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 Relic Knights and Randomization 
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Denizen
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In this new edition, Relic Knights is dancing with the question of identity.

One of the major points of the Relic Knights system, love it or hate it, is that a player can look at the board and ‘math out’ what they can and cannot achieve.

Having the proper cards in hand allows the player to perform the action and appropriate presses with no chance of failure, while having the resources to guard lets the opponent protect their pieces with that same assurance.

Flip was always a part of the game but it has become much widespread through the rules. With the addition of Flip to the various objectives with no assured victory points, the element of randomness has entered into a system that is otherwise balanced around planning and execution.

Love or hate this direction the game is taking, it has the impact of making the victory conditions less attractive as an avenue of victory. Relic Knights, which has previously billed itself as an objective based game risks the objectives no longer being considered a viable, or even fun part of the game experience. Being one of the very few instances where the player has zero control over the outcome of their action, Flip in conditions has a jarring impact on the player.

Between removing the faction conditions, and players sharing the primary and secondary conditions between them, scenarios are simply less important than they were in the previous edition. This removes the alternate avenues to victory that the game enjoyed previously.

Conversely, if randomization is the way Relic Knights would rather go, perhaps the whole system should be re-examined to introduce the chance to miss on actions (changing the flip to go first and pay between cards in hand and revealed cards, then put all the unused ones in your hand before discarding or what have you).

There are several ways that I see to address this without changing the core gameplay mechanics.

First, if characters could, after the Flip spend a held esper to change the outcome of the flip to score the points there would allow for a degree of planning on the player’s part if they take the appropriate steps in previous activations. This might require the consideration of adding Esper thief to most Cyphers to have counter play with this idea, but would not require sweeping changes to the system or factions. Thematically this idea illustrates the model’s ability to change fate through their force of will.

The second idea, taking inspiration from Vaultus, we can introduce more deck based control elements to the game, so players can influence, even if they cannot control the Flip itself. For example, if primary objectives had a rule that allowed a player to look at the top two cards of their deck either replace them in any order or discard them; it would more flexibility, not only in trying to score, but to influence future activations at the cost of actions. Secondary objectives could allow for the same interaction, but limit the peek to one card.

Third, re-evaluate the victory point values assigned to the conditions and destruction scenarios and remove the random element altogether but reward aggressive play more than playing to the random condition. If concurrently the conditions are made to be more challenging to achieve it could create a different dynamic. Currently primary victory conditions are worth 6 points, while knight slayer is worth 5. Perhaps they should be switched, making killing the knight or avatar a more attractive option, but more difficult than going for the victory conditions.


--

The above ideas aren’t as important to the discussion about seeing if other players feel similarly about the introduction of randomness to one of the game’s most important victory avenues and having a proactive discussion about it.

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March 16th, 2017, 4:31 pm
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Denizen
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Increased randomness throughout the game also bothers me. More flip mechanics in SNC is fine, that's part of their identity. But for scoring VP the concerns Ender101 lays out are spot on.

The stated goal of removing the ability for a player to "solve" the game under favorable conditions is a far consideration, and to a certain degree games that are edge-of-your seat close are fun. But if the way the solutions are implemented causes frustration, then we should examine the situation.

Shared victory conditions and streamlining aside, if you compare 1.5 and 2.0, some points to consider are:

• In 1.5 victory through combat was an option, but the majority of games (in my experience) were won with a combination of objective and unit kill VP. in 2.0, the currently available data suggests an approach that prioritizes combat is the best. Combat needed to be improved, but with the uncertainty in scoring VP from most of the possible objectives, the game appears to have swung too far in it's favor.

• In 1.5, you could build a list that focused on objectives, combat, or a balanced approach. If you chose to focus on objectives, you would run the risk of pulling a scenario that was unfavorable. In 2.0, the majority of objectives are a secondary concern because they are unpredictable and combat is much more effective.

• Games in 2.0 take longer. The flip mechanic introduces a need to slow down and reshuffle much more often, and if the players do pursue objectives, it can take longer to score sufficient points to win.

I don't think the above comparisons will prove wrong when a full list of unit stats is available, because the issue as I see it isn't that most of the units shown are better at combat than they are at running objectives, it's that the flip for VP simply makes combat the smarter choice.

