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Subject: Thoughts on strategy after 50+ games rss

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R. O. Schaefer
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1) Introduction
I've played over 50 games at Yucata plus some real life and would like to share my thoughts and put them up for discussion. Thanks to the fine Yucata environment you can play online and enjoy the depth of the game at asynchron play (where it really shines imho).

I'm convinced that a multiplayer game with equally skilled players is the best experience of this imho underrated game. I was initially of the opinion that 4 players is simply best, but I've learned to enjoy 3 player games at least as well. Some might like the different feel of the 2 player game with no tension for the building spots, but I would only recommend it as a learning game. Some cards (sphinx and nile) are simply unbalanced at this player count imho. That said I don't have much experience with 2 player games - so take my advice mainly for multiplayer Egizia.
While I'm trying to give some general advice, many things depend on the concrete layout of the board i. e. position of the cards and it's appearance in eg round 1 vs. round 2 (or appearance at all).
Occasionally I will point out things that may differ depending on the number of players. Also I will give some advice regarding the online implementation at Yucata - when things are somewhat tricky to use or differ from the original rules.

I will devide the strategy article into various consecutive posts in this thread. The first post will give some hints on overall strategy. Later I will describe the building areas, nile cards and sphinx cards in detail. To play successfully, you should know all the cards (nile and sphinx) by heart. This shouldn't be a problem after some games - especially if you are playing at Yucata asynchronically.
My article is getting a bit longish, because I really like the game and want to share as much ideas as I can. So I hope the different posts will make it easier for you to pick up the things you are interested in and read in smaller portions if you like.

As a slight deviation from the rulebook I will use the term "building site" differently and use a new term "building area" as well (which is exactly what the rulebook would describe as "building site"), just to explain things easier. It's not a big deal though:
There are 5 building sites in my version: sphinx, obelisk, graves, pyramid, temple
There are 3 building areas: sphinx, obelisk/graves, pyramid/temple

Feel free to add comments and corrections :-)

Many thanks to Yucata and Hans im Glück for giving us the possibility to play this game online and for permitting me to use the card grafics from the Yucata rules section in this article. I would also like to thank all the players I had after game discussions with (especially AndrewE and Godsmurf). This helped me to develop these thoughts.

2) Resource management
Obviously there are three main resources: stone, grain, crews. They are interwoven and in general you want to build them up evenly. There are nuances, however. The stone and grain distribution is mainly depending on cards directly and indirectly (as the stone market in part depends on cards too). So the balance of these resources may change from game to game dramatically. They may appear early and often or late and rarely or something in between. There are some cards for crews too, but the distribution of available crews is more stable, because the main source for crews are permanent circle squares.

You can keep unused stone for future rounds up to a certain point (max. 25). With the exception of four cards (3 for crews, 1 for grain) you can't do this for other resources. Keeping much stone is somewhat hindered by the unability of keeping other unused resources, but you still have room for decision-making. The stone storing ability and the need to feed your crews make stone the most important early resource (grain the second most important as a precondition to develop crews).
Let's have a closer look at the 3 resources and their distribution.

2a) Stone:
distribution:

round 1/2:




round 3/4:



round 5:


Remember that not all cards might be in the game and that the cards/spots for stone market matter as well. Also there is a fix circle spot to gain 2 stone.

A 3er round 1 quarry (15 stones) is one of the best cards in the game. As stated already in some older threads it is absolutely worth to take it in round 1 at the risk of missing other things like sphinx. The 3er quarry round 2 or the 4er quarry round 3 (for 12 stones each) aren't that bad either. But in general a stable stone income evenly spread over the course of the game is best. I think it's very hard to play without at least one round 1/2 quarry card. The last level at the stone market is a nice bonus, but you always need ships to activate it. You are very dependend on the card layout, if you count on the stone market only.
So if you couldn't get a quarry card round 1, you'd better plan to be early in player order round 2. I will write about the importance of player order later.

An early stone adavantage is very strong, because you are more flexible later than other players. Also it puts you in a good position to be even more flexible if you get the stone2grain nile card.

From round 4 on you should calculate accurately how much stone you produce and probably will need till game end and compare it with your crew strength and your sphinx card goals. Are you short of stone or do you have stone in abundance? In the latter case: Consider if you can sell stone at the market. You shouldn't sell masses of it at 2:1 - it's a bad price obviously. Even if you can't due to your position at the stone market, there may occur the sell-stone-card for up to 10 stone in round 5. So taking excess stone is still a valid option as someone else will probably need it. But you have to weigh it against your other options.
Note that the any-time round 5 card (6 stones) and the obelisk stone market bonus may provide stone after your stone production and building at the sphinx, obelisk/graves which might deal with the stone production maximum. On the other hand you can use the stone market bonus at the earliest at temple/pyramid which might be a hindrance as well.

Grain:
distribution:
round 1/2:





round 3/4:




round 5:


Gaining some grain early is important to stay flexible, so that you don't have to pass on crew development. As always card layout plus other players actions and your shpinx cards determine the course of the game. I feel that all kind of fields have their merits. I will name the field types for the sake of convenience "green", "yellow" and "brown".

With brown fields you have to be very attentive, but they give a nice bonus and probably an easier sphinx goal target. Still you won't go through the hole game with brown fields only. Some update or other field type will probably be necessary.
In general, if you don't go green, it's useful to rush the grain market to mitigate possible damage. The stone2grain yellow card is another safety net.

Note, that grain cards are usually less important, if a lot of the green fields were ommitted or didn't appear at all. In this case you might have a big brown alliance and the higher production of these cards matters.

Moving the ring

Ring movement is crucial in some games, and sometimes just a side issue. Going all green and moving the ring aggressively is one of the options.

Look at other player's crew strength, grain total and position on the grain market very carefully.
There are quite often temporary silent alliances regarding the ring. You can use them and dissolve them at the right moment. Enjoy the fun of this well implemented interaction.
If you are the yellow guy and move the ring from right to middle to screw the brown guy that's of course dangerous. Especially if the other ring space isn't occupied this round yet. This sounds logical, but I've seen different players missing it by moving the ring on the last space Heliopolis, while one player was still moving in the first part of the board and ready to use the other ring place in Passalon later that round.

Nile cards like "Place a ship upstream" and/or "Use an occupied circle space" (not usable on the last circle space, but still) can complicate matters further.

There is a good post on ring movement I will cite from:

Chad_Ellis wrote:

I think the ring has to be looked at in context. It's a cookie you get in addition to one power when a normal circle gives you two power or one power and two stone.

I move the ring quite often. On rare occasions it scores me a bunch of points but more often than not it just creates a modest advantage because it's relatively better for me to have it in a different position (or just to block someone else from moving it). Some examples:

- We all have lots of green and brown fields but I'm still at the top of the market while others have moved down. This means that green is worse for me so I push it to brown to avoid a potential problem.
- As above, but I'm further down the market. I'll push it towards green.
- I have the sphinx card that scores based on how many people are low on the market. I'll push the circle towards green to increase the value of advancing on the market.
- I have the sphinx card that scores for majority brown fields. I'll push the ring towards green so people are less interested in grabbing brown fields or may improve their brown fields.
- I have the sphinx card that scores for majority green fields. I'll push the ring towards brown so green fields are less valuable and so others are less likely to improve their brown fields.


The last two points are understandable, but debatable at the same time and have to be looked up in context. For exmaple the last one: If you have a comfortable green majority already, you might want ot push towards green to add pressure on your opponents)

Chad_Ellis wrote:

Each of these can easily be worth more than two stone or one power.

As was noted, in a two-player game I don't really care if moving it to green (or brown) is good or bad for me, so much as whether it's better or worse for me than for my opponent. In a multi-player game that calculus is trickier and the direct impact on me is more significant but the basic point remains that it's about how it affects me relative to the field (and in particular relative to the leaders).


Some words about field upgrade cards: Those are strong cards giving you flexibility. I've seen people using them immediately after purchasing the card. There is no need to do this. Maybe the ring will end the round in such a position that you won't need that particular upgrade. It's always better to keep options if possible for better upgrades or certain sphinx card goals. Even if the ring forces you to upgrade this round you don't have to do this in the nile phase. Yucata will ask you during feeding.
If you keep an unused upgrade card till the very end that doesn't even help you to fulfill a sphinx card goal, look at possibilities to destroy an opponent's sphinx card goal instead.

Crews:
distribution (besides many circle spots):
round 1/2:



round 3/4:



round 5:


Crews depend much less on cards then stone and grain. They are steadily available und you have to pick them up from time to time. The difficult decision is when to do this. A logical answer would be to take stone over crews in the beginning, because you can keep unused stone as written above. While this is true there are other aspects as well: If many strong cards are missing in round 1 or 3, you'd better pick up crews now. There might be no time for this the following round.
In addition you want to pick up some crew power early, to have decent building chances at sphinx or pyramid.
Obviously, you are not completely free to pick up crews (unlike with other resources). You are dependent from your grain production.

Usually you want to build on more building areas per round as the game goes on. To do this you have to develop at least two guys (one of them possibly, but not necessarily, being the joker) in the first half of the game and a third guy later.
As building at obelisk, pyramid and temple gets more difficult later in the game you may need a fourth guy at strength 3 or 4 as well to (preferably) build on all 3 areas in round 5. This is difficult to achieve and one reason I appreciate the 3-/4-/5- one-time-use cards (and the "Draw + 2 sphinx cards" yellow card as well).
Crews for one time use are strong late game, as you can keep them over the rounds like stone and don't need to feed them. You delay the points for building and stay more flexible to build big things or multiple times per round when the requirements are increasing. If there are some important things to do earlier like securing a pyramid majority or avoiding heavy stone overproduction for next round you might use them in round 3/4, but think twice about it.
Still they are one time use only and won't replace continuous development of crews/grain.

Regarding the different colors of your crews you have to consider board geography and sphinx cards. The black guy is hardest to develop per default, because he is located directly before the sphinx and obelisk/graves building spots. Likewise the blue guy might be easier then the yellow guy. This is mitigated by joker spots/cards and other things like the "ship backwards" or "crew update" yellow card. Have a look at other players crew distribution to detect highly developed crews of a certain color i. e. the corresponding sphinx card. This might help you to choose (a different) color on joker spots.

I like to develop one of the colour guys (black, yellow, blue) as early as possible to 5 (to use it at sphinx without help of the joker guy) and the joker to at least 4. I've noticed that it hinders you quite a bit, when every guy is say at 3. You have to feed them anyway, but can't build effectively. Taking this into account not only the yellow card for crew update (which is usually heavily fought anyway), but also the early "2 joker crew" card is quite useful. But not as useful as an early quarry of course.
When you have to pick up a colour to develop your first guy, blue would be a logical default, unless it is already heavily used by others. For sphinx card reasons I like to develop the black guy early, if I have the yellow card for a crew update of your choice per round (so that I'm not dependendt on the badly placed circle squares for black crews). Black is harder to develop for other players and thus there are better chances to pick up the corresponding sphinx card as a leftover in the second or third cycle of the sphinx card pile.

The needs of certain sphinx cards might dictate you to develop your crews more aggressivly and take some feeding risks. This is of course depending on your position at the grain market too. If you lose only one point per missing grain you might take some penalty and regain the points with benefit easily.

