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Subject: Cry Havoc Strategy Guide - Machines rss

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Chevee Dodd
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This is part 3 in a series of strategy articles brought to you by the game’s original designer, Grant Rodiek.

Welcome to the strategy guide for the Machine faction of Cry Havoc. The Machines are one of the most difficult factions to play in the game, but they are one of the most powerful and manipulative. The Machines are what I like to call “an inevitable Faction,” which means they will win...eventually. The Machines force the other Factions to move swiftly and decisively, because in the end, the Machines do not sleep, they do not eat, they do not have emotion. They have a goal and they will work without ceasing until they accomplish it.


The Machines are all about Building and Activating their Structures, of which they have more than every other Faction. They can pop a lone Human anywhere in the world, and mow down a pile of Trogs, then churn out factory fresh reinforcements. It’s time to oil the chains and begin a tutorial on the ways of the Machine.




The Original Inspiration

The Machines were not always Machines. If you recall, Cry Havoc used to be Battle for York, a civil war in a Napoleonic-like era. The Machines were inspired mostly by the highly disciplined Prussian infantry of Frederick the Great (at least early in the Seven Years War) or the professional British Regulars. They were defensive in nature with strong fortresses and even stronger artillery. When other Factions would flee or retreat, the British, err, Machines, would stand firm, glaring, without blinking, in a staring contest that ended in pulverized foes.

When Portal Games signed Battle for York, there was only one structure at the time -- the Fort. We knew we wanted to add more structures as we expanded the premise of the game. Little did we know at that time that the Machines would become our busy little builders. But, Build they did.



Moloch Returns

When Cry Havoc became a science fiction game, I began writing some stories and conducting some world-building exercises to give them a sense of place in the universe. Portal has a history with Machines, or Moloch as they call them in Neuroshima Hex, and we wanted to continue creating a super powerful faction.

In a lot of science fiction, you have inevitable, all powerful races against whom you can merely stall the inevitable defeat. In Old Man’s War, one of my favorite books, there’s a race whose name I forget who are almost godlike in their power. Nobody fully understands them, and their patterns are unpredictable. In Warhammer 40k, I believe it’s either the Orcs or Necrons who will ultimately win...and until then, you can only fight hard to hold on as long as possible.

These are the Machines. Our story for them had something to do with an AI driven human probe sent to explore space. Humans lose contact with the probe, as we do with our actual satellites, but because it’s AI driven, it continues to evolve, and think. Eventually it begins using the resources on the planets it finds, and the Mars Rover becomes the Mars destroyer. The Machines re-emerge at the same time the planet is found, potentially foreshadowing a much more dangerous conflict. Losing to the Machines on this planet? Not the end of the world. Losing to them on Earth? Literally, the end of the world...



The Strengths of the Machines

The Machines have the best Structures in the game and are the most capable faction of defending Territory once they take it. The Machines inflict a rigid tax on aggressors, because it should be expected that if you move into a Machine territory with 3 Units to create a battle, you will lose 1 or 2 of them before the battle actually occurs.



Although it’s very expensive at 3 Wrenches, the Bunker is an amazing threat deterrent, and is the most effective method of Recruitment in the game. Be sure to leave at least one Unit behind, obviously, so that the Region becomes a battle region when invaded. Enemies who do not move in on a Bunker will find that Moving City will propel it forward to protect the new frontier, or will be Transformed into 3 Units who can then invade as need be.

Factory may seem ineffective at first, but in the words of Ignacy, if you have 3 of them, Machines will “breed like Rabbits.” It’s also an intensely efficient action. For a single Wrench, you a.) Recruit in b.) a Forward position. Typically, that would cost two Actions (Recruit + Move) and multiple cards.



The Machines do not have a great deal of default Movement, so an early Ocean draw is not a bad play, as a few big moves early in the game are needed for Machines to begin building their Structures. Afterwards, Machines should focus on Mountains to gain the Wrenches for huge Structure rampages, as well as a Desert or two to cycle your deck in a better manner.

There will be times when you have so many wrenches, but not enough Structures, and this is where the Matrix comes into play. The Matrix is not really a strong first choice Structure, but it’s amazing as a “wrench dump” to help you with future battles. If you have two structures you need, and a Matrix, you can drop a single mountain to Shred, Factory, and then get a card while you’re there. Think about your strategy holistically and plan for the excess.

