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Subject: My 10 plays of Blue Moon. Still not "bought" on this.. :( rss

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Branko K.
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First of all, I admit, I have issues with Knizia. While I appreciate him as a game designer, I somehow never seem to like any of his games. Tigris & Euphrates bored me, Lost Cities left me with a feeling someone conned me into playing Rummy with pretty pictures, Ra I positively detested, Through the Desert was mildly interesting but definitely something I am not extremely excited to play again. Altogether this is quite frustrating for me; a lot of people seem to love his games, and all of them seem to have a pretty pronounced "math" background (and I am one of those nuts that actually enjoys when things get mathy), but still each of Knizia's games left me feeling like there is some secret to why they are so enjoyable but I am for some reason not allowed to have it shared with.

So I was a bit reluctant to try out Blue Moon which one of my friends got a hold of somehow. I mean, it looked so much like something I would like - I like card games, I was briefly a somewhat enthusiastic Magic:tG fan (until the nature of CCG pissed me off and I left it without ever looking back) and this game seemed really interesting. Theme somewhat "worked", the artwork was pretty and the concept seemed engaging. "Seemed" being the operative word.

I learned the rules (simple and elegant, Knizia after all) and my friend and I began. I took "Vulca", he took "Hoax".

The first game was at slightly confusing and frustrating. I tried my best to follow my friend's "challenges", but couldn't seem to find any kind of strategy. I matched him, upped the ante, carefully examined special abilities and tried to defuse his most dangerous cards.. and still the final result of each battle seemed somehow random - the first one to run out of useful cards retreated. I think I won the first game, but not because of my superior strategy, but because it seemed I got lucky at fire/earth ping-pong.

Second game I took "Hoax" (which felt somewhat weaker), and again the ping-pong feeling settled in pretty quickly. That good feeling of trying out something "new" evaporated and overall atmosphere was not really thrilling. I think there was one point in the game which I found engaging (it involved a mutant changing fire to earth ), but it also felt frustrating because I didn't know whether I should have expected such a move or how could I have done something against it. All in all, I tried my best to play strategically, but the overall feeling that I'm playing an extremely simple game which just pretends to be somewhat deep was overwhelming. The usual "Knizia syndrome" has settled in nicely again - I wanted to enjoy the game, but I didn't; on our third game I found myself wishing we were spending all this time playing Dominion instead.

I lost the second and the third game, and even though we had more time neither me nor my friend actually had energy to try it out some more and see if we "get" it. My friend said he would return the game and I thought this would be the end of my bout with Blue Moon.

However, I'm pretty stubborn by nature, so I decided to check out the BGG entry on this game and perhaps find out what have we been missing (and whether we were perhaps playing the game wrong somehow). I was overjoyed when I realized there is an actual AI available, so I could research and play the game on my laptop! Yay!

Download, install, play...

Two games, five, seven.. and the game seemingly getting less and less enjoyable the more I play. I know this probably had a lot to do with me sucking royally at it but after the seventh session I was beginning to hate the game, which is something I really didn't want to see happening. I was getting crushed again and again, but what's worse I couldn't get myself to analyze *why* I'm losing. Usually I must actively stop myself from overanalyzing games and replaying them in my head, trying to see what I or someone else did wrong and what could have been done better... here I was just grunting "*Sigh*, ok, you win the yay-I-have-the-higher-number 'battle'. Take the damn 'dragon', see if I care."

I guess this is less of a "session report" and more a "cry for help". What am I missing? Why am I finding the game so unengaging? Is there another layer of the game I am blissfully unaware of? Must one first learn all the decks by heart before he can even start enjoying the game? I mean, I initially disliked Race for the Galaxy but I stuck with it and it grew on me.. Blue Moon just bores and frustrates me with each subsequent play.

So.. help?

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Christopher Dearlove
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I'm not here to persuade you to like it. Some do, some don't, and no one could claim after ten games you haven't tried. I will just note my experience. Tried the Hoax and Vulca first, and OK, not bad. Then I tried the Mimix and Flit and all of a sudden that was a big jump. I only really appreciated the Hoax and Vulca going back to them. Of course the decks weren't quite the same, but not so as to completely invalidate those comments. On the other hand some people have been happy to stop at the base set, while the German leagues play only with Imquisitors (which you can't do with the AI).

Of course to put that in perspective there are many Knizia games I enjoy a lot, so we differ there in where we come from.
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Peter Mumford
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It sounds like Blue Moon is just not your game. But, being stubborn, you want to quit on a winning note rather than losing. Makes sense to me. The AI is tough to beat. I have never beaten it (but I have not tried that hard either). The thing is that after your AI sessions, you may have at least gained an edge on your opponent.

