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Subject: I'm trying to like it, but I'm running out of willing participants. rss

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Curt Carpenter
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What is it?
Archipelago is a recent big-box game about exploring and settling new lands, mostly islands, while balancing colonization with uprising rebellious forces. If I were to sum up Archipelago in one word, it would be: ambitious. Which I use as a compliment, despite now burning through two different groups of players so far who all refuse to play again. My intent in writing this review is two-fold:
d10-1 Give people who are thinking about the game an idea of what they’re getting themselves in for, without having to actually learn the whole rules (there will be no rules explanation here).
d10-2 Start a dialog with those who have more experience than I do (5 games, all medium length) to figure out how I can possibly save the game.
I expect discussion to come from #2, but I’m actually writing with mainly #1 in mind. I.e. I’m writing to folks who know nothing about the game.

The first thing anyone researching this game will probably quickly find out is that it looks great (mostly). Looking up pictures is left as an exercise for the reader. Hint: Look at the images collection on the game page.

The second thing anyone researching this game will probably quickly find out is that the game is semi-co-op. The table can win (a normal game-end condition was met, VPs scored, etc) or lose (rebellion has taken over all colonists), but there can be a single winner in both cases. So indeed, it’s a competitive game, with some co-op aspects. Each player is dealt a card during setup, which others players can’t see, which identifies two (unrelated) things: 1) One game-end condition (the player is obligated to announce game over if the condition is met), and 2) One source of VP at game end, if the table didn’t lose. So with n players you have n game-end conditions (whichever one happens first), and n ways to score points. Players only know about what’s on their own card. One of the cards (The Separatist) says, effectively, "if the rebels take over (which is normally the "everyone loses condition), you win". So the three possible end-game outcomes are:
1) Rebels take over. Someone was Separatist. They win.
2) Rebels take over. No one was Separatist. Everyone loses.
3) The game-end condition on someone’s card was reached. Tally points and winner = most VP.
There is also a single public VP point source card that is public knowledge, drawn from a separate pool of cards, and without a game end condition.

When I read the above in the rules (I’m still not sure why I read the rules before buying—that’s extremely rare for me), I was immediately concerned. My group doesn’t play co-op games. We play competitive games. The idea of the table all losing occasionally is ok (it works for me in CO2, of example), but I was concerned by how easy it is for the table to lose, as I discussed here, before buying the game. The responses in that thread actually convinced me to not buy the game, but then I came back to it when I saw comments in other threads that the game really is competitive primarily. Looks great, sounds interesting. Sold.

What are the major pieces?
There are resources of various (6) types, plus money. There are two different markets, a domestic market and an export market. When resources are bought and sold they come from and go into these markets. This is one of the best aspects of the game. Each market has individual spaces to put cubes of each resource. The current price of each resource is separate between the domestic/export markets, and depends on the number of cubes of each resource in each market (think resources in Power Grid, x2). The pricing scales are different between the domestic and export markets. Some goods sell for significantly more on the export market, and some don’t. Resources are used primarily for two things: 1) Building stuff (boats + 4 types of buildings), and 2) Dealing with crises (more on that later). Ok, and maybe 3) to sell for money, if you want to consider that a separate thing. Money is used for 4 things: 1) bidding for turn order, 2) construction (not much), 3) hiring workers, and 4) buying cards. More on those later.

There are three tracks marking the number of people in different categories: 1) Colonists: That’s just the sum of all player dudes on the map (not counting boats). 2) Workers: these are the guys available for hire, which generally goes up as more tiles are explored. 3) Rebels. Lots of stuff causes this to go up: excess resources of any type in either market, more citizens, more workers, and failure to fully deal with a crisis (more later). The important thing is that if rebels ever passes colonists, it’s game over. If there’s a separatist, they win, if not everyone loses.

There is an action board where players mark their chosen action. You can think of it like worker placement, with semantics like some spots being limited to the number of workers than can go there, etc. Although players never get more workers than other players, and many spots are not limited. I choose to not give a rip whether the official BGG catalogers deem this a worker placement game or not.

There are buildings in 4 types that do various things. They’re important to the game, but not to my opinion of it, so I’ll gloss over them.

There are cards that can be bought which do random stuff. Some of the cards can be used by players other than the owner (for $1 to owner plus normal usage price, if any, to the bank), but every card can only be used once per round. So it’s possible that someone buys an awesome card, and doesn’t even get to use it. And maybe not even make back the money they spent on it.

On the back of the cards mentioned above are crises. Every crisis has a domestic portion and an external portion. Basically, the table has to collectively deal with the crisis or else rebels will increase, potentially by a lot. Dealing with a crisis involves coming up with cubes of a specified type. Crises can come up at two different times: before player actions (“yellow” crisis, about .5 per turn) and after (“red crisis”, about 1.5 per turn). For “red” crises that come up after player actions, it doesn’t really matter where the resources come from. But for “yellow” crises that come up before player actions, if enough resources aren’t provided, then the gap will result in dudes that become rebels and thus not available for the owning player to use during actions phase. Which dudes become rebels (or rather which are “fixed” form being rebels, as all temporarily become rebels during resolution of a crisis) is resolved by players in turn order. For each cube provided, a certain number of dudes are satisfied. But there’s a huge advantage to the starting player, as that player may take all cubes from the corresponding market (rather than their personal supply) and satisfy whomever he likes. So obviously he will satisfy his own dudes first, then others based on his whims, or… negotiation (more on that later). Generally speaking, what’s in the market is not enough, and players will either have to forfeit resources and/or have an increase in number of rebels, based on how many dudes didn’t get fixed. There are actually two kinds of crisis, but the kind where you have to pay resources based on the number of citizens is the kind I’m talking about, as it can cause a huge number of rebels, whereas the other kind only requires 1-3 cubes, threatening to add 1-3 rebels. No big deal there.

