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Subject: "imbalanced markers" in a 2 player game. rss

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Tomislav Bodrozic
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Hi guys,

first of all i apologise if this is not the right forum for this discussion. I am new here.

I consider myself a very strong player at this game and what i actually want to achieve in this thread is in my opinion an interesting discussion (i think i did not see it in any other thread so far)on my thesis:

First of all, what i am talking about is the version of St.Pete with both addons(it should also work for the basic game). Another essential point is that right now i am only considering 2 player game:

Lets consider Player A to have workers(green) and Buildings(blue) and Player B to have aristocrats (red) and Updates in first round. I consider player B to have a statistical advantage by default ("By default" is something i would like compare with chess, where it is to be considered for white having a tiny edge without any external influences)

So what is the reasoning for this?

Well, this needs a bit deeper thought. There are some exceptional cases in St.Pete, for example 3 lumberjacks and 1 peasant first round or Judge and -1 guy poping up. The latter i would consider as game-deciding. However, i am not talking about a specific case, but a more general approach. In an average game, the leading player in green has a rubeladvantage of about 2-3 rubels.

Still, i consider the very first round to be crucial for Player A. First of all he depends a lot on his hopefully existing advantage in green. Furthermore it also depends on what goodies pop up in Blue. I consider warehouse to be the best card of all. This is something, which i will explain a bit later. Next card i consider very good is coffe-house(2 player game). It is the same like the other 2 money-cumulating cards, tax man and major. They can be game- deciding. While the other goodies are by far not useless, they are not useful in the beginning of the game. Either they waste handspace like observatory or crucial money like pub, village. It might be only 1-2 rubel, but even this can mean a lot in the beginning of the game. Still it makes little sense to leave an observatory to player B in this case. So i would always take it out, even if it would mean to open up a space for the opponent.

So in a normal follow up, 2-3 red spots are being set free in round 1. The same goes for Update. Already this i consider a big advantage for player B. It is due to the fact, that depending on how much money he has and also what kind of cards poped up in blue, he can consider having more cards in red and Update. Furthermore, like this he may aim for an odd number in green, which could give him an edge moneywise in green. Even an expensive 9 green is a good card being bought by round 2. It rarely makes sense for player A to go for a 4th card.
Additional to that, in case of 2 cards in Update, it is not a rare case, that the second card is much less useful, or at least not useful in the beginning of the game. In that case he either has to take out a cheap blue or that update. Both cards use up handspace. Of course, this can also happen in any other case, however here i consider it having a higher impact. To understand this reasoning, one has to have some experiences in how a 2 player game in most cases proceeds for the first 3 rounds:

Lets say player A picked up a blue card in round 1 to open up a space in red (assuming he did not pick up a warehouse). He buys the red card and ends up picking up a card in Update, as to get a green card in round 2. So, normally player A ends up with having 2 out of 3 handspaces filled.

In round 2 there are 2 spaces(due to the green cards), which open up for Blue. The chances of something popping up are very slim, but that is no harm to Player B. To be honest, i consider this to be the normal case and even the worst case for player A. If he did not have the warehouse as picked up card in round 1, he, in my opinion, can consider now 2 options:

Either he fills up the last handspace with a blue card and goes for a risk-buying in red. This might work out, however, it is not something a good player relies on. Also it does not solve the issue on Updates. While you might buy the red card, you are leaving the card for Updates wide open for player B, as your handspace is filled up(of course there is the possibility of another buying out, but that is even more random and leaves you with even less money). While it is very good to have a lot of moneymakers in red, their expensive/moneygain-ratio is much worse compared to most of the green cards. So wasting money in red in round 2, has to be considered wisely. The reason for this is in the 2-6 ratio. 2 fresh cards and 6 lower cards. It is logical for both players to assume, that at least 6 green cards are popping up. And that is a very important point and something i would call a fact in most of the games. So you need to safe your money to get the maximum out of your green income early on. Having a non-justified income disadvantage in green is a big issue. Of course, it might make sense to play a 12 red in round 2 being the startingplayer in red, but as i said it is not something to be predicted, while i also said that due to the handspace-dilemma, player A has no riskfree option here. There is also the chance that he might play out some of his handcards, but this costs some money and i consider only warehouse to make any real sense, as player A would need 3 handspaces on that occasion(one to take out a blue card and 2 more, each for one card in red and update). Paying a pub or village out of hand wastes the same amount of money, but does not considerably improve your situation, while you might have wasted some crucial money in green.
The next option is just to skip both red and Update(yes with you being first player there!). I dont know how many of you will laugh at me, but i consider it the most solid and viable option(at least in general). I used it like that a lot and also saw it being played a lot like that. It really leaves you in a worse position, but i consider it more important, to have a solid green income rather than gambling on red and update.

