Thursday, April 26, 2012

Women in games

After thinking a lot about feminism lately and reading Tobold's take on chainmail bikinis in fantasy pictures I decided to take a serious look at the characters in the games I have been playing to see just how realistically or unrealistically female characters are portrayed visually.  This involved a lot of rotating camera angles around to check just exactly how tightly that outfit really does cling to the sides of the female character's breasts... for research purposes only, of course.  The conclusion I came to was that although there are places where females are regularly portrayed in physically impossible ways (breasts don't possess anti gravity fields, despite what artists might have you believe...) the really standout difference between male and female portrayal is clothing.

For example, in WOW the characters are idealized.  This is true for both men and women though as the women have a perfect hourglass figure and the men have broad shoulders and are outrageously muscled.  So muscled, in fact, that their arms and hands are freakishly large and inhuman.  Nobody sags, pot bellies are nowhere to be seen and even the elderly have the breasts of lingerie models or the biceps of olympic weightlifters.  In fact I find that the female characters seem a lot more appropriate for caster classes than male ones because somehow it feels wrong that a male warlock who wears cloth and carries only a dagger has arms big enough to crush skulls with; in the same way the females look strange as melee classes because they have normal arms wielding 2 meter long swords.  The real difference comes in the clothing.  Put the same gear on a male and female character and you can often see a big difference in how much skin is showing and obviously the female is always the one wearing less.

I don't have a personal objection to this to some extent; I happen to like females unclothed so when I see this sort of stuff I wish it went both ways rather than wishing for the women to be covered up.  I don't mind eye candy for those who like undressed men so long as I get my eye candy too!  The thing that does get me frustrated though is the utterly ridiculous and immersion breaking sexifying of women in games, particularly high heels.  I understand the basic principle of high heels in real life; they change the shape of women's legs in a way that appeals to most men.  (I have no idea if it is as appealing to most women who are attracted to women.)  High heels are awful things in real life where the people wearing them walk around on sidewalks and sit at desks; they are not appropriate at all for adventuring!  Both the female demon hunter in D3 and many of the female heroes in Mass Effect 2 wear high heels all the time and it looks utterly silly.  These are characters that plan to run from cover to cover, leap over objects and dive away from explosions and they choose to wear 15 cm stilettos?  Preposterous.  Even more so it is *easy* to change the shape of the legs of these women to be more appealing without adding the idiotic footwear!  Women in real life can't do that but there is no excuse whatever in video games for adding in action heroes wearing heels except to objectify them.

I don't mind sexing up pictures as long as the playing field is level.  If every male character is a Conan type wearing a loincloth and a sword then I have no issue with saucily dressed female characters either (but not in heels, please).  Clothes on, clothes off, either way is fine as long as we have it the same for everyone.  I am never going to look like Conan just like the great majority of women aren't going to look like Miranda but that is almost universally the case in stories; the people are stronger, smarter, richer and better looking.

Miranda pic from
Arnold pic from

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Crowd control done right

I complained some about crowd control in Mass Effect before but today I come before you with nothing but praise.  ME2 really found a fantastic way to deal with crowd control effects that I have not seen before and which seems like a great way to deal with the issue:  Allow crowd control effects only on enemies that have all of their defenses (shield, armor, barriers) destroyed.  The genius of the idea is that it not only works well for bosses but also allows really nice difficulty level scaling too.  Any mooks that the designer wants to be very easy to throw / fear / mind control can be spawned with no defenses allowing the player to horribly abuse them.  Bosses can be started with multiple layers of protection on them though which means that they have to be fought for awhile and have most of their effective health stripped away before they are vulnerable to crowd control effects.  This means that in any given fight crowd control can be used but that simply bringing a barrage of crowd control effects and nothing else will be disastrous whenever you encounter something challenging.  Perfect!

I particularly like this solution because it means that you can dial up the difficulty significantly without completely changing the fight.  Just adding some extra armor or shields onto random enemies not only increases how hard it is to kill them but also means that using CC effects becomes more and more difficult.  On lower difficulties it is fine to lets players horribly maul the enemies by stacking CC but there needs to be some way to mitigate that that isn't just 'MOAR DUDES!' when the difficulty goes up.  There are also the considerations of lore and immersion to keep in mind; having some enemies be inexplicably immune to things can be frustrating and feel very kludgy.  Having a consistent mechanic across the whole game where some enemies have greater protection and cannot be CCed until that protection is gone feels reasonable and the fact that bosses simply have more protections that other people is a nice solution.  Any time you mouse over an enemy you can tell what will work on them and what won't rather than nasty "Sorry, immune to that!" gotcha moments.

