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Subject: Official/Designer Approved Variant rss

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g colhoun
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Reposted here to make it easier to find.


From the designers:

During the development of the game, our aim was to create a game that was easier to grasp than Zhanguo, mainly after we received some feedback about ZhanGuo being a bit too complex for the first games. The Telegraph strategy was intended to be an easier approach for first-time players to compete with more experienced players. It is possible to have high scores without maximizing the Western Union, but this is harder to do and requires a more strategic use of the meeples and of the trains.

Saying that, we are aware that a number of people feel the Telegraph strategy is a bit too good, and recently saw someone proposed a variant to make it more difficult by increasing the costs of the Western Union Performance track at 500-500-1000.

We actually had that same version during the development of the game, but a number of our testers felt it was too difficult. And because we wanted this part of the game to be an easier strategy, we reduced the costs gradually during testing.

If you feel that the Telegraph strategy is too easy, we suggest you apply that variant. It actually just makes the game more challenging but it doesn’t change the main structure and the spirit of the game. So it is approved by the authors

Actually, during the development, we started to test a more complex version of the whole performance system, but we felt it not fitting with the aim of having an easy to grasp game as it requires more calculations. So, we thought to develop it as an expansion and we are actually working on it – and other expansions ideas as well, so stay tuned

Stefania & Marco
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Jeff Collins
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Has anyone tried this variant? I am interested in the game but am cautious about the telegraph strategy being over powered. Would like to hear thoughts on how variant modifies the game.
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Thomas Leitner
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I tried it last night in a four player game. It worked like a charm, making a headlong rush into WU less palatable, and opening up lots of other strategies. I, for instance, was finally able to fulfill a level D contract, getting a total of 162 points for contracts, and ending the game with only three WU offices.

Others still went heavily into WU, but the added costs constrained their other activities.

This is no longer a variant for me.
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Kevin C.
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So, then, the costs go from $50-$50-$100 to $500-$500-$1000? That's a big leap.

I've only played once and it was a rather casual game, so I didn't notice an issue with the telegraph track. I'll put this in the back of my head, though, in case it does become an issue.

Kevin
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Jonas Åkerblom
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I for one would really like to have an expansion that makes the game more complex. Zhanguo has a good weight and I dont see why this can't be of the same complexity. Zhanguo is still just a medium heavy game.
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Mike White
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I've now seen an updated rules pdf with this and the milestone tweak as official variants. Good stuff! It may not seem like much but to me it undermines a game experience if I feel I have to change from what the designers intended.

Now I'm interested to hear whether people use one or both of the tweaks. For me I think I'll use WU track only. My concern with being able to take any milestone is that players can hold off on completing them longer, then just pick the ones that suit. With knowledge of the milestones it becomes a very different game. Consider, playing with them all face up in rows. You can work out the best chain and just action it.

Interested to hear from people that have tried this.
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Stefano Marchetto
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I tried it yesterday in a 4P game against experienced players.
The game flow doesn't change a lot. WU strategy is still dominant even if it scores less points, because new multiplier track forces you to use the Sell action here and there.
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Mike White
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Did you use just the track tweak or the milestones tweak as well?
 
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Stefano Marchetto
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We tried both tweaks at the same time.
The track tweak seems a must have to me, it limits the WU strategy by forcing those players to spend a couple of turns selling pieces. Before the variant I saw players never having to sell and reach 300+ points, just making good deals and/or flipping coin trains.
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Mike White
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Yeah I agree. I'll never understand why they thought WU needed to be a viable strategy in its own right. But I've enjoyed the game with the tweak to the track.

I don't think I'd use the milestone variant. I can see it leading to no promoting until you have what you need for multiple synergised milestones. Youd preserve workers to use their benefits for much longer and then spend a few turns triggering them one after other. The only reason to promote early would be to get a milestone before someone else. The game as bought is a careful balance of preserving workers vs getting early visibility on milestones and I wouldn't want to lose that element.

 
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Darrell Goodridge
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Having played once now, the two people who focused on WU got 1st and 3rd place, whereas the other two, who did milestones and different tracks got 2nd and 4th. First was only 9 points ahead of second, and 30 points ahead of last, although the winner had never played before and didn't know the rules going in. So I was thinking maybe I'd try 250-250-500 (5x) for my next play, and see if that is indeed too light still. I do agree that 50-50-100 is a pittance.
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Hanco H
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genoan wrote:
Reposted here to make it easier to find.


From the designers:

During the development of the game, our aim was to create a game that was easier to grasp than Zhanguo, mainly after we received some feedback about ZhanGuo being a bit too complex for the first games. The Telegraph strategy was intended to be an easier approach for first-time players to compete with more experienced players. It is possible to have high scores without maximizing the Western Union, but this is harder to do and requires a more strategic use of the meeples and of the trains.

Saying that, we are aware that a number of people feel the Telegraph strategy is a bit too good, and recently saw someone proposed a variant to make it more difficult by increasing the costs of the Western Union Performance track at 500-500-1000.

We actually had that same version during the development of the game, but a number of our testers felt it was too difficult. And because we wanted this part of the game to be an easier strategy, we reduced the costs gradually during testing.

