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

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Touko Tahkokallio
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Mr Suplex wrote:
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.


If you feel this is the case, I think alliances are not for your group. They were designed the idea in the mind that players value winning just by themselves more than winning in a group.
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Rafael Hannula
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I can't agree more.

Touko wrote:
Mr Suplex wrote:
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.


If you feel this is the case, I think alliances are not for your group. They were designed the idea in the mind that players value winning just by themselves more than winning in a group.
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Simon Kamber
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Touko wrote:
Mr Suplex wrote:
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.


If you feel this is the case, I think alliances are not for your group. They were designed the idea in the mind that players value winning just by themselves more than winning in a group.


That makes sense.

I still think, though, that it is unfortunate that a game mechanic depends on unspoken metagame assumptions like that.

Some metagame assumptions are widespread, and can be assumed (players are expected to try to win). And most boardgamers with a bit of experience will buy that assumption.

But other metagame assumptions are controversial enough that they shouldn't be assumed without making them explicit (players are expected to try make sure others do not win, even if it is not beneficial to them)

If the second metagame is assumed, you risk creating a situation where the game does not work well for players who assume the first one (that they are expected to try to win)
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Jade Hacker
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I am in OP & Mr Suplex's playgroup. There are 4 players in our group and half is advocating that Alliances be banned and the other half is saying that it shouldn't be. We're presenting our cases in this forum, to solicit opinions and hopefully break this tie. My opinion for retaining Alliances is:

1) The expansion has been out only for a couple of weeks and we've only played 2 games with Alliances, so it's premature to judge that the Alliance mechanic are overpowered at this early stage.

2) Because of the small sample size, I don't think we've had sufficient time to adapt to and counter the new Alliance rules, and certainly not large enough of a size to make the assessment that it is broken in a 4 player format. I believe that there are ways, diplomatically & militarily to prevent the formation of unstoppable Alliances; we just haven't discovered it yet.

3) Alliances do not form every single time in a 4 player format. If the strongest player is more powerful than the remaining 3 players combined, there is no reason why that player should create an alliance since he does not have to share the victory.
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Geoff Speare
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Dulkal wrote:
Touko wrote:
Mr Suplex wrote:
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.


If you feel this is the case, I think alliances are not for your group. They were designed the idea in the mind that players value winning just by themselves more than winning in a group.


That makes sense.

I still think, though, that it is unfortunate that a game mechanic depends on unspoken metagame assumptions like that.

Some metagame assumptions are widespread, and can be assumed (players are expected to try to win). And most boardgamers with a bit of experience will buy that assumption.

But other metagame assumptions are controversial enough that they shouldn't be assumed without making them explicit (players are expected to try make sure others do not win, even if it is not beneficial to them)

If the second metagame is assumed, you risk creating a situation where the game does not work well for players who assume the first one (that they are expected to try to win)


For a mechanic centered on diplomacy, it's not really a surprise that metagame comes into it.

The whole point of this expansion is modules you can choose to use or not.
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Mr Suplex
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Touko wrote:
Mr Suplex wrote:
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.


If you feel this is the case, I think alliances are not for your group. They were designed the idea in the mind that players value winning just by themselves more than winning in a group.


I'm happy to see the designer chiming in here. Very cool.

Other than wins with Alliances being "valued" less (even though this is not actually stated anywhere in the rules), how does a group combat the scenario I outlined?




 
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James Motz
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...Not use them?

If you're struggling a lot with Alliances, take them out. It shouldn't affect the play-ability of the game.
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Mr Suplex
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hellion23 wrote:
Because of the small sample size, I don't think we've had sufficient time to adapt to and counter the new Alliance rules, and certainly not large enough of a size to make the assessment that it is broken in a 4 player format. I believe that there are ways, diplomatically & militarily to prevent the formation of unstoppable Alliances; we just haven't discovered it yet.


We have a whole 2 page discussion on this topic and no one has been able to show me how the scenario I outlined can be defeated, yourself included.

hellion23 wrote:
Alliances do not form every single time in a 4 player format. If the strongest player is more powerful than the remaining 3 players combined, there is no reason why that player should create an alliance since he does not have to share the victory.


A rational player looking for a win will always ally, period. Sharing the victory is still a victory according to the rules, and allying allows the lead player to solidify his position. Why fight a potential 3v1 when you can simply ally and fight a much easier 2v2?
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Mr Suplex
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LazyJ wrote:
...Not use them?