In WOW CC was often a problem (Magister's Terrace anyone?) where groups would sit around waiting for a mage because the mage brought the best crowd control in the game.  If a group of four enemies is winnable then a group of three enemies must be extremely easy in comparison so crowd control became very prominent and left those classes or parties without it in a bad situation.  This led Blizzard to give basically every dps class a CC power because otherwise balanced groups and encounters were really hard to design; that is, unless you just made everything immune to CC which has its own problems.  The ME solution is so much better because it lets the designers build challenges that cannot be trivialized by stacking CC without making CC irrelevant.  Given the overall design of WOW fights I can't see how they could implement something similar unfortunately; the design that every monster is pounding on the tank means that CC has to be useful right off the bat or it will be entirely ignored.

Unfortunately I don't have a lot of ideas for how to incorporate this into tabletop games (too much bookkeeping) nor even WOW style fighting games.  The major issue with WOW in this sense is that it has a PvP element.  Setting up the game such that as soon as you get seriously damaged you suddenly lose all control over your character seems like it would be really frustrating and would be quite strange with effective in combat healing.  Not that this solution wouldn't work for MMOs in general but I don't have a particularly good sense of how they run mechanically.  The only one I know inside out is WOW and although CC in WOW is a mess I don't think this (or any other solution I have ever seen) will fix it barring other major system overhauls.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Real world debates in games

I am currently working my way through Mass Effect 2.  In the original game the story of the krogan genophage was told and the story continues in ME2.  The basic idea:

The krogan are extremely dangerous alien fighters.  They also reproduce like crazy.
If the krogan are left alone their population explodes and they end up conquering and destroying everyone.
Other species decided to infect the krogan with a tailored genophage that drastically reduced their fertility; only one in a thousand krogan newborns is born alive.  This was done to keep the krogan population steady and keep them from becoming an unstoppable threat without destroying them.
The genophage has caused all kinds of bad changes in krogan society and outlook.

Question:  Is creating the genophage ethical?

From a strictly utilitarian viewpoint I can certainly see creating the genophage being ethical.  When faced with imminent attack by a superior military force bent on your destruction it is acceptable to defend yourself with whatever force is necessary to stop the attack.  To my mind it is acceptable to go further than that though; if all you do is stop the immediate attack you may well face another attack whenever it suits the enemy.  Just like Ender did in Ender's Game I think it is morally acceptable to inflict additional punishment on an aggressor sufficient to deter future attack but that the additional punishment should stop short of revenge.  Attacking for vengeance is not morally acceptable but attacking to prevent future conflicts is.  In this case the genophage does the minimum possible damage that could be inflicted to prevent a devastating future conflict without destroying the krogan entirely; the best possible solution from a dismal set of choices.

The debate in ME2 ends up being framed very similarly to the abortion debate in the real world.  Is killing a sentient being different from causing a baby to be stillborn?  I think it is, which should not be surprising as I am very much pro choice.  In ME2 the choice is framed in terms of Paragon and Renegade points; it seems as though the attitude that the genophage is wrong is Paragon and thinking that the genophage is a necessary evil is Renegade.  It is a little strange because I am going through the game wanting to choose the Paragon options mostly but I sure wanted to be a Renegade whenever these questions came up.  I can't really wrap my mind around the idea that the genophage is wrong; is a galaxy wide war and the utter destruction of at least one race a preferable result?  If the genophage is cured then either the krogan must be destroyed or all other races must be destroyed instead; no other option presents itself.

I wonder if the parallels to the abortion debate were noticed when the game was being built.  I certainly couldn't avoid seeing it as I went through Mordin Solus' quest mission in particula; I also wonder if the other players of the ME games notice the same.  It seems like the genophage is being presented as somewhat morally ambiguous since I have options to either stop it or sustain it.  I would be curious to know what the game developer's beliefs were on the abortion issue; it might give me some insight into how they develop games.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mass Effect and me being wrong

Last week I posted about balance issues in Mass Effect 1.  In particular the crowd control (CC) biotic effects seemed to be exceedingly powerful in some situations (beating up regular.dudes) and weak against bosses.  I think that balancing CC effects is really tough but my impression of how well ME managed it is much brighter now.  Against the one boss that I found extremely difficult, the krogan battlemaster, my CC effects seemed exceedingly weak and that really coloured my perceptions.  Having completed the entire game on Hardcore difficulty though I have changed my mind:  There are definitely some spots in the game where CC effects are weak but overall they are very useful.  Even the majority of boss fights have times where the boss is vulnerable to such effects or at least have dorks that can be tossed around.

