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Subject: Lets Talk About... Engineers (A Strategy Discussion Series) rss

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Steve Haas
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In this ninth installment of the series, we're discussing Engineers. Some questions to shape the discussion:

* Under what game circumstances are Engineers good/bad? When do you look to play them? When should you avoid them?
* What sorts of strategies/approaches do you find effective when playing Engineers? What problems have you had that you haven't figured out how to solve?
* What things should one be aware of when playing *against* Engineers? How does their presence/absence affect what other decisions you might make?
* What other questions do you have about Engineers? Is there anything you'd like to see more experienced players discuss about them?

Linking to (completed!) games where Engineers did notably well (or poorly) for purposes of discussion is encouraged, as is referring to any existing threads/posts/other strategy resources you may have found useful or interesting with regards to playing Engineers.

Previous Installments:
* Acolytes
* Alchemists
* Auren
* Chaos Magicians
* Cultists
* Darklings
* Dragonlords
* Dwarves
 
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Robert
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Engineers are very good unless when picked into green factions, resp. when another player picks a green faction afterwards*. The end.

* With some likelihood grey and green will fight for #3 while the other two rejoice. Red in the game is also detrimental, but not as much (at least not on the original map).
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Better players than me will talk about other aspect of Engineers, but there's one question I'm very interested in. How come Engineers are so much weaker on F&I2 map than on original map? The same applies for Dwarves, so I guess worse grey terrain is to blame. So what changes in F&I 2 map made grey terrain harder to play? Or are there other factors to consider as well?
 
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Tom Eccles
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I don't know the F&I maps well enough to say how good engineers are on them, but I suspect what's mostly going on is that the original map is exceptionally *good* for the engineers, without colour neighbours:

- The eastern town F6-C5 is rarely disrupted, is very likely to have lots of neighbours, and only needs two spades.
- The central town based around E7 has lots of options; if you get D4 you've immediately got another 2 spade town or 1 spade SA town (and the engineers aren't so bothered that it needs a bridge). Even if you miss out on D4, you can still expect a somewhat less efficient town after F4. Again, this town will have lots of neighbours.
- Connection is unlikely to be hard, as D6 and G3 are both options which other people aren't hugely bothered about. So you can usually leave connection until midgame.
- You have two natural third town sites, one of which is three spades for five hexes(I9, H6, I10, I11, H8), and another is two spades for four hexes (E3, F2, F1, G1). In most games one of these will be available.

So for the most part, you can play the engineers without worrying *too* much about what your opponents are up to in terms of space, and it will all work out. That lets you expand at whatever rate your economy and the round bonuses dictates. If the witches appear, this all goes to pot - you'll have to think hard about lots of interactions with the witches, who want to build in most of the same places as you.
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Robert
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Boat on a River wrote:
How come Engineers are so much weaker on F&I2 map than on original map? The same applies for Dwarves, so I guess worse grey terrain is to blame.

Are you sure you mean F&I side 2? Which is the modified original map? Maybe you're thinking of F&I side 1, where grey has indeed a hard time to connect?
 
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DocCool wrote:
Are you sure you mean F&I side 2? Which is the modified original map? Maybe you're thinking of F&I side 1, where grey has indeed a hard time to connect?


Yes, I was thinking about revised map, where engineers are, according to stats, just a mediocre faction rather than one of the best ones (as they are on original map). I was curious what small changes between original and revised map caused engineers to lose much of their efficiency?

Tom - thanks . Perhaps the greatest change (compared to original map) is making F4 grey hex instead of E7 - do you think it reduces engineers' flexibility?
 
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Tom Eccles
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Boat on a River wrote:
Tom - thanks . Perhaps the greatest change (compared to original map) is making F4 grey hex instead of E7 - do you think it reduces engineers' flexibility?

Can't say I've ever played the map, so this is all guesswork - but my guesses would be:

- It makes engineers even worse against green. E7 becomes a no-brainer pick for green that hurts the engineers more than F4 against E7 - and would incentivise green to turn up a little more for that reason.

- Without green, my main worry would be the mermaids. If you lose E7 to them, you are probably losing G3 as well, and then both your central town and connection are in trouble.

- Without green or blue, I don't expect it to make a big difference.
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Steve Haas
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It also could just be some general shifts towards matchups that are less favorable for engineers. The success of Engineers has a lot to do with the prevalence of Darklings, particularly on the eastern landmass; and with the terrain there being a little less favorable for black, it could be as simple as "you don't get as many Darklings opponents, and to the extent that you do they don't tend to give you as much leech".

