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Subject: Session Report rss

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David K
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Between games of Clans, the four of us (Bryan, Hensley, Scott and myself (Dave)) decided to bust out a game of Puerto Rico. It had been quite awhile since we had last played, so I figured it was a good time to head back to the plantations -- so to speak.

As with most "German/Designer" games, it's hard to do session reports because the mechanics don't generally lend themselves to constructing a decent narrative of how the game progressed -- if that makes any sense -- but I will attempt to do my best.

We rolled to determine order, and I was given the 3rd seat. Bryan was first, Hensley was 2nd, and Scott was 4th. I had read on various sites that being able to build on every builder phase was critical to improving your score. I don't know how sage this advice is, but I decided that I would attempt to try it. Normally, I just go the Factory + diversified goods route. While it certainly doesn't win all the time, it's generally quite good at generating decent scores (say, for example, in a 5 player game of PR, the "Diversified Factory Strat" (hereafter referred to as "DFS") will invariably finish 3rd, or better -- at least in our group it does).

So, I assumed that income would be more important (for my "builder" strategy) than it normally is. As a result I concentrated on selecting roles with money and/or the prospector.

Right off the bat, I had this feeling that the builder strategy wasn't going to fare too well. In the early to mid-game I was able to purchase something on every builder phase. Near the end-game, however, money became particularly difficult to obtain. I may have hampered myself by concentrating on corn early, and neglecting the higher-end cash crops longer than I should have.

Meanwhile, Bryan adopted the DFS and slowly, but surely, strengthened his position. Hensley also attempted to employ the DFS, but he purchased his factory too late (IMO) for it to work well (it must be purchased as early as is reasonable).

The surprise came from Scott who did a little of everything. He didn't really have a strong game plan -- he simply purchased buildings that he liked, and diversified his crops (though he had a strong emphasis on corn). It seemed to work quite well for him.

I was able to ship quite a fair number of goods. As a matter of fact, I was "owning" the shipping contest up to mid-game. After that, the other players started gaining parity with me. There were a few shipping rounds where Scott made out like a bandit.

As the end-game rolled around, I was, basically, just trying to cement myself in 2nd place. I knew that Bryan and the DFS would be impossible to beat -- the money generated from the factory allowed him to greatly expand his city (which included two of the "big" buildings).

In fact, the game ended when Bryan was able to fill the last slot in his city.

During the final tally, I was definitely the shipping king. Unfortunately, both Scott and Bryan did well in shipping and generated more points than I with their cities. Hensley, was never able to mount a strong presence in either shipping or building -- though, to be honest, it's hard to pinpoint where he went wrong (other than purchasing his factory too late to become a force).

Final scores (and ratings):

Bryan: 58 (8)
Scott: 58 (7)
Dave: 51 (7)
Hensley: 37 (6)

Final notes: I'm so sick of the DFS, but it's the only thing that we've encountered that generates consistent scores (if played correctly... which isn't that difficult to do). As a result, our games have degenerated into a race for the factory... which is becoming increasingly boring. I realize that you shouldn't go into PR with a strategy, because the game is purely tactical. What we find most amusing is that whenever we try to incorporate tactical ideas/principles from very seasoned PR players (100+ games) we generally do worse.
 
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Matthew M
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Re:Session Report
Volstag (#22805),

YES! Your end of session observations are PRECISELY what I've been trying to point out to the BSW players - that the game depends as much on playing the other players as it does what you play (perhaps moreso.) Puerto Rico punishes you for playing the game with a different mindset than the other players more often than not. I'm not speaking of "building vs. shipping" mindsets but rather ideas about what the "optimal" play is in a given situation. Your experience shows that it is not as cut and dry as having a simple two-turn mainline to follow.

I would wager dollar to donuts that a 100+ game PR veteran from BSW would be given fits playing a sit-down game with three members from your group.

-MMM
 
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David K
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Re:Session Report
Octavian (#22872),

I would agree with your statement. To me, PR is similar to playing poker -- it plays best when you're playing with people of (roughly) the same experience level. When I sit down to a poker game with greenhorns, almost everything I know flies out the window.

