Exodus: Proxima Centauri

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Exodus: Proxima Centauri

Post  Sam on Sat 21 Jan 2017, 21:37



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Re: Exodus: Proxima Centauri

Post  Sam on Sat 21 Jan 2017, 21:38

Getting only 16 points after a 6.5 hour game gives me the right, I feel, to rant. I don't like to judge a game after just one play, or even after two or three in most cases, and I don't like to have bad feelings towards a game because I lost, but I do think the game deserves a share of blame.

The scores of the other players were in the 20s, 30s, 70s, 90s, and 110s. I think that range says something about the game, right? If you guessed that one player ran away with the victory, and some of the others got stuck in a rut, you'd have the truth of it.

Here are the things that I'm not sure worked in this game:

  • You can't retreat from battle, and losing a battle is harsh. The loser loses all ships that entered the battle, and you get no victory points from a battle if you lose it, even if you did destroy enemy ships (even if you destroyed all of them but one!). (In battles with more than two players, the winner gets points for all enemy ships destroyed even if the winner was not the one to destroy them.)
  • In the base game all victory points come only from combat, or area control (there is no "Plan B, just get all the points from research" like in Eclipse).

My problem with the first point is that you are punished twice for losing a battle, once in victory point difference and once in ship destruction, and don't even have the option to tactically retreat if things are not going your way. In Eclipse, at least you would get victory points if you managed to take down a few enemy ships. Here, it's an all-or-nothing thing, and one that is still decided by rolls of the dice.

In a frustrating turn about half way through the game, I was attacked by Ian and both of our fleets were wiped out simultaneously. Thanks to this entirely unpredictable tie, neither of us gained victory points, and both of us lost our entire fleet.

I'm not sure how best to best play around these rules. I guess it just you have to be damn careful about where you put your ships, and in what size groups, and to know when to allow a small number of ships to be sacrificed because it's not worth piling on others if you are risking all the ships in that hex.

I wouldn't mind that kind of severity in a pure combat game, but as one part of a larger game of resource gathering, technology research, and victory points, that are all tied in some way to these harsh combat mechanics , and in such a long game, too, where making maybe one mistake in combat, or rolling some unlucky dice, means you can be crippled, while handing more victory points to your enemy (salt in the wound)... it just wasn't all that fun. This is the reason for the huge range of the scores above.

Three players were in strong positions throughout the game, and three players got wiped out about half way through the game with hardly any possibility of recovery. Half the players at the table didn't have much to do for over two hours.

Those three players were the three that hadn't played before, by the way. I'm sure as you learn the game things get less dire. I would like to see a game between people who know what they are doing, to see how they handle it.

I certainly don't want to sound like I am complaining just because I didn't play very well. I didn't play very well, but, hell, I can enjoy games even when there is no possibility of winning, or even of improving my position compared to the other players, if I can just have some bleeding options. As it was, I may as well have been eliminated for the last two rounds and taken more time to enjoy Sam's selection of herbal teas.

Thanks for hosting Sam, and I will definitely play again for further analysis. But this play didn't do very much for me.

As an aside, you suggested that not getting victory points when losing a battle is thematic, but it's not, really. The suggestion was that if the ships are destroyed, there is no one alive to be collecting victory points. If anything, it is the faction or faction leader (who you are supposedly playing) that would earn victory points, for the prestige or long-term tactical advantage for destroying a number of enemy ships (even if their own forces were wiped out in the process).

But the actual thematic consequence of losing a battle is losing your ships, and the victory points are neither here nor there. Gaining victory points is never really thematic, because they are abstract -- the opposite of thematic! Victory points just encourage you to act in a way that immerses you in the theme.

I would love to hear what others think of the game. I can't really blame my experience on the balance or unbalance of Sam's hyperdrive power, but I'm sure there will be others who have something to say about that one.