I think the real answer, though, is there haven't been enough high-level games on the map to be able to specifically diagnose the details causes.
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Manpanzee
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One thing to consider with the F&I2 stats is that those games include a much higher density of F&I factions.

You'll notice that discussion of "bad" setups for Engineers mostly focuses on the Witches. But Engineers have two neighboring colors, not one. It's just that the other color is less relevant due to 1) Giants being mostly unplayable and 2) the one-dwelling start making Chaos Magicians significantly less disruptive. With F&I factions, you all of a sudden have to deal with the possibility of red Yetis/Ice Maidens, which are capable of being quite disruptive. And the other F&I factions introduce even more ways of sniping gray tiles.

Also, having a starting gray tile at F4 instead of E7 is bad in one fairly obvious way -- on the original map, Engineers can get a C2-D4-E7 SA/bridge town with only a single dig. Whereas on the F&I map, easier accessibility of G1 via shipping doesn't help at all with town formation.

More on the general topic, I just want to note how much I like BON2 as an opening tile for the Engineers (specifically with the 2TE opening). Having strong openings with this tile is super helpful, as most other factions don't want it, and you thus have greater consistency in having a "good" starting bonus tile. The FAV7 + FAV11 + tick up to 4 on the Earth cult play is well known, but I also really like the FAV7 + FAV6 + double-tick up to 4 on Water opening. This is playable with both of the water cult payouts, and can lead to some really strong cult games.
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Guillaume Pilote
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Although matchup is a big part of how engineers do on the original map, there is a lot more strategic depth to them than 'they win on a good matchup and loose in a bad one'. Fact is engineers is one of the hardest faction to play for beginners, and there are reasons for that.

First, engineers have (with Swarmlings) the most unique faction board, with both lower building cost and lower income. Some numbers may help to figure out the difference.

In term of costs, in comparison to vanilla factions:

Dwellings: 1 worker 1 coin, which is 100% workers, and 50% coins of a vanilla faction.
Trading Posts: 1w2c, 50% workers, 66% coins
Temple: 1w4c, 50% workers, 80% coins
Sanctuary and Stronghold: 3w6c, 75% workers, 100% coins.
To build all 17 structures: 34w61c, which is 69% workers, and 69% coins of a vanilla faction.

In term of incomes:

Trading post give just the same than a vanilla faction; since TPs are also the one building which cost is most reduced, one may conclude that they are a very efficient building for engineers; so much that it can worth building them even when you have no neighbours and need to pay 4c for them. Since engineers need on average 69% the coins the other factions need, and their TPs produce the same, engineers will do well in low coins game.

Temple: same as usual, except the second temple, which gives 5pw, instead of a priest. The lost priest (together with the initial cults which are null) should make the engineers cult game more difficult, but in practice its not too much of a problem; engineers often ends up having a middle game 3rd temple, something other factions can rarely afford, which gives them the lost priest back. And the gained favors out of the temples help to make for the null cult start. The power gained through the second temple is however extremely useful, and building it early is often key to a sound engineer strategy. The thing is, power is good for any faction because of its flexibility, but it's even better for engineers, who get more out of each resources; in other words, action 3 and 4, give more building potential to engineers than to other factions, which is also true about converting power to coins. Since the cost of this building is cheap, building 2/3 temples early is worthy. Engineers often will build 2 temples in round 1/2, taking a fav7 with one of them, which again, worth more for them than any other faction.

Sanctuary: same income than vanilla; as a rule of thumb, I would say not to build it before having 3 temples on the board, because it's expansive and you do not want to loose the 5pw of the 2nd temple.

Stronghold: that is where most beginners go wrong; since the SH gives 3points by bridge and engineers have the special ability to build bridges out of workers, one can easily have the impression that the main strategy for engineers is to make points out of SH and bridges; but in most cases that is wrong: the bridge strategy may work in some situations, but it should never be the go to strategy; I personally never go for it, and see the SH only as a 6th round (sometimes 5th) build to get a few points more. The thing is that the SH is very expansive, and gives a very low income (2pw), while making you loose a good TP. Also, building bridges out of power action is slightly more costly for engineers (who get more out of other power actions and power conversion), and building them out of workers is just terribly inefficient.

Finally dwellings; the worker income from dwellings is variable, and managing it is very important to succeed as engineers. The following chart gives some idea of how engineers produce workers.

