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Subject: Basic Strategy help needed rss

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Brad Johnson
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We played Yspahan for the first time recently, and while it was ok, we were all left kind of mystified as to why it rates so highly. Our main issue was it seemed like for all the space taken in the rules talking about the caravan, overseer, and cards, these things hardly ever entered into play. We never did fill up the caravan until the very end of the game, I think I was the only one to use an action to move the overseer once (to screw someone out of points), and for most of the game only one or two players ever held a card.

So were we just suffering from major group-think? It seemed like the useful opportunities to do anything other than place cubes in neighborhoods were far fewer and less effective than we expected.

A brief overview of basic strategy approaches would be great to give me some ideas on how it *should* be played, if anyone can offer one...
 
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Dan Poole
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I will say that without a doubt, if some players neglect the caravan while others do not, the neglecting players will be at a serious disadvantage. The caravan continues to award VPs at the end of each week until emptied (at which it scores again). Therefore a single player can get 10+ VPs easily from the caravan each scoring just by having a presence of cubes there.

As for cards, you should regard these much more highly. For example, constructing a 4 camel/4 Gold building without needing camels (or gold) can be hugely beneficial.

The Key to Yspahan is careful balance between cards, caravan, buildings and markets. This is deifnitely a game that gets better with successive plays.

One of my favorite strategies is aquiring that building (don't remember the name) that allots a free card whenever a cube is placed into the caravan. Then I place a healthy amount of cubes into the caravan, with each placement being awarded a card.

 
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Thomas Cauet
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tempus42 wrote:
We played Yspahan for the first time recently, and while it was ok, we were all left kind of mystified as to why it rates so highly. Our main issue was it seemed like for all the space taken in the rules talking about the caravan...

A brief overview of basic strategy approaches would be great to give me some ideas on how it *shoud* be played, if anyone can offer one...


The points given with the caravan are, like for the souks, variable, but have the advantage of being scored multiple times. Knowing how to exploit these multiple scorings is probably the most subtle mechanism of the game and is often underused during the first games (and giving the impression of a “flat” game where you only fill souks). But don’t do the mistake of ignoring it totally; this is where you will get additional points which could make all the difference, especially when all the other sources of points are closed.
Several tips are useful when using the caravan:
• The camels are used not as one of the 2 resources required for buildings but to keep your cubes in town while sending them to the caravan.
• The timing is vital when using the caravan intensively. If a cube scored only one time, its value will be 3 points which is far too low. To be really efficient, a cube must score multiple times and with a good ratio. If you have for example reached the “*2” or “*3” level before the end of first or second week, stop going there and keep taking points elsewhere (especially souks). You have to force the other players to go in the caravan. If they don’t go, you will score at the end of the week, but also during the next when the caravan is finished, and this with the same cubes! If they invest in the caravan, your opponents will have to sacrifice actions, which is also beneficial to you. All this depends on how many players invest in the caravan but keep in mind you don’t want the caravan always filling fast.
• The 2 double spaces on the board, with shops facing each other, are a great help to quickly fill the caravan. Even if you use the supervisor to send an opponent’s cube with your own, you can determine the order in which they are placed in the caravan. You can then use the cube of an opponent to reach the “*2” or “*3” level, and expect that this opponent will also be interested to fill the caravan now (keep in mind that it’s often easier to fill the caravan with the help of another player). If you are alone in these double shops, take the time to get the camels to send cubes several times this way. In this matter, the white souk of the barrel neighbourhood is of strategic importance, both for the caravaner and the ones that want to counter him.
• Keep the “place a cube in the caravan” card to be sure of being at the right level just before a scoring of the caravan.
• You want the completed souks as limited as possible for your opponents. Try to book the maximum number of souks before them: you will limit the souks they can take, but also have a better choice when moving the supervisor: you will use him to take the most precious groups for your opponents. The supervisor will be easier to use (and nastier) if you invested in the Hammam (free movement for 3 steps).
This strategy is mainly supported by the caravanserai (+1 card), hard to use early in the game because you only have 2 gold at the beginning. You will need at least 2 actions to get the additional resources for building (one for camels and one for gold), another one to place some cubes in town, then a last one to send one of your cubes to the caravan. So a minimum of 4 turns is required (often more). This is nonetheless a very strong option (especially in a 2-players game) which will depends a lot on which cards you have drawn, and your ability to optimise them.
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Daniel Corban
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tempus42 wrote:
We played Yspahan for the first time recently, and while it was ok, we were all left kind of mystified as to why it rates so highly. Our main issue was it seemed like for all the space taken in the rules talking about the caravan, overseer, and cards, these things hardly ever entered into play.

So were we just suffering from major group-think?


Yes.

See the recent discussions (on BGG and various blogs) of how the caravans are actually too strong.
 
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Brad Johnson
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Thanks for some good tips to get us thinking in the right way. But I'm still a bit confused, and I'm starting to suspect that we may have missed a rule somewhere:

You speak of getting to the 2nd or 3rd row of the caravan in the first week and then going on to fill souks in the neighborhoods. But you only get 7 actions per week, right? In order to get just 1 cube in the caravan typically takes a minimum of two actions: Place some cubes and then move the overseer. Is that correct? We kept thinkng throughout the whole game that there just wasn't enough time to do much, and unless several people are taking turns to put cubes in the caravan, point scoring is just too inefficient to compare to someone who's able to grab a couple rich souks.

So that's where my concern is: Is it really true that you only get to do 7 actions per week (21 actions for the entire game)? I'm having a hard time figuring out how to do all the stuff you're talking about doing with so few actions...

