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A comprehensive criticism of FFH2

Discussion in 'Civ4 - Fall from Heaven' started by ProkhorZakharov, Jul 1, 2010.

  1. Skarn

    Skarn Chieftain

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    Very interesting thread here. While I disagree on most of your comments about civs (mainly because I'm extremely attached to FFH lore and the idea of removing / merging civs seems like heresy to me), I pretty much agree 100% with you that the tech tree needs to be redesigned and I really like your suggestions here. What I hate the most is that Future Techs is at the extreme end of the arcane line, and even if you don't need high-level magic, you're pretty much forced to go this way if you just want the extra health and happiness.

    Your suggestions on spells are interesting too. While I would not remove magic schools (once again, because they are tied strongly to the lore), I wish there were more to level 3 magic than just summons. However, I do not agree with you on Dance of Blades, this spell is pretty good. Very useful for an early rush with the Balseraph or Doviello.
     
  2. Valkrionn

    Valkrionn The Hamster King

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    To be fair, the same code is in Orbis, and comes from the JImprovementsMod.

    The whole idea behind the Fort Commanders is a way to allow the forts to carry out certain actions. You can't select an improvement, so you can't have the improvement do anything unless it is automated... but a unit on the tile can carry out ranged attacks, perform actions and spells, etc. It's also a nice way to add uniqueness between civs, showing they handle forts in different ways.

    That's not an overhaul. That's just dropping a bunch of spells, and all summons, and adding a few more back.

    An overhaul is what is being done in Wild Mana, or what will be done in RifE (we had our plans before Sephi announced his, he just got there first. :lol: Very different systems, though.)
     
  3. tesb

    tesb Emperor

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    faster sephi, faster we must complete it before rife :whipped:

    ...oh wait i still have to do the txt fixes for sephi ... faster tesb, faster :whipped:

    :D
     
  4. Valkrionn

    Valkrionn The Hamster King

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    Doesn't matter if it's done first; They will be different. Only thing in common is Mana as a civ-value.
     
  5. Earthling

    Earthling Deity

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    You have a lot of interesting recommendations for civilizations and I do agree with many of your points - I'll just give my feedback on some general things though, as changes aren't going to be made except in modmods now really. So I'd say:

    Too many civilizations - I think you hit the nail on the head with the problem not being civilizations numbers so much as real purpose and diversity. The Lore and stories are awesome, but in gameplay some civs have little going for them. I like separate elves though but the Esus religion would need a major overhaul in my book - some others like the Doviello, Grigori, Elohim I certainly agree can be bland civs and I think there is often general consensus there.

    With the base game and modmods though, I think the largest concern I would want to stress is that players get faced with mechanics that seem to come out of the blue and cannot be understood or counters. Some things you should live with/core to the game, like Armeggedon, but civs with really weird mechanics/worldspells can be awfully annoying. (The worldspells you pointed out in the vanilla game, and I feel this goes for some things like Archos and other modmod civs).

    Lastly, the one major thing that could be different and improved upon - but really because it's so central and hard to do anyway, that the way it is already speaks for much credit - is the magic system. And I agree a lot of civs have clear advantages/strengths (Calabim as you're right about, Balseraphs for micromanaging) in exploiting magic. It's epic and very thematic but the system is complicated and hard to learn but then easy to abuse in the end, so certainly that could be something slightly more balanced.

    Still, I'm ok with somewhat "filler" civs and mechanics since a majority of civs can be played with awesome games and even the others if you get creative or have the right ideas. Nice points and ideas, could certainly speak to some modmods- I don't play modmods all too much since usually the pattern was there's about one or two really cool civs or mechanics I wanted to play but then the other ones I didn't like so much, but then again everyone has different preferences.
     
  6. Jarrema

    Jarrema Master Voter

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    I fully agree with this, I have such a feeling from a beggining but cannot express it so clearly
     
  7. DaveGold

    DaveGold Emperor

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    I'd agree that the spell system is out of balance, partly because the AI can't use spells as effectively as a human player. Rather than hacking away at the spell system though I think the developers should consider some wider issues in which spells are relevant

    - I'd suggest that the size of stacks be cut down somehow before any changes are made to stacks spells and summoning spells. They might seem better balanced spells once stack size is addressed. Small stack sizes will also help playability, turn speed, etc.

