The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits


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The joke about Acquire is that it should be called “Acquired,” because you want to get bought out. Pan Am has the same feel in that you are building an airline, but you really want to get gobbled up by the juggernaut company (that will eventually die out, but after you’ve retired). So you build up routes in the hopes that Pan Am will buy you out, then you can convert that money into shares of Pan Am, which are the sole victory.

And — in some sense — it works. But there are random events and woo-eey, one of them just gave me four shares of Pan Am (as compared to 1-2 for other players) on the last turn. There also a deck of “Eh, I’ll skip my action this turn for a powerful event and an earlier worker placement next turn” and some of those events are …. a bonus certificate of Pan Am. I got three of those … so of my 27 points, 7 were from random events. I won … by 3-4 shares (27 to 24ish), without those events I lose.

So … too random.

Also, whatever happened to putting the designers name on it? That was kind of a big deal.

Should “Prospero Hall” be considered the Alan Smithee of game designers?

Rating — Indifferent.

Written by taogaming

May 29, 2023 at 10:20 pm

Posted in Reviews

Tagged with

Legibility, Confusion, Prediction and Enjoyment

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As I have mentioned before, I’ve been following the magician Dani DaOrtiz ever since his appearance on Penn and Teller. One of his oft-repeated lines (in lessons) is that “Confusion is not magic.” But there are subtleties. Obviously the audience must be unaware of “the secret.” If you catch the magician secretly palming the card, or if the assistant has a twin then the trick unravels. So the audience must not know certain (key) facts. The effect must be clear, not confusing. The method should not be obvious.

That person was over there, tied up, in a bag. A second later they are over here, untied. Crystal clear.

When talking about Horseless Carriage I called the game state “illegible,” but now I realize that was imprecise. The current state is perfectly legible. A player has a score ($), a factory layout with lines that can produce X cars with certain spec, Y cars with different spec, Z cars (or trucks or sports cars) with another spec. That player has research positions, an order on the focus track, generates so much research/gannt charts per turn.

It may take a few minutes to “read,” but its all there. No cards. Nothing hidden.

The issue with H.C. is that game state changes massively (and simultaneously) during the “Build a factory” phase. You add parts and specs and whatnot and suddenly that player can generate cars with new specs, etc. The “build” step contains zero-to-many substeps of “add something to the factory floor.” What can a player do in that phase? Lots. Improve R&D, or leave it and make much better cars. Perhaps open a new dealership, or improve marketing, or second line. It’s similar to the Bin Packing Problem, and it’s hard.

I worry that there are optimal solutions. I don’t worry that people can find them at the table. But when I called the game “illegible,” I was fumbling around the following idea “When this step starts, it is very difficult to predict where the game will be at the end of this step. You have a wide variety of options and even deciding what you should be optimizing is difficult, much less optimizing it. But even if you optimize it, you may do well or not based on what other people are optimizing, if they are in conflict with you, and the like.”

(Of course, how well you optimize is also a big deal, but let’s skip it).

“And even if you are correct, other players may not see the solution the same way and their choices may greatly benefit/harm you based on their views.”

So …. Horseless Carriage is legible. But it’s not easily predictable.

In some ways, this is the same as a dudes-on-a-map game where the winner may simply be decided by who attacks who. That’s predictable (X is a jerk, everyone attacks him, given a choice, etc), but it’s not necessarily a function of the game rules. This is (sometimes) considered a flaw with the game. Similarly, one game of H.C. was decided by two players fighting Sports Cars, two players fighting for the high end market, and one player left alone in trucks (winner!).

But you want some level of predictability in a game. Chess has lots of predictability …. good players will all look at the same small list of moves in a given position. You still need to do the hard work of calculating to show that a move is good, and spectators delight in surprise moves, but the move is a surprise because of the superior skill. You thought g6 was bad, the grandmaster played g6! What did he see that you didn’t?


If Chess let you move all the pieces each, it would be a less interesting game, partially because predictability would fall (but more because the constraints makes tactics more interesting. This is not a theoretical example, looking at you Fuedal).