If you wanted to return some focus to objectives but keep flip for VP, perhaps adjust unit kills to be worth less, so that if combat was the strategy a player choose, they would have to commit to a total cadre kill? (This strategy would probably still be superior, as it would become harder to complete objectives as you enter the death spiral.)


March 16th, 2017, 5:36 pm
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Minion
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For me, much as I don't want to be accused of wanting to make the game more like Malifaux I think borrowing some concepts from them, which I think shared Victory conditions is a good idea to do, would be a good start.

Some issues I see with the game:

1) The usage of Esper could have a lot of interesting utility, the problem is at the moment it seems to be based on the faction you play, and is divorced from any meaning, which is an area of design space I feel they could really explore. Defenses and attacks for your faction tend to be: Find lots of color that matches your faction, use that to do everything, which means large portions of the deck are essentially void cards for each faction that they can't do anything with, which cheapens the game experience. I feel the more I look at it the more of a mistake that is. It feeds into the exact problem from last edition, IE that if you want to attack or defend you cannot really afford to store resources to do the other. And in the current testing of the rules it has swung the pendulum back to not wanting to save resources for defense. So the game essentially boils down to

a) Cycle your deck as fast as possible to find your faction color, ignore anything else.

b) Attack as often and hard as possible, do not hold cards for defense, ignore objectives, killing is everything and the optimal strategy.

c) Repeat.

I think a more interesting option, which I admit would be a bit of a massive departure would be to link types of actions to various color types, and not link them to the faction itself. I think the faction itself could have good synergies with that ability, but I think tying color to action rather than faction makes finding the color you need and managing your resources more meaningful. For instance:

Red Esper is linked to destruction, so offensive actions which do damage almost always require more red than anything else.
Blue Esper is linked to law, so defensive actions which prevent damage almost always require more blue than anything else.
Green Esper s linked to creation, so actions which regenerate or heal damage almost always require more green than anything else.
Orange Esper is linked to Chaos, so actions which initiate random flips or have random effects almost always require more orange.
Yellow Esper is linked to essence, so actions which involve interaction with Cyphers, or AoE effects almost always require more Yellow than anything else.
Purple Esper is linked to Corruption, so I'll be honesty this is the one that has me stumped but it bears on a follow up problem below.

So for example and action which initiated an increase in Armor would almost always involve blue esper in some way, but if it had a press to give backlash the press would most likely be red. If you had a defense which was random such as Tahariel's chaos shield you might pay for it with orange, but prevent dmg based on how many blue you flip.

By associating color with particular actions you make simple scans the cards you give the player an idea of what they can do, which also makes their choices of models in the cue mean more. If you have a hand full of red going offensive makes more sense because you can't hold it for defense. If you want to attack and don't have any red you might need to refocus to find some.

It also makes hiring Cadre's more interesting because while Red and blue would most likely be the high draw seeks, making sure to balance out the ability to use whatever esper you came across would be more important. At worst it would be no worse than the current system where each faction pretty much all want a single color for everyone of their models, and any best it would make adapting to what actually came up in your hand more meaningful. And with the ability to generate held esper, finding the color required could be mitigated by using the held elder.

Another thing this would do is make using presses an actual decision point, where as at the moment I feel they are no brainers. Consider that as every single action on just about every model in faction requires a significant investment of a particular color to do anything. If your presses don't use that color or possibly even share affinity, then there is absolutely no benefit in not taking the press. The only, ONLY interesting decision point to be made with presses right now is if they are of the same color as that primarily used by your faction, or share affinity, because in using the press you might not be able to pay for a new ability later. If you need 2 Red and 1 Purple to initiate an attack, and can press with Yellow for some effect, you should absolutely do so. If you need the same red and purple to attack and have and Orange/Yellow combination and can press wit Orange, there is no question that you should do so, because getting the card out of your hand and cycling your deck as fast as possible to find more of your primary color is all that matters.

If however in the same situation, let us say that colors were tied to action types instead of faction types, then every faction might have abilities it has recruited into the Cadre that will take advantage of that color. If Essence is tied to putting down AoE effects for instance than using or getting rid of yellow to press an ability then provides an interesting decision point, is getting this press now worth not being able to do the AoE effect I wanted to? I also allows experienced players to look at the enemy queue and see what models are moving through it and have some rough idea of what *might* be comping down the pipeline based on what is in their abilities. I/'m not saying the rule has to be universal, as exceptions to the rule do make for interesting hiring options, but this as a general guideline I feel would make using, paying for, and designing abilities more interesting than they are now.