    - Magic can be too dominant in the mid game allowing fast victories before the endgame is seen. Fast siege combined with fast healing and fast movement allows a military aggressor to conquer a comparably powerful enemy very quickly. There's nothing wrong with that but it should be in the end game. To resolve this I'd split haste and regeneration into different spheres and perhaps move haste to tier 2. Fast siege could be removed from tier 2 (fireballs) and replaced in tier 3 through summoned elementals, for example. Slow siege could be put into tier 2, perhaps needing mages to cast a spell with a turn delay, perhaps only in adjacent hexes. I suspect this change would bring more unit variety into play in the mid game as well.

    - To reduce micromanagement I'd let arcane units get access to one new spell sphere at each upgrade, let them cast all spells of the sphere for their channelling skill, and stop xp promotions granting new spheres.

    - I'd look for another counter for mages apart from assassins. At the moment it's all or nothing. Without assassins you can't defend. With assassins your opponent can't attack. Guardsmen units don't really moderate this in the right way, to my mind. Any new counter for magic should be simple enough to use by the AI.
     
  8. ProkhorZakharov

    ProkhorZakharov Chieftain

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    Reducing stack sizes is a very difficult change to make; reducing the power of damage spells is a simple XML change. It's easy enough to weaken the spells, then restore them to their earlier power if other changes make that necessary.

    How much healing does Regeneration give? I do agree that it ought to be slow, something on the order of 10% per turn.

    The simplest solution would be to create a "Silence" spell available to Empyrean priests (Vicars) and/or a "Magic Resistance" spell available to mages at Law II or Sun II. Dispel Magic helps a bit, especially considering my changes move magic away from direct damage and summons and towards terraforming and buffs.
     
  9. Valkrionn

    Valkrionn The Hamster King

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    Have mounted units able to 'flank' arcane units. Mechanic already exists, works well, makes mounted units useful (I frankly don't consider them useful ATM, not for most civs), and is an interesting mechanic.

    Yes, that's coming from our actual plans, not a random idea. ;)
     
  10. ProkhorZakharov

    ProkhorZakharov Chieftain

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    Miscellaneous

    Lairs: I think Lairs have far too much variance early on in the game. You could get a Great Prophet, you could get a disciple, you could get a named baddie that wipes out your empire. I'd make it so the effects from lairs are fairly minor early-game, to encourage you to explore them with your scout for experience, and become more powerful (or damaging) later on, to make them more exciting. For example, in the first 20 turns, you'd get things like ~100 gold, a free minor tech, or a free warrior on the good end, and on the bad end you'd get a 4 :strength: baddie, or losing your unit, and various effects in between. Later on, you could get Great Prophets or barbarian stacks. I don't think disciples should come from lairs at all; it's really annoying to rush to Ashen Veil, only to find that someone on the other end of the map already got the holy city, and you can't get the shrine or Meshabber.

    Barbarians: Various versions of FFH and its modmods have different barbarian behaviors, and I can't remember which is which. I don't like it when the barbarians try to do "clever" things like waiting to form large stacks before attacking, and running around pillaging everything. I'd like it if early-game barbarians just ran straight at your cities one at a time, then in the early-mid-game they start pillaging a bit if they've got no hope against the city defenders, then in the mid- to late-game they start building up stacks. I recently played a RifE game where a horde of 8 Scorpion Clan Wolf Riders surprised me by coming from a patch of wilderness behind my empire and taking some weakly defended cities I thought were protected (I saw them on the map, but thought that there were just 1 or 2). I liked that, because I should have been more prepared. I wouldn't have liked it if it'd happened on turn 30, because I'd have had no way to prepare by then short of just spamming warriors from the start, and that's not how I want to play.

