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Subject: New starting VPs for the base game map rss

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Frank Heeren
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Starting with the upcoming TM App, we will change the concept of having the same VP for every faction at the start of the game to a system of different VPs based on the strength/weakness of a particular faction on a certain map.

Thankfully, we have access to thousands of results to come up with the new values due to Juho Snellman's website https://terra.snellman.net/
The new starting VPs reflect mainly the scores from 4p games, with a slight correction for 3p games, reducing the difference in their potential to a few points.

Following the TM App and after we have gained some experience, we will introduce the new VPs to the print products by and by. Probably, we will come up with a small new expansion for TM in 2018 and a game board showing the new VPs (base map and F&I) will be part of it. In addition we will provide a printable overview.

The new starting VPs for the base game map are:

VP FACTION
15 Darklings
16 Cultists
16 Engineers
19 Chaos Magicians
19 Mermaids
19 Nomads
19 Witches
20 Dwarves
20 Halflings
20 Ice Maidens
21 Riverwalkers
22 Shapeshifters
22 Swarmlings
22 Yetis
23 Acolytes
24 Dragonlords
25 Giants
27 Alchemists
27 Auren
33 Fakirs
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Rich P
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Interesting. Does this remove the need for auctioning off factions or is it to be used in addition to the auction?
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These number are completely biased: the only case, they would be correct, if the players' faction choosing function (what faction do I choose) would be the same for the "20 points for everyone" setting than in "this setting".

(Not completely realistic, but you can see the problem) Example: Let's suppose nomads can almost always score exactly 5 points more than fakirs. Then, people usually choose nomads over fakirs, and they win or lose by a small margin. In a few cases, fakirs can score better than nomads, so fakirs are chosen. However, this case is awful for yellow, therefore fakirs will lose by a large margin.

What is the true difference between fakirs and nomads? Less than 5 points. What statistics show us? 14 points, because when fakirs are better than nomads, yellow will lose by a huge margin.

I am aware, that the example is not completely realistic, and I know that if yellow is awful, than you can choose an other color. This is an example.

Other example: bad factions (giants, fakirs, aurens) are chosen for fun, so their margin are worse on average then their "true" margin.
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Henrik Johansson
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At last! Almost too good to be true. I guess this is as official as it gets. Now I will use my by-line for the last time.
Cato the Elder wrote:
Moreover, I consider that Fakirs should be buffed and Darklings nerfed.

It looks as if the Darklings are nerfed by -5, and the Fakirs buffed by +13. This is consistent with the diffs found by in the snellman site a long time ago.
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Shaun Cooley
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I think adding another rule like this needlessly complicates the game setup, and the points one faction can score are situational depending on more than just the map, but also on the other factions present in a particular game, the scoring tiles, etc.

The auction rules do a better job of balancing the faction strength at high level play, although even the potential 40 point differential is sometimes not large enough for the weakest faction in a particular setup to overcome. My only suggestion would be to eliminate the cap on the bidding.

Just put the winning bidder's score marker for the first faction at zero, and all other markers at whatever number of points were bid for the first faction. Then the remaining players complete the auction process, losing points equal to their bid, with the last faction losing no points.

That would also be able to balance the spade scoring tile being in the 5th or 6th round rather than the existing errata that it can't be there. Someone wants the halflings with that setup? Better be willing to pay up!

Note: I really like the points list you have provided! It is a great general guideline of relative strength to make it easier for people like me who are not total experts at Terra Mystica to use the auction rules in a meaningful way. I just don't think making it an official rule is the best choice when we already have the auction rules to adjust for faction strength.
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Sérgio N.
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Cool... What about for 2P? Will there be any further corrections besides those for 3P?...
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Matt Stokes
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benstylus wrote:
I think adding another rule like this needlessly complicates the game setup, and the points one faction can score are situational depending on more than just the map, but also on the other factions present in a particular game, the scoring tiles, etc.