It’s key, however, to devote some time to both the Orbital Sniper and Shred Drones. These are the nastiest offensive structures in the game and fundamental to the Machine mission. Remember, the Machines need the game to last five rounds, which is where the Orbital Sniper comes into play. For example, use it to pop a lone Pilgrim to entice a Human or Trog to move in. If the territory is unoccupied, moving in won’t count as a Battle, which nullifies the Pilgrim Power Orb use. Don’t forget that a red crystal is worth 5 VP for a Human, but only 3 VP for a Trog, so “clearing the path” for Trogs to move in is a better long term value than letting the Humans get further ahead. It seems like we’re picking on the poor Pilgrims, but the Orbital Sniper can also clear the way for the Pilgrims to Teleport into naked Regions and strike at the very heart of the Trog interior.

Simply put, the Orbital Sniper is a Machiavellian scalpel. It exists to upset the balance of power around the table, and you should use it to threaten and cajole favors from your opponents.

The Shred Drones act, then, as the lawn mower. They are a defensive tool to make reconquest very tough for your opponents. They move in, sure, but unless you’re foolish, they’ll lose 1-3 of their Units on the walk in. Furthermore, you can use the Shred Drones to support your Units. Remember, Machines won’t be doing a lot of Recruitment, and they don’t have a lot of Movement. Plus, their Mountains will be used more for Actions than for Tactics. The Shred Drones should be used to support infantry moving in to offset this weakness. Do not invade where you cannot shred. If you cannot shred, use Moving City to make it so.



Don’t forget, by the way, that you can use Moving City to move Shred Drones out of an occupied Region, where they cannot be used, and into a controlled Region, where they can. Sorry folks, you cannot move that already Built Bunker into a Battle Region. Nice try.


Some of the Machine Skills are true game changers. Firepower in 2-3 players especially is the Machines’ point generation power. It’s often said the Machines don’t have a way to easily generate points, like Occupation for the Humans, but that’s not true. Typically, it’s not worth it to press into the center Regions against the non-player Trogs, but with Firepower, you can show up and focus on Attrition to rack up major points.

The combo of Moving City and Transformation, as noted above, are basically just free Actions left and right. If these aren’t used on every round, you’re doing it wrong, and you’ll soon find yourself playing catch up to the Trogs and Humans especially.

Software Update is a better skill for more experienced players to wield, but it lets you turn default cards into Oceans early on, then turn Oceans into Mountains once your Regions are captured. You can also use it to grab a Jungle for a pinch recruit Action, or modify your cards for a key battle you need to win. Software Update requires a firm understanding of the game, but it’s very strong if you know how to use it. Effectively, Software Update will reduce the number of times you need to take the Draw Card Action in half.

Finally, Terrain Advantage is the cherry on top of your battle plan. If you’re using Shred Drones to soften up the enemy, you can then use Terrain Advantage to disable all remaining hope they have. Pay close attention to the cards they draw and be sure to disable those. Terrain Advantage is especially key at the end of the game when winning control of a 7 Crystal Region is the difference between victory or the blue screen of death.

Overall, the Machines’ greatest advantage is in their variety. They have so many tools in their box and so many ways to go about it. But, they are slow, and sometimes unwieldy, and those are the weaknesses we need to discuss.



The Weaknesses of the Machines

The Machines are slow. Like, really slow. True, they’re inevitable, but if the Humans rocket forward, or the Trogs take a lot of early prisoners and Enable Scoring, it will take time for the Machines to catch up. The Machines are also an unforgiving race. If you waste Actions, you won’t get them back, and when you could have been killing enemy Units all over the map, you’ll instead watch them move forward to conquest.

The Machine player needs to think several turns ahead. It takes time to turn the Titanic around. You need to know what cards to draw, when, where to build, and how to Activate. The Machines may tend to want to go later in turn order, so that they can activate their Bunker, or Shred Drones to react, or use Moving City to move a Building out of harm’s way or into the firing range.

But, this also means the Machines are sacrificing their ability to dictate policy to others. Going first means: this is how this round is playing out. Going last means: I’ll react to what you’ve told me. You must think ahead and work to mitigate these trade offs.

Where the Humans and Pilgrims have more obvious scoring paths with Occupation and Examination respectively, and the Trogs should have piles of Prisoners and huge early Territory grabs, the Machines don’t have this. They do have Firepower, yes, but otherwise, they don’t have a unique thing. What they do have, is that big final turn. A good Machine player will setup, and prepare, and plan, so that on the last round of the game, they move into Territories. That will be a 40 point swing: +20 for you, -20 for your opponents. This is crucial. If you’re playing against the Machines, plan for it. If you’re playing as the Machines? Plan for it!

When you ask what the Machine point strategy is? It’s Crystals, plain and simple.

