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Subject: General gaming strategies and tactics rss

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Ron
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Many games have many specific strategies, some of which are widely discussed on BGG or in other places. Other games don't appear to have that many, or are simply not popular enough to get much talk going.
But there are strategies and tactics that aren't tied to a single game, or even a set of games.
Stuff that I can think of right now includes:
- In a game where players control when it ends, push for the end if you're in the lead.
- In deck building games, a card that lets you draw a card is never a bad thing to have, since it doesn't 'cost' you a place in your hand.

Of course these aren't necessarily always the best strategies. But if no other, game-specific ideas pop up, they're usually a better guess than random play

Now hit me with your general gaming advice!
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Strike fast, strike first.

Always have a Plan B.
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Sean Conroy
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A lot of wargames can be boiled down to making sure your attrition is lower than your opponents. Don't throw your troops away on meaningless attacks unless you have more doodz than the other guy.

Oh and no plan survives first contact with the enemy.
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Greg
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Never play for VP directly. Build the engine and let the VP come.

If there is a way to gain an extra action per turn, immediately work towards that goal.
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Paul DeStefano
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Ad Astra Per Aspera
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The question is so broad-sweeping that it's difficult to answer.

The best advice? Probably everything I learned playing competitive chess applies...

Use common sense

Think about everything your opponent can do after you make your move. What does your move/turn do for the opponent?

Don't move (take your turn) until your 100% sure you're ready to commit.

"Dumb mistakes" are just that - dumb mistakes. Think before you move and minimize or eliminate those mistakes.

Don't play your opponent, no matter how enticing it is, play the board. That is to say, unless it's poker, use the information available to you as fact, don't rely on your opponent to alter your play style. The board should dictate your decisions.

Sort of that, everything gets a bit specific. Just be smart, think about what you're doing, don't be careless unless you're doing so for style and are aware that it can cost you victory. ...That's about as general as it gets. The rest becomes more game/style specific.



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Geosphere wrote:
Never let them see you sweat.


This too!
 
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Bryan Thunkd
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s3kt0r wrote:
Never play for VP directly. Build the engine and let the VP come.
I disagree slightly. In the early game you should devote your resources to building and improving your engine. As the game nears the end you need to recognize when improving your engine ceases to be worthwhile and when you should switch over to putting all your resources into making points.

If multiple moves are largely equivalent for you, choose the one that gives you more flexibility.
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Thunkd wrote:
s3kt0r wrote:
Never play for VP directly. Build the engine and let the VP come.
I disagree slightly. In the early game you should devote your resources to building and improving your engine. As the game nears the end you need to recognize when improving your engine ceases to be worthwhile and when you should switch over to putting all your resources into making points.

If multiple moves are largely equivalent for you, choose the one that gives you more flexibility.



Again, games like Twilight Struggle play for VP is of varying importance based on the stage of the game. Puerto Rico plays for VP differently too. The VP suggestions are really too game-specific to be generalized into a single general strategy in my opinion. Moreover, different games put different levels of significance on VP. Some use it as the only way to decide a winner, others use it to augment the winning condition, while others still use it as one of many methods to acheive victory. Twilight Struggle keeps coming to mind.
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Ron
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So the 'engine vs. direct VP' thing actually does boil down to a general guideline I think. Something like 'assess the return on investment on engine improvements before making them'. I've often seen people improve their engine in a late turn, while grabbing instant VP would have gotten them more points per action.
 
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The rule of cool trumps all other rules.
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Greg
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Thunkd wrote:
s3kt0r wrote:
Never play for VP directly. Build the engine and let the VP come.
I disagree slightly. In the early game you should devote your resources to building and improving your engine. As the game nears the end you need to recognize when improving your engine ceases to be worthwhile and when you should switch over to putting all your resources into making points.

If multiple moves are largely equivalent for you, choose the one that gives you more flexibility.

Sure, I agree. At some point you need to take your engine and put it to use.

It just seems to me in general, that for a good portion of a game, if there is an option that just gives you 10 points straight up and another that you can use to improve your long term benefits, it's usually, though not always, best to go for the long term benefit.

I do agree however, that towards the endgame, the long term benefits might not be worth it since there is is no long term anymore and it's time to start pumping out VP.

I think Dominion might be one of the clearest examples here, though there are many games that do not work this way. But really since we are talking in generalities, I have to go with what feels "mostly" right.

EDIT: Of course, I mean 10 points, relatively speaking, here. If I could take 10 points straight up in Twilight Struggle, I would take it in a heartbeat, Early War or Late War.
 
