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Subject: Why this is the worst game in the Universe - a review. rss

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Claudio Hornblower
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Well THAT made you click here, don't you?!

Actually, this is *the* Grand Strategy Space Game of our era. I can't tell you how good this game is, for me of course: it's a 11+/10 for sure, easily in my top 3 of all time (with Mage Knight and... I dunno, CC:Europe or Android:Netrunner maybe).
But.
After a fierce squabble with a friend, I clearly see now why this game may not be that sexy for 2015, so in this review I'll try to do a different thing: instead of itemizing contents/rules etc. (head over other excellent reviews for that) I'll go through a brief analysis of the SE4x alternatives; then if you survived, I'll tell you why SE4x is so good - IF you are a certain kind of player.

Few notes about me and my background. I used to be a fierce Air Superiority player: fractional accel/decel points, fuel, missiles routes etc. to write down each turn, you know.

I've also played a lot of age of sail naval wargames, from Close Action to Fighting Sail; that's for the most obscure (I guess) wargames; then I've enjoyed many more WW2 titles from infantry level (CC:E, BoB) to big strategy (Barbarossa to Berlin), napoleonic, ACW (the map artwork in Battle above the Clouds is phenomenal)... the list is long.

As a kiddo one of my favourite computer games was an old MS-DOS game called Ascendancy.
I had only a demo (didn't have the money for a full game back then) but boy, how much fun I pulled out of that little program! In recent times, with way less free time available, I tried a little of Sins of a Solar Empire and that little kid in me rejoiced - the next logical thought was, make an educate guess: "Could it be that somewhere out there a tabletop game able to evoke that sense of grandeur exists for real?" - and my quest began.



A. ALTERNATIVES
Needless to say, this is nothing more than my personal opinions, for what it's worth, and I'm perfectly conscious that every gaming experience is the result of the party you're playing with, your fatigue level, the time constraint & many other factors. So your opinion may vary, that's perfectly legit, but also my opinion may vary, I'm not carving in stone (nobody can).

 
Twilight Imperium III is the magnus opus, the cornerstone, the master of the keys.
Space Opera civilization game at its best.
Lots of different good quality plastic ships.
Many modular hexes with planets, nebulae, supernovae, wormholes, asteroid fields ...or nothing!
10 different races with peculiar abilities.
Deep, engaging civilization experience: politic, trading, ground & space combat, tech trees etc.
Replayability is huge, each game is a journey. Just massive.
Takes ages to play. You can have a whole light-medium other game while performing the setup alone.
Really shines only with 4-5 (or more) players.
Race for VP keep you focused on what you have to do, not want you want to do.
Imperial Strategy card!!
Huge table space required! (That may be a pro if you wanna feel the epic, though)

Eclipse is the young outsider, the clever hybrid, the promised (euro) Space Odyssey for the masses.
Nice visual with beautiful hexes, plastic ships and lot of chits.
Clever, immediate bookkeeping with traditional euro wooden bits.
Full ship customization based on tech tree lets you build your fleet as desired.
Nice reaction capability even if you've passed your turn.
Simple, streamlined politic, colonization, ancient races... "A bit of everything".
Very reasonable playing time: you can have a whole experience in 45-60 min per player.
"A bit of everything... and a lot of nothing".
Luck: random exploration, random battles, random VPs from battles, random tech.
No sense of wonder, you're pushing cubes and the map is small (this worsens the luck factor).
Custom ships, but you tipically fight with 2-3 of them per side.
Ancient ships are all the same and can seriously block your initial expansion if you're not lucky enough.

Exodus: Proxima Centauri (2nd revised edition) is the TI3-light, the missed link, the ameritrash-y binge.
When a game round is called "Launch Weapons of Mass Destruction" you're pretty much at it.
Secret movement plotting is clever and lot of fun!
Interaction: a real, streamlined political phase with vote to pass laws; diversified enemy foes; combat focus.
Great round management, action/reaction cards easily help you focusing on what you can do.
Like in Eclipse, tech is good and progressive (you get a discount for focusing on the same tree).
Focused design allows for reasonable lengthy games (~45-60min/players).
Very few plastic ships!
No exploration, the map is set at the beginning. Lacks sense of wonder.
Fiddly tiny die on map, disproportionate space for ship customization (a simple increase in fighting power).
Banking, Trade, Mining... are dice rolling at its finest.
Open strategy also means that new players feel lost for the first games.

