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On "1st player advantage" problem

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1 On "1st player advantage" problem on Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:08 pm

I saw the todo list, and saw this problem. I think I have a solution.

As the current rules (on main site, build ecosystem), the fisrt player to go has a very distict advantage because he is allowed to place the starting habitat. This is problematic for a variety of reasons, but most glaring is that if the opposing player has built his deck around a completely seperate ecosystem, there is no way for him to fairly compete. Player 1 plays an ocean, while player 2 has built is deck around plains and herd animals.

I propose something that I saw done with the old Star Wars CCG (Jesus am I that old? that thing came out 15 years ago.) at the start of the game, each player already begins the game with a habitat chosen. The two habitats do not have to connect, but a player can only play onto an opposing player's habitat if they are connected (challenges would be allowed at any time to any habitat). This way, it solves the initial problem of fairness, while also introducing a completely volentary level of complexity to the game. Do I isolate myself in an attempt to build a top heavy ecosystem, or do I connect to the oppoing player and attempt to overtake his?

I know copyright is a concern, but I doubt the idea of beginning with a single card has been taken.

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2 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:44 pm

I was having the same thought. This allows both players to play "offense" and "defense," since each is allowed to begin with a "home turf." Plus this doesn't seem to break any existing game concepts, since the idea of two incompatible ecosystems existing is not exactly implausible.

I don't think you would necessarily even need to separate the habitats, except for purposes of "movement." For example, I could build an African forest deck, but it might include some rats, red algae, or hawks to play in other people's habitats. I couldn't necessarily move from a warm forest to a cool ocean, but that wouldn't stop me from playing species into either habitat (since the player is more akin to a "God-Scientist" than a farmer).

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3 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Wed Apr 28, 2010 8:16 pm

Minor snag: if this were to be implemented, then for there to be any hope of establishing ties between the two habitats, their borders would have to be perfectly parallel and the distances between them would have to be multiples of half of the relevant sides' lengths. These two requirements, while not invalidating the scheme, seem somewhat inconvenient. Maybe playing the game on a mat with grid lines would solve the issue, but then that's another thing to print out, in this case something that would presumably be much larger than the average sheet of printer paper.

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4 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Thu Apr 29, 2010 1:50 pm

I'm going to keep checking on this thread - will update the main site with whatever suggestion transpires here (maybe on tuesday)

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5 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Thu Apr 29, 2010 2:48 pm

Placement would be create some difficulty. We either need to revamp the way cards are placed, or we could simply state that the starting two habitats begin a single card width apart. That way, connections can be made or avoided depending on the decks and draws, and seeing as there are only 4 climate zones, the maximum habitat chain would be 4, with the great majority being closer than that.

However, after looking at one of the more recent posts about game balance, there is the issue of the fundamentals of the game, so that maybe everything here will be inconsequential soon. I'm going to see if I can come up with a better solution.

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6 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Sun May 02, 2010 6:46 pm

This is more or less what I had set up in the very first draft of the rules. Both players started with two habitats in play.


To ensure proper spacing we could specify that there's a start card that will be used as a spacer. (as occurs with many tile games like Carcassone)

We could offer a couple of low resource start cards that are basically Urban home, Suburban Home, Rural home (etc) that are supposed to reflect where the player's live. That ties back to the theme of observing things that live nearby while also providing a dramatic contrast between a natural habitat and one that's been heavily disturbed by human interference.


So you'd space the two starting habitats out with the player's "home" which have NO climate listed and are considered neutral. Then then build as normal.

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7 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Sun May 02, 2010 7:03 pm

Maybe to start after each player draws thier cards they both put down habitat cards. Then the game would resume with however goes first.

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8 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Mon May 03, 2010 1:49 am

fenrislorsrai wrote:

So you'd space the two starting habitats out with the player's "home" which have NO climate listed and are considered neutral. Then then build as normal.

I do like this idea. It eliminates the starting problem of advantage, while also tackling the problem of how to connect divergent ecosystems and climate builds.

