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Flamme Rouge» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Strategy tips - Basic and advanced - Please discuss! rss

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Asger Harding Granerud
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PREFACE:
Regardless of how good you get at this game, there is still luck at the end of the day. Both luck in what you and others draw, and luck in whether or not you correctly deduce when others play what they do. But you can learn to read other players, and you can learn to read the 'board'. There are certain 'positions' that are simply more prone to attacks, and others that are very dead.
Plus it isn't an endless pond of strategic depth like chess or go. For very adept boardgame veterans (we all know them), you can 'max' out your understanding of it within a reasonable amount of plays. However, the game relies on a lot of bluffing and second guessing, so it can't be 'solved'.

Of course getting the actual read of the whole 'scoreboard' is very hard. You can't simply look at the board. You have to track all of the following that aren't made apparent for you: Gained slipstreams, blocked moves, lost mountain moves, gained descends, exhaustion and starting position (most people seem to forget halfway through...).

Please consider thumbing the thread and commenting in it, particularly thumbing the top of the post, as it makes it easier for other users to find



INTRODUCTION:
The full game is with the mountains. And they do add complications, because timing and position matters more often along the track. Mountains also add predictability to better allow you to guess what the opponents are doing

When you are new to the game, guessing moves can be hard. However once you've learnt it, you will start seeing patterns (+1/-3 being the most usefull patterns to recognize).

BASIC:
First and foremost you should realize that cycling is a TEAM sport. If your team isn't working together, chances are you will lose. This means you generally want to keep your riders close to each other. Predicting what everyone else is doing can be hard, but controlling what you yourself is doing is much more feasible.
If possible a good rule of thumb, is to coordinate your riders so that after moving, one of them is 2 spaces in front of the other one. This creates an opportunity that you may benefit from, while minimizing the risk. On a climb it should only be 1 space in front.
As a result of slipstreaming it is common to start your turn with your riders being one in the space immediately in front of the other. And here the the pattern of +1/-3 comes into play. Assuming the frontmost rider of the two plays a card that is either +1 higher than the second rider, or -3 lower, then they will end up drafting each other. On -3 the lead changes, on +1 it stays the same.

This pattern puts particular focus on one card in each rider's deck:
- If the rouleur is leading then his 6 allows the sprinter to play a 5 (+1) or a 9 (-3).
- For the sprinter leading, that card is his 4. It allows the rouleur to respond with a 3 or a 7.

Of course there are countless other factors that affect which card to pick, but discounting those, the above are some of the basics. The 4S and 6R basically allows the other rider twice the number of options. It all changes with the relative position of the riders, exhaustion cards and terrain. If you can't get your team to work together, you can't expect to win.

READING THE OPPONENT:
Lets say you're stuck behind two sprinters. If you can read the situation and rule out that 9s are unlikely to be played, their highest card is a 5. Hence if you play a 4, they can't escape you. Unless both play a 9. You can even play a 3, because both players need to play 5+ to break away.

MOUNTAINS:
If mountains are looming in the distance, 5s become a valuable ressource, and is unlikely to be played on a flat stretch. If a lot of mountains, even 4's become worthy. All this knowledge doesn't provide certainty, but it gives you information that can qualify your predictions.

Some stages maybe only have 5 good places for a sprinter to burn their 9. If you learn to 'read' a stage in advance, predicting your opponents moves becomes even easier.

There are many more patterns than the above, and we haven't even started to Dive into the non-obvious synergies between the two decks you control. Or card counting if you're so inclined (I'm not, but will track 9's and try to track 5's sometimes).

SUMMARY:
To the untrained eye, Flamme Rouge can look random. This is NOT to say there isn't randomness in the game! Particularly if you get too much exhaustion! It certainly isn't VERY random though. But the decisions and their impact aren't put up as open information on the board, for detailed analysis. It is hidden away in the decks, and in a running multi faceted tally of bonus moves and penalties. Hence deciphering it is a difficult task.
I've personally played MANY games with large handicaps and still pulled of wins (3-5 starting exhaustion in each deck). Because choices matter. When we play Grand Tours aggregating the results of 3-6 races, the same players tend to end in the top/bottom. Because choices matter.

But it is a difficult (impossible?) game to 'crunch'. It is a game you have to learn. And yes, even then luck, bluff and guessing, plays an active role. Like it should in a cycling race

There is even so much predictability that it isn't uncommon that we 1/3 into a flat sprint may have a very strong gut feeling about top 2, or even 1.



