1. Eliminate Habitat cards entirely and just have Food Chain Rank 1 species start the chain. (so mostly plants, some bacteria, lichens, etc)
2. Add a separate value for the species that was independent of the Rank to balance the cards better.
Short answer: THIS WAS SO MUCH BETTER.
It pretty well solved all the balance issues we'd had in games 1-4 and made this a LOT more fun. You had a lot more dynamic set up that was a lot easier to adjust on the fly. games 1-4 we'd had a lot of getting crushed horribly and there was NOTHING you can do about it. Both J and I actually felt BAD about playing the Events in games 1-4 because they were so crushing you had to start over from scratch just about everytime they were played. With the elimination of the Habitats we were now actively trying to cause mayhem because you COULD recover.
There was a lot more strategy involved and you could actually adjust things to protect yourself against disaster. It was a lot less frustrating as you felt you could recover and adjust to your opponent. Games 1-4 it was very frustrating and borderline not fun because you really couldn't DO anything in response to your opponent.
Much, much more fun.
I recalculated point totals using this formula.
Every species gets 1 Climate and Terrain for free. Beyond that you subtract one for each.
Add the Food chain rank (ignoring the first level)
Subtract 1 for each point of Movement
Subtract 1 for each Keyword
Subtract 2 is it has the Invasive Keyword.
So basically it rebalanced the hard to play species to be worth more at end game than the easy to play ones with cool abilities.
This meant House Wren and the Sparrow which were pretty close to identical went from being valued equally to 6 for the hard to play Wren and 2 for the easy to play Sparrow.
Having now played with it a little I'd tinker with the forumale some more but that is what we used in these two games.
The other thing we added here was a Flight Keyword that let Flying species move diagonally, simulating them being able to go over obstacles instead of around.
In the previous 4 games we barely ever used the Movement. With the new smaller board (due to the removal of Habitats) we moved things a LOT.
game 1 took roughly 1 hour to complete and ended 90/106 with J. vs myself. It tooka lot longer largely because with the removal of Habitats we had to argue some over how Events now worked.
Game #2 took 40 minutes scored out as 103/108, J/F.
Compared to the first 2 games the scores are about twice as high due to the new scoring. If we multiple the first 4 games score by two for comparison we get (J vs F)
Game #1: 100/50
game #2: 100/54
Game #3: 78/38
game #4: 92/40
Game #5 90/106
Game #6: 103/108
This is what we wanted, that with 2 equally skilled players with similar decks you get a very close score. Games 1-4 that just wasn't happening. Games 5 and 6, the new scoring brought those in line.
Also with game #5 and #6 there was actually some reason NOT to play the Invasives, which had been so overpowering in games 1-4 there was no reason NOT to make a deck entirely of them. Because they're so cheap at the end game now, both J and I discarded some cheap Invasives at start of game to draw more valuable other cards. There was now actually some incentive to have a diverse ecology instead of larding it up with the easiest to play cards.
Pretty well all the issues we had in this game were directly related to the Events since the wording on them still reflects using the Habitats, but we weren't using Habitats in the game.
Events played directly onto the appropriate critters and changed their Terrain/Climate as indicated on the Event. If it didn't match, it would kill the species it was placed on and you had to move what was around it.
This also had the added bonus of meaning Events could in fact remove Invasive Species that were stacked on other things and reveal them... or they'd be revealed when the Invasive species moved off what it was sitting on and revealed it.
The major issue we had with the events (other than wording being temporarily messy) was with the timing. It doesn't indicate in rules WHEN events are discarded. We pretty well went with they'd be discarded in same step as removal of species.
We also decided that events that were still in play at end of game (and hiding a species) should just be removed from board, then you score what's under it. afterall it survived, even if you can't see it!
If the Event destroyed what was under it, we left it in place since it potentially exposed other species of the other player as Invasive species moved off stuff. it also served as a temporary "block" on placement.
The other issue we had was with cascades. Occasionally you removed stuff and then had it disconnect other things when this happened. We basically went with check ONCE for things being misconnected, then remove cards, don't recheck. Otherwise if you checked and rechecked you could potentially end up disconnecting half the board... or not, depending on the order you rechecked. One check it is.
We also went with if stuff ended up disconnected totally (forming a floating island) ti would count as an improper linkage and would be discarded. Again, check one, remove species, don't check again. That sometimes made temporarily islands which you'd then have to reconnect correctly next turn.
Because of the power of Events, we'd also suggest only ONE per player per turn. Otherwise it gets really hard to sort out what you're doing. It's not necessarily overpowering, just really, really confusing.
The terminology for Turns also confused us slightly and we'd suggest a change to Turns and Rounds being used. a Turn is a single player's 3 moves. a Round indicates that both players have taken a turn. It was unclear with some of the Events how long they should last otherwise.
We also played Events as if the symbols on the bottom indicated WHERE they could be played. So you couldn't play Wildfire on critters that lived ONLY in the Ocean for example.
We also basically played with a "hard chain" on species so you couldn't skip a step. You could not jump from rank 1 to 3. The Badger (3) could not live entirely on Policeman's Helmet (1) you had to have a 2 in between them. This was balanced out by the Badger being higher value for its higher Rank.
We did allow Omnivores and Predators to be placed next to equally ranked things they could eat so long as they were SMALLER. Otherwise with current rules you had Badgers legally eating Badgers for dinner... which really doesn't make sense. Badger eating Starling, just fine. That was an acceptable placement, but we found not ideal. That sort of tenuous placement tended to be more susceptible to events than a 3 feeding off a 2.
We do need some 2 ranks that are NOT animals. Many fungi seem to fall into that category, there's just not many available.
Individual card comments:
* Severe Drought symbols and text don't match.
* Drought is just bastardy and overpowered. Recommend it get some other text. Also has no stated duration and is confusing.
* Wildfire- with removal of Habitats, Wildfire should jsut plain destory a species and should be limited to targetting any plant that is neither Freshwater nor Ocean. Otherwise you're lighting somebody's Horse on fire and that somehow seems like an awful idea
Playtest report for Alpha game 1 & 2: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/529548/playtest-report-running-out-of-cards
Alpha game 3 & 4: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/532790/playtest-report-invasive-species-are-awesome-t
1. removing Habitats made game play better
2. New score system made game WAY more balanced
3. Removing habitats fixed issue we had with Movement
4. New version much more fun
5. Wording for "turns" needs to be adjusted
6. Timing should be tweaked
7. Rules for connection to similarly ranked creatures should be tweaked