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Subject: Strategy ideas for Lagoon rss

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Jonathan Rowe
United Kingdom
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In order to make time for writing I must give up working or gaming...
[EDIT to bring it in line with the document in the Files forum]


When I first played Lagoon I wondered if there was even such a thing as “Lagoon strategy”. Here’s my contribution: I’m not expert or elite player. This is very much a beginner’s observations.

1 Tactics: What to do each turn

In a successful turn, you explore (collecting a seed and altering Lagoon’s energies) and hopefully Unravel (collecting a tile and similarly altering Lagoon). Exploring is easier than Unravelling, but you can only do it once a turn.

(Exception: once a game you might explore Musing Kinoko 5B which lets you refresh your player mark and explore again).

Unravelling tends to be the key to victory, because captured tiles count as 2 victory points and apply 2/3 of the time (ie if either of the other two energies is dominant) but seeds only contribute 1 victory point and only apply 1/3 of the time (ie if their own energy is dominant). So it’s fundamentally a game about Unravelling.

However, Unravelling may not be an option because (i) you don’t have the energy to do it, (ii) you don’t have a refreshed druid ready on the tile you want to Unravel or (iii) the tile you want to Unravel is locked.

Fixing these problems constitutes most of your game play. You’ll need to get druids to tiles with the right energy to support Unravelling and get a druid onto the target site in a refreshed state. You may also need to invoke Deonin powers to move tiles about to unlock the target tile. This can take several turns.

Which colour of tile should you target for your Unravelling? Well, a lot depends on your first exploration, the colour of tile that reveals and the colour of seed you get for it. With a tile’s energy and a matching seed, you’re 2/3 of the way towards having the energy for your first Unravelling.

Sometimes, you will target a site for Unravelling for a different reason: because your opponent is making heavy use of its power, because its power threatens you or to weaken the influence of a particular colour on the board.

• Havens (3 Hares symbol) are the arrival points for summoned druids and have some of the best powers. You want to protect the ones you’re using and prioritise unravelling the ones your opponents use.

• Shrines (lotus flower symbol) have some of the best powers, many of them Timely Actions that can be done, for free or else Invoking Actions that can change the board.

• Sanctums (mushroom symbol) are not much different from Shrines in their power level.

• Allies (hand symbol) are slightly inferior to Shrines and Sanctums. Many offer very strong powers, but require you to expend seeds or exile druids first.

• Troves (paw symbol) offer Exploration Actions when you first place them on the board, but thereafter they do nothing beyond providing energy for unravelling and influencing Lagoon’s Destiny.

You can also summon an exiled druid. This is important for your efficiency, but the summoned druid must arrive at a haven and arrives exhausted. On the positive side, this still gives you access to the haven’s power and its energy for purposes of Unravelling. A tile like Gruu’s Refuge (1A) allows you to refresh an exhausted druid and several red tiles let you move exhausted druids.

In the very first turn, the standard tactic is to explore with one druid and then use the other to summon a third druid. For the first few turns, you’ll be assigning a druid to summoning-duties to get your full force onto Lagoon – unless some very appetising tiles show up offering Actions you just can’t resist invoking…

A sensible checklist goes like this:

1. Check to see if you need to use any Deonin sites to move tiles, either to lock sites of your own that are vulnerable or unlock enemy sites you’d like to remove. You can sometimes use Exploring to do this too.
2. Check to see if you need to use any Vowelon sites to move druids, usually to get to an site you want to Unravel
3. Choose a druid to go exploring – not your Eldrid if you can help it because the site might offer an Eldrid-only power which is no use if your Eldrid is exhausted; ideally, explore from a site that you could lock or unlock if you placed the new tile right
4. Study and place the new tile; decide if you want to move your exploring druid into it and activate any Explore Action it gives you
5. Unravel any site you can
6. Summon at least one druid from your supply, if possible
7. Use any remaining druids to invoke powers (typically Elemeen sites) that are helpful or (using Deonin or Vowelon) move them into good positions – but consider whether you want to leave some druids refreshed until next turn (particularly if you have 4+ druids in Lagoon and can’t refresh them all in your Begin Step)

2 The Ancients

There are three tiles that tend to be hinges for successful strategy, the three Ancients: Ancient Elemeen (7A), Ancient Vowelon (8A) and Ancient Deonin (9A). Each of these tiles counts as double-energy for purpose of Unravelling. This makes them very aggressive resources.