I got to thinking about this because of last night’s game of Darwin’s Journey. (Which I didn’t enjoy.) Darwin’s Journey is legible. You can glance at a player’s board (and the board) and see what spots are open to his workers, explorers, position in turn order, etc. It might (again) be difficult to read, but its open. There are some tiles drawn each round that add uncertainty, but OK. It’s much more predictable than Horseless Carriage, because each turn is a “simple” one … place a work and resolve an action. You might still have the same problem of “That player misjudges and takes a space that doesn’t help him, but hurts me,” but that can happen in most games. In fact, Darwin’s Journey is predictable enough that I could often say “I will take this spot, I think A/B/C will do X/Y/Z and then I’ll take that spot.” I could see many ply into the future (which is basically impossible in H.C.).

But I didn’t enjoy the experience. Perhaps because the game state had too much information? When a chess player makes a move you hadn’t considered, it’s exciting! (Not necessarily good for you, but exciting!) Maybe they blundered. Maybe I missed a nuance. But something important happened.

When a player makes a surprising move in Darwin’s Journey, well … it’s a point salad game. They are still going to get a few points, maybe a few more than you thought, maybe a few less. And there is so much going on in the game state, perhaps its a wash.

(“This game lacks focus” was my comment at game night.)

You want some predictability. Not too much. Not too little. Tic-Tac-Toe is predictable (once you are no longer a small child). So it’s boring. Chess is in the sweet spot (for many people). People who play Bridge or Go are self-selecting into an amount of predictability that they want. (Bridge is interesting, because the first part of becoming a good bridge player is learning how to read the game state, which is a non-trivial task in hand evaluation and understanding a bidding system, as well as the card play. For a novice, the game is mostly illegible, and the experience involves ‘learning to read’).

For those games, surprise is exciting, but you need the framework to be legible, so you have enough information to be surprised, and not just bewildered and confused. And as we’ve seen by Go and Bridge, learning to read a game state is often a valid (cherished!) part of the experience. I suspect that most of my irritation at Darwin’s Journey is that the learning to read the game state is complex, but it’s just “kitchen sink” complexity, not organic.

Anyway, I still feel like I’m not quite at the point, but I think I’m moving closer.

And moving back to magic, I see a parallel in the showmanship. Dani talks about “ending on a snapshot” where even if someone just wandered into the last second, they could get a rough idea of what’s going on. “Ah, there’s a pile of cards and a face up card. He must have found the card in the right place” or “He flips up two piles of cards and all the red cards are in one pile, and all the black cards are in another.”

The trick should not be confused. The effect should be simple. You need focus.

Written by taogaming

May 25, 2023 at 9:35 am

Darwin’s Journey

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“My theory of evolution is that Darwin was adopted.”

— Stephen Wright

There’s a clever idea here — some workers are better at certain tasks (and lesser trained workers cannot do some tasks). But that is completely overwhelmed by the other dozen mediocre ideas thrown into this box. And at 2.5 hours (with teach) this way overstayed its welcome.

Worker placement in theory but drowning in point-salad-dressing.

Rating — Indifferent, bordering on avoid.

Written by taogaming

May 24, 2023 at 9:53 pm

Posted in Reviews

Horseless Carriage, Redux

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I’ve now played four games of (Hush hush, keep it down now), Horseless Carriage, and I am reminded a hiring decision. We’d gotten a new contractor (temp-to-hire). After a few weeks, We had a meeting (without him) and discussed the decision.

“Well, he’s a bit prickly, but he seems to know his stuff.”

“If you stay on top of him, he gets his work done.”

Etc etc.

And at my turn, I said, “Well, I was going to give a criticism, but everyone seems to be saying ‘He’s bad, but he’s not that bad.’ Am I reading that right?”

And we let him go.

And after all of my games of Horseless Carriage, I said (and heard) statements like that meeting.

“I think it’s too spatial, but that’s probably just the first few games.”

“The sales phase is too fiddly for what it does, but its not the soul of the game.”

“Once you get past the confusion it gets better.”

Etc etc.

One player in last night’s game said “If the game ended on the turn it did or the next one, it would have ended the same way.” Impressive, given the Splotter “If you can’t win on the first turn, why have it?” jibe. One player had messed up their research and suddenly found themselves unable to build a minimum technology that turn (they had the tech, but no space for it in their layout), so that player is last.

So, time to admit that I want to like Horseless Carriage more than I actually like it. I’ve spent $30 on organizers trying (successfully) to trim the setup/teardown costs of the game.

