suppose that bc/t didn't exist... that's a pretty blunt instrument, but it's simple and covers up a lot of economic problems - Zed, posted at Stardock.
This is truly the killer issue, but it is only half the equation.
EVERYTHING in GalCiv turns on relations. If you have stable relations, you are in no jeopardy whatsoever. If you do not, you're out in the cold. The only element TO this game at its highest level is managing those early relations. The rest is timing, finesse, and style points -- all irrelevant to the outcome. So if bct is on the table, unrestricted, for most games, the top-skilled players will not be challenged.
This has been a fundamental weakness in the CFC GOTM tourney since its early days. They would often play on lower difficulties, where all the top performers would totally smash the game, never being in any jeopardy of losing, with the comparisons about who squoze the most efficiency, crushed by the largest amount, or milked the most score. That is not a standard I would be happy for settling for in any official RB tournament.
So Zed says take the option off the table. That won't fly either. The relations are just as important in the other direction. If you have stable relations, you can't lose. If you don't, your only option is war. The AI's are not sophisticated in their dealings. They always have a war-footing game plan. In a sense, they have to to keep with other AI's who do. There's nothing TO these AI's except the arms race. They couldn't manage their way out of a paper bag with their starbases. They have no starbase strategy other than to grab any available resource and add improvements (mostly mining and defenses) to those.
With bct off the table, the total certainty of security is removed, but the mechanism for achieving the all-important stable relations remains the same. Just that instead of using credit, player focuses on other means of achieving the same thing: techs, ships, cash.
The AI can't manage transports. The fact that attackers gain a ridiculous 8 to 1 average advantage during planetary assaults, in the game's early phases, papers over their incompetence. Later, when techs and wonders and planetary defense improvements kick in, that gross imbalance is rectified and they can't do squat.
The AI can't manage a cultural victory. It is totally clueless about both offensive and defensive use of culture via starbase.
The AI can't DEFEAT the player with tech, only end the player's ability to win by tech. This is at least the one late-game threat Civ3 AI's can manage. If space is active, you're on the clock, because the AI's will launch if they beat you to all the ship part techs. GalCiv has no such late game threat in ANY form.
That the AI is ruthless and brutal if it gets an advantage -- AND player allows relations to fall -- is what makes GalCiv "harder" to play than Civ3. But that is all there is to the game, surviving that stage and mopping up. The better you expand, the easier it may be. The more wonders you grab, the easier it may be. But it's the end-all be-all of the game.
If BCT is off the table, player will not be able to buy one AI to attack another. Since this has "legitimate" uses, there goes a primary tool for playing the game, a whole list of tactics and elements wiped out by the bct restriction.
If BCT is off the table, player can't buy trade goods.
If BCT is off the table, the urgency of min/maxing trade opportunities becomes grossly distorted. Then the outcome shifts to who is more tireless and dilligent with poring over the trade possibilities, rather than playing the game.
If BCT is off the table, the dice take on a larger role in the game. Two players with nearly equal performances, both doing "barely enough" to maintain stable relations with a vital neighbor... one may catch a break or two on the dice, and have just enough to maintain those relations, while the other has dice break against him, and comes up just barely short of being able to pay cash to keep relations stable, he gets an extra extortion demand or some other result of this minor difference, and the death spiral begins for him.
So on the one hand we have bct being all important and nearly all powerful, if unrestricted. On the other hand, we have a hogtied game situation where taking it off the table will force many players to lose.
There is TOO MUCH riding on the stability of relations.
The more I look at my own boundaries, the more I realize that they are too-conveniently drawn. Yeah, I may be losing a few games Jaxom is not, by not using bct to buy relations upgrades. I may not be spending it to buy EVERYONE to war and keep them there, but if I couldn't ever buy anybody to war, I'd be losing more games. And for what? Where's the meaning?
This games needs to be about more than stable relations. Until it is, no rule about bct spending is going to fix anything. In fact, if you try, you'll break more than you fix. Of that, I'm certain.
Think of the Civ3 city density issue. We all recognize that ICS density breaks the game. Yet we also recognize legitimate applications for founding cities close together does exist. This leaves us with no way to write a fair and meaningful rule on the issue. So we leave it up to players to decide.
But that's NOT with the whole game riding on the line! In Civ3, you can found your cities farther apart and still have every chance to succeed at the game. You don't NEED densely packed cities to perform well.
In GalCiv, you NEED stable relations. You at least need them with most of your rivals. Maybe you can afford one war, maybe even two, depending on who it is, how far away, the strength of your alignment-based allies and their positions, etc. Yet you can't afford to let a runaway neighbor come after you or it's over.
With that much riding on the line, leaving the decision to the player's judgement won't work. The line will get pushed around as far as it needs to go, in each case, to survive. That's the standard I find myself using, and if I can't manage it for myself with nothing on the line, I WON'T ask others to try to do so in a tournament.
That was always the standard that worked for me with the Epics: if a rule was too odious for me to enjoy playing under it on my own time, with nothing at stake, it would not fly for a tournament. If I could live comfortably within it, then it at least warranted further consideration.
Jaxom has opened Pandora's Box in SG3, but it is not his fault. Actually, I'm grateful. This is far short of a no-brainer "just take it off the table" type of issue.
The gameplay needs more dimension, in the form of AI upgrades, so that the AI's pose more than one type of threat to the player. Right now, the ONLY threat the AI poses is early military threat, and that ONLY because they get a ridiculous advantage on invasion that allows them to send one billion to wipe out seven or eight billion.
They ARE quite strong with that threat, but it is the only threat they pose, and it is not enough, in my judgement. It is especially not enough when there is an easy answer to buy your way out of any such threat, with or without bct on the table.
Unless you can come up with a suitable answer for these dilemmas, you will not enjoy my support for any tournment moving forward. I may even actively oppose it.
Should we try to get the attention of Stardock? Brad and Cari? I don't know. If they could design into their AI an ability to use starbases wisely, why would they not have already done so? An ability to use stacks and fleet formations and grouped transports wisely... An ability to use terror stars, to defend against terror stars, to do something, ANYTHING, besides throw their entire military directly at the enemy...
The game design and rules are not the problem, in my view. The AI needs to be stronger, with more options on the table. As Jaxom pointed out, at least in Civ3 the AI's can manage the space race. That gives them something besides military conquest, and can keep games competitive into the late stages. In GalCiv, only a runaway AI can compete, and even they can always be bought off, with credit or cash.
After putting GalCiv through the rigors of a few SG's, I just don't think it can stand up in its current form to an RB standard of quality in a tournament. That the most vocal players at Stardock focus more on playing the Metaverse than the game has not served the game's evolution very well. Certainly, none of the data about player tactics collected by Stardock through Metaverse submissions will be of any use to them. Even in my games, I often use exploits without care once I'm past the "can't lose" point and just trying to wrap it up so the score will apply toward our empire.
The game might still be tweaked to where a tourney could be worth doing, but it's just not there yet, in my view.