The auction rules do a better job of balancing the faction strength at high level play, although even the potential 40 point differential is sometimes not large enough for the weakest faction in a particular setup to overcome. My only suggestion would be to eliminate the cap on the bidding.

Just put the winning bidder's score marker for the first faction at zero, and all other markers at whatever number of points were bid for the first faction. Then the remaining players complete the auction process, losing points equal to their bid, with the last faction losing no points.

That would also be able to balance the spade scoring tile being in the 5th or 6th round rather than the existing errata that it can't be there. Someone wants the halflings with that setup? Better be willing to pay up!

Note: I really like the points list you have provided! It is a great general guideline of relative strength to make it easier for people like me who are not total experts at Terra Mystica to use the auction rules in a meaningful way. I just don't think making it an official rule is the best choice when we already have the auction rules to adjust for faction strength.


In a tournament setting, I'd agree that auctioning is better. It only works if you are familiar with all the factions and their strengths (not easy for new to intermediate players) and if the players are of similar skill. This is a better solution for the APP in that you can just load the game and go!
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Shaun Cooley
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I think auctioning works well with expert players. But I think with having a list like this of average relative faction strength, auctions could work well with intermediate level players as well.

So it would really only benefit beginner players to have a rule setting your starting point totals. But then it gets complicated because it depends on the map. Also, at the beginner level, the imbalances between factions are less problematic, because they probably need a few games to really understand the flow of the game, and a few games with the same faction to really begin to see optimal ways of playing that faction.

But once they get to that point they're not really beginners anymore.
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HenningK
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Hey Frank, you are six days late!

Wait... this is serious?! I actually really dislike this change. It makes the game more complex and fiddly, is only relevant for hardcore tournament players, and already tells new players about the strength of the factions. New players who want to learn the factions and see which work well and which don't have it all spelled out for them already. Furthermore, it could be seen an open confession of the designer/publisher screaming "Sorry guys, we screwed up the balancing.", which might come across as negative to some people.

Also, I'm not even sure how these adjustments made on averages play out in practice. Is it possible that the Darklings now become unplayable in all but the most favoured setups?

As an official variant for tournament-style play, this is great. As a general rule change, it's clunky, non-elegant, and over-emphasizes a balancing problem that is only relevant in high-level play. It caters to a vocal minority and has the possibility to alienate more casual players. If you revise the base game in future printings, please consider declaring these changes as a variant for advanced play only.
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Shaun Cooley
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Indeed - the single biggest piece of evidence that this is not needed as a rule is right on the stats page at Snellman...

"Statistics computed from 63607 finished games."

If people really had a huge issue with faction imbalance, they wouldn't keep playing the game day after day, year after year.
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Pater Absurdus
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benstylus wrote:
Indeed - the single biggest piece of evidence that this is not needed as a rule is right on the stats page at Snellman...

"Statistics computed from 63607 finished games."

If people really had a huge issue with faction imbalance, they wouldn't keep playing the game day after day, year after year.


Ha! I may actually start playing this game again. The faction balance was a huge turn off for me.
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Chris Sandman
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Cato the Younger wrote:
Moreover, I consider that noone should be buffed and Alchemists nerfed.



Dont like it but thats just my opinion and those discussions will unfortunately never stop and last forever! (although their wasnt really a problem with s very few exceptions..)
However, In "highlevel play" we have a new tier with alchemists playing in godmode now^^
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Redward wrote:
benstylus wrote:
Indeed - the single biggest piece of evidence that this is not needed as a rule is right on the stats page at Snellman...

"Statistics computed from 63607 finished games."

If people really had a huge issue with faction imbalance, they wouldn't keep playing the game day after day, year after year.


Ha! I may actually start playing this game again. The faction balance was a huge turn off for me.


Like you, we might be able to get the game back in the rotation with 'balancing' starting VPs by faction. We only played about once a month, but couldn't get a game together any more because someone would end up with a 'weak' faction, get pounded, and not want to play it any more.

I think highly experienced players might not like this solution, but for people who don't play very often and can't value the factions/interactions properly for an auction, this is just what was needed.