Machines will need to effectively fight, but be friends, with everyone. You will need to upset all the players to keep everyone off balance. If you be nice to the Humans, they’ll catch up and spread out like locusts. If you leave the Trogs alone? They’ll move into your Regions to disable your buildings.

Speaking of that, an excellent way to deter the Machines is to turn off their buildings. It’s often worth losing a Unit, even one as a Prisoner, to move into several Machine regions to simply disable their use of Buildings. Yes, you’ll lose the Battle, but they won’t have the Factory or Orbital Snipers (for example) to wreak global havoc. It is good to pin the Machines, early and often, and if the Machines are going late in turn order, this is precisely what you can do before they even take a turn.

Machine Strategy Tips

*You cannot waste a single Action with the Machines! It is better to patiently delay an invasion, or stall to draw a card, in order to maximize a turn, than flail against the Humans or other races. They will always be faster, which means you need to be slower and better.

*Do not use the Shred Drones to eliminate battles! This is a common Machine mistake! Battles add Crystals and give you more opportunities for points (Territory Control is 2VP, Prisoners are 1VP per round, Attrition is 1VP or 2VP if you have Firepower). WEAKEN the enemy, do not remove the enemy.

*Machines want the game to last as long as possible, each following round they are stronger. Manipulate the other factions as need be throughout to ensure this happens.

*Machine Skills lead to wonderful combos. Incorporate them into your strategy as free Actions, not merely fancy parlor tricks. Move a Shred Drone, activate it, then Transform it to recruit. That’s hyper efficient.

*Choose your turn order very carefully. Is it more important you can use your Structures on Action 1? Or respond to what happens?

*Everyone is your enemy. Your job as the Machines is to preserve equilibrium until you’re able to dominate and capture significant amounts of territory.
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E. Strathmeyer
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Woohoo! I've been waiting for this one (since my roommate plays the Machines, the weaknesses section is of particular interest).

Sorry to be nit picky, but isn't this part 3, after Trogs & Pilgrims?
http://portalgames.pl/new_en/article-cry-havoc-strategy-guid...
http://portalgames.pl/new_en/article-cry-havoc-strategy-guid...
 
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Grant Rodiek
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strathmeyer wrote:
Woohoo! I've been waiting for this one (since my roommate plays the Machines, the weaknesses section is of particular interest).

Sorry to be nit picky, but isn't this part 3, after Trogs & Pilgrims?
http://portalgames.pl/new_en/article-cry-havoc-strategy-guid...
http://portalgames.pl/new_en/article-cry-havoc-strategy-guid...


The article came in hot. Chevee probably used copy paste and missed that.
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Jon Snow
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"Here they come
Here they come
Greatest toy you've ever seen
And their name is Mister Machine!"

--Gilbert toy commercial, early 1960s
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Chevee Dodd
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HerrohGrant wrote:
strathmeyer wrote:
Woohoo! I've been waiting for this one (since my roommate plays the Machines, the weaknesses section is of particular interest).

Sorry to be nit picky, but isn't this part 3, after Trogs & Pilgrims?
http://portalgames.pl/new_en/article-cry-havoc-strategy-guid...
http://portalgames.pl/new_en/article-cry-havoc-strategy-guid...


The article came in hot. Chevee probably used copy paste and missed that.



Ding ding ding! We have a winner.
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Oak Wolf
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Thanks alot!
 
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Steve
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So what you're saying is the machines are terrible.
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Grant Rodiek
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stevepop wrote:
So what you're saying is the machines are terrible.


No, I'm not.
 
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Dylan Bradshaw
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This post is a valuable read. Thanks.

I wonder how many of those claiming a lack of balance in the game have read it... whistle
 
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Jeremy Rivea
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Not sure where you read that, what he said is that round 4 and 5 are where Machine show up and swing things for the win. A round 4 enable scoring can really make a difference.

Smart use of Transform and Moving cities will need to pair with good choices on where to shred and how much to snipe. The Matrix is too often ignored, and can really make up for a lack of cards.
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Randall Monk
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When will we see the Humans Strategy Guide?
 
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Grant Rodiek
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Monkatron wrote:
When will we see the Humans Strategy Guide?


I submitted it to Portal last week. So...I don't know! Soon I suspect?
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Michael Frost

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Interesting advice. But one serious flaw, which is in this sentence:

"Remember, the Machines need the game to last five rounds".

This is absolutely true and quite essential! Too bad I've yet to see a game go 5 rounds. Because the bizarro-world rule that allows the "runaway leader" to shorten the game by one round. In the 3 player that is the Humans and in the 4-player that is the Trogs.

