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Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar» Forums » Strategy

Subject: A Guide to the Main Strategies Available in Tzolk'in rss

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Stephen McIntosh
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I thought it would be useful for myself to analyse and compare the various strategies one can pursue in a game of Tzolk'in. Seeing as I'd gone to the time and effort to go through them, I thought I mise well post it here for you guys...

I'm going to categorise the main strategies by their primary tech track - i.e. the one they generally max out on first (even if they plan to max out more later). I'm going to deal with them in a seemingly random order, but there's method in my madness - I want to compare the later ones to things I've said about the earlier ones. Let's get to it!

Theology Track Strategy
(aka "Chicken Pizza", "Chichen Itza" or "Skull Strategy")

General Description: Plans to collect as many crystal skulls as possible and deliver them to the gods at Chicken Pizza. The way I play it is to put 2 workers onto CI, 1 onto either Y or T (to hit Y4/T3 for skulls), then place/pickup/place/pickup the other 1 on either Y (to get 2 wood) or T (to turn W into Sk) whilst the other 3 ride up. I can see that having a third riding CI at the same time might be helpful, but means breaking the rhythm more often to visit Palenque for food.

A Good* Score in a 4 player game: 110-120
Main Sources of Points: Chichen Itza placement points, Temples
Optimal number of workers: 4
Ideal Placement Rhythm: Place 2, place 2, pickup 1, place 1, pickup 2, place 2, pickup 4

Setup Speed: Medium
Setup Plan: Max out the theology tech track. Get the 1st step on the resource track. Get a fourth worker.
Plan for Second Quarter: Let some guys ride-up to the lower spots of CI whilst hitting Y4, T1, T3 for skulls and Y1/Palenque for wood supplies.
Plan for Second Half: Start grabbing those higher-up spots of CI whilst continuing to hoard skulls.
Feeding/Placing Corn Plan: Occasional trips to Palenque, possibly grabbing wood+corn immediately yourself, possibly with agri 2. Taking start player.
Best Opening: Start with both wealth tiles that give +theology (which also come with 3 resources). Use your 3 starting resources to get the third theology bump (possibly getting another resource and using double bump to also get the first resource track bump or a skull). Hit CI spots that give ^Br and ^Gr, paying a resource both times to give ^^Ye so you get 3 resources in the first temple reward.
Most Commonly Used Spaces: Y4, T1, T3

Best Monuments: High Temple, Rescore Temples, Placed Skulls (although not always as good as it first appears)
Best Starting Wealth: Theology bumps, High corn+resource count
Competition Rating: Poor - another player using this strategy as well is bad for you
Difficulty Rating: Medium - some tight corn management required
Vulnerability to Double-Spin: Medium - there are times when you have no guys on the wheels, but these are not that common. You are also at risk when your guys are on the board - if you get rotated past the action space you were aiming for, you often won't have the spare corn to step back down.
Better in 2p,3p,4p?: 2 player
Preferred Place in the Turn Order: 1st/2nd

Example Game Replay: kennycccs




Architecture (Building) Track Strategy
(aka "Building Strategy", I'm going to refer to it as "Classic Building Strategy" as it's the one most people know as the building strategy, and the most obvious building based strategy. However, I'd like to distinguish it from the other building strategy, which I call "Big Resources" - I'll get to that one later :) )

General Description: Builds buildings at a constant rate throughout the game. Tries to maximse the building and resource tracks, but generally does so slowly relying on the bumps from buildings for many of them. Typically sticks to 4 workers and relies on farms, building track bonus corn, Yaxchitlan corn and taking start player to feed. Can get away without ever visiting Palenque, even during setup.

A Good* Score in a 4 player game: 90-110
Main Sources of Points: Monuments, Architecture Track bonuses (2VP for building and the 3VP fourth-space-bump), Building bonuses (VPs on epoch 2 buildings), Temples
Optimal number of workers: 4
Ideal Placement Rhythm: Place 2, Place 2, Pickup 2, Place 2, Pickup 4.

Setup Speed: Very Quick
Setup Plan: Preferably, but not necessarily get the building track up to at least the second square. Get a fourth worker and start running out buildings, especially buildings that give architecture and resource track bumps and probably at least 1 of the 1 worker farms.
Plan for Second Quarter: Continue running-out buildings.
Plan for Second Half: Run out some more buildings, especially aiming for the ones that give temple bumps or where the associated monument is available.
Feeding/Placing Corn Plan: Farms, building track bonus, Yaxchitlan, start player.
Best Opening: 2 starting tiles that give architecture track bumps, place on Tikal and use T4 to build a building that gives the last building bump followed by the building that gives a free build (with bonus), followed by a random third building (with bonus).
Most Commonly Used Spaces: T2,T4

Best Monuments: Maxed tech tracks, Tech Track Advances, Green/Blue/Brown buildings/monument.
Best Starting Wealth: The pair that give architecture tech track bumps.
Competition Rating: Okay - you are somewhat vulnerable to competition for buildings/relevant monuments. You are also vulnerable to Tikal being filled as you don't have the corn to jump over people.
Difficulty Rating: Medium - some tight corn management required
Vulnerability to Double-Spin: Medium - As above, you are at risk of been moved past the action you want without having spare corn to step back down. You are also at risk if you were planning to place e.g. T0 on round 22 for a Monument, and that round gets skipped. T0 on round 23 isn't going to reach T4 before the game ends.
Better in 2p,3p,4p?: 2 player
Preferred Place in the Turn Order: 1st/2nd

Example Game Replay: dearleader (thanks morrowman)




Both of the aforementioned strategies are powerful enough in their own right, and have their own strengths and advantages, but they both share one disadvantage: lack of liquid corn supply. This doesn't make them unplayable - far from it - but does mean you miss out on powerful opportunities that players with plenty of corn on hand can take advantage of, especially in 4 player games. Jumping ahead on wheels enables you to get to the best action spaces without waiting, but costs you corn. If on your turn the wheel you need is half full and you have plenty of corn, it's a golden opportunity to turn corn into powerful actions. If you're playing theology or classic building and managing your corn tightly you're not going to be able to take advantage of these situations when they come-up, and worse - you might be denied access to the wheels you need to use.

