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Subject: Player start order advantage/compensation? rss

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David Gibbs
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While I don't have the playing experience of the online players with 100+ games under their belt, I've got something like 30 F2F games with a mix of 3 and 4 player games, and I've won almost all of them. So, I'm looking for thoughts from other experienced players.

Do you feel that going first is a noticeable advantage in a game of Brass? How much of one? If so, would some sort of compensation (such as extra money ala Caylus, Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery, etc) be reasonable? If so, how much?

My feeling going into this is that, generally, playing level 1 industries is a mug's game -- so developping is going to be the primary first action taken by most players. So, if all 4 players develop, they have spent 2/4/6/8, and the turn order has not changed -- the first player once again is, still first player. This might suggest a compensation level of 2/4/6 for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th player.

Now, I've seen arguments that going later allows one to see what strategies others are playing, and to avoid overlapping these strategies -- if an early player has developped ports, not doing so -- or if two earlier players have developped mills, not going into mills because of too much competition. But, this argument is also reversable -- if competition is to be avoided, among good players shouldn't it be even better to be the first to declare for whatever your hand looks best for, and expect that other players will be less likely to choose to compete for what you have declared for, since other players will know that making the same choice as you is non-optimal for you and them (and would tend to hand the game to another player)? So, I don't see that this information advantage is particularly strong.

I am, also, choosing to reject arguments of the form, "if a player before me does something sub-optimal such as a first-build coal in Manchester, I can capitalize on it..." for later being better as not useful to this distinction. I'd like to specify, for the purposes of this evaluation, strong play from all the players involved. (I'm not asking for perfect play, just strong play.)

Thoughts?

(Also, side-note, I've seen mentions of a French map, but couldn't find a link to it in the links section, or a thread on it in the variants section. Is such available, and if so, where?)
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Evil Roy
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dagibbs wrote:
I've got something like 30 F2F games with a mix of 3 and 4 player games, and I've won almost all of them.


Did you always go first in the games you won?

It's probably a slight advantage to go first but not a decisive one. The winner is always the player that played best.

There is a French map online at brass.orderofthehammer.com.
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David Gibbs
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Evil Roy wrote:
dagibbs wrote:
I've got something like 30 F2F games with a mix of 3 and 4 player games, and I've won almost all of them.


Did you always go first in the games you won?

It's probably a slight advantage to go first but not a decisive one. The winner is always the player that played best.

There is a French map online at brass.orderofthehammer.com.


No, I didn't always go first, but I feel that I made fewer mistakes than the people who I won against.

So, if all players played equally well, would you expect the player who went first to win? (Assuming that all involved got at least reasonable sets of cards.)

I'll look there.
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Ken Thibodeau
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Maybe this should be posted in the "strategy" section?
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Daniel Corban
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Having played the game almost strictly with four players dozens of times, I am confident that there is no significant turn order bias.
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Malachi Brown
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If you're really worried about it, why not just auction off turn order for the first turn?
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Jeff Michaud
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dagibbs wrote:
Do you feel that going first is a noticeable advantage in a game of Brass?

I agree with the consensus so far, there is no noticeable start player advantage....

at least at the start of the game (canal period)... I believe however it can be, depending on the circumstances, to be have 1st turn advantage going into the rail period... and that is something that is not random and every player can choose to fight for
 
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Mark Tyler
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dagibbs wrote:
My feeling going into this is that, generally, playing level 1 industries is a mug's game -- so developping is going to be the primary first action taken by most players. So, if all 4 players develop, they have spent 2/4/6/8, and the turn order has not changed -- the first player once again is, still first player. This might suggest a compensation level of 2/4/6 for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th player.

You are correct that often the start player goes first in the second round as well. Going first in the second round is not necessarily a good thing because further cotton mill development is going to be quite expensive until that first iron works is built.

This strategy discussion explores various options for the player who has to go first in the second round. Just the fact that players are asking what to do if you go first in the second round, suggests that the path to victory is not necessary paved with gold for the start player.

