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Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar» Forums » Variants

Subject: Simple change which stops the "dominant strategy" rss

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Giordano Segatta
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Hello players,

let me say that I really LOVE this game that is one of the best worker-placement game I ever played and that is always welcome on my table.
But let me say also that I HATE playing this game online on the boardgamearena website. Why? Because it seems that all the people play only the so-called "dominant strategy". Lots of very boring and unfun games

Then I'd like to suggest a simple and not too rule-invasive change which should stops this strategy, hopefully making some variety to come back on our tables.

On Uxmal 2nd you can only buy resources with corn.
You can't sell resources for corn.
You can exchange resources for resources, and you can add corn to the exchange, but you can never have corn back - the exchange exceeding corn is lost.




What do you think about this variation?

Cheers
Jo
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Jonathan Maisonneuve
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Do you have data about this? What is the win % rate of this strategy?
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Lawrence
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If everyone else is going for Big Resources, you have a good opportunity to rack up points via another method - stack buildings, Big Corn, or Chichen Itza.

The problem with Big Resources is that it takes a lot of time to set up - often 1.5 to 2 ages (half the game!). During that time, much of the rest of the board is setup.

The alternative is to buy the expansion, Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar – Tribes & Prophecies. The prophecies really change it up and punish strategies that are less flexible.
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Giordano Segatta
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Hello Jonathan,

I have no detailed win rates or statistics, but only my personal experience: toward this strategy I've always lost. Always.

An interesting discussion about the "dominant strategy" can be found here:

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1285189/one-dominant-strate...

According to this discussion, one of the authors itself was searching for a fix.

Cheers
Jo
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Lawrence
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27Dicembre wrote:

I have no detailed win rates or statistics, but only my personal experience: toward this strategy I've always lost. Always.


I'm not sure how much experience you have with the game, but it might help to read up on other strategies:

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1038126/guide-main-stra...

The problem with BGA is that a lot of people who play on there are fanatics - they study the game inside and out. Big Resrouces takes a lot of setup and isn't easy to execute, so the people who play it well are often those who have more experience. And in a 0 luck game, the person with higher skill/experience will usually win.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, there are numerous ways about it and in my experience, they're all pretty equal until you get to the top tiers of skill. At that point, Big Resources tends to offer a 5 - 10 point lead over a other strategies if EVERYONE plays optimally.

---
My impression of the tone in that post of the "dominant strategy" was that the author wasn't searching for a fix; rather, he was offering a variant for those who think it's an issue.
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Paul Grogan
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I personally just think limiting the corn value of the total exchange. Maybe to something like 16-20
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dyvim tanelorn
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On the italian "tana dei goblin" forum the author wrote that he thought about capping the maximum corn for buying and selling in one action to 18. He also said that probably he will fix it to 20 because it is an easier number to remember.
Here it is the link:
http://www.goblins.net/phpBB3/post1356621.html#p1356621

Ragazzi, la limitazione di mercato viene fatta in corn equivalenti, perchè il corn è la moneta di tzolkin.
La somma degli acquisti e delle vendite non deve superare un valore complessivo di 20 corn.
Sarebbe meglio 18 non 22... ma 20 è un numero tondo e ho paura che se metto 18 diventa una regola troppo complicata.

Per il resto aspettavo feedback da voi. In tanti mi avete chiesto questo Fix io vi ho chiesto di adottarlo e giocarlo e farmi sapere cosa ne pensate.
Soprattutto da parte di chi ha sentito più di tutti il peso della strategia dominante. I feedback che ho avuto online sono stati positivi.

Voglio sapere cosa ne pensate di questa semplice regola, che cmq ho deciso di adottare (ripeto il dubbio rimane tra 20 e 18), per poi affrontare il discorso della partenza scontata con Uxmal 1,2,3.... putroppo per evitare quello ho in mente una regola piu invasiva.
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Giordano Segatta
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Thank you for your feedback and suggestions!
For sure I'll try to add the expansion to my table next time - I really like the idea of the new tribes, but I was afraid about the prophecies to add too complexity to the game.
Maybe they are going to add the expansion to board game arena website too? I'd like it!

Cheers,
Giò
 
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Krzysztof
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27Dicembre wrote:
Thank you for your feedback and suggestions!
For sure I'll try to add the expansion to my table next time - I really like the idea of the new tribes, but I was afraid about the prophecies to add too complexity to the game.
Maybe they are going to add the expansion to board game arena website too? I'd like it!

Cheers,
Giò


You can play Tzolkin with Tribes/Prophecies at BAJ. The expansion imho doesn't add any complexity to the base game, it just adds variability improving the overall replayability.

Tzolkin with or without the expansion indeed has the dominant strategy (resources/architecture) but it is the problem mainly in 2p games. The limit of 20 corn exchange on U2 drastically changes the game but in somewhat unexpected way, i.e. the other strategy is now dominant (theology/corn)

At BAJ there are players who have played this "flawed" game in 2p following the standard rules a few hundred times. There is so much to explore in this game that it doesn't need an immediate fix. There are many other games which seems more balanced and yet they are not played so often.