    Animals: I like FFH's animal system better than those of Wild Mana or RifE. The animals are dangerous, but manageable. Wild Mana adds more animals, which are often just annoying - when I'm trying to complete the Grand Menagerie, I don't want to see Lizards and Pegasi, when I'm trying to get War Elephants I don't want to see Mammoths. RifE adds animals that are just a bit too strong. I shouldn't need an army of 8 warriors and a scout just to get a settler safely to his destination, but when animals and Cyclops can kill a warrior each turn as they take the route, that's what's necessary. I think animals should gradually grow stronger as the game goes on, however, past a certain point Lions, Tigers and Bears just don't do anything.

    Late Game: I find myself rarely finishing a game of FFH. At some point in each game I've got a crazy economy, a bunch of units that have a 99% chance against everything, and there's just nothing left that feels like a challenge. This is largely because the AI is poor at getting to the lategame, poor at using what they get at the lategame, and especially poor at trying to stop you from winning. When you get powerful, the AI's reaction is "oh crap, he's powerful, I'd better not mess with him". It should be "oh crap, he's powerful, we'd better all band together to stop him from killing us all". Picking off the AIs one at a time is much less fun than trying to fight a battle on many fronts to survive and expand. In general, I think, the AIs could be changed to encourage more group-on-group wars and fewer one-on-one wars where the other civs just stand to the side and watch. This would go some way towards fixing the Stack of Doom issue, as you need at least three stacks if you're fighting wars on three fronts. Also, epic late-game battles of good vs. evil are epic.

    Many Units vs. Experienced Units: After playing a bunch of games on Emperor and Immortal, trying both strategies, I feel that having a small cadre of strong, highly experienced units is far more effective than having a large number of relatively weak units. I played two games as Svartalfar, one in which I captured a whole lot of animals and sent them off to war against the enemies, another in which I captured a whole lot of animals, putting some in animal pens and disbanding the rest. In the first game the animals weren't able to do any effective fighting, the maintenance costs killed my economy, and I lost. In the second game my level 10+ beastmasters smashed everything. I played two games as the Clan, one going for early Pact of the Nilhorn follwed by a huge number of Axemen, another going for Runes of Kilmorph and abusing the Warrens / Soldier of Kilmorph / National Epic combination to get a great economy, followed by Iron Ogres. In the first game I annihilated my nearest neighbor, the Hippus then couldn't beat the Balseraph and Ljosalfar archers, and my economy collapsed. In the second game I was able to conquer half the world in the midgame, then win later on thanks to my amazing production and Markets / Temples of Kilmorph / Tablets of Bambur economy. I don't think this is a problem with the game itself so much as the fact that the AI doesn't recognize the value of high level units. If it did, I wouldn't have to turn the difficultly level up so high, and I wouldn't be as crippled by upkeep costs. It would also seem like much more of a fair and interesting fight, rather than me just trying to survive until I can get enough guys that 99% every fight. I would, however, reduce the maintenance costs a bit on higher difficulty settings, maybe making up for it with some other penalty.

    Events: I don't like seeing events where I have only one choice, and that choice is "do nothing, no effect". I would get rid of the minotaur-and-portcullis event, and make it so the golden-age events you don't qualify don't appear, if that's possible.

    Art: I'd prefer it if different units didn't share the same art. It's really confusing when you've got a stack that contains an adept and a warrior, but they've got the same picture, so you've got to hover over them to see exactly what's in your stack. This is more of a problem in the modmods that add new units than in regular FFH.

    Conclusion

    Well, that's what I have to say about Fall from Heaven II. It's a great game, but I think there are many places it could be improved. This is largely because I have a different design philosophy than the FFH creators - they wanted to make a fantasy Civ IV mod based on the land of Erebus, where I'd like to make a fantasy Civ IV mod that's set in the land of Erebus. It's a subtle distinction, but it means that I'd make the lore follow the mechanics, not the other way around.

    This thread also sets forth a design for a modmod, one aimed at keeping most of the content of Fall from Heaven but spreading it less thinly, allowing the players to see more interesting things in each game of FFH they play. If I can find time I'll try to make this modmod, using Wild Mana as a starting point in order to take advantage of its AI improvements and speed-ups (if permission is given by the Wild Mana creators, of course). I'd also like to make an "extended version" of the mod, which includes some of the cool features from RifE, Wild Mana and Orbis, and some others I've been thinking of, while maintaining the philosophy that things should be no more complex than they need to be.