I suspect that one of the real problems is that when you lose Horseless Carriage it feels like a personal failure. “Oh, I blocked myself off from this tech,” “I didn’t see that coming,” “I didn’t suspect that part would run out.” “I would have been fine if I’d been 2nd in turn order instead of 3rd.” Horseless Carriage’s systems are entangled so that you can predict it.

You can see Design is going to come in next turn, and you’ll need more Design, but how hard will others fight for it, or will they be content with having an OK design and setting up the fight for turn N+1? Because that’s hard to gage. The game rules are already a bit rough (until you know them) but the game state seems illegible, not offering any guideposts as to what to do and players wind up foundering and crashing. So the winner is the one who simply founders the least.

“Perhaps when we are better then that will not be the case,” I say to myself.

“See opening anecdote,” I answer myself.

I am not yet at the point of letting my copy go; there are definitely people who want to play again and I am one of them. But I am not nearly as hopeful as I was a month ago.

Written by taogaming

May 23, 2023 at 9:18 am

Posted in Reviews

Tagged with

Probably Right

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I’m playing a club game with Roxie. Last week we had a monstrous 70% game, but came in second overall against a pair that had nearly 75%. Playing against the same pair today, I pick up S: 6 H: K95 D: KT98 C: AJT98.

LHO opens a weak (11-14) 1 No Trump and LHO promptly bids 3 No Trump, ending the auction. Partner leads the spade deuce and dummy hits with

S: KT85 H: AJ8 D: xxx C: KQx

Looks like they missed a 4-4 spade fit, but spades aren’t breaking. I follow with the six and declarer wins with the seven. He plays another spade — nine, ten and I pitch a low heart (discouraging). Diamond to my ten (playing standard signals) – queen – small. Another spade and Roxie flies with the spade ace. I now pitch the club ten, encouraging. Roxie switches to the club five, king – ace small. I play the club jack and all follow, but declarer ducks. I lead another club and declarer pitches a heart, dummy winning. Declarer takes another diamond finesse to the jack (I play the 8). Declarer now leads the queen of spades.

Dummy S: x H: AJx D:x 

              Me: S: -- H:K9 D:K9 C:T

Declarer S: Q H:Qx D:A3

It seem obvious to me to pitch the heart nine, and I do so without any hesitation (as I’ve been considering this for several cards). Pitching the club winner when I was known to have K9 of diamonds and two hearts is basically admitting I’ve got the heart king. Declarer would endplay me in diamonds to make (via 3 spades, 3 diamonds, a club and two hearts). Declarer has only shown up with 9 points in spades, diamonds and clubs, so pretty much has to have the heart queen.

Declarer cashes the diamond ace and then leads the heart queen. When partner plays low he eyeballs it then plays low and I win my stiff king and flash my high diamond and club, claiming the rest.

Declarer compliments my play of baring the heart king.

But looking back on it, is my play right? I would presumably always pitch a heart (whether I had the King or not), for reasons shown above. But would Roxie duck the king of hearts from KTx? That gives up a trick. But in looking at the hand records I see that Declarer had QTx of hearts originally, so it turns out that Roxie would not cover.

Also, playing “safe” to let declarer make would have been a terrible score, as the field isn’t in 3N with 11 opposite 13 HCP, so I think my play was right. Probably. But if declarer didn’t have the ten …

In any case, today we get first overall, aided by hands like this.

Written by taogaming

May 22, 2023 at 9:34 pm

Posted in Bridge

Some High Level Decisions

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Playing in a Sectional Tournament at Club (STAC) with Hank, we encounter a number of high level decisions.

In fourth seat, white vs red I pick up S: A97xx H:xx D:Ax C:K9xx. LHO passes, Hank opens 2 Hearts (weak), RHO bids a surprising 2 Spades, I pass, and LHO bids 3 Spades. Hank is still in it with 4 Clubs and LHO bids 4 Spades. To preempt and bid again, I’m placing Hank with 65, likely 0=6=2=5. That does make my king of clubs suspect, but as compared to that I know spades break 5-0. I’d be surprised if my hand didn’t have at least three tricks, so I double. There is little to the play (although spades are 6-2), as we get them off two, for +500.

