Why you shouldn't listen to financial advice from your bank
A sizeable chunk of my retirement savings is currently on a simple savings account, where the measly 0.1% interest rate I get is way below the inflation rate. So I am losing money, slowly. And my bank is writing me that they noticed the money on my savings account, and advise me to invest that money in one of their investment products instead. Sounds like good advice, doesn't it? Not so fast!
The large majority of investment advice you get, whether that is from professional bankers or dubious YouTube influencers, is backward looking: Look here, the investment product I am peddling gained this much over the last X months! That argument is very misleading, which is why the SEC actually requires funds to write "past performance is not indicative of future results" in their prospecti. In reality often the opposite is true: If a class of investment had a spectacular run over the last X months, it becomes increasingly likely that a "correction
" will happen, if not a downright crash. So if you want to decide whether to invest in shares, you should look at the Shiller price/earnings ratio
. This is currently 38.7, compared to a long-term average of 16; only just before the dotcom crash has this ever been higher. If you invest in shares or a fund based on shares now, chances are that somewhere in the next 12 months this correction or crash happens, and you lose a big chunk of your investment.
So why is the friendly banker advising me to invest now? Doesn't he know about price/earnings ratios? Well, it turns out that the banker has a conflict of interest. Because he is paid by the bank, his main goal is to assure that the bank is making money, not me. And my money on the savings account isn't making much money for my bank. If I would buy their investment products, my bank would get the usual mutual fund fees
. These fees are completely independent on how well the investment product is doing. In other words, the risk (which they were legally obliged to mention exists) is completely carried by me. If I buy an investment product from them and lose my shirt, my bank is still earning the same money. Advising me to invest is risk-free for my bank, but certainly not for me.
So how about alternative ways of investing? Buying meme stonks on RobinHood? Buying cryptocurrency? Well, I am not saying that one should never do that. But one has to be aware that this isn't investing. It's gambling. My personal experience with gambling is on the positive side: The one week of my life I spent in Vegas I ended up winning $700. But I had determined in advance how much I was willing to lose and set aside a $1000 pool for that. I would have stopped gambling if I had lost that, but luckily managed to win a bit instead. Fun, but not solid investment advice. Meme stonks, cryptocurrency, collectibles, or whatever else you heard on the internet was a surefire way to get rich quick are all gambling. You can win money, but it is far from certain, and most of these products can easily lose far more than a balanced share portfolio during a stock market crash. That is not the right investment product for my retirement savings. Feel free to set aside a sum of money that you could afford to lose and gamble with that, but not more!
Sometimes the best investment advice you can get is to not invest anything now. When you open your newspaper and read about a terrible stock market crash, that is probably the time to invest. Also, with inflation on the rise, sooner or later the interest rates on bonds are going to rise again. The ultra-low inflation / ultra-low interest rate era is a historical anomaly, and can't last forever. And while investment in housing for speculative reasons can be risky, investing in a house you plan to live in for years is relatively safe, if you don't get too much into mortgage debt for that. Me, I'm planning to do just that, and ignore the friendly advice letter from my bank.
While there are literally thousands of video games these days, there are a lot less different genres of video games, and some games play very much like each other. For example Humankind plays very much like Civilization, or, even more obviously, Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous plays a lot like Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Finding a game that *doesn't* play like something else is a rarity these days: This year I can think of only two, Wildermyth and the freshly released Dice Legacy
Dice Legacy calls itself a roguelike dice-based survival city builder, which is a handful. So is the game. My first recommendation, if you want to try it, would be to play your first game on easy difficulty. Otherwise you probably end up still trying to understand the mechanics of the game while some raiders burn down your whole city. In Dice Legacy you build a city/village/colony on a world that is the inside of a ring. So your map is not very wide, but quite long. The goal of the game is to extend your city once around the ring and capture the harbour building of the enemy at the other end.
To do that, you need to use your population, of which you can have only 12 (or slightly more, temporarily). But your population consists of dice in different colors. At the start, they are all peasant dice. Over time you can create citizen dice, soldier dice, merchant dice, and monk dice. Later you can even create custom construct dice. All the dice are 6-sided. You can only use the face showing up. For example a peasant has one "work" side, two "gather" sides, one "build" side, one "fight" side, and one "scout" side. Once a die is used, it becomes greyed out. You can roll your dice, which reactivates the greyed out ones, and gives you a random result on each of them.