If you are supporting an energy that one of these Ancients Unravels, then be aware that this site helps your opponents undermine you and you’ll want to Unravel it first.

If an unwanted Ancient turns up during exploration, you might want to play the reverse face. The reverse faces are all called Eidolon and have fairly innocuous powers. In fact, each Ancient is backed by an Eidolon of the colour it Unravels, so if you see a Vowelon Eidolon being played, know that the yellow Ancient Elemeen was on the reverse and it now unavailable.

Commonly, a player will use an Ancient tile to support a destructive rampage until another player gets to the Ancient and Unravels it, restoring calm.

3 The Best of Elemeen

Elemeen has powers that focus on refreshing or summoning druids. These powers are very useful for everybody, making yellow the most popular colour on the board. Even players backing Deonin or (poor fools) Vowelon will be tempted to play some of these yellow tiles and to keep them in play rather than Unravel them, because they’re more useful to you on the board than in your collection of scalps.

This leads to knock-on effects. When Lagoon has a lot of yellow tiles, it’s easier to Unravel red tiles. This is one reason why supporting Vowelon isn’t usually a good plan.

(i) Elemeen Havens

Gruu’s Refuge (1A) is, arguably, the best Haven in the set because its power is to refresh a druid (anywhere) in exchange for exhausting another druid (anywhere). This is great for refreshing a druid on a tile you want to Unravel.

Trine Labyrinth (3A) isn’t quite so exciting. OK, it lets you refresh 2 druids, but at the cost of exiling the invoker. Exile is bad, because an exhausted invoker still lets you tap the power and energy of the site he sits on, but an exiled druid is giving you nothing and you have to waste another druid summoning him back later.

Hot Spring of the Phoenix (4A) comes second to Gruu, since it stops a druid being exiled after Unravelling; instead the druid goes, exhausted, to a haven. This makes your plays much more efficient.

(ii) The ‘Holy Trinity’ of Elemeen

There are three Elemeen tiles with such wonderful Timely Actions they can be game-changers.

Moon Gate (13A) lets you bring an exiled Eldrid back for free at the start of your turn. This suddenly makes Trine Labyrinth MUCH more attractive and allows for Unravelling rampages because the Eldrid arrives refreshed and ready for more mischief.

Presence of Lagoon (16A) lets you refresh you Eldrid at any point during your Action Step. This also facilitates much mischief.

Mani Temple (19A) lets you refresh 4 rather than 3 druids each turn. The impact of this on the scope of your play is enormous. Let the mischief commence!

Obviously, players opposing Elemeen will want to play these tiles reversed (they all have fairly innocuous red reverses). Or will they? These powers are so great even players working towards a different Destiny for Lagoon will be tempted to play them as Elemeen. This is why the world tends to turn yellow.

(iii) Other Cool Elemeens

Sylphina (10A) lets the Eldrid summon a druid to any site. Yes, any site. This is really stealing Vowelon’s thunder (poor Vowelon) because normally you go to red tiles to get teleport powers, but here’s a yellow tile letting you do the same thing, almost. In combination with Gruu and Trine, this can be devastating, because you can exile a druid, summon it back anywhere, then refresh it.

Kindred Stone (21B) imitates Sylphina but any druid can tap into it – but it only lets you summon a druid to a site you already occupy. Not nearly so useful.