A player who is planning to build a coal mine in round one followed by an iron works in round two really doesn't care about starting turn order. That player will likely be going third in round two which will be fine for flipping the iron works. The player going fourth in round two will benefit with cheaper iron if an iron works is built by the third player.

My point is that whatever minimal gains the first player saves in development costs won't last and is unlikely to be noticeable advantage.
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David Gibbs
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fardoche wrote:
Maybe this should be posted in the "strategy" section?


I thought it might belong in "strategy", but it is also discussing a possible variant (compensation for 1st position), so maybe it would belong in the "variants" section. Given that it didn't seem to clearly belong in either of those sub-sections, I decided to go with "general".
 
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David Gibbs
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Malachi wrote:
If you're really worried about it, why not just auction off turn order for the first turn?


It is tricky to structure an auction that does this well. Might need something like Age of Steam, where winner pays full bid, first drop pays 0, and intervening pay some fraction of their bid(s). (2/3 & 1/3 for 4 player, 1/2 for 3 player?)

 
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David Gibbs
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dcorban wrote:
Having played the game almost strictly with four players dozens of times, I am confident that there is no significant turn order bias.


I wonder if there are any start position vs win numbers available from the online game site, with all the games that have been played (and completed) there.
 
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Malachi Brown
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dagibbs wrote:
It is tricky to structure an auction that does this well. Might need something like Age of Steam, where winner pays full bid, first drop pays 0, and intervening pay some fraction of their bid(s). (2/3 & 1/3 for 4 player, 1/2 for 3 player?)

Or bid on each position in turn, or bid on who gets put into the next position, or blind bid for each position, or something else. There are lots of interesting auction methods that exist and I would imagine that many of them would at least reduce the (perceived) value of going first/early on the first turn.
 
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Andrew Dickie

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The game is quite well balanced in my experience; you can win (or lose, for that matter) from any starting position.

I personally prefer to go third or fourth to open the game. I go back and forth on which I prefer more, but that's for a variety of technical reasons that are beyond the scope of this discussion.

My least favorite position to open is going first.

Why? Information. Information is the unmentioned scarce commodity in the game (your 31 actions being the other, often-mentioned scarce commodity.) Specifically, information with regard to what your opponents plan to do.

Going late in the turn order gives you a lot more of that information. For instance, from third, if the two players in front of me develop ports, I'll develop cotton no matter what kind of hand I have. Similarly, if I'm going fourth and the three players in front of my develop cotton, I'm going to develop ports even if I don't have a port card to my name. I can always double action a couple, as they're cheap, and hope for a good draw.

Going first gives you no help in this regard. You have to take a look at your hand and guess what the best development path is. Sometimes the card mix is blindingly obvious. Most often, it is not. Do I keep the Fleetwood card or the Stockport card? Well, if you know for sure which your strategy is, the answer is clear. Going later in the round makes it much more likely you'll have a clear answer.

As mentioned upthread, the gain of going first in Turn 1 (cheap iron)gets offset by expensive iron in Turn 2. There are other potential drawbacks, some quite serious. The obvious thing to do in Turn 2 is build coal and take a loan. But what if you can't build coal, due to a lack of the proper card? Do you double-action in a high traffic coal city (Wigan, Oldham)? I've done that, and it's extremely inefficient and did not end well the times I've tried it. Do you develop with $5 iron? You can do that once in a round, but if it happens twice, you're going to struggle with cash the entire round, which means you'll have to take more loans which in turn means you're going to have a cramped rail phase because your economy will never get rolling.

(Aside: for this reason, among others, I favor emptying the iron track in Turn 1 from the fourth position.)

Another drawback: if you build coal and take a loan, assuming you built a L1 coal, you're going first in Turn 3. The obvious play is to build a link and then an iron works. The guy going second comes up with 4 iron cubes in the tray. Guess where those iron cubes are going? Right. To helpfully finance getting all his low-value industries out of the way. Then it comes around to you again in Turn 4, guess what? No Iron in the tray! See above. Do you build more iron? If you do, starting in Turn 5, you have a L1 coal, L1 iron, L2 iron and two rail links to your name. Meanwhile, your competitors are merrily dropping high value cotton in the spaces you so helpfully linked to. Or even worse, if you don't have a way to build more iron, you have to make the Hobson's Choice mentioned above.

