So, twice now I have had a Major Victory with 0 rancherias in the reservation and around 7 military points. Getting to H4 has not been easy, but once there, I use the following strategy, and there is not too much risk of loss as far as I can tell. I would really appreciate it if someone can let me know if I'm making any mistakes. Here's what I do:


Pre-requisite:
Finish H3 with a reasonable amount of rancherias (3-5). Likely I have at least 2 of the rancherias in Comanche controlled territory, and one very near an east enemy space. Culture cards needed are Warfare 1-2-3, Politics 1-2-3, Diplomacy 1-2, (Spirituality 1-2 is a nice to have). You should probably have a few APs.

Strategy:
The basic strategy is simply to raid the east with 1 strength bands to the point where they can do nothing. So a typical "round" is:

1. Culture - Should be able to raise culture by 5-7 points, maxing it out

2. Raid - Send out a 1 strength band to the nearby East Enemy Space. Raid it until it has almost all the ravage tokens on it. Using Warfare 3, you get 2 ravage tokens per raid. Because you are using a 1 strength band you are only spending 1 MP per raid, and aren't drawing too many tokens. You draw a minimum of two with Warfare 2, and a max of 4 if you get a lucky roll for mahimiana during success check. So 4 successful raids gets you 8 ravage tokens for East. If you run out of MP just re-activate with 1 AP. Trade your captives for trade goods to mitigate rare moments where you might need to re-roll. Return to rancheria. This should be accomplished with a maximum of 2 AP spent. You end up with only 1 finished band, so the likelihood of rolling a free instruction in the cleanup phase is low. Use one culture point to choose the East enemy, and just churn through the drawn enemy AP. You will likely use up 4 or 5 of your ravage tokens (1 or 2 of the recover instructions will fail due to the recover roll on the H4 card).

3. Planning - You will most likely have a stack of 5-8 success tokens on your raiding mahimiana. Your paraibo will thus end up probably near 6 and your mahimiana somewhere in the 3-6 range depending on where you started. Roll for your headman actions, but you won't need too many. During the first couple rounds you will not need military points, only when card 68 hits. So you will mostly just be raising your AP at first. None of the development cards in H4 are worth buying. If you have spirituality 1-2 you can also improve your paraibos a bit overall. Once 68 is in play you will spend a couple culture to keep the military points up. You might use Diplomacy 2 to flip an instruction for the purposes of mitigating the free instruction rather than spending the culture point for Politics 3 usage.

4. Passage of Time - Not much to do here. Buy a new 1 strength band. Retire your raiding mahimiana so you can keep your paraibo strong. The raiding rancheria should have at least one 2 strength band as well so that it can withstand a random disease hit. Take your -1 Military point hit for not ravaging a tribe/settlement. Buy any useful culture cards if you want, as long as it is not the round where 68 is revealed.

Handling Card 68 -
The other important thing is to do an extra culture operation prior to passage of time before 68 is revealed, and an extra planning as the first operation right after, rather than culture, in order to get the military points up to avoid losing a rancheria to the reservation.

And that's it. Any chance you get you are just ensuring that either a safe instruction can be executed or you force it to east with ravage tokens. The most risky time is the cleanup phase right after passage of time and the culture operation as you have no ravage tokens, however your enemy AP is likely 0-2 and you have a high chance of drawing either success or an enemy ap token which results in not enough for any enemy to execute.

You get so many MP with the 1 strength band that you generally will always be able to raid/trade for all the trade goods. So with that and all the ravaging and always choosing east for the instructions, the enemy does not get to execute a single instruction unless you let it, and you can mitigate that with Diplomacy 2, Politics 3, and Trade Goods. There is one development card which can be bothersome (the one in which a failed raid causes a loss of band strength) but you can just keep one extra 1 strength band in your raiding rancheria or use an AP to activate a 1 strength band from any other rancheria and send them wherever they need to go to finish the ravaging, because they are so cheap to reactivate and raid. You generally have at least one very strong paraibo, so you get enough headman actions, especially with Spirituality 2.

Am I missing something or doing something wrong?

UPDATE: I think I notice one thing which is that Card 68 may force you to immediately put one rancheria in the reservation, but that should not affect the rest of the strategy. I got lucky in my two games that I also drew a development card along with 68 which forces you to battle, and I won the battle so my military points equaled the number of rancheria at the end of that passage of time.
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Joel Toppen
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Sounds right. Just be sure you read the red text on History Card H4.

The right decisions with a little luck and the game should be winnable. One playtester felt it was too easy to win (his strategy differed from yours) but I was never able to duplicate his level of success. Overall, I'm happy with the level of difficulty. I'm curious to see what others are able to come up with to win.

If this can be done consistently, we can look at a way to tighten up the contest. Historic period 4 is the trickiest one to balance.

-Joel
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Hey Joel, thanks for the response. Yep, I played through until the passage of time was in the bottom spot on the track.

Once I started H4 with this strategy, I definitely never once felt any concern for failure, it was more just a tedious slog to the end. Luck didn't seem to much enter into it as I generally had all of the trade goods. I don't know when I will have a chance to try again, but both times I made it to H4 it was like this. I could probably try starting at H3 to test it again quicker.

It's the combination of these factors that made it easy:
1. 2 ravage per raid
2. 1 extra token per success check (allowing strength 1 raids to be likely to succeed, but also not to gain too many successes per check)
3. 1 AP to reactivate strength 1 band
4. Ability to choose enemy
5. Ability to flip top instruction (probably the least important)
6. No real threatening dev cards in H4

It mostly comes down to what feels like overpowered 1 strength bands combined with the enemy choice.

So far I'm loving this game, and I don't know if this can be reproduced reliably, but I'll try again sometime and see.
 
