Discussion on map and balance issues

GM: Pedros. 3-Player Draw shared by Chile (Alman), United States (Asudevil), Venezuela (Morg)

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Discussion on map and balance issues

Postby Pedros » 15 Mar 2015, 19:13

After the first two games we opened a discussion on How to reduce Mexico's power after a dominant performance in those games. AardvarkArmy, who played Mexico in the second, pointed out that Mexico was hugely helped by NMRs and surrenders in those games on the part of its northern neighbours (viewtopic.php?f=413&t=23213&start=10#p599456) and that it in fact has the weakness that it is the only power which can only gain one centre in year one (assuming Spain goes for Texas.) In those games Mexico had the other advantage that we were playing Build Anywhere, which always favours the nation growing fastest.

But the last two games have shown the USA's potential for very strong growth in year one. The map is interesting because the North is structured so very differently from the South (Mexico slightly straddles the boundary.) The northern nations have few immediate enemies, and neither USA nor Mexico has a dangerous neighbour early on; Britain has a real problem in holding onto its Canadian centres because its three centres are defended by only two units and the US starting positions are very close to it. Game 4 demonstrated how ruthlessly that can be exploited (asudevil's AAR will be interesting, hopefully shedding light on whether he believes that Britain could have mounted a better defence.) In Game 3 Britain managed to negotiate a peace agreement with USA and they grew in parallel - but this simply allowed USA to grow in the North more quickly than Britain, whose centres and units are much more spread across the map.

In fact when I counted the SCs there seemed to be relatively little difference between the number of SCs per nation in the North and in the South. The problem the South faces is that it is full of hungry neighbours, and so much time is spent in dealing with them that the more rapid growth of USA cannot be replicated. Brazil alone has more breathing space, but even Brazil can be tamed by a strong local alliance. This is why, for me, Game 4 was so interesting. Strong early alliances - most notably between Colombia and Venezuela - made a huge impact on the game. They were unlikely to survive game-long, but the Colombia-Venezuela one survived long enough for them - or, as it turned out, one of them - to be a major player with a stake in the final draw (I hope to hear from Morg about the extent to which Colombia's change of leadership led to his stab or whether it was a coincidence of timing.)

Apart from the USA, however, the big unbalance as I see it is Spain, whose position seems totally untenable. I would like to see it played by a serious diplomat (I hope that mambam will excuse me for saying that negotiation is not his strongest point!) to see whether a playable position can possibly exist. But even if that is a possibility, Spain is always going to be surrounded by no less than 4 immediate nations and Mexico waiting to join in once it has established its position. The island nature of the Caribbean also makes defence more difficult.

Assuming I'm right about USA and the North, and about Spain (a big assumption I grant you!) then I have at present no answer to the problem of Spain. If it is to remain a nation in the game then something needs to be done (start with a fourth unit might help; and/or removing one of the British starting fleets, which may link to my second point, which is...)

... So far as USA is concerned, then it seems to me that the first, crucial thing is to make Britain less of an easy prey from the outset, more able to stand up to USA, and in a position to negotiate with both USA and Mexico aiming to forge an alliane against the other. Britain desperately needs an army in Toronto from the start. Whether this would over-strengthen Britain I'm not sure - it certainly appears that it might, because it would begin with six units when the next largest country has only four (USA and Brazil). It could be argued that the way they are so spread out weakens their force considerably, but if one were removed from the Caribbean it would also have the effect of reducing Spain's weakness. If Jamaica were empty at the start, Britain could use a Year One build to fill it.

These views are only partly formed, but I have been working them over as Game 4 went on. I would be glad to hear from other players in this and earlier games, and to see whether we can turn this from a very good variant to an excellent one.
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Re: Discussion on map and balance issues

Postby asudevil » 15 Mar 2015, 19:22

Posting for awareness.

And I wouldn't say that US has too many options...Our Britain was not a very strong player (no offense)...and he didn't communicate much during the first year with ANYONE causing him to lose almost ALL his colonies as well as give me no reason NOT to attack him full out...but he should have had the ability to use his colonies to bolster his Canadian holdings...
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Re: Discussion on map and balance issues

Postby Morg » 15 Mar 2015, 20:21

I don't know.

To some extent I think Britain was out played tactically early on and Spain was outplayed dimplomatically.

Britian was caught so that he was forced to abandon Canada by 1902, by winter 1901 he'd already filled any potential build spots so that USA would be able to overwhelm him in 1902. It didn't help that he didn't really say much to anyone.

