:
Prestige Lead reminds me a bit of Longest Road in Catan.

There was a period in my Catan-playing days when it seemed like whomever got the Longest Road would win. So then everyone would try to go for it. Whomever got it won, because everyone else was spending resources trying to build more roads so they could take Longest Road.

Eventually someone figured out, hey, if I don't go for Longest Road and have everyone else fight over it, I can find other ways to get points and have a good chance of winning. I may not beat the guy with Longest Road, but I'll definitely be ahead of the guys who are going into the Longest Road battle and losing.


This is exactly what I was going to chime in on.
When my opponent gets an early prestige and I look at my hand and see no feasible way to gain prestige any time soon, I simply shrug it off. If I can't get the prestige lead, I don't worry about prestige much at all. He can have his prestige points, and I will earn my points another way.

The same attitude works towards goals, so I'm surprised people haven't noticed the similarity. If the "most brown/blue worlds goal" is available, and your starting situation does not make it convenient to play brown and blue worlds, just disregard the goal. It's 5 points for your opponent, but pursuing the goal yourself may ultimately cost you more points than that anyway, and give you no guarantee of ultimately claiming the goal anyway.

Race for the Galaxy is not a game where you need to do well in every category to succeed, but since Prestige is new, people are likely to try to pursue it even when it's not the best thing to do.

Race for the Galaxy is a game about picking a few things that you can do very well, and taking advantages of those as much as possible. Prestige is no exception.
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