B. LESS PUBLICIZED ALTERNATIVES
I appreciate Empires of the Void for the specific planet properties and the multiple approach you can have: if you conquer the planet with diplomacy, you gain a special unique ship, very neat idea. Also the card combos lead to interesting decisions.

Omega Centauri has a very interesting Imperial AI that works against you, it's less focused on small sectors and ships like other titles, rather it talks about centuries of fights hence the diceless, abstract combat. The visual is very evocative imho, and it's quite clear that it takes another direction from the "classic" 4x design. Very interesting.

Hegemonic is the "thinking man's" space empire simulator. It's less about flashy missiles, cloaking devices and sci-fi gizmos and more about clever positioning, abstract and somewhat "mathy" conflict. It may sound dry and dull but I see lot of charm here also, I admire designers that don't go mainstream and think with their own head; of course if you're looking for a flashy thematic game, this clearly isn't.

I can't possibly cover every other title out there: there is the old AH Stellar Conquest, Throneworld, the solo Struggle for the Galactic Empire and the light 2-players only Imperial Stars II. And many more. But it's time to talk about the *one and only*, and excuse me for the bias.

C. WHY THIS IS THE BEST GAME IN (about!) THE UNIVERSE
It really all boils down in what you seek in a game. If I have to sum it up my perception of SE4x, I'd go with: "Roguelike". Bear with me.

Open: this is what catched me at first. The Author doesn't tell you what to do, you have to go figure for yourself. Outer space is tricky, you can meet Danger! and if you do so, ALL your ships in the area explode. Mmmh. I think I'll better use single cheap scouts to map the surrondings, don't you?

Huge: as we've seen, other games have ~20-40 hexes to explore. Here you have nearly 1 hundred more. Colonizable planets, barren planets, black holes, nebulae, asteroids, space dangers, supernovae, mineral resources to exploit, ancient space wrecks with lost tecnologies, magnetic fields that force you to lose direction... Each time you flip a System marker, it's always a marvel to discover. It's almost like a Christmas Advent CalendarTM.

Intuitive: you have tons of ships, but they all make sense. A Colony Ship colonizes your worlds. A Mining Ship hunts for minerals (and nebualae with the expansion). Bases are wonderful, static defense points. Colonies slowly (and automatically) upgrades. Merchants establish trade routes. You have, thanks God, only one resource, a single value: do you have 37 points? You can spend up to 37 points. No conversions, no trading sheeps for woods (ahem): all techs are available to everyone, the problem is "where to invest?", not "if I pick that I'll get a -2 discount" (where are we, shopping?!). If you've ever played a computer game, like Sins of a Solar Empire, everything will click in a nanosecond.

A Fleet is a Fleet: remember those games where you have 4, 5 ships to fight with? Those days are over. Here you have more than 10 different models, with 2-5 chits per model and up to 6 individual ships per chit... Battles between 20-30 ships per side are absolutely common, with gigantic capital ships taking the punishment and small corvettes maneuvering behind the enemy lines while swarms of fighters take down bit-by-bit the enemy forces in a silent death.
Solar systems are lost and firce skirmishes ignite at the empire borders while the real backbone of the fleets lead by the frightening Titans (in this expansion) make its way towards the heart of the enemy. Massive.

Hidden movement & bluffing: now listen. Sure, plastic models are wonderful. Eclipse ship pack is really exciting and probably if you own and appreciate the game, that will add A LOT.

But tell me how is really possible to know every single enemy ship's position, technology, resource etc. I told you, I am an Age of Sail huge fan; probably you all know the famous battle of Trafalgar where the british Admiral Nelson defeated the french-spanish coalition; that battle was the culmination of a long hide-and-seek, guessing and double-guessing ride in the seas.

This is exactly the feeling here. Decoys are a wonderful ideas and the hidden units in space is pure brilliant. The economic phase is far away and that huge pile of chits is approaching... Could it be for real? Or is it a cleaver bluff? This is one of the best part of this game; it's tense, it's strategic, it's one of the best justified use for counters instead of plastic minis ever. All hail to the Author for that!

