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Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar» Forums » Strategy

Subject: The Deepest Strategy Talk Possible in BGA+BGG community rss

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Despite this game being very popular among players on BGA and massively played often both there and live, this forum somewhat doesnt flow with frequent strategy talks, so i want to change that!

Thus i do warn you dear readers, this original post is not expecting you to read it in one go, it takes quite a big time to complete reading it, so rather split it into two or even three times if you like, one go reading could become very boring to you.The reading is very long because compared to the traditional guides where you read it and u conclude this makes sense and just walk away with new information, this is both guide and discussion, so it requires you to go through almost all actions in replayed game itself posted below and start thinking on a very deep level about what did i say to the particular action AND what do you want to say to it.

The main topics today will be in a sophisticated progressive order, which should bring not only good players into discussion, but also less intermediate players who might not played enough games to be confident in seeing into game deeply.
I definitely don't consider myself nowhere near the level of "master" level players on BGA in tzolkin, however with combination of some games played both online/live and studying replays of the best players, i have a decent understanding of what is going on.
In the end, because i love this game so much, i pray to the mayan gods we will be able to evolve games through discussion together again.

The anchor point of main topics will be an innocent-looking previously mentioned replay from BGA, which i played this same day i prepared this thread :

1.) Game starting setup. Knowing nowadays META^ and metagame^^, i am willing to go against the flow.

2.) Critical decisions in my play and their impact on victory points

3.) Different upper limits of individual strategies available in game.

4.) Bigger picture of a game. Fundamental problems of the game mechanics, balance issues, potential buffs and/or nerfs on strategies.

5.) How does the "Tribes and Prophecies" expansion changes point 4.)

1.) Looking on monuments and on my starting wealth tiles, there is no better chance to abandon the classic Resource Tech strategy. This is if not the best, then one of the best setup for Big Corn strategy. The corn tile monument gives a theoretical 12 available tiles x4 points = 48 points making it the best momenument in this game assuming one will play for it. Another reason of going for it this game, which many of you might no realize is not having any static blocker on Palenque wheel,which mathematically helps to net more corn, or better said 1 static blocker slightly reduces net corn gain, 2 blockers reduce corn even more.

This section is optional for readers. For more math how a static blocker impacts the corn strategy: Assume you have 6 workers with enough corn to cover expenses and corn technology at highest level. If palenque wheel has no static blockers and no other player's workers, placing 6 workers costs exactly 30 corn and at the next round ,taking all 6 workers gives 53 corn, net +23 corn. If palenque wheel now has a 1 static blocker at the lowest position, placing all workers costs 36 corn but at the next round taking all workers gives 61 corn, net +25 corn. If that same blocker was placed on 1 position above, this process i mentioned previously would net me +23 corn. blocker on position 3 nets me +22 corn , position 4 nets +21, position 5 +22. The blocker reducing corn gain still holds true even if first 4 positions are spammed with blockers, because then i can place only 3 workers and that nets +18 corn, or first 2 positions net +24 corn. There are only few cases out of MANY where having a static blocker nets more corn, while rest net less corn, averaging obviously netting less corn.
Thus with all respect to player qqzm, i would like to bust the myth of having more players actively going for palenque wheel to jump over them is more profitable.His link can be found here , he mentions it in the agriculture tech strategy section :

2.) Unfortunately BGA doesnt offer the option of spotting exactly the move i want to discuss and extract it into a link, so bear with me readers, if you truly care about .

First critical decision within corn strategy was straight off the bat choosing 2 starting wealth tiles from 4. The game is internally designed in such a fashion that the closer to the end game, the easier and less complicated it is to directly calculate the victory point value per a single decision. Since this decision is the furthest from the eng game, there is no way of calculating this, thus i needed to approach this empirically^^^. An absolute choice was the tile that gives 3 corn+yellow god+corn technology track. Not taking the tile with skull tech track gives me a tough decision between the rest 2.At that time i thought the difference between with the second corn track tile over the 9corn+1 stone tile would be paying 1 wood less on the later tikal 3 action (+2 moves in tech tree) AND having +1 step on one of the temples, also having 2 more gold from the first and third quarter of the game from yellow god, because i would definitely step up in that column, and then having +1 gold from the wealth tile itself.. all this advantage i gave up for having just +9 corn so i can place the first quarter more comfortably.Having only 3 corn is problematic for initial build-up because i cant even place all of my workers in second round, following into probably 1 MORE beg for corn action in later rounds. It is a difficult decision since it impresses me the decisions are close. I am opened up to the discussion what is better and why.

Second critical decision was two rounds before first quarter. I decided to keep my worker on Palenque 3 so i can take him 2 rounds later to take more corn. Reviewing this back, this was definitely a mistake, because for corn strategy, the point is to grab the most corn, so mathematically i should be either placing all my workers then following round withdrawing all workers OR placing all my workers then withdrawing all minus one. the math behind this single spot is easy. placing it on position 2 and then waiting 4 rounds gives me 12 corn = net +10 , second option is to take him out and then take at least the worst option = count him as place on position 0 and the last worker for cost of number of workers,it would be third worker, so +2 corn cost,then withdraw position 1 , net addition +4, so +12 in total. So you compare +10 vs +12 , taking him out now obviously nets AT LEAST 2 more corn. note that this is the worst case possible, which is a very time efficient metric^^^^ for finding out whether this second choice is better than the first, because i dont have to recalculate it again, instantly knowing it can be only better in case it proves to be better in worst case. There is no point in calculating from best case.