Last edited by Sam on Sun 22 Jan 2017, 01:16; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Exodus: Proxima Centauri

Post  Sam on Sat 21 Jan 2017, 23:34

And, for balance, a reviewer on BGG for whom Exodus is better than Eclipse in almost every conceivable way. Good, thorough analysis:

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1458728/and-another-oneexodus-proxima-centauri-vs-eclipse


Last edited by Sam on Sun 22 Jan 2017, 00:03; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Exodus: Proxima Centauri

Post  Sam on Sun 22 Jan 2017, 00:01

Next time, fancy a standard game without player powers and initial research, but with the recorded movement (if written down I think it would actually be faster than turn-by-turn)?

The main reason I want to play again is to explore the tech-tree. Most of us didn't even touch cloaking or WMDs. I like that the tech tree is open and available, with no pre-requisites or random drawing of techs, but has two layers of discounts, so it is flexible but rewards going through it in an efficient order.
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Re: Exodus: Proxima Centauri

Post  psychomansam on Sun 22 Jan 2017, 01:24

So the person who'd played twice before came 1st. The only other person who'd played (once) before came 2nd. Of the remainder, the person who tends to be the most analytical came 3rd. Yes, I do think this game can punish mistakes and losing a large battle is an expensive mistake. The variant that we played had only 5 rounds and gives you starting tech, so you get thrown right in the deep end - which is a particularly tough learning curve for new players, and doesn't let you make small early mistakes and recover easily. I didn't suggest or plan on playing the variant, did quite enjoy it, but might avoid playing it again with new players.

As a note on vp in the base game, I remeber control of planets being accentuated a lot as it was a more important source of income. This is done with pop, not ships, and does add some variety in strategy. But the base game is clearly aggressive, for all players.

I will probably never play this game without the expansion. The player powers make it for me. I'd be perfectly happy to leave out combat cards, for simplicity. But the player powers are what really bring it to life.

I think the hyperdrive is very powerful. So was Tom's tech abilities and scoring. So was Ian's political abilities and scoring. Some of the races probably didn't shine as much as they could - and I wasn't watching some as closely as others. The hyperdrive might be imbalanced, but I don't think it's so imbalanced that experienced players can't deal with it.

Did you remember to use your racial ability to do 8 trades instead of 4 with the trade action? In retrospect, you didn't seem to trade all that often, and it's a big source of income for that race.
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Re: Exodus: Proxima Centauri

Post  Aneurin on Sun 22 Jan 2017, 08:05

Sam wrote:Getting only 16 points after a 6.5 hour game gives me the right, I feel, to rant. I don't like to judge a game after just one play, or even after two or three in most cases, and I don't like to have bad feelings towards a game because I lost, but I do think the game deserves a share of blame.

The scores of the other players were in the 20s, 30s, 70s, 90s, and 110s. I think that range says something about the game, right? If you guessed that one player ran away with the victory, and some of the others got stuck in a rut, you'd have the truth of it.

Here are the things that I'm not sure worked in this game:

  • You can't retreat from battle, and losing a battle is harsh. The loser loses all ships that entered the battle, and you get no victory points from a battle if you lose it, even if you did destroy enemy ships (even if you destroyed all of them but one!). (In battles with more than two players, the winner gets points for all enemy ships destroyed even if the winner was not the one to destroy them.)
  • In the base game all victory points come only from combat, or area control (there is no "Plan B, just get all the points from research" like in Eclipse).

My problem with the first point is that you are punished twice for losing a battle, once in victory point difference and once in ship destruction, and don't even have the option to tactically retreat if things are not going your way. In Eclipse, at least you would get victory points if you managed to take down a few enemy ships. Here, it's an all-or-nothing thing, and one that is still decided by rolls of the dice.

In a frustrating turn about half way through the game, I was attacked by Ian and both of our fleets were wiped out simultaneously. Thanks to this entirely unpredictable tie, neither of us gained victory points, and both of us lost our entire fleet.

I'm not sure how best to best play around these rules. I guess it just you have to be damn careful about where you put your ships, and in what size groups, and to know when to allow a small number of ships to be sacrificed because it's not worth piling on others if you are risking all the ships in that hex.

I wouldn't mind that kind of severity in a pure combat game, but as one part of a larger game of resource gathering, technology research, and victory points, that are all tied in some way to these harsh combat mechanics , and in such a long game, too, where making maybe one mistake in combat, or rolling some unlucky dice, means you can be crippled, while handing more victory points to your enemy (salt in the wound)... it just wasn't all that fun. This is the reason for the huge range of the scores above.