Papersheet: yes it's a plus. Two reasons:

1) All your datas are firmly stored; no moving cubes, no rolling cilinders; it's written; and sorry for the people who can't use a little of algebra: 20 + 3 - 7... Once every 3 turns? Come on. Written schemes to follow are good.

2) All the important datas are written on a piece of paper. Do you see? This means, the system is just so easy to customize. You have only the 1st edition and you've read that in the expansion Jim has tweaked Mines tech, Move costs and Fast Cruisers ability? Well you don't have to technically buy the new product - you simply need a new piece of paper with the new updated stats.

You've come up with new interesting tech trees, like Alien Embassy, Plasma Torpedoes, Nuclear Mines and whatsnot? Simply add a line in the papersheet. Do you find that using the numeral markers is too much cumbersome on map? Don't use them. Write the numbers on... you got it... the papersheet. I don't know why it's so bad to write things down, but I guess that the recent game market has pushed tastes towards nicely shaped counters & eyecandy stuff so that's what we've got.

Complete but modular: this expansion adds so much but nothing is fundamental. React movement is too much? Don't use it until you're familiar with the core system. Land combat and Experience gives you chill? Ignore them, for now. You want to design a small scenario where only cloaking and carriers are allowed? Go for it!
The possibilities are almost infinite, the payback huge, the tactics and counter-tactics always fresh. Best bang for the bucks? By a huge margin above anything else.

You deserve your victory: main point here. Yes there's luck in the system drawing, luck in the dice rolling... but ultimately, the vast amount of time and space you have to face almost equalizes the chances. There is no turn limit, "the game ends when it just become interesting" climax. The gameplay is very well balanced, each tech has its pros and cons, and even when you're losing you have always a small chance to outwit your foe, at least for a one last pride & glorious showdown.

I don't see it: that's the one and only reason. This game is not sexy. The map is bland, the counters... are counters, numbers and letters with a skimpy grandpa sci-fi ink stain that with a gigantic and generous effort of imagination we can call "ship drawing". The hand-written bookkeeping comes from the 80'. The playtime is too much for what it's worth. The system is too unforgiving, I've lost all my fleet turning a single Danger! chit. There's no politic, only war. No trading. There aren't even real races, but only generic powers (in the expansion).

Really, this is the only point with every game, if it doesn't click and you can't see beyond, if you can't "suspend the disbelief", there's no point in going on. It's human. Twilight Struggle is not a clever Cold War model, it's only a random adding of numbers with arbitrary accidents. Battlelore is not a clash between 2 roaring fantasy forces, it's a luck, overproduced, dice/card fest. And so on.












I think those are one of the sexiest views in the world after my beautiful sweet half. Call me crazy, but that's it! [Photos courtesy of Derek Rowe(thegamer), (StAtiC9), Rory Colling(zerstorer88)]

D. SO WHAT?
Stephen King once said that he had mixed feelings about Shining movie: it was good, but from that moment on, people would always associate the face of Jack Nicholson while reading Torreance's exploits... Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but maybe not even a good one.

Because it limits the imagination.

Space Empires 4X doesn't limit your imagination: it elevates it to the Nth degree.
If this is not for you, that's fine, please to meet you and have a good day. But if it is, you can't go better than this. A numeric vote? Out of scale. Un-frameable. And now forgive me but I have to uncloak my warbirds in my friend's face arrrh
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Tor Iver Wilhelmsen
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By the way, you can get Ascendancy on tablets these days. I tended to play with the race that gets bonus technologies back when I played the PC game...
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Martin Larouche
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I really loved Space Empire 4X (though i found the expansion a tad too much for little gains).

What killed it for me is that ALL the games i've played ended up with this scenario:
- Everyone plays all alone in their own part of the galaxy, playing a solitaire game.
- Then someone gets the drop on his opponent, using a tech the other player was not prepared for.
- That player will lose 1 or 2 planets as a consequence, and many ships, before he can muster the techs and ships required to fend-off the invasion.
- ... by which time the invader will have pumped-up more units with a different tech that cannot be countered AND at a faster rate (your opponent having lost some planets to his income).
- the game just snowballs from there...

