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Subject: Decision points in Mille Bornes rss

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Stven Carlberg
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Each hand of Mille Bornes is a once-through-the-deck thing. Luck of the draw does have a huge influence over the course of the hand, but there are lots of interesting, gamerly, key decisions to make as well.

Example: There's a 300-point bonus for "safe trip," i.e., completing the race without using any of the 200-mile cards. But if the other player beats you to the end of the race, or if the deck runs out and you can't finish, you don't get "safe trip" and you don't get "trip completed" for 400 either. So... is it worth taking the risk? That depends. Do you have hazard cards to delay the other player's progress? Do you have remedy cards to defend against hazards being played on you? How many cards are left in the deck? Do you actually have two 200-mile cards in hand? (Two is the maximum you can play on a single hand anyway.) What's the score in the game? Game is 5000, and if you've already got 4000, you don't need the safe trip bonus to go out.

Another, similar example: When a player hits 700 miles in the race, he is given the option to end the hand immediately or to extend the hand to a 1000-mile race. If you extend it, you take the chance of losing the race you've already got won. So, do you have hazard cards? Do you have remedies? Are there enough cards left in the deck (or your hand) that you can expect to get to 1000 yourself? What are the chances of your opponent beating you to 1000? What's the score in the game? There's a 200-point bonus for completing the extension to 1000, plus the 300 for the extra miles, so at what point is it worth taking the risk?

Another set of decision points repeatedly faced: What about those hazards and remedies? There are five types of one-time remedies (fix a flat, repairs for an accident, petrol if you run out, and go cards and no speed limit cards for the stop cards and speed limit cards) and four "magic" remedies that last for the whole hand (combining the go card and the no speed limit card into one). But you get a 300-point bonus if you play a "magic" remedy immediately after the corresponding hazard is played against you, so instead of playing them immediately, you tend to want to save them until you can get the bonus. But... they take up space in your hand of six cards, and any time you play one, whether it's good for the 300-point bonus or not, you get a free draw from the deck and an extra play. So, how badly do you need an extra card? And again, how close are you to the bottom of the deck? At some point, your opponent starts figuring you for holding that magic card simply because he's not holding it himself. And there's the other side of the coin: At what point do you become unwilling to take the chance of having the 300-point bonus scored against you, and therefore *not* play a hazard on your opponent? He may have been dealt the magic card at the beginning of the hand and be sitting there waiting for his chance to score the bonus. But there's a 500-bonus for a shut-out -- keeping him from playing *any* mileage cards during the hand while you complete the race -- so if he doesn't have any mileage down yet, there's an added incentive for taking the chance.

And so on, and so on. There's a bonus if you can complete the race after the deck has run out -- just with the cards left in your hand. Will you take the chance of delaying finishing the race to get that bonus? There's a bonus if you play all four "magic" cards. If you've got three of them, will you delay ending the hand against the chance of drawing the fourth? And how best to defend against being shut out? How, generally, to make the best of a bad hand? Etc., etc.

Now all of these tactics, undeniably, depend on luck of the draw. You can easily lose a game to 5000 in two hands without ever having had a chance to get into it. But there are plenty of games where this weight of luck is likely -- cribbage, for example, or Queen's Necklace, or Street Soccer, where the roll of the die can overwhelm all tactical considerations. By the same token, the luck of the draw may easily give you a game which is extremely close, coming down to a 25-point difference with both players crossing 5000 on the same hand. It's kind of like baseball -- a third of the games you're going to win by a lot, a third of the games you're going to lose by a lot, but it's those games in the middle third where your wiles and tactical decisions actually make the difference between a win and a loss, and over the course of a long season, skill and smarts will out.

So if you just play one game of Mille Bornes, it may look like a luckfest... but if you play a whole series of them, you may begin to appreciate its charms.

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Chris Hawks
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Re:Decision points in Mille Bornes
I agree that there are a lot of strategic decisions to be made. However, there's still a lot of luck in the draw. If you go through half the deck withuot drawing a "Go" card, for instance, well, you're pretty much hosed.

I always prefer to play 2-team (2 or 4-players) as opposed to 3-team, because your chance of drawing useful cards is optimized (especially 4-player.)
 
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