I think this is a good solutions for everyone -- if you don't like the VP valuations, you don't have to use them
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Rafael Ramus
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Balancing has always been a huge factor in my group as well, that being the reason we houseruled this game a lot. I always think about posting our recent variants here, but I keep postponing it.
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Evan Beach
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for those that are highly ranked on snellman, whats your take on this? Good or bad?
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Greg W
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I'm not a fan...and I say that as someone that actively dislikes (and avoids as I can) the darkling-engineer domination of upper-level tournament play. But clearly the movement is in this direction, so I'll accept being outvoted
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Matthias M
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TheBeach0 wrote:
for those that are highly ranked on snellman, whats your take on this? Good or bad?

IMHO, the experts should use auctioning off the races at setup. Relative strength depends on a lot of factors: map, round bonus tiles, city bonus tiles, other factions in play. Only auctions can consider everything. Well. Theoretically, they can, but unfortunately, only experts knowning the game really well can use auctions as inteded, i.e. for finding a fair and correct price of something.

This brings me to the point of this posting. For me, this new list is not intended for experts. But it is just great for casual Terra Mystica players like myself! We finally have a reason to play with the Fakirs and we won't see the Darklings in 3 out of 4 games. That's great! Thanks to the thread starter for posting the list.
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Henrik Johansson
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TheBeach0 wrote:
for those that are highly ranked on snellman, whats your take on this? Good or bad?

Snellman himself has suggested almost this change himself: Re: Tournament Suggestion. And it was announced some time ago by the publisher: Re: Loon Lakes.

There is also a MEND issue: A lot of games happens to be between Mermaids, Engineers, Nomads and Darklings. See Re: Tournament Suggestion.
 
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C TK
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nan3000 wrote:


VP FACTION
15 Darklings
16 Cultists
16 Engineers
19 Chaos Magicians
19 Mermaids
19 Nomads
19 Witches
20 Dwarves
20 Halflings
20 Ice Maidens
21 Riverwalkers
22 Shapeshifters
22 Swarmlings
22 Yetis
23 Acolytes
24 Dragonlords
25 Giants
27 Alchemists
27 Auren
33 Fakirs


These changes are clearly based on low/mid level play (29021 games):
All games, original map, any final scoring, 4p:
Faction Wins Games Win % Average position Average score Average score difference
darklings 5395.17 16280 33.14 2.19 126.89 7.62
cultists 1735.00 5925 29.28 2.43 119.44 2.09
engineers 2345.17 8168 28.71 2.45 121.96 0.54
witches 2635.33 10261 25.68 2.49 119.30 -0.29
mermaids 2677.17 10527 25.43 2.48 120.66 0.29
chaosmagicians 3346.17 13296 25.17 2.50 119.29 0.54
riverwalkers_v5 73.00 295 24.75 2.35 121.40 3.31
nomads 3106.67 13135 23.65 2.52 118.30 -0.96
yetis 147.50 635 23.23 2.60 117.78 -3.23
dwarves 1133.17 5023 22.56 2.59 117.02 -2.08
halflings 1919.17 8653 22.18 2.60 118.34 -1.93
swarmlings 1877.17 8645 21.71 2.59 117.19 -1.75
icemaidens 127.33 595 21.40 2.56 120.52 -1.09
dragonlords 100.33 506 19.83 2.61 118.07 -1.78
shapeshiftersv5 15.50 79 19.62 2.91 105.56 -11.88
acolytes 52.50 275 19.09 2.79 113.18 -8.00
alchemists 870.00 4726 18.41 2.73 113.00 -5.46
auren 592.00 3386 17.48 2.74 109.97 -5.89
giants 678.83 4037 16.82 2.75 112.41 -5.73
fakirs 193.83 1637 11.84 2.93 108.91 -11.24


