Jonathan Yedidia
United States
Cambridge
Massachusetts
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I have a question, a comment, and a suggestion about the Bot rules for playing Brilliant Stroke Cards. Take Rule 8.4.11 as an example (there are similar rules for the other factions):

"8.4.11 British Brilliant Stroke. Non-player British will use its Brilliant Stroke Card if the Treaty of Alliance Event has been played, the British Leader is in a space with four or more British Regulars, and a Rebellion player Faction is 1st Eligible or the Patriots play their Brilliant Stroke Card."

There's more than one way to interpret this depending on how you group the commas, ands, and ors in the rule. The two leading interpretations using pseudo-code notation are:

I. Play BS card if ((TOA Event played AND British Leader in space with 4 Regulars AND Rebellion player Faction is 1st Eligible) OR (Patriots play their BS card))

II. Play BS card if (TOA Event played AND British Leader in space with 4 Regulars AND (Rebellion Player Faction is 1st Eligible OR Patriots play their BS card))

I initially thought Interpretation II was correct, but then changed my mind because the Playbook Example 1 says: "The player [playing Patriots+French] considers playing one of his own Factions' Brilliant Stroke cards to prevent the British from acting on this card, but playing the Patriot Brilliant Stroke would only make the British Trump it with their own, and the French cannot play either of its Brilliant Stroke cards at this point, since the French preparations are too low to play Treaty of Alliance..."

So it sounds from the Playbook example like a player can trigger a non-player British, French, or Indian to play a Brilliant Stroke card (by playing their own BS card), even before TOA and even if the non-player faction's leader is not in a space with a lot of troops. My question: is that really correct?

My comment is that with either interpretation above, I don't like the fact that a player can trigger a non-player into making a not especially productive "Brilliant Stroke." For example, if the Indians, British, and Patriots are eligible in that order on the current event card, which would have a great event for the Indians followed by a great command + SA for the British, and even if the Patriots and Indians were in no position to play a Brilliant Stroke, a Patriot solo player could play his Brilliant Stroke, knowing it would trigger the Indian to play his Brilliant Stroke, which could be much worse than either the Event or British Command for the Royalists. The Patriot player doesn't even need to use up his Brilliant Stroke. As a Patriot or Patriot + French solo player, I found myself constantly thinking about whether I should be triggering Royalist brilliant stroke cards this way, which was annoying and seems silly.

Moreover, it's also annoying that rules 8.4.11, 8.5.8, 8.6.11, and 8.7.8 (the specific rules for the British, Patriots, French, and Indians) each have subtly different conditions on exactly which other factions trigger the bot to play its Brilliant Stroke card, either by being first eligible, or by playing their own Brilliant Stroke card.

My suggestion is to simplify the rules into a new version without either of these issues by simply omitting rules 8.4.11, 8.5.8, 8.6.11, and 8.7.8, and modifying 8.3.7 from the current version:

"8.3.7 Brilliant Stroke. Non-player British, Indians and French holding a Brilliant Stroke card other than the Treaty of Alliance will play when the Treaty of Alliance has been played, that faction is Eligible, no Winter Quarters card is showing, and the Factions's specific conditions for playing the card are met (8.4.11, 8.5.8, 8.6.11, 8.7.8). If two or three non-players play Brilliant Stroke at the same time, they trump one another normally."

to

"8.3.7 Brilliant Stroke. Non-player Factions holding a Brilliant Stroke card other than the Treaty of Alliance will play that card when: that card is playable (the Faction is Eligible and no Winter Quarters card is showing); the Treaty of Alliance has been played; the Faction's leader is in a space with at least 4 British Regulars for the British, at least 4 French Regulars for the French, at least 4 Continentals for the Patriots, and at least 3 War Parties for the Indians; and a player Faction is first Eligible on the current played event card. If two or three non-players play Brilliant Stroke at the same time, they trump one another normally."

This is the rule variant I am playing with.


 
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Oerjan Ariander
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Ah, the joys of English grammar... The rule is written as a standard comma-separated list, in which the final comma before the "and" marks the start of the last item in the list. In order to get your first interpretation, there would have to be an additional comma in front of the final "or", and preferably also an augmentation to distinguish the final part from the previous list (e.g., "..., or if the Patriots..."). Semicolons should only be used to separate list items if one or more of the list items themselves already contain commas. But yes, it would probably have been clearer written as a bullet list.

That said, your proposed version is effectively identical to the original rule during development, which was changed into the current one rule for two reasons:

- It makes all the bots block allied as well as enemy Player Factions, which is rarely in the bors' best interest. The subtle differences you mentioned in the official version keep all but the Patriots from doing so; NP Patriots are only allowed to use their BS against Player French actions because otherwise they'd never use their BS at all in solo French games.

- It also prevents the bots from stopping a 2nd Eligible Player Faction from using its own Brilliant Stroke even if they could trump it, giving a strong boost to Player Patriots and a lesser to Player British.

Unfortunately your version doesn't make much difference regarding how easy it is to manipulate the bots into using their Brilliant Strokes compared to the official rule; although it removes the BS goad, Passing to become 1st Eligible is about as effective anyway.

Regards,
Oerjan
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Jonathan Yedidia
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Thank you very much Oerjan for your explanations. I still have some comments and questions:

Oerjan wrote:
Ah, the joys of English grammar... The rule is written as a standard comma-separated list, in which the final comma before the "and" marks the start of the last item in the list. In order to get your first interpretation, there would have to be an additional comma in front of the final "or", and preferably also an augmentation to distinguish the final part from the previous list (e.g., "..., or if the Patriots..."). Semicolons should only be used to separate list items if one or more of the list items themselves already contain commas. But yes, it would probably have been clearer written as a bullet list.


As I said, my initial interpretation was indeed the second interpretation, and it makes more sense to me, so I'm glad to see it's correct. But note that accepting the second interpretation as the correct one means that the Playbook Example 1 needs errata, because it says that the British bot would trump the Patriot player playing a BS card, which is against the rules because the TOA event explicitly hasn't happened yet in that example.

Oerjan wrote:

That said, your proposed version is effectively identical to the original rule during development, which was changed into the current one rule for two reasons:

- It makes all the bots block allied as well as enemy Player Factions, which is rarely in the bors' best interest. The subtle differences you mentioned in the official version keep all but the Patriots from doing so; NP Patriots are only allowed to use their BS against Player French actions because otherwise they'd never use their BS at all in solo French games.

- It also prevents the bots from stopping a 2nd Eligible Player Faction from using its own Brilliant Stroke even if they could trump it, giving a strong boost to Player Patriots and a lesser to Player British.


I modeled my proposed rule above after the corresponding rule for pivotal events in Fire in the Lake. Thus, I'm not surprised it was your starting point, and was wondering what your objections were to that version. Here is yet another version of the rule that possibly deals with your objections. In this version I replaced "Player" with "Enemy" so the bot actually will also play Brilliant Stroke against other enemy bots; incidentally this version works for zero-player games whereas in the current version BS cards wouldn't be played in a 4-bot game. I'd be interested in hearing your critiques.

8.3.7 Brilliant Stroke. Non-player Factions holding a Brilliant Stroke card other than the Treaty of Alliance will play that card when:
* that card is playable (the Faction is Eligible and no Winter Quarters card is showing);
* the Treaty of Alliance has been played;
* the Faction's leader is in a space with at least 4 British Regulars for the British, at least 4 French Regulars for the French, at least 4 Continentals for the Patriots, and at least 3 War Parties for the Indians;
* the non-player faction is not 1st Eligible on the current event card;
* an enemy Faction is 1st Eligible for the current event card or has just played its own Brilliant Stroke card that can be trumped.
If more than one non-players play Brilliant Stroke at the same time, they trump one another normally.

By the way, a similar rule could also be used in Fire in the Lake, but perhaps in that game it's not so important to avoid using pivotal events against friendly factions.
 
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