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Subject: Now, about that 'Starve Everyone to Death' strategy... rss

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Alex Bardy
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I hadn't played this game in ages (excuse the pun), and was really looking forward to doing so, but my latest experience was unsatisfactory at best...

The player who won the game did so by ignoring farms, consciously starving all his people (taking a -10 VP hit every time: he was at -36 VPs at one point?), and just used the 'new worker' and tool spaces every time he could. Then, with his mountain of starving people, he cornered the market on all the available goods by harvesting everything he could with them (and Tools) in the first half of the game, before 'buying up' every Tile/Hut and Civ card that turned up in the last 3-4 turns of the game... not much fun for everyone else around the table, I might add.

Before you all jump up and say 'lose that gaming person' (he used a similar strategy with Ticket to Ride - hoarding all the cards and then buying all the biggest/longest tunnel routes before revealing his tiny, low-scoring starting tickets and leaving everyone else agog), I'd appreciate some opinions on this...?

Of course, it may already be an established strategy for all I know, and full marks for his sound strategic planning, but nonetheless it's still very disappointing that working your people to death and hoarding all the goods is a direct route to winning the game — perhaps a rethink on starving workers to death is needed? Maybe every time you starve your people by losing VPs, you should lose one of them as well...?

Anyone else had this happen to them?

Alex

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Gert Meyer
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Check these discussions for various views on the above mentioned strategy:

How to do starvation?

Playing against opponents using the Starvation Strategy
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Tom O'K
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I think this is a feature, not a bug. We had a player in our group discover and exploit this strategy for a couple of games, it's cool and unique, but can be contained, especially when the group is all experienced.
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Alex Bardy
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teabo wrote:
I think this is a feature, not a bug. We had a player in our group discover and exploit this strategy for a couple of games, it's cool and unique, but can be contained, especially when the group is all experienced.


It's been ages since I played Stone Age (only a couple of times), and I can only assume that I hadn't come across this before, because I think I might have remembered if I had...

I appreciate there are ways to combat it, but it thematically makes more sense to lose one of your people if you can't feed them? It just struck me as strange that the game allows people to win by consciously doing the 'wrong' thing by having your people all miserable and starving (from a moral standpoint, I guess)...

I'll know next time, of course...
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john newman
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gert74 wrote:
Check these discussions for various views on the above mentioned strategy:

How to do starvation?

Playing against opponents using the Starvation Strategy


Good links. Thanks for sharing.

Even though there are ways to combat the "starvation strategy," for me, the game is not as much fun when a player intentionally implements that strategy. I have toyed with the idea of a house rule: lose one worker if you can't feed your people. My thought is if you don't feed 'em, you lose 'em.

I have only played SA five or six times and haven't tried this house rule. What do you more experienced players think?
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Gert Meyer
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johnpnewman wrote:
gert74 wrote:
Check these discussions for various views on the above mentioned strategy:

How to do starvation?

Playing against opponents using the Starvation Strategy


Good links. Thanks for sharing.

Even though there are ways to combat the "starvation strategy," for me, the game is not as much fun when a player intentionally implements that strategy. I have toyed with the idea of a house rule: lose one worker if you can't feed your people. My thought is if you don't feed 'em, you lose 'em.

I have only played SA five or six times and haven't tried this house rule. What do you more experienced players think?


AKA if you don't feed your people, you lose the game. This has been suggested ad infinitum for the past ten years or so.

If the idea of a strategy built around this is truly that unpalatable, try upping the VP cost. Maybe make it variable based on how many tribesmen go hungry. That way you could eliminate it as a viable strategic choice while still leaving it in as a tactical option.
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mangozine wrote:


It just struck me as strange that the game allows people to win by consciously doing the 'wrong' thing by having your people all miserable and starving (from a moral standpoint, I guess)...

I'll know next time, of course...


Socialism 101....

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Gert Meyer
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mangozine wrote:
I appreciate there are ways to combat it, but it thematically makes more sense to lose one of your people if you can't feed them? It just struck me as strange that the game allows people to win by consciously doing the 'wrong' thing by having your people all miserable and starving (from a moral standpoint, I guess)...

