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Star Trek: Ascendancy» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Game Ends Too Abruptly? (A Klingon strategy) rss

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Lou Lessing
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I've read a number of complaints about this game ending too quickly and abruptly. A turn or two after First Contact, when people are at 2 or 3 Ascendancy, the game doesn't look like it's close to ending, but it could be. Someone with 3 Ascendancy and 3 Culture nodes will win in 3 turns if left unchecked. (If they can get 1 other culture from somewhere.) You have to put them down quickly, or the game will end abruptly. Most 4x games have this sorta mob-the-leader gameplay at some point, but in this game you have to start stopping people from winning pretty shortly after you've made first contact, and they'll win quickly if you don't stop them. Because an early Ascendancy victory is sort of an unsatisfying ending to a 4x, some people think this represents a serious problem with Star Trek: Ascendancy. Lets talk about solutions to that problem.

[An important note: I've started this game twice but haven't ever finished it, so my opinions aren't based on great information. A lot of this is theoretical.]

The Humble Beginnings variant from the rulebook seems to address this pretty well, but at considerable cost. On my first game we accidentally started the game with no resources. Unless you get lucky, you can't build most resource nodes until turn 3. We later found out that this is a supported variant (the only thing we did differently from the variant is that we started with 1 Ascendancy instead of 0.) This is sort of a grueling early game, but if you'd like a slower buildup, this does give you one. You make first contact several turns before you have to worry about shutting down the winner. This version of the game has a clear (but not very fun) early game, mid-game, and late game, instead of sort of a blurry early-mid game and then an abrupt transition to late-game before you're quite ready for it. I don't recommend it exactly, the start is kinda boring and even more random than ST:A's early game usually is, but it does provide a game with a more gradual build-up.

You could also just play to a higher Ascendancy goal. This isn't an official variant. It'd probably affect game balance, but I wouldn't worry about it. This is not a super tight, super competitive 4x. This is a very random, pretty silly, medium-weight 4x whose most notable selling point, in my opinion, is that it subjectively feels very star trek-y. It's an interesting game with a bunch of cool stuff going on, but it's not a super hardcore game and I don't think house rules will ruin it.

I'm not sure variants are necessary though. As a new player, it's really unappealing to destroy resource nodes, but I think it's very good in theory. Recapturing resource nodes is usually cheap, but rebuilding them is always very expensive. Rebuilding a culture node costs 10% of the culture you need to win the game (and a red resource.) If you do it to the Federation, that's in addition to the culture they have to spend retaking the system. If you aren't planning on making a planet a permanent part of your empire, if you're not ready to commit to defending it for several turns, you should destroy culture nodes -- If you leave them intact, they're worth more to the person who you expect to take the planet back than they are to you in the long run.

Obviously the Federation can't destroy nodes, and almost never wants to. The Romulans have it as an option, maybe they should use it more often. But it's definitely most viable with the Klingons -- I'm not actually sure how else you win with them, except maybe Supremacy. I've played the Klingons twice, and I feel like they're a balancing role. You want the game to run forever, because you gradually accrue culture by keeping the late-game going indefinitely. The Federation and Romulan culture triggers run out, they need culture nodes to win the game. The Klingons do not; they just need to win 20 battles. On it's own, that's a lot, but they have a crazy tech called Reclamation Barges that lets them salvage resource nodes they destroy for 2 resources of the type the node produced. (It only costs 3 and even gives you a warp.) With that, they don't have to build any culture nodes of their own, they just have to break 10 culture nodes of other people's.

In any real world Klingon Ascendancy victory they'll have gotten culture from any number of different places, but between these two sources they should be able outpace the other species at Ascendancy in a long, slow race if they can turn the game into a long, slow race instead of a short, swingy one. And you're not winning through Ascendancy with them otherwise, in a shorter game or a game without Barges, you just put in the most work for the least culture. You could get lucky on exploration and beat the Romulans, but you'd have to get quite lucky indeed to beat the Federation in a race.

You can't count on Barges unless you play with Focused Research. (The variant that lets you search your advancement deck, instead of drawing 2.) I don't think I'm ever going to play without it again. I feel like they only included the other rule to avoid completely paralyzing new players by making them pick between 15 cards on their first ever turn of the game -- the variant is better in every other way. With this game sometimes ending early, you often only get to see a few technologies. Given that, it would be nice if the few you get were things that mattered. If you draw them randomly, they probably will not be, because even though the actual tech tree is perfectly flat, there are clear early-game, late-game, and conditional/reactive technologies, and the early-game ones are very rare.
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Grant Whitesell

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Reclamation Barges is quite possibly the most powerful tech in the game. Even if the Klingon player is 2 or even 3 Ascendancy behind, the second they complete that they are the favorite to win in my opinion.
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Ryan Hanson
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Lou, I really appreciate the post and the thoughtfulness that went into it.

GrantZilla1979 wrote:
Reclamation Barges is quite possibly the most powerful tech in the game. Even if the Klingon player is 2 or even 3 Ascendancy behind, the second they complete that they are the favorite to win in my opinion.


