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Subject: A strategy article in disguise - More discussion on balance rss

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Houserule Jay
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To help address concerns in this recent strategy discussion here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/276229/page/1 I just played this again while having the discussion in mind, it was a 4 player game and it turned out to be a great example of a game like what I was talking about in the linked thread. To summarize that article, lots of people while playing their first 5 to 10 games are noticing the power of the double privilege and getting worried it is too dominant, this is going to happen to most everyone who plays. It did happen to us and we had many discussions about it before, during and after these games. Around game 4 we finally started having some strategy break-throughs where the double was getting beat. Every 2 games or so after that a completely new strategy would pop up and do extremely well if not win, this all came with experience and it will for you too but don't expect to see these creative strategies in your first 5 games, it could happen but usually it will take a few games to really see some of the stronger moves.

This game detailed below was my 20th game to date and it pretty much unfolded like a lot of others, take a look.

I won't run down the whole game but instead the first 5 turns and then show the endgame result with some brief discussion at the end. Hopefully this will help some of you by shedding some more light on this most excellent strategy game.


Round Summary


First 5 Events: Peace, Peace, Drought, Emporer, Plague...brutal as happens often

My two free workers: 6 Monk + 4 Rice

Taking a lady as a free choice means you will not even get to buy a dragon or at most a single which will leave you with no money and last in the turn order, you will sink fast this way in a game like this. I have seen people take a lady as a free worker but they do not buy dragons for awhile and wisely so, they will need all their money as they have now committed to going last or close to it.

Lucky for me nobody else jumped on top of me in the turn order so this time around 10 was good enough to go first. There were HOWEVER people nipping right at my ass as usual so very tight race for turn order, 2 people were one spot behind me and the 4th was one spot behind them I believe.

Action 1: Bought the double 6 Yuan
Hire 1: 6 Monk
Event: Peace

I now have NO MONEY and could not afford to take a lady let alone a 4 or 5 worker. I knew when I bought the double it was risky in this heavy laden early event setup but I love playing the front and figured I could skate through it somehow and also log the results here as well. Taking a lady would have put me in 3rd or maybe 4th place in initiative, having no rice or money at this point with drought in 3rd month means not happening.

After the hiring and actions 2 people were still right behind me on the initiative track, one of them used the helmet action and almost passed me...whew! I might have been doomed already!

Action 2: Rice(2)...not taking chances here anymore...
Hire 2: 5 Helmet
Event: Peace

House status: Full

Here I am after turn 2 with no money, next event is rice and then the Emporer. Now that I have my first two rice needed I could try to hire a lady, this would mean falling to the back of the turn order. I still have no money and I have no bankers hired either nor could I afford to hire them, this would also have lost me turn order. Don't forget the Plague is coming soon and really I can't afford to lose any workers besides the monks which I will indeed lose, as it is I will be firing already and I need my rice guy and I need some doctors quick too.

Player number 1 actually bought a single dragon this turn, this is important later. There is no way he could of bought the double with the impending doom coming so soon and also no way he was going to take a lady this early when he is also fighting for turn order, has very little money and no bankers. He did build a roof as a separate palace which is now giving him 4 points matching my 4 points at round end.

Action 3: Hammer
Hire 3: 4 Doctor
Event: Drought

House status: Full - put another roof just in time to not fire someone

My roof was put on top of another house as I really don't want to have to fire someone so early for lack of rice, I will be firing someone later already but yes I could of used that extra point. Luckily my opponents let up a bit in the turn order so I could hire a doctor, the 4 doctor that is not the Elder. Two players did take the elder which had them fall behind in the turn order, the other player is still right behind me. How I am going to take the lady when I clearly need a doctor or two, if I take the elder doctor I will lose the initiative war, I still have no money at this point and no bankers, nor did I have any opportunity to get either. With no money I really can't afford to be anywhere but first in the turn order, this is all an effect of buying the double turn one.

Action 4: Pass need the 3 Yuan or fire 4 people
Hire 4: 5 Fireworks
Event: Emporer

House status: Full - Had to fire 1 monk just to put in fireworks guy.

After the Emporer event I fired the Firework guy, 2 people banished this month. This means I had 5 roofs and 4 workers with one empty spot now: 4Rice, 6Monk, 4Doctor and 5Helmet. Really I need most of these still except the Monk which I was trying to hang on to but he too will get fired next turn.

Here again I still have no money, could I have hired the lady? Maybe here I could have hired my first lady however I would have been passed on the turn order track, no doubt about it and I have no bankers and no money. Up until now most people have been hiring rice workers and doctors and smartly so, they have also been hiring high number workers to keep up in turn order including me.

Needless to say I did not hire a lady but here I probably could have now that some disasters have passed, instead I chose to stay in front of the initiative track so I wouldn’t have to worry about money.

Action 5: Rice(2)
Hire 5: 4 Doctor
Event: Plague

House status: One open spot as during the Plague my Monk got sick and bit the dust!

This action was much more open, there was now a little breathing room for everyone as Firework events were coming up. I figured I would once again take rice while I could, it did not look like I would get another rice worker and I in fact didn't for a long time.
I had to take the doctor and again I was JUST staying in front of the turn order by taking the 4 doctor. This meant when the plague came I had to fire someone and out went to Monk.

Player number 1 who had the single dragon now hired a lady, probably the first real chance he got considering the turn order and events.


Game summary

I apologize for cutting this off at 5 turns, my memory isn’t the greatest and really you didn’t want to read a whole games worth of comments anyway right? I have a feeling someone will be coming along to possible help fill in some blanks but really this summary and the notes to follow drive my point home well enough I think.

I (player 2) continued to stay in front of the turn order the whole game which meant I never took the money action once all game, I also never took fireworks or the helmet. What I did do was hire a couple scholars and make a few visits to the “library” before the end of the game. I think on turn 6 I chose hammer and built a palace beside my others, this had me earning 5 points per round. I finally got a chance to put the lady in around turn 8 and had also built another small palace around this time so I ended the game with a 7 point engine. At game end I had just 5 characters remaining in my palaces, none of which were Monks

Player 1 played from 3rd or 4th in the turn order the whole game. He bought the small dragon on turn 2 and hired a lady on turn 5 and then again on turn 7 I believe. He also took considerable damage throughout but had a 6 point engine cooking along when he hired his first lady which went to a 7 point engine with his second on turn 7. He got some easy points from fireworks and this player managed to stay ahead of me a few points most of the game until I started booking it. Money was taken of course but again not a main focus. He also ended the game with about 5 or 6 characters and got a couple points from resources.