EDIT: Added more tips below on January 16th 2017, feel free to add your own.

READING THE OPPONENT
If you've managed to break away from Sprinters hanging back, try to figure out when they will attempt to close the gap. When they do you have three options:
- Either ensure you play a card that is high enough to ensure they don't catch up and slipstream.
- Play a card low enough to ensure you slipstream them.
- If in a pack, try to use the advantage of moving first to block his 9th space, so he loses movement.

In general sprinters are the easiest riders to predict, but of course it all depends on their relative position and the distance to any mountains ahead of you. The reason they're easy is that the 9's and 5's are so valuable that they need to be saved to specific intervals.

Of course the rouleurs if stuck just one square behind the leader of a pack, can also be quite predictable. It is extremely difficult for such a rider to break away, as just a 4 from the rider out front catches even a 7. If that rider is also a rouleur, there is a very good chance he might not even draw anything lower than a 4... Plus he can often be caught from behind too. Hence such mid pack rouleurs often end up playing low cards.

If you're riding in a larger pack, and your two riders are one behind the other, then that also gives you the possibility to try to split the pack by playing just a little bit higher cards. Particularly if it is a strung out pack, and your riders are alone in their squares with just 1-2 opponents stuck behind. It is a situation I always look out for, both to avoid being caught out by it, and to try and sucker punch the unwary.

BLOCKING
Attacking just ahead of a mountain and subsequently slow playing it across, can be really harsh if a large pack is chasing. As soon as they catch up your low level cards can really cause chain blocks where several riders end up losing 1 or more moves. Attacking to the foot of a mountain from the back of a pack can be very dangerous, as all the riders out in front of you are likely also limited to the same squares. Games have been lost on misjudging this many times.

Blocking the first lanes of a descend is also a common tactic for allowing players to lose squares. It is so attractive to get there, that you can often count on people trying. And the max 5 move ensures they can't necessarily leap frog. It is particularly devastating if there is another rider 3 squares into the descend, and none in the 2nd. In that situation the descending riders will first block the chasers for loss of move, and subsequently slipstream 1 square forward. Thus the chasers also gain exhaustion, as they no longer have a rider just in front of them.

Blocking sprinters can be particularly easy, if the finish is a long flat sprint. To achieve this, you of course need to be out front of them with your riders, but if the whole group catches on to this, even just a single rider can do it, as others might also help. The classic sprint starts with rouleurs out front, and sprinters hanging back. Simply try to fill the spaces where a 9 would leave a sprinter. That loss of 1-2 move, combined with the fact that they will also move later next turn, can really end up being decisive.

All the above work in reverse too, and you should really watch out for other people's chances of blocking you. Those moves are lost for good and never come back. Thus your riders should very rarely occupy the same square, as it dramatically increases your risk of being blocked AND also risks giving you double exhaustion! Of course there are exceptions.

DESCENDS
Do try to NOT be the guy leading a descend. You will most likely get at least 2 exhaustion for doing so, simply because chances are high you will play the same value card next turn too due to the min. 5 rule. This is particularly important if you end up with both your riders side by side...

But whatever you're doing, make sure you hit the descend! It is free move, and a massive advantage, particularly for sprinters. Early attacks on a stage also become more feasible, as they grant the exhaustion that are best used on a descent saving more valuable cards for later. I've seen many rouleur's late in a stage only drawing cards with 5+ value, basically negating the advantage it provides.

As a rule of thumb, the more ascends there are, the easier it becomes to attack from the front. They effectively shorten the stage AND reduces the impact of exhaustion.

ASCENDS
Control your approach where possible. Mountains limit you, and you want to limit them as little as possible. A mountain that is 4 squares long, can be crossed by a single card, thus only affecting you for one turn. Assuming less perfect conditions, look out for which cards played this turn, will allow you to hit the descend next turn. Watch out for blocking!

For Sprinters in particular (but also rouleurs) playing high cards well before a mountain, can actually help you cross it safely. When on or close to a mountain your 9s are a severe liability, as playing them will lose you 4 move. I have seen many sprinters trying to save all their energy, drawing nothing but 9s and 2s on the ascend. And they are typically damned regardless of which card they choose to play at that point.

ATTACK. ATTACK. ATTACK!
In general attacking in Flamme Rouge is not even remotely as hard as people start out thinking. Plus it is by far the most satisfying way to win! One of the pre built stages have even been designed to allow a 1st turn break away with both riders, pretty decent odds of holding all the way for one of them (of course if everyone knows this, you're in a bluff/counter bluff situation). If breaking away, the rouleur should almost always be your primary candidate for a win, and your sprinter should act as the helper burning 9s to achieve it. Always pick just one rider to focus on, if you get both ahead, or your chances are very slim.