2) Aside from some minor effects, Cyphers feel tacked on to the game instead of integral pieces to the game. I mean it's totally fair that Cyphers are essentially raw magic, and don't really have physical forms, and so can't be attacked, but aside from occasionally being an esper battery and the main way to remove AoE's, which are also problematic, they don't seem to really add anything. I would like that to change. I think Cyphers should be an intsrumental element to their Knight's play style, and should also positionally be important. At the moment I don't feel they are. For example I very much think a successful implementation of I think the style of Cyphers should be was Marikan-To's cypher from last edition. Lakami allowed his knight to draw LoS from himself, which hugely impacted how his knight worked. I'm not saying that exact ability needs to be in the game, perhaps make it affect only models within a certain range, so the Cypher's position on the table matters, but knowing that Lakami was fluttering nearby should be as meaningful as knowing his knight was around. I'd like to see more of that return and become very thematic elements to their knight. For Example just as a thought experiement Tahariel pretty much absolutely depends on her ability to minion shield and stealth to stay alive, it would be very interesting if her cupid cypher's ability to make the enemy focus on something other than her was explored, or perhaps if any enemy unit activates too close to Cupid they would fall in Love with Tahariel and be unable to attack her until they cycled through the Queue again, making the enemy unit move and have to pick a less optimum target, and forcing cupid to constantly cycle through the Queue if he wanted to continually lock down a particular Squad or hero from attacking Tahariel.

3) I know it's still playtest, so I understand we are still only working on the basics of the game, and I'm not advocating for their return, but the loss of the Esper initiate and master actions I feel was both good and bad for the game. At the moment all the models are basically just collections of attacks and defenses, which is also leads to the impression that combat is the only thing that matters. While there are some AoE's that get around this I am feeling a VERY distinct lack of what in Malifaux we would call Tactical actions. Almost every model is just purely attack and defense, with no other way to really interact with the game other than running objectives, which because of the aforementioned issues with both the current rules structure, as well as using the same color Esper for everything, makes the game feel very basic and relatively pointless. I would very much like to see more actions which are actions that can be taken that are not purely damage based. I liked very much as an example Fiametta's Hot Box action from last edition, more abiilities which do such, or allow more obey type actions, or control actions would be appreciated. Essentially more abilities to control the enemy, mess wit their plans, alter the battlefield, move or protect objectives, and provide meaningful buffs and debuts would be more than greatly appreciated.

(Which is an area I could see Purple being a good fit for control based actions. Paying off the opposing heroes and squads, or forcing the enemy into traps, or disadvantageous positions all feel very corruption based to me)

4) Aoe's in practice in the game are dumb. They have some great abilities, but outside the fact that if they are not offensive or lead to immediate offensive superiority they are pretty much pointless. This is also exacerbated by the one thing Cyphers are good at at the moment which is AoE destruction. Universally last edition, and I find in this edition, if an AoE is actually deleterious for my opponent and is put up, the enemy Cypher immediately enters the cue and clears it. So I spend an action and resources to do something, the enemy relatively instantly clears it. Unless it doesn't directly bear on the combat portion of the game, in which case the AoE is ignored. I largely like the AoE system, but I don't like how they often feel like two children arguing going Yes, no, Yes, no. I think limiting both the range AoE's could be placed at, but also requiring the enemy Cypher to actually get within a certain range to clear them would help with that issue. Good games are created by having an engaging ruleset and letting the players make interesting and meaningful choices during the game. It's the reason why the cardgame WAR is so dull, there is really no decision making to be done. It's why Tic Tac To is boring, there is an optimal move in every situation to make. And it's why, to me, at the moment, this game is dull and ultimately boring, there is an optimal strategy in every single game, and the choices to be made during the game are simple, obvious, and without nuance. If a Cypher actually had to decide between it's possible positional ability in relation to the Knight, or spending time in the queue and then moving out of position to take care of an enemy AoE, then I think we are now making interesting choices.

