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Author Topic: Playtesting: Academy  (Read 4278 times)

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rinkworks

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Playtesting: Academy
« on: September 17, 2012, 09:56:55 am »
+2

I played Academy (formerly known as "Conference Room") against an AI last night.  My suspicion was that the other-player benefit was too strong, and I think my test bore that out.  I have a proposed fix, but first let me go into more detail.

If you think about it, the opponent benefit is roughly the equivalent of playing this on your own turn:

+2 Cards
+1 Action
Discard a card.

...because when it's not your turn and someone is triggering this for you, you don't need the cantrip part to replace the card slot and action that it consumes.  So you're left with just "+1 Card, discard a card."  Anyway, recently Donald X was saying that he tried out a card like this at a cost of $4, and it was slightly too strong for a $4 card.  That surprised me, but I could see why:  you almost always have, in a hand of five, a green card you don't mind getting rid of, and if you don't, you probably have a Copper you don't mind discarding when it means you can have a Gold or something instead.  But, true, it's strictly weaker than Laboratory, so let's call it a $4.5 effect.

Well, Academy gives you a $5 effect and your opponents a $4.5 effect, which is net-positive but doesn't seem like a great use of the opportunity cost to pick one up.

In one of my test games, I set up a 3-player game against two AI players, which were set up to pile-drive the Academy pile, and I played a money game without buying any.  Soon, the AIs were each able to play 4-5 Academies per turn.  What that meant is I essentially got to play with my 5 best cards every turn, because I got to filter 10 times between turns.  I bought 6 Provinces in 12 turns, winning the game easily.  Interestingly, one of the AI players got 4 Provinces in 12 turns, which is remarkable on its own -- he was getting benefit from his own Academies, plus the ones bought by the third AI player, who only ended the game with 2 Provinces due to a couple of random bad buys.

Obviously this isn't conclusive in itself:  just because pile-driving Academies isn't a winning strategy doesn't mean some number of Academies employed differently wouldn't be better.  And I also have to concede that the AIs were not designed to stop playing Academies once they'd reached $8 (although I believe I reached $8 after roughly as many plays as it took them).  But it's not a promising sign, and I can't personally envision a situation where I'd want to buy an Academy for myself.  As surmised above, receiving the opponent benefit of an Academy felt roughly like getting a free Laboratory.  I blew through several green cards, replacing them with Coppers or better, and by the time I had to discard Coppers, I was pretty much already at (or well above) the $8 Province-buy threshold.

I did play another game or two wherein I actually bought Academies.  Those were more difficult to distill in words, but they certainly felt wrong.

But I think I know a promising way to fix this:

+2 Cards
+1 Action
Each other player may draw a card.  If he does, he discards two cards.

This is a much lighter opponent benefit and, perhaps just as critically, one that doesn't scale as well with multiples, such that a chain will cause your opponents to match the benefit you get yourself.

It resembles the Vault penalty but is still stronger, as the draw happens first.

I also like the symmetry:  You go down a card (Academy taking up a slot in your hand) and up two cards.  Opponents go up a card and go down two cards.

More importantly, I think it preserves the spirit of the original card people voted for.

But I confess I haven't tested that variation yet.  It's just something that came to mind and held up under speculative scrutiny.  Thoughts?
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Polk5440

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Re: Playtesting: Academy
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2012, 10:10:50 am »
0

nopawnsintended and I both saw Donald's comment in DA's Secret History as well and were worried about Academy having too strong a benefit for the opponents as we pointed out in our card analyses. I am disappointed the concern is justified because the card is a neat idea. This is just going to be really tough to balance, because the opponent benefit can't be too weak either, or you are getting too close to a Lab for $4.

Given that hedging comment, I do like your proposed fix, rinkworks, better than the original card.
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Schneau

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Re: Playtesting: Academy
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2012, 10:14:21 am »
0

I also was concerned that the opponent filtering would be too strong and commented on it. As-is, I agree with rinkworks that buying these would most of the time be a mistake. As big a mistake as buying a Scout or Thief on most typical boards? Maybe? It would definitely be one of the weakest $4 cards. We should just make sure we don't make it too strong with any changes to it.
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Drab Emordnilap

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Re: Playtesting: Academy
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2012, 11:25:01 am »
0

What if the other players discarded before drawing? You'd have to make the discard optional so as not to make it an attack, but Cellar is worse than Warehouse.
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rinkworks

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Re: Playtesting: Academy
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2012, 11:39:43 am »
0

What if the other players discarded before drawing? You'd have to make the discard optional so as not to make it an attack, but Cellar is worse than Warehouse.

