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Subject: Analyzing Some Paths to Victory rss

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Adam O'Brien
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So I have been lucky enough to get several plays in with my copy of Homesteaders, and thought I would share some strategy that I have observed in those games.

One thing to note is that due to the very cool trade system featured in this game, all resources are liquid. This lends itself to wide varieties of options, and really prevents the game from becoming too linear. There really aren't any clear series of prerequisites (Build A, then B, then C...) but there are certainly synergies to be found. I will share some of the winning strategies that I have seen develop over several games, and perhaps spur some discussion among other seasoned Homesteaders.

Additional note: obviously thanks to trading, you can get any resource you need, but it is far more efficient to simply produce what you need to build with. These strategies are largely based on establishing a long term game plan based on what you are able to build early (specifically, what resources you are able to produce early).

Strategy #1 - Moo Cows

Because the Ranch (and in a less efficient manner, the River Port) are the only ways to produce Livestock (heretofore referred to as cows), the Moo Cow strategy is relatively linear, but also potentially very lucrative. Essentially, you want the Ranch producing cows as early as possible. 4 out of the 6 special beuildings require cows, as do the high value Restaurant and Meatpacking Plant. The Rodeo essentially lets you ignore the Pay Workers phase, which can be tremendous in terms of auctioning power (effectively increasing your income by up to $5). And because so many of the Moo Cow buildings are Special buildings, the Restaurant will easily be worth double digit victory points in the end.

The primary downside to the Moo Cow plan is that because so many of it's best buildings are Special, and limited to one, it can get ugly if two players are trying the same strategy. If you are left to your own devices, this plan generates huge points, but if someone else poaches half of the cow buildings, you will both likely fall short! For this reason, the Moo Cow plan is probably better in a 3-player game than a 4.

Example town:
Farm, Homestead, Ranch, Rodeo, Fairgrounds, Circus, Restaurant, Meatpacking plant: points just from buildings = 33 + # of cowboys, not counting points generated by Meatpacking Plant or gold from Fairgrounds. If you can add in the Lawyer, that'll be worth probably 10-12 more.

Strategy #2 - Only the Penitant Man Shall Pass (Church Rush)

This one is pretty straightforward, you use the settlement turns to build whatever resource production you will need to build the church, and hopefully saving money so that you will be able to get the first available Residential auction tile in the Town era. The Church, if built in the first round of the Town era, is worth a whopping 22 VPs over the course of the game (10 face value, and 6 incomes of 2 points each). typically you won't be able to get it that early though, but it is only worth 2 VP less each subsequent round.

This is a very powerful strategy, and is pretty much impossible to stop. To set it up, you will want some combination of (Foundry or Steel Mill) and (Gold Mine or Copper Mine or River Port) in the Settlement era. Keep in mind that Copper and Gold are virtually interchangeable, so picking up a Trade Chit producer is probably wise as well. And since all of the metal producers besides the Steel Mill require Workers, any Cowboys you can pick up en route will be very useful. A logical follow-up building, based on the goods you produced to build the Church, is the Rail Yard in the City era, which is also worth a ton of points (at least double digits, possibly 14 or so).

If someone snakes the Church from you (those no-good varmints!) you can take the Lawyer or the Factory as your runner-up prize, and then shift gears to focus on their bonus building types (commercial or industrial, respectively).

Example Town - Homestead, Gold Mine, Foundry, Church, Rail Yard, Workshop, Railworkers House: points just from buildings = 25 + # rails x2 + # cowboys + 2VP/turn Church was in play (say an additional 10) + points generated by Workshop

Strategy #3 - Trade-o-Rama (featuring legal items, etc.)

I pulled this one off last night, and liked it although I will warn that it can be a bit more brain-burn-y than some of the other strategies. Essentially, produce a ridiculous number of trade chits (I was producing 4 trade chits a turn by mid-town era), enabling you to trade whatever you produce at will, gaining extra VPs every time you build (due to selling resources) and being able to turn any good into any other good (essentially giving you the option of any building you want).

In the Settlement era, you want some combinination of the Market, the Farm, Gold Mine, Trading Post, Railworkers House, and/or the General Store. Because the Farm and Market both produce $$, I recommend you get them first, to help you win more auctions to pick up the rest. Feel free to take Debt as needed, because the plan is to pick up the Bank as early as possible in the Town era. Bid aggressively to get the first Commercial building in the Town era, you really want that Bank. The Lawyer is also a great pickup in the Town phase, since you will likely have several Commercial buildings for end-game VPs. The important thing to remember here is that the bank allows you to trade chits in for $, meaning that a stack of trade chits can turn into any resources you need. The Factory is also a nice pickup, but just be sure you have plenty of resources ready for Round 9. In the City era you need to make an early, aggressive bid to take the Town Hall, which will likely be worth at least 15 VPs thanks to your Commercial empire. Railyard is likely to also be very valuable, if a bit more expensive.

