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Subject: Port variant (black gem fix) rss

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Jim Cote
United States
Maine
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I have discussed elsewhere why I feel the black gems are an underdeveloped concept in this game. In short, I feel they simply provide ANOTHER place in each neighborhood to acquire [what amounts to about] 3 gold.

I have finally come up with a variation that makes the Port areas more interesting, while providing a different influence in the game for accumulating gold:

Play all rules as normal, except that the winner of each port area--instead of collecting a black gem--collects gold equal to the total number of non-zero pawns of all the other players in that neighborhood.

This means that the Port is worthless in an empty neighborhood, but when the Commercial or Palace areas start becoming contested, the Port becomes very valuable. Because "0" pawns add no value to the Port, you won't know what it's worth until the reckoning. Also, since you only count other players' pawns, you can't inflate the Port value for yourself.
 
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Paul Grogan
United Kingdom
Cullompton
Devon
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We too felt that the black gems part of the game was a bit odd. When I first read the rules, I thought they would get more valuable the more you collect. In fact, one variant has them valued at
1,3,7,12,17,22,26+ rather than the standard 4 points per gem after the first.

The reason is that the commercial area is worth 3, and the port is worth not much more. In fact, you haver to collect 4 black gems in order to break even with the same points you would have got from winning 4 commercial areas.

There basically didnt seem much difference between the port and the commercial areas. So, we might give your variant a go next time we play as it looks like it might work. It might need a bit of tweaking with a different number of players. I think if you use 4 neighbourhoods with 3 players, there may not be much activity in the port.

Paul Grogan
 
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Myke Madsen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one to feel that the scoring of black gems was odd.

I like ekted's idea. It would certainly add another dimension to playing one's brokers.

Another possibility would be to make the black gems more valuable the more you won, perhaps by using triangular numbers (like Goa, Hacienda, Amun Re). This would make the port area of varying value depending on how many gems a player currently has.
 
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Travis Bridges
United States
Nazareth
Pennsylvania
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I think it would lose some of the bluffing element if you did this, Myke, and more I think the game would degenerate, since other areas would be abandoned. I think the game works because things are roughly the same value. If it was round 4, and a black gem was worth six to you, but only three to me, not only would you do anything to win it, but I wouldn't even compete with you except to keep you from scoring points. As you know from previous discussions, I don't think a game where grabbing points is your goal should have a huge mechanic that would encourage others to play just to keep people from scoring points. There is not enough brokers to make blocking a winning strategy, but could be used to keep an opponent from winning. What fun would that be? The game is built from keeping everything an even target and let the game be played within your knowledge of other players, like other bluffing games. The black gem scoring gives players enough incentive to not ignore the black gems, but not enough to make black gems a winning strategy. What makes this game better than other games of it's type is the market. The ability to influence the scoring through using brokers at the market is a new mechanic for blind bluffing games, which would be totally downgraded with an added importance to black gem collecting.

For me the scoring is arbitrary pretty much all over, but I still think the game is great fun. I would never call it more than a light Euro. But I don't think there is anything here that needs to be fixed.
 
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Jim Cote
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Maine
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Finally got a chance to actually try this variant out. It works very well, and completely removes the awkwardness of the black gem part of the game. Some tactics that result from it:

- Since you only score a point for each OTHER player's NON-ZERO broker, you never know what the port is actually worth.

- The port becomes worth more and more as the neighborhood fills up. There's initial competition for the palace and commercial areas until some perceived threshold, then the port starts to get some action.

- You never place a broker on the port if the neighborhood is empty since it is worth zero.

- Placing the 0 broker face down in a neighborhood that is filling up makes the port SEEM more attractive.

- The ports usually have different values for each player.

- You can't increase the value of the port for yourself using your own brokers, except in the 2p game.

I wouldn't call this an A mechanic; perhaps it is a B. But to me it's a huge improvement over the D mechanic of the black gems.
 
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Jim Scheiderich
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Liverpool
New York
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While I'm all for variants, the current valuing of Ports allows another strategy. In all the games I have been in only myself or one other have pursued Black gems in Ports and eschewed Commercial areas. I have collected Black gems with "0" brokers more than once.

