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Subject: Simple Strategies to teach new and more experienced players rss

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Craig Somerton
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I simply love Lost Cities and think it is a masterpiece. Short, easy to learn, a large amount of luck to make it interesting yet still allow you to play the odds and with surprising levels of depth. The scoring is just so elegant, it's easily portable in a small box or bag with a pencil & scrap of paper, and is relatively cheap.

Having played Lost Cities with my wife and friends for a number of years, we have often used the simplicity of the game as a perfect vehicle to introduce new players to the wondrous world of "real games" outside the tired old Monopoly, Scrabble & Trivial Pursuit.

In introducing these new players to the game, I have found a number of strategies that seem to get things moving very quickly and expose the player very quickly to the depth of play in such a short game.

Suits & Cards
There is only ONE of each card. If the yellow 7 is played, there are no more yellow 7's left in the pack.

There are five suits (expeditions) with 12 cards in each, nine cards( numbered 2-10) and 3 Investment Cards (that multiply the score).

Five suits x 12 cards = 60 cards in total. Take out 16 cards (eight dealt to each player) and you are left with 44 cards in the draw deck.

On each turn a player, commonly plays a card from their hand and draws from the deck. Therefore, each player will have the opportunity to draw and place 22 cards to complete their expeditions.

Once the final card is drawn off the draw pile, the game is over. Watch this pile like a hawk.

Scoring
Your aim is to score more points than your opponent. Scores can be negative (for not completing expeditions) or positive.

The only way you will get a positive score for an expedition is for your cards in that suit to total more than 20. ALways, always, always aim to get at least 20 points per expeditions.

The score from ALL expeditions attempted counts toward your total score.

With 22 cards to play on ALL your expeditions, avoid discarding cards as much as possible. Whenever you discard, you are not scoring those points.

Playing Investment Cards is a worthwhile endeavour ONLY when you have high-scoring cards of the same suit in your hand already or early in the game, when the odds favour you drawing more large numbered cards from the draw pile.

Don't play Investment Cards mid-way of late into the game, unless you have a good sequence of same-suit cards totalling over 20 points.

Watch your opponent hasn't already played a card or sequence of cards you were waiting for.

Early in the game, you can afford to wait for the right card. Late in the game, concentrate on getting your cards down before the draw pile is exhausted.

It is very, very unlikely you will score big with five expeditions. Concentrate on 4 expeditions as a best strategy.

Sometimes it is fun just to demoralise the opposition with a run of big cards (always totalling more than 20 points), just to clear them from your hand, so you can concentrate on other expeditions.

Watch your opponent's play, and if they play multipliers in a suit for which you already hold high numbers, you can either play those cards yourself, or best of all... Hide the cards in your hand, thereby denying them those points. This is often a great tactic as commonly plan on the card remaining in the draw.

-----

I hope you find some of these strategies in my first forum posting worthwhile. If you have any more strategies, please let me know.
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Tim Rogers
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Re: Simple Strategies to teach new and more experienced play
Hey good post! I thought I'd throw in my 2 cents as well.

You mentioned aiming for 4 expeditions. That seems like so many! I usually aim for 2 (maybe 3...) good expeditions, and then like you suggest, if I have some high cards right away but my opponent is already hitting that color sometimes play those to buy time. Sometimes I even start an expedition I know I probably won't get 20 on just to wait on an investment card or two for my "good" colors, which will more than make up the deficit.

Also, I think an important strategy near the end of the game is to consider drawing from the discard stacks. This can usually buy you an extra 2 turns, so if you've been waiting to play quite a few cards until the end this can help you get them out before the draw deck runs dry.

It's very amusing; I think after that session report yesterday Lost Cities has hit everyone's radar again. My wife and I really enjoy this game and it's often what hits the table if we only have 20-30 minutes.
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Steven Wall
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Good post. I agree with the sentiments of the thread. It's a great game to teach non-gamers. LC has simple rules that offer a surprising depth of choices. The make up of the deck (one number card per colour, five colours) makes for simple probabilities and minimum memory use.

Drez wrote:
Sometimes I even start an expedition I know I probably won't get 20 on just to wait on an investment card or two for my "good" colors, which will more than make up the deficit.


I recently started playing with this tactic. A single expedition of 8 or more cards (thus accruing the 20 point bonus) is usually enough to put you in a very commanding lead, so I find it's worth playing some cards on a second expedition to maximise your chances of drawing for your "good" expedition. Holding off playing also has the benefit that your opponent may discard some low numbered cards for the expedition, allowing you to perhaps make it to the crucial 8 cards.

This mild form of the "bluff" was yet another layer I discovered to this excellent game.
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Billy McBoatface
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Re: Simple Strategies to teach new and more experienced play
The OP recommended shooting for 4 expeditions, Drez recommended 2 or 3.

I think you need to be flexible. Some hands call for you to start all 5, others are best if you concentrate on 2 or 3.

You usually don't start all 5 because you expect to turn a profit in all of them (although it isn't as rare as you might expect to get 20 points or more in every expedition). Usually you start all 5 if you don't have good discards. If you discard a 2, but it gives your opponent their 8th card in that suit, then you just lost 22 points (more if your opponent has handshakes, which they probably do in this case). Discarding a 4, when your opponent gets two handshakes, costs you 12 points. If it's early enough in the game, playing a 2 or something is OK because it's likely you will get a few more cards, making this cheaper than a discard.

In general, you only want to discard when:

- Your opponent can't use the card because they have played a higher card
- It is low and you have one or two handshakes, making it unlikely that your opponent will double it. This is best if you have at least 2 other cards, making it less likely your opponent will get the 20 point bonus
- You have a lot of high cards in that suit, meaning your opponent probably doens't want it. This is usually when you would like the card, but can't use it because you drew it after playnig a higher card.

