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Subject: The Secret History of RFTG: The Brink of War rss

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Edward
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
Nonsense. This argument assumes that the cost structure is linear in RFTG, which is just wrong. Cost 5 developments compete with the fact that, for just one card more, the player could put out a 6-cost development worth significantly more (and many of them come with prestige as well).
Cards during dev phase are valuable, but I don't think they're that valuable. If IIF does not dominate Dropships, then a single card in dev phase must (generally) be worth more than two cards in consume phase. I don't think this is true; I'd usually be happy to trade in my Bank for Galactic Advertisers, for instance, which is only a conditional 2 cards.
 
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Mark Delano
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theory wrote:
Tom Lehmann wrote:
Nonsense. This argument assumes that the cost structure is linear in RFTG, which is just wrong. Cost 5 developments compete with the fact that, for just one card more, the player could put out a 6-cost development worth significantly more (and many of them come with prestige as well).
Cards during dev phase are valuable, but I don't think they're that valuable. If IIF does not dominate Dropships, then a single card in dev phase must (generally) be worth more than two cards in consume phase. I don't think this is true; I'd usually be happy to trade in my Bank for Galactic Advertisers, for instance, which is only a conditional 2 cards.

Obviously at the card breakpoint this isn't true. If I have exactly the right number of cards to play Drop Ships (or play Drop Ships and hold on to a critical other card) the IIF is useless in that situation. The same goes for Interstellar Bank and Galactic Advertisers.

You can look at holding onto extra cards when paying for a card play as an explore, you are holding on to the best of a 2, 3, 4, 5 card explore. If you have to discard another card you are losing the best of those 2-5 cards as well.
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Edward
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But would you really rather discard two cards during consume instead of a a single card during dev?

We can draw another analogy to Deficit Spending, which lets you discard two cards for 2VP. Generally during building, an extra card cost equates to 1VP (see, e.g., ELC v Prosperous World). This adds further evidence that a single card during a build phase isn't worth as much as two cards during consume, and certainly not worth more.

In other words:

IF 1 card = 1VP during build and 2 cards = 2VP during consume, then 2 cards during consume > 1 card during build

IF 2 cards during consume < 1 prestige, then 1 card during build < 1 prestige

Which implies that there will rarely be instances where you'd want Drop Ships instead of IIF. Certainly breakpoint exceptions exist, but you'd rarely choose to exchange IIF for Drop Ships instead.
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theory wrote:
But would you really rather discard two cards during consume instead of a a single card during dev?

HELL YES. Because I've just traded. And I have to discard down to ten at the end of the round anyway.

You're failing to understand the non-linearity of costs. Because cards have different values, and because there's a limit to your hand size, costs do not scale linearly. Cost 4 is more than twice as 'expensive' as cost 2. It takes a greater proportion of your hand, and costs you better cards that you more want to keep.
(There's further non-linearity from discounts as well - if you have a discount of 1, then making two 2-cost cards costs 2, and one 4-cost card costs 3.)

So suppose you have 6 cards in hand. You can discard YOUR ENTIRE HAND to play IIF, getting a prestige and ending the round with no cards in hand (something your opponent will surely take advantage of), or you pay one less to play Dropships, and hold onto Terraforming Guild for later. The prestige costs you Terraforming Guild. (Discarding 2 in the consume phase costs Expanding Colony and Export Duties. No big deal.)

edit: Also, generally adding 1 to the cost of a card and increasing VPs by 1 makes a weaker card. There are cases when I'd pick PW over ELC, but generally I'd prefer to get the second. If you look at more examples, you'll see that after 2-3 of steps of incrementing cost and VP, more powers are added to keep the card balanced. Plague World => Gene Designers. Alien Robotic Factory => Alien Data Repository => Alien Departure Point. Volcanic World => Mining World.
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Dave J McWeasely
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Rob,
I was thinking the same thing, but the argument that cost is non-linear, especially early, is pretty persuasive. We all know how hard it is to get out that early 5-cost Consumer Markets - often you could do it but you have to discard your cache of blue worlds to do so. Mining conglomerate, in contrast, is so much less hassle because it maintains your queue of brown worlds to settle.

