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Subject: I am king of the losers rss

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Kevin Bourrillion
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I've just finished 6 of my last 8 games in second place. The other two were one that I won against very weak players, and one where I actually tied the 2nd place finisher in VPs. So, call me Mr. Second Place. The best of all the losers!

Since maybe half of these were 4p games, I guess this means I'm doing above average. Hurrah.

And I've been having lots of fun, so this is all cool. Except I was thinking that perhaps it might be an interesting challenge for me to figure out how actually, you know, like, win? every now and then?

Looking back over the games (I play on pr-game.com so I can look back over the games whenever I want, yay!), it seems time and time again that what's happening is I'm getting outshipped. I'm establishing a great income, relentlessly pushing my advantage, usually building one or two large buildings -- and getting outshipped badly almost every time.

So I'm here to ruminate a bit on some reasons why I think this might be happening, and with luck maybe some of the excellent players around here can show me where I'm onto something and where I'm not. (Sure wish I had GG to give you. how do you get that stuff??)

1. Overvaluing the Trader. Well, duh. I think I forget to always check what trading will do to "the boat situation" if I choose it. Money is public/tangible and it has too great an allure for me even right up to the last turn ("If I can just manage to afford that residence!"). Sometimes maybe trading results in a boat ending up blocked that I wanted to empty, and I don't take notice. Things like that. On top of the basic loss of one potential VP from that barrel.

2. Undervaluing the Mayor? I wonder if perhaps I took the advice on BGG (not to overvalue the Mayor) a little bit too far. I practically never choose it unless the ship is unbalanced and/or it has doubloons I really need. I usually leave it for my opponents to choose, and I laugh at their misfortune for having to pick such a weak role. But then, come crafting time, I find that I can never seem to produce as many barrels as my opponents are. Fewer barrels produced = fewer loaded. Of course if I managed to snag a major corn lineup I'm ok, but of course I can't count on that. I wonder if perhaps I need to take a few more Mayor opportunities so I can keep up with the Joneses in barrels.

3. Undervaluing the small warehouse. I mean, I love it, and I do try to get it, but I think maybe not hard enough. I move straight from "obsessing over coffee/tobacco" to "obsessing over harbor/wharf" (with a possible interlude for a factory) and then straight on to "obsessing over the guild hall". Often I never manage to find time for the SW until my opponents already snapped them up, and of course I hate paying for the large warehouse, so the end result is massive spoilage.

4. Not managing to score a harbor or wharf in time. I've been taking the advice (jimc's? alexfrog's? sorry that I can't remember) to treat round 9 as the deadline for acquiring a harbor or wharf while it can still "pay for itself" relative to a large building acquisition. Of course, I fudge it to round 10 most times :-). But it seems to happen too often that I can't quite make it, so I'll go the builder route -- taking a second quarry, trading frequently, building the Guild Hall and then production buildings like mad (or a 2nd large building often as not). And as mentioned at top, I'm doing great on building points and bonuses, but I still get outshipped so severely that I take second place. I wonder if by not having either of these buildings, in addition to losing the bonus opportunities they offer, I've also reduced my opponents' "captain fear" such that they're captaining more often than they might otherwise.

5. This isn't specific to shipping, but I always forget to avoid choosing roles my opponents aren't going to choose anyway. The clearest example of this is of course in a 3p game, early-to-midgame, when I'm not the governor. It usually makes no sense to pick a role that the guy after me wasn't going to pick anyway. It'll come back to me with an extra doubloon, which could end up making the difference between affording that harbor by turn 9 or not...

6. This is vague, but I feel like basically I am not really controlling what is going on the ships, but that I'm being buffeted around by the winds of my opponents' desires. One contributing factor to this is actually the simple fact that I'm using play-by-web instead of playing synchronously. Many times my goods get shipped and sometimes even discarded automatically on someone else's turn, and I don't even really notice that it's happened! As opposed to building, which always happens intentionally. So it becomes hard for me to keep track of what's going on; instead, barrels just come and go, willy-nilly. The obvious answer to this will be "play on BSW more often" but I can't stand doing that because (a) I really like to take a few seconds to think about my moves, which routinely drives the other players to all kinds of rudeness, and (b) having a baby and toddler at home means I could always get interrupted at any second. So I don't know what to do about this except to try to always review what happened in the last turn before I make each move (you can only see the last turn, unfortunately... just to keep you from tallying VPs).