Also, I was scanning the articles here for prior strategy tips, but I wasn't able to find anything that I thought was so fruitful. Can you point me to a recommended article or two? (I keep thinking one thing I'd like to see in bgg is better indexing and browsing of game articles...)
 
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Daniel Corban
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The caravan strategy is actually based around cards. Cards generally give you more than one turn worth of stuff. Once you get the building which gives cards when placing cubes on the caravan along with the one which allows you to move the supervisor +/-, then you are set. Get a few cubes in the "best" spots near the intersection, move the supervisor, spend camels to keep the cubes in the town, rake in the points and cards. The cards will help keep this rhythm going. One suggested tactic is to spend the entire first week simply drawing cards (so you have the widest selection of cards).
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Thomas Cauet
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tempus42 wrote:

You speak of getting to the 2nd or 3rd row of the caravan in the first week and then going on to fill souks in the neighborhoods. But you only get 7 actions per week, right? In order to get just 1 cube in the caravan typically takes a minimum of two actions: Place some cubes and then move the overseer. Is that correct? We kept thinkng throughout the whole game that there just wasn't enough time to do much, and unless several people are taking turns to put cubes in the caravan, point scoring is just too inefficient to compare to someone who's able to grab a couple rich souks.

You're right about needing one action to place cubes (usually several) then additionnal actions to send them to the caravan. In a 3 or 4 players game, it's hard to reach more than the second level of the caravan the first week.
The important point is about timing: if you're alone in the caravan, then you need to stop it at one time during the game. When you've made enough investment. It's too hard to reach the third level alone.
For example in a 4 players game, I did 5 cubes alone in the caravan during the first week (2 actions placing 5 cubes, then 4 others to send them to the caravan with one time the double space) so I scored 4*2+5*2=18 points. Then I just stop to go there since other players didn't want to help me. I score at least then 18+10+10 for 6 actions, so around 4.5 points per action (which is average good for a 3-4 players game, ending usually between 80 and 90 points, so average of 4 points per action). I concurrenced other players on souks then and the limited number of points according by the souks will "melt as snow under sun" (roughly translating from French )...

You were keeping the cubes in the caravan after the end of the week (while emptying the town)?
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Donald Moomin
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The caravan strategy is very strong if your opponents don't know how to counter it. Here's a strategy article describing how to use it to break the PC implementation (the AI's can't counter it effectively):

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/163543

Naturally, it works against unsuspecting "real" opponents too...
 
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Neil Gordon
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only unsuspecting..... I wondered if the caravan strategy revealed a flaw in this game, with all the posts stating that this strategy was so strong.

Surprisingly, I tried it with friends who had worked out the value of the caravan, but not that it could be the dominant method. They didn't ignore the caravan or rely on it, just sent the odd well timed cube. I couldn't get anywhere... Using a combination of souks and caravan they all kept me pinned to the end. The only point I got ahead was in a caravan scoring before the last turn, which worked to my disadvantage anyway (since I was last for the last turn).

Still a game that gets better to me with every play......
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Thomas Cauet
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NeilGordon wrote:
only unsuspecting..... I wondered if the caravan strategy revealed a flaw in this game, with all the posts stating that this strategy was so strong.

Well it's often easy to state, especially on the net The caravan is how it was intended: strong. Why? Because it add tension to the game: if you let players go away with the caravan, you lost; if everybody goes to the caravan, then it becomes not worthy. I bet than in a 4 players game, if 3 players go on the caravenserai/caravan and the last one concentrates on the souks, this one will win (if he sacrifice one or 2 cubes to score the caravan before the end of the second week). It's a matter of balance: a new parameter to consider. Without this, it will be a flat mechanism of filling souks to get points. But this is also the hardest mechanism to understand and apply efficiently. That's also why the caravenserai has a good ratio power/cost.
The same goes for the cards. There are how they were intended: strong. Why? While you can't counter a strong group of dices, you can diminish the unluck of correlated weak groups (with this strong option: take a card, but you don't choose what you get).
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Sebastian
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I also think with experienced players you cannot win "only" using the caravan. In my playrounds usually the most fought for souk-places are those, wehre you can send two cubes at once to the caravan. If someone can place cubes on both (s)he has usually a big - maybe game-deciding advantage.
 
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I'm with the original poster. We played our first game last night and found little use for the caravan or the supervisor. IT was pretty much an EL Grande-style area-control game with players getting most of their points through completing Souks. At the end of the game, I think there were only 6 or 7 cubes on the caravan, and it was never cleared.

Not that I'm coming down to hard on the game, mind you. I really like the dice mechanism, which is truly fun. I'm just wondering what we're missing.

Brian
 
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Jared Wilson
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Perhaps this is obvious to most - but after reading the rules and preparing a little strategy in my mind before the first game, I had a little mental block of sorts, thinking that moving the overseer meant knocking someone else out of their souk. Well, the people I played against that first time had played Yspahan before, and they moved that overseer quite a bit, and would you believe - they never sent me to the caravan! I was so surprised to watch them both send THEMSELVES to the caravan over and over again. Needless to say, they both finished with far more points than me!
 
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Aaron Haag
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Quote:
The caravan strategy is very strong if your opponents don't know how to counter it. Here's a strategy article describing how to use it to break the PC implementation (the AI's can't counter it effectively)


There's now a version 1.10 of the computer version out that has an improved AI and is much better in countering the caravan strategy. And it also offers three variants that can optionally be selected to make it more difficult to win using the caravan.

http://www.westpark-gamers.de/download/yspahan_pc_e.php

Aaron
 
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