Breaking away has many benefits. You're free to play the cards you want, and have an easy time hitting descends and traversing ascents. You can play all your high cards as you see fit, so you get full value out of your energy deck, which is best for the rouleur. There is zero chance of being blocked.

At its most basic there is the simple 'probe' attack. A rouleur stuck in front, doing all the hard work for the entire group. He tries to play a low card, to avoid his fate, but everyone else is doing the same thing, so he is still stuck in front. I've seen this happen many times, and people are often apathetic to the situation, doing it again and again. However a solution is imminent, simply play a high card. This means that the riders just behind you will start getting exhaustion, and your situation isn't really worse as you're still getting what you already got. If the chasers have a duel front, they are now getting 2 exhaustion cards, to your 1. More importantly the race has gone from 1 to 3 exhaustion cards.
Plus you've now put those riders in the same position you started in, and they might thus try to catch you. The situation can quickly escalate and what started as a race with 1 exhaustion per round, can quickly turn into 4-5 exhaustion per round. If the chasers get that split, the chances for slipstreaming also decrease. Thus, attacking early literally makes the race harder for everyone involved, but sprinters in particular. Though rarer, this can even happen on the completely flat sprint stage.

Don't be afraid to burn a few of the rouleur's 6s, or even 7s, on a mountain if you're out front. Losing moves isn't a good thing, but if it means you traverse an ascend faster, it can help achieve all the above.

Of course whichever riders you're using in your attack, assuming it isn't both, you should do what you can to make sure everyone else is working hard among the chasers, not you. Many races have been won by a sprinter staying in the pack, while his rouleur probes but gets caught eventually. Simply because it is hard for the chasers to catch a rouleur, without their sprinters taking some part of the lead.

More importantly, you can actively sabotage a chase. Use the blocking tactics explained above, or try and play a 9 at an unpredictable moment, if it could help split the pack even further.

If you got away with both your riders, then chances are one of them is completely exhausted when you get into the final stretch. It is tempting to play the highest cards for him still, but it is a trap. It is far more important that he doesn't accidently assist the chasers with slipstreaming, so make sure he gets out of the way or even betters tries to block. It is a very frustrating experience to have a perfect break away almost make it but fail, simply because you accidently end up helping your opponents at the end.

SYNCHRONIZED DECK THINNING
This is a tough challenge to achieve, and isn't likely to be something interesting for any casual players. It is also fringe case advantageous, so often not even worth the extra effort. It involves making sure that the cards in your decks match each other. As mentioned above the +1/-3 rule means that certain cards match better between the decks, essentially doubling the number of cards his teammate can successfully respond with from 3 to 6. If you start playing those cards at inopportune moments, you will start reducing that from 6 cards to 5, 4, etc... A rouleur can't use 7's to help a sprinter if all his 4's are gone (very simplified!).

I'll try to add more at a later stage
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Yani
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Great post Asger, thanks.

AsgerSG wrote:
...There are many more patterns than the above, and we haven't even started to Dive into the non-obvious synergies between the two decks you control. Or card counting if you're so inclined (I'm not, but will track 9's and try to track 5's sometimes)...


It seems to me the best way to play is to lay your played cards down so that you (and your opponents) can see all of them. I don't see any point in playing with trackable hidden information. If anything, it helps strengthen the competition.
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Asger Harding Granerud
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If it doesn't slow your games down more than you mind, I'm all for that

Happy racing
Asger
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Lars Wagner Hansen
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AsgerSG wrote:

- If the rouleur is leading then his 6 allows the sprinter to play a 5 (+1) or a 9 (-6).

I'm sure you meant:

- If the rouleur is leading then his 6 allows the sprinter to play a 5 (+1) or a 9 (-3).
 
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Asger Harding Granerud
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It is good to be right, when you are sure And right you are!

Fixed!

Regards
Asger
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Asger Harding Granerud
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Just added lots of extra tips in the top post

Happy racing
Asger Granerud
 
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Ryan Keane
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Great post Asger! Very useful for anyone that says Flamme Rouge is too light with few choices. And major props for being such an active and supportive designer on BGG. You and Richard Sivel (who answers every Maria rules question) are my 2 favorites, and Flamme Rouge has quickly moved up to my top 5 games. I completely agree with those that say FR should be nominated for and win SdJ this year.
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