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Subject: Help me get better, please rss

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Gary Bradley
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I am new to this game, having discovered it recently on Steam. I am loving it so much it has immediately replaced Lords of Waterdeep as my go-to Steam game when I want a board/card game fix.

However, I suck at it.

Right now I can *just* holding my own against the Medium AI on the Steam version. I guess I might be winning only about 25% of the games I play versus 3 Medium AIs. [I might also be losing about 25% of the games I play versus the Easy AI!!] So, yeah, I suck.

The main reason I lose is that while I am painstakingly trying to work out what cards to try and pick up that would go really well with my beautifully and meticulously constructed tableau, the AI just lays down its 12th card (or takes the last VP chip) and ends the game "early". I'm not even nearly ready to end the game, dammit!! I'd say 95% of my losses happen like that.

It's a race....who knew?

So basically I am looking for a guide or set of guides that would suit a beginner like me. I fear my approach to the game is slowly degenerating into a "just build anything when you can, as long as you build, build, build. Be FIRST to lay 12 cards! The cards you lay are irrelevant".

Which I assume is a bad approach? I have read a ton of the strategy articles on this site, but most of them are going over my head. I need something much more fundamental and suitable for educating noobs like me. Any recommendations?
 
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Milan
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Two Tips:
1. dont play like it's chess...play more spontaneusly. You might still lose, but you'll enjoy the play.
"painstakingly trying to work out what cards to try"...sounds like AP to me.

2. Practice makes Perfect. Play more. Play quick, and you'll end up playing well.

Cheers
D.
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Alex Brown
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1) Quantity over quality of cards in the early game - most common way is to Settle a world and Trade the good.

2) Don't get caught up in the combinations of your opening hand; most cards will be used to pay costs

3) Plan around building cards that will allow you card 'flow', either by gaining you more cards or preventing you from spending them (via discounts, or military, for example).

4) Watch the other players to begin to see how the winning tableau is put together - it takes a bit of time to understand the tempo of the game, particularly how much time you have before someone else will consume and produce until the chips are exhausted. You can't really learn this in theory, but if you're playing 3xAIs, you should pay attention to what they are doing, and when.
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Larry Haskell
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The tip that helped me the most: if you can, build. Whenever a Settle or Develop is called, build whatever you have in hand that seems best. Don't bankrupt yourself, but don't worry overmuch about whether it supports your strategy. You will start to see interactions that you may not have seen before. Doing this I stumbled onto a win with a Produce-Consume engine out of New Sparta, something I probably would never have considered.
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John
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You want an approach somewhere in between those two. Early game you need to get cards and you want things which will help you to play cards. If you have a good trade it. If you don't then produce or settle a windfall, ideally when the AIs pick settle & you pick trade. Just alternating between produce & trade for the first few turns can work well as Alpha Centauri. Whatever you do don't pick settle or develop unless you have something good to put down as it'll likely benefit the AIs more than you. Keep an eye on how many cards they have in hand and whether they have good develop & settle powers too - the best time to pick a build phase is when they are low on cards (unless they have good discounts).

Good cards to play early:

Those which are cheap and give discounts (e.g. Interstellar Bank, Public Works, Investment Credits)
With a military strategy (or if you have a low defence windfall) -
developments that build your military, ideally cheaply (e.g. Space Marines, Expedition Force, Drops Ships is a bit expensive early but sometimes you need it).
Windfalls, ideally ones which you can trade for lots of cards, and ideally cheap to place.
Worlds which generate cards - e.g. Spice World, New Vinland, Gem World, Comment Zone, Mining World. The first two of these are the best - Spice World you can trade off for 4, New Vinland nets you two cards if someone else if producing then consuming.

Mid game you want to keep you cardflow up (usually) and start generating more points. Either produce/consume x2, getting down more expensive military devs & medium military worlds, maybe a 6-cost dev (though make sure it either gets you cards, or helps you get other stuff down, if it's just for points save it until later in the game). Good mid-game cards:

Diversified Economy - if you can use it's consume power and it's produce power is great for cardflow
Mining Conglomerate - as above but you need brown worlds
Consumer Markets - for blue worlds (ideally the blue worlds should be cheap)
More production worlds if anyone picks settle.

Military - Drop Ships or anything else that gets you up to 7 military (base game). Explore for the big military worlds.

Galactic Federation - then spam developments to end the game.

Late game - points. Play the big military worlds, produce/consume, put down 6-cost devs.

When playing the AIs I find it's really easy to end up ignoring what they are doing - keep an eye on what powers they have in each phase and how many cards they have so you can try not to help them with your actions.
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John
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Alex Brown wrote:
if you're playing 3xAIs, you should pay attention to what they are doing, and when.


Add in a hard AI and watch that one.
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Kester J
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Firstly, holding your own against the medium AI isn't bad, so I wouldn't be too upset about that.