That's why I'm generally preferring Merc Fleet to Dropships early, sometimes even if I plan to 'pump' the military the very next round.


Edit: somehow missed the 10,000 posts before mine that made these same points.
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MrWeasely wrote:
Rob,
I was thinking the same thing, but the argument that cost is non-linear, especially early, is pretty persuasive. We all know how hard it is to get out that early 5-cost Consumer Markets - often you could do it but you have to discard your cache of blue worlds to do so. Mining conglomerate, in contrast, is so much less hassle because it maintains your queue of brown worlds to settle.

That's why I'm generally preferring Merc Fleet to Dropships early, sometimes even if I plan to 'pump' the military the very next round.

Yeah, CM is nice if you already have the infrastructure set up. This is where AR is nice. Trade for 4 cards, and that lets you build alot of things you otherwise wouldn't be able to. Similar deal with DAF.

Merc. Fleet is nice when you need that flexibility. Especially if you're not sure if you'll get the military worlds you'd like. That and that's worth 1 more military str than Drop Ships, even though you need to pay through the nose for invoking +2 military.
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Sean McCarthy
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The amount of time you're saving by not typing out full card names is being more than cancelled just by me reading and trying to decipher them. I'm guessing other people also have to spend a bit of extra time on it, so I think being a bit less acronym-happy would be a good idea.
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David desJardins
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SevenSpirits wrote:
The amount of time you're saving by not typing out full card names is being more than cancelled just by me reading and trying to decipher them.

One might say "transferred" rather than "cancelled". whistle
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Edward
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smestorp wrote:
theory wrote:
But would you really rather discard two cards during consume instead of a a single card during dev?

HELL YES. Because I've just traded. And I have to discard down to ten at the end of the round anyway.

You're failing to understand the non-linearity of costs. Because cards have different values, and because there's a limit to your hand size, costs do not scale linearly. Cost 4 is more than twice as 'expensive' as cost 2. It takes a greater proportion of your hand, and costs you better cards that you more want to keep.
(There's further non-linearity from discounts as well - if you have a discount of 1, then making two 2-cost cards costs 2, and one 4-cost card costs 3.)
This has nothing to do with cost linearity. I'm not arguing that 4-dev to 5-dev is the same as 2-dev to 3-dev. I'm asking if discarding that single 4-to-5 card is, on average, worse than losing two cards in consume.

And I don't understand this "just traded" argument. Your "just traded" cards are turning into your build cards next turn. (It's true you're discarding down to 10 at the end of every turn, but I certainly hope you're not doing that regularly!)

Quote:
So suppose you have 6 cards in hand. You can discard YOUR ENTIRE HAND to play IIF, getting a prestige and ending the round with no cards in hand (something your opponent will surely take advantage of), or you pay one less to play Dropships, and hold onto Terraforming Guild for later. The prestige costs you Terraforming Guild. (Discarding 2 in the consume phase costs Expanding Colony and Export Duties. No big deal.)
You know this works both ways, right? I call Dev/Trade. My hand is 4 useless cards and IIF. On trade I get 4 great military worlds that I don't want to discard. Cherry-picking examples that support your argument doesn't get you anywhere. (And it's not like your opponent, seeing your ONE CARD in hand, will tremble in fear.)

In other words: By choosing to dev Dropships instead of IIF, you're saying that you'd rather have that 4-to-5 card instead of a prestige. I find those situations to be extremely rare.

Besides, you're going military. I'd guess that when I'm playing Military, I have even more "cash" cards than average.
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Rob Neuhaus
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
Nonsense. This argument assumes that the cost structure is linear in RFTG, which is just wrong. Cost 5 developments compete with the fact that, for just one card more, the player could put out a 6-cost development worth significantly more (and many of them come with prestige as well).