Games all players 1250+, original map, any final scoring, 4p (834 games):
Faction Wins Games Win % Average position Average score Average score difference
shapeshifters_v5 1.00 1 100.00 1.00 156.00 29.33
engineers 165.00 442 37.33 2.24 138.67 4.00
darklings 187.00 572 32.69 2.19 140.01 5.58
cultists 56.50 194 29.12 2.25 137.37 5.24
halflings 44.50 156 28.53 2.42 138.70 2.53
witches 75.00 284 26.41 2.45 134.69 0.08
yetis 5.00 19 26.32 2.58 134.53 -1.21
dragonlords 3.00 12 25.00 2.67 125.58 -7.47
alchemists 34.50 139 24.82 2.69 131.32 -2.93
swarmlings 34.00 164 20.73 2.80 129.63 -5.39
riverwalkers_v5 1.00 5 20.00 2.40 132.40 2.53
chaosmagicians 57.00 301 18.94 2.71 130.62 -3.95
mermaids 61.00 339 17.99 2.68 133.09 -2.88
auren 8.50 51 16.67 2.78 126.31 -5.21
nomads 73.00 442 16.52 2.66 132.48 -2.82
dwarves 15.00 96 15.63 2.74 131.01 -4.11
giants 8.00 67 11.94 2.97 127.69 -6.71
acolytes 1.00 9 11.11 3.11 128.11 -10.93
fakirs 3.00 31 9.68 3.23 128.90 -9.98
icemaidens 1.00 12 8.33 2.92 128.25 -8.39


There is a very clear skill gap with respect to Alchemists. As player skill increases, so too does win% and average score difference, and average score increases by a greater amount - both as an absolute and as a percentage - than every other faction except the Fakirs and Halflings.

I'm biased towards higher-level play, but I would argue that if a change such as this is going to be made, it should be based on the best play we have statistics for. I understand the sample size is smaller, but I think we have enough to objectively determine that some factions (most clearly Alchemists, but also Engineers and Halflings) are stronger than the above list indicates.

To really drive home this point, consider the difference between Nomads an Alchemists on the "1250+" lists. Their stats are nearly identical, except Alchemists win 33% more games (and, presumably, also come last in 33% more games since average position is the same). Yet Alchemists get a handicap of +7 and Nomads of -1. Why?
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Space Trucker
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Interesting news! Three thoughts:

1. Is this a rule change or an optional variant for the rules (like variable turn order or auctioning)? Personally I'd prefer a variant.

2. I read into your post that those are not fixed values, but more a point where a vp based balancing can start (e.g. based on the results from the app)? My gut feeling says that those values are pretty high, especially I agree with DieKrake that Alchemists look incredibly strong here. Was this rule change activly tested or is it mainly based on the "normal" games played and the assumption that players would play the same after this change - which may not necessarily be the case)?

3. I guess the terra.snellman community might be quite open to playtest such values and could quickly gather a huge number of test games to actually proof wether does numbers work well?
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Henrik Johansson
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I was looking in the Feuerland german forum for the new balance change, and saw "New Balance ..." as a title, but it turned out to be spam from the New Balance shoe company.
There was no mention of this new balance yet. I suppose it will appear eventually.
 
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Space Trucker
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sthrjo wrote:
I was looking in the Feuerland german forum for the new balance change, (...) There was no mention of this new balance yet. I suppose it will appear eventually.


Not very likely, when navigation to the Forum on the Feiuerland site one can read:
Quote:
Das Forum wird in Kürze deaktiviert...

Es gibt mittlerweile im Internet so viele Webseiten, die das so viel besser können als wir auf denen über unsere Spiele gesprochen wird. Wir machen lieber gute Brettspiele!

(the forum will be deactivated soon)
 
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Trey Chambers
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This change is better than nothing. I was really worried about how balance would be built into the app. This solves that without long and potentially tedious auctions. Or if they decided to not implement auctions that would be even worse, and the same races would get played over and over again.