I think the first piece of advice I often give to people is to focus on developing an income source. Usually this will be an early windfall (or occasionally production) world, which you can then trade and produce from until you can find something better to do. If you spend the whole game with explore as your only income source, you're going to lose.

Here's what I tend to recommend as a good way to develop a better understanding of the game:
-Get an early windfall down (green or better is ideal, but brown can work too), then just call trade and produce for the rest of the game. Only build on others' build phases, then refill your hand with your trade.
-As a default, aim to put down production worlds if possible, then put down consume powers if you can't put down production worlds or have a lot of them already.
-If you can make 6+ VPs by calling consume 2x, switch to calling consume 2x/produce instead of trade/produce.

This will not always win (though it will win sometimes), but it will help you to understand how card quantity is often better than card quality, and how calling build phases can often benefit opponents more than you.

The game is a race, but you have some control over how fast it goes. You can think of trade, produce and explore as more defensive phases (you play them when you want to slow down the game), and develop and settle as offensive ones (you want to speed it up and put pressure on your opponents). If you feel unsure of what you're doing, it's probably better to play defensive phases over offensive ones - and over time you'll start to see when offensive plays are the right ones.

Hope that helps!
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Gary Bradley
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Alex Brown wrote:
2) Don't get caught up in the combinations of your opening hand; most cards will be used to pay costs


Interesting comment. What I have typically been doing is trying to spot when I have a really STRONG card. i.e something my entire tableau could be built round (usually it is a 6-point dev, but not always). Then I start to dig for what other cards would go well with it and make it the centrepiece. Bad idea?

Also....the Produce action. I have become allergic to it. You don't want to select it when the AIs have a ton of producer cards with no resources on them, right? So I tried selecting it when the AIs already had a resource on all their producing worlds....BANG! They all select Consume, and I fall irrecoverably behind. I just hate having to take that action now.
 
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John
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GaryB wrote:
What I have typically been doing is trying to spot when I have a really STRONG card. i.e something my entire tableau could be built round (usually it is a 6-point dev, but not always). Then I start to dig for what other cards would go well with it and make it the centrepiece. Bad idea?

Usually, certainly early game. If you hold a 6-cost dev from the start of the game you are effectively reducing your hand size by 1 which is a huge disadvantage in the early stages of the game. It's useful to know what cards are in the deck so you have some idea of the likelihood of drawing certain kinds of cards. Note - there are two copies of each development costing less than 6 (which the link doesn't tell you).

GaryB wrote:
Also....the Produce action. I have become allergic to it. You don't want to select it when the AIs have a ton of producer cards with no resources on them, right?

Well then they might select produce anyway so it doesn't matter if you pick produce too to produce on your windfall.
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Kester J
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GaryB wrote:
Alex Brown wrote:
2) Don't get caught up in the combinations of your opening hand; most cards will be used to pay costs


Interesting comment. What I have typically been doing is trying to spot when I have a really STRONG card. i.e something my entire tableau could be built round (usually it is a 6-point dev, but not always). Then I start to dig for what other cards would go well with it and make it the centrepiece. Bad idea?


Generally a bad idea, yes. There aren't many cards that work as a strategy-in-a-box like this in the base set (Galactic Federation is probably the only one, and it still needs helpers like Interstellar Bank to be really good). Even if you do have one of these strong cards, focusing only on finding cards that work with it isn't a great idea: Race is a game about playing what you have in hand, not trying to force your hand into a predetermined strategy.


Quote:

Also....the Produce action. I have become allergic to it. You don't want to select it when the AIs have a ton of producer cards with no resources on them, right? So I tried selecting it when the AIs already had a resource on all their producing worlds....BANG! They all select Consume, and I fall irrecoverably behind. I just hate having to take that action now.


Yeah, if the other players have goods then consume is very likely. Produce is tricky, especially in the mid- and late game (often there can be a standoff of "I want to Produce, but only if they also Produce,"). Earlier on when others only have one or two worlds, the effects should be much easier to predict, and you shouldn't be afraid of it then: as mentioned above, a Trade/Produce cycle can be the best way to bootstrap yourself.
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Patrick Myers
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if you click on the strategy forum here and sort by most thumbed, you will find a lot of good posts, in addition to the fine tips here.

When I was learning the game, I found this series of articles on this blog very helpful:

https://linnaeus.wordpress.com/2009/01/20/rftg-fundamentals-...

https://linnaeus.wordpress.com/category/boardgames/race-for-...

Generally, you can't plan out a strategy based solely on your initial 4-card hand. You can only really do that after you have your first "big" hand (7+ cards), usually after settling a windfall and trading the good on it.
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Pasi Ojala
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Get the Imperial Assault Campaign module for Vassal from http://www.vassalengine.org/wiki/Module:Star_Wars:_Imperial_Assault
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Mostly: Fill up your hand as quickly and effectively as possible (often settle a windfall, Consume-Trade). The better card flow you have, the more you can take advantage of what phases the other players call.

