The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

The Iggies and BSG Variants

So Le Havre won the IGA.

Am I done with Le Havre? It certainly seems like it (haven’t played it in four months). While I agree that it’s a better design than Agricola, the relative sameness of the buildings (from game to game) means that its easy to exhaust the novelty … and since I think there is one true path to victory in Le Havre, well, there you go.

Should Automobile have won? All my concerns for Le Havre count double against Automobile, but I’ve only played twice, so I could be wrong. (Note — that was rhetorical humility only. I’m not wrong. After a few more plays the strategic interest will be sucked dry).

Should Dominion have won? It’s tough to argue against a game that I’ve played several hundred times (online). Clever design (and novel), lots of fans. Theoretically a worse design than either of the other two games, but enough variety to overcome it, and probably the only game of the three likely to hit 25+ hours of enjoyment.

Of course, BSG surpassed that before Pegasus came out, so that tells you who I would have voted for.

Speaking of BSG (and I am, now) — I’ve been thinking about Variants. I think I’d like to play with random destinations … you randomly roll between using the Kobol card and New Caprica card during the sleeper phase. And I’d like to see Pegasus ship enter and leave the game; this mirrors the show, to be sure, but as it stands Galactica isn’t rarely threatened with destruction. Off the top of my head, I think

  • Pegasus should show up the first time a “Ship” card is drawn. (This also helps balance a hard game versus an easy one …
  • You Pegasus damage chits equal to “Distance – 1” every time you jump (So, jump 3, Pegasus takes two damage). Anyone on Pegasus when it is destroyed winds up in Sickbay.

I’m happy with the “Occupation authority destroys prepped ships” variant we tried, and I’d add two minor New Caprica fixes.

  1. Destroyed ships are only revealed to the cylons (so humanity doesn’t gain info when things are destroyed).
  2. A “Basestars bombard” result adds a basestar in front of Galactica if there are none around (usually via a double nuke). Just to keep things tense.

Overall these change will make things harder for humanity, but given that our balance is at 50/50 that doesn’t bother me (unless testing shows I’ve misjudged things).

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Written by taogaming

September 27, 2009 at 11:10 am

Posted in Battlestar Galactica, Ramblings, Variants

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14 Responses

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  1. You need to make the humility a bit less rhetorical, Brian. I’m not qualified to rebut your criticisms of Le Havre (you study games much more deeply than I do), but I can’t believe a game can reach the Top 10 on the Geek (right behind Dominion, and with a higher average rating) if there’s only one path to victory. That doesn’t mean it’s the game for you, but it clearly is working for a whole lot of folks (over 3000 ratings, including some very deep thinkers like yourself).

    I’m less certain about your critique of Automobile, even though it beat out Le Havre for the top spot on my IGA ballot. There’s virtually no variety in the starting position, but despite that, my games have played very differently. I think the interactions of the players give this game all the replayability it needs, but I can’t be certain with a small sample size. It also means that with the same group, groupthink might doom it to a static exercise. Still, I know some pretty intense gamers who are big fans of the game and it maintains a very high average rating on the Geek with over 900 ratings. So I’m hoping it will have staying power with us.

    Larry Levy

    September 27, 2009 at 12:29 pm

  2. You need to make the humility a bit less rhetorical, Brian. I’m not qualified to rebut your criticisms of Le Havre (you study games much more deeply than I do), but I can’t believe a game can reach the Top 10 on the Geek (right behind Dominion, and with a higher average rating) if there’s only one path to victory. That doesn’t mean it’s the game for you, but it clearly is working for a whole lot of folks (over 3000 ratings, including some very deep thinkers like yourself).

    I’m less certain about your critique of Automobile, even though it beat out Le Havre for the top spot on my IGA ballot. There’s virtually no variety in the starting position, but despite that, my games have played very differently. I think the interactions of the players give this game all the replayability it needs, but I can’t be certain with a small sample size. It also means that with the same group, groupthink might doom it to a static exercise. Still, I know some pretty intense gamers who are big fans of the game and it maintains a very high average rating on the Geek with over 900 ratings. So I’m hoping it will have staying power with us.

    Larry Levy

    September 27, 2009 at 12:29 pm

  3. I’m curious to know what’s the one true path to victory in Le Havre… coke shipping? I haven’t tried BSG though I’ve a copy waiting to be delivered to me. Personally prefer Le Havre to the other 3 even with the ‘repetitive’ buildings. Possesses the openness Agricola lacks, the elegance (subjective I know) that Automobile lacks and the tension that Dominion lacks. Maybe I’m bias, can’t get past the auto-pilot nature of Dominion.

    Oh well, sure hoping I like BSG as much as you do, just concerned that its length will prevent it getting to the table as often as I would like. That plus I usually game with 3…will be a challenge finding the other 2 players.