If you're struggling a lot with Alliances, take them out. It shouldn't affect the play-ability of the game.


If someone can prove to me that the scenario I outlined is not broken I'm willing to use them. So far no one, the designer included, has given any realistic way around it other than some unwritten philosophy that alliance wins are less valuable than single player wins.
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James Motz
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Your scenario seems to be based on the fact that A) one player is "clearly" ahead of the others and B) another player is willing to become his ally.

I'm approaching this from the perspective of the two players who need to "stop" this from happening.

Step one: don't get clearly behind. Sounds simple enough, if not always easy to do. Talk big about your hidden reputation. Be bold. Take opportunities to keep chipping at each other. Pay attention to what others are doing. Are you consistently finding that people are so spread out in the early game that you can so easily tell who is first and second?

Step two: hammer on the "weak" link. Proclaim from the outset that he's making himself a target by joining the dark side. If you make that guy miserable, the top dog is getting dragged down by his score. This also contributes in the meta-game as your group knows that being second fiddle in the alliance is going to suck. So if you're clearly the weaker player in the alliance you have less incentive to enter it. You also make it more likely for the top dog to turn on him, which will lower top's score a bit, again contributing to the meta that alliances are not locks to help you win.

Step three: Counter-ally. Fight fire with fire.

I guess I don't see how a group that is roughly the same skill that has played this way a few times will be so willing to blindly play the same way every time.
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Mr Suplex
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LazyJ wrote:
hammer on the "weak" link. Proclaim from the outset that he's making himself a target by joining the dark side. If you make that guy miserable, the top dog is getting dragged down by his score. This also contributes in the meta-game as your group knows that being second fiddle in the alliance is going to suck. So if you're clearly the weaker player in the alliance you have less incentive to enter it. You also make it more likely for the top dog to turn on him, which will lower top's score a bit, again contributing to the meta that alliances are not locks to help you win.


You speak as if this is happening in a vacuum. If the weaker ally is attacked, either his stronger partner will help him or counter attack. He can then either sustain the alliance if his partner is not beaten up too badly, or break the alliance on Turn 8 using the advantages he gained while his partner was taking all the heat.

LazyJ wrote:
I guess I don't see how a group that is roughly the same skill that has played this way a few times will be so willing to blindly play the same way every time.


Because it is the optimal way to play. We are looking for ways to stop it but so far I'm not convinced that any of these suggestions is a reliable counter.
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James Motz
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Mr Suplex wrote:

You speak as if this is happening in a vacuum.


Admittedly, I am speaking in a vacuum. I have no idea how good you are, or how good your group is. What techs are out? How do you position your hexes? How aggressive is everyone? What races are in use?

You have to admit - you're telling me a situation in a vacuum.

Mr Suplex wrote:

If the weaker ally is attacked, either his stronger partner will help him or counter attack. He can then either sustain the alliance if his partner is not beaten up too badly, or break the alliance on Turn 8 using the advantages he gained while his partner was taking all the heat.


...So why is that weaker partner in the Alliance then? What is he getting out of the situation? If you continue to force the leader to abandon his ally, do you think you will all blindly ally with the leader in the next game?

Mr Suplex wrote:

Because it is the optimal way to play. We are looking for ways to stop it but so far I'm not convinced that any of these suggestions is a reliable counter.


Optimal for the leader, maybe. Optimal for the "second fiddle"... you haven't convinced me of that.

Something I just thought about - is your group using any custom home rules? Sometimes I have seen groups modify a rule early on, forget they aren't playing "official", and then say something isn't balanced later.
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Rafael Hannula
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Mr Suplex wrote:
LazyJ wrote:
...Not use them?

If you're struggling a lot with Alliances, take them out. It shouldn't affect the play-ability of the game.


If someone can prove to me that the scenario I outlined is not broken I'm willing to use them. So far no one, the designer included, has given any realistic way around it other than some unwritten philosophy that alliance wins are less valuable than single player wins.


In my opinion that unwritten philosophy is valid because every competitive player whom I have met seems to think so. And I think that it's just not me and my buddies.
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Simon Kamber
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rayffis wrote:
Mr Suplex wrote:
LazyJ wrote:
...Not use them?