One thing I found very strange in that game is that finding gear is completely tied to level.  If you visit Zone A when you are level 10 you will find rank 2-3 equipment and if you visit it when you are level 50 you will find rank 8-10 equipment.  This ensures steady loot progression throughout the game regardless of what order you do the fights in.  It also has some really weird balance repercussions though because if you decide to simply do every mission, visit every zone and kill every enemy in the game you end up extremely high level; this leads not only to having more hitpoints and skills but also to having completely absurd gear.  The other very strange thing about this mechanic is that money acquisition follows a scaling formula based on level too; it was utterly bizarre to collect one piece for an early mission and get 100 credits and then get 6,000 credits for collecting another piece just because I levelled up a bunch in the interim.

I don't know how I feel about the this gear mechanic.  In some ways it is great that you can't just slip ahead to high level zones to get overpowered gear and that you have consistent gear progression throughout the game but on the other hand it does make the game feel more grindy as you are massively rewarded for doing *everything* instead of picking and choosing.  There is no possibility of catching up if you skip things along the way.  This became really obvious as I got endgame gear because initially in Hardcore difficulty I had to play well and try hard but at the end I just mowed down every enemy I saw with utter disdain; my equipment was so powerful that there was practically no challenge at all.  It certainly means that the challenge level of Insane difficulty would be fairly warped; I am sure the beginning would be an utter pain in the ass but once I get out in the world I can tour around doing mining and surveying to level up to trivialize the later encounters.  I don't want the challenge of the highest difficulty level to be the tedium of driving my truck up and down annoying mountains to find more ore to survey.

What's that you say?  I could stop being completionist and just go do the major plot points at low level?  Unfortunately for me that just isn't fun.  When I set a particular difficulty level I want to then do everything within my power to beat it.  Having to constantly say "well, I won't do *that* because it makes things too easy" is frustrating rather than exhilarating.  If all the enemies in the game scaled appropriately to your level it would work out all right but they don't.  Apparently the bosses and minibosses scale somewhat but they sure don't seem to scale enough.  I like the difficulty scaling in ME1 but I wish they did something to mitigate how much more power you get from doing all the random side missions somehow.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Skills and the pressure to learn them

Tobold talked yesterday a bit about the fun involved in learning and mastering new skills.  His basic thesis is that people have a lot of fun learning skills but they get bored and stop having fun once the learning stops.  One of the things he calls for is people making new and interesting games that are extremely different from what has come before to avoid the problem of early mastery.  I certainly think that there is a tremendous amount of transferable skill from some games to others.  Many games of virtually any genre have substantial skill crossover from MMOs to shooters to turret defence.  I can say for sure that the reason I was able to start playing Mass Effect on Veteran difficulty is because I spent so much time playing WOW and Doom 2.  Strafing in and out to snipe enemies and hitting lots of skill buttons without looking away from the screen are skills that easily go across games and reduce the learning curve a lot.

I am not so easily convinced that games need to have truly revolutionary mechanics to be tremendous fun though.  I finished Portal 1 and then played Portal 2 and I had a hell of a good time in the second game.  There were a few new mechanics but I didn't feel that they really added a huge amount to the game - the structure and ambience was noticeably different and I really enjoyed the newer, bigger areas to play around in.  Mostly though I really just wanted more of the same and exploring through the game was awesome.  I think entirely new mechanics can add a little bit more to a game's longevity but eventually the player maxes out the skill needed to beat the game's challenges and then exploring is the only thing keeping them going.

Ratcheting up the difficulty of the game can actually be a really good way to change the mechanics.  For example, if you are just playing through the levelling game of WOW you can easily get to the level cap with only 3 abilities on your bar.  This isn't optimal in any sense but it is easily doable.  When you get to raiding you will suddenly realize that you simply have to use more abilities and learn new techniques.  I was good for a long time at jump spinning to get extra attacks in on mobs while running but I really mastered it while fighting Sindragosa hardmode.  That fight was absolutely full of running away from the boss and learning to use all of my abilities in the correct order while running was a challenge - they all had different GCDs and ranges so a lot of expertise was needed to maximize my damage.  (Whether or not this maximization really led to significantly improved kill rates is questionable!)  Despite having played WOW for 4 years at that point I was still learning because the fight was hard enough to force me to learn.