So what do you actually do?
Players have citizens and boats which do stuff (kinda like workers, but definitely not in the sense of "worker placement", as that aspect is dealt with by action discs on a separate board off the map). The game is played on an expanding map, made from placing large hex tiles together. On their turn each player can use an action disc to do things like grow their population (either by hiring available workers or making babies--of course), explore to add new tiles thus expanding the map, harvest resources that happen to be present where their citizens are, build buildings, move their dudes around, build something, trade at one of the markets, or tax their people. Do one of those things on your turn, and get between 3-5 turns per round (it starts at 3 and ramps up to 5 as the game progresses).

What’s to like?
Did I mention it looks great? It does. Mostly. Graphics/color looks nice. You are supposed to count the number of huts on each tile (that number increases the available workers), but they are absolutely tiny, and blend into the background, with no graphic design, very much in contrast with the resources on the tile, which have nice bold icons. As I later found out after my first game, on each tile (with a couple exceptions of the starting tiles and the volcano) the number of huts = 5 - # of resource icons. Phew! That’s much easier than trying to spot the huts. The action board is oddly a circle. It’s a bit busy, but it looks nice, and works once you get used to it.

The resource economy with separate domestic and export markets, each with their own supply/demand, is nice.

The actions are intuitive and give a reasonable palette to do stuff. Most of which is pretty intuitive.

The exploration aspect is nice. You do get the feeling of players exploring. And the tile laying restrictions lead to "nice" maps.

Lots of replayability with random maps, and cards that can be acquired, not to mention crises, and random goals.

What’s not to like?
Major Issue #d10-1:
Contributing resources to avoid an uprising is completely broken for groups that play competitively. There is no reward for the contribution to the player(s) who contribute other than the game not ending. But donating seems clearly like a losing proposition, for all players who donate if any others do not. Resources are just too valuable. Don D., who gave the game a glowing review, suggests the following solution:
dond80 wrote:
The game is very fragile and is susceptible to pissed off players being able to crash the game down around everyone else. If someone grows bored of the game or realizes they can't win, they can very easily ruin the rest of the players' experience by just forcing the rebel victory, even if not the separatist. This is not a great part of the game, but I will say that this is something that I think can't really be dealt with in design and just comes along with the territory of a semi-co op like this. At the end of the day, you just have to do as I do and play by the "no douche bags allowed" rule. Aside from one player in my group, I can't see that ever happening with the regulars in my group. Whenever I play with newcomers to the group I will make this an openly discussed issue at the outset and make sure everyone is on board with playing the game properly. Anyone who ruined a game in the aforementioned manner would find themselves quickly on the outside looking in within my gaming group.
Well, I’ve played the game now with about 8 different people, and despite all of us feeling fresh-as-springtime, it sounds like none of us would be invited to his group. Which is fine, but anyone considering the game needs to consider whether players will play a competitive game with a cooperative mentality. There’s a very important question that relates to player’s approach to game theory and their goal in a game. Will players consider finishing last in a game that does not explode to be a better personal finish than the table all losing collectively? Or even one other player winning and the rest losing collectively? No one I play with would ever consider coming in last place (with all others finishing higher) better than everyone losing. Finishing position matters. There is no joy for the table not exploding. There is no sorrow if the table explodes. My understanding when I decided to buy the game is that while the game might occasionally explode with players playing competitively, it would mostly work. That does not appear to be the case. There is just no reward for making contributions to deal with the crises, nor to do the things in the game that cost resources (and actions) to reduce the rebels. Contrast that with CO2, where experienced players can collectively deal with the crisis, and players who act to avert are generally rewarded enough for their effort to be worth it. And it certainly doesn’t require the cooperation of all players. We played Archipelago last night three games back to back, and in each game there was a Separatist, and they won every game. In the last game we discussed it at length, and the separatist made a pretty strong argument that he could have announced his role on turn one, and there’s nothing we could have done to stop it, even if that was our only goal. It was something short of a proof, but he made a strong case. And to be clear, what’s needed to avoid the rebels from winning is not that everyone not actively pump up the rebels, it’s that players actively work to prevent it, for no other benefit to themselves. Now, it turns out that there is a Trend card (those cards that give a public VP goal) called Benefactor that grants VPs to those based on how many resources (rules aren’t clear whether it’s number of resources or number of times donating) spent during resolution of crises. That is supposed to encourage people to donate more to deal with crises. We didn’t play with in our first games, but we added it in the last two (in addition to one other Trend card). It didn’t make a big enough difference to prevent the rebel uprising. And it was incredibly frustrating to the player who had made the biggest contribution to the benefactor trying to avert the crises.