The very next hand I pick up a 1.5 NT hand … with S:K8x H:Ax D:QJ9x C:AK8x. I could open this 1NT (showing 15-17) but I think this is a touch stronger (with lots of controls and the nine of diamonds looks tasty). I open a Polish 1 Club, treating the hand as 18 balanced (although partner will expected 12-14 until I reveal). LHO bids four spades and it goes pass pass back to me. I double, which shows 18+. Partner hems a bit, but I expect he’s passing without any wild distribution. He does and again there’s nothing to it, we get them two tricks for +300. In theory we can make 3N (double dummy) but that’s only because they can’t run the spades (which block).

Next I have S: JTxx H:AQx D:xxx C:xxx. With both vul, LHO opens 1 Heart and Hank bids 3 Hearts, which shows a running minor, and a hand that thinks we might have 3N if I can stop hearts. I can! But RHO bids 4 Hearts. Well, if Hank thinks we can make 3N if I have one heart trick, I think we can make 4N if I have two heart tricks. So I bid 4 Notrump. LHO doubles. Hank considers this and bids five diamonds. LHO doubles and Hank pulls to 5 Diamonds. RHO bids five hearts and again its to me. If RHO has the heart king I have two heart tricks and I just need Hank to have one. But … he did pull 4N doubled, so he probably doesn’t have a spade AND club card. In the end I can’t stand it and I double.

LHO had S:AK H:Txxxx D:- C:AKQT8x and ruffs the opening diamond lead. We get only two trump tricks, they score the doubled game for -850. Ugh. Hank had eight solid diamonds and the queen of spades, so if we just moved one of those clubs to spades, it would have set. But probably I should have respected his pull of 4N-X.

Next I pick up a wild hand. S:K H:– D:AKQTxx C:Axxxxx.No matter what system I was playing, I would always open this One diamond (if it was natural). I expect the auction to be jacked up when it gets back to me, so I want to be able to show my two suits instead of starting with an artificial force. Fortunately I’m dealer and open 1 Diamond. LHO passes and Hank bids 1 Heart. RHO bids 1 Spade and I jump to Five Clubs. LHO bids Five spades and Hank bids 5 NT asking me which suit I want to bid slam in. I bid Six Diamonds and LHO bids Six Spades.

Hank passes! We are clearing in a forcing pass situation … we’ve voluntarily bid a slam and the opponents bid over it. So we have to double them. By passing, Hank implies interest in the grand slam. Presumably that means he’s looking at a spade void …. which seems unlikely. I mean, my RHO bid two spades, showing six. I’m supposed to assume my RHO passed originally with seven spades and then only bid five spades? Doesn’t seem likely. More reasonable, Hank has the Heart ace, is hoping I have the spade void … and has something else.

What else do I know? Well, the 5N indicated ambivalence between the two suits. But I have AKQT of one suit and Ace empty of the other. So he’s likely looking at 3 or 4 small in both (or perhaps four small diamonds and 3 clubs to an honor). I think we’re fine on spades (and hearts and diamonds), but we probably have a club loser. And there might even be a ruff on opening lead. So, despite being void of spades I double.

And I am gratified when dummy comes down with KJ tight of clubs. So we have a sure club loser in 7 diamonds. We set them three for +500, which is in fact the par result, since we can make six of either minor. (Annoyingly, we get a bad board because most of the field did not find the sacrifice on their 12 card spade fit, but I can’t help that).

On our final high level hand of the day, I pick up ordinary looking hand S: QJx H: xx D: xx C: QJ87x. Hank opens 1 Club (Polish). My RHO bids 1 NT which is alerted, but I don’t particularly care what it is, since I do not want to bid opposite a (presumed) weak 12-14 count (which is the most common hand type for 1 club). LHO bids 2 Diamonds and Hank bids 2 Spades, showing 18+ with 5 or more spades. RHO passes.

I overbid with 4 Spades. Really I should bid 3 Spades, since with a minimum game might not be on, but it looks like all my points are working. LHO tries again with five diamonds, and I note that we are vulnerable and the opponents are not, so its probably a good sacrifice. Hank bids Six Spades, which RHO doubles, all pass.

Hank asks what the 1NT alert was and is informed “Minors”. Uh oh, my points don’t look so good anymore. But I needn’t have worried, Hank has a moose with AKT9xx of spades and AKQJTx of hearts. The opponents cash a club (his 13th card) and try to cash the diamond ace, but he ruffs, pulls trump and claims for +1660.