In comparison, Player B has a very easy life in round 2. He just has to follow the tactical approach to pass along all the way, basically wasting no money in round 2. Like this he should have at least 15 rubel for round 3. This is definitely enough to buy 2 green cards(it may happen, that the third card is a 9 green). Though even in that case he has some options, as to buy an additional red card in round 3 or use up the Upgradecard from round 1(any green-upgrade or cheap moneycard blue or moneycard red, depending if i have a 4 or 7 red played out is good enough). This definitely compensates a missing expensive card for round 3. I consider this one of the biggest advantages for player B.

Next, it is very likely that each player ends up last round with the same markers as in round 1. So player B ends up with one more round of begin ahead in red and Updates. Now, let player A skip his turns in round 2, this gives player B a considerable advantage just by default.
Of course, player A can steer the game into 1 round shorter or longer, but this affords long-term-planning and is not always possible or feasible. First of all, it depends a lot of the green cards popping up and a lot of cheap blue cards, to buy out before blue. The blue-phase is the one going out in almost all games. So one has to increase the number of blue cards popping up. This is not always possible, while also there are some reasons for you not to do this (having observatory, higher income but much less points, lacking reds etc.)

It also makes little sense to me to skip red first round. In my opinion to not have a red card in round 1 to be a even bigger disadvantage.

What is your opinion on that? What are your approaches in such game-constellations?
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Michael Frost

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Yes, experienced players know immediately that a starting game can be completely imbalanced.

The two best starts are:

1. Going first in both aristocrats and upgrades. This should give you the best aristocrats and upgrades. And the player usually tries to ensure the game ends on the 7th round. If it does, he went first in aristocrats and upgrades 4 times versus only 3 for his opponent.

The probability of a win just based on this start is about 75%.

2. Going first in both workers and aristocrats. This should give you the cheapest workers and the best aristocrats. Esp. in a 7 round game.

The probability of a win just based on this start is about 65%.

In both cases above, the player is hoping to be able to buy a Judge on the 1st round. That Judge will be worth 14 VPs in a 7 round game and pay back 35 rubles.

In either start above, if the player can buy a Judge in the first round, the probability of a win is now about +10%.

The 3rd best start is to go first in buildings and aristocrats. What happens here is that normally in the 2nd round, the other player doesn't have enough space in his hand to store cards needed. Thus, he tends to forfeit getting any aristocrats in the 2nd round.

The probability of a win just based on this start is about 60%. Get the Judge and you're at 70%+.

So we all know when games are completely stacked in one player's favor and against the other player.
 
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Michael Frost

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The starts are:

1-2
1-3
1-4
2-3
2-4
3-4

Best:

3-4
1-3
2-3

Worst:

1-2
2-4
1-4

Where 1=Workers, 2=Buildings, 3=Aristocrats, 4=Upgrades

So, unfortunately, the "fairest" game is the 1-4 vs 2-3. Here the one player (A) gets cheaper workers and possibly better upgrades. The other player (B) gets the better buildings and aristocrats. The key for A is to hope a cheap building comes out on the 2nd round so you can either buy or store it and get an aristocrat on the 2nd round. Otherwise you have to forfeit getting an aristocrat on the 2nd round. And in a 7 round game it is Player A only 2 rounds best aristocrat while Player B gets 4 rounds best aristocrat. Even in an 8 round game, can be just 3-4 for best aristocrats.
 
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I usually buy an observatory in the first round and use it to get an extra Worker in the first two rounds, usually putting the Worker in hand. It may give up getting a Judge in the first round, but a Judge coming up is unlikely.
 