While it is true, that stone and grain are generally more useful early, especially in round 1, crews have one unique feature: They can give you negative points. Yes, I mean deliberately! This is a good crossover to the next subsection, I guess:


3) Evaluation of the rounds, card layout and player order

In one of the podcasts victory points are mentioned as a fourth resource. This is a bit counter intuitive, but there is no doubt: player order matters! There is also a specific thread on this.

Being last on points in early rounds is by no means a sign of straggling, but more often than not part of your strategy (like - say - in Power Grid). I would say that the value of (immediately obtained) victory points increases drastically from round 3 onwards. This is because I think there are really crucial cards that might come up in round 3. Round 4 still provides the player order benefit for less points going into last round, but at that point you usually have to follow your strategy and your stone/crew ratio. You would lose too many points still taking player order very seriously. In round 5 it's obviously all about points and fulfilling your goals.

Now there are a few things that reward early points too. This is what makes Egizia an elegant game imho. These aspects are:
- You'll gain more building bonus points per spent resource when building early and often, especially on the cheap 1 pt building spots (the graves might be an exception with cheap spots available later)
- Building early will make some of the active sphinx cards considerably easier to achieve and will provide more point potential for the round 5 scoring cards (for obelisk/graves and pyramid/temple).
- Building early in the pyramid might reward more additional points there, at the same time denying easy points to your opponents.

I personally like to be first in player order and will hestitate to build early in many games, but you just have to adapt to your opponents, your sphinx cards and the card distribution.
Building is just one aspect of your plans for the round. How you place the remaining ships to take your needs and opponents actions into account, is important too. Usually, over a whole game you will play a mix between slow and fast rounds, but it's hard to put this into general advice. Experience helps. If you jump far down early in a round, however, not only take into account what it's good for you, but also the amount of spaces you leave open for your opponents behind.
Always staying behind might give you more ship placements but not necessarily better results, as the cards can differ in value dramatically. In recent tournament semifinals I could place (with some reason imho) 39 out of 40 ships (which will probably be my all time record for multiplayer Egizia), but still lost to nr 1player AndrewE who placed far less ships in that game.
There is also a concept I would call "hiding/signalling". It's all about your intentions and how obvious they are. You will find this concept in the card explanations, when I will comment several times that hiding is good (upstream, double ship, field upgrade etc.) So singalling isn't. If there is a very strong card on the last card spot, but you feel it's too early to take it immediately, because you still need to do something else, think twice before using the space immediately before that card. Everybody will now know that you will take the card next turn if they don't and might screw you. Staying behind on the river - even on a slightly inferior spot than that before the card - leaves you several options and a plan B.

Guessing your opponent's actions helps in many aspects and is imho one of the most fun parts of the game. There is the sphinx deduction aspect (more on this in the sphinx section), but also a carefull evaluation of their resource distribution and former actions. Especially at the beginning of a new round and at some critical points (you have to develop a feeling to recognize them) take your time to make a plan for your next actions and to develop some likely scenarios for the future course of the round. There will be surprises as not all of the opponent's sphinx cards are obvious from the beginning. But this is the fun part too (sometimes at least ;-)).

Player order and starving

"Starving" means "taking negative points in the feeding phase intentionally". This concept is, however, much less common than in Stone Age imho and has other purposes. You cannot starve for the whole game.
Starving might be a factor if the majority of the really strong cards (mostly permanent) didn't show up in round 1 - so that you want to be first in player order, even at some cost. Another way to reach that goal is to place last at pyramid/temple building spot (see also the corresponding chapter) or even not to build at all (you might actually also give up on a building spot you are present).
But in case the last pyramid/temple spot is no longer available or in case other players do not build at all, you might consider to starve. The opinions regarding this topic among srong players differ widely. The strongest player on the rating list - AndrewE - doesn't like it so much and other strong players do it more frequently. Here is, what Andrew has to say about starving and player order:

AndrewE wrote:

In general, it's always a question of what do you gain, vs what do you lose.

I've played games where I was in the lead from the 2nd turn onward, and I've played games where I hung back the whole game.

You have to weigh the good vs the bad. Whenever I build in the graves and Pyramid, it's a pretty simple comparison of what I gain vs what I lose. Maybe building in the Pyramid would net me 4 points for 2 bricks (2 free points), but it likely jumps me ahead 2 positions. Looks bad. Maybe instead it's 3 free points and only one position. Looks good.

My general rule of thumb is that I value a seating position at about 2 points. Interestingly, that valuation holds pretty constant across all turns. That said, other top players seem to value seating positions more highly than I do. I seem to see somebody starve on the first turn almost every single game and yet I've only done it once (when there was a massive glut of amazing cards to be flipped turn 2).


One pitfall to be avoided is the following: You take negative points to get the good stone cards in round 2. But to finally get those you have to pass on some field cards and gain more negative (probably too much) points. Or you take the fields and still miss out the stone cards. That is why I only like to starve with some kind of safety net up to my sleeve. To recap:

- Starving deliberately should be reserved for the early part of the game. It's difficult to say what ist the maximum you could afford. I would draw the line at 4 points (once), but it really depends on many factors and what you gain in return. Near the end you sometimes also take some feeding penalty, but get stone or fulfilled sphinx cards in return. So I don't count this as "starving for player order", obviously.

- Ideally you have some backup for fields in hand (my safety net, see above). The greatest way to do this is to have a yellow field and a yellow card for field upgrade already in hand. You could feed already right now, but decide not to do so. This shows the great flexibility yellow field upgrades provide. The (otherwise hard to use) one time card for 4 grain serves the same purpose - but not to a lasting effect obviously.

Edits for spelling.
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R. O. Schaefer
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4) Detailed comments on the building areas (I)

There are a lot of interesting implications here. It's not only when to choose which area, but also where to build: obelisk/graves, temple/pyramid and - quite important - where you expect your opponents to build. Another interesting question is, which building spot you choose with your ship - given a choice. This might be an underrated part of the game. I consider it really important with nice nuances to find out. So I will give for each area a default spot for your ship (assuming you have a choice) and a default building site for the two areas with a choice.
While the default building site is quite obvious, it's still helpful to always be conscious of it. This will not only help you to consider your options, but also to carefully observe opponent's moves. Whenever a skilled player doesn't choose the default option, you might want to deduce something regarding his sphinx cards/future plans. And also remember that the default choices are not a given for you in any situation. Sometimes you have to play differently, but do it on purpose and with good reason! I'm trying to explain the most common deviations.

4a) sphinx
default spot for your ship: first/second round: last; third/(fourth) round: first; (fourth)/fifth round: depending on your knowledge of the remaining sphinx cards
default building site: Instead of a default building site I'd like to recommend using 5stone/5crew as a default choice.

General assesment and why building for 5 stone is my default choice

There is something to say about the default spot for your ship, but I will postpone it and start with some general considerations.
Sphinx is heavily discussed, because you draw hidden goal cards with quite a bit of variance. While fulfilling certain cards needs some skill it is after all straight forward points, and sometimes a whole bunch of those. This leads to a lot of early assumptions, that sphinx and the luck of draw there is the dominating feature of the game which keeps some people away from it (a pity). In addition, some strategy articles in the forums advise you to build at sphinx every time - no matter what. Players who don't do this in their first games will probably lose to other beginners who do. That is partly due to managing the rest of the game is a lot trickier (although you can make various mistakes at sphinx as well).
I don't know the game The Voyages of Marco Polo enough to say whether it is comparable, but at first glance there is a similar discussion. Some first impressions say that going for straight contract points is overpowered. While further observations clame that travelling - which is harder to plan - is the way to go most of the times (depending on other things like setup/characters of course).
While it is clear that sphinx is a strong building site you can't ignore for the whole game I will provide a (hopefully) more differentiated view. Building at sphinx as often as you can is a good starting point for beginners to see that it is valuable. Skipping it sometimes intentionally is the next step towards an overall sucessful strategy.

Shpinx card points are deferred points (which is great) and the point ratio you get out from a single ship placement can be quite good. But imho it's also important to see the sphinx cards as distractions (I'm not sure if this is the best english word in our context, but at least I will use it consistently): The higher their value the higher is usually there distraction factor. You not only lose time on placing your ship there (foregoing very strong early cards). The goals themselves will usally force you to make one or two moves later you otherwise wouldn't choose. And there is also psychology. You want to fulfill your goals once you have chosen them intentionally (you might be a bit more relaxed towards your random starting card for pure psychological reasons). I've seen people giving up on a lot more points just to fulfill their sphinx card (the points they lost might not have been that obvious though).
Also note that the stone/point ratio for the pure building is worse at sphinx than at the other places. You will get 1 point less if you keep a sphinx card. If the fulfilled card has a face value of 7 points it's only 6 points (compared to not taking a card at all).

Now about the importance of building with bigger crews: It's not only to give a broader choice - there are more reasons to do this. So let's name them (some of them are more valid at asynchron online play I admit):
- Seeing more cards will give you more information for the rest of the game. This is important for future cycles of the sphinx card pile, when you return to the spot and know that certain cards are still there. It makes it also easier to guess opponent's sphinx cards which is a critical element of the game and helps to foresee their moves.
- Seeing more cards will make your choice better not only because it is a choice from more options. It also helps to evaluate whether a certain card is more likely to be fulfilled or not. More on this in the section about the different sphinx cards.

Of course, sometimes you can get away with building for 2 stones only (and sometimes you have to take that gamble) and still draw well. But in the long run your choices are worse and the information about other cards is lost anyway.
There is one negative review (from one of my geek buddies by the way), that also complains about the variance and that you can't prevent other players from fulfilling their goals, even if you detect them (there are several cases where you can hinder them quite a bit btw, but not always). This misses imho the point that detecting opponent's sphinx cards will simply allow you to place your ships better.

My feelings on sphinx were summarized quite well earlier in the forums by the user montu (Alex Bove), so I will just cite him:

montu wrote:

zenmazster wrote:

(2) Always build on sphinx. No matter what, every time. Always. Not only is sphinx good for vp, but it also gives you the crucially important sphinx cards, which provide you directional strategy to maximize bonus vp points.


I disagree completely. In the first round, getting grain and/or stone is much more important that going for sphinx cards. There are two considerations here:

a) Unless you're willing to forgo all other building for the round, you will not have a very big work crew to use for the sphinx. This means that you will not earn many VPs for discarding cards and your choice of cards will be limited, making it less likely that you'll get a really high scoring card. This is even true in round 2. I think the sphinx is more or less mandatory once you have a 4-5 value crew to spare and/or the +2 cards permanent, but early in the game I think it's fine to build elsewhere.

b) Going to the sphinx space means forgoing your shot at better cards further down the Nile. Again, early in the game infrastructure is far more important than points, even deferred points. Think about it this way: if I take a 2-stone quarry in Round 1, I'm essentially earning 10 VP over the course of the game (assuming I can use that stone every round). A 3-stone quarry in Round 2 is worth 12 VP, and now it's much more likely that you'll actually be able to use all that stone. Similarly, early food means bigger crews, which should mean more points in the long run.