The obvious difficulty with that is that if you need something specific fast, most often a "fight" result to battle some enemy raiders, you might not get that result on your roll and end up frantically rolling the dice several times. But each time you roll the dice, their durability goes down, and then you need to recover that with food. Basically Dice Legacy plays a bit like a worker placement board game, but with the randomness of dice, and the added pressure of stuff happening in real time.
Personally I like Dice Legacy very much. One negative review compares the game to a "timed IQ test". I would agree, but I see that more as a positive. This is *not* a casual game at all. You really need to think hard and fast to make it work in face of the randomness. The game is quite challenging, even at "standard" difficulty, and once you win a game like that, there are different ways to make it even harder.
Having said that, I'm pretty sure that I will play this for 10+ hours, and then uninstall it. Each game is only a few hours, and it does get repetitive, so there isn't all that much replay value. The "roguelike" aspect isn't really well designed: You can "ascend" dice and take up to 2 improved dice into your next game; but getting improved dice and ascending them is more or less already an end-game activity. If you set the difficulty too high and lose the game, you aren't likely to get to any ascended dice, and thus the next game isn't going to be any easier. The different rulers aren't adding much variety, and the different scenarios are more designed to be punishing in some way, instead of offering much variety.
So I definitively wouldn't recommend Dice Legacy to everybody. If you are okay to pay 20 bucks for 10 hours of very challenging puzzle gameplay, this might be the game for you. If you are looking for something more casual, or prefer action over thinking, then you might not be the target audience. The Steam reviews are "mixed" for that reason.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous army management
I mentioned in my previous post on this game that Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous has a sub-game which plays a bit like battles from Heroes of Might & Magic. Now I played that system a bit, I can say more.
Just like in Heroes of Might & Magic, you will have armies with a general moving on the main map, and once they meet an enemy army, battle ensues. Battles are on a square grid, turn-based, and your general can participate by for example casting spells. Unlike Heroes of Might & Magic, you can have a certain amount of losses and recover them at the end of the battle, so a series of battles with minor losses doesn't diminish your army size. You can hire fresh troops every week, get some troops through events or dialogue options with your adventuring group, and you general gets stronger by earning xp.
The interesting part is how the army game interacts with the adventuring group role-playing game. Basically each army has a movement limit per day, while your adventuring party consumes time by movement and resting. This forces you to constantly switch between the two games: You play your army until you run out of movement for it, then play your adventuring group until you reach the next day, where you can again move your army. The enemy armies on the main map are visible both in army mode and in adventuring mode. And in adventuring mode, they simply block the road. So you need to move your army and beat the enemy army that blocks the way for your adventuring group.
I find the system is okay as long you like both RPGs and fantasy tactical battle games. There is more "game" to the army part of Wrath of the Righteous than there was game in the kingdom management part of Kingmaker. However, just like in Heroes of Might & Magic, you better make sure not to occur permanent losses to your army, as that would seriously hinder your progress in the game. While you can turn gold from your adventuring into resources to buy soldiers, the number of soldiers you can hire per week is very limited, and rebuilding a lost army would take a very long time. If you really lose a battle, you are basically forced to save scum and try something else. The strength of the enemy armies tells you what you can beat, and that tells you where your adventuring party can go, which is an interesting new approach on progressively unlocking world map locations.
Do you want to win a lot of RPG and board games?
It is in the very nature of lotteries that your chances of winning are slim. But when you can enter a lottery for free, a slim chance to win big isn't all that bad. There is a Giveaway action to win a Complete 5E Book Collection + Any 3 Boardgames You Want + Tanares RPG. Tanares RPG is a Kickstarter project for 5E compatible RPG books, and as a promotion for that, Dragori Games is doing this giveaway lottery. You can improve your chances of winning by watching some YouTube videos, and by spreading the word, which is what I am doing with the link above. So the more people click on that link, the higher my chances of getting about a cubic meter of game material. Then you can create and publish your own link, and we have a nice pyramid scheme going. :) But seriously, the link gives a lot less "lottery tickets" than the YouTube videos, so those are probably your best bet.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous
On Thursday, Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous was released. And for once, I bought a game at release. Or, actually, a day before release, in order to get the pre-order bonuses. So, how is the game?
