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Subject: An actual discussion of the "runaway leader" problem and why it's so hard to diagnose rss

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George
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Owen134866 wrote:
So maybe going to the farm gets you either 3 goats, or 2 'corn'.

Interesting, but meat exists as a "tax" on carnivore's higher vp and rep, boosting herbivores with "corn" would likely make them too strong.

Also, a bit redundant when you can already use meat for mutants.

I don't think this is a game where you can go in with the mindset "I'm only going to build herbivores". You can't go in wanting to specifically build anything... you are really up to the DNA Card draw and what becomes available via Market/Boneyard.

gogetter333 wrote:
EDIT: It seems like a lot of people have complained about the "take-that" Corporate Espionage cards as well. Perhaps these should be only in a separate deck that, starting in Season 3, the player in last place draws from before worker placement starts.


I've seen this comment as well but I've looked through the cards and the "Take That" is pretty weak—which I appreciate but it's surprising anyone would complain about them. There are only 3-4 cards. One forces people to discard a DNA or take a Scandal. One makes a certain type of dino score half VP for everyone. One closes a single hotel for everyone else. The last lets you move workers to block off a certain space... it can be effective but I can't see getting too upset over spaces being blocked in a worker placement game!

So the "take that" complaints seem one of perception, and I can't help but wonder if the "runaway leader" is mostly one of perception as well. Most people see the reputation track rewards as rewarding the leader, when really it's a reward for the players who have invested in more costly dinosaurs and spent money on hotels.

I'm not saying there isn't a problem, but perhaps this thread hasn't hit on the right diagnosis. No one so far has said, "yes, that's what's happening in our games."
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Mike Pye
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soosy wrote:
I don't think this is a game where you can go in with the mindset "I'm only going to build herbivores". You can't go in wanting to specifically build anything... you are really up to the DNA Card draw and what becomes available via Market/Boneyard.


I agree that you can't go in with that mindset, but if the cards send you in the direction of herbivores then it would be good to have a benefit of visiting the Farm, blocking the high-VP high-rep carnivores in the process.

It is also worth noting though (as has been done in another thread) that the goats can't be blocked if players are careful. For example, if a player has a T-rex and a raptor, they need 3 goats per round.

In a 2 player game, there are 2 farm spaces available, plus 1 outsourcing
In a 3 player game, there are 2 farm spaces available, plus 1 outsourcing
In a 4 player game, there are 3 farm spaces available, plus 1 outsourcing
In a 5 player game, there are 3 farm spaces available, plus 1 outsourcing

So, except for in a 5 player game, a player will always be able to visit the farm with their first worker, either directly or by using the outsourcing space (bear in mind that all players are almost guaranteed to have just received at least 2 money for visitors). It is also very unlikely that the player with carnivores would be going 5th in turn order in a 5 player game. So the problem would only be if a player tries to go beyond 3 goats worth of carnivores, which I haven't seen yet. Players with carnivores stop at 3 goats worth since they are already ahead on VP per round at that point, and then get herbivores for the diversity points at the end of the game. (There is very little incentive to have more than one of the same type of dinosaur. Petting zoo or triceratops bonuses are tiny, mutant rep bonus can be useful).

Back to the 'runaway-leader' diagnosis...

A agree with the post at the start that a situation that would cause it is if only one (or maybe 2 in a 4-5 player game) player goes for carnivores, and the other players are reluctant to 'waste' their turns by blocking the farm space. This was seen on the Heavy Cardboard playthrough the other day.

The other situation I have seen (admittedly having only played a relatively small number of games) is when one player gets a dinosaur out very early. For example, if I get a triceratops (which is not that valuable) out on the first round, I will be getting 2 pts per round. Another player might not manage to get anything out on that round.

In the second round, the player with no dinosaur might manage to place a stegosaurus, which would put them ahead on VP per round. But in the meantime I have now collected cards and fences to put a second dinosaur out. So I essentially end up keeping myself a turn ahead. This is exaggerated if the first turn dinosaur is higher VP or rep, such as a raptor.

The counter would be for the other player to go for carnivores as they are more points and rep, but as you noted, you are usually pushed in the direction the cards point and gambling on getting another T-rex card might end up taking time. This was also in the Heavy Cardboard playthrough where Jess ended up waiting almost the whole game for a Biodome for her Pterodactyl.
 
