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Subject: Beyond Basic Guide - How to Improve Further? rss

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Marek
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Hi,
so about 1-2 years ago, I found the fantastic basic guide for Terra Mystica and it helped me a lot, my play improved significantly and so did my rating (going from 920s to 1120s). For some time now, however, I feel that I have been stagnating. I would like to ask the more expert players for general advice - what should my focus be, if I want to improve further? Are there any tips what to focus on, maybe leaving some of the Basic guide advices... ? I will be grateful for any insights .
Thanks in advance.
 
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Dániel Lányi
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I'm no pro, but here's what helped me get to where I am:

Play against TM AI until you scored 150+ points with all factions. The AI won't really contest you on majorities, so it's not that hard, but it's pretty agressive on the board. Feel free to take back moves, sometimes even to the very start of the game, and try something else, that's a good way to learn. A match against the AI can be played in 20 minutes, so this way you can get a lot of practice in with the basics and get to know the factions.

Most pros will probably tell you to just look at a lot of games on snellman, or start playing there. That's the way to the top, what I wrote above is more a way to being not bad at the game
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Flo P
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I am by no means an expert player, so the only thing I can think of is to point you towards more self-study materials available in the forums here and on snellman/tmtour:

1. Get a look on DocCool's excellent opening statistics and in particular watch out for comments of old foxes like Petri, CTKshadow, SpaceTrucker (and a whole bunch I forgot) and all the newer TMtour winners (Steve, Dhrun) [sorry for all the usernames I butchered/mispelled].

2. Try watching some games from past TMtour seasons. I would start by going to division 1 and keep an eye out for players that play with factions you are already comfortable with. Try to spot how the pro's play diverges from your own and from there move on to factions you have less experience with. Some of the additional skills you deduce this way might be generally applicable and not tied to a certain faction.

3. Since you mentioned the basic guide: try to actively break some of the heuristic rules you learned there and open your mind to more creative play. In particular start experimenting with income favors.

4. Set aside an afternoon and browse the strategy section of the forum here. There is a lot of wisdom to be found - once again watch out for comments by the pros.

edit:
5. I really can't anticipate how far you personally are in your experience, but try to restrict your future games to a certain setting. I would advise the tournament setting (standard map, additional town + bon tiles, no FI factions, no FI additional scoring). It reduces the number of variables a little and allows for easier reapplication of lessons learned from one's own mistakes. If you ever see yourself getting bored by this setting, consider throwing in a different map, but keep the rest the same.

6. advanced: Try experimenting with exotic openings other than the standard TE+3D. If you have never done this: go for green/mermaids and try a D rush, darklings/CM has an SA rush available and I think there is a certain strategy where Nomads can go for a TP rush (I am still considering this last options myself at times, but haven't played TM in a while due to my group being completely down the rabbit hole that is GP)
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Marek
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Thank you both for those tips, I will surely give a go to at least some of them. I have never actually tried the AI, as I saw no use in it, but your suggestion definitely makes sense.
 
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Rollo Tomosi
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No matter what I do in this game (or Gaia) by the 2nd round I already know I have lost....every one else has TONS of cubes, money, preists and it always seems I have jack...measly little amounts where I can barely do anything...I always feel so crazy LIMITED in that game...but I still play it.
Nadneseny wrote:
Hi,
so about 1-2 years ago, I found the fantastic basic guide for Terra Mystica and it helped me a lot, my play improved significantly and so did my rating (going from 920s to 1120s). For some time now, however, I feel that I have been stagnating. I would like to ask the more expert players for general advice - what should my focus be, if I want to improve further? Are there any tips what to focus on, maybe leaving some of the Basic guide advices... ? I will be grateful for any insights :).
Thanks in advance.
 
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Flo P
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in that case you should really ask your fellow players to give you some directions. At the end of the day both you as a trainee and the person mentoring you can only profit from this. You will find greater enjoyment in the game as you have a chance to grasp for victory and your opponents will encounter better competition which will create more memorable games.

really, a big part of the fun in TM/GP is looking at the finished boardstate and dissecting and discussing what the major errors or surprising gambits have been with my friends.
 