So when you can't discard, and you don't want to play in your "good" suits because you are waiting for doubles and/or more cards for the bonus, you start an expedition. It can work out well.
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Craig Somerton
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Thanks for the excellent feedback guys. I really appreciate it.

Absolutely... for a game so short and played so quickly (often in 6-7 minutes) the depth of strategies available is astounding.

I kind of half-agree with the number of expeditions to aim for. I remain adamant that 2 simply will not win, and the odds of pulling good scores across 5 suits is such a rare occurrence, you risk spreading yourself too thin. And the scoring mechanics really punishes you for not completing expeditions. In many cases, one big negative score can undermine several positive ones.

That said, LG is a game that encourages risk-taking. You sit there with 3-4 expeditions already running and you pickup a few investment cards or a run of one suit in your hand. And you think to yourself "what the heck... I still have time to start this new one". And before you know it the deck is depleted and you're left holding high scoring cards in your hand. So frustrating, yet, the times when you feel things are way outside your control aren't that many. You always feel you have options up your sleeve... if only you can draw that perfect card.

On the issue of discards, I only do it if the discard is useless for my opponent (most commonly investment or low numbered cards) or when the only cards you have in your hand aren't able to progress your score, or are gonna lock you out of a good scoring sequence.

My wife and I play the game religiously (by that I mean I keep calling upon divine intervention for that next card), and after all those hundreds of plays it still hasn't lost it's edge, and the only game that comes close to my mind is another Knizia classic Battle Line. Although my wife has been astounding lucky with that one lately, winning 7 of the last 10 games.

Time to find another similar game. Any suggestions?
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Eric Coker
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Re: Simple Strategies to teach new and more experienced play
My wife and I really enjoy both Lost Cities and Battleline, but my wife's preference is Battleline.

I recently picked up Aton and we've really been enjoying it. It's a nice area majority game that we find plays fast and has just the right amount of depth for a game of this type. We're both happy with the purchase.
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B C Z
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I think you're missing a fundamental point of the game when it comes to discards.

Just because you discard a card doesn't mean you can't pick it up later.

You typically get more than 22 plays per player - and towards the end of the game you can draw from discards to retard the end, since you aren't drawing from the play deck. Discarding is like banking time that you later withdraw at the end of the game.

Discarding the multipliers after your opponent has started means they're there for you later if you draw into some big cards for that expedition.

Discarding cards that don't benefit your opponent because he 'skipped' over a number delays having to skip over a rank in your own expedition and gives you another card draw from the stock.
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Craig Somerton
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Thanks for the Aton suggestion Eric. I'll have a look at it eagerly. If your wife and you both like the same games, I'm hoping the same will ring true for Aton.

-----

BT: Are you saying the discards for each player are kept separate? We always place all the discards on one pile. We rarely draw-back from the pile as we virtually never discard anything that could benefit the opposition. It is a good point though and worth considering to extend the game.
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Rob Herman
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Re: Simple Strategies to teach new and more experienced play
anomander64 wrote:

The only way you will get a positive score for an expedition is for your cards in that suit to total more than 20. ALways, always, always aim to get at least 20 points per expeditions.


I strongly, strongly, strongly disagree with this suggestion.

Sometimes you need to stall for time, looking for (often) an extra investment card or (sometimes) an extra middle-range card, or the eighth card in a suit. So you play the 4 and 6 of some random suit to stall and fish for more cards. Maybe you pull the 8 of that suit later, maybe you don't, but whether the suit gives -10, -2, or 3 points, the investment can pay off by making your important suit worth 20 or 30 more.
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Stephen Roney
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Re: Simple Strategies to teach new and more experienced play
anomander64 wrote:
BT: Are you saying the discards for each player are kept separate? We always place all the discards on one pile. We rarely draw-back from the pile as we virtually never discard anything that could benefit the opposition. It is a good point though and worth considering to extend the game.


You are correct that the discards are together. And in general, no, you don't want to discard things that will help the other player, though sometimes there is not a big choice. Or sometimes you may discard a handshake (for example) that the other player doesn't KNOW won't help them. Perhaps you have already played the 2 and have the 8,9,10 and are waiting for more intermediate cards before playing them. You discard the handshake, knowing that your opponent would need virtually all the missing cards to make use of it. Perhaps she has some of the missing cards and decides to take it and play it, unaware that you have all the high ones. Or perhaps you can pick it up again at the end to delay the end of the game so you can get your last cards down.
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Steven Wall
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anomander64 wrote:

Time to find another similar game. Any suggestions?


My girlfriend and I both enjoy Schotten Totten (Battleline with a different theme). Her more so, as I often lose! I tend to find this game not as relaxing to play as LC, as the math(s) is a little less straight forward.

At the moment our most played game is San Juan. The core mechanics are different to Lost Cities. However, it does rely on card drawing and is non-confrontational, in that interaction between the players relies on understanding your opponents strategy (by observing the combinations of cards they have played) and modifying your strategy accordingly, to maximise your benefits and minimise theirs. The card set is also manageable, allowing for a quick learning curve, in so far as what combinations of buildings work well together, and how likely you are to draw one. By way of comparison, Race for the Galaxy does her head in with the amount of possible combinations of card abilities.

We also tried Balloon Cup, but found it extremely unsatisfying after a relatively small number of plays. Basically, it seems hard to mitigate the effect of the random draw through skillful play, and decisions became largely algorithmic after a handful of plays.

Hope that helps. Thanks for the Aton recommendation, I will try and check that out.
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