Player 3 was slightly underestimated throughout and played a surprising great game, I found out later he had 10 to 12 games played already versus the 5 or 6 I thought he might have played. This player also played from 3rd or 4th in the turn order the whole game. His approach was completely different from the other two players, he managed to ace almost all the disasters and kept his houses quite intact. He built tall palaces versus many short ones and one more palace wide instead of one more roof high really could have made a difference here. Money was taken of course but again wasn’t a main focus. He ended the game with 10 characters and had 2 wise monks sitting in one of his three story palaces.

Player 4 was pretty new to the game, I believe this was his second game. He played well considering but did make some apparent mistakes as is usually the case when playing your first 4 games or so (actually it is easy to make mistakes after 20 games!!!) Anyway he also chose to build high and had no dragons or ladies, this cost him quite a bit of ground in the first half of the game as I believe he scored just 2 points at roundend. This player fought hard for the turn order taking the helmet action at least once and even overtook me at round 6 or 7, it is my opinion that he mistakenly GAVE it back to me the next turn buy hiring the builder with 2 movement, I jumped over him happily and then never looked back. He ended the game with around 8 characters and maybe one monk.

Synopsis

Buying the double first turn is indeed a jump start on the pack, a 24 point jump start to be precise. When the events are brutal early on you definitely pay a price for this and there is no way you want to lose the turn order now that all your money is gone. I was on the edge of my seat and potential destruction until after round 5 when the Plague hit, only then did I feel a little breathing room and some small feeling of freedom.

No one chose to focus on money which can be a very viable strategy, especially if others are not going for it and you can manage to have some ladies with it and/or convert some cash to privileges. The one thing about money is it can be hard to convert into dragons soon enough to be worth it and by playing from the back you are usually paying to do other important things like gathering rice etc. I have seen people play the back without taking much money and win the game or come close. Playing the back is a much more challenging feat in my opinion as now everything is against you, really it is just you against the game for the most part except when the endgame scoring comes. If your lucky some other poor bugger is there with you and you might get to jump on him a turn or two which can certainly help.

The event order will always have a big impact on how the game will unfold which is of course good and helps the game feel different from game to game. I see some people saying the Double + Ladies is unbeatable, well I think this report helps to see that no that just can’t happen. Most times early privilege buyers will want to stay in front of the turn order as they have no money to buy actions, it is especially important in a 5 player game where slim picking can be pretty damn slim. However if the events are weak in the first half of the game, I could see how the person who bought the double could now set up ladies early on and have a pretty big engine cooking along in no time. Surprisingly after 20 games I might have only seen this combo maybe 3 or 4 times and not quite to the extreme as has been advertised. Due to my bad memory I don’t know how many of those it won but I’m sure it did well no doubt about it. I really wanted to try this last night when we played this game again with 5 players and it was a pretty easy early year, after buying the double I still did not want to chance losing the turn order buy taking ladies, I think I took my first one around turn 6 or 7. I thought about taking ladies but I would of sacrificed turn order and that would of lead to several workers being fired. I would of also had to start getting money to buy needed things, as it was I never took the money action all game and passed to get 3 Yuan when good old Emperor had his hand out. I will try it yet if I have to just to truly silence this (or maybe eat crow...but I don't see it), its a shame its not on BSW yet where people could go head to head right there but alas a test run in person with the right people will suffice. Even in the detailed session report game it was more or less put to the test with Player 1 buying a single and putting up a semi-early lady but as mentioned no one wanted to go full out as I think it was certain suicide. On another note in last nights game, building a new palace beside my others had the same effect as hiring a lady, 1 point, the big difference is I didn't have to lose my spot in turn order to do it, theres the balance. You might try to keep only 2 palaces and keep taking loss with the ladies, someone else will have 4 palaces and not suffer the turn order but net the same points. Will I need extra rice? Sure but I won’t be needing to take money for actions, this game the winning score was 104 I believe. I do know that most of our games have always been close for first place and I don’t think those were any different as most players were experienced when by the time they took place.

So after all that, if you have read this far by now you must be saying, “ so how the hell did this damn game in the report end”?!

I (double + iniative) booked the last 3 or 4 rounds which had me leapfrogging over Player 1 a few times until I passed him for good with 2 turns to go. It was a VERY low scoring game and I ended with about 78 points, after my character count I had a final score of 88 points. Player 1 (single + ladies) who lead most of the game ended a little behind me but then ended with 86 points only 2 points behind! Player 4 (fighting for intiative and new to the game) ended the game with about 75 points, considering the events and it was only his second game this was pretty darn good. Player 3 (Monks + good management) came from way out of nowhere to score 32 points plus a couple extra for resources to end up 1 point behind the winner at 87!

So there you have 3 vastly different strategies all ending within one point of each other. This really speaks out to the balance of the game. I have seen many many games end this way with some even being tie breakers and sometimes it is a newly tried strategy. This game is still in the early stages of exploration with most groups and should NOT be discounted as having one dominant strategy. Is the double a powerful first move, hell ya! Are the books an excellent way to rack up points, hell ya! Will the ladies keep all your people happy and well, score you points…can I have a Hell Ya!

Comparison

Lets compare some other games briefly if you will. Puerto Rico – Building strategy powerful, check; Shipping strategy powerful, check. Taj Mahal – Elephant strategy powerful, check; network strategy powerful, check. POF – Jester strategy powerful, check; builder strategy powerful, check.

