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Automania» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Initial strategy thoughts rss

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Petri Savola
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I love Automania and because nobody has yet written strategy articles, I decided to go for it. This guide is aimed for 4 player games without the variable player powers, but some of the advice may be useful for other scenarios as well. I don't yet have hundreds of games under my belt, so take this guide with a grain of salt. If you disagree with some of the advice, please comment below because you may very well be right. I think this guide may be helpful for at least those players who have just played the game a few times and want to improve their play.

Tile distribution

It's important to know the tile distribution if you want to play well. Otherwise you may be waiting for a tile which will never come. Luckily the distribution in this game is very simple and fairly easy to remember:

Phase A

* 3 x each car component (15 total)
* 2 x each car decoration (6 total)
* 3 x 2* tiles
* 3 x +worker managers
* 2 x 1* managers
* 2 x +sale managers
* 2 x +money managers
* 2 x 2 money
* 1 x 2 victory points

Phase B has exactly same distribution with the exception of 2 x 2 victory points and 1 x 3 money instead of the two latest items in the list above. In phase B the car components come with 0-2 victory points (1 of each) and 2* tiles come with 1 victory point. If you don't want to memorize all of the tile distribution, top two items are probably the most important ones to know.

Value of money

During the game, when selling cars, you will often have to choose between money and victory points. Especially early on in the game I think money is slightly more valuable than victory points unless you already have a lot of money (10+), or +money manager(s).

You do get 3/6/10 victory points for having most money at the end of the game and this is very significant source for points, but it's still limited. Therefore it may be worthwhile to prefer points instead of money on rounds 3 and 4 if you can calculate that your money reserves are large enough to last to the end.

Importance of turn order

It's really important to have good turn order in this game. You'll get to build the cars you want, pick the tiles you want and opponents are more likely to give your workers back to you. You'll also get to place cars to ships first, which can be a very big advantage especially on later rounds. And finally you have a good chance at having good turn order again on the next round!

You don't have to be 1st in turn order for the whole game, but being 4th on every round is a recipe for disaster. Therefore it's good to evaluate carefully before doing an action how much you will benefit from the action. If you don't benefit a lot, consider passing instead, especially if at least 2 other players are likely to pass on their next turn. It's sometimes good idea to pass even if you'd have 4 unused wokers.

If you pass first, taking the extra tile and 2nd place in turn order is usually the best choice, followed by 1st place in turn order. Third place is still acceptable and actually quite decent if one of the visible cards gives 4 points easily for you, but 4th seat should be avoided at all costs. Extra car sales are not that important, because it's difficult to produce more than 2 cars which would compete for the better spots in the markets.

Last round is an exception here, because on the last round you often want to sell 3 or even 4 cars and turn order will only act as a tiebreaker, so 3rd and 4th places are often the best spots on round 4.

Comparing the markets

American market:
1 vp: 5, 6, 7
2 vp: 8, 9, 10
3 vp: 12, 14, 16

European market:
1 vp: 6, 7, 8, 9
2 vp: 10, 12, 14, 16

It's fairly easy to observe that by placing a car to the American market you get an extra victory point unless you happen to occupy spot 1-4, 6, 7 or 10. If we assume that the value of money and victory points are roughly equal it seems like a good idea to go for the American market for those extra victory points. When you already have enough money (usually on rounds 3 and 4), European market becomes more attractive because it offers more ways to convert the money to points.

However, most important advice is to go for the market which is not crowded, especially early on in the game. For exmple on round 1 if you manage to sell an 1* car as 3rd or 4th car in any market, it's an awesome play. Similarly if you place a 6* car in the American market and end up selling it 5th, it's a very poor start for the game.

So you need to analyze the board to pick car components which give you advantage on the market which will be less crowded in the close future. And especially if you're planning to build cars with low *, you need to observe what car components other players are picking to see which market they are aiming at.

Planning for the future

The player who has least victory points at the end of each round gets to choose future demand for the car components. Sometimes these choices are irrelevant, but often the impact can be huge, especially at the end of 1st round, because on the 1st round you choose the component which will have 4* on the last round. If one of the possible future components suits perfectly for you and the other one is horrible, consider trying to be last in victory points in order to choose the future. Sometimes this may mean avoiding points by not selling a car or selling a car and getting less than max amount of victory points.

For example one possible strategy for the game would be to pick up a component which has 3* or 4* in the American market on round 1, but 0* in the European market. Then produce 2 cars to the American market using this component, get less victory points than anybody else and then get to choose this tile as future demand in the European market.

Building the cars

The victory point bonus you get for placing cars is relevant in this game. Therefore you want to have 5* or better cars sooner or later (usually on round 1 and at latest by round 2), to get those victory point bonuses for placing cars. You can get extra stars by using workers and if it gives you 1 more victory point it's often worth it, unless you really need the worker elsewhere. By doing it you basically convert 1 money to 1 victory point and increase the likelihood of getting to sell the car earlier.