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Robert
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Dark_Knight wrote:
No matter what I do in this game (or Gaia) by the 2nd round I already know I have lost....every one else has TONS of cubes, money, preists and it always seems I have jack
Hmm. If other players have tons of resources in round 2, then they either have saved stuff from round 1, or they cheated.

Round 2 is usually the round when your resources are most limited: you don't have the extra start resources, and you probably also spent your initial power plus leeches from round 1 for some (hopefully beneficial) power action. So when you look at TM games (including expert games), you'll find that round 2 tends to have less actions than any other round (and that's despite a bunch of "send priest to cult for 3 steps" actions ).
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Rollo Tomosi
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You know? Maybe I mis-spoke...maybe it is by Round 3-but seriously-whenever I look around at all the goodies everyone has and what I have? Its like you gotta be KIDDIN me...and then I think I have to "catch up" but then I look at how much they all have built-when its like soooo much to terraform/build but it seems like they just willy-nilly build stuff. Just NEVER have gotten any sense of getting my hands around it or any sense of 'mastery' but I still play it! And rate it quite high!


DocCool wrote:
Dark_Knight wrote:
No matter what I do in this game (or Gaia) by the 2nd round I already know I have lost....every one else has TONS of cubes, money, preists and it always seems I have jack
Hmm. If other players have tons of resources in round 2, then they either have saved stuff from round 1, or they cheated. :)

Round 2 is usually the round when your resources are most limited: you don't have the extra start resources, and you probably also spent your initial power plus leeches from round 1 for some (hopefully beneficial) power action. So when you look at TM games (including expert games), you'll find that round 2 tends to have less actions than any other round (and that's despite a bunch of "send priest to cult for 3 steps" actions :)).
 
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George Sprockitz
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another thing you can do is post games you've played here and the community can post some critiques and thoughts on what they may have done differently. While those critiques may be game specific they often lead to revelations that can be generalized.

If I have time tonight I'll check out one or two of your most recent ladder games.
 
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Steve Haas
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Past a certain point in one's TM development, an awful lot of improvement needs to come from within. There simply is no set of rubrics and guidelines that you can follow to be a 1400 player - at some point, you need to develop your own understanding of the game to the point where you can assess the tradeoffs of each new situation and come up with a reasonable approach.

This is not to say that there isn't value in reading strategy posts and getting your games reviewed by better players and so forth - there absolutely is - but such discussions tend to be more valuable if you focus on the "why" rather than the "what". That is: instead of trying to identify specific patterns to follow, try to understand the thought process that led to those decisions and use the understanding gained to help refine your own sense of what to do.

But what also helps a lot is thinking about the games you play, or games you watch others play, and think about/try to understand what's happening. Look at games you lost, and try to figure out what went wrong. Look at games you won, and think about what decisions your opponents could have made to stop you. Look at your opponent's moves - or at moves of top players in top games - and find moves that are different than the moves you would have made in their position. Do you understand why they made the decision they did? Did it work? Why or why not?
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Robert
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One thing I know but haven't mastered to actually apply consistently is this: "DO NOT MAKE QUICK 'OBVIOUS' MOVES!". cry
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DocCool wrote:
One thing I know but haven't mastered to actually apply consistently is this: "DO NOT MAKE QUICK 'OBVIOUS' MOVES!". cry

"When you see a good move, look for a better one" — Emanuel Lasker
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Steve Haas
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On a related note: I have a rule for myself that I don't make moves in the tourney after midnight or from mobile unless I've already planned out the situation while awake and from an actual computer. Made too many dumb mistakes in my earlier seasons by missing something obvious due to being half-asleep. This isn't to say I don't still make stupid mistakes, but at least now I'm fully awake while doing (and its rather less common than it used to be).
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Chris Sandman
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Steve496 wrote:
Past a certain point in one's TM development, an awful lot of improvement needs to come from within. There simply is no set of rubrics and guidelines that you can follow to be a 1400 player - at some point, you need to develop your own understanding of the game to the point where you can assess the tradeoffs of each new situation and come up with a reasonable approach.

