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The Voyages of Marco Polo» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Felt hopeless from the start rss

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Jeff Hall
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Hi guys!

So my girlfriend and I just finished maybe our 5th overall play together. We are still trying to become better players. With that said I felt really ruined in this game before it began. I was Raschid while she was Mercator (2-player). My two destination cards were Karakorum-Kochi and LanZhou-Kochi. The reason things got rough almost right out of the gate was she immediately arrived at Moscow. She got a wonderful bonus tile of 2 gold. From that point within the first round she finished 1 contract and did the Moscow action of Camel+1Gold=4points for 12 points. She maintained first player for 4 out of 5 rounds and simply made it her goal to keep things that way. Meanwhile I did my best to do some contract work. I did "fair" with 61 points at the end, while she achieved an impressive 85 points.

From those who have played a bunch, what could I have done to compete? Her character was quite well adapted to this immediately available strategy. I am not one to claim it's just unfair, but I simply didn't know how to challenge her. Any comments? The game has been a blast so far, and I think we both would love to get some advice from the community. Thanks all!
 
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Der Einsielder
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If in a 2 player game your opponent plays Mercator you should definitely avoid playing Rashid, because Rashid strongly pushes Mercator!

Kill Mercator by playing a traveling character.


And: Rashid is not a good traveler. Do not try to fulfill your traveling cards - this is way too expensive.
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Riku Riekkinen
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If Mercator can´t take gold with 5´s first turn:

1: Camels (I read Mercator travelled first) + Black die (5 dice, 5 Camels, 8 Coins)
2: 3 gold 1-> to Alexandria + Black die. Then 1-> towards Adana (3 dice, 2 Camels, 8 Coins, 3 Gold)
3: 6 to Alexandria (2 die 2 Camels, 26 Coins, 3 Gold, -6VP), (note that this is illegal in Yucata as it doesn´t allow negative VPs, its noted in slightly changed rules... however anyone playing in Yucata you could do this next turn)
4: Move to Adana (2 Camels, 22 Coins, 3 Gold, -3VP) Get the last move as she moved first

Next round would also be good, if she tends to take last move:

1: Camels + Black die (5 dice, 5 Camels, 22 Coins, 3 Gold, 0VP)
2: 3 Gold 1-> to Kochi (2 dice, 5 Camels, 7 Coins, 7 Gold, 1 Silk, 0VP)
3: Travel to Xian (0 dice, 1 Camels, 3 Coins, 7 Gold, 1 Silk, 0VP)

Obviously there are a couple of question marks on how she plays, but also I haven´t used any opportunuties provided with your starting contract or other contracts. So my view is that it would have been "easy" to get 3 small cities in first 2 turns to start producing (& got your hardest objective).

Now as your travel objectives are hard (they are in 3 routes) & don´t give much points (3 cities). Do you take then randomly? It seems you have take them & character randomly.
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Jeff Hall
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Einsiedler wrote:
If in a 2 player game your opponent plays Mercator you should definitely avoid playing Rashid, because Rashid strongly pushes Mercator!

Kill Mercator by playing a traveling character.


And: Rashid is not a good traveler. Do not try to fulfill your traveling cards - this is way too expensive.


Great advice. That makes a lot of sense, actually. I'll keep that in mind.
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Riku Riekkinen wrote:
Now as your travel objectives are hard (they are in 3 routes) & don´t give much points (3 cities). Do you take then randomly? It seems you have take them & character randomly.
It's maybe the basic rule where one simply gets his two cards. Picking 2 out of 4 is labeled as 'expert rule', which most new players leave out in the first games (and generally speaking it's smart idea to believe in the author about how to start into a game).
On the other hand city bonuses were selected randomly here, which is part of the expert mode, too.
@GulfCoastTiger: I would strongly recommend to play with the variant where one picks his 2 travel objectiv cards out. More strategy, less luck. Usually everyone can get either relativly easy goal cards or at least goal cards with many points this way.
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Jeff Hall
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Riku Riekkinen wrote:
If Mercator can´t take gold with 5´s first turn:

1: Camels (I read Mercator travelled first) + Black die (5 dice, 5 Camels, 8 Coins)
2: 3 gold 1-> to Alexandria + Black die. Then 1-> towards Adana (3 dice, 2 Camels, 8 Coins, 3 Gold)
3: 6 to Alexandria (2 die 2 Camels, 26 Coins, 3 Gold, -6VP), (note that this is illegal in Yucata as it doesn´t allow negative VPs, its noted in slightly changed rules... however anyone playing in Yucata you could do this next turn)
4: Move to Adana (2 Camels, 22 Coins, 3 Gold, -3VP) Get the last move as she moved first

Next turn would also be good, if she tends to take last move:

1: Camels + Black die (5 dice, 5 Camels, 22 Coins, 3 Gold, 0VP)
2: 3 Gold 1-> to Kochi (2 dice, 5 Camels, 7 Coins, 7 Gold, 1 Silk, 0VP)
3: Travel to Xian (0 dice, 1 Camels, 3 Coins, 7 Gold, 1 Silk, 0VP)

Obviously there are a couple of question marks on how she plays, but also I haven´t used any opportunuties provided with your starting contract or other contracts. So my view is that it would have been "easy" to get 3 small cities in first 2 turns to start producing (& got your hardest objective).

Now as your travel objectives are hard (they are in 3 routes) & don´t give much points (3 cities). Do you take then randomly? It seems you have take them & character randomly.


Riku,

Thank you for your play-by-play suggestion. It already gives me a whole new perspective.

As for dipping into negative points for the Alexandria action space, does the rulebook state that this can be done? If so, then that absolutely seems very strong! Do you feel that actually losing points for money is a worthy trade to have a strong opening? Just curious on your thoughts.

I took Raschid because I had yet to play him. With me being a new player, I wasn't too aware of how dangerous he was to choose when your opponent has Mercator to choose from.

As for location cards, I figured having a shared location on the 3 cards would potentially be easier to complete, but maybe my choice wasn't very strong. Regardless, as you can see from the final board state, I failed to succeed in travel. A few camels were definitely necessary to get to Beijing or head for my targets considering I was heading towards Korakorum, however I wanted to deny her of black dice... I blew a lot of camels on grabbing black dice and finishing contracts. I feel I really need to think about all my wrong turns this game.

Also, with a wonderful opening scenario for my opponent, grabbing the bonus tile that works wonderfully with that city action space... is it right to think that me heading their too was possibly a waste?

Thanks again!
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Jeff Hall
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SpaceTrucker wrote:
Riku Riekkinen wrote:
Now as your travel objectives are hard (they are in 3 routes) & don´t give much points (3 cities). Do you take then randomly? It seems you have take them & character randomly.
It's maybe the basic rule where one simply gets his two cards. Picking 2 out of 4 is labeled as 'expert rule', which most new players leave out in the first games (and generally speaking it's smart idea to believe in the author about how to start into a game).
On the other hand city bonuses were selected randomly here, which is part of the expert mode, too.
@GulfCoastTiger: I would strongly recommend to play with the variant where one picks his 2 travel objectiv cards out. More strategy, less luck. Usually everyone can get either relativly easy goal cards or at least goal cards with many points this way.


We are playing with expert rules and setup. I believe my inexperience lead me to pick quite poorly on both character and location cards. My logic of grabbing two cards that share a location is maybe a bad choice. Is it generally a golden rule to avoid cards with shared locations?

Thanks for your comment
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Matt D
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GulfCoastTiger wrote:

I was Raschid while she was Mercator (2-player).


As was noted previously, your character selection set you up here for horrible failure. Raschid's power encourages use of the market; Marcator's power depends upon use of the market. During setup, are you randomly selecting characters and then choosing which ones to use in a draft, or just randomly selecting one? Because there is literally not a single worse character to play opposite Mercator than Raschid.

GulfCoastTiger wrote:

My two destination cards were Karakorum-Kochi and LanZhou-Kochi.


Likewise, are you drawing four of these at random and picking the two you want, or just drawing two? Because again, this pair here is particularly bad (hard to achieve all three, not high value if you do, and you max out at three cities -- a trifecta of badness).