7. Overvaluing quarries? This shouldn't be such a big deal -- I usually only take 2 quarries anyway, but it seems like my opponents only ever take more than one if they have a hacienda. So, they have more plantations than me, equalling more barrels. I don't know -- this may be a sign that I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel now, so I'll just stop and hope that anyone has some helpful wisdom for me!

thanks in advance,

K
(kevinb9n on bsw, pr-game, etc.)
 
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Skip Maloney
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I dispute your "King of the Losers" title. With over 600 games played, my win percentage continues to hover at 8%. I think, in almost any language, that's called 'sucking big time.' Yet, I continue to play with enthusiasm. Hope springs eternal. Says something about the game, too. Can't think of any other game I play (on a board or in life) that I accept losing so readily and continue to hold enthusiasm for. Says something about the game (and life? It's the journey, not the destination?).
 
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Kevin Bourrillion
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Eek, I didn't quite think about my subject line and how it would come across like I have this super negative attitude. Nah, I'm having a great time, and 2nd place ain't so bad. I was sort of making an ironic reference to the description of 2nd place as "the best of all the losers", but I guess you wouldn't have known I was trying to be ironic. :-)

Anyway, for me, part of the fun is the challenge and the continual striving for improvement, so that's really what's behind this post.

I now return me to my regularly scheduled waiting eagerly for advice. :-)

K
 
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Patrick Sullivan
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Hey Kevin,

I'll take a gander at helping you out. I'm the king of Puerto Rico in my group and get 1st place finishes more often than any other position. I typically play 4 player and sometimes play 5 but rarely play 3.

Your strategy sounds very similiar to mine in terms of what you're trying to achieve. You sound like you are mixing a shipping (because of your desire to get the harbour and wharf) with building (your focus on the trader and your addiction to quarries).

A mixed strategy is good, especially in the early-to-mid game. However, at some point in the midgame, you're really going to have to focus on one or the other. In your case, it sounds almost always like you should focus on the building strategy since you appear to be getting outshipped.

Whenever I'm getting outshipped, two things appear in my brain:

1) I need to end the game quickly. I need to fill up my city spaces if I can or use the mayor to end the game (by building large production buildings too... this is the way I almost always ensure the games ends fast. When I decide to for focussed building strategy, I buy large production buildings (this works well with the factory/harbour/guild hall AND ends the game fast which you want to happen)

2) You need to clog up a ship with some good that has low supply. If you have coffee, tobacco or possibly sugar, you should seriously consider getting one of those on a big ship. This is a bad strategy early game because you need to sell it for money, but later on it becomes a devastating strategy against shippers.

So before getting into any more detail, this is what sticks out for as important things to do when you feel you are being outshipped. If you are a shipper and are getting outshipped, then you're either misusing the captain or craftsman, most likely. It's not because you didn't take the mayor.

Now let's address your points that you raised:

1) Overvaluing the trader is a good thing. This is a very powerful role to take. Anytime you are getting a net benefit over others, this is almost always a good move. The only thing that really overrides this is a good timed Captain. Sometimes with captain, you put your opponents expensive stuff on a boat or through poor warehouse planning, they will lose a ton of stuff that they could ship if THEY picked captain. But more often than not, overvaluing the trader is a good thing to do. It works great with a building strategy and gets you the best buildings quickly.

2) Unvaluing the mayor? No such thing. The mayor is the weakest role to choose. It's not as bad as picking Settler late in the game but it's pretty bad. Your strategy of only taking it when there's a large bribe or an unbalanced colonist ship (or preferably, both), is a sound one. Yes, by taking mayor, you are optimizing your production. But someone will eventually take it most likely get picked (in my group, it gets picked by everyone BUT me) and then you'll get your colonists. The added benefit of picking the mayor yourself and getting extra colonists is NOT worth giving up another role choice. It's ok if you're not running at peak efficiency. This isn't Power Grid. Your focus is on money and victory points, not production. WIth that in mind, mayor is rarely a good choice.