I'll know next time, of course...


Thematics are what you make of them. Workers living miserable lives while slaving away to construct grand monuments for their despot ruler are certainly not without precedent in history. You just need your monuments that much more gaudy to cover up the dirty underbelly of your little stone age "utopia" compared to the tribes that are a bit more concerned with the quality of life for the average tribesman
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Dr Neau
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I’ve only played once, but I’ll admit that when I read the rules I was surprised by the relatively light penalty for not feeding. I actually expected it to be “lose everyone you can’t feed”, so losing only one seems fair.
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Michael
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drneau wrote:
I’ve only played once, but I’ll admit that when I read the rules I was surprised by the relatively light penalty for not feeding. I actually expected it to be “lose everyone you can’t feed”, so losing only one seems fair.


Ditto. I'd like to house-rule Stone Age using the Lewis & Clark rule ("Official Errata About the Rules," https://www.ludonaute.fr/portfolio/lewis-clark/?lang=en)--something like, once you go below zero on the VP track, you start losing people until you're in the black again.
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Marco Schaub
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I agree that it's not fun or thematic and annoying, but it mainly works against players who are not prepared. When combatting the hunger strategy, you sometimes have to take one for the team, e.g. by blocking a hut that wasn't the one you really wanted. Especially the 1-7 huts are crucial.
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john newman
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emptyset wrote:
I agree that it's not fun or thematic and annoying, but it mainly works against players who are not prepared. When combatting the hunger strategy, you sometimes have to take one for the team, e.g. by blocking a hut that wasn't the one you really wanted. Especially the 1-7 huts are crucial.


If it's not fun or thematic, why should I take one for the team? Seems to be a lot more simple to have the game punish a player for using that strategy, than to punish me because he used that strategy. It would be thematic to have a population decline by one Meeple if you don't feed your people. So why wouldn't you want to add that house rule if you believe that strategy is "not fun or thematic and annoying"?

To the the previous response, yes, this would guarantee that player would lose if he chose that strategy. That is the entire point of that house rule: It would end that annoying ploy.

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Alex Drazen
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To the the previous response, yes, this would guarantee that player would lose if he chose that strategy. That is the entire point of that house rule: It would end that annoying ploy.


Starvation isn't annoying. Stone Age is, at its heart, a purely tactical game, not a strategy game. People do not seem to grasp the game's very simple zero-sum mathematics. If a guy has 9 farms, don't let him pluck up all the 2x Agriculture cards. Don't let anyone get both double-meeple cards. Never let anyone else get a 1-7 hut, even if you have to buy it for a single stick. Better you get 3 VP than someone else gets 30+ VP -- that's a 33 VP swing!

And if someone opens with breeding, your job is to drill through a single pile of huts as quickly as possible, and also to take the breeding hut a couple times to kill the starvation engine. The starving player has no chance against people drilling the huts, especially in a 4p game where they can only delay for 1 or 2 turns.

It's not really difficult to stop starvation among good players, but for some reason with Stone Age, people insist on "I want to play the exact moves I want to play" rather than "I want to play the best move for the situation on the board."

The losing a person is too penalizing to someone who has an unlucky roll where they are short 1 food. It forces people to roll for food too much than normal and prolongs the game. Some version, I think the Czech(?) version, had a reasonable compromise fix... I think it was something like -4 VP for every food token that you fall short of feeding your people. So you can't just starve 10 people or it's -40 VP, but if you miss a food roll and you lose out on 1 or 2 food, it doesn't eliminate you from the game. If one guy goes hungry you lose -4 VP, two -8, etc.

I don't think it's broken at all, but my fix was that unfed workers were unproductive workers. They get laid on their side the next round and only produce half their die roll, rounded down, because they are too tired and sickly. Or you could say that any worker who went hungry HAS to hunt for food the next turn. Plenty of ways to nerf the starver without overly punishing the unlucky player.

I don't consider this nerf necessary, except maybe at a table of newer players who haven't seen starvation in action, but I do consider losing unfed people to be a massive over-correction.