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tibbles von tibbleton
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I was thinking of the HC play too, and unless I misremember I don’t think it really demonstrated the ability to block the leader. Assuming Edward has enough goats to cover that round (and I think he did since he only needed 1 more goat action for the whole game), the table would have collectively needed to block him for 2 rounds. That’s a lot of wasted actions if even possible due to open space count. 1 player taking the hit for some extra goats they can use or cause they’re fighting for 1st is one thing, the whole table wasting 1-2 moves is another. Mostly this playthrough suggested to me that there needs to be more goat uses (or people neeed to buy more mutants).

I definitely wouldn’t call Jess’ issue a runaway leader problem, that seemed like bad luck, doubling down on, and the bad luck continuing. She spent actions setting up for the dino she couldn’t hold and then time kept going by. However, it’s hard to think of what to do in her case. How many people would spend round 1 to break up a full DNA set to then spend yet more actions round 2 to buy a new set? That’s a huge cost when for all you know the bio dome will flip next round. I mean, sure it’s runaway leader in that she could never catch up, but any Econ euro game you make no progress for 1/3rd the game you are not winning it.
 
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John Mavis
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Blocking the leader isn’t as important as simply getting dinosaurs out. It just happens to be that mutants is an easy way to do both. A mutant is worth the same as a triceratops and you can make it with any draw in the game. Also, once you have one you can keep getting them without needing DNA. Even if you don’t intend to go heavy on them I find it useful to pick up one early on in the game since it makes your play style a lot more versatile. Make dinosaurs normally or make them with goats.

Also, while she may not have won Jess would have been a whole lot closer had she gotten a hotel sooner. Not prioritizing an early hotel seems like the biggest noob trap in the game. It pays for itself in 2 rounds, gives you money after that, and is worth about 15 points over the course of the game regardless of anything else you do.
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Yprum Davalinor
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I cannot say from experience, as I have yet to play the game.

But as someone was mentioning, encouraging to go to the farm for those that don't need goats could help.

I was just wondering about the possibility of players that need goats, having to buy them from those that got them and don't need them. At an added price of course. Could that shift the situation?
 
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Chris Mascioli
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Let me preface this by saying I'm a big fan of the game. I have 10+ plays in at all player counts and played all the solo missions. This game is everything I hoped Dinosaur Island would be and I recommend it strongly.

However, I think the fundamental problem that causes runaway leaders is being overlooked here. The large # of carnivore strategy is good, but weak to it's natural counter (mutants) as they'll organically be contesting the meat. The much larger runaway leader problem is caused by 3 things:

1) Early Brontosaurus

Getting a pre-season Bronto is basically a free win (barring the Steal SNA card to make up for it). It gives a large number of points, a large amount of prestige, and (depending on how you got to 4) costs you possibly a scandal, a few dollars, or 1 manipulation card (that card is absurdly powerful, but will be addressed later). Given that points add every round, this can just cascade into a situation where there's just no possible way to catch up. Even if the Bronto player expended a lot in preseason to get it and has a slow season 1, they still get points (and most likely turn order since I assume someone in the game has gone for preseason 2 mutants to try to ineffectively counter). The problem here is just the nature of dinosaurs counting every turn. If I have 8 more than my opponent on turn 1 and then my opponent +5s me on turn 2, I have 11 extra points still (where in a game without this additive point structure I would have 3).

2) Manipulation card balance

The power level of manipulation cards varies way too dramatically. DNA Splice as your opening card gives you a free turn 1 Brontosaurus most of the time (there's a 0.786 probability to have a Bronto in either the 5 cards in the boneyard or in the market) compared to something like a Rapid Gestation (this card is just flatly unplayable), Private Screening, or Unleash Contagion. And this extends just past the first tun as well: the three cards I mentioned are all almost always bad and just compare things like Misdirection/Infiltrator/Bargain Contractors to PR Campaign. DNA Theft is a great catchup mechanism, except the leader can also use it to get further ahead.

3) Building Tiles

The building tiles are more imbalanced than the manipulation cards. Some examples:

Watch Tower costs 5 and only removes slashes, why doesn't this just remove any negative effect?
Memorial Statue is essentially +4.3 points for 1/2 action, one of the best efficiencies in the game
One of the few catchup tiles, Tour Bus, costs 6 while one of the problems that causes run away leaders is visitors giving money
etc

Once again, I like the game but I think it undoubtedly has a runaway leader problem and saying people aren't playing it right is relatively condescending. Even if this is true (I assume people build an early pterodactyl that rampages every turn far less often than they should as that's one of the best ways to try to catch up), it's not a fruitful way to engage.
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Chris Mascioli
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BlueOne8 wrote:

2. Thing I would do, is I would offer san INCENTIVE, something interesting to the players who have dinos who dont eat meat even if they go to the goat spot, perhaps there is another resource that you could get there (something that an expansion could tackle)


On 2, The threat of causing your opponent's dinosaurs to rampage is incentive enough to go to the goats space. It should cost you efficiency to lower an opponent's efficiency. Making decisions all upside makes the decision space less interesting.
 