Usually no one notices till you are sitting on 4 Black gems.

Making them rise in value by 3 points after the first essentially puts the Ports on par with the Commercial areas except when the Merchant card is played.
 
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Jim Cote
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LHIM wrote:
While I'm all for variants, the current valuing of Ports allows another strategy. In all the games I have been in only myself or one other have pursued Black gems in Ports and eschewed Commercial areas. I have collected Black gems with "0" brokers more than once.

Usually no one notices till you are sitting on 4 Black gems.

Making them rise in value by 3 points after the first essentially puts the Ports on par with the Commercial areas except when the Merchant card is played.


Your "strategy" seems to rely on other players not understanding how the game works. Commercial Areas are worth 3 VP, and Ports are worth slightly less than 3 to slightly more than 3 depending on how many you get. Using the normal rules, I just call them both 3, which makes the game too boring for me.
 
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Jan Artoos
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ekted wrote:
Commercial Areas are worth 3 VP, and Ports are worth slightly less than 3 to slightly more than 3 depending on how many you get. Using the normal rules, I just call them both 3, which makes the game too boring for me.
I don't like it. Effects I see:
1) certain Ports become undesirable. This alters the number of areas that will get used from round to round. I prefer picking the optimal number of neighbourhoods for the number of players involved and not having too much of them go to waste.
2) Some Ports become (much) more valuable than 3 points, which is an added advantage for the person who gets to go last during that round. Getting to go last is a (big) advantage anyway, and one you pay for, but with this houserule you don't know how much of an advantage at the time you make your bid. Some might feel that makes it more interesting, I don't. At the very least this arguably increases the benefit of going last, even if it's unclear each time how much - I'm not really in favour of that to begin with.

I have more of a problem with the way tiebreakers are implemented. In practice having a low number - the ultimate recourse in case of a tie - almost never comes into play. It's almost always the markers bid for position that win it, which means bidding high - even if it removes your better markers - has a double advantage. Getting to go last knowing ties will go to you, so you don't actually have to win, is really, really powerful. I think it might be better if the lower marker total would win ties, but I haven't had a chance to try that out yet.
 
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Jim Cote
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Maine
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spoony bard wrote:
2) Some Ports become (much) more valuable than 3 points


Yes they can, but only if players let them. Every time you play a non-zero broker in a neighborhood, you are making the Port worth 1 more for the OTHER players. It does change the dynamics a little, but for me it takes the game from a 5 to a 7.5. There's no comparison. Having two areas of each neighborhood be essentially EXACTLY THE SAME feels so under-developed.

What if every goods unit in Puerto Rico sold to the trading post for the same price, and they all could be piled on ships together? Everyone would say, "Why there are 5 goods in the game then? They are all the same."
 
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Jan Artoos
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ekted wrote:
spoony bard wrote:
2) Some Ports become (much) more valuable than 3 points


Yes they can, but only if players let them. Every time you play a non-zero broker in a neighborhood, you are making the Port worth 1 more for the OTHER players. It does change the dynamics a little, but for me it takes the game from a 5 to a 7.5. There's no comparison. Having two areas of each neighborhood be essentially EXACTLY THE SAME feels so under-developed.
They're supposed to be comparable in value. I have no problems with having to think things through and being forced to weigh essentially unknown quantities, but in this game you still have to put down your markers somewhere. This rule basically encourages spreading out your markers as much as possible - where's the fun in that? I'd rather see some fierce competition for instance for the cards gained in the palace areas without that automatically resulting in the third or fourth player getting a bunch of easy points. The half-open/half-blind bidding works because it's a good mix of being able to bluff and take a chance, and applying brute focused power at the expense of being weak elsewhere. Freebee points for players who stay away from 2/3s of the areas on the board are too high a price to pay for many tactics, it'd take away too much for me to enjoy.

ekted wrote:
What if every goods unit in Puerto Rico sold to the trading post for the same price, and they all could be piled on ships together? Everyone would say, "Why there are 5 goods in the game then? They are all the same."
Puerto Rico is a complex heavyweight boardgame. Ys is a simple midweight. No reason to compare them to each other, and certainly not to try to turn the latter into the former. Ys is a great game to intoduce newbies to more serious boardgames. If I sick PR on people whose experience extends to a bunch of Monopoly sessions, I'll probably turn them off for life.
 
