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Duskwalker

No Distant Suns?

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15 hours ago, MikeEvans said:

Hey, Psi!  Fantastic to see you here.  I was hoping you'd make an appearance with the release of 4th edition.  I'll send you a private message so we can catch up.

Nice to see you both!

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Well no distant suns but I am looking at the planet and their traits. Cultural Industrial, and Hazardous. I can see a "distant sun" type expansion with a deck. When you go to a new planet pull out a card and if it has the corresponding trait icon you resolve that effect. So you can expect bad stuff to happen on hazardous planets so you know to avoid them if necessary. Which is better than the RNG from the last on. There was probing and razing but that was clunky to say the least.

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Things that I don't see.

  • Twilight counsel (consular, spies and bodyguards)
  • Heroes Tokens (general, admiral, scientist, diplomat, spy)
  • Mercenaries
  • Shock Troops
  • Mechanized Units
  • Mines
  • Distant Suns (planet and space)
  • wormhole nexus
  • Promissory notes
  • The Lazax Scenario (understandably so)

And I am sure there is more.

It seems FFG is trying to drastically reduce mechanical bloat and the resulting constant rulebook checking in order to improve game-flow. It is good game-design, but I am not sure it is what the TI community wants.      

 

1 hour ago, pklevine said:

Does every planet have one of those three traits, though? If not, there'd need to be a fourth deck . . .

Every planet except home-worlds and Mecatol Rex

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10 hours ago, Duskwalker said:

It seems FFG is trying to drastically reduce mechanical bloat and the resulting constant rulebook checking in order to improve game-flow. It is good game-design, but I am not sure it is what the TI community wants.      

 

Well the problem is a lot of people think of the community as a single individual that wants a specific thing. Communities being composed by different people, often want different things. Many of those things are even contradictory to each other. 

Edited by Marinealver

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On ‎15‎.‎08‎.‎2017 at 2:11 AM, Chimonas said:

Well. Maybe this victory point is a distant sun marker?

 

 

IMG_20170815_015855.jpg

I think it is the Custodians-Token, because the Rulebook says you get 1 VP for it and it is also a Circle.

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I have always had a love hate relationship with Distant Suns.  They are thematically awesome, but come with quite a few drawbacks.  They can considerably extend the game as players have a greater chance of early game set backs.  This often soured people to the game and the extra length to an already exhausting game resulted in us skipping them the vast majority of games over the last decade.

I think Distant Sun tokens should have more conservative effects so that the set backs aren't as powerful or boons as strong.  I would have preferred it much more if distant suns were "properties" of a planet that had balanced positive and negative effects which could sort of shape aspects of play.

For example you could have Toxic planets that might limit how many ground troops you can have on the planet, but as a benefit the planet gives you a discount to purchasing technology.  Things along those lines.  The current distant sun effects like "everyone dies on landing" and stuff like that are just too harsh especially in the early game where something like that can set you back for several turns.  

Edited by BigKahuna

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I absolutely love Distant Suns, for the thrills of landing in the unkown - but gameplay wise I think it ensures that the first turns doesn't just become a calculated Landgrab. With Distant Suns, you have to consider the risks and whether perhaps scouting some of the planets is worth it - especially if you don't have enough forces to comfortably land on every planet. I think it adds a nice layer of risk-management to, especially, the early game.

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32 minutes ago, aermet69 said:

I absolutely love Distant Suns, for the thrills of landing in the unkown - but gameplay wise I think it ensures that the first turns doesn't just become a calculated Landgrab. With Distant Suns, you have to consider the risks and whether perhaps scouting some of the planets is worth it - especially if you don't have enough forces to comfortably land on every planet. I think it adds a nice layer of risk-management to, especially, the early game.

Agreed. My gaming group always use DS and find it to be exciting. I can understand they're not everyone's cup of tea though.