0 dwellings, 0w, 0% of the vanilla faction, who produce a dwelling by default.
1dw, 1w, 50% of the vanilla faction
2dw, 2w, 67%
3dw, 2w, 50%
4dw, 3w, 60%
5dw, 4w, 67%
6dw, 4w, 57%
7dw, 5w, 63%
8dw, 6w, 75%

Since TPs and TEs are cheap and effective, my rule of thumb as engineers is to try to remain at 2dw, and upgrade the rest to temples as much as possible until round 4, and then wait for a dwelling round scoring event to go up to 8dw, which requires a bit of planning but is often possible and very rewarding.


Other considerations:


Favors:

Engineers are one of the few factions who will consistently get an economic favor and all three scoring favors. Since TPs are cheap and effective, you will want to build a lot of them, and so going for a midgame 3rd temple with fav10 is usually the strategy I go for, often backed with a round 4/5/6 SA with fav12.
For economic favors, since engineers need in average 69% of workers compare to other faction, but get a lower production ratio until having 8 dwellings on board, fav7 is often a must for them.
I would recommend keeping away from fav8, because engineers produce so much power thanks to the 2nd temple and their TPs that fav8 often ends up in overkill. As for fav9, it is less necessary than fav7, because engineers have a lot of other good way to produce coins. I've never tried fav6, but Manpanzee's strategy (above) seems interesting.


Cult income:

Because they get more out of each resources than others, coins and workers cult incomes are very good for engineers. However, since you usually will take fav11 and 7, and rarely fav5, it's much easier to take advantage of the coins event; but if one can manage to snatch a few workers out of the workers cult income, it can make a big impact.

Round Bonus:
Engineers are probably the faction who can take the best advantage of favor scoring and track scoring, and they have a unique way to score points through their SH. Also, they get more out of resources than others. Therefore, they will do well in a setup where there is few scoring round bonus.
1w/3pw as initial bonus is especially good for them.
As scoring bonus, bon7 is interesting, for you will want to get TPs on board in the midgame. Since they easily produce coins, and have a lot of grey hexes linked by sea, engineers will tend to advance shipping a lot, and thus bon10 is also good for them. I tend to prefer not having bon9 and bon6, as I usually go up in dwellings and build SH/SA late, but it's certainly not deal breakers.

Scoring Track:
Engineers are very flexible, but ideally I'm looking for the following: Late Dwellings and SH/SA scoring, midgame TPs, early TEs - all three for above mentioned reasons. I usually do not like late town scoring, for I prefer to go for only 2 towns, but also because engineers will benefit more than others from the economic boost of an early town (again, they get more out of every resources); also, it's very easy to take advantage of an early spade from the cult income of the town event, since you will usually be at least 2 steps up on earth from fav7. For the same reason, the spade event is good: you get coins out of it and often can take the 2 spades action because of the power engineers produce.

All in all, engineers should be considered as an economic faction, but flexible factions, who will get their points mainly from favors, scoring track, and network, but usually not so much out of cults, faction scoring.
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Manpanzee
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Zoras wrote:

Sanctuary: same income than vanilla; as a rule of thumb, I would say not to build it before having 3 temples on the board, because it's expansive and you do not want to loose the 5pw of the 2nd temple.


I actually don't mind an early-ish SA. I've definitely built it as early as R2 and been happy about it. It's important if you do this to not get squeamish about converting priests to workers. Compared strictly in these terms: 5pw is more than a worker IF it's being spent on Act3, but it's less than a worker if you're looking at raw conversions. Considering how highly Engineers value workers, I don't mind too much exchanging 5pw for something that's worth a worker at the very least.

Zoras wrote:

Stronghold: that is where most beginners go wrong; since the SH gives 3points by bridge and engineers have the special ability to build bridges out of workers, one can easily have the impression that the main strategy for engineers is to make points out of SH and bridges; but in most cases that is wrong: the bridge strategy may work in some situations, but it should never be the go to strategy; I personally never go for it, and see the SH only as a 6th round (sometimes 5th) build to get a few points more. The thing is that the SH is very expansive, and gives a very low income (2pw), while making you loose a good TP. Also, building bridges out of power action is slightly more costly for engineers (who get more out of other power actions and power conversion), and building them out of workers is just terribly inefficient.


This I really disagree with. I consider the Engineers SH to be an extremely powerful scoring tool, and it's part of the reason I'm so averse to selecting Dwarves (Engineers using SH for late scoring overlaps a bit with what's supposed to be Dwarves' particular niche).

I'm happy to build the Engineers SH anywhere from R4-6, with R5 probably being the sweet spot. If I'm in R5 and I have the opportunity to trade 2w for 6vp, I'm going to be very happy to take that deal. Build SH R5 + finish town + take TW2 and build a bridge should be a common play pattern.
 
