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Subject: Is increasing influence too expensive? rss

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Andi Hub
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With a few games under my belt I have the impression that increasing your influence during the first few (let's say 3) rounds is not worth it. Even when you get it for only 5 Yuan, you pay at least 8 (because of the lost income from the trader you used for auctions) and will possible lose even more because you are much more likely to get sent back by the inspector. To really use your ability (bumping other traders) you also need traders and movement yourself, which you will lack since you spend your money on the influence advance. Once a player went very strictly for increasing influence to the maximum and was dead last as he was not able to buy enough other improvements as well.

I often do not increase influence, because it is quite easy to evade influence players in the first half of the game. With a trading post in Yunnan (first province), you do not have traders there which could be sent back. So an influence players would need to advance their horse to target you (and up till then you may have reached the third province and go for a strategy as discussed in this thread).

Currently I see influence as something which you might increase to target a specific player in maybe the last 3 rounds, but I would not waste resources in the first half of the game. I think about the variant that the inspector is actually targeting the player with least influence to make it more attractive. What are you thoughts on the topic? Have you had quite different experiences?
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Mike
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If a strategy using Influence is to be pursued (i.e. you plan on knocking back other players) I don't think there is much point in being more than one point higher than everyone else. So, if you are spending actions to be several ranks higher than the other players on the Influence Track, those might have been actions better spent on other things.


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Curt Carpenter
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lordofscones wrote:
If a strategy using Influence is to be pursued (i.e. you plan on knocking back other players) I don't think there is much point in being more than one point higher than everyone else.

Sure there is:
1) Each step grants progressively more vp.
2) Getting to the end means that you're immune to the inspector. Very important if going for an influence strategy.
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Rezard Vareth
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Being two points ahead changes the calculus for other players. It's now hard for them to tie you, which means they are less likely to bid, which means you can pay less for more points (and four influence).
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Andi Hub
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RezardVareth wrote:
Being two points ahead changes the calculus for other players. It's now hard for them to tie you, which means they are less likely to bid, which means you can pay less for more points (and four influence).

I agree, but have you seen players winning, who invested in influence already early on or would you think influence is only for the end game?
 
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Curt Carpenter
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RezardVareth wrote:
Being two points ahead changes the calculus for other players. It's now hard for them to tie you, which means they are less likely to bid, which means you can pay less for more points (and four influence).

Sort of not really. Players care against their influence rating relative to all other players, not just the player with the most influence.
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Rezard Vareth
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ringo84 wrote:
RezardVareth wrote:
Being two points ahead changes the calculus for other players. It's now hard for them to tie you, which means they are less likely to bid, which means you can pay less for more points (and four influence).

I agree, but have you seen players winning, who invested in influence already early on or would you think influence is only for the end game?


Well, I haven't played much so I can't be sure. But I agree, early in the game I would only pay for influence if it's cheap. I think the horse trader and the extra merchants are much more important in the beginning.
 
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jbrier
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ringo84 wrote:
So influence players would need to advance their horse to target you


Yes, it is important for the player who has invested in influence to get his horse forward at least a little bit, as the players with less influence are going to try and outrun him.

Early in the game trader and horse are the best purchases, of course. In a 5 player game on turn 1 you might see the first 4 players getting those items (for 9 and 12). This leaves the 5th player the option of advancing on the influence track and building a tea house for 5 yuan apiece. Is this a good idea? I think it can be. You will be protected from the inspector on turn 1, and then have the lowest income, which will allow you to bid first (horse for 9?) on turn 2 as well as move last, which means you'll likely get to displace some traders. Yunnan will probably still be the region hit by the inspector on turn 2, which means once again you're protected by your tea house.
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Rezard Vareth
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curtc wrote:
RezardVareth wrote:
Being two points ahead changes the calculus for other players. It's now hard for them to tie you, which means they are less likely to bid, which means you can pay less for more points (and four influence).

Sort of not really. Players care against their influence rating relative to all other players, not just the player with the most influence.


Haven't played much, but if only one person has bid on influence and is 2 ahead, and everyone else is tied (which sounds like the scenario the OP imagines), I care less about putting points into influence.

Unless someone is clearly winning, I care far more about getting displaced than displacing others. Which reminds me of a corollary - if everyone is getting influence, then you need it too.