I don't own the game, but I've begged the owner of the one copy in our group to drop this silly rule and force each game to go the full 5 rounds. He agreed last night after another rout of a game.

Otherwise, just tends to be a silly waste of time. Humans dominate in 3-player game and Trogs win in 4-player, with Humans usually in 2nd place. Usually the best a Machine player can do is eliminate the Pilgrims and take an easy 2nd (3-plyr) or 3rd (4-plyr). But there is no fun in destroying a race that can't hardly fight back while you watch either Humans or Trogs take over the rest of the board and race to a massive win.
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T McC
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Any update on the Humans strategy guide?
 
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Grant Rodiek
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thinman13 wrote:
Any update on the Humans strategy guide?


I submitted it to Portal weeks ago now. I don't know when it'll be posted.
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androner lcoyn
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I would like to add that, even though machine buildings are strong. they are helpers for you to win the battles. As a machine player, you want to combat often, combats are your point generation. Humans and pilgrims have alternate ways to gain points, machines don't have this (even firepower is not that of a constant point generator).

You want to battle, you want to press humans especially, because they spread fast. You want to go to head to them, press them, disable/minimize their occupation skill usage.

Also around 3rd round you really need to enable scoring in your favor, without enable scoring, its very hard to win as machines. As much as final push is important, its relatively easy for other factions to prevent.

Although that final push could give you lots of points, it won't make you win the game if you had a big points gap from previous turns.

You also want to minimize other factions getting points, you want to game to end at low scores (around 50 max), because its very hard for you to get over that threshold.
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Rob Seabrook
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Does anyone else see a viable script for a really good Monty Python movie in all this?
 
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Michael Frost

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Get the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch? Always refer to the Book of Armaments!
 
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Anders Bek
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I'm sorry, I really want to like this game, but I find it increasingly harder after each game.

We have now played 5 sessions of a 2-player Machines vs Humans. Humans have won every time, and won BIG.

I played Humans the first 4 times. My opponent was virtually without a chance. I used Airfield, Occupation and Enable scoring, and although I didn't even have Scouting in these games, I won by 20-45 points every time. The first 3 games ended early since I passed an event on the scoring track. Therefor we houseruled that there should always be 5 turns - otherwise the Machines don't stand a chance - simple fact.

I have read the strategy guide extensively, and also many of the strategy advice given by people in this forum. In our fifth game I played the Machines. I was very careful to follow Rodiak's strategy advice, and my opponent actually did NOT optimize her actions.

After three turns: Machines 5, Humans 25.
And had we not used the houserule, there would have been only one turn left...

These are my conclucions:

The main problem with the strategy guide for the Machines, which is actually the problem with the game itself, is that it suggests a course of action that you simply do not have enough actions to actually execute.

Example: Using Move - Arfield - Scouting and Occupation a few times during the first two turns, in combination with Enable scoring, will give the Humans 15-25 points.

SO WHAT SHOULD THE MACHINES DO, ACCORDING TO THE STRATEGY GUIDE AND THE ADVICE GIVEN IN THIS FORUM?

According to the strategy advice, they should concentrate on building their factories, drones etc.

However, this advice ignores what the Humans are doing while the Machines are building.

So people (like me) point this out in these forums. The answer they get is pretty much that the Machines should hamper the Humans conquest by moving into their territories and/or kill them using drones and snipers.

However, this advice ignores that a) this is not very problematic for the Humans since they have already scored loads of points and can easily compensate in the next round, and b) The strategy guide itself points out that the Machines need to focus on building.

This is my impression of the argument so far:

- How can I win with Machines against Humans in a 2-player game?
- You should build stuff.
- But then the Humans spread out all over and score loads of points!
- Oh, but then you should move inte their territories.
- But then I won't be able to do A!
- Ummm... err... You should practice and then you will master it!
- But won't my opponents also get better? And exactly how is more experience going to give me more actions and turns? I can't build a lot of structures AND attack the HUmans!
- This is an asymmetrical game - you can't expect it to be clear what you should do.


In our latest game, I quickly moved into a territory where I built a Factory, a Bunker and a Shred drone - all according to the main advice in the strategy guide. I then moved into the nearest Trog territory, conquered it and built a Factory and a Shred drone. I also killed several Humans using my weapons, and spawned new units using the Factories. THese actions cost me every single card in my hand, each turn. There was literally nothing more I could do.

All of this follows the main advice in the stragegy guide: concentrate on building up your strength during the early turns.

Result? After three turns I had 5 points. My Human opponent had 25 points.

Could I have hampered her progress? Sure! I could have used actions and cards to move into her territories, killed off more of her units, etc.

