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Subject: Tips and Tricks in Roll for the Galaxy rss

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Neil Mehta
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I’ve now played more than 30 games of Roll for the Galaxy (as well as hundreds of its predecessor Race for the Galaxy). Most of my games have been 2-player, with a few 3-player games as well. I do well in my groups – I’ve probably won at least 75% of my games of Roll – but I don’t claim to be an expert by any means. I’ve certainly learned a great deal from the BGG forums, too. This is a collection of some tips and tricks that I’ve picked up. Some are obvious to all but the newest players; some are more subtle. Feel free to add your own!

General principles

• Roll for the Galaxy is a high-skill game. Luck plays a much, much smaller part in determining the victor than you would expect in a game that comes with a giant bag of dice.
• You must pay close attention to your opponents to play well. Your goal is to maximize your benefit from their phase selections while minimizing their benefit from your phase selections. In other words, choose a phase based on your estimate of its relative benefit (benefit for you minus benefit for your opponents) rather than your estimate of its absolute benefit (benefit for you).
• Remember that in a 2-player game, the dummy die is tilted towards exploration, so try to leech from that, too.
• Since the game lasts for quite a few rounds, your early tiles will have a lot of time to pay off. So the first several rounds – say, until you have 6-8 tiles down (including your start tiles) – are heavily tilted towards investment. Don’t worry about VPs until you have your engine humming. Instead focus on getting developments and dice (through worlds) that support a focused strategy.
• Non-white dice are almost strictly superior to white dice because of their wild faces. Unless you have developments that reward you for using white dice, plan on putting non-white dice in your cup first.
• In most aspects of the game, specializing is much better than having a bit of everything. I will explain this in more detail below.
• Pay attention to the game clocks (running out of VPs or having someone build 12+ tiles). Don’t be caught off guard by the end of the game!

Economy

• You will periodically need infusions of credits. There are two main ways to get them: heavy exploration for stocking ($2/die received in one round) or a produce/ship cycle ($1.5-$3/die, usually over two rounds).
• Exploration is easy and immediate. But it does have certain pitfalls. In the 2-player game especially, exploration is more likely to get leeched, since your opponent should know that the dummy die rolls explores more than anything else.
• A produce/ship cycle is usually more work because it normally takes two rounds, and your phase selection may be obvious in the second round. If you are using blue or brown worlds, that work is often not worth it, as your rate of income per die is equal to or worse than your rate for exploring. But it can pay very well for green/yellow worlds, and your rolls may push you in this direction regardless.
• When considering a produce/ship for income, make sure to check the tableaus of your opponents and consider how much they might benefit by leeching. In particular, when you select the ship phase after you have produced, an opponent can choose produce and then leech from your ship, gaining substantial benefits in a single round. Make sure that you would benefit more if you plan to go this route. Similarly, if an opponent chooses to produce with a plan of immediately shipping, think about whether leeching in this way would help you.
• There is a small tax for having any leftover credits at the end of a round. Players who spend down to 0 credits get a 1-credit boost, while players with credits in the bank do not. It may be worthwhile to pay this tax, but the costs really add up if you leave credits in the bank for several rounds.
• Early in the game, the top priority is to build your tableau. You’re looking for a heavily synergistic, highly specialized set of tiles to support your strategy. The two major strategies are building (laying down lots of developments and/or settlements for points) and shipping (producing and shipping goods for points). A hybrid of these strategies is perfectly viable.
• Green and yellow dice are flexible enough to support any strategy with their extra wild faces, though green dice have a slight tilt towards settling. So green and yellow worlds can be quite valuable regardless of your strategy.

Details on the building strategy

• Sometimes you will focus primarily on developing or primarily on settling. Sometimes you will freely mix both.
• Keep an eye out for developments with bonuses for developing/settling, including discounts on developing/settling, credits after developing/settling, or dice back in the cup after developing/settling.
• Red dice are particularly valuable for this strategy, as those dice have more develop and settle faces.
• Brown dice are a bit tilted towards developing, and green dice are a bit tilted towards settling.
• Building cheap tiles has a subtle extra cost. You must spend one explorer die to pick up any tile in addition to the cost of building it. So settling a 1-cost world nets only 0.5 VP per die, while settling a 6-cost world nets .86 VP per die. After your engine is up and running, it is therefore more efficient to build more expensive tiles – though sometimes you will be trying to end the game to cut off your opponent, in which case cheap tiles are fine.

Details on the shipping strategy

• The shipping strategy is supported by lots of blue or brown worlds (preferably one or the other for consistent shipping VP bonuses), plus developments with production or shipping bonuses. Consumption (purple) dice are also terrific, though they can be difficult to get. Only 6 tiles provide them, and they are all developments or gray worlds (and hence have no production) with costs from 3-6.
• A shipping strategy still requires substantial tableau building at the beginning of the game. Don’t rush too quickly into that produce-ship cycle; make sure to build up a solid base of supporting worlds and developments first.
• It is crucial to get the VP bonuses from matching colors of shippers and producers. Otherwise your ratio of VPs per die is too low to be competitive.
• Once you get into your produce-ship cycles, you won’t have many dice left to leech from your opponents’ develop and settle phases. So prioritize cheap developments and settlements later in the game.