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Joel Toppen
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One more thing: DON'T forget that Culture Cards lose their ability if Culture falls. You must have 3 Culture to use Level 3 card; 2 Culture to use Level 2 card, etc.

Also, don't forget that you can only convert Culture into Military Points if Culture > Military Points.

Also, you are remembering to do the Santa Fe Trail step of Operation Cleanup?

-Joel
 
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Hey Joel,

1. Yep, definitely keeping above 3 culture.
2. Yep, I check this too. Culture operation before planning pushes culture up to 9 for me, so almost always > military points
3. Yes, I forgot to put in my strategy that the raiding 1 strength band moves through to clean up those during the take actions op before attacking the east. My rancheria sits in space 1-6 so it is not hard to do. This is important to ensure the success tokens are being returned to the cup for successful raids, and making sure there are no surprise enemy activations. In planning if I have several ravaged markers left I will move my rancheria through those spaces if possible as well.

Right now I'm playing through H3-H4 in vassal. I got warfare 1-3 and politics 1-3 during setup to try to use the strategy in H3 as well. So far so good. It's a little more annoying with the Santa Fe trail in H3 as I am forced to activate 2 bands, one from a rancheria I placed in 6-3 to ravage the east (as it is the one that gets the H3 recovery rolls) and the one in 1-6 to move and grab the tokens on the trail, but I have had no issues so far. I have picked up spirituality 1 and 2 and diplomacy 1, have 5 rancherias, AP of 9, culture of 4, military points of 2, heading into round 4 with passage of time in the 4th position on the tracker. There are 2 settlements on the board, an east in 2-6 (place by dev card) and one in 6-1 (from setup). I don't believe the enemy has been able to execute a single instruction yet after the first turn, but I might be misremembering. I started with the west war card, so I just did planning as my first action to use the 1 AP to buy the card and end the war.
 
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Matt Deuber
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Not sure if this has too much of an effect on your strategy but,

In regards to Santa Fe Trail tokens, according to the wording on the player aids, it seems that Rancherias moving thru Santa Fe Trail spaces reveal all the tokens it moves thru, but a Band would have to end its move Finished to reveal a token.
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Good catch! It would affect it a bit, I'm still working through this current game, so I'll do that for the next few rounds and see what effect it has. I think I can just be a bit more careful to finish on the space then reactivate to continue raiding, then finish on another etc. Might add 1 or 2 AP each round, which might make a difference, but I'm not certain yet. If it did, it would have been right at the beginning when AP was initially low and there were only 3 rancherias, because the rest of the time I am usually wasting headman actions, which could be used to drive AP farther.
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Ok, final result was Major Victory, 6 Military Points, 0 Rancherias in reservation, 9 APs, 5 culture points.

I had 4 rounds left when I learned that I was doing the band / sante fe trail tokens wrong. I did it correctly from then to the end, and it really had no effect other than I had to use 1-2 extra AP on my take actions op to keep reactivating and marking my band finished on the correct spaces. At that point with 5 rancherias, there is always enough headman actions to get the AP up in the planning phase. So it may have had an effect early in H3, but I'm not certain. Overall though I just did the same thing as before, though sometimes I would swap take actions and culture as the first and second operations in each round. I also realized that card 68 only lowers your military points if it is > your # rancherias, so I made sure I revealed it with it being exactly equal this time. I ended up always sweeping santa fe trail tokens in planning. As long as I raided enough to get 8 ravage tokens on the enemy space, it was fine. I think one time I had one left going into passage of time. Trade goods were used occasionally to mitigate rolls for free instructions at the end of take actions, and for at least one battle on a dev card that came up (and I did actually have the trade good with my battling band). I wish I had realized I was playing santa fe wrong early on, as I don't really feel like playing H3-H4 again. I guess I could try just doing H3 to see how it goes.

Anyhow, it still seems to me like a fairly fail-safe strategy at the end game. Terrible rolls could happen, with none of the H4 recover rolls failing, combined with drawing the enemy instruction during success checks, which might result in a H3 south / H4 east instruction actually occurring, but that hasn't happened to me yet, and statistically it should be rare I think. One time I had culture on 3 and had to use it to choose the enemy, dropping it to where I could not use it next turn, but it was on the operation cleanup phase of passage of time, so I immediately next turn just maxed it out again with a culture operation as I had 5 rancherias with 2 comanche controlled areas for most of the game. The reason it ended so low in that round was simply due to buying an expensive culture card.

Assuming that I'm playing correctly and this strategy works a little too well, one thing that could mitigate it would be to limit the number of ravaged tokens on a single enemy space (you would need to count the 2 east enemy square spaces as one) to something between 4 and 6. 4 would make the strategy never work once settlements were gone. 6 would allow it to work sometimes, but not always.

I will try again sometime, but I need to take a little break from comancheria to play some other things

 
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Joel Toppen
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I'm considering this modification to the Success Check rules:

If Success Check is done in a square enemy space, for each non-Success counter drawn, -1 Military Point.

Thoughts?

-Joel
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At first my reaction was that it was too harsh, but then I thought more about it and it makes a lot of sense to me thematically, that directly attacking what seems to represent the larger military forces of the enemy would have much greater consequences than just an enemy settlement.
 
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Scott de Brestian
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This would make the first couple of scenarios very, very difficult. Trying to put ravaged markers on Taos can be an important part of early strategy. And it's not like Taos was immune from Comanche raids!

I think the issue with the proposed strategy is that it presumes the raids will be successful. I've drawn 8 and 10 chits from the cup with only 0 or 1 successes more times than I can count.
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Intriguing, I've never attacked an enemy square space in H1 or H2. But I haven't played very many times. I will say though that I have won H1 several times without doing so as well.
 
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