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Subject: Revision or Variant: Help me decide! rss

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Greg Lam
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I'm currently contemplating a revision to one of the rules of Restaurant Row, and I'd like input from people who have played the game in it's current incarnation. I first wrote this out an included it in the copies I sold at BGGcon. Please help me decide whether this should be a revision of the base rules, an official variant, or whether the idea should be scrapped altogether.

The revision comes from the critique that I’ve heard that the draw of the customers from the bag each day makes the game too random for some. Currently, every day customers are drawn from a bag containing the 29 non-Critic customers. After each day, every customer except for the Critic is returned to the customer bag and drawn anew the next day. As there are six groups of customers that can be drawn, and four members of each group (except for the Foodies, of which there are eight), a game may see no Locals in one round and a lot of Locals in the next. This frustrates some players, perhaps understandably, but I was drawn to the simplicity of the mechanics.

The revision I’m thinking of I’d call the “Neighborhood Population Revision”. In the first day of the game and before any items are bid upon, nine Customers would be drawn randomly and laid face up on the table. The Critic would be added to this group. This would be the starting population of the neighborhood. You would be able to tell if the neighborhood had a lot or Tourists, or Scenesters, or Executives or The Shill, and so forth, and shop accordingly. The other 20 customers would be placed face down on the table.

After the shopping in the first day is done, the 10 starting customers would be put into the Customer bag to be drawn randomly. As customers are added into the population with each population increase, they would be taken from the face down pile and added to the bag. With this revision, The Critic no longer needs to be the 10th Customer chosen, but simply drawn like any other customer which adds unpredictability to his visits.

With the makeup of the customer more stable in this revision, the types of goods that will be valuable in the future should become more clear, and even the chaotic-seeming Word of Mouth track could become downright predictable. If the initial customer population includes three Scenesters, it’d be a good bet that Popularity will rise in the Word of Mouth rankings through the course of the game. If the initial draw included no Executives, you might bet on Ambiance to fall in the rankings.

This change may make the game more strategic and works well thematically, IMO. It doesn’t seem any less elegant than the current mechanics. I might worry about this causing Analysis Paralysis, and I wonder how this will affect the game if one or more customer types are absent from the initial draw. That is why I’d like to ask BGGers to consider this rule revision, and give me feedback about your thoughts as you play your copies of the game. Report any instances in which the new rules would create problems. It would be simple to post a revised set of rules and/or playing board on BGG. With the menu cover board, a revised board would be easy to print and replace at home!
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Jon Horne
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Hi Greg,

My gaming group has tried your variant twice now, once with 4 players and once with 3. In the first game, all of the tourists came out early, but star rating is probably the hardest criterion to manipulate. Furthermore, the rest of the customer types were fairly evenly represented, so we didn't feel like long-term strategy was any different than in the basic game (i.e. everyone tries to the be the best in one or two things each round in order to attract customers).

The second game, however, we initially had a bunch of meat and veg foodies show up with a good number of scenesters. The customer spread definitely steered our strategy, making fish the least popular commodity (in fact, we never saw a seafood foodie the whole game!). The end of the game was very close, a tie for 1st with the 3rd player only a few points behind. Also, our profits were the highest they've ever been (one player had over $60 at game end!). That tells me that we were playing better because we had a better idea of what to shoot for.

The only things we did differently from your variant is we always had the Critic come out 10th as usual and we made sure the Shill was in the initial 10 customers (we felt that he is too important of a game mechanic to leave out).

We will play using your variant from now on, no question.
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Greg Lam
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Thanks for the feedback. Your note about The Shill is quite interesting.
 
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Felix Rodriguez
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I just stumbled into this thread. And without playing it I think I really like this variant. Going to see if I can coerce someone to try it with this weekend.
 
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Nick Hawkins
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I would suggest that some unknown customers are included in the initial mix, maybe 3 out of 7.
 
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Greg Lam
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The Neighborhood variant has now been posted in the files section.

Official "Neighborhood" Variant
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Terry
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Hi Greg -- please help me to understand this variant.

I haven't played the game yet, but have gone through the rules and am trying to envision how it all works. I agree that the original rule (random draws) could use improvement, as you very well could build a great restaurant and yet get zero customers because the pull is bad.

So with this variant, there is a subset of customers that will be chosen, and everyone knows what they are before purchasing. Got it...

The problem it seems to me, is that if you have certain distributions of character types in that make up, a single player could get a snowballing lead.

Assume a 4 player game with the variant. For example, let's say the first 9 customers are 4 executives, 3 scenesters, and 2 locals.

So whoever the start player is will buy the best ambiance upgrade available (or two of them), and then gain all 4 executives. Not only that, but it's likely they will also get more than their fair share of scenesters because of the probability of executives getting drawn. One of the four players might get zero customers if they're unlucky...?

So that start player now has a huge money lead, and not only that, likely has the executives / scenesters locked down, because they can defend their ambiance lead with their money lead. Sure, new people will slowly get added, but the fact that the leader will have access to the executives every turn, and executives will only go to his restaurant seems a little unfair.
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Am I missing something obvious here? It seems to me that a static neighborhood brings all sorts of problems regarding runaway leaders.

In fact, one player getting a full restaurant and one player getting zero customers in the same turn seems quite possible under either ruleset to me. The strict "character type X will ALWAYS go to the restaurant with the most Y" seems to be problematic to me, because it means that it will be very difficult for a player falling behind to gain access to those customers in the future.

Thanks


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Greg Lam
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Thanks for the feedback. Your specific example of an Executive overload won't work in quite the way you've laid out. The "start player" doesn't go before everyone else. Everyone simultaneously declares where they are going, and any duplicates must bid against each other in a blind auction. So if there is the situation you've outlined, you might see three players trying to get the best Ambiance in the first round, and they'd also have to pay for it. As players only start with $25 and the cheapest renovations are $10 and $20, you can't get much in the first round.

Also, a player can only fit 5 patrons in a restaurant, so even if a player manages to corner the ambiance market, they will only be able to seat 5 of them (unless of course they have the Patio, in which they can seat 7).

Runaway leaders are a concern in this game, but it's not as bad as you feared.
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Terry
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Thanks for the clarification.

I still am quite concerned about the structure of the victory conditions and runaway leader issues in this game, and will forward you some suggestions on some very minor revisions that I think could significantly improve the tactical / strategic gameplay.

Regards

 
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