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Subject: Initial Strategy Thoughts for RftG rss

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Alex Rockwell
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At this point I have probably 75 plays of RftG, (mostly 2 player, but at least 20 3-4 player as well).
I thought I'd write down my thoughts at this stage of my RftG strategy evolution.

The basic premise is similar to Puerto Rico and many other economic games: First develop an income source, then a point generation engine, and then use your engine to score points.

In race for the galaxy, the income source and the points engine are sometimes the same thing, depending on the strategy used.

Point Engine Strategies
Lets first briefly look at the 3 primary 'point engine' strategies:

1) Production / 2xVPs:

This strategy focuses on producing goods, and consuming them for VPs using consumption abilities. This works like shipping in Puerto Rico.

The goal is to get the engine set up as fast as possible (production abilities paired with consume abilities that can turn those goods into points), and then being choosing 2xVPs. Once the player starts choosing 2xVPs (instead of income generating choices like Consume:Trade), they will generally have stopped growing their production base.

Generally when a player can only produce 2vps before doubling, they should trade instead. Getting 4vps from a produce/consume cycle isnt enough to beat out what the other players will be doing with their time. Once a player can produce at least 3VPs before doubling, its probably time to start doing a Produce/2xVPs cycle. However, if one has no other income sources it might be too early. At 4VPs (8 doubled), its definitely time.

To be successful, this strategy must either set up so quickly that you can end the game via 2xVPs consumes before others are ready for the end, or alternately it must produce a significant amount of cards during the produce/consume cycle, so that you can afford to play big worlds and developments for points late in the game, keeping pace in building points and winning through consuming.

Once the engine is set up, this player must only choose Produce or Consume, as these actions will score points without giving much help to one's opponents. Developments or Planets will be build when an opponent chooses those phases. Doing otherwise will only help one's opponents and lose valuable time that couldve been spend scoring points. The produce/consume cycle scores points for free for you and do less for your opponents, the other phases cost you a lot of resources to score points.


2) Military:

The basic concept of the military strategy is that you can play some big scoring cards for free, and you can also get resources for free. Once it gets going, the primary goal is to draw the right cards so that you can keep scoring points and growing without expending resources. For other strategies, income is mostly about how many cards you draw, so you can afford to build things. For the military strategy, its also important how many cards you see.

There are two ways to use military. The first 2-3 points in military is basically an income source. It lets you play worlds for free which will allow you to trade or give other powers. It can be a good way to get going, or a good way to leech. Building a military large than that is all about scoring points. The goal is to get the big alien and rebel worlds and play them for big points. When referring to a military strategy as a points engine, it is the second of these (buildign a very large military), that I am referring to.





When playing a military strategy, cards you draw will fall in one of three categories:
A) Stuff you'll play for free. (Military worlds, minus small worlds later in the game that you dont have time for).
B) Stuff that doesnt matter that you use for money (most everything else).
C) Stuff that you can spend your extra cards on to score more points. (6 cost developments, big scoring worlds).

Early in the game, instead of spending your extra cards on scoring, they go towards setting up your military, or building cards that will help you produce on your windfall worlds, get more trade bonuses, or leech of opponents strategies.

The military strategy will generally choose Settle, especially near the end of the game, as it will score points for free for the military player. They will occasionally trade or explore to get more cards to choose from, or develop to make an important building.


3) Development discounts:

The third strategy is to acquire a lot of discounts or rebates in the development phase, and then to choose develop frequently to play things very cheaply. This is done through cards like Investment Credits, Insterstellar Bank, Public Works, and Galactic Federation.

One can then develop useful developments for cheap, to score points, generate income, produce goods on windfall worlds, and generally leech off opponents role choices. You can also easily develop 6 cost developments for points.

This player will generally choose develop almost every time, and take advantage of other roles when opponents choose them.


All 3 of these strategies are based on making a certain phase much better for oneself than for one's opponents, and then in the mid-end, repeatedly choosing that role.


Card Drawing: The Universal Supporting Strategy


All the strategies require card income to be successful. If you dont draw enough cards, not only will you not be able to afford anything, you also wont have anything worthwhile to do. All strategies can make use of extra cards to buy points during phases chosen by your opponents. Getting an income source is the primary goal in the beginning of the game, as it will both give you the cards to form your engine and the cards to pay for it.

