Sunday, December 16, 2007

Race For the Galaxy

There seems to be a lot of talk about RFtG. Both in my comments and my emails, so I thought I'd try an open a bit a dialog, because this game current has my interest. If you have anything you want to say about this game, please drop me a line or comment and I'll be happy to add it to the thread. So first up Jason Easley.
Jason: I was reading up on the game in several places, and it has been indicated that several expansions were already done, in the sock, before the game even went to print. So, if I get this right, they stick a $35 price tag on a card game (with only a handful of chits, no wood), and then you can buy the full version of the game for more money. Now, I think the game is great (had to get my own), it looks stunning, plays well, etc. But for $35 for a card game, I would hope that I could get the full version, instead of being baited into spending more money so either :a) more people can play, or b)I get to play with more variety.
Charles: First off, RFtG is about $5 more than San Juan, a game that it is comparable to (assuming prices at an online store like ThoughtHammer). I believe that RFtG is actually printed on nicer linen finish stock and has some nice player aids, so I'm ok with the price - though I can certainly see where $35 for a card game might keep non-gamers away - heck, $20 for a card game might keep anybody away. But I don't think its really overpriced. As far as them selling the "full version" - I wouldn't be surprised next Christmas to see a deluxe version or something with the expansions included. But as far as this game goes - it is a full game. A full 4-player game that doesn't feel in the least bit incomplete to me. Its fun and interesting. I can certainly see where they've left the door open for "more" and I'm excited to see what they have in store. In fact, the only thing I'm disappointed in thus far is that its only a 4-player game. Heck, Blue Moon is $20 with like 10 expansions. You can get them or not, and it doesn't take away from the base game being complete.
Matthew F: Jay (of Rio Grand Games) noted that the art -- a unique picture for every card -- cost him a small fortune, and unlike a CCG, won't sell tens of thousands. As such, I don't see the $35 as out of line.
Charles: I guess I hadn't thought about that, though that's another thing I like about RFtG over SJ - there are much fewer duplicated cards in the deck.
Mike Garrett: So it's a safe bet that this will be hitting the table quite a few times in the future, I think you'll get your money's worth.
Charles: I think this will see my gaming table a bit in the future for a number of reasons, the biggest being - if you know how to play, this game actually becomes a very good filler. If we have 30 minutes at the end of a night and 3 people that can play, this is a good choice. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying this is the greatest game of all time and its all I want to play, because its not. But I do think its one of those rare really good short games. Based on $$/play, this will easily be a bargain choice for me, with or without the expansions - though $$ per play has never really been my main consideration in purchasing (see Age of Steam and Heroscape).
(slight change of direction - a comment from a previous entry)
Matthew F: I played Race for the third time last night. I quite like it, it's very enjoyable, and I'll happily play again, probably many times. That said, man is it ever a multi-player solitaire game. Yes, there's a little bit of interaction, in that you might not choose Develop or Settle if you think someone really needs it, but it won't stop you from picking it. Wish it was a little more interactive, that's all. I find that there's a lot more interaction in Puerto Rico, precisely because only one person can choose each role, and the timing and availability of those choices can greatly affect other players. San Juan is less interactive than Puerto Rico, but I still find it more interactive than Race for the Galaxy. I look forward to expansion cards that improve interaction, that would be great!
Charles: There is some amount of truth in that - the extent of interaction at this point is which cards to hold so that they don't go back into play, and which action to take. Personally, I never worried about which action would help other players though I did try a couple times to take an action I thought might benefit if another player took a certain action - case in point: I took TRADE once, without any goods to sell. Mike was baffled, but I gambled that someone was going to play SETTLE. Someone did, and I settled a windfall world, thus getting a good into play. This was a strong (though gambled) action, as nobody else had goods either, so I wasn't helping anyone else. However, this sort of play has been rare thus far. Personally, I think that in PR and SJ, there feels like more interaction due to the roles HAVING to be taken (not taking a role in PR will help someone in the next round). But I like the cat and mouse approach of simultaneous action selection. How well you read what others are doing can make a difference in the game, though its not the whole game.
Mike Garrett: I agree that the simultaneous selection adds needed spice to the recipe, I always thought San Juan was rather bland.
Charles: Just out of curiosity, what sort of interactions would you like to see, that wouldn't just destroy the game? The ability to devastate other player's worlds (like a one time use Death Star type development)? The ability to suppress types of cards (ie nobody can use any Alien tech or world abilities this round)? I'm not sure these will happen or not. I guess I don't see this becoming too much more interactive other than through repeat playings such that you play the cat and mouse games with your opponents.
Jason E: Oh it is a full game alright - I meant to convey that I think that it is kind of funny that all the expansions were done before the game even went to press. I picked up Cutthroat Caverns a while back, and it had an expansion released right along with it - as a separately available item. RFtG is beautiful - everything about it is attractive, from the VP chips to the cards, heck even the insert is cool. So I can see why it is more expensive that San Juan (not to mention inflation). But why not release the game to be playable with a full slate of 6 (instead of 4) right off the bay?
Charles H: Tom Lehmann explains exactly why in his designer diary entry. The short answer is that the expansions will change the way experienced players will approach the game. In fact, there will be blanks in the second expansion that allow players to submit their own card. The best will get added to the third expansion. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd think you'd see some sort of mass effect card or at least a card that hurts or slows other players down come out from the community. I've got a couple ideas like this already in my head. Like a Death Star card - costs you 5 military + 3 cards and is worth 5 VPs. During the development phase it can be used to kill any planet on the tableau once during a game. Its powerful, but one shot and costs a lot to get to the table. You can use it to slow down someone out in front, but its unlikely to be on the table and in use so early in the game that you can't recover from its effect.
Mike Garrett: I say leave the game alone, it is what it is. I think any player interaction would detract, not make it better. We can play Game of Thrones if we need to 'interact'.
Charles: True, but not in 30 minutes.

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