    I encourage people to post more feedback in this thread, many of my ideas for new content were thought of on the spur of the moment and most likely have significant balance problems. What I've read so far has really made me think about the game.
     
  11. ProkhorZakharov

    ProkhorZakharov Chieftain

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    I think the "adventurer civ" I mentioned back at the start could use Doviello flavor, it'd be a shame to see that gone from the game. That'd mean I'd have to remove their bonuses in deserts and marsh, but in retrospect I don't really like the idea of a civ that can settle anywhere they like - it removes the strategy of choosing good city locations.
     
  12. Valkrionn

    Valkrionn The Hamster King

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    I can agree with this... And it's something I'd like to do in RifE. Thanks to Snarko, our lair code is in the DLL, making it extremely easy to have different results for different improvements. Allowing lairs to upgrade over time, gaining new exploration results, would accomplish exactly what you had in mind... And is exactly what I have planned. :lol:

    To be fair, lair upgrading is happening because of the new Barb system, not specifically for exploration, but it's still going in. :lol:

    Heh. Just be glad Zarkaz wasn't in the group with them. Would have been even more trouble. ;)

    Yeah, Animals are a bit out of hand... Which is why the new barb system is being designed. A true Hinterlands mechanic. ;)

    I agree with this, but it can be done with just xml work. LemonJelly has been working on a module for RifE which will fix leader personalities; He's assigned them various Archetypes, and is setting tags based on that. So far he's done the warlike ones... Playing with his module, you get a LOT more dogpile wars. :lol:

    AI work is ongoing in both RifE and Wild Mana. ;)

    I agree about the no-choice events, but the golden age ones I'm okay with coming up.

    To be fair, there's not much fantasy art around. And very few of us are artists. I'm learning to do basic skins, Grey Fox can when he has time, and there is a new forum member whose art is quite promising. ;)

    That 'subtle distinction' is a fairly good sum up, actually. It's exactly the difference between us, design-wise. :lol:

    You have all the permission you want to steal from RifE, just so long as you give credit. ;)
     
  13. Breunor

    Breunor Deity

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    Some good ideas here!

    It would be interesting to see if there are 'majority' opinions. Unfortunatley, a lot of the 'I think the game is better like this' is often coutnered by 'but I like the game this way'.

    (For example, for me, I like the 'smart' barbarians who cluster and plunder and don't just exist to give free easy experience points. Having said that, the AI change made the Sidar weaker.

    Another example - the Tolerant trait and the Elohim. This issue was already debated TO DEATH before it was installed. Kael liked the idea of Tolerant in the game and included because he thought it would make the game more interesting. Then it was a raging debate as to which Civ has it. My point isn't that any opinion is better than any other, simply that this one in particular had been discussed ad nauseum already.)

    Having modmods will alwys give people choices. I think the OP and Valkrionn, in particular, seem to have a lot of similar views.

    Best wishes,

    Breunor
     
  14. Nikis-Knight

    Nikis-Knight Deity

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    I'm not sure that's fair; Kael was always considering design well above flavor, and most of the details of the lore was written for the mod, rather than before (the overview of course is another matter).
    There has been a long evolution of FfH, over 3 or 4 quite active years, with a fairly consistent vision for the overview, but details constantly changing based on feedback and play testing. I think it's a tremendous piece of work, but of course could be improved in many areas--but eventually one has to call it done, even if it isn't a commercial product on a deadline.
     
  15. ProkhorZakharov

    ProkhorZakharov Chieftain

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    That's a good point. Some of these issues, including the barbarians, can be resolved using game options, which is something I'd like to see more of.
     
  16. Link

    Link Scarves

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    I'd make it so soldiers could build forts
     
  17. Renaud

    Renaud Chieftain

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    I'll say one thing about this thread, it makes me want to start a game right now!
     
  18. ProkhorZakharov

    ProkhorZakharov Chieftain

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    I've been thinking a bit more about this recently. I've got some ideas for making the Amurites and Balseraphs more interesting, and more tweaks to the spell system.

