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Subject: Early Thoughts on Strategy for Arcane Academy rss

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Rabid Schnauzer
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Winning this game is about action efficiency - are your actions generating more points than your opponent(s)' actions are generating?

That said, there are a number of ways to break that down:

Slate Efficiency Considerations:

*Rest Efficiency: How many turns can you take before you need to Rest? Having more tiles helps here. So do cards which can substitute for rest, such as Energy Burst, Invigorate, Apothecary's Elixir and Time Dilation

*Tile Efficiency: How many effects does each of your tiles generate? A +2 Will AND +2 Shard tile does a whole lot more than a +1 will OR +1 Shard tile

*Linked Efficiency: How many of your linked tiles trigger off of activating a tile? While that 2 Will and 2 Shard Tile is pretty strong, it's possible to have a slate that gains twice that much by triggering up to 4 tiles each with +2 resources as linked actions to a 4 connection Activated Tile.

Assignment Efficiency Considerations:

*Cost to Prestige ratio. Note that in raw numbers, Spells average out a lot better than items here - with the 26 spells in the deck add up to offer 80 total combined Prestige for only 84 Will, while the 26 items in the deck add up to offer 57 total combined Prestige for 112 Shards.

*Card to Prestige ratio: The game has a soft cap of 8 cards triggering Pencils Down. Which means that the average prestige per card played is going to limit how high your score can go. This is where the ability of items to add Prestige Tokens can compensate for their worse average cost to Prestige ratio than Spells.

*Future Efficiency Improvements: Cards like Redjack's Mantle, Bow of Spell Mastery, and Gloves of Stolen Dreams reduce costs and/or gain resources going forward in the game


However, what makes this game interactive instead of just a solo optimization puzzle involving randomized cards and tiles is the endgame condition. If you have more points on the board, you want to spam many cheap assignments to trigger Pencils Down as soon as possible; conversely if you have more resources banked and/or a better Slate, then you want to maximize the value of each Assignment you complete and play for the long game.

Some random bullet points:

* In the earlygame, resource accumulation and slate building is key. In the lategame, being able to trigger multiple Complete Assignment / Use Item actions at once becomes much more important

* The default opening seems to be: First Turn gain tile, link to other gain tile slot; Second Turn gain tile + newly linked action. There are times it is worth grabbing an early cheap assignment, but I do not yet understand the game well enough to give useful advice about which circumstances make that worthwhile.

* Winning scores so far in my experience have been in the high 20s to low 30s range.

* In general, it is better to gain a Will than a Shard. Spells are more point efficient per resource and there are many ways to turn Will into Shards profitably (Masterwork Tools, Harvest), there are not equivalent ways to turn Shards into Will.

* It seems there is a first-player advantage. This gets a bit more pronounced in 4 player where the last player is at a notable disadvantage due to tiles and cheap assignments being picked over.

My Current Thoughts on ALL THE CARDS:


Energy Burst: The effect can refresh a central tile in the early-to-midgame, but the $0 for 1 prestige and the commonality is the big deal here. You can spam these to try to rush Pencils Down if your opponent is going for slower builds, or you can hold on to them to gain surprise points in the post-Pencils Down turn.

Kinetic Siphon: This costs 2 Will and gains back a Will and a Shard, generating 2 Prestige for doing so - also it slightly slows your opponents.

Frost Storm: Very occasionally this can shut down an opposing earlygame ramp, but usually it's just $2 for 2 points.

Invigorate: Spending 3 Will to rest-without-resting is very very strong when you can cast it as part of a linked action chain.

Refine: This is 3 Will for 3 Prestige. Plus another Prestige per Item you have. If you hold on to this until late game, it can offer a very high Prestige to Cost ratio and also great Prestige for a single card.

Harvest: This is 4 Will for 4 Prestige. It's also worth noting that this is only the most common (3 in the deck) way to turn your Will into Shards - while there aren't really any ways to turn your Shards into Will (at least without also using an Item activation tile)

Energy Dispersal: This inverse of Refine is overcosted in most cases. All it does is point swing, and you need an opponent to have Prestige Tokens on multiple items for the swing to be a better cost to Prestige ratio than 1:1. Note that an opponent having multiple items each with Prestige tokens is both harder for your own actions to influence and going to occur less often than the case of you having multiple items that makes Refine so good. Many cheaper spells are giving you a 1/1 ratio and also often doing useful things.