All strategies are enchanced by having income, and require it to be successful. The main way to get income early on is via trading, often trading goods from settled windfall worlds. Once a windfall world's good has been spent, one can get it back for 'free' by producing. Generally everyone should try and get an early windfall world and sell it. Another income source is planets which produce cards when they produce, and consume aiblities which produce cards.

It is generally necessary to develop at least one of these income sources. Players who do not will find themselves having to explore a lot just to look for useful cards.

A windfall/trade strategy can be used as an income source in combination with any of the three major strategies. The military player will generally settle free windfall military worlds and trade the goods to find more cards. The development player will often get trade bonuses to make their sales bigger, and developments that will produce onto their windfall worlds so they can use them over again. And the production player will generally start with a windfall world and then use the money from its sale to build production worlds, getting the windfall good back by choosing produce. These are generally the most effective ways for each strategy to get its trading income.

Cards which allow you to draw cards during the production phase, or when consuming a good, are great sources of income for a production strategy player. They can be good ways to leech of the production phase for a military or development player. However, a player who builds them very early on will probably have to produce themself to take advantage of them, so this might not be a great way to go early on if your other cards point to a development or military strategy.

Remember that the first 2-3 pts of military is basically an income source (which supplements card drawing), not a strategy for making points.


The Non-Strategy:

One thing that devfinitely does not work as a strategy is to get into a cycle of: Pay to settle a windfall world, sell the good. Pay to settle another windfall world, sell the good. Pay to settle another windfall world, sell the good. Anyone who does this will be stuck in the middle of the game, going nowhere, while their opponents engines are running. The first windfall world is very helpful, as it lets you make money on a sale (often at a profit), and then gives you the ability of being able to produce that good when you choose production. Additional windfall worlds are much less helpful, as you only make the small profit but dont gain anything else. Generally multiple windfall worlds are only helpful if youre getting them all for free via military.



"Leeching" and Role Selection (aka Player Interaction):


While the purpose of the main strategies is to create a role which is much better for you than for your opponents, so that you can repeatedly choose it, it can also be helpful to get abilities that let you benefit from the role your opponents are choosing for their strategy. There are ways to do this that work well, and ways that dont work well.

Effective leeching:

To be effective, you must first be leeching off a role choice that someone else is choosing. Getting a production/consume leech going is only helpful is one of your opponents is regularly producing. Getting an investment bank to leech cards durign the develop phase is only helpful if an opponent is doing a develop strategy. Getting a small military to get free worlds is only helpful if an opponent is going military.

Additionally, the bonus you get must be helpful to you. Helpful bonuses are generally cards or cost reductions that you will be using effectively:


Examples of ineffective leeches:
* Public Works and Investment Credits. These cards require you to build a development to get the bonus. Often you wont really be able to take good advantage of this.

* A planet that produces a good and consumes it for a point.
Leeching a single point isnt very helpful. Producing a good and shipping it for 1 point is only strong when youre going to be doubling those points later on by playing 2xVPs.

* A small military, when playing a production strategy. The small military worlds are generally windfall worlds, and getting a lot of them wont be very helpful for a producer. You'll need your settle phases for production worlds and wont be able to take advantage of this benefit.


Examples of effective leeches:
* Interstellar Bank. You get the free card regardless of wether you develop.

* A planet that produces cards or cards+good, a consume power that produces cards. More cards are always goign to be helpful for you in any strategy. Another example, a galactic trendsetters in a military strategy. You just let it eat the goods from the windfall worlds you settled for free, you dont need to produce.

* Replicant Robots in a non-military strategy. You get cheap planets when the military player chooses settle.

* A small military, when doing a development strategy. You'll be choosing develop almost every time, and this will let you play free worlds and then sell the goods on them. The free settles will help you get to 12 cards faster to end the game before the 2xVP players do.


So the things you need to focus on in the early to mid game are:
1) Income source. (Probably windfall world/trade, plus possible extra stuff)
2) Point scoring strategy. (Either production, military, or development bonuses)
3) (Optional) Effective leeching off opponent's chosen strategies.


Some tips:

* Dont develop the leeching stuff too early unless youre ok with making that your primary strategy. Whatever you make first is probably your main strategy. You dont want to develop leeching stuff and then have no opponent choose that strategy.

