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Subject: The first deck run through rss

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Simon Maynard
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Having now won the game several times at level 4, I am thinking more and more that what happens on the first time you run through the deck is all important. In that, a "good" first run through the deck will all but set you up for victory.

I do feel however that there is a large element of luck in that first run through. For instance when you are fighting a 0 or 1 rated hazard and you draw the "Genius" card (+2 attack). Or when you draw two 4 or 5 rated hazards and you are forced to fight against one of them.

Reading through the other strategy articles, I don't think there has been enough focus given to this key, early stage of the game. This thread posted a tip that strikes me as somewhat controversial though:
Bart de Vos wrote:
Whenever you engage in a fight in the first run through the deck, as soon as you draw a -1 card, do not continue fighting to try and win a card, no matter how close you are to winning and how much you want the card. It's nearly always best to give up the fight immediately and destroy the card.

Really? Even if you have more free card draws to spare? It's not merely a matter of just drawing more cards in the hope of winning, rather in the hope of getting rid of more bad cards whilst avoiding cycling the green hazard deck too quickly. Although it could back fire if you subsequently draw some good cards (perhaps even end up winning it thereby leaving some bad cards in your deck).

What is the ideal hazard to fight against in the first run through? I like to go up against level 2 or 1 hazards. You might get lucky and actually win them and if not, at least you can destroy 2 or 3 bad cards from your deck. I don't like fighting against 3, 4 or 5 strength hazards because the odds of winning them are extremely slight. Ideally you will draw a mix of -1 and 0 fighting cards so that your cost in life points for losing is justified by the number of cards you can get rid of. Drawing +1 or +2 attack cards is a waste with these hazards. I don't mind fighting against 0 strength hazard cards but only after my 1 and 2 strength hazards are already used so I don't waste them.

What kinds of special abilities are a priority to get into your deck? For me the most important ability is:

Destroy. I want those (and as many as possible) in my deck by the second run through as it quickly becomes the only way you have of getting rid of bad cards on the second deck run through onwards (and boy, are you going to need to). After that, the next most important I think is:

+ Life. Preferably coupled with at least +1 attack. Getting life points back again is the next most important thing after getting rid of those horrible ageing cards. Closely followed by:

+ Cards. Again, preferably at least either +2 cards or combined with at least +1 attack. Being able to get more cards without spending life points is usually very beneficial.

Sort. I love these cards. One reason I rate them so highly is that they always coincide with a decent attack value (unlike all the other types). But also, if you see you've got an ageing card in your next three cards, you can decide whether to leave it there (if you think you'll be able to destroy it) or discard it. Also, arranging the cards in the right order can reduce the number of life points you might need to spend drawing them.

Double/Copy. I rate these about the same. They both rely on what else you have drawn but usually there is another card worth doubling/copying.

Exchange/Below the Deck. These are again about similar worth to me. Both are a potential way of getting extra cards but require you to give up a card. Exchange can be a way of (temporarily) getting rid of ageing cards if you don't have any destroys handy and below the deck can be good to stick your 0 attack/+ life cards back under your deck for later.

-1 phase. Yes, I can see how this can be useful but it has a narrow window of usefulness. Wasted if you draw it in the green phase or during the pirate battles. I will chose this if I'm not already in the red phase and I'm not choosing between it and what I regard as a far more useful card.

So, after the first run through of your deck, the ideal situation for me is having gotten rid of your first ageing card, all five of your "distracted" and at least half of your "weak" cards. In addition, you will have picked up a "destroy", a "+ life" card and a another +2 attack card of one sort or another.

[Edited - I forgot to discuss the 'Sort' card]
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Lars Enden
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You might be interested in my Friday-bot. Basically, I got bored with playing the game and thought it would be more fun to try to develop the most efficient bot I could to play the game.