This leads me to another point -- which is somewhat difficult to articulate: When playing PR with opponents of the same skill level, it's difficult to go back through the game and say, "This is what this person did to win" or "This is what this person did to lose", etc. Riding on the coattails of other people is, IMO, almost more important than what you do yourself. Now if everyone is adopting this tactic, whatever it takes to win or lose is very difficult to discern -- which annoys the hell out of me. I sometimes feel like you could throw everyones "tactics" into a blender and see who comes out with the highest score. It's like the barely noticable advantage one person achieves in turn 2 or 3 (for example) decides who wins (or loses) the game at turn 12 or 15, etc. This leaves me with the feeling that I could select plantations and buildings almost at random, and have just as good a shot at winning (or losing) as anyone else. Does this make any sense?

-V
 
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Eric Brosius
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Re:Session Report
Octavian (#22872),

An analogous situation can arise if you are a beginner learning to play Go by playing against a computer. The computer will only invade your territory if it forsees that with best play it can succeed. Otherwise it will play elsewhere or even (frequently on a small board) pass. If all your practice is against the computer, you get used to the fact that it won't make an unsound invasion.

Now imagine that you play against a human opponent (perhaps one that is weaker than the computer) who DOES try the unsound invasions that the computer won't try. With best play you will defeat this poor strategy, but if you're used to the computer not trying, you don't have much experience and the unsound invasion can often succeed. Thus, to play Go you need two skills: (1) best play against a sound opponent and (2) how to crush someone who plays unsoundly. You can't learn (2) unless you play against someone who takes suboptimal risks.

It seems to me that the same could be true of Puerto Rico. A player who plays all the time against skilled opponents may never learn how to defeat the unsound moves that these skilled opponents never try. This could be a weakness.
 
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Matthew M
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Re:Session Report
Eric Brosius (#22895),

I think this analogy is interesting - but it is important to remember that for this phenomenon to take root in Puerto Rico it is dependent on a significant proportion of the players to be playing this "suboptimal" style. One person's aberrant move choices alone would be punished by the style of the majority and be easily taken advantage of by the other players (likely his left-hand opponent).

With multiple players utilizing an alternative playing style their moves will synchronize with one anothers' in ways that they can both anticipate and ways that players unfamiliar with that style will find bewildering.

The point is that "suboptimal" is context dependent. Taking Captain as the first role of the game is universally suboptimal, however I wager that many other choices deemed to be suboptimal by the PR junta are contingent upon the dominant style of play employed in the game.

-MMM
 
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fred de Jong
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Re:Session Report
Octavian (#22905),

this is an interesting discussion about a point the proponents of a clear-cut strategy seem to miss. Let's call it 'converging strategies': to what extent are you allowed to break away from the group-strategy. The group strategy might not be optimal, but doing something all on your own will probably be even worse. PR tends to strenghten this (in my opinion) due to the fact that for a strategy to work you need a partner-in-crime. Simplest example: shipping, one produces, the other ships. If you have to do it all on your own it will never work. I haven't been able to really pin down the line of thinking, so I'm pretty interested in other opinions.

Fred
 
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Jim Campbell
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Re:Session Report
fred wrote:

this is an interesting discussion about a point the proponents of a clear-cut strategy seem to miss. Let's call it 'converging strategies': to what extent are you allowed to break away from the group-strategy. The group strategy might not be optimal, but doing something all on your own will probably be even worse.


Indeed, this is an interesting topic. I'm gathering from the discussion so far that the advocates of a systematic approach to PR strategy are thought to be the "proponents of a clear-cut strategy" referred to above. If the strategy approach we advocate were clear-cut, it could be explained in 1 or 2 pages. It can't be, and further, it takes a large number of games to fully learn and understand. PR is a complex system and systematic approaches to mastering the strategy in PR are correspondingly complex.

Going it alone from a strategy standpoint is fine, if you are more efficient than the other players. Inexperienced players tend to play at something like 60%-70% efficiency, and if the whole group is playing like that, than getting an extra 10% from group effects is a big deal. If one of the players is very strong and operates at 95% efficiency then the group effects will affect the victory margin for the strong player and/or the finish order of the other players. If there are 2 very strong players in the game that get even breaks in the opening seats and tile draws, then group effects will tend to decide which of the two finishes 1st rather than 2nd.