There never was a balanced clash between the forces in any of our games. One player will inevitably crush his opponent as soon as they meet.

I *feel* as if SE4X is just a solitaire game that ends as soon as players meet on the map and one gains a single victory. The rest is just going through the motions...

You need to play 4 players to mitigate this... but then the game takes forever...
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X Topher
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deedob wrote:


What killed it for me is that ALL the games i've played ended up with this scenario:
- Everyone plays all alone in their own part of the galaxy, playing a solitaire game.
- Then someone gets the drop on his opponent, using a tech the other player was not prepared for.
- That player will lose 1 or 2 planets as a consequence, and many ships, before he can muster the techs and ships required to fend-off the invasion.
- ... by which time the invader will have pumped-up more units with a different tech that cannot be countered AND at a faster rate (your opponent having lost some planets to his income).
- the game just snowballs from there...

There never was a balanced clash between the forces in any of our games. One player will inevitably crush his opponent as soon as they meet.





You might be interested in the upcoming 'Galactic Friendships' expansion. Everybody wins in a tie.

Really though, that description sounds exactly how a geographic empire would be built. You would need a technological/military advantage to gain territory successfully. Look at the ebb and flow of computer games like Starcraft/Warcraft. The race for that is what makes it exciting!
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Hesy
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gattz wrote:
Look at the ebb and flow of computer games like Starcraft/Warcraft. The race for that is what makes it exciting!


interesting perspective on those games.
how does it feel to get kicked in the nuts by everyone when you play online?
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Looking forward to the iOS version. Too much bookkeeping for me.
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Martin Larouche
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gattz wrote:
deedob wrote:


What killed it for me is that ALL the games i've played ended up with this scenario:
- Everyone plays all alone in their own part of the galaxy, playing a solitaire game.
- Then someone gets the drop on his opponent, using a tech the other player was not prepared for.
- That player will lose 1 or 2 planets as a consequence, and many ships, before he can muster the techs and ships required to fend-off the invasion.
- ... by which time the invader will have pumped-up more units with a different tech that cannot be countered AND at a faster rate (your opponent having lost some planets to his income).
- the game just snowballs from there...

There never was a balanced clash between the forces in any of our games. One player will inevitably crush his opponent as soon as they meet.





You might be interested in the upcoming 'Galactic Friendships' expansion. Everybody wins in a tie.

Really though, that description sounds exactly how a geographic empire would be built. You would need a technological/military advantage to gain territory successfully. Look at the ebb and flow of computer games like Starcraft/Warcraft. The race for that is what makes it exciting!


Yeah, but compare to other games. Like Axis and Allies or Shogun/Ikusa (and this is not a statement as to which is better between those and SE).
You might win in a few places... then lose here and there... then lose and win and lose and win until overall you win a bit more than you lose.
In Ikusa, even the player who keeps losing territory can still win if he manages to kill off the last army of an opponent.

In SE4X, it feels more like:
you lose, then you lose again here and there, then you manage to win, only to have lost in two other places during that time... then you lose again and the game is over.

Not saying it's more or less "realistic", but it makes it a more boring game.

IMO.

SE4X's system is incredible and overall it's still a good game. It's just one that feels frustrating and very much a solitaire game for the first half and one-sided during the second half.

... at least to me.

If you can manage a 4-way game and the several hours it take, then it's a better game (though i'd rather play something else less long).
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X Topher
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failtech wrote:
gattz wrote:
Look at the ebb and flow of computer games like Starcraft/Warcraft. The race for that is what makes it exciting!


interesting perspective on those games.
how does it feel to get kicked in the nuts by everyone when you play online?


Haha, it teaches you to protect your nuts if you don't want it to keep happening.
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It's almost like a Christmas Advent Calendar.


I love this comment. My mom came to America in the 50s. My grandparents always got me two Advents Calendars - one with chocolate and one with only pictures. I was in my late 20s before they stopped. Nice memory.

Quote:
- Then someone gets the drop on his opponent, using a tech the other player was not prepared for.
- That player will lose 1 or 2 planets as a consequence, and many ships, before he can muster the techs and ships required to fend-off the invasion.


