ARTICLE: Let Me Provoke a Question

51 enSome of the hardcore fans of the first edition of 51st State complain that Rule of 3 got removed from the new edition of 51st State. Let me today provoke brainstorming with me. Let’s discuss this topic.

Rule of 3 and Deals.
Rule of 3 says you have 3 spaces for Deals and/or Spoils in your HQ. If you wanted to have at least one free space for Spoils – and we all know that you indeed wanted it – that meant you actually had space for only two Deals. Right?
So you guys were able to use this whole mechanism of making Deals, managing blue Contact Tokens and all that shit dedicated to Deal action twice in a game. Let me repeat – you could do it twice in a whole game. That’s freaking awesome, right? Design few pages of rules about the shit you can activate twice during the whole game.
Yeah, I was piece of a designer back then.
Opening space for Deals, I finally gave you actual choice. You can have as many Deals as you want. That means you can explore and test this strategy as deep and intense as you want. You can play with no Deals. You can play with 15 Deals. You finally have a choice. You finally make decision.
Rule of 3 and Victory Point tokens
Hardcore fans got really pissed of about this one. Before we start let me make it clear: I appreciate every single comment they posted. That means they care. That’s the most humbling thing that can happen to the designer. I am humbled with every hate post they wrote.
But  now, let me explain why I removed Rule of 3.
In the first edition each card that scored points could be activated three times during the whole game. Then it was useless and player needed to rebuilt it into something new. That was thematic and that was interesting way to push players to constant look for new strategies and new cards. Their engine needed to evolve over and over. That was a very interesting design.
In the new edition you can activate scoring cards as many times as you want and you can decide to rebuild it at any point.  There is no urge to evolve and change strategy. Players will rebuild cards when they feel they found better idea and combination of cards, not when their scoring card become just useless.

Stick with me here. Do you have a choice when you can do it only 3 times and you need to rebuild it or do you have a choice when you can do it as many times as you want and you rebuild it when you want.

Removing Rule of 3 was a chance to give you choice. You rebuild locations when you want, not when they are useless. Therefore the timing of this choice finally matters.
Once again, thank you for all comments, I appreciate all of them, both critics and praise for new rules. Comments mean you care. As I said, that’s the most humbling thing that can happen.
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5 Comments Added

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  1. Dom 2016-03-18 | Reply

    Thanks for this article. Personally, I only played NE once and loved it. That’s why I backed the new edition of 51st state. This is only to say I’m not a hardcore player, but a total newbie.

    That said, I think there’s merit to giving players meaningful choice. Thematically, however, I think the rule of 3 made sense. In a post-apocalyptic world, you can’t always make a free choice. Sometimes you’re forced to make a choice. There’s no relying on something that works, because it works for a short time only. *Having* to rebuild is enforcing a choice while dropping the rule of 3 is making that kind of choice optional itself.

    Short version: Choice is choice, even if you’re forced to choose. Considering theme, the rule of 3 fits better than free choice IMO.

    Takeaway: Maybe you could give us an optional rule that implements (some version of) the rule of 3?

  2. Tom Vandeweyer 2016-03-18 | Reply

    I think the genereal discontent about the disappearance of the rule of 3 is mainly an expectations issue. Most of us thought the ‘master set’ was going to be a big box with streamlined iconography and wooden tokens. Nobody saw the rule of 3 change coming.

    So yes, I think you could see it as a compliment when people are starting to show an amount of aggression on fora in that way. Especially since that’s what this game is about: frantically attacking each other 🙂

    The dedicated 51st State players just need some time to adapt
    … or try to find a 2nd hand copy of Winter 🙂

  3. TS S. Fulk 2016-03-18 | Reply

    In the new version, I somehow think that if I build a great engine, I’ll be lucky to use it three times before someone reduces it to rubble.

    Re-evaluating things is always good. We trust you weight the pros and cons and made changes for the better. Thanks for the article!

  4. Phil The Sheep 2016-03-19 | Reply

    I also thought it was a great credit to the game that fans were getting that passionate about the rule change. I can see how it fits, thematically, that buildings deteriorate through use, but I can also see how it was an obvious target for streamlining and may have been a bit fiddly to record. However, I also wonder how much it would actually have come into play, especially given how often I would think good combos/buildings will rapidly get annihilated by other players. I’m sure that fact that it was cut means that it needed to, so I’m fine with it.

  5. Dave 2016-04-13 | Reply

    I never played NE nor the others, just preordered the “new” one, so I can’t judge or imagine what the difference between those two rule desings is. However, wouldn’t it be possible to simply house rule that to the “old” rules and leave the Rule of 3 as it was? Don’t see the problem with this here actually (as far as I read and am informed at least), it just seems to be more streamlined and rulewise easier for new players and players who know the game won’t start reading the rules from the start anyway i imagine…

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