You should utilize that skill to get revenge before he sells his copy! Then you can go back to Dominion.
 
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AxonDomini
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baba44713 wrote:
the final result of each battle seemed somehow random - the first one to run out of useful cards retreated.

This is your problem right here, at least in terms of not grasping the strategy. The most important skill to learn in Blue Moon is also one of the hardest - knowing when to retreat. A good player will frequently retreat when they can still match or exceed their opponent's power. This can be because they know they won't have staying power, because some cards in their hand will be more useful at a later stage or to deny their opponent the continued use of a retrievable card. If you just continue a fight until you're forced to retreat the outcome of your games will indeed be pretty random.

Now, you may also just not like the game. That happens.
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A friend of mine sums this up very well by saying this is really an auction game.

Don't think of it as a battle or fight for dragons but think of it as bidding cards for dragons. You want the most dragons for the cheapest price. The neat thing about the game is that the value of each card is very fluid depending on what has happened in the game already and what cards have already been spent. It can be almost impossible to figure out the relative value of the cards in your hand but that can be an interesting problem to tackle.

Unfortunately, this game doesn't begin to shine until you know each deck very well. You will find to play well, you need to be aware of every card and if it has been played or not. You also need to be aware of some card combos that can be very powerful.

Some cards are very powerful or in other words very expensive so you want to make sure you try to get more than one dragon for them.

Don't feel bad if this just doesn't appeal to you. You gave it a fair shot but some games just don't fit what some people find fun.
 
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Christopher Dearlove
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capadotia wrote:
Unfortunately, this game doesn't begin to shine until you know each deck very well.

I would say that overstates the case. It's not wrong - and the FAQ list limits itself to one question about advice, with just three pieces of advice, all touched on in this thread (retreating, keeping balanced hand, knowing decks and at least tracking the mist important cards). But I would say like the game itself quite how well you need to know the game to enjoy it most depends on the player.

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Some cards are very powerful or in other words very expensive so you want to make sure you try to get more than one dragon for them.

I might agree with that for card combinations, but not for a single card. There are cards you might wait to play until in double dragon fight (unless your opponent's deck would profit mote from that). But there are all the other cards still needed to get there.

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Don't feel bad if this just doesn't appeal to you. You gave it a fair shot but some games just don't fit what some people find fun.

One last point on that is that there are also the advanced rules for deck construction. Not available using the AI unfortunately.
 
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Branko K.
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I think I can nail down two basic reasons why this game doesn't seem to "click" with me - it's too abstract and too esoteric.

I know the first reason is kinda cheap, but it's really not about me being desperate for a theme in my eurogames (haha). It's just that what the game claims to be about and how it plays out seem to be two worlds. In Dominion at least some concepts are somewhat intuitive (you BUY stuff with COINS, ACTIONS DO stuff). In M:TG the concepts of "land", "spell", "creature" etc. are different and palatable enought to somewhat create a theme. In Blue Moon the concepts of "leadership", "character", "support" and "booster" seem to be just names with nothing to connect them with what is supposedly happening (the "people" of "Blue Moon" participating in some "battles"). It's the similar problem I had with Lost Cities - for all the beauty of the cards, what I'm REALLY interested in is some number(s) in the corner.

The second problem is that I never feel like I have control over the game, which I guess is the result of me not knowing (and not really caring) about the exact cards in each deck. Every time I have good cards and I'm forced to retreat it feels "cheap" - either my character gets ignored, or I don't have any characters left, or a mutant screws me over. I am sure that a good player anticipates all this and plays around it, but to me it feels like the opponent always pulls out a magic win-the-battle card each time I think I'm doing good. I feel like what I really need to do is print out a list of cards my opponent has, create little checkmarks beside each card and before my EVERY move check and recheck the list to see how I can (and will) get screwed over yet again. But to me this is not "strategy", this is "counting cards", something I'm not terribly fond of. Especially when I see there are gazillion "people" decks...there's no way I'm committing so much time and effort to learn the nuances of each of them, only to reach the "intermediate" level of experience.

Anyways, I will be returning to the AI and will be trying the game out from time to time, but I am now pretty sure this is not a game I want in my collection (and since it seems to be out of print, I guess my dislike of it is a good thing). However it makes me sad that yet another bout with Knizia left a bad taste in my mouth, especially since this game looked like something I will definitely enjoy. Things aren't looking good for my eventual clash with Lord of the Rings.
 