Efficient play

• The 6-cost developments, if they fit your tableau even reasonably well, are massively valuable. I can’t think of anything else that yields as many points per die used.
• Try to wring the maximum benefit from each phase you select. You would almost always much rather have 5 dice on your selected phase than on 5 different phases. Loading up on a phase can minimize leeching, since you select the phase fewer times, and lets you accomplish more per round by minimizing dice that do nothing for a round.
• It’s very possible to build a 6-cost tile in a single round, for example, and if you are following a pure building strategy you should aim to do this. Similarly, it is very possible to gain 9 or more VPs from a single shipping phase.
• You can likewise load up on exploration, which has even more added benefits. First, it lets you stock and get new tiles in the same round. Second, it is especially efficient to explore when you have several tiles in your construction zone. Fearlessly ditch any tiles that don’t synergize with your tableau to look at many more tiles.
• As reassign powers are especially helpful for letting you load up on a chosen phase, these are often a high priority early in the game.
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Mike Forrey
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Great article I approve of everything here. I would like to add two things though.

1. In a shipping strategy you will have to have some purple dice or your opponents in a build strategy will edge you out in the end because of high point value tiles especially the 6 cost developments.

2. There are several tiles in the game at this point that are effectively no brainers to pick regardless of how you are trying to achieve victory. These tiles if gotten should be brought into play ASAP at the cost of anything else. A few examples would be..

Alien Research Ship
Major Research Labs
Alien Research Team or it's other side Rebel Warrior Race
Nanotechnology(IMO the single most powerful tile in the game next to alien research ship)

About half of the 6 developments should at the least be held till later or put out ASAP for their game changing effects.

Can't wait for the expansion.
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Serge Levert
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bearn wrote:
Alien Research Ship

agree

bearn wrote:
Major Research Labs

agree

bearn wrote:
Alien Research Team

I first thought this tile was completely ridiculous. Now i think it's pretty terrible. It just gives you a glut of random tiles you never have the time to capitalize on.

bearn wrote:
or it's other side Rebel Warrior Race

As someone pointed out in another thread, this is one of the worst worlds. Sure, it gives you 2 dice, but they go to Citizenry, and the world costs 3. Very, very slow tile.

bearn wrote:
Nanotechnology(IMO the single most powerful tile in the game next to alien research ship)

I think this tile too is pretty awful. The 3 cost ones with more specificity are only marginally weaker, at 2 cheaper cost!
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Xelto G
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It's nice to see a review that balances both tableau and trade. Though you might point out the difference between a tableau rush strategy and a tableau development strategy. I've seen both be effective.
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Neil Mehta
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Xelto wrote:
It's nice to see a review that balances both tableau and trade. Though you might point out the difference between a tableau rush strategy and a tableau development strategy. I've seen both be effective.


I'd like to hear more about what you think, Xelto, since I don't have the clearest sense of how these strategies compare. But my best hypothesis is that tableau rushing is usually trumped by building bigger tiles but can be effective at cutting off a shipping strategy.
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Neil Mehta
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bearn wrote:
Great article I approve of everything here. I would like to add two things though.

1. In a shipping strategy you will have to have some purple dice or your opponents in a build strategy will edge you out in the end because of high point value tiles especially the 6 cost developments.



Here I disagree. If you manage to get mostly worlds of a single color - usually blue worlds - then your blue dice are almost as good as purple dice. The main difference is that they don't have as many consume faces, but they may also be easier to find and cheaper to get.

Still, purple dice are great.
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Kester J
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opotamus wrote:
• Try to wring the maximum benefit from each phase you select. You would almost always much rather have 5 dice on your selected phase than on 5 different phases. Loading up on a phase can minimize leeching, since you select the phase fewer times, and lets you accomplish more per round by minimizing dice that do nothing for a round.


Great article, and all good advice.

The only thing I'd add is to say the point above is very true for 2-player games (which you say you've played the most), but becomes less true the more players there are. Diversifying is more reasonable with more players, because the extra players are more predictable than the dice roll in 2-p.

Particularly in the early game, I'd say a round where you use 1 dice on each of 5 phases is theoretically better than one where you use 5 on a single phase, but the latter is obviously much easier to make happen with fewer players. It's much more common in 4- or 5-p games to be able to do things like building a planet with a good on it, then immediately shipping that good to recoup all the dice you built it with - something that's very difficult to pull off in 2-p.
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Xelto G
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opotamus wrote:
Xelto wrote:
It's nice to see a review that balances both tableau and trade. Though you might point out the difference between a tableau rush strategy and a tableau development strategy. I've seen both be effective.


I'd like to hear more about what you think, Xelto, since I don't have the clearest sense of how these strategies compare. But my best hypothesis is that tableau rushing is usually trumped by building bigger tiles but can be effective at cutting off a shipping strategy.


Tableau rush is when you're trying to end the game fast and early by building a lot of cheap worlds and developments, hoping to end the game before your opponents can get any of their VP engines really built. Tableau build is when you're trying to win the game by a massive amount of victory points from worlds and developments.