This could go on and on, multiply path games if they’re good will have hopefully 3 or 4 good viable paths and usually 2 or maybe 3 are dominant. This game is, rest assured, no different and it all unfolds in less than 90 minutes (1 hour for 4 players). If anything, I’m pretty sure I have seen 5 or 6 actual different combinations win this game and our group has had many discussions and about it with someone always coming up with a new untried idea that they hope could secure the next victory. Some also complain that the person who gets to buy this double is decided randomly with the initial turn order, well that is true. Not a biggy there really, if your lucky you might get to take the second 11 guaranteeing you to go first and if not you’ll have to choose an alternate path, this just means you have to think on your toes and not have a script before any given game. I have seen games where no one even takes an 11 because the events were bad and people were more worried about their setup, in these cases someone with a 10 can end up going first (like the game described above, anyone could of went 11 and went first instead of me) as it can be wide open so sometimes you just never know. Again a very small change can address both of these concerns if you really think they will bother you, “only a single dragon can be bought on turn one”. Note: We still haven’t changed a thing in the game as usually 2 or 3 people end up close for first place proving the balance however I’m not opposed to weakening the privileges just a tiny bit after 20 games, I would like to try it even though in perspective it doesn’t look to be necessary. I really recommend leaving it alone and exploring the different combos of workers to win for at least 10 games. Someone is usually going to go Jesters in POF and it should put them near the front if they manage everything else well, should they be weakened? No of course not! (although they are slightly in the Muse expansion or rather the builder is somewhat strengthened is more accurate). Someone will pursue the Elephant strategy in TAJ every game and potentially be in contention, change it? Nah. While the double privilege may be easy to buy initially, its never easy trying to recover from the impact that buying it had. While I have certainly had my doubts about the double as has our whole group and has many groups by now I’m sure, just try to stay the course and remember to try new things, there is more here than first meets the eye and you may have to take a hit or two through the curve.

Jay


Special thanks to:

Player 1 - Kevin
Player 3 - Derek
PLayer 4 - Jason
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Justin Robben
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Nice article, jay...this is one of the reasons you are on my geekbuddy list.
Nice work!
And I agree, fantastic game!
 
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jbrier
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Re: A strategy article in disguise - More discussion on bala
Thanks for posting this really interesting article! I agree with you that combining an early two-dragon privilege with several early ladies seems unfeasible - being poor and also last on the initiative track is simply a recipe for disaster.

I actually tried an early ladies strategy last night and came in second place behind someone who tried a turn one two-dragon strategy. I started with 4Rice and 3Money as my free tiles, and (surprisingly) even though I was last in turn order I got to choose the money action (in a 5p game). At this point since I had 11 bucks I decided to go for a ladies strategy, using both of my wilds as ladies - I think I had 2 ladies out by turn 3, and my third lady came out around turn 6. Needless to say, I was dead last in turn order the whole game, but this worked out cause I had money. Of course, I did not spend it recklessly - unless the last available action was really useless (or I specifically needed a particular action that turn), I would settle for that last action and keep my money.

One advantage of the ladies strategy is being able to wantonly disregard initiative, which in turn lets you select the more efficient elders. In this particular game my ladies were complimented by a healthy dose of palace building (I got to 6 palaces by the late mid-game) and some modest book knowledge in the last couple turns (I only had one 4Books dude). In our game there was one player who pursued an EXTREME books strategy, disregarding all else... he was 20-30 VP ahead of us most of the game, only to be passed around turn 11 and end up in last place. The unfortunate side-effect for me of this person's strategy was that once I got around to recruiting a book person, the elders were gone. My other opponent (who ended up winning with a similar strategy to the original poster's) did manage to snag the last elder book person, which accounted for at least 2-3 points of the 5 point spread he beat me by (his final score was 115, mine was 110). His strategy was also complimented by having 4 monk icons in a 3 story palace for a total of 12 VPs (I ended up with 6 VPs from monks).

The one thing that I didn't like about last night's game was that because of our two extreme strategies (mine which totally disregarded initiative and my opponent who pursed the same strategy as the original poster and thus was always in first place on the initiative track), the competition on the initiative track was less interesting. For me becoming competitive wasn't even a consideration - I was always more than 6 spaces behind after turn 3.

In conclusion, I'm still ambivalent about whether buying a two-dragon privilege on turn one is a "killer" strategy. On one hand it does seem to usually win but on the other hand many of those victories are close and one can see how a couple different decisions during the game by the players could have swayed the results (for example in my game if I would have snagged the last elder book dude instead of my opponent I would have won)

 
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Roderick Plain
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Re: A strategy article in disguise - More discussion on bala
Nice partial report.

This is the hard case for the privileges/ladies. When the first 3 events are a mix of Contagion/Tribute, this strategy is disabled (as I said in one of the post of the thread you mention). When there are only two, it's a risky proposition. Even so, I consider that this strategy has better chances than the others.

The problem is that you really didn't play a privileges/ladies strategy. I'm also surprised for the low final scores, because I'm pretty sure that if you played the way you stated against some players of my group, they would reached scores around the 100 mark, not the 90.

Anyway, I will present two possible sequences of moves for this configuration of events, using the privileges/ladies strategy. There is not enough information about what your contenders were doing, so I think that those sequences would be better and different in real play.

The first is the better, but it assumes that you can hire a trader, and hit the Taxes action in the first or second turn.. The second is the worst case.

If you reply me that, after the fifth turn, I will be decimated by the next events or the "attack" of other players, then, again, we will reach the blind spot of this discussion.

So, there it goes:

BEST CASE:

Round 1:
Action taken: Taxes or Big Priv.
First tree workers: 6 Monk + 3 Trader + 6 Monk
Houses: 6 Monk, 3 Trader -- 6 Monk

Round 2:
Action: big privilege or Taxes
Worker: 4 Medic
Houses: 6 Monk, 3 Trader -- 6 Monk, 4 Medic

Round 3 (Drought):
Action: Harvest or Taxes
Worker: Lady
Houses (after event):
If Harvest taken: 1 Lady, 3 Trader -- 4 Medic
or
If Taxes Taken: 1 Lady -- 4 Medic

Round 4 (Imperial Tribute) :

Worker: 4 Medic (you took it on 5th round, so I'll assume it can be taken on fourth round. Indeed, I don't think that I would reach this configuration by the 4th turn if I had more information about what others players are doing, because I don't like to spend a joker in a medic)

Action taken: I'm not decided yet (start to see? You will not have much pressure to hit a specific action, all the way during the game, which gives you space for harmful moves later). If you hit the taxes in the last round, maybe go for a small priv. Otherwise see if you can hit a build action (I will not follow the next sequence of turns assuming that you hit the build action, but it definitively would be different).