* Dont focus so hard on the leeching stuff that you essentially have two main strategies. If you do this you probably wont be doing enough of either one to do well, and you can cause opponents to choose the role that you are leeching off of less frequently. You need to work on one strategy enough that choosing that role is much better for you than for the other players, so you'll have a way to gain ground on them.

* If you build a development discount, and then build a procution world as a leech, and then just keep drawing stuff that goes well with the production, its ok to switch main strategies. This will happen, you cant control what you're going to draw, you have to be flexible. Just make sure to make one role better for you than for anyone else. Spreading 1/2 your resources in each of two areas generally doesnt work. 3/4 in one area and 1/4 in another does. You need to get an engine of some type going, not 1/2 of two different engines.




Hand Management
The trickiest parts of the game are choosing what to spend your cards on, and which cards to discard.

One mistake that many players make is to build a less expensive, less useful development or planet, in order to hold onto certain other cards. This can be a mistake. Often the best play is to build the most beneficial thing you have, and throw most of the rest (or even the rest) of your cards away to pay for it.

For example, its perfectly find to spend your entire hand settling an alien windfall world in the beginning, if thats the best thing youve got (if no one picked a consume:trade this turn
that would make you ship it for almost nothing of course). This sets you up to trade for a new hand, after which you can produce and sell that alien good for more cards.

If you find yourself with a bunch of 2-4 cost developments and planets in you hand, wanting to hold on to all of them because youre planning to build them all, thats a mistake. Choose the least helpful ones of them and throw them away. You'll be drawing more cards which will give you replacement options, some of which are probably better. Build the thing that most helps you get your income/engine going, and dont worry too much about what you throw away.


Early on you dont really need to hoard more than 1 extra card play for the future, for a development or production strategy. If the thing you are discarding your cards to build provides you with income in some way (which is should), then you can count on drawing SOMETHING beneficial to you that you'll be able to build. Holding more than one future build isnt necessary.


How each strategy appraoches card hoarding:

Production strategy:
You should not hesitate to dump most of, or your entire hand, to build the best thing. There are a ton of cards that support your strategy in the deck, which are very interchangable. Just set up your income, dont worry about what you discard. Only worry about holding onto a big engine card like a diversified economy, consumer markets, or whatever, that you are actively building towards, or a 6 building thats going to be AMAZING for you.

Develop strategy:
You'll want to try and hold onto 1-2 potential future plays if possible, because there are less developments in the deck than planets. It helps that youre often playing cards very cheap because of your discounts, and thus dont have to part with the precious cards. However, if you have the chance to discard them to make something very powerful, its probably best to do it, assuming you have a way to generate income (or a building something to provide income). Be wary of discarding any 6 cost developments except ones that are completely unhelpful to you. Almost all of them are at least 'good' for this strategy, and youll be playing them for low cost.

Military Strategy:
The military strategy will generally need to hoard cards more than the others, so when doing military you should feel more justified trying to hold onto several future plays. The whole goal of a military strategy is to draw those big point cards. If you already have them, and the cards are telling you to go for that strategy, then hold onto those worlds!

Do not throw away all your cards to get +military bonuses without any military worlds to build. You'll have no income and thus no way to draw them. In that case, do something else. If you have a little military and a small world or two, just use it as an income source to start. If you draw more military stuff you can go for it, if not then just use it as a way to develop something else.


Choosing a Strategy

You should choose which strategy to follow based o nthe cards you draw. You cant go into the game wanting to do a certain thing. (Well you can, but if you dont draw the right stuff for it you'll lose). Here are keys to look for to help you pick a strategy:


Development discount strategy:
You need 2 or more of Investment Credits, Public Works, Interstellar Bank, Galactic Federation. If you get that, its probably a good way to go (unless you have something better). Interstellar Bank can be a good way to leech, but the others generally are not.

Military Strategy:
To make you want to focus on military as more than just an early income source, you'll want to see some combination of a +military card and a big scoring card, or multiple big scoring cards. If you see multiple big scoring cards and you already have some sort of military, its probably worth holding onto. If you have no military and no way to get it, throw them away to do something else. If you have a small military and a way to build more, but no big military worlds, its probably best to hold onto it but not build it yet, to see if you draw something. Build something else that makes income instead.