PR tends to strenghten this (in my opinion) due to the fact that for a strategy to work you need a partner-in-crime. Simplest example: shipping, one produces, the other ships. If you have to do it all on your own it will never work.

This is not the case, but I wasn't convinced of it until I had played more than 200 games. Starting today, I think one could study the game and conclude this after 50 games. It's important to recognize that if one pursues a strategy that will tend strongly to make points, one's opponents have no choice but to cooperate in order to make points themselves. The subtlety is in noticing which techniques seem to ensure points, but actually don't ensure points very well.

I haven't been able to really pin down the line of thinking, so I'm pretty interested in other opinions.

This opinion, that group effects are very strong and meshing one's strategy with those of the other players is very important, is commonly shared by inexperienced players and can be abandoned through study and frequent play. I still don't know of anyone who has played more than 250 games and still adheres to the "group effects" theory about which forces are strongest in the game. I've heard that PR is very entertaining when played casually, which is very good news since I would like for everyone to have fun. In other games which I play casually, I'm not generally seeing everything that is going on and will often come up with theories about how they work which later prove erroneous once I gain the same understanding that stronger players have.
 
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Matthew M
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Re:Session Report
jimc wrote:
I still don't know of anyone who has played more than 250 games and still adheres to the "group effects" theory about which forces are strongest in the game.


I'm curious if the players that you reference that have played more than 250 games have done so with many different set groups of Puerto Rico players. If the majority of their experience is from playing on BSW, for example, then they don't have any perspective on group effects because they largely play in the environment of one PR "culture".

-MMM
 
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Jim Campbell
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Re:Session Report
Octavian wrote:
I'm curious if the players that you reference that have played more than 250 games have done so with many different set groups of Puerto Rico players. If the majority of their experience is from playing on BSW, for example, then they don't have any perspective on group effects because they largely play in the environment of one PR "culture".


The percentage of the 250+ game population that doesn't play on BSW is tiny. Similarly, the percentage of the 1000+ game population that doesn't play on BSW either equals or approaches zero. In other words, the overwhelming majority of the players who have played enough to develop the highest extant levels of expertise are on BSW. This is a side effect of the speed of the games there, which usually take 15-40 minutes. It's hard to learn strategy in a dedicated way without the ability to play another game while the previous game is fresh in one's mind, or to play 6 games in 3 hours, or 20 games in a week.

The argument about BSW being monolithic in terms of style is very silly, since someone who plays on BSW will see a greater variety of opponents and styles than almost anyone who plays the game face-to-face. A typical 100+ game player will have already faced 40-80 different opponents, if not more. Face-to-face players, even if they somehow play that many times, won't face that number of opponents. It's also worth pointing out that those advancing this "monocultural" argument about what PR is like on BSW don't actually play there enough to know whether or not it's true.

There are two respects in which PR on BSW differs in game terms from other venues. First, 5-player games are much less common primarily because they take a "long time" in BSW terms (50+ minutes). There is also a widespread opinion that since the 5-player game was tacked onto the design late in the process, it has some noticeable flaws that drastically reduce the role of skill in the game.

The second difference is that the overall skill level is much, much higher than that seen everywhere else. The typical level of experience and study devoted to PR is far greater, and since there is much to learn that makes a big difference. There has been a lot of debate about this point, but those who actually make the effort to play on BSW know that this is true.

Matthew and I have a central philosophical difference over whether it is possible to specify "correct" moves for specific game situations, which leaves us with very different ideas about whether strategy can be studied systematically. To better illustrate my approach, I reproduce the following from a reply I wrote to the spielfrieks_puerto_rico group (italicized statements are from Matthew):

This is where the group mind of multiplayer games further limits any options available in the game.

This seems to perceive the options in PR as analogous to something creative or artistic, in which there are a variety of equally (or at least arguably) similar options in terms of value. I think they are often more analogous to driving in traffic, where staying in one's lane is a winning move and swerving into oncoming traffic is a losing move. In the former, making a different artistic choice from the consensus is contrarian or iconoclastic or pick-another-adjective; I don't think "contrarian" is a word that aptly describes the decision to swerve into oncoming traffic.