Some of our low level decisions did not work out today, but we are 4 out of 5 for high level doubles. Not bad.

Written by taogaming

May 10, 2023 at 9:36 pm

Posted in Bridge

The Galactic Orchestra of Pnoob

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At a convention (probably 20+ years ago), someone ran a game of Haggle. Now in Haggle (as published in A Gamut of Games) the moderator creates a rules-set and gives each player an envelope with ~10 pieces of paper (maybe two each of five colors) and two rules, such as “You score 3 points for each red” and “A submission that gives more than seven pieces of paper results in a score of zero.” Everyone runs around for a few hours trading paper and rules (or glimpses of rules) and then at a certain point submits their entry (some number of pieces of paper) and then best score (which may be the highest, but maybe not! Depends on the rules!) wins.

Anyway, this convention was supposed to have a Haggle-like game called “The Galactic Orchestra of Pnoob,” (rhymes with “newb”) which is basically a themed Haggle. (Each of you is a composer from a different planet who has been abducted to the planet of Pnoob to compose an orchestra, but you only have a brief amount of time to figure out which Pnobian instruments work well together….”

Famed illustrator (and all around wonderful person) Doris Matthäus was at the convention and graciously drew illustrations for the various instruments. I mentioned this to a local composer earlier, and then decided to see if I could find find some of them …. and, here’s a scan, in case you want to use them for a haggle game!

The Instruments are:

  • Pnoobian Ear Whistle
  • Oort Resonator Drones
  • Pnooble Horn
  • Snorkbonium
  • Vaangian Sinehius Bug

Written by taogaming

May 6, 2023 at 3:15 pm

Posted in Misc

Tagged with ,

Board Games in Movies

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I noticed this article where Patrick Leder said that the Writer’s Guild Strike had stopped the pitching of a Root movie. That article notes that Terraforming Mars was optioned, as well as Mice and Mystics (5 years ago).

Well, a good board game doesn’t make it a good movie. Switching Mediums is a Red Flag, after all. But honestly any of them could make a good movie, or a bad one. The fact is that a board game has an outline of a plot. Why buy the right’s to Root (etc) when you could just say “Let’s make an animated movie about the various woodland animals fighting a war?” Is it so much easier to pitch Terraforming Mars (the game), than just say “We want to run a series about terraforming mars” (which has shown up in a fair number of movies/series)? (Probably buying the rights is a pittance compared to making sure you aren’t sued when the other studio says “We already had that idea.” But I guess people will go see a tie-in, since they keep doing them. It’s a rookie mistake to assume you know someone’s business better than they do, but it still boggles the mind).

It makes more sense to option a book (which — after all — has the entire plot of the story already laid out) and I am interested in seeing Dalrymple’s The Anarchy on the small screen. After all, I liked the book enough to mention it already.

Written by taogaming

May 5, 2023 at 10:13 am

Posted in TV & Media

Introducing the “Rat Pack” variant for Stationfall.

During the Gathering, someone asked “Should we play Stationfall tonight?” and I replied “We should play every night.”

It didn’t quite turn out that way, but I played nearly one game per diem (and taught the game once to beginners without playing). I’ve now played nearly twenty games (not bad for a game I’ve had less than two months and that takes ~2 hours to play) and while I won’t go so far to say that every game has been hysterical, there have only been a few disgruntled players across those games. We also spent a fair chunk of the convention discussing what wasn’t fun or needed tweaking, and started on a set of variant rules and fixes.

I suggested the “Psychic Rat” variant. Not because the Rat needs tweaking, but more because the Rat “suggests” the variant rules. But that was confusing (we aren’t modifying the rat!) so now we call it the “Rat Pack.”

There is a shared Google drive with image files to replace the originals (via sleeves or overlays). (If there are discrepancies between the below and the drive, please let me know in the comments).

(Credits — The Tao of Gaming is only one of many contributors to the Rat Pack Variant, and does not claim sole authorship).

The Rat Pack Variant (Version 01)

Rules Modifications

  • Players can only get one Kompromat a turn (unless using the Shred Room)
  • You may not spend a Kompromat to perform the “wait” action.
  • You may suppress fires to clear in a single action.
  • At the beginning of Stationfall, players who got one less turn (due to early game end in the middle of the round, for instance if anti-matter explodes) may take a renegotiate action as the first step of Stationfall (before other players reveal).
  • You can do two drags per turn (instead of just one) as long as one step/airlock action starts AND ends in zero gravity.

