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Playing the guild means you make the ‘Save’ and stop the early win. Playing the BIG Guild means you make the save using other factions troops, and strengthen your position for your own run at the golden ring. During early game (T1-T5) the Big Three (Emperor, Harkonnen and Atreides) are likely to individually make a run at a solo win if they are able. The Bene Gesserit and Fremen may be on the sidelines and as Guild, you will be expected by other players to either be the Goalie for the game blocking these slap shots or at least to lead and coordinate the defense. When players play a small guild, the guild exhausts its resources taking one hit after another whizzing in at the net. When playing Big Guild, you use the greed of other players to exhaust their tokens and cards, and then skate down the ice to score on the empty net.
Tactically the game assigns your house advantages in choosing your order of move, which allows you to dodge another’s attack, block a shipment into a weak fortress by moving there first, or when a player moves from an existing owned fortress to grab their 3rd fortress you can backfill and attack the base fortress from which they moved to foil the win.
As some general observations regarding strategic environment; you have the ability to shape the game by using free shipping of other faction’s tokens to direct specific conflicts at specific locations/turns as well as to balance dune forces to make a win more arduous and uncertain. You also have consistent and adequate spice throughout the game to acquire good treachery cards and trade limited spice for favors.
Your all around weak leaders (5,3,3,2,1) and slow token revival mean that when you fight, you do it purposefully (e.g. win with tokens if necessary) and with good cards. If you are going to use your forces to spoil a win, then go in with a large stack unless your certain of your weapon/defense advantage. If you’re in for a dime, you’re in for a dollar. Nothing is worse then losing a stack of 6-7 tokens, your leader, your cards, the battle and the game because you didn’t add 2-4 more tokens.
While much is made of the Bene Gesserit’s prediction power to win the game, it is joke compared to the amount to watchful vigilance you must expert in the early game to ascertain which of the factions is next to make a run for the quick win, what turn they’ll do it and what fortresses they will attack. You must be cunning in both anticipating and stopping the early ‘run for 3’ and coordinating and dealing so that your forces are not consistently taking the brunt of the punishment.
Often the guild faction player, plays small. They try to keep one fortress under control, and passively respond to the Big Three’s initiatives. They do not ‘lead the defense’ and its as if the Guild is on the JV team watching the Big Three both have all the fun on the court and then watches them sit with the cheerleaders on the bus on the way home from the game . Playing the BIG Guild house looks very different. Playing the BIG guild you pick the fights and you get the other players to take the punches, you keep your eye on the pesky Fremen and sick the Harkonnen or Atreides on them if necessary to keep them in their place. Here is how the strategy works.
Strategy One: Get the Witch into the game. Form a deal with her across multiple turns that gets her on the board, but not in your fortress, and secure and her obligation to foil a run for the win, with combat if necessary. There are lots of ways to work this out, I suggested one in another posting so I won’t elaborate here. With a another active faction on the board, it will help you put down the T1-T5 quick win which can so easily happen, especially if the there is a newer less experience player or two at the game table.
Strategy Two: Boost a Harkonnen/Atreides player back into the saddle after they have been put down by each other, the Emperor or the Fremen. Early on, if the H/A players lose tokens/cards and haven’t collected sufficient spice they can become sidelined for 5-10 turns or until the end of the game. Giving them spice to so they can ship a stack of their tokens into a fight (net zero cost to you) can return the on-dune faction balance. Many times they will gladly fight the battle you pick, to get them back onto the court and off the bench. Ship their tokens into the fight, keep your troops for the next save. If it’s a rough fight with lots of expected losses, make promises of future freebies to entice them. Their revival rate is twice yours.
Strategy Three: When a faction is going for the win, instead of moving last and going after factions base fortress, which may be heavily defended, move first and pre-emptively attack the weaker fortress you believe to be the pending target. Cut a deal with that fortresses owning faction and save each others leaders from weapons, and allow him to move all tokens out except one. Even agree to vacate in a couple turns.
Strategy Four: Move last and do the Goalie save; this is traditional so not going to elaborate.
Strategy Five: Go for the unreachable spice: if no one can reach the spice on its turn of arrival because of token positioning, token losses, then ship down and grab it. Even if your net gain is small or negligible from shipping charges. You keep it out of other factions’ pockets.
Risks of playing Big Guild: Succinctly, many of the actions you do to help prevent a Big 3 early win will also obstruct your early win. When you strengthen the BG position and the H/A position to keep the on-Dune balance, you will need tie your bolstering of their positions to a commitment that their forces engage in combat in the immediate turn or two. Your use of the BG-Guild agreement and free shipping of H/A forces are to directly save the expenditure of your troops and cards while achieving the save. If you don’t achieve the expenditure of their forces, you end up putting yourself in the back seat which is not BIG Guild at all. Tie your support to certain combat. Make additional shipping promises to be delivered in the future for their full commitment to combat now.
Making the run for the solo win, Guild has two HUGE advantages. The possessors of Carthag and Arrakeen can always attempt a win by moving to 1-2 fortresses within thropter range and/or shipping down to a 3rd. Fremen can make a worm based run even if they hold no fortresses at the beginning of a turn. Bene can run for the gold when they are coexisting in 3 + fortresses. However, all of these are subject to the last player using their move (with cooperation from other players) to make the save. Advantage one, in any turn the Guild owns any single fortress, with sufficient tokens in it, they can make a run and ship down to a second fortress, and ship all tokens save one from their base fortress to take their third fortress. Advantage Two, they can always move last and no faction will get the opportunity to try for the save. When in possession of a single fortress with sufficient tokens, sufficient spice, and sufficient cards Guild can make a run.
Make your play for the solo win: Always keep a fortress under your control. After other factions have made a first or second run on the solo win, the tanks (as a result of BIG Guild play) will be filling with other factions’ tokens and expended cards are being returned to the deck. T4 –T6 as you see the opportunity forming, strengthen your existing held fortress’s token count, if necessary. As you can move last any turn, no one will suspect when you ship down into your 2nd fortress and ship across from planet surface into your 3rd fortress and make your solo run. You’ll never have to pay up on all those promises you used to entice the other factions to take those shots on goal for you.
That’s playing BIG Guild.
Some interesting points here. The people you play with must allow a lot of latitude in deals you make with other players. Sure you can bribe anyone to do anything, but as a group, my group wouldn't allow some of the strategies you suggest. That doesn't mean I won't try them though. They may surprise me. No matter though, since when I play Guild I play it big by one simple strategy. On the first turn I ship all of the guys remaining in my box (that's 15) to a mountain area. Usually the plastic basin. That way, if people are not playing attention, and sometimes even if they are, I can ship however many armies needed to a sietch I can win, and move the rest against Fremen if they are still in Sietch Tabr. My friends are on to me, but if they try to stop it, I just wait a few more turns until the time is ripe. Going whenever you want to is the biggest advantage of all and it is what makes Guild the strongest player in my opinion.
Speaking of which, you keep saying Atreides will try to win in the first three turns. We have found Atreides to be the weakest player on the board. Sure he has al sorts of abilities, but they only amount to seeing that he is going to get his butt kicked by practically everyone else. If I am Emperor, I wipe Atreides out of Arakeen on the first turn. No reason to let a loose cannon hang around that might cause you trouble later. I am interested in your take on Atreides.