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Michael McKibbin
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Learn to count. In most games, there is an advantage to be gained by counting something, whether it be the number of a particular type of card left in the deck, or estimating an opponents hidden VPs. Keep track of what the opponents are doing during your own downtime, and you will be that much more of a formidable opponent. A basic knowledge of probability doesn't hurt either.
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The most basic questions you should probably be asking in any strategic game are:

1. How much control do I have over when the game ends?
2. How do I put myself in a winning position when the game ends?

In some games, the end condition is either fixed or random, so the best thing you can do is build a strategy the scores you the most points before that happens. However, in other games there is a game-end trigger that you can influence, and your ability to win hinges as much on your ability to control that as it does your ability to score points - as someone put it in regards to Dominion, "It's not about having the most points when the game ends, it's about ending the game when you have the most points" - and anyone who has eked out a three-pile ending with a single Estate after the other players trashed all of theirs will know how important that can be.

Other important strategic considerations:

3. How can I get other players to want to help me win?

This seems odd, but it's mostly about the scope for piggybacking. In some games, you can get an advantage by letting the other players do some of the hard work for you. Maybe only one player needs to invest in a building so that everyone can then make use of it, and unless the building is worth lots of points you may find it more efficient to let someone else spend their resources on it, then you can use yours to generate more points. Or maybe, in a game like Catan, you can monopolise an important resource, so that the other players have little choice but to trade with you, and you have a lot more control over what it's worth.

4. Can I get other players into an arms race that doesn't affect me?

In so many strategic games, the best core strategy is "do what the other players don't". In something like Caverna, if all the other players are trying to improve their farms first you want to improve your cave. In Ticket to Ride, if everyone is trying to control the centre of the map you should go around the edges. In 7 Wonders if your neighbours are going heavy on military start grabbing the science cards. This strategy tends to work best when going for the same resource (be it cards, or spaces to put workers, or whatever) means you have to put more effort in to ensure you come out better, while uncontested resources can be cheap and plentiful.
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When you're ahead, get more ahead.

...has been a mantra in the Starcraft-scene for a long time (originally coined by one of the Plott brothers, I believe). The gist of it is to (correctly) assess the current power balance in the game and to adapt strategic choices accordingly: When you're in the lead, you should only worry about keeping and solidifying your position - but avoid risky plays like the plague. For example, when you've gained a material advantage in Chess, you don't need to take another risk to gain yet another material advantage - as long as you don't make serious mistakes from now on, you'll keep your lead and win eventually. So play it safe.

Conversely, if you're behind, you absolutely need to take risks, and the bigger your opponent's advantage, the crazier the risks you must take into account. This one is important insofar as it often goes directly against the psychological impulse of 'cutting your losses': But even though it seems as if the leading player would have an easier time getting away with bigger risks, it's actually the player who is about to lose (unless he can change the state of the game dramatically) who should take them.

Of course this doesn't apply to every type of game. If you're playing Poker for money, it absolutely makes sense to cut your losses. That said, I'd say that this is solid advice for the lion's share of strategy games out there, from Chess over Twilight Struggle to Magic.
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Justin Strickland
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hgman3 wrote:
Learn to count. In most games, there is an advantage to be gained by counting something, whether it be the number of a particular type of card left in the deck, or estimating an opponents hidden VPs. Keep track of what the opponents are doing during your own downtime, and you will be that much more of a formidable opponent. A basic knowledge of probability doesn't hurt either.


This is great advice. Counting cards/points/anything relevant to the type of game your playing will put you at an advantage, especially if you know how much of certain things are available if there's a limited supply. This will allow you to optimize your move(s) every turn.

Also, read the rulebook. Knowing the rules usually gives you more inside knowledge, and a better understanding of the workings of the game than your opponents, even if it's a game you all have played before. It just helps you to see what the designer was going for when he created it and sometimes what strategies, specific to that particular game, can be exploited.
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Also from my Chess days, a couple other points stick out:
- Never take an action for the sake of taking an action. Always have a purpose to your actions.
- Never take an action that is going to cost all players (including you) an equal amount of resources. An opponent might find a way to mitigate the cost and leave you at a net loss.
- If you are ahead, simplify the game. The more moves there are, the more likely that there will be a strategy that you overlooked and will let your opponent catch up.

Some general strategies for games about player against player combat:
- The only life point that matters is your last one. The rest of your life points are just a safety nets that can be sacrificed if they will give you a sufficient advantage.
- All other things being equal, you are generally better off reducing your opponent's life rather than gaining your own. Gaining more life than your opponent is rarely a way to win the game. Reducing your opponents life faster than she is reducing yours is almost always a win condition.
- There is no such thing as an incorrect threat, but there is such a thing as an incorrect counter. If you need to spend as many resources setting up a defense to a threat as your opponent does setting that threat up, you will run out of defenses before your opponent runs out of threats.
 
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Mark Wilson
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A text dump of Sun Tzu would likely be relevant here.

...

For many with dedicated game groups, this thread may be a bit nonsensical. But I play in a large, ever-changing group. I end up playing new stuff all the time, so having "general rules" can actually help a lot.

- In deduction games, I'll literally spend the first round or two (or three, four, etc.) just trying to slow down and think through everything. I'm not trying to win. For example: Understanding how someone knows [player A] is lying about being the Seer in Werewolf is more important than, say, telling a believable lie if you're the werewolf. The latter is more of an innate skill; the former requires parsing out the game, which can be hard to do in the thick of it.