Houses:
1 Lady, 3 Trader -- 4 Medic, 4 Medic
or
1 Lady, 4 Medic -- 4 Medic

Round 5 (Contagion):
Action: ? (which are the next events?). Maybe a build for a third floor on the first house.
Worker: Lady? (which are the next events?)
Houses (after event)
1 Lady , 1 Lady -- 4 Medic
or
1 Lady, 4 Medic -- 1 Lady


------------------------------------------------------------
WORST CASE:


Round 1:

First three workers: 6 Monk + 5 Helmet + 6 Monk
Action: Big Priv
Houses: 6 Monk, 6 Monk -- 5 Helmet

Round 2:
Action: Pass (3 yuan)
Worker: 4 medic
Houses: 6 Monk, 6 Monk -- 5 Helmet, 4 medic

Round 3:
Action: Harvest
Worker: Lady
Houses: 1 Lady -- 5 Helmet, 4 Medic

Round 4:
Action: Taxes (or maybe parade, but the end of the fourth fifth round would be different)
Worker: 4 Medic
Houses: 1 Lady, 4 Medic -- 5 Helmet, 4 Medic

Round 5:
Action: ? (pass?, build?, what are the next events?)
Worker: Lady?, Trader?. Pyro?
House: 1 Lady -- 1 Lady(?), 4 Medic
 
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Houserule Jay
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huron wrote:
Nice partial report.


Hey Roderick. Well granted my report was partial however it was accurate which yours is not and mine was also long enough to show the obvious, there was no CHANCE to hire a lady early and remain in contention to win the game by buying the double first turn, it wasn't possible without being destroyed, I showed examples of that. Let's see where your example goes wrong:

huron wrote:


Round 1:
Action taken: Taxes or Big Priv.
First tree workers: 6 Monk + 3 Trader + 6 Monk
Houses: 6 Monk, 3 Trader -- 6 Monk

Round 2:
Action: big privilege or Taxes
Worker: 4 Medic
Houses: 6 Monk, 3 Trader -- 6 Monk, 4 Medic


Right here your houses are now FULL. This means what you proposed below doesn't work...

huron wrote:


Round 3 (Drought):
Action: Harvest or Taxes
Worker: Lady
Houses (after event):
If Harvest taken: 1 Lady, 3 Trader -- 4 Medic
or
If Taxes Taken: 1 Lady -- 4 Medic


Right here you would of had to fire someone to put a lady in, so lets say you did that and of course fired someone again because you didn't have enough rice. This leaves you with TWO characters. Are you starting to see? This is also assuming that you got lucky on turn 1 and took money. You only had a 9 to start, often 11 is what goes first and second, 10 third so I am really going to give you the benefit of the doubt just for the sake of the debate.

Turn 1 - We'll say you got lucky and took money first turn (9 would never get the double as someone else would take it first) which now has you with 6 + 5 = 11 Yuan.

Turn 2 - We'll say you got extra lucky and got to take the double because, well, the first player won't take it unless it is paired to something he needs and maybe by hiring the 6 monk last turn you managed to get it. Now a 4 point engine with 5 Yuan, full house. You now matched my engine in my above report.

Turn 3 - By taking Rice you now have to fire someone BEFORE the drought just to make room in a palace (maybe you have this rule wrong? the event happens after you hire someone) So maybe you fire a Monk, hire a Lady and now fire the other Monk. Here you almost certainly would of had to pay for the rice action so now you have 2 Yuan! Good luck in the next turn with the Emporer, you really didn't want any characters anyway right... gulp

House :Lady + 4 Medic, if money was taken you would only have one character as you were missing both rice. Which one would you like to keep? You clearly need them both...

huron wrote:


Round 4 (Imperial Tribute) :

Worker: 4 Medic (you took it on 5th round, so I'll assume it can be taken on fourth round. Indeed, I don't think that I would reach this configuration by the 4th turn if I had more information about what others players are doing, because I don't like to spend a joker in a medic)

Action taken: I'm not decided yet (start to see? You will not have much pressure to hit a specific action, all the way during the game, which gives you space for harmful moves later). If you hit the taxes in the last round, maybe go for a small priv. Otherwise see if you can hit a build action (I will not follow the next sequence of turns assuming that you hit the build action, but it definitively would be different).


Well here you are going to have to fire 2 people again, shucks we told you so. You can't take money as you have fallen behind in the turn order already, way behind by taking a Lady. With only 2 Yuan you are now screwed. You can pass at best to go up to 3 Yuan, which saves 1 person

Turn 4

Houses:
1 Lady, 3 Trader -- 4 Medic, 4 Medic
or
1 Lady, 4 Medic -- 4 Medic

Action is: Pass or fire 2 people instead of 1
Hire is: young medic if your really lucky but probably a 4 with wild card

House: 4 Medic, 4 Medic - oops, no more lady back to 4 points. OR

House: 4 Medic, Lady 5 points but heavy damage which will cost you during and at the end of the game when scores are tallied.

huron wrote:


Round 5 (Contagion):
Action: ? (which are the next events?). Maybe a build for a third floor on the first house.
Worker: Lady? (which are the next events?)
Houses (after event)
1 Lady , 1 Lady -- 4 Medic
or
1 Lady, 4 Medic -- 1 Lady


So here you are in the back of the turn order with 0 Yuan after the Emporer and 2 characters. On the plus side you have room in your houses, on the negative, oops looks like you have to fire someone again.

Turn 5

Action: Maybe pass for 3 Yuan or take leftover scraps
Hire: You have already used a wild card for 4 medic and this is only the first Plague. You have to fire someone this turn, honestly I guess you hire someone useless to fire them, see, no time or chance to put a lady in unless you want to fire her, you already lost one last turn.

House: 4 Medic, 4 Medic (hired fireworks but then fired him)

By this point you are now out of the game, no need to go further with this one.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



huron wrote:


------------------------------------------------------------
WORST CASE:

Round 1:

First three workers: 6 Monk + 5 Helmet + 6 Monk
Action: Big Priv
Houses: 6 Monk, 6 Monk -- 5 Helmet

Round 2:
Action: Pass (3 yuan)
Worker: 4 medic
Houses: 6 Monk, 6 Monk -- 5 Helmet, 4 medic

Round 3:
Action: Harvest
Worker: Lady
Houses: 1 Lady -- 5 Helmet, 4 Medic


Here you have the same problem again a full house and not enough rice. We have also assumed your 11 was the second one so yes you would go first. You have hired some high numbers so you would be close to or in first for turn order before round 3 which was good. We'll say you got the rice action free...

