Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ground Floor - "buildings"

In Ground Floor, players purchase Room Remodels, Tenant Improvements, and Additional Floors in order to grow their business and earn Prestige Points. These behave like the generic "buildings" in other eurogames, such as Puerto Rico or Le Harve. Below I will list all of the current "buildings" in Ground Floor and discuss for each what the net effect is.

For starters, let's look at the currency in this game. There is Money: $, Info: i, and Time: ('). Each Employee costs $3 and gives you 3 Time, so it follows that (') = $1. Everyone's Ground Floor has a Meeting room which can convert 1 Time into 1 Info, so (') = i1. By the transitive property of mathematics, $1 = i1 - at least at the beginning of the game. Later in the game this changes for each player, because the whole point of the game is to upgrade your operation so that you can improve the relative values of these Units and make a profit, however at the outset I think it's fair to say...

(') = $1 = i1 = 1 "Unit"

That said, let's look at the buildings. Notation: (2,2) = $2 and i2

Ground Floor:
Each player has 6 rooms on their Ground Floor, each of which is resolved immediately during worker-placement ("Scheduling"), and each of which can be Remodeled at the end of a round for (5,5). A remodeled room flips over to the back side, which has an improved action and is worth 2 Prestige Points.

Assembly: (')(')('): 1 Supply
Remodeled: (')('): 1 Supply
It is difficult to explain or justify the actual value of 1 Supply. On one hand, you can get a supply for 3 units via the starting Assembly. On the other hand, you can buy a Supply at the Outlets for $2/i1 fir the first one. However the first Outlet slot is meant to be better than average, so a more realistic price for 1 Supply is $3/i2. Since info is hard to come by in the early game and money isn't, you might say that the $3 is the limiting number there. We should also look at Research and Testing, which allows you to trade a Supply plus 1 (') for i3, meaning a supply in that case is worth 2 units. Also, once Assembly is remodeled (and 1 player starts with Assembly remodeled), you can easily say that a Supply is worth 2 units. So it seems to me like 1 Supply is worth between 2 and 3 units, so let's just call it 2.5 units.

That said, Assembly (base) allows you to exchange 3 units for 2.5 units - not a great deal, but it's the most basic ability, and if you can't get Supply otherwise then that's OK. Upgraded Assembly is a slightly better deal, trading 2 units for 2.5 units. this seems weaker than some of the other remodeled Ground Floor rooms.

Suppose though that you assume a Supply is worth 2 in the early game and 3 in the late game (because the outlets dry up). In that case the basic Assembly is a bad deal (3 for 2) and the remodeled Assembly is a 2-for-2 trade. I think this seems fair. Does the gu who starts with the Assembly specialty get shafted? I don't think so.

Over the course of the game, you will use the Assembly some number of times, and if it's been upgraded then you net 1 unit each time you do it. It's probably safe enough to assume you'll use the Assembly about 6 or 7 times on the average, so flipping the Assembly nets you 6 or 7 (let's call it 6.5) plus 2pp (12 units worth per endgame scoring). So you're paying 10 units for stuff worth 18.5, netting 8.5 units total. Let's see how that compares to the rest of the Ground Floor rooms.

Storage Closet: 1 space to hold Supply
Remodeled: 2 spaces to hold Supply
The value of a storage space is pretty much nil. You could play the whole game with just the 1 space on your starting Storage Closet. Paying to flip your Storage Closet is probably not worth it, ever. This is not great.

Starting with the Storage Specialty however is good, as it means you start with an extra Supply, which can go directly into Production or into Testing for 3 info. One might say this is TOO good, but considering how bad the extra storage is after that, I don't think that's too good.

Perhaps this is fine, and many players will never remodel their Storage, but that's kinda boring. My only thought to improve it though is to offer some kind of other benefit when remodeling the Storage Closet... like maybe the remodeled side comes with 1 Storage. This makes it equivalent to having started with a remodeled Storage Closet, and gives some added incentive to do that upgrade. It's still expensive - (5,5) for 2pp and 1 Supply. According to end-game scoring, 1 PP should cost 6 units, and if a supply is 2.5 units then that means you'd be paying 10 units for stuff worth 14.5 units, so remodeling the Storage Closet nets you 4.5 units total. About 1/2 as much as remodeling Assembly.

Training: (')('): Train 1 Employee
Remodeled: ('): Train 1 Employee
This is a tricky one to evaluate, because in addition to the units netted, it allows you access to more units faster, which is a significant thing in the early game when you have only 4 Time.