Major Issue #d10-2:
Turn order determination is a complete train wreck. First, keep in mind that going first is a big advantage for a couple reasons, but mainly for crisis resolution as I mentioned above. You generally get to raise all your guys, and let others worry about how to raise theirs. The player going second gets no advantage over players going 3rd or later, because the first player will take all resources in the market, and do with them as he may. Many rules I will not explain in detail, but the turn order bidding rules are so broken that I have to share them. And I quote, “To decide the order of play, each player secretly bets a number of florins from behind his screen, placing the bet in his closed fist. Betting nothing is allowed. Each player holds his fist above the table. Once all bets are placed, everyone opens his hand to reveal the amount of his bet. All bet amounts are considered spent and go to the bank. The player with the highest bet decides the order of play for all players. He can therefore change the order of the players’ order markers on the evolution track as he likes. At this time, negotiations and bribes of all kinds are encouraged to try to convince the deciding player to award a better spot on the order of play. If no one has bet anything, the order of play stays unchanged. If two or more players are tied for the highest bet, the bet amounts go to the bank, and then those players bet again. In case of another tie, the order of play stays unchanged”. So you can spend money on a bid, and if you don’t spend the most, all your money is completely wasted. That’s retarded (money is very tight). Then if two players tie, they throw the money away and bid more money. Retarded. Then the relative bid amounts for players who didn’t bid the most is completely ignored, as the player who won the bid chooses all remaining positions. Completely insane. We tried this as written. But after the very first bid players were having aneurisms. Exacerbated by the negotiation rules (below). Over multiple games we noodled on various house rules. We finally settled on winning player pays full bid, last player pays nothing, all other players pay ½ rounded up, ties maintain previous relative order.

Major Issue #d10-3:
If turn order is a train wreck, negotiation is nuclear meltdown. Negotiation is allowed in almost all phases on the game. This is a one-step move to doubling the game length. You’re supposed to negotiate for things like turn order, but how can n-1 players effectively negotiate with the start player for turn order position? “I’ll give you a buck to make me 2nd. Ok. Wait, I’ll give you $2. I’ll give you $1 to at least make me go before Steve. I’ll give you a brown cube to make Fred last. Wait he already accepted my offer!” Ugh. Games with negotiation need structure and constraints. Trading works in Settlers. The active player can trade with only one other player at a time (which the Archipelago rules also stipulate, but it doesn’t make sense when what’s being negotiated is everyone’s turn order). “Wood for sheep?” “Done”. The same problem happens when negotiating during crisis resolution. When the starting player has the option to raise other players’ dudes, he’s not really making a deal with one player to raise their guys as much as also deciding at the same time to not raise others. So it really requires negotiating with all players at the same time. Total meltdown. During a player’s normal actions, however, simple negotiation of resources/money for other resources/money makes perfect sense. It’s the rest of it that’s nuclear waste. We simply don't allow trading except during player actions.

Major Issue #d10-4:
I’m running out of metaphors, and maybe there isn’t one adequate for this one, but the rules are… lacking. With emphasis. I nearly fell out of my chair when I read the designer say,
Chris Boelinger wrote:
the rules are written almost as Magic keyword rulings are written. Checked and double checked and rewritten by JC, me, the playtesters from many different countries and in different languages. So those rules are to be taken very strictly word by word exactly like the Dungeon Twister or Earth Reborn rules. What you read is what it means, each word is important.
(…Pause while I lift my jaw off floor…)
All I can say is, there are plenty of examples of games, even complex ones , where the rules can be taken strictly, and are complete, clear, etc., (Dominant Species comes to mind) but this game is so far form that it’s just flabbergasting that anyone would claim these rules are that. We’re not just talking corner cases. We’re talking core mechanics. While the organization and presentation is fine, it suffers from the frustratingly not-too-uncommon problem of being translated by a non-native English speaker. And they were clearly never tested on people who don’t know the game. Understanding what “engagement” means and implies (when a dude is busy, and what he can and can’t do when he’s busy) is the poster child for this. Maybe some players are satisfied by playing by an approximation of the rules? I dunno, but I had to spend hours scouring the forums. And the answers are not like, “the rules answer that”, like in many game forums. Rather, it’s “the designer said X in his video, playtesters said Y”, of the designer himself chiming in to clarify, etc. Someone really should completely rewrite the rules. If anyone can ever figure out all the rules completely. I’ve seen threads with dangling unanswered questions.

And some nits...

Minor Issue #d10-1:
The money chips are too small. Thankfully I have a good set of mini poker chips. This is essential for this game. In fact it’s essential that you use mini chips rather than full-size chips, because you’re supposed to put a buck on the action display on your color when you use a port or market, and those spots are tiny. That’s why I suspect the money was so tiny to begin with. But it turns out that a much better idea is to put the buck actually on the map next to the market or port being used (indicating that that market/port has been used this round). And again, mini chips work much better for putting on the map tiles. Money running out is a possible end-game condition, so you do have to count out the money exactly.

Minor Issue #d10-2:
Hidden trackable info. I don’t like it. But some players do. ’nuff said.

Minor Issue #d10-3:
Risk of failed exploring is too high. Normally when you explore you get a token (Explorer token) that’s worth a wild resource, in addition to a resource found in the new tile, and a free mini-migrate to get a dude in there (by yourself, no following like Dominant Species). If you choose to explore and end up with a tile that you cannot legally place, you lose your turn. It is commonly the case that the only visible hex to take is not playable by a player wanting to explore, and sometimes not possible for anyone at the table to play. So people will be taking risks. But losing your whole turn is brutal. Simple solution: you get the explorer token whether or not the explore was successful. This also slightly helps with dealing with crises.