Turn 3
House: Lady, 4 Medic, 5 helmet is possible (both monks fired)

huron wrote:


Round 4:
Action: Taxes (or maybe parade, but the end of the fourth fifth round would be different)
Worker: 4 Medic
Houses: 1 Lady, 4 Medic -- 5 Helmet, 4 Medic

Round 5:
Action: ? (pass?, build?, what are the next events?)
Worker: Lady?, Trader?. Pyro?
House: 1 Lady -- 1 Lady(?), 4 Medic


Turn 4

You are now behind in turn order as you took a lady and others were still fighting for it and did not take a lady for this reason, you also have just 3 Yuan and the Emporer wants 4.

Action: whatever you can get free which probably wont be much

House: 4 Medic, 4 Medic, Lady

Turn 5

Once again here you are with no money and not in the front of the turn order, you won't be buying any privileges. Here you will have to fire someone again as you are a medic short.

Action: pass for 3 yuan
Hire: doesn't matter because they are fired! So much for the ladies...

House: 4 medic, 4 medic, lady

Well this turned out a little better than you first scenario but not much. You have 5 points per round to my 4, you may have edged 2 points on me by this point but I am first in the turn order with no need for money unlike you. I also have 5 characters at this point which means you are at least 2 points behind and in a much worse position.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


In this kind of event order the double privilege in the first or second turn and EARLY ladies will NOT work.

Possibly in other event orders they can do well, I will be putting it to a direct test and posting results with a milder setup. While the ladies will fare much much better I really think they can be beaten by other combinations, i've already seen it happen.
 
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Roderick Plain
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Re: A strategy article in disguise - More discussion on bala
Sorry, I didn't mean to be sarcastic with this compliment. It was a compliment, really. Even being partial, it had a good deal of content.

jayjonbeach wrote:


huron wrote:


Round 1:
Action taken: Taxes or Big Priv.
First tree workers: 6 Monk + 3 Trader + 6 Monk
Houses: 6 Monk, 3 Trader -- 6 Monk

Round 2:
Action: big privilege or Taxes
Worker: 4 Medic
Houses: 6 Monk, 3 Trader -- 6 Monk, 4 Medic


Right here your houses are now FULL. This means what you proposed below doesn't work...

huron wrote:


Round 3 (Drought):
Action: Harvest or Taxes
Worker: Lady
Houses (after event):
If Harvest taken: 1 Lady, 3 Trader -- 4 Medic
or
If Taxes Taken: 1 Lady -- 4 Medic


Right here you would of had to fire someone to put a lady in, so lets say you did that and of course fired someone again because you didn't have enough rice. This leaves you with TWO characters. Are you starting to see? This is also assuming that you got lucky on turn 1 and took money. You only had a 9 to start, often 11 is what goes first and second, 10 third so I am really going to give you the benefit of the doubt just for the sake of the debate.



Hold down here. I'm not following you anymore:

Start of round 3: I have 5 yuan. I warned you in the previous post that you must see if you can hit the taxes in the first or second turn. I leave to you how can it be seen, but I scattered a couple of hints in the other thread.

My houses are: Houses: 6 Monk, 3 Trader -- 6 Monk, 4 Medic

Phase 1: action (I have placed 2 possible actions because I know I could not being first in the person track by now. Now, if you tell me that both are already occupied, then you are hitting a scarecrow here. At some point during any complete game posted, I could say the same, for nearly any strategy, to ruin that. Maybe not at first or second turn, but at seventh or eight. Unless, of course, you follow a strategy where you are first all the time, which, by the way, is not a winning one).

#1 : Harvest
or
#2 : Taxes (+5 yuan)

Phase 2: Persons
Replace the 6 Monk of the first house with the Lady.

Phase 3: Drough
If you selected Harvest: remove the remaining 6 Monk (you have 5 yuans from round 1 or 2).
If you selected Taxes: remove both the monk and the trader (you have 10 yuans).

In any case, you will end with exactly one of the two configurations I showed in the post. One with 3 persons, and other with 2 persons.

Because, by turn 4, you will have at least 5 yuan, enough to pass the tribute, you will end with 4 or 3 persons, exactly as I showed.

After that, I cannot follow you, because you are assuming that I have less persons than I really have. Or at least is what I understood.

I will only comment one of your last remarks:

jayjonbeach wrote:

Well this turned out a little better than you first scenario but not much. You have 5 points per round to my 4, you may have edged 2 points on me by this point but I am first in the turn order with no need for money unlike you. I also have 5 characters at this point which means you are at least 2 points behind and in a much worse position.


Worst position than yours? And being 2 points behind at that stage matters for this strategy? Well, it seems that you have not been able yet to to take away this strategy form the framework that we (yes, you an me) usually use to evaluate the other strategies, like the monks-centered or the research-centered.

Sorry, but I cannot help with that. Until your group refines this strategy, and discovers what must be done in the next turns to win, this strategy with never appeal to you as poweful.

 
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Re: A strategy article in disguise - More discussion on bala
verandi wrote:

One advantage of the ladies strategy is being able to wantonly disregard initiative, which in turn lets you select the more efficient elders.


Well said. Try also to get elders that are, or will become, particularly critical for other players on the lead, even if you must dispatch them later.
 
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huron wrote:
Sorry, I didn't mean to be sarcastic with this compliment. It was a compliment, really. Even being partial, it had a good deal of content.

jayjonbeach wrote:


huron wrote:


Round 1:
Action taken: Taxes or Big Priv.
First tree workers: 6 Monk + 3 Trader + 6 Monk
Houses: 6 Monk, 3 Trader -- 6 Monk

Round 2:
Action: big privilege or Taxes
Worker: 4 Medic
Houses: 6 Monk, 3 Trader -- 6 Monk, 4 Medic


Right here your houses are now FULL. This means what you proposed below doesn't work...

huron wrote:


Round 3 (Drought):
Action: Harvest or Taxes
Worker: Lady
Houses (after event):
If Harvest taken: 1 Lady, 3 Trader -- 4 Medic
or
If Taxes Taken: 1 Lady -- 4 Medic


Right here you would of had to fire someone to put a lady in, so lets say you did that and of course fired someone again because you didn't have enough rice. This leaves you with TWO characters. Are you starting to see? This is also assuming that you got lucky on turn 1 and took money. You only had a 9 to start, often 11 is what goes first and second, 10 third so I am really going to give you the benefit of the doubt just for the sake of the debate.



