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Terraforming Mars» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Should you take standard actions? rss

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David Luchetti
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Glastonbury
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Mega credits are really tight in this game! In my plays so far I've felt pressure to play as many cards from my hand as possible - which means I do not use any standard actions because they are quite expensive.

I feel like this may be a strategic mistake though especially if you're close to completing an award. If you can play a standard action to beat someone to an award and fund the award in the same turn you probably should, right?

Should standard actions be avoided? Used regularly? Used sparingly?
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Matthieu Fontaines
France
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They should be used wisely :)

When you absolutely need to have the action of a SP and you don't get a corresponding card.
Just compute how many M€ you loose paying it and how many you will win, take also into account the availability of M€ (in some games it seems to be sparce, in other you swim in money)... having too much money doesn't earn you anything.
That is the cost of opportunity...

So depending on the game, you may use them frequently or not, It seems to me there is no fixed rule
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Steve
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I find that one terraform parameter tends to lag behind the others. When this happens, there can be an advantage in buying the missing one. So, if a player has cards for plants and another has plenty of heat/energy, I would look at the standard action play ocean tiles. This is especially true at the game end, when money is plentiful but extra VPs are hard to come by.
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Bruce Gazdecki
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Lindsey
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I tend to use them sparingly (I've only played solo) as they tend to be expensive for what they are (in my opinion).

I could see using the sell patents more regularly if you want to stay in a round but want to wait to see what others are doing first and have a few cards you don't necessarily need.
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Örjan Almén
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Everything depends on how the game progresses. Sometimes buying a standard project is the best suitable thing to do;

Buying a power production to be able to play that card that would suit your plans so good;
Buying a city to place in that sweet spot your opponents just created by placing a third greenery on the board forming a great bow, which makes your city score their greeneries;
Buying an asteroid to increase that temperature one more spot to gain the bonus;
Buying that greenery and place it to make your opponents not placing a tile to lock you out from an area you were heading towards;
Buying a greenery to increase that oxygen to get the bonus or fill the meter so others, which probably were planning to get that last TR with their plants can't gain as much from it;

There are numerous examples on when to use the standard projects. The cards might be great, but sometimes, you gain a lot more by playing a standard project instead. But of course, they are expensive, so you need to balance it.
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Sebastian Stückl
Germany
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Yes, you absolutely should use standard projects if you are trying to win.
Does that mean you should use them early on instead of playing cards? Probably not.

Early in the game, you tend to have plenty of cards available to choose from and play, so whenever you can, you'd try to play one of them, as they are almost always more efficient than the respective standard projects.

However, as the game progresses, you have less and less cards to choose from. Some cards you draw aren't useful anymore, or have no effect at all (Think of a meteorite when temperature is maxed, or resource production late in the game), so even though you may draw cards that are more efficient at doing something than SOME standard project would be, the limiting factor (aka time) makes the effect gained by those project cards worth less than a more expensive, specific standard project that you can make use of at the moment.


Also, at any point in the game, certain strategic elements can be more important than playing a "cheap" card that doesn't improve your strategic position (i.e. doesn't raise your VP score at the end of the game), whereas you could use a more expensive standard project to work towards that goal instead.
This includes so many things it's difficult to make a list, but I'll try to name a few things that you WILL need standard projects for:

- Securing one, or multiple, bonuses when raising temperature/oxygen level.
If you get one of those, it will be worth 1 TR at the end of the game almost certainly.

- Placing cities in a strategically important position, either to block the opponent, or to make sure that future greeneries will be adjacent to YOUR cities.

- Making sure you reach the requirement for a card you want to play

- Receiving a placement bonus to place a greenery tile using 8 plants (Arguably a bit narrow, but it just came to my mind this can come up. Especially in the draft variant, where you may know your opponent can destroy your plants somehow. But simply placing the greenery when you have no plant production can also be fine)

- Securing a milestone or award. This is only really relevant to the terraformer, mayor, gardener, landlord, heating technician, and sometimes to the banker and miner.
While this may cause you to take an otherwise useLESS action (e.g. placing a city), this can easily be worth it:
Generally, the milestones and awards are by far the most important factor when deciding a winner. That is because they are the most efficient way to score VP in the game. For a cheap investment, you get 5 VP, and you "block" an award/milestone for another player, meaning it will always be worth MORE than 5 VP).
(This can most easily be illustrated in a 2 player game, where buying a milestone costs you 8 M€, gives you 5VP, and stops your opponent from doing the same.
In the end, you buy a milestone for a relative 16 M€, scoring 10VP relatively to your opponent.)