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Rusty Patterson
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johnpnewman wrote:
emptyset wrote:
I agree that it's not fun or thematic and annoying, but it mainly works against players who are not prepared. When combatting the hunger strategy, you sometimes have to take one for the team, e.g. by blocking a hut that wasn't the one you really wanted. Especially the 1-7 huts are crucial.


If it's not fun or thematic, why should I take one for the team? Seems to be a lot more simple to have the game punish a player for using that strategy, than to punish me because he used that strategy. It would be thematic to have a population decline by one Meeple if you don't feed your people. So why wouldn't you want to add that house rule if you believe that strategy is "not fun or thematic and annoying"?

To the the previous response, yes, this would guarantee that player would lose if he chose that strategy. That is the entire point of that house rule: It would end that annoying ploy.



House rule against it, that's up to you. Well, it is if it's your house. But if you house rule against this strategy that you don't like, are you going to house rule against the next strategy you lose to that you decide you don't like rather than figure out how to beat it?
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john newman
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RustyInRT wrote:


House rule against it, that's up to you. Well, it is if it's your house. But if you house rule against this strategy that you don't like, are you going to house rule against the next strategy you lose to that you decide you don't like rather than figure out how to beat it?


I understand your point. To answer your critique, of the over 100 games that I own, I can only recall one house rule that I implement regularly. In Sagrada, I remove a set of four of each die when playing with three players and two sets when playing with two players. Otherwise, there is a chance you will never see the color die you are collecting. That simple change makes the game much more enjoyable for everyone. So house rules are not normative for me.

I like Alex's suggestion of penalizing 4 victory points for each food short. Scaling the penalty makes sense. Why charge players the same penalty when one guy is short one food and the other guy is short 7 food. I agree with Alex that losing one person is too great of a penalty for a person who is unlucky with their food roll and makes collecting food too important. Good point. If I were to initiate a house rule, it would probably be the "Czech version."

Not sure if I will house rule it or how big of an issue it will be, but I was planning on bringing out Stone Age to the table more frequently in 2018. Many of the plays would be with a combination of new gamers, new to Stone Age, and experienced players. I want it to be a good experience for people new to gaming and new to Stone Age.

I appreciate the dialog. It has been helpful for me to hear from more experienced Stone Age players. Thanks.





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Marco Schaub
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johnpnewman wrote:
If it's not fun or thematic, why should I take one for the team? Seems to be a lot more simple to have the game punish a player for using that strategy, than to punish me because he used that strategy. It would be thematic to have a population decline by one Meeple if you don't feed your people. So why wouldn't you want to add that house rule if you believe that strategy is "not fun or thematic and annoying"?


I don't think a house rule is a bad idea in this case.

My point was that the hunger strategy is a losing strategy if players pay some attention. If the player that tries it has it backfire badly, he won't try it again. So the problem can be solved without a house rule.
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alexdrazen wrote:
(...) but my fix was that unfed workers were unproductive workers. They get laid on their side the next round and only produce half their die roll, rounded down, because they are too tired and sickly. Or you could say that any worker who went hungry HAS to hunt for food the next turn. (...)


We had (almost) the same solution: Any unfed worker was considered „ill“ and could thus not work the next round. To show the worker is ill, it was put on the side. We found this to be quite thematic.
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Alex Drazen
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To show the worker is ill, it was put on the side. We found this to be quite thematic.


Catch is, this could effectively be player elimination: starve 10 and then since they can't work the next round, they keep starving.

I think I like "that dude's hungry, he must hunt for food" as the best solution (other than "the other players should immediately recognize the strategy and combat it" because there are OTHER strategies the table should be fighting against, too!). Starve 10 for VP if you want... but you get to spend the entire next round gathering food (every unfed worker is automatically placed in the food space as a reminder, but you're allowed to add more if you want). A stiff penalty, but enough to slow down the strategy while still letting someone play it if they want to against less experienced players, but on a more even playing field.

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Marco Schaub
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Check Pot wrote:
Any unfed worker was considered „ill“ and could thus not work the next round. To show the worker is ill, it was put on the side. We found this to be quite thematic.


Is this in addition to losing 10 points? Otherwise it would not work in the last round because nobody would feed their people.
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