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Thursday, February 23, 2006



Thursday, September 22, 2005

Wei-Hwa's final score: 8.

Okay, switching!

I hear the complaints, and I switched over to a Yahoo! group for our next Musings, inviting all of you. I'm currently wrapping up the Camelot Legends and New England Musings, and will post those in the next couple of days.

Thanks for your patience!


Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Rick here...as I mentioned to Tom, I have the technological skills of a parakeet. You folks decide how you want this to work and then assign someone to explain it all to me...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

re: Groups

Wei-Hwa said"
"... Google Groups is better than Yahoo Groups for browsing, but doesn't support

I haven't done much with google groups, but the combination of gmail + yahoo groups works pretty well for me. Set your config to individual emails and set up automatic labeling in gmail and you have a nice threaded model that allows you to respond to any post in the forum, keeps track of new content, and is isolated from the rest of your email.

Monday, September 19, 2005

[OT Continued] Groups

Google Groups is better than Yahoo Groups for browsing, but doesn't support polls.

[OT Continued] Add'l Input

I'm fine using whatever format folks are most comfortable with, but for virtually all my other group-based brainstorming, project coordination and design functions, we usually set up a Yahoo! group to facilitate tracking posts, targeted responses, ability to post files and set up polls (ie, the game ratings or opinions could be conducted via poll).

However, I'll keep using what best suits this blog's purpose and goal!

[OT] Is this the best forum for Musings discussion?

I know this is probably completely inappropriate for me to suggest given my complete lack of participation so far, but is a weblog the best way to carry on the Musings On… conversation?  My issues with this approach include:

  • The Weblog is pull vs. email’s push technology.  I tend to check my RSS feeds less frequently (1–2 times per day) than my email.  Email shows up in my inbox and I’m more likely to respond to it in a timely manner.
  • Inability to easily respond to a particular post/question/comment.  Email / discussion groups can have multiple threads of discussion that might be easier to organize when Tom does the final publication.

Did you guys consider using a Yahoo group for this the first time around, but discount it for some reason?  I’m fine either way and expect to participate in the next game discussion.

Summing Up...

Ok, in 48 hours I'm going to shut this one down - on New England. Everyone make their final comments!


Wei-Hwa's take on New England

One of my gaming groups played New England quite a bit when it came out. Part of the reason was that it was one of the few Eurogames that one picky member of the group (I'll call him Jim) would actually play (Jim prefers trick-taking games and two-player abstracts). Throughout the sessions, we got to be pretty good at the game, especially Jim.

I think the main reason that the game feels boring to some is that unlike a lot of other growth strategy games, the growth in NE is linear instead of quadratic. What I mean by that is that every turn, the number of resources you get is about the same; you don't get twice as much stuff because you have twice as much stuff. (Compare with a game like Settlers of Catan, where someone with twice as many settlements tends to gets twice as many goods.) There's no feeling
of a "snowball effect" where you get bigger and bigger and feel like you can take over the whole
world if only the game wasn't ending.

Another factor is that the scoring is so balanced that the optimizations you make have a very teeny tiny effect on the final results. Let me do some number crunching to demonstrate this.

Let's suppose you're playing a "domino" 3VP card. It will cost you 2 actions to get the land, then 1 to get the card. 3 actions to get 3VP = average 1VP per action.

Next, let's suppose you're playing a "triomino" 6VP card. 3 actions for the land, then 1 for the card. 4 actions, 6VP = 1.5VP per action.

Finally, the red "2x2" 10VP card works out to be 5 actions for 10VPs = 2VP per action.

So, obviously the last one is a better deal, right? Ah, but we're forgetting that the players start with a "free" domino tile in each color! If we figure those in, then we have:

1 action to get 3VP = average 3VP per action
2 actions to get 6VP = average 3VP per action
3 actions to get 10VP = average 3.33VP per action

These are very nearly identical! What does this all mean? This means that early on in the game, players are all getting VPs at approximately the same rate (as long as they're all getting actions they can use). It isn't until most of the initial bonuses are spent that the disparaties between the different strategies start making a strong difference in the score -- and even then we're talking something like 0.5VPs per action here. That means a good player is gaining on the medium-strength player something like only 1VP per turn, which sure doesn't feel like much. Not to mention that the player going for the 10VP card might be getting a better payoff, but only if they manage to do it before the game ends, which isn't a guarantee.

Playing New England well means that you have to be able to pay attention to tiny optimizations, because among players who don't make horrible moves, the game tends to be really close; often won by one point or even on tiebreaker. It means that timing the last turn is critical; if you're investing in something and you don't make it pay off before the game is over, you've lost. Not only have we had games that were decided on the last turn, but we've had games where on the penultimate turn we could calculate the exact probability that a player would win (because it all hinged upon the luck of the last draw).

But I think what this also means is that among casual gamers, the game doesn't really feel that exciting. Your moves rarely have giant repercussions. Often it seems like there isn't much difference between most of your options -- because there isn't! Playing well is about seeing those tiny differences and getting enough of them to win over your opponents.

I can see why a game like New England can seem exciting to a player like Jim, who loves analyzing the effects and values of individual moves, and not so very exciting to those who
are more about theme and story, and expect their games to have more "oomph".

Saturday, September 17, 2005

New England

Shannon Appelcline: I think those score cards are nice, because you can theoretically stack them up with all your other cards and quickly count your score. Unfortunately this doesn't work due to ties, in which case you can't atually hand the score cards out because two people share them.

I'd call that all a nice usability element for the game that doesn't quite go the whole race.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Silly me...

OMG, how could I forget those black markers!? Yes, yes... those wooden markers were totally redundant. I mean, they are so pointless that their very existence was completely forgotten :) It's funny how our memory works, because all the time while I was writing that "economic bits" paragraph I was thinking hard about those score cards that are awarded for having the most pilgrims/ships/barns(was it barns?), wondering whether I should call them redundant or not!

A Redundant Redundancy

Shin: With regard to the economically designed bits in New England, I have to take at least partial exception, because of one item: those silly-ass black markers that nobody uses! I'd nominate them for stupidest component in a game, except that the scoreboard in Capitol has long since retired that award. I do agree with everything else you say.

New England - The economic bits

Greetings everyone - I was on board with WotR but have remained silent since I have yet to play WotR. I do own and enjoy New England, so here goes my humble, first post.

The bidding : the comments about "1,2,3,4" aspect of the bidding was interesting because I've only seen it in my last game(4 player). Indeed it happened almost through the entire game, and it resulted in a somewhat boring game too. However, in my previous games with 4 player, we've seen 6 and 7 taken in a heated competition; and the game was intense. Does it depend on players, or the particular development of game play? Honestly I don't know - I'll have to play the game more.

The components : what I admire most about NE is the use of cards and tiles. The components of this game is constructed in such an economical way that nothing feels redundant. There's no need to keep track of your score because the cards that you took sum it up nicely. Whenever I think about well-constructed game pieces, I think of NE.

The drama : I too think that there is no highly dramatic story-line in NE. But that does not make this game boring. NE is a game that slowly builds itself up to the finale, and I think it provides enough interesting, if not ground-breaking, decisions to make during the process.