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Chris Grenard
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Chris Mascioli - Superb feedback. Are you a mathematician? I'm very interested in your feedback on each of these cards and opportunity costs.

Although, I do want to point out a great use case for Rapid Gestation. It's amazing if you can build like a Pterodactyl that you can't actually hold properly, then immediately explode it. Very fun way to get a lot of easy points.
 
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Chris Mascioli
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goldfenix wrote:
Chris Mascioli - Superb feedback. Are you a mathematician? I'm very interested in your feedback on each of these cards and opportunity costs.

Although, I do want to point out a great use case for Rapid Gestation. It's amazing if you can build like a Pterodactyl that you can't actually hold properly, then immediately explode it. Very fun way to get a lot of easy points.


I'm a statistician. Don't have time for individual cards besides those mentioned now, but will in my full review.

I think just having a Pterodactyl at the side of the board that just rampages every turn may outperform RGing it. You don't even need to ever worry about feeding it (rampaging Pterodactyl come-from-behind are one time where the mandatory feeding requirement really hurt behind players as it's going to rampage whether you feed it or not and doesn't let you combine it with mutants)
 
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Oliver Brettschneider
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Although the building tile benefits vary wildly, at least everyone has some chance to buy them. Of course, if the opposing players could decide which building gets destroyed as the result of a rampage, maybe this could further even out the score.

Could the Manipulation card balance issue be tackled by ruling that, after the pre-season, the player in the lead may not play them?

I have no clue how to tackle the Brontosaurus problem, though.
 
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Chris Mascioli
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Imagine wrote:
Although the building tile benefits vary wildly, at least everyone has some chance to buy them. Of course, if the opposing players could decide which building gets destroyed as the result of a rampage, maybe this could further even out the score.

Could the Manipulation card balance issue be tackled by ruling that, after the pre-season, the player in the lead may not play them?

I have no clue how to tackle the Brontosaurus problem, though.


There's so few good tiles (+5 points, biodome, 3-person hotel, and three end of game tiles) that access is definitely not equal to the high-end tiles.

Solutions like that always feel rather blunt and un-fun. Not sure what the solution is other than having a better balanced initial set of cards.

 
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M M

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dipplestix wrote:


There's so few good tiles (+5 points, biodome, 3-person hotel, and three end of game tiles) that access is definitely not equal to the high-end tiles.

Solutions like that always feel rather blunt and un-fun. Not sure what the solution is other than having a better balanced initial set of cards.



Having a 3-card manipulation card tableau and allowing people to either draw from the face-down deck or the tableau might help mitigate luck. Some are significantly stronger than others and more/less situational, so it might be an interesting variant.
 
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George
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dipplestix wrote:
1) Early Brontosaurus

Getting a pre-season Bronto is basically a free win (barring the Steal SNA card to make up for it). It gives a large number of points, a large amount of prestige, and (depending on how you got to 4) costs you possibly a scandal, a few dollars, or 1 manipulation card (that card is absurdly powerful, but will be addressed later).


I have to disagree with you here. Not to say an opening Brontosaurus isn't very good, but it's only a sure win if no one else builds anything. Also unless you are very lucky in your initial deal, pulling off a Brontosaurus means you probably aren't getting a Hotel which sends the bonus visitor VP elsewhere.

There are other opening options that are at least as good in my book. I'm a big fan of Raptors. Only need 2 cards so you are likely to have been dealt a pair. And easier to get that crucial hotel, or something else valuable, when you only need 2 DNA.

Mutants are the other great choice that don't depend on what DNA you get dealt at all. You can grab goats to multiply it to 4vp. And again, I think it's probably worth the rampage to grab a Hotel instead of more fences... the rampage will only cost you a scandal on the empty visitor center.


dipplestix wrote:
The problem here is just the nature of dinosaurs counting every turn. If I have 8 more than my opponent on turn 1 and then my opponent +5s me on turn 2, I have 11 extra points still (where in a game without this additive point structure I would have 3).


