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Subject: Opening Strategies rss

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Martin Brinkmann
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The first turn, and the selection phase of cards before it, is quite important in Gentes.

I would like to provide a couple of ideas on how to start well in the game. It is just a collection of random thoughts to get the discussion going

Money is important. You do start with 20 coins which seems a lot, but it won't last very long. Most actions cost money in Gentes, and if you don't get a money engine going quickly, you will have to pay with time or by selecting less than optimal actions (e.g. towns that cost three actions instead of two).

Money comes in form of town income (on each turn, once when established, and each time you place another town in the same region), with cards that provide income based on the number of people in a certain trade, and through the tax collector / first player action.

Establishing at least one town early and grabbing a money town is one of the better ways of getting the money engine going early on. You get the 5 coins when you establish the town, and then in each income phase again. This gets you 35 coins over the course of the game if you establish a town in the first round of play.

Cards are also useful, if you get them, as you get 2 coins per person. Useful if you can snag one of those cards during the drafting phase, as you may adjust the people chart accordingly to play the card and get a regular income going this way.

The town collector action can be enhanced with cards and with a home town action to increase the payout significantly. Still, it is an action while the other two money making opportunities are not once established.

Besides money, cards that open extra action slots on the player board are worth investing in. This gives you more options in the game, for instance to pick actions that cost more time but less money, or pick more town actions that cost at least 2 time each. Ultimately, you could also use them to get 4 coins using the tax collector.

First player is important, especially on turn 3 and 5 as new cards are placed during those turns. If you snag first player on turn 2, you get to pick cards first on turn 3.

It is often a good idea to adjust your strategy based on what the other players do. If players that are before you in turn order buy cards, you may want to train, build cities or play cards instead. The reason is simple: these players will likely have to train workers to play these cards, and they will have to use the play card action as well, and they may also build cities later on.

Buying cards as well if you are late in turn order means that you will have to pay more to do this action. If you do the other actions first, the other players will have to pay more for them. You could also play cards right away to pay less for those if possible and make the action more expensive to the other players (either in coin or time).

The same is true if other players jump on the city building actions. You could play cards, hire workers or buy cards if they concentrate on those in the beginning.

Generally speaking, it is worth investing in at least one money making opportunity in the first round, as you are stuck with the tax collector otherwise. So, grab a money city or play a card that gives you income to get started. You may mitigate the disadvantage of not playing a money city or card by freeing up additional action slots on your player board. You may use these then to use the tax collector action to grab some money. Ultimately, it is better to get the money engine going asap.

Grabbing victory point towns can be a strong move on the first and second turn, especially if you can get multiple. This works well in conjunction with cards that give you income. A victory points town nets you 14 victory points over the course of the game if established during the first turn; even more if you build other towns in the same region.

The extra actions that you get on cards, for instance to hire workers, are very powerful. First, because they cost little time, and second, because you can do them regardless of other player actions.
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Jim Q
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Thanks for the tips. I have mine on preorder from FA and just found out they received their inventory and will be shipping soon! Wohooo!

My only concern is I've read that some of the rules aren't very clear, maybe a poorly written rulebook? I hope they clarified any confusion, as I know some things get lost in translation. So hopefully, it won't be a problem.
 
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Martin Brinkmann
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There are some points in the rules that are not that clear. I suggest you watch the Heavy Cardboard episode that explains the game as Uli Blennemann teaches it. So, it is a lot clearer once you watch that video.
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Martin Brinkmann
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Forgot to add:

Combos (through cards or cities) are very powerful in the game. While it makes sense to draft cards (if you can) that are very powerful, e.g. remove a blocked action slot, income generation, extra actions, you may also want to get cards that have matching symbols on them to benefit from the extra victory points you get when playing them.

The home city actions are very powerful as well, especially since you can do them once every turn, and get to pick a region that you want to get bonuses from again when you establish such a city.
 
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Martin Brinkmann
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A few thoughts on building cities in one region versus building cities in multiple regions.

The following general rules exist:

When you build a city, you get its bonus right away.
When you build a city in a region, you get the bonus of all of your cities in that region (including the one you built).
In the decline phase, you pick one city of each region, and get that city's bonus.