How many points, on the other hand, is an early sphinx card grab likely to earn? You might get 1-2 VP from the discard, and if you're lucky the card may be worth maybe 7 VP. So an early sphinx card is worth something like 8-10 VP and an early quarry is worth maybe 8-12 (let's assume that you can't use all the stone for a round or two, so a 3-stone quarry is worth 12, not 15), roughly equal value, except that the quarry is a lot less risky because there's little chance you'll get zero points out of it.

I'm not saying that sphinx cards aren't good. A player who never goes to the sphinx is probably not going to win a lot of games. But being a couple of sphinx cards "behind" the other players is not that bad, as long as you're getting compensation.


I agree with him in many ways. When I started playing the 4 player tournament I would usually skip sphinx in either round 1 or round 2 for economy. I dislike to take it especially in round 1 at one of the first building spots there, because this might be bad for player order (more on this later) _and_ usually you don't have the full crew capacity to draw five cards (drawing four cards should be ok too, but I'm already uncomfortable with only 3).


In recent 3 player games I skipped sphinx even further, realizing that securing an early pyramid majority has more potential than in 4 player games. In the early rounds (when you are working for the majority, but don't get the bonus yet) pyramid is simply better located to get good cards first and for turn order purposes - assuming that players build only once first round, which is not uncommon among experienced players. You see how many stones players used at sphinx and can build at pyramid accordingly to stay behind them (assuming there is no starving for negative points). So the idea is to get better cards and position than your opponents (which is per se compensation for missing sphinx cards), but compensate some of the missing sphinx points at pyramid levels (and later graves with good chances for the max. 9 pts. because of your good economy).
I had a tournament game recently where I built at sphinx in round 4 only (I was forced out of sphinx round 1, being third in player order - so in part it was simply evolving dynamically). This, however, was a very specific layout, which made resources scarce and sphinx cards difficult to fulfill. It certainly also makes it easier to skip sphinx if you are sure you can fulfill your starting card with good points and the sphinx +2 card is not in play (which was default for that tournament).
Just a warning: Skipping sphinx means you do skip a chance for a significant number of points. So your choices matter. You won't win just by skipping. You have to take the best cards and deny them from your opponents. To get the best start into the game in my experience it's sometimes helpful to "forget" about your starting sphinx card early. Just resist the temptation to fulfill it as soon and comfortably as possible. You have to be cold-blooded to do this and need some experience and feel for the game. But it can work well.

Round 5 is a special beast regarding sphinx. If you draw well it's usually some 5-6 points + another 2 or 3 for building bonus. On the other hand the sphinx card pile has already been depleted once or twice. So, more likely there is either junk or some specialized stuff left. Plus you don't have much time working towards the goal. I consider it to be a gamble (especially with the keep 2 card involved) and will mostly choose it depending on my situation. If I feel I am in good shape I might take some sure 5-6 points elsewhere. If I'm behind, I might take the gamble. It's important in any case to consider, how many sphinx cards would work for you at this point, taking into account, that most of the universally useful cards are probably gone.
There are exceptions to the gamble scenario when you know exactly or with good probability you can get some very good stuff at a certain sphinx spot. How this is possible, I will describe in the section on the sphinx pile soon to follow.

Regarding luck: I think some of the complaints are due to building at sphinx with smaller crews and maybe some suboptimal decisions which cards to keep. Plus you will see many threads comparing the pure isolated value of sphinx cards without context (i. e. distraction). And of course, there is one infamous sphinx card you should never ever use in your games ...
Apart from this there are some balancing issues (certain cards and number of players) and there is luck involved. The most of it has to do with your starting card. If you draw "graves finished" and the graves start with something like 8-7 you won't fulfill the card. If that happens there is no way but accepting it. Building towards graves is still good. It's more tricky when to decide on giving up on a big passive obelisk or temple card like "8th level is built" or "both columns built". You probably want to take that decision in round 3 - ideally building on the last spot at obelisk/temple. If you have no or very little support by other players at this point, you might want to skip the goal. You are compensated a bit by less distraction, albeit not enough, if other players have good starting cards.

The sphinx card pile

This is an important part of the strategy discussion I have found very little threads about. In 3 player games there will usually be 2 cycles of the pile, some cards might show up three times. In 4 player games 3 cycles should be common. Remember the rules: If you draw e. g. 4 cards and keep 1, the other three will be returned to the bottom of the pile.
That means, the pile never runs out, but at some point you will draw cards someone else (or you) have seen before. On average your choice will be more limited by then, unless you are highly specialized. But the best universally useful cards will be gone.

I gave already the advise to build for 5 - if possible - at sphinx to gain more information. I guess many people who want to play a game asynchronically over some weeks, will use the notes feature at Yucata to store the information which cards they put back. That is what I did in my first games. But if you want to play really competitively online, there is more you can do: You can try to store the information, where in the pile the cards you already know are and which sections of the pile other players know. To do this I take my notes in a small excel simulating the sphinx card pile and the card draws by moving cells (background color matches player color). Of course you have to watch very carefully how many cards other players draw. Sometimes this is more difficult, because the implementation of the game is older and the in-game-history is limited to the last move of other players. If they have two moves at sphinx + obelisk/graves, before you take your next move you have to take additional notes like points/stones at the end of the feeding phase. All this sounds more complicated than it really is. I only remember one mistake storing the information over many games. Here is an example of my sphinx notes in a recent game:



I (being green) built at sphinx in rounds 1, 3 and 5 (keeping two cards round 5). At the bottom you see the cards I estimated as taken. Every column shows the information I had or did believe to have at that round. The 3 cells to the right represent the starting cards.

Knowing some cards - the more the better - you can try to return to them in future cycles. There might be cards left you now know are safe. Or you can try to avoid a poor bunch.
An important detail I have found out by trial and error: The order of cards in the bunch you put back to the bottom of the pile will be random at Yucata. For example if you put back 4 cards this bunch will be together at the bottom of the pile, but not necessarily in the order you revealed the cards. The bunch might get splitted later, so more often than not you don't have exact information, but can work with probabilities. For instance you might still know that 3 cards you draw in later rounds are out of a bunch of 4 you know.

Taking these notes will not replace good decisions for your ship placements. But it will make the game even a bit more strategically and add an interesting level. That said, if you shy away from taking these detailed notes you still can compete for victory. But you just have a disadvantage over players who store that information.
Edit: It's a tiny disadvantage at that, because of the shuffled bunches. Recording the cards you've seen in simple fashion, is essential though for deduction and decision making when taking sphinx cards. Paying attention to the default spot is essential too - no notes required for that. It's in the section to come.

Default spot for your ship

Keeping the last section in mind we can now expand on the default spot. Theoretically there is - unlike at the other building areas - no difference at sphinx. If you plan to take 5 cards you can do this no matter which spot you took and what other players at sphinx do. However, the spot you choose (if there are several options, of course), matters quite a bit.
In the first two rounds it is not uncommon that players build only at sphinx. For that reason you want to choose the last spot if possible, just for player order reasons. This sounds so logical to me, that I'm suprised to see many, many players taking the first spot by default.
Things change, however, from round 3. You might by now be accustomed to take the last spot at sphinx (it's among other things more relaxed to store the information about other players sphinx actions when building last), but this might very well be a mistake. First of all, player order is very likely no longer dependent on sphinx, because the players want to build at other areas as well. That means other things come into consideration: Usually somewhere at round 3 or 4 the second cycle of the sphinx card pile begins. Unless you have some very concrete idea, you want to build first for several reasons:

- To see previously unseen sphinx cards means the average quality of these cards should be higher.
- You give other players no clue what you have seen this round, which is not true if you see some old cards other players already know (and take notes of)
- When building first, the probability is higher, that those cards might appear again in round 5, so this information is more valuable.

In round 5 (and sometimes already in round 4 or in round 3 in 4 player games) your positioning might depend on the information you have about previously seen cards as described above. Also note, that the spot you take in round 5 is no longer clear in every case. You might take spot nr. 1 and end up as second player to build due to the "Build first wherever you have a ship" card.

To summarize the default spot a bit more detailed than at the beginning of the chapter:
- Take last spot in rounds 1, 2 for player order reasons
- Take first spot in round 3, 4, unless you have some concrete idea about previously seen cards (with the latter being more common in fourth round)
- Take the spot according to your information from former cycles in round 5 and take into account that your choice of a certain spot might be less secure

To recap sphinx as a whole:
- Sphinx is important, but you can skip it from time to time if you can pick up really strong cards early/mid game or hit big points in round 5 instead.
- If you build sphinx, try to build for 5 cards
- Take default building spot into account if you have a choice
- For online play: Observe the sphinx card pile carefully and take some notes, if you want to play competitively
- Read also the section on the different sphinx cards to make a good choice
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4b) Discussing the sphinx cards

Just a small reminder from previous sections: You want to gain as much information as possible at sphinx to make the best decisions for yourself and to deduce opponents sphinx cards. It's critical to know all the existing cards and their distribution among the various building sites and among active/passive goals by heart.
Almost all the cards fit the classification as an active goal (key word: you) or a passive goal (keywords: is built, have reached). You have to fulfill your active goals yourself and can get help from other players for passive goals. In extreme cases you don't have to do anything to reach passive goals. But for the "is built" cards usually you have to make a contribution. In the last rounds for some passive "is built" goals it's critical to get the last building spot.

In various cases passive goals are bad cards or won't be fulfilled if you don't get help. I've already written about the distraction, certain sphinx cards involve. It is not necessarily the same as risk, but you have to weigh both against the points you receive. "Risk", describes the probability of fulfilling the card or not, while "distraction" means you might fulfill the card, but lose points elsewhere to do so. My remarks about risk/distraction of the various cards are a default observation for an isolated card. The context of the game might (and often will!) change that evaluation.
Worst case is of course a high risk/high distraction card you work towards and don't fulfill. Give up on it in time!

When choosing a sphinx card, take into account the cards you already have, the cards you saw in previous rounds and the cards you see in the same bunch as the card you want to take. Also consider the course of the game so far and the actions of your opponents. Did they build at non-default building sites?
Don't get too many high risk/high distraction cards. While these usually are high scoring as well, it's better to have a mix with some low distraction/risk cards involved, even if those score less (at first glance only, sometimes).
To evaluate an active "you" card referring to a building site: The more sphinx cards referring to that building site you know are still in the pile or you have yourself - the better. For passive "is built" cards the contrary is true: Regarding the chances to fulfill the card, it's better to not have more of the same building site and to not have information about them still being in the pile. This is a bit of a contradiction, because it also means less synergy for you. Still I feel it's true and I will elaborate a bit more on it when explaining specific cards.
For some cards the grave layout is important as well. Your first glance at the very beginning of a game should be diracted to your starting sphinx card and your second glance to the grave layout (Is a high value tile blocking the graves for some time or not?). Only then look at the nile cards.

Before explaining the cards in detail, here is a comparison of the big passive goals of the various building sites and the stones necessary to fulfill them. This will of course give you some hints about the default value of these building sites (discussed in their corresponding sections as well):
1) temple, both columns built: 30 stones
2) obelisk, 9th row is built: 46 stones
3) pyramid finished: 50 stones
4) graves finished: 54 stones on average

And just a general observation regarding player counts: I did not observe that the big passive goals are reached less often with 3 players than with 4 players. There are less building spots, but the resources of a single player and therefore his contributions are higher.