Verdict
As the title says, I'm trying to like it, but I'm running out of willing participants. I’ve literally burnt two different non-overlapping player groups on it. And I’m not harping on the negatives when we play. Quite the opposite, I’m trying to sell the game. Nor have I suggested house rules before playing with rules as written. But the major issues are things all of the participants have harped on. And I’m sympathetic. But I oddly don’t want to let it go. And even the players who hated it were willing to go again and see if it can go better, which is unusual. There’s stuff there to like for sure, but it just doesn't seem to work (mainly Major issue #1, as that's the only one I don't really have a solution for). I certainly would not have bought it if I were to go back in time, but now that I have it, it would be great if I could make it work. Maybe the next attempt (and final, if failing) for us would be to guarantee there is no separatist. Other suggestions welcome.
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Ben
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Me, too! With each play I like it more, but each new group I teach it to seems to like it less.


For what it's worth, I see your major point #1 very differently. In my games, the crises have worked very effectively to both redistribute wealth and as a catch-up mechanic for the players who are trailing. Your statement "There is just no reward for making contributions to deal with the crises" is extremely confusing, since having a functional workforce on any given round seems to outweigh the one or two lost resources quite easily.

By contrast, CO₂'s mechanic serves almost zero functional purpose: players are going to build plants anyway, so there is no need to incentivize plant-building (and if it is intended to incentivize spreading out, it does a very poor job of it, since control is a bigger incentive). Not to mention, at the time the crisis occurs in CO2, no one knows who is doing well. Thus, there is no meaningful option to defect (in Archipelago, defecting is a very real threat).
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Don D.
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chally wrote:
Me, too! With each play I like it more, but each new group I teach it to seems to like it less.


For what it's worth, I see your major point #1 very differently. In my games, the crises have worked very effectively to both redistribute wealth and as a catch-up mechanic for the players who are trailing. Your statement "There is just no reward for making contributions to deal with the crises" is extremely confusing, since having a functional workforce on any given round seems to outweigh the one or two lost resources quite easily.

By contrast, CO₂'s mechanic serves almost zero functional purpose: players are going to build plants anyway, so there is no need to incentivize plant-building (and if it is intended to incentivize spreading out, it does a very poor job of it, since control is a bigger incentive). Not to mention, at the time the crisis occurs in CO2, no one knows who is doing well. Thus, there is no meaningful option to defect (in Archipelago, defecting is a very real threat).


I completely concur with the relative assessment of co2 vs archipelago- its that archipelago at many times forces players to diverge from their purely selfish interests for the good of the group that makes it interesting, whereas in CO2 the interests are almost perfectly aligned making the mechanic - to me- very uninteresting and almost superfluous.

Also, incredibly well-done review of the problems with Archipelago Curt. Truly fantastic.

I appreciate the shout out, though I suspect you are wrong about not being welcomed at my table- it sounds to me like you have the right frame of mind for this game. I have a question- how many players have the games been? I think one flaw I've noticed about the game is a lack of scaling when the separatist is in play. If its a 3p game with a separatist, 1/3 of the island is working against you. If its a 5p game, 20% is working against. That makes a huge difference and I wonder if the game needs to compensate for that somehow. My knee jerk reaction would be to increase the starting money each player has in lower count games.

I can say that my last three plays have been separatist wins. I've actually yet to play a game in which the separatist is in and didn't win. That is mildly frustrating. I've contemplated going back and revising my review slightly in light of it but have been on the fence about it- and now you have written this.

Ben- what has your recent experience with the separatist been?

EDIT: btw I would not be in favor of removing the separatist without adding a new, replacement card to take its place. With only ten per set, removing even one narrows the possibilities too much for me when trying to deduce who has what is half of what I love about this game.
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Dave Eisen
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Thanks for the review. I've played once and, oddly enough, the separatist won and won easily. And early.

Left a rather bad taste in my mouth and have not wanted to play since. For some reason that I cannot remember, I did buy a copy of it so no doubt it will get to the table again. But every opportunity I have for this has ended up with me shying away from doing so.
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Curt Carpenter
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chally wrote:
For what it's worth, I see your major point #1 very differently. In my games, the crises have worked very effectively to both redistribute wealth and as a catch-up mechanic for the players who are trailing. Your statement "There is just no reward for making contributions to deal with the crises" is extremely confusing, since having a functional workforce on any given round seems to outweigh the one or two lost resources quite easily.

In the yellow crises, yes, it gets mostly dealt with. But in the red crises it doesn't matter who contributes, as everyone is about to pop up again anyway. The rules even go out of their way to point this out:
Rules wrote:
Tactical note:
Unlike in a normal crisis resolved in Phase 4, in an immediate crisis, only the total number of citizens still lying on their backs at the end of the crisis matters because they increase the rebellion level. It does not matter who they belong to, since all citizens will become active again in Phase 1 of the next turn.

And of course more red crises get resolved than yellow ones, given that when multiple cards are flipped during card purchase phase, all red crises get immediately resolved, but yellows only get resolved if it's the last card drawn (during next round).

chally wrote:
Not to mention, at the time the crisis occurs in CO2, no one knows who is doing well.

