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Subject: Building a Library to Victory (or 'How to break the game with books') rss

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Adam Salvail
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I unwrapped and played my first game of Islebound two days ago and want to share my experience.

We played a two players standard game, without the Metropolis deck, to familiarize ourselves with the rules.

I had in mind to focus on diplomacy (less randomness) while the first few rounds of my opponent hinted towards a focus on combat. To get a lot of influence cubes fast, the best way seemed to be to do events and to achieve the highest paying events, you need resources. The rate at which you get those resources being dependent on the number of crew you have on board with the 'Work' symbol, I decided very early to expand my crew.

After several turns, my diplomacy bar was full, my crew consisted of 8-9 people, my ship could sail at full speed. Then I noticed Zilliam (1 fist > 1 book, at the cost by exhausting one crew member). The combo of The Grotto (gain 4 + number of worker on deck fishes) - Zilliam - Thundrake (rest + 1 book > 2 renown) could net me 16-20 renown each three turns. Lacking money? Replace Thundrake with Crimsika to top up on influence and go conquer some diplomatic towns (this is how I ended up building my crew; much easier than doing events).

To my unexperienced eyes, this is such a dominant strategy that the only way my opponent could have hoped to achieve anything is by copying the same strategy. My opponent forfeited, disgusted by the insane amount of points I made each turns.

With this in mind, does anyone see either a rule I misread or a counter to this strategy that we missed? Otherwise, that is clearly a broken strategy that killed this game us. Hopefully, someone can shed some light on this for me.

Cheers!
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Milena Guberinic
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We had a similar experience last night when we found Zilliam next to Thundrake. My opponent also acquired the Library, which provides points for every book acquired. It was double trouble. The only way I had to stop him was to end the game by collecting all the buildings needed to bring the game to an end. We weren't that far apart in terms of points, but he did win. I think the proximity of Zilliam and Thundrake was the biggest problem in our case and I would recommend separating those two at the very least.
 
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John Van Wagoner
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milenaguberinic wrote:
We had a similar experience last night when we found Zilliam next to Thundrake. My opponent also acquired the Library, which provides points for every book acquired. It was double trouble. The only way I had to stop him was to end the game by collecting all the buildings needed to bring the game to an end. We weren't that far apart in terms of points, but he did win. I think the proximity of Zilliam and Thundrake was the biggest problem in our case and I would recommend separating those two at the very least.
not having played yet (my game arrives today), how exactly do you 'seperate' them?
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ParisianDreams
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John_VW wrote:
milenaguberinic wrote:
We had a similar experience last night when we found Zilliam next to Thundrake. My opponent also acquired the Library, which provides points for every book acquired. It was double trouble. The only way I had to stop him was to end the game by collecting all the buildings needed to bring the game to an end. We weren't that far apart in terms of points, but he did win. I think the proximity of Zilliam and Thundrake was the biggest problem in our case and I would recommend separating those two at the very least.
not having played yet (my game arrives today), how exactly do you 'seperate' them?


Each time you put out the tiles, it's random, there is no set placement. So when you are laying down the center tiles, do not put those two cities close together.
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Jason Monroe
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John_VW wrote:
milenaguberinic wrote:
We had a similar experience last night when we found Zilliam next to Thundrake. My opponent also acquired the Library, which provides points for every book acquired. It was double trouble. The only way I had to stop him was to end the game by collecting all the buildings needed to bring the game to an end. We weren't that far apart in terms of points, but he did win. I think the proximity of Zilliam and Thundrake was the biggest problem in our case and I would recommend separating those two at the very least.
not having played yet (my game arrives today), how exactly do you 'seperate' them?


The game board is comprised of several tiles so you can separate the towns by placing their respective tiles apart from one another as best as you can
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Adam Salvail
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But since going faster with the 'Speed' crew doesn't exhaust them, by the time this strategy becomes interesting, I have a speed of 4 and nowhere on the map is too far.