Here is how I developed it. There are essentially two major choices to make in the game. The first is which card of the two drawn cards to take on, and the second is whether to lose a battle or press on. For the first decision, I had to come up with a ranking for all of the cards so that the bot would be able to decide which card to pick. That was the easier part, but it required thinking about just how valuable each power is. For the second decision, which was a lot trickier, I had to come up with a system for choosing when to use powers and spend life points on drawing cards and when to lose a battle to cull cards.

I tinkered with the bot for a long time and did lots of playthroughs with it. I doubt that it is optimal, but it wins on level 4 probably about 30-40% of the time. I have to agree with you that the luck of the draw in the first time through the deck makes most of the difference whether the bot wins or loses. So, it is probably the most important aspect of whether or not a live player wins or loses as well.

If you would like to see the bot, I'd be happy to share it with you.
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Dave Moser
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That's a good analysis, and I agree that the order and matchups of hazards make a huge difference, especially during the first pass. I've also come to the conclusion that when picking the hazard to face, selecting the best ability is more important than choosing by difficulty or strength alone. And I mostly agree with your ranking of the abilities, with one exception. The "Below the Deck" ability is great, and I suspect underappreciated by a lot of players. I had it rated about the same as you for a long time, even when I was winning regularly at level 3 and often higher. Then I read a few posts here that opened my eyes to some uses that I had been overlooking, and now I try harder to get that cards when I can. My priority tends to go like this:

1) Destroy (unless I know I already have several)
2) Equipment (+2 Cards)
3) +x Life
4) +1 Card
5) Under the Deck
6) Copy or Double
7) Exchange
8) Draw 3 and Discard/Rearrange (Used to like these more, but now I generally wait till Red phase to pick them up, and then mostly for the strength points. Having said that, the ability is handy and has made for some very satisfying moves.)
9) -1 Phase (May rate this a little higher if I haven't picked up much strength, AND if it shows up close to the end of Green or early in Yellow.)

Getting back to "Below the Deck", at first I used it only to remove bad cards, like a weaker Destroy that would get me through the immediate fight. Then I started to appreciate how I could use it on low-strength cards on the left after using their abilities, and then get another free card. It wasn't until much later until I caught on to using it after winning a battle to put that "+2 cards" or "+2 life" card back under my draw deck to get to use them more often, and slow down the cycling of the deck at the same time. (And, in a pinch, of course, you can still use them to postpone dealing with an Aging card that would otherwise kill you.) Great card!
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Simon Maynard
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Lars Enden wrote:

I tinkered with the bot for a long time and did lots of playthroughs with it. I doubt that it is optimal, but it wins on level 4 probably about 30-40% of the time. I have to agree with you that the luck of the draw in the first time through the deck makes most of the difference whether the bot wins or loses. So, it is probably the most important aspect of whether or not a live player wins or loses as well.

That seems about the same as my win rate against L4 at the moment. I wouldn't say I have an algorithm worked out as such though.

Thanks for the offer but, I don't really want to see your formula as interesting as it might be. As soon as I feel like I'm playing through this game algorithmically I'll probably lose all interest. I like to think that, even if I am deluding myself, that sheer human judgement is an important aspect to playing the game!
Dave Moser wrote:
I've also come to the conclusion that when picking the hazard to face, selecting the best ability is more important than choosing by difficulty or strength alone.

The only abilities I weigh into my equation when choosing which hazard to face is "destroy" and "life". Other than that I'll go purely on attack values.
Quote:
etting back to "Below the Deck", at first I used it only to remove bad cards, like a weaker Destroy that would get me through the immediate fight. Then I started to appreciate how I could use it on low-strength cards on the left after using their abilities, and then get another free card. It wasn't until much later until I caught on to using it after winning a battle to put that "+2 cards" or "+2 life" card back under my draw deck to get to use them more often, and slow down the cycling of the deck at the same time. (And, in a pinch, of course, you can still use them to postpone dealing with an Aging card that would otherwise kill you.) Great card!