Production Strategy:
The best incentive to focus on a production strategy is stuff that produces both good and cards, and/or stuff that consumes for goods and cards. Especially if you can add an early windfall world into the mix to produce your bonus onto. Also you should look for cards that consume several goods at once for big points. Diversified Economy, Consumer Markets, Free Trade League, Tourist World and Galactic Trendsetters are good engines. You dont want to make 3 production worlds, and 3 worlds that consume something for a point, thats too inefficient. Instead, getting 2 worlds that make a good and a card, and a tourist world, for example, is far better.

Generally, things that give you a single ability to consume a good for just one point (or one card) are weak. You get going much faster if you build one thing that consumes multiple goods for several points, or if all your abilities also give you a card. Cards like Gem World, Mining Planet and Lost Species Arc World that make a good and card(s) are great production strategy worlds. They provide some income and are cheap for what they make (compared to worlds wit ha consume power). If combined combine them later with a consumption engine card theyre very powerful. If you can settle a production world and hold onto some sort of engine, thats a good hint to go for a production strategy.



Homeworlds and Strategies

Dont think that your strategy is determined by which homeworld you get. Homeworlds can help certain strategies but you still need to choose a strategy based on your other cards as well. Choose what to do based on bot hthe homeworld and what you draw.

Even if you dont choose a strategy that is correlated to your homeworld, you'll probably gain some sort of leeching or income benefit from your world. Its ok to just use that and focus on developing a strategy based on the cards you draw.


The use of the Explore role

The main reason to explore is if you dont have anything to build which will develop your income or point engine. If you do have something you can play, that you can afford, choose that role instead. The secondary reason to explore it to help you afford a big card that will be very helpful to you, or to afford soemthing and hold onto a card or two afterwards that you need. However, dont get carried away with exploring in order to always hold onto something afterwards. It can be better to just build the big thing now and start using it, that to wait a while so that you can hold onto something else.

You should almost always choose the explore: +1/+1 role, not the +5, except in the following cases:
1) You're military and looking for a windfall world early to get income, or a point world later on.
2) You have tons of cards and are looking for a 6 development to play.

You should pretty much only play explore +5 early on as a player with 2+ military who needs a military planet.


Conclusion

* Follow the general strategy of getting an income (card drawing) source, a point generation engine, and then use your point generation at the end (focusing all role choices on it).

* The point engines are Produce/Consume: 2xVPs, Big Military, or Development Discounts. Choose one and focus on it, using the others only as ways to leech or get extra income.

* Military is a (small) income source for the first 2-3 points (letting you get free small worlds) and a point engine after that.

* Your primary goal is to make a certain role choice much better for you than for your opponents (your point engine, either Develop, Settle/Military, or the Produce/Consume cycle). Once you set up your engine, only choose that role, except in extreme cases. (That thing youre thinking is an extreme case: it probably isnt, youre probably wrong, keep choosing your role).

* Leech off of roles that are associated with a strategy that an opponent is definitely doing. Make sure you leech in ways that are efficient and beneficial to you.

* Whoever sets up their engine first will probably cause the game to end because of it (either settling/developing to 12, or tkaing the VPs). To win, either be this person, or do well enough in your area while leeching a lot off of others to pull ahead of them.
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Jens Hoppe
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Nice strategy article, Alex (as always, I dare say ). I still haven't had a chance to try RftG, but hope to do so shortly - armed with the tips you've provided, of course.
 
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David desJardins
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I haven't played this game very much (certainly not compared to friends who have played thousands of times), but shouldn't you recognize an income strategy listed, also? If you can generate a huge income, you can use either develop or settle phases to turn cards into points. Of course, it also helps to have Deficit Spending, etc. (and Contact Specialist helps with converting cards into points during Settle). The problem with the income strategy is a limited hand size, but that just a problem to be wrestled with, not a fatal flaw (I think).
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Kester J
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Very comprehensive article. I'd disagree with you on a few minor things, of course, but the one thing that really stuck out was your advice on Explore.

If you're choosing Explore, my advice is the opposite of yours. Use +5 all the time, unless you need the extra card from +1,+1 to pay for something immediately, or you are very card poor with no other way to get them. (Although if Explore +1,+1 is your best way to get cards, you are probably in a pretty bad position and may well lose anyway).

Mostly you'll be using Explore when you already have a strategy and need more cards that go with it. Maybe you have lots of production and need more consume powers, or vice versa. Maybe you have a high military and are after military worlds, as you mention. In this case, choosing Explore +5 give you a much better chance of getting something useful than Explore +1,+1.
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Jay Borden
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Great article.

I was half way through writing my own, but you beat me to the punch. I guess I can take my time now, this covers 80% of what I wanted to say.
 
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Jim Krohn
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Great article. No, it's even better than a great article.

The only thing that I would add would be the obvious - there are multiple production strategies as certain developments really aid specific types of worlds. The production strategy really becomes powerful if you can specialize in novelty, rare element, gene, or alien tech with the right development cards, especially the right 6 development cards. I know this is obvious to most people but I thought I would throw that in for the new player.

I also STRONGLY AGREE with your position on throwing away cards. Holding onto cards means not playing other cards, which means not growing your engine, which means not getting more cards. The player that holds onto a lot of cards always loses - and usually gets killed. I love that tough choice when throwing away cards!

This game is fast becoming one of my favorite games of all time. I need the expansion now because I have 3 kids!
 
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Pedro
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Quote:
You need to get an engine of some type going, not 1/2 of two different engines.


Excellent article overall, but I think this is the best piece of advice in the whole piece.

Given the huge number of possibilities each turn it's very easy for a less experienced player to lose the focus and try to follow several different paths simultaneously. This is a huge mistake and will always lead to disaster.

I know I've made this mistake a few times.
 
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Tommy Rikberg
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Very nice article.

I also think that a military strategy should use Explore +5 quite often rather than Explore +1,+1, unless he has some Explore bonuses that lets him look at additional cards.

I think it is also worth adding that it is possible to leech off a military player by having good explore powers. Research Labs is particularly nice if it also combines with your other cards. Galactic Reneissance also works but is expensive. It is hard for a military player to pick Explore +5 if he keeps one card while you keep two. It could even drive a military player to trade rather than explore, unless he also has some nice explore bonuses.
 
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Alex Rockwell
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Income strategy:

I was thinking of income as important for all the strategies, but probably not sufficient on its own. (It hits hand limit issues, for one thing). I suppose that a strategy of trading for a ton of money, and using cards like deficit spending and buying 6 developments, is basically like the development strategy I mentioned, but without discounts, and more income instead. If you have to trade more often, to afford stuff without discounts, its not going to be as beneficial, since you wont get as many developments, and you space them out more so opponents can take more advantage. (Obviously if you get trade league, youre goign to have a ton of income, and anything will probably work). Deficit spending is kindof like having a production/consumtion leech.

Lots of income is good, but lots of income + an engine for scoring is better.

On explore: Yes +5 is good for military strategies, you get the specific card you need. It doesnt seem as good for strategies that need to spend cards (everything else), as the +1/+1, unless you have a bunch of cards already and are just looking for something to do. I generally have something I'm wanting to build.

All the ways to leech off explore (Research Labs, Galactic Renaissance, etc), tend to be really expensive, and you dont get the 1 card bonus often enough. Even a military player doesnt explore every turn, they mostly settle, people usually explore a lot early and then not much anymore once incomes get going. If there were cheap ways to get extra explore cards they could be good, but research labs isnt (you'd need to be utilizing the other powers to make it work, and thats really hard). I'd rather leech with an Intersteller Bank, for example, off a player choosing Develop every round, for less cost.

I tend to think that Research Labs is the University of this game and its really hard to make it a worthwhile buy. The explore power doesnt get used often in the end (unless you do it, which means you arent pursuing your strategy well in the end), the gene consume power is minor, since its only for 1 point, and there are a lot of better powers out there. And the alien production bonus is hard to use for more than about 1 card. Its purpose seems to me to build for points in the end if you have 6 developments to score it. I wish it did a bit more. But its one of only a couple cards I feel that way about, and I think its fine to have some terrible cards in there that look ok, as traps for new players to figure out.

 
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Mark Delano
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Alexfrog wrote:
I tend to think that Research Labs is the University of this game and its really hard to make it a worthwhile buy. The explore power doesnt get used often in the end (unless you do it, which means you arent pursuing your strategy well in the end), the gene consume power is minor, since its only for 1 point, and there are a lot of better powers out there. And the alien production bonus is hard to use for more than about 1 card. Its purpose seems to me to build for points in the end if you have 6 developments to score it. I wish it did a bit more. But its one of only a couple cards I feel that way about, and I think its fine to have some terrible cards in there that look ok, as traps for new players to figure out.



If I get Research Labs in my opening hand I'll be strongly tempted to play it first turn. It means second turn I can Explore/+1,+1 and get 3 cards, which is about as good as selling a Rare good (slightly worse because the other players get a card, slightly better because you get the cards before the current Develop/Settle phase and you can do it every turn). It depends on the other cards in my opening and the mindset of the other players though. If they tend not to explore that often and New Sparta isn't in play I'll be less likely to play it. If someone else gets out an early Galactic Renaissance and Explore is likely to be their primary draw method it becomes a great leech card.
 
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Alex Rockwell
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Maybe I'm wrong, but in my experience playing an early research labs leads to losing horribly.

It takes 5 explores to get back to breakeven on the card (4 cost + the card itself). Thats probably as many explore phases as there are the whole game in my experience.

Compare this to a production world, where for 4 you can get an alien windfall you can immediately sell for 5, and then produce on it, or a strong production world. Or compare it to a public works: Public works gives you a card per time you develop (probably as many opportunities as times you explore), and it also eats a good for 1 point, but it costs 3 less cards. It doesnt cost you your hand.
 
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Research labs are stellar. Why, you ask? Because you can now view 7 cards and keep 2. How many times have you explored +5 and ended up with 2 cards you really wanted, or a card that you liked but wouldn't be able to play because you were lacking a card? Now you have that option. That's the beauty of +1 card on explore - it doesn't make +1+1 better so much as it makes +5 better.
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Tommy Rikberg
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Jythier wrote:
Research labs are stellar. Why, you ask? Because you can now view 7 cards and keep 2. How many times have you explored +5 and ended up with 2 cards you really wanted, or a card that you liked but wouldn't be able to play because you were lacking a card? Now you have that option. That's the beauty of +1 card on explore - it doesn't make +1+1 better so much as it makes +5 better.

Precisely. It is one of the best developments for a military strategy. Perhaps not right at the beginning, when New Military Tactics, Space Marines and such are of greater value, but soon after that.

In two player games in particular it is a valuable leech card when the opponent goes military.
 
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Jon W
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DaviddesJ wrote:
The problem with the income strategy is a limited hand size, but that just a problem to be wrestled with, not a fatal flaw (I think).

I'm still surprised there was no hand-size special power in the base set. There are a few powers that consume cards for VPs, but that doesn't grant the interesting game options that, say, beginning the turn with 14 cards would.

I'm not sure how it could be a fatal flaw, and I concede it can be a fun problem at times, but I've found the limit more frustrating than enjoyable.
 
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Mark Delano
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Alexfrog wrote:
Maybe I'm wrong, but in my experience playing an early research labs leads to losing horribly.

It takes 5 explores to get back to breakeven on the card (4 cost + the card itself). Thats probably as many explore phases as there are the whole game in my experience.

Compare this to a production world, where for 4 you can get an alien windfall you can immediately sell for 5, and then produce on it, or a strong production world. Or compare it to a public works: Public works gives you a card per time you develop (probably as many opportunities as times you explore), and it also eats a good for 1 point, but it costs 3 less cards. It doesnt cost you your hand.


I'm not necessarily arguing Research Labs is always better than the other options, but I wouldn't treat it quite so shabbily. It only takes one Explore to get back the 3 cards you paid for the Research Labs (assuming a first turn Develop), one more Explore and you are up 2 cards.

Unless there's both an Explore and a Settle first turn you can't play the 4 cost Alien Windfall first turn. Which means it's highly unlikely you'll get to sell it first turn without getting lucky with the other player's action selection. You can sell it second turn if there was an Explore/Settle first turn or someone else settles for you second turn. It isn't guaranteed to be sellable until the third turn. By that time I've already got six cards from my Research Labs. Further, unless you alternately Produce/Consume (or play Galactic Engineers/Alien Rosetta Stone World) you're not getting any more cards from the Alien Windfall. Alternating Produce/Consume is 5 cards every two turns. If I take 5 cards every two turns from Explore I get to look at 5 extra cards when deciding what to keep. Explore isn't dependent on a setup action where I telegraph my choice for the next turn.

As for Public Works, I agree it can be very powerful. It depends on a good flow of Developments though, so I'm most inclined to use it when I have a couple of other cheap developments lined up or I need the Consume power. There's no conditions attached to Research Labs power other than someone picking Explore.