There are some situations in PR that follow the traffic model, in which it's necessary to stay in one's lane to get the most value. People have studied the game carefully to identify these situations and analyzed the decision trees from those to determine the best moves. There are also a large number of "intersections" at which one must make a choice from several equally good options. Most of my fun from the game is in trying to make predictive choices at these times. However, I don't try to add more fun to the game with the unquestioning assumption that all choices in the game are like this.

Since the strength of any opening is dependant on the actions of others it is most advantageous to play the opening everyone does - otherwise your "poor play" gets punished.

Openings greatly vary in how much their value changes depending on the actions of others. For example, if #1 chooses the captain on turn 1, it will nearly always have relatively negative value. If everyone else makes similarly asinine moves, then its value approaches zero as no one takes advantage. So the Captain opening has a very stable and very low value as an opening move. If #1 chooses Settler-Corn, than much of the future value of that move will be determined by the number of corn boats and how scarce corn plantations are later on in the game. If it's easy to get corn plantations early in the game and corn gets shut out of the boats most of the time, than Settler-Corn has much less relative value. The Settler-Quarry move for #1 offers excellent value (and usually more in terms of the final score than Settler-Corn) that is also very stable regardless of future events. It's possible for it to be even more valuable if opponents steer off the main line with a Mayor-Builder sequence on turn 1, but it's quite valuable without that.

To borrow a term from Go, many exchanges in limited situations (such as the opening or some endgame situations) are "joseki". This means that there is a main line that ends with an equal outcome, and that the first player to deviate from the main line will play at a disadvantage. In local (in board terms) exchanges in Go, it's possible to judge "equal" in absolute terms because there is no luck and a very rigid point system. In PR deciding equality of outcomes is a more complex problem because luck plays a part in future events and because the conversion of resources to scoring is much more indirect. However, many situations in PR are limited enough that one can do this. The opening in 3 and 4 player games is one of those, and at least 50% of players on BSW now recognize this and play most or all of the "joseki" opening on turns 1 and 2.

Thus new openings will not be developed in a community like BSW because the group norms for openings have already been rigidly set (for the first two turns so far, as has been pointed out.)

There were only 2-3 different common variations played on BSW 9 months ago, none of them the main line that is commonly played now. But since new openings couldn't be developed in that environment, I guess I must be dreaming all of this.

Taken to a ridiculous extreme one might argue that it will no longer be a challenge to develop a PR AI because the game already plays itself once the mainline for the first 15 turns has been established.

That is indeed a ridiculous extreme, since there is obviously no main line for the first 15 turns without using a specific sequence of plantation draws. If there were no luck, then it would probably be possible to devise a rote "best outcome" sequence for all players. It would also require making some decisions on the basis of fractional point differences in final score (or on peculiar semi-accurate estimates of same) and would require working through an enormous number of branches in the decision tree. It would be a demonstration of brute-force computing.

Knowing [and understanding the theory of] the "joseki" opening line in PR serves the same purpose it does in Go: It avoids simple mistakes in a less complex area so that mental energy can be focused on the many other decisions in the game. Every experienced player does this to some extent, e.g. they don't re-evaluate the captain as #1 on turn 1 every time they play. The difference is that some players have explored this further and know in advance how they will play each possible line on turn 1 and part of turn 2.

The 15-turn comment implies that the rationale for memorizable openings will inevitably try to solve the whole game. Although it's possible that there might be "joseki creep" in which turn 3 begins to look very similar from game to game, I have already found that identifying a best move for the end of turn 2 is difficult due to variations in the plantation and building positions. This is true even if the main line is played through completely.

 
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Matthew M
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Re:Session Report
jimc wrote:
The argument about BSW being monolithic in terms of style is very silly, since someone who plays on BSW will see a greater variety of opponents and styles than almost anyone who plays the game face-to-face. A typical 100+ game player will have already faced 40-80 different opponents, if not more. Face-to-face players, even if they somehow play that many times, won't face that number of opponents.

...