GulfCoastTiger wrote:

The reason things got rough almost right out of the gate was she immediately arrived at Moscow. She got a wonderful bonus tile of 2 gold. From that point within the first round she finished 1 contract and did the Moscow action of Camel+1Gold=4points for 12 points. She maintained first player for 4 out of 5 rounds and simply made it her goal to keep things that way. Meanwhile I did my best to do some contract work. I did "fair" with 61 points at the end, while she achieved an impressive 85 points.


Just FYI, 85 is not actually "impressive" in this game. Once you get a few more plays under your belt, you'll find that 85 may be a decent winning point total, but it's not remarkable.

GulfCoastTiger wrote:

From those who have played a bunch, what could I have done to compete?


If you were concerned about her gold machine, a few things:

1. Stop getting gold from the market (assuming you were) -- that is only powering her engine for her.
2. Drop a trading post on Moscow yourself. Even if you don't use the space yourself first if you are start player, it forces her to use it right away so you don't block it. In a way, that can help you to reclaim the first player advantage even if you don't actually travel last. If she maintains start player (which it sounds like she did) AND doesn't have to use that city action until the end of her turn (which it sounds like was the case), then she can easily use her first action towards maintaining a gold supply that she can sell off at the end of the turn with her last move.
3. Take start player! As noted above, if you let her have start player AND her own private action, you'll never be able to keep up. At least if you claim start player on a few of the turns, you can use that to try to minimize her gold production--by which I mean, making judicious use of the khan's favor, because taking gold from the market just gives her one.

As you can see, there are a number of ways you can try to combat her strategy. It is a good one, but it is beatable. It just sounds like you didn't do anything that would actually pose a challenge to what she was trying to do. You may have even been feeding her engine by using the gold space in the market.

GulfCoastTiger wrote:

Her character was quite well adapted to this immediately available strategy. I am not one to claim it's just unfair, but I simply didn't know how to challenge her. Any comments? The game has been a blast so far, and I think we both would love to get some advice from the community. Thanks all!


The best advice I can give you is to try to see strategies once the board is laid out, before you pick your characters and travel bonus cards (and if you haven't been picking them, definitely start by doing that!)

It'll take some getting used to, but honestly the players that really excel at the game and get high scores are the ones that can figure out synergies and strategies of the board to plan out their game (loosely) and pick characters/trade card bonuses that go along with it. For example, does Sumatra have both the "1-5 gets 1 gold, 6 gets 3 gold" and the "trade gold + camel for VP" action items on it? If so, pick a character that can get you there as quickly as possible to exploit.

I think once you start to see that part of the pre-start strategy, this game will open up even more to you and you'll like it even more.
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Jeff Hall
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I competed heavily for contracts and black dice. I completed 9 contracts by the end of the game, winning the majority. Other than that, I just didn't really make a way of earning a decent amount of points.

In the future, against Mercator, I'll have to choose actions that help him least.

I found my opponent was able to not only take massive advantage of that Moscow space, but also plenty of opportunity to finish 7 contracts.
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Jeff Hall
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hestiansun wrote:
GulfCoastTiger wrote:

I was Raschid while she was Mercator (2-player).


As was noted previously, your character selection set you up here for horrible failure. Raschid's power encourages use of the market; Marcator's power depends upon use of the market. During setup, are you randomly selecting characters and then choosing which ones to use in a draft, or just randomly selecting one? Because there is literally not a single worse character to play opposite Mercator than Raschid.

GulfCoastTiger wrote:

My two destination cards were Karakorum-Kochi and LanZhou-Kochi.


Likewise, are you drawing four of these at random and picking the two you want, or just drawing two? Because again, this pair here is particularly bad (hard to achieve all three, not high value if you do, and you max out at three cities -- a trifecta of badness).

GulfCoastTiger wrote:

The reason things got rough almost right out of the gate was she immediately arrived at Moscow. She got a wonderful bonus tile of 2 gold. From that point within the first round she finished 1 contract and did the Moscow action of Camel+1Gold=4points for 12 points. She maintained first player for 4 out of 5 rounds and simply made it her goal to keep things that way. Meanwhile I did my best to do some contract work. I did "fair" with 61 points at the end, while she achieved an impressive 85 points.


Just FYI, 85 is not actually "impressive" in this game. Once you get a few more plays under your belt, you'll find that 85 may be a decent winning point total, but it's not remarkable.