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Sean McCormick
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I understand your feelings on Kinzia--I'm lukewarm on Tigris and Euphrates and I really dislike Lost Cities. (LC is addictive, it's true, but it's never actually enjoyable.) The one Kinzia that I would suggest checking out is Battleline, which is a legitimately tense and exciting game. Is it essentially poker? Well, yes, to a point. But it's a very strategic and smart game that manages to actually be fun to play.
 
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Joe Stude
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Sorry to hear you don't like the game, though I have a lot of respect for the effort you invested in trying it. I'm not normally so patient.

Somewhat ironically, your lack of control comment is very reminiscent of why a good friend of mine didn't like the game either. He never really "got" the game and told me it made him crazy because he could never really put a finger on why he was losing. (also ironically, this friend also playfully accuses me of having that "magic win-the-battle card" in a number of other games we play... but I digress)

It's funny in a way, but I think you hit on something with your checklist idea. Provided you're still interested enough to spend time with the AI, I actually recommend playing along as you suggested with the latest version of the Excel card listing spreadsheet open. It certainly is counting cards in this respect, but it's less about winning and more about seeing how the AI responds in certain situations and learning the cards. You could even set the AI up to play with a fully disclosed hand. I think you'd be surprised how much you pick up this way... but as you mentioned not really caring about the exact cards in each deck, maybe this is all moot.
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Adrian Brooks
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I'd avoid the A.I. if you want to learn the game. It plays very well. In particular, it knows the decks, and knows what cards you're likely to have. Its endgame is particularly harsh, when it knows exactly what you've got.

If you just play with your friend, you'll be able to work out the good cards between you as you play. You'll start with random "cheap tricks", say "Hank Highflyer Hawk" happening to be in hand to counter "Flamebreath The Dazzling" (maybe just remembering the Flit card beats any high value Vulca), and next time you'll remember to keep it for a special occasion. You'll never need to know every card; but you will learn the important ones.

Basically, to beat the A.I. you're going to *have* to do the card counting and memorisation (or checklist) you don't want to do in order to beat it, and become demoralised in the process (this as probably already happened). With you friend, you won't.



Thematically, I think it's important to read the name of every card as you play it (I could have sworn the rules said to do this, but I can't find it). It's then a fight between named people (and the odd monster), not just a bunch of numbers and effects. The A.I. doesn't do that, either.
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Branko K.
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The thing that bugs me about the AI is that it makes me think the game makes knowing what my opponent has in his deck much more important then knowing what I have in my own. For instance, I managed to beat it in a game where it spent its fire-2-earth mutant early on, so I was confident that by upping the fire ante I was usually bound to win. I also remembered that it had a "can't play characters without special text" card and a "you can't play support cards" card, so I took special care to keep characters with special text as long as possible and to store my "now I remove all your support cards" card especially for countering his support-ban card. When I won, I wasn't sure whether I should be happy or disappointed.

What I want to say is - isn't this a little bit bass-ackwards? I mean - logically I should pick a strategy based on what I have, and then employ tactical decisions by reacting on what my opponent throws at me. Blue Moon on the other hand seems to force me to create a strategy around what I know my opponent has, and employ tactical decisions based on cards I currently have in my hand. And I guess this is what makes the game unsatisfying for me - instead of acquiring skill in using my own arsenal, I have to study in detail what my opponent has. It's not fun, it's work, like cramming for the test before finally taking it.

What especially confuses me is that the advanced game talks about creating your own deck, M:tG style. How does *that* make sense when taken into consideration my previous conclusion?
 
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Christopher Dearlove
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Slow Dog wrote:
Basically, to beat the A.I. you're going to *have* to do the card counting and memorisation (or checklist)

I haven't played the AI for a while, but when I did I used to win some and lose some - and I don't count every card. I just track what I consider the key cards of a deck (mine and my opponent's). The simplest example is the mutant - almost always a key card, and worth knowing what the condition is.

And if you start playing advanced rules (not against the AI) that's about all you can do on first play - you can be sure the key cards (except in this case the mutant - as now all mutants are equal) wil be retained, but nit mucy more than that. Even on subsequent plays just adding to that list and tracking the extended list is probably all you can do.
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Christopher Dearlove
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baba44713 wrote:
What I want to say is - isn't this a little bit bass-ackwards? I mean - logically I should pick a strategy based on what I have, and then employ tactical decisions by reacting on what my opponent throws at me.

Ignoring Blue Moon for the moment, I don't see that this has to be the case. For example consider a historical land battle, the commander who just decides what to do with his forces and then reacts to what his opponent throws at him wouldn't have been a great success.