5) What compounds the previous point is that ranges on everything being LoS makes tactical decision making rather moot. I'm not arguing to put ranges on everything, I think the unlimited range suits Relic Knights and makes it somewhat unique, but you really can't overlook the fact that in Relic knights even with a massive amount of terrain, it really isn't hard to do anything you want to do. With the hyper movement every model gets, and essentially unlimited range, there really isn't alot of tactical decision making to do other than, get los. There is no tradeoff between moving and attacking. You do both and you can't sacrifice one to do another. You always get 2 moves, you always get 1 action, and because of that it removes another place where an interesting decision could be made. Move less and get more attacks? Take less attacks and get into a better position? Attack those models or move closer to the objective? In Relic knights none of those are actually decision points because you can do them all. If you actually care about the objective and need to get to it for some reason you don't have to make a decision about moving closer to it or attacking it or another model. Move, Attack, Move. Outside of Malia, which I think is a good example of a good cadre power, and should possibly be a standard rule, you cannot give up one type of action for another. At least Cerci Speed Circuit crews get that option to move Really, Really fast or move attack move. I really would like more options for all cadres along these lines. For example Kasaro-To or some other Relic knight's cadre ability could be to forgo a movement to get another melee attack.

In other miniature games treat ranges matter because they make where your models are on the board matter. If I move this model this way to deal with this other enemy model, that OTHER enemy model can potentially slip through and do something they want out of my ability to react, which means where exactly I position and move my models matter. The instant it is relatively easy to react and attack models with little sacrifice in one's own effectiveness the game largely degrades. You jump behind cover and out of LoS, but if my movement is large enough, and it usually is, tat really doesn't matter because I just move my attack vector, now I see you and attack, then I move back to where a single move still gives me LoS to a massive portion of the board.

In short, I do love the fluff of Relic knights. I love what it is trying to accomplish, being a very quick and somewhat rules light racing battle game, where you don't play to a number pf preset turns, but to the first one to a particular score. I love the notional idea of no ranges for ranged and psychic attacks. I just don't like how many of the design elements, at the moment, combine to just remove almost all the points where interesting decisions could be made, and mostly just turn the game into a slightly more complicated game of the cardgame WAR. Did I draw more of my primary color faster and more consistently than you did? Great I win! Yay me! I didn't? Well I guess I'll try harder next time to be lucky enough to get more of my primary color faster than you.

Please understand that while I may ultimately lack a more tactful way of saying things, I'm not criticizing the developers, or the game in a destructive way. If I wasn't interested in assisting with making the game as great as it could be I wouldn't bother to post anyting, and if I wanted to be insulting I could do it without actually thinking about the design challenges I see within the design matrix of the game. I do hope that my comments are taken in the spirit with which they were intended, which is that of, perhaps blunt, but constructive criticism, with the understanding that I understand I could be absolutely wrong. I'm not advocating anything I suggest absolutely, or even partially incorporated. But they are at least one players opinions who would very much love to embrace this game, but finds many issues somewhat preventative to that goal.

Thank you.


March 16th, 2017, 7:31 pm
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Mini-Boss
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Actually, I have found the mix of cards to work pretty well as is- with colors associated with particular characters rather than types of abilities.

Sure, there are a lot of cards you won't use- but that really depends on your list building. With most faction lists, you want three colors for your abilities, and you do ignore others.

However, with three colors, most of the deck becomes usable (due to the minor esper cards from the other colors). This is more especially true if you have three colors that aren't adjacent (like taking Ausger Faust or Hell's Bells in an otherwise green centered Cerci force).

So when you start dumping cards, it is all about WHO you want to be able to activate or defend (rather than trying to decide if you want to attack or defend at all).


I can completely see where you're coming from- if green and blue were defense cards, while red and purple were offense cards, it would be about deciding what you wanted to do, and what you didn't. But I don't know that that will do the same thing in practice (ie- if you have defense cards in your hand, you defend- if you have offense cards you attack, instead of choosing whether defending is important enough to miss out on your opportunity to attack later. Also, cards associated with non-attack or defense abilities would probably have poor utility for most forces anyway).


I wouldn't hate trying out a game your way, but I don't think it would necessarily be an improvement.

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March 16th, 2017, 9:38 pm
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Denizen
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To add to odinsgrandson's point, the queue mechanic plays a vital role in hand determination. As was pointed out, units within the same faction are not going to share the same activation colors for their abilities, and thus constantly adjusting your hand to suit the units coming up is an important part of the game flow.