Did you really mean CO2 there? In CO2 you know who's doing well with like 10x accuracy compared to Archipelago, where each player doesn't even know the bulk of the VP rubric.

chally wrote:
Thus, there is no meaningful option to defect (in Archipelago, defecting is a very real threat).

I'm not following your point. My beef is not that players can force a loss just to avoid losing (although they apparently can), but that thwarting a Separatist requires real dedicated cooperation, at the level that gamers who play at the margins are not generally willing to do, at least not without abandoning the idea that it's still a competitive game.
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Adrian Pirciu
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I completely agree with this review. It's fair and correct, at least in my view. I also did my best to like it but although it's "ambitious" (very good word indeed) it lacks in so many points that I am selling it now. Actually it's on my list of worst games of last year. So much potential though ...
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Curt Carpenter
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dond80 wrote:
Also, incredibly well-done review of the problems with Archipelago Curt. Truly fantastic.

Thanks!

dond80 wrote:
I appreciate the shout out, though I suspect you are wrong about not being welcomed at my table- it sounds to me like you have the right frame of mind for this game.

Alright. Game on!

dond80 wrote:
I have a question- how many players have the games been?

First game was with 5, second through fifth were each with 4. I think I like 4. When I played with 5, it was really tight getting that 5th tile in, and it seemed to add more downtime without making anything more interesting (I'm happy to add a 5th even with increased downtime when it makes things more interesting). BTW, I should have mentioned that while our first game took forever, subsequent games (after I spent hours researching our questions) went much quicker. While some games just take a long time, even with experienced players, this one does move along at a nice clip (edit: as long as greatly restricting negotiation, as I described). Which is why we were able to play 3 games back to back. And they weren't our first or last of the evening. Ok, they were cut short due to rebellion, but they also had like 20 minutes of discussion after each one. laugh

dond80 wrote:
My knee jerk reaction would be to increase the starting money each player has in lower count games.

Oh yeah, that's another house rule we made. There's (sometimes) a significant turn order advantage on starting draw, given that the earlier you place, the more options you tend to have for legal play. The last player often has only one legal play (even after redrawing), and it's not a good tile. As a result, for our last few games we started giving players $10 to start plus $1 for each position past first. Which also works well with the house rule we made around bidding, to give players in back a little more money to push ahead (breaking ties) on initial bid.

dond80 wrote:
With only ten per set, removing even one narrows the possibilities too much for me when trying to deduce who has what is half of what I love about this game.

I like the idea of deducing who has what, but it feels like the line of deductive reasoning goes like:
Who's the Separatist??? Oh, right, there are other cards out there too...

Maybe the Separatist should be like the sheriff in Bang? Immediately revealed? That might be enough to rally the others together, while still leaving players the opportunity to deduce what everyone else is. Including leaving the same opportunity to the Separatist, who still has a very good chance of winning even without a rebellion, given they will never be wasting resources to prevent it!
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Don D.
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I would go even father than that with extra money. Perhaps if every player started with $15 in 4 p and $20 in a 3p it would reduce the ease of separatist win.

I like the idea of the separatist starting out revealed, however that would also make the end game condition revealed and I'm not sure I like that.

I want to see how the game develops with separatist players- I suspect you may be right that it's too easy for a separatist to win. It also seems odd that the separatist can still win even if no rebellion- Ive thought about a rule that separatist auto loses if the game ends without rebellion.
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Very nice review, congrats. I wanted to add my 2c to the discussion.

Firstly, to anyone planning on selling this: if you are at all into solitaire games, then please give the solo expansion a try. Archipelago as a solo game is really really good.

Secondly, as a multiplayer game I completely concur that - with the rules as written - it has all the major issues you mention and more (hidden objectives, low scoring, too many ties..). And, yes, I must admit that I only played once multiplayer (and we left out the Separatist).. but one can see all the various problems right away.

However, I think the game theme, components, mechanics, scope etc is very interesting and novel and should not go to waste and end up constrained to solo play. I think there is a great multiplayer game there, it just need a sligthly revised rulebook, or call it variant.

From my experience with the solo expansion, I think the designer made it too darn difficult. Either that or I am a terrible player (most likely, actually). Just as a quick example consider that there is a scenario where you are supposed to make 75 florins in like 6 turns. Starting with just one lone guy on a island, no ships. And each turn you have to buy an evolution card and turn two others.

Winning conditions are so tight and difficult that it makes me think the multiplayer game suffers from the very same reasons: rules as written are too strict. They just need to be relaxed a bit to make it a enjoyable multiplayer game.

IMHO, the game sees way too little cash flow and the export market is way too difficult to deal with. The Separatist should also be checked, maybe by having him win only if he scored a certain amount of VPs (from the public trend card) or something.

Consider for example:

1) giving an explorer token even if you fail to explore;

2) removing bidding for turn orders and moving first player token around, or giving back the money for losing bids.. (but I would just completely remove all bidding and negotiations as they make the game way too long);

3) giving a VP for every good spent from behind your screen in crisis resolution;

4) start with 1 good per type in the export market (similar to the domestic market).

And more..
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Maël Brustlein
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curtc wrote:
I’ve literally burnt two different non-overlapping player groups on it.

Ouch!
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barbanera wrote:
Very nice review, congrats. I wanted to add my 2c to the discussion.

Firstly, to anyone planning on selling this: if you are at all into solitaire games, then please give the solo expansion a try. Archipelago as a solo game is really really good.