In a nutshell, Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is pretty much the same game as Pathfinder: Kingmaker, without the kingdom management. Instead it gets a "Heroes of Might & Magic" style sub-game, but I haven't reached that yet. If you have played neither Kingmaker nor Wrath, well, Kingmaker is €20, and Wrath is €50, and Wrath certainly isn't more than twice as good as Kingmaker. Neither one of the Pathfinder games is especially beginner-friendly. Wrath has 25 classes, with around 5 sub-classes each. Unless you know the system quite well, you are likely to have no idea which one of the over 100 options to choose and end up with a premade character. Or you spend several hours searching the internet for the perfect build for your character, which makes the character much more efficient, but not necessarily more fun to play. In any case, there aren't that many fundamental roles in a party, so those 100+ subclasses are definitely overkill.
After having started Kingmaker with a cleric, and then started over with a wizard, this time I directly went for the wizard. Of course I ended up with lots of wizard-y companions and only one cleric-y companion. And Owlcat games subtly nerfed arcane spellcasters by making the story about battling demons, which are more likely to have spell resistances or elemental resistances than the enemies in Kingmaker. On the other hand, wizard is still a very fun class to play. And once you leave the tutorial mission and get into the proper game, the first vendor is selling all scrolls that your wizard might ever want to learn spells from, which removes a major disadvantage of that class.
Wrath of the Righteous, like the patched version of Kingmaker, can be played in turn-based mode. Which is what I prefer. My group is only level 3, but there are already so many different options that they have in combat, that I would find real-time combat far too chaotic to be fun. Outside combat, the game is mostly about doing quests and having character dialogue, sometimes involving skill checks. You follow these quests to various locations on the main map, each of which then is a battle map to explore and do your quests in. Wrath is to Kingmaker what XCOM 2 is to XCOM 1: In the sequel the bad guys won and your job is it to get the good guys back up again.
As I liked Kingmaker and played it for over 180 hours, Wrath of the Righteous is a nice enough game for me. I would have wished for more improvements over Kingmaker, especially in terms of loot and inventory management. But other than a button to sell all junk loot, the game is still pretty much the same here. Basically I would only recommend Wrath of the Righteous to people who already played Kingmaker and want more of the same.
The pitfalls of stopping immigration
Pretty much any right-wing party in the world has some sort of anti-immigration manifest in their program. While completely incorrect, the assertion that immigrants rape your women, steal your jobs, and exploit welfare benefits are often rather popular among voters. The part that nobody tells you is the economic reality, where immigrants are often essential to fill the worst-paid jobs. So, what happens if you actually kick all those foreigners out? Well, nothing good
It turns out that cheap foreign labor is actually necessary for the lifestyle we are leading. Immigrants not only pick the fruits, they also drive the trucks / lorries that make up the supply chain necessary to bring those fruit (and everything else) to the supermarket shelves. Rather than "stealing" anybody's job, immigrants take the jobs that the native population doesn't want, because those jobs are uncomfortable and underpaid.
So now Brexit has turned into an interesting socio-economic experiment. If Britain can't fuel their supply chains with cheap foreign labor, what are the alternatives? How much do you have to improve working conditions to make these jobs actually acceptable to the locals? And how much would for example food prices in supermarkets go up if you paid truck / lorry drivers a decent wage? First estimates are between 6% and 9%, and the average shopper won't like that.
While I am sure that politicians will blame others (in Britain that "others" is usually the EU) for those problems and the inflation that follows, it would be worth starting a more honest discussion around immigration with those voters. How much *do* they actually hate immigration? How much would they be willing to pay to keep immigrants out?
Cards and Dice
I was watching the D&D Beyond Honest Trailer
, and remarked how awkward the service sits between the two chairs of real life gaming and digital gaming. I spent a lot of money on D&D Beyond, mostly to buy digital versions of books I already own in physical form. But I prefer the legal digital version to some pirated pdf version. Plus the character creation tool and database are nice. But the one feature that is now most heavily advertised is the one I never use: Chucking digital dice. I don't mind digital dice on Roll20, but there the whole D&D game is online. D&D Beyond doesn't have a virtual tabletop; and if I am sitting with friends around a table, real dice are an important part of the experience, and a lot more fun than digital ones.
I am a big fan of dice. Yes, they create randomness, and some people don't like it. But the impact depends on the game system. Often board games have means to mitigate the randomness, like rerolls. And ultimately the fun comes from the outcome not being certain, and the dice creating a risk to be managed. In D&D, dice ideally become the "third party" around the table, next to DM and players; especially lucky or unlucky outcomes turn into memorable story moments that weren't foreseeable by neither the DM nor the players.