Apart of the limit on U2, there were some other ideas to nerf resources/architecture strategy. You can for example swap U3/U4 actions. This variant however has not been extensively tested at BAJ.

I think that the most elegant solution (the limit on U2 is ok, but not enough) is simply to provide more buildings (another expansion?) which will boost either existing or new strategies. With more buildings we can also improve replayability of Tzolkin. Keeping the number of buildings in a game constant we can either draft or randomly select buildings, then each player decides on the strategy to follow and the chosen buildings are randomly sorted into six piles as usual.

There's a geek driven development of new maps/variants for Terra Mystica. Maybe active Tzolkin players could suggest new buildings or changes in existing buildings?







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Tragic TheBlathering
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The biggest problem is not the tiles power but that the game is basically won on who goes first. If you go first and can afford to place all your tokens on the yellow wheel.. you have basically won.
 
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Krzysztof
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You are talking about the Uxmal gambit. I can ensure you that while it is a strong opening, most good players can respond to it adequately.

The game is really well balanced, even in 2p games. As I said, even small changes in the rules (the market variant) can change the relative strength of alternative strategies. This is a game which encourages exploring the impact of various home-rules on the available strategies. This is another reason to like it...
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Cory Yates
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Well, I've played over 300 games of Tzolk'in (ranked as an expert player) and I can tell you that the game is not the best balanced game out there. If I were a playtester I would have definitely brought up:

1. First player is a big advantage. It does boggle my mind how some people can think its not. Yes, it totally can be overcome with good play but it is a significant advantage by far to get that fourth worker pulled right away off the yellow track. EVERY game I've played against experienced players (ranked good or above)....they make this move. AND...many, if not most, times the next player will place one on the yellow track after that just so they can get their fourth worker fast enough too..eating up most of their starting corn.

2. Building is extremely powerful...I wouldn't say overpowered but there is a reason the top players go that route most of the time. Its not as powerful in the 2 player game though because you can't jump ahead on some of the wheels as much to get to the good spots. I personally, love going the skulls route but mathematically there is just more of an opportunity for building monuments to come out leading to a pro build strategy. Also, spot 2 is too easy to get too (I have an idea for this later) Thankfully, if you are playing with multiple players and two are going that route, it kind of balances itself out. Which leads me to...

3. If two players are going for the same strategy...and let me be clear there are ONLY 3...corn...buildings...skulls. They don't stand a very good chance of winning. I understand this is a lot of games but like I said there are only 3 ways to go in this game so thats going to happen a lot! You can hybrid but it doesn't happen much and usually its only a minor dabble in the other area at best.

4. Corn strategy is just flat out weak. It wins sometimes, but very not much. When I play a newer player, I will always go corn because I feel its just not fair to go any other way.


***One idea I thought of was switching the 2nd spot on the yellow gear with the 4th spot. This would help make it a little harder and more costly to exchange resources. It would be very hard to get that big exchange in the first quarter of the game. As an added benefit, moving spot 4 down to spot 2 would really help a corn strategy player and make it a little more viable.

**Also, I love Paul Grogan's suggestion about spot 2 only getting a 20 max exchange....great idea.

This all sounds bad, but I still LOVE this game. In fact, its my second most played game and in my top 3 games of all time. I think its an engaging experience, which is it's greatest strength, but I'd be lying if I said its the most balanced euro because it just isn't.




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Krzysztof
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I agree with all points you made. The 1st player has an advantage. I just said this opening can be mitigated. I play at BAJ with 30+ games - mostly 4p, ranked 100th among 1400+ players, so by no means am I an expert but knowing about all these flaws of Tzolkin it still remains one of my favorite games. It is funny that most of us consider Tzolkin more or less unbalanced and yet we like to play it. I think that these problems with unbalanced strategies are only visible when you already have some proficiency in Tzolkin. All the main strategies are also not so easy to follow.

I agree that the corn strategy seems the weakest one. Once I had an idea of a variant when you can make an additional use of harvest tiles (both corn and wood), i.e. the player can use U2 (the market action) to exchange these tiles for gold with the rate depending on the agriculture technology level, i.e. level-1 (2, 3): any combination of three (two, one) tile(s) (wood/corn): 1 gold. Advancing to the forth level in the agriculture track gives a player the additional opportunity to exchange exactly three the same tiles (either wood or corn) for 1 skull.

The harvest tiles can give a player 4pts but only if one grabs the appropriate monument. Thus, being able to exchange them will definitely strengthen the corn strategy regardless of the monuments being in play or not. Such a change is also thematic, the tribe can sell fields in the forest and benefit from that while advancement in the agriculture technology gives better exchange rates or even possibility to get a skull.

Edit: spelling and clarifications for the new "harvest tile exchange" variant.
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