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Broken and overpowered combos

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My group loves to still play with two powers each. Yes, playing this way can lead to some over-powered combos and some that should probably be banned. The main two that I notice should not be allowed are Amoeba/Masochist and Amoeba/Genius. Any others you notice? Or what other great combos are out there that stand out? What powers do not work together that well?

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Very funny variant. You read it somewhere, or just found it like that ? Will have to give it a try, for fun, with my experimented players only. Sounds very amusing. Like... Sorcerer Oracle  :D

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 This is one of the oldest and most popular CE variants out there. The Mayfair edition's expansion even included a several page long list of what powers didn't work together or were perhaps too powerful. For added fun, another classic variant you can add in is the hidden power variant, where everyone keeps their power secret until they choose to flip it over and reveal, at which time it takes effect.

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 We have been playing with two aliens for about a year now. We have been compiling a list of banned combos ever since.

Here's our list so far:

Amoeba/Masochist - sends all ships and negotiates

Oracle/Pacifist - always wins as long as you have both a negotiate and an attack

Clone/Filch - acquires all encounter cards as they're played

Machine/Mutant - goes forever literally

Machine/Miser - also goes on forever

Sorceror/Oracle - wins virtually every battle

Amoeba/Macron - way too many ships with which to cope

We have more, but I can't think of anymore

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I found myself assuming that somewhere there would be a wiki that had a Mayfair-esque list of Powerful/Weak/X powers. Does this not exist yet?

 

We had a question last night of what happens if, with Precursor Seed, you end up with Macron/Virus. Macron's rules involve adding, virus's replaces the adding with multiplying. We decided that one of three things happens:

(1) It's too powerful and you multiply by 4 for each ship (making it undefeatable on defense, essentially)

(2) It's weak because you can still only bring one ship but the virus overrides the macron value for the ship and so on offense you are always multiplying by 1.

(3) It's nonsensical because the two powers contradict.

 

Thus we decided it was all 3 P/W/X and rather than continue to argue about it, we just had the Precursor Seed tacher just draw a new **** power. :) Anyone have a thought on that?

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Macron adds 4 instead of adding 1, but Virus multiplies by the number of ships instead of adding at all, so on this point Virus overrides Macron.

Macron still limits you to 1 ship in the gate, and nothing on Virus overrides that.

So the net effect is that Macron becomes a limiter on Virus, and the combination is generally worse than Virus alone.  (Virus multiplies by the number of ships, not their value, so you don't get Macron's quadrupling ... but you do get the double compensation.)

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The main thing with such combos is how flexible you feel the effects are. Macron+Virus is one of these cases. If one reads the rules carefully, you come to Bill's conclusion that part of the combo hurts the other. But I'd guess that most players would intuitively say that Virus would multiply by Macron's 4 per ship, which works thematically as well.

The same kind of thing happens with a combo such as Virus and Anti-Matter. Both powers alter total calculation (with "multiply" and "subtract"), so a strict reading causes the powers to conflict and be unusable together. But if you go with the "feel" of the combo instead of the text, you'd say that you multiply by negative ships (resulting in a negative number most of the time).

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The difficulty of course is that feelings are so subjective.  I get the same "feel" you do on Virus + Macron, but I don't on Virus + Anti-Matter.  It's not a stretch to interpret Macron and Virus as both multipliers, overlooking the word "add" on the former and pretending it says "counts as" instead.  But Virus + Anti-Matter is a much bigger stretch, since the subtraction and multiplication operations are at odds with each other.  You're going with the "feeling" that what Anti-Matter really meant was "your ships are each worth -1" but for me that would be a "false feeling" intended to make the combo work a certain way.  My feeling instead is that this combo has the potential to be so overwhelmingly powerful that I'm glad the two don't work together.  (You just need a variant on the Timing Rule for determining which of your two powers takes precendence when they are both trying to affect the same thing at the same time in two different ways.)