Board Modifications

  • The Tanks space now says “During any Resolve phase, Decontaminate characters in this space” (the overlay doesn’t have space for all that, but you get it).


The Billionaire’s VP schedule is replaced with the following:

  • 4 VP if Billionaire Escapes
    • +1 VP if not Colocated with a live human or robot at Stationfall.
    • +2 VP if the news does not end with evidence
  • 2 VP If Fletcher escapes
    • +2 VP IF Fletcher is Colocated with Billionaire in a pod.
  • Billionaire doesn’t score any possessed or unused bribes

Digital Assistant

The Digital Assistant’s A.I ability now reads “Only perform (console) actions plus a free Lock/Unlock. Characters possessing (Digital Assistant data) meet listed requirements for any non-Bridge section action.”


The Engineer’s VP schedule is replaced with the following:

  • 2 VP if the antimatter detonates on board before Stationfall.
  • 2 VP if no contaminated characters escape
    • +2 VP if no data escapes or is transmitted to offsite
    • +1 VP if the artifact does not escape
  • 1 VP if innocent, but may win if guilty


The exile may not score his own Kompromat, otherwise unchanged.

Maintenance Clones

New Quirk — A damaged pod that is launched with a live maintenance clone escapes and is not destroyed.

The Maintenance Clones get an additional +4VP if the 3rd clone escapes. (So 1/5/9 for 1/2/3 clones). The +2VP for news having evidence is unchanged.


The Microbiologist’s Infect ability now infects ALL Colocated characters.


The Troubleshooter’s VP schedule is replaced with the following:

  • 2 VP if Stationfall happens on Turn 0 or Turn 1.
  • 2 VP if no live monsters are on board at Stationfall
  • 1 VP if no fires on board at Stationfall
  • 1 VP if no blackout at Stationfall
  • 1 VP for each live robot at Stationfall

The Astrochimp Explains

The Psychic Rat won’t explain his reasoning, for the simple reason that it won’t add to your suffering. However, we did have a long conversation with the only person he really ‘talks’ to — the Astrochimp, who sat down with Tao of Gaming for a quick chat.

Tao: “Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Can you talk about the rules changes?”

Astrochimp: “Well, for the rules changes, the one kompromat a turn is mainly just to prevent the first player from snagging a bonus kompromat, either from a lucky placement with 5+ players or by grabbing the billionaire and bribing someone else. Rat considers it unfair for the first player to get two Kompromats. It also has a nice symmetry with only being able to spend one per turn. The Renegotiate rule for players who get shorted a turn is also address a mild balance issue, and gives players later in turn order a bit of flexibility if the game looks like it might end early.”

Tao: “What’s with the wait rule change?”

Astrochimp: “You could, in theory, wait using Kompromat to remove your disk and then reactivate. It turned the Kompromat into an action for the character you wanted to activate. Frankly, it was cheese. And you know the saying. ‘Only Rat gets the cheese.'”

Tao: “The Drag and Hazard Suppression changes?”

Astrochimp: “Well, Rat has seen over twenty five or thirty games, and those actions are too rare. Dragging happens from time to time, sure; but taking two actions to remove a fire? Never seen it. These changes make it easier to escape a downed character (without necessarily reviving them) which was too hard. And frankly the Corpsicle needs the help; especially as a bonus character. And I don’t think anyone has seen a tanks action, so now it happens during the resolve phase.”

Tao: “What were the Rat’s goals for character changes?”

Astrochimp: “Well, Rat’s philosophy is that a character’s Maximum VP (assuming they have one) should reflect how difficult it is to achieve. The Engineer has a zillion ways to arm the antimatter, and often never even needs to activate their own character. If it blows up fast enough, that’s 9 VP and the end of the game. Compare that with poor Huey, Dewey and Lewey…”

Tao: “Who?”

Astrochimp: “The Maintenance Clones. Are you seriously telling them that as long as two of them escape, the third doesn’t matter? Rude! Escaping all three clones is hard, and if you do that AND get evidence to the news, that’s only seven points! Seven! The engineer needed to be nerfed, and difficult characters needed a boost. The Billionaire also only score 8 VP for escaping in a pod with just himself and Fletcher. And filthy peasants! Eight! And no points for bribes! If he escapes with the sole video content, his likes and subscribes would go through the roof! That should count for something.”