Third critical decision was exactly on the first quarter, i again didnt take worker on palenque 3 out, what is a same story in previous decision

Fourth critical decision was round after. i decided to place worker into position of a first player, because i seen the red player wheeling his worker from Uxmal 4 to Uxmal 5 next round, taking action before me. His strategy prefers to pay wood in the tech tree, so with his current setup there is a high chance he would take the wood from Palenque through Uxmal 5, what SEEMED LIKE a very unpleasant outcome for me.I let my ego go banana because i wanted that 4 wood so i made this decision. After reviewing it now,it turns out this is a completely retarded decision, because the main value of that worker going for first position was to deny him taking wood from Palenque 5, and i didnt realize i would deny him only 1 wood, because he would take it from Palenque 4. Outside of that my strategy doesnt even remotely care whether i am first or last in most rounds of the game.

Fifth critical decision was round after. Same story of those 2 workers not taken out at position 2 and 3 on Palenque wheel.

Sixth critical decision was 3 rounds after the first half of the game where i decided to take the first player for 2 reasons : first being that at some point i need to double spin, because my constant order of place-take out-place-take out is positioned bad, making my last round of the whole game doing nothing, since after quick counting i would be PLACING.additional side benefit of double spin is i will have better actions obviously, and second reason was i wanted to buy the building through Uxmal 4 , which gives me a +1 step on all gods and 3 points, but there was a high chance someone would take it that roun before me. This time compared to previous, this decision held more reasons to make it and i didnt make an error in judgement about the building, because there are different factors : i pay for the building in corn, they would pay in resources,in addition if they take that building, i will be left with the blue building with 2 steps on green temple which costs 4 corn less, but doesnt let me want to step on temples i really want. then there is a decent chance they would buy both buildings AND no building with gods would come, making my planned placement on uxmal much less efficient.

Seventh critical decision was a round before the 3rd quarter of the game. It was very difficult for me to evaluate whether to place 1 worker on chichen itza to let it wheel up to +10 points with yellow temple step. The biggest problem was that the worker itself very often nets me corn every 2 rounds (place-take out system). The corn gained from that worker doesnt even directly convert into victory points at the end of the game, because usually i find a way how to turn them into more than just the conversion rules say. Pure example is pounding corn through Uxmal 2 into resources and building a monument. That corn would hold much bigger value than 1/4 of victory point at the end of the game. So in the end i felt like keeping the worker on the wheel for 7 rounds is not worth it. The action nets me only 7 victory points and yellow temple +1 step because it costs a skull which is worth 3 pts. Instead that worker will perform 3 actions and that has to be definitely worth more than 7 pts and yellow temple +1 step.

This section is optional for the reader, as it is not a critical decision, but rather a very advanced math stuff : On the third quarter it appeared that taking worker from palenque 1 is netting -1 corn with the worst case scenario metric. Placed as the sixth worker costs 5 corn and it gives 4 corn.This information tells me it is either not worth to place that worker with intention of taking him out the next round (obv mathematical bullpoop as there are other options like the following one) or i should place him and let him wheel for 3 rounds.I did keep him, however with my "worst case scenario" metric,problem is i counted two events together (value of action minus cost of placement), which could be directly observed, but i should have been aware about other things, because if the worst case scenario was the worker being the lowest in the position purposely giving the lowest corn possible, what couldnt be directly observed was that the same worker lets net other 5 workers higher corn, technically functioning as a blocker. That concludes i should take him out since he collectively gives value to the other workers thus netting +corn. It appears my metric has some flaws which dont work my perception, this move showed me there is value in something i cant directly observe, so a different metric should be used. Most likely i should just count that placing 6 workers costs 30 corn and nets me more = just do it

After the final Food consumption , i was left with 28 corn, which at the first sight felt uncomfortable in a sense i could do something with it, but after reviewing this whole replay very carefully for the purposes of setting up a discussion in this thread i found that there was literally nothing i could do better with that corn. The main pitfall or rather limitation of Corn strategy is that the workers give the highest value when they are all simultaneously constantly placed-taken out next round.Placing a worker to let him wheel for 3 rounds instead of 1 gives less value except special cases (getting a new worker with that action early game/building a monument late game).

After i did all the review myself to give a very detail analysis to you guys, it surely did give me value too, since i started to realize that game of tzolkin can be approached more as a mathematical problem than i thought.

3.) Those readers who still hold with me , we can now enter another subject. This sole game proved me that the variance^^^^^ of this game was so low that i can conclude few things with almost 100% confidence without ever playing another game again (of course i want to, you get me) :
a)I had one of the best or the best initial setup for Corn strategy. My decision largely based on metagame with the combination of initial setup can be concluded as one of the best games i personally can play with Corn strategy. The mistakes i made could be calculated and expressed in victory points, but even now i see i clearly couldnt beat the player who won this game. It is very questionable what was the variance of the red player, but Resource Tech Strategy is a solid strategy at fundamental level , what cant be said about Corn strategy. The upper limit of Corn Strategy is that its variance before drawing monument tiles is super high , because the chance of getting corn tile monument is not high, and since the super low variance of the strategy AFTER getting the corn tile monument doesnt help anyhow for its low chance of that monument happening WITH the combination of additional blockers totally ruining the strategy (even worse case of player entering the game going for corn strategy), i can comfortably conclude that the upper limits make the corn strategy very inferior to the Resource Tech strategy. This was simply counting the probabilities together within the strategy itself. For more frustration, as i said above, the Resource Tech strategy won even if i had one of the best setups possible.

The Resource Tech strategy has no upper limit at least in this area, because it almost doesnt care about what the monument tiles will be and it doesnt seem to care about blockers either. If you notice the difference and impact, blockers do hurt only if the strategy requires workers to have place-take out-place-take out rhytm with ALL or ALL minus one workers being taken out for highest profitability. The Resource Tech strategy has the same placement rhytm, however its optimal number of workers is place 3-take 3 very often,because its fundamental idea is to take yaxchitlan 5 and tikal 4, while Corn Strategy has place 6 take 5 or 6.

I will welcome anyone's post to fill their view on other strategies upper limits.

4.)Now that we reached this point, its healthy to discuss how and why do these fact even matter.It becomes quite obvious that no matter how many players, The Resource Tech strategy is a vastly dominating these games. Some people could agree that if you run a simulation of octuple-digit number of 4 player games, there is no way that all players can go for this strategy, however then you are missing the point: 2 or 3 players would go for this strategy because it is the META of 2 and 3 player games, so even if it turned out some strategy would be dominating 4 player games 60% of the time to the 40% resource tech (i see no space for third strategy emerging, since 3 players game have absurdly high domination of resource tech strategy), the fundamental problem would be that 4 player games dont run often , just take a look at tzolkin pool statistics and you will find out that 4 player games make only 18.06% of all games played. On top of that , even 4 player games reaching a higher number, lets say 25% AND a second strategy dominating 4 player games 100% of the time, i still see a problem that the game is much more about race than a strategic options.I personally consider this game to be largely unbalanced because the game mechanics dont allow the meta to evolve into say like 4 different strategies with percentual distribution 30/30/20/20, what would be definitely more healthy and perhaps people would enjoy the game more.

Many games were already played that we can conclude meta will not evolve too much. This game is not like poker, where games are consistently evolving since last century and the evolution is hypergalactically far from the end, this game has limitations, thus i would propose some nerfs or buffs. I recently saw a very sophisticated link from the distant past that would allow the Uxmal 2 action to make only a 20 corn value span trade, which i would agree. I already dealt with my friend with who i play tzolkin quite often live, that we did nerf the yaxchitlan 5 action by not giving the 2 corn it gives. That happened before i saw the Uxmal 2 nerf, i am opened to discussion what is better.

5.) This is a very new world of exploration. The "tribes and prophecies" expand by a quite big amount of game mechanics. I had this feeling that the expansion itself should make META such way that Resource Track strategy should be NEVER dominating 5 and 4 player games and potentialy not dominating 2 and 3 player games. I am again opened to discussion with people who know much more than me.

Thank you for your time, BGG! meeple

^Until recently, i thought meta is a short abbreviation for "metagame", however my acquaintance told me META is actually a shortcut for Most Efficient Tactics Available
^^Extensive wiki link to metagame term :
If you dont want to read something that comprehensive, in my own words i would describe metagame as "using out-of-game informations to change my in-game decisions." A simple example to metagame would be the tzolkin itself = im going to game of 3 players. META is currently vastly dominated by Resource Tech Strategy, so i know the other 2 players are very likely to go for this strategy. I can and DID use this out-of-game information and changed my in-game decision from going with META and playing the strategy aswell to challenge the META and become a black sheep and going with different strategy.
^^^Another extensive wiki link to empiricism term :
short-term my own words : making decision purely based on previous experience, disregarding any theory.
^^^^A standard of measurement, especially one that evaluates a complex process or system.
^^^^^the term variance :
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Alex Bove
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I'm not convinced that this game demonstrates that big corn is not viable. Stefan858 blundered very badly in the mid-game, not only costing himself 15 points but going into the second half with precious little corn. That allowed dav68 to throw all of his workers on Yaxchilan & Tikal and score so many points.

Also, I think you would have done better if you had gone quickly to the top of the gold temple instead of the green and brown ones. That would also have given you enough gold for your monument so you might not have needed to trade corn for gold at Uxmal 2 late in the game.

In a 4-player game, your strategy would have been even more viable as perhaps 3 players would have competed for buildings/resources, leaving you alone on Palenque. In a recent 4-er tournament game, I was able to win with Chichen Itza because the other players fought over everything else.
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