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9 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Mon May 03, 2010 2:37 am

TheCharles wrote:
fenrislorsrai wrote:

So you'd space the two starting habitats out with the player's "home" which have NO climate listed and are considered neutral. Then then build as normal.

I do like this idea. It eliminates the starting problem of advantage, while also tackling the problem of how to connect divergent ecosystems and climate builds.

Agreed. The spacer ensures that the cards aren't adjacent, which is good, but also makes sure that they are decently close and line up.

Also, note that if the two players place their starting habitats with the first player first, then player two gets to decide the juxtaposition of the two habitats (adjacent? on opposite sides of the spacer?), and also knows what player one wants to use as their habitat and can play based on that, which gives them a slight strategic advantage.

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10 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Mon May 03, 2010 6:34 pm

O.K. sounds like we have agreement over the starting issue, but just to be clear.

Basically, there is a starting card which from a game mechanic point of view, is simply a space holder - i.e. takes the space of one card, whereby first habitat played by each player needs to be put adjacent to it. This can be just a card that says "START CARD" or "PHYLO" or has a picture of a STAR or whatever, but symbolically, we can call it "your urban home" or something like that, and make it so that linkage is not restricted.

Let me know if I interpreted this right. Cheers, Dave

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11 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Mon May 03, 2010 6:59 pm

davehwng wrote:O.K. sounds like we have agreement over the starting issue, but just to be clear.

Basically, there is a starting card which from a game mechanic point of view, is simply a space holder - i.e. takes the space of one card, whereby first habitat played by each player needs to be put adjacent to it. This can be just a card that says "START CARD" or "PHYLO" or has a picture of a STAR or whatever, but symbolically, we can call it "your urban home" or something like that, and make it so that linkage is not restricted.

Let me know if I interpreted this right. Cheers, Dave

I'm not sure I understand your interpretation, you could be saying the same thing as what we're thinking, but just to be clear, the way I understand it, each player starts with an "Urban Home" card, which they both play. The spacer refers to the one card space between the two starting cards. The Starter cards have no climate restrictions, so the players may build habitats accordingly. The initial layout of a game would be as follows (done quickly in powerpoint)



EDIT: the text should be flipped around, but you get the general idea.

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12 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Mon May 03, 2010 7:13 pm

O.K. I interpreted it differently. What I thought was being described was (using Charles' figure), that a "start" card is placed down at the beginning of the game (represented by the dotted card). This card is symbolic of something, and then each player can play whatever habitat card they want (the start cards in the figure). These habitat cards are not special in that they have climate, terrain info, etc, but due to the layout, each person gets to choose what habitat they start with.

That initial start card (the one with the dotted line), could be symbolically represented by "home" or something.

Anyway, when I look at my interpretation and Charles' is there a particular advantage to one or the other (i.e. with mine, you only need to create one new card - the start card). With the other, you need special non-descript habitat cards and a few of them.

Let me know.

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13 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Mon May 03, 2010 7:24 pm

I suppose that if we make the initial start card climate neutral, there is no need to play one from each player, and both can begin building off that single card. I still think that having two cards which are climate neutral provides advantages. If we provide the option for the player to make is start card something he is familiar with or cares about (like a card representing his suburban home), then we make that player feel more invested in the welfare of his imaginary ecosystem. This also provides a small sense of competition, as not it's not just a battle over arbitrary ecosystems, it's a battle over home turf.

I also believe having two cards with a space in between will provide more freedom in terms of gameplay, where a player may choose to build an isolated ecosystem, or the other player may attempt a hostile takeover. When a game begins connected with a single card, there is less of a change to explore the isolation strategy, as the opponent can immediately begin connecting cards.

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14 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Mon May 03, 2010 7:29 pm

Sounds good. Let's see if Wootfish and Fenslorai weigh in and we'll go from there.

