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Subject: Avoiding "bash the leader"? rss

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Eric
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I've played a few games so far and I'm loving it.

However, it feels like "bash the leader" is a pretty prominent element of the design. The board is so cramped that it feels like every player has a significant opportunity to attack every other player. Since victory points are so transparent, it feels like this evolves into every player attacking whichever player looks like they're in the lead until one player eventually squeaks by with a win.

In a recent Shut Up and Sit Down podcast, I think Quinns mentioned wondering whether "this was truly a great strategy game, or just a great simulation". I guess I'm wondering the same thing. Does better strategy and a deeper grasp of the game often result in a win, or does it make you enough of a target that your odds of winning are no better than other players?

My question for more experienced players is:

1. Do more skilled and experienced players generally win your games? Or do they get reined in by the other players?

2. What kind of strategy can help you avoid other player attacks while trying to get to 30 VPs?

For point 2, it feels like prioritizing board position and "sneaky" VPs might help you get to 30. For instance, I would think that the Marquise should prioritize Recruiters over Sawmills and use her larger army to set up a position that is hard to assault. Similarly, "stockpiling" wood in key locations and holding onto high-VP crafting cards could be ways to hide your strength and incentivize attacks against other players who appear to have more VPs than you do.
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Lars
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Thank you for that post. These are exactly my thoughts and even though I realy love ROOT I wonder what your survey might bring to light.
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Michael Peterson
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I think of Root like poker -- if the odds are stacked against you there's nothing you can do; you're going to lose (i.e. AAAA versus royal flush - the AAAA player is going bust). That said, a good player is going to win more in the long run.

In your specific scenario - a player with experience versus new players. Do they know you've played before? If so, do they collectively decide they're not going to let you win no matter what? If yes, then you're not going to win.

But clearly, more skilled / more experienced players are generally going to play better than worse / less experienced players, which will lead to an improved win rate. There's absolutely skill involved.

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Zachary Olson
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I don't think this game is fair.

I don't mind that at all though, I would rather every game be exciting than for the best player to win every time.

I think trying to figure out whether this game is a "great strategy game" is pointless. If you want to get a game where the best player wins every time you can just get pretty much any euro. This game is fun, and it tells an interesting story every time you play it. Isn't that more valuable than being perfectly fair?

I think SU&SD will come to a similar conclusion eventually. I know they like the game, but I don't think they will find it fair.


Might be wrong though. it isn't like i'm an authority on what makes a game good or fair. I'm just your average bgg pleb.
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Tim Tix
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I think there are several skills involved in this aspect of the game:
The skill to not appear as the leader and to not get bashed. Or the skill to recogneize the eventual leader before s/he gets into the lead or when there are several people in the lead.
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Chris Somethingson
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In the course of a few days my flatmates and I have played about 5 games. The individuals who play a lot more games tend to do better than those who only partly dabble.

Personally, I think that despite it being this tight knife fight of a board game where you're fighting all the time, due to the unique scoring methods of each faction "the leader" is incredibly hard to read. The one with the most general sense of points are the Eyrie (as they mostly score from end of turn roost points), otherwise a lot of factions have a lot of possibilities to explode a 10 point turn if things go just right.

We've had games where someone's jumped from more or less last to suddenly being in a position where they almost certainly would win. While hitting the leader will be a thing, for a lot of factions this can also lead to easier points. Cheaper buildings for the cats, cheaper sympathy tokens, etc. So even dog piling the leader can require a bit of finesse to it.

I think there's a lot of layers at play with how the scoring works that turns it from a simple concept of simply punching up to a multi faceted juggle of cards, tokens and so much more.
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Ben Kyo
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"Bash the leader" is fundamental part of games like this. You can't avoid it and are mistaken in thinking it is a problem. The only situation in which "bash the leader" doesn't occur is when players are sufficiently inexperienced or just unable to read the board state accurately.

Of course, better players will still be able to create a board state that guarantees them a win more often that worse players, bearing in mind that "better play" of course includes skills like negotiation.
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Kaganishu Khan
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My group of very competitive strategy players (we play a ton of Rising Sun, Twilight Imperium, Lords of Hellas, Chaos in the Old World etc.) found Root to actually incite more "bash the leader" than the others primarily because the board state is so much easier to read, and less tricky, sneaky moves are possible.

Unfortunately, this has soured us a little on the game, as the balance between factions is not that tight, and (when spoiled by RS) it isnt conducive to fun when you are being ganged up on because you play a stronger starting faction.