3) Undervaluing the small warehouse. I'm glad you recognize this as being a bad thing. The small warehouse isn't as good as the small market but it's still a very good building to have. You have to decide in the late early game if you're going to get a small warehouse or a wharf. You don't ever want both. That's a waste of money. So if you think your variety of plantations is leading you towards a factory or harbour, then forget that wharf and snatch up the small warehouse. But if you have 3 or 4 corn plantations, you should seriously consider bypassing the small warehouse and making a move for the wharf. I almost always get the small warehouse if i have 0 or 1 quarries and the small markets are gone and I don't have a pressing need for a small indigo plant or small sugar mill. I find this building to be a great deal. Especially when you're the builder and have a quarry. It costs only one!

4) Definately one of the hardest things in the game. I can't really give you advice here. Your experience should really be helping you determine what to do. The choice between Coffee Roaster/Tobacco Storage/Factory/Harbour/Wharf/Guild Hall is one of the hardest decisions to make and you need to let the game decide for you. How did the plantations fall for you? That question (along with your current amount of dubloons) should be the only thing to consider really when looking at those choices. If the game is late, then clearly, you will probably only go for large victory point buildings. If I have enough coin for the Guild Hall, I usually just get that first (even in early game). I get the Wharf if I have 3 or 4 corn plantations (or lots of any other single good). I get the factory if I'm producing at least 3 different goods. The harbour is almost always a good choice regardless anyway. Not easy. Oh, you can also consider the supply of buildings. If there is only 1 harbour left, often that makes it far more tempting.

5) Great point. I get really mad when I screw this up too. Taking the captain when you would have shipped everything anyway, taking the trader when you would have sold anyway, taking the builder when you could afford your building anyway.... all of those are pointless moves if you know your opponent will pick that role. You are giving your opponent a big advantage by picking their roles for them.

6) This is just basic optimization of Captain and Craftsman roles. If you are good at knowing when to pick them, you avoid this problem. If you find that you aren't good at using the ships, then you shoudl seriously consider two things:
- get the small warehouse or wharf everytime so that your mistakes are masked by these awesome buildings
- focus more on building strategies. Bad shippers should not be shippers.

7) Quarries are really good but they're not worth losing tons of stuff over. FOr instance, that construction hut really isn't very good. Getting one quarry is very important, I think. Getting two is bonus but you don't want to go out of your way to get it. Hopefully the plantation draw will suck and then you can easily snatch up that quarry. Or hopefully there's a nice bribe on the settler. If there isn't, then don't lose sleep over them. Getting one is great tho

anyway, i hope this helps a bit. My two points at the top of this post are probably sound advice for getting you thinking in the right spots as to how to avoid getting outshipped.
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dave
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hey, some good advice here. I'll add 2 small points. I am a big fan of the small warehouse. If you are losing stuff off your dock, that is most likely why you're getting out-shipped and not winning. Even if you don't end up using it that much, it prevents someone else from having it and it allows you to have more options and makes it harder for others to screw you.

As to making up those last few points to go from 2nd to 1st place, I think the key is keeping track of who you think is ahead. I'm not suggesting VP counting (too much work for me) but just trying to get a feel for who is doing well. Then focus on screwing them and don't concern yourself with the other players. Too often I see players make moves to screw someone that's not in the lead and end up hurting themselves. If you can screw the leader out of 3 points and it costs you 1 but gives another opponent who's behind an extra 2, then you've gained 2 points on the leader and it doesn't matter that the loser caught up 3 to you as long as you're still ahead. The prize is winning and it is not just beating the last place player by an even wider margine. Of course, you need to periodically re-evaluate this; once you get good at screwing the leader, oftentimes they soon are not the leader. This becomes more important the longer the game goes on.

