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Subject: Fixing Fugger, Welser, Medici rss

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Rob Derrick
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White Rock
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Fugger, Welser, Medici
This is the most unusual of all Doris & Frank games and a very rare game -- only 1000 copies were made, and because of the controversial nature of the game, it is unlikely that there will ever be more.

I've played twice now, and my opinions are still the same -- it is a very intriguing game, and it does engage the players immensely for a while. But ultimately, it does take too long, and eventually one or two of the players who see no chance of victory in sight will tire of the experience. I think that what it needs is some modifications and streamlining. I believe that, even at up to four hours, it would be a great game. It is the fifth and sixth hour that eventually erode the experience. And I believe that with a few adjustments to the game mechanics themselves, and especially to the general groupthink, we may be able to speed up the game and streamline the play.

How to fix it:
Since I am the preacher in the wilderness for FWM, I will say that I think that it suffers from trying to do too much too well. Being a bit too realistic in it's goals, it gives too rich an experience at first. If it ended sooner, you'd think, "But I've hardly done anything yet!" But much later, after struggling for several hours to claw your way up into nobility and still only see your goal from a distance is frustrating.

The Good Parts:
§ the realism of the calendar, the goods markets, the realism of the trading representatives and the perils of travel, the slim price margins in a competitive market, the events, the auction mechanism, the nobility table perks
These are the parts of the game I really enjoy, and what for me make it a good game. If other players have other parts that they have especially liked, do post replies or email me.

Conversely --
The Bad Parts:
§ the pain of the robbers and the dangers of travel, the auction mechanism, overly competitive group think, the speed up the nobility table, the dice-bookkeeping of travel.
Again, if any other players have other suggestions for these categories, let me know.
One at a time, here are some ideas for fixing these problems.

- overly competitive groupthink
This one especially struck me the last time I played. I think that one of our most pernicious problems was that we let the markets of Europe play us, rather than us playing them. It was even strongly suggested in the rules that players could reap mutual profits by trading with each other, and yet not once in the game did any of us even think of doing that.
Now, if one player by chance found himself alone in a market, then of course it was a given that he would simply get the best price for the goods, either buying or selling. And a couple of times, One player and I mutually agreed to "fix" prices at the markets by agreeing ahead of time on a mutually beneficial split. However, once there was a third or fourth player in the market, we suddenly became cutthroat and competitive, often buying at such high prices or selling at such low prices in order to cut out our opponents from any profit. So much that our own profits shrank to practically nothing. And the competition for the Noble Customers was especially fierce, so that, for myself, I watched my net worth barely rise above my starting worth. All at the price of clawing our way up the nobility table. I think that if we, as the Great Trading houses of Europe, engaged in more cooperative competition, we could all have profited much more. Of course, as in any game with deal making, sometimes the deal making will break down, and then the daggers will come out. But I believe we could all have profited immensely simply by working out beneficial deals amongst ourselves first, and then taking our "price fixing" to the market. And, the deal making can actually be done, most times, before the market even comes up on the calendar, so that when the time does arrive, it is simply a matter of keeping the deal, quickly verifying that all the players in the deal are still "cooperating", then quickly do the transaction and move on. "Defecting" on the deal should always remain a possibility, although I think a much better player technique is to either decide to deal and fix prices, or to force a closed auction. Classic Prisoners Dilemma -- defectors should always understand the immense risk to their credibility.

- the auction mechanism
Ok, so now that we are spending more time fixing prices, the auction simply becomes an "I get, you get, you get..." operation. There will be times when one player will want to undercut their opponents deeply. The problem with the auction was that this was where much of the game time was spent, that the cutthroat bidding was the norm and not the exception, and the time it takes it was especially painful for the players not involved. Price fixing as above can fix part of it, but when cooperation breaks down, you still have to come back to the secret bids. However, if you have already agreed that you can't agree on a equitable split, you can still prepare for the upcoming auction before it arrives, while other players are taking their turns. If players can be somewhat diligent about this, then when the "day" arrives, it will still simply be a matter of revealing the bids and determining who gets what, and some quick payouts or payments, and you're on you're way again. I think that if players spend whatever downtime they have ensuring that they are ready for their upcoming markets, then that, along with the above cooperative deals, could easily cut up to two hours from the game.

- the speed up the nobility table
Part of the problem of this would automatically be alleviated by the cooperative deal making above. Especially if all players realize that if they cooperate, they will all achieve their goals more quickly. Whenever players are at a Noble customer, just agreeing to let each player have at least one guaranteed sale would help everyone. There of course will be times later when helping your opponents is not in your best interest, but especially early on, keeping everyone fluid and steadily increasing their net worth, and moving quickly up the nobility table, will be an ultimate benefit to all. Remembering that there will be time to crush your opponents later should make all players more charitable now. Remember also that like all deal making games, you try to leverage your advantage wherever possible, and take every gift you can grab when you have less advantage. Such manipulation of the economics of Medieval Europe cannot be more historical.

- the dice-bookkeeping of travel
Personally, I do not like the dice-roll for travel mechanism. I may be the only one, but I found it fiddly and players seemed to have a hard time remembering to do it, and still a hard time seeing the risk and consequences. Not in a big way, but it still seemed to be a place where some other way of doing it could be an improvement. My idea here would be to create a deck of travel event cards, perhaps 36 to represent all the 2-die combinations, plus one reshuffle card to keep the essential randomness. Then, each card would have 3 possible outcomes depending on whether you tried to move 1, 2, or 3 spaces. And now some more interesting events could be created, and along with it some more interesting outcomes.

- the pain of the robbers and the dangers of travel
On the other hand, most of the other players felt that the robbers were the worst random risk, and that their effect was too overwhelming. I didn't feel it that strongly, since there was a bribing mechanism built in. It seemed strange to me that we were so willing to take these huge losses in the markets, essentially robbing from each other, but unwilling to spend the same amount of money to avoid roadside thievery. However, it was indeed a steep price to pay if the thieves take your bribe and still rob from you. So I propose that, rather than removing thieves from the stock deck, that instead the bribe amount be adjusted: A 100fl bribe buys +2 to the dice roll instead of +1. A bribe of 500fl and they automatically go away. A little less and the risk is severely lessened though not eliminated. This keeps thieves on the road to keep travel exciting, but keeps them from robbing your enjoyment of the game.

So, those are my first ideas for improving FWM. If anyone has any comments, suggestions, further improvements, or revilements, please let me know.
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Josh Darcy
United Kingdom
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While I agree to some extent about the robbers, in my sessions we have always been way more cooperative and so managed to get through the game in a manageable time.

One change that I always use is to make the travel dice roll one safer, so that one can always travel the minimal amount without danger of breakdown.
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Ugur Dönmez
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robmderrick wrote:
Fugger, Welser, Medici
This is the most unusual of all Doris & Frank games and a very rare game -- only 1000 copies were made, and because of the controversial nature of the game, it is unlikely that there will ever be more.

Could you clarify what aspect of the game is considered "controversial"? I can't think of anything here.
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upandawaygames.com
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Controversial because most of their other games are universally praised, but this one, not so much.
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