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Tomislav Bodrozic
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MPMelanchthon wrote:
Yes, experienced players know immediately that a starting game can be completely imbalanced.

The two best starts are:

1. Going first in both aristocrats and upgrades. This should give you the best aristocrats and upgrades. And the player usually tries to ensure the game ends on the 7th round. If it does, he went first in aristocrats and upgrades 4 times versus only 3 for his opponent.

The probability of a win just based on this start is about 75%.

2. Going first in both workers and aristocrats. This should give you the cheapest workers and the best aristocrats. Esp. in a 7 round game.

The probability of a win just based on this start is about 65%.

In both cases above, the player is hoping to be able to buy a Judge on the 1st round. That Judge will be worth 14 VPs in a 7 round game and pay back 35 rubles.

In either start above, if the player can buy a Judge in the first round, the probability of a win is now about +10%.

The 3rd best start is to go first in buildings and aristocrats. What happens here is that normally in the 2nd round, the other player doesn't have enough space in his hand to store cards needed. Thus, he tends to forfeit getting any aristocrats in the 2nd round.

The probability of a win just based on this start is about 60%. Get the Judge and you're at 70%+.

So we all know when games are completely stacked in one player's favor and against the other player.


Hi, sorry for the late replay and thanks for the thorough explanation!

Where do you have those statistics? Are they some rule of thumb or empiric results from playing a lot of games as samplesize?

I do not doubt your explanation, in no way. To the contrary, i fully agree with you. No matter how one looks at it, one player having red first round is always an edge to that player.

It might seem a bit off topic from my first post, but there are 2 other interesting thoughts (this time rather extreme):

What do you think is the worst possible start(considering worker-phase)?

Is it

1. 3-3-3-9?

As i already mentioned in my opening post, i consider this close to a gameover for several reasons. First of all, this is the worst money-delta of all. Secondly, First player in green has the maximum possible money, therefore even in case of second aristocrats, a lot of options at his disposal.
Only chance can be being first and red, where we come to the only advantage here: Still being able to buy a judge. Second thing,that would be favourable to pop up very early, is the updatecard for 9 green ("Kolchose"), which gives a considerable advantage throughout a 7 round game.

or

2. 3-7-7-9 or 3-9-9-9?

Here the problem is not that much the difference in money (less painful), but the fact, that you have to leave the judge for your opponent in most cases it appears on the board first round. In this case your opponent might have an edge in 3 out of 4 phases.

What do you think?


Another interesting thought i already mentioned in the first scenario:

Having a peasant at first round is a disadvantage no matter what, as there is a delta of 2 compared to green 7. However, one can have in average up to 7 points for that card. Having certain 7 points from the beginning in green phase is quite a lot, but it comes at a higher cost and money is more valuable than points in the beginning.
What about the Kolchose-Update card? How strong do you consider it, especially in the first round?

 
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Tomislav Bodrozic
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Tall_Walt wrote:
I usually buy an observatory in the first round and use it to get an extra Worker in the first two rounds, usually putting the Worker in hand. It may give up getting a Judge in the first round, but a Judge coming up is unlikely.


Hi, thanks also for your reply.

I would not dare to say, that this is not a valid strategy( i have seen it a lot), but in my eyes this is a very high gamble. Why?

First of all, you waste 8 ruble on a card, which in the first place does not improve your money income and that is what is essential in the first 3-4 rounds of the game. Next, you have to be very lucky to pull a low-budget green card. What if you pull a 7 or 9? Do you really keep it and waste a space on that card, without knowing, when you will be able to play it without having a disadvantage on the board. If you drop it (serious option) you wasted 8 rubles plus a pull. So in my opinion you started the game with an additional handicap of 8 rubles. Of course this strategy might work out with some luck, but still even then you might not be able to play out a red card first round, which i still believe to be a considerable disadvantage.
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Larbok wrote:
...you might not be able to play out a red card first round, which i still believe to be a considerable disadvantage.

(If Observatory is 8, you're using the expansion.) Red cards, Aristocrats, are not usually efficient money generators compared to green cards, Workers:



I believe this strategy is recommended by Thomas Lehmann, so....
 