Look at the "derivative" between Deserted Alien Outpost, Deserted Alien Colony, and Deserted Alien Library. From here, you go from 4 to 5 cost for +1 point, and from 5 to 6 for +1 point. At least here, you seemed to believe that costs are approximately linear.

From Dropships to Imperium Invasion Fleet, you pay one to get +1 military against Rebel, a prestige, the Imperium keyword, and the discard for miltary -> non-miltary for 2 prestige power.

So, one point is worth approximately the same as one prestige, +1 against rebels, and an Imperium keyword?

I don't buy it. Yes, I do understand that conditioned on wanting to place an alien non-military world, you probably have some alien discounts, compared to conditioned on wanting to play 4 or 5 cost military dev, you likely don't have as many dev discounts, so the cost non-linearity argument still holds a little bit. On the other hand, I really doubt it makes up for the vast improvement in quality. After all, even just the prestige by itself is worth more than the point.

Of course, I'd be much more willing to accept the explanation that, given a tradeoff between balance and "wow awesome shiny new", you tend to lean toward the latter, so long as the balance is still reasonable. Put another way, you try to satisfy some reasonable balance constraint, while maximizing how interesting the new cards are, (among other constraints/objectives, of course).

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Sean McCarthy
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I pretty much agree with you Rob, but you also have to admit that Drop Ships kind of sucks.

Also, The Alien Worlds tend to be played more in a trade strategy (and also aren't played much!), where you're going through tons of cards and don't mind spending specific ones. Military hands often have a high concentration of cards you really want to keep.
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Mark Delano
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theory wrote:
But would you really rather discard two cards during consume instead of a a single card during dev?

We can draw another analogy to Deficit Spending, which lets you discard two cards for 2VP. Generally during building, an extra card cost equates to 1VP (see, e.g., ELC v Prosperous World). This adds further evidence that a single card during a build phase isn't worth as much as two cards during consume, and certainly not worth more.

In other words:

IF 1 card = 1VP during build and 2 cards = 2VP during consume, then 2 cards during consume > 1 card during build

IF 2 cards during consume < 1 prestige, then 1 card during build < 1 prestige

Which implies that there will rarely be instances where you'd want Drop Ships instead of IIF. Certainly breakpoint exceptions exist, but you'd rarely choose to exchange IIF for Drop Ships instead.

Cards during the consume phase are much cheaper than during develop or settle. This is particular true at develop which still could have the settle phase after it. In addition worlds tend not to increase in power with higher cost/defence nearly as much as developments. 6 Devs are almost all significantly better than any of the 5 Devs, but the same can't be said about 6 cost and 5 cost worlds.

Equating a card to a vp is highly deceptive, as early on the card is much more valuable while later it is much less. For powers like Drop Ships and IIF unless you have a 6 Dev that scores off of it or a world(s) to play, it isn't worth that much as a late play. They are, however, great to get out early when cards are more valuable, making the extra card for IIF that much more costly.
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Michael Brough
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@theory: Yes, I picked extreme examples to support my argument. But that's the thing; card value is always situational. There is no card in RFTG that is strictly better than any other card. I could list many specific situations where I'd prefer Dropships to Invasion Fleet, and vice versa.

re "just traded" argument: I'm thinking in terms of the early game here.

re one card making the opponent tremble: if you've just upped your military by 3 and have held onto one card, an opponent might not tremble, but they may be deterred from playing Settle.

It's too early to tell for sure yet, but I do agree IIF seems the stronger card of the two. Certainly if you have cash to spare, you'll want to pay 1 extra for all the trimmings, but you don't always (especially early-game, before you might have traded a windfall good), so it's not strictly better.