So now I come to the strategies that are not corn poor. The ones that work hard to fill entire wheels up themselves just to get those coveted high action spaces, so when someone else fills them first it's a massive help rather than a hindrance...




Agriculture Track Strategy
(aka "Big Corn")

General Description: Step 1: collect corn. Step 2: ???. Step 3: Profit!

A Good* Score in a 4 player game: 100-120
Main Sources of Points: Temples, Temple Bonuses, Monument.
Optimal number of workers: 5-6
Ideal Placement Rhythm: Place 5, pickup 5. With 6 workers, place ABCDE - pickup BCDEF - place BCDEF - pick up ABCDE - place ABCDE - pick up ACDEF - etc. It's not cost-effective to send out all 6 every time (the 6th worker barely nets any corn once you've paid the 5 just to send it out), but placing like this allows you to avoid ever having to pick-up from P1, which is a very inefficient spot to use.

Setup Speed: Quick
Setup Plan: Get agriculture to the top. Pickup P5 for 12 corn. Get a fourth (and fifth) worker.
Plan for Second Quarter: Ramp up your supply of corn by piling all your guys onto Palenque repeatedly. When you have plenty, hit U1 (usually by placing 2 or more and stepping down to get multiple use in a turn), T1, T3 and U4 (for temple buildings) to bump all the temples and make sure you're top of as many as possible by the halfway point.
Plan for Second Half: Continue to collect massive amounts of corn and spend it to get those temple bumps. Stick a guy onto CI to use the skull you'll get from the green temple reward (2 if you're really quick). Use U2 to get the resources you need to build 1 or 2 monuments in the final quarter (or earlier if you think you'll have competition for them). Look out for opportunities to get "cheap" temple bumps by using U4 to build one of the blue epoch 2 buildings, which costs less corn than using U1 + U2-as-U1 for the same bumps.
Feeding/Placing Corn Plan: Ha
Best Opening: Uxmal gambit**
Most Commonly Used Spaces: Palenque, U1


Best Monuments: Rescore Temples, High Temple, Corn Tiles
Best Starting Wealth: Worker, Lots of corn&resource cubes, agriculture bumps
Competition Rating: Very good - you actively want somebody else to be in this strategy as you can jump over them to get the high spots of Palenque. Of course, the opposite is also true :P
Difficulty Rating: Easy - when you have loads of corn to throw around, managing it becomes less of an issue. And you don't care much for other resources other than towards the end of the game when you make 1 trip to the market to build your monuments.
Vulnerability to Double-Spin: High - you have zero guys on the board half the time (if playing 5 workers, 1 if you playing 6). Of course the other half you have 5/6 guys on the board so get really lucky.
Better in 2p,3p,4p?: 4 player
Preferred Place in the Turn Order: 1st during setup, 3rd/4th after that

Example Game Replay: qqzm (or see my big corn walkthrough)





Last but by no means least, the big one! I'd played an awful lot of Tzolk'in without ever seeing this done or thinking of it let alone trying it. Although I'd had all the pieces of the puzzle for some time: I'd tried maxing resource track and stockpiling resource cubes from Yaxchitlan and Palenque (by which I mean all spots of Y and *using* Palenque for wood - something I'd never do in this strategy now beyond the initial setup phase). I'd had a discussion in my playgroup where someone commented they thought agriculture 2 was overpowered and I suggested an alternate feeding strategy might be to get resource cubes and use U2 to convert them to corn, although nobody thought I was really serious. We'd also been considering the fact that all our best strategies didn't want to get a 6th worker and I'd pondered about what strategy *might* like one. But none of this came together as a whole until a couple of weeks ago. I've now played it a bunch of times and it's absolutely the most powerful thing you can do in Tzolk'in. However, I've not yet had a game where someone else has been doing the same thing, so how it'll stand-up once everyone is doing it I'm not absolutely sure...

Resource Track Strategy
(aka "Big Resources", "Resource Building Strategy" - some people call this one "Building Strategy", just to be confusing)

General Description: Gets to 6 workers and maxes out the resource track. Then picks up Y5 a lot, uses U2 (or the building that lets you do the same thing) to sell excess gold and stone (at the beginning that means all of it) and buys enough corn and wood to last until the next market trip, or the end of the game, whichever comes first. Once you're doing this, you have no need to visit Palenque ever again. You want to pretty much ignore epoch 1 buildings (save for the odd right coloured one if the relevant monuments are available) and just stockpile those resources ready for epoch 2. In epoch 2 you go nuts and use those piles of corn to pile all your guys onto Tikal, building as many buildings and monuments as possible. I've hit as high as 15 buildings and 4 monuments but I'm sure more is possible. As a comparison with the corn income of big corn, ignoring the fact you have to make the occasional market trip: with agriculture 3, big corn gets 4/7/8/10/12 from Palenque 1/2/3/4/5. With resource 3, big resources effectively gets 4/7/10/9/16 corn from Yaxchitlan, and also 6 corn from Tikal 1 and 12 corn from Tikal 3...

A Good* Score in a 4 player game: 120-150 (My personal best is 183)
Main Sources of Points: Monuments, Building bonuses (VPs on epoch 2 buildings), Architecture Track bonuses (2VP for building, less so the 3VP extra bump as you'll usually bump resources for GG instead).
Optimal number of workers: 6
Ideal Placement Rhythm: Place 2-4, Pickup 2-4.