If you're struggling a lot with Alliances, take them out. It shouldn't affect the play-ability of the game.


If someone can prove to me that the scenario I outlined is not broken I'm willing to use them. So far no one, the designer included, has given any realistic way around it other than some unwritten philosophy that alliance wins are less valuable than single player wins.


In my opinion that unwritten philosophy is valid because every competitive player whom I have met seems to think so. And I think that it's just not me and my buddies.


It is valid, and widespread. But it is NOT universally expected.

There a some of us that still hold to the notion that unless otherwise specified, the goal of a game is to win, and that throwing away a near-certain win because you want to win in a more impressive way is contrary to the spirit of the game.

I have no problem with games being designed to work on a different basis. I also realize that I am free to (and will) avoid playing with alliances in 4-player games. Also, props to the designer for maling the assumption explicit in this thread.

I just think players need to be aware of it. Because the alliance system WILL break the game in a 4-player group that follows the 'play to win' philosophy.
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William Hellström
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My gaming group are totaly in the 'play to win' category and we have experienced this "error" as we think of it. Its according to us totaly broken. It may be that our group, like MR Suplex's is not cut out for the alliance variant. But we like the idea so much! It was very fun the first game we played with it and it really boosted our commitment for the team. (Because of this the 4 player game took over 8 hrs)

We will try out Petris(?) variant suggested earlier with the influence disk remove.

We also thought of a small tweak ourselves. Only to remve the shared victory condition. This will render the alliances to very specific situations when it will be good. This way the second and third strongest may want to team up to try to bash the leader and later hope to come out of the alliance with the most points. This will not be used as often, but might pop up in a few games.

(Btw we like the expansion a lot, it add a lot nice things to the game)
 
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Mr Suplex
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Petri wrote:
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.


I like this idea and I am willing to give Alliances a second look with something like this. Are you finding it is still working for you? Have others used this rule to good effect?
 
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Mr Suplex
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Dulkal wrote:
rayffis wrote:
Mr Suplex wrote:
LazyJ wrote:
...Not use them?

If you're struggling a lot with Alliances, take them out. It shouldn't affect the play-ability of the game.


If someone can prove to me that the scenario I outlined is not broken I'm willing to use them. So far no one, the designer included, has given any realistic way around it other than some unwritten philosophy that alliance wins are less valuable than single player wins.


In my opinion that unwritten philosophy is valid because every competitive player whom I have met seems to think so. And I think that it's just not me and my buddies.


It is valid, and widespread. But it is NOT universally expected.

There a some of us that still hold to the notion that unless otherwise specified, the goal of a game is to win, and that throwing away a near-certain win because you want to win in a more impressive way is contrary to the spirit of the game.

I have no problem with games being designed to work on a different basis. I also realize that I am free to (and will) avoid playing with alliances in 4-player games. Also, props to the designer for maling the assumption explicit in this thread.

I just think players need to be aware of it. Because the alliance system WILL break the game in a 4-player group that follows the 'play to win' philosophy.


Exactly. Our group is very competitive but we also read the rules as is. And those rules do not anywhere state that an alliance win is any less of a win than a solo win.

Thankfully the designer chimed in and let us know that the intention was otherwise, and alliance victories will now be mocked and ridiculed in our group as appropriate (assuming we even continue to use the mechanic).
 
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Simon Kamber
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Mr Suplex wrote:
Thankfully the designer chimed in and let us know that the intention was otherwise, and alliance victories will now be mocked and ridiculed in our group as appropriate (assuming we even continue to use the mechanic).


They should still work well in any game where an alliance can only be less than half the players in the game. Eclipse is, by design, very resistant to military domination because of the reverse feedback loop (when losing systems, you get the disc back immediately while keeping the cubes in the graveyard, giving you free resources to 'bounce back)
 
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Nicolas Daoust
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For the record: in most of our games, alliances got pounded; only once did an alliance even get close to winning, and even then, it came third.

There are many reasons for that, all of which have been mentioned in this thread:
- the weaker player fears getting left behind later on
- being in an alliance paints you with a big target
- shared victory is perceived as inferior
- just one member of the alliance needs to lose for the whole alliance to lose

No amount of military superiority has managed to turn all that around. Actually, the close game happened when players who were not winning allied to take out the top player militarily, but they only managed to close most of the gap.
 
