We tried this game for the first time with three players (red, green, and blue). I was blue. We randomly selected red as the first starting player.
As the first era played out, there were some noticable differences. Green had both technologies and some bonus cards, but no factories. Blue had wood and stone and 1-2 other factories. Red (who got to be starting player twice) had brick and a number of the other factories.
As the second era progressed, the income from having the production buildings was significant. Blue managed to get all but one of the other production buildings. Red got the remaining production building. Green got both technologies again and one factory.
During the third era, we had to stop green from getting both technologies. At this point, we were realizing how to manipulate the auctions. Someone had to make a sacrifice to stop green, and blue did so once. Green still managed to get the other technology. However, after the sacrifice, blue then failed to continue to get producing factories (only 1). Red and green got the rest. Blue did manage to pick up all 3 available bonus cards.
We were only playing four eras, so the fourth one was last. Having the linked factory from era 3 and all the bonus cards, two factories looked particularly good, especially for 9 points, but the other players were determined to stop him, as he seemed to be in the lead at the time. It all came down to two moves -- a bad one by blue and a good one by green. Blue pulled up three tiles, including the factory he wanted. The choice was whether to auction off the factory he wanted first and keep it or to auction off the next most valuable tile. He decided to auction off the 4th bonus tile first -- the one he didn't have. Red and green both agreed to pass in order to force control of the factory away from blue. Control went to green, who kept the factory for himself, and then red got to keep the third item -- a mere resource. Yes, no bids were accepted that phase. Then green got his hands on the last technology he needed and kept it for himself. However, nobody was yet producing the resource he needed. That factory only came up in the last auction and build phases. Blue got it and built it because he was worried about needing it to beat red. However, Green came last in the build order and was able to place that last technology.
In the end, blue did manage to pull ahead of red, but green won due to the number of technology links he had.
Yes, I was the blue player who made the foolish decisions. Now I know better.
1) Next time, we should have a house rule to count in the link and bonus symbol points when they come up in order to more easily tell whom is in the lead.
2) If something comes up that you *really* want, auction it off first and keep it. Otherwise, all the other players can pass to force control away from you and keep that item.
3) Bonus tiles are not as valuable as you might think.
4) Links seem to be the most important source of points.
5) Technologies are valuable for points, but leave you short on cash and vulnerable to resource factories being built. However, the number of links make investing in technology in the first round worthwhile over investing in producing resources.
6) Still, investing in resources is useful. The player who held the majority of resource producers was swimming in talers the following era.
Nice. This is a game I am hoping to play with three players next year.