Obelisk
All the cards for that site are in contention with the graves, that provide deferred points without the need to build at sphinx. This is a very strong contention. That's why obelisk is the building site with the most cards referring to it. They are only good if you combine multiples for synergy or reach a passive goal with significant help of other players (which is also more probable than at the temple for example due to more existing cards).

Active goals


you have at least 4/5 at obelisk:
risk: moderate if drawn, when obelisk is empty, otherwise high
distraction: high

Important cards for deduction purposes. If a player builds past 5 own stones there he should have a passive goal (exception: he can't afford graves, which should be rare at this point anyway). And if you saw the cards yourself you might draw that conclusion earlier.
I don't like to start with such a card. Hitting the cheap spots at obelisk is critical because it grows fast and flat. So, your play is very determined. If you have significant competition at obelisk early, it might be best, to give up on the card (if you have only a single obelisk card). A reason besides the points you would lose (Edit: While building towards the obelisk goal instead of graves and not fulfilling it or at high opportunity cost) is that you can help 3 passive goals to get fulfilled. This is more than at any other building site.
The cards are better, if the graves start low.

Passive goals


7th, 8th, 9th level is built
risk: moderate for 7th level; high for 8th and 9th level
distraction: high, if you have to contribute a lot

I've already mentioned the importance of building order last round. The "Building at an occupied building site" card is nice to have for those goals. Going last you can get crucial help from opponents with other obelisk cards and sometimes take graves if your goal is fulfilled already by other players or deny grave points to your opponents.
High value tiles at graves, especially in the beginning are also welcome. You can manipulate this, building the cheap tiles yourself on the way. You will need a lot of help for 9th level.
Deciding to give up on a single passive obelisk goal is a bit trickier compared to active. There are more synergies possible in the future and less cards you can help unintentionally.

Graves

Only two cards here, because the building site itself provides a goal for deferred points.

Active goal

1 pt for your stones at graves
risk: - distraction: low
Somewhere in the forums a poster complains about drawing this card. Of course it is dependent on the grave layout and is more suitable for low value tiles. But in general the card gives a bonus on what you want to do anyway. Even if it might provide only 5 pt. on average it is a worthy card because of the low distraction factor.


Passive goal

Graves finished
risk: moderate or high depending on low/high value starting tiles
distraction: low

Obviously your chances are very much dependent on the first few grave tiles. As I already mentioned chances to fulfill the card with the graves starting at 8-7 are practically zero. If the first grave tiles are affordable however, there are chances for success.
The other competition comes from the high number of obelisk cards. If too many players get distracted by obelisk cards, chances are also bad. This happens more often with less experienced players who might see the high scoring value of a single obelisk card and might not see the hidden loss of points due to distraction.
Unlike obelisk which has many sphinx cards to distribute it's not good imho to have an active graves goal at the same time, because there are simply not enough graves sphinx cards. I'd prefer one of my opponents having the active goal to help a bit more in case of doubt than he otherwise would due to the graves endgame bonus alone.


Pyramid

We have three cards here, sursprisingly the same number than for temple which is the weaker building site.

Active goals


You have at least 6 or 7 stones in Pyramid
risk: low-moderate (2/3 players), moderate (4 players) if drawn early; otherwise moderate - high
distraction: moderate

I think those are good cards drawn early with less than 4 players. In 4 player games it's harder to fight for majority in the pyramid rows and the additional pyramid bonus is lower. Surprisingly (just like 4/5 at obelisk) the difference in difficulty between the 6 and 7 goal might become a factor.
You are committed to 1 or 2 fast rounds early, but rewarded with additional bonus. That's why I chose "moderate" for distraction.

Passive goal

Pyramid finished
risk: high
distraction: moderate

A beautiful card design-wise because it is not easy to play. Obviously you have to contribute, but if you secure the bonus for first two rows early (which would be otherwise good play at pyramid), other players might be discouraged to build at pyramid (while building there to limit your bonus is also an incentive, ist's much weaker than fighting for the bonus). And for 50 stones you will definitely need help! To fulfill the card it might be better to leave some room for competition. So, it's a pyramid card that in a way distracts you from pyramid ...
I have a feeling that this card is better at 4 player games, because competition for the pyramid rows is amongst more players and not decided that early, because the rows are more colorful and players usually start building with less crew power.
I also think that paradoxically you want to have the pyramid active goals in your opponent's hands. Having them yourself would give you good synergy, but in this case it's much harder to get help for the higher rows with increasing building costs and decreasing pyramid bonus.


Temple

Also (only) 3 cards here, which makes the pyramid cards a strong competition, because it is harder than at obelisk to gain synergy via sphinx cards for temple and there is no inherent bonus for the whole building site. Temple cards are of course "easier" to obtain, but distraction in general is high. I feel they are most viable in 4 player games when potential for pyramdid bonus is lowered.

Active goal at temple

you have 4 stones in temple
risk: low (2/3 players), moderate (4 players) if drawn early; otherwise moderate
distraction: high

Not much specifics. While it is the easiest of the temple cards, especially with less players I would probably only choose it in 4 player games or if nothing else is available. With less players it's just more important to gain pyramid bonus or at least hinder another player to create a monopoly at pyramid.
Even though the passive temple goals don't look attractive at all with less players, there usually is still some annoying contention for the cheap 1er temple spots (just for the round bonus or the "2 in all" card).


Passive goals


1 column/2 columns built
risk: moderate for 1 column built in 4 player games; otherwise high
distraction: high

Maybe the pure risk for 1 column might be described as moderate for all player counts, because you might do it alone, if you start early. But the distraction is so high, you know ... It's also very difficult to obtain synergies. You want at least one of the other cards + probably "2 in all" be at your opponent's hand. Otherwise it's just very difficult to fulfill the goals.
I felt ok though in 4 player games with one of those cards.
Edit: You probably want to build the two 1s yourself as soon as possible, so that possible help from the "2 in all" card is more significant.

Four building sites

Active goal

You have at least 2 in obelisk, graves, pyramid and temple
risk: low-moderate if drawn early and the graves don't start at 7/8; otherwise usually high
distraction: high

This is a beautiful card deduction wise and a very important one for the game. Help from that card is often critical for the big passive goals and it's always a card I'm trying to deduct whether an opponent might have it. It's also with this card that the whole Egizia deduction concept is at it's best.
Having said all that, I don't like to have the card myself most of the times. First of all your game is determined in that you have to go for the cheap building spots which probably means you are behind in player order in the early rounds. Also you probably won't fully compete for pyramid bonus and are more likely to gain only 2 or at maximum 5 points out of the graves. The cards doesn't provide good synergy for other buildings site sphinx cards.
My feeling is that it's most useful drawn late, when the course of the game fits to it (some cheap spots still open, obelisk delayed in general etc and you are spread out for some reason), rather than when you work for it from the beginning. I guess I'm part of a minority here. Many players seem to like the card.


Crew cards

Active goals


You gain 1 point per crew strength black/blue/yellow/joker
risk: - distraction: low

It's good to have one such card. It's probably still ok to have one card for a color and another for the joker, but two colors will lower your overall gain significantly.
With feeding punishment at 1 every crew development in round 5 is good - no matter what your fields are doing. Still you would go rather +1 (it's often +2 or more due to the ability to use otherwise unused stone) than zero, of course. Sometimes you have to forego one of your sphinx crews at a ? spot for overall crew balance though.
Yellow cards for crew upgrade and occupied circle are natural helpers.
Most contested cards should be joker crew and blue due to the board geography.

Majority cards

Active goal

You have the most productive quarries
risk: moderate - high; distraction: low-moderate

Having most quarries is certainly not a bad thing, but the goal is not easy to achieve, as everybody wants stone.
The default strategy - not taking into account the card - would be to take the good quarries early. This is still true, but it means that you are later in contention to secure your majority with people who struggle to get enough early stone. So there is still some distraction in terms of stone overproduction. Cards that use stone otherwise (for grain, crew or simply selling it) therefore might be good companions.
If you take the card midgame, being an early stone "struggler" yourself, the card fits to your game and requirements, but you are at the risk, that a certain high value quarry will not appear at all or at a bad position.
Player order is important to fulfill the card.


Active goals


You have the most productive green/yellow/brown fields
risk: moderate; distraction: moderate

Those goals are achievable, although usually with a little extra effort. With brown fields you have to be cool and don't want to go for safety from the getgo, when there are more crucial cards in round 1/2. Especially with everyone having enough stone the 9er field from round 5 won't be contested that much. Of course there is a gamble because round 5 cards have the highest probability to be out of the game when you search for a specific card.
With sphinx cards for green and yellow the field upgrade cards are important for you. With the brown sphinx card you sometimes want your opponents to have them and drive them into upgrading their brown fields.

Market cards

Active goals


You reach the last level of grain/stone market
risk: low; distraction: low

I'm ok with one of those. Having two is obviously bad, because distraction is a lot higher and you don't want to have too many low scoring cards. The card for grain market works better with brown majority and stone market better with green majority, but this connection isn't too dominant.
Developing one market is what you usually do anyway, because you want to build at graves.


You reach the last level of grain and stone market
risk: moderate; distraction: moderate-high

I don't like to have that card very much, because you need a certain position to play with both markets. It's ok sometimes when you start the game from behind and play a slow first round involving brown fields and the circle space for both markets. This circle space is key for the card to use both markets effectively (the cards for double movement at a specific market are more contested), but it's badly placed in front of sphinx. That's why you want to have the double circle card and/or the upstream card. Otherwise distraction is high.
If you have the card as a starting card you want to develop grain market first, because it's secondary effect is useful from the beginning.


Passive goal


Number of players who reached the last level 1/2/3/4 = 3/5/7/9 pts. at corn/stone market
risk: -; distraction: -

Not the coolest card design and deduction wise, but one you want to have. Probably a bit overpowered in 4 player games and still good in 3 player games. While you can try to influence the gain of the card a bit and there is some play around it, you will get 7 pts. (4 p) or 5 pts. (3 p) on average, regardless your actions.
Despite my critical opinion the card is ok overall to be in the game and not nearly as bad for balance as the one infamous card.

Others


You gain 2 points for each yellow card
risk: - distraction: low

One of the best sphinx cards. Probably too strong in 2 player games and still good at 4 players.
Not many mistakes you can make with that card, except maybe to go for yellow cards a bit too aggressively and/or gain some not always useful cards like "stone2grain" or "stone2crew" just for the 2 points when better options are available.



1 pt/10 pts.

I almost forgot that this card exists, because I've banned it a long time ago. You should always take it out. No divisor/player count will save the card.
No risk, no possible deduction, no fun.
I really wished the designers/publisher had sorted it out during playtesting. Reception of the game might have been even better in that case.