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15 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Tue May 04, 2010 8:52 pm

I'd like the two start cards and basically have them set up as a template for the kids to upload a picture of THEIR home in. Showing off their home to other kids can make it easier for kids to make a connection with the other kid and also exposes kids to all kinds of different living options. (young kids afterall might not realize that not everybody lives in a home just like theirs)

So the template for the home card would basically be fill in the blank and then spits out a climate neutral card:
Picture of your home (upload picture)
X's home (fill in your name)
Your town (fill in town)
Species I've seen in person at my home: (fill in any species you saw in your yard)


So basically when kids play each other if they bring spare copies of their home card to trade to people after the game.

THOSE are the collectible part. It encourages kids to check out their own yard so they can fill in the species box and when they trade with people also gives them an idea of what things they MIGHT see. Most kids will only ever trade with pals in their home town, but if they have a pal hand them a card that says they saw a Barred Owl in their yard, they'll know to be on the lookout in their own yard on the other side of town.

It adds a little element of collectibility, but it basically encourages kids to collect FRIENDS.

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16 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Tue May 04, 2010 8:56 pm

It also lets schools, camps, etc easily create Home cards that kids can get to add to their collection. Or even as field trips. So if kids go on a fieldtip to the local park, they might get a Home card with a picture of the park and the name and get told by their teacher to fill in the box with species they saw.

Or they went to summer camp at Camp Example, they get a Home card featuring the tent and get to fill in the spaces.

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17 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Tue May 04, 2010 11:58 pm

O.K. cool - The home card is a great idea, although technically, the site isn't quite set up to do that yet (i.e. make your own cards). I had planned on that widget to coincide with the school stuff (in Jan), but I'll ask to see if we can speed that up a bit (for now, we can make a "home" card, or do you like the idea of a "vancouver" card, etc

I'll update the rules with all new suggestions (and some new figures) before the end of the week.

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18 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Wed May 05, 2010 2:04 am

My understanding of the home card idea was different from what I'm seeing here in one way that seems rather significant.

As I was thinking of it, the system would be a climate neutral "Home" card being put into play that serves no gameplay purpose other than as a "wildcard" to chain climates to. Then player 1 would place their climate card of choice next to the "Home" card. Then player 2 would do the same. The difference between this and the proposed system is that the cards can be placed anywhere adjacent to the Home card, not just opposite each other as TheCharles depicts. This seems to me like a good idea, since it adds a bit of variety to the starting setups and introduces a small amount of positional/tactical play right from the get-go, and causes no obvious serious trouble.

As for all the ideas about personalizing the Home card, as far as I can tell that's all superficial and thus somewhat closer to the edge of my area of experience, but fenrislorsrai's ideas on the subject seem good to me -- they open up quite a few cool meta-game possibilities.

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19 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Thu May 06, 2010 10:47 pm

I'm also in favor of having the positioning around the Home card be however the players agree. It offers a lot more possible set ups, which increases replay value. Even if you use the EXACT same decks, a rematch with different start positions will result in a very different experience.




That's at least 9 basic layouts just from side by side. 10 shows that "half off" layout that's a legal placement in current rules. And this doesn't even cover the two start cards on top of each other as an option, or setting the home cards themselves as half off.

So between the two basic sets ups from the home cards side by side and on top of each other, there should be at least 19 different start positions. if the half off set is allowed it's around 3 times that number, even more if the home cards are allowed to be half off as well. (somebody with more patience than I have can figure out the exact number)

That's a LOT of starting options and each will play a little bit differently.

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20 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Fri May 07, 2010 7:28 pm

Like most card games, in this one you can't place a card wherever you want. There are rules that have been carefully established so that anyone who plays it learns something significant. That's why I think the starting card should have a meaning consistent to this "something", this message.

Following the general idea of the previous posts, supposing the starting card only accepts habitat cards as it adjacent neighbors. A concept that express such behavior is Biosphere:

Wikipedia wrote:The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be called the zone of life on Earth. From the broadest biophysiological point of view, the biosphere is the global ecological system integrating all living beings and their relationships, including their interaction with the elements of the lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere.