Now, I'm not trying to kill your own ruling on the combo — not at all. Anybody can make whatever house rules they want, and we all do.  (Heck, I'm completely ignoring the crappy FFG rulings on Zombie and returning him to his original Eon glory so somebody might actually pick the power.)  But whenever somebody asks in a public forum how something works, I am always going to go by what the text says.  There needs to be some semblance of overall consistency, and then we can all make our house rules as deliberate, understood variations from the common rule set.

What might be nice would be a comprehensive document of all game effects that says for each one, "here's what FFG actually does according to the text, here's how it used to work in prior versions, here's how most players play it, here's another common variant/house rule, and here's space to write in the way your group plays it".  Then everyone can have a common set of guidelines that their play group can refer to, but still allows freedom to play these things the way we like, and also points out to newbies some options they may not have considered.  It might also be illuminating for newer players who don't even realize the extent to which Cosmic Encounter's rules engine is actually incomplete and has to be fleshed out by the players themselves.  Wish I had the free time to put something like that together.

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Just_a_Bill said:

What might be nice would be a comprehensive document of all game effects that says for each one, "here's what FFG actually does according to the text, here's how it used to work in prior versions, here's how most players play it, here's another common variant/house rule, and here's space to write in the way your group plays it".
There is a Cosmic Encounter Wiki, which is still in its infancy, but could be used for such a thing.

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Just_a_Bill said:

Macron adds 4 instead of adding 1, but Virus multiplies by the number of ships instead of adding at all...

I don't think I agree here.  I think the Virus decription is employing a grammatical convention known as the ellipse.  This occurs when one or more items in a phrase are omitted in order to avoid repetition of identiacal (or equivalent) items which preceed or follow it.  An example would be:

"Bill thinks Virus negates Macron's mass, but I don't".

When analising this structure, a linguist will expand it to:

"Bill thinks Virus negastes Macron's mass, but I don't (think virus negates Macron's mass)"

This is an ellipse, and the part in bracets is considered to be implicitly understood and fundemental to the grammar and meaning of the statement.

Back to Virus, I interpret the ability elliptically:

"...use this power to multiply the number of ships you have in the encounter times the value of the card instead of adding (the number of ships you have in the encounter)".

I think this is a sound linguistic interpretation, though I'd like to hear from Jefferson who has also studied the English language.

Now we have a timing conflict, because both powers replace adding one per ship with something else.  Macron adds four instead of four, and Virus multiplies instead of adding (the number of ships).  Whichever power is applied first negates the premise of the other.  Since there is no precedent for which power is applied first, this requires a patch rule, which is inevitably based on subjective feelings.

One might decide that the player choses which ability applies first (negating the other).  One might decide Macrons takes precedence, at adding four per ship is automatic whereas Viruses ability must be used, and is subject to disruption.  One might decide to alow these powers to combine, which is loose but only slightly.  Or you might decide (as you have) to interpret Virus litterally; but I think this ignores the conventions of the English language.

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It's hard to tell which part of my post you are disagreeing with, since we seem to agree that Macron/VIrus poses an inherent conflict.

I used to be a professional technical editor and I mostly agree with your parsing of Virus' text — but if you carry out that parsing fully, you end up with nonsense: "multiply the number of ships you have in the encounter times the value of your card instead of adding the number of ships you have in the encounter times the value of your card".  You would have to shoehorn in a forced change of the word "times" to the word "with" or "to".  Put more simply, if the writer intended to rely upon an implied grammatical omission, it was poorly executed.

However, my nitpick is really moot because the exact scope of the omission itself is moot.  The relevant point that must be understood here is the difference between the number of ships and the value of those ships.

Macron changes the value of each ship from 1 to 4.  (Technically, Macron actually modifies the procedure for calculating your total, but for simplicity's sake we can interpret it as giving the ships a value other than 1.  In any case, Macron by no means tells you to proceed as if you had four times the number of ships you actually have. You still have the same number, they are just each worth four when adding up your total normally.)