So, is it better to build multiple cities in a single region, or the first three cities in different regions?

Lets find out. Assuming one city per turn, free city slots are available.

Scenario 1: Same region

Turn 1: One city bonus when you build, one city bonus in the decline phase.
Turn 2: Two city bonuses when you build in the same region, one city bonus in the decline phase (same region, pick one).
Turn 3: Three city bonuses when you build in the same region, one city bonus in the decline phase.
Turn 4: Four city bonuses when you build in the same region, one city bonus in the decline phase.
Turn 5: Five city bonuses when you build in the same region, one city bonus in the decline phase.
Turn 6: Six city bonuses when you build in the same region, one city bonus in the decline phase.

Total: 27 bonuses in six turns.

Scenario 2: Different regions:

Turn 1: One city bonus when you build, one city bonus in the decline phase.
Turn 2: One city bonus when you build, two city bonuses in the decline phase.
Turn 3: One city bonus when you build, three city bonuses in the decline phase.
Turn 4: Two city bonuses when you build, three city bonuses in the decline phase.
Turn 5: Three city bonuses when you build, three city bonuses in the decline phase.
Turn 6: Four city bonuses when you build, three city bonuses in the decline phase.

Total: 27 bonuses in three turns.

While you could assume now that these are equal, this is only the case when you look at the bonuses.

Caveats:

It is less likely that the other players let you build six cities in a region, than it is to build three in different regions and then get four in one of those region. The first strategy can be blocked at any time by any other player building a city in that region.

Building in a single region limits what you can pick in terms of bonuses.

Also, for strategy 1 to work, you need to build cities each turn or even more often than that. Strategy 2 works well even after three city builds, as you get three city bonuses each turn as income during the decline phase even if you don't build a city anymore in the game.

You end up with 18 bonuses out of 27 if you only build three cities in the first three rounds, and focus your efforts on other things afterwards.

If you do the same with strategy 1, you end up with 12 bonuses only.

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Becq
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I have yet to play, but from what I've seen I question the benefit to building so many cities. Why? Because you haven't included the *cost* of building those cities in your analysis. Since the OP focused on money generation, I will too:

Each time you build a city, you spend either 4 time or 4 gold + 3 time (counting both the action marker itself and the extra time markers). If you'd spent the same time taxing, instead, you'd have an extra 16 gold in either case (including the 4 gold you didn't spend in the one case). So each city actually costs about 16 gold to build. That's not cheap! Building those six cities will, in effect, cost you 96 gold relative to simply taxing instead.

So can building cities turn a profit, compared to taxing? Well, in the "same region" scenario, the most you can gain in coins is 17 money bonuses: 1+1 the first turn and 2+1 every turn after that (only two coin cities per region), for a total of 85 coins. (You do gain cubes or VP for the remaining bonuses earned, but not coins.)

In the 'different region' scenario, the most you can gain in coins is better; 1+1, 1+2, and 1+3 for the first three turns, then 2+3 after that. That's 24 coin bonuses, or 120 coins. So you *can* make an income that way, though it's not a huge one. Worse, the costs are front-loaded: you 'lose' money in the first two turns (compared to taxing), then start making a profit after that.

A more efficient (from an income standpoint) option would be to build only three money cities, one in each region. That would cost 48, but would get you 105 gold over the course of the game.

So I'm not convinced that *cities* are a feasible strategy for money generation. It's better for cubes and VPs, but for money, it's weak compared to taxing. And that's just default taxing! For a single-city investment in the double taxation home city, you can make cut your time lost to taxation in half!

At least, that's what it looks like to me. Perhaps I'm overlooking an aspect of the game that I will discover when I actually play it? Feel free to point out where I'm wrong...
 
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Stefan Risthaus
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Do not forget that cities are not only for income or cubes, but also as prerequisite for a lot of cards and bonus victory points. In addition, you may get cities for free on specific civilization cards.

I am not saying that your calculating is wrong, but I think it does not get all of the aspects when just comparing city building with tax actions.
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