Desecration: This is a combo-piece spell. It's expensive and gives only 2 prestige, but it can let you complete up to 3 more assignments as part of the action where you play it.

Combustion: This is $6 for 6 Prestige with the effect being a slightly more hosey, but still pretty rare way to mess with your opponent(s) immediate plans.

Time Dilation: This is the big spell, it's effect is pwnsome, and it gives you 5 Prestige from one card, so you can deal with the cost to point ratio being less than 1:1


Psinium Cutter / Focused Edge: These 0-cost 0-Prestige items let you turn Item Activation tiles into resource gathering tiles. That can be useful in the very earlygame, but after that you want to be generating Prestige with any Item Activations, so you should care most about how these let you rush to Pencils Down.

Bow of Spell Mastery: This is a 1-cost item which improves the efficiency of an action you are going to take anyways.

Judgement Spear / Eye of Dissonance: These start at 0 Prestige, so you need to use Item Activations to make them worthwhile, do not buy if you don't have a Slate which easily allows for such Activations. If you do have a Slate which can support them the activation can give an opponent a choice between being resource-starved or feeding you points. In 4 player, you can often pick the player who will give you the effect you want. Also, mad props for spelling Judgement correctly instead of the way my word processor keeps trying to correct it to.

Singularity Sphere: This is 3 for 3. It also has a Use action which can generate a few more Prestige in the lategame, but you usually don't want to activate it until more than halfway through the game.

Rings of Velocity: This is the 2nd best Use-to-get Prestige item in the game. You Use it, you potentially get another option ( if you have a linked "Add Tile" or "Chaos Magic" ) tile and you get a Prestige. You also build the endgame score on Armor of the Inverse and the limitation of there needing to be tiles to discard (subject to nonsensical official clarification) is going to come up very very rarely.

Quill of Legends / Harmonic Scales: These cards are overcosted and you should probably avoid them aside from kingmaker situations in multiplayer. Being able to gain 2 Prestige per Use Item is decent, but the fact that each activation is a 2-resource swing for your opponent means that you need a board that is efficient with both Use Item tiles and also with resource generation to pull ahead with these. Although the Opponent gets no choice and it's a 2-point gain, the setup for that is just so much harder than Judgement Spear / Eye of Dissonance that I wonder why these are the more expensive option.

Bracers of Division: This is the el numero uno points-per-Use Item in the entire game. It's 3-points per activation, and supposedly self-limiting. But in practice it's not that hard to plan around. If you have it in hand or completed early you want to focus on slate-building and resource acquisition while your opponent(s) pull ahead to set up for multiple Use Items later. Note that you do not get the bonus points from Synchronistic Sculpture, Armor of the Inverse nor (especially) Doubling Cube until the End-of-Game, so those big ticket items do not prevent you from gaining Prestige via using this.

Shears of Fate: In actual play, it's pretty rare that an opponent will give you the +2 Prestige from activation unless there's kingmaking collusion going on in multiplayer.

Gloves of Stolen Dreams: The passive effect is really good if you can buy these early in a 3 or 4 player game. In a 2 player game, your opponent can use Energy Bursts, Invigorates and just extra tile layings to keep you from getting the benefit all that often.

Masterwork Tools: These give the passive ability to spend Will as Shards. Note that the closest the game offers to the other way around is the 1-Will discount of Redjack's Mantle.

Dimensional Puzzle Box: This card increases your options pretty significantly. It also needs a bunch of timing clarifications. For purposes of linked actions, I assume that the tile-on-card and extra private assignment are drawn when the item is first played and not replaced until end-of-turn, but I don't actually know that and there are cases where the precise timing matters considerably. If you get to see replacements in the middle of your turn, this gets even better.

Rod of Psychomancy: Time Walk in an item. Less expensive, less immediate and less Prestige than the Spell version, but still very powerful

Redjack's Mantle: This is the closest the game comes to letting you sub in shards for Will.