I think they are often more analogous to driving in traffic, where staying in one's lane is a winning move and swerving into oncoming traffic is a losing move. In the former, making a different artistic choice from the consensus is contrarian or iconoclastic or pick-another-adjective; I don't think "contrarian" is a word that aptly describes the decision to swerve into oncoming traffic.

There are some situations in PR that follow the traffic model, in which it's necessary to stay in one's lane to get the most value.


This analogy nicely highlights my position. With Puerto Rico rewarding converging playing styles (driving with traffic) it is not difficult to see how a large community of Puerto Rico players (BSW) would develop a strong consensus of playing style norms.

However someone taking these norms to a different Puerto Rico playing group may very well find that the norms they had been following are maladaptive in the new setting ("you mean they drive on the other side of the road here!?") Thus what was a winning move in one environment is a losing move in another (or in less absolute terms "more optimal" and "less optimal".)

The percentage of the 250+ game population that doesn't play on BSW is tiny. Similarly, the percentage of the 1000+ game population that doesn't play on BSW either equals or approaches zero.

This leads me to question the validity of any comments made by such people that can absolutely disqualify the strength of group-effects in Puerto Rico. Of course you do not say these people play exclusively on BSW, however making inferences based on past posts my guess would be that non-BSW play is rare. It is impossible to comment on group-effects when the breadth of experience is primarily with a single group. Despite your apparent claims to the contrary, BSW as a whole certainly does qualify practically, and more importantly psychologically, as one group for the purposes of this discussion.

-MMM
 
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Robert Ryan
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Re:Session Report
Volstag (#22805),

Newbie here - Can someone please explain what 'DFS' is. hard to follow without knowing exactly what this is.

Thx

pibb
 
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Robert Ryan
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Re:Session Report
Volstag (#22805),

Never mind - I see it now. Thx sorry for the error...

pibb
 
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Jim Campbell
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Re:Session Report
Octavian wrote:

This analogy nicely highlights my position. With Puerto Rico rewarding converging playing styles (driving with traffic) it is not difficult to see how a large community of Puerto Rico players (BSW) would develop a strong consensus of playing style norms.

However someone taking these norms to a different Puerto Rico playing group may very well find that the norms they had been following are maladaptive in the new setting ("you mean they drive on the other side of the road here!?") Thus what was a winning move in one environment is a losing move in another (or in less absolute terms "more optimal" and "less optimal".)


Actually, the oncoming cars in the analogy aren't the other players, they're the rules of PR. This is apparent to those who have studied the game for a long time without entrenching deeply in one theory, especially to those who have actually bothered to study different play environments before making extensive claims about each.

This leads me to question the validity of any comments made by such people that can absolutely disqualify the strength of group-effects in Puerto Rico.

I've never tried to "absolutely disqualify" them, so I suggest you refer your skepticism to someone who has made such a claim. The group effects are significant and can decide the outcome of a close game. In extreme cases, very weak play can lead to a runaway victory for a single beneficiary. The group effects are minor compared to the effect of differences in skill; player skill is more than strong enough to consistently overcome group effects. The greater a player's experience and study of the game, the more they know that this is the case.

Of course you do not say these people play exclusively on BSW, however making inferences based on past posts my guess would be that non-BSW play is rare. It is impossible to comment on group-effects when the breadth of experience is primarily with a single group. Despite your apparent claims to the contrary, BSW as a whole certainly does qualify practically, and more importantly psychologically, as one group for the purposes of this discussion.

Of course it doesn't, that's why I used the word "monolithic" to describe your contention in my previous message. BSW's PR community consists of thousands of people, with hundreds of frequent players. I constantly run into new players on BSW. The idea that one can make specific characterizations about BSW as a single group in this discussion is ridiculous.

There are some adaptive behaviors that are much more prevalent on BSW than elsewhere, but these are reactions to the rules and structure of the game. If I encounter some isolated people trying to build a house, it's possible that they will have chosen to build a wooden frame and then pour a concrete foundation on top of it; inadvisable, but undoubtedly they won't make that mistake again. If I go to a loose agglomeration of 1000 people who are collected in small groups building houses, it's possible that I'll find another group that is engaged in inverted construction, but not very likely. Most groups will have at least seen some other group of people building a house, along with the techniques used to avoid basic mistakes.