Part of the difficulty is that the value of Prestige is complex to evaluate, depending quite a bit on what your opponents have (and probably on local metagame and number of players). Your argument is built on this idea that "1 prestige is worth more than two cards in the consume phase", which I very much disagree with. IMO, deficit spending gives a poor deal (except when near the end of the game, when you're exceeding the hand limit anyway, or when you just have a very good card engine) and Pan-Galactic Security Council offers an even worse one - 2 cards for only 1 VP - unless there are other conditions that make it worthwhile: you are the prestige leader, it helps you to become the prestige leader, you have Federation Capital or Pan-Galactic Affluence making the PP worth more, you have something you want to spend the PP on. If you're the prestige leader and haven't earned prestige already this round, it means "discard 1 card and cycle 1 card for 1 VP and a stronger hold on the lead", which is quite good, but not automatic.
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Tom Lehmann
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The RFTG cost structure is not linear and is heavily dominated by the concept of opportunity cost (see economics 101). Trying to pick it apart into pseudo-equations is *completely* missing the point.

For example, the value of a card during Develop obviously varies a lot depending on whether or not a Settle has also been called that round.

Talking about this value as some sort of absolute thing is not a useful way of looking at things. Value is a situational thing that varies according to the context of the decision you're trying to make.

(As an aside, these issues got argued over and were settled in economics more than 100 years ago -- why are we even discussing this now? Sigh.)

If you look at the defense 2 vs defense 3 worlds in Race, you'll notice that having Military 3 is a significant breakpoint. This is one reason why, in the base game, Drop Ships costs 4, not 3. Doing this sharpens the difference between the military and non-military start worlds; the military ones can get to Military 3 much cheaper than the non-military start worlds.

Similarly, there's a reason that the Alien military worlds that provide Military (in the base game) start at defense 4, not 3, so that Drop Ships is still important for the military start worlds, as well.

From a starting hand PoV, Drop Ships has advantages over Imperium Invasion Fleet. Suppose a player wants to go military, has a nice military windfall, and has a 6 development or another nice long-term card that fits well with this plan. Cost 4 is as high as a player can go and still call Explore +1, followed by Develop on the next round, and still preserve two cards (a military world to play and a long-term card). This is not an "accident", but something designed into RFTG's core cost structure.

Cost 5 developments are much harder to get into play early on. This is part of what keeps Drop Ships competitive with Imperium Invasion Fleet. At the point in the game when cards become relatively "cheap", a player can often justify spending 4 cards on a development (instead of stretching to 6 cards for a 6-cost development for much greater effect), as they can preserve flexibility by keeping more cards in hand. As the cost gets closer to 6, this becomes harder to do.

5 cost *developments* (not worlds) have to provide some extra "oomph" in order to overcome this implicit opportunity cost of just placing a 6-cost development instead. Taking the "derivative" among a series of 4-6 cost worlds and comparing this to developments, again, completely misses the point. This has nothing to do with "shiny, new things" and everything to do with the concept of opportunity cost.

Finally, note that Imperium is not something that is automatically good; it's another takeover vulnerability versus both Rebel Alliance and, now, Rebel Sneak Attack. You may not play with takeovers on, but, I -- as the designer -- do have to factor this into costs and benefits.

(Note: edited to address Rob's point, below, about Alien Robot Sentry.)
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Rob Neuhaus
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
The RFTG cost structure is not linear and is heavily dominated by the concept of opportunity cost (see economics 101). Trying to pick it apart into pseudo-equations is *completely* missing the point.

For example, the value of a card during Develop obviously varies a lot depending on whether or not a Settle has also been called that round.

Talking about this value as some sort of absolute thing is not a useful way of looking at things. Value is a situational thing that varies according to the context of the decision you're trying to make.

(As an aside, these issues got argued over and were settled in economics more than 100 years ago -- why are we even discussing this now? Sigh.)

FWIW, I assure you I completely understand the concept of opportunity cost.

Quote:
If you look at the defense 2 vs defense 3 worlds in Race, you'll notice that having Military 3 is a significant breakpoint. This is one reason why, in the base game, Drop Ships costs 4, not 3. Doing this sharpens the difference between the military and non-military start worlds; the military ones can get to Military 3 much cheaper than the non-military start worlds.