That is one of the keys to the game. The power of tech and the ability to counter it is what makes the hidden elements of the game so cool. It is also the reason why the tech tree is so large. If it wasn't then everyone would max out their tech and there would be little hidden information even with faced down counters. This adds the suspense.

Understanding this is half the battle. This forces you to take space. You are NOT playing alone. A good SE player is watching his opponent very closely, from about the 3rd to 4th economic phase on. You want to be taking space and pressing because you want to hide your tech and reveal his. He has a nasty surprise? Find out about it in his area and it is no big deal. Let him bring that tech to your home system and then find out about it and you have lost.

If you play against a good player as if you are playing alone, you will always lose.

Get two really good players on a big map going at it and sometimes the game ends quickly, of course. Sometimes, the give and take is going to be much more balanced and the games become epic. In general, more deep space rows equals:

- Between good players - more back and forth
- Between one good and one bad player - more one sided - usually because the poor player does a slower/worse job building his economic system and is overwhelmed when they meet.



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Martin Larouche
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Jim Krohn wrote:

- Between good players - more back and forth
- Between one good and one bad player - more one sided - usually because the poor player does a slower/worse job building his economic system and is overwhelmed when they meet.


I'll agree that if the players are equally good, there will be more back and forth.

However, the odds of finding a Space Empire 4X player that is on the same level as me are close to zero in my area. So the game didn't grab my attention anymore since i noticed that.

... why keep insisting on playing a game they are going to badly lose until my opponents can get as good as to be on the level? There are so many games out there which don't require dozens of plays to have a remote chance of winning...

As i mentionned, i think your game is a very good one. It's a genious design and i still recommend it to many people.
However, one need be aware that it's a little like Chess. One player with better skill will win against less experienced ones... all the time. If there was even a remote chance of them being able to win, or not feel so hopelessly crushed, they might have a better time.

Imo, if the techs and techs counters were more permissive, it could make this one-sided problem go away. For example, if i attack with Raiders and my opponent cannot detect them, they still should have a chance to destroy them and not just see them attack their colonies with nothing they can do until they can get the tech AND the ships to counter them (not counting the time required to get them in position to attack them). Same with fighters, mines and all the different techs which require specific counters. As it is, the battles are too one-sided for my taste whenever you have a tech the other player isn't prepared for.

... and the fact that it has a serious snowball problem. Once you start winning, you keep winning.

I would play it again... but the chance of getting an opponent that's not a newbie to it are close to zero around here.

Ultimately, i traded my copy of Space Empire 4X (and it's expansion) and got a game that friends could hope to win at least once in a while (and me having the satisfaction of winning, where in SE4X it was beginning to be: 'hurray... i won again... whoopeedoo').

I'd love to see a game with similar elements, such as the hidden units, make it's way to a game that was less a one-sided affair... or at least one that didn't take as long. SE4X would be perfect for me as is if it was a 1 hour game. You can play a lot of games and get good quick like this... But at 3-hourish... for a game that is one-sided. It's too long.

If you can... please make SE:4X 2... with one hour play-time with a more newbie-friendly system that isn't prone to snowball effects. I'd get it in a hearbeat. A more streamlined version perhaps?
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Matt Irsik
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The best way to enjoy this game is with four players, then some of the things that have been talked about above don't seem to occur that often, if ever. You usually have to defend on multiple fronts and it can be tough to get the upper hand on your opponents, but it also makes the game go a bit longer than the suggested playing time. I also agree that the expansion seems at times as too much of a good thing and the ground units make for a longer playing time, plus huge stacks of counters all over the board! Having said all of that, however, we never shy away from a chance to play a game of Space Empires and we prefer it over the other 4x games that we've played.
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Martin Larouche
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mirsik wrote:
The best way to enjoy this game is with four players, then some of the things that have been talked about above don't seem to occur that often, if ever


This is my opinion also.

It's just that 4 players SE4X is a long game (and i have less desire to play those than i did some years back).
With 2, the time is more manageable. But it suffers as discussed above.
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deedob wrote:
Jim Krohn wrote:

- Between good players - more back and forth
- Between one good and one bad player - more one sided - usually because the poor player does a slower/worse job building his economic system and is overwhelmed when they meet.


I'll agree that if the players are equally good, there will be more back and forth.