Also, I feel like this should have been fixed in playtesting. The Zilliam town is way too powerful.
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John Van Wagoner
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thanks...will remember that is setup...
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Jonathan Jordan
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milenaguberinic wrote:
We had a similar experience last night when we found Zilliam next to Thundrake. My opponent also acquired the Library, which provides points for every book acquired. It was double trouble. The only way I had to stop him was to end the game by collecting all the buildings needed to bring the game to an end. We weren't that far apart in terms of points, but he did win. I think the proximity of Zilliam and Thundrake was the biggest problem in our case and I would recommend separating those two at the very least.


That is exactly how my friend won our first game. He would bounce back and forth between gaining books and trading them in for points. Coupled with the Library, he was gaining more point in a turn than anyone could keep up with. It was pretty painful, but awesome at the same time.
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Milena Guberinic
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ASalvail wrote:
But since going faster with the 'Speed' crew doesn't exhaust them, by the time this strategy becomes interesting, I have a speed of 4 and nowhere on the map is too far.

Also, I feel like this should have been fixed in playtesting. The Zilliam town is way too powerful.


I agree that Zilliam is very powerful (and possibly too powerful), but there are other powerful strategies in the game. The point at which Zilliam becomes insane is when Zilliam and Thundrake and the cheap wood source are all next to each other and you literally don't have to do anything (including to build up a good sailing crew) to get it to work. In the time that it takes to build up a good crew and start doing what you were doing, your opponent should be doing other things to acquire points like getting buildings and taking over towns to bring the game to completion and limit the time you have to capitalize on your combo. It is possible to create powerful, synergistic combos with buildings that have nothing to do with Zilliam, but Zilliam is a very simple and obvious source of points.
 
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Anthony Faber
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I think any path is 'broken' if you have the right building support, the right crew, the right events, and the right proximity of locations. The game encourages powerful combos, and I don't think it's any kind of mistake - the person who can best exploit them deserves to win.

Yeah, if you spend a bunch of turns building up to 8 or 9 crew, you can take incredibly powerful actions. But the other players should have taken over towns and bought buildings by then, getting them ahead on points and getting their own engines rolling.

And the other players don't have to be bystanders to a combo strategy. If I saw someone doing what the OP was talking about, I would try to take over Zilliam and Thundrake to get paid every turn. If multiple players think this is the best path, then there will also be a fair bit of parleying necessary, which will reduce the path's efficiency.
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Milena Guberinic
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maxlongstreet wrote:

I think any path is 'broken' if you have the right building support, the right crew, the right events, and the right proximity of locations. The game encourages powerful combos, and I don't think it's any kind of mistake - the person who can best exploit them deserves to win.

Yeah, if you spend a bunch of turns building up to 8 or 9 crew, you can take incredibly powerful actions. But the other players should have taken over towns and bought buildings by then, getting them ahead on points and getting their own engines rolling.

And the other players don't have to be bystanders to a combo strategy. If I saw someone doing what the OP was talking about, I would try to take over Zilliam and Thundrake to get paid every turn. If multiple players think this is the best path, then there will also be a fair bit of parleying necessary, which will reduce the path's efficiency.


Completely agree! However, I do think this simple path can be problematic in a 2-player game, which is what I believe was the OP's experience. When playing with only two players, a) you can't really parley and get in the combo player's way as well as multiple players could and b) you see far fewer buildings over the course of the game than you would with more players, which can limit the other play's ability to create a combo of his own. If one player gets a library and is able to exploit this combination quickly while the other struggles to draw VP-happy buildings from the deck, the Zilliam-Thunkdrake strategy can indeed turn out to lead to a foregone conclusion. Of course, this is an unlikely situation, but it did happen to us, so I think it is worth discussing. If anything, I think the 6th building variant and the close quarters variants may help with the two-player game in this respect.
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Anthony Faber
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milenaguberinic wrote:
maxlongstreet wrote:

I think any path is 'broken' if you have the right building support, the right crew, the right events, and the right proximity of locations. The game encourages powerful combos, and I don't think it's any kind of mistake - the person who can best exploit them deserves to win.

Yeah, if you spend a bunch of turns building up to 8 or 9 crew, you can take incredibly powerful actions. But the other players should have taken over towns and bought buildings by then, getting them ahead on points and getting their own engines rolling.