Similarly, there's a reason that the Alien military worlds (in the base game) start at defense 4, not 3, so that Drop Ships is still important for the military start worlds, as well.

It's okay, Alien Robot Sentry still loves you

Quote:
From a starting hand PoV, Drop Ships has advantages over Imperium Invasion Fleet. Suppose a player wants to go military, has a nice military windfall, and has a 6 development or another nice long-term card that fits well with this plan. Cost 4 is as high as a player can go and still call Explore +1, followed by Develop on the next round, and still preserve two cards (a military world to play and a long-term card). This is not an "accident", but something designed into RFTG's core cost structure.

Cost 5 developments are much harder to get into play early on. This is part of what keeps Drop Ships competitive with Imperium Invasion Fleet. At the point in the game when cards become relatively "cheap", a player can often justify spending 4 cards on a development (instead of stretching to 6 cards for a 6-cost development for much greater effect), as they can preserve flexibility by keeping more cards in hand. As the cost gets closer to 6, this becomes harder to do.

5 cost *developments* (not worlds) have to provide some extra "oomph" in order to overcome this implicit opportunity cost of just placing a 6-cost development instead. Taking the "derivative" among a series of 4-6 cost worlds and comparing this to developments, again, completely misses the point. This has nothing to do with "shiny, new things" and everything to do with the concept of opportunity cost.

Finally, note that Imperium is not something that is automatically good; it's another takeover vulnerability versus both Rebel Alliance and, now, Rebel Sneak Attack. You may not play with takeovers on, but, I -- as the designer -- do have to factor this into costs and benefits.

I now play with alternating takeovers, and indeed my favorite game with them had my worlds ripped to shreds my an awesomely timed Casus Belli and settle call by my opponent.

The alien cost analogy is nice because its as close to an apples to apples comparison as I can make. Without any discounts, the costs for the alien world and the military devs are the same in terms of cards.

Also, in your same situation, but without a useful 6 dev and IIF instead of dropships, but still one useful military world, you are likely going to be better off with the IIF. Explore +1/1/dev will tend to put you in a better situation.

You haven't convinced me that seemingly similar cost structure, but different relative gains with regards to the alien worlds and military devs are simultaneously in balance. I am happy to let this particular point rest until I can get my hands on some real quantity of play data from TBoW.
 
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Tom Lehmann
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rrenaud wrote:
Tom Lehmann wrote:
Similarly, there's a reason that the Alien military worlds (in the base game) start at defense 4, not 3, so that Drop Ships is still important for the military start worlds, as well.
It's okay, Alien Robot Sentry still loves you
Sorry, I wasn't clear; I meant the Alien military worlds that provide Military (i.e. stepping stones to higher defense worlds). Same reason that Uplift Revolt World and Rebel Fuel Refinery are defense 4.

Hmm... I'm glad to hear that you understand the concept of "opportunity cost" but I find it a bit hard to believe, given some of your arguments, that you "completely" understand it. ;-)
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David desJardins
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rrenaud wrote:
I am happy to let this particular point rest until I can get my hands on some real quantity of play data from TBoW.

Come on. It's not in the BGG tradition to refrain from argument just because you lack any actual experience sufficient evidence.
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Rob Neuhaus
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I didn't mean it in terms of not having played the game a lot (maybe I am at 200 plays of TBoW, slightly more than 3 games/day average since late March seems reasonable), I just think that say, 10s of thousands of machine recorded games is a lot more persuasive (to me) than anecdotal experience.
 
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Geoff Speare
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Tom Lehmann wrote:

(As an aside, these issues got argued over and were settled in economics more than 100 years ago -- why are we even discussing this now? Sigh.)

Hm...