WCS & ECS are actually a pretty tough line to cross. There's a very limited number of paths for Venezuela and Colombia can take to get into the Greater Antilles. If Spain and Britain can figure out their space (including one defeating the other in the Caribbean) then Spain can truly be a North American power with options to the south. As Venezuela I was very worried about the vunerability of Caracas to the Caribbean escpecially in the unpredictable beginnings.

With USA defeating Canada so thoroughly so quickly, and having a stable relationship with Mexico, Spain was the next target for an already beefy USA. And the border zone between USA and Spain is much more porous than that between Spain and the South Caribbean mainlanders. The British Caribbean holdings and the lack of successful diplomacy between them doomed the Spanish.
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Re: Discussion on map and balance issues

Postby Pedros » 15 Mar 2015, 20:55

Morg - intersting thoughts. I'm not quite sure I understand about Spain "becoming a truly North American power"; not saying it's not true, but certainly it's never occurred to me - have to think about it, because I can't see USA allowing it.

But if you're right then that just strengthens my conviction that this map is potentially one of the great "more than seven" ones.

If you or asu want to offer another run of this I'd love a chance!!
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Re: Discussion on map and balance issues

Postby VGhost » 15 Mar 2015, 21:15

As I said in my AAR, mambam actually played (at least from my communication with him) a fairly strong Spain, and just drew the short straw when I had to stab somebody. More of a problem was weak play from Britain, Colombia, and (to a lesser extent) Peru.

I'm also curious how South America plays out with decent play from Argentina - the last two games have featured disappearing Perons leading to Chile jumping out to big leads. Though Alman's Chile I think was a little more aggressive than mine? Not sure.

USA I think has the advantage over Britain in North America, but that ought to be countered by Mexican and Spanish pressure/coordination with Britain.

It definitely seems to be a map that suffers hugely from poor play, I think partly because the starts are fairly different. I'm not sure what the solution is.
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Re: Discussion on map and balance issues

Postby asudevil » 15 Mar 2015, 21:53

I with Britain agreeing (after I removed him from Canada)...to basically do my bidding against Spain...Spain never had a shot...

And Pedros I would totally run this, if I didn't have my mega game going...and if Morg runs it...(or someone else)...I would totally join again.

But also, I would make it so that its more like the mega-game where you don't just take the first 10 players and try to "hand-pick" some better/consistent players to avoid some of the issues.

You can't test balance when the game has so many communication issues with players.
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Re: Discussion on map and balance issues

Postby Alman » 15 Mar 2015, 22:40

One thing that I wonder could be changed to help balance USA, is the potential to build. If USA starts with the numerical superiority but is limited to his ability to build, it might balance things. Even once I had a strong position, I was worried about USA because he could put more units into play then I since I only had three SC's I could build in. That means that if USA gets a good start, there is a multiplying factor that allows USA to build up more steam then the South American powers.
I think the problem with Chile/Argentina is just the same Austria/Italy issue that if you work together, its good, but if one decides to slip across the border with power, the other one is in trouble.
Just a thought.
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Re: Discussion on map and balance issues

Postby anaupr » 15 Mar 2015, 22:47

Alman wrote:One thing that I wonder could be changed to help balance USA, is the potential to build. If USA starts with the numerical superiority but is limited to his ability to build, it might balance things. Even once I had a strong position, I was worried about USA because he could put more units into play then I since I only had three SC's I could build in. That means that if USA gets a good start, there is a multiplying factor that allows USA to build up more steam then the South American powers.
I think the problem with Chile/Argentina is just the same Austria/Italy issue that if you work together, its good, but if one decides to slip across the border with power, the other one is in trouble.
Just a thought.

Except that you attacked me and it worked.
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Re: Discussion on map and balance issues

Postby Alman » 15 Mar 2015, 23:14

anaupr wrote:Except that you attacked me and it worked.
yes. :) hence,
Alman wrote:if one decides to slip across the border with power, the other one is in trouble.
and you were. :twisted:
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Re: Discussion on map and balance issues

Postby Morg » 17 Mar 2015, 03:56

Pedros wrote:Morg - intersting thoughts. I'm not quite sure I understand about Spain "becoming a truly North American power"; not saying it's not true, but certainly it's never occurred to me - have to think about it, because I can't see USA allowing it.

But if you're right then that just strengthens my conviction that this map is potentially one of the great "more than seven" ones.

If you or asu want to offer another run of this I'd love a chance!!


Sure I can run this one. It helps that I already have the map.
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