I would also like to suggest to play the 2pa mode against just one. I think it's easier to learn, because you choose two cards, it allows exactly those tricks: Settle + Consume-Trade.
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Gary Bradley
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Those articles were awesome, thanks Patrick (and everyone who chipped in above, I appreciate it).
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I've played Race maybe a bazillion times against the hard AI. I play almost always 2pa. I've played games IRL too, mostly 2pa.

I realized long ago I'll probably never be a top-tier player. I still get trounced regularly. But it seems I've also lost a lot of games by only one point, or managed to get close scores so I often feel like I played pretty well even when I lose (which is most of the time). I've had a lot of sweet victories though.

Here are some of my thoughts based on my experiences.

Race is a tempo game. Am I setting the tempo or is my opponent? Either way, keeping tempo in mind is important when selecting phase(s) and what to play.

It seems the AI will often end the game way before I think the game could possibly be over. If the AI has 8 cards down, there is a chance it's going to have 12 down by the end of the round if I am not careful, but maybe I want that to happen and I can take advantage of it.

Be flexible. I may have rejected Military early but by mid-game I'm all-in on Military. I may be going all Military but then switch to produce/consume or run the game out on develops.

I've lost games with multiple 6-cost developments in play. I've won games with no 6-cost developments in play. How will the game I'm currently playing end?

Maybe the most important focus, especially early, is card draw. Getting those production worlds down that give card draw on Produce can be important. I seriously consider sacrificing my hand to get a pricey world down that awards cards on Produce. I remember the moment this game 'clicked' for me, when it suddenly became one of my favorite games of all time. That was when a Produce phase was called and I suddenly drew a fist-full of cards. That was the 'aha' moment that did it for me.

Settling a windfall and trading can be very beneficial, especially with any +x Trade bonuses in your tableau. Consuming with powers that award both points and cards simultaneously are very nice, especially when combined with the aforementioned draw-on-Produce production worlds.

Using the powers that award points for consuming discarded cards from hand can work well with a tableau that gives high card draw, since it's possible I'm discarding cards anyway for the hand limit I might as well discard them for points.

Cards that award me for phases called by my opponent can be beneficial. If I've got discounts on Develop, maybe I don't need to worry as much about calling Develop myself. Same with Settle discounts or bonus card draw for Settling.

So many things are situational. Learn to read situations through experience.

There can be a push-your-luck element to many decisions in hoping for a certain card, or hoping your opponent doesn't have something in-hand.

I tend to have a 'heads-down' approach in that I often know, or think I know, what I want to do and I often feel like it doesn't really matter what my opponent does because, you know, I need to trade that good right now to get cards or whatever. However, I recognize this as poor play on my part. Even though it feels like there's little else I could have done other than what I did, when I lose yet another game I realize I should have been paying more attention to what my opponent was doing.

Recently I was playing against the hard AI and I thought I was cruising to a comfortable win. There was no way it could possibly catch me. In the final turn, it built a 16-point 6-cost development and I lost. Ouch.

This game is amazing.

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Larry Haskell
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Kester wrote:

-Get an early windfall down (green or better is ideal, but brown can work too), then just call trade and produce for the rest of the game. Only build on others' build phases, then refill your hand with your trade.


I learned this trick from Keldon's AI!
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Steve
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Some good responses so far.

Most of us think the game is best with the 2-player experienced rules as you can see in the player count poll. The important part of that is that you choose 2 phases each turn. It gives you a lot more control over what's going on and lets you do more which means you'll learn more quickly.

As others have mentioned you should focus on card draw early and points late. It's like any other euro in that way as cards are your resources.

Also be aware that in the base game the consume-produce approach wins a lot more than the military approach, but military is easier to pull off. If you get a good military draw early-to-mid game go for it.

Keldon's AI is probably the best boardgame AI in existence. I'd played thousands of games on boardgamearena before I tried Keldon's AI a few years ago and found it more challenging than my online experience on average. I do better now that it's been integrated into the app with its great UI, but I still do better in online play than I do against the Hard AI. No one should feel bad about losing to that thing.
 
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OhMee
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GaryB wrote:
So basically I am looking for a guide or set of guides that would suit a beginner like me. I fear my approach to the game is slowly degenerating into a "just build anything when you can, as long as you build, build, build. Be FIRST to lay 12 cards! The cards you lay are irrelevant".

Which I assume is a bad approach? I have read a ton of the strategy articles on this site, but most of them are going over my head. I need something much more fundamental and suitable for educating noobs like me. Any recommendations?


When I started out, one guide helped me a lot: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/295249/rftg-general-strateg...

I'd also always study the cards so I'm familiar with what combinations are potentially there: http://racepics.weihwa.com/
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