Flipping Training saves you 1 Time for each Employee hired. You'll probably hire 3 employees most of the time, so that's 3 units saved (plus the benefit of being able to use that saved guy in the early game). When flipping this room you effectively pay 10 units for stuff worth 15 or 16 units, netting 5 or 6 units. That;s a little better than Storage (WITH a new Supply), but not quite as good as Assembly. Not sure how much value to assign the accelerated early game though. I suppose if it lets you get and train an employee 1 round before you would have otherwise, then it actually nets you a whole 3 units... so maybe that adds about 2 units of value to the total, bringing it up to 8ish, on par with Assembly.

Research & Testing: (')+Supply: (0,3)
Remodeled: (')+Supply: (2,2) or (')+Supply: (0,3)
The base room allows you to exchange a Supply for (0,3) - a pretty fair trade: 3.5 (because you have to use a Time as well) units for 3. Often times it's easier to get info than suppl, so you wouldn't need this ability, but in the early game the reverse might be true.

The upgraded R&T lets you trade 3.5 units for 4, and it also gives you a way to get $ on your ground floor, which is otherwise impossible (at least until very late game), so there's some unmeasured benefit there as well.

I don't think I can really calculate a benefit for this room, but in practice it certainly gets used, and it feels like it's on par with other rooms. It's possible the Remodeled version could be the base version, and then the upgraded version could be made a little better, but part of he point is that it's not easy to get money and info, and since this does both it shouldn't be too good.

Meeting: ('): (0,1)
Remodeled: ('): (0,2)
Meeting is a basic room which is helping to set the value of the whole game balance (the (')=$=i thing). Allowing a 1-for-1 trade is important, but really not a spectacular deal, you want to be upgrading our operation such that you can do better.

One way to do that is to flip the Meeting so you can trade 1 unit for 2. In order for this to be the same value as Assembly, you need to use it 6 times, which is you pay to remodel the room, you probably will. The fact that you can keep using it means it's probably better then Assembly. Let's compare it to other ways to get info...

Base R&T lets you trade 3.5 units for i3, so Remodeled Meeting is clearly better than that at getting info (as well it should be). Meeting also nets you more than the remodeled R&T, but not money, so maybe that's ok too. Consulting Firm allows you to pay money to get info. The first spot is intended to be a little worse deal than average, and that one is 6 units for 10. With 6 Time and an upgraded Meeting you could do better (i12). But if you look at the 2nd and 3rd Consulting Firm slots, you net the same (5 units gets you i10) as the meetings, but they only cost 1 of your limited placements - which is a better and better deal the fewer and fewer Time you have to work with. Later spots in the consulting fir of course get even better as you net 6 or 7 units as long as you can make it happen.

So compared to other GF rooms, it seems the Meeting upgrade is better - but maybe that's only true if you've hired many employees and have a lot of time to work with. Otherwise your limited by your Time capacity, and therefore it's not really too strong. It's also not very flexible, it only gets you info. Late game more info isn't necessarily what you need.

The upgrade on Meeting used to be 2 units for 3 info (and you could of course still do 1-for-1), but that seemed too weak. I'm thinking that the current version is OK, but if it starts to seem too strong, then we could go back to 2 units for 3 info.

Advertising: ('): 1 Networking
Remodeled: (')('): 1 Print or ('): 1 Networking
Advertising allows you to get 1 Networking without paying (1,1) to get into Marketing, however Marketing would get you 2 Networking cards. So to really compare you probably have to look at spending 2 time to save (1,1) - so each time is worth 1 for the base room. Compare to R&T and Meeting, I think that's exactly right.

Remodeled Advertising allows you to continue to do the same thing... I don't think should give you 2 cards because that would make each time spent there worth 2 units which might be too good (although, remodeled Meeting does that). So possibly that should be made better.

The other part of remodeled Advertising is paying 2 units for a free card in Print. Is that worth it? Well, 1 card in Print via Marketing costs a total of (2,2), or 4 units. So by giving this free card for 2 Time means your Time are being exchanged for 2 units each. that seems appropriate. Every time you use the space you net 2 units, so if you use the space 4 times then you're doing pretty well compared to other rooms. However the only benefit gained by Advertising is turn order, no tangible or fungible benefit. Also, since you resolve the action immediately, you have to telegraph your intent compared to players who go into Marketing. I think that's fair.