Awakening Portal (24B) gets the honourable mention. It allows you to refresh a druid every time anyone (including you) unravels. This is the only tile that lets you do stuff during another person’s turn. It’s great for extended plays (especially with Hot Spring of the Phoenix, since the Unravelling druid could be the one you refresh).

4 The Best of Deonin

Deonin has powers based on moving tiles around or swapping tiles. It’s an under-exploited energy but it comes into its own about half way through the game. Its main uses are: (i) locking tiles you like to stop your enemies Unravelling them; (ii) unlocking enemy tiles prior to Unravelling them; (iii) a sort of teleport power, getting your druids closer to a key tile they need to occupy or Unravel. This last use of Deonin’s power once again steals a trick from Vowelon (poor Vowelon!).

(i) Deonin Havens

Perhaps unfairly, the Deonin havens aren’t as popular as the Elemeen ones and tend to get sacrificed. They have some great powers, but they’re not always useful every turn, whereas the Elemeen havens have more obvious application.

Roots of Creation (3A) is another contender for best Haven in the set because its power is to let you explore and then place the new tile anywhere. This still flips your player marker so it DOESN’T give you the ability to explore twice in a turn but it hugely increases your options when it comes to determining the layout of Lagoon and especially unlocking other people’s favourite tiles.

Floating Temple (2B) comes second, letting you move your tile anywhere. In a way, this is better than Roots because you don’t need an Eldrid to invoke it, but Roots is more efficient because you’re exploring, getting a seed, adding an energy to Lagoon as well as rearranging the board, whereas this tile just rearranges the board.

Neilym’s Hermitage (6A) lets you swap one of your tiles with another occupied tile (not necessarily a tile occupied by you). This is usually a cheap teleport but it sometimes works to bring an enemy tile closer so you can Unravel it easier.

(ii) The ‘Holy Trinity’ of Deonin

There are three Deonin tiles with game-changing powers – however, they’re not Timely Actions you get for free every turn, so they don’t generate the buzz that the ‘Elemeen Trinity’ gets.

Destiny Helix (18A) is a terrifying tile that lets an Eldrid Unravel for free, with no energy needed. Wow! The player who claims this immediately goes scalp hunting and settling scores. Other players try to Unravel it as quickly as possible. If you’re in the lead when you explore this, you might consider sparing Lagoon all that tribulation and playing its innocuous yellow reverse instead.

Crown of Lagoon (12A) lets an Eldrid move their site anywhere you like, then move one hex. If the Eldrid can then be refreshed (using Gruu or Presence of Lagoon), then all sorts of horrid Unravelling can often take place on a now-unlocked tile.

Gaea’s Atlas (15A) lets you move any tile anywhere. This is a major re-arranger at the cost of exhausting your Eldrid (but see above for solutions to that). If you’ve got Solitude’s Nest (2A, see below) then you might be able to move a druid onto a newly adjacent site and Unravel it.

Obviously, players opposing Deonin will want to play these tiles reversed (they all have fairly innocuous yellow reverses). However, Destiny Helix is so brutal that even opposing players might be tempted to play it just to enjoy its powers for a few brief, blood-drenched turns.

(iii) Other Cool Deonins

Deonium Arch (20B) lets you swap your tile with another one so long as it’s a haven or unoccupied. The restrictions on this make it less appealing than the ‘Holy Trinity’ but the swap can be useful, enabling you to move an otherwise-locked area.

Jokulmas (23B) is another tile that lets you move a site somewhere else – any site, anywhere. The only catch is the cost: exiling the invoking druid. Nonetheless, it’s a powerful way of locking or unlocking sites or transporting druids across the board (once again, sorry, Vowelon…!).

Saraina’s Crucible (17B) lets you bring a tile from your collection back to the board. You’ll probably only do this if you’re “changing sides” in the mid game but it might be a way of unlocking a tile you don’t like or restoring some monstrous effect (like the Destiny Helix) that will liven things up a bit. The cost – exiling your druid – deters casual use.