Wikipedia wrote:

In a 2005 survey at the annual meeting of American Economic Association, 21.6% of professional economists surveyed chose the correct answer to a question on opportunity cost.
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Guy Srinivasan
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rrenaud wrote:
I didn't mean it in terms of not having played the game a lot (maybe I am at 200 plays of TBoW, slightly more than 3 games/day average since late March seems reasonable), I just think that say, 10s of thousands of machine recorded games is a lot more persuasive (to me) than anecdotal experience.
Beware of incorrect models fed arbitrarily large amounts of data.

Maybe you're right, but be really friggin' ware.
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GreedyAlgorithm wrote:
be really friggin' ware.

I think Guy just referred to all Genie and Flex players as 1000 drunken monkeys with typewriters.
surprise
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rrenaud wrote:

From Dropships to Imperium Invasion Fleet, you pay one to get +1 military against Rebel, a prestige, the Imperium keyword, and the discard for miltary -> non-miltary for 2 prestige power.

So, one point is worth approximately the same as one prestige, +1 against rebels, and an Imperium keyword?

It's not just +1 against Rebels, it's +1 against Rebels given that you already have +3 Military. If you have no other Military, that only makes a difference for 2 worlds in the deck. If you have any extra military (less than 6), that only makes a difference for 1 world in the deck. And if you have +6 Military elsewhere, the +1 Rebel is completely useless.

The Imperium keyword is a mixed bag -- it works poorly with Rebel Freedom Fighters and makes you vulnerable to Rebel Alliance.

Also, IIF has a significant disadvantage: if there's no Explore, you can't get it out on turn 1. Even if there is one, with Drop Ships you can hold on to a good card in your hand, whereas with IIF you're starting next turn with an empty hand.
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Guy Srinivasan
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MrWeasely wrote:
GreedyAlgorithm wrote:
be really friggin' ware.

I think Guy just referred to all Genie and Flex players as 1000 drunken monkeys with typewriters.
surprise
In case it wasn't clear (and in retrospect I don't think it was) I mean no matter how well you train your model, no matter the amount of good quality data you feed it, if the model itself does not match reality your data can only go so far. I'm not saying the players are bad at all.
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Alex Chen
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Rob: imagine if GalFed cost 5 to bring out, but was worth 1 less point. Would the card be stronger, weaker, or the same as before? The main problem with looking at the Alien Worlds is that they are almost purely points plays (the Alien good often doesn't even matter), while Imperium Invasion Fleet and Drop Ships are utility plays that are most relevant in the early game.

That said: IIF looks a whole lot stronger than DS. I don't consider this a bad thing. The past expansions have all introduced cards that are way above the base game's curve (Terraforming Guild, Pan-Galactic Research, Galactic Advertisers, Trading Outpost, etc), and the game hasn't particularly suffered from it.
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Brendon Russell
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
scwont wrote:
Tom Lehmann wrote:
Alien Cornucopia: ... We tried keying the VPs off produce powers, not production worlds, but this was awkward and we decided to increase the synergy with Merchant Guild.
What was awkward about keying VPs off produce powers?
Rewarding windfall powers tended to make Alien Cornucopia synergize more with Terraforming Guild, rather than Merchant Guild, which is the reverse of what was needed for balance and I intended thematically.

Ah, I see. I'd noticed (and like) how you avoided having too much synergy between Terraforming Guild and Golden Age of Terraforming. I hadn't thought of it in relation to Alien Cornucopia (or Produce phase powers in general).

Tom Lehmann wrote:
Galactic Markets: also added during the "slim deck" experiment to compensate for losing one each of Consumer Markets, Mining Conglomerate, and Diversified Economy. We retained GM as its consumption flexibility helps deal with variance and streakiness, but players were lukewarm about it until we added a prestige (after removing the prestige from Casus Belli, we wanted one on another mid-priced development).

I'm surprised to hear that it wasn't well-regarded, considering the initial impressions of some people here (including myself). To me it seems like it would've been well balanced in relation to Diversified Economy, without having the prestige *or* the Settle power.
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