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Subject: The value of the Joust rss

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whistler
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I wish to discuss the value of playing a worker to the Joust space. This includes comparisons of new vs experienced players, early game vs late game, and the Joust with alternative spaces. Part of the discussion includes the value of the favor gained, part includes the opportunity cost, and part includes the effect on other players. My primary question is, "Do most of us overvalue and overplay the Joust?"

I guess the first issue to consider is the price you pay for a favor compared to the benefit.

First, the cube track. Why pay a cloth and a dollar to get a cube? Even if it is gold, by that phase of the game there ought to be stone buildings availble to provide gold? It seems to me that jousting to get a cube favor should be last resort.

Next, the money track. Why pay a cloth and a dollar to get money? Is it not better to sell the cloth (or another cube, for that matter) on the appropriate neutral or wooden buildings? In the midgame, is it not better to invest in a residence? Again, it seems to me that jousting to get a money favor should be last resort.

Third, the points track. In the early game, it seems better to get points by building, either in the castle or on the road. While building in the castle may cost a little more sometimes, the benefits of points and favors are greater. If not simply a last resort, perhaps a better play than the Joust is the Gate with an option to Joust, build in the castle, or build on the road.

Finally, the build track. This track seems to find the most value in the joust, but still not as much value as in the castle. I suppose that the argument to made here is that when the carpenters/mason/lawyer/architects become competitive spaces or replaced by residences, the builder has the Joust as a backup. But if those other squares are available, it seems more worthwhile to choose them so that in addition to building, you can deny others the opportunity, too.

So, perhaps the building track player has a little good reason for jousting occasionally, but maybe everyone else should usually consider playing their worker elsewhere. If the building track favors do make the Joust valuable, should other players actively block the Joust, or are they paying too great an opportunity cost?

Your thoughts are welcome please. I have always eagerly played the Joust, and only recently began to question/doubt its value.
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Nathan Morse
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native_son wrote:
I wish to discuss the value of playing a worker to the Joust space. This includes comparisons of new vs experienced players, early game vs late game, and the Joust with alternative spaces. Part of the discussion includes the value of the favor gained, part includes the opportunity cost, and part includes the effect on other players. My primary question is, "Do most of us overvalue and overplay the Joust?"
My guess is yes, but that's because I can win, rarely using it. However, I do not think it is as low in value as you argue below, in wisely questioning your motives. "Wisely" merely because it's always wise to evaluate your play.
native_son wrote:
I guess the first issue to consider is the price you pay for a favor compared to the benefit.
Your arguments are summed up nicely here, so I'll comment now. The joust - especially at first - is a little weak when compared with some of the other options, but like the gate, it allows you a very unusual opportunity in the game: Choosing the most suitable option later, depending on how things pan out. Also, the difficult building track has a supreme power: It allows you to build prestige buildings without anybody having built the architect. Of course, there is also the obvious point that the building you want to use may already be taken, and the joust is the closest thing to getting what you wanted.

Now, that all being said, I prefer to get my favors by evilly-timed out-building in the castle, or by building the stone and prestige buildings that grant them, as well. Perhaps that is because it keeps me from having to fight for the joust. The most important skill in Caylus, however, once you can work its engine, is adaptability. So, I will play the joust if I need it, or it's convenient. Let's face it, it's a cheap way to advance you favors. You're going to get some sooner or later, so the stronger they are when you take them at the end of the game, the more slingshot power you'll have.

My 2ยข.
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Daniel Corban
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native_son wrote:
when the carpenters/mason/lawyer/architects become competitive spaces or replaced by residences, the builder has the Joust as a backup.
Your games have the lawyer and architect in play?

I am only slightly kidding. I think that around half of my games do not see these two tiles enter play. The times that they did enter play were likely due to me specifically avoiding the building track and rush building these tiles. I should note that I have also won around half of my games, but I will not say it was due to this tactic.

On topic:

The Joust increases in value as you add players. With three players (a.k.a. BSW ADHD players... kidding... slightly) the Joust isn't as strong since one out of three players is getting a favor each turn from the castle, and likely getting it cheaply. With five players, competition in the castle is strong, the game usually ends more quickly (turnwise, not timewise), and only one in five players will gain the favor, often at a relatively high resource cost to himself and his castle competitors. The Joust becomes very favorable in these conditions.
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whistler
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Nathan Morse wrote:
The joust - especially at first - is a little weak when compared with some of the other options, but like the gate, it allows you a very unusual opportunity in the game: Choosing the most suitable option later, depending on how things pan out.

I agree with this. The motivation for me to introduce this topic actually stems from myself and a friend rushing to the joust. In our four player game, either he or I would make it our first play. As I was driving home from our game night, I thought to myself, "Why in the world were we doing that?" I think that if we played with the attitude you suggest, we both would have been better off for it. I do appreciate this power of the gate, and I could see myself using the joust in a similar fashion in the future.

Nathan Morse wrote:
Also, the difficult building track has a supreme power: It allows you to build prestige buildings without anybody having built the architect.

and

Dan Corban wrote:
Your games have the lawyer and architect in play?

I am only slightly kidding. I think that around half of my games do not see these two tiles enter play. The times that they did enter play were likely due to me specifically avoiding the building track and rush building these tiles.

I myself have been addicted to the building track, and so I have been trying to explore some other strategies. It has been that exploration that has led me to question the value of the joust, at least for non-building track play. So do you guys think it is important to block the joust from the building track players, or is it better to just do your own thing? In other words, if the primary benefit of jousting is simply that another player won't get to, are you actually better off placing your worker elsewhere?

Dan Corban wrote:
The Joust increases in value as you add players.

It would be really great to find out from the designer how the different tiles and spaces came to mind. Which scenarios did he envision that motivated them? How many were invented after playtesting to balance the game? And, to the point of your comment, how many were discussed in the context of scaling the game from two to five players? For purposes of our discussion, I wonder if the joust was an early or late addition to the game.

Thanks for the comments, fellas.
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Corby Kennard
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I think the joust, like most of the other spaces on the board, has to be weighed vs the situation. If, for instance, you are not going to be able to build for favor that turn, and you know that going in, why not joust for favor, especially if you have a specific strategy in mind that requires you get a building cube right then, lets say.

Or, if you know you can build for favor, and you have cubes to burn, why not take two favors, especially at a castle scoring space, where you have built at least two times in the specific section? 4 favors on one turn anyone?

Obviously, there is more to the game than favors, but getting them, at least the cube and building tracks, to the highest available as quickly as possible gives a player much more flexibility in longer term strategies, especially if food or wood producers get buried, or the group is cutthroat about moving the Gilligan to stop cube production or building. (The small white disk. We call it the Gilligan, don't know what everyone else calls it.)

I feel like no one space is an island, and each must be evaluated in the context of the game you are specifically playing right then. Sure, getting three dinars is nice, for instance, but is it worth losing a gold cube, or first building rights? One can only evaluate at the moment the choice becomes necessary.
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Nathan Morse
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onebadgungan wrote:
...the group is cutthroat about moving the Gilligan to stop cube production or building. (The small white disk. We call it the Gilligan, don't know what everyone else calls it.)

The provost. meeple ...although he does sometimes go on a three-hour tour, and he definitely hovers around the skipper bailiff....
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whistler
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I want to repost the following question in case it got lost in my previous large post.

So do you guys think it is important to block the joust from the building track players, or is it better to just do your own thing? In other words, if the primary benefit of jousting is simply that another player won't get to, are you actually better off placing your worker elsewhere?
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Nathan Morse
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I have to stick with the mantra, "It depends on the situation," but in general, I wouldn't bother. I already have few enough opportunities to get done what I want to do in Caylus (except with parts of a 2p game), that I don't need to "waste" time and opportunities blocking someone, unless I want that building already anyway. I'm sure there's a time when it's worthwhile, but to me it's sort of like going to the gate with your first worker: Shouldn't you just choose something more beneficial to you?

Thanks for reiterating that question, native son!
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John G
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I don't use it all that much but won a game recently by using provost to beat another player to build the castle when we both had the stone/gold we needed. He probably won't make that mistake again.
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Kevin Schmidt
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The blocking strategy works - especially if you are the leader.

Blocking the leader should fall on the shoulders of the players that have an ability to catch the leader, not a self-sacrificing move by someone out-of-the-running so everyone else has a chance.

Since selecting the Joust requires resources and bears an opportunity costs, most will hope someone else "pounces on the grenade" instead.

As a leader, you remove one potential tool of letting the pack catch you. If the Lawyer and Architect aren't in the game, you've taken away just one more option for someone to build a residence and/or big building. Selected early in a turn, you can then force the others to begin a big fight for castle building and make them re-route their entire decision tree for the remainder of the turn (an added benefit).

Best offense is a good defense. (Or is that backwards?)

Kevin
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whistler
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I suppose some of that also depends on your playing group, rather than just the game situation at hand. If I am playing with someone who always fights me over the Joust, it might be worthwhile for me to explore other options, too. If I know he's obsessed with jousting, then I know where he is spending a cloth, denier, and perhaps more importantly an early worker. Maybe I can exploit that somehow. And if he catches on and loses his hurry for the Joust, why then it's available for me again.
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Nathan Morse
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Well said, native son!
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Jeff Bridgham
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One other thing to remember, the joust represents the earliest possible build for every round. This can be extremely important at times and is worth taking the joust to either build or block.

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Nathan Morse
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Jeff, that's a very good point, especially once you're up to prestige buildings.
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Adam Berkan
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Interesting discussion...

I think the value of the Joust also depends on how many favor tracks a player is attempting.

E.g. In 2-player games an average game might see you max out 2 tracks and touch a 3rd. But my wife enjoys beating me by maxing 3 tracks. In order to get all those extra favors, she needs the joust all the time. Once she starts a 3rd track, I try to block her enough times in the Joust that she'll never max that track and will regret having started it. This is especially great if they start but can't max the resource or building track where the final squares are so strong. Joust is good enough that it isn't a great sacrifice to block someone there if you can afford to use the square.


I think you're right though that in many cases the Joust is over-used. I have a theory for why that might be:
If only one player has cloth at the start of the turn, they can play to the Joust late in the turn. This is very valuable when the other options are poor. For this reason it is important for multiple players to have a cloth at the start of the turn, forcing the Joust to go earlier, where it's value would be fair. But now that we've gone to the trouble to have a cloth at the start of the turn, we feel the need to use it...
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William Attia
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native_son wrote:
It would be really great to find out from the designer how the different tiles and spaces came to mind. Which scenarios did he envision that motivated them? How many were invented after playtesting to balance the game? And, to the point of your comment, how many were discussed in the context of scaling the game from two to five players? For purposes of our discussion, I wonder if the joust was an early or late addition to the game.
Most of the special buildings date back from the first draft of the game rules, even though they have changed a little over the playtesting phase.

The gate has been here since the beginning.
The trading post and the merchants' guild were a single building at first - the owner of the worker could choose among two different effects. They were split after a few tests, I am not sure when exactly (and I do not know either why I had imagined a building with two alternative effects in the first place).
The joust field was introduced at the same time as the favor system (that is, after the first few games) as a guaranteed way to get favors without building at the castle.
The stables were here originally, along with the mechanism for turn order.
The idea for the inn was present in my first notes. However, it wasn't actually playtested right away, but only after a few games. Allowing a worker to stay in the inn for several turns was a suggestion of an early playtester, which made the building actually useful.
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whistler
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William Attia wrote:
The joust field was introduced at the same time as the favor system (that is, after the first few games) as a guaranteed way to get favors without building at the castle.

Thank you very much for your response! It is always nice to hear from the designer on these issues. I have three follow up questions:

1. Would it be fair to conclude that the value of the Joust increases with the number of players (since the competition for building in the castle is greater)?

2. Is it reasonable to conclude that using the castle to gain favors is more profitable than the Joust (better return for the cost)?

3. And finally, is it likely that better and more experienced players would rather position themselves to get favors from the castle and reserve the Joust as a fail-safe, such as before scoring?

Thanks again for your participation here.
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native_son wrote:
1. Would it be fair to conclude that the value of the Joust increases with the number of players (since the competition for building in the castle is greater)?
I don't know - this looks more like a strategy question than a design one, and I am definitely not the best Caylus expert any more.
In my experience, the joust is used quite often, even in 2p games - which may be an effect of overvaluing it, as mentioned above in this thread.
Favors are overall less common in a game with more players, since their number is roughly the same for all numbers of players. If the players' strategy rely on favors, that makes the joust more crucial.

native_son wrote:
2. Is it reasonable to conclude that using the castle to gain favors is more profitable than the Joust (better return for the cost)?
I'm not sure the comparison is that simple, if only because the relative cost of the joust favor depends a lot on how common the various resources are in the game. Cloth is typically rarer than food, but it may not always be the case - I can easily imagine situations where using the joust to get food from the resources favor line would be a good move.
Also, the favor from the joust occurs earlier in the game turn. For instance, that means that the deniers you might get from this favor can be used during phase 5 (if you have a worker in the church, the bank or a peddler) or even in phase 4 to move the provost. In the uncommon cases when an architect is built before the gold mine, the joust is the only way to get gold in the turn before this architect (well, assuming there is no alchemist or bank before it, too - but now that would be really unlikely).
The joust is also a sure thing - almost as sure as the castle scoring favors in phase 7 once you know you have built enough. As soon as you have a worker there and assuming that you don't blunder with your cloth and your last denier, you know you are going to get the favor. As for the castle, it is more difficult to be sure, especially early in the turn, whether you will be able to get the favor there, because you don't know exactly which resources the players will have, who will have a worker at the castle and in what order, and so on.
And whichever of these favors is the most cost-efficient, remember that if you want to get two favors in a given turn, most of the time you will have to both use the joust and get the castle favor.

native_son wrote:
3. And finally, is it likely that better and more experienced players would rather position themselves to get favors from the castle and reserve the Joust as a fail-safe, such as before scoring?
I don't know - ask experienced players . My opinion is that getting favors is a good thing anyway - it usually cannot hurt getting more of them, or preventing other players from getting them (which is an important side effect of placing a worker at the joust field, especially in 2p games - even if you are not going to gain much from it, you might prevent you opponent from getting a crucial gain).
The fact that they happen in different phases, and thus allow you to use the same line several times, is also something to consider. Two favors in different phases are worth more than two favors in the same phase - but how much more? Of course, that depends a lot on the game situation.

William
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Nathan Morse
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wlam wrote:
The fact that they happen in different phases, and thus allow you to use the same line several times, is also something to consider.
Oh, excellent point! I totally forgot to mention that. Almost every game, I bank on that difference in phase one way or another.
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Daniel Corban
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Using Joust to advance the resource track seems absolutely horrible. You are spending at least two deniers for the worker placement (one to place and losing one for not being the first to pass) and you give everyone else another round of cheap placement (by not passing to make placement expensive). On top of that, you give up another denier and a cloth.

I would love for my opponents to do this in my games.
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The point about the Joust and Castle being different phases is most certainly a good one. But in a 3+ player game, it could be really tough to get both in the same turn.

The point about the Joust being early in the sequence is also good.

As far as the Joust being guaranteed, I guess that is part of my motivation for thinking it is probably more expensive in a sense. You have to pay for that guarantee. Sometimes it's worth it, and sometimes it's better to manipulate your way into the castle favor. Since the castle building awards points in addition to the possible favor and the bonus scoring favors, it seems a better deal, as long as you're clever enough to make it work.

After all this discussion, though, I think I'll be much more careful about using a cloth to build in the castle. I think that it is interesting that, if you choose to hoard cloth for whatever reason, your castle price is now fixed: food, wood, stone. When to substitute a cloth in there can be an agonizing decision if you also joust or build residences or use the Tailor.

Thanks again for the discussion.
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dcorban wrote:
Using Joust to advance the resource track seems absolutely horrible. You are spending at least two deniers for the worker placement (one to place and losing one for not being the first to pass) and you give everyone else another round of cheap placement (by not passing to make placement expensive). On top of that, you give up another denier and a cloth.

I would love for my opponents to do this in my games.

What if the game is about to enter a scoring phase and food is scarce? Maybe you need that food to best your opponents in the castle. Or maybe wood or stone is scarce, and you need it to make a key build on time. This could be even tougher if the Peddler is not available to you.
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YEa, I learned the hard way how useless it was in a 2-player game. With 2 players, resources are so much easier to come by, so even with the gold at the top end it simply isn't worth it.

Playing with more, I might be willing to give it a shot, as resources are more scarce.

Brian
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Nathan Morse
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native_son wrote:
dcorban wrote:
Using Joust to advance the resource track seems absolutely horrible. You are spending at least two deniers for the worker placement (one to place and losing one for not being the first to pass) and you give everyone else another round of cheap placement (by not passing to make placement expensive). On top of that, you give up another denier and a cloth.

I would love for my opponents to do this in my games.
What if the game is about to enter a scoring phase and food is scarce? Maybe you need that food to best your opponents in the castle. Or maybe wood or stone is scarce, and you need it to make a key build on time. This could be even tougher if the Peddler is not available to you.
Sometimes I need the resource track in order to feed the building track, due to precisely such scarcity.

native_son wrote:
The point about the Joust and Castle being different phases is most certainly a good one. But in a 3+ player game, it could be really tough to get both in the same turn.
Not necessarily: If you get a resource hoard going, holding back your castle contributions in order to out-build people in later turns who choose to build before you (probably my favorite evil strategy in Caylus) makes it fairly easy to get three or more favors in one turn when a scoring occurs. I've enjoyed several slingshot victories this way!

Back to the resource scarcity, if you are planning to get four or five favors in one turn, being able to nab the missing resource(s) as you take favors can be critical to squeezing two or three prestige buildings out of the building track on one turn.

Of course, it all depends on what people are selecting and neglecting, as William emphasized.
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Peter Putnam
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The Joust isn't over valued; it's under valued by most players. The two most powerful favor tracks are the building favor track and the victory point favor track. Using the Joust at least 2 times a game with the building track or victory point track is essential for winning against skilled players.

Phase #1 (dungeon). Players have an option of going to the castle two times or going to the castle once and joisting once to move up 2 times on the building or vp track.

Mid game - Phase #2. The Joust gives players the ability to build something before anyone else during a turn. The battle during Phase #2 in most games comes down to who can build the most stone production buildings. The Joust gives players the ability to build a stone production building with 1 $, 1 pink and 1 purple cube.

Late game - Phase #3 (tower). For the player on victory point track, the joust is amazing. 1 $, 1 purple cube for 4 or 5 VPs. The Joust is also important for the player on the building track. That player should try to get in position to build multiple prestige buildings. The Joust lets them build residences or prestige buildings.

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