This is not to say that there isn't value in reading strategy posts and getting your games reviewed by better players and so forth - there absolutely is - but such discussions tend to be more valuable if you focus on the "why" rather than the "what". That is: instead of trying to identify specific patterns to follow, try to understand the thought process that led to those decisions and use the understanding gained to help refine your own sense of what to do.

But what also helps a lot is thinking about the games you play, or games you watch others play, and think about/try to understand what's happening. Look at games you lost, and try to figure out what went wrong. Look at games you won, and think about what decisions your opponents could have made to stop you. Look at your opponent's moves - or at moves of top players in top games - and find moves that are different than the moves you would have made in their position. Do you understand why they made the decision they did? Did it work? Why or why not?


This.

Something that helped me improve my game was to always look at your opponents last moves before you even consider to decide what to do next yourself. This is a specific necessity to be able to deal with the asynchronous nature of online gaming which can be handled via the recent moves button on snellman (and gets more helpful the more games you play at the same time).

Always have a look at that button first and see what your opponents have done and always think about why they did it. This takes some time but it is worth it, believe me. This game is all about trade-offs/priorities, timing and interaction.
If you have successfully analyzed your opponents last moves you might already be able to prioritize your own actions better than before. Think of this as a possibility to glimpse into the future (although it is the past).


But before you just do your "best move", always ask yourself if you have to do this specific move now or if it can be delayed and always consider possible alternatives.


If you have done this as well, do the move.


... No no no, not so simple. Always keep in mind that this game, like I (and not only I) have said, is all about tradeoffs and interaction (and more, snowballing like crazy for example).

You have to always keep your general gameplan in mind. I hope you have got one already? If not, it might not be too late, get one. The earlier the better.
Always because the gamestate changes a lot over the course of the game and so you might have to adapt your gameplan slightly. If you consider possible problems with your gameplan in advance it gets easier to prepare for alternative routes but you cannot anticipate everything of course (Btw, Im waiting for alphazero-like machines that are able to master TM although this is of course no two-player game and not so easy. But at least we could adjust VPs to perfection thenwhistle ...no we could not) ..

Timing all the rounds nicely contributes to such a gameplan and cannot be taken away from the equation due to your opponents actions in general, but the point i want to make is more general here.

You should always have a plan how you will score your points, simple as that ... at any given point of time in a game. Im not talking about calculating all points that will follow but rather that you build a strategy about which sources of VPs you are going to trigger because most of these sources are competitive and thus limited (Endgamescoring, VP-FAVs (not 3P), BONs, specific TW-tiles) and only a few are not competitive (Round scoring, Upgrade points, number of TWs sort of at least (you need space))and can thus be gained from "everyone" or a specific faction only (factionabilities).


It is up to you (and your skill!) how detailed your general gameplan is but take your passing action for example. I think that many quite good players do underestimate passing as an action, although it is one example about what makes TM so wonderful (Timing, Tradeoffs, Interaction,... you got it^^) and a huge factor in how to finish a game successfully especially in high-level play where the fight about the competitive VP-sources gets pretty intense (You just cannot have everything).
I for example always (at least in theory) have a look at everyones resources and the seats at the beginning of a round and try to guess how many actions the other players will take so that i am able to decide what BONs i am going or waiting for. It affects how i time my actions and if I might pass early or delay my actions.

If you decide to not take FAV11- have a gameplan how you will compensate the loss of those competitive points. If you are sitting at the 4th seat and expect everyone else to open with a TE and FAV 11 (which is quite usual among players around 1000-1200), already have a realisitic gameplan how you will play the complete first round before you even pick your faction.

Plan ahead, gameplanwise for the whole game. Another simple heuristic could be that you should have the average amount of endgame points in a 4p game, which is 23 VPs. Have a look at the competitive VPsources and adjust the parameters. Cultists and CMS are in the game? You probably cannot expect to score the average Cult-points. If you are bad in one section you have to outscore your opponents in other sources ...


