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Arcs

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24 Jan 2024 11:59 #341622 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic Arcs
Cole probably lives less than 15 miles away from me, and we went to the same university (in different decades), so I feel like I should have met him by now. I belong to a local Facebook group for people selling, trading, and buying board games, and for a couple of years there, it seemed like every other post featured someone selling their copy of either Root or Oath. Maybe these people are buying his games to support a local game company with good reviews on BGG, and then bouncing off those games after actually playing them. I have a great deal of respect for his originality and success, but didn't actually enjoy Root because I dislike games that start with mechanics then apply the theme later. Although it seems possible that he might start with theme, then develop mechanics, and then finally re-apply the theme. Either way, I found Root dry and counter-intuitive due to the disconnect between mechanics and theme. Arcs is a hard pass because I also don't enjoy trick-taking as a mechanic.
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25 Jan 2024 13:45 #341634 by SuperflyPete
Replied by SuperflyPete on topic Arcs
TWBGers sucks as an acronym. We need to incorporate something along the same lines as FATties.

Wilbies?

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25 Jan 2024 14:46 #341637 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic Arcs
I still call us F:ATties.
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26 Jan 2024 21:53 #341640 by ChristopherMD
Replied by ChristopherMD on topic Arcs
I think TWBG is meant to be more of an umbrella. We can still be FATties underneath it.
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15 Apr 2024 11:02 - 15 Apr 2024 11:42 #342137 by sornars
Replied by sornars on topic Arcs
Gary Sax, Not Sure and I got another game of this in yesterday.

This time we played with the Leaders and Lores mini-expansion and what a difference it made. You can see in my last post that I was pretty doubtful about this game but with this expansion in play I'd say the experience improved sufficiently for me to say I enjoyed it.

Don't get me wrong, it's still mean and agonising to play but having the leaders in play provides enough asymmetry (both positive and negative) to make it feel less like King of the Hill and more like colliding civilisations with different incentives that you can play around with. I never want to play base Arcs again now knowing this exists. It also gave me a lot more confidence in the campaign providing what I want from the game. Having said that, I wouldn't recommend you skip the base game for your first play because the core systems are obtuse enough that adding asymmetry in will only bog you down. I think the three of us played at a reasonable clip, coming in at 3 hours, and I think that player count is really good for the game; I suspect we can trim 30 minutes or so off of our play time with a bit more experience. Most of the "wasted" time is spent trying to avoid taking your medicine as the game forces you into making choices between bad and worse making that 3 hours feel a lot longer than it really was.

Much like Pax Pamir 2e, this game is not over until the final bell rings. I've gotten despondent in the former for feeling locked out of a win but surprised myself with a victory courtesy of the double dominance in the final round. Arcs mirrors that escalation where later rounds are worth many more points than earlier ones. Early ones are still important for claiming board presence and staying competitive but when Gary Sax sprinted to an early lead, needing only 4 points (out of 30ish) to end the game whereas Not Sure and I were in the tens to teens; Not Sure and I were able to coordinate (through the trick taking card play) sufficiently to keep ourselves in the game for a couple of rounds. This was ultimately to Not Sure's benefit and not mine but it was cool to see how the game has the right structure to make you keep playing against tough odds. Still, if you do get upset by being locked out of the game and beaten senseless by your opponents then for your own sake I recommend avoiding this game.

I doubt this will unseat Oath as my favourite game from Leder Games; I doubt it'll really enter the conversation of my favourite games at all, but I wanted to add my more positive impressions in given how negative my first ones were.
Last edit: 15 Apr 2024 11:42 by sornars.

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23 Apr 2024 07:38 - 24 Apr 2024 09:34 #342189 by sornars
Replied by sornars on topic Arcs
I'm back to report another miserable experience!

The details aren't particularly important, all that matters is this game has absolutely zero guardrails and you can play yourself off of the board (literally) with no recourse to get back into the game if you get greedy. I got greedy.

I was pretty annoyed during the play (and after) but there is something compelling about the game. I thought I was a Cole Wehrle fan but on reflection, I think he has two masterpieces in JoCo and Oath and then a few really well designed games that I'm not particularly interested in playing (Root, Pax Pamir 2e). Arcs leans towards the lower end of that spectrum, but what they all have in common is being sufficiently interesting to warrant some exploration even if I can tell they're not going to be my favourite game.

I actually think I like Arcs more than Root if only because it's far more interesting both mechanically and narratively. Arcs has higher highs and (much) lower lows than Root and I appreciate that. During the game I said that I thought that might be my last game of Arcs but I do want to see more of the game, in particular the campaign.