Hold down here. I'm not following you anymore:

Start of round 3: I have 5 yuan. I warned you in the previous post that you must see if you can hit the taxes in the first or second turn. I leave to you how can it be seen, but I scattered a couple of hints in the other thread.


Therein lies the problem with your group. In our group by taking the 3 tax guy you were already not in front in the turn order. This means on turn 3 yes you had 5 Yuan but then you spent 3 to buy rice which left you with 2 Yuan. That is why turn order is so important, not having to pay.

I shouldn't say it is a problem with your group but rather it looks like you are all discounting the power of just having initiative.


huron wrote:

Phase 1: action (I have placed 2 possible actions because I know I could not being first in the person track by now. Now, if you tell me that both are already occupied, then you are hitting a scarecrow here. At some point during any complete game posted, I could say the same, for nearly any strategy, to ruin that. Maybe not at first or second turn, but at seventh or eight. Unless, of course, you follow a strategy where you are first all the time, which, by the way, is not a winning one).


Very wrong here, people in your group must not have learned to play from the front well and this is what I thought the problem was way back in the other thread. One of the strongest strategies we have found is to buy the double first turn and then stay in the front for the rest of the game, it wins many times and not only in our group. This is why you see other people saying you must be playing wrong, I don't think you are playing wrong although I can't be sure, but apparently not many people are fighting for turn order which is happening in everyone elses play group.

Not only could you not be in first place with a 9, you could potentially be in last place. Lately 2 people take 11, 1 takes 10 or maybe even 2. Usually at least 3 people out of 5 are fighting hard for initiative and for good reason. The other 1 or 2 play a different game which can also be excuted well in the right year, drought/emporer/plague isn't it.

Anyway I gave you the benefit of the doubt and said you got money on the first turn and even the privilege on second turn so no worries there, that wasn't the mistake.

huron wrote:

Phase 3: Drough
If you selected Harvest: remove the remaining 6 Monk (you have 5 yuans from round 1 or 2).
If you selected Taxes: remove both the monk and the trader (you have 10 yuans).

In any case, you will end with exactly one of the two configurations I showed in the post. One with 3 persons, and other with 2 persons.

Because, by turn 4, you will have at least 5 yuan, enough to pass the tribute, you will end with 4 or 3 persons, exactly as I showed.

After that, I cannot follow you, because you are assuming that I have less persons than I really have. Or at least is what I understood.


Actually your right it looks like I made a mistake and shorted you one extra character in round 3, no matter though. You will have what you said before then:

Round 3 (Drought):
Action: Harvest or Taxes
Worker: Lady
Houses (after event):
If Harvest taken: 1 Lady, 3 Trader -- 4 Medic
or
If Taxes Taken: 1 Lady -- 4 Medic

However you still have the same problem, you need to pay for the rice action because you are not first in turn order and the action will be gone, no doubt about it. This leaves you with 2 Yuan for turn 4 not 5 (started with 6 + 5[action1] = 11 - 6[double] = 5 - 3[rice] = 2.

So with the Emporer next you either fire 2 people or pass and fire one person. Then you have no money and are in last for turn order or close to it.

House after round 4 - 4 medic(elders are gone), 4 medic, lady. (hired medic and fired trader or lady? you need both)

It still continues as I said before:

Turn 5

Action: Maybe pass for 3 Yuan or take leftover scraps
Hire: You have already used a wild card for 4 medic and this is only the first Plague. You have to fire someone this turn, honestly I guess you hire someone useless to fire them, see, no time or chance to put a lady in unless you want to fire her.

House after turn 5: 4 Medic, 4 Medic, Lady (hired fireworks but then fired him) This is close to what you said except you can't afford to take a lady because you need to fire someone due to lack of money and I know you don't want to fire her just now, next turn you could probably hire and keep her but this won't be enough to win at this point.

You are not in a good position at all here and we have given you some benefit of the doubt up until this point. You are last in turn order or close to it, you have no money and no banker to help get it. While other people might now take ladies they will also have more options open because they are ahead of you in the turn order. You might try to setup another lady or two but like in the original game I would be booking it soon and jumping ahead of you. Then at the endgame you will score very low because you will keep firing all your people and others will not.

Like I said, in this setup of events the double + early ladies will struggle badly and not win.



huron wrote:

I will only comment one of your last remarks:

jayjonbeach wrote:

Well this turned out a little better than you first scenario but not much. You have 5 points per round to my 4, you may have edged 2 points on me by this point but I am first in the turn order with no need for money unlike you. I also have 5 characters at this point which means you are at least 2 points behind and in a much worse position.


Worst position than yours? And being 2 points behind at that stage matters for this strategy? Well, it seems that you have not been able yet to to take away this strategy form the framework that we (yes, you an me) usually use to evaluate the other strategies, like the monks-centered or the research-centered.

Sorry, but I cannot help with that. Until your group refines this strategy, and discovers what must be done in the next turns to win, this strategy with never appeal to you as poweful.


Yes a worse position, while you aren't as worries about maintenance this means you will be firing people, this will hurt you in the endgame scoring and being further back in the turn order you will not have as many options as the other players. You will lose in this position, if we threw you into the original report in this position you would not have won. Easy to say but I know from experience.

Don't get me wrong here, I said it before, double plus early ladies can work and has, but it will never win 80% of games, it can't even compete in the above game I detailed and I have seen it beat in a easy early year as well as when the events are weak at the beginning everyone has more time to setup things. It is a good strategy when the events will allow it but it is very beatable and yes double + iniative will beat it and has when played properly. Have someone in your group try it against the ladies, buy the double first turn and then stay way out front in turn order. Hire a lady when possible sure but focus more on books and staying in first the whole game, because of being first in turn order this person will be able to score several times from books in the last turns for FREE, unlike the ladies person. This person will also fare better through the disasters which means a higher endgame scoring. I have seen double + early ladies win but maybe 4 or 5 in 22 games.

