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Subject: Shetland Islands - A Stepping Stone to Greater Things rss

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Benjamin Grey
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The exploration boards are powerful temptations. They usually come with a tidy sum of victory points along with a whole host of valuable bonus tiles. They also carry a lot of negative point baggage, so use caution when planting your flag.

I'm hoping to eventually post strategy guides for all the islands. For now, let's start with:

Shetland

The Shetland Islands are the shortest lived island board in the game. If you don’t pounce on them by the end of year 2, they’ll flip and you’ll lose the opportunity. Fortunately they’re fairly easy to reach. Whaleships are cheap and easy to get (either 1 viking with a wood, or 3 coins), and claiming the Shetlands themselves only takes 1 viking. If you’re really determined to get Shetland you could even grab them in year 1 and still have enough Vikings left to go whaling. (You wouldn’t really be able to place the whalebone or oil anywhere on Shetland to get any benefit for that year, but if you need Shetland for your plans later this will keep someone else from blocking you year 2.)

Shetland itself isn’t a game winner. The islands are only worth 6 points, equal to a non-pregnant pair of cows. So why put up with the host of negative points that come along with it? Because Shetland will complement any strategy you’re playing. Planning on building lots of houses…The vegetables will help get that started. Need more treasures for home or another exploration board…the knives and oil are placed right next to each other for easy claiming. The venison meets your red food needs, is easily upgradeable to whalebone, or (if if you haven’t claimed it and time is running out) the square can be easily sacrificed under a 3x3 or 3x4 tile to wipe out a large patch of negatives.



Which leads me to the next point: Shetland was made for whaling. The board has many useful places to drop those big 3x3 tiles that your whale meat can be traded up to. If beans aren’t your thing, a single Viking can upgrade the meat and oil from a whaling expedition into the cloak and runestone needed to claim all the Shetland silver income. (A 3 silver income isn’t great, but only Iceland and Bear will give you 3 income for less effort.) A cloak or chest placed in the middle of the board covers 3 squares needed for both the knives and oil, making them easy pickups. Lastly, most of the negative points on these islands are clumped together in large blocks…easily covered even by large unwieldy tiles. (And it almost goes without saying…if the whale meat upgrades fit easily on this board, so do the smaller 2x3 whalebone upgrades.) Take a moment to contrast this with what a pain it is to fit these tiles on the other island chain you can explore with a whaleboat and you’ll appreciate Shetland even more.



Several grey treasures work very well on the Shetland board. Match Made in Asgard mentioned the Drinking Horn and the Chalice, but they aren’t the only ones. The Horseshoe and a silver claims the venison. The Crown along with a pelt claims the knives just as easily as the Chalice and a pelt does. The Fibula Pin combined with 2 whale oils will get you both the whale oil and the cabbage. (or it and 1 oil can get the knives.)

The main thing to keep in mind with Shetland is that it in itself isn’t worth many points. Its opening 6 points aren't much, and it doesn't have a long income track that can provide additional points as you develop the island. It needs to be combined with other point scoring islands or houses if you want to be competitive, and developing those will take time. Fortunately Shetland’s bonuses aren’t restricted by a long income chain. The lucrative bonus spaces are available as soon as you pick it up. Grab only what you need for your strategy, then move on. Ideally, you should claim everything you want from Shetland by the end of year 3. You can then focus on whatever locations are going to provide the bulk of your points. (You’ll want to revisit Shetland near the end to address the negative spaces, but like I mentioned earlier they tend to be in clumps and easily dealt with using a minimum of tiles.)

Which brings us to the final, often overlooked, feature of taking Shetland. Taking Shetland denies everyone the opportunity to claim Bear Island. While I doubt anyone goes into a game planning on grabbing the best island for quick income, if an opponent does get it his economy will get a rapid boost. Shetland won't give you the same benefits as Bear, but at least you'll know your opponents won't get them either.

The Shetland Islands can be a strong opening play, but it's only an opening. Without a plan, it's easy to get bogged down claiming all its rewards and finding the game's ended with few points to show for it. If you know what you want and can stay focused, however, it will complement any plan you can come up with.
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Curt Carpenter
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Nice article!
GreyArcher wrote:
Whaleships are cheap and easy to get

Cheap, yes. Easy, not necessarily. I've seen a lot of early contention for whaling ships.
 
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Benjamin Grey
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curtc wrote:
GreyArcher wrote:
Whaleships are cheap and easy to get

Cheap, yes. Easy, not necessarily. I've seen a lot of early contention for whaling ships.


If you're dead set on having a whaling ship by the end of year 1, I doubt that anyone's going to be able to stop you from collecting 3 silver to purchase one outright. It isn't like the knarrs and longships where the build actions really are the only way to get those ships early. (Of course if someone beats you to the 1 or 2 viking resource spaces and the "build whaling ship" location, they're probably going to beat you to the actual whaling action as well.)

 
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Ryan Feathers
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Nice analysis.

I agree that Shetland can be a useful piece in a winning strategy, but it only works when paired with some other options. It has great bonus goods that can help with filling in other boards or houses, but the only way to make Shetland actually worthwhile is ensuring you're earning and making use of those bonus goods.