Setup Speed: Slow
Setup Plan: Get 6 workers, max out the resource track, get a pile of resources from Y5&resource track 4. Then convert it at U2 (possibly repeatedly) to get 6 wood to max out the architecture track and setup a big pile of corn and resources ready for epoch 2.
Plan for Second Quarter: Continue setting up! I said it was a slow setup, you're often not ready to roll until the end of the second quarter, but that's okay :)
Plan for Second Half: Build everything. I mean everything. 6 buildings or 3 monuments in a turn is perfectly possible, and even common.
Feeding/Placing Corn Plan: U2, building a pair of farms - preferably either two 3 worker ones, or a 3 and a 1. Note that as you plan to build as many epoch 2 buildings as possible, you want to avoid the situation where the available building spaces get gummed-up by the 3-worker farms. For this reason I ignore the "WWWW->reduce cost of each worker by 1" farms as I've previously been in the situation where I bought 2 of those to entirely feed my guys, then was forced to build a 3 worker farm in epoch 2 anyway just to clear-out the slot.
Best Opening: Uxmal gambit**
Most Commonly Used Spaces: Y5, T4, U5 (U5 is really nice in this strategy as the flexibility of choosing Y5 or T4 is very helpful)


Best Monuments: 2VPs per building/monument, Brown/Green/Blue buildings/monuments, Maxed Tech Track, Tech Track Advances, Workers.
Best Starting Wealth: Worker, Lots of corn and resources. The "4 Corn, 1 Wood, > Resource" is good but the other resource track bump one isn't.
Competition Rating: Medium - I haven't had to compete on this strategy directly (though I have competed with classic builders). Like big corn, you have plenty of corn to throw around to jump over people so competition on the wheels can help you. However, there are only a limited number of buildings and monuments, so the ones you need might be snaffled before you get them.
Difficulty Rating: Hard - the turns when you use the market require a lot of forward planning. Deciding how much corn and wood to get is a fine balance. You want to run out of everything at about the time of your next convenient trip. You don't want to leave yourself with no corn to place workers, you don't want to make too many market trips, and having spare of one particular resource is inefficient. Deciding when to go use T4 for buildings and when to grab the monuments is also a bit of a fine art. It needs careful analysis of what your opponents are planning to do so they don't snatch away the things that are important to you.
Vulnerability to Double-Spin: Low - you have 6 workers and very rarely take all of them off at once.
Better in 2p,3p,4p?: 3 player
Preferred Place in the Turn Order: 1st during setup, 3rd/4th after that

Example Game Replay: max005






Other Strategies
Doubtless there are other strategies available that I haven't mentioned...

I've seen someone do well by ramping all the tech tracks, although it feels to me you're spreading yourself too thin doing that.

I've also tried a skull rush strategy - kind of an offshoot of the Theology track strategy. The plan is to get *all* the skulls ASAP, thus making sure you get CI to yourself and denying others their temple reward skulls. Didn't work too well, but it's an interesting idea.

Has anyone ever tried a "Big Wood" strategy when the wood tiles Monument is out? Get to the first step on the resource track, then slurp-up all the wood tiles ASAP, turning the wood into tech bumps probably on Agriculture to further allow turning tech bumps into temple bumps...

Maybe you've got a killer strategy that ignores the tech tracks completely - if so I'd love to hear about it! Or indeed any other strategy I haven't thought of yet...

Any other comments/suggestions/questions would of course be very welcome!

qqzm


Notes
* What is A "Good" Score
When I say a good score, I mean the sort of score should you be aiming to hit every game. Obviously there are going to be exceptional games where everything falls into place nicely and goes just your way and you exceed this, but that doesn't happen every single time. Also, I've specified a 4 player game for comparison - in general better scores can be achieved with lower numbers of players as dummy workers don't grab your buildings/Chicken Pizza slots before you, and it's possible to be the top player on a temple with lower investment. I've also assumed that the other players are at least reasonably experienced, and are playing a mix of strategies but none of them playing exactly the same strategy as you.

** The Uxmal Gambit
A strong opening move originally suggested by David Goldfarb. That thread goes back-and-forth somewhat, but the basic idea can be best illustrated with an example start. Here is how it might play-out if you're going first and are playing big corn:

You must start with at least 6 corn, ideally 9+ to avoid having to beg on turn 2 or 3 (but begging for 3 corn isn't so bad). Ideally you'll also have a couple of resources or a bump on the resource track.
1) Place U0,U1,U2 for 6.
2) Pickup U3 for a worker.
3) Place P0,T0 for 1.
4) Pickup U3 for a worker.
5) Place Y0,T0 for 1.
6) Pickup P3 for WW, Y1 for W (or WWW,WW if have resource tech bump). Pickup T3 and T1 to bump agriculture 3 times. Pickup U5-as-P5 paying 1 corn to pickup 12.
7) Spend that 12 corn sending as many guys as you can onto Palenque.
8) Pickup a load of food ready for the food day and to send your guys back-out afterwards.

Responding to the Uxmal Gambit
If you're playing second and the player before you starts with the Uxmal gambit, get on that bandwagon! Place U3,U4 and maybe even U5 and get yourself an extra worker and a wildcard action on turn 2. If you're player 3 or 4, you can either make the player2 response if they don't, or place 1 guy on U5 (or U5&U6 if you're really flush with corn), or just take the opportunity of all the other wheels being empty to cheaply place on three zeroes and go for a theology strategy...
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Stephen McIntosh
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Horrid Beast wrote:
So what is a good score? Seriously? You typed all that and said I should be aiming for...nothing; just a bunch of actions?


