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Difficulty Level by Number of Players (or why 3 players rarely ever win)


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#1 r_b_bergstrom

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 04:16 AM

This is just a heads-up for those who find Space Hulk Death Angel too hard or too easy: your best bet at tweaking it might be to change how many players you have at the table. The math behind the various void lock cards is not exactly even, it has some swing to it depending on number of players. 3-Player games are much harder than 2-Player games, for example, which was a big shock to us the first time we played 3-player.

In order from easiest to hardest, the configurations would be:
Solo game (easiest)
2-Player  / 4-Player
5-Player
3-Player / 6-Player (hardest)

The math on the void locks leads me to say 2-player is about 25% more difficult than 1-player, 5-player is about 50% more difficult, and 3-player is 75% to 100% more difficult than solo.

Marines die really fast in 3-Player, thanks to the "auto-kill" major Swarms of 5. About a third of the cards in the Event Deck generate TWO of these killer swarms simultaneously in 3-Player mode. My wife and I win a lot more often than we lose in 2-player and have done nearly as well in 4-player with friends, but IIRC, I don't think we've ever won a game with 3, 5, or 6 players.

 

 



#2 Destructor

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 03:05 PM

 That's odd, I played my first ever coop (non-solo, I mean) game last Sunday with two other friends- even though it was their first game, we still won fairly handily. I was surprised since I've been told often what a difficult game it is to win on the first try. I should add a caveat that, because ti was their first game, we all freely discussed in advance what action cards to use with each other before we used them.



#3 r_b_bergstrom

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 09:50 AM

Destructor said:

 

 That's odd, I played my first ever coop (non-solo, I mean) game last Sunday with two other friends- even though it was their first game, we still won fairly handily. I was surprised since I've been told often what a difficult game it is to win on the first try. I should add a caveat that, because ti was their first game, we all freely discussed in advance what action cards to use with each other before we used them.

 

 

 

Good job! Glad to hear the mighty servants of the Emperor ground the foul beasts beneath their armored boots.

Given that one-thirds of cards in the deck place two swarms of 5 simultaneously (in 3-player), and every single turn at least 6 genestealers come into play, it's just astounding to me that you got a win "handily". What was the secret to your success? What teams were you playing? What was your strategy? Was there a particular action that really saved the day? Which end location did you get? Was the die rolling hot? Did the event cards come up really favorably?

 

 



#4 Berf

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 02:24 AM

I personally think that the 2-4 players game (8 marines) is easier than the solo variant, even if there is 1 more location to travel through (1C). 

The reason is that you have an additional team of marines to take care of a similar minor spawn (1 GS), and the major spawn only breeds one additional GS (3 instead of 2).  The extra options given by the action cards of the fourth team is often enough to manage this small increase in genestaeler spawning in my opinion.

The solo variant comes next in the easy-to-hard scale, because you only have 3 locations to go through (2, 3, 4).  When luck is on your side, you can move along quickly to reach the final location while retaining most of your marines.

And yes, 10 and 12 space marines can get out of hand quickly, because of the massive spawning that occurs!


You tricked me in, succubus...


#5 r_b_bergstrom

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Posted 11 July 2011 - 07:47 AM

Interesting argument, Berf.

I freely admit I lack the experience with solitaire to really know how it feels in play, but the math suggests to me that 2-player should be tougher than single-player.

The number of player marines and actions increases by 33% going to 2-player (from solitaire), while the average number of genestealers per room goes up by only 32% (once taking into account the weighting of the spawn-types in the deck), so, yeah, in that regards it's a tiny bit easier on the players.

That said, a major spawn that goes unanswered has at best a 50% chance of killing a marine in solitaire, and a 66% chance in 2-player, so in theory at least the 2-player game should be less forgiving. To get accumulate a single super-swarm (one that kills automatically unless mitigated by a special power) all you need is to get major spawn on the same color two turns in a row, even if you kill one from the swarm in between. In solitaire, it would take 3 such turns in a row, which is both significantly less likely to occur, and also gives you one more turn to roll a skull or two and defuse it before it gets ugly.