In light of that, I'm really wondering if the upgraded Advertising should give you 2 in networking rather than just 1. But if you think about it, if you spend 2 Time on Advertising, you should get the same thing you'd get if you spent 1 time in marketing... 1 print, or 2 networking. So never mind, the flipped Advertising should not get any better with respect to Networking.

Tenant Improvements (3pp):
T.I.s each cost (3,3) in addition to the (4,4) it costs to get into the Construction Company. That's a steep cost, but it's proven imminently doable. It's the main way to get points, so it's supposed to be kind of hard to do. So the full cost of a T.I. is (7,7) or 14 units. For that 14 units you get 3pp, which is 18 units worth of stuff (according to endgame scoring), so you net 4 units PLUS whatever benefit you gain from the T.I.

All of the T.I/s are available in Phase 1, though 3 of them are clearly better first choices than the other 3. This makes me think that perhaps those 3 should be Phase 1 and the other three should be Phase 2. We could even add a Phase 3 T.I. that was like a Bonus Floor (or simply make one of the Bonus Floors into a T.I.).

Network Admin: Income: +(0,3)
Assuming you buy this in the first round, you get 7 or 8 rounds of income out of it, which is 21 or 24 units of info. Certainly a good buy.

Human Resources: Hiring discount: (3,3)
HR saves you (3,3) for each hire, and you'll probably hire 3 or 4 employees if you buy this one... which means you save a total of 18 or 24 units over the course of the game. That's on par with the info, has the added advantage of getting you an employee a turn before you could otherwise afford it, but has the disadvantage of running you out of cash quickly as you hire people. So a player buying this should plan accordingly.

Internship Program: +(')(') each round
2 (') per round is less than the 3 info from Network, but it's very flexible where the info from Network Admin is not. Also, later in the game you've upgraded your operation such that 1 (') can net more than 1 Info, so you can catch up to the sheer amount of units gained pretty easily.

I think these 3 T.I.s are all nicely and similarly powered. They are the first picks in most (probably every) game.

Customer Service: +(2,0) per product sold
This nets you 2 units every time you sell, and you can probably use it about 6 or 7 times if you try, so it nets you maybe 14 units... not as much as network Admin, but (a) it's money, and therefore harder to come by and (b) it lets you worry less about turn order when setting prices, or gives you the ability to consistently undercut people, forcing them to lower price points, without giving up money.

It's possible this could be increased to $3, which should put it on par with the net gains of the other T.I.s, but I'm hesitant because I think it's still pretty good as is.

This T.I. could certainly use a new name!

Warehouse: 4 spaces to hold Supply
Arguably useless, except when going for Production Bonus - which is an easy bonus as nobody else ever wants it. Also potentially useful with Assembly Line or remodeled Assembly in order to store up supply during a down economy in order to sell a lot during a Boom. The benefit of the Warehouse is not really quantifiable.

If it turns out that people aren't buying this T.I. I have an idea... I might like to attach it to the Empty Floor such that instead of choosing your T.I., the Empty Floor comes with the Warehouse built in, and space for 1 more T.I. If both the Empty Floor and the Warehouse don't get a lot of play, I might try that change.

Emergency Meeting: ('): Move to the front of Consulting Firm
This is difficult to quantify as well, but if you assume that it allows you to bu into the first slot of the Consulting firm for $3 or $4 and an extra (') instead of $6, then it effectively turns 1 (') into 2$ or possibly 3$, probably no more than once per round. Maybe you use this 4 or 5 times over the course of the game, netting let's say 1.5 units each time and you're looking at about 7 unit profit from the building, not to mention being able to ensure a constant flow of Information (so long as you save the money and (') to use this T.I.).

This one is subtle, and seems weak to a lot of players, but most players are playing for the first time. I suspect this is stronger than it looks, and I intend to try it some more before giving up on it.

Phase I Floor (2pp):
Empty Floor: Comes with any T.I. and space for another T.I.
The intention here is a floor which gives you space to put T.I. without having to cover up your Ground Floor rooms. The first time I tried it it didn't come with a T.I. and so that was it's only benefit... that seemed poor considering it costs (1,1) more and more importantly, increases the cost of future Floors by (2,2). So the effective additional cost is (3,3), which means the benefit needs to be better.