Apothecary's Elixir: The effect is great, but the cost is high and opponents can time their Rest actions to play around it. This gets better with more players in the game and becomes really strong with Gloves of Stolen Dreams and casting Frost Storm(s).

Doubling Cube: In theory, this opens the door to really high scores. In practice the cost is so high and the setup so specific to get those points that I've yet to see anybody actually play it in my first 10 games.

Armor of the Inverse: $8 for 0 Prestige? You're kidding right? This is only worth points in conjunction with Singularity Sphere, Rings of Velocity, Shears of Fate and the 2 Combustions in the deck. That's 5 cards in the 52 card deck that need to come up and get played for this to be worth **anything at all**!! And then 3 of those 5 cards need to have additional Use Item actions spent on them before this gets to a single point. You should never buy this and it's sole use if for theoretical puzzles about maximum points on a card -- since it can get to like 70 Prestige on a single card -- but even there it loses out to items which can gain Prestige on Activation, since there's no hard limit to how many times you can Use a single Item in a game. Seriously what is this doing in the game at this cost to point ratio? Was there an option to discard your hand and draw a new one that got cut during playtesting; was this supposed to have a Use ability that discarded things from the middle; is the 0 Prestige a typo for 6; or is this just crazy bad? Edit: I did miss the rule about being able to discard a private assignment when you rest. Even with that rule, this is massively overcosted and an almost-never play.

Clock of Ages: This is slightly overcosted. The activation is just generally not as good as Rings of Velocity, and by the time you are affording 8-cost items, there's generally not a whole lot of turns left to spend on Use Item actions.

Synchronistic Sculpture: The 9 Shard cost is steep. This time around the bonus points happen for something you are probably doing anyways, so it's not all that hard for this to be worth double digit points at the end of the game.

Scholar's Cap: The $10 makes this the most expensive card in the game, but 10 Prestige is a whole heckofalot -- that's seems to be around a third of the winning score in a single card. So far, any player who managed this has won in 75% of the games I have played.

My Current Thoughts on ALL THE TILES:

Will OR Shard, 3 Links (4 in bag) - A minimal effect, but the 3 links make it very easy to place beneficially on any board. This is not a tile you want all that much, but it's still way better than a blank space on your Slate.

Will AND Shard, 2 Links (5 in bag) - Literally twice the effect of the last tile and pretty easy to build into linking formations on most Slates.

Collect 2 Shards, 1 Link (4 in bag) and Gain 2 Will, 1 link (4 in bag) - Like the previous tile, but gets you to affording a specific assignment faster with the downside of being kinda hard to link into midgame or later Slate tile chains.

2 Will AND 2 Shards, NO Links (2 in bag) I really like this when I can get it as one of my first four tiles. Later in the game, the lack of any link points means that it is far more circumstantial and I only want it when my board is short on linked resources and I'm going for higher cost assignments.

Chaos Magic, 2 Links (5 in bag) These are never bad to have on your Slate - but they are not always optimal. You are frequently better off having a double-resource and/or an X+Y tile, and sometimes you're just better off with a tile that offers more links. Oddly, I kinda feel that choosing to add a Chaos Magic tile is the "playing it safe" option. (Aside: the rulebook could use a clarification about whether having a visible "Chaos Magic" tile counts as a "Complete Assignment" tile for purposes of the Tile Stacking limitation.

Complete Assignment OR Use Item, 3 Links (3 in bag) Activating one of these offers a subset of activating a Chaos Magic tile, but they offer an additional link. Chaining these sorts of effects together can be the key to swinging the game in your post-Pencils Down turn.

Use Item, 4 Links (1 in bag) The big deal here is how the 4-links let you set up a 5-tile combo.

Complete Assignment, 4 Links (2 in bag) The big deal here is how the 4-links let you set up a 5-tile combo. The timing can be tricky since you have to resolve the activated tile before the linked tile, so if you link resource generating tiles, you cannot use those resources to pay for the central Assignment Tile.

Add Tile AND Collect Shard, 2 links (1 in bag) and Add Tile AND Gain Will, 2 links (1 in bag) Since Add tile is often the strongest earlygame action you can take, and these offer that plus a resource and links to chain with, these are great if you get them early and often worth laying over your default add tile corners further into the game.