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48 minutes ago, aermet69 said:

I absolutely love Distant Suns, for the thrills of landing in the unkown - but gameplay wise I think it ensures that the first turns doesn't just become a calculated Landgrab. With Distant Suns, you have to consider the risks and whether perhaps scouting some of the planets is worth it - especially if you don't have enough forces to comfortably land on every planet. I think it adds a nice layer of risk-management to, especially, the early game.

That's true but risk management is something you do when you know the risk, not when its random.  This is kind of the issue from a mechanical stand point in a strategic game like TI3.  TI3 should be about winning based on smart actions, not on a flip of a coin.  I agree with you though, I always loved distant suns for its thematic exploration aspect, a core component of a 4x game, but I do believe FFG has an opportunity now to make this a more intrical part of the game without it being just a luck of the draw kind of thing.  After all, in TI, all races are not created equal and as such the impact of a bad distant sun token is different depending on which race you are.  For one race a bad draw is just a nuisance, for another its a devastating event.  

You don't manage "randomness", you gamble on randomness, its why combat is a gamble.  You roll dice, but even here you at least can predict your odds to some extent, you know going into any fight whether you have an advantage or disadvantage, so there is some semblance of risk vs. reward management.  But with Distant Suns, it really is just pure luck, at least as the mechanic is in TI3.

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Ok, so I have been arguing about Distant Suns on the various iterations of FFG forums since 2nd edition.  I'm literally talking like 14 years or more of this.  I've learned that if somebody likes Distant Suns, they are going to like it no matter how I argue it.  I might as well argue religion or politics.

That said, a few things:

4 hours ago, Rico01 said:

I think it adds a nice layer of risk-management to, especially, the early game.

Is there really any risk management, though?  I remember that somebody worked out once that if you play with Distant Suns, your best bet is to land on every planet with exactly 2 ground forces.  This maximizes your chances to take the planet without losing too much to things like Radiation or that one that ransoms your GFs for trade goods.  Probing just sets you back a turn, and Razing can end up really hurting you.  Just ignore all that chaff and take each planet with 2 ground forces.  Taking with more or fewer GFs is purely and inferior gamble.  It also always annoyed me form a thematic that a carrier can travel thousands of light years but doesn't have good enough sensors to realize that radiation levels are lethal to your troops.

I really like BigKahuna's post.  Everything he said was spot on, especially his suggestion for an exploration thematic that doesn't randomly f*ck you just for funsies.  Let players discover aspects to a planet that change gameplay and introduce meaningful decisions and put interacting with that planet firmly in the players' hands.  His "toxic planet" is a great idea.  Maybe have a tectonically unstable mining planet where you can get extra resources from the planet when you exhaust it, but it kills ground forces when you do that.  here could be planets with persistent effects that last until you do something.  For example, a "Hostile Locals" planet might cause you to lose a GF on the planet each time it is exhausted, but if you have a Dreadnought or War Sun in the system, you may take a Component Action to remove the token to represent bombarding the planet into submission.  Therefore, you could use the planet if you don't have a bombardment-capable vessel nearby, but have a good reason to bring one by if you don't want to hemorrhage infantry.  Maybe you opt to leave the locals on the planet if you think it's about to be taken by your opponent, so they can be a pain in THEIR *** in future turns..  Stuff like that.

With the advent of planets traits (Hazardous, Cultural, and Industrial) I could see distant suns as something where you draw from three different decks, based on the trait of the planet.  If you invade right away, you get a benefit but may also suffer a potential downside on the card.  If you probe (or maybe I'd call it "Sending a diplomatic envoy" first, you might be able to ignore any downside, or maybe get a better benefit.  THAT is better risk management than the existing system, in my opinion.
 

Edited by MikeEvans

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13 minutes ago, MikeEvans said:

With the advent of planets traits (Hazardous, Cultural, and Industrial) I could see distant suns as something where you draw from three different decks, based on the trait of the planet.  If you invade right away, you get a benefit but may also suffer a potential downside on the card.  If you probe (or maybe I'd call it "Sending a diplomatic envoy" first, you might be able to ignore any downside, or maybe get a better benefit.  THAT is better risk management than the existing system, in my opinion.
 