Given those factors, it would seem to me that having one bad turn or making one play mistake should be far easier to recover from in solo play than in games with more players. And there's certainly more chances to make such mistakes in multi-player games.

The Instinct mechanic starts to make these bad choices more likely once you add more players into the mix. With one player, you've eliminated the dangers associated with incomplete information or selfishness.

You add a 1C room to the mission as well, adding 25% to the length of the mission (another 6 to 13 genestealers you have to kill before the game ends, and several extra event cards to draw), which should also increase the chances of losing the war of attrition.

Lastly, with an 8-marine line-up, I would expect it gets trickier trying to get good weapon coverage. A 2-range marine can theoretically cover 40% of the battlefield in a solo game, but can only cover at most 31% of the battlefield in multiplayer (at least until marines start dying). In some locations that's more important than others (with spawn points more densely arranged or more spread out), but it's yet another thing that incrementally complicates multi-player games. In a solo game, a marine with nothing better to do is closer to the Door or other Activate-able terrain, but with more players it's increasingly likely that the characters who could be spared for Move+Activate are at some far end of the line where they can't get to the relevant terrain cards.

I would expect all that would add up to slightly more difficulty at 2 players than at 1.



#6 cim

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Posted 15 July 2011 - 11:05 PM

I'd disagree there. I think the 6-team game is easier - or at least, not harder than the others.

 - you have the special powers of all six teams. That's a lot of heavy weapons, and a lot of powerful support powers. You're also guaranteed to have Yellow team, so you can move people around the formation fairly quickly if your initial set up isn't great.
 - you can have at least one, possibly two support tokens added a turn without losing firepower. Furthermore, four of your six teams have support actions which are either guaranteed or very likely to hold off a swarm for a turn without loss, if you time it right.
 - the super-fast spawn rate can be an advantage, as you clear areas and move on much faster. This means that while the swarms are more deadly when they do attack, they get far fewer chances to attack.
 - while the formation is much longer, once you get past area 1A, almost all the Genestealers will be appearing very near the top or bottom of the formation, so you can set up your defensive and offensive marines accordingly.

The catch is that if it does go wrong, it goes wrong very very fast. If you lose two or three heavy hitters before you get out of the first couple of areas, you're doomed, because you won't have enough firepower. If you can keep most or all of your heavy hitters alive, then you can do a lot of damage. You can generally keep all of your heavy hitters alive - with the exception of the sergeants or bad luck with Claudio, they shouldn't be standing right next to the swarms anyway.

 



#7 r_b_bergstrom

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Posted 16 July 2011 - 06:48 AM

cim said:

 

  - while the formation is much longer, once you get past area 1A, almost all the Genestealers will be appearing very near the top or bottom of the formation, so you can set up your defensive and offensive marines accordingly.

 

 

 

That's an interesting observation, and one I was certainly overlooking. I'm guessing from your comments that we're not using Yellow's move power often enough.

I've never played 6-player, but in 3-player we're 0 for 4. We never made it to the end game where the length of the formation might be a benefit... and the early game would have to play out very differently for the formation to still be lengthy when we got there. They were all such rapid slaughters (dead before leaving Location 2, IIRC), we've stopped breaking the game out when there's three of us.

In contrast, we've got about a 75% win ratio in 2- and 4- player. Around 13 or 14 wins in like 17 or 18 plays.

We lost both times we've played with 5-players, but IIRC they were long games with the last marine going down in Location 4. Lots of Intimidation and PowerField shenanigans that eventually backfired near the end.



#8 r_b_bergstrom

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Posted 16 July 2011 - 06:57 AM

cim said:

 - you have the special powers of all six teams. That's a lot of heavy weapons, and a lot of powerful support powers. You're also guaranteed to have Yellow team, so you can move people around the formation fairly quickly if your initial set up isn't great.
 - you can have at least one, possibly two support tokens added a turn without losing firepower. Furthermore, four of your six teams have support actions which are either guaranteed or very likely to hold off a swarm for a turn without loss, if you time it right.

It also occurs to me that every time I've played 3-player we used random team assignment and at least some of the time that included the extra marines expansion. So there was no guarantee that we'd have 6 specific teams and they weren't necessarily paired well. Perhaps my group should re-evaluate and try again sometime using the original 6 teams to see if we were inadvertently making it harder on ourselves.

 

So thanks again for your feedback and observations. Very interesting!



#9 r_b_bergstrom

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Posted 16 July 2011 - 07:27 AM

cim said:

I'd disagree there. I think the 6-team game is easier - or at least, not harder than the others.

Aside from my anecdotal win-loss ratios, here's the math that makes me think 3-player should be harder than 2-player...

In 2-player you have 8 marines and 4 actions per turn, in 3-player you have 12 marines and 6 actions per turn. So 3-player gives you 150% of the resources. So far, so good.

In 2-player, each event card spits up an average of 3.87 genestealers (the mean number would be 4, the minimum 2). In 3-player, the average goes up to 7.87 (and the mean is 8, the minimum is 6). So that's 200% the number of genestealers per turn on average, but 300% more at the low end. In other words, you're more outnumbered and there's no time to rest.

In 2-player it generally takes 2 unlucky turns (either cosecutive spawns on the same spot, or with some movement bringing them together) to get a swarm to the critical stage where it's "out of control" and automatically eats a marine per turn. Essentially you have to make a play mistake (not put enough firepower into a swarm) in order for it to happen. In 3-player, it's possible to get two such super-swarms spawned from a single Event, and will happen nearly 1 turn in 3.

Speaking anecdotally again, I'd bet it comes down to how many blips are left in piles you move past. If you get lucky and the double-spawn empties a pile while only placing 7 of 10 blips from that pile, then you'll probably be okay. With a poor draw, you end up with a 5-GS stack on each side of the formation and when you eventually move one there's just 1 or 2 'stealers left in the smaller blip pile.

Thanks again for your input, I'm now excited to try 3-player again.



#10 cim

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 11:14 AM

r_b_bergstrom said:

Speaking anecdotally again, I'd bet it comes down to how many blips are left in piles you move past. If you get lucky and the double-spawn empties a pile while only placing 7 of 10 blips from that pile, then you'll probably be okay. With a poor draw, you end up with a 5-GS stack on each side of the formation and when you eventually move one there's just 1 or 2 'stealers left in the smaller blip pile.

Even that can work in your favour, though. 5 GS spawn either side, and the blip piles are down to 1 or 2 each. Assuming you have some heavy weapons in position, you can probably take 3 off each swarm, which takes them down to 2. Gideon's Block, or Yellow team's Defensive Stance, or Grey's Power Field can hold one of them off for a turn, and if you're lucky the other swarm won't get anyone either at that point. Remember that while a super-swarm will show up very quickly with 6 teams in play, you get to fire at it before it can make its first attack, and hopefully get it.

At that point you've got a couple of small swarms which aren't going to get much bigger, and hopefully some more heavy weapons to take them on, plus the door can take out 1 (or two if you were lucky with the timing and Orange team's position). Forward Scouting, Intimidation and Stealth Tactics can all let you play around with the blip piles a bit, and hopefully let you move on with a nearly-full blip pile on the other side some of the time. (Don't Stealth Tactics the last blip out of a pile though, or you'll move on too soon!)

Quite often it alternates large/small on the spawn, so you can time your big offensive and defensive powers for after the large spawn, and then relax a bit to mop up.

Yes, definitely make more use of Yellow. We tend to just alternate Move and Attack with them at least while Claudio is alive, and then maybe go to Move/Support instead. Even without Yellow, make sure your other Move orders are shifting heavy hitters into positions near - but not on! - the red and orange spawn points.

 

Agreed, leave the expansion marines out for a while - Black is marginally better than Green, and Brown is a bit better than Orange, but stick to the original six until you start winning.

Good luck!

 

 






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