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Subject: Low risk Beowulf rss

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Simon Johnston
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We played our first game of Beowulf last week. I suffered the misfortune of picking up the double wound tile whilst already heavily wounded, to finish last place by some way. I had been concentrating more on gold than the others, but let the All Iron Shield go too cheapily (both underestimating everyone's strength for the Dragon Battle, and overestimating everyones Gold reserves for Recover Treasures). So I finished last by some way, but I was convinced that my strategy was sound, and wanted to avenge my defeat.

So this week I suggest we start by playing Beowulf again. This time we have five players: me, Colin, Bekki, Fee and Tony.

I decide that I am going to try to Risk much less than everyone else, particularly early on, and not to compete in Auctions where I feel I am outmatched. Most of the other players are fairly heavy riskers.

These strategies pay off. At the first bidding episode, where neither the rewards nor penalties are too extreme I drop without playing a card whilst everyone else bids at least four cards (though some may have been from risks). That might be okay for the person who wins, but seems bad for those who expend four cards and don’t really get much.

I also decide I can’t compete on the first serious major episode, cause I don’t have enough of the right cards. So I drop out, accepting that I’ll take the wound, without playing any cards.

I win the Gold auction for 5pts (I'm still taking more Gold than everyone else it seems), and then get a nice bonus at the next major auction. Bekki and I are the last two players left in, but she outlasts me with some lucky risking. When she gets two matching symbols on a risk, meaning I would have to do the same, I decide it’s not worth trying. So Bekki gets first pick… and doesn’t take the 5pts! (She took the special card, can't remember which one that is). So I get 5pts for coming second.

I also win the gold auction to remove the Wound I received early on, and the All Iron Shield (and still had enough Gold for first place at Recover Treasures!) With the All Iron Shield I put up a good fight at the Dragon Battle, but again it turns into a showdown between Bekki and me (everyone else had to start risking early). I can’t afford to scratch because I have no wounds and two scratches, so she takes first.

But I am able to retain enough cards to win Death of Beowulf. I finish with 27 points, just ahead of Colin on 25 and Tony on 22. Fee and Bekki were in the teens.

Beowulf is quickly becoming one of my favourite games. The risking adds to the fun, keeping some of the less stategically minded players interested, but I don't think it really dominates the play unless somebody gets outrageously lucky or unlucky.

And I think there are plenty of other games where that might happen, but often cards drawn aren't revealed to everyone, so nobody realises when it happens! (ie on the last turn you draw two cards, and they are the two bonus cards you need to win, so what looks like a masterful piece of planning to everyone else was just luck - that kind of thing).

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Matthew M
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Excellent to read a case for how showing some discretion can pay off. Great report!

-MMM
 
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Simon Johnston
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Octavian wrote:
Excellent to read a case for how showing some discretion can pay off. Great report!

-MMM

Thanks. I think next time we play I'll note down the names of the auctions, so I can refer to them properly. I couldn't find a high enough resolution picture of the board anywhere, so it's a bit too "this auction, that auction" for my liking, though at least I could remember the important ones.

 
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Eric
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Your approach sounds similar to the approach I took in my last game of Beowulf (which I ran away with) (not to brag). One difference is that I used risks early to keep my opponents burning through their cards. In some auctions, though, they just did it to each other and themselves. Another difference is that I didn't necessarily focus on treasure, but instead I focused on being very frugal with my cards for the first half of the game. If it seemed like I might have to play too many cards, I would seriously consider bowing out of an auction. Like you, I think I also right away took the wound (plus two cards) in an early auction and let my opponents burn through a ton of cards.

It appears from your report that you discovered something that I found out in my last game. Many people will say it's no disincentive to risk because a scratch is no big deal. Yet, when an auction has a scratch as one of its "rewards," those same people will throw down card after card to avoid it. It's kind of funny. I've seen this happen a lot in the auction in the early game where there is both a scratch and a wound. I would often rather bow out of the auction early and get the scratch (or even a wound for that matter) than throw down all of those cards early in the game.

I'm waiting for the game where everybody plays the way you did (and I did in my game). Now that would be interesting!
 
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Simon Johnston
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lmnop wrote:
One difference is that I used risks early to keep my opponents burning through their cards.

Actually, I can remember starting at least one auction with a risk, for exactly the reasons you gave. When your opponents are 'fight to the death' heavy risk takers, and you think you're short of cards and are going to have to risk at some point, but you actually want to compete, why not start with a Risk? At least that way you save the cards if the Risk fails.


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Another difference is that I didn't necessarily focus on treasure, but instead I focused on being very frugal with my cards for the first half of the game.

I tend to find one can lead to the other. It seems like I can pick up small amounts of Gold every easily on the early auctions (whilst I'm being frugal), and then by actually trying to get more Gold (I'm pretty certain I'm the only person to take more Gold at Opportunities) I'm just cleaning up in the Gold Auctions. You shouldn't be able to win 5 pts + Remove A Wound + All Iron Shield + Recover Treasures in a 5 player!

And the best thing is in a Gold auction your opponents can't get lucky!


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Many people will say it's no disincentive to risk because a scratch is no big deal. Yet, when an auction has a scratch as one of its "rewards," those same people will throw down card after card to avoid it.

That's true. Also, people can show restraint when a minor encounter offers them the chance to risk, but once they are in an auction and have a few cards down it's 'Risk, Risk, and Risk some more'. (Ynnen's 'pot commitment')

Simon J
 
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Christopher Dearlove
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Simon J wrote:
once they are in an auction and have a few cards down it's 'Risk, Risk, and Risk some more'. (Ynnen's 'pot commitment')


(Haven't read Ynnen's comment to know how he views this.) Sounds very much like the sunk cost fallacy (aka Concorde fallacy) at work.
 
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Simon Johnston
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It was a geeklist from a couple of weeks ago:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/18987

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One gaming moment or decision which I find particularly compelling and tense is the pivotal decision to withdraw or force a particular confrontation or engagement. These sorts of moments or games can be hard to define, but often a key moment in those games is that fine line when you must decide to withdraw and bide your time or go "all in" and commit yourself big time... A very interesting dynamic in several games.

Essentially, can you risk losing more than you already have to try and force a result you want? Or are you in so far that pulling out now would crush you regardless? This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a few examples. Please comment and add your own.
 
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