My biggest concern about tying certain types of actions to certain colors is that could lead to situations where your hand absolutely determines your action for a given turn - if you have a handful of attack cards, you attack, if you have a handful of defense cards, you sit on them or dump them in cleanup for the hopes of attack cards, but in either case your turn is limited to whatever hand you built. If you keep costs such that a given unit could use the same colors for attack or defense or AoE, then you have the option to respond to whatever the current situation is (i.e. You take two turns to build a hand for attack, only to have positioning such that you don't have a target for your next activation(s))

Thematically, If you view the esper types as linked to different personality types, then you could say that individuals which those connections are able to draw on and shape the related energy. Each color does still have a flavor for some types of actions, but reason the esper is used is more important than end effect (i"t's the thought that counts")


March 16th, 2017, 10:06 pm
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Denizen
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Firstly I have disliked random Flips on Victory Conditions since I first read them, and my experiences with showing people the rules with them are that they immediately decide that is a bad choice compared to chasing kill. If you play to Conditions while your opponent plays to kill, you loose this edition, because of the randomness of success. The reason for this is the action economy of the game, using an action in a way that doesn't advance victory or reduce your opponent's options retards your chances of winning. As Fetid Strumpet points out, there are optimal tactical decisions, it's never optimal to allow your opponent freedom to choose their action, this is why the non-random Conditions work. They work by putting a clock on the game and forcing your opponent to do something about your pursuit of that clock. The increase in damage capacity, and the move to everyone having the same Conditions in a game should be enough to address the old problem of opponent's not seeing the turn clock or being able to address it (the rest of the post reflects back on this).

Secondly the thing that I like about Relic Knights is the ability to calculate success and choose your actions based on the chance of your success. The game has entirely different decision points to other games as a result. The tactical decisions you make start by looking at your hand and deciding what you can do, there is no need to try and math out a scenario to give you the better odds of success and so on. I think it's a common misunderstanding of games like this where the tactical element of the resource management is devalued in decision making.

Given that resource management is such an important part of the game it seems strange that it features so little in the abilities on cards.

There are 3 points of control over the Esper resources that can exerted; card drawing, hand size and deck order. Abilities that limit opponent draws or increase your own, abilities that force discards or reduce or increase hand size, abilities that search the deck for a card, that look at the top X cards and so on. Doctrine have started to get some deck manipulation, which is good (and suits them as the Yellow faction), but what about hand manipulation for Corsairs (you play with 4 cards and Flip one at the start of each activation to add to your hand, your opponent plays with a card face up, a player discards their X cards and draws a new ones, etc). Sprinkling these sorts of abilities through the factions (especially via Darkspace heroes) lets players add decisions to their Cadres that are about the most important part of the game for everything else to work, Esper management.

Also Fetid Strumpet and others have brought up the idea of more randomness in paying costs in the past, while I don't think that is good for the game as a whole, I do think it has merit for exploration as a Corsairs' Cadre ability.

The other resource that can be messed with is the queue; knockback is simply too rare and generally weak an ability to be used effectively to do this (which contributes to the complaint of "matching out" the game voiced by Dave and Justin as reasoning for the VC change) and placeholder cards may not be the fix the game needs to a problem created by Cadre construction rules not game play. Consider Knockback replacing the card in the queue with a Placeholder as an option for how the Queue can be manipulated in a more robust way. Other options could force the insertion of Placeholder cards into the queue or Minion slot. Reordering the queue, forcing Minions to be queued (even if they have to have Exhausted tokens removed) and so on.

Further to Fetid Strumpet's idea of more usefulness of the Esper deck, keeping in mind Odinsgrandson's point about Cadre construction, it would be great to see a little more diversity in colours across factions to make the deck more likely to be useful when you plan right. In particular the spread of secondary colours being varied from Heroes to Minions would help.

Finally, while randomness is something I think is bad in Conditions for a game built on resource management, cost free actions are just as bad. So having players discard cards as part of the cost of earning VPs seems appropriate, and means for example, that just killing your stuff (which advances the Wipe condition) doesn't automatically generate VP as well for Conditions, but requires you to be able to kill stuff and pay a cost.