The "good scores" themselves are all in the relevant strategy sections, one for each strategy - e.g. (from the Theology section):
qqzm wrote:
"A Good* Score in a 4 player game (Uninhibited): 110-120"


The section you quoted is just the bottom-of-page asterisk elaboration of what the title "good score" means.
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Chris Whitpan
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Great Write up. I have played through several of these, and found similar results. I think your starting wealth can really help dictate which ne to start with.

Had least success with skulls, wheel is so slow.
Most success with buildings & temple mix as you point out.

Never tried the agriculture! I will have to try that and the resource one is superior to the versions I have done.

Great work!
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Shawn Fox
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I find the comment that you haven't had to compete when using the building strategy very strange. In almost every 3 or 4 player game I've played with experienced players, at least 2 of the players pursue the resource track + building strategy. I also don't see why you call the resource strategy hard, except maybe in comparison to the agriculture strategy which is very simple to do.

I find the skull strategy much harder than the resource strategy, which I'd rate as medium. The skull strategy is so vulnerable to interference (both on purpose and by pure accident) that I rarely play it except just to change the game up a bit every now and then.

Anyway, the point being, that as long as you have two players going for buildings/resources the game ends up being pretty balanced. The 3rd/4th players can both go for agriculture, or one of them can go for skulls. The player(s) that are going heavy agriculture need to interfere with the builders by clogging up the Tikal gear at certain points of the game, otherwise the resource heavy player will win every time. If only one player in a 3/4 player game goes for the resource track the score can get very ugly if the right (wrong) monuments are in play.

Also I find the so called "Uxmal gambit" to be optimal for every strategy including the skull strategy, assuming that you start off the game with enough food. It is such a strong opening move that I try to avoid it because it is so obvious and it just makes the game too easy. I don't know why anyone would even call this a "gambit" anyway, what sacrifice are you making?
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Aaron Bohm
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All of your strategies include the tech track. I think this is a significant disadvantage to the flexibility of some of the strategies as going for max tech first means you're missing out on opportunities early in the game - mainly temple scoring and resources.

For example, focusing on tech usually means you'll miss out on some of the farm buildings which are usually rushed to be built right away. Farm buildings can be a net savings of corn of anywhere between 8 and 48 corn if built in the first quarter - much more than the net corn gain of even the most frantic ag tech user.

Another example is with the theology or "crystal" tech. pumping it to level 3 and continuing to pump it for the bonus can be great (and a skull strat is also good for climbing the temple track) however jacking up the green temple early to level 4 will usually mean at least 15 points in the game as well as 4 wood and 2 free skulls throughout the game. You can get it to level 4 in the first quarter but probably not if you focus on tech.

Obviously if you are going to get tech at all, the beginning of the game is the time to do it however many of these strategies can work fine with lite-tech/no tech.


Especially for Big Corn, I feel like you really missed the essence of what this strategy is trying to accomplish - Getting ag is helpful but max ag is definitely not needed. Ideally, pick the two top corn tiles you're dealt and hit the corn wheel early and heavy. If you get an Ag tech tile, it's not a bad idea to take it then.

Use and maintain a healthy balance of corn and usually this means taking advantage of several of the Uxmal wheel options since after the race for extra workers dies down there's often little competition here. The big thing however for Big Corn that I see as a major advantage is using your extra corn and a late turn order to slingshot you past everyone else in line to the higher up resources. Since, do to their popularity, you can do this pretty easily on Pal and the resource/corn spaces on Yax, usually there isn't too much of a net loss of corn and sometimes it means a gain (paying 3 on Pal would get you 7, balanced with how many other workers you choose to slingshot) while at the same time saving time on the wheel per worker.

I am not a 100% Big Corn player by all means, some people use it throughout the game. Instead I like the flexibility it gives you for the duration you use it, maybe 1 1/2 quarters of the game and through at least 1 if not 2 feeding phases but then using the momentum it gives you to slingshot into other areas, like resources and building monuments.
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I've seen somebody score 107 points without techs. He used Uxmal 1 and Tikal 5 to go up in the temples, placed the skulls from the green temple in Chichen Itza and build the Rescore Temples monument. But that was only possible, because the other two players were playing a building-strategy and didn't really compete in the temples.
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Never Knows Best wrote:
For example, focusing on tech usually means you'll miss out on some of the farm buildings which are usually rushed to be built right away. Farm buildings can be a net savings of corn of anywhere between 8 and 48 corn if built in the first quarter - much more than the net corn gain of even the most frantic ag tech user.

In this game I took corn from palenque 16 times after maxing out the agriculture tech. That's also a net gain of 48 corn and it's cheaper than two of the one-corn-per-worker farm. That being said, I think it's a good idea to build the cheap farms if you get the opportunity. They pay for themselves on the next food day.

Never Knows Best wrote:
Especially for Big Corn, I feel like you really missed the essence of what this strategy is trying to accomplish - Getting ag is helpful but max ag is definitely not needed. Ideally, pick the two top corn tiles you're dealt and hit the corn wheel early and heavy. If you get an Ag tech tile, it's not a bad idea to take it then.

Use and maintain a healthy balance of corn and usually this means taking advantage of several of the Uxmal wheel options since after the race for extra workers dies down there's often little competition here. The big thing however for Big Corn that I see as a major advantage is using your extra corn and a late turn order to slingshot you past everyone else in line to the higher up resources. Since, do to their popularity, you can do this pretty easily on Pal and the resource/corn spaces on Yax, usually there isn't too much of a net loss of corn and sometimes it means a gain (paying 3 on Pal would get you 7, balanced with how many other workers you choose to slingshot) while at the same time saving time on the wheel per worker.

I am not a 100% Big Corn player by all means, some people use it throughout the game. Instead I like the flexibility it gives you for the duration you use it, maybe 1 1/2 quarters of the game and through at least 1 if not 2 feeding phases but then using the momentum it gives you to slingshot into other areas, like resources and building monuments.

