In a game such as Shrine Wars, where mechanisms of bidding and chance are at play, there can never be a sure-win strategy for players to abide by. Instead, players will have to utilize abilities of card-counting, probability and simulation to dominate the game.
General Rule of Thumbs
Rule 1: Hoarding the Same Oinks
Players should obtain as many of the same elemental Oinks as possible in order to increase chances of winning a bid when that element is at play.
As a result, you should always pick Oinks with elements that that are being bid in the smallest quantity, especially in the beginning rounds. For example, when 5 Ashw and 10 Ohif Oinks are up for your pick, choose the Ashw Oinks as more players will have excess Ohif Oinks after everyone had their pick, which means that you will have to compete for Ohif cards with a larger number of players. Furthermore, in subsequent chances to pick Oinks, these players will pick Ohif Oinks again to increase their Ohif strength, which leaves you disadvantaged as you may end up with a mix of different elemental Oinks. Alternatively, pick Oinks that correspond to the least number of revealed/opened cards as more of that elemental cards are left in the deck for play.
You can also specialise by bidding elements that you don’t need. For example, if you are building up on Ukelele Oinks, and Ukelele and Ebsner cards are opened, maximize the number of Ebsner Oinks bid before bidding Ukelele.
Rule 2: Give Oinks to those who will not compete with you
When you are trying to accumulate a certain elemental Oink, end a bid involving that element with a unit value that corresponds to player(s) with the lowest strength in that particular element. This ensures that you dominate in that particular element.
Rule 3: Always Go In For A Bid
It is advantageous to always enter a bid even if you do not need the opened card as the card you require may surface subsequently. If you had opted out of the bet in the first round, you will have no opportunity to enter the bid again, and will lose your required card as a result. However, do note whether the other players have sufficient Oinks to continue the bid. If the cards are not to your favour, withdraw your bid only when you are positive that the other players are unable to continue bidding the next multiple of 10. This implicates that you should not completely get rid of Oinks of a particular element that you think you don’t need as your desired card may be revealed subsequently.
Rule 4: Accumulate Cards
Get as many cards as possible in the first few rounds as it will increase your chances of forming Series/Of-a-Kinds in subsequent rounds. (Of-a-Kind refers to Twins, Triplets and/or Power hands.) Furthermore, by accumulating cards of different numbers, you will increase your chances at obtaining all (or half) of the Oinks bid by players who end their bid with a unit value that corresponds to a card you possess.
By doing so, other players will also become more reserved in bidding for cards which appears to roll in your favour as this will mean that is relatively more disadvantageous for them to grab the card. For example, if you already have cards with face value ‘3’, other players know that they can only form a Triplet at best if they obtain a ‘3’ card, and thus choose to refocus their attention on obtaining a different numbered card which have not appeared. This allows you to bid for the ‘3’ with a relatively lower number of Oinks.
However, take note not to accumulate too many cards with running numbers, especially if they come from different elements (e.g. Ashw 1, Ebsner 2, Ukelele 3, Ashw 4, Ohif 5) as it will greatly restrict the amount that you can bid since players are restricted from bidding a number with unit value corresponding with a card you own. Suppose that the highest bid possible by other players is 12 Oinks, and you can win with all 15 Oinks that you possess. However, possessing a running card value of 1 to 5 means that you cannot bid 13, 14 or 15 Oinks, which effectively puts you out of the bid. Therefore, it is wise to accumulate cards of intermittent values instead (e.g. 1, 3, 4, 7, 8).
As the game progresses, you should stop accumulating all and any cards, but choose to focus your attention on cards which are advantageous to your current hand instead. This will be elaborated in Rule 6.
Rule 5: Accumulate Middle Cards
Through multiple gameplays, I have also discovered that it is advantageous to accumulate middle-value cards like 4, 5 and 6 bids often ends with these unit value. Too high a number, and players will feel obliged to bid a little more to open an extra card. Too low, and more players will participate in the bidding, thus pushing the bid up.
Rule 6: Bid Obscenely
When you absolutely need the card displayed and are dominating in the number of Oinks of that particular element, you should bid a number that is one higher than the number of Oinks the second leading player of that element possess, even if it is larger than 10. Even though it is advantageous to bid with unit value of ‘0’ as you will be able to obtain an additional number of cards, there is a chance that a different element which another player is dominating with will be revealed, thus putting you out of your advantage.
Furthermore, if the card will bring you a large number of influence points (e.g. fourth card in a Power), other players will want to prevent you from getting the card and are thus willing to spend large amounts of Oinks to thwart your plan. Playing a large number like 23 Oinks for a single card will also effectively put players out of the bid as it is highly detrimental for them to waste so many Oinks since it increases their chances of losing to the other players.
Rule 7: Card Counting and Simulation
It is important to keep in mind the cards left available in the deck and simulate the possible winning route each players can take. I will illustrate the principle with the following example.
Suppose that your current hand includes Ashw 7, Ebsner 3, Ebsner 4, Ohif 9 and Ukelele 3 (represented by ‘X’ in Table 1) while the remaining cards in the deck are Ashw 1, Ashw 3, Ashw 6, Ebsner 2, Ebsner 5, Ebsner 6, Ebsner 7, Ebsner 9, Ohif 3, Ohif 6, Ukelele 1 and Ukelele 8 (represented by ‘O’ in Table 1).
You should map out possible ways for you to score as many influence points as possible (highlighted in red in Table 1). Currently, the best way to forward is for you to to secure an Ebsner Series, Power ‘4’, Twin ‘7’ and/or Twin ‘9’.