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March 17th, 2017, 2:38 am
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I wouldn't mind seeing a 50/50 compromise with victory conditions. as they are in 2.0, it's a random amount o VP until the condition is fully achieved, then it's full VP (for the most part). I wouldn't mind seeing something along the lines of when you do X in regards to a victory condition, you score 1 point and flip 2 for possibly one more. I'm in the minority, but I do like some randomization in it here. I didn't like being able to look at a game 1/3rd of the way in, count the number of moves each person has to make, and basically say "mate in 5 turns, it will take you 7" and then calling the game because they can see it too. Semi randomized VP can mitigate that.

As for the concept mentioned of most of the deck for a given faction being useless cards (which is largely true). I wasn't a fan of the idea of tying specific colors to specific "types" of actions. But I did strike upon a concept that was more tin and yang. Meaning that attack and defense could be considered positive and negative versions of each other. Meaning a given faction could use the same color mixes it uses now for attacks, but flip it for defense. If you use creation for attack, you use entropy for defense (roughly). Support actions could e opened up to a more "whatever" kind of approach, honestly, in that case. I think that could add an ebb and flow feel to things, trying to use your attack esper in an effort to get your defense esper and vice versa.


March 18th, 2017, 2:36 am
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Denizen
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I think that the ying/yang idea would suffer from the same issues I laid out for the color=action type idea; if you want your players to have meaningful choices, you need to consider when that choice is made.

If your actions are all tied to the same primary resource, then your choice is what type of action to take.

If your actions are tied to different resources, then your choice isn't what type of action to take, it's what type of action to pursue. Under any iteration of such a proposed system, if you have attack resources, you have control over using them and can potentially gain attack or defense resources at the end of your turn: Your only choice is to attack, because the net result is the same as not attacking if you are hoping to defend (ie discarding and redrawing cards). If you have defense resources, you can either choose to hold them for a defense (giving complete control over when your hand will be relevant to your opponent), or you can chose to discard them and potentially gain an attack or defense. You then have a turn where your option is to work toward a sub-optimal objective (Assuming you don't need to attack!) or refocus.

In the current system, once your hand is set you have the power to decide what the best use of your resources are.
In a system where action types are tied to color, your hand dictates your action - so you must pursue a specific hand and hope that when you achieve it your intended action will still be relevant to the game. Such a change to the core decision making process isn't inherently bad, but if the clear winner is attacking (since you would have tempo control and you could potentially net defense cards as a bonus), then the change is likely detrimental.

I think that for a game to be healthy, the players must be able to make proactive choices at as many points in their turn as possible, and any change that limits a player's ability to make a choice should be made to remove or limit the ability of a player to make a bad choice (ie if a particular option would never be taken by a smart player, then said options should be removed from the web of choices).


March 18th, 2017, 4:57 am
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May I suggest something quite simple for the randomness with the flips for victory points. Keeping the rules as they are, but adding an ability, preferable to weaker units, that makes this unit automatically gain the vp without the flip. This way the players will get more options to make proactive choices, if I can borrow your words Major.
Broader or limited access to this ability for some factions, would also characterize factions, which are more combat orientated or more inclined to run for the objectives. I guess for example Ceri was more of the later in the old version?

On one hand this could create more diversity in a cadre, on the other hand some players, especially players that prefer killing the enemy, may be annoyed, that they "have" to take a unit, they don't want, for gaining vps, instead of the damage dealer, healer, ... they wanted to take.

For the second discussion here, I think that the Major's arguments sound pretty valid. I also don't like that the suggestions would limit the reasonable actions a player can take. At least at right now it looks like they would take more away, then add.


March 22nd, 2017, 9:47 pm
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I'll start off by apologising if I've missed this in the above posts. Does anyone else think that insted of constantly reshuffling your deck you should just put the flipped cards straight into discard pile.
When me and opponent played that way it sped up the game no end. He used SNC and if we'd played the proper way with the flips the game would have taken an additional hour easily due to the amount of flips he would have to make. Golden Vance cadre ability and then some unit abilities all needing flips.

As to the objective flipping for VP, we didn't see it being to large an issue. He did have a problem in 1 game but made up for it with making all his flips for everything else. While it is very vexing when it happens to me I quite like the randomness. As stated above I don't like to see a game half way through and know it's over for me no matter what I do or cards I draw.

We've tried the Beta rules about 5 times and so far are very happy with things apart from a couple of unit stats and abilities.


April 8th, 2017, 4:28 pm
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