If you feel that the Telegraph strategy is too easy, we suggest you apply that variant. It actually just makes the game more challenging but it doesn’t change the main structure and the spirit of the game. So it is approved by the authors

Actually, during the development, we started to test a more complex version of the whole performance system, but we felt it not fitting with the aim of having an easy to grasp game as it requires more calculations. So, we thought to develop it as an expansion and we are actually working on it – and other expansions ideas as well, so stay tuned

Stefania & Marco


How about skipping the points for telegraph houses on both sides of the point markers? My wife and I played this above variant, but still found the WU strategy dominant for winning the game.
 
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Tony Kotler
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Any link to this variant?
 
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Hardy
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Hanho wrote:


How about skipping the points for telegraph houses on both sides of the point markers? My wife and I played this above variant, but still found the WU strategy dominant for winning the game.


I agree with you and had the same idea (in addition to the 500/500/1000-variant)
Have you tried it yet?
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Hanco H
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Not yet, I played it for the first time yesterday with my wife. We ended up with both 139 points, but I had far more money and shares. In my experience, it didn't feel right that I had won. I had several houses on the Telegraph track, and moved up the WU performace track of course (using the 500,500,1000 rule as described above). My wife had 2 five cities connected and went up almost to the end of the right-most performance track. We tied almost on points for milestones​. She had more trains face up and did better on stations and the station track. Still I won doing only better then her on the Telegraph/WU track. It just would have felt more 'just' if I hadn't​ had the 13 points from the adjecent houses on the telegraph track and so lost by 13 points. We will try to skip these points next time and I will report about it here!

If you try it, please let me know too!

actaion wrote:
Hanho wrote:


How about skipping the points for telegraph houses on both sides of the point markers? My wife and I played this above variant, but still found the WU strategy dominant for winning the game.


I agree with you and had the same idea (in addition to the 500/500/1000-variant)
Have you tried it yet?
 
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Dave Heberer
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Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean that really got out of hand fast.
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Instead of ignoring the bonus points for placing WU next to each other, how about counting milestones as stations on the board for the middle bonus track?
 
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mfl134
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i7dealer wrote:
Instead of ignoring the bonus points for placing WU next to each other, how about counting milestones as stations on the board for the middle bonus track?


This would make the milestones worth up to 9 points extra each?
 
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Jeffrey
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I really want this game, but this issue with the WU track is holding me back.

Some people say the original printed costs for the WU track work fine. Then others say the revised costs are the way to go.

I know the designers approved the increased costs as a "variant". But this is not a variant to me. This is something that should be one or the other - whichever gives a balanced game. I am concerned that perhaps balance cannot be completely achieved here.

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Steve Valladolid
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Going all in on the Western Union track will use up all your buildings leaving very few to complete milestones. This is essentially forgoing one large group of points to gain a different group of points.

I haven't observed the Western Union strategy to be dominant in the games I have played.
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Hanco H
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i7dealer wrote:
Instead of ignoring the bonus points for placing WU next to each other, how about counting milestones as stations on the board for the middle bonus track?


Sounds a bit too much of a change. I suggested to ignore the adjecent houses because it acts on the WU strategy (which is the issue here), but not too much.

Obviously, different people, different opinions. But I think this game deserves to be played, this flaw aside it's really nice.
 
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E Thomas
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Shadowrydor wrote:
I am concerned that perhaps balance cannot be completely achieved here.



Complete balance renders a game pointless, because it ceases to matter what you do or when you do it. Decisions go the way of Monopoly.

I've played 7-8 times with a variety of players with original rules, with WU never clearly dominating. But it does matter what you do and when you do it. That's what's to like in modern games, right?

I would be willing to try with the variant, but I suspect it just shifts the decision space, perhaps making it less interesting. But I haven't tried it so I'm no authority.
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Hanco H
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wavedog98 wrote:
Shadowrydor wrote:
I am concerned that perhaps balance cannot be completely achieved here.



Complete balance renders a game pointless, because it ceases to matter what you do or when you do it. Decisions go the way of Monopoly.

I've played 7-8 times with a variety of players with original rules, with WU never clearly dominating. But it does matter what you do and when you do it. That's what's to like in modern games, right?

I would be willing to try with the variant, but I suspect it just shifts the decision space, perhaps making it less interesting. But I haven't tried it so I'm no authority.


True, it switches the decision space, namely to not go all in on WU but other strategies are evenly interesting again. But if you don't have this experience, then go with the original rules of course! The designers knew already from playtesting, but decided to remain with the low costs on the WU track, to make the game more accessible to new players.
 
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Adam Brocker
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Tried the variant this evening and it improved the game for me. Western Union was the one strategy in the game that required little effort to pull off with large rewards. Variant improved this for me in that it requires additional investment to make it work. Will not play without the variant.
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Hanco H
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Good to know it worked! What did you play, the official variant (500-500-1000 on WU track) or also ignoring the VP for adjecent houses on the telegraph track as discussed above?
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Adam Brocker
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Hanho wrote:
Good to know it worked! What did you play, the official variant (500-500-1000 on WU track) or also ignoring the VP for adjecent houses on the telegraph track as discussed above?


Just the 500, 500, 1000. Everyone still incorporated the WU offices into their strategies, but it wasn't their sole focus.

I like the VP for adjacent WU offices, as it adds another level of depth and tension to the choice as to which office to place. It also heightens the race element. Had to place a suboptimal station later in the game to claim 13 points. Can't see removing those.
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