Of course, you will likely gain a ton of points in the final income phase as you make trades left and right with your mountain of trade chits.

Example Town: Homestead, Market, Trading Post, Gold Mine, Bank, Lawyer, Town Hall, Train Station, Stables, Forge; Points from buildings = 34 + 1 point/building after Forge is built + 2 VP/turn from the Lawyer.

Hope that gives people some things to think about when playing. As I said, there are no pre-set paths to victory, I just wanted to give some examples of long-term strategy you may want to consider next time you and friends are settling Minstreltown.

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Scott Schneider
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Those are some interesting ideas. I overdid that last one in my first game, so I'm leery of going for tons of trades. But one particular tactic worked pretty well. If you have the general store, trading a cow or copper for gold is a great deal.
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Alex Rockwell
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3dicebombers wrote:

Additional note: obviously thanks to trading, you can get any resource you need, but it is far more efficient to simply produce what you need to build with. These strategies are largely based on establishing a long term game plan based on what you are able to build early (specifically, what resources you are able to produce early).


Thanks Adam for the great article!

I think this note is key. Yes, you can get anything you need at a cost. But yes, what you produce is very important, and it impacts what you can do EFFICIENTLY and QUICKLY. Getting the Ranch or Church or Fairgrounds a turn faster means that it produces more resources or points by the end of the game!

I look forward to seeing the discussions on this topic
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Dave Eisen
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Yes. 4 Trade Tokens a turn is pretty slick and all, but that's a whole lot of non-productive income you're getting there. I have to think it comes at a cost and will have you falling behind the player who instead gets resources and uses them effectively.
 
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Alex Rockwell
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dkeisen wrote:
Yes. 4 Trade Tokens a turn is pretty slick and all, but that's a whole lot of non-productive income you're getting there. I have to think it comes at a cost and will have you falling behind the player who instead gets resources and uses them effectively.


"Obviously thanks to trading, you can get any resource you need, but it is far more efficient to simply produce what you need to build with. "

This said it - trading strategy is sacrificing efficiency for versatility. So does this 4 trade a turn strategy work well, or is it inefficient?



I will say that there are three ways that I've seen new players lose horribly:
1) Too much unpayable debt.
2) A pile of wood & food, like 4-6 of each, left at game end, and nothing to do with it.
3) A huge stack of trade tokens (running the supply out), and no way to use them. (Cant sell because they dont have cubes, cant buy because they dont have money - they can only buy/sell for 1 point per 2 trades).


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Steve Duff
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Alexfrog wrote:
I will say that there are three ways that I've seen new players lose horribly:
1) Too much unpayable debt.
3) A huge stack of trade tokens (running the supply out), and no way to use them. (Cant sell because they dont have cubes, cant buy because they dont have money - they can only buy/sell for 1 point per 2 trades).


Heh. Managed a strategy of doing *both* those last game. zombie

Just couldn't get out of the rut and get any goods to go with my tokens. Managed to get the Bank in order to reduce the debt, but played an awful awful game overall. laugh
 
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Adam O'Brien
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dkeisen wrote:
Yes. 4 Trade Tokens a turn is pretty slick and all, but that's a whole lot of non-productive income you're getting there. I have to think it comes at a cost and will have you falling behind the player who instead gets resources and uses them effectively.


Well, the lynch pin in that particular strategy as mentioned is the Bank. The Bank turns those trade chits into extra income and makes them even more flexible, not to mention the pseudo-income of the bank's debt repayment. And also with the Market or General Store, you can essentially "upgrade" your resources without spending $ and possibly gain VPs in the process. And of course, the Gold Mine is a very important building for this strategy, as Gold and Trades = any good you want.

As Alex mentioned, you are trading some efficiency for versatility, but the added advantage is that you will easily pick up a dozen or so VPs from selling goods over the course of the game, which is a lot more than other players will get from trading. And as for versatility, it is nice to know that you won't get cut out from building, since you essentially always have access to whatever building materials you need.

And to address Alex's point about ending the game with a pile of unusable trade chits, I haven't ever really seen this happen, as all you need is either 1 good or 1 silver to at least turn those chits into 1/2 a VP each. That is not great efficiency, but it is certainly always a viable option. And of course, combined with Market or General Store, each of those exchanges comes at a small profit, hopefully enough to get into the buy gold/pay debt range for more VPs.