Musing Kinoko (5B) is one of the few Explore Actions worth taking the time over. It lets you refresh your player marker and perhaps explore again – but most players will prefer to play it as Overlook Free House (5A – see below).

4 The Best of Vowelon

Poor Vowelon has powers based on moving druids around. It’s an under-exploited energy because the other energies can duplicate it quite efficiently: Elemeen can refresh druids, allowing them to move again (or do other things); Deonin can move whole tiles, which transports druids but also locks or unlocks key sites. There aren’t a lot of reasons to focus on Vowelon rather than the other colours.

(i) Vowelon Havens

Vowelon havens are the least popular and tend to get Unravelled before anyone exploits their potential.

Cloudtop Monastery (1B) has a lovely power – moving the invoking druid 3 hexes – but usually gets snubbed in favour of Gruu’s Refuge on the reverse. Refreshing a druid is, at the end of the day, more versatile than just moving them, even moving the 3 hexes.

Solitude’s Nest (2A) lets you move any druid 1 hex. There are occasions where this lets you move a refreshed druid into a site you want to Unravel (especially after using a Deonim power to bring the druid and the target site adjacent).

Overlook Free House (5B) is the best Vowelon haven and a contender for best haven overall. It offers teleportation, to anywhere, for the invoking druid. In conjunction with Gruu (which can then refresh the teleporting druid) it’s a great launchpad for an attack.

(ii) The ‘Holy Trinity’ of Vowelon

There are three Vowelon tiles with game-changing powers – but none of them really as impressive as Deonin and Elemeen.

Gossamer Pass (17A) is a Timely Effect that lets you end your turn by moving your Eldrid to any haven or to a site you occupy. It’s nice, it can set things up for your next turn (if you’re lucky) but some explorers may prefer the reverse, which is Saraina’s Crucible (which lets you return Unravelled tiles to the board),

Grizznant (22B) is another teleporter, sending one of your druids anywhere. The cost is exiling the invoking druid, so the teleporting druid better accomplish something special at his destination, like Unravelling or accessing some important power.

Eye of the Forest (14A) is yet another teleporter, but only for an Eldrid who is exhausted in the process. This doesn’t involve anyone being exiled and if you have Gruu or Presence of Lagoon you may be able to refresh the Eldrid at his destination.

You’d think players opposing Vowelon (ie everybody) would want to play these tiles reversed. However, everyone finds these teleportation powers are pretty useful for lightning Unravelling assaults and, in fact, a lot of players explore red tiles only to Unravel them themselves.

(iii) Other Cool Vowelons

There really aren’t any, but if I must choose:

Cairn Colossus (16B) is an all-purpose teleporter (like Grizznant) that exhausts rather than exiles. Sounds brilliant? Well, the restriction (only to sites adjacent to ones you occupy) undermines its usefulness considerably – why not just move to such a site normally? Anyway, Presence of Lagoon is on the reverse and who wants to miss out on that?

Elixona (19B) has the nice power to move an exhausted druid 2 hexes. It’s like a low rent version of Cloudtop Monastery, but you do get to move a druid who isn’t the invoking druid. If you can refresh them at their destination, or if the destination confers some valuable power, there may be value in this. However, Mani Temple is on the reverse, which most players prefer.

Drakinymph (10B) is an Explore Effect that only happens once per game. An exhausted druid can be teleported anywhere. It’s like Grizznant, but exhausting rather than exiling the druid who taps it. Given that Sylphina’s on the back, few players choose this.

5 Strategies

You’ll have noticed that Vowelon has the weakest effects and that most of its good effects are paired with Elemeen’s awesome yellow sites. This is especially true if you play “Gruu’s Walkabout” (1A, 14A, 21A) which privileges Elemeen with a strong haven from the start.