Another popular method to create randomness in games are cards. However, cards are slightly different than dice, in that earlier results impact future results. Imagine a hypothetical deck of 6 cards, simply numbered 1 to 6. Drawing 3 cards from that deck isn't the same as throwing 3d6. Even if you had a thicker deck, with 18 cards, each number from 1 to 6 appearing 3 times, the chance of "drawing" an 18 is lower than the chance of "rolling" an 18 with 3d6. Every time you draw a card, you change the probability distribution of the remainder of the cards, until you reshuffle. The thinner the deck, the bigger the impact.
As a result, cards don't work well for slim decks. For example my experience with LOTR: Journeys in Middle-earth, where the decks are very thin and have to be reshuffled very frequently. I was trying to play that game solo, and ultimately gave up, because then I had to constantly reshuffle the decks of every character. Dice would have worked better for me there, although I understand that it isn't possible, because the deck manipulation of keeping or returning cards with successes to change probabilities is an important part of that game. But while I am good at shuffling large decks (to the horror of some other players I riffle-shuffled by Magic the Gathering decks, without using sleeves), I find shuffling thin decks repeatedly extremely annoying.
In the end, it is probably a question of numbers: Cards scale down badly to thin decks, because of the shuffling, and the extreme impact of a single card draw on the probability of the rest. Dice work well in small numbers, but you wouldn't want a game system that requires you to physically roll 60 dice.
I recently wrote about the board game Descent, saying that I wouldn't buy it, because it is too expensive for me. But I predicted that the game is important, because it tests the market acceptability of a $175 board game outside of crowdfunding. Since then, I have seen several videos on YouTube from board game channels discussing the high price of Descent and some Kickstarter games. And in one of them, Alex of BoardGameCo mentions that 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck (and that was from data before the pandemic).
In the context of my work, and with me being part of the Boomer generation, I have also been reading up and watching videos on generational conflict. Millenials think that they have it much worse than Boomers, and they believe that the Boomer generation deliberately went out of their way to screw them. Looking at various economic data, it is obvious that in many respects Millenials *do* have it economically much worse than Boomers. But while Boomers might occasionally give well-meant but not very relevant comments to Millenials about success being a consequence of life choices and values, the idea of a generational conspiracy against the younger generation is pretty absurd. If you study human behavior, one recurring psychological trait of humans is that they go out of their way to make life better for their children. Not that they always do a very good job, see for example climate change. But it is extremely unlikely to the point of ridicule that a whole generation joined in a conspiracy to make life for their children economically worse.
On an individual level, I believe that your economic success comes from a mixture of luck, economic circumstances, and life choices. If you take a whole population, the influence of luck and life choices becomes statistical noise, and only the economic circumstances remain. If 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, it basically means that the whole economic system is rigged against what Marx would have called the proletariat, the social class of wage-earners. A large part of the inequality comes from the different tax treatment of wages and capital gains, heavily favoring people living from capital income. Thus the famous story that Warren Buffet pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. Or, as he says: "There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.".
Now obviously there is some correlation between age and wealth, older people are richer than younger people, and increasingly so. But there are a lot of older people that are poor. And as easy it is to make fun of the hippy generation 50 years later, at least they would have correctly identified the problem as one of class warfare. The identity politics, including generational identity politics, of the last decades are mostly a distraction from that. Basically the economic circumstances that were kicked off in the 80's by the Reagan/Thatcher power couple, with less regulation and more globalisation, created winners and losers. And the so-called "knowledge workers" ended up on the side of the winners. Which was a bit of a moral problem for them, because they were leftist intellectuals. So the left abandoned class warfare, and replaced the struggle for better economic conditions for wage-earners by identity politics. You don't protest to "tax the rich" if you *are* comparatively rich.
I think that the old school left politics are superior: If we taxed capital gains as much as wages, and gave workers a fairer share of the wealth they help create, a lot of of the identity-based social problems would be solved at the same time. Better economic conditions for low-income wage-earners would help black families far more than some well-off white intellectual carrying a "Black Lives Matter" placard. That isn't communism (which obviously didn't work). Nobody should want to turn the USA into communist Russia. But we should want to turn the USA (and everywhere else) into a Scandinavian country. Because it has been shown that their economic system works, and makes people much happier.