GulfCoastTiger wrote:

From those who have played a bunch, what could I have done to compete?


If you were concerned about her gold machine, a few things:

1. Stop getting gold from the market (assuming you were) -- that is only powering her engine for her.
2. Drop a trading post on Moscow yourself. Even if you don't use the space yourself first if you are start player, it forces her to use it right away so you don't block it. In a way, that can help you to reclaim the first player advantage even if you don't actually travel last. If she maintains start player (which it sounds like she did) AND doesn't have to use that city action until the end of her turn (which it sounds like was the case), then she can easily use her first action towards maintaining a gold supply that she can sell off at the end of the turn with her last move.
3. Take start player! As noted above, if you let her have start player AND her own private action, you'll never be able to keep up. At least if you claim start player on a few of the turns, you can use that to try to minimize her gold production--by which I mean, making judicious use of the khan's favor, because taking gold from the market just gives her one.

As you can see, there are a number of ways you can try to combat her strategy. It is a good one, but it is beatable. It just sounds like you didn't do anything that would actually pose a challenge to what she was trying to do. You may have even been feeding her engine by using the gold space in the market.

GulfCoastTiger wrote:

Her character was quite well adapted to this immediately available strategy. I am not one to claim it's just unfair, but I simply didn't know how to challenge her. Any comments? The game has been a blast so far, and I think we both would love to get some advice from the community. Thanks all!


The best advice I can give you is to try to see strategies once the board is laid out, before you pick your characters and travel bonus cards (and if you haven't been picking them, definitely start by doing that!)

It'll take some getting used to, but honestly the players that really excel at the game and get high scores are the ones that can figure out synergies and strategies of the board to plan out their game (loosely) and pick characters/trade card bonuses that go along with it. For example, does Sumatra have both the "1-5 gets 1 gold, 6 gets 3 gold" and the "trade gold + camel for VP" action items on it? If so, pick a character that can get you there as quickly as possible to exploit.

I think once you start to see that part of the pre-start strategy, this game will open up even more to you and you'll like it even more.


Strong advice!

Yes, I just really screwed up with selection. I believe I fed her gold machine, considering I had a lot of contracts requiring gold. I knew I was feeding her a little, but I felt that I shouldn't let her card ability scare me from ever using the market... but in hindsight, of course, I see my mistake.

I also really underestimate Khan's Favor space. It's not that I never go there, but ESPECIALLY in this case, I should have really favored those actions spaces. It would have supplied my camels, and given me resources I needed for contract play.
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GulfCoastTiger wrote:

As for dipping into negative points for the Alexandria action space, does the rulebook state that this can be done? If so, then that absolutely seems very strong! Do you feel that actually losing points for money is a worthy trade to have a strong opening? Just curious on your thoughts.


Technically, at setup each player starts at the 50 point mark on the board. The online implementation at yucata.de skips this (as it does for most games), but game wise you are supposed to start there. Many people don't bother, but in a case like this, yes, it absolutely makes a difference.

GulfCoastTiger wrote:

I took Raschid because I had yet to play him. With me being a new player, I wasn't too aware of how dangerous he was to choose when your opponent has Mercator to choose from.


That will come with time. You'll find that certain characters don't play well against others. Another example is Kublai Khan and Johannes Caprini. Kublai's bonus is starting on the other side of the board, and being first in Beijing. If you have the chance to take Johannes after your opponent has picked Kublai, and there is anything worth having on the right side of the board, grab Johannes and you can effectively nerf Kublai, essentially just ceding three points for being in Beijing first. Likewise, if you are picking first, do NOT pick Kublai Khan if Johannes is there.

GulfCoastTiger wrote:

As for location cards, I figured having a shared location on the 3 cards would potentially be easier to complete, but maybe my choice wasn't very strong. Regardless, as you can see from the final board state, I failed to succeed in travel.


Again, it depends upon character selection. If you have a travel character, you are usually better off taking four different posts to get the higher bonus at the end (10 vs 6). Or, take three that are easy to get to if you're not a travel favorable character. Or take one easy one that has good bonuses along the route and just stick to that. But generally speaking, capping yourself at three isn't always a good strategy unless you fully expect to get both cards.