Assuming you are playing “Gruu’s Walkabout”, it makes sense in the early game for everyone to play Elemeen tiles; they have the most flexible, beneficial effects. Simply by playing Elemeen consistently, you reduce the presence of red on the board. Add to this the fact that Elemeen Unravels Vowelon and you have a situation where such red sites as do appear quickly get scalped.

This leads to the most basic starter strategy: “Elemeen Loyalist”. Play yellow tiles, collect yellow seeds, unravel red tiles, work towards an Elemeen Destiny using Deonin tile effects to lock your yellow tiles down.

The problem with this is that Deonin Unravels Elemeen and, once all the red tiles are gone, it’s very hard to get the energies together for an Elemeen player to Unravel any of those pesky blue tiles.

This leads to the second, slightly more refined strategy: “Deonin Turncoat”. Start off as an Elemeen loyalist but then, in mid game, change sides and start supporting Deonin. Go around Unravelling yellow tiles and use your combined collection of red and yellow scalps to make up for the fact that you’ve got a bunch of useless yellow seeds from earlier in the game. In fact, some Vowelon sites (if there are any left) become quite useful if you’ve got unwanted seeds to burn: Seedspark Heart (23A) is a teleporter but you have to discard a seed the same colour as the destination, but if the destination’s a yellow tile you intend to Unravel, that’s hardly a problem; Emilaphae (11A) can be used to move opponent’s druids off their precious Elemeen sites once you’ve started spending yellow seeds. Terrapin Ancient (21A) is a Deonin site that can be used to snatch yellow tiles if you’re in a position to burn those yellow seeds.

“Deonin Turncoat” is about as deep as my strategy currently goes. I’d welcome more strategies, especially anything that can make a winner out of Vowelon (poor Vowelon).

These strategy ideas apply to the other starting set-ups, but the two listed in the rulebook may encourage you to adjust your strategy:

“Floating in Paradise” (2B, 16B, 18B) mandates a less aggressive game. Floating Temple is the starting haven, so rearranging the geography of Lagoon becomes a starter activity. Crucially, both Destiny Helix and Presence of Lagoon are out-of-play in this set-up, removing one of the game’s most devastating synergies. In a game where Deonin and Elemeen are missing their strongest tiles, Vowelon may squeeze in as a contender for optimistic players.

“River of Freedom” (5A, 15A, 19A) produces a faster, crazier game. Overlook Free House is the starting haven, so expect radical teleporting from turn 1. The presence of Gaea’s Atlas adds to the mischief but the real kicker is Mani’s Temple in the starting set-up: players can refresh 4 druids every turn instead of 3. This game could go anywhere but a player who captures an early lead might be tempted to Unravel Mani’s Temple to slow everyone else down and this may lead to that most unusual play: war by Deonin against Elemeen which might even place Vowelon in the coveted turncoat position.

6 Additional Tiles

Beyond the base game, there are three extra tiles to add for a longer game (25-27).

Elemeen sites:
• Cirqus Laguun (25A) is a Timely Action that lets you summon druids from elsewhere on the board instead of your supply, so long as your supply is empty. To be useful, it requires that all your druids are in play and also that you can summon druids to places other than havens – Kindred Stone and Sylphina can do this
• Glimmerwisps (27B) is also occasionally useful, letting you refresh 2 druids if you have the right colour of seed.

Deonin sites:
• Chaos Manifold (26B) lets you rearrange 2 or 3 adjacent sites. It’s useful for locking/unlocking and it only requires the exhausting of a normal druid (who must be present on one of the sites).
• Fork of Destiny (27A) is MUCH more exciting. It lets you draw 2 tiles when you explore with your Eldrid and choose the one you want to place. It’s an excellent card as you near the end game and need to control the Destiny of Lagoon more precisely.

