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Subject: turn sequence and strategy rss

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Alan Kwan
Hong Kong
Hong Kong
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I agree with the designers in that the turn sequence works well. For example, look at the turn order in a 3-player game:

(square brackets = choose chip to be scored)

[A]C[B]A[C]B[A]C ...

Instead of PR's turn order where there is a long gap ater one becomes first-player, here we are essentially playing counter-clockwise, alternating between choosing a chip and an active player's turn.

Also, look at the 4-player turn sequence if we do not have a dummy:

[A]BCD[B]CDA[C]DAB[D]ABC[A]BCD ...

Given the nature of the game play in Urland, in which a player who plays after an oponent in a round usually has an advantage because

1. he can choose his play after seeing the opponent's,
2. if he outnumber an opponent in an area, the opponent can't do anything about it,

the above turn sequence gives us a slam-your-right-neighbor game. Look at C and D : D plays after C two times in a row, and when C picks the chip, D will naturally want to play to outnumber C in an area so that his pieces can't be eliminated in the scoring. So everyone will always play to outnumber his upper seat (his right-hand neighbor).

With the dummy:

[A]CD[B]DA[C]AB[D]BC[A]CD ...

D plays after C only once in every cycle. Also, when C picks a chip, D doesn't play, so it's a time for C to hit D back. This system also gives the chip-chooser some reserve, when not everyone will be playing after he chooses the chip. Otherwise, he gets screwed too easily.

The dummy doesn't really mean that anyone is missing turns, it just means that the turn sequence is refined so that scoring rounds occur more frequently (as demonstrated in the 3-player game).

As to strategy, I think it is important to get the genes which are useful for your current position. Because of the random elements in the game, you will get into different kinds of situations. I think the genes are a lot more balanced than many players may think! The point is to get a gene useful for your current board position, and also to adjust your play style to make best use of the gene.

For example, the ears is in fact quite useful (despite often being under-estimated by novice players). It allows you to safely concentrate your ichtos in a few areas instead of spreading them out. A major difference between this game and many other incluence-type games (such as El Grande and Web of Power) is that in Urland, Ichtos can easily get eliminated in scoring (for being the fewest in an area). So spreading thin can easily get you lots of losses. By concentrating, your Ichtos are safe and your opponents' are more easily eliminated. I won my last game decisively after getting ears for my first gene. The scores were pretty close when we were around the 21-point mark, but with my long-term strategy of concentrating and avoiding losses, in the last rounds I dominated most of the areas yet to be scored, and the opponents couldn't stop my dash to the goal line.

Warm Blood seems very powerful at first glance, until we look at the normally available actions: swimming is useful only occasionally, breeding often helps the opponents as much as yourself, and if you use the extra action for landing, it's not especially faster than Legs or Turbo (which can be used twice in a round to land 4 ichtos). So Warm Blood is a versatile, flexible gene, but not especially powerful unless you also have other genes to make better use of the extra action.

Care of Young not only allows you to bleed more, it also allows you to bleed with 2 instead of 3. This means that you can leave only 2 in each sea and still be able to bleed. In the early and mid-game, this means that you can afford to land an extra ichto from each sea. This can be quite comparable to Warm Blood!
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