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Lumin Sperling
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When I was first learning the game, I knew Engineers to be a strong faction. So I tried playing them a few times and didn't understand what to do. I think to play Engineers well you need a fundamental understanding of how "economic" factions want to play the game and Engineers' real strengths of needing fewer coins, having lots of power income with the 2nd TE always active, and a large network potential.

I always aim for a 2TE opening with FAV7 and FAV11 (so Manpanzee's FAV6 comment is fascinating and cool - very nice win) and obviously the more Ds the better. I don't remember off the top of my head which BONs are best to open with, I just do the math each time to make sure I have enough workers and coins. IMO it's worth doing an expensive TP upgrade to get the 2nd TE. Once in a while I end up with TE+TP+2D (as TP+2D > 3D for income's sake.) There can be a lot of wonderful leech coming in during R1/R2 to really fuel a big opening, because the E7/F6 opening hexes are often in the middle of everything.

Hopefully I've avoided Witches or Auren being in the game, and gotten a neighbor in both the middle and in the east (these shouldn't be taken for granted.) With those, in the midgame I try to secure my network connections with Ds on some combination of C3/C4/D6/G3, and continue to build economy as dictated by the scoring rounds. Recently I've been a bit squeamish on building early or midgame SH/SA with any faction that doesn't really need it, and I have almost always done that with Engineers. But with bridge scoring being as nice as it is I will try to build SH in R4-6 where I don't have to stretch too much.

Overall I find Engineers among the winningest factions to play when their conditions are good enough. I still tend to avoid them when BON2+BON3 are in, or if a green faction is likely (or if I've played them a lot recently. )

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Steve Haas
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I think the key points to remember about engineers are:

* Your biggest advantage is your TPs and TEs.
* Your biggest weakness is your worker production from Ds.
* Extra resources are good for you, but there's nothing magical about power specifically.

Zoras spoke to the first two of these pretty well - your TPs and TEs are your cheapest buildings but still produce most of the same resources as those from normal factions, while your Ds are only slightly discounted and produce significant fewer workers. However, just to highlight a few key details:

* 5pw from your 2nd temple is probably legitimately better than the priest most people get. The fact that you can get a 2nd favor in the early game while still receiving useful income (rather than a 2nd priest, which is hard for most factions to use) is one of your greatest strengths - make sure to use it.
* Building too many TPs and shorting yourself of Ds is a way for *all* factions to get in trouble - you need to be particularly careful due only producing 2w off your first 3 Ds rather than 4w like most factions. fav7 helps a lot with this - it may be your most important favor (more so than fav11, even).
* There are two things that limit the ability of factions to build really large (15+ building) networks. One is the ability to get enough hexes (via shipping, digging, etc.); the other is the cost of upgrading to larger buildings to keep freeing up Ds. Engineers are particularly good at the latter, so with a bit of attention to the former are one of the strongest econ factions in the game.

On the third point: one thing that becomes pretty clear once you have some experience with Engineers is that they benefit more from leech than most other factions. And they absolutely do. The key is: its not power, specifically, that's good for them. The exchange rate for power to other things is the same for them as for everyone else. Its just that with the same amount of resources, they can build more stuff (and thus make up the vp cost of the leech more easily). But its not the power, specifically, that helps - its extra resources of any kind.

I bring this up because I see a lot of people advocating for fav8 as good for engineers. Leech is good, so the power favor is good as well, right? Well, no. An econ favor is good, because extra resources are good; but getting the resources directly (particularly in the form of fav7) is usually better. 1w is usually better than 3pw to start with, and the fact that engineers tend to produce a lot of power anyway (from their TE, and all those TPs they build) means that if they produce still more, they tend to have serious problems with capping out on power and/or running out of good power actions to take. So I think fav8 in particular - already weaker than fav7 for most factions - is particularly so for engineers.

I feel like I should also say a few words about SH strats. They're generally not what your aiming for - after all, you're one of the strongest econ factions in the game, and want to be building TEs and TPs to support that, not shelling out for a SH. However, if for whatever reason you can't go wide - say, because Witches is in the game - the fact that you need so few resources to build up (as opposed to out) relative to most factions means "tall" strategies can be unusually effective. And with that sort of strategy... I mean, you do want fav10 and fav12 and bon7 to score a small, TP-heavy empire, but a SH in the mid-late game can be a valuable tool to supplement your scoring (for example). Point being: its not a supplement to your regular strategy; its an important tool for a niche strategy that you occasionally want to go for.
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