And this is currently under development ...

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1831449/distant-suns-replacement-mod-works

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1832904/alternate-ds-replacement-wip

Edited by IDragonfire

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And here I was thinking: "Why 3 decks? Why not dual or triple cards like in Arkham Horror?". Because then you won't actually KNOW that a certain effect WILL come up for a certain type of planet. As in that Weapons Factory card you're hoping for when invading an industrial planet might be flipped up to eradicate half of another players invasion force when landing on a hazardous planet. Even more randomness in the Distant Suns-ish X-plore aspect.

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The biggest problem I've always had with Distant Suns is that while the exploration tokens sound cool, what they ended up doing is making an already-long game even longer my making planets ahrder to capture.  Given the streamlining that has clearly been evident in TI4 I'm neither surprised nor really saddened to see it gone.

Edited by Braneric

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So... I've been thinking about this a bit lately.

 

MikeEvans and BigKahuna both did a decent job of covering the issues with distant suns tokens, and Mike mentioned that people either like them or not. It's purely a personal preference as to whether you like a longer game with a bit more randomness or a shorter, more skill based effort.

What has been getting to me though, is that I have finally managed to give Star Trek Ascension a try. That game has a mechanic that is very similar to distant suns, each system you explore, you draw a card to get a random feature for that system. It might be a hazardous system that might destroy some ships, it could be a generic pre-warp civilization that requires some effort to conquer/assimilate it could be an advanced civilization with an infrastructure already in place, and so on.

What has me thinking is that the mechanic doesn't feel like it has the same drawbacks as distant suns does, despite the fact that they are virtually the same idea and I'm wondering why that is. Is it because so much more of ST:A is tied into that mechanic so it feels like an integral part of the game? Is it because ST:A doesn't have as many other rules, so that the added game length doesn't feel burdensome? Is it because of the potential of finding "advanced" civilizations adds to the immersion?

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Distant Suns is often regarded as the laziest part of previous TI iterations, I'm not sad to see it axed and at least considered for revamping. FFG could have just as easily saved themselves the cardboard and had players roll a d10 to find out the 'flavor' added to their current expedition. I understand the desire for more than a land grab at game open, yet DS adds a layer of randomness to a game that proposes you can excel by making smart decisions and risk calculations. At least a die roll is impartial, a radioactive token will sit there waiting for its reveal. DS provides a false sense of depth to a game that elsewhere took the time to provide a backstory to every single race, adding nothing but player engagement through imagination and roleplaying.

The 'draw from a deck' idea is a much better implementation of the idea, especially if you give the player choice, or some way to mitigate the randomness through cost/benefit. The planet traits deck idea is also better than old DS because it does potentially add strategy to planet exploration. If you know that planet type X has a chance of being toxic, you won't throw your first troop down there when there's a safer type Y that has lower returns but no risk.

The number one criticism leveled against TI by players who aren't regular players is game length. It makes absolute sense for FFG to remove an artificial depth additive historically known to add game length instead of actual strategy. TI is hard enough to fathom for new players, and difficult for most to get to the table among veterans. Expecting players to remain engaged for 6+ hours when everyone at the table knows one poor sod got screwed on turn 3 by a bad token flip is a tall order that I warn everyone...is exactly what DS potentially asks. I've played with and without DS, but I always pitch it to new players as a BS layer of random to the early game, and can potentially derail an otherwise balanced start. House rules or fan-made alternatives have rendered DS an obsolete misstep in TI design, much like the original Imperial I token from vanilla TI3 which turned every round into a 'pass the free VP token' exercise, masquerading as strategy.

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It seems for me at least many of the variants left out are those that require special outside of game component rule description.  In the new version of the game, aside from the core mechanic, most information you need is right there in front of you, so if want to know what an action, political or promissory note card does, you read the card.  The rules of how those components are governed are in the rules, but what they do is on the card.  It seems to me the things that met that requirement, where left in, those that didn't were pulled.