Secondly, as a multiplayer game I completely concur that - with the rules as written - it has all the major issues you mention and more (hidden objectives, low scoring, too many ties..). And, yes, I must admit that I only played once multiplayer (and we left out the Separatist).. but one can see all the various problems right away.

However, I think the game theme, components, mechanics, scope etc is very interesting and novel and should not go to waste and end up constrained to solo play. I think there is a great multiplayer game there, it just need a sligthly revised rulebook, or call it variant.

From my experience with the solo expansion, I think the designer made it too darn difficult. Either that or I am a terrible player (most likely, actually). Just as a quick example consider that there is a scenario where you are supposed to make 75 florins in like 6 turns. Starting with just one lone guy on a island, no ships. And each turn you have to buy an evolution card and turn two others.

Winning conditions are so tight and difficult that it makes me think the multiplayer game suffers from the very same reasons: rules as written are too strict. They just need to be relaxed a bit to make it a enjoyable multiplayer game.

IMHO, the game sees way too little cash flow and the export market is way too difficult to deal with. The Separatist should also be checked, maybe by having him win only if he scored a certain amount of VPs (from the public trend card) or something.

Consider for example:

1) giving an explorer token even if you fail to explore;

2) removing bidding for turn orders and moving first player token around, or giving back the money for losing bids.. (but I would just completely remove all bidding and negotiations as they make the game way too long);

3) giving a VP for every good spent from behind your screen in crisis resolution;

4) start with 1 good per type in the export market (similar to the domestic market).

And more..


#1 would create imbalance with the objectives
#3 would dilute the vp from the hidden cards too much

I could see #2 and # 4 perhaps.
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Kai Mölleken
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I agree that players have a hard time against a well-playing separatist. But I wouldn't say that the other players are without a chance against him.

When you realize that you have a separatist amongst the group you don't only have to prevent the rebellion level from going up in the crises but you have to seek opportunities to lower it and to limit his options.

So you need to get cards which allow you to lower the rebellion level and you must see to it that the separatist doesn't get any cards like the thief or the assassin which he can use to further raise the rebellion level.

And while trying to lower the rebellion level you start building churches which may be worth victory points in the end.

It's hard but I wouldn't call it a sure victory for the separatist yet.
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dond80 wrote:
barbanera wrote:

Consider for example:

1) giving an explorer token even if you fail to explore;

2) removing bidding for turn orders and moving first player token around, or giving back the money for losing bids.. (but I would just completely remove all bidding and negotiations as they make the game way too long);

3) giving a VP for every good spent from behind your screen in crisis resolution;

4) start with 1 good per type in the export market (similar to the domestic market).

And more..


#1 would create imbalance with the objectives
#3 would dilute the vp from the hidden cards too much

I could see #2 and # 4 perhaps.


#1 Which one? The explorer objective? Well, just remove it then?

#3 There are too few VP to be taken anyway and how else would you incentivate helping vs crisis resolution then?
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Matt Shinners
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curtc wrote:

What’s not to like?
Major Issue #d10-1:
Contributing resources to avoid an uprising is completely broken for groups that play competitively. There is no reward for the contribution to the player(s) who contribute other than the game not ending.

There is just no reward for making contributions to deal with the crises, nor to do the things in the game that cost resources (and actions) to reduce the rebels.

And to be clear, what’s needed to avoid the rebels from winning is not that everyone not actively pump up the rebels, it’s that players actively work to prevent it, for no other benefit to themselves.


I haven't played the game, so I'm trying to get a sense of it before the first session. However, your experience seems to contradict what you wrote above.

You say there's no benefit to cooperating to fight the rebels/prevent the game from ending. You say your groups play to win. And then you say that the separatist won three games in a row, the prevention of which should be a huge benefit to cooperating.

Well, to me it seems that not letting the separatist win is the reason to cooperate. Especially since, as you say, there's no easy way to tell who's winning at any given time. So I don't know that I'm out of the game, and I should cooperate with others to prevent myself from completely losing and allowing someone else at the table the win when there's a rebellion.

Could it be that there is a very strong reason to cooperate even while playing competitively, but that benefit is relatively remote compared to the immediate need to improve your own position, making it harder to get people to cooperate? I would think that after one separatist win, people would start to cooperate a bit more. Can you talk a bit about why that didn't happen, even after seeing the separatist win a few games with the same group?
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adixor wrote:
Actually it's on my list of worst games of last year.


Archipelago is my list of worst games of the last year.

Seriously, slogging our way through this game at BGGCon is easily the least fun I've had playing a game in as long as I can remember, and definitely the least fun stretch of time I've spent doing anything at any BGGCon I've attended.
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David desJardins
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curtc wrote:
There’s a very important question that relates to player’s approach to game theory and their goal in a game. Will players consider finishing last in a game that does not explode to be a better personal finish than the table all losing collectively? Or even one other player winning and the rest losing collectively? No one I play with would ever consider coming in last place (with all others finishing higher) better than everyone losing.


Suppose you enter a tournament and you pay a $1000 entry fee to play. The game winner gets $2000, and each of the other players get $500 back (in a 4-player game). But if "everyone loses" then the house keeps all the money. You couldn't find any way to convince yourself that you would rather have $500 than $0? And none of your friends could either?
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Mitchell Waldbauer
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First of, it sounds like you want to like the game. And yet you don't like several key mechanics. It also doesn't sound like you're going to grow to appreciate those mechanics. So, I think you are on the right track with just house ruling stuff away. That said, you might just want a different game that is 3-4X.