I haven't seen many scores posted for this game, but my final score in my last "4 trade chits a turn" 4-player game was 63, which I feel is probably pretty reasonable. But people can feel free to bash me on that if they like.
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Adam O'Brien
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Alexfrog wrote:


Thanks Adam for the great article!

I look forward to seeing the discussions on this topic


Maybe I'll be in the running for the GG prizes on Apr 30th!

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/466211/homesteaders-bgg-...
 
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Alex Rockwell
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3dicebombers wrote:

And to address Alex's point about ending the game with a pile of unusable trade chits, I haven't ever really seen this happen, as all you need is either 1 good or 1 silver to at least turn those chits into 1/2 a VP each.


Yes, this is what ends up happening with them. Its not that you cant do anything with them, its that you end up spending a big stack of them doing this for a few points that is the problem.

I was mostly referring to a new player who starts generating several trade tokens a turn and not much of anything else.

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Kurt R
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3dicebombers wrote:
Alexfrog wrote:


Thanks Adam for the great article!

I look forward to seeing the discussions on this topic


Maybe I'll be in the running for the GG prizes on Apr 30th!

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/466211/homesteaders-bgg-...


More like in the lead. Thanks for the article.
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Steve Duff
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johnsvtk wrote:
I have to say, I am not convinced there really are "paths" to victory, the way there are in games like Puerto Rico. I like the game a lot, but the goods are so interchangable, and the buildings have such a wide variety of costs, that it almost doesnt matter which buildings you get, or which goods you produce. You don't have to map out a strategy, you can just take the buildings you can afford when you get the chance, and keep taking the build tile that you can get most cheaply.


The player who gets buildings that work well together will defeat the player who just took/built the cheapest things possible.
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Adam O'Brien
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johnsvtk wrote:
I have to say, I am not convinced there really are "paths" to victory, the way there are in games like Puerto Rico.


I have to disagree here. I think it is very similar to Puerto Rico in that:

a) there is a limited number of ways to score points. In PR you can either ship or build. In Homesteaders you can either build or sell. In both, a combination of the two is likely necessary to win.

b) Because of synergies between buildings in both, long-term strategies tend to develop. If you want to ship in PR, you probably want to pick up the Factory and the Harbor. If you want to build, you probably want quarries and whatever building gives you free dudes when you build. If you can produce cows early in Homesteaders, you probably want to try for the Circus, Rodeo, etc.

The main difference is that in Puerto Rico, the buildings tend to lead the strategy, whereas in Homesteaders the buildings tend to reward the strategy, if that makes sense. As in, the Harbor makes shipping a more desirable choice in future turns; the Circus rewards you for producing cows earlier in the game.

And as Steven said, building with synergy will always beat building randomly.

I will add that an experienced player will always beat inexperienced players, which further speaks to it being a strategic game with some depth. Hopefully with more plays you will see better strategies develop, and enjoy it more.

As for the 3-player versus 4-player, you are right that the building selection is better in a 3p, but really the opportunities to build are roughly the same. Assuming even auction distribution between players, each player should win about 6.67 auctions in a 3p and 7.5 in a 4p), with an average difference of maybe 1 building per game. This of course hinges on the aggressiveness of the bidders at auction.
 
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Alex Rockwell
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johnsvtk wrote:
I have to say, I am not convinced there really are "paths" to victory, the way there are in games like Puerto Rico. I like the game a lot, but the goods are so interchangable, and the buildings have such a wide variety of costs, that it almost doesnt matter which buildings you get, or which goods you produce. You don't have to map out a strategy, you can just take the buildings you can afford when you get the chance, and keep taking the build tile that you can get most cheaply.

Maybe I will change my mind with more plays, but that is how it seeems to me.


Hi John,

I can assure you that there are 'paths', and this thread is beginning to discuss some of them.

There are massive differences between the results you will get from different combinations or orderings of early buildings, and in which particluar midgame and engame buildings you get. And how fast you get those particular big midgame buildings. Much of the game strategy lies in uncovering what combinations of buildings work well together to get you started. For example:
Turn 1 Market strategies work well when followed by X or Y, but do poorly if I continue with Z. Turn 1 Foundry works well when followed by A or B, but not C or D.

There is a huge difference between turn 3 Ranch and turn 5 Ranch. There is a huge difference between Turn 6 Church and Turn 8 Church. Getting that buildign faster is worth many more points, what do you have to do to get it?

There is a huge difference between starting out with Market and then Gold Mine, versus Farm and then worker+RR, versus pass and then Steel Mill - each of those are very viable beginnings but will have very different strengths and weaknesses to address.

