Thumb up
1 Posts

China» Forums » Strategy

Subject: A Game of Moderateness rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Nicholas Hjelmberg
flag msg tools
To win in China, you have to get the most victory points, and to get victory points, you have to get majorities - so far the game is similar to many other games. A rough estimate gives you 10-15 turns to place pieces (based on 104 cards for 4 players and an average use of 2 cards per player and turn). Thus it is important to get as many points from each piece as possible.

However, the victory points you get depends on what the majorities look like. The victory points for majority in a province depends on your number of pieces in relation to other players' number of pieces. The victory points for majority across borders depends on the total number of ambassadors in both bordering provinces (which in turn is limited by the majority in each province). Hence it is difficult to calculate the value of a piece until the province has been filled. What you can calculate, however, is whether it is worthwhile to place a piece depending on the average value per piece.

Let us start by looking at the value of majorities in provinces. In an average province of five cities, we have the following values:

5 5 houses: 5 VP / 1 VP per house
4 4 houses: 5 VP / 1.25 VP per house
3 3 houses: 5 VP / 1.67 VP per house
2 2 houses: 5 VP / 2.5 VP per house (provided that you have a majority, otherwise 3 VP / 1.5 VP per house)
1 1 house: 2-3 points depending on what the majority looks like

Map courtesey of BGG user wererat (Kristin Johnson).

From this simple analysis we can draw an important conclusion: Most houses in a province is not the most efficient way to score in China. The extreme case is when someone fills a province with four houses. You may then place the fifth house in the province and score four points for one single house. Thus, a first principle is to aim for 2-3 points per house you place. More specifically, we have the following subprinciples:

1A: Aim for a shared majority with few houses, since this gives you the best return (2.5 VP per house in the above example).
1B: Do not place more than half of the houses in a province, since more houses give less return (less than 1.5 VP per house in the above example).
1C: Avoid second places in provinces, since those often give you the worst return (1.5 VP in the above example).
1D: Pay attention to opportunities to place a single house in a province, together with an ambassador if possible, more about them later (2-3 VP per house in the above example).

Naturally, there are exceptions that we will discuss later but let us first move on to ambassadors. We now know that we want to score at least 2 VP per ambassador but how do we value them? Well, if we assume that provinces are optimally filled with majorities of 2-3 houses, there are 2 x 2.5 = 5 VP points per border to compete for. Also, the more borders an ambassador can score from, the better the return.

On average, 1.5 ambassadors in each province is enough to get a majority (1 ambassador if the house majority in the province is 2 and 2 ambassadors if the house majority in the province is 3). This gives us the following returns, depending on how long the chain of ambassadors is:

3 3 ambassadors covering 1 border: 5 VP or 1.67 VP per ambassador
4 4.5 ambassadors covering 2 borders: 10 VP or 2.22 VP per ambassador
6 6 ambassadors covering 3 borders: 15 VP or 2.5 VP per ambassador
6 6 ambassadors covering 4 borders: 20 VP or 3.33 VP per ambassador

Map courtesey of BGG user wererat (Kristin Johnson).

Hence, we see that a majority across one single border is generally worse than a majority in provinces. However, as soon as your ambassadors start covering more borders, the return increases dramatically, particularly if all cover two borders each, like in the last above example. Bear in mind, though, that ambassadors come with a greater risk - they can score 0 VP if you don't get any majority while houses always score.

The increasing return of ambassadors also enables tactical opportunities worth paying attention to. Assume that you have the only two ambassadors in a province bordering three other provinces of "yours". Even if your majority is unthreatened, a third ambassador would still pay off, since this would return three VP.

Thus, a principle for ambassadors is to aim for majority in the most valuable provinces or more specifically the following subprinciples:

2A: Place as many ambassadors as you can if you are the first in a province.
2B: If you are not the first in a province, only place an ambassador there if you can place two at the same time or if the house majority of the province is only two.
2C: Do not place an ambassador in a province if other players can place more than you.
2D: Prioritize provinces with many borders to provinces where you have or can obtain majority.

The third and last way to score is for your longest road (connected houses). Such a road increases the value of each house by one VP, which is not something to be sneezed at. However, it is easy for the opponents to block such attempts. Hence, the principles for roads is, if given a choice, to place houses at crossroads where roads can be extended in several directions (3A) and to build them when they fulfill other strategic goals at the same time (3B).

Map courtesey of BGG user wererat (Kristin Johnson).

Given those principles, let us move on the question about blocking. As important as it is to maximize your own score, as important it is to minimize your opponents' score. However, a challenge in a game like China is that a blocking that doesn't earn you any VP is a lost action that give other players an advantage. In extreme cases it may be necessary, for example if an ambassador can score five points or more for an opponent. In simpler cases, it may be about blocking longest road attempts in provinces you intended to place in any way. Generally, though, it is rarely good to block if you don't earn VP yourself at the same time.

Finally some advice about how to get your pieces to the board in the most efficient manner. Each turn, you may place up to two pieces and since the VP per piece is important, it is important to get both pieces out each turn. Hence, one advice is to always have two cards of the same color. You may then either use them to place pieces in provinces of that color or use them as a wild color to place pieces in provinces of the color of your third card. Three cards of the same color is less good, since it restricts your options to provinces of that color only.

Another advice is not to be the first in a province, if possible, since this only allows you to place one piece. However, this is more difficult to achieve and avoiding it at all cost may cost you more. Assume that you have three houses in a red province with five cities and that you have red cards. Placing two more houses in the province does not increase your score (unless the game is near the end) and it is usually better to let the other players place houses there. One single house in the other red province on the other hand may be worth more VP depending on what the majorities end up like.

To summarize the strategy of China, you should strive for a "moderate" majority everywhere to use your pieces as efficient as possible. China is simply a game that rewards the Chinese virtue of moderateness so perhaps the theme is stronger than many credits it for.
 Thumb up
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.