There is something very odd about the pacing of turns in this game that bothers me and I don't see getting much better. You need to spend a lot of time waiting for other people to take their turns because every move is consequential but you can't really use that downtime to plan your own turn very far in advance if you don't have initiative as you don't know what options you'll have or how the board state will change! It's a DOAM game where you need to sequence your turns out like it's a heavy Euro.
Last edit: 24 Apr 2024 09:34 by sornars.
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23 Apr 2024 11:45 - 24 Apr 2024 11:53 #342190 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Arcs
I was in this game and won running away with it by the end, but in general I'd say if anything this game has grown on me slightly over time. I think everything mentioned above is true, it's a game about finding and exploiting opportunities but isn't a sweeping dramatic game necessarily unless the endgame plays out that way. It's like in B+ territory for me now but nowhere near the highs of Oath or John Company, my ordering of Wehrle designs looks like sornars mostly.

One thing that is not at all obvious in this game is that it shares a lot, not mechanically, but tempowise with something like Twilight Imperium 4. People hail TI as some big thematic space opera but played at a high level TI:4 is a game about waiting patiently to take your opportunities while keeping up with the other players and the pace to win in the meantime. You spend the first 3 rounds of TI:4 making sure you score your points, grabbing efficiencies here and there, and then spending round 4 and 5 going all in and trying to hit 10. The escalating scoring of Arcs means it's a lot like that, where biding your time while scoring enough to stay in it is quite important and jumping ahead will get you a loss and punched in the face and lose too much board position. There's nothing about Arcs on its face that advertises this, I think you have to play a few times. The game is also very grueling and exhausting in the same way that TI:4 is, though obviously like 1/3 the length. But still way, way longer than the criminally low box rating says. 3p has been modally at about 3 hours for us.

One aspect of Arcs I do not like is that the tableaus can get too big if there's a lot of acquisition going on. Having 3-4 players with big 3-7 card tableaus of very consequential special powers (guild cards, lore and leader cards) is too much to keep track of but essential since any given trigger is very strong and can change what a good decision is. I lost track of my own powers and board state on a couple of occasions but that is mostly a TTS thing.

Still true: under no circumstances should you play base arcs without leaders and lore (which comes in the box) beyond your first, maybe second, game. I can't ethically suggest you put it in the first game, since you'll already be overwhelmed... but at least it would be more interesting.
Last edit: 24 Apr 2024 11:53 by Gary Sax.
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23 Apr 2024 20:28 #342194 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Arcs
spacebiff.com/2024/04/23/arcs/

Extremely funny that our heavily caveated experiences are like diametrically opposed to popular accounts coming out like Thurot or Shut Up and Sit Down's ravings about the approachability of this game.
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24 Apr 2024 09:08 #342199 by Jackwraith
Replied by Jackwraith on topic Arcs

Gary Sax wrote: spacebiff.com/2024/04/23/arcs/

Extremely funny that our heavily caveated experiences are like diametrically opposed to popular accounts coming out like Thurot or Shut Up and Sit Down's ravings about the approachability of this game.


Just speculation, but I wonder if there's a physical element to this. I don't mean that people like Dan or the SUSD guys are swayed by pretty things, but I'm just reflecting on my own general disinterest in playing board games electronically. Having the cards and dice (which Dan was really excited about-!) in hand and sitting across the table from other humans in this game might be more exciting than the more mechanical aspect of playing on TTS; without artwork, without the story presented by those images, and so on.

Obviously, you and sornars have some core play issues with it and I'm not suggesting that either you or they missed the boat in that respect, but games to me are an experiential thing and I'm certainly much fonder of sitting down to an experience that includes all of the designer's original intent, rather than electronic approximations of same.

I was in on the KS for this, as I am for all Cole Wehrle things, but it wasn't because I was so overawed by Oath, as Dan makes regular reference to the high points of that design. In fact, my experiences with Oath have led to me wanting to play more, but being unable to find a regular crowd to do so, which means that I've yet to see the real "genius" behind that design as you've talked about before. I want to get there, but can't say that I'd urge people to try Oath in the same way I do Root or Pax Pamir. In contrast, having stayed out of the playtesting realm or anything on TTS or the like, I have to say that Dan's description of Arcs has me far more interested than anything I'd heard about Oath and even after playing the latter.
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24 Apr 2024 11:49 - 24 Apr 2024 11:51 #342200 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Arcs
It's possible. I am certainly reserving my judgment on the tableau issue till I have played in person because that might be something easily handled by the different mechanics of playing in person.