I feel the same way about Mass Effect.  While playing on Veteran I pretty much ignored all of my abilities because I was able to get by with just strafing, ducking behind cover and shooting.  When I ticked the difficulty up to Hardcore I suddenly could not get by; I had to precast shields, use my crowd control, manage cooldowns and retreat more often.  I also had to read all of my abilities and make more careful choices when levelling up.  I learned more and had more fun because the game was hard enough that I had to.  Just like doing WOW hardmodes required me to learn entirely new things like doing 95% of optimal DPS while still watching boss mods, cast bars, fire on the ground and other environmental signals there is an entirely new set of skills just waiting to be mastered when the challenge level goes up.

I definitely think that revolutionary games like Portal have a much easier time of creating fun because they don't have to ride that edge of hard but doable so much; the novelty creates the fun.  When a game is created that uses established mechanics and which people can easily apply old skills to I think it is much harder to be fun because you need more content or more tightly tuned challenges.  Bringing innovation to the table can really lower the bar for the rest of a game but it isn't required; give people tough but fair challenges and a world to discover and it can be fun just the same.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

More Mass Effect

Crowd control effects are really problematic to balance.  This is something I am really coming to notice in Mass Effect now that I have started playing through on Hardcore difficulty.  Initially I started on Veteran with a pure Soldier build but I decided to do something different for Hardcore and went with a mixed Biotic / Combat character.  What this means to those who haven't played the game:  Biotic abilities are mostly crowd control powers that have cooldowns.  You can toss people around, lift them up, disrupt their abilities, etc.  Combat abilities mostly give you passive damage reduction, more hitpoints, more damage and more healing.  This seems to work out fine in most circumstances because when random enemies attack you it is very useful to use Biotic abilities to wreck them but having better numbers helps a lot too.  When there are groups of enemies attacking both builds seem solid and reasonable because they each have advantages and disadvantages.  Problems start to arise though when you fight just 1 enemy.

If the 1 enemy you fight is a dork then Biotics are ridiculous.  First the dork takes a bunch of damage and gets a debuff that makes him take more damage.  Then he gets knocked down.  Then he gets to float around in the air for awhile.  While he is taking these vacations he is getting shot by your entire team and dies exceedingly quickly.  The other end of the spectrum is found when you fight a boss because they are immune to Biotic attacks.  Try to knock them down?  Nope.  Try to toss them around?  Nope.  You basically end up relying on a lot of shooting and ducking and getting hit instead and the Combat abilities become paramount.  You might think that this is all fine because Biotics are good sometimes and Combat is good other times but obviously that would require boss fights and fights against 1 dork to be equally important.  Because bosses are hard and 1 dork is trivial then the game becomes a lot more slanted towards being a Soldier type and just having big numbers on your side.

I certainly found Hardcore to be a real challenge unlike Veteran.  I don't know how much to chalk up to difficulty setting and how much to my new build being inferior in very specific situations though.  In particular the Krogan Battlemaster boss (while rescuing Liara) pretty much acted like a WOW raid boss.  He stood behind pillars and shot at me, which was survivable but unpleasant, and occasionally would try to rush me.  If he rushed me it was very bad because he shot for 20% of my health bar and hit with his fists for 80% of my health bar.  Also when he was in melee range my character defaulted to melee attacks ... which he is immune to.  I had situations where I engaged him at range, brought him down to 20% of his health with my entire team at full with all cooldowns up and he charged in and murdered all three of us quite trivially.  I ended up having to develop (over the course of 15 wipes) a strategy where I kited him behind pillars and refused to engage except when he was mostly under cover sniping me.  Killing him from that position was annoying and slow but it was doable while letting him have a direct line to me (even at maximum range) was death.