Moving to games, perhaps the do your own thing and only react model - which is, as you note, common - is limited. That's not to say that the opposite wouldn't be limited too.

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Blue Moon on the other hand seems to force me to create a strategy around what I know my opponent has, and employ tactical decisions based on cards I currently have in my hand.

That's not the way I play it, especially playing decks such as the Mimix, Flit or Khind where if I have no plan I die horribly. Of course I also need to react. But either without the other isn't the way to best results.

Quote:
What especially confuses me is that the advanced game talks about creating your own deck, M:tG style. How does *that* make sense when taken into consideration my previous conclusion?

Well, I don't agree with your previous conclusion. But if I did, I could still deck construct (not exactly MtG style by the way, some serious differences) by beefing up my deck to have more options, and either getting better at what it does, or being able to do what it doesn't, thus being able to react better to what's thrown at it. And some of that is the case - but some of that is true in MtG too, most notably in a blue control deck, but any time you put in a creature removal card you're planning defensively.

 
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AxonDomini
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baba44713 wrote:
The thing that bugs me about the AI is that it makes me think the game makes knowing what my opponent has in his deck much more important then knowing what I have in my own.

I would say both are equally important. Knowing what cards are in your deck help you to decide how much staying power you have left, which cards to hold on to for future use and which are particularly devastating against your opponent's deck.

Remember, the AI not only knows exactly what cards of yours it hasn't seen yet, it also knows which of IT'S cards it hasn't seen yet. That's also a significant advantage.
 
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Branko K.
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Dearlove wrote:
baba44713 wrote:
What I want to say is - isn't this a little bit bass-ackwards? I mean - logically I should pick a strategy based on what I have, and then employ tactical decisions by reacting on what my opponent throws at me.

Ignoring Blue Moon for the moment, I don't see that this has to be the case. For example consider a historical land battle, the commander who just decides what to do with his forces and then reacts to what his opponent throws at him wouldn't have been a great success.

I know that information about what enemy has in store is important, and I'm not necessarily saying I dislike this.

However there's a difference between having useful info about the enemy and taking advantage of it, and the absolute necessity to have exact and detailed information about your enemy. For example, it would be cool if it were enough to know that my opponent's deck is strong in "Earth" and that he has some good support cards; however, it seems to me that I need to know the exact specifics of his deck to a card to have any chance of winning (at least when facing AI). In another words, when counting cards with an Excel table becomes almost a necessary tool for winning games, then I am kinds losing interest.

I guess I should try to play some F2F games in the future. It might be that the AI is skewing my perception.
 
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Adrian Brooks
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baba44713 wrote:

What especially confuses me is that the advanced game talks about creating your own deck, M:tG style. How does *that* make sense when taken into consideration my previous conclusion?
It means you conclusion is wrong

Actually, it's obviously not true for constructed decks. It's less true of the game as a whole than with the starter decks - both starters have lots of "countering" cards, whereas other have almost none - the Mimix, for example - and it's more about managing your own deck.

Again, the A.I. is very strong at countering the opposition's strengths.
 
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Joe Stude
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These guys make a good point about the AI. I've played a TON of Blue Moon but there are still certain matchups against the AI where I'm lucky if I win a single game, much less a match.

The information you should be keeping in mind re: specific decks isn't as exacting as you might expect. Although I've played a ton I probably have less than half of all the card names memorized and mostly only have deck highlights in the front of my mind. You should also try to remember what each side's mutant does since element switch is often a potent mechanic and avoiding the "trigger" can force your opponent to hold onto their mutant. Here are some examples:

against Mimix: Mimix is VERY character heavy with no antisupport at all. For decks with lots of support power (Hoax), try to maximize impact of each since they can't do anything about them. Characters hit high power, often very quickly, so be prepared to retreat quickly if necessary so they only get one dragon for often high cost. Shamans can be annoying - starting a fight higher than 2/2 can often force the Mimix player to hold onto shamans until they retreat and are allowed to begin a fight themselves. Otherwise, few but situationally potent supports and boosters

against Hoax: Lots of supports but individually weak characters. If you have a lot of antisupport (Vulca), try to use it on key ones (Brain Drain, Tome of Wisdom) or on bunches of others. If not, be prepared for Brain Drain and/or Tome of Wisdom to be fight winners more often than not. Mutant can only be played in response to attack of 7 power or higher - if late game and mutant still hasn't appeared, avoid hitting 7 power if possible.

etc etc. There are a few more things worth mentioning for each but you get the idea.
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