Vowelon sites:
• Breath of Lagoon (25B) is a bit like Cloudtop Monastery, but much more evil. The invoking Eldrid moves 3 hexes but another druid can be dragged along too. This includes taking your own druid with you or abducting one of your opponent’s druids. Hilarious!
• Flaming Lotus (26A) is an amazing card that would earn a place in the Holy Trinity. It’s a Timely Effect that activates in the End Step. If your Eldrid is refreshed, it can swap places with one of your druids then invoke an action. Of course, this is fantastic if Presence of Lagoon makes sure your Eldrid is refreshed and ready for fun. If Destiny Helix is in pay, it hugely increases the Eldrid’s options for Unravelling.

There’s no doubt that Vowelon’s powers are improved if the extra tiles are used. Whether that’s enough to offset the structural weaknesses with playing a red-themed game, I’m not sure.

7 Promo Tiles

The Forest/Ancient Sentinel (3A/B) deserves special mention. It’s a Promo you can buy in the BGG Store and it’s worth adding to the base game. It’s a “totem” site which means it contains all 3 energies for purposes of assisting you in Unravelling and Ancient Sentinel (3B) also awards you a seed of the same energy as any site you just Unravelled.
When you add this at the start of the game, it hugely increases your options for Unravelling in the first few turns, especially if one of the other Ancients turns up soon after. Moreover, by giving you seeds you probably don’t want (in the same colour as the tiles you’ve been Unravelling), it provides ‘fuel’ for a lot of those effects (mostly Deonin and Vowelon) that used to be so unappealing.

If a totem gets Unravelled, it merely flips. One side teleports a druid to the totem site when you Unravel, the other side teleports an occupying druid away to a haven. Both can be inconvenient.

This tile definitely makes the early game livelier and more aggressive, but it tends to decline in importance during the mid game and gets ignored at the end because it doesn’t influence Lagoon’s Destiny one way or another.

With the Sentinel in play, the first move tactic is still to explore with one druid but, in River of Freedom, you can instead move your Eldrid to the Sentinel, possibly completing a 3-energy set (2 tiles and a seed) by the end of turn 1. Good luck from there.

8 General tactics

• Get druids from your supply onto Lagoon. In particular, make sure your Eldrid is on Lagoon. Since you can only refresh 3 druids in your Begin Step, once you have 4 druids in play, it’s not crucial to summon the 5th, but it never hurts. Watch out for sites that enable you to summon druids more efficiently, like Moon Gate (13A) which brings back your Eldrid for free or Mani Temple (19A) which lets you refresh 4 druids.
• For the same reason, think twice about exiling druids. Not only do you lose the services of a druid (and even while exhausted they generate energy for unravelling based on the tile they’re on) but you have to waste Actions summoning them back. You have to exile a druid when you unravel (but Hot Spring of the Phoenix 4A helps here) but think twice before doing it for other reasons.
• It’s all about the unravelling. If you’re not unravelling this turn, you need to be getting into position to unravel next turn. Unravelling becomes so much easier once Ancient Elemeen (7A), Ancient Vowelon (8A) or Ancient Deonin (9A) is in place, so exploit these sites for all they’re worth. The dreaded Destiny Helix (18A) increases your unravelling potential immensely. If you’re not exploiting these sites, your opponents are and you will need to get to them and remove them.
• Getting into position means moving the board. All things being equal, a player who ignores locking or unlocking tiles will lose to one that pays attention to this and Deonin is your friend here, especially Roots of Creation (3A), Crown of Lagoon (12A) and Gaea’s Atlas (15A) – the last of these offering a power that’s genuinely worth exiling an Eldrid for!
• Don’t forget about Vowelon. It’s tempting to forget about Vowelon but sometimes those movement powers can get a druid to a site you want to unravel. Especially useful are Solitude’s Nest (2A) and Grizznant (22B), both of which let you exhaust or exile one druid in order to move another one.
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Colin Houghton
United Kingdom
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Excellent post! Really helpful! Thanks! I am afraid that my first few games(solo attempts) were all a bit dithering... Flopping about not knowing what to do.
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