But that would mean that I had NOT used those actions to build my structures etc. which, according to the guide, is absolutely essential for the Machines.

The main problems with the Strategy guid and the "advice" from this forum, and ultimately the problem with the game itself, is that
a) they disguise the fact that there are not enough actions or turns for the Machines to actually do what the guide suggests,
b) the suggested strategies do not take into account what the Humans are doing while the Machines are busy building,
c) the "You will get better at playing the machines after several games" argument ignores the fact that the other players will also get better at playing THEIR factions.

I would really like it if the designer could present a record of an actual game session between two equal players and show how the Machines were able to beat the Humans, because I can't for the life of me figure out how the Machines stand a chance against a faction that have TWO ways of claming territories without moving, and a skill that allows them to score EVERY TURN.




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Michael Frost

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You're just pointing out the broken flawed nature of the asymmetrical factions. Anyone who has played as the Machines against any decent player playing the Humans has discovered the same.

BUT...having said that, it just is what it is. I love playing the Machines. I know I don't stand a chance so I just have the sheer raw fun of building a killing machine that wipes the other factions off the board. The Humans still have all the territory, but about all that remains by the end of the game are a few Humans or Pilgrims on or near their starting territory. Some rounds at the end there aren't any left standing. And isn't that the whole point of being a machine, just to wipe sentient beings off the map?
 
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androner lcoyn
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In 2 player game, you cannot sit back and build. Grant said this in various places. In second turn, you'll need to be on top of Human buildings, prevent them from using them.
 
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Grant Rodiek
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Jumpingfrog wrote:
I would really like it if the designer could present a record of an actual game session between two equal players and show how the Machines were able to beat the Humans, because I can't for the life of me figure out how the Machines stand a chance against a faction that have TWO ways of claming territories without moving, and a skill that allows them to score EVERY TURN.


A few people have made this demand now and I find it a bit ridiculous. I have beaten the humans with machines. I've won with every race. At every player count. So has the team at Portal. So have many people on this forum.

I'm not on trial. You can believe my statements, or not. But I'm not setting up video equipment to prove myself.

It's okay for you to not like this game.

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Grant Rodiek
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I'll re-state though, in a 2 player game you must be intensely aggressive. With every race. It is a zero sum game, and you cannot sit back and let the humans enable scoring. In a 2 player game, you must recruit more, use Moving city to advance with the front line, and you need to fight constantly.

Your four player machine strategy? Won't work. Get. In. Their. Face.

The humans are awful defenders. Make them fight.
 
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Michael Frost

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Too bad the Machine use of things like Orbital Sniping to kill doesn't get them any VPs.

And the smart Human player lets the Trogs be their defenders.

As if the Machines can move, fight, and build. Esp. in a game that may end in 4 rounds.
 
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Rob Seabrook
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Chevee made a few very good and interesting points about the Machines:

1. The machine player must optimize during every single action. Failure to do so is a setback that can be difficult to make up for in your own victory points or to take away from others. The challenge here, as pointed out, is that the other players get votes too.

2. The Machine player must get right out into the main areas in order to be able to challenge the other players as soon as possible. Avoid early plays into outer areas as these do not allow structures to be moved forward quickly. Grab territory close to the enemy, build infrastructure and then grind forward...wisely.

3. Turn order is significant for the Machines more so maybe than other players. Going last is sometimes in the best interests of the Machines.

4. Kingmaker: The machine player must be careful not to focus too much aggressive attention on a single enemy faction. Doing so will probably only weaken that faction to the scoring advantage of another non-Machine faction. This is the Kingmaker pitfall. Weakening the other factions to maintain a balance of power until the 4th or 5th round plays to the advantage of the Machine's factories. In most games the Machines will not be generating VP early. In fact, that can be an advantage in that the other players take them for granted. Leaping out to an early lead sometimes creates coalitions forming against the leader. Fly under the radar for a while, build infrastructure and then flood forward.

5. In the end...I will not deny that the Machines still might be at a disadvantage requiring some form of adjustment by the game designers. And although it might be fun to zap enemy troops from afar with satellite sniper lasers, most gamers want...no, expect a game that is balanced and winnable by all the factions...regardless symmetricality. I love asymmetric games. I find the Machine faction to be the most interesting because it is the most asymmetrical and the most challenging, but if they can only be winnable against opponents that are sub-optimizing then the designers might need to make an adjustment. I will not second guess that they've play tested this game at least a hundred times and documented basically equal wins amongst factions but I would be interested to actually see that metadata posted (again please if I missed it before now).
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