However, the odds of finding a Space Empire 4X player that is on the same level as me are close to zero in my area. So the game didn't grab my attention anymore since i noticed that.

... why keep insisting on playing a game they are going to badly lose until my opponents can get as good as to be on the level? There are so many games out there which don't require dozens of plays to have a remote chance of winning...

As i mentionned, i think your game is a very good one. It's a genious design and i still recommend it to many people.
However, one need be aware that it's a little like Chess. One player with better skill will win against less experienced ones... all the time. If there was even a remote chance of them being able to win, or not feel so hopelessly crushed, they might have a better time.

Imo, if the techs and techs counters were more permissive, it could make this one-sided problem go away. For example, if i attack with Raiders and my opponent cannot detect them, they still should have a chance to destroy them and not just see them attack their colonies with nothing they can do until they can get the tech AND the ships to counter them (not counting the time required to get them in position to attack them). Same with fighters, mines and all the different techs which require specific counters. As it is, the battles are too one-sided for my taste whenever you have a tech the other player isn't prepared for.

... and the fact that it has a serious snowball problem. Once you start winning, you keep winning.

I would play it again... but the chance of getting an opponent that's not a newbie to it are close to zero around here.

Ultimately, i traded my copy of Space Empire 4X (and it's expansion) and got a game that friends could hope to win at least once in a while (and me having the satisfaction of winning, where in SE4X it was beginning to be: 'hurray... i won again... whoopeedoo').

I'd love to see a game with similar elements, such as the hidden units, make it's way to a game that was less a one-sided affair... or at least one that didn't take as long. SE4X would be perfect for me as is if it was a 1 hour game. You can play a lot of games and get good quick like this... But at 3-hourish... for a game that is one-sided. It's too long.

If you can... please make SE:4X 2... with one hour play-time with a more newbie-friendly system that isn't prone to snowball effects. I'd get it in a hearbeat. A more streamlined version perhaps?


It seems as if you are making a point AGAINST a game that rewards skill and experience. Why not discuss your strategies with opponents? My friends and I always discuss our options and thoughts after a game. For me anyway, that's a highlight of the hobby; gaining procedural insight in to the minds of my peers as well as the game designer. "Winning" isn't that important.
There is the old adage, "one cannot get better unless they face an opponent of superior skill." With the addendum of sharing those winning tactics, I think this may apply here.
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gattz wrote:
deedob wrote:
Jim Krohn wrote:

- Between good players - more back and forth
- Between one good and one bad player - more one sided - usually because the poor player does a slower/worse job building his economic system and is overwhelmed when they meet.


I'll agree that if the players are equally good, there will be more back and forth.

However, the odds of finding a Space Empire 4X player that is on the same level as me are close to zero in my area. So the game didn't grab my attention anymore since i noticed that.

... why keep insisting on playing a game they are going to badly lose until my opponents can get as good as to be on the level? There are so many games out there which don't require dozens of plays to have a remote chance of winning...

As i mentionned, i think your game is a very good one. It's a genious design and i still recommend it to many people.
However, one need be aware that it's a little like Chess. One player with better skill will win against less experienced ones... all the time. If there was even a remote chance of them being able to win, or not feel so hopelessly crushed, they might have a better time.

Imo, if the techs and techs counters were more permissive, it could make this one-sided problem go away. For example, if i attack with Raiders and my opponent cannot detect them, they still should have a chance to destroy them and not just see them attack their colonies with nothing they can do until they can get the tech AND the ships to counter them (not counting the time required to get them in position to attack them). Same with fighters, mines and all the different techs which require specific counters. As it is, the battles are too one-sided for my taste whenever you have a tech the other player isn't prepared for.

... and the fact that it has a serious snowball problem. Once you start winning, you keep winning.

I would play it again... but the chance of getting an opponent that's not a newbie to it are close to zero around here.

Ultimately, i traded my copy of Space Empire 4X (and it's expansion) and got a game that friends could hope to win at least once in a while (and me having the satisfaction of winning, where in SE4X it was beginning to be: 'hurray... i won again... whoopeedoo').