And yeah the most important advise: Keep on playing. You will always find things that help you improve your game. Even after 300+ games
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Hubert
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Post your worst games and ask for opinions of top players. You learn more from losses than easy wins.

Understand what makes the factions tick (at least the top few like darklings, engineers, cultists etc). Use TM Tools & play through top D1 games.

Don't be afraid to try unusual openings if the game demands it- 6D with engineers/darklings, 3TP+D with nomads etc.

Don't underestimate the possibility of opponent aggression- taking ACT6 or ACT6 + dig to block you, if they have the resources.

Other subtle stuff like when & where to build/offer leech, how much to leech, passing fast/slow etc.
 
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Marek
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Thank you all for your tips! It is certainly something to work on!
As suggested, I am posting some games that went poorly for me. If there is someone willing to have a close look at them and give me some feedback, I will be glad.
https://terra.snellman.net/game/Pokus
https://terra.snellman.net/game/SeptemberSunnyDay05

I may not have much time to view and discuss about that this week, but will certainly do that the next week.
 
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Steve Haas
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So after a cursory look over the first few rounds of each game, my immediate reaction is: you're paying too much for your digs. Particularly in the witches game. I count act5 3 times and a 3w dig in the first 3 rounds - if you're wondering why your economy fell behind, that's the reason.

As a general rule: act6 is powerful and efficient and worth prioritizing. act5 is not. It is the thing you take because there is some particular hex that is particularly valuable - for positional reasons, for connection reasons, because it gives access to a 2nd hex of the correct color as well, whatever - and you don't expect to be able to get act6. It is not the thing you routinely want to be rushing on R1, and particularly not something you want to be taking every turn. And in order for a 3w dig to be worthwhile... lets just say it needs to be an *amazing* hex before that's worth it.

By means of comparison: had you bought a priest for 5pw on R2 and sent it to air, you would get a dig out of that (and 1 power back). This is only one power more than act5, and also gives 2 spots on the air track. And if you could get the priest via act2 instead...

In short: find other ways to get digs, or explore other strategies for getting hexes of the right color. Chase cult spades. Pass early for bon1. Save for act6. Advance shipping or use actw to hop between hexes that are already the right color. Figure out what alternatives work for you, so you can treat act5 more as a fallback plan and worker digging as an emergency backup, rather than as a backbone of your strategy.
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Steinar Nerhus
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Nadneseny wrote:
Thank you all for your tips! It is certainly something to work on!
As suggested, I am posting some games that went poorly for me. If there is someone willing to have a close look at them and give me some feedback, I will be glad.
https://terra.snellman.net/game/Pokus
https://terra.snellman.net/game/SeptemberSunnyDay05

I may not have much time to view and discuss about that this week, but will certainly do that the next week.


I only looked at the second game (SeptemberSunnyDay05), and I do not like the opening.
I would most likely take BON2 (4c + 1 cult) in round 1 and open the game with ACT2 so that I could send the priest to AIR. This is a much better way to get workers than it is to take ACT3. You would end round 1 at the sixt level on AIR, and if you go TE + FAV8 in round two you get two free spades as well (not sure this is what you want to do in round two, but it would be one of the options)!
Edit, a fow more whys: You dont need ACT5 or ACT6 round 1 to secure hexes, as none of the hexes you want are threatened by others. You also dont need to build extra dwellings since you can get workers from the cult at end of round 1, and with a round 1 SH you will generally have lots of dwellings out anyway since you get one for free each round. Workers will not be your limitation, instead it will be coins and priests.

The opening of the game is very important. When I select faction I look at various factions that fit the setup and get an idea of how I would open the game with each of them. It might be 2-3 various openings for each faction in case I don't get the BON or ACT that I want, or the other players don't select the colors I thought. I then select the faction that I think has the best/safest opening*.

Once I see which factions got taken, I plan my opening over again, but in more detail, so that I can place my dwellings in smart ways.

When dwellings are placed and it is my turn to pick a BON I do it one more time, now eliminating any openings that are no longer possible. Sometimes this is the point where I decide what to go for.