The buildings have a variety of costs to enable most people to do 'something', but that does not mean they are equivalent. Certain buildings work much better in certain strategies than others, or at different times than others. (And only a very, very small part of this is due to particular type of building or item scoring bonuses.


It is true that goods can be interchanged with Trades, but you are paying a significant cost to do this. What you produce really does matter a lot, because it effects what you can build efficiently, and also what you can build QUICKLY. If you have to wait for enough trades to perform the needed swaps to get a certain building, youre delaying when you can get it. And if you build a lot of commercial, trade production buildings, to make the swaps, then you arent getting buildigns that make income, resources, or points instead.


I hope you'll keep investigating and analyzing the game, it really does reward deep analysis.

Investigate things like:
What is the earliest that I can get (big building X) in the midgame? What path(s) of buildings lead me to be able to do this? What alternatives are there if I get outbid or my tile doesnt appear, and how much worse is that alternative (can I get the cheap land here and still do my plan?)

How can I do a strategy that gets all of X, Y, and Z buildings?

How efficient is trading really? How much do I have to pay to get the building that gives me those trades, what is my opportunity cost? Am I getting my money's worth for the trades?



Quote:

Also, I found the 3 player game a little odd. Its strange to have a greater availability of buildings, but fewer chances to build. That aspect of the game does not seem well thought out.


3 player is intentionally different than 4 player, to provide a different experience. The bigging is more difficult and generally higher due to less auctions per player. To counteract the increased difficulty from this, its a bit easier to get the buildings you want, due to less competition. I like that the game plays a bit differently with 3 or 4.

Also note that actual number of buildings purchased per player is actually quite similar.

Settlement phase: 7 buildings 3er, 10 4er (remember worker+RR)
Town phase: 8 buildigns 3er, 12 4er
City phase: 4 buildigns 3er, 5 4er (charity)

Total 19 in 3er, 6 1/3 per person.
Total 27 4er, 6 3/4 per person.

Difference is .42 building per player, quite small.
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Alex Rockwell
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3dicebombers wrote:
a) there is a limited number of ways to score points. In PR you can either ship or build. In Homesteaders you can either build or sell. In both, a combination of the two is likely necessary to win.


In Homesteaders, you can:

* Build (buildings worth Points and Endgame scoring bonus points).
* Create points through the income phase, via buildigns that generate points each turn (like Church, Factory, etc), or buildings that allow workers to generate points (Forge, Meatpacking Plant)
* Sell goods
* Produce point-valuable goods (Gold/Livestock/Copper) and score with them at endgame and/or use them in City phase tiles to score (same with Food).
* End with minimal debt to reduce negative scoring.


Homesteaders is in the genre of Puerto Rico in that both are resource management economic engine games, but other than that they are quite different. You build buildings in both, but in different ways, but Homesteaders is auction focused and PR is role selection focused.


PR has more 'paths' than just Building and Shipping (and even then, you dont do just one).

In puerto rico you initially set up some income source, and then the strategy diverges into getting some of these (no PR expansion discussed here):

Building point strategies:
Further Income generation (Large Market, Office, Factory, etc), to facilitate large building purchases.
Quarries (to facilitate more and larger building purchases) (Also: Construction Hut strategy)

Shipping Point Strategies:
Additional production goods (plantations + buildings) (Also: Hacienda strategy)
Harbor shipping (ship many types for bonuses)
Wharf Shipping (ignore some boat requirements to increase percentage of goods that get shipped)
Warehousing (maintain goods between shipping phases to ship them later instead of wasting).

People perform combinations of these strategies, and then the large buildings also provide bonuses for certain things.


So those are the many paths in PR.

There are many paths in Homesteaders, such as:

Resource production methods:
* Food production strategies - allows heavy worker recruitment, then requires some outlet to use the food. Farm and Grain mill are very different versions.
* Steel Production strategies (opens up a variety of buildings that are otherwise hard to get) - Foundry and Steel Mill are different varieties of this.
* Ranch strategies (get ranch and use livestock to make big stuff)
* Copper strategies (get Copper Mine and use it to make big stuff).
* Gold strategies (Use gold as a versatile resource for paying for bids and trading into livestock or copper easily. (River Port strategy as an even more versatile version of this).

You will generally combine 2-3 of these in different ways.

Income strategies:
* Selling strategy (sell food/steel for silver, or livestock/copper for gold to fund purchases. General store is key) - also makes points.
* Silver generation (several variations, build something like Depot to make silver, get rail lines by passing, get Rodeo)
* Using gold (generate gold and use it as your income source)
* Bank strategy (skimp on income generation until late, use more debt but pay it off with bank).