Another time that I love the Research Labs is when I have a couple of other Explore powers and I'm working a Develop or Settle strategy. It works particularly well with the Develop strategy since it will frequently be dirt cheap with a couple Development discount/rebate cards in play. The occasional Explore when my opponent has a huge hand of cards and is expecting me to Develop or Settle is very rewarding.
 
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Wei-Hwa Huang
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Alexfrog wrote:
It takes 5 explores to get back to breakeven on the card (4 cost + the card itself). Thats probably as many explore phases as there are the whole game in my experience.

Compare this to a production world, where for 4 you can get an alien windfall you can immediately sell for 5, and then produce on it, or a strong production world.


The comparison isn't quite apt; Choosing Explore +1, +1 gives you an inherent one-card advantage, whereas choosing Consume or Produce doesn't.

Suppose player X has an Research Labs and player Y has the Deserted Alien Outpost (4/3 Alien Windfall). For player Y to do a cycle, they do Consume:Trade followed by Produce, for a net gain of 5 cards in two turns. In those two turns player X can choose Explore +1, +1 twice, which means that he gains 6 cards and player Y gains 2 (with two extra views). The difference, from a pure income standpoint, is 1 card.

There are many counterbalancing issues, such as: (1) the Deserted Alien Outpost is 3VP while Research Labs is 2VP; (2) Being a world, to put out the Deserted Alien Outpost requires the 4 cards upfront, meaning it's much harder to get out on turn 1; (3) The Deserted Alien Outpost has much fewer 6-cost synergies than Research Labs -- 3 points over two 6s (GS and ATI) versus 7 points over four 6s (GS, GF, NE, GR); (4) Research Labs has the Consume and Produce powers, which are mostly noise but in general are positive things.

Overall, it's hard to completely compare the two cards, but it's about right. Certainly at cost 3 it would be way too powerful.

Quote:
Or compare it to a public works: Public works gives you a card per time you develop (probably as many opportunities as times you explore), and it also eats a good for 1 point, but it costs 3 less cards. It doesnt cost you your hand.


But, as you mentioned, Public Works doesn't nearly leech as well -- you need the developments to really get the cards from it; you can't get the cards if someone else is developing and you aren't. You're also getting one less VP from Public Works.

Mind you, I'm not saying Research Labs is a great card. I agree that among expert play it doesn't -- and shouldn't -- get played as often as comparable cards (e.g., Diversified Economy). But not all games of RftG are among expert players!
 
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Interesting to see people defending research labs! I just assumed everyone would agree that its terrible.

I'll have to think about it more, but my experience is that in my games explore happens maybe 3-5 times a game (I'll start counting), and 1 of those is usually turn 1 before you could have the labs down. The consume power is minor and specific, and the alien power is hard to use for more than about 1 card.


"I'm not necessarily arguing Research Labs is always better than the other options, but I wouldn't treat it quite so shabbily. It only takes one Explore to get back the 3 cards you paid for the Research Labs (assuming a first turn Develop), one more Explore and you are up 2 cards."

The explore wouldve given you 2 cards anyway, so the net is +1 extra. Its not actually giving you 3 cards. The explore is giving everyone one. You role power for the turn is giving you one (some other role would also have given you a card), and the labs is giving 1. It takes 5 explores to make up for the 4 card cost + card for the research labs.

I dont see an advantage in it other than building it for points bonuses off of 6 developments, near the end.
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waddball wrote:
I'm still surprised there was no hand-size special power in the base set.


[tongue-in-cheek]
There were already too many icons in the base set; making another one would have scared off even more new players.
[/tongue-in-cheek]
 
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Great article. My one question is how the selection process changes in the 2 player game. In my experience, a 2 player game tends to result in the Explore role being chosen more often during the mid-game to compliment whatever your strategy is. This would particularly seem to be the case with a Military or Develop player. Obviously a Consume player will be often selection Develop/Consume as his 2 roles.

Thoughts?
 
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Research Labs (RL) vs Deserted Alien Outpost (DAO):

1: RL player plays develop/RL, DAO player plays settle/DAO. Lets assume someone explored or something so this is affordable, or say this is the 2nd turn of the game.