I considered that.  It's definitely a nerf, but not huge, I think.  Cellar is mostly noticeably weaker than Warehouse because you can discard multiples and get multiple replacements (which are themselves not eligible to discard).  So you agonize over whether to discard your Estates AND Coppers or just the Estates.  With this, it's just one card anyway.  The Cellarized Academy is only worse than original Academy if the card you draw happens to be weaker than all the other cards in your hand.

Numbers might illustrate the difference better.  With a 5-card hand...

Cellar:  Discard the worst 0-4 of 4.
Warehouse:  Discard the worst 3 of 7.
Original Academy:  Discard the worst 1 of 6.
"Cellarized" Academy:  Discard the worst 1 of 5.

So while Cellar and Warehouse are substantially different, Cellarized Academy and Warehouseized Academy aren't.
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NoMoreFun

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Re: Playtesting: Academy
« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2012, 03:11:18 pm »
0

Could coming up with a variant of the card perhaps be another competition?

The competition would be to come up with a $4 lab with a benefit to the opponent. Very stringent rules, but could lead to some unique ideas.
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NoMoreFun

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Re: Playtesting: Academy
« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2012, 03:18:44 pm »
+3

My personal idea would be that the other players are allowed to bottom deck a card to draw another (or the other way around - whatever's more balanced). It allows cycling but not sifting, and if it gets overused the opponents will have a terrible hand somewhere down the line. Late game it will be pretty much equivalent to discarding, but early game it will limit how much players want to use the effect; it may have AP issues.
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RobertJ

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Re: Playtesting: Academy
« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2012, 03:59:15 am »
+1

Thanks for doing the testing. When I came up with the card I did have in mind that it should be a tempting trap on some boards so I'm not too worried if buying and playing it indiscriminately is a poor strategy. Having said that obviously I want it to be a good buy rather more often than Scout!

I like Rinkworks' suggestion of being able to discard 2 to draw 1. A variant on that (not sure if it's better or worse) would be to allow the top card to be seen before choosing. The simplest wording for this is probably something like "Each other player looks at the top card of their deck and either draws it and discards two cards, or puts it back on the deck."
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popsofctown

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Re: Playtesting: Academy
« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2012, 12:48:05 pm »
0

My personal idea would be that the other players are allowed to bottom deck a card to draw another (or the other way around - whatever's more balanced). It allows cycling but not sifting, and if it gets overused the opponents will have a terrible hand somewhere down the line. Late game it will be pretty much equivalent to discarding, but early game it will limit how much players want to use the effect; it may have AP issues.
I like this idea.  It kinda makes it a different card... one I would have voted for.
My concern is that discarding one card is too few and two is too many. 
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DIonized

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Re: Playtesting: Academy
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2012, 04:46:13 pm »
0

My concern is that discarding one card is too few and two is too many. 
Draw one, then discard down to 4?
This still has problems with playing huge stacks of them.
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Polk5440

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Re: Playtesting: Academy
« Reply #10 on: September 18, 2012, 04:47:29 pm »
0

Would "Each other player draws a card and places a card on top of his deck." be too weak? Is that why bottom decking was suggested? Top decking is still a strong externality on the first play, but it doesn't stack. Now that I think about it, I think I like the bottom decking better, actually.
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Rush_Clasic

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Re: Playtesting: Academy
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2012, 06:24:29 am »
0

How strict are you looking to keep changes to the original design? Suppose you just added +1 Buy. Does that make it too good? It does help fill the void of no +Buys in the current set.

rinkworks

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Re: Playtesting: Academy
« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2012, 09:30:10 am »
0

How strict are you looking to keep changes to the original design? Suppose you just added +1 Buy. Does that make it too good? It does help fill the void of no +Buys in the current set.

I only want to make changes if there turns out to be a problem with the card itself, not with the set as a whole.  If the right change for the card happened to also be the right one for the set, so much the better.  But I'm not so sure +Buy is the right answer here.

I'll probably be playtesting the "opponents may draw one and discard two" tweak this weekend, and depending on how that goes I might toy with opponents Spying first before deciding.  Those tweaks seem more in keeping with the spirit of the original card.

But I don't want to necessarily be the final word here, either.  I think for any changes to be made we need the original author's blessing, plus that of some substantial portion of the community.
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Rush_Clasic

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Re: Playtesting: Academy
« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2012, 12:23:29 pm »
0

If that's the goal, this is a perfectly acceptable guideline and I agree that the change isn't the most direct one. Playtesting a publicly made set has that weird nuance of wanting to warp an entry beyond recognizable standards, and if that can be avoided, all the better. My understanding for set creation is still very locked in MtG mode, where the whole matters a lot more than the parts. For this project, and maybe Dominion in general, I'm not sure it has to all the time.
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