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Subject: Spotlight on a Card: Water Mill (I103) rss

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Chris Linneman
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There have been many posts in these forums about overpowered cards, underpowered cards, is the game pre-determined by the initial draw? etc. I too have noticed an imbalance among the cards but I wonder sometimes how much of this perceived imbalance is groupthink and if the cards are more/less useful in the right circumstances. For this reason I have decided to start a series of posts called 'Spotlight on a Card' to encourage discussion about some of these eyebrow raisers from a larger community than my own game groups. Each thread title will contain the English card name and its deck/number.

Having never played with the I Deck, I just picked it up and randomly dealt myself a hand of 7 Minor Improvements. The first one I looked at was the Water Mill.

Type: Minor Improvement
VPs: 2
Cost: 1 wood, 2 clay, 1 reed, 2 stone
Deck: I
Text: After the Field phase of a Harvest, each player can use the Water Mill to convert up to 1 Grain to 3 Food. Each player that uses the Water Mill must give you 1 of the Food.

The first thing I thought of when reading this card was, "Why on Earth would you want to give other players an easy way of converting their goods to food? This thing costs more than a Major Improvement, and does worse than any of them except the Joinery and Pottery! Plus other players can use it! Its only saving grace is that it is a Minor, and so doesn't cost an action, and is worth at least some VPs for your trouble. But I could think of a lot better things to do with all those building materials than turn them into 2 VPs. Has anyone ever played this and been glad they did?
 
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Alex Bove
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I'm thinking from the other side (the one considering using the Mill) and I don't see why I'd ever use it unless the alternative was begging. I have to pay 2 food to get 3, and one of the food I pay goes to another player, not the "bank." That's a really bad return on investment.

I'd never build this improvement because it would never be used and I'd waste a ton of resources getting it into play.
 
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Einmal ist keinmal
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I agree with both posters. It sounds like it would never be used by other players, unless they were otherwise having to beg.

verdict: underpowered.
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Chris Linneman
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Yes, the fact that they would only use it if desperate makes it even worse. It means you are either giving them 3 points (they avoid a begging card) or this is just a really really expensive Master Brewer worth 2VPs that saves you an action.
 
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Robert Schwartz
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QBert80 wrote:
...Water Mill.

Type: Minor Improvement
VPs: 2
Cost: 1 wood, 2 clay, 1 reed, 2 stone
Deck: I
Text: After the Field phase of a Harvest, each player can use the Water Mill to convert up to 1 Grain to 3 Food. Each player that uses the Water Mill must give you 1 of the Food.

Hmm. I usually have the same reaction as everyone else when I read this card. Ick. Way, way, way too expensive to get it out and get it going. And the fact that it benefits others just makes the sour taste even more.. uh.. sourer. But lately, I've been on a "let's try THIS wacky card!" binge, just to see if I can eek some efficiency out of some of the underused, misunderestimated junk in the deck. So let's look at this card for a minute. First, let's take a look at its horrendous cost, and compare it to another, better known and better accepted card:

Water Mill: 2clay 2stone 1wood 1reed
Pottery: 2clay 2stone

So aside from the extra 1 wood (no big deal) and 1 reed (ouch), this actually costs the same as a Pottery, and doesn't require a Major Improvement action to put out. And they both have the same victory point return. Yes, the Pottery can return up to 3 more VPs at the end of the game; but really, folks, how often does that happen? Okay, okay, maybe it does happen now and then. