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Subject: Basic strategic analysis of the early game [No spoilers] rss

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Adam Strong-Morse
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We've finished the Prologue and will be playing Game 1 soon. I've been thinking about strategy for the first game (and perhaps the first couple games--things may change). It's based only on the public information (and some information about what the first couple island sites are likely to be like, although I won't discuss that explicitly).

Here's what I've got so far:
1. This game is a race to score glory as quickly as possible. Put another way, the goal is to change resources (money, goods, time) into glory, and the scarcest resource is time.

2. It's pretty easy to score 1 glory per turn. There are roughly 20 sites that can be explored or raided (or in the case of unexplored sites, explored then raided) at the beginning of the game; each of those actions provides 1 glory and can produce additional goods (e.g. raiding gets you +1 glory and typically 1 good), and they cost very little (some ship damage possible, enmity in the case of raiding). That means that game 1, for example, is highly unlikely to last more than two years, and could be substantially less than 2 full years. It also means that every turn, you have to be either scoring 1 glory, or setting up a future turn(s) where you score more than 1 glory in a turn, or you're falling behind. Trading for goods is risky, because it typically costs a turn without producing any glory (and it consumes gold, which is also pretty scarce at the beginning of the game). A sequence like buy two goods, then use those two goods to buy a structure and an upgrade is fine (albeit expensive, costing a total of 10 gold), because it takes two turns and yields two glory. But a sequence like raid-raid-upgrade/build is much, much stronger, because it takes three turns and yields 4 glory. Similarly, if you can get a sequence like trade for 3 goods, treasure-upgrade-build, then you're actually getting ahead--now you're spending 2 turns to get 3 glory, and without enmity as an added bonus, albeit at a total cost of 13 gold (quite a lot, but not impossible if you do the treasure-upgrade-build in a different year). Taxing is also really expensive, because it's time not spent earning victory points--but raid+tax (instead of raid+sail) is sweet, because it provides both resources and glory.

3. Because it's easy to get 1 glory per turn, and there are a bunch of ways to get 2 glory in a turn, the path to victory is all about maximizing the multiple glory turns. Advisors who can get you 2 glory (i.e. a bonus of 1 glory for doing something that is already worthwhile are strong). Buying treasures is potentially strong, because it can be combined with other moves that earn glory. Minimizing your sailing so you can get double benefits (build+upgrade in one turn, or raid+tax) is efficient and can help you win the game.

4. Advisors that score extra glory are huge, and you should let them guide your play. You may prefer to explore instead of raiding, but if you can get an advisor that scores you 2 glory for raiding, you should probably take the glory and run. The builder advisors that score you extra glory for building and upgrading can also be very powerful, both initially (by getting you a 2 glory turn) and by letting you set up a monster 4 glory build+upgrade turn in the second year.

5. Obviously, milestones are a huge part of the game. Typically, earning milestones is the perfect example of a double-benefit: you can earn glory by tossing up a building, and then earn additional glory because you've completed the three buildings milestone. So one of the main bits of strategy will be planning paths to milestones that are also good sources of glory along the way. However, spending turns not earning glory to try to get a milestone later is very risky--if you get scooped (or run out of time and the game ends), you potentially lose a lot. The other thing is that you need to watch other players on milestones--investing in a milestone only to get scooped is a disaster, but if you can demonstrate that you'll win the race, you can push other players off the plan.

6. Timing matters. There are two main aspects to this I see. A. You need to watch for the end of the game. If you invest one turn to set up three 2 glory turns, that's a strong play--but not if the game ends before you get a chance to cash in. This means that in particular long sequences are more dangerous than fast sequences, except perhaps right at the beginning of the game. B. The last turn before winter is a good turn for a fallow investment in the next turn (such as buying resources you'll need to build next turn, or sailing hither and yon), because you get the benefit of an earlier turn order in the next year. This isn't entirely a good thing--there's some benefit near the end of the game to being the last mover--but you want to view turn order as something that can be strategically manipulated.

Anyway, those are my thoughts so far. Did I miss anything big (no spoilers)? Anything you disagree with?
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David desJardins
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With the benefit of experience, I disagree with virtually everything you write. But there's no way to say why or how without spoiling the game---that's kind of the point of the legacy format, you don't know how the game will develop.
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TJ
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DaviddesJ wrote:
With the benefit of experience, I disagree with virtually everything you write. But there's no way to say why or how without spoiling the game---that's kind of the point of the legacy format, you don't know how the game will develop.


Did you actually read his points? Most of what he said is not invalidated by later content. I especially agree with his later points that the game can end rather abruptly, and spending multiple turns setting up for a big play can be risky if the game ends or somebody snatches up whatever you're going for first.
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David desJardins
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Slyght wrote:
Did you actually read his points? Most of what he said is not invalidated by later content.


Obviously I disagree. Why are we debating this, since neither of us can support our positions without stating spoilers from later? I get that you have a different opinion than I do.

I do agree the game can end before you complete whatever you were setting up to do and that's not good for you. That is a pretty small part of his observations, though.
 
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Will
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I would say his points 5 and 6 are coherent, but the others miss by a good amount. (Edit: The second half of) Point number 2 might apply to the first game or 2, but I'm not even sure about that.
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TJ
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His arguments that you should raid because it gives you points are debatable. Raiding can give you an early campaign advantage, but enmity is in of itself a limited resource that you have in a game as well, and permanent enmity can make things prohibitive to both raid and buy from in later games. Being a jerk in this game does come with consequences.
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Adam Strong-Morse
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Yeah, one of the things I find hardest to figure out from pre-game analysis is how high the cost of placing an enmity token on an island is. That also depends on the behavior of a given table--if everyone is raiding like mad, the relative cost is lower. If you're the only person raiding, the relative cost is higher. I'm not surprised that people would disagree on my analysis of the value of raiding. But that's part of why I was curious about other people's reactions.
 