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Bryan Post
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I'd love to hear more from the developers on this. I also interpreted the rules as "allied victory = individual victory", despite any social or pride factor. If an individual victory is worth more than an allied victory, how much more? Is there a way to make it work within the math of the game? Does the influence disc discard work, or is it just there to discourage alliances and the whole thing should be scrapped?
 
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Forrest & Ryan Driskel
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postbryan wrote:
I'd love to hear more from the developers on this. I also interpreted the rules as "allied victory = individual victory", despite any social or pride factor.


Mr Suplex wrote:
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.


Touko wrote:

If you feel this is the case, I think alliances are not for your group. They were designed the idea in the mind that players value winning just by themselves more than winning in a group.


What more can be said?
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James Motz
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postbryan wrote:
I'd love to hear more from the developers on this. I also interpreted the rules as "allied victory = individual victory", despite any social or pride factor. If an individual victory is worth more than an allied victory, how much more? Is there a way to make it work within the math of the game? Does the influence disc discard work, or is it just there to discourage alliances and the whole thing should be scrapped?


Geez you guys are literal. From the game's perspective Win = Win regardless of players in an Alliance.

The designers are simply tapping into gamer preference. There's no quantifying this. Either you personally believe that winning is better if you do it by yourself or you don't.

Just don't play with alliances if your group doesn't like them. I can't believe how much people are griping about this. Do you gripe about ties? Pretty sure you can get the same result of a shared win if two players end with the same number of VPs and then have the same amount of combined resources left.
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Bryan Post
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LazyJ wrote:
Just don't play with alliances if your group doesn't like them. I can't believe how much people are griping about this. Do you gripe about ties? Pretty sure you can get the same result of a shared win if two players end with the same number of VPs and then have the same amount of combined resources left.


I don't think this is a fair statement. I'm not "griping", I'm simply trying to understand the mechanic, and how it can work for me and my group. A tie because two individual players ended up with the same number of VPs and resources at the end of a (presumably) hard fought game is not the same gameplay experience as two strong players allying in turn 6 and then steamrolling the rest of the table.

Vanish wrote:
What more can be said?


Nothing, I suppose. I apologize for asking, I was just wondering if the alliance mechanic was still being looked at from a "math" perspective by the developers.

I think Eclipse is a great game, largely because of it's balance. To me the game feels like a lot of effort went into the mathematical "back end", so to speak, so I was surprised to hear that a feature from the expansion was included with a pretty serious caveat ("alliances are allowed, but allied victories are inferior to regular victories, obviously") that wasn't mentioned in the manual. That said I do appreciate the developers insight in this thread, and I'm interested in any tweaks that people are using.



 
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Purple Paladin

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Variant??? : If an alliance team's score is the winning score, this insures one player in that alliance will win the game. Each person in the alliance then count's their victory points seperately, and the one player with the highest score among that alliance is the winner!

This should knock out a lot of the kinks inherant with the current alliance rules I would think . . .

 
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Loren Cadelinia
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postbryan wrote:
I think Eclipse is a great game, largely because of it's balance. To me the game feels like a lot of effort went into the mathematical "back end", so to speak, so I was surprised to hear that a feature from the expansion was included with a pretty serious caveat ("alliances are allowed, but allied victories are inferior to regular victories, obviously") that wasn't mentioned in the manual.


I do think this is an interesting topic. Before this thread, it had never really crossed my mind that Allied victory = Solo victory. Everyone has different assumptions.

This is comparing apples and oranges, but I guess there are people out there who feel Tied Victory = Solo victory, as many rulebooks even state that "...if players are still tied, all players share victory." Even with rulebooks stating this, I still perceive solo victory to be superior, and I feel many would agree. The rulebook didn't have to state that the tied victory was inferior. Again, apples and oranges, but I won't give argue to anyone who felt Tied victory = Solo victory, but I have not yet come across such a person.

In Eclipse, the presence of the traitor and unallie mechanics provide avenues to strive for solo victory. The Syndicate are groomed for this as well.

It just depends on the group, and I guess it goes into the psychology of how we perceive a win more valuable than a loss, a first place more valuable than a second place, a 7th place more valuable than an 8th place (or if people consider 7th or 8th valuable at all) or a solo victory more valuable than a tie.
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