You also don't know what the players after you will do when you make the Turn 2 choices mentioned above, which is a more serious drawback than even Turn 1.

Yes, it's not all bad. If you have good cards, and you open get to turn 5 as noted above, you have an economic advantage over your competitors. You'll have a good cash infusion from the iron sales and you'll be pumping $5 income per turn, which is not peanuts in canal. If you have decent cards you can turn on the building engine late in the round, while your competitors struggle with the debt load they've taken on.

Anyway, this has gotten longer than I intended, but I just wanted to note that I see no reason to compensate players for going later in the turn order.

Also, if you played the same people 30 times and won all of them, they either address you as Mr Warden or are not trying hard enough. Come play Brass online with us. Of the people that play mainly open games, I think the highest winning percentage I've seen is ~40%.
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David Gibbs
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A J Dickie wrote:
The game is quite well balanced in my experience; you can win (or lose, for that matter) from any starting position.

Anyway, this has gotten longer than I intended, but I just wanted to note that I see no reason to compensate players for going later in the turn order.

Also, if you played the same people 30 times and won all of them, they either address you as Mr Warden or are not trying hard enough. Come play Brass online with us. Of the people that play mainly open games, I think the highest winning percentage I've seen is ~40%.


Thanks for the well-thought out and extensive reply. I did, mostly, post this here to get responses from people who have played heavily against online opponents.

I don't tend to play online for any game, because much of what I play for is the social interaction, not just the game play itself. I do like to play the tough, thinky, involved games, though, not just the social games. (The games have been against a variety of people, many of them competent general gamers. But, as you say, I wouldn't expect a win-record like that to hold up against the level of experience I'd encounter in online play.)
 
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Andrew Dickie

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Dude, we have a comment section for social interaction!

And the quality of the competition is much higher.

Give it a shot, you'll probably like it.
 
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Andrew Dickie

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Two more thoughts.

What kind of scores are you winning with? If you're winning regularly with scores of under 150 points, your competition is not what it ought to be.

Second, there is no substitute in Brass for a sparkling hand. I've seen the worst players I know put up 170 points with just a dynamite hand. I've seen the best players I know get spanked by inferior players (using what I considered completely wrongheaded tactics) due to hand composition.
 
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David Gibbs
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A J Dickie wrote:

Dude, we have a comment section for social interaction!


:)

Quote:

What kind of scores are you winning with? If you're winning regularly with scores of under 150 points, your competition is not what it ought to be.


I don't track my scores in detail. I think I hit about 240 or so my last 3-player game, with 2nd place just over 200.

I think my 4-player scores are, generally in the 190s to low 200s. A bit lower against tougher competition, a bit higher against weak competition.

Quote:

Second, there is no substitute in Brass for a sparkling hand. I've seen the worst players I know put up 170 points with just a dynamite hand. I've seen the best players I know get spanked by inferior players (using what I considered completely wrongheaded tactics) due to hand composition.


A truly sparkling hand, or a true dog of a hand can definitely skew things -- but in my (somewhat limited experience) most hands are neither of these, and most hands are playable.
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Mark Tyler
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dagibbs wrote:
I think my 4-player scores are, generally in the 190s to low 200s. A bit lower against tougher competition, a bit higher against weak competition.

Such scores would put you in the "Hall of Fame" at the online site. http://brass.orderofthehammer.com/statistics.php?Mode=4&Play...

I've played over 500 4-player games online and my top score is 181. Granted, I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed but I consider myself an above average Brass player.

You really should do yourself a favor and give the online site a try.
 
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Andrew Dickie

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Yeah, 240 in 3P is insanely high. As is 190 - 200 in 4P. I think I got 184 once and 176 twice in 4P. Your competition is obviously not doing enough to stick it to you
 
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Daniel Corban
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"Generally" in the 190-200 range in a four-player game? Either you are mistaken, your opponents are very poor, or you are a Brass savant.