I think this fits well to the gameplay, more than "climate neutrality" the starting card should be a card containing "all possible climates", hence the sum of all ecosystems, hence the biosphere. A good starting point for teaching too I guess.

About its design, it could be consistent to the other cards too, the art showing the typical planet earth image usually use to represent biosphere. The card could be of an special new type (Biosphere) and have a name (like Planet Earth), giving the possibility of different biosphere cards (e.g., there could be a biosphere card with only a segment of earth limiting the type of climates possibles on the match). You can even write "all climates" as its climate (therefore if new climates are added to the game, this card is still valid). The number on top could be 0 to reinforce the rule that no species cards could be played on it, only habitat cards.

Well thats all for now. I hope this helps.

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21 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Fri May 07, 2010 7:50 pm

Now, when you say the starting card "only accepts habitat cards as its adjacent neighbors" do you mean that only habitat cards can be linked to the starting card -- which would allow animal cards to be adjacent, but wouldn't ascribe any significance to this -- or do you mean that only habitat cards can be adjacent, period -- which, in stark contrast, would mean that unconnected animal cards could not be played next to the starting card?

I ask both for the sake of clarity and because it seems like the latter of these two options would, for some initial setups, make it significantly easier to box off the opponent's starting habitat, which would of course defeat the entire purpose of the starting card system.

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22 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Fri May 07, 2010 8:36 pm

Wootfish wrote:Now, when you say the starting card "only accepts habitat cards as its adjacent neighbors" do you mean that only habitat cards can be linked to the starting card -- which would allow animal cards to be adjacent, but wouldn't ascribe any significance to this -- or do you mean that only habitat cards can be adjacent, period -- which, in stark contrast, would mean that unconnected animal cards could not be played next to the starting card?

I ask both for the sake of clarity and because it seems like the latter of these two options would, for some initial setups, make it significantly easier to box off the opponent's starting habitat, which would of course defeat the entire purpose of the starting card system.

Well, I meant the first one (a little trouble with my English vocabulary often makes difficult to express my ideas).

Also the game should start only if both players have at least one habitat card in their hand, something like the pokemon TCG which inspired this game, there if you started with no pokemon cards in your hand, yow re-flushed your deck an draw an other hand. Obviously you should show your opponent your no-habitat-card-hand before this.

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23 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Sat May 08, 2010 3:14 am

Sefarth wrote:
Wootfish wrote:Now, when you say the starting card "only accepts habitat cards as its adjacent neighbors" do you mean that only habitat cards can be linked to the starting card -- which would allow animal cards to be adjacent, but wouldn't ascribe any significance to this -- or do you mean that only habitat cards can be adjacent, period -- which, in stark contrast, would mean that unconnected animal cards could not be played next to the starting card?

I ask both for the sake of clarity and because it seems like the latter of these two options would, for some initial setups, make it significantly easier to box off the opponent's starting habitat, which would of course defeat the entire purpose of the starting card system.

Well, I meant the first one (a little trouble with my English vocabulary often makes difficult to express my ideas).

Also the game should start only if both players have at least one habitat card in their hand, something like the pokemon TCG which inspired this game, there if you started with no pokemon cards in your hand, yow re-flushed your deck an draw an other hand. Obviously you should show your opponent your no-habitat-card-hand before this.
Oh, ok. In that case, I agree with everything you said.

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24 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Sat May 08, 2010 4:34 am

Just a quick FYI. I'm going to be off the grid for a few days (hard drive crashed earlier today - no worries, I'm good at the backing up). Will update new version of rules by tuesday (with figs including "home starting" cards).

cheers
dave

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25 Re: On "1st player advantage" problem on Tue May 11, 2010 2:29 am

O.K. got me some images that could double as "home" type cards (two apartment pics). I'll use these to revamp rules (with all feedback) for tomorrow.

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