I feel that overall balance for sphinx cards is best with 3 players (especially for the passive market goals), except that the temple/pyramid balance is better with 4 players.
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4) Detailed comments on the building areas (II)


As many things has been discussed alongside sphinx cards, there are comparably few specifics left:

4c) Obelisk/Graves

default building site: Graves
default building spot: First

The default choice for the first building spot is strong here as the obelisk grows fast and graves have a high variance in value. Many things can happen and it's not easy to plan your building actions at last spot. Therefore it's important to evaluate deviations from the pattern. Those are possible reasons:
- last building spot in round 5 when you have a passive goal (most of the time at obelisk) as mentioned in the sphinx section
- the first grave tile is a high value tile you can achieve, but other players probably don't. You want to build last, to not open the cheaper grave tiles for your opponents this round
- if you want some player with low crew or stone potential to block the building area against a third player, which he might not do at an uncertain building spot

As a warning: I did choose last building spots for reasons 2 and 3 when I thought I could roughly calculate other player's moves in advance, but regretted it sometimes, because there was a surprise anyway ...

Graves as the default building site count like an additional sphinx card (worth 2/5/9), which is strong - given that there is also a market bonus. Like sphinx and unlike pyramid your point bonus is delayed, which will help for player order. The most tricky part is to adapt your crew strength to the variable requirements of the tiles.
As mentioned above look for the initial graves layout. It's useful to know the existing tiles: 1-2-2-3-3-3-4-4-4-4-5-5-5-5-6-6-6-7-7-8
Only 12 tiles out of 20 are used - so there is of course variance.
I did some math out of fun with a friend once, like you need 54 stones on average to finish graves, and 18 is the average for the first 4 visible tiles. For example: if you see 4-4-2-4, the graves will need 52 stones on average.
These calculations are not too useful though. The most important thing for the overall course of the game is whether the graves start low or high. An 8 somewhere in the middle is not a problem for the progress of building graves, but a high value tile at the beginning will delay graves significantly.

Deviations from the default building site:
- obviously sphinx cards (5 for obelisk + "2 in all")
- grave tiles are not affordable. Having a passive obelisk goal and forcing your opponents to build there because you snatched the cheap grave tiles away is fun ;-)

4d) Temple/Pyramid

default building site: Pyramid
default building spot: First

The default building spot for your ship is first, as competing for the pyramid level bonus seems reasonable. But it is default by a smaller margin than at obelisk/graves. First of all it's not as difficult to plan your building actions from other spots because both building sites are growing slowly. Furthermore there are several reasons for taking last spot:
- You have a big passive goal. For instance, last round the player with the card for 2 columns built at temple needs help from the player with the 1 column card. This is more likely to happen in 4 player games.
- You can't/dont' want to compete for the pyramid bonus at the moment, but rather control player order for next round. From last spot you can decide what to build or whether to build at all to reach a certain position in player order. It's not uncommon to take the spot deliberately for that reason.

The pyramid bonus is tricky to evaluate:
- It's worse than grave bonus because you get the bonus during the game and can't always decide when. Other players might complete a level thwarting your plans for player order.
- On the other hand - unlike graves, where several players might max out the bonus - the points you get at pyramid are taken away from your opponents.

This makes pyramid more important with lower player numbers, as mentioned before. It's obviously better to score 3 at first level + 2 at second level rather than 5 at first level. With lower player numbers this is also easier to achieve. You have more crew/stone potential to build 2-2-3 in 1 round for instance.


5) The markets

distribution
round 1/2:



round 3/4:


round 5:


In addition there is the circle space for both markets and the bonus at obelisk/graves.

Both markets have a primary effect (for the last level) and a secondary effect:
stone market: primary: getting 3 stone, secondary: sell stones 2:1
grain market: primary: getting 2 points, secondary: reduce the punishment for starving

The primary effect of the stone market is better if you can use (most of) the stone. The secondary effect from grain market is in effect sooner (however, only the penultimate level gives you acceptable -1) and also more important early.
There have been discussions about which market is better than the other. I consider this discussion mainly useluss. You can play without markets at all, with one or the other or with both. Card layout, opponents's decisions and obviously sphinx cards heavily influence this. So there is no need to go with a preference for one or the other into the game.
Most of the time, however, it feels most natural to develop just one, because it's a nice bonus for building graves, which is desirable per default.

Some further comments:
- The yellow card "stone2grain" combines the secondary effect of grain market with the usefulness of the stone market. Having this card, you want to go stone market only.
- With no grain market at all, obviously, you have to go for green fields more aggressively.
- With no stone market crew/stone balance and/or the round five card for selling stone become even more important.
- Edit: Concentrating on markets early works best with low starting graves and/or grave/obelisk sphinx cards. It doesn't work well with pyramid/temple sphinx goals. Especially stone income. Good secondary effect of grain market might still be strong early.
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Discussing the nile cards

I've discussed the most basic resource cards in section 2) on resource management and won't return to them in detail. Still there are resource cards included here as well, if I feel there are some specifics worth mentioning.

Round 1/2


Stone2grain
At first glance this is not a very powerful card, because intuition says you want to use your stone to build. But under the right circumstances this card might be very strong.
First of all it has a psychological effect. People will take less effort to move the ring against you if you lose 1 stone instead of 3 points (and maybe even in case of 1 stone vs. 1 point).
Secondly with a bit of luck - usually as the round 1 starting player - you might play anti-cyclically by ignoring most of the fields and trying to monopolize stone. So it might work equally good for your feeding as fields would, but leaves other players short at stone. You won't succed completely here, but can gain good cards easier than others. A pre-condition is of course that you've got the lion's share of the strong early quarries.
If you are far down the grain market already and/or weak at stone the card is obviously a weaker choice.



Crew upgrade
A very strong card in round 1 and still pretty good in round 2. When you compare this in round 1 to a circle space with two crew it's 5 crew movements vs. 2. But this is only half of the story. The circle gives you 10 crew uses in theory (although it's much harder to use all of them), while the card gives you 5+4+3+2+1=15. As you can always choose the color it's more likely to use them more effectively. On top you have flexibility, are less predictable to your opponents, can work easier towards crew sphinx cards and have some postponed feeding. Great!
Still I feel early stone might be more important, especially in a 4 player game.
Note that the yucata implementation makes the card slightly worse than it would be real life. If you are not present at any of the three building areas, which is not totally uncommon for round 1, you have no possibility to use this card after the feeding, but have to use it earlier or cannot use it at all.



Sphinx +2
In the last tournament I played, this card was banned, so I have to write out of memory.
There is an option to play without this card at Yucata which has certain implications. I wouldn't use it in 2 player games (where building spots are not contested), but otherwise I'm ok with the card being in. It's an interesting card, because it half-forces you to always go sphinx, no matter what (which isn't the way to go in my opinion anyway), but might also play psychological tricks on your opponents when they block sphinx as their second best option. Depending on when and where it appears it might be worth something like 6-7 stones on average and the appropriate number of specialized crew (which is virtual - so you don't have to feed it!).
Verdict: Yes, it's a strong card in multiplayer games too. But not overpowered imho. Probably a bit stronger in 4 player games than in 3 player because resources are more contested.



Occupied circle space
The usefullness of this card is hard to predict. I like to take it, if I fell short at stone round 1 due to a bad starting position. The circle space with a ?crew/2 stone feels like a default use for slow rounds - so it might be used as a very light "quarry" (and it's also useful if you have a crew sphinx card). Doesn't work that well with pyramid goals, unless:
Like many other cards quite a bit stronger if you have the ship upstream card. Probably most useful in 4 player games.



4 grain
The only possibility to keep unused grain. It's appearance in round 1/2 puts it in heavy competition with the permanent cards available and makes it a pretty weak card with only situational use. The more so as you can't split the grain and have to use it all at once. I mainly see two applications:
- You starve intentionally early in the game to get better cards next round and want to have a backup for not starving again.
- You keep it for some last round crew development.
Having to use it desperately in earlier rounds means you are at quite a feeding risk for future rounds too.



Double circle
Not an overly strong card. It's nice to have like any card that makes you less predictable - but the early competition with other cards is strong.
Having this card I found it sometimes difficult to decide when to use it most effectively. Probably you want to use it before round 5, because the course of the last round might be such that you cannot use the card in a good way anymore.
Like many other cards this card is significantly stronger when you have the ship upstream card (the occupied round circle card might be useful as well). In this case you can double use the market space more easily (which might be the most effective use of the card) or can move the ring from brown to green and vice versa at Passalon. Something you cannot do at the last round space (Heliopolis) for a reason ... Even if you won't do this in the end, the threat alone might be very strong.


Round 3/4


Pick up card
This appearing in round 3 is probably the strongest card in 2 player games. As the 8 ship limitation rarely matters in multiplayer games and obviously more cards are taken, it gets weaker with more players. Also the difference between 3 player and 4 player games is evident. When picking it up you already want to evaluate it's chances for return in the current round. You won't be surprised that it's getting much stronger if you also have the famous upstream card. If the upstream card is not in play at all, this also boosts our card in discussion.
Another interesting point is that the card might be a bit more interesting for players that are in the lead - I'm not sure on this however. The idea is the following: If you are going last in player order you have some more information before your first move of a round: whether it is going to be a fast or slow round and whether the other players jumped to sphinx immediately or not. So you can skip a card you want, because it is safe later (except for opponent's upstream card) and determine your own pace. But whether the card can be played that way is of course dependent on many factors like the concrete layout, opponent's sphinx cards etc.



Ship upstream
This card is mentioned discussing so many other cards that you should already know it's strong. Appearing in round 3 it's a monster (strongest card in multiplayer games). You can still use it in round 3 for a decent round, in addition it gives you two more ships in future rounds and makes your actions so much harder to predict. You can change the pace at any point and structure your round in so many different ways. Without this card you very often have to forego sphinx or other strong options to get strong cards. It's no longer a given with this card.
If you are in a good position regarding feeding, from now on you become much more threatening to your opponents. And if you are short at feeding, it's much harder to play against you. The occupied circle and double circle cards are good supporters in these cases. Markets get stronger and so on.
That said I see people sometimes overpay it in round 4 when it is far down the river, but it's worth a lot in round 3. I often hestitate to take points in round 2 due to this card alone. But in the end it's a gamble if it appears, so I will secure the pyramid points or something like this in round 2 anyway (I did just see it appear on very early spots round 3 quite frequently recently. But this is just coincidence, of course).



Stone2crew
A weird card. I think, the card could easily allow 2 uses per round. But although it is obviously much weaker than it's companion from round 1/2 it gets uses surprisingly often. Especially when you overproduce stone. And in this case it is probably clear, that no one else wants to buy the card.



Double ship
A very strong card that allows you to play mind games with your opponents. Ruleswise you can also use it immediately when picking it up, if you want something even stronger and don't want to leave it behind for your opponents. IF the spot you take is indeed more needed/stronger, this is the correct play because the 8 ship limitation rarely matters in multiplayer games. But you should always ask yourself if the spot you take is really stronger. If you resist the temptation to use it immediately or at some point before round 5, the rewards will be high. I consider it to be worth some 5 points on average if used in round 5. Delaying points is always good. On top your actions are more difficult to foresee. If an opponent has this AND the upstream card you better have a very good amount of points in reserve compared to him going into last round.
Take the card and resist to use it before round 5!