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Frank Pelkofer
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At the end of game 3, this analysis seems reasonable to me. Although, I'm 10 points behind the leader in my game. So, maybe I'm a bad person to ask.

I definitely think that you need to go with the bonuses that are available. If you want to explore, but you don't have access to an adviser that gives bonuses to explore, then you need to rethink your career choices for that turn.
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Becq Starforged
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@OP

This is a reasonable prologue-level assessment. You will find that your strategy will need to adapt as you unlock more game elements, but that shouldn't come as a surprise to you.

One thing I will mention (without spoilers, just core rules analysis) is that you appear to be ignoring the enmity cost of raiding. And by this, I'm not just talking about the limited enmity counters. You can absolutely raid eight times, and you'll be grabbing 8 glory plus some additional goods that could be turned into cheap treasures, structures, or upgrades. But consider what happens at the end of the game, when most or all of those counters turn into permanent(ish) enmity stickers. Now fast forward to Game 2, when the effective garrison levels are several points higher for you as a result. If you continue raiding, Game 3 will be even harder. And if you switch to trade because the defenses are too strong, you'll find that your profit margins take a big hit due to that enmity, too.

(very mild spoilers involving my experience with game length)
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Also, my experience indicates that expecting the game to last 2 years is optimistic. None of our four full games has lasted over 8 turns (or maybe 9?). You can also infer from this that you want to set your glory goals a bit higher than 1 glory per turn.


In any case, sounds like you're having fun, so enjoy the campaign!
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Matt Random
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(very mild spoilers involving my experience with game length):
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Coming from someone who is currently in 1st and has only 4 permanent enmity stickers left(and a LOT MORE game) it isn't as limited as some people say. This game has a wide variety of strategies, you just have to look and plan ahead.

You are correct that 1 glory a turn is a bad average, but some games last longer and allow for bigger setup plays especially if your group is aggressive. The more peaceful the game is the faster it will go which is something you will figure out as you play.
 
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Adam Strong-Morse
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First game
Minor spoilers based on first game length:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
We played the first game last night. It ended up being very short, much less than a year. I won the game in 5 turns: upgrading a ship (1 Glory), Exploring for the highest site on an island milestone (+4 Glory, with a lucky explore result giving me strong resources), repairing a battered ship and building a structure (+1 Glory), raiding with an advisor that gave an extra glory (+2 Glory), and raiding a difficulty 6 site for a second milestone (+4 Glory). The other players were scattered from 5 Glory down to 2 Glory. So I think focusing on the race for glory worked well for me, but I was surprised by how short the game was even so.
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David desJardins
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Why did the other players all ignore the milestones? Did you show them your strategy tips?
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Adam Strong-Morse
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They didn't ignore the milestones exactly. I think they perceived the milestones I got as too risky to try for without more prep, and were waiting for things--a better advisor, a ship upgrade, etc. before trying for those. There were definitely also people pursuing the other two milestones, but not fast enough to finish them in time. (I also got lucky with several things--I got some very strong advisors that showed up immediately before my turn to pick advisors, and I got a really good explore result that helped me do better.)

In general, I think they expected the pacing to be different--there were several people who had plans for how things were going to work out well in another couple of rounds, and then the game ended. I found that very weird, because it was exactly the reverse of the prologue, where I finished a distant last because I hadn't at all realized how much time pressure we were under to score glory quickly.

I did not show them my strategy tips--I feel like that would have both felt weird ("here, look what I wrote about this game!"), and is contrary to the ordinary dynamic of a competitive game, where part of the competition is trying to out-analyze the strategic situation.
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Becq Starforged
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At the very least, this should solidly underscore to the others how significant milestones are. You should have more competition in the future, and they will all have a turn order advantage in completing those future milestones.
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j n
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ahmorse wrote:
They didn't ignore the milestones exactly. I think they perceived the milestones I got as too risky to try for without more prep, and were waiting for things--a better advisor, a ship upgrade, etc. before trying for those. There were definitely also people pursuing the other two milestones, but not fast enough to finish them in time.


In our game 1, nobody was able to achieve the raid milestone for this reason (and also because the only legal target was on an island with garrison of 2). The one person who tried ended up sinking. So I see how this can happen (and hopefully everyone's still having some fun).

Thanks for sharing your notes and experiences.
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Samuel Favre
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lactamaeon wrote:
ahmorse wrote:
They didn't ignore the milestones exactly. I think they perceived the milestones I got as too risky to try for without more prep, and were waiting for things--a better advisor, a ship upgrade, etc. before trying for those. There were definitely also people pursuing the other two milestones, but not fast enough to finish them in time.


In our game 1, nobody was able to achieve the raid milestone for this reason (and also because the only legal target was on an island with garrison of 2). The one person who tried ended up sinking. So I see how this can happen (and hopefully everyone's still having some fun).

Thanks for sharing your notes and experiences.


Same here... I tried and sinked miserably Game finished two turns later. After 1 play I have 1/3 Glory of the leader. What a miserable start :(
 
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Frank Pelkofer
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dYnkYn wrote:
Same here... I tried and sinked miserably Game finished two turns later. After 1 play I have 1/3 Glory of the leader. What a miserable start


Don't lose hope. There's plenty of opportunity to catch up. I'm through 8 games now and I've been completely blown out in a few and won by large margins in a few. It sucks to get killed in a single game, but you have to remember it's a marathon.
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