Your message has also brought up a recurring theme in this debate, the claim that certain kinds of players will/won't succeed in certain environments. The point seems to be that the strong players on BSW would have much more difficulty playing well against what you conceive as an "unorthodox" group, full of players who don't play like they do. But BSW offers plenty of opportunities to face groups that have their own ideas about strategy, and the excellent players perform better against them, not worse. When they play against a whole group of players who haven't adopted this systematic approach to the game, they usually have little trouble winning. The tough games are against the players who have adopted the prevailing strategies. That's the evidence I have, and it's a far deeper and broader experience than the peculiar localized phenomena that my interlocutors in this discussion have to report.
 
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Jim Campbell
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Re:Session Report
Volstag wrote:
I had read on various sites that being able to build on every builder phase was critical to improving your score. I don't know how sage this advice is, but I decided that I would attempt to try it. I don't know how sage this advice is, but I decided that I would attempt to try it.


I would say that being able to build nearly every time is an indication of strong and regular income, which is absolutely essential to strong play. Money is a larger factor in the game's outcome than most people realize; recall that except for some (but not all) of the VP from corn, every point in the game requires a building, and buildings require money. That's as sage as I can manage, I'm afraid.

Normally, I just go the Factory + diversified goods route. While it certainly doesn't win all the time, it's generally quite good at generating decent scores (say, for example, in a 5 player game of PR, the "Diversified Factory Strat" (hereafter referred to as "DFS") will invariably finish 3rd, or better -- at least in our group it does).

Buying the factory is a good remedy for an income problem, but if income is not a problem then proceeding directly to the harbor or small warehouse is usually a better move. If you have a coffee or tobacco monopoly and no ongoing obstacles to trade, then the factory is redundant and will tend to leave you with a VP deficit and so much money that it's hard to spend it all.

The position I prefer to have is output of 1 corn, 1 indigo, 1 sugar and 1 coffee (monopoly or close to one) along with a small market, a small warehouse and a harbor. That position will tend to get at least its share of the VP, along with at least one large building. If you get 2 large buildings and/or an excellent VP total with that position you're in the driver's seat. That doesn't mean that I aim for that position in every game and lose when I don't get it, just that in a large minority of my games it's convenient to make that position (and I'm happy to get it).

So, I assumed that income would be more important (for my "builder" strategy) than it normally is. As a result I concentrated on selecting roles with money and/or the prospector.

I don't look at it this way. Money is important for everyone, whatever strategy they are playing. If people are leaving bonus doubloons on the table early in the game it behooves any player, whatever their strengths and game plan, to grab that money before the other players can get it. Late in the game there are times when someone with more quarries and better opportunity to make large buildings will need to emphasize money over VP.

Right off the bat, I had this feeling that the builder strategy wasn't going to fare too well. In the early to mid-game I was able to purchase something on every builder phase. Near the end-game, however, money became particularly difficult to obtain. I may have hampered myself by concentrating on corn early, and neglecting the higher-end cash crops longer than I should have.

If "concentrating on corn early" means taking corn instead of what was necessary to diversify, than the strategy was somewhat schizophrenic. Once one decides to diversify and build the factory, it's bad to get distracted by opportunities to grab corn. One of the problems with deciding in advance to build the factory is that the game may present a position that's better suited to something else.

Final notes: I'm so sick of the DFS, but it's the only thing that we've encountered that generates consistent scores (if played correctly... which isn't that difficult to do). As a result, our games have degenerated into a race for the factory... which is becoming increasingly boring.

If your group doesn't play a subgame called "race for the small warehouses" around the time of the 4th or 5th Builder phase, that's probably a large area in game strategy that hasn't been exploited yet. Seriously, the small warehouse is one of the pivotal buildings in the game. It also sounds like the full implications of the "DHS" (Diversified Harbor Strategy) aren't well understood. Those are just two examples of areas beyond the DFS that can be explored.

What we find most amusing is that whenever we try to incorporate tactical ideas/principles from very seasoned PR players (100+ games) we generally do worse.