The income is a nice little extra stream of silver/points as well but the main value is to be had from getting stuff like that bonus silverware.

Looking forward to future articles in the series.
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Curt Carpenter
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GreyArcher wrote:
If you're dead set on having a whaling ship by the end of year 1, I doubt that anyone's going to be able to stop you from collecting 3 silver to purchase one outright.

That's a good point.
 
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David Grabiner
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One issue I noticed with Shetland is that you get a lot of big orange goods, so you need to have some way of dealing with them. If you get the cabbage bonus on round 3, you will have six cabbage during the game (four from Shetland, and two harvests). If you put two in a long house, you will need about ten upgrades to place the other four on home or exploration boards.

If you start with Farm Shop Owner (#53, pay $1 at any time to upgrade an orange good), then Shetland becomes very good; you can turn your cabbage into game meat without using the limited upgrade spaces. It also works well if you get Wholesaler (#83, upgrade four identical goods) and aren't raising animals; you can upgrade two cabbages to game meat and then use the occupation to upgrade four game meats. Otherwise, you either have to get several houses for the cabbage (and likely eat the beans), or do a lot of upgrading.
 
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David Grabiner wrote:
One issue I noticed with Shetland is that you get a lot of big orange goods, so you need to have some way of dealing with them. If you get the cabbage bonus on round 3, you will have six cabbage during the game (four from Shetland, and two harvests). If you put two in a long house, you will need about ten upgrades to place the other four on home or exploration boards.

If you start with Farm Shop Owner (#53, pay $1 at any time to upgrade an orange good), then Shetland becomes very good; you can turn your cabbage into game meat without using the limited upgrade spaces. It also works well if you get Wholesaler (#83, upgrade four identical goods) and aren't raising animals; you can upgrade two cabbages to game meat and then use the occupation to upgrade four game meats. Otherwise, you either have to get several houses for the cabbage (and likely eat the beans), or do a lot of upgrading.


The 4 viking double upgrade 2 tiles and get 4 resources seems like a great action to turn these cabbage into useful items. That doubled with 2 long houses would create just enough stuff to utilize these cabbage in.
 
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David Grabiner
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NorthernPolarity wrote:
David Grabiner wrote:
One issue I noticed with Shetland is that you get a lot of big orange goods, so you need to have some way of dealing with them. If you get the cabbage bonus on round 3, you will have six cabbage during the game (four from Shetland, and two harvests). If you put two in a long house, you will need about ten upgrades to place the other four on home or exploration boards.

If you start with Farm Shop Owner (#53, pay $1 at any time to upgrade an orange good), then Shetland becomes very good; you can turn your cabbage into game meat without using the limited upgrade spaces. It also works well if you get Wholesaler (#83, upgrade four identical goods) and aren't raising animals; you can upgrade two cabbages to game meat and then use the occupation to upgrade four game meats. Otherwise, you either have to get several houses for the cabbage (and likely eat the beans), or do a lot of upgrading.


The 4 viking double upgrade 2 tiles and get 4 resources seems like a great action to turn these cabbage into useful items. That doubled with 2 long houses would create just enough stuff to utilize these cabbage in.


That's what I did in my last game, combined with other upgrades. I had three snares, so I went snare-hunting, and then used my last 10 Vikings on upgrades, with the two-single-upgrade spot blocked from last turn. Three single upgrades, four single upgrades, two double upgrades (and played Minweworker, got stone/ore/ore/$2+$1 bonus, so the mountain filled another five spaces) turned four beans and cabbage and one game meat to green, and another game meat to blue. Then $1 for six green-to-blue upgrades with a knarr made a total of 17 upgrades for the turn, and with mostly blues, I was able to put everything on my home board and fill it with ore and money. My first longhouse was already full with two cabbages from earlier in the game, and my second longhouse took one fruit, one cabbage, and one beans, leaving me with just a peas and beans at the end. My score was 147.
 
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Murphy M
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This is really inspiring. So, where is the strategy for the other 7 islands?
 
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I have tried Shetland a couple of times. The tempting of all those bonuses is very alluring but it takes a bit of effort to get them all and by then the game doesn't have all that many turns left in which to use them.

It also gives you little income and very few points. Not only that but to get the income you have to cover up squares that don't have negatives on them and if you want to get the beans resource you need even more tiles to go around it. On the other hand beans are not the best so maybe just covering them up is a better plan?

As you have pointed out though lots of the grey tiles work well on Shetland which leads me to think you want to get a longboat and go pillaging rather than whaling with this island?

As using this island is one of the few ways to get cutlery I have also tried comboing Shetland with the 4 action space that upgrades cutlery to necklaces. The concept of a necklace made out of cutlery is highly amusing but after all that effort I don't know if it was worth it.
 
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Benjamin Grey
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springbear wrote:
This is really inspiring. So, where is the strategy for the other 7 islands?


A personal crisis came up and a lot of my side projects got put on hold. My heart just hasn't been in it lately.