It does seem that most of the mechanics you don't like are the mechanics that don't feel very Euro.

#1. Players contributing means their guys can do stuff this turn. letting all your guys sleep and do nothing seems pretty weak.

Temples are a major source of contributing without contributing.

Playing with the Benefactor as an additional trend every game might help people learn to deal with the idea of negotiating for letting your dudes be active.

#2

I personally like the committed blind bidding. It tends to discourage people who really don't care from bidding as they are at high risk for low gain. Having to guess how much to bid to outbid the other guys is enjoyable. If you consistently make the wrong guess you should either be betting 0 more often, or trying to gauge better.

#3

Translation and rule checking are big hotspots for me. Particularly because I spent a few years working on the VS Card Game rules. (It's not my fault those ended up where they did, btw. NDA still prevents me from saying more)

I think a glossary and a rules summary at the back would have been a major improvement. Having to wade through the rules to find the one sentence you need is weak.

Minor Issue #3:

This can be mitigated by diversifying the areas you have explored. Given how much each explore gives you on average, I'd say the potential risk of nothing is to help balance the gain of multiple resources.

Last thoughts:

I don't think the game was really designed around the medium game. Others have mentioned how underwhelming the short game is. I think the medium game gets you a feel for the game, but you have to play the long game after people know how to play to truly appreciate what's going on.
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Don D.
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DaviddesJ wrote:
curtc wrote:
There’s a very important question that relates to player’s approach to game theory and their goal in a game. Will players consider finishing last in a game that does not explode to be a better personal finish than the table all losing collectively? Or even one other player winning and the rest losing collectively? No one I play with would ever consider coming in last place (with all others finishing higher) better than everyone losing.


Suppose you enter a tournament and you pay a $1000 entry fee to play. The game winner gets $2000, and each of the other players get $500 back (in a 4-player game). But if "everyone loses" then the house keeps all the money. You couldn't find any way to convince yourself that you would rather have $500 than $0? And none of your friends could either?


This, I think, is key. And to make the analogy even better...change "get back $500" to "win $500"
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Jason Rupp
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dond80 wrote:
barbanera wrote:
Very nice review, congrats. I wanted to add my 2c to the discussion.

Firstly, to anyone planning on selling this: if you are at all into solitaire games, then please give the solo expansion a try. Archipelago as a solo game is really really good.

Secondly, as a multiplayer game I completely concur that - with the rules as written - it has all the major issues you mention and more (hidden objectives, low scoring, too many ties..). And, yes, I must admit that I only played once multiplayer (and we left out the Separatist).. but one can see all the various problems right away.

However, I think the game theme, components, mechanics, scope etc is very interesting and novel and should not go to waste and end up constrained to solo play. I think there is a great multiplayer game there, it just need a sligthly revised rulebook, or call it variant.

From my experience with the solo expansion, I think the designer made it too darn difficult. Either that or I am a terrible player (most likely, actually). Just as a quick example consider that there is a scenario where you are supposed to make 75 florins in like 6 turns. Starting with just one lone guy on a island, no ships. And each turn you have to buy an evolution card and turn two others.

Winning conditions are so tight and difficult that it makes me think the multiplayer game suffers from the very same reasons: rules as written are too strict. They just need to be relaxed a bit to make it a enjoyable multiplayer game.

IMHO, the game sees way too little cash flow and the export market is way too difficult to deal with. The Separatist should also be checked, maybe by having him win only if he scored a certain amount of VPs (from the public trend card) or something.

Consider for example:

1) giving an explorer token even if you fail to explore;

2) removing bidding for turn orders and moving first player token around, or giving back the money for losing bids.. (but I would just completely remove all bidding and negotiations as they make the game way too long);

3) giving a VP for every good spent from behind your screen in crisis resolution;

4) start with 1 good per type in the export market (similar to the domestic market).

And more..


#1 would create imbalance with the objectives
#3 would dilute the vp from the hidden cards too much

I could see #2 and # 4 perhaps.


A better solution for #1 would be to give a player a wildcard resource (maybe a navigation tile that is stuck on the wildcard side... might be hard to prevent cheating though). This way, it wouldn't mess with the explore VP card too much.
 
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Curt Carpenter
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Kaermo wrote:
When you realize that you have a separatist amongst the group you don't only have to prevent the rebellion level from going up in the crises but you have to seek opportunities to lower it and to limit his options.

So you need to get cards which allow you to lower the rebellion level and you must see to it that the separatist doesn't get any cards like the thief or the assassin which he can use to further raise the rebellion level.

The "you" in these paragraphs will lose (i.e. not win). Either to the separatist, or to "him" who didn't do what you say when the score is totaled. Not everyone needs to (or can) buy a card at every opportunity to reduce rebellion. And if/when they do, they are effectively throwing their money for the card (and possibly its usage) into the garbage can, relative to the other players who didn't buy the cards.
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Curt Carpenter
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DaviddesJ wrote:
curtc wrote:
There’s a very important question that relates to player’s approach to game theory and their goal in a game. Will players consider finishing last in a game that does not explode to be a better personal finish than the table all losing collectively? Or even one other player winning and the rest losing collectively? No one I play with would ever consider coming in last place (with all others finishing higher) better than everyone losing.