Well, it's a floor, so it should be worth 5pp instead of 3. You might notice it says 2pp on there, but that's because you get a free T.I. (3pp) along with it. So it's still worth 5. and now for the extra (3,3) cost you get an additional space to put a T.I. without covering your GF rooms. Is that worth it? I don't know - I hope so because I like the way it sounds. I think it could go well with a strategy in which you build fewer floors and do a lot of remodeling, and aim for the Improvement Bonus floor.

It might seem too good to get your choice of T.I. - so I might decide to attach a particular T.I. to the Empty Floor. Specifically the Warehouse. Basically, those 2 T.I.s seem like they might be weak, so if they're not purchased then I might try combining them into 1 so you get both at the same time and see if that's any more attractive to people.

Phase II Floors (5pp):
Factory: (')(')+Supply: Place (') in Production
This effectively turns (')(') into (2,2), letting you trade 1 unit for 2. It has the added benefit of allowing you to go into Production even if you didn't save any cash from last round. This turns out to be important once you've hired 3 employees and are at 0 income.

(') for 2 units seems like a fair trade, and therefore a good power level for Phase 2 floors.

If you use this once a turn then you basically net 2 units a turn or 8-10 units total.

Investor: Income: +(3,0)
If you buy this in turn 4, then you net 12 or 15 units over the course of the game. A little more than the Factory gives, and it's cash which is good, but you could potentially use the factory more, and doing so leads to a bigger money gain from Merchandising.

This floor used to yield $2 income, but that seemed too weak. I think it seems good at $3.

I.T. Department: Income: +(0,5)
This one could net a whole lot of info (20-25) over the course of the game! However, it's very limited as there's no way to turn info into money. I think this could be reduced to 4 and it would still be good, as it is you net a whole lot of units.

Assembly Line: ('): 1 Supply (max: 2 uses/round)
Assembly Line used to be usable 3 times a round, and it turned out to be empirically the best building out there. Doing the math, it's no surprise, as we discussed the value (especially late game) of a Supply is 2.5 maybe 3, trading 1 unit for 3 is a super good deal compared to other things. Limiting it to 2 uses seems to have made it harder to abuse but still a decent buy. You're going to use it as much as possible (and here's where Warehouse or remodeled Storage might come in handy), which is as much as 4 or 5 rounds, 2x/round, netting 1.5 units per use... 15 units is reasonable. Before it was more like 22 units!

This further supports that the I.T. department should only give +i4 income.

Research Lab: (')+Supply: (3,3) (max: 3 uses/round)
Trading 4 for 6 nets 2 units. Maybe 2.5, depending on how you value Supply. Another way to look at it is that the Supply and (') could get i3 from the R&T room, so using this nets $3 over that. Or it nets (1,1) over the upgraded R&T. If you use it to capacity then you make out pretty well, but it's difficult to acquire all that Supply.

Basically you net 2 units per use, 3 uses per turn, for 4 turns, you could net 24 or so out of this, but it's really hard. In that light maybe it should be limited to 2 uses to bring it in line with the other floors.

Construction Administration: (')(')('): Place (') in Construction Co.
Trading 3 units for 8, nets you 3 units. Or you could say turns (') into 2.67 units. A better deal than the Factory for sure, so maybe it should cost 4... problem is that you run into (') limits, such a high cost in (') means it's difficult to use. It might need to go back to 4 (') if it turns out to be too good.

Public Relations: Do not drop in Popularity
No quantifiable benefit here, but you'll basically go first for the rest of the game, be stronger in the Merchandising aspect of the game, win the final tiebreak if it comes to that, and have an easy time scoring off of the Marketing Bonus floor. Seems fair in practice.

Conference Room: (')('): (0,4) (max: 2 uses/round)
This turns (') into 2 units, like the Factory. It's allowed 2x/round, so at a maximum you can net 16-20 units over the course of the game, which seems fine.

Does the game really need another source of Info? This floor might get cut if it isn't bought much.

Phase III Floors:
Accounting Department: (')(')('): (6,0) (max: 3 uses/round)
Getting large amounts of cash is very difficult during the game. This is a Phase 3 floor, meaning you get it very late in the game, You only get 1 or 2 rounds to use it, and even if you max out it's use you net 9 units for 2 rounds so 18 units, all money. If you're getting this, it's instead of a Bonus Floor, so that money will have to be pretty important as it's costing you about 3 points in opportunity cost. I like how this works here.