And the other players don't have to be bystanders to a combo strategy. If I saw someone doing what the OP was talking about, I would try to take over Zilliam and Thundrake to get paid every turn. If multiple players think this is the best path, then there will also be a fair bit of parleying necessary, which will reduce the path's efficiency.


Completely agree! However, I do think this simple path can be problematic in a 2-player game, which is what I believe was the OP's experience. When playing with only two players, a) you can't really parley and get in the combo player's way as well as multiple players could and b) you see far fewer buildings over the course of the game than you would with more players, which can limit the other play's ability to create a combo of his own. If one player gets a library and is able to exploit this combination quickly while the other struggles to draw VP-happy buildings from the deck, the Zilliam-Thunkdrake strategy can indeed turn out to lead to a foregone conclusion. Of course, this is an unlikely situation, but it did happen to us, so I think it is worth discussing. If anything, I think the 6th building variant and the close quarters variants may help with the two-player game in this respect.


I wasn't thinking about the two player game, which I'd guess isn't as tight as it should be - what you say makes a lot of sense.

If someone's going up to 8 or 9 crew however, as someone did in the OP's game, that seems really slow - a good opponent should be way ahead of that player before they start rolling their engine.
 
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Adam Salvail
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maxlongstreet wrote:
milenaguberinic wrote:
maxlongstreet wrote:

I think any path is 'broken' if you have the right building support, the right crew, the right events, and the right proximity of locations. The game encourages powerful combos, and I don't think it's any kind of mistake - the person who can best exploit them deserves to win.

Yeah, if you spend a bunch of turns building up to 8 or 9 crew, you can take incredibly powerful actions. But the other players should have taken over towns and bought buildings by then, getting them ahead on points and getting their own engines rolling.

And the other players don't have to be bystanders to a combo strategy. If I saw someone doing what the OP was talking about, I would try to take over Zilliam and Thundrake to get paid every turn. If multiple players think this is the best path, then there will also be a fair bit of parleying necessary, which will reduce the path's efficiency.


Completely agree! However, I do think this simple path can be problematic in a 2-player game, which is what I believe was the OP's experience. When playing with only two players, a) you can't really parley and get in the combo player's way as well as multiple players could and b) you see far fewer buildings over the course of the game than you would with more players, which can limit the other play's ability to create a combo of his own. If one player gets a library and is able to exploit this combination quickly while the other struggles to draw VP-happy buildings from the deck, the Zilliam-Thunkdrake strategy can indeed turn out to lead to a foregone conclusion. Of course, this is an unlikely situation, but it did happen to us, so I think it is worth discussing. If anything, I think the 6th building variant and the close quarters variants may help with the two-player game in this respect.


I wasn't thinking about the two player game, which I'd guess isn't as tight as it should be - what you say makes a lot of sense.

If someone's going up to 8 or 9 crew however, as someone did in the OP's game, that seems really slow - a good opponent should be way ahead of that player before they start rolling their engine.


I don't know about your experience, but when you think about it, since you start with 3 crew members and since there is two spots on the map where you can hire crew, that means that in 6 turns you are up to 9 crew members. In that time, someone trying to attack towns might have had the chance to get maybe two, for an optimistic estimate of 18 coins/renown. From then on, the person with 10 crew members can rack up 20 renown every 3 turns, making this 18 coins advance pretty sad. When you factor in the bonus you get each time you reach 7 renown, I don't think someone using a "normal" strategy could catch up unless he gets really lucky with the buildings available.

Sidenote: in my game, the buildings were quite underwhelming. For example, getting 1 renown each time I build a building is interesting only to get ~7-10 points during the game. I'd much rather keep those coins to keep visiting the three magical islands...

Let's say we want to house rule this problem away, what do you think should be limited? The number of possessed books? The number of crew members? The number of time you get to buy books on Zilliam?
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Jason Monroe
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I've only played twice (both 2p) and I think the close quarters variant should be mandatory in a 2p.
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Anthony Faber
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ASalvail wrote:
maxlongstreet wrote:
milenaguberinic wrote:
maxlongstreet wrote:

I think any path is 'broken' if you have the right building support, the right crew, the right events, and the right proximity of locations. The game encourages powerful combos, and I don't think it's any kind of mistake - the person who can best exploit them deserves to win.