Curse of Strahd - Session 8
The Curse of Strahd campaign is only advancing slowly, due to European Summer holidays. In the previous session
, the group gained an ally in Rudolph van Richten, a famous vampire hunter. That was lucky, because in this session a new player joined the group, and he is now playing Rudolph (by name, I still let him make any character class etc. that he wanted).
The largest part of this session was taken up by a long battle against Baba Lysaga, a witch and former nursemaid to Strahd, who thinks of him as "her son". In order to help Strahd, Baba Lysaga orchestrated the attacks on the Wizards of Wine, as the Martikov family of wereravens are enemies to Strahd. So she has the third gem that produces the best wine if brought back to the vineyard. But she planted that gem into the heart of the large tree in which her hut is built, and that brought the tree to life. So the combat was against the witch flying in an upturned giant dragon skull and a ginormous tree who hit very hard. But the group managed to kill them both.
In Baba Lysaga's hut, they found a surprise: A crying baby. It was even more of a surprise when the gnome found the "baby" to be too heavy to lift. It turned out to be a clay golem with orders to behave as a baby. Creepy, but otherwise harmless. The group recovered the gem, and then also found the second artifact they were looking for against Strahd. As their fortune reading had told them, it was hidden in the monument to a local girl which was a previous reincarnation of Strahd's love Tatyana. The locals had killed the girl, rather than give her to Strahd, which then made Strahd destroy the whole village.
The group brought the gems to the vineyard, and then remembered another task they had been asked to perform: Bringing a wedding dress to the abbot in Krezk. However, two sessions previous to that
, they had brought a young werewolf to the abbey, not wanting to bring him to Vallaki. They new that the abbey was full of crazy mongrelfolk, former humans who had accepted "help" from the abbot, who had made them "better" by replacing various of their body parts by animal parts. You must imagine these mongrelfolk as being very open to gaining animal power by scarifying their humanity. So when the group came to the abbey, they found the place full of 80 werewolves, with a somewhat angry abbot. That turned out to be a fight they couldn't win, and they had to turn and run. [None of that is planned in the module, but it seemed a logical development, as well as narrative gothic horror gold.]
The group then decided to go towards Amber Temple, the location of the third artifact against Strahd. That artifact is the Sunsword, which is also the patron of the Hexblade / Paladin of the group. To get to Amber Temple, the group needs to go over Tsolenka Pass, which is what will be upcoming in the next session.
Not disappointed in Humankind
While humankind is sometimes disappointing, Humankind from Amplitude Studios
turned out to be exactly what I expected it to be, which is kind of a Civilization 6.5. You lead your tribe from the neolithic era to modern times on a hex-based map, explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate (4X). The main difference to Civ is that you don't lead one civilization, but you choose a different one in each era. In my current game I started with the Harappans for quick growth, then went with the Huns to conquer the continent I was on, then concentrated on builders with the Khmer, improved my influence with the Ming, went for builders again with the Siamese, and finished with the expansionist Soviets. This system, and the nomadic era in which you start, works quite well, and I would judge it as an improvement over Civ.
Through all these eras, you and your competitors keep the same avatar, who is just dressing differently in each era. By playing several games, you can unlock strengths and biases, with which you can equip the AI persona of your own avatar. Via a website your friends can then download your avatar, and play against a virtual "you". Interesting idea, horrible execution. The avatars are mostly uncanny valley kind of ghastly. And the systems to find avatars to download, and to include them as opponents in your game are both very badly done and annoying. You will miss the opponent selection of Civ.
World creation is working quite well. I played two games with 3 and 4 continents, with a total number of 4 and 6 players. With the "new world" option set to yes, each time there were exactly 2 players per continent, and one empty one to discover. Last time I played Civ 6, that sort of world was a lot harder to set up, but I don't know if it improved since then with updates and DLCs. While I do like the kind of world where there is an uninhabited continent to discover, in reality it turns out that it is a huge bonus to the player, as even AIs with "maritime" traits never manage to find that continent before you. In fact, pathfinding for ships that should stay in coastal waters is horrible, and even when you have ships that can go everywhere and you set them to "auto explore", they just go around in circles. Last time I tried, Civ wasn't doing much better with ships. Maybe I should just set the world to "Pangea" and not bother with ships. One interesting change from Civ is that the world is divided into territories, so you don't need to "create" territories with city districts.