Three players were in strong positions throughout the game, and three players got wiped out about half way through the game with hardly any possibility of recovery. Half the players at the table didn't have much to do for over two hours.

Those three players were the three that hadn't played before, by the way. I'm sure as you learn the game things get less dire. I would like to see a game between people who know what they are doing, to see how they handle it.

I certainly don't want to sound like I am complaining just because I didn't play very well. I didn't play very well, but, hell, I can enjoy games even when there is no possibility of winning, or even of improving my position compared to the other players, if I can just have some bleeding options. As it was, I may as well have been eliminated for the last two rounds and taken more time to enjoy Sam's selection of herbal teas.

Thanks for hosting Sam, and I will definitely play again for further analysis. But this play didn't do very much for me.

As an aside, you suggested that not getting victory points when losing a battle is thematic, but it's not, really. The suggestion was that if the ships are destroyed, there is no one alive to be collecting victory points. If anything, it is the faction or faction leader (who you are supposedly playing) that would earn victory points, for the prestige or long-term tactical advantage for destroying a number of enemy ships (even if their own forces were wiped out in the process).

But the actual thematic consequence of losing a battle is losing your ships, and the victory points are neither here nor there. Gaining victory points is never really thematic, because they are abstract -- the opposite of thematic! Victory points just encourage you to act in a way that immerses you in the theme.

I would love to hear what others think of the game. I can't really blame my experience on the balance or unbalance of Sam's hyperdrive power, but I'm sure there will be others who have something to say about that one.

This is how I feel about Eclipse
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Re: Exodus: Proxima Centauri

Post  Sam on Sun 22 Jan 2017, 09:39

It's not that the winners didn't play better than the losers, it's that it wasn't any fun when losing. If it was always a drag to lose a board game you'd only have fun half the time, which wouldn't be a very rewarding hobby.

I did forget about my race's trading power. I should have used the trading to buy the resources to build up a new fleet ready for the last round instead of buying victory points. I was pretty thoroughly surrounded and at a massive resource and population disadvantage, so what I thought was to change tactics and get (a few) victory points another way, but misread how expensive they were for my race to buy (pointlessly expensive, it seems). It would have been pretty easy to research radars, too. I certainly ruined the game for myself by not getting back into the battle.
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Re: Exodus: Proxima Centauri

Post  psychomansam on Sun 22 Jan 2017, 10:49

Sam wrote:It's not that the winners didn't play better than the losers, it's that it wasn't any fun when losing. If it was always a drag to lose a board game you'd only have fun half the time, which wouldn't be a very rewarding hobby.

I did forget about my race's trading power. I should have used the trading to buy the resources to build up a new fleet ready for the last round instead of buying victory points. I was pretty thoroughly surrounded and at a massive resource and population disadvantage, so what I thought was to change tactics and get (a few) victory points another way, but misread how expensive they were for my race to buy (pointlessly expensive, it seems). It would have been pretty easy to research radars, too. I certainly ruined the game for myself by not getting back into the battle.

This is like playing TI3 as the nekro and forgetting to get tech from battles. Your race has one of the strongest special abilities. You can use that ability to gain up to 16 CP, or to gain basically all the axinium and phasium you need. Considering that you were lucky enough to get two centaurian cards with additional trade actions on, you would have been in a very strong position. Your ability to buy VP is in addition to your standard 8 trades. It does require you to have a lot of money. If I was playing your race, I would go for every CP planet possible and not bother with axinium and phasium since you can buy it for cheaper.  You can then use your triple mining and CP refineries to double income and keep it flowing.

I don't really mind whether I win board games, as long as I play well and come out with a respectable score. It's hard to enjoy yourself when you play badly and get a terrible score. That's happened to me in Terra Mystica for one. It wasn't fun. It was mostly my fault for not knowing what I was doing, because I was pretty new to board games at the time. My only criticism of the game was that it requires you to make some important decisions in setup, which is harsh for new players. The variant we played yesterday did that with tech. I started with the CP refineries tech and the CP planet. I think that was a very strong move, which new players can't be expected to see.