GulfCoastTiger wrote:

A few camels were definitely necessary to get to Beijing or head for my targets considering I was heading towards Korakorum, however I wanted to deny her of black dice... I blew a lot of camels on grabbing black dice and finishing contracts. I feel I really need to think about all my wrong turns this game.


If you are buying camels just to deny your opponent, you're playing sub-optimally on your end. Camels have a real cost -- and with her playing Mercator, your camel binging was actually benefiting her as well.

I'll be honest, while I really like having the black dice, it often doesn't make sense if you can do what you want without them, or close to it. Otherwise, you are spending resources to get a die that may or may not get you closer to what you need (except for Raschid, of course).

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hestiansun wrote:
GulfCoastTiger wrote:

As for dipping into negative points for the Alexandria action space, does the rulebook state that this can be done? If so, then that absolutely seems very strong! Do you feel that actually losing points for money is a worthy trade to have a strong opening? Just curious on your thoughts.


Technically, at setup each player starts at the 50 point mark on the board. The online implementation at yucata.de skips this (as it does for most games), but game wise you are supposed to start there. Many people don't bother, but in a case like this, yes, it absolutely makes a difference.

GulfCoastTiger wrote:

I took Raschid because I had yet to play him. With me being a new player, I wasn't too aware of how dangerous he was to choose when your opponent has Mercator to choose from.


That will come with time. You'll find that certain characters don't play well against others. Another example is Kublai Khan and Johannes Caprini. Kublai's bonus is starting on the other side of the board, and being first in Beijing. If you have the chance to take Johannes after your opponent has picked Kublai, and there is anything worth having on the right side of the board, grab Johannes and you can effectively nerf Kublai, essentially just ceding three points for being in Beijing first. Likewise, if you are picking first, do NOT pick Kublai Khan if Johannes is there.

GulfCoastTiger wrote:

As for location cards, I figured having a shared location on the 3 cards would potentially be easier to complete, but maybe my choice wasn't very strong. Regardless, as you can see from the final board state, I failed to succeed in travel.


Again, it depends upon character selection. If you have a travel character, you are usually better off taking four different posts to get the higher bonus at the end (10 vs 6). Or, take three that are easy to get to if you're not a travel favorable character. Or take one easy one that has good bonuses along the route and just stick to that. But generally speaking, capping yourself at three isn't always a good strategy unless you fully expect to get both cards.

GulfCoastTiger wrote:

A few camels were definitely necessary to get to Beijing or head for my targets considering I was heading towards Korakorum, however I wanted to deny her of black dice... I blew a lot of camels on grabbing black dice and finishing contracts. I feel I really need to think about all my wrong turns this game.


If you are buying camels just to deny your opponent, you're playing sub-optimally on your end. Camels have a real cost -- and with her playing Mercator, your camel binging was actually benefiting her as well.

I'll be honest, while I really like having the black dice, it often doesn't make sense if you can do what you want without them, or close to it. Otherwise, you are spending resources to get a die that may or may not get you closer to what you need (except for Raschid, of course).



I know we all start on the 50 mark, but we are technically at "0" correct? Am I allowed to go in the negatives? I feel it's an important question, because after thinkin about it, the suggested move by Riku seems quite strong indeed! It's the difference between traveling twice in the first round or waiting till second round.
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GulfCoastTiger wrote:

Yes, I just really screwed up with selection. I believe I fed her gold machine, considering I had a lot of contracts requiring gold. I knew I was feeding her a little, but I felt that I shouldn't let her card ability scare me from ever using the market... but in hindsight, of course, I see my mistake.


Never be "afraid" of letting your opponent's character dictate how you play your game. It's essential that you bear that in mind.

GulfCoastTiger wrote:

I also really underestimate Khan's Favor space. It's not that I never go there, but ESPECIALLY in this case, I should have really favored those actions spaces. It would have supplied my camels, and given me resources I needed for contract play.


In my experience, newer players tend to do that because they think it's a gimme space. It's huge when playing 2p against Mercator (because that only gives him a camel but lets you have resources), but even when not you are using one die for 2 camels and a resource of your choice. 3 camels gets you a black die, so assuming you have access to a black die, you can be considered to be trading one camel for one resource -- a trade I'd make any day. And most of the time, you're using a die that won't get you much of anything else any other place if you are placing early.