Add Tile AND Use Item, 2 links (1 in bag) Adding a Tile is great, and having the additional effect is even greater. But you need to have previously completed one of the 11 Useable items in the deck to get full benefit from this tile, making this the most circumstantial of these sorts of tiles.

Add Tile AND Complete Assignment, 2 links My vote for the best single tile in the game. It gives you the generally best earlygame action AND the generally best lategame action in concert and linkable into action chains. Add this to your Slate anytime you can.

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Rabid Schnauzer
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My revised thoughts on Openings:

My current default opening is:

Turn 1: Add Tile, linking the added tile to my Slate's 2nd Add tile slot.

Turn 2: Exhaust the gained tile and getting a linked activation of my board's 2nd Add Tile, placing the new tile to link to the starting resource space. (There is significant variation here depending if the first tile gained allowed another tile add or an assignment completion, and variation depending on possible link points)

Turn 3: Exhaust the remaining initial Add Tile space, placing the new tile to link to the tile I placed on the prior turn.

Turn 4: Exhaust the tile I placed on turn 2, gaining two linked actions.

Turn 5: This is where things move out of default mode and I consider a bunch of options depending on game state.

My current thinking is that the only assignments which are worth forgoing a turn 1-3 tile placement to complete before turn 4 are:
* Gloves of Stolen Dreams - if you complete this before anybody rests the first time it is pretty likely to gain you back at least as many resources as it costs. The longer you wait to build it, the worse it gets.
* Dimensional Puzzle Box -completing this by turn three requires gaining two shards on your first 2 turns. But it offers you a surprisingly significant increase in options that other players can't snipe away from you.
* Rings of Velocity - if this is in the center, it can be worth forgoing an early tile to deny opponents the chance to get it early.
* Bracers of Division - if this is in the center, it is really worth it to prevent opponents from gaining it. Although if you do complete it early, you are not going to want to complete other assignments for quite a while
* Psinium Cutter and Focused Edge - these are not great, but they can be worth it if any of your early tiles include an Item Activation and/or Chaos Magic.
* Judgement Sphere and Eye of Dissonance - similar to above.
* Energy Burst - if you first tile added included an additional add-tile action, and you linked it to your other starting Add Tile corner, then you got to add two tiles on turn 2, and completing this on turn 3 clears the exhaustion to need to clear to be able to add two more tiles and do a linked action on turn 4.
* Kinetic Siphon - in the sole case where it prevents an opponent from completing a center assignment you fear.

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C David Dent
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I have come to a lot of the same conclusions as above, but having played a couple of rounds of the Tournament Rules the other day I'd like to add these observations to the mix.

1) "Pencils Down" is worth 5 prestige. This can make a moderate margin a decisive one.

2) The "Draft" allows you to really cherry pick your first turn move. From there is a definite first player advantage. The default is "youngest player goes first" which I never am, so if you can successfully lobby for another random method, then do that.

3) Carrying your prestige forward each round means that even a defeat isn't necessarily an elimination. If you lose a game you may wind up on a different table but you are still in a position to regain your lead.

4) Desecration is a great end-game move.

5) Synchronistic Sculpture can make a solid board pay off bigger than almost any other card. Scholar's Cap is also a solid game-winner if you can get it out.

6) Watch the clock. I don't know how closely they are going to enforce the 1 minute per turn rule, but I found myself often up against the clock. I suspect that the rule is there to prevent 'dawdling'. And as long as you are making a move they won't ding you, but particularly complex chains may take longer than 1 minute to enact and so you should run through them in your head carefully so you don't forget anything.

7) The 30 minute game length clock wasn't a problem for any game we played. Most of the games we played in the tournament ran 20 minutes or less (even with some of the player's turns running as much as 90 seconds).

8) As tempting as it is, don't chatter during your move. This was the biggest time killer in the tournament rounds we played. Don't discuss how badly a move hurt or helped you. Don't talk out your moves. Don't repeat what everyone at the table is thinking. Wanting to discuss the move like you would in a friendly game can cost you precious time when making a move. (again, a lot of the time per move restrictions depends on how strictly they enforce it).
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