Marketing: (')('): 1 Broadcast
I haven't seen this used, but it seems like a decent buy... compared to Marketing on the street, this turns 1 (') into (3,3) - a REALLY good deal. But the benefit only helps turn order. If it never gets used then maybe it would need to become a Phase 2 floor and cost (')(')(') to use or something.

Marketing Bonus: +2pp per Popularity Level
Retention Bonus: +1pp per Employee
Improvement Bonus: +1pp per Remodeled Room
Production Bonus: +1pp per Supply
Executive Bonus: +1pp per "Bonus" Floor
Corporate Merger Bonus: +3pp
Corner Office Bonus: +3pp

All of these Bonus floors seem about right - they give you 2pp if you do badly, 3 to 6 if you do well. They reward various different positions, and they all seem doable. I like them as they are. Is there one that could become a Small T.I.? That might be neat.


Seth Jaffee said...

Andrew pointed out something to me and he has a really good point...

The "new and improved" Conference Room ((')('): (0,4) max 2 uses) is not any better (and is in fact worse) than the upgraded Meeting Room. It turns (') into 2 info, but you have to do it 2 times at once, and you can only do it 4 times a round at most. The floor does come with 5pp attached to it, so maybe it's a reasonable buy for someone who didn't upgrade their Meeting Room. But it seems like the ability should be better than Meeting Room, even after remodeling it.

There are 4 ways to deal with this situation:

1. Leave it as is, but I suspect the floor really isn't good enough

2. Cut the building altogether - how many ways do players really need to get more information in the midgame?

3. Increase the value received from the Conference Room... maybe up it to (')('): (0,5)

4. Decrease the value of the remodeled Meeting Room back to (')('): (0,3) like it used to be.

Honestly, I could see any of these working, and I'm not sure which is best. Right now I'm leaning against option #1, but the other three options seem about equivalent. I think a deciding factor will be whether the remodeled Meeting Room is too strong at ('): (0,2) or not.

etothepi said...

You have a problem with your "units" cost.

3 (') "necessarily" costs $3 (outside Interns). 3i, however, does NOT "necessarily" cost 3 ('), nor 3 (').

There is a "sufficient" path to acquire 3i via 3 ('), but it is not "necessary" to do so. Firing is also not a "necessary" relationship.

Perhaps a better way to see problems with the "equations" is the following series of relationships:

$3 -> 3 (') (hiring)
3 (') -> $3 (firing)
3 (') -> 3i (Meeting)

So, it seems rather clear that 3(') = $3, as a base price. There isn't, however, any way to make 3i -> $3, nor 3i -> 3(').

This may account for why a glut of info piles up by the end of the game.

Seth Jaffee said...

Eric has a point, $1 or 1(') are not fully interchangeable with i1. However I consider that the point of the game is to deal with that translational restriction, and that the value of those units are similar enough to make these comparisons.

Similarly, I could argue that once you start building T.I.s and floors, the whole 1-1 relationship between (') and $ goes out the window because your floors make you more efficient... but that's not useful right now since we're trying to determine the benefit of a floor compared to that baseline 1-1 comparison.

I think in a similar way it's useful to use the 1-1-1 relationship for this purpose even though you can't navigate it fully in both directions.

Seth Jaffee said...

A bigger error I made was in reference to the Construction Administration. I don't know if it was a typo, or if i was in a hurry, but I clearly wrote "Trading 3 units for 8, nets you 3 units..." which is just bad math. It nets you *5* units.

Today I revisited the Floors again (with a shorter game in mind) and looked at total net unit gain per floor, to see if the Phase 2 floors all had a similarly valued benefit, and as you might imagine, a net gain of 5 units per use (which is head and shoulders better than other net gains per use) puts Construction Admin over the top... implying that it should indeed cost (')(')(')(') to activate (which would bring it in line with the other floors).

As I mentioned in this post though, I wanted to try making it cheaper because if noone ever has 4x(') available to spend on it, it simply will never get purchased. But I think that fear may have been premature - even at 4x(') the floor is a good deal, and it's OK if the guy with an intern and 1 employee doesn't buy it - the guy with 3 employees can benefit from it just fine. I think I'll be setting Construction Admin. back to 4x(') to activate.

Similarly, at (')(') to activate, the Factory doesn't net as much benefit as other floors over the course of the game (maybe that's to do with the shorter game?) - I think just (') to activate might be more fair, just as Wystan suggested.

DShort said...

Eric's point is well observed and accurate. But as Seth pointed out, I think this limitation is part of the problem that the game presents, and definitely part of the beauty of the game.