I'd love to see a game with similar elements, such as the hidden units, make it's way to a game that was less a one-sided affair... or at least one that didn't take as long. SE4X would be perfect for me as is if it was a 1 hour game. You can play a lot of games and get good quick like this... But at 3-hourish... for a game that is one-sided. It's too long.

If you can... please make SE:4X 2... with one hour play-time with a more newbie-friendly system that isn't prone to snowball effects. I'd get it in a hearbeat. A more streamlined version perhaps?


It seems as if you are making a point AGAINST a game that rewards skill and experience. Why not discuss your strategies with opponents? My friends and I always discuss our options and thoughts after a game. For me anyway, that's a highlight of the hobby; gaining procedural insight in to the minds of my peers as well as the game designer. "Winning" isn't that important.
There is the old adage, "one cannot get better unless they face an opponent of superior skill." With the addendum of sharing those winning tactics, I think this may apply here.


I agree... However... and that's strictly imo... such games that reward skill and experience are better suited to games that i could play a lot of and that are quick to play. Go, Chess, many other abstracts. If you lose, then you lose quick and can set up another game right away.

In a designer game that takes hours to play and that you can only bring to the table once a month... when you lose, you feel the agony of the loss for a long time, and can't get enough games to really get better at it.

Anyhow... as i said, the design of Space Empire 4X is genious. I really like the game from a design point of view. It's just one that appeal to a demographic i'm really not part of. That would be a group of players that can dedicate a large part of their spare time to that single game.
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Sins of a Solar Empire is perhaps my favorite 4X pc game of all time.
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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
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Chess? If you are playing speed chess sure, but if you are playing real chess, then no.
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Jim Krohn wrote:
Chess? If you are playing speed chess sure, but if you are playing real chess, then no.


For 99% of us common folks, Chess plays well under an hour... I've rarely seen or played Chess games that last more than 30 minutes. That's without a clock.

I'll agree on the pro level, it can take forever... i'm far from that level.

Anyhow, it's been ages since i played that game. It was just an example as i don't find abstracts all that captivating. Namely for the fact that the best players always win at those. It's the difference between losing all the time and having at least a chance to win, and it's my personal issue with Space Empire 4x.

Again, not a bad game (and i raved about it when i first got it). But it has that flaw (imo), that prevents it from seeing my table again.
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Jim Krohn wrote:
Chess? If you are playing speed chess sure, but if you are playing real chess, then no.


I'd say his assessment on how he values his time is valid and fair. I suppose I don't associate loss with agony, if you don't lose you're likely not learning.
Under a given quantity of time however, give me one epic game, vs. 4 abstracts any day.
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gattz wrote:
My friends and I always discuss our options and thoughts after a game. For me anyway, that's a highlight of the hobby; gaining procedural insight in to the minds of my peers as well as the game designer. "Winning" isn't that important.


I couldn't agree more. One of my favorite parts of games like this is discussing strategy afterwards!
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If Sun Tzu came back after 2,500 years as a game designer, this is the game he would invent. Virtually every principal in The Art of War is recreated and choosing not to practice them is a perilous venture. Enjoy. It's a classic.
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If Sun Tzu came back after 2,500 years as a game designer, this is the game he would invent. Virtually every principal in The Art of War is recreated and choosing not to practice them is a perilous venture. Enjoy. It's a classic.


Okay - this thread is filling up with awesome quotes. I, of course, own and have enjoyed that book. Thank you!

Next chapter will be the Tao of Designing.
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By the way, you can get Ascendancy on tablets these days. I tended to play with the race that gets bonus technologies back when I played the PC game...

I checked, but it's iOS only... shake

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Quote:
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It's almost like a Christmas Advent Calendar.

I love this comment. My mom came to America in the 50s. My grandparents always got me two Advents Calendars - one with chocolate and one with only pictures. I was in my late 20s before they stopped. Nice memory.

Amazing, thanks for sharing! When the time comes, kids love it as a concrete countdown reminder; we have a custom handmade version with canvas numbered pockets that we fill, each day at dawn in the appropriate space, with good quality hazelnuts chocolate. December is a good month

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A good SE player is watching his opponent very closely, from about the 3rd to 4th economic phase on. You want to be taking space and pressing because you want to hide your tech and reveal his.