Strategy 1: Forming a Series
Don’t be Greedy
In the case where you have more Ebsner Oinks than the others, you may wish to proceed with forming a Series by obtaining Ebsner 2, 5, 6 and even 7 cards. In this case, you will have to forgo Ebsner 9 (and even Ebsner 7, depending on the circumstance) as it will be about the only opportunity for you to accumulate more Ebsner Oinks by allowing others to win the card so that their bid is distributed to you.
How much to bid
When Ebsner 2, 5 and 6 surfaces, remember to bid a total number of Oinks with the unit value corresponding to cards which only non-competitive players possess. Non-competitive players refer to those who will not compete with you for the Ebsner cards in this case, i.e. a player who do not need Ebsner Oinks, or one who will still have less Ebsner Oinks than you even after the distribution. Alternatively, win a bid with a number of Oinks that end with a ‘0’. Shall the Ebsner Oinks be split between competitive players, they may end up stealing Ebsner cards from you and breaking your chain. In this case, players B and C will be the most competitive, thus you should avoid giving them Ebsner Oinks.
This also means that you will have to save your Ebsner Oinks and bid as little of it as possible. Therefore, when the opened cards are, for example, Ukelele 1, Ebsner 5 and Ohif 6, make sure that you maximize the number of Ukelele Oinks bid (in this case, Ukelele cards can only increase your influence points by 1 regardless which card you obtain, so it will be the most redundant Oink to possess), followed by Ohif Oinks; and minimize the number of Ebsner Oinks bid, since you have to save them in order to obtain Ebsner 2, 6 and 7.
In cases where you have less Ebsner Oinks than the other players, it will be wise to give up forming a Series as it will be difficult to secure multiple Ebsner cards with limited Ebsner Oinks. In this case, you may consider forming Twin ‘7’s or ‘9’s with your Ebsner Oinks, Twin ‘1’, or Triplet ‘6’, depending on your current Oink strength.
Strategy 2: Forming Of-A-Kinds
This strategy is relatively easier to achieve than forming a Series as it will be easier to accumulate many Oinks of 2 different colours than twice that amount of a single Oink colour.
What to bid for
You can easily obtain Twin ‘7’s and Twin ‘9’s with the current card configuration. However, it is much more advantageous to obtain a Power ‘3’, which is what I will go further into in the subsequent paragraphs. It is also possible to go for Triplet ‘6’s. However, you will need to obtain Ashw 6 and Ohif 6, which will reduce your possession of Oinks in these elements, thus reducing your chance at a Power in favour for a much lower hand (difference of 7 influence points).
Therefore, it is important that you start building up your Ashw and Ukelele Oinks now so that you can blitz in and secure the remaining ‘3’s.
Strategy 3: Know When to Give and Take
Because Shrine Wars is a relative game where you can only win if you manage to accumulate more influence points than the other players, it is important to keep the others in check and prevent them from getting too many powerful cards.
In cases where another player is clearly already leading and multiple Oink elements can play to his advantage (i.e. Player D, where he can drastically improve his standing by accumulating Ashw or Ukulele Oinks), it will be beneficial to starve the player of one or two Oink colours so that they cannot even enter a bid. For example, if he only has 5 Ebsner Oinks, when the first card revealed is an Ebsner card, make sure to bid a value above 5 before his turn, and all players before him should not bid a unit value of ‘0’ in case the second card revealed is an Ashw or Ohif. Players should also take note not to distribute him any Oinks by choosing to avoid ending their bids in unit values of ‘1’, ‘4’, ‘8’ and ‘0’. This will aid in starving the leading player so that competition is valid among all other players.
Instead, if a player will lead the game is he were to obtain a card by forming a Series, chances are that there will not be many opportunities for you to starve the player. Take Player C for example. In this case, he can be prevented from obtaining the Ukelele 8 card by giving weaker players (i.e. A and B) or players who will not benefit much from Ukelele Oinks (i.e. X) sufficient Ukelele Oinks to win the bid instead. This is also simpler than the starving strategy as Player C would have spent quite a bit of Ukelele Oinks in acquiring four Ukelele cards, leaving him with much less compared to the other players.
Let other players spend their Oinks for relatively useless cards to prevent them from getting powerful ones. This is best illustrated with an example. Suppose Player B possessing Ukelele 2, Ashw 2 and Ohif 7 cards (represented by ‘B’ in Table 1) is challenging you for an Ebsner 7 to form a Twin, while you need it to form a Series. This will result in a high bid that will disadvantage the winning party as it will mean that they will have less Oinks to bid for further Ebsner cards. However, obtaining an Ebsner 2 will grant him more points (9) than Ebsner 7 (4). Therefore, it is possible to shift this scenario to your advantage by allowing him to take the win while bidding high. You will then be able to obtain his Ebsner Oinks while reducing his Ebsner Oink count so that he can no longer compete with you for Ebsner 2. Furthermore, if he only has sufficient Oinks in unit values 3, 4, 7 or 9, you can bid one less and force him to play into your hands by bidding a number that will distribute these Ebsner Oinks to you, which gives you a further leg up.
Ultimately, these General Rules cannot guarantee a win as every game is different. The most useful rule to put into use will be Card Counting and Simulation as it increases your odds of obtaining a superior hand by both build your hand while ensuring that other players do not get a better hand than you. It may seem easy and technical on paper, but is actually much harder to carry out in-game as you will have to adjust your simulation at the back of your mind every turn. Nonetheless, it is exactly the complexity that makes Shrine War so fun.