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Subject: Attack vs Diplomacy - Diplomacy wins! rss

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Delith Malistar
United States
Appleton
Wisconsin
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So I played my very first game this last weekend. Not knowing anything about the game, I decided to try going the route of attacking and forgo any diplomacy. By the end of the game, I realized just how powerful diplomacy is compared to attacking. Here's my findings.

1) In order to attack, you need many pirates or sea serpents. Not a big deal as you also need a lot of influence to win diplomatically. However, it seemed way easier to get influence then build up an army to fight. When certain events just require you to exhaust a crew member to gain potentially 6 or 7 influence (which can be enough to take certain towns) it just seems silly to have to first gather fish (or wood), then gather sea serpents/pirates just to take over a town. Gaining three influence cubes is HUGE if the influence track is nearing full.

2) In order to attack, you need to roll random dice. It's quite possible that your two sea serpents become useless due to this random factor, compared to diplomacy which is you either take the city or you don't even try. But to attack, you have a chance of not succeeding. Sure, you could burn some wood to reroll a die but then you're using up costly resources you had to first gather in order to win while your fellow players didn't. And if you do have to use a wood, it's still not a guaranteed victory. You could still lose and now you lost resources too. Attacking just seems like there is so much stacked against you compared to diplomacy.

3) If you do fail because of random dice rolling, you can severely hamper yourself even more by injuring crew to win. Of course, if I knew ahead of time I couldn't win I wouldn't have even tried attacking. But since I didn't, now I need to burn an extra turn resting just to get back up to speed with the rest of the players, who all played this game before and went the diplomatic route.

4) If I do end up winning, I just lost my army. So now I need to spend a couple rounds gathering resources to buy another army. In the meantime, other players are just doing events that get them 4, 5 or 6 influence in one swoop. They then take over the diplomatic towns with relative ease, gain money, buy buildings that all help in some other way and make's their game even easier.

Unlike Diplomacy, where you know if you will win, attacking just has too much stacked against it to make it a viable alternative in the game. The spoils are the same no matter which way you go but to get ahead in the game, it just seems like diplomacy is the better alternative.

After the game, I mentioned this to the rest of the players and they hesitantly agreed. In fact, two of them said that they also tried attacking in their first couple games and lost hands down. One player said in his third game, he went diplomacy and while he didn't win, he did remarkably better than when he tried attacking instead. The owner of the game also won the game we played. He went full on diplomacy. He's not a dumb guy so it makes me think he knew the inherent risks in attacking and decided against spending any resources doing that.

So can someone explain to me why anyone would want to attack instead of diplomacy? Is there an inherit risk in diplomacy I don't know about or is the risk only in attacking? Is there a rule we were missing that makes attacking a viable option? Because as it stands, I think this game is somewhat broken and am surprised it made it to print with such a lopsided system.

I really would like to like the game but just can't justify playing it again. I would just play full on diplomacy and miss out on a big portion of the game.
 
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Mike DiLisio
United States
Indianapolis
Indiana
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While I haven't played enough games to definitively say whether diplomacy is over powered, I think your analysis is incomplete. There are numerous characters and buildings that make attacking a more attractive and viable option. I think it largely depends on your early strategic focus, plus which buildings/characters come out early.
 
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Dan Harrow
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I would say the largest flaw in your argument is that you are implying that one must choose to ONLY attack or ONLY ally with towns.

Try a mix of both attack and diplomacy in your next game and see where that gets you.
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John Burt
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Sizzla wrote:
While I haven't played enough games to definitively say whether diplomacy is over powered, I think your analysis is incomplete. There are numerous characters and buildings that make attacking a more attractive and viable option. I think it largely depends on your early strategic focus, plus which buildings/characters come out early.


This. This game is about putting together useful combos, such as acquiring buildings and towns that help you with an attack strategy. Plus some towns can't be acquired via diplomacy, and also the available events at a given time may not give enough influence to be worth fulfilling, thus pushing players towards attacking instead.

Another thing to consider: try playing a game where all players are heavily competing for influence. You might then find that it's hard to get enough influence to take any big towns, and that an attack strategy would have worked better!
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Anthony Faber
United States
Chicago
Illinois
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I think the two are pretty well balanced. A few other challenges with diplomacy:

1) The first several cubes are very weak, so the first person into diplomacy is often just setting up the other players to do better. This can delay people from getting into it.

2) My sense of the board is that there are fewer permanent locations to get resources for diplomacy versus attacking (there's a spot for sea serpents and three different places to get pirates), so if multiple people are going diplomacy, you may have to exhaust your crew a lot to get what you need.

3) The events which get you diplomacy often require a successful to attack to complete them, so even if you are mostly focusing on diplomacy, it often pays to have some attacking forces on hand.
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Mike Charbonneau
Canada
Montreal
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Remember that owning town doesn't really give you points, it gives you more control over the map however. Also some town will never be conquered (take control) by diplomacy, only attacking them will get you control.

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Randy Shipp
United States
Irving
Texas
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After one play, I largely agree with the OP. I'm looking forward to more plays to be sure. But attacking seems like a much more fraught strategy, requiring several more actions to set up (acquire wood/fish, acquire serpent/soldier [at an expected value of only 1.66 and 1.5 combat points each, respectively], then go attack) along with the risk of either very poor *or very good* dice. Going to get fish might get you six fish on a typical turn, which (assuming you arrive with three fresh crew) gets you three serpents, which on average is worth five attack points. To get five influence requires...a decent event at a place you might already be going to use a beneficial action. So, that's essentially a net two action advantage: one person spent two actions to bet set up to attack; the other spent one fewer action to get ready for diplomacy, plus they have the benefit of whatever action they did before the event. I know it won't work out that way every time, but it's the general pattern. And since the presence of synergistic buildings isn't tilted in favor of combat, that's no help.

I suspect that, absent a nice combination of buildings and crew, fighting isn't going to be the best option most of the time.
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