People have said that about a few different tech projects now. I'm actually surprised no one has done a run-down of all the different tech projects for the different factions and given them a power ranking. I'm not proficient enough with the game to do it myself.
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Lou Lessing
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Hansolo88 wrote:
Lou, I really appreciate the post and the thoughtfulness that went into it.

GrantZilla1979 wrote:
Reclamation Barges is quite possibly the most powerful tech in the game. Even if the Klingon player is 2 or even 3 Ascendancy behind, the second they complete that they are the favorite to win in my opinion.


People have said that about a few different tech projects now. I'm actually surprised no one has done a run-down of all the different tech projects for the different factions and given them a power ranking. I'm not proficient enough with the game to do it myself.


Thanks!

I thought about writing more about the tech decks here, but didn't end up leaving it. Perhaps I'll write another just about the advancement decks -- they're more complicated than they look. I don't think a straight power ranking makes much sense though -- most of the tech in this game, especially Federation tech, is sometimes good and sometimes not depending on what you're defending against.
 
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Ryan Hanson
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brisingre wrote:
Hansolo88 wrote:
Lou, I really appreciate the post and the thoughtfulness that went into it.

GrantZilla1979 wrote:
Reclamation Barges is quite possibly the most powerful tech in the game. Even if the Klingon player is 2 or even 3 Ascendancy behind, the second they complete that they are the favorite to win in my opinion.


People have said that about a few different tech projects now. I'm actually surprised no one has done a run-down of all the different tech projects for the different factions and given them a power ranking. I'm not proficient enough with the game to do it myself.


Thanks!

I thought about writing more about the tech decks here, but didn't end up leaving it. Perhaps I'll write another just about the advancement decks -- they're more complicated than they look. I don't think a straight power ranking makes much sense though -- most of the tech in this game, especially Federation tech, is sometimes good and sometimes not depending on what you're defending against.


Sure, I would agree with that. Some are better early game, some better late game. Maybe more just a guide to knowing when to pursue them, how best to make use of them, and how powerful they are in different situations.
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William Hardy
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Thank you for a really interesting analysis. I actually came to this forum because I was having no luck winning with the Klingons and wondered if anyone else had a strategy. Granted that every game is different, but I usually have trouble judging when the Klingons should initiate combat. If they are too early, they lose vital trade and can't develop enough to be competitive; if they wait too long, the Feds and Roms may have gained a weapons/shield advantage which can make combat suicidal, and they will have a great advantage in ascendancy level as well. What usually happens is that the Klingons jump on their weakest rival, lose trade and ships (in the counterattack), and never achieve a strong position from then on (unless they are exceedingly lucky in everything else). I agree with Lou's strategy for the long run, but how do you get there? BTW, the Reclamation Barge card has never shown up in any game! Maybe every player should pick a second completed project card at the start of the game.
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Lou Lessing
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It's hard to pay for your offensives as the Klingons. You need a ton of production to keep your ships on the board, and you need can't fall behind too far on research or culture either. At the very least, you need to keep your weapons upgraded to the level of the highest opponent's shields, ideally higher, and you don't want to be too late to Ascendancy 2 and 3, because you want your fleets, starbases, and most importantly commands.

Your early exploration is super important. Everyone, even the Federation, can get screwed over hard by exploration. There's no getting around it. You usually explore less than the other species, and of course the less exploring you do the swingier and more random it is. Such is the life a Klingon.

You can squeeze a little bit of extra consistency out of the exploration phase by paying attention to the 6 (2 per player) guaranteed planets at the top of the system pile. You really don't want to find phenomena, they're dangerous unless you upgrade your shields (which is cowardly), they don't produce red, and they aren't an efficient source of blue if you're spending it on weapons. So you should always explore twice on your first turn, when you know you won't find one, and if it gets to your second turn and there are still start-of-game planets on top of the system pile, you should snap up as many of them as you can. It's not much, but it's something.

The nice thing about being primarily reliant on production is that you can get a bunch of it from trade. It's counter-intuitive, but I think it's almost always a mistake to attack your weakest rival. You should trade with them, and attack your strongest rival. You'll get a worse trade from a rival who thinks they're winning than one who thinks their behind, so you make more production from trade. You'll get more culture from space battles against a stronger player. Most importantly, you get to keep the game close, so the game will go long, which is what you want. You'll never beat the Federation in a short race. (Aside: I don't think you should ever plan on a Supremacy victory more than a turn or two in advance. You've got to be pretty far ahead to hold someone's Homeworld for any length of time. I feel like you're more likely to pull it off by taking them in quick succession than by taking out other players one at a time. I'm not at all sure.)

If you're winning, or if you feel that politics are for cowards, you can make it even simpler. Just announce that you're going to attack anyone who won't make a decent trade with you. Probably you'll end up with one good trade and one person to fight, which is probably what you want. Maybe you get two good trades -- use them to build a standing army, then attack your stronger rival. Maybe you get zero, and everybody would rather fight you. In this circumstance, and I think only this circumstance, attack your weaker rival. Maybe they'll change their mind once you break some of their stuff.