On the other hand, I like Dan's and SUSD's work a lot but have pretty different gaming tastes than them so it may just be an honest disagreement on its approachability. My gaming tastes are closest to Charlie Theel, more broadly, of people who are frequently reviewing.
Last edit: 24 Apr 2024 11:51 by Gary Sax.
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24 Apr 2024 13:18 #342202 by Jackwraith
Replied by Jackwraith on topic Arcs
Yeah, totally with you there. Charlie and I have been largely on the same page for as long as I can remember and I think the SUSD guys get a bit precious with some of their reviews about what works and doesn't (or qualifies as a worthwhile expenditure of time; I'm still kind of amazed that they're such huge fans of TI4.) Dan has clued me into some really cool stuff that I wouldn't otherwise have known about, but there have been a couple misses, too (Shamans, for example, which Charlie also likes.)

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24 Apr 2024 14:47 #342203 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Arcs
Both reviewers I mentioned demonstrate content that I find interesting but cannot use as a guide to whether I should buy or I will like the game. And that type of content is good too, but it's important to know.
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24 Apr 2024 15:27 #342204 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic Arcs
I have a pretty good success rate at buying games I will like (possibly due to confirmation bias) because of how I read reviews. I already know that BGGers tend to shout down negative reviews, and even reviewers on other sites may tend to err on the side of emphasizing the positive. So I don't read a review looking for someone to tell me whether or not I should buy a game. I read a review to understand why the reviewer liked or disliked the game, and then compare those reasons to what I tend to like or dislike about games. But I think most people tend to just look for that thumbs up or down, and buy accordingly. That would explain why people are constantly selling lightly-used copies of Root and Oath in the Minnesota Board Game Exchange facebook group.

Cole Wehrle must be doing something right, because he is very popular with board game reviewers. But there seems to be a significant disconnect between the reviewers and all these dissatisfied players. Maybe his games are somewhat inaccessible to casual gamers. Based merely on a few plays of Root and one play of John Company, I find a disconnect between theme and mechanics that makes teaching and learning more difficult. And maybe there is an expectation of a certain level of player interaction that is not fully integrated into the design, making his games work great for some groups and not great for other groups. I wouldn't mind trying more of his games, especially Oath and the upcoming Molly House, because I appreciate Cole's innovations but still haven't found one of his games that I truly enjoy.

About a decade ago, I deliberately designed a game with zero expectation of ever publishing it, just because I wanted to make a game strictly for fans of a certain fictional franchise without making any compromises to make it easier to get published. And I have consistently been a bit disappointed at the relative lack of player interaction. The mechanics support the interaction, but the incentives are not as obvious as the risks. I noticed a similar situation when playing 1st edition John's Company many years ago... the game seemed to expect a high level of player interaction and negotiation, but the design was somewhat opague, at least to our group of first-time players.
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04 May 2024 23:59 - 05 May 2024 00:15 #342267 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic Arcs
The three of us played the campaign game today (my game 7 with Arcs says BGG, though one was the horrible test kit). I still think the game is pretty interesting but all the same problems persist, we had another frustrated player (NotSure) who ended the game now going into the next game with... -6 points. It's definitely a grind all the way around and you're just like kind of fed up and exhausted at the end---and the act 1 of the campaign is only 3 chapters (vs. 5 for standalone game!). We still went 3 1/2 hours with 3p.

I don't really mind how mean it is and sometimes powerless you can feel in this game that much, but there are some things that *are* driving me crazy. First, I think the rulebook despite being pretty and superficially fine to learn on is really, really poor in its maniacal attempt to avoid giving you any sort of enumerated step by step procedure that outlines how several phases work. Or inconsistent terminology for no reason, that sometimes isn't even well defined anywhere. It makes answering questions about the sometimes complex timing or detail oriented procedures like tearing down and setting up again between campaign games like reading tea leaves.

The tableau problem keeps getting worse and worse. It's very easy to buy a lot of cards from the tableau because of the shape of play in our games and the real quality in the card powers combined with their ambition value. It happened again today. I again forgot about powers I had by mid game, and I certainly had no idea what sornars with his like 6-8 cards could do.

Finally, the base game is dense and complex, running about 3 hours for us with 3 (on tts). But the campaign game makes that look like childs play. It is as complex in terms of chrome and little details as a moderately complicated GMT war game to me. It's so fucking funny to me Cole sold this as him doing a simple easy to play game. Funnier that the box actually says it plays like 30-45 minutes a person. I have no idea but it feels like the final (3rd) campaign game could last like 4+ hours just based on our early days.