For most of Mass Effect I fight in ways that seem really sensible from a roleplaying perspective like ducking behind cover, retreating to draw enemies into traps, sniping when possible, etc.  but for this fight it was pure AI abuse.  I figured out the AIs attack routine and made sure it never got to a spot where it would decide to charge and ruin me.  Obviously that is what you do in video games most of the time; you figure out the hole in the boss' attacks and abuse it over and over until the boss dies.  It is a little unfortunate in this case though because otherwise the game's fighting strategies and roleplaying really played nicely together and in this case I had to game the system pretty severely.  The Krogan Battlemaster fight certainly had my heart pounding but it definitely didn't have me playing in character.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mass Effect

I am playing through Mass Effect this week.  It is a really fun game and I find that there is a pretty good balance between combat and story - it is also nice that you can skip past either of the two elements fairly quickly if you want to.  One thing I noticed is that it is shockingly like a Final Fantasy or similar type RPG once you get past the spaceship and lasers overlay.  There are lots of enemies to fight and they always give you XP and sometimes give you stuff!  A hardcore twink like myself cannot resist the lure of more stuff so I do every side quest, find every storage locker (treasure chest), hunt down every last geth (monster) and refuse to spend money on anything because I want to save it all up for the endgame.  Buying gear and then selling it back to the vendor at a loss is unacceptable - only buy things that will never, ever obsolete!  In the same vein the classes read much like fantasy RPG classes.  I am a fighter and my two friends in my party are a fighter (Ashley) and thief/cleric/mage (Kaidan).  Thankfully 'multiclassing' in ME is actually quite good and I basically have two tanks who do all the killing and one guy following us around CCing the enemies, opening locks and healing (having lots of First Aid).  I guess some general designs are just timeless and transcend genres.

One thing that really irritates me though is that much like Final Fantasy 1 the combat mechanics are entirely unexplained.  How can I find out what my accuracy ratings on weapons do?  What does increasing my accuracy regenerated per second by 1% even mean?  Just like in FF1 you can experiment randomly with weapons to see what happens but the tooltips seem to give a lot of information that is quite useless for making decisions.  I am used to WOW where I can get really detailed combat logs to allow me to make good decisions and in ME I can't see how you would figure this stuff out without just playing through the game a bazillion times.  I am not advocating providing tons of explicit combat log data to everybody.  Most people would find it irritating and useless because they just want to put a lot of points into shotguns and then shoot people with shotguns - as long as that works the numbers aren't helpful.  I sure wish that the game had a good combat mechanics section in it though that told me exactly what my stats are and what they do; right now I look at weapons that have 150/1 damage/accuracy and compare them to 140/5 and there is nothing whatsoever that tells me whether or not the new item is an upgrade and it is exceedingly unlikely I could figure that out just by shooting the enemies.

I do like the Paragon/Renegade system.  You can earn points towards either as both are essentially reputations - you can be known for being a badass or a hero or both.  My first playthrough I am playing mostly to get Paragon points and doing the good guy thing but I plan on running through the game as a pure Renegade next time so I can select "Bite me" from the menu a lot of times and see what happens.  I took max points in both Charm and Intimidate to give me lots of chat options on my first playthrough and that looks to have been a mistake since I only had a chance to use them 3 times so far in my 15 hours of play and they haven't been particularly useful even then.  Next time through my biotic assassin isn't going to mess around with 'talky' skills - I am going to have two responses to situations - kill them or tell them to F off.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

7 Wonders

Recently I played the 7 Wonders boardgame and was really impressed by it.  It seemed fairly easy to teach to new people but had some deep strategy available.  I do like board games that don't have a ton of pregame explanation because so often somebody new is playing it; as long as a newcomer is able to play quickly I don't mind if they always lose, even if that newcomer is me.  It is also fantastic to my mind that everyone plays at once and you don't have the issue of people sitting around for 75% of the game waiting for their turn to arrive.  After doing a bit more thinking and analysis on 7 Wonders though I have come to the conclusion that it has a lot less depth than I thought and has a few unfortunate mechanics.  Thankfully my game meddling is in high gear and I have some ideas to fix the issues I see.

7W is played over 3 rounds.  Each round starts with each player drawing 7 cards and then drafting those cards simultaneously, much like in a Magic draft.  The first draft has you passing your cards left, then right, then left again.  You only take 6 cards from each pack though so you end up playing 18 cards in each game of 7W.  The cards can be roughly divided into two groups:  Resources (Brown, Silver, Yellow) and Points (Green, Blue, Red, Purple).  I think the Resource cards work out pretty well and there are lots of different choices to make with them based on how your game is going and what your neighbours are doing.  The problem comes with the Points cards, the Greens in particular.