You can realistically assume that you can get 5-7* from components in your small car 6-8* in your large car and 7-9* in the sports car. So if you want to make cars which sell for the top spots in the market later on in the game, you're usually going to need both managers and decorations. It's possible to win the game without ever making great cars, but winning is much easier if you do.

If you're going to produce bad cars (4* or less), try to use the small ones to save money. If you produce a bad sports car, you're most likely going to lose more than what you will get, so avoid doing that.

In phase B there are several car components which also give victory points. These car components can be valuable even if they would provide only minor (such as 1*) improvement to your cars. I usually fill 2 or all 3 of my empty slots with components in phase A and then replace obsolete components and initial 1* slots with components which are attached with victory points.

Recruiting managers

Phase A

1* manager is great, because 1* boost is significant early and useful also later. Gives the opportunity to build small cars without any components early.

+worker manager is good, because you'll get at least 4 money during the game and get increased flexibility for later rounds.

+money manager is ok and usually gives 1 or 2 money per round, so she is roughly as good as +worker manager for getting money, but does not have the same flexibility. To get the most out of this manager you would have to use her each turn, but it's difficult to know whether you will need the worker in the future or not at that point.

+sale manager is poor, because you don't really need extra sales in phase A, so you should usually pick more useful tiles instead.

Phase B

2* manager and +worker manager are very strong on round 3, but are no longer that great on round 4. However if you recruited the corresponding phase A manager earlier, then these managers are decent also on round 4 because you can replace the old manager.

+sale, 1* manager is actually very good on round 3, because she allows you to build and sell 3 cars and still pick 1st or 2nd place in turn order, and she's still solid even on round 4 because you often want 3-4 sales and other players may block you out of last turn order spots, so you don't need to pass too early if you have this manager.

The manager who gives 4 victory points is good, but only if you don't have many managers yet or if you took +money manager in phase A and then replace her. Otherwise the cost of 4-5 money for 4 victory points may not always be worth it.

Goal cards

Initial goal cards have 6* small car, two 7* large cars and 8* sports car. In this game it's often good idea to produce cars which others do not produce, so you're more likely to build the car with just 1 worker. Therefore it may be a good idea to check what goals others are picking from the table in order to see what car types they are probably aiming for in the future.

In theory picking the action which gives you cards is the best choice for 1st action because you'll get to place two tiles before you produce your first car of the round, so you have time to make the car good before producing it. Cards are also often valuable, especially when you get 2-4 points with little or no effort.

However, sometimes you commit yourself too much by picking up cards which require many extra tiles. For example picking a card which requires 2 or even 3 decorations may not be a good idea unless you already have all of them or only 1 is missing. Tile distribution is also important to remember when taking cards which require decorations. Similarly those cards which require those car components which give low number of * or cards which are simply not very compatible with your current component configuration are quite poor.

Finally, if you pick the action which gives a card you also lose some tempo, because usually it's good to produce 2 or more cars on each round and if you pick a card, you're producing cars slower than others. Therefore you're more likely to lose out on turn order if you end up picking a card, but it may still be a good choice. I would advice against blind cards unless it's the first round and all face up cards are poor. It's usually good to concentrate on some car type in this game and by picking up blind cars you're at risk of having to do too much to fulfill the card goals.

The big goals are usually better for sports cars, because while the difficulty level is quite balanced, a small car with 12* still doesn't often get top-2 spot in a market on the last rounds when you finally have a chance to fulfill the goal, but 14* large car or 16* sports car definitely will.
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kenneth minde
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Hi Petri. Just Curious. Did you participate in the European Masters in Essen?

Thank you for posting some interesting thoughts on Automania. In Essen I was lucky enough to watch 30 plays with four players playing simultaniously. This was players who hade played the game multible times in advance. I talked to some players who really did master the game, and some who just couldn´t figure it out.

What surprised me the most, was that I didn´t see anyone taking cars back from the ships to produce it with a higher value in the same round. There were also surprisingly few players able to use the yachts.

Another good thing confirmed from the European Masters, was that there was no correlation between starting position (in turn order), and end game scoring.
 
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Petri Savola
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minde wrote:
Hi Petri. Just Curious. Did you participate in the European Masters in Essen?

Thank you for posting some interesting thoughts on Automania. In Essen I was lucky enough to watch 30 plays with four players playing simultaniously. This was players who hade played the game multible times in advance. I talked to some players who really did master the game, and some who just couldn´t figure it out.

What surprised me the most, was that I didn´t see anyone taking cars back from the ships to produce it with a higher value in the same round. There were also surprisingly few players able to use the yachts.

Another good thing confirmed from the European Masters, was that there was no correlation between starting position (in turn order), and end game scoring.

Hi, I took part in that tournament and probably met you also in there. Our team ended up 3rd in the final rankings.

In order to avoid being last in turn order, I rarely build more than 2-3 cars during a round. But I can think of situations where it may make a lot of sense to take cars back from ships to build them again especially if other players pass early.

I'm slightly surprised that starting position did not seem to matter in Automania. I would have thought that early seats are at least slightly better than later seats, but if the skill gap between players is big then the starting position won't matter.
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