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Tomislav Bodrozic
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Tall_Walt wrote:
Larbok wrote:
...you might not be able to play out a red card first round, which i still believe to be a considerable disadvantage.

(If Observatory is 8, you're using the expansion.) Red cards, Aristocrats, are not usually efficient money generators compared to green cards, Workers:



I believe this strategy is recommended by Thomas Lehmann, so....


For your strategy to work, you really have to be first in workers and buildings, otherwise your strategy is only applicable to rare cases. You need a lot of money, which can be mostly the case(not always) if you are first to go in workers. To get the observatory, it makes a lot of sense to be first in buildings(of course not entirely necessary).

I wonder at which point it makes sense to play such a strategy. 20+ rubles?
I mean you basically need at least 8+x money for your first green. Of course later on you share your fixed costs on more cards, but for the first turn you have to calculate like this. So e.g. you have 20 rubles and you go for observatory, that leaves you with 12 rubles plus you have to hope for a good pull. Best case is you pay 2 rubles (lumberjack doubled), worst case 9 for peasant. This can really work good if your green card is not too expensive and yet you can still buy another one in the next workers phase. So you have to have at least 9 rubles plus the money for the card you pulled, otherwise you are carrying one card along with yourself, which clearly is the most inefficient way to do.

Of course, Aristocrats are not efficient money generators, but there are several factors, why a red card in first round is good:

Let's say you go for that strategy and i get a judge or just a secretary e.g. Basic red cards need about 3 rounds to amortise. So investing into a judge in round 1 already gives you back 5 rubles plus 2 points. Playing any red cards in round 2 is as already said due to the high amount of upcoming green cards in round 3 a very inefficient investment at that moment. The point for the judge is, that it already has brought you back 10 out of 16 rubles back, while also providing 4 points. Next round the Judge almost got the money back plus 6 VP. Secretary amortised after 3 rounds, giving you 4*4=16 rubles for free until the end of the game. If i just get a 4 or 7 Aristocrat, that leaves me with more money and a chance to go for 2 greens in round 2.
In any case you do not have to forget, that you have an income disadvantage of e.g. 4-5 in case of judge and secretary plus an Aristocrat less by the first round. No matter how you look at it, you can not win without a decent amount of Aristocrats. Then again, every Aristocrat less also leaves you with lack of "space" for maximizing your Aristocrat Upgradecards.
I can see the point though, that with a first-round Observatory for 7 pulls, you can compensate the missing reds later on. In my opinion you have to be very tight with your money and hand-management. Any green card being paid after worker-phase is just hugely inefficient. Also due to that you might end up wasting too much handspace, as you rely on your pull every round.
I did not say that this strategy is unplayable, but i would highly recommend the solid way. I see some kind of potential to loose the game in few rounds, not by external factors, but by my own risk-taking decisions.

 
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It's not my strategy. As far as I know, it's Tom Lehmann's--the designer of the expansion.

A game with the expansion is going to be about 7 rounds, so if the observatory gets you a couple fur traders, a roughly average card, you'll get them for 6 and 5 rounds costing 11 rubles or less and make 33 rubles (22 net or better). The Judge costs 16 rubles and yields 7*5=35, net 19. Yes, you get points, but you don't want points yet.

Also, if you can get the Observatory, you can get the workers. They might be New Farmers, which would be unfortunate that early, but you can get them. You don't know whether you'll get a Judge even if you have first choice of aristocrats.

You're going to come out of round one worker phase with twenty-some rubles, which the observatory will drop to around 15, enough for two more workers; at the end of the second worker phase, you'll have 3 workers and get 9 rubles. It's tight, but extra money doesn't earn money or points.

At the end of the third worker phase, you'll have 5 workers and get 15 rubles. The first worker will be more than paid for. The next two workers should be positive. The two you just bought may be as good as breaking even since more workers means a better chance of a discount.

You are going to be tight in hand slots, but with an Observatory you can pass taking the common Aristocrats. Since the Secretary is pretty common, passing on it to get more workers works early. You'll probably pull five Aristocrats with the Observatory. You can even pass on Aristocrat upgrades since plenty are available, especially 2p.
 