Adding a tip or technique here and there in an occasional game is a long road toward stronger play. Playing PR very well takes mastery of a lot of different techniques, as well as easy familiarity with game situations that will typically stump a beginner. Beginners tend to make a large number of small mistakes that, added together, cost them 10 or more points over the course of the game. One easier way to get control over part of the picture is to study Alexfrog's article on opening strategy, which is not just useful for mastering the opening but also illustrates some critical tactical principles that good players use to avoid mistakes throughout the game.
 
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Re:Session Report
fred wrote:

PR tends to strenghten this (in my opinion) due to the fact that for a strategy to work you need a partner-in-crime. Simplest example: shipping, one produces, the other ships. If you have to do it all on your own it will never work.

jimc wrote:

This is not the case, but I wasn't convinced of it until I had played more than 200 games. Starting today, I think one could study the game and conclude this after 50 games. It's important to recognize that if one pursues a strategy that will tend strongly to make points, one's opponents have no choice but to cooperate in order to make points themselves. The subtlety is in noticing which techniques seem to ensure points, but actually don't ensure points very well.

My simple reasoning is as follows (of course it's simplified, it't there that the weakness may lie). Let's assume a 3player game, players A,B,C. A and B do (after the initial rounds) nothing but ship, C only collects money and builds. Very simplistic this means that A and B generate points in a 1round cycle, wheras C is on a 2-round cycle, one round of collecting money in some form, one round building. I would venture to say C will not win in this case. But with some adaptation of strategy towards the majority chances will be much better. So in some rudimentary form there is a drive towards a strategy played by the majority.

Now the art of playing PR might very well be in adapting well enough were it helps and deviating where it counts.

Fred (making a mess of the italics..)
 
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Re:Session Report
fred wrote:

My simple reasoning is as follows (of course it's simplified, it't there that the weakness may lie). Let's assume a 3player game, players A,B,C. A and B do (after the initial rounds) nothing but ship, C only collects money and builds. Very simplistic this means that A and B generate points in a 1round cycle, wheras C is on a 2-round cycle, one round of collecting money in some form, one round building. I would venture to say C will not win in this case.

From the middle of the game on, this cycle vs. half-cycle issue can work the way you describe. On the other hand, early in the game the player who is hoarding cash and building is setting up to beat the pants off of the other two. By the middle of the game the cash-oriented player is set up to achieve parity in VP rate at the same time that they greatly outpace the others in the building race. This is possible for reasons I and others have detailed in articles here. Briefly stated, it's because a doubloon earned in turns 1-3 tends to be worth about 2 or 3 points in the final score; thus, the players who are focusing on shipping early must do so at an impossible rate to overcome the advantage gained by someone who is greatly outpacing their income.

Another important thing to understand is that if two players are committing initially to a craftsman-captain cycle, then eventually one of them will gain advantage and force the other player to defect or lose. This dynamic tends to rein in the "team" effects made possible by 2-role cycles. The trader is usually another big disincentive to playing the craftsman in such a cycle.

Some of this discussion seems to assume that strategies with an extreme emphasis on VP or building points are strong and viable. In general, extremely unbalanced strategies have little chance of success against competent opposition. The system of adding bonus doubloons to the roles creates an environment in which there won't be an extreme imbalance in the number of times each role is chosen. Extremely skewed strategies end up accomplishing nothing during a large number of the game's phases. In PR, where progress is made in small increments repeated a large number of times, skipping turns is very problematic. There are many groups where players haven't come to a conclusion about the relative value of VP, points and money and/or where players decide which buildings they would like to use before the game begins. In these groups, it's possible to play unbalanced strategies with relative success until the other players learn more about the game.
 
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Re:Session Report
Volstag wrote:
Right off the bat, I had this feeling that the builder strategy wasn't going to fare too well. In the early to mid-game I was able to purchase something on every builder phase. Near the end-game, however, money became particularly difficult to obtain. I may have hampered myself by concentrating on corn early, and neglecting the higher-end cash crops longer than I should have.


jimc wrote:
If "concentrating on corn early" means taking corn instead of what was necessary to diversify, than the strategy was somewhat schizophrenic. Once one decides to diversify and build the factory, it's bad to get distracted by opportunities to grab corn.