Suppose you enter a tournament and you pay a $1000 entry fee to play. The game winner gets $2000, and each of the other players get $500 back (in a 4-player game). But if "everyone loses" then the house keeps all the money. You couldn't find any way to convince yourself that you would rather have $500 than $0? And none of your friends could either?

Yes, attaching real money to outcomes would definitely change our motivations. Only pretending to do so would not.
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David desJardins
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curtc wrote:
Yes, attaching real money to outcomes would definitely change our motivations. Only pretending to do so would not.


Why do you think that is? It seems really strange to me. You don't have any trouble understanding that 1st place is better than 2nd place, so why is it so hard to understand that last place is better than everyone loses?

The game designer determines what the ranking of potential results is. It's part of the game design. If the design is based on the idea that being last in a winning group is still better than being in a losing group, but the players insist on playing as if that's not so, then it's no surprise that the game can't work properly. It's as if everyone decided they would rather be 3rd than 1st.
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MitchellW wrote:
#1. Players contributing means their guys can do stuff this turn. letting all your guys sleep and do nothing seems pretty weak.

I addressed this in one of my replies above. It's mainly an issue for red crises, where it doesn't matter which meeples are accounted for.

MitchellW wrote:
Temples are a major source of contributing without contributing.

At a large opportunity cost. Unless that scoring objective is in play. And chances are it's not, unless you have it, or see someone else building temples.

MitchellW wrote:
Playing with the Benefactor as an additional trend every game might help people learn to deal with the idea of negotiating for letting your dudes be active.

As I mentioned, we did that in our last two games, in addition to one more Trend card. Maybe it would work better with only the Benefactor.

MitchellW wrote:
I personally like the committed blind bidding. It tends to discourage people who really don't care from bidding as they are at high risk for low gain. Having to guess how much to bid to outbid the other guys is enjoyable. If you consistently make the wrong guess you should either be betting 0 more often, or trying to gauge better.

The difference between first and second place in the bid is huge. If you think it's fun to bid $4 while someone else bids $5, then lose your whole bid, and then be selected to go last (after players who bid 0) is enjoyable, then I guess we just have completely different ideas of what's fun.

MitchellW wrote:
I think a glossary and a rules summary at the back would have been a major improvement. Having to wade through the rules to find the one sentence you need is weak.

Strongly disagree. Glossary would have been worthless. It's the details that matter, and they're not there in the rules, even when you look in the right place.

MitchellW wrote:
Minor Issue #3:
This can be mitigated by diversifying the areas you have explored. Given how much each explore gives you on average, I'd say the potential risk of nothing is to help balance the gain of multiple resources.

A) You start in one hex. If you fail to successfully explore from there, you're behind. If you spend actions moving to other hexes first, you're behind.
B) I'm all for slapping the wrist of gamers who take big risks and fail, but exploring does not feel like it should be a big risk. Especially since it usually succeeds.
In any case, this issue doesn't really affect my feeling toward the game, as I'm already perfectly happy with my house rule of keeping the explorer token.

MitchellW wrote:
I don't think the game was really designed around the medium game. Others have mentioned how underwhelming the short game is. I think the medium game gets you a feel for the game, but you have to play the long game after people know how to play to truly appreciate what's going on.

It wouldn't even matter if we were playing the long game, since the rebels have always overtaken the colonists!
 
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Curt Carpenter
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DaviddesJ wrote:
curtc wrote:
Yes, attaching real money to outcomes would definitely change our motivations. Only pretending to do so would not.

Why do you think that is?

Because $500 is more valuable than winning a game played just for fun.

DaviddesJ wrote:
It seems really strange to me.

If I told you, "David, I'll you $10 for every singleton you play in a game of Tichu", would you play the same way you normally do? Now what if I said just pretend I'm going to pay you. Is that enough?

DaviddesJ wrote:
You don't have any trouble understanding that 1st place is better than 2nd place, so why is it so hard to understand that last place is better than everyone loses?

It's not about understanding. It's about agreeing with it. Which many players don't.

DaviddesJ wrote:
The game designer determines what the ranking of potential results is. It's part of the game design.

The designer may indicate a condition by which everyone loses, and a condition by which everyone "wins" in a ranked order. But it's still up to the players to determine their preference between coming in last and everyone losing collectively. Unless you're throwing money at the problem. Which the designer doesn't do.
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Olivier D.
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DaviddesJ wrote:
curtc wrote:
There’s a very important question that relates to player’s approach to game theory and their goal in a game. Will players consider finishing last in a game that does not explode to be a better personal finish than the table all losing collectively? Or even one other player winning and the rest losing collectively? No one I play with would ever consider coming in last place (with all others finishing higher) better than everyone losing.


Suppose you enter a tournament and you pay a $1000 entry fee to play. The game winner gets $2000, and each of the other players get $500 back (in a 4-player game). But if "everyone loses" then the house keeps all the money. You couldn't find any way to convince yourself that you would rather have $500 than $0? And none of your friends could either?


I think this analogy is flawed.
You don't invest nor walk away with anything meaningful from playing this game.

Consider this :

You enter a tournament for free, and the winner gets a chocolate and a pat on the back. Other players get a pat in the back, unless "everyone loses".

I can't imagine anyone in my game group favoring their own personnal loss over a collective loss in this case.

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