Particularly as Raschid, you should have been dropping a 6 there early every turn to prevent your opponent from using it to fill out what small contract needs she had. Then you can free go back there if you can buy the black dice. With that strategy, assuming you could build up enough camels, you could easily get yourself 2-3 resources per turn without giving any to her. Or, make her spend her valuable 6's on there, which isn't a great use of them.
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GulfCoastTiger wrote:

I know we all start on the 50 mark, but we are technically at "0" correct? Am I allowed to go in the negatives? I feel it's an important question, because after thinkin about it, the suggested move by Riku seems quite strong indeed! It's the difference between traveling twice in the first round or waiting till second round.


Why would they have you start at 50, if not for this reason?
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hestiansun wrote:

Why would they have you start at 50, if not for this reason?


Wouldn't the 50 space on the score track just represent 0 in this case?
Also, how do you dip into negative points? It's been a while since I played. I don't recall being able to pay points for an action or resource of some kind.
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hestiansun wrote:
GulfCoastTiger wrote:

I know we all start on the 50 mark, but we are technically at "0" correct? Am I allowed to go in the negatives? I feel it's an important question, because after thinkin about it, the suggested move by Riku seems quite strong indeed! It's the difference between traveling twice in the first round or waiting till second round.


Why would they have you start at 50, if not for this reason?


Just found on the forum that the designer said he never intended the rules to allow going negative. However the german supplement says it can be done, meanwhile, Z-Man's supplement mentions exchanging. If I have 0 points, then I have no points to exchange in my interpretation.

Since the designer says he never intended for this possibility to exist, I suppose I'll play without this possibility.
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educatedgravy wrote:
hestiansun wrote:

Why would they have you start at 50, if not for this reason?


Wouldn't the 50 space on the score track just represent 0 in this case?
Also, how do you dip into negative points? It's been a while since I played. I don't recall being able to pay points for an action or resource of some kind.


Matthew,

If you notice the the action card placed under Alexandria, you will see that you can exchange points for gold and vice versa.
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GulfCoastTiger wrote:

Matthew,

If you notice the the action card placed under Alexandria, you will see that you can exchange points for gold and vice versa.


Ah, I get it now.
I obviously didn't pay enough attention.
Thanks!
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GulfCoastTiger wrote:
Just found on the forum that the designer said he never intended the rules to allow going negative. However the german supplement says it can be done, meanwhile, Z-Man's supplement mentions exchanging. If I have 0 points, then I have no points to exchange in my interpretation.

Since the designer says he never intended for this possibility to exist, I suppose I'll play without this possibility.


Well the thing still works. You just have to move one black die purchase & using Alexandria to round 2.

I wouldn't be afraid of using gold bazar. Using Gold & Camels from bazar nets Mercator 1 gold + 1 camel per round. Now using other options gives Mercator easily more. Also 1gold + 1 camel is less than what one gains from one small city. This is a good sign as characters generally receive a bit more (For example easiest Matteo polo receives die + contract = 3 camels + contract = small city + contract). Gold bazar 5 dice action is very powerful and almost Rashid's main ability (to use it regularly).

Now using VP->3coins at the start is good option. Usually going through Adana is ok, if there is 5 coins city in Adana. Now gettin 3VP city twice (you´ll have 6 VPs at the start of the turn 2) and using a die to turn it to 18 coins means you have received 8 coins for a die compared to just having coins city in Adana. Its excellent deal especially, because VPs city is much better at the end than coins city.

The setup is good for going for 9TPs. As when you get to Lan-Zhou the rest can be taken with the city ability.

I don´t agree that Rashid is the worst against Mercator. But I would say that Mercator is clearly the strongest character and should almost always be picked first, if one wants to win.
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Riku Riekkinen wrote:
I don´t agree that Rashid is the worst against Mercator. But I would say that Mercator is clearly the strongest character and should almost always be picked first, if one wants to win.
This is only for the base game without New Characters expansion, I guess? For Expansion characters Gunj Kököchin (personal dice spaces for resources and travel once) is quite surely much more out of line.
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