Probably, coming out of the early game, the Federation will have a solid lead, and you'll be trading with the Romulans. Getting Romulan players to trade can be a little tricky. If someone makes a trade with the Romulans, they can collect on it for one turn and then break it before the Romulans can collect on it. Understandably, Romulans are cautious of being taken advantage of like this. A tip: if you switch out the trade agreement that you've given them, they get the new one exhausted, but nothing stops them switching the trade agreement that they've given you. If you offer them your 2 or your 3 for their 1 (or even for nothing, that's allowed) with the understanding that they'll upgrade it to an even trade next turn, they'll have less reason to distrust you -- you have much more to gain by not breaking the trade agreement. Effectively, you're voluntarily taking on their drawback and not collecting on the trade agreement the first turn either.

None of this will get you out of a very deep hole. I don't know how you get out of a deep hole. If your exploration phase is disastrous, which can happen to any species, I don't have a better strategy than "beg for trade and hope your rivals fight each other instead of one of them stomping you." Obviously, I don't feel great about that. If anyone has any advice on playing from badly behind, I'd like to know about it.

In terms of getting Barges: I strongly prefer the Focused Research variant, which means people can search their deck for 1 card instead of drawing 2 cards from it when they launch projects. The Klingons can start Barges, the Romulans can start Imperial Science Initiative, the Federation can start Long Range Scanners (and never gets forced to start something like Tachyon Detection Array, which happens all too often with the random draw.)

I think this is how the game was meant to be played. I think it would be the base rule if it weren't so much to inflict on someone on the first turn of their first game.

You could also let everyone start with a project and/or a completed advancement. Both of those are also variants from the rulebook. If you'd like to preserve some randomness, I think one of these would be enough -- letting people search their deck even once at the beginning of the game will make a huge difference.

Worst case, it only takes 7 "start projects" commands to see your whole advancement deck. It's only 15 cards, and that's counting Disruptor Technology.
 
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William Hardy
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Phew! Thanks for the analysis. I had more or less reached many of the same conclusions re trade and projects; I just tried the focused research today. If the Klingons are in the deep hole, I also see no way out, but, if it's one of the other players, then hope the Klingons follow your suggestion and attack the stronger player instead. The problem playing that way as the Klingon is that the strongest rival is also the one most likely to be ahead of you in weapon/shield strength. My tactic is to pick the best moment - end your turn ready to strike, and go first next round after you've upgraded and they haven't. Nonetheless, I have never seen the Klingons recover from a disastrous start, but the other two have, with a bit of luck. I am trying the Barge card now. Perhaps that's the equalizer that's needed.
 
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stephen biggs
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3 player conflict games are very unstable. If all 3 players are experienced they will re-evaluate each turn who is nearest a win. And the 2 weaker players will combine to stop them. If even one player gets that analysis wrong for 1 turn. Then the game ends.

STA bidding on turn sequence allows the option of a double turn. Which amplifies that instability.

brisingre wrote:
I strongly prefer the Focused Research variant, which means people can search their deck for 1 card instead of drawing 2 cards from it when they launch projects.


I know players who would spend hours analyzing all 15 cards. If they had that option. And they wouldn't arrive at the game with a list of the 15 in sequence they would re-analyse each time they did a research order.

brisingre wrote:

If your exploration phase is disastrous, which can happen to any species, I don't have a better strategy than "beg for trade and hope your rivals fight each other instead of one of them stomping you."


It's a 3-player game the stronger of your two rivals should stomp you if that's their easiest way to win. The weaker should help you without needing to be begged. If the stronger rival is Federation it gets a bit more complex. As stomping you may not help them win at all.
 
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Lou Lessing
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Those sound like some seriously slow players. shake
I've met some people with really bad AP, but that's pretty extreme. Never let them near BattleCON, they'll die.

In seriousness though, it shouldn't be that bad. There's only 14 cards in your deck, 4 or 5 at least are there to counter something specific, so you don't really have to think about those unless you're having problems with that thing. So you're probably looking at a single-digit number of options most of the time, and they gradually decrease as you build them. If you want to build your economic technologies early, which I think most people will most of the time, you really only have a few options. The Romulans, for example, probably want to start Imperial Science Initiative as their first project nearly 100% of the time.

If you don't think this variant's good for your group, obviously don't play it. But it's not hugely more complex than the sets of choices this game gives you in other places, if players are already familiar with the game and the contents of their advancement decks at least.



I think if the other players play optimally that usually involves letting you back in the game, but certainly not always -- in any case, my point is that if your exploration phase is bad enough you're at the mercy of the other players -- trade is this game's only catchup feature, and you need someone to cooperate with you to take advantage of it. It should basically always be in someone's best interest to trade with the weakest player, you shouldn't have to beg.
 
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