In our four-player face-to-face games, of which I have played a lot, the winning score is almost always in the 140-150 range, with the frequent spikes over 150. My personal record is 167. I recall another game where I had 162, and another of 156. Every other win was in the normal range.

I find the competition to be more varied online, which seems to allow for higher scores. Also, in face-to-face, there is table talk which evens out the playing field a bit, as outright mistakes are avoided and bad play is discussed.
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David Gibbs
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A J Dickie wrote:
Yeah, 240 in 3P is insanely high. As is 190 - 200 in 4P. I think I got 184 once and 176 twice in 4P. Your competition is obviously not doing enough to stick it to you :)


240 was against two people who I had just taught the game to. Yes, it is insanely high. Might have been 230. But it was well past the 200 mark.

As I said, I might be off on the numbers -- I haven't been tracking actual numbers. I could start doing so, but it hasn't actually been worth it.



 
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Riku Koskinen
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At the time of writing this, I've played close to 700 original map games on the online site, exclusively 4-player (a few dozen of which have been downgraded to 3-player when a player became inactive). What I've noticed is that it doesn't really matter if you use 2 pounds or 6 pounds to develop on turn 1. The difference of 4 or even 6 money is so small that it's rarely going to matter. The information you get by being later in the turn order is well worth the extra money you use for developing.

Going first round 2 is also not a particularly favorable position. You'll never have cheap iron, assuming competent opposition. You can still develop of course, especially if there is still 4-cost iron left, but the action won't be any better than actions the players later in the turn order will have.

I wouldn't give any extra benefit to players who start the game later in the turn order.
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Daniel Corban
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I agree. Unless I have a particular combination of cards, I will freely develop for six. I believe one time I even did it for eight. The extra cost is negligible.
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Ed Chen

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It's been a while since I've played a game of Brass but I remember doing a little analysis a while ago. This is based off 607 four player games which included someone who, at the time, were highly ranked at the online site. This is what I have as output:

Average Winning Score: 150.11
Total Games: 607
Position 1: 162 wins
Position 2: 160 wins
Position 3: 154 wins
Position 4: 131 wins

And this basically reflects my recollection as well. I hated going last; among the other three positions, I had a slight preference for going first, and then third.

First gets the cheapest develop and you get to play the cards you want.

I disagree that you should develop ports if the first two players have developed cotton and you are going third if you have no viable ports in your hand. Making sure you have adequate "non-trash" cards is very important, and if you can't support ports, you shouldn't develop them.

I don't think that high score really means that much, and often has to do with the composition and quality of your opponents (and by this I don't necessarily mean that your opponents are bad. I've played several games where the #1 player is clearly ahead, and so the other players are vying for position 2 and 3, and in that case, significantly helping the player in the lead to secure yourself some points over someone else is the correct move.)... with that said I'm happy to see that my name is still appears several times in the high score section ~~

Regardless I think you can win in any position. If I recall correctly, in my last 400 or so 4 player games at the online site (all open), I think my win average was close to 50%, which is pretty decent for 4p, I think.

On the other hand, while I have played probably close to 1000 games of Brass, I haven't played any at all in the last two years, so take my recollections with a grain of salt ~~
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Andrew Dickie

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random user wrote:
I disagree that you should develop ports if the first two players have developed cotton and you are going third if you have no viable ports in your hand. Making sure you have adequate "non-trash" cards is very important, and if you can't support ports, you shouldn't develop them.


I think this addresses a point I made, so I'm going to respond to it.

You're misreading what I said. I would develop ports without cards to support a port strategy only from the fourth position in the turn order, if and only if the three players in front of me developed cotton. I stand by it. Ports is a powerful enough strategy that it can overcome the requirement to double-action one or two.

As an aside, what I said in re the third position was that from the third position, if the two people in front of me develop ports, I'm developing cotton. I stand by that, too. If two guys are going to put down ports, I'm going to put down cotton.
 
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