Overall, playing Humankind felt a lot like playing Civ. You get in that "one more turn" mindset and suddenly hours have passed. Fun enough for a while. I have been playing "normal" game length of 300 turns, and every time the game reaches a tipping point way before that, where you already know you won (or lost) the game, and just have to click through turns to finish. While there are a number of different win conditions, you can also win by simply having the most fame at the end of the game, which is a nice way of keeping score. Maybe I should play shorter games, there are options for 150 or even just 75 turns, and you can always opt to keep playing afterwards. How many turns you want to play is hard to predict, as a turn can be very fast if you don't have any units moving around, but can take very long if you are mobilizing large armies or exploring a lot.
While not exactly a "Civ Killer", Humankind is a very nice game that is similar enough to appeal to anyone who liked Civ, but different enough to offer something new. I don't know if I would have wanted to pay €50 for that. Fortunately I am playing for "free*", as the game is on XBox Game Pass for PC since release. Weirdly the Game Pass version is minimally different from the other versions, e.g. you can't rename cities and armies in the Game Pass version, but you can in the version available on Steam or Epic. The game still has a few minor bugs, e.g. with battle area previews not going away, but nothing gamebreaking. If you are a subscriber to the Game Pass, you should definitively check this out!
Einstein once said that education is that which is left after you forgot everything you learned at school. In the past week, I launched two games that I hadn't played for some time, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and World of Tanks. For Zelda, I was trying out the NFC cards I bought as cheaper alternative to amiibo. For World of Tanks I had received a mail telling me to log in to get anniversary rewards. The experience in both cases was similar: Although I have over 15,000 battles played in World of Tanks, and over 200 hours of Zelda, I had problems remembering all the controls. For Zelda it took some trial and error to find how to activate amiibo rewards. For World of Tanks it was more a feeling of not feeling all that comfortable remembering all the tactics for each tank on each map, so I didn't start a battle at all.
That is not to say that I have completely forgotten these games. In Zelda it just took one look at my surroundings to know where I was. The map of Hyrule is in my head, and I would have had no problems to navigate from one point to another. And in World of Tanks I had no problems remembering what the rewards I received were good for. And I know the World of Tanks controls well enough to be able to play, it's just the terrain knowledge one needs to play well that faded.
In both cases, I could relearn. However, only for Zelda do I actually consider starting a new game, in which case the Great Plateau would teach me all the controls again quickly. I might actually wait until I forgot a bit more about the game, as the fun of playing is all about exploration. For World of Tanks it takes way too long to "git gud" again, and the fun is less in the playing than in the mastering of the game. I already once stopped for years, and taking it up again was a rather long process which took a lot of effort. I don't think I would enjoy playing this casually from time to time and sucking at it. Especially since World of Tanks is a game in slow decline
I am wondering whether I have a rather specific memory, that I forget about certain things in games, like the controls. Or whether that is perfectly normal, because we tend to remember "experiences" longer than "muscle memory" fine motor skills and game details. How are your experiences with starting old games again?
I nearly fell for buying Humankind
When I opened my Epic Games Launcher today, it told me that I had only 4 more days to pre-order Humankind for $10 off and some pre-order bonuses. As I was faintly aware of the game as being basically Civilization 7, I started to wonder whether I should actually pre-order. Fortunately I decided to solve that question by doing some research, and that research came up with a very surprising answer: I absolutely shouldn't pay $50 to pre-order Humankind, because I can get it for free instead.
Well, maybe put an asterisk next to "free*", as it isn't free "free". I get Humankind for "free*" because I already pay $10 per month for an Xbox Game Pass for PC. And Humankind will be on that game pass right from the first day of release. In other words, I can mentally substract $50 from this year's tally where I compare the $120 annual cost of the game pass to the amount of money it saves me on buying games.
Obviously that fact isn't advertised on the Epic Games Launcher. I mean, they would be bloody stupid to do so. If you have neither Humankind nor the Game Pass, you have an option of either buying Humankind and being able to play it forever, or spending the same money on 5 months of Game Pass, and playing a whole bunch of different games for that period. You would need to be a pretty extreme Humankind fan in order to make the former look better than the latter. The large majority of games I play, I play for significantly less than 5 months. I only played Civ6 for 40 hours (but Civ5 for 80 hours).
So my problem is mostly that I am not always aware of the games coming to Xbox Game Pass, and I might accidentally buy a game and then find I could have played it for "free*". Is there a newsletter I could sign up for somewhere?