Jim,

I wasn't trying to diversify and build a factory at all in this game -- simply because that's what I do every single game and I'm bored to tears with it. I wanted to see if it was possible to "build" my way to victory... and this was my first attempt at it. In hindsight, it's an idea of dubious merit, because it doesn't appear to work against someone who DOES diversify his crops w/ a factory or harbor backing him up.

One of the problems with deciding in advance to build the factory is that the game may present a position that's better suited to something else.

I'm not nearly as experienced with PR as you are, but in my 30 odd games, I've yet to see someone win who didn't have the factory or the harbor (beyond my first 5 - 10 games, when we didn't really know what we were doing -- all things being relative, of course). I'd like to think it's possible (hence the reason for me trying something different), but I've yet to see it.

If your group doesn't play a subgame called "race for the small warehouses" around the time of the 4th or 5th Builder phase, that's probably a large area in game strategy that hasn't been exploited yet. Seriously, the small warehouse is one of the pivotal buildings in the game.

I totally agree that the small warehouse is a hugely important building. It's, invariably, the first building type to be bought out.

It also sounds like the full implications of the "DHS" (Diversified Harbor Strategy) aren't well understood. Those are just two examples of areas beyond the DFS that can be explored.

As I said before, the majority of our games are won by a person with the factory -- if a factory player doesn't win, then it's going to be a player with a harbor. My problem is that I wish this wasn't the case, and I would like to see something else -- anything else -- win a game, or two. It feels like the exact same game every time I play.

-V

 
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Re:Session Report
Volstag (#26215),

I've seen games where someone who focused on corn and bought a wharf (and probably a large market) won without having either a factory or harbor. But this is sort of the opposite of a builder strategy.
 
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Re:Session Report
Octavian wrote:
This analogy nicely highlights my position. With Puerto Rico rewarding converging playing styles (driving with traffic) it is not difficult to see how a large community of Puerto Rico players (BSW) would develop a strong consensus of playing style norms.

(snip)

Despite your apparent claims to the contrary, BSW as a whole certainly does qualify practically, and more importantly psychologically, as one group for the purposes of this discussion.

-MMM


-------

Let me jump in as someone who's played some on BSW (50+ games), and not a single game with either Alex or Jim (probably due to differing time zones). I also play PR regularly face to face with a group of around ten people.

My personal experience would tend to support what Jim is saying - that play on BSW is far more varied than what you would get from regular face to face play. One would think that if BSW were one group 'psychologically' then one could reasonably predict what other players would do. Yet, I'm still left scratching my head sometimes at the roles players pick, or the things they build, or which goods they place on what boat. This would be either a factor of the experience level of players, or simple preference of doing certain things.

What I've also found is that while I don't dominate my face to face games with my regular group, I can eke out just enough extra VP from doing things "optimally" as Jim would put it, to win more than half the time. Most of what I learned in terms of 'stronger' play, I learned in theory from the articles of Jim 'n Alex, and in practice getting my butt kicked on BSW.

At least, that's one gamer's experience.
 
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Re:Session Report
Volstag wrote:

I'm not nearly as experienced with PR as you are, but in my 30 odd games, I've yet to see someone win who didn't have the factory or the harbor (beyond my first 5 - 10 games, when we didn't really know what we were doing -- all things being relative, of course). I'd like to think it's possible (hence the reason for me trying something different), but I've yet to see it.


I had the wrong impression from your original comments, concluding that you thought the factory dominated the game. I agree that getting a factory or harbor is a big factor in determining the outcome of the game, but I think the harbor is more influential. In a game where players allow trades and cash to go to one player too readily, then there's certainly a chance they will build an early factory followed by an early harbor. This can lead people to believe that the factory is the most critical building in the game. If some fairly prudent defensive moves happen and no one jumps out to a big lead in cash, then the tendency is to see the factories and harbors split between the players.

Unfortunately the designers included enough chaff in the building set that there isn't a wide variety of highly useful buildings. The second tier of buildings is far less useful than the very best ones. This narrowness in gameplay frustrates me as well.

I totally agree that the small warehouse is a hugely important building. It's, invariably, the first building type to be bought out.

I haven't experienced that kind of rush to grab the small warehouses; in my games, people usually wait until some income sources pan out before trying to grab one of them.

Jim
 
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