An an exception to the above, I find it possible to play abstracts terribly, lose terribly, and enjoy them. I suspect that's to do with the short play time, the similarity between subsequent games, and the way it plays into the common puzzle-solving and pattern recognition aspects.

There are games you can play badly and win. There are games you can play well and get a terrible score. Those are the ones I tend to have issues with the game, unless they intend to be short and silly. It can be due to luck and/or player interaction. 7 wonders is an interesting example of this. If you sit next to the wrong/right people and have very bad/good luck you can play well/poorly and still get a low/high score. It's not game-breaking but it can imbalance the game a lot, particularly in imbalanced groups, where the person sat between the two weakest players is likely to win.

Games with a lot of 'take that' can also result in very low outcomes regardless of how well you played. I once got hammered repeatedly, for little reason, in a 10 hour 4x. It wasn't much fun in the latter half. I do have some mixed feelings about take that, particularly in multiplayer games, where it can be abused. Jodie may look all nice and friendly, but if Jodie realises she's not going to win a game of TtR, she will intentionally just block other players, purely to screw with them and regardless of whether it helps her. I do not play TtR with Jodie.
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Re: Exodus: Proxima Centauri

Post  psychomansam on Sun 22 Jan 2017, 10:54

FYI, the OP pictures are from the first edition, which I highly recommend avoiding. That play mat though...
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Re: Exodus: Proxima Centauri

Post  Sam on Sun 22 Jan 2017, 11:29

psychomansam wrote:
This is like playing TI3 as the nekro and forgetting to get tech from battles. Your race has one of the strongest special abilities. You can use that ability to gain up to 16 CP, or to gain basically all the axinium and phasium you need. Considering that you were lucky enough to get two centaurian cards with additional trade actions on, you would have been in a very strong position. Your ability to buy VP is in addition to your standard 8 trades. It does require you to have a lot of money. If I was playing your race, I would go for every CP planet possible and not bother with axinium and phasium since you can buy it for cheaper.  You can then use your triple mining and CP refineries to double income and keep it flowing.

That's very close to how I played it. I should have used the extra trades to get a bigger fleet faster, though I did end up with a decent fleet early on anyway. And I took double mining instead of triple, though I never would have needed triple with the number of planets I was on. I was pretty hemmed in by turn four by you, Tom and Scott. I did start rebuilding but Scott ate my ships for victory points while they were still on my home planet, so it all felt a bit hopeless. I should have layed low for a turn instead, and rebuilt my entire fleet on turn five. That at least would have been a little more fun.

I don't know. We've both played a lot of games, and I think you get a sense of when a bad time is your own fault and when it's the game, and I think this one is about 50/50. But I should play again, really. I guess I just felt like a rant last night.

The board pic is the revised edition, right? The box might be first edition.
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Re: Exodus: Proxima Centauri

Post  paulyg on Sun 22 Jan 2017, 11:42

Interesting thoughts above. Those who played before - how did it feel with 6 vs say 4? I felt it might end up dragging (though I guess you did play the shortened version) although at least the structure means there isn't too much player downtime. I'm assuming that, despite a bigger map, space quickly felt more crowded with 6 players as well?
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Re: Exodus: Proxima Centauri

Post  psychomansam on Sun 22 Jan 2017, 12:41

paulyg wrote:Interesting thoughts above. Those who played before - how did it feel with 6 vs say 4? I felt it might end up dragging (though I guess you did play the shortened version) although at least the structure means there isn't too much player downtime. I'm assuming that, despite a bigger map, space quickly felt more crowded with 6 players as well?

More crowded for sure. I didn't think it made it drag, but it did mean you have to do a lot more of prompting people to do things, as tends to happen in other games with big player counts (like TI3). With 4, you can keep track more easily of what's happening and don't need so much prompting. We got it down to 1:05 per player this time, with 4 new players, mostly because I set up in advance. You could easily get below an hour. You could speed things up by pre-assigning races so people can read up and plan, as happens for the TI3 meets. You could of course play a shorter setup. We didn't actually play the shortened game yesterday. We played a variant which has less rounds, but more tech, which means more going on - so probably takes a similar amount of time to standard length with standard setup.