But...you can only use them after a battle if you still have enough attack to beat the hazard by, right? Whilst I sometimes go over, I usually don't have any attack to spare so can only afford to put 0 attack cards back under (ideally life cards).
 
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Dave Moser
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Fried Egg wrote:
But...you can only use them after a battle if you still have enough attack to beat the hazard by, right? Whilst I sometimes go over, I usually don't have any attack to spare so can only afford to put 0 attack cards back under (ideally life cards).


True, but there are plenty of good 0-value cards, especially the +2Life and +2Cards, but others as well. Putting any of those back under your deck means one more card you can draw before aging again. Also, how many times do you only need one more strength, but you draw a 3 or 4, or a Double? In that case you may be able to use Under The Deck to recycle a 2 or 3 strength card. No, you probably won't have a use for it every time, but that's true of most of the other abilities too. Only +Life is going to help you every time. (Maybe not even those, if you're able to max out the life points!)
 
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Sean Quallen
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Many of you are ranking the -1 phase card way, way too low. This card essentially wins the battle every time it comes up in the yellow or red phase, especially considering that it can be copied during the red phase. Are you not seeing it enough? Then your deck is probably too large.
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Simon Maynard
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SSJGQ wrote:
Many of you are ranking the -1 phase card way, way too low. This card essentially wins the battle every time it comes up in the yellow or red phase, especially considering that it can be copied during the red phase. Are you not seeing it enough? Then your deck is probably too large.

Usually in the red phase, most (if not all) of the difficult hazards I've already incorporated into my deck (and you should be going up against them as early as possible, right?). So the usefulness of the phase -1 card is therefore mainly limited to mainly the yellow phase. And after that you want to be destroying it if possible (which is not always possible because you've probably got ageing cards that need to be destroyed first).
 
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Sean Quallen
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Fried Egg wrote:
Usually in the red phase, most (if not all) of the difficult hazards I've already incorporated into my deck (and you should be going up against them as early as possible, right?).


If you have the -1 phase card you don't have to take on all of the difficult hazards first, allowing you to leave them for later phases and take on the simple ones (often containing the most useful abilities) earlier.

But everyone's strategy is their own. That's the idea I use.
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David Jones
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SSJGQ wrote:
If you have the -1 phase card you don't have to take on all of the difficult hazards first, allowing you to leave them for later phases and take on the simple ones (often containing the most useful abilities) earlier.

But everyone's strategy is their own. That's the idea I use.


My problem with this card is that I've had too many games where I am on my last card draw and then I pull the -1 phase, and so I lose the game. Against pirates, its useless. The ability is worth zero. The attack is worth zero. It is a dead card that forces you to spend a life to draw something else at the time in the game when the most important thing is having the best deck you can have. As somebody else pointed out, you're wanting to try to destroy it during the red phase. So now you've built a deck where you're relying on a certain card to help you defeat the difficult cards in the red phase, but at the same time you've got to figure out how to destroy it. I'm sure it can be done, but its pain to figure out the timing really does depend getting the right shuffle. IMHO, its easier (and better) to simply figure out how to get through the game without it in the first place. If you know how to make this balancing act work, more power to you, but I've not been able to make the effort pay off.
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Lars Enden
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Fried Egg wrote:
I don't really want to see your formula as interesting as it might be. As soon as I feel like I'm playing through this game algorithmically I'll probably lose all interest. I like to think that, even if I am deluding myself, that sheer human judgement is an important aspect to playing the game!


Yeah, I totally get that. I basically started developing the bot because I noticed that I was essentially playing by rote anyway. I had pretty much worked out for myself what the optimal choice was in just about every situation, and I just kept playing the game the same way. So, I thought it would be more fun to see if I could "prove" that my understanding of the optimal choices were correct. Don't get me wrong, I love the game, and I had a blast playing it many, many times, but it is pretty clear after a few play throughs that there is an optimal strategy, so, for me, it has become more fun to try to work out that optimal strategy, which is far from obvious, than to actually play the game.
 
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