- Tons of Euros are engine builders, either overtly or more subtly. When playing one for the first time, the best synergies and balances won't be known to you. But I try to find one thing that meshes well together...a card combo, point track + player ability, etc. etc. and I pick a point usually just after the halfway point in the game (which itself is sometimes guesswork) where I stop trying to build my engine and start converting to points. A great triumph here was Puerto Rico. I've only played it once, and while I did stumble onto some advantageous building combos, I did a great job of creating a scarily efficient point engine, enough to leave some more veteran players in the dust. Problem was, I spent one turn too long waiting to begin conversion. I came in 2nd, but with the table's full knowledge that I was a turn away from putting them all in the rearview. It felt validating, despite the loss. I've also seen others lose while not keeping this in mind, doing their engine building when it's clear the game is almost over.

- My rule in dice rollers is to forget the odds and go for the most epic thing. It rarely happens, but it's great fun.

- As others have said, basic math helps a ton. Ratios and probabilities come into play in tons of games, and most are easily calculable if you keep an awareness of how the game's point system or win conditions work.

- As with an earlier Chess example, if I'm up, I'll happily "trade" like for like. Resources, meeples, pieces, armies, etc. This is a huge mantra for me in Stratego, among others.
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Mike
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An obvious one: Learn the basic rules of probability.

Keep your eyes on the prize. The goal is to win the game. Don't get sidetracked by things like attacking your opponent, building up your engine, or collecting the most resources. These are just means to the end and you should focus on that end.

In a lot of games, there's an invisible resource you have to spend: time. When you're planning out a strategy, remember to think about how many game turns and/or actions it will take you to put in effect. And consider how long you'll have to use it after it goes into effect. Always keep track of how many turns are left in the game and how many actions you'll be able to perform.

Remember to consider relative advantage. If you're playing a two-player game, it can make sense to spend a quarter of your assets to destroy a third of your opponent's assets - you're now stronger than your opponent. But in a three-player game, the same strategy will leave you both weaker than the third guy.

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Larry L
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Appear strong enough not to be an easy target but weak enough not to be a necessary target.

conmanau wrote:

4. Can I get other players into an arms race that doesn't affect me?


Yes. I've won many a point salad Euro by following the (strategy) less traveled by, and that made all the difference.

 
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Joke Meister
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Who's the beatdown?

Although the term originated from Magic (afaik), I think it's a useful concept to bear in mind in any game where you have asymmetric sides. Ultimately, it's about understanding your side's strengths relative to the strengths of your opponent and playing to that (versus playing to your decks strengths as an absolute fixed-in-stone concept).
 
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Ron
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Just thought of another one that surprises some people when I tell them about it
Think in point swing rather than absolute points. A very simple example is the 'longest route' prize in TtR. It's ten points, which isn't that much in the game. But if you're first and the player in second is looking to grab it, making sure you get it instead of them suddenly makes it a 20-point swing.
Probably obvious to most here, but an eye opener for many people I've played with
 
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Bryan Thunkd
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ThinkingThatsAll wrote:
- Never take an action that is going to cost all players (including you) an equal amount of resources. An opponent might find a way to mitigate the cost and leave you at a net loss.
If you have a resource advantage over your opponents then forcing everyone to lose resources could easily benefit you. If for example it costs 3 wood to build things and you have 8 wood and everyone else only has 4 wood then doing something that makes everyone lose 2 wood is great for you. You force your opponents to scramble to get more wood leaving you the only person who can build for a round.
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Thunkd wrote:
ThinkingThatsAll wrote:
- Never take an action that is going to cost all players (including you) an equal amount of resources. An opponent might find a way to mitigate the cost and leave you at a net loss.
If you have a resource advantage over your opponents then forcing everyone to lose resources could easily benefit you. If for example it costs 3 wood to build things and you have 8 wood and everyone else only has 4 wood then doing something that makes everyone lose 2 wood is great for you. You force your opponents to scramble to get more wood leaving you the only person who can build for a round.


True. Everything is situational and a rule of thumb. I am just pointing out that always aiming for even resource trades (especially when you pay your resources down first) is not a good plan because you risk getting outplayed.
 
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Michael McKibbin
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Wormaap wrote:
Just thought of another one that surprises some people when I tell them about it
Think in point swing rather than absolute points. A very simple example is the 'longest route' prize in TtR. It's ten points, which isn't that much in the game. But if you're first and the player in second is looking to grab it, making sure you get it instead of them suddenly makes it a 20-point swing.
Probably obvious to most here, but an eye opener for many people I've played with


On a related note, the object of most games is not to get the MOST points possible. Instead, you just need MORE points than any of your opponents at the end of the game. Sometimes, a well timed "take that" action (be it a direct attack or an indirect blocking action) which disrupts an opponents engine can be more effective than trying to maximize your own points.
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