Trade strategies:
* Heavy trades (lots of commercials, many resource swaps)
* River Port / (almost)-no trade. Use River port gold as any big resource, make steel as well, dont require trades at all. Or less extreme varieties.
* Trade+Food combo strategies. Use trades mostly to facilitate the use of food for recruiting, selling for income, or swapping into steel on the Market building (special ability)
* Moderate strategy - have just enough to do some trading or selling, be sparing with your use.

Worker strategies:
* Worker army (use farm or grain mill + trades to generate many workers, buy worker utilizing buildigns.
* Worker bonus tile targetting (focus on getting your workers via certain auction tiles, the settlement phase Worker +RR, and the Town phase, round 5-7 fixed 'worker + building' tiles).
* Worker light (use Steel Mill/Grain Mill automatic production, Town phase special building/church automatic point generation, and avoid workers - requires less silver expenditur).


Just like in PR, there are many different ways to go. This is a sampling of what exists, youll need to figure out how to make these strategies and combinations of them work well, and efficiently!
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Jesse Dean
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Alex, I think you just wrote the contest winning article. arrrh
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Adam O'Brien
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Alexfrog wrote:
3dicebombers wrote:
a) there is a limited number of ways to score points. In PR you can either ship or build. In Homesteaders you can either build or sell. In both, a combination of the two is likely necessary to win.


In Homesteaders, you can:

* Build (buildings worth Points and Endgame scoring bonus points).
* Create points through the income phase, via buildigns that generate points each turn (like Church, Factory, etc), or buildings that allow workers to generate points (Forge, Meatpacking Plant)
* Sell goods
* Produce point-valuable goods (Gold/Livestock/Copper) and score with them at endgame and/or use them in City phase tiles to score (same with Food).
* End with minimal debt to reduce negative scoring.

PR has more 'paths' than just Building and Shipping (and even then, you dont do just one).


I think you are misunderstanding my point. I realize there are many "paths" to scoring points and winning (see original post) but ultimately, there are only two ways to actually score points.

In PR, you score points when you ship, and you score end-game points from your buildings. Period, there is no other way to score points in PR.

In Homesteaders, you score points when you sell goods, and you get points from your buildings. Period¹.

Now yes, you are of course correct that those building points could come from any combination of a) face value points b) end-of-game bonus points c) manned or un-manned points generated in income phase d) producing goods that are worth points and e) elimination of debt.

Homesteaders revolves around finding optimal ways to generate the most points possible, as in PR, and there are ultimately only two¹ ways to generate points, as in PR. There are however hundreds (thousands?) of combinations of buildings/auction tiles/Rail Track actions that can be used to reach that optimal amount in HS, just as there are thousands of combinations of buildings, plantations, role selections, and player interactions that determine the optimal amount in PR.

I think you are confusing the statement you quoted as describing a process, when it is actually a description of the ultimate goal. Sort of like confusing the journey with the destination.

I am not however claiming that the two games play at all alike, but the two are similar in the two ways I mentioned. Frankly I like your game better of the two, because it is a lot less linear (there are more player-decided "paths", sticking to the metaphor) and has a better theme, but I do feel there are more similarites than just "winner is who scores the most VPs" (default eurogame description).

¹Upon reflection, there is one additional way to score VPs, by passing at the end of the RR track. This however does not likely happen frequently enough to be relavent to this discussion, but worth mentioning.
 
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Alex Rockwell
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doubtofbuddha wrote:
Alex, I think you just wrote the contest winning article. arrrh


No, I'm not eligible for my own contest. (Yeah, I could win it, because I've spend hundreds of hours analyzing the game and know more about it than everybody else, but thats not the point).
I just gave some lists of areas to explore.
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Alex Rockwell
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3dicebombers wrote:
I am not however claiming that the two games play at all alike, but the two are similar in the two ways I mentioned. Frankly I like your game better of the two, because it is a lot less linear (there are more player-decided "paths", sticking to the metaphor) and has a better theme, but I do feel there are more similarites than just "winner is who scores the most VPs" (default eurogame description).


Yeah I think we were defining 'paths' differently. I am looking at it in terms of viable strategies, not actual mechanisms for scoring.

(As you note, RR track can give points, and this will often happen for one of the players in the game


I agree that there are plenty of similarities with PR, in that they are the same genre, and you are constructing buildings, and they are economic engine games. (Thats a lot closer than just any two euro games).
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Jesse Dean
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I know.

It is some pretty interesting information. It will be useful in my continued exploration of the game and eventual strategy article.
 
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Christopher Hill
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Nice article Adam. That's why you win all the time. You figure this stuff out so much quicker than I do.
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