    Terraforming Spells: I don't think that terraforming spells in their current form are a good addition to the game. Being able to Spring whenever you want means you don't care about the downsides of settling in a desert, as you can just Spring everything to plains. This removes a layer of strategy from choosing where and when to settle. Terraforming also requires a lot of micro-management.

    Without Spring, you can't have Scorch, as it would be unfair to Scorch your opponent's empire into desert without him having any way to fix it. Even if some counter-Scorch were put in, it's not good design to have some mechanic that requires your opponent to go out of his way to get the one specific counter for it.

    I think Vitalize is fine, though, as by the time you get to archmages you're not likely to be settling much more, and upgrading your terrain isn't the most broken thing you can do at that point. The micromanagement burden is lessened relative to all the other stuff you're doing at that point in the game, though it could be reduced by having a mage take a few turns to Vitalize a 3x3 square of land, or even the entire BFC of a city. I've edited my post on spells to take this into account, but I'm now missing a few spells.

    Amurites

    This is a cross between the current Amurites and the Sidar. Mechanically, it's supposed to be a builder-style civ that fights more for defense and harassment than for conquest.

    Unique Units: All the standard non-melee units are able to cast spells (see page 3 for more detail on the spell system). Melee units have aptitudes for particular mana types, but cannot use bronze, iron or mithril weapons (other units, such as Soldiers of Kilmorph, still can). "Affinity for X" means "+1 strength if you have at least one of resource X".
    Axeman: Affinity for Nature, Shadow
    Champion: Affinity for Nature, Shadow, Fire
    Phalanx: Affinity for Nature, Shadow, Fire, Sun
    Hunter: Summon Watcher
    Ranger: Dispel Magic
    Beastmaster: Cloak of Shadows
    Archer: Wall of Stone
    Longbowman: Living Armor
    Crossbowman: Vitalize
    Horseman: Rust
    Horse Archer: Fireball
    Knight: Cyclone
    These spells have been chosen so that they are useful but aren't overpowered when spammed, encouraging the Amurites to diversify in their technology rather than focusing exclusively on either Bowyers or Arcane Lore.

    Specialists: The Amurites get the Sidar bonuses to specialists and great people.

    Wane: Wane works similarly to the Sidar spell, but it doesn't destroy the caster. However, the shade can only settle as a Shade great person, which gives +2 :science:, +2 :gold:, +2 :culture:.

    Hero: Govannon becomes available at Sorcery and starts with Channeling II. At Strength of Will, he is promoted to Channeling III.

    Unique Buildings: Standard Amurite UBs.

    Other: The Amurits start with an adept with Manipulation I (Inspiration), Earth I (Wall of Stone), Life I (Summon Watcher) instead of a warrior. This lets them help defend themselves a bit more easily and get a reasonably fast Shade, making up for some of their early-game weaknesses.


    Balseraphs

    Leaders: Perpentach (Insane), Keelyn (Arcane/Creative)

    Loki: Can cast Inspiration (+2 :science:, +1 Sage GPP) or Entertain (+2 :culture:, +1 Bard GPP). He can only have one of these active in a city at a time (though if an Adept casts Inspiration, he can have Entertain going simultaneously in the same city). He can explore rival territory and cities, but can't cast Disrupt. I just played a game as the Balseraphs, and it's crazy how much damage this little guy can do. I think he's much better served as a useful early-game support unit who can scout, help cities pop their borders, and get a little bit of research going.

    Circus: Balseraph Carnival replacement. Gives +1 :), +2 :culture, and +5% :commerce: per culture level of the city (i.e. 5% for poor, 10% for fledgling, 15% for developing, 20% for refined, 25% for influential, 30% for legendary).

    Haunted Theater: Balseraph Theater replacement. Makes all Bards and Great Bards in this city produce an extra +2 :culture: as well as the normal Theater bonuses.

    Freak: Cost reduced to 40 :hammers:, Freak Show has a 30 :gold: cost.

    Mimic/Harlequin: Unchanged.