2: RL player explores, DAO trades: RL 3 cards, DAO 6

3: RL explores, DAO produces: RL 6, DAO 7

4: RL explores, DAO trades: RL 9, DAO 13

This gets worse for the RL player as it goes on.
The DAO player gets their cards faster, as well as getting more of them. Also as the game goes along the RL player has to keep doing an action (explore) that doesnt let them control what thye get to spend their cards on, or to score points or trade, in order to keep getting a benefit.

I've build research labs early in two games and lost by at least 20 each time. I sat there cursing the research labs most of the game for wasting all my cards.
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I had meant to talk about 2 player some:

In 2 player leeching is pretty important, as soon as you see what your opponent is doing its important to make sure you get some benefit in that phase so they cant just destroy you with it. Esepecially if they are producing. Also, its more acceptable to leech heavily in the area of your opponents main strategy. In a 4 player if you do this, and it causes them to pick their role less, youre screwed. In 2 player, if that happens youre hindering your opponent.

Often one player will get into produce/trade cycles (later turning into 2xVPs), and the other will do develops or settles, probably with some trades mixed in.


I tend to see explore picked less in 2 player, after the early game, assuming both players have a strategy going. With 4 though, usually someone is kindof stuck and explores some.

Also, something like an interstellar bank or replicant robots is really amazing when you can pick the phase it gives a bonus in twice a turn. Research labs could be good if it cost 2, I think. (Even 3 would be bad).
 
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Jon W
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onigame wrote:
[tongue-in-cheek]
There were already too many icons in the base set; making another one would have scared off even more new players.
[/tongue-in-cheek]

There you go again, silencing critics with reason and pragmatism. I demand every possible option!

And besides, once you're past the threshold for these sorts of people--and you are, as you noted--adding another one or three or twenty wouldn't matter, right?
 
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Mark Delano
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Alexfrog wrote:
Research Labs (RL) vs Deserted Alien Outpost (DAO):

1: RL player plays develop/RL, DAO player plays settle/DAO. Lets assume someone explored or something so this is affordable, or say this is the 2nd turn of the game.

2: RL player explores, DAO trades: RL 3 cards, DAO 6

3: RL explores, DAO produces: RL 6, DAO 8

4: RL explores, DAO trades: RL 9, DAO 14

This gets worse for the RL player as it goes on.
The DAO player gets their cards faster, as well as getting more of them. Also as the game goes along the RL player has to keep doing an action (explore) that doesnt let them control what thye get to spend their cards on, or to score points or trade, in order to keep getting a benefit.

I've build research labs early in two games and lost by at least 20 each time. I sat there cursing the research labs most of the game for wasting all my cards.


A couple of errors here. On turn 1 the RL player would get a card from the Explore. Also on turn 3 DAO should only gain 1 card not 2. Another important note is the timing. The Explore cards are received before the Develop/Settle of that turn, so can potentially be used quicker. So the numbers are:

2: Explore: RL 4, DAO 1. Consume: RL 4, DAO 6
3: Explore: RL 7, DAO 7.
4: Explore: RL 10, DAO 8. Consume: RL 10, DAO 13
5: Explore: RL 13, DAO 14.
6: Explore: RL 16, DAO 15. Consume: RL 16, DAO 20
7: Explore: RL 19, DAO 21

So on odd numbered turns their total income is about equal, even turns DAO jumps ahead after Develop/Settle.
 
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onigame wrote:
[tongue-in-cheek]
There were already too many icons in the base set; making another one would have scared off even more new players.
[/tongue-in-cheek]


Hehe. Personally I love the icons. They all made sense to me, and the ones that were complicated even had an explanation written on the card!

When I first play a game I want to be overwhelmed and feel like there is a ton going on that I need to learn. If I dont feel that it generally means the game isnt deep enough and its not goign to sustain interest.
 
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Alex Rockwell
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frunkee wrote:

A couple of errors here. On turn 1 the RL player would get a card from the Explore. Also on turn 3 DAO should only gain 1 card not 2.


Your right, edited.

The RL gains a card from explore o nturn 1 (or develop discount or whatever, but DAO player gains a card from settle, so those cancel. I was counting net cards gained on future turns.

Selling the alien good gives 1 more card each 2 turns, and starts it a turn faster. More importantly, imo, it gets a bonus by doing things you want to do in a solid strategy (producing and trading), which you can build upon, while research labs requires you to keep exploring to get the bonus, and those midgame explores are, in my experience, not very strong.
 
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