In terms of campaign recommendations, you really need to play 1 dot complexity fates in your first campaign game. There are a ton of cool mechanics in the more complicated ones but it's way, way too much on top of an already packed tableau powers environment. But boy there is a *lot* of neat continuity and consequences between games for the next game state, that part Cole delivered on.

I still think this game is interesting, but I'd think it was a lot better if it was shorter. There's this basic tension in the game I mentioned to NotSure. I've ever heard Cole say this game can be played like a beer and pretzels game in like an hour and a half with 3 players. That's theoretically true, if all three of you are drunk and just playing the trick taking game and playing the actions you got on the pips and moving onto the next trick heedlessly as if they're independent unplannable events. But this game is absolutely packed with extremely delicate timing and spending decisions which combine with the importance of what your future (possible) actions need to be in the trick taking to take points. All of this shit is just begging you to spend a lot of time thinking about each move, agonizing about the details of timing, and trying to do a plan into an extremely hazy chaotic future regarding what actions will be available to you. The game simply isn't conducive to quick play with win oriented players.

If you've played with me, I almost always play pretty quickly. I'd like to think the three of us experienced Arcs-ers are not major AP players, we play a lot of longish games in a reasonable timeframe, often right on estimate of game length. But this game, I just have no idea how you would hit the times they discuss unless you weren't playing to win. There's nothing wacky-fun-game in this box unless you willfully ignore the really detailed considerations it is *begging* you to think about therein. That's both a compliment (it has some real splotter tight eurogame knife-edge decision-making) and it means it's hard to make this thing have any kind of consistent tempo or flow so far. There's still something here, I'm talking about it and we're still playing it despite some spiky play sessions. Campaign is the same way, the Believer introduction of new trick taking powers is crazy cool and our session revealed tons of cool shit about the way the empire and its bank work. There's tons of great design flourish embedded in this grindy game. But fuck man SUSD and Thurot talking about the approachability of this game it is like a different PLANET from our experiences.
Last edit: 05 May 2024 00:15 by Gary Sax.
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06 May 2024 08:40 - 06 May 2024 09:04 #342273 by sornars
Replied by sornars on topic Arcs

Gary Sax wrote: It's very easy to buy a lot of cards from the tableau because of the shape of play in our games and the real quality in the card powers combined with their ambition value. It happened again today. I again forgot about powers I had by mid game, and I certainly had no idea what sornars with his like 6-8 cards could do.


Don't worry, I didn't have any idea or even care what my cards did when in play either; the incentives of my faction were to just get them into the discard pile and cycle them back into the court!

There is a lot of really strong and thematic design in the Fates/Leaders and Lores. Even when I'm having a terrible game I can't help but admire how I'm mechanically incentivised to play into a role without veering into roleplay, much like Oath accomplished. In this game I was the Advocate who advanced their objective by discarding Guild cards in play for their powerful their one time effects but I was further rewarded for cycling those discarded cards back into play. By chance the first few Guild cards I acquired were Fuel and Materials which lends itself to a particular ambition, Tycoon, who is required to have the most Fuel and Material icons. My limitation was that I could not use any of my guild cards unless I was in first or second place in any ambition (which seems really easy to achieve in 3p).

This created a virtuous cycle where I became an oil, gas and construction lobbyist - advocating for the return of particular Guilds to the emperor, encouraging them to be used quickly and return back into the court. Since they gave me the icons needed to trigger their powers I was always in 2nd place or better for the Tycoon ambition which meant I only really had to win initiative once each round to ensure that ambition got declared before going to town and focusing on the objective. As a result, I was also the only one to fully complete my objective because of this satisfying little game loop I had going on. A side effect of this was to exacerbate the tableau problem as I was effectively doubling the cards available in the court each time I cycled cards back into play.

On the flip side, I could see that my easy to navigate success was coming at the expense of others with more subtle powers and while that is the nature of games, it also demonstrated that you can be stuck in the "Fuck you" seat almost at random and the design just doesn't care. Unlike other games of this nature it frequently doesn't give you the tools to wrestle yourself out that seat; sometimes you just have to eat shit for an entire game. In that respect I think the game is failing as a "good" design; I prefer games to provide more player agency to better your position. The game was still competitive and it's not like I walked into a victory but it was also fairly clear by the midpoint of the game that NotSure wasn't going to be winning.
Last edit: 06 May 2024 09:04 by sornars.
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