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James Wolfpacker
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Consider that there are almost 300 players with ratings of 1250+ and almost 2300 players with ratings of 950-1150. Most of the experienced TM players who have never played online are in this 950-1150 range based on my own personal experiences and estimation. There are currently 4858 players rated on snellman (about 1800 more than last year, IIRC) which means that they have played at least 5 games with 3 or more players that do not include themselves.

The vp numbers are more geared towards the casual butterfly player that buys $500 worth of board games per year and feels the pressure to play a different one every time because, "I bought it, I need to play it!"

Even in a 4p auction game with regular table only TM players (last year when my rating was still around 1100) me taking a 13vp hit and the other players taking only a 0-4vp hit, I still smashed them by 20+vp and that was with me forming only 1 Nomad town (connection was way more important with the final scoring).
 
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TheBeach0 wrote:
for those that are highly ranked on snellman, whats your take on this? Good or bad?

I think it's a good change. It's not a perfect solution, but it's better than things are now. I'd like to see it implemented in the tournament.

Of course, different factions will be favored in different setups because the starting VP is only a generic adjustment. And that's great! It means you play different factions and see lots of different setups. This makes the game more dynamic and varied. It's what Terra Mystica is meant to be!

The Darklings + Engineers tournament meta has gotten stale. When picking factions, I find myself thinking, "Maybe Swarmlings are good in this setup? Ehh, who cares, I'm picking Darklings." And it works. The generic strength of certain factions often overwhelms variation in the specific setup. Playing to win pushes me to pick these factions even though I'd have more fun with more variety.

Adjusting starting VP is the simplest solution to bring strong or weak factions roughly into line. Auctioning gives a more precise adjustment, and I highly recommend a modified multiway auction for face-to-face play with advanced players. For the tournament, I'm sad to say it's just too finicky. And for beginners, the generic adjustments are just fine as Shaun Cooley explains:

Shaun Cooley wrote:
But I think with having a list like this of average relative faction strength, auctions could work well with intermediate level players as well. Also, at the beginner level, the imbalances between factions are less problematic, because they probably need a few games to really understand the flow of the game, and a few games with the same faction to really begin to see optimal ways of playing that faction.


One concern is that making factions balanced might not make them satisfying to play. Would you enjoy playing Fakirs and not accomplishing much, but still keeping up in points from the initial handout? That depends on you as a player. I think some of the outlier factions are unbalanced as symptoms of gameplay problems, and I'd rather those be addressed at root by changing them.

- Fakirs (33 vp) have a stupidly expensive stronghold and their 7/5/0 starting power can cut them out of the exciting early scrambles for power actions. Their penchant for a round 6 dwelling rush puts them at the mercy of the remaining yellow hexes.
- Auren (27 vp) are plain boring. They are basically the generic race. You can choose between building a temple or more square temple.
- Engineers (16 vp) are feast or famine in the tournament setup. An opponent picking witches can ruin them. This is just a tournament problem; I think their faction design is great.
- Cultists (16 vp) are too at the mercy of others. A stubborn never-leech neighbor can sink the cultists while hurting themselves. I find this out of place in a game played competitively.
- Darklings (15 vp) are OK, just a bit one-dimensional. Points vs building potential is an interesting tradeoff that's core to Terra Mystica, but darklings get both with 2vp per priest dig. And they are fine getting way more priests than they have uses to build.

I understand that tweaking gameplay parameters is much harder than directly adjusting from statistics, but I'd like to see it happen, and the current band-aid fix might mean it never will.

I also worry that adjusted Fakirs (33vp) and Alchemists (27vp) are now extremely strong in certain setups. Maybe the statistics already account for this because they get picked in only those setups and do poorly anyway. Or maybe players just pick them on a whim.

HenningK wrote:
Furthermore, it could be seen an open confession of the designer/publisher screaming "Sorry guys, we screwed up the balancing.", which might come across as negative to some people.

I rather respect the designers for being willing to adjust for past mistakes to improve their game. And it should be noted that the numbers show most factions very close to even, which is impressive given how varied they are. The problem is really a small number of outliers.
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