Plus one unused crew
A much weaker implementation of the one time crew cards with very situational use. To use it you want to build something big and are not present at all three building areas. But even in case you are present at two areas, it will rarely give you more than 1 or 2 one time crew. The great strength of the other one time crew cards is that it often allows you to gain the 6pt building bonus for all 3 areas/round, otherwise hard to reach. This bonus is not present here per se. A lame card.



Use a full building site
Unevitably this card will be compared to the stronger card from round 5 "Build first wherever you have a ship". This one is limited in use since using it for sphinx to play a very slow round will most likely take you out of the other building areas. So its's far less viable for the last round and you might want to use it before (it's very useful, however, if the "build first card" doesn't appear in round 5 - so, it's kind of a gamble).
It's totally ok, to not use the card at all, but trick your opponents (hoping for you playing a slow round) by playing a fast one and keeping them out of building spaces.
As many cards it gets strenghtened by the upstream card. There is one unique feature of the card compared to "build first everywhere" that can shine especially with the upstream card: You can come late to a full building space and still build last. This might be essential for some passive goals, especially at the obelisk. Imagine this situation: Before last round obelisk is built till level 6. You have the obelisk sphinx card "8th level is built". You suspect another player to have the "7th level built" card. You can't built 7th + 8th level, but only one of them. Therefore you have to guarantee, that this player can build there at all and before you. Ohterwise you won't fullfill your card. Perfect use for the occupied building site card.
Weakened a bit by the online implementation: Remember to use the card in the nile phase of the round you want to play it. The moment where you (possibly) use your yellow card to pick up a remaining card ist the latest possible moment. It's too late during feeding.


Round 5


Build first wherever you have a ship
I have to repeat a few things from the description of it's companion piece. The card plays differently enough, however.
This is a strong card. You can pretty much determine the pace of the round: Taking as much as you can or surprisingly taking away a critical building spot from your opponent who thought you would play slowly. So you don't have to use the card to benefit from it. But often you will. In addition to give you more actions the card will give you exact planning reliability for your crews/stones this round and is especially nice for pyramid bonus.
To play slowly it's probably best when you have a good amount of stone in reserve and want to gain some crew here, some points there. It's not that viable if you are dependent on single high scoring cards like stones at obelisk/graves or temple/pyramid or selling stone. Obviously picking up the card lowers your speed already. But sometimes you want to take it, just because it would be really strong for your opponent.
Also strengthened by the upstream card. One feature the card can't provide I explained when discussing the "Use a full building site" card: You can't come to the reserve building spot and build last (which is sometimes desirable). In this case you have to build first.
Weakened a bit by the online implementation: Remember to use the card in the nile phase of that round you want to play it. The moment where you (possibly) use your yellow card to pick up a remaining card ist the latest possible moment. It's too late during feeding.



Keep up two sphinx cards
Somewhere in the strategy forum you can read that this is probably the second strongest card in the game (behind the yellow card for sphinx). This is of course not true. It's a high variance card, but on average I would say it will give you no more than 3 points, probably less (remember to substract one point for not putting back the card). There are many last round cards that can provide more points. I will often skip it especially if I'm in good shape. If you are behind you have to take the gamble sometimes.
There was also one game where I knew I could get two high scoring sphinx cards last round when taking a certain spot. But this is the exception. It's just not so likely that there are many good sphinx cards left in the second/third cycle of the pile, unless you are heavily specialized at obelisk or something like that.
That said many people seem to like the card more than I do



Selling up to 10 stone
Usually there is one player who is especially interested in this card. If you are at least at the penultimate level of the stone market it's worth 5 pt. at best, unless you overproduce stone and would go over the 25 limit. Still it's best to build with your stone rather than to sell it, but that's simply not always possible. Gambling without stone market for this card, hoping to still sell 10 stones you cannot use otherwise, however, is of course very risky.
You can use the card both in the nile and building phase. But don't forget about it. Selling leftover stone 2:1 via stone market Yucata will automatically do for you at game end. But it won't play this card!



8 graves
Pretty straight forward as it's value is easy to calculate and you just have to be aware of it's existence, when building graves earlier. 3 and 13 are obviously important milestones to reach at graves in earlier rounds or to plan for in round 5, just in case.


A final recommendation: Replay your finished games at Yucata and try to find the critical moments in hindsight. At which point you could have decided otherwise? Also try to determine the moments where you felt you were forced to a certain play by your sphinx cards and would have liked to do something else. Try to roughly calculate the loss of points due to distraction.
One thing the replay mode can't provide either: You don't see from which bunch of cards players selected their sphinx cards. Ask your opponents after the game, which cards they saw! They will remember at least the last round and replies might be surprising and helpful.

As you by now probably already know I like the game. There are a few balance issues that could have been avoided by careful editorial refinement.
But it's a wonderfully tense game from your first move on and for me a lot of fun!
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Alex Bove
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Excellent analysis! Thanks for adding to the literature on strategy.

I disagree slightly on the Four Building Sites card. Everything you say seems reasonable to me, but its negatives are compensated for by the card's value. 10 points is amazing, especially when you consider that the passive goal cards that are worth more than 9-11 are very rarely fulfilled.

Also consider that building in the columns is relatively easy throughout the game because they are so terrible (i.e. they give no bonus at all, and only have 3 goal cards linked to them), and unless players have good cards for the obelisk they tend to build in the graves instead. So it's not hard at all to go into the obelisk/graves and pyramids/column twice and do 2 builds each time, either in the same structure or spread out over both.

If timed correctly, this should not interfere greatly with the accumulation of graves/pyramids bonus points. Also, pyramids bonuses are hard to predict. I don't like building much in the pyramids because if I'm set to receive the bonus, other players may push me over the edge at an inconvenient time, moving me way back in the turn order. I rarely play in the pyramids at all, unless I have a goal card that tells me to.

As for the graves, missing the next level of bonus points can be annoying, but again, making a 10 point card at the end of the game can be just as decisive.
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Alex Bove
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Also, "you will need some help" to complete the obelisk is the understatement of the century! In 87 games on Yucata, and at least a dozen more live games, I've seen the obelisk finished only once or twice.

The cards I hate to get at the start of the game are: obelisk is completed, build two columns, pyramids are completed, graves are completed. I consider all four of these to be dead cards, and I will never play for them unless I see the other players helping me a lot.

One of the things I dislike about Egizia is that a player can get one of these cards and be at a 5-7 point disadvantage to the other three players before the game even starts. That's frustrating.
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R. O. Schaefer
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Thx for your feedback!

montu wrote:
I disagree slightly on the Four Building Sites card. Everything you say seems reasonable to me, but its negatives are compensated for by the card's value. 10 points is amazing, especially when you consider that the passive goal cards that are worth more than 9-11 are very rarely fulfilled.


I knew that you would disagree here as you described the card in earlier posts as overpowered ;-)
The mere fact, that the card forces me to build at obelisk early, bothers me. As the graves more often than not don't start with 1 or 2, people tend to build at obelisk just for the market bonus, even without a sphinx card. And then it gets unpleasant and expensive fast.
Early in the game I like to be free to pick up good cards. And then again, it's really difficult to build sphinx card synergies with this and other cards.
Besides my own experiences I've looked through other games of the recent tournament, where the card was taken and brought no joy.

It might be a personal preference, but we have to agree to disagree here. Which isn't a bad thing at all. As I wrote I like the card design wise and it would do harm to the game if people would avoid it in general.
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R. O. Schaefer
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montu wrote:
Also, "you will need some help" to complete the obelisk is the understatement of the century! In 87 games on Yucata, and at least a dozen more live games, I've seen the obelisk finished only once or twice.


When describing the spinx card I actually wrote:
califax wrote:

You will need a lot of help for 9th level.


I might have been lax at another part of the post, but we basically agree here.
Andrew started with obelisk 11 in the final, and it was a dead card - that's indeed frustrating.

montu wrote:

The cards I hate to get at the start of the game are: obelisk is completed, build two columns, pyramids are completed, graves are completed. I consider all four of these to be dead cards, and I will never play for them unless I see the other players helping me a lot.


I started in one of the tournament games with "temple, both columns" and built 29 out of 30 myself. Fortunately I drew the one column card myself last round.
But building temple all the time wasn't fun and I only got 2 at graves that game, and one of my opponents got 11 (!) pyramid bonus points. So I'm not sure at all, it was correct to stick to the card.

As for graves - as I wrote above - it does no harm to continue building graves, even if your passive sphinx goal is dead.
Btw I saw the graves being finished several times in the course of the tournament in my own games. In my most recent game I drew "graves finished" last round and knew that the graves will be built very likely if my opponent reveals a tile with 4 or less. As the probability was far less than 50% I didn't take the gamble, but he revealed a 4 and the graves have been completed.
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Susan F.
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In 165 games at Yucata (plus a handful IRL), I've seen the graves finished exactly once. My opponent even commented on how unusual it was to see. Admittedly, I prefer 2 player games (since they play much faster given the constraints of turn-based play) - but I've made some level of final in every multiplayer Egizia tournament I've entered so I have a decent selection of multiplayer games with good players as well. To me, "graves finished" is the deadest card in the game.

I don't agree that multiplayer is superior to 2-player. They're just different. You certainly don't build everywhere every round in 2-player because if you never skip building sites you'll get slaughtered by your opponent getting to all the good nile cards first. And, of course, some sphinx cards that are great in multiplayer suck in 2-player while some that suck in multiplayer can be great in 2-player.
 
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Filip Cam
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Califax doesn't mention it, but he just won the Yucata Player Series 3p Egizia tournament in a dominant fashion, winning all four matches of the final convincingly against AndrewE (the #1 ranked Egizia player on Yucata) and myself, who split the 2nd and 3rd places. So this is a rare treat: a detailed strategy guide by someone who could credibly claim to be the best in the world in this game
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R. O. Schaefer
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Thx, but I wouldn't say that.
While I'm happy with my victory from third position in round 2, I'm perfectly aware of the fact, that the luck/bad luck part was pretty much one-sided in my favour, especially in game 4. As Andrew convincingly won the 4 player tournament I was in earlier, things could turn around anytime.

What the tournament did, however, was giving me the energy and interest to finish this strategy article I had already worked on back then.
Right now I will take a litte Egizia break and I'm eager to try the Russian Railroads expansions and Marco Polo.
 
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Filip Cam
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I just said you have a claim, which you do
Is Marco Polo playable from a phone screen?
 
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Alex Bove
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Califax wrote:

The mere fact, that the card forces me to build at obelisk early, bothers me. As the graves more often than not don't start with 1 or 2, people tend to build at obelisk just for the market bonus, even without a sphinx card. And then it gets unpleasant and expensive fast.


Yes, I am probably too attached to the opening of no sphinx, first person to obelisk to build both 1 point spots, and no pyramids/columns. This makes the 10 point card much easier to fulfill regardless of other players' strategies and the vicissitudes of grave distribution.
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R. O. Schaefer
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montu wrote:
Yes, I am probably too attached to the opening of no sphinx, first person to obelisk to build both 1 point spots, and no pyramids/columns. This makes the 10 point card much easier to fulfill regardless of other players' strategies and the vicissitudes of grave distribution.