Hence Distant Suns and Leaders for example that required more extended explanation and out of component look ups were pulled.  Now of course they could have created better designed components to include those things but I think they were also going for a more streamlined experience, so anything that would add considerable weight to the play time or the rules weight was pushed.

In general I think the things they left in make sense, most of it are considered "staple" or "core" for the game.  Flag ships & racial techs for example are things, had they pulled would probably have caused quite an uproar, or if they released the new edition with anything but all of the races, I mean they had to all be there else there would have been endless discussion about the omissions.  The stuff left out was kind of .. meh...   Leaders for example, while the concept was cool, just required far too much "remembering how stuff worked" and it became a thing for veteran tables only, I think in the last 10 years I have played with leaders maybe 3 or 4 times, of what is probably over 100 games under my belt.  Its not that I don't like them, but they created weight to the game.

I think of all the things I'm going to miss the Twilight Council introduced in Shards of the Throne is the one I personally felt was a great improvement and gave the political aspect of the game a lot of extra umpf, but again, I understand its omission, it really increased the length of a TI3 game.  Mercenaries too was very cool and I often pushed to have it in our games to make the trade card more interesting, but again, it added some weight to the game and slowed things down a bit.

All and all I'm quite happy with their choices and certainly some of the things they have improved are really fantastic, in fact so good that they quickly became adaptations added to TI3 games already.  The new trade system for example is miles ahead of TI3 and its easy to implement into TI3 since the combined contracts equal the "Commodity value" of the races.  I also like the fact that they eliminated rules like Transfer Actions which were always a pain to explain and where kind of an advantage leveraged usually by more experienced players, I always felt guilty that I understood and used them well while new players were struggling to grasp how they worked let alone how to leverage them as an advantage.   I think its elimination was a good call.  

My hope for TI4 is that they continue the tradition of expanding the game via new races, this has always been the best part of expansions and while we already have 17 which is a lot (after 10 years of playing TI3, there are still races I am yet to play), I think we can always have more.

I also hope that with TI4 FFG realizes that as a community, we embrace TI as a hobby game, less a simple board game.  One thing this community has always done is adapt, expand and evolve the game.  I had really hoped that with TI4, they would create a system for modularity so that development can be done within the confines of a structure, like a point system or something like that, something akeen to what you had in Masters of Orion 2 where you could create a custom race using base advantages via spending points.  After all, if this community is anything its creative and I have for a long time considered creating a modular mechanic like this so that using a deck of cards you could construct custom races or even randomly generated races, I even considered writing an application for a race creation kit so that you could create a race and then have the components automatically generated.  Unfortunately as a programmer, I leave a lot to be desired.

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19 hours ago, Forgottenlore said:

I wonder, would a distant suns mechanic, in some form, be more palatable if players had an option to build low cost scout ships that could look at a token without risking invoking it. 

Not really. Tying up your build queue and resources in a purpose-built unit would just slow down expansion, which is what DS tends to do anyway. Ground units continue to be useful even in the final turns of the game, whereas a scout unit would be obsolete once most of the map is revealed and contested.  It also doesn't solve the fact that a radioactive planet is just a delay tactic. You lose your expeditionary force and have to send another one. Knowing a planet is radioactive in advance might make you skip it in the early turns, but the effect is still the same. It is designed to waste an action or two, and an activation, and force a follow-up landing of ground units.

I won't even get into probable scenarios of players waiting for an opponent to trigger the radioactive token so they can swoop in themselves and get the planet without the risk.

Edited by VirusSixZero

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1 hour ago, VirusSixZero said:

valid points

Your right, but there are 2 elements of DS that are problematic, however. The added game length and the added randomness.

I wasn't really addressing the DS mechanic as part of the core game here, really just thinking out loud, about ways to tweak the mechanic in a home brew, house rule situation where game length isn't a factor.

 

That said, nobody ever commented on musings about Star Trek Ascendancy and DS a few posts back, either.

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