I think one of the important parts of big-corn is to use the agriculture tech level 4 to climb up in the temples. It's cheaper than Uxmal 1 and you often have an excess of wood if you try to collect wood or corn tiles. You also need at least level two in the agriculture tech so that you can take corn even if the corn tiles are covered(in the beginning of the game) or gone (in the late game).
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Pete Goch
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boloni wrote:

I think one of the important parts of big-corn is to use the agriculture tech level 4 to climb up in the temples. It's cheaper than Uxmal 1 and you often have an excess of wood if you try to collect wood or corn tiles. You also need at least level two in the agriculture tech so that you can take corn even if the corn tiles are covered(in the beginning of the game) or gone (in the late game).


It has to be the temple bumps doesn't it?

Compare maxed corn tech on Palenque to maxed resource tech on Yaxchilan. You net a total of 12 corn on P5 and a total of 16 corn (using the U2 trade values) on Y5. Even though you must use U2 to convert resources to get corn Y5 is still much more efficient for gathering resources for feeding, placements and building!
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A Ray
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A great description of some over-arching strategies.

I'm especially rethinking my groups "ideal" building strategy, which is typically 6 workers going for the wood resource extraction tech, then all the architecture techs, and then gathering resources and building buildings simultaneously with a place 1-3 / remove 1-3 pattern.
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I've scored 134 with the architecture build. It should have been about 160 but I punted on the last turn, miscounted my resources, and missed out on a 30 point monument that I should have had (should have used the U5 building to do T4 again instead of Y5, I had enough resources to do so). The main appeal of doing the architecture build is that you have a good chance of winning god track(s) in the first half, and it gives you access to more brown buildings for the monument. I usually only go for it if I can get the 1 gold building for architecture early in the first half, otherwise resource build seems more reliable. I don't know if I played either half well or not; I must have had my reasons for every move at the time, but now I see quite a few moves that I'd probably change. Perhaps once I felt comfortable with the first half god tracks, I should have focused on getting resources instead of building more. The worker that ended up doing a T5 action in hindsight definitely should have gone elsewhere.

Note, in this game there was virtually no competition for buildings. In a heads up situation, I'd bet that the resource build beats the architecture build due to it's flexibility with corn.

http://en.boardgamearena.com/#!table?table=5327847

A few days ago Crame beat me without tech advances doing a simple low corn Tikal 5 god track strategy. Once he felt he was safe on the god tracks, he jumped into Chichen Itza to disrupt me. He would have scored about 110 if he could have built the monument. It felt like a weird game and it was definitely a good lesson in how to play god tracks.

http://en.boardgamearena.com/#!table?table=5305125

If you're putting the uninhibited score of resource building at 120-150, I'd say that an uninhibited crystal skull strategy is also about that level. Both seem to top out at around 160-170 if the right monuments come out.
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David Goldfarb
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sfox wrote:
I don't know why anyone would even call this a "gambit" anyway, what sacrifice are you making?

I was thinking of "gambit" in the older sense of "any opening moves" rather than "an opening involving a sacrifice".
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Aaron Bohm
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boloni wrote:
I think one of the important parts of big-corn is to use the agriculture tech level 4 to climb up in the temples. It's cheaper than Uxmal 1 and you often have an excess of wood if you try to collect wood or corn tiles.


Is it really cheaper though?

Comparing like vs. like with no net tile additions
So, to get Ag 4 it's 7 resources - 9 notches of Palenque riding - (for one bump), a minimum of 10 notches worth of Tikal riding. Sure you can get tiles and buildings to help with the upgrades but assume that for every tile/building you can get to help you with techs, you could equally get a tile/building that helps you with something else.

And what do you save? Well, Uxmal 1 costs 3 corn. Wood is "worth" 2 corn. IE if you get Ach tech to 4 you are effectively saving 1 corn each time (if you use wood).

So let's calc it. Let's say you want 5 rungs worth of temple upgrades. The Ag route will cost you 11 resources which is a minimum of 14 notches worth of Palenque followed by 16 notches worth of Tikal. The corn equivalent of 11 wood is 22.

The same route with Uxmal one is 15 corn, 7 notches worth of Palenque, 5 notches of Uxmal.

In order for it to be cheaper, you'd have to use Ag 4: 13 times with wood, or 19 wood worth - an equivalent of 38 corn for 13 temple upgrades - vs the 39 corn it would cost getting 13 temple upgrades on Uxmal. You would save precisely 1 corn after 13 uses, not a monster savings.

boloni wrote:

You also need at least level two in the agriculture tech so that you can take corn even if the corn tiles are covered(in the beginning of the game) or gone (in the late game).


Except here is the real killer then. You can't use corn to upgrade Ag tech. This completely sinks the whole "Big corn goes for Ag 4" idea since you have to make a choice: are you going to try and cash in now on all your big corn bonuses and get... I don't know... CORN for your big corn strategy OR are you going to be trying to get wood in there somewhere to use on Ag 4?

to simplify, big corn would never go for Ag 4, it's not realistic and honestly I think Ag 4 is one of the least efficient and worse of all possible options on the tech chart.

If you want to rock lvl 4 on the Tech chart, go for the 3 vp architecture or the 2-for-1 on resource extraction (even skulls is better than Ag).
 
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As a side note, I've gotten in the 120-140 point range with no tech upgrades. Focusing on temples, vp buildings and a couple skulls with a monument.

Even more often, I play some pretty successful games without ever buying an upgrade, meaning I take the freebies on the buildings or, more often, the tiles. Even then, I have to understand what taking that tile upgrade or building that building is costing me in terms of missed opportunities - what am I giving up to get this tech?