This is where I agree with you. The scoring is not forgiving of any mistakes, and is the main contributor to runaway leader problems imo. And crucially, there are no blatant catch-up mechanics either, so it's all down to player skill and luck.

That said, I personally approached the game a little too leisurely in my first plays I would say. More here: It's all about the Recurring Points.


dipplestix wrote:
2) Manipulation card balance

The power level of manipulation cards varies way too dramatically. DNA Splice as your opening card gives you a free turn 1 Brontosaurus most of the time (there's a 0.786 probability to have a Bronto in either the 5 cards in the boneyard or in the market) compared to something like a Rapid Gestation (this card is just flatly unplayable), Private Screening, or Unleash Contagion. And this extends just past the first tun as well: the three cards I mentioned are all almost always bad and just compare things like Misdirection/Infiltrator/Bargain Contractors to PR Campaign. DNA Theft is a great catchup mechanism, except the leader can also use it to get further ahead.


I evaluate the cards a bit differently, as you've named some pretty good ones imo. I won't go into them all as I mention them in the link above.

I agree DNA Theft and PR Campaign are top tier. Though DNA Theft can be questionable in the last couple of seasons due to the Scandal, but early on it is killer. Maybe it should cost 2 Scandals in the earliest seasons.

There are less useful cards in the mix, but I think most of them have a time to shine. And since you draw 2 at a time, you usually have plenty of choice on which ones to play.

Actually my main problem with the cards is that my recent strategies have been so focused on points and the next dino, I rarely have the spare actions to visit both Agency and then Uplink.

dipplestix wrote:

3) Building Tiles

The building tiles are more imbalanced than the manipulation cards. Some examples:

Watch Tower costs 5 and only removes slashes, why doesn't this just remove any negative effect?
Memorial Statue is essentially +4.3 points for 1/2 action, one of the best efficiencies in the game
One of the few catchup tiles, Tour Bus, costs 6 while one of the problems that causes run away leaders is visitors giving money
etc


My take is Hotels and VP buildings are all awesome. The other buildings are good, but secondary. I would buy Tour Bus if it even gives me just 2vp/upkeep, vs the Memorial Statue that is only worth 5vp total. In lower player counts especially, you are probably better off buying a hotel to gain more visitors vs any rep or cash generating building.

Again, the main problem I think with the secondary buildings is there is rarely enough cash or free actions to buy them since focusing on straight points is so important. Maybe that's just my current group think though.
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Ryan Fiedler
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What do most people want to do in this game? Build a dinosaur park right.

Now if the way to take down the leader is to waste actions not building up my park, that makes the game less fun in my mind.
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Merman_Pops wrote:
What do most people want to do in this game? Build a dinosaur park right.

Now if the way to take down the leader is to waste actions not building up my park, that makes the game less fun in my mind.

That really sums it up nicely.

I hope the runway leader issue is looked into for the expansion and second Kickstarter. It would be great to get a but more balance
 
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Oliver Brettschneider
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chrisoc13 wrote:
Merman_Pops wrote:
What do most people want to do in this game? Build a dinosaur park right.

Now if the way to take down the leader is to waste actions not building up my park, that makes the game less fun in my mind.

That really sums it up nicely.

I hope the runway leader issue is looked into for the expansion and second Kickstarter. It would be great to get a but more balance
Not sure about that; depends on whether Richard has changed his mind since his last reply re this topic. Haven’t seen him comment on the issue since...
 
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Greg ivan
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So my 2 cents from what little criticism ive read
* eagerly awaiting my copy (one of the final 250 us copies)

People want more rampages
People want more conflict/interaction w/o sacrificing their own workers
People want to catch up

Ok

When dinos rampage, if carnivores and herbivores comingle during the rampage, they fight. Roll for each, a skull, dead. A scratch, its wounded, lay it down, spend 1 dna of its type to heal it otherwise it doesnt produce until then. Smiley, a $ per visitor, who wouldnt pay to see dinos fight?

Opponents or last player chooses what is focus of damage, possibly setting up dino rumble or losing a critical building

Idk, some kind of risk/reward gamble system where if you have the watch tower its “safer” to have a riskier park or use the biodome as a rumble pit beyond being a “birdcage”

I just feel the more you punish the leader w/o giving alternatives to score or comeback makes it feel like the blue shell in mario kart

Let me run a damgerous park
Give it a chance to go to hell
Let people interact more when it does
Make the dinos interact
Dont make the smiley patronize me with a simple “tip”
 
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