    Puppets: Arcane units can no longer use puppets.

    Hero: The Puppet Master. Available at Arcane Lore. Archmage who can cast Summon Puppet (lasts 2 turns). This gives the Balseraphs a way to have fun with puppets without the tedious micromanagement of having two dozen units dealing with puppets all the time. Puppets can't use Domination, because that was really quite imbalanced. Summon Puppet is not doubled by Twincast.

    Insane: Perpentach only. Causes your four traits to be randomly generated at the start of the game and changed at random intervals throughout. Causes Perpentach to make some decisions outside your control: declare war on other civs, give tribute to other civs, produce random buildings/units (they can't be canceled until they're finished), cause units to move around randomly, etc. All these decisions are things the player could do anyway. This gives the player an interesting challenge of trying to manage a civ where he's not fully in control. The downside should be balanced by getting twice the normal number of traits. Players who don't want to play the Balseraphs this way can choose Keelyn instead.

    Overall: The theme of this Balseraph civilization is to make culture relevant beyond the 10 culture needed for a border pop. They have a whole bunch of ways to get extra culture, and Circus to make use of that culture. They can also do fun stuff with Freaks, Mimics, Harlequins and The Puppet Master.
     
  19. Morkonan

    Morkonan Warlord

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    I'm a virtual FFH2 nobody.. I simply love the game. But, I do "grok gaming" and generally know what is good and bad in a game. So, I just have this to say:

    FFH2's major strength is its variety and it's wonderful variability in replay value. It is, quite literally, never the same game twice.

    It can be, if the player chooses, anything the player wishes it to be, within reason. CivIV, by contrast, is generally a set-piece battle. However, in FFH2, its wide variety, unique civs and their unique mechanics make for a smorgashboard of fantasy, sword-wielding, spell-slinging fun..

    This is a "Good Thing." Yes, it can be very complex. But, Tic-Tac-Toe isn't that fun to play, over and over, is it? FFH2 is. Complexity allows diverse play and that is what is SORELY needed in any God/Empire Building Game. If the player is up to putting in a little work learning the game, they are exponentially rewarded.

    FFH2 is really not that hard to learn how to play. Consider that the Civopedia is sometimes not fully informative, some offline manuals are not up-to-date and a great deal has been learned by players simply reading the code and you'll see that if there had been a full production crew working on this and someone creating a dedicated manual, it would be no more difficult to learn how to play than CivIV was.

    When people suggest changes that remove some of the variety in the game, I cringe. Those are not improvements. FFH2's strength is its variety of play opportunities and unique little bits of game mechanics that can have great rewards should the opportunity arise and the player happen to discover it.

    FFH2 is in feature-lock, as we all know. So, when people make suggestions for improvements/changes, that's really just what they'd "like" to see rather than what they expect to be done. However, in some future incarnation of this game, what I would like to see is a steadfast defense of FFH2's variety and variability of play. Uniqueness is golden in the world of gaming. Variety is the spice of digital gaming life.

    Anything that threatens to paint certain design elements with the same brush that were formerly wearing a Coat of Many Colors needs to be defended against, not supported. Civs need to keep their own flavors. Magic needs to be as varied as possible without any particular "I WIN!" buttons. Strategies for winning should vary as much as possible while still allowing the player to focus on the staples of normal play if they choose. (Military/Production/Social/Diplomacy Domination/etc...)

    At the last, every game starting with a different Civ or even with the same Civ in different circumstances needs to retain that fresh, anything is possible, feel to it. Right now, FFH2 has the ability to provide that because of its large variety of options for playstyle, magic development, strategies, wonders, unique terrain features, dungeons, items, events, heroes and villains. The last thing any successful game does is always present the same tired play. Tic-Tac-Toe is simple... Tic-Tac-Toe is popular... but it ain't all that much fun.
     
  20. Grey Fox

    Grey Fox Master of Points

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    I don't think Tic-Tac-Toe is very popular, I mean once you learn that you have to have the central spot to win it becomes very boring. And you get that after like the first game. Talk about overpowered feature.

    And it's smorgasbord, after the swedish word smörgåsbord.
     

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