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Tomislav Bodrozic
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Tall_Walt wrote:
It's not my strategy. As far as I know, it's Tom Lehmann's--the designer of the expansion.

A game with the expansion is going to be about 7 rounds, so if the observatory gets you a couple fur traders, a roughly average card, you'll get them for 6 and 5 rounds costing 11 rubles or less and make 33 rubles (22 net or better). The Judge costs 16 rubles and yields 7*5=35, net 19. Yes, you get points, but you don't want points yet.

Also, if you can get the Observatory, you can get the workers. They might be New Farmers, which would be unfortunate that early, but you can get them. You don't know whether you'll get a Judge even if you have first choice of aristocrats.

You're going to come out of round one worker phase with twenty-some rubles, which the observatory will drop to around 15, enough for two more workers; at the end of the second worker phase, you'll have 3 workers and get 9 rubles. It's tight, but extra money doesn't earn money or points.

At the end of the third worker phase, you'll have 5 workers and get 15 rubles. The first worker will be more than paid for. The next two workers should be positive. The two you just bought may be as good as breaking even since more workers means a better chance of a discount.

You are going to be tight in hand slots, but with an Observatory you can pass taking the common Aristocrats. Since the Secretary is pretty common, passing on it to get more workers works early. You'll probably pull five Aristocrats with the Observatory. You can even pass on Aristocrat upgrades since plenty are available, especially 2p.


The point in having a judge is, that i already have a rare strong red at my disposal, which you have yet to pay and get throughout the game. No matter Judge or not, i have potential points during the game, while also a potential +10 at the end of the game just because i have one more red by round 1.
Its a very murky calculation to call 2 fur traders having 22 net gain. The main reason for that is, that observatory costs you 8 rubels. Normally one would distribute that over 7 rounds, but the point is that you got some commitment early on. So a fur trader does not come at a cost of 6 or 5, more like a bit more than that.

I, though, got your point about your calculation. However we are still considernig you to be ahead in workers and buildings-phase first round. Judge-player will be first next round and in normal cases should not have any problems achieving 1 worker. Therefore my disadvantage in green is 3 rubels at most by the beginning of round 2. As you said extra money doesn't earn money or points. I would be pretty happy with a 12 14 or 16 first round Aristocrats compared to nothing, therefore changing it for -3 rubels in green. I would feel rather solid with that choice, as i had a good investment in red, which in most cases does not come at the cost of my additional green card next turn.

What do you mean by passing Aristocrats? Leaving them wide open to your opponent or just not opening a slot?

Leaving Aristocrat upgrades to your opponent is like giving up on 20 VP, as i assume both players to have at least 10 cards by the end of the game. Therefore each additional Aristocrat upgrade makes up a difference of 20 VP points(Points given by the card not included). This is an option i would only consider early on in the game, e.g. when in first round i have the choice between harbour/bank and some very expensive Aristocrat-Upgrade heavy on points, which pretty much wastes space for a while and does not contribute to the game for a while. In this case a bank could give me more flexibility throughout the game. This is something one can argue about. Of course it makes sense to pull some Aristocrats with the Observatory. However, in 2 player game you get almost all Basic-Aristocrats. Hence, hunting Aristocrat upgrades with Observatory is something i would like to do at least for 2 or 3 rounds during a game, especially when i have plenty of Basic Aristocrats and lack on Upgradecards. There are exceptions, though.
 
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Larbok wrote:
What do you mean by passing Aristocrats? Leaving them wide open to your opponent or just not opening a slot?

Leaving them on the table. With an Observatory, I'll get them and some will be tossed for upgrades, anyway.
 
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Tomislav Bodrozic
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Tall_Walt wrote:
Larbok wrote:
What do you mean by passing Aristocrats? Leaving them wide open to your opponent or just not opening a slot?

Leaving them on the table. With an Observatory, I'll get them and some will be tossed for upgrades, anyway.


I apologise, but as i said, i would call this highly dubious. In a 2 player match every Aristocrat and especially every Aristocrat Upgrade card counts at the end. In most cases, both player get 10+ aristocrats. At this stage every additional Aristocrat brings another 10 point. I already mentioned, that in my opinion leaving an Aristocrat Upgrade can only be useful in the beginning, when i have a very good alternative at hand. In all other cases taking out an Aristocrat Upgrade card is a primary goal.