That's an interesting idea, which might be strong under the right circumstances. You put yourself in a good position for active obelisk goals and "2 in all", making those at the same time less attractive for other players. You should be ok regarding player order in round 2 and don't help the passive obelisk goals too much, if you go with "2 in all" only.

But as you wrote, you shouldn't be attached to that opening. There are too many factors that might require different actions:
- your starting sphinx cards
- seating position: if you are last and other players already skipped sphinx for good quarries you sometimes have to collect everything in the upper part of the river and play slowly
- if good cards are available after the building spot, I might want to take them. Sometimes I don't want to build at all in round 1 (or 2).
- if most of strong cards are missing round 1, you might also want to take sphinx now, to be free to skip it round 2 and/or round 3.

Btw AndrewE also just mailed me that he differs about one thing in my article, the "2 in all card". So, you are not alone ;-) - as I suspected. Maybe we can agree further on that this card can be misplayed quite easily.
 
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Andrew E
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Yeah, not much to say other than the 2 everywhere card is incredible in my opinion simply because it has 10 points on it. There's the slight issue of how it kind of forces your hand in building early, but frankly that issue is even more pronounced in the 4|5 bricks in obelisk and 6|7 bricks in pyramids cards, simply because it's easier to "catch up" if you fall behind on getting the 2 everywhere card done.

If you don't want to start with it, please pass it to me. I consider it probably a top 3 lucky draw to start with, along with 2 points per permanent and number of players finishing the stone track. (order dependent on the number of players)

I also don't mind starting with 4|5 stones in obelisk. It's not the greatest, but I'd say they're north of the median. Picking up the two 1 spaces in the obelisk is a nice play if it pays off in the sphinx cards, so much so that picking them up speculatively is usually considered as an option. Of course, you just have to hope that somebody else didn't get dealt the other. I've seen that happen, to disastrous effect for both players, of course.
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R. O. Schaefer
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It may be preference of course.

I for instance don't feel that the pyramid 6 card is that forcing (in 3 player games). I started the second final game with 6 pyr and even passed on pyramid round 1. Of course I was lucky, that Godsmurf had a temple card instead of another pyramid card ;-) Eventually I had to build at pyramid from round 2, of course, but being forced to build there early is way better imho than at obelisk, because you have more freedom to pick up good cards before. If you make the card, you will get some pyramid bonus as well which should bring you in the range of 10 points, even though part of them are in game and thus worse. The math might not be entirely correct, because you pick up some additional points with "2 everywhere" as well, but not much imho.

In that very game you drew "2 everywhere" round 1 at the same time being present at all 3 building spaces. I did feel, that the effect the card had on player order and economy, affected in the game. You built obelisk 1, temple 1, 1 round 1 plus pyramid 2, 2 round 2. The graves started 6-2-3-1 and despite of all this you were in danger of even not fulfilling the card, if a 6 grave tile or higher would have shown up at the end of round 4. I might have missed a detail, but that's what I remember.

This is of course a very small sample size ;-) with some extreme distributions (crews down the river two times and so on) in my favor. But as I wrote - in addition to my own struggling with the card in an earlier tournament - I've looked through other games of the tournament as well and had a similar impression that the card is at the very least a tricky beast.

Yes, I also don't like the 4|5 obelisk cards that much. But regarding catchup: While they won't give 10 pts. with a single card, it's easier to draw companions at sphinx later.

I appreciate the feedback though. Our different opinions only show that Egizia is a deep, interesting game.
 
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It may simply be that nearly all of my Egizia games are 4 player games, so it's entirely possible that my instincts when it comes to 3 player games are inferior to yours. You're probably right that 6 in the pyramids is easy to catch up on which enhances it's value... in a 3 player game. In a 4 player game, the bottom row will fill up quite a bit faster.

I think I remember that game where I was in danger of missing the 2 everywhere card, and I believe it's because something super awkward happened in the 4th round... I think I didn't get into either the obelisk nor the pyramid spaces because I needed something else or somebody jumped unexpectedly. I still made it, but I probably gave up a few points somewhere because I was constricted on the 5th round.
 
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Great guide and verrry detailed.

I think there might be a typo under the Active obelisk goals:
Quote:
If you have significant competition at obelisk early, it might be best, to give up on the card (if you have only a single obelisk card).
It seems like that should be "you don't have".

Edit: Whoops, nevermind, I misread the sentence (I read completion instead of competition the first time).
 
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Susan F.
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Entreri43 wrote:
I think there might be a typo under the Active obelisk goals:
Quote:
If you have significant competition at obelisk early, it might be best, to give up on the card (if you have only a single obelisk card).
It seems like that should be "you don't have".


I don't think so. 4 stone in the obelisk is pretty easy if three of them cost 1, 1 and 2 - but if one or more opponents is competing for the cheap spots you're all of a sudden paying 2, 4, 5 and 7.
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Rusty567 wrote:
Entreri43 wrote:
I think there might be a typo under the Active obelisk goals:
Quote:
If you have significant competition at obelisk early, it might be best, to give up on the card (if you have only a single obelisk card).
It seems like that should be "you don't have".


I don't think so. 4 stone in the obelisk is pretty easy if three of them cost 1, 1 and 2 - but if one or more opponents is competing for the cheap spots you're all of a sudden paying 2, 4, 5 and 7.


Yes, that's what I wanted to say. Obviously, English is not my native language - so I might be not clear enough sometimes. Especially the sentence following the quote sounds missleading now, so I've edited in further explanation.

There ist one thing I forgot to mention, when it comes to selecting a sphinx card: In the first shuffle of the pile and expecting to see this bunch return later in the game, you should take universally useful cards over ones that only suit you. This should be an easy decision, when they provide similar victory points (with risk/distraction also being equal).

One thing, that is debatable: I also did it sometimes when I expected the universally useful card to give me slightly less value. In one game I had 4 stones already at obelisk and drew "you have at least 5 stones at obelisk" (9 pts.) and a players reach market card that would provide 7 pts. almost for sure.
I chose the market card, expecting the bunch to return. If you are lucky you will get the other card later anyway. If not, an opponent draws a dead sphinx card instead of a very useful one. You are losing 2 points over everyone, but *might* win more points over a single opponent. It's basically the same interesting problem you have with the hidden engineer in Russian railroads.
In 4 player games this seems weaker play, simply because there are more opponents. On the other hand there is often a third shuffle of the sphinx card pile. As I said: This is a side issue - open for discussion. But remember the suggestion, when you have to select from sphinx cards with equal point value.

In the game I mentioned I managed to return to that bunch with a 75% chance to draw "5 at obelisk" (i. e. seeing 3 out of 4 known cards again) and ... missed it. At least the other player drew a dead card
 
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Carlos Brito
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Excellent article.

A few comments:

1) Sphinx Cards

As the others, I'd be very very happy if I started the game with the sphynx card that requires 2 stones in all 4 building sites or the 4 or 5 stones in the obelisk. Those cards are not hard to fulfill if you get them at the very beginning of the game and they give many points for the effort they require. I always tended to think those as the best cards to begin, especially because in most of the cases you only depend on yourself to fulfill them.

Other cards that give you many points, such as obelisk cards, 2 columns in the temple, tombs/piramid totally built and majority cards depend too much of what the others do, require some unvolutary cooperative play and are risky to get at the beginning.

It's curious to see someone disagree about it. I understand your point about commitment, but all sphinx cards require some kind of commitment, it's not better to get commited to a card that is not hard to fulfill and give you many points for sure?

2) Stones x Grain x Manpower

In the comparison of the 3 resources, I'd emphasize the scarcity of stone and the importance of getting quarries in the early game. If you count the resource cards available to the players you'll see the stones are the most scarce resource in the game. If you sum the stones in the quarry cards you'll reach a total of 24. If you sum the numbers in the grain cards (multiplying the yellow cards by 2/3 and the brown cards by 1/3 to compensate for the fact that they may not be effective all the time) you reach a total of 37. And improving your workers is very very easy, so manpower is by far less scarce resource in the game, and your manpower development is only restricted by the lack of other resources, especially grain.

Excess of quarries, if others allow you to get it, what is rare, is never a bad business. First, if you have too many of them, it means the other players are short of them, so you have put them in trouble. Second, if you can grab the card that turns stones into grain, you can relax a bit about getting grain cards, giving you more freedom of action in the game.

So the race to get stone is very important at the beginning of the game, especially in a 4 player game. Because of that, nowadays I always skip the Sphynx bulding site in the 1st round to get a quarry card after it if there's no other available before it.

And unless you can grab the card that gives you 2 more Sphinx cards when you draw such cards, usually you don't have manpower to get many sphinx cards at the 1st round, what makes this action less efficient.

3) Order of play

In a previous thread I minimized the importance of the order of play. In fact what I said was that I never thought much about the subject and, at least against most of the adversaries I played, coming later in player order never seemed to be a severe handicap. Maybe I have to pay attention to what happened in the games I lost. I still cling to that position, though I admit some considerations are needed.

If you get yourself short of quarry cards in the 1st round, I admit it may be important to be first in the next one and it may be necessary to make an effort to come first in the next round. However in that case, I believe you may already be in bad shape. You didn't score in the 1st round to get this objective and probably will be forced to skip building sites in the 2nd round to get the quarry cards, losing 2 rounds of scoring. However this is a hypothetical consideration, I can't remember to be forced in such a situation.

In the end, I admit that although I never planned for it, if it's just a matter of sacrificing a single VP to come after another player in the 1st round and so play before him in the next round, then it's a good thing. Maybe I should pay more attention to opportunities of doing so.

It was interesting to hear something about the voluntary starvation to get advantageous turn order. I always atributed it to poor gameplay until I saw some fine players doing it, what puzzled me. However, I must admit that in the games I saw it done, as far as I can remember the final results were not good for the players who attempted it.

It was interesting to hear about powerful cards coming up in the 3rd round to justify staying behind in the score in the 2nd round. It would be interesting if you could be more specific here. The only card that can come in the 3rd round that I think is real powerful is the one that allows you to put a boat upstream. That is really maybe the best card in the game. However I don't know if it compensates the effort to stay behind other players in the score just to have a chance to grab it. First it can come in the 4th round (or not at all), and so the effort to stay behind in the score was wasted. And acquiring the card for sure in the 4th round would force you to stay behind in the score also in the 3rd round (what may cost you many VPs), while that card acquired in the 4th round is much less effective. Second, the card can come too close to the end of the river and to get it for sure you may be forced to let a lot of good actions undone behind you.

4) Stone Market

Another thing I learned from observation of others to mitigate the stone scarcity in the game was to try to get stones via stone market. The idea is, if you cannot get quarry cards in the beginning to your satisfaction, go for spots/cards that cause you to go down quickly in the stone market and use it as an alternative source of stones. I saw it done with varied degrees of success and still have mixed feelings about it, but it's an alternative. The main problem is that it forces you to go often to the first spot on the board and to the building site of tombs/obelisk, what can cause you problems to get sphinx cards as well as other useful cards.
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Thanks for your comments.

brito wrote:

1) Sphinx Cards

As the others, I'd be very very happy if I started the game with the sphynx card that requires 2 stones in all 4 building sites or the 4 or 5 stones in the obelisk. Those cards are not hard to fulfill if you get them at the very beginning of the game and they give many points for the effort they require. I always tended to think those as the best cards to begin, especially because in most of the cases you only depend on yourself to fulfill them.