Yeah, if you spend a bunch of turns building up to 8 or 9 crew, you can take incredibly powerful actions. But the other players should have taken over towns and bought buildings by then, getting them ahead on points and getting their own engines rolling.

And the other players don't have to be bystanders to a combo strategy. If I saw someone doing what the OP was talking about, I would try to take over Zilliam and Thundrake to get paid every turn. If multiple players think this is the best path, then there will also be a fair bit of parleying necessary, which will reduce the path's efficiency.


Completely agree! However, I do think this simple path can be problematic in a 2-player game, which is what I believe was the OP's experience. When playing with only two players, a) you can't really parley and get in the combo player's way as well as multiple players could and b) you see far fewer buildings over the course of the game than you would with more players, which can limit the other play's ability to create a combo of his own. If one player gets a library and is able to exploit this combination quickly while the other struggles to draw VP-happy buildings from the deck, the Zilliam-Thunkdrake strategy can indeed turn out to lead to a foregone conclusion. Of course, this is an unlikely situation, but it did happen to us, so I think it is worth discussing. If anything, I think the 6th building variant and the close quarters variants may help with the two-player game in this respect.


I wasn't thinking about the two player game, which I'd guess isn't as tight as it should be - what you say makes a lot of sense.

If someone's going up to 8 or 9 crew however, as someone did in the OP's game, that seems really slow - a good opponent should be way ahead of that player before they start rolling their engine.


I don't know about your experience, but when you think about it, since you start with 3 crew members and since there is two spots on the map where you can hire crew, that means that in 6 turns you are up to 9 crew members. In that time, someone trying to attack towns might have had the chance to get maybe two, for an optimistic estimate of 18 coins/renown. From then on, the person with 10 crew members can rack up 20 renown every 3 turns, making this 18 coins advance pretty sad. When you factor in the bonus you get each time you reach 7 renown, I don't think someone using a "normal" strategy could catch up unless he gets really lucky with the buildings available.

Sidenote: in my game, the buildings were quite underwhelming. For example, getting 1 renown each time I build a building is interesting only to get ~7-10 points during the game. I'd much rather keep those coins to keep visiting the three magical islands...

Let's say we want to house rule this problem away, what do you think should be limited? The number of possessed books? The number of crew members? The number of time you get to buy books on Zilliam?


I would be sure you are using the basic side of under unservall, where it essemtially costs two to add a crew. Given it then costs 9 gold to get to nine crew, this will slow up this engine by a couple turns.

Better yet, put undervall and morlim 4 spaces away from each other. Now you're talking about close to 12 turns to get 9 crew, during which time the other player should have a really big lead.
 
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Kim Williams
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What seems odd to me is how come Books were such an unpopular strategy during playtesting, yet there seems to be lots of threads suggesting they're very strong in actual play.

Ryan even posted that he's deliberately made there be more events at Zilliam ( which is why I often try to grab Zilliam early in a game) to encourage people to go there:

mechanicalfish wrote:
Temelin wrote:


6) Just out of curiosity, why are there 3 events for Zilliam, 2 events for Rockslide, and only 1 event everywhere else? Those spaces didn't seem that much less powerful or less frequently visited to warrant the extra attention.

Book strategies are a little more specialized and not as obvious as some of the other paths, so those towns have more events to help books see more use.

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Jason Monroe
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During play testing Ryan said they never ran out of renown tokens either but folks were reporting it shortly after it was received by backers

Maybe he could use some new play testers
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Roberto Mancino
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This is the second game of Islebound (2 players) and I tried the same strategy Grotto-Zilliam-Thundrake (GZT). This strategy is powerful. I don't know at the moment if there are better or equivalent strategies.

It doesn't matter if the cities are close or not. I also bought the Library but I think that isn't the main problem.

In the rulebook it is specified that there is no limit to the number of books that a player can have.

I think that a possibile solution is to set a limit for a number of books per player. Maybe 4 books (in the game there are 12 book tokens).
What do you think?
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