Leaving an Aristocrat Update to your opponent(you were probably ahead in Upgrades, or 2 popped up in case of your opponent being ahead on Upgrades) leaves you with a fixed disadvantage of at least 20 VP. I highly doubt, that one can compensate such disadvantage that easily. Besides, Observatory is most likely the biggest luck-factor in the game. It makes little sense to argue mainly, that one will pull Aristocrat Upgrades via Observatory. This is pure luck and does not explain away the fact, that you leave 20 VP to your opponent just like that. Next, in case you leave them on the table, you wasted your turn on being ahead on Upgrades. This leaves your opponent with a higher chance to gain more Aristocrats without relying on Observatory that much. My experience tells me, that the Observatory-User most likely ends up being behind in VP in Building-Phase.
 
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Well, I can't say I've played the strategy 2p a lot, but I did win last time I did, against a very strong player who usually beats me.

The card inventory above doesn't repeat duplicate cards, so it makes observing upgrades look better than it is; about ten worker upgrades are duplicates. It may be the best way to use the Observatory, but it's only about 30% that you'll get an aristocrat. (Of course, odds may vary due to card distribution; easy to track the aristocrat upgrades 2p.)

I'd rather pass on some common aristocrats early, leaving space for aristocrat upgrades in my hand, and depend on being able to get them later. Of course, you need a duplicate aristocrat for each upgrade, and the Observatory can supply those in the last rounds, 100% not 30%.
aristocrat
On the original topic, you might try this: The start player picks one marker, the second player picks two more, and the start player gets the last.
 
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Matthias Mahr
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Very interesting original post. I agree on most, but have a different take on some points in this paragraph:
Larbok wrote:
Still, i consider the very first round to be crucial for Player A. First of all he depends a lot on his hopefully existing advantage in green. Furthermore it also depends on what goodies pop up in Blue. I consider warehouse to be the best card of all. This is something, which i will explain a bit later. Next card i consider very good is coffe-house(2 player game). It is the same like the other 2 money-cumulating cards, tax man and major. They can be game- deciding. While the other goodies are by far not useless, they are not useful in the beginning of the game. Either they waste handspace like observatory or crucial money like pub, village. It might be only 1-2 rubel, but even this can mean a lot in the beginning of the game. Still it makes little sense to leave an observatory to player B in this case. So i would always take it out, even if it would mean to open up a space for the opponent.
First I'm not to fancy about the warehouse. Like said, 2 rubles that early in the game can be critical, and I normally do quite well with a hand size of 3. I agree, people who perfected this might put force on people once they got the limit of 4, but personally I only buy it later in the game, if I see, that the other player has serious troubles managing his hand. (Or on rare occasion, were it nets me rubles, think already having a lumberjack upgrade and the mayor. )

The Potjomkin Village on the other hand is my favourite, and probably the only card, I would take on my hand to open a red space for the other player. Pub is nice to have, but I would happily leave it on the board, as long as I don't want to open a space for myself. Then it sure is a good card to put in the hand and place whenever you need the handspace. In the end, it's only 5 points for 11 rubles in the last round. All regular buildings are better in points per rubles if scored at least twice, with the exception of Markets and Custom Houses. And even they get likely better in the one but last blue phase, if you have some discount. So there is no real use for the Pub in any but the last round for me.

Observatory I find comparably too expensive in 2 player games. I would never open a red space for another player by taking this in first round. Debtor's Prison is a much tougher choice (although I would still leave it for the other player in this situation, unless I can fill the second slot in my hand very cheap with a Pub), as there is only one in the deck and it is imho the more versatile card. I love to recycle the Village with it. Or fish for the Academy in the blue round, I can afford it (if it will score at least twice, of course). Or upgrade a unique Aristocrat and retrieve it from discard pile next round. It also helps, that this card puts stress on other players not to upgrade thier double Aristos until last round, as long, as I don't own them. And sometimes, you can even get a lumberjack in an early round, if it was upgraded. And you don't have to rely on luck like with the Observatory, that it isn't a Farmer!
 
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