Having said that, Iceland was mostly complete before everything happened. I'll try to get it finished before the end of April. (As for the others...Bear Island is about half done, I'll see if I can get it finished too. I started Faroes, but came to the conclusion that I haven't had enough success with my strategies with that island to present them.)
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Robert V.
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Quote:
If beans aren’t your thing, a single Viking can upgrade the meat and oil from a whaling expedition into the cloak and runestone needed to claim all the Shetland silver income.


I actually think this is the preferable strategy. This ensures you an income of 5 by the end of round 2.

Round 1
Turn 1: Take 1 Wood Per Player + Ore (2 Vikings).
Turn 2: Purchase Whaling Boat (1 Vikings).
Turn 3: Go Whaling (3 Vikings).
Place Whale Bones on homeboard to receive 2 income.
(Note: This may differ depending on how many players are in your game. I usually play with 3-4, so the first move is always very lucrative. If you're playing solo or with 2 players, take 2 wood with 1 viking instead)

Round 2
Turn 1: Take Shetland (1 Viking)
Turn 2: Upgrade Whale Meat + Oil (1 Viking)

Boom. You're done. 5 income. From here, you can differentiate however you please. If you failed to succeed at whaling the first time, there's still room to succeed in the second round. I'd focus on building the homeboard or getting the Silverware from Shetland. The 3x1 is an amazing piece to have at your disposal. There are many ways you can achieve this. The easiest is probably whaling a second time. If an ore is available on the mountain strips, you can also snag that and craft the horseshoe (though that's a minimum of 4 vikings; whaling is probably better).

Either way, you can easily end round 2 with 5 income and a Silverware per turn. That's an amazing start.
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Ryan Feathers
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Vladvonbounce wrote:
I have tried Shetland a couple of times. The tempting of all those bonuses is very alluring but it takes a bit of effort to get them all and by then the game doesn't have all that many turns left in which to use them.

It also gives you little income and very few points. Not only that but to get the income you have to cover up squares that don't have negatives on them and if you want to get the beans resource you need even more tiles to go around it. On the other hand beans are not the best so maybe just covering them up is a better plan?

As you have pointed out though lots of the grey tiles work well on Shetland which leads me to think you want to get a longboat and go pillaging rather than whaling with this island?


Indeed it is tricky to utilize Shetland well but absolutely worth it if you can. If I am planning to open with Shetland I often want to plan for another exploration board to utilize the game meat that I'll upgrade and the silverware. I also usually plan on building at least two longhouses, and possibly even 3 to use those cabbage in. (3 longhouses is tough though and relies on me having a good source of red goods which usually means I at least have unlocked mead on my homeboard and probably have an island like Iceland/Greenland providing me a fish or Tierra Del Fuego's salt meat.)

My preferred opening is also a whaling boat and whaling, along with hunting. I mostly play solo so this path probably works best there, and admittedly is a bit risky since I'm hoping to pass two early die rolls. It also requires you to get pretty much every action, so yeah probably mostly works in solo. But here it is:

1 Viking to grab 2 wood
1 Viking to build Whaling Boat
3 Vikings to Whale
1 Viking to take Shetland

Place the skin and bones on homeboard to get 2 income.

1 Viking to Hunt
1 Viking to craft flax to linen
1 Vikings to upgrade game meat --> skin and bones, whale meat --> clothing

Your remaining vikings probably are focused on getting a little food to feast on (you have no reds to eat and you need all your silver). Additionally you'd like to get a few more resources, ideally some wood and ore. You can potentially replace the upgrades above with the combo grab resources and upgrade spots.

Anyhow at the end of R2 you then place the oil on the bottom left of Shetland, followed by 2 silver to the left of the beans. Then place skin and bones to unlock all 3 income. Then on the upper part place the fur upright to the far left, then place the clothing on the other side of the game meat bonus so that the upper right of the clothing is touching the silverware bonus. Place the linen upgright filling in the spaces to the right of the silverware bonus. Then take your remaining silver and fill in 5 remaining spots around the game meat and silverware.

At the end of R2 you have used all 7 of your silver admittedly, but you're now earning 5 income per turn along with the beans, game meat, and silverware bonuses.

R3 the dream is to build a longboat and hopefully place some ore on it. Then go pillaging for 2 vikings and get the cloakpin as it fits perfectly between the bonuses to the right. Using the linen already there and placing the cloakpin you unlock the Oil bonus, and then you only have 2 spaces to fill to get the Cabbage bonus.

From here in R4 you now have a longboat and quite a few bonuses built up with which to fill it. You can go pillaging/raiding along with whaling as you have the needed boats. R4 is a great time to grab Baffin if it just flipped, else Tierra Del Fuego can be a good pickup around this point too. Iceland isn't crazy either if it's still available (again my strategies tend to be solo focused as that's usually how I play, in multiplayer it's unlikely Iceland is available).

My best rounds with Shetland have probably come from the above all working out. It relies on quite a few die rolls to go your way, and helps if your early weapon draws work out to be what you need them to be. But when it all goes together you very quickly unlock the power of Shetland and earn a lot of bonuses that can fuel a very nice score.
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