Its obvious that in your group that strategy is working, I'm certainly not disputing that. What is also obvious is other things are not being tried against it like initiative from what you said yourself. Your group is seeing one main strategy win the game, I have seen at least 6 with scores always being close.
 
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Kalidor wrote:
Nice article, jay...this is one of the reasons you are on my geekbuddy list.
Nice work!
And I agree, fantastic game!


Thanks Justin and likewise on the buddy
 
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verandi wrote:
Thanks for posting this really interesting article! I agree with you that combining an early two-dragon privilege with several early ladies seems unfeasible - being poor and also last on the initiative track is simply a recipe for disaster.

I actually tried an early ladies strategy last night and came in second place behind someone who tried a turn one two-dragon strategy. I started with 4Rice and 3Money as my free tiles, and (surprisingly) even though I was last in turn order I got to choose the money action (in a 5p game). At this point since I had 11 bucks I decided to go for a ladies strategy, using both of my wilds as ladies - I think I had 2 ladies out by turn 3, and my third lady came out around turn 6. Needless to say, I was dead last in turn order the whole game, but this worked out cause I had money. Of course, I did not spend it recklessly - unless the last available action was really useless (or I specifically needed a particular action that turn), I would settle for that last action and keep my money.

One advantage of the ladies strategy is being able to wantonly disregard initiative, which in turn lets you select the more efficient elders. In this particular game my ladies were complimented by a healthy dose of palace building (I got to 6 palaces by the late mid-game) and some modest book knowledge in the last couple turns (I only had one 4Books dude). In our game there was one player who pursued an EXTREME books strategy, disregarding all else... he was 20-30 VP ahead of us most of the game, only to be passed around turn 11 and end up in last place. The unfortunate side-effect for me of this person's strategy was that once I got around to recruiting a book person, the elders were gone. My other opponent (who ended up winning with a similar strategy to the original poster's) did manage to snag the last elder book person, which accounted for at least 2-3 points of the 5 point spread he beat me by (his final score was 115, mine was 110). His strategy was also complimented by having 4 monk icons in a 3 story palace for a total of 12 VPs (I ended up with 6 VPs from monks).

The one thing that I didn't like about last night's game was that because of our two extreme strategies (mine which totally disregarded initiative and my opponent who pursed the same strategy as the original poster and thus was always in first place on the initiative track), the competition on the initiative track was less interesting. For me becoming competitive wasn't even a consideration - I was always more than 6 spaces behind after turn 3.

In conclusion, I'm still ambivalent about whether buying a two-dragon privilege on turn one is a "killer" strategy. On one hand it does seem to usually win but on the other hand many of those victories are close and one can see how a couple different decisions during the game by the players could have swayed the results (for example in my game if I would have snagged the last elder book dude instead of my opponent I would have won)



Hey John thanks for commenting. Money and early ladies is an excellent combo also we've noticed.

Boy those are some high scores! Our highest was 113 for 5 players, you must of had a very easy year to deal with. He was lucky with the monks, usually I take them for turn order only and have to discard them but it all depends on how hard and how many people are fighting for it and how many times you end up firing people.

I see what you mean on turn order, it usually will happen that at least one person is out of it, 2 or 3 fight for the middle and usually only 2 are left fighting for first after the midgame.

Keep those combos coming
 
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Re: A strategy article in disguise - More discussion on bala
Jay, you are bashing my example, as if I had been posting a game that really happened (you are even referring to my group, as if they would have been the ones who played this game!). I´m only trying to follow a schematic patron, taking some elements that appeared in your post, and trying to highlight some of the nuances of this strategy, because unlike your narration of the game, where you went first all time, and also knew what's going on each turn, I cannot present a recipe for an strategy where being always first in initiative , is not the norm.

Suppose you are last in the 2 start person selection order, and nobody takes a trader, an the taxes action is paired with, say, fireworks or privilege. Do you really think that somebody is going to hit the taxes on first turn? And if he does, will also win the game? Even if someone else took the trader, my chip will be on top of him in the track.

And if you tell me that this is not the case, then I would show you a different sequence of moves. And if you tell me what others playing selected in the first place, yet another different sequence. And so on...

Nothing to do with my group not knowing the importance of initiative. They know it. But for other strategies.

But I warned you about this, too:

huron wrote:

There is not enough information about what your contenders were doing, so I think that those sequences would be better and different in real play.


And about this too:

huron wrote:

If you reply me that, after the fifth turn, I will be decimated by the next events or the "attack" of other players, then, again, we will reach the blind spot of this discussion.


Which is pretty the same to say that, at fifth turn, I'm not in a position to win the game.

I assure you that I will not win if, from this position, I would follow a path similar to the one you followed for the rest of the game. But I assure also that I would not do that. And, as I said, you didn't really follow a privileges/ladies strategy, but a kind of "big privilege"/"researches" path.

You continue to think about this strategy with the same mind framework that we all do with other strategies.

Some things in your report hints me that you haven't get this strategy, already, for example:

(1)Thinking that, in the persons department, there is something else that is no disposable, except ladies.

(2)Thinking that, because (1), you need to grow your number of palaces.

(3)Seems you have incorporated the book as part of your overall strategy. When you do that, and the recruitment of researches is not only an opportunity, in a turn, to get some VPs, or mess with a player on the lead, and after that, something disposable, you are not playing a privileges/ladies.

(4)Thinking that, because (1), (2) and (3), you frequently have an urge to hit an specific action in order to maintain your infrastructure and so going first in initiative is crucial. Which, in the case of the real privileges/ladies strategy, seldom happens, except during the take off.

Seems to me that we are discussion about two different strategies, as is they were the same. Dumb of me.

If someday my group is willing to play again this game 4-players (after my second 3-player games, I'm pretty sure all those issues disappear), and I will be willing to surmount the tedious of writing a detailed report, maybe we can discuss this issue on a more common ground.

EDIT: Sorry about a late clarification that I didn't noticed about your analysis of my move on round 3: Unless you, in theory, continue to negate me a chance of getting harvest (1 rice) or Taxes, then I don't know why I'm going to pay 3 yuan for rice.
 