Tao: “So … awesome victories that are rare should score more. Makes sense.”

Astrochimp: “Yup. Most Engineer games have the antimatter detonate, with little effort. In fact, Rat seriously considered banning the Engineer from existence. Its no fun for the game to end so quickly that you have no reasonable chance because you had to spend precious turns moving the antimatter to space and then disabling the cargo claw….that reminds me, we did a lot of work on the Troubleshooter to make her fun. The problem with her agenda as written is that you can never recover points once lost. She shouldn’t be required to prevent the impossible, she should be allowed to fix the situation. So if Antimatter arms, she can still score if she gets it off the station. If a monster is roaming the halls, she can try to kill it. She often lost, and often lost with no hope. Rat hates every pure human, but that was just depressing.”

Tao: “Been there. Going back to the clones, what’s up with their new quirk?”

Astrochimp: “Characters should have a reason to make people want to activate them and help their agenda, even if they weren’t your character. If you activated the Cyborg when he wasn’t your primary character, you might conk an officer on the head, and the Cyborg would be score. People who activated the clones might want to repair, but that doesn’t help the Clones’ agenda. But if you moved a clone on board your pod to make sure it couldn’t be damaged right before a timed launch? Win/Win. And — truth be told — Rat is a bit annoyed at how easy it is to damage pods.”

Astrochimp: “The only other big change was removing the Digital Assistant’s Bridge access. DA is great in theory but all the games Rat has witnessed have an early bridge action, either self-destruct or abandon ship, and it was just too easy and also felt scripted. Also abandon ship unlocks everything. And nobody — even their PC — influenced DA that much, unless Drones were in play. But a free lock/unlock action makes the Digital Assistant more interesting and softens the bridge lockout. Fun! Chaos! People banging on doors as they fail to escape. Rat loves that.”

Tao: “We’re almost out of time. The minor changes?”

Astrochimp: “We thought long and hard about Exile …. he can often rack up 12 or even 15 points, but in the end we decided that the solution was simply to make sure he died in a fire, or vacuum, or pod explosion. Really, we don’t care. We did make sure he couldn’t score for his own Kompromat because that seemed cheesy …”

Tao: “‘And only Rat gets cheese.'”

Astrochimp: “Just so. The Microbiologist needed a minor boost, so we made the infect action a bit more efficient. It worked well in testing.”

Tao: “Any other changes the Psychic Rat is considering, down the line?”

Astrochimp: “Sure, but we wanted to get the ones we were fairly certain about out for testing ASAP.”

Tao: “Great, and we are looking forward to them. Astrochimp, thank you.”

Astrochimp: “Aren’t you forgetting something? Services rendered” (pulls out gun)

(Tao hands over briefcase. Recording Ends)

Note — If you playtest the Rat Pack and have comments, please post them on the ‘Rat Pack BGG thread (or create a session report and link the it in the thread). Thanks!

Written by taogaming

April 29, 2023 at 9:17 am

Posted in Stationfall, Variants

Tagged with

Happy City

Got this game as a convention gift and its …. not bad. It’s a minimalist tableau builder. You start with a Happy Market, which earns $1 a round, and can get buy more buildings. Buildings can get you income, people, or happiness (and some times have a color). Once per game, you can claim a bonus building if you meet the pre-requisites (colors). Decks are sorted by cost (1-3, 4-5, 6-8) and at the start of your turn you can discard one building and then replenish from any deck.

At ten buildings, your score is People times Happiness.

Happy City falls squarely into the “cozy game” category. Barely there, but not bad. It speaks well of the game that skipping a turn to purchase may be a good idea (at least, I won doing it, whereas all the other players bought every turn).

Never would have bought it, so a fine gift.

Would probably make an excellent kids game, or a gentle introduction to gaming. (For young children they suggest adding people + happiness, instead of multiplying). More complex bonus cards (the “expert” cards), and I’ll probably try them. Obviously this game is competing with things like Jump Drive in the tableau building genre, so its not going see much play in Casa de Tao, but its not bad.

Rating Indifferent

Written by taogaming

April 28, 2023 at 4:24 pm

Posted in Reviews

Tagged with ,