Just chimed in to say exactly this but, of course, the Author knows it better We always fiercely guard our boundaries and, having a healthy dose of respect for each other's fiendishly skills, not a single opponent's move ever goes unnoticed and unweighted.

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Again, not a bad game (and i raved about it when i first got it). But it has that flaw (imo), that prevents it from seeing my table again.

It looks like this is a game for you, but you don't have the right party to ensure you an appropriate level of challenge; that's a bit sad
A non-wargamer friend saw the back of the manual and after a while asked me: "What does it mean, DRM? It's not defined anywhere."

Of course this is a wargame and requires some knowledge, but it's a clever one and I believe you can use its modular nature to make it palatable and to explain that you don't win with pure brute force, but with a solid economy, a strong recon/intelligence and by forcing the enemies to change their priorities.

Maybe you could teach it to your friends with small strategy focused scenarios? For example, a pure Colony management without MS pipelines, then the importance of exploiting minerals, nebulae etc. Once that the economy is acquired, you can move on explaining combat pieces, maybe capping the Hull size at 3, then 4 etc. One small bit at a time, with patience.

I play it quite regularly with a friend (not the Eclipse's fan I've had a chummy fight with - and gave the cue for writing this review!) but I understand that if you're not used to the required way of thinking, it can be daunting: because you don't get the implication of what's happening, and like you say, you focus on your solitaire management until, hoopla!, there are fireworks everywhere. Of course I'm far from being a perfect gamer so this applies to me, too.

For example if I keep seeing that my opponent moves only 1 area at a time in the ~5th economic cycle, now I'm highly suspicious. I badly lost a game where he used this strategy then suddenly rushed his blips 2 hexes/phase, getting past my trudging fleet and crushing my outposts before I could reach - he kept his Move 3 tech secret, you know. That bluffy little punk.

To me, a game that allows you to surprise your foes with a mix of always fresh strategies is definitely worth the time required arrrh

And btw Chess could end in 10 seconds you know:
White: pawn in f3
Black: pawn in e5
W: pawn in g4
B: queen in h4, mate

Learning how and why takes way more than 10 seconds (and again, very well worth it!)

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I suppose I don't associate loss with agony, if you don't lose you're likely not learning.
Under a given quantity of time however, give me one epic game, vs. 4 abstracts any day.

This.

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Virtually every principal in The Art of War is recreated and choosing not to practice them is a perilous venture.

And this.
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Finding enough good players within easy commuting distance is always a problem but the Space Empires Vassal community is alive and very well and always looking for more players.

I only rarely open the box but I ALWAYS have at least one Vassal game going these days.
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Just saw this thread and couldn't resist jumping in, even if I'm a little late.

Gwal wrote:
If Sun Tzu came back after 2,500 years as a game designer, this is the game he would invent. Virtually every principal in The Art of War is recreated and choosing not to practice them is a perilous venture. Enjoy. It's a classic.


This.

For those complaining about the "snowball" effect this game has, it actually is a pretty realistic representation of war. Wars are really won before shots are fired, because they are truly decided at the geopolitical level, not on the battlefield.

The romantic idea of war is like Star Wars, where one or two strategic battles decides everything and the economic stature of a faction has no defense against it. In reality, strong geopolitical states can take a hit or two and rebound easily.

In World War II, the US got hit hard during the early months by Japan and lost a lot, that is until the manufacturing engine got going into gear. On the other hand, Germany only had an economy designed for a quick war, it didn't have the industrial "meat" to sustain things for a long drawn out conflict, and they collapsed quickly once they ran out of gas (literally).

In many SE:4x games the game is practically over after the first battle or two because everyone at the table knows nobody can match the other side's power. It's like 100 glass cannons going against a boulder. Even if the latter side isn't exactly "war ready", they're still basically unstoppable once it starts rolling.

I still think SE:4X is capable of generating matches where both sides are relatively equal, but that wouldn't be the norm.
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lumin wrote:
The romantic idea of war is like Star Wars, where one or two strategic battles decides everything and the economic stature of a faction has no defense against it. In reality, strong geopolitical states can take a hit or two and rebound easily.


I believe Disney is about to change that (so the Empire has not fallen after all). Even though I think the death of the emperor was a major blow not so easy to rebound.
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