Also, Lizards seemingly cannot win when they are ganged up on. At least we dont see how, they are REALLY vulnerable to concerted efforts against them, and the weakest faction anyway.
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Walberto Smith
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One thing I see missing from the "bash the leader" discussions is that the factions don't gain VP at the same rates. WA and Vagabond tend to win a lot of learning games because they both, not coincidentally, start slow and have huge VP bursts into the endgame. On the other hand, the two factions with the most starting board presence act as the timers for the game, with consistent VP growth right from the start. If you want to slow down those factions you need to hit them long before they *feel* like a threat... something only experienced players would recognize. Then if those attacks are going towards WA/Vagabond that means Birds/Cats advance further then a new "leader" emerges, and so on around the table.

In other words, the "leader" is the group's *perception* of who the leader is, not necessarily who is ACTUALLY the leader at that moment (cue Varys nodding approvingly).


I've only played a handful of games with the base game so I can't speak on the expansion factions but "bash the leader" seems to be more nuanced than just "attack the person with the most VP". The implicit negotiations to sway perception was a very specific design choice and is explicitly addressed in The Law of Root.
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Atnier Rodriguez
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walbertosmith wrote:
One thing I see missing from the "bash the leader" discussions is that the factions don't gain VP at the same rates. WA and Vagabond tend to win a lot of learning games because they both, not coincidentally, start slow and have huge VP bursts into the endgame. On the other hand, the two factions with the most starting board presence act as the timers for the game, with consistent VP growth right from the start. If you want to slow down those factions you need to hit them long before they *feel* like a threat... something only experienced players would recognize. Then if those attacks are going towards WA/Vagabond that means Birds/Cats advance further then a new "leader" emerges, and so on around the table.

In other words, the "leader" is the group's *perception* of who the leader is, not necessarily who is ACTUALLY the leader at that moment (cue Varys nodding approvingly).


I've only played a handful of games with the base game so I can't speak on the expansion factions but "bash the leader" seems to be more nuanced than just "attack the person with the most VP". The implicit negotiations to sway perception was a very specific design choice and is explicitly addressed in The Law of Root.


Just for Varys quote, ye deserve a thumb.
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Richard B
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If there were no dice rolls, domination, or ambush cards, then you could very much say that based upon starting factions and starting locations, the game would be completely scripted with a circular bash the leader type dance.

1) I think understanding the strengths/weaknesses, VP curve, and tempo of your faction makes you good. Then understanding the other factions makes you dangerous. Experience pays off. You may still end up with a bash the leader game, but that tends to be the nature of all FFA war games.

2) Establish multiple ways to score your final points, movement buffer zones, aptly timed Domination victory, Ambush cards, back stab alliances. All the classical ways you'd win in any other war game.
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Benjamin
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If you don't want to be bashed, don't be a runaway leader in a position where 3 other players can attack you.

It's a basic skill in every strategy game in which other players can interfere with you.

If you have a chance to run away with points the other people will work against you. Having the opportunity to run ahead means you need to take actions that improve your lead but not your points - Recruit more, move troops to better places, attack potential rivals. You only try the runaway leader when you're sure they can't stop you anymore. Ideally you hide 1 point behind a weaker player and get people to attack him until you are ready to win.
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Pedro Sequeira
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I only played once, as Cats, and felt the same, I won because I was the one that got attacked the least

Only 2 "smart" things I think I did was, get 6+ cats in 1 or 2 spots, with sawmills and lots of wood

Went in the last turn with bird cards for free actions and lots of wood spared from previous turns, which allowed for a massive point gain that others werent really expecting (or they would have bashed me a bit I guess
 
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Grayson
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Daravon wrote:

My question for more experienced players is:

1. Do more skilled and experienced players generally win your games? Or do they get reined in by the other players?


Ben's and Wally's comments are the best responses to this so far. Keep in mind that each faction has a pathway to victory, but some are more difficult to locate at first glance.

Daravon wrote:

2. What kind of strategy can help you avoid other player attacks while trying to get to 30 VPs?

For point 2, it feels like prioritizing board position and "sneaky" VPs might help you get to 30. For instance, I would think that the Marquise should prioritize Recruiters over Sawmills and use her larger army to set up a position that is hard to assault. Similarly, "stockpiling" wood in key locations and holding onto high-VP crafting cards could be ways to hide your strength and incentivize attacks against other players who appear to have more VPs than you do.


And you generally answered your own question for number 2; consider momentum, and how you can tune it to be explosive. Most of the factions can accomplish this to certain degrees, but it's an intentional setup. Second, never forget the dominance victory conditions. The point isn't to get to 30, but to try and win. Winning can be accomplished in two different ways, one of which is getting to 30...
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Game Guy
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I agree with Wally that determining who the leader is takes more than just looking at the current score. Also, I think the game feels like a game of bash the leader in part because every game begins with the Cats being the only faction with a large board presence, making them both the de facto leader and the only target for the other factions.
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