An finally, when it is my first action in the game after setting up stuff, I might already have a plan and just move, or I have to decide.

I guess this is all kind of obvious, but I just wanted to state it: the opening is very important, so think about it! To me the opening is also the most fun part, so thinking about it is not a problem as I enjoy it a lot Trying to figure out a good opening is a challenging puzzle, and an area where it is possible to experiment.

*Darklings are often selected early because they almost always have safe and solid openings available, regardless of what the others are doing.
 
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Hubert
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Both games you missed out on FAV11 and didn't get enough alternative scoring to make up for it- only 3 cult pts in the witches game, a bit low considering that nomads got 20. My rating went up when I started getting a bit more aggressive on cults, even with non-cult factions. On 2-1 I would have taken ACT4, given your money deficit, and built a TE + FAV10/11. ACT5 is probably less important when u have a free dwelling every round.

Only 7 pts from round scoring in the swarmlings game- the round bonuses seem poorly suited to them.
 
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Ryan Feathers
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I think the main story of that Swarmlings game is simply that they were the wrong faction choice. There's a few things about how you played them that I also will point out, but mostly you were competent with them and in a better set up probably get 3rd or 2nd which is pretty good 4th picking into Darklings/Cultists/Giants.

But anyhow the set up does look pretty bad for Swarmlings. Where are your points going to come from this game? Swarmlings tend to like to build their SH and SA early yet there is no early scoring for that. Even worse those scoring tiles are R5/R6. This is tough for almost any faction to score much during, but many will at least get 5 points where you probably will get nothing. You also have no inherent faction scoring to take advantage of so all your resources that you're ramping your economy up for in the early rounds have no good outlet to generate points.

There are a few passing bons that you can try to score with throughout the game. You can build some towns and maybe compete on cults and network. But you did manage to do those things and still wound up with a losing score. I think it is mostly because you had little ability to gain any points from the round bonuses and your faction couldn't generate any on their own.

As for playing them a little better, when you take FAV 10 in R1 you could have taken Fav11 instead. You had 3 structures on board at that point and ended with 12, so Fav11 would have gained you 18 points compared to the 15 you got with Fav10. Fav10 also did manage to help you towards some early cult bonuses though, so I'm not as convinced this was a mistake.

Once again here it seems you like Act5 a bit more than I would. Burning 4 power in R1 just to get one more dwelling out isn't all that great. You also later on convert a w to c to complete your SH+TE+D start. Yet you struggle on w income for much of the rest of the game. Overall I'm not convinced spending the resources to get that extra Dwelling down in R1 was worth it. Similar to what steve points out above you could have instead taken a priest and send it to Earth to get a R1 cult spade that way. (Although Darklings maybe beat you to it, but even 2 steps on Earth coupled with Fav11 would have worked). Not sure any of these are clearly better options, but I am pretty sure the R1 Act5 coupled with w to c conversion is a bad play.

Also you never build your SA which is a little sad. I'm not sure it hurt you that much but the SA is pretty nice for Swarmlings as you generate 2 priests plus get another favor tile. Plus it hopefully sets you up to get 3 towns a bit easier which tends to be another way Swarmlings aim to get points to compete with other factions.


Overall I probably would have taken Mermaids in this game. With Giants right in front of you it seems likely to assume they will open with a SH, especially if you let them have BON6. That opens you up to a TE opening with FAV11. With two straight dwelling rounds right after that along with Mermaids early shipping, you probably can build on quite a few hexes. You can even open with Bon5 to secure Act6 early on easily giving you plenty of hexes to build upon. Mermaids are one of the few factions that really don't need to build SH/SA early, so you can save them and build them towards the end for some points. Admittedly there is no Bon10 here which you'd really like as Mermaids, but you can still make use of Bon9 early on and after R4 probably can take use of Bon7 for at least six points. (As you'd like to build at least 3 if not all 4 TP's in R4 and largely leave them on the board for the rest of the game.) Mermaids can largely build towns in the same spots you did without having to spend for the bridges and they would have less time managing connection with the possibility of 5 shipping. (Plus if you're building SH late you're going to be at 2 shipping at least so advancing to 5 isn't any more laborious than it is for any other faction plus you get a few more points for doing so)

I've rambled on enough though. The lesson there is you just made the wrong faction pick.
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Dave

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Go through the games of the top players at boardgamearena.com move by move.
 