For clarity: there's short, standard and long board setup options for each player count. There are then 2 variants suggested in the expansion, which can be applied to any setup. So 9 possible setups for each player count. We played standard board setup with variant 1.

I'd actually quite like to play 3 player at some point, possibly extended version. 2 races each to choose from. More space. A tight and very ciritical meta-game. At this player count, I could be tempted to try movement programming out. You could use this to nerf the race I played yesterday, by making them decide where to go at the same time as everyone else.
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Re: Exodus: Proxima Centauri

Post  swilbur on Mon 23 Jan 2017, 19:19

Sam wrote:I can't really blame my experience on the balance or unbalance of Sam's hyperdrive power, but I'm sure there will be others who have something to say about that one.

For those who haven't played, that tech is only available to one player (the Han-Xia Dynasty) and lets them move their (suitably upgraded) ships to anywhere on the board after seeing where all other players have moved this turn. With this tech, they are literally never in an unfavorable battle. If their opponents bunch up into a powerful fleet, they simply don't engage (and can instead go colonize undefended planets). If their opponents spread out at all (or have a slightly weaker fleet due to not playing a combat-focused race), they can send a large fleet to pick off a smaller one with no danger. (They also have exclusive techs that let them choose how damage is assigned to their ships and let each of their ships repair a large amount of damage each round.)

As Sam said, the game would definitely benefit from a retreat option, and I think being able to retreat from Han-Xia might mitigate their unbeatable maneuverability. However, the "you're allowed to retreat from battles" tech is only available to one player (the Han-Xia Dynasty). The designer claims that he's heard complaints about each race being overpowered, but the vast majority of complaints I can find on BGG and the designer's website echo the experience we had this weekend.

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Re: Exodus: Proxima Centauri

Post  Meurig on Wed 25 Jan 2017, 22:53

I would only play this again without the variable player powers. Really thought it made what could have been a good game thoroughly rubbish.

Sorry, Sam!
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Re: Exodus: Proxima Centauri

Post  Meurig on Wed 25 Jan 2017, 23:06

psychomansam wrote: The variant we played yesterday did that with tech. I started with the CP refineries tech and the CP planet. I think that was a very strong move, which new players can't be expected to see.

I started with those. Didn't help at all.

The way to maximise my race (which I admit is my fault that I didn't take) was to avoid all combat by cloaking. I can only imagine how tedious that would have been. My race's techs were all totally shit or totally boring. This was compounded by having action cards that prevented me from taking the actions I required. The variable player powers remove strategy and funnel you down one particular route to victory points, any deviation from which is punished severely. And the races are quite hilariously and obviously unbalanced.

Definitely one of the worst games I've played.

If I sound like a dick, then I apologise. I really was extremely grateful to you for hosting and I'm always happy to try out games, even if I don't end up liking them.
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Re: Exodus: Proxima Centauri

Post  psychomansam on Thu 26 Jan 2017, 11:22

Meurig wrote:I would only play this again without the variable player powers. Really thought it made what could have been a good game thoroughly rubbish.

Sorry, Sam!

I seem to remember you saying you really dislike variable player powers in general, so this doesn't surprise me. In this game, they make the game what it is. If you don't like that, you won't like the game. I think you're wrong about the (level of) imbalance, and have seen different races perform differently already.

Cloaking has the potential to be a big part of the game. It would have been extremely powerful against me, or in fact anyone, as it means you shouldn't have to lose any battle until the final round. Combine this with the abilities to sneakily drop off your population and control planets (which you can then nuke from), and I think you have a powerful race which I could easily argue is over-powered at low player counts.

C'est la vie.
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Re: Exodus: Proxima Centauri

Post  Meurig on Thu 26 Jan 2017, 15:48

I don't always hate VPP, I would say I'm generally wary of them, though. I've played several games where they detract from the experience rather than add to it. Particularly when tacked on in an expansion. I liked them in TI3, for example. There it felt like the game was properly built around them and they weren't arbitrary or unbalanced or restrictive. They are definitely something that is hard to get right in game design.
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