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Sounds like you two just need to play against each other....but I doubt either of you would allow the other to follow the strategies you've listed here. Perhaps that is the point, and why this game is much better than suggested by the single strategy pundits.

I know in my favorite game (and an Alea game), Princes of Florence, there is a way to guarantee yourself victory. Take jesters for $200 each of the first four rounds. Oh, wait a second...I forgot about the other players....Goodness, I was playing these games solo on paper the whole time.

Haven't we also forgotten that getting the two workers you want at the beginning of the game is decided by age and how you are sitting at the table? You can't take what somebody else has already grabbed, so you can't guarantee being first on the persons track....hmmm, sounds like the game is decided at the table.
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Re: A strategy article in disguise - More discussion on bala
chicagometh wrote:
Sounds like you two just need to play against each other....but I doubt either of you would allow the other to follow the strategies you've listed here. Perhaps that is the point, and why this game is much better than suggested by the single strategy pundits.

I know in my favorite game (and an Alea game), Princes of Florence, there is a way to guarantee yourself victory. Take jesters for $200 each of the first four rounds. Oh, wait a second...I forgot about the other players....Goodness, I was playing these games solo on paper the whole time.

Haven't we also forgotten that getting the two workers you want at the beginning of the game is decided by age and how you are sitting at the table? You can't take what somebody else has already grabbed, so you can't guarantee being first on the persons track....hmmm, sounds like the game is decided at the table.

Your sardonic tone aside, this is a truly excellent point.
 
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Re: A strategy article in disguise - More discussion on bala
chicagometh wrote:
Sounds like you two just need to play against each other....but I doubt either of you would allow the other to follow the strategies you've listed here. Perhaps that is the point, and why this game is much better than suggested by the single strategy pundits.

I know in my favorite game (and an Alea game), Princes of Florence, there is a way to guarantee yourself victory. Take jesters for $200 each of the first four rounds. Oh, wait a second...I forgot about the other players....Goodness, I was playing these games solo on paper the whole time.

Haven't we also forgotten that getting the two workers you want at the beginning of the game is decided by age and how you are sitting at the table? You can't take what somebody else has already grabbed, so you can't guarantee being first on the persons track....hmmm, sounds like the game is decided at the table.


Well said

My group haven't found a way to counter this strategy from being dominant in 4-player games, even as they play different strategies that, in games when this privileges/ladies thing isn't in place, have final scores in the range 95-105.

I cannot have any useful feedback if the replies are that we are playing the rules wrong of haven't developed the heavyweight strategies for this game, or, that this strategy is doomed because it moves the player behind the initiative track, at least for a while.

However, in 3-player games this strategy is not only not dominant, but a weak one.

So, I've give up with this discussion. Why to continue posting in and endless an repetitive discussion, when I, instead, could be playing a fun 3-player game of In the Year of The Dragon?

 
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An early dragon is very strong, but it requires very good turn order (first for turn 1, early for turn 2-3), and takes all your money.

After taking the dragon you have a choice:
Take crappy people to maintain turn order, get the actions you want but dont get much out of them, OR
Take good people to make actions good for you, but dont get to do the actions because you lost turn order and have no money.


I think that having good-but-not-first turn order, with a useful worker or two, and getting a turn 2-3 dragon and doing useful things on turn 1 and the other of 2/3 can be very strong. So can ignoring turn order, taking good workers and using your starting money to prepare for the first several disasters.

Its pretty balanced imo, and is more about managing very well to avoid getting wrecked by the disasters. (i.e. you lose some people to the disasters, but they arent people you really need, and they are well timed at times that free up your capacity).


I think that an early dragon is stronger than not getting an early dragon, but not by so much that it cant be overcome. The early dragon is best when the initial events are too terrible.

I think that early ladies really work only when the early events are fairly tame. If you get them in games when the early events are harsh then you have neither turn order nor useful workers, so you get wrecked by events, plus you have to save your ladies so you end up losing any other useful people that you hired.


Keys to winning that I see are:

1) Dont lose people due to not having capacity. Thats like creating new bad events for yourself.

If the early events are rough, lose some people to them to free up capacity. Make sure the people you lose arent critical, and you got strong turn order from them. Dont spend all your energy preventing all the bad stuff thats coming, because thne you'll just lose peopel to capacity.

If the early events are tame, build capacity! Stockpile the extra people so you can lose them to the terrible events later on.

Either way, dont prevent all the bad stuff, and dont prevent none of it either.

2) Either win turn order by a little, or lose it by a lot. There are two good ways to go in turn order, you either win it but not by much (staying only a few points ahead, but sometimes taking good people), or you lose it terribly, but take every strong worker you can get your hands on. Then you pass a lot, and pay money on the alternate turns to make a really strong move.

Its not efficient to be always in first but have nothing strong to do, and its not efficient to fight a lot for turn order but still be behind most of the others. If all the others are fighting for it, lose it terribly. If one guy is way ahead and the others are in a pack way behind (taking stronger workers), stay just ahead of the pack in 2nd place.
 
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I was thinking if a quickfix to the two dragon strategy would be to give each player 5 coins instead of 6 at game start.
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Alexfrog wrote:



Keys to winning that I see are:

1) Dont lose people due to not having capacity. Thats like creating new bad events for yourself.

If the early events are rough, lose some people to them to free up capacity. Make sure the people you lose arent critical, and you got strong turn order from them. Dont spend all your energy preventing all the bad stuff thats coming, because thne you'll just lose peopel to capacity.

If the early events are tame, build capacity! Stockpile the extra people so you can lose them to the terrible events later on.

Either way, dont prevent all the bad stuff, and dont prevent none of it either.




In my experience the overpowering nature of the priveleges makes this sort of planning superfluous.

I did up a session report elsewhere where I discussed this. While I was planning and expanding carefully and wisely managing my advisors, one of my opponents simply bought up as many priveleges as he could while doing what he could to maintain one or two dragon ladies. He was constantly pummeled by events yet the points form priveleges more than compensated for it.

It left me a bit disgruntled... as it seemed to be a case where my thoughtful play and long range planning were all for naught. I should have just bought multiple privleges and let my palaces rot.

PErhaps upping the value of persons to 3 points each at the end of game might help...

Brian
 
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