Even the most efficient VP scoring cards won't score much more than 4~5VP for that cost (Early pets for 13 M€ come to mind)
Even if a milestone costs a considerable extra investment, it will still be extremely efficient. For instance, think of placing an entirely useless city somewhere on the map to secure the mayor. That means you spend 33 M€ to acquire 5 VP and 1 M€ income. And that is the absolute WORST case.
I have a hard time imagining many cards that would be as efficient, but there are certainly some.
Usually though, you can profit from whatever action you had to take to secure the milestone/award in some way, putting it over the top of any card you could be playing.


Cheers,
Sebastian

(Edits for better readability. Man, this plaintext post looks awful surprise)
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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I won my first game Wednesday night by using the standard Aquifer project. Having the most important game actions always available means that you can, for instance, plan to close out the game at a time of your choosing without waiting for particular cards to come your way.
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Jacob Walker
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Standard projects allow you to set your own pace for the game, instead of waiting for a card. Some thoughts on how they can be used effectively:

1They are a good way to sneak in a terraforming action to snag a bonus (particularly early on the temperature track, when the bonus gives you heat production that will then net you free temperature actions in the future).
2They let you steal an ideal city placement from another player. When a player telegraphs their next city placement by throwing down some forests, it makes sense to spend $25 to throw a city down where they are planning to go. They did the hard work of making the city valuable, and it may be that you can force them to play future forests next to your city, so they'll either do that and give you more free points, or spend time building a city somewhere else, which means you interrupted the pace of their game.
3If you have a city in play and you pay for a forest, you could potentially net 3+ points for $23, which is a better ratio than a lot of cards offer. Obviously it would have been nice to have a card that let you play the forest cheaper, or to do it with plants, but 3 points is a lot no matter how you're getting it.
4In a similar fashion, paying for and placing a water tile will often net you enough plants to push you over into a free "forest" action. That's $18 to net $1-2 income for the rest of the game (depending on the oxygen track), and anywhere from 1 to 6 points, (depending on the oxygen track and tile placement).
5 Perhaps most importantly, I think standards actions are about points denial. When another player, via cards, comes up with a way to consistently perform a terraforming action, it is important for the other players to steal those points away from them. I've seen many a game where a player with excessive heat production gets nearly every point off the temperature track. Every time you spend money on the standard action, you earn a point that they can't. You need to do that as much as possible, because once the temperature is maxed out, you've lost out on those points forever. Just because another player has a better way of doing it, doesn't mean you should ignore it. As an added bonus, once the track is maxed out, that player is left with potentially useless heat production, and they spent a lot of their effort investing in that production, whereas you might be more flexible than they are.

Standard actions are never as efficient as a card that does the same thing, but waiting for the perfect cards is a sure way to lose the game. I think a general rule of thumb is that doing something earlier is better, particularly when it comes to terraforming actions, since that gives you more turns to earn back that income.

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Ken Chaney

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eagleeye42 wrote:
5 Perhaps most importantly, I think standards actions are about points denial. ... I've seen many a game where a player with excessive heat production gets nearly every point off the temperature track. ... As an added bonus, once the track is maxed out, that player is left with potentially useless heat production, and they spent a lot of their effort investing in that production, whereas you might be more flexible than they are.


Early giant heat production is nice because you get the TR from raising temperature and have a good shot at the Thermalist award for another 5 VP. That heat is nothing like useless.
 
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Jay Gischer
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Overall the answer is that sometimes the standard projects are worth it and sometimes not. This is as it should be, I think.

One of my favorites is when playing the United Nations corp, first drop an asteroid for 14mc and a temperature raise, and then pay 3 more for another TR raise. This would be my standard first turn, unless I had really, really good cards - particularly in a solo game where you know those two TR gained are going to pay you back 26mc, and you just paid 17.

There are lots of examples like this. Pay for an asteroid to raise the temperature which allows you to play a card with a minimum temp, for instance. Getting a TR increase or a production increase this turn instead of next turn makes a big difference.
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Jacob Walker
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kenchaney wrote:
eagleeye42 wrote:
5 Perhaps most importantly, I think standards actions are about points denial. ... I've seen many a game where a player with excessive heat production gets nearly every point off the temperature track. ... As an added bonus, once the track is maxed out, that player is left with potentially useless heat production, and they spent a lot of their effort investing in that production, whereas you might be more flexible than they are.


Early giant heat production is nice because you get the TR from raising temperature and have a good shot at the Thermalist award for another 5 VP. That heat is nothing like useless.


Sure. Which is why I used the word "potentially", and is also why the focus of the argument was about how good play is about denying the player with massive heat production as much of that TR as possible.
 
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Darcy Dueck
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A first round "increase the heat" standard action is often a good first generation play. It raises your TR by one and if you expect a game to last at least 9 generations then you get 9 MC back throughout the game.
Effectively, you have paid only 5MC for a TR, this could be the cheapest TR you get in the whole game.
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