Other cards that give you many points, such as obelisk cards, 2 columns in the temple, tombs/piramid totally built and majority cards depend too much of what the others do, require some unvolutary cooperative play and are risky to get at the beginning.

It's curious to see someone disagree about it. I understand your point about commitment, but all sphinx cards require some kind of commitment, it's not better to get commited to a card that is not hard to fulfill and give you many points for sure?


This will probably remain disputed. I was trying to show - and still believe - that different levels of commitment change the absolute point value printed on the cards. The game I've discussed with Andrew earlier in the thread was this:
http://www.yucata.de/de/Game/Egizia/6042075


brito wrote:

In the comparison of the 3 resources, I'd emphasize the scarcity of stone and the importance of getting quarries in the early game. If you count the resource cards available to the players you'll see the stones are the most scarce resource in the game. If you sum the stones in the quarry cards you'll reach a total of 24. If you sum the numbers in the grain cards (multiplying the yellow cards by 2/3 and the brown cards by 1/3 to compensate for the fact that they may not be effective all the time) you reach a total of 37. And improving your workers is very very easy, so manpower is by far less scarce resource in the game, and your manpower development is only restricted by the lack of other resources, especially grain.


I agree on the importance of stone and was trying to emphasise it.
You've made interesting observations on the cards. I think you also have to calculate stone market and stone storing ability. Unused grain is lost, stone usually isn't. In addition you can get stone at the board. The circle space could in theory provide a maximum of 6 stones per round You will not find grain at the board or markets. Only indirectly via stone.

But, yes, stone is very important early, simply because the quarry cards lose dramatically in value over the course of the game. Still, I think developing your 3 resources evenly is the most desired outcome giving maximum flexibility.

brito wrote:

It was interesting to hear something about the voluntary starvation to get advantageous turn order. I always atributed it to poor gameplay until I saw some fine players doing it, what puzzled me. However, I must admit that in the games I saw it done, as far as I can remember the final results were not good for the players who attempted it.


It wasn't very present in the recent tournament. I've written that part already 2 years ago, I guess. I still wanted to mention it. Sometimes it's just bad for you overall if someone else is starving, even if this player doesn't do well with it. So I will sometimes move the ring towards brown round 1 to prevent starving of other players. But if I feel he gets too much points with it, I will do the opposite. That's often a tough decision for me.

brito wrote:

It was interesting to hear about powerful cards coming up in the 3rd round to justify staying behind in the score in the 2nd round. It would be interesting if you could be more specific here. The only card that can come in the 3rd round that I think is real powerful is the one that allows you to put a boat upstream. That is really maybe the best card in the game. However I don't know if it compensates the effort to stay behind other players in the score just to have a chance to grab it. First it can come in the 4th round (or not at all), and so the effort to stay behind in the score was wasted. And acquiring the card for sure in the 4th round would force you to stay behind in the score also in the 3rd round (what may cost you many VPs), while that card acquired in the 4th round is much less effective. Second, the card can come too close to the end of the river and to get it for sure you may be forced to let a lot of good actions undone behind you.


I think I wasn't very consistent about this, which shows my indecisiveness:

califax wrote:

I would say that the value of (immediately obtained) victory points increases drastically from round 3 onwards. This is because I think there are really crucial cards that might come up in round 3.


later about the upstream card:

califax wrote:

That said I see people sometimes overpay it in round 4 when it is far down the river, but it's worth a lot in round 3. I often hestitate to take points in round 2 due to this card alone. But in the end it's a gamble if it appears, so I will secure the pyramid points or something like this in round 2 anyway (I did just see it appear on very early spots round 3 quite frequently recently. But this is just coincidence, of course).


In the end, I won't stay behind in round 2 with too many concessions (and certainly not in round 3). But at the same time I will regret it, if the upstream card shows up early on the river round 3. Which it did last three games of the final and in the semifinals as well! (it ended up evenly: one for each finalist over the 3 games).

Other strong cards are double ship, pick up (especially with 2 players) or 4er quarry with stone being scarce.

brito wrote:

4) Stone Market

Another thing I learned from observation of others to mitigate the stone scarcity in the game was to try to get stones via stone market. The idea is, if you cannot get quarry cards in the beginning to your satisfaction, go for spots/cards that cause you to go down quickly in the stone market and use it as an alternative source of stones. I saw it done with varied degrees of success and still have mixed feelings about it, but it's an alternative. The main problem is that it forces you to go often to the first spot on the board and to the building site of tombs/obelisk, what can cause you problems to get sphinx cards as well as other useful cards.


Stone market is slow and can't be your only source of stone imho, but a good companion.
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Califax wrote:
Rusty567 wrote:
Entreri43 wrote:
I think there might be a typo under the Active obelisk goals:
Quote:
If you have significant competition at obelisk early, it might be best, to give up on the card (if you have only a single obelisk card).
It seems like that should be "you don't have".


I don't think so. 4 stone in the obelisk is pretty easy if three of them cost 1, 1 and 2 - but if one or more opponents is competing for the cheap spots you're all of a sudden paying 2, 4, 5 and 7.


Yes, that's what I wanted to say. Obviously, English is not my native language - so I might be not clear enough sometimes. Especially the sentence following the quote sounds missleading now, so I've edited in further explanation.

No, sorry, it was probably fine as is. I just read too fast / was up too late and misread the sentence. Rereading it, I agree with it.
 
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Stones x Grain x Manpower

Califax wrote:

I agree on the importance of stone and was trying to emphasise it.
You've made interesting observations on the cards. I think you also have to calculate stone market and stone storing ability. Unused grain is lost, stone usually isn't. In addition you can get stone at the board. The circle space could in theory provide a maximum of 6 stones per round ;) You will not find grain at the board or markets.


I also didn't count the 2 field update cards. They boost the grain total from 37 to 39 (+(6+5+5+4)/4/3 if you upgrade yellow fields and +(6+7+8)/3/3 if you upgrade brown fields, taking the average of the 2 it gives exactly 2). The round space that gives you 2 stones+1 worker promotion also rises the stone total availability from 24 to 26. Stones given by the stone market compensate that difference, but not much. As yourself said, it's slow and in practical terms there are not enough stone market advancements on the board for everyone to produce stone early enough in the stone market.

The stone storing capacity you mentioned is a plus, for sure, but you have to remember that stones in surplus can give you points at the end of the game, a grain surplus gives you nothing.

Califax wrote:

Still, I think developing your 3 resources evenly is the most desired outcome giving maximum flexibility.


I totally agree. I was just saying that you should give quarries a priority because stones are the scarcest of the 3 resources. The other ones are easier to get.

And that a surplus of stones on your part normally means a shortage to your adversaries. Add to this that you can normally covert stones in excess partially into vps at the end.

Also, if you manage to go low enough in the grain market (though I believe the stone market should be a priority), the grain shortage becomes less important and manpower and stones are the real limitant to your growth. If you lose a point for each unfed worker (what is unpleasant but far from catastrophic), if that worker works he recovers the lost point with some profit given the building site bonuses plus the sphynx cards bonuses eventually linked to that site plus the denial of the building site spot to your adversaries.

Nile Cards

Califax wrote:

Other strong cards are double ship, pick up (especially with 2 players) or 4er quarry with stone being scarce.


Well, I almost never played 2 player games. The last one was long ago and I don't even remember much what it was. The only thing I remember is that it is a strange and very different kind of game. The board suddenly becomes too big and threre's a shortage of ships. Instead of competing with other players for the building spots you compete with yourself, because every ship that you put on a building spot is a ship less you use for other actions.

Probably I have to re-think the double ship card. I never saw it as a very strong card. Of course, given the chance, I always pick it up, because it's not wise to let it behind to others and you lose nothing getting it because you can always use it at once. And using it at once is what I do in almost all cases. If you keep it, it seems that in the end you gained nothing. You lose an action to get the card to recover that action later in the game. It only seemed to make sense to me if the only actions left after that card were dull actions, what for some strange reason never seemed to be the case to me. I was always commited to a building site important to a sphynx card whose spot I could miss or to another nice card that I could miss.

The quarry that gives 4 stones is a very very nice card, I admit, but as it may come somewhat late in the game I never lose my sleep about it. If you get a 3 stones quarry instead, the difference is not that much.

In the past, in my first games of Egizia, I also thought the card that gives you a leftover nile card was very powerful. I still think it's a nice card and I confess I still have some strange emotional attachment to the card, but I admit it's not that powerful at all. Usually in the end, you are just collecting leftovers, you end getting a nile card no one wanted, so it's not that important. If you get any card at all, because once someone has that card, it increases the urge for the other players to try to clean the board of cards that might have any use to you. In fact, strangely it might be the main advantage of the card. It kind of slows down the other players because they become fearful of letting behind any card that might be important to you.

I'd like to comment a last nile card, this time from the 5th round. The card that allows you to keep 2 sphynx cards. I totally agree with what you said. I think it is not a strong card and in recent times I almost always leave it behind because usually there are many better actions to perform in the 5th round. In the past I also thought more highly of that card, but in the end I realized that quite often the 2nd sphynx card I could get would give me little or nothing at all, and not rarely I didn't even use it because the 2nd sphynx card would give me nothing or could give me anything only if other players acted too much to my advantage, what would be a too long shot. Maybe the cards hate me. But I think the key is in what you said, in the end the sphynx cards in the deck are leftovers from previous draws (all really nice cards are already gone) and you have to get a card that rewards you for something you have already done because your actions for the last round are usually already planned and you seldom have the chance to change anything relevant in your few remaining building actions to get a new valuable sphynx card. So it's already hard to get one good sphynx card in the last round and to get 2 of them you would have to be a really lucky bastard.

Well, what called my attention in your comments is that you said that many others seem to love that card more than you do. I TOTALLY agree and it's something that puzzles me a lot. I see many players making a considerable effort to get that card and many times that seems to border the irrational to me. Too much of wishful thinking perhaps?

Stone Market

Califax wrote:

Stone market is slow and can't be your only source of stone imho, but a good companion.


I agree that you shouldn't make it your only source of stone or you're in trouble.

But it's far from ineffective. Theoretically you could put it to produce 6 stones per round, going sistematically to the 1st action space of the board (the one that makes you go down in the stone+grain market) and to the obelisk/tombs building site, though I myself mentioned many disadvantages in doing so. As there are 24 stones in all the quarry cards, with equal quarry distribution, it comes to 24/4 = 6 stones per round per player in a 4 player game (and it may happen that not all quarry cards come into play) and this after all quarry cards have come out, what usually only happens in the 4th round.

Besides it may not be that slow and at least one of the players has the chance to get stone produced in the market in the 2nd round (in theory even in the 1st round), what is really nice. I mention this because in the past I tended to disregard the nile card that gives you 2 advancements in the stone market in the 1st/2nd round and nowadays I tend to think more highly of that card.

As I said I have mixed feelings about this strategy because it requires too much commitment to my tastes, but I saw it employed and I think it would be nice to hear about it, even if it is to be in a negative way, in a strategic article as deep as yours.

 
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