Tableau rush requires some way for you to get small amounds money or dice fast and regularly, and has a few disadvantages that if you fail, you'll never catch up. It also requires a lot of dice in explore.
 
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Serge Levert
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Xelto wrote:
Tableau rush [...] and has a few disadvantages that if you fail, you'll never catch up. It also requires a lot of dice in explore.

If you fail/are failing, you can always slow down and switch to playing 6devs.
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Xelto G
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entranced wrote:
Xelto wrote:
Tableau rush [...] and has a few disadvantages that if you fail, you'll never catch up. It also requires a lot of dice in explore.

If you fail/are failing, you can always slow down and switch to playing 6devs.

If you're failing, you usually have 9-10 small items, and someone else has more points showing somewhere. You can try to switch to trolling for a 6-point, or if you have a bunch of blue planets you can shift to a produce/consume strategy, but if someone's past you with an active engine going, it's probably too late to catch up, especially since you can't afford to put many more developments or planets into play.
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Serge Levert
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Xelto wrote:
If you're failing, you usually have 9-10 small items, and someone else has more points showing somewhere. You can try to switch to trolling for a 6-point, or if you have a bunch of blue planets you can shift to a produce/consume strategy, but if someone's past you with an active engine going, it's probably too late to catch up, especially since you can't afford to put many more developments or planets into play.

While it usually doesn't work, some chance is better than a guaranteed loss by continuing to spam.
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Wei-Hwa Huang
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entranced wrote:
Xelto wrote:
If you're failing, you usually have 9-10 small items, and someone else has more points showing somewhere. You can try to switch to trolling for a 6-point, or if you have a bunch of blue planets you can shift to a produce/consume strategy, but if someone's past you with an active engine going, it's probably too late to catch up, especially since you can't afford to put many more developments or planets into play.

While it usually doesn't work, some chance is better than a guaranteed loss by continuing to spam.


Depends on the meta-game. If your meta-game goal is to maximize the number of game wins over time, it might be a better meta-game strategy to continue the spam, take the loss early and get another game started, rather then lengthening the nearly-hopeless game you're currently in to grasp at a small chance of winning.
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David desJardins
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onigame wrote:
If your meta-game goal is to maximize the number of game wins over time


That seems an extremely bizarre goal.
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Eric Brosius
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onigame wrote:
If your meta-game goal is to maximize the number of game wins over time [...]

Then you ought to play with Joe Huber!

Because of Huber-speed, everybody wins more games per hour when they play with Joe!

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Eric Guttag
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Hey Neil,

As a recent enthusiast for Roll for the Galaxy (now also applies to my whole family), these are all great thoughts. (I've generally played only 4 player games also.) I would especially emphasize the desirability of getting at least one reassign development, hopefully the one that allows you to freely reassign up to two cubes to any phase. That's particularly important when Developing/Settling bigger number tiles. You also need a sufficient (not necessarily a large) number of dice to Develop/Settle fairly promptly or you may end up "starved for dice" to do other three phases. You also should not forget assigning dice to the Explore phase to get some potentially good Develop/World tiles, especially those with higher numbers that directly impact your VP score.

One other item I would add is the need to adapt your strategy to whatever starting tiles you get, especially the combined two tile and starting world. By my count, you can start with as little 2 VPs on the combined starting tiles to as high as 8 VPs. That may influence not only on what side you place each the two double sided tiles you draw at the beginning of the game, but will likely also influence how much weight you give towards a Develop/Settle vs. a Produce/Ship approach.

Having also played Eminent Domain (another action/role selection game), you also have to be conscious in Roll for the Galaxy of what is called the "end game" and when it's most favorable to you to make it happen and how. For example, do you need to simply Consume during the Ship phase to gain/exhaust the supply of VP chits and thus bring the game to an end that way to prevent some other player from racking up VPs through big number Develop/Settle tiles? Or should you keep Developing/Settling worlds, focusing on those with big numbers, and especially the 6+ Developments that provide VP bonuses to end the game? Again, I think have to be able to adapt, so to speak, to the "start tiles you're dealt" at the beginning of the game.
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Viking Erik

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opotamus wrote:
• Non-white dice are almost strictly superior to white dice because of their wild faces. Unless you have developments that reward you for using white dice, plan on putting non-white dice in your cup first.


It's not only white-dice-matter conditions that render them not strictly inferior. I just realized this.

It's true that every other die is at least as likely as a white die to roll any particular phase. Every other die has at least one wild face, and either an explore or a second wild face. So any colored die is always a superset of a white die in coming up for any desired phase.

However, it's not true that a colored die is a superset for a group of phases. Here's an example. Consider an endgame situation where you know your opponent will call Ship to end the game so you want to call Produce and leech off his Ship. So you are happy if your dice come up for either Produce or Ship. In this case, a white die is superior to a red one! Because it has two faces that satisfy this condition, while the red only has the one wild face.

The same could happen if you need either Develop or Settle because you know an opponent will pick one and you'll pick the other. In that case, a white die with two satisfactory faces beats a blue with only the one wild face.
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