 
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Walt
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I'm no expert, but I think the idea that you're letting the game go too long may be especially apt if the game is ending by running out VPs.

Building cheap large production buildings (large indigo, large sugar, and tobacco, especially) works toward a fast game by building out your city, and by burning colonists--two ways toward a fast game. Consider a hascienda to fill up the plantations so you can keep more buildings empty, ending the game by draining colonists (i.e., fill all the plantations, causing more colonists in the colony ship).

One rule I picked up somewhere is, look at each role: if something is tactically good, do it. Tactical moves include, building before opponents can effectively build, mayoring when you expect they're about to build, shipping what they need to sell, blocking ships, crafting when there isn't enough product to go around etc.

If you have Excel, you might want to try the PR Evolver, in the BGG files section. It's a bit ugly, but it plays a fairly strong game by my standards. It would be a way to try some shipping strategies quickly.
 
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Mike Compton
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I'll chime in here. I identify with your tendency towards a builder strategy. However, just as an experiment, I suggest that you plan on intentionally trying to focus on shipping in an upcoming game. I'm not saying you'll win, I'm just saying to give it a try and see what happens. I've found for me that my "build first" tendencies came from not truly seeing the power of a Harbor, a Wharf, or the Small Warehouse acquired at the right time and used appropriately. It's sometimes harder to see exactly how powerful they are since shipping points aren't revealed until the end of the game - which is a one time impactful moment. If you see them accumulate as the game progresses, the power of the shipping buildings becomes more apparent.

Another reason why I found myself with a "build first" mentality is because I didn't realize that incentive doubloons and other Trading opportunities that will come to you in the game will typically allow you to still build enough buildings here and there when the Builder role is selected to sort of "keep up" with the Builders.

Just a few thoughts.
 
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Jared Heng
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Hi there, here's some simple advice so hopefully it helps.

Quote:
Overvaluing the Trader

The trader is great, after all, who can resist getting rich to afford that huge classy residence or pretty statue? But be "selfish" whenever possible by pulling off a solo trade so others do not benefit as much as you. Don't worry about lost shipping opportunities too much because if you play a balanced shipping/building strategy, you'll be a serious contender for first place.

Quote:
Undervaluing the Mayor

Yes,it's good to wait for others to take the mayor for you but not always. For eg.,if you sense the person on your left is about to take craftsman with tonnes of goods and you got an unmanned wharf/harbour/warehouse, taking the mayor should help.

Quote:
Undervaluing the small warehouse

If you are producing goods in ones (one type each) rather than twos or more, the small warehouse would not help you much.

Quote:
Not managing to score a harbor or wharf in time

Shipping tonnes of goods with a wharf or harbour to satisfy the greedy desires of the old world is good business sense. But give priority to getting a cash generating building first to help you maintain a balanced strategy. Also, if the game is about to end ie. few colonists/VPs/little building space remaining, save the cash for a big building. The harbour/wharf would not help you much so late in the game unless you are producing tonnes and are certain you can end the game through lack of VPs and no one else can ever get a big building.

Quote:
I always forget to avoid choosing roles my opponents aren't going to choose anyway

If your opponents do not choose a certain role, that does not always mean they made the right choice. They may not benefit much from it but perhaps you can by picking it.

Quote:
Overvaluing quarries

This is a difficult one for me to answer because I tend towards taking at least one quarry or two at max. But that's because everyone else in my group normally prefers at least one quarry, so why not? Depending on your group's preference for quarries and individual skills, taking more quarries might work for or against you.
 
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dave
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If you have Excel, you might want to try the PR Evolver, in the BGG files section.

I'm sorry, where is this exactly? A computer version of PR sounds cool.
 
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Alex Rockwell
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The thing that stuck out most for me in reading your comments is that you feel you have no control over the boats. This is a huge factor in the game.

I'd recommend trying to look for opportunities to fill boats with goods your opponents dont have. Sometimes (in the midgame, not the early game), its much better to shop that coffee or tobacco that your opponents dont have, than to sell it. Think of it like you just bought a wharf, and blew up a boat. A wharf is worth more than your sale, right? Its especially important if you have a harbor.