Admittedly, most of my groups are now on the meta that's semi-anti upgrades and the 1 or 2 people that focus on them are getting crushed. At the same token however, I think thus far the strategies I see on BGG are a little too focused on tech and if you get tech you have to understand that the only way it pays off is if you utilize it beyond what it cost you to get it in terms of resources and rounds spent.
 
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Horrid Beast wrote:
qqzm wrote:
"A Good* Score in a 4 player game (Uninhibited): 110-120"


The section you quoted is just the bottom-of-page asterisk elaboration of what the title "good score" means.


Did you add these? As they did not appear when I first read it...[/q]

And I don't know why this makes a strategy valid or not as relative score really depends quite a bit on the game conditions and players.

Why do people keep saying, "oh, this strat is awesome, I got 140+ points!"?

If you win the game that was a good score. I've seen competitive games where the high score was in the 90's. Does that mean the strats sucked or just that the players were blocking each other more, speeding up the game with double ticks, and generally having less high vp building/monument/tile options?

I don't really care if you got 160 points but lost by 5 or if you got it maybe with perfect board conditions playing with all newer players. The merits of a particular strategy should be able to be discussed without having to consider "top score."
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Aaron, i think it would be good if you outlined how you are able to compete with a tech ed out opponent. If my opponent techs early enough (Q1) then i've always gotten smashed unless i keep up in some manner.

This is a very good and effective thread discussing the rhythm of the game. The insight to be able to post accurate summaries of placement patterns in the different strategies is fantastically helpful to people learning the game. I have learned from this thread and the walk through. I'd love to hear of ways to win without some technology increase.

I understand you may not want to always go tech, but i think the main reason one wouldn't want to tech is because you didn't get it early enough (for whatever reason). The more times you get to dig for corn at ag 3 the better it pays you back. Big corn is as much about the +3 corn as it is the Ag4.

Once you are using Ag3, Ag4 is the easiest way to get points.


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Never Knows Best wrote:
most of my groups are now on the meta that's semi-anti upgrades and the 1 or 2 people that focus on them are getting crushed.


The phenomenon you are experiencing is known as "groupthink".
 
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Mike_Cox wrote:
Never Knows Best wrote:
most of my groups are now on the meta that's semi-anti upgrades and the 1 or 2 people that focus on them are getting crushed.


The phenomenon you are experiencing is known as "groupthink".


Not a particularly useful comment, right?

Nope, I'm thinking primarily about the term metagame. As in the process that happens after or "outside" of the game whereby players discuss the game and it's strategy thereby influencing their behavior inside the game. More commonly used in RPGs but still semi-common when discussing board game and strategy.

This is neither a negative nor a positive term, simply it's what happens with every group while playing a game (One player gets all science in 7 Wonders and wins, therefore the group discusses how powerful science is and think science is the best. The next time most players go for science making science sub-optimal and someone else wins using a different strategy, and the group talk about how science is overrated and then switch to a different approach - etc.)

Whereas groupthink tends to be a more negative noun, implying that all players are doing things the same way for the harmony of the group and are afraid of doing something different for fear of breaking up that harmony, or getting ridiculed. This desire to conform is considered an error and leads to common mistakes that the group would keep on making.

Groupthink is closer to the opposite of what I'm describing because it means there's no change whereas our group went from using tech too much to perhaps now using it too little (and will probably start swinging back the other way again).

...

I guess what you are trying to imply is that getting tech upgrades is the "correct way" of playing and any other strategy is clearly incorrect and that any group that does so only does so because it is flawed in it's thinking. However, this doesn't really help the discussion at all, does it? For one, can you give anything to back up the thought that upgrades are absolutely necessary and one cannot win without them? Second, what about games where someone who uses upgrades well gets beat by someone who doesn't?


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sfox wrote:
I find the comment that you haven't had to compete when using the building strategy very strange.

I assume you mean specifically the "resource building" (big resources) strategy. I've competed many times playing classic building, and have played big resources against 1 or even 2 players playing classic building. But never have I played big resources against someone else playing big resources. That was one of my main motivations for writing this post - a lot of people simply aren't aware of the resource strategy. I've looked through a *lot* of replays on boardgamearena to find examples of each of the strategies, and the number of players running a big resource strategy is surprisingly low.

sfox wrote:
I also don't see why you call the resource strategy hard, except maybe in comparison to the agriculture strategy which is very simple to do.

Comparing the difficulties of each strategy is always going to be somewhat subjective, so the main metric I used to determine it was the average time my turns take in each. Perhaps this just means the resource strategy gives more options, so there's more to think through. e.g. you have turns where you're picking up T4 three times, and the building that gives U2 is available as well as the one that gives U5. The number of different ways you can play that out in terms of which buildings/monuments to go for and in which order, when to use the architecture track bonus, whether to use the U5 as Y5 or another T4, etc.

sfox wrote:
Anyway, the point being, that as long as you have two players going for buildings/resources the game ends up being pretty balanced. The 3rd/4th players can both go for agriculture, or one of them can go for skulls. The player(s) that are going heavy agriculture need to interfere with the builders by clogging up the Tikal gear at certain points of the game, otherwise the resource heavy player will win every time. If only one player in a 3/4 player game goes for the resource track the score can get very ugly if the right (wrong) monuments are in play.

Also I find the so called "Uxmal gambit" to be optimal for every strategy including the skull strategy, assuming that you start off the game with enough food. It is such a strong opening move that I try to avoid it because it is so obvious and it just makes the game too easy. I don't know why anyone would even call this a "gambit" anyway, what sacrifice are you making?