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James Wolfpacker
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asd123321 wrote:
Go through the games of the top players at boardgamearena.com move by move.


I wouldn't recommend this. The games there might have a few good players, but it would be like asking a Chess player with 10 games for advice instead of the Grandmaster at Snellman.
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Ryan Feathers
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JamesWolfpacker wrote:
asd123321 wrote:
Go through the games of the top players at boardgamearena.com move by move.


I wouldn't recommend this. The games there might have a few good players, but it would be like asking a Chess player with 10 games for advice instead of the Grandmaster at Snellman.


Eh, many of the top players at boardgamearena are snellman regulars and know what they are doing. I haven't logged in in a few days but last I checked I was in the top 50 and some of the players in the top 10 include people like sprockitz and firexed. I'd loosely expect anyone in the top 50 or so to be at or around 1200+ on snellman with the top 10 probably equivalent to at least a D4 player.

The bigger issue with that advice in my opinion is that there's no Temple round bonus, no Bon10, and no extra town tiles. Also I think most games there use variable VP's, at least that's been my experienced. If you're practicing for the tournament you may as well just review games in tournament settings to maximize what you're learning. Still plenty of good things to learn from the boardgamearena suggestions but it would be a bit more suited to conditions played over there and a bit less to tournament conditions. I just disagree with the idea that there's a big difference in the quality of the top BGA players and top snellman players.
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James Wolfpacker
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Fine, 20 games and a normal person (not Bobby Fischer).
 
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Ola Caster
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Ranior wrote:
JamesWolfpacker wrote:
asd123321 wrote:
Go through the games of the top players at boardgamearena.com move by move.


I wouldn't recommend this. The games there might have a few good players, but it would be like asking a Chess player with 10 games for advice instead of the Grandmaster at Snellman.


Eh, many of the top players at boardgamearena are snellman regulars and know what they are doing. I haven't logged in in a few days but last I checked I was in the top 50 and some of the players in the top 10 include people like sprockitz and firexed. I'd loosely expect anyone in the top 50 or so to be at or around 1200+ on snellman with the top 10 probably equivalent to at least a D4 player.

The bigger issue with that advice in my opinion is that there's no Temple round bonus, no Bon10, and no extra town tiles. Also I think most games there use variable VP's, at least that's been my experienced. If you're practicing for the tournament you may as well just review games in tournament settings to maximize what you're learning. Still plenty of good things to learn from the boardgamearena suggestions but it would be a bit more suited to conditions played over there and a bit less to tournament conditions. I just disagree with the idea that there's a big difference in the quality of the top BGA players and top snellman players.


As of now:


1 should 562
2 noblevillain 535
3 iko 509
4 shadow255 481
5 sprockitz 475
6 bachia 469
7 Muzhachello 465
8 motchouli 465
9 piliangel 461
10 Grey Lord 460
11 davidt23 456
12 Migelius 448
13 Mariota17 438
14 WoWartist 438
15 harvey36309 435
16 padgg 429
17 ararar127001 425
18 bicegoa 425
19 jimboyd 416
20 bikedog 414
21 a29255785 413
22 Kadwa 412
23 Namie_bga 409
24 god00612 406
25 firexed 405
26 lscrock 405
27 RYO-1 404
28 mindarla 396
29 Knosken 395
30 ironiineon 395
31 thyl 390
32 Explosivelee 390
33 STEVE10716 389
34 Timmi 389
35 kruppy 387
36 Ranior 386
37 WayneChenTW 384
38 yen1800 382
39 UY_Scuti 380
40 luxor egamer 380
41 goldbug371 379
42 max005 379
43 Al g 378
44 Cimmeron 376
45 Zoras 375
46 Fayteng 374
47 Kirasjer87 373
48 kennycccs 372
49 argyles 372
50 magnogato 372
 
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