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Jim Cote
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spoony bard wrote:
Puerto Rico is a complex heavyweight boardgame. Ys is a simple midweight. No reason to compare them to each other, and certainly not to try to turn the latter into the former. Ys is a great game to intoduce newbies to more serious boardgames. If I sick PR on people whose experience extends to a bunch of Monopoly sessions, I'll probably turn them off for life.


I wasn't trying to compare them. I was trying to show how an udner-developed mechanic makes a game no fun. It is here that we part ways.
 
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Jan Artoos
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ekted wrote:
I was trying to show how an udner-developed mechanic makes a game no fun. It is here that we part ways.
I guess it just doesn't feel underdeveloped to me - ironically, I find the palace area and more specifically the cards to be won there, to be overdeveloped to the point it detracts from the game for me. It's obvious Ys needs at least three areas per neighbourhood, and the card mechanic just seems ill-chosen. It's fiddly, more complex than necessary, and takes away from the basic simplicity of the concept. Special cards might still be a good idea for that area, but IMO these cards are not the best choice.

A system where the value of the black stones increases along a more curving line, like someone mentioned above, seems a much more simple solution to make the port area a little more interesting tactically. It's simple, might well be effective if done right, and doesn't change too much about the basic game. IMO, your rule just tweaks too many other aspects of the game, and often not for the better.
 
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Jim Cote
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Maine
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spoony bard wrote:
ekted wrote:
I was trying to show how an udner-developed mechanic makes a game no fun. It is here that we part ways.
I guess it just doesn't feel underdeveloped to me - ironically, I find the palace area and more specifically the cards to be won there, to be overdeveloped to the point it detracts from the game for me. It's obvious Ys needs at least three areas per neighbourhood, and the card mechanic just seems ill-chosen. It's fiddly, more complex than necessary, and takes away from the basic simplicity of the concept. Special cards might still be a good idea for that area, but IMO these cards are not the best choice.

A system where the value of the black stones increases along a more curving line, like someone mentioned above, seems a much more simple solution to make the port area a little more interesting tactically. It's simple, might well be effective if done right, and doesn't change too much about the basic game. IMO, your rule just tweaks too many other aspects of the game, and often not for the better.


I agree about the cards. They add a complexity that is beyond the rest of the game. A much simpler set of "effects" on the cards would have been more streamlined.

Originally, I tried to come up with a new "curve" for the black gems. I experimented with the triangular sequence, primes, powers of 2, etc. Everything I tried had some fatal flaw, like making the game all about going after the black gems. Like I said, my house rule I only consider a B, but it makes the game much more fun for me, even if it's a slightly different game.

My personal reasons for using "under-developed" about this are as follows. Say I decide I want to play in a specific neighborhood. The Commerial and Port areas are currently unoccupied. I can play in either. In both cases I get (about) 3 points. No other game that I know of has 2 choices for 2 completely different mechanics that have equal (current and long-term) results.

Perhaps making them worth a little more, but adding a risk factor. For example, make every set of 2 black gems worth 8 (4 per). So if you get just 1 (or any subsequent odd number) it's wasted unless you get another. Just brainstorming.

Anyways, I love discussions like this. Great stuff.
 
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Jan Artoos
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Another solution might be to remove all white stones from the cards - anything you win by neighbourhood majority is a specific color - and use the white ones for the port area. One white to be won there, or possibly even two with the caveat that you have two pick two different ones. Or you gain two stones in the port, of the color of the currently lowest value. I think there are lots of possibilities to explore, but I'm leery of anything more intricate than necessary. That, to me, is the big difference between games like Ys and games like Puerto Rico - what's intricate for the latter is fiddly for the former, and what's simplistic for the latter is sturdily robust for the former.
 
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Breno K.
Brazil
Brasília
Distrito Federal
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I`ll see if I can give this variant a try. Maybe it will rescue this game from being sold
 
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