This all makes a lot of sense, and is good to hear about the balance of the game! Have you (or anyone else for that matter) ever tried houseruling to prevent player 1 filling Uxmal every single game? Maybe by saying no more than 1 guy to be placed there by each player during the first turn? The reason I don't list it is the best opening for the theology and classic building strategies is that I like to play them with just 4 workers. I guess you could place U0,U1,U2 and just pickup 1 guy for a worker and let the other two ride up, I'll give that a go next time I fancy playing theology :)

I didn't name it the Uxmal Gambit - I read it called that somewhere here - but I think "gambit" = "sacrifice" is specific to chess. The more general meaning is this one (from OED): "A plan, stratagem, or ploy that is calculated to gain an advantage, esp. at the outset of a contest, negotiation, etc."


Never Knows Best wrote:
All of your strategies include the tech track. I think this is a significant disadvantage to the flexibility of some of the strategies as going for max tech first means you're missing out on opportunities early in the game - mainly temple scoring and resources.

I have no experience with an ignore-techs strategy myself, so don't feel I'd be able to offer much insight into playing it. I'd be happy to add a section into the first post outlining it, though, if you (or anyone else) would be interested in writing one? (sticking to the same format/sections etc. as the others, and providing an example game link on bga)


boloni wrote:
I think one of the important parts of big-corn is to use the agriculture tech level 4 to climb up in the temples.

This is absolutely correct. Big corn is going to get most of it's temple bumps from U1, but it's aiming for the top of every temple - that's 18 bumps. Getting there just placing U0/picking up U1 would take 36 turns - the game isn't that long in total, so you need something else. The old place U0 and U1/pickup U1 and U2-as-U1 (7c for 2 bumps), and even placing 3 (12c for 3 bumps) are common moves. As is using U4 to build buildings that give 2+ bumps for 4-8 corn. But you're still going to need to use T1, T3 (and T5 if you're lucky) in addition.


morrowman wrote:
I've scored 134 with the architecture build.
...
http://en.boardgamearena.com/#!table?table=5327847

Thanks very much for this - I'll add a link to your example game to the original post.

morrowman wrote:
If you're putting the uninhibited score of resource building at 120-150, I'd say that an uninhibited crystal skull strategy is also about that level. Both seem to top out at around 160-170 if the right monuments come out.

Yeah, I think I broke my own rule when considering the top score :) In almost every game where I've either played theology or seen someone play it, there has also been a big corn player present, but I was incorrectly not identifying this as an inhibiting factor. The big corn player will easily beat the theology player on at least 2, and usually 3 of the temples, so I was ignoring the 24 available bonus points when considering the theology track score. But if I'm saying an "uninhibited" score - that doesn't just mean there's nobody else going for theology as well as you and filling all the CI spots, it should also mean there's no big corn player beating you to all the temples. I'll adjust the original post to be "when you're the only player going for this strategy" rather than "uninhibited".


Horrid Beast wrote:
Did you add these? As they did not appear when I first read it...

They were definitely there the whole time. Admittedly the layout of the post may have made them easy to skim over...


Never Knows Best wrote:
Why do people keep saying, "oh, this strat is awesome, I got 140+ points!"?
If you win the game that was a good score. I've seen competitive games where the high score was in the 90's. Does that mean the strats sucked or just that the players were blocking each other more, speeding up the game with double ticks, and generally having less high vp building/monument/tile options?

The main motivation for including these is the vast number of threads on this and other forums along the lines of "Is this game broken", "Is strategy X dominant", "My friend always wins by doing XYZ". The thing they all have in common is that the OP complains that someone has won a bunch of times, then after 10 posts or so it is eventually revealed that the scores have been in the sub 70 range. Or another example: if you've played on bga you're probably aware that the interface is really buggy and has no undo feature. When I first started playing on there I was frequently misclicking, some of them incredibly costly misclicks. I had a run of 3 or 4 games where my scores were utterly terrible but I was still winning. Does this mean the "misclick strategy" is worth pursuing? Clearly not - it probably just means my opponents were struggling with the interface as well. I agree that scores with no context are not a perfect indicator of how viable a particular strategy is, but just looking at whether you won or not has the exact same shortcomings plus some extra ones.
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qqzm wrote:
The thing they all have in common is that the OP complains that someone has won a bunch of times, then after 10 posts or so it is eventually revealed that the scores have been in the sub 70 range. Or another example: if you've played on bga you're probably aware that the interface is really buggy and has no undo feature.

When I first started playing on there I was frequently misclicking, some of them incredibly costly misclicks. I had a run of 3 or 4 games where my scores were utterly terrible but I was still winning. Does this mean the "misclick strategy" is worth pursuing? Clearly not - it probably just means my opponents were struggling with the interface as well. I agree that scores with no context are not a perfect indicator of how viable a particular strategy is, but just looking at whether you won or not has the exact same shortcomings plus some extra ones.


I feel the same way when people post multiple scores of 150-170. It's the "oh, I play against people who let me do whatever I want and don't try and block me or slow me down" strategy. Competing with food/resources/spots on the board and buildings, competing for temple position, and especially challenging turn order and using the double-click are all ways players can slow down their opponents and if that isn't being done then any strategy against said opponents seems optimal.

Either that or I find a number of strategies discussing 2 player games. If that's so, it has to be understood that a 2 player game plays much, much different than a 3-4 player game as, even with the dummy workers, competition for worker spots get's much more tricky and competitive. It's also easier to score higher in a 2 player game.
 
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Never Knows Best wrote:
I feel the same way when people post multiple scores of 150-170. It's the "oh, I play against people who let me do whatever I want and don't try and block me or slow me down" strategy. Competing with food/resources/spots on the board and buildings, competing for temple position, and especially challenging turn order and using the double-click are all ways players can slow down their opponents and if that isn't being done then any strategy against said opponents seems optimal.

Either that or I find a number of strategies discussing 2 player games. If that's so, it has to be understood that a 2 player game plays much, much different than a 3-4 player game as, even with the dummy workers, competition for worker spots get's much more tricky and competitive. It's also easier to score higher in a 2 player game.