    Matthew Chua

    September 27, 2009 at 12:34 pm

  4. La Havre: Symmetrical setup and with minimal initial and in-game variability, means that almost inevitably there must be a best way. Coke seems like it. It has better and cleaner core game systems than Agricola, but the implementation is seriously lacking and the balance is off. You need significant variability for a game to hold long-term interest, either in the setup or in the play. Le Havre just doesn’t have it. Automobile doesn’t have it either. Le Havre compounds its failings (as does Automobile) by simply taking far, far too long to play. Dominion isn’t perfect either, but at 30min or so to play, I’m not arguing.

    I can’t believe a game can reach the Top 10 on the Geek (right behind Dominion, and with a higher average rating) if there’s only one path to victory

    Sure it can. Caylus has only one way to win, and it’s pretty high up there. A game can have only one way to win and make very good first impressions, which is a real key to high BGG ratings, but have lousy replayability. A game can also benefit from a connection to a much-beloved and much better cousin.

    Le Havre’s OK, but I sold it after maybe 4 plays. Agricola has only a few ways to win too, but at least it’s much more interesting getting there, and at least it’s shorter.

    Chris Farrell

    September 27, 2009 at 3:43 pm

  5. I agree on Le Havre as well. It was my favorite game after 3 plays, and after 3 more, I am pretty much done with it. It sure seems like something a new building deck (a la Powergrid) could fix, no?

    Mark Haberman

    September 27, 2009 at 6:34 pm

  6. Haven’t played Le Havre, so cannot comment on it, but I am fairly sure Automobile has plenty of variety just because of the high level of interaction between players. After 6 plays, it is still the game I want to play any time (which was Powergrid before that, and to me the feelings of the 2 ganmes are really similar: I am playing against others, and they are what makes the game).

    I am also thinking you are really harsh with Caylus, but I had seen that coming πŸ™‚

    unkle

    September 28, 2009 at 6:10 am

  7. Player interaction alone does not create variability. If all the players are staring at the same game state with the same information and no or minimal randomness, it doesn’t matter (in a theoretical sense, anyway) that they interact. There is a best play out there, they just need to find it, and the fact that other players have best plays that affect you just makes finding it more complicated. It doesn’t make the game itself fundamentally variable, doesn’t turn it from an analytical, puzzle-type game into a game of risks management, bluffing, or a game with any interpersonal element, other than figuring out if a player is a good or bad.

    Chris Farrell

    September 28, 2009 at 3:01 pm

  8. Player interaction alone does not create variability. If all the players are staring at the same game state with the same information and no or minimal randomness, it doesn’t matter (in a theoretical sense, anyway) that they interact. There is a best play out there, they just need to find it, and the fact that other players have best plays that affect you just makes finding it more complicated. It doesn’t make the game itself fundamentally variable, doesn’t turn it from an analytical, puzzle-type game into a game of risks management, bluffing, or a game with any interpersonal element, other than figuring out if a player is a good or bad.

    Chris Farrell

    September 28, 2009 at 3:01 pm

  9. So how hard is it to build a Le Havre expansion that addresses these issues?

    JeffG

    September 29, 2009 at 1:26 pm

  10. So how hard is it to build a Le Havre expansion that addresses these issues?

    JeffG

    September 29, 2009 at 1:26 pm

  11. @Mark Haberman: if you’re done after 6 plays, is it still “an instant 10” for you? Sorry, not a stalker, but I was leafing through the LH comments on BGG to see what other people were thinking, and noticed your name. πŸ˜›

    @JeffG: As for an expansion, I don’t know. Brian had a nice idea to create some instability at the beginning of the game with a die roll. I think what it really needs, much like Agricola, is more variability in the basic buildings (action cards in Agricola), as the semi-random order just doesn’t affect enough, a re-costing of coke (to 3f), and more special actions in play (but that means removing some other actions, or there’s just not enough contested space). So it would take some work. And that’s all assuming it needs fixing: there’s plenty there tactically, and if that’s what floats your boat, it may be an instant 10 for you, too. πŸ˜‰

    Jon Waddington

    October 1, 2009 at 1:11 pm

  12. And there is a Le Havre expansion coming out at Essen. I wonder if it will help

    Brian

    October 1, 2009 at 5:59 pm

  13. And there is a Le Havre expansion coming out at Essen.

    Really? News to me. You may be thinking of the Agricola expansion (Die Moorbauern).

    Larry Levy

    October 1, 2009 at 9:27 pm

  14. Larry, it’s 32 special buildings. I think it’s a “promo” spielbox-ish item, just like the other expansion. No idea if it adds any rules. If it doesn’t, then we’re just relying on those buildings having a bigger impact than most of the existing specials (which are very hit/miss). I’d prefer something that either gets more specials into play sooner, or takes away/replaces some standard buildings.

    Jon Waddington

    October 2, 2009 at 2:16 pm


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