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Paris Connection» Forums » Variants

Subject: Simplifying setup rss

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Evgeni Liakhovich
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Beaverton
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I just got PC, haven't played it yet. The setup does seem a bit annoying and I was playing around with ideas of simplifying it. Here is one idea that I would like experienced players' opinion on.

Suppose I had trains pre-sorted and stored in six individual containers. The setup would then eliminate the sorting step. Then for the initial shares, suppose I take only a subset of each color and mix in the bag. For starters, lets say 8 trains per color. What this will do mathematically is it will eliminate some rare lopsided distributions where players got a whole lot more than average of one color among them (say 15 black). Now my question is, is this good or bad for the game? Are games with such weird distributions more interesting? In your opinion, what is the smallest reasonable number of trains to put in the bag?

Setup isn't really that big of a deal, but I think this last question is an interesting probability/statistics puzzle. On that note, does anybody have any other ideas or tips on simplifying setup?
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Christopher M.
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Jackson
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I applaud your effort to simply setup. It is the absolute worst part of this game IMO.
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James Torr
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Glad8r wrote:
What this will do mathematically is it will eliminate some rare lopsided distributions . . . Now my question is, is this good or bad for the game? Are games with such weird distributions more interesting?


I agree that it's an interesting question. We did this once, and I think we used 10 trains per color. The game went just fine, but I wondered, like you, whether more lopsided distributions might be interesting, and for this reason I haven't suggested it again.

Two thoughts. (1) The proposed solution eliminates some of the nuisance of setup, but not all of it. You're eliminating some of the sorting, but IMO, you still really ought to neatly arrange the trains on the share boards, so that everyone can easily count what's left. And that arranging-on-the-share-boards is at least as much of a bother as the sorting. (2) I've decided to take a zen approach to the "setup is annoying" issue. It literally takes less than 5 minutes, and the game is well worth it. (And yes, I know 5 minutes can be 1/3 the total length of the whole game, but I don't think it should be considered a flaw that solid gameplay is packed into a short time frame.)
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Evgeni Liakhovich
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You speak wisely, master James! I agree, shaving off just a bit of setup time probably isn't worth it. I played around list night however, pulling out 32 trains (8x4) a few times and counting distribution. I didn't do it nearly enough times, but I never had more than 8 of the same color. I might just try full setup and my variant when it comes to playing, see how it goes.
 
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Ted Lilley
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Gulfport
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I came to the same conclusion and ended up doing approximately the same thing you did.

I got six cotton bags and took 60 trains, 10 from each color, and randomly divided them into the bags.

I keep the rest of the trains sorted by color in their own plastic bags. When the game starts, the presorting eases getting them arranged on their respective depots.

Then the players pick their cotton bags at random. For three players, we just put all ten trains behind the screens. For more players, we first randomly pick out from our bags the appropriate number of trains to go down to the assigned amount (down to six trains for five players, etc) and place them back on their depots.

The unused bags, if any, are also emptied and sorted onto their depots. Between the last step and this one, it usually ends up being about 30 trains to sort. Much better than the usual ~170 trains (198 minus the 30 or so taken by the players).

This procedure does make the setup much faster. Additionally, it doesn't require every player to be involved in the sorting, even after the game when setting up for the next. Beginners who are on the fence about the game tend to find the setup disconcerting, so I think shortening the setup for their benefit is the biggest attraction to the method.

After trying this, I felt it works well, although you don't get the range of train distributions of the original method. That's due to taking an equal number of each color, where the fully mixed method usually distributes the colors asymmetrically. For six players, for example, using my method, you'll always have almost the same number of starting trains on each depot, give or take 5 or so.

To mix it up more without making it too complicated, I decided to up the number of trains to 15 of each color (an additional 30 to my original method). I then pull out 30 from the bag at random, sorting them back to their color. Only then do I divide the remaining trains into the cotton bags.

This gives a wider spectrum of distributions while still being much easier to sort. You're still only sorting about 60 trains instead of 170 (30 trains during prep and another 30 at play time).

I wouldn't say that the extra 30 are essential, however. You could do it the first way and I think the game plays fine.

I like this setup and use it all the time now.

-- update

The two-stage process of putting extra trains in the bag and then pulling them out to get asymmetrical distributions has gotten a bit tedious.

I'm now trying to speed it up by using dice instead. I roll three dice once for each color, taking that many trains and keeping track of the total.

Once I've got all six colors, I top it up or down to 60 trains by adding or subtracting, either uniformly or randomly.

For example, if you've gone over, just throw them all in the bag and pull out the extras.

If you have too few, add one of each color until you're up to 60. Or roll a die for color if you like.

This gives a wider set of distributions without being ridiculous, since the distribution of sums of three dice lies between uniform and normal. So there's a wide range, but also a tendency toward the expected value.

And it works out nicely that the expected value of 10.5 is right near our starting method of 10 apiece of each color.

It's also pretty fast. Not as fast as I'd like, but better than sorting all those trains.
 
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