I tried to mitigate these factors as explained in the "What is a Good Score" footnote in the original post. However, some things - such as whether opponents used the double-click well - are going to be difficult to account for across a large number of games due to their subtlety.
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Played with the current n1 on bga and watched some replays of him and he always goes for the ressource strategy, same goes for other top players from china. It seems like this is the way to go. I'm currently waiting for tribes and prophecies, which hopefully adds some new strategies.
 
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Teiwaz wrote:
Played with the current n1 on bga and watched some replays of him and he always goes for the ressource strategy, same goes for other top players from china. It seems like this is the way to go. I'm currently waiting for tribes and prophecies, which hopefully adds some new strategies.


It's not unbeatable. If the monuments that come out aren't very high scoring, then the resource build strategy can top out at around 110 points. In 2 player, that's possible to beat with crystal skull, no tech god-track, or corn. In 4 player, if the monuments are good then multiple people will compete for buildings, so you have a chance long as you choose a strategy that is relatively uninhibited. The way the BGA metagame is now, I think people are starting to overplay the building/resource strategy (again) in 3-4 player games.

As a side note, in resource vs resource matchups it's important to fill up Uxmal in the mid-game. You want U2 and U3, and you want to deny your opponent from using those as well.

Quote:
Doubtless there are other strategies available that I haven't mentioned...


I've also found that building both 4-wood farms in the first quarter and pumping out workers is a strategy unto itself. It pairs best with a crystal skull strategy, worst with a corn/god track strategy (since you'll probably not have enough actions to win god tracks in the first half). It has the added effect of allowing you to wait and see what everyone else is doing before you choose your strategy, which can be useful if you are playing against players of varying skill or in a game where 2-3 people go for the same strategy. I don't know if this counts as a strategy in the same sense as the others, but in terms of opening quarter goals this could be just as good as getting early tech.

Quote:
Maybe you've got a killer strategy that ignores the tech tracks completely - if so I'd love to hear about it! Or indeed any other strategy I haven't thought of yet...


This might be similar to what Aaron was saying earlier in the thread about low tech strategies. Here's an example of a 2 player game with no tech. It was my second time trying something like it. Note that at every single moment in the match, I felt that getting any tech and/or getting an extra worker was just worse than doing something else, although I might be wrong.

http://en.boardgamearena.com/#!table?table=5500548

The takeaway is that T5 is tremendously strong in the first half, especially the first quarter. If you take 5 T5 actions you can score about 28 points in the first half just from those actions (lets assume 16 points + 12 points for winning god tracks). Then the god track points score again at end of the game, making each first half T5 action worth about (28+15)/5 = 8.5 points per action, and this doesn't even included the value of resources and winning second half god tracks.

In most games, getting the first skull probably requires 1 use of U1 in addition to 3 uses of T5. In this game, the one time I used U1 as a spare action turned out to be a huge waste, since my last skull didn't move me up the god track. It was basically 4 worker-turns for 0 points (place p0, pull p1, place u0, pull u1). Yuck.
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Quote:
Here's an example of a 2 player game with no tech.
http://en.boardgamearena.com/#!table?table=5500548


Again you did a great job!
Probably it's the best I saw since montage started to dominate the ladder!

I don't play much on bga now (comparatively) as everyone seems going for the resources/building strategy, esp. in 3/4 players.

Quote:
As a side note, in resource vs resource matchups it's important to fill up Uxmal in the mid-game. You want U2 and U3, and you want to deny your opponent from using those as well.


I have an example for this. (though not a good score ...)
http://en.boardgamearena.com/#!table?table=5373437

I did try to full up Uxmal in the middle of the game. devil
Sadly the U0 was not blocked ...
I also stole some key buildings & monument from the player.
It was nasty but it would be an easy win if the other player got them.

By the way, placing U0,U1,U2 is a really strong opening and I still had no clear idea how to response it.
 
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I frequently use no-tech strategy. Usually that includes:

* T5 twice during first quarter, or once if you start with two temple bumps
* Get 4th worker at some point (I guess 3 may work, but in practice 4 usually leads to better results)
* Get 3 resources from temples during 1st quarter and all rewards after 3rd quarter
* Utilize T5 as much as you can during second quarter to maximize points from temples
* Win all or almost all temple tracks during the whole time. No-tech is faster at temple tracks than skull or big corn strategies, so it should be doable unless some other player pushes 1 track only and ignores all other tracks
* Max out all temples before the game ends
* Send the skull which you get from green temple to an yellow CI spot
* Build a monument with temple resources (one of the temple monuments)
* Use Palenque and start player for food, start player is good for you so Tikal doesn't get filled up before you get a chance to go there
* Use Palenque for wood once
* Try to mess other players' plans with as many double spins as possible. You can do several double spins because you'll be maxing temple tracks.
* Build 0-2 buildings. Most typical building is a farm during 1st or 3rd quarter.

Typical scoring: First half 6 from brown, 4 from yellow and 7 from green, plus some additional bumps for the bonus points. You should try to score 25-30 points from temples during the first half, hopefully minimizing others' temple points by taking the bonuses.

Second half you ideally score 8 from brown, 13 from yellow and 10 from green, but that's hard to do if somebody else also aims for temples. Try to score around 35-40 points from temples.

Bring skull for 10-13 points and build a temple monument for 21-30 points. So you'll end up scoring maybe 90-110 points and at the same time minimize others' points for temple majorities.
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alfred smith
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If you use Palenque for wood once and you don't have any tech, how do you get corn if all of the corn spaces that you are on are covered by wood? I know you can burn wood to get the corn, but that would decrease your temples, which in this strategy you wouldn't want.
 
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