Blue and Purple cards aren't that different functionally.  They appear mostly in the 3rd round of the draft and they are worth a lot of points.  They have varying costs, values and special abilities but it is fairly easy to cherrypick ones that work for you at any given time.  I think they work fine.  There is some interaction between them but mostly you don't have to worry about people hate drafting cards away from you too much since there are usually many good choices for you to make.

Red cards are military cards and get you points only if you have more of them than the people directly beside you.  This is an interesting mechanic in that you really want to beat your neighbours up but you don't want to build more military than necessary to win those conflicts.  If one of your neighbours has a huge or nonexistent military score you can still buy Red cards to compete with your other neighbour - overall this mechanic seems to work well.  There is no way to completely screw people over if they are trying to accumulate a lot of Red cards because hate drafting them hurts anybody else competing with the Red drafter too.

Green cards are science cards.  They come in three types, wheel, tablet and compass and there are 4 cards of each type in the deck.  Your score from all of them is found by squaring the number of each type you have and then scoring 7 for each set of 3 you have.  For example, if I had 3,2,2 of the types I would score 9 + 4 + 4 + 7 + 7 = 31.  The trouble with Green cards is that if you get 7 of them as above you end up scoring 4.5 points each and this is simply not enough - setting up to buy a lot of Science cards is difficult and usually sets you back compared to the other players so they need to pay off in a big way.  Generally the winning scores in games seem to be in the 65 range and if you are going Science you aren't likely to get a lot of points elsewhere so you pretty much need to get 10+ of the 12 possible Science cards to have a good chance at winning.  This is real trouble because if two players are going for Science then they are virtually guaranteed to both crash and burn.  If you go for Science solo though and everything goes perfectly you crush everyone - getting your full 12 Science cards generates 76 points which is more than enough to win the game comfortably.

Initially I had thought that this was a reasonable situation because I hadn't really run the numbers for multiple people playing Science.  I figured that things would probably work out if two people shared well, but it turns out that two people sharing Science makes them both lose.  The kicker though is that if one player is going full on Science and nobody else even attempts to compete they probably still lose!  The problem is that once you are set up in the first two rounds for Science you can very easily lose just on the placements of the cards in the last round.  If lots of Science cards are in one hand in the draft you lose.  If your opponents notice that you are having a perfect Science game and take your Science cards away (to build their wonders) you lose, and they will if they are paying any attention at all.

The problem here is the scaling of Science cards.  The first few are utter rubbish (a 2-1-0 split gives 5 points but a 2-2-2 split gives 26 points) and you have to build those first few before you see if the cards are going to be set up such that you can succeed at your build.  Not only do you have to commit fully before knowing if you have any chance you also are in the situation where your opponents are massively incentivized to punish you in the late game if by some chance you are looking good.  Your ninth card is worth 12 points, far more than anything else in the game, so people will definitely take it away from you.  I like the idea of Science but right now it just seems to be a sucker's game.  If you play Science with some new players some of them will draft the Science cards randomly and you will lose.  If you play with experts they will draft Science cards punitively (and only if you are already looking good) and wreck your day.  The double scaling where you need a lot of Science cards to get complete sets and then you need a lot of Science cards to get the squaring to big enough numbers means that Science is going to very occasionally blow some bad players out of the water and virtually every other time it is a ticket to last place.

If the Science scoring instead worked such that every Science card was worth 3 points but the sets were still worth 7 then I think things would be much better.  Gathering a set of 3 Science cards would be worth 16 points, which is quite good, but at least if you miss getting the set you still have a decent point count to work with.  The other big advantage is that in the late game your opponents have less reason to hammer you.  Many of your points are already banked and you might only be getting 3 points from a new Science card so you are likely to actually get some Science cards even if you are already in a good position.  Another possibility is making the Science cards in the first round with 2, second round 3, third round 4, again with the same 7 points for a set.  This also means that aiming for a single set is fine so two people can be in Science reasonably comfortably.  There is a big incentive to complete sets in both of these scenarios but at least Science strategies would be able to recover from bad distribution or opponents hate drafting.

One other option that would work is simply increasing the number of duplicates of various Science cards in the deck.  If there were more duplicate cards it would be possible for two players to be in Science without cannibalizing each other and it would be drastically harder to hate draft the Science player into oblivion.

Overall I enjoy 7W just as it is but I think the strategy is a bit weak because one big element is so clunky.  Hopefully I can get some people to try out the alternate scoring method and see how it plays out.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Lounge Day crosspost

Lounge Day is happening again this year:  A gathering of middleaged gamers to relive the glory days.  Details are all here.