Small warehouse is also a great building, and it facilitates controlling the boats. After a big captain phase where boats empty and goods are dumped, oyu have2 kinds of goods, and might be able to set up a captain the next turn where oyu put them both on the boats and gain control.
 
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Trevor Murphy
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It sounds like, for your game, you should consider what got me out of a losing slump: captain, captain, captain. This works mainly in the early phases, before people have stuff like wharfs. That little extra VP that comes from taking the captain role and monopolizing the boats with your dinky shipments can really screw up other people's plans in their early stages, leading them to diversify too much in weird ways.
 
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Alex Rockwell
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The most fun games are where you have harbor and take captain for like 5 consecutive rounds

Say there is a big captain and it clears 2 boats. You save a coffee or whatever, that only you make. The player after you saves a good of something you produce. Next round you captain the 1 coffee onto a boat, the guy after you ships his one good, and now you took control of the boats (and with a harbor, got 3 points for the move).
 
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Scott Russell
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I agree with most of the points.

However, I am not a fan of small warehouse. Get your goods on boats, don't store them. And don't cry over spilled barrels, you can always make (or better have someone else) make more.

One point to make is that my wins are usually from builder strategy and some from mixed strategy, so take this "advice" with that in mind.

(I get second a lot, too.)
 
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dave
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small warehouse rules!
It's way too easy to screw with a person using the shipping strategy (corn strategy) if they don't have a warehouse; sure ideally it's better to ship than store, but it's the same VPs if you ship this turn or the next (as long as the game doesn't end). I also am a fan of putting one coffee or something on the largest boat each turn for most of the game--effectively having my own wharf.

 
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Kevin Bourrillion
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Wow, a huge thanks to everyone for all the valuable advice!

Here are the main things I've taken out of it:

1. Trader - while I will pay more attention to the "boat situation" before trading, this doesn't change the fact that Trader can be a huge move that can translate into huge vps.

2. Mayor - Seems I was overly concerned about this. I will probably continue to avoid Mayor when the ship is balanced, but be sure to grab it more often when it's unbalanced (or even set it up to be unbalanced when I'm in a shortage and know that I can be the next mayor), to lessen my need to take the role as often.

3. Small Warehouse - thank you for confirming my suspicion that this building rocks like few other. If it runs out and I happen to have 2 quarries, and I'm in a builder phase without any clearly better alternative, I may even (gasp!) go for the large.

4. The harbor/wharf race - I think I'm starting to get better at making sure more bonus doubloons on roles head toward my pocket than my opponents'; for example choosing roles that force my opponents to take other roles defensively which have no doubloons on them. And I think this is helping me to ensure that I can always grab one of these two important buildings in time. If I can't, I'll probably stick with the ol' end-the-game-as-fast-as-possible approach.

5. Oh, I just addressed this in #4.

6. Thanks for the good advice on controlling the ships; I'll take it to heart but I think it'll take some practice and more thinking on my part to improve here.

7. I don't know, I still have a soft spot for that second quarry. Don't know why. I guess I'll have to think carefully before taking it about what plantation I'm probably giving up for it, and what that will do to my tempo. Thanks for the advice here.

BGG rules. I really appreciate all the help. My game keeps getting better, and my enjoyment of it as well!
 
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Patrick Sullivan
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cool, glad we helped. Two things:

1) Glad you like the small warehouse. Don't EVER get the large one though. The extra dubloons it costs to get the Wharf over the Large Warehouse are TOTALLY worth it. So if it's not small warehouse, then it's wharf or nothin'

2) There's nothing wrong with a second quarry. I just wouldn't go out of my way to get it. If there's a dubloon or two on the Settler, then yeah, it could definately be worth it.
 
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Marc Thompson
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One minor quibble.

The Large Warehouse is good in one and only one instance - if your going for the "Surly Teamster" strategy with sugar and indigo. Of course, if that's true, then the Whatf won't be in play anyway :>

 
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