There's also some trickery about being able to collect presents and points with traders while maintaining strong position in the turn order (esp. if your supply chain has lots of holes in it). No idea if this is a winning strategy, though.
 
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Curt Carpenter
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RezardVareth wrote:
Haven't played much, but if only one person has bid on influence and is 2 ahead, and everyone else is tied (which sounds like the scenario the OP imagines), I care less about putting points into influence.

Why? The only aspect of being "the most" in influence is BAD. You get whacked by inspector. In fact the ideal position to be in on the influence track is second.
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rick goodman

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Yes, OP, you "Hit the nail on the head". I, too am concerned about the exact same issue: Is bidding on the influence worth it?

I've come to the exact same conclusion, as you. Its not. And, like you, I am considering playing with the simple modification you suggested: The inspector attacks the player with least influence.

I suspect this *might* be too large a swing in the other direction. But, perhaps not. In any case, I suspect this simple change will make for a more fun game, since players will then have 5 compelling things to bid on, instead of just four. That is the way the game was meant to be.

I will try this next time I play and post the results. If anyone beats me to the punch please post your experience here!

I must say, this issue does make me wonder why the designer chose to design the game the way it is. Surely, he can't have missed this obvious issue. So, perhaps, our initial insight, here, will eventually prove wrong.

P.S. I LOVE this game. Its much better than its BGG rating. I bought 5 games at the same time and this is the best. The other 4 games are: Praetor, Principato, Fresco and The Doge Ship. IMO, Just based on these other games, alone, Yunnan scores an 8.
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Curt Carpenter
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rick3623 wrote:
In any case, I suspect this simple change will make for a more fun game, since players will then have 5 compelling things to bid on, instead of just four. That is the way the game was meant to be.

I suspect the opposite. If anything, having fewer valuable things to bid on makes for tighter bidding, which equals more fun. It's quite clever that the high end of the scale has a drawback. It would be a shame to lose that. At least for my tastes.
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Andi Hub
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curtc wrote:
rick3623 wrote:
In any case, I suspect this simple change will make for a more fun game, since players will then have 5 compelling things to bid on, instead of just four. That is the way the game was meant to be.

I suspect the opposite. If anything, having fewer valuable things to bid on makes for tighter bidding, which equals more fun. It's quite clever that the high end of the scale has a drawback. It would be a shame to lose that. At least for my tastes.

I see your point and in a 3 player game there I might agree that there would be too many good things to bid on.

But as the game is, I have the impression that most spots for 9 (and 12) Yuan are better than influence for 5. With 4 or 5 players most bids are for 9 and 12 Yuan, but in the end this is not much of bidding any more but rather worker placement. So maybe improving influence leads to more real bidding, since "influence for 5" is now an alternative to "additional trader for 9". But I also have not tried it yet, so this is only speculation.
 
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Rezard Vareth
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curtc wrote:
RezardVareth wrote:
Haven't played much, but if only one person has bid on influence and is 2 ahead, and everyone else is tied (which sounds like the scenario the OP imagines), I care less about putting points into influence.

Why? The only aspect of being "the most" in influence is BAD. You get whacked by inspector. In fact the ideal position to be in on the influence track is second.


The answer is in the subsequent sentence, which I am not reproducing here. I think you are fundamentally evaluating influence incorrectly. Unless your goal is to be influence leader, the number of players ahead of you on the influence track is much more relevant than the number of players you are ahead of.

If you are not going for high influence, a more accurate description of the "ideal position" you are describing is second in influence in the province that has the most income, to the extent you have a presence there. If the influence leader is not in that province (and they should generally be trying to avoid it, if they don't have a tea house there and it is not Chengdu or Yunnan), you are next in line to get dinged by the inspector if you are second overall. Why stick your neck out instead of just tying with the rest?

If you're going for high influence, seems that the more relevant inspector-avoidance measures are: (i) displacing merchants to cause the inspector to move to a territory where you have no traders, (ii) building tea houses or (iii) if the game drags on, hitting 4 influence. I don't think a high influence player will gun for second to avoid getting pinched, it seems to introduce too much of an unknown quantity to an asset that requires "controlling the board."
 
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Curt Carpenter
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Rezard, I don't disagree with any of that. I do not claim that influence is as strong as other tracks. But that's ok. I still find it interesting, and not all tracks have to be equal.
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John Mellby
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I have won twice (out of maybe 6-7 games) by maxing out influence.
But I admit that now I might not put so much effort into influence.
Only if I can get the first two for 5 points.
 
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jbrier
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I think the strength of the influence track is largely dependent on player decisions. If no one else is pursuing it, then for one player to have influence isn't so powerful: that player is much more likely to be hit by the province inspector, and other players don't have that much to fear, as only one player can knock them back. On the other hand, if several people are moving up the influence track, then purchasing influence becomes almost compulsory, as having several players above you on the influence track will just screw you royally unless it's later in the game and you've already managed to outrun those players with your horse.

In this sense, influence is the opposite of the horse: the former is better if more people are doing it, the latter is better if fewer people are doing it. What makes Yunnan such a great game is that your best moves depend almost entirely on what other people are doing, so the game is different every time.
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Andi Hub
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jmellby wrote:
I have won twice (out of maybe 6-7 games) by maxing out influence.
But I admit that now I might not put so much effort into influence.
Only if I can get the first two for 5 points.

I am just curious: Were these wins with a certain player count? Maybe influence is more effective with less players, since it is easier to bump traders from two opponents than from four opponents.
 
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rick goodman

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As I mentioned above, I desired to play the game with one rules change: The player with the lowest influence is targeted by the Inspector.

Now, I've gotten in 1 play with this alternative rules change. Just one, but, the experience was good. Everyone advanced at least one forward on the "Influence" track, and we found it somewhat more compelling to bid on. Players definitely did not want to be last on the influence track. However, all were seemingly happy being tied for last.

Given that outcome, the Influence track still appeared to be less compelling than the other tracks. But, for my group, this rules change was a step in the right direction, improving the play. Even still, the Influence track seems to remain under-powered.

But, who knows, judging from just one play?

P.S. We also played with the Expansion which opens up one more bidding track for all players to bid on. I thought this was quite a good addition for a 5 player game. But, I'm not sure if you'd want to use it in a 2-4 player game, since tight-bidding is generally more fun and more nail biting.


 
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Andi Hub
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Today I also played a 4 player version with this variant (no Tu di Gong Shrine). I liked this quite a lot more than the standard version. Everybody bid for influence with two players being on the 3rd and the other two on the 2nd level at the end of the game. Since it was not the case that players with influence fell behind while the others having already moved to distant provinces, there was quite some trader pushing. Because "resources" had to be spent on influence the game took a round longer and I have seen for the first time someone going up to the 5th province.

Maybe it is just group think that influence in the standard version does not seem to be attractive. However, this variant fixes the problem (at least for some groups) and makes the game more exciting to me.
 
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Bruce lowe
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I've only played the game 3x (4 people twice and 5 people once). The influence mechanic has been problematic for us too, and as a result most do not go for it, and its easy to get for 5.

The games seem to last about 5-6 turns in general, so going for the gold level (4 turns) feels very difficult - it slows your strategy down too much, and the income impact of being pushed back by the inspector is quite severe.

I did attempt some influence in the last game of 5 people - I was the only person who did and was on 1. As a result of the larger group, pushing people back had less impact. Also, due to the larger numbers and only 1 tea house per province, it means its harder to get protection. I did manage to win the game (yay) although i ended the game with 5 travelersand my horse in the 2nd province with a teahouse there, which felt like an odd game (45 income!). (I dont know the 2nd province offhand, but "0th" = Puer, 1st = Yunnan)

my bids the whole game were:
1 horse
2 buildings (teahouse = province 2, the round trader house = prov 1)
1 influence
1 border increase (which was a bit of a waste in the end)
2 travelers
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stephen biggs
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verandi wrote:
I think the strength of the influence track is largely dependent on player decisions. If no one else is pursuing it, then for one player to have influence isn't so powerful: that player is much more likely to be hit by the province inspector


1) The inspector only moves one trader. If I have higher influence than another player I will bump one of their traders for each movement point I have. moving multiple traders can break trade links, reducing the value of the ones further forward. And a tea house does not provide immunity to this attack.
2) Removing multiple traders from a region can make a different region the inspectors target. So one higher influence reduces my risk to the inspector, if I use that advantage fully.
3) If I have high influence and also match the highest number of horses. I can take most of the "presents" in a region.

Overall the 1st & 2nd points of influence are worth it to attack other players. And once you have 2-influence the 3rd & 4th are worth it for immunity to the inspector.
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