Virus doesn't care about the value of the ships, it cares about their number: "use this power to multiply the number [not value] of ships you have in the encounter times the value of your card instead of adding".  Now, had that sentence hypothetically omitted the words "number of" then it would have been a little more ambiguous, but the interpretation could reasonbly have gone the other way: "multiply the ships you have in the encounter" could have been interpreted as meaning the value of the ships since it did not specify their number. But, they didn't so it doesn't so we don't. ;-)

This difference is important to understand in a few other situations, too.  Here's one that's a little more cut and dried: If Virus was using The Prometheus, I suspect that many players would simply add up all the ships (counting The Prometheus as four) and then multiply by the attack card — but that's not how it works.  Virus counts The Prometheus as 1 like all the others, multiplies by the card, and then adds another +3 after the multiplication. (Read the tech card if you don't believe me.)

Regardless, as I stated in my subsequent post I don't have too much heartburn about calling it "close enough" and pretending that Virus multiples your ships' total value for those people out there who absolutely must play Virus and Macron together to feel like they've had the full Cosmic Encounter experience.  Plenty of much larger fish to fry in this confusing edition. ;-)

Oh, and for sake of completeness, this statement is not correct:

crimhead said:

One might decide Macrons takes precedence, at adding four per ship is automatic whereas Viruses ability must be used, and is subject to disruption.

Macron's and Virus' powers both must be used, both are mandatory, both occur in the Reveal phase.  It appears that you may be reading the actual Macron alien sheet as originally published rather than the official errata text from the FAQ.

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You're right about the FAQ.  Just after posting I was thinking I should ahve checked it.  :)

I guess where I disagree is that I think both powers replace adding one per ship, and so niether replaces (and hence ovverrides) the other.

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crimhead said:

I guess where I disagree is that I think both powers replace adding one per ship, and so niether replaces (and hence ovverrides) the other.

Since Macron replaces one number being added within the normal method of calculation, but Virus changes the entire method of calculation itself, Virus happens at a higher level of precedence.  Virus can change the method of calculation regardless of whether Macron is changing the number or not; but whether Macron's change even makes any sense is dependent upon whether Virus is in the mix or not. Macron is dependent; Virus is independent. Thus Virus can easily override Macron but the reverse is not true.

Here's an analogy: Marvin has the ability to pack four times as many cans of soda per case, but Victor has the ability to change the customer's order from cans to two-liter bottles. If they both try to act on the same order, which one is relevant and which is irrelevant?  Which one trumps the other?

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Just_a_Bill said:

 

Here's an analogy: Marvin has the ability to pack four times as many cans of soda per case, but Victor has the ability to change the customer's order from cans to two-liter bottles. If they both try to act on the same order, which one is relevant and which is irrelevant?  Which one trumps the other?

 

 

Another analogy - it's your job to paint the kitchen red.  Your wife says instead of painting it red, wallpaper it red.  Your mother-in-law says instead painting it red paint it blue.  One says replace paint with wallpaper, the other says replace red with blue.  Stritcly speaking you have contrary instructions, but it doesn't take a genius to wallpaper the kitchen blue.

I think Virus and Macron resemble this - one says replace adding with multiplying, the other says add four per ship instead of one. 

I recognise that this is not the exact literal interpretation, but I think we have a genuine ellipsis - an omission of a clause to avoid repetition.  I am appealing to a common phenomenon in language; not merely guessing the intention.

That said, I do not believe by any stretch that my case is "open and closed", but I think I have a case nonetheless (be it weak or be it strong).  I certainly respect the validity of your interpretation.  I would like to see FFG add a section to the FAQ for combined powers.

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crimhead said:

I would like to see FFG add a section to the FAQ for combined powers.

On that point we are agreed. I will go a step further and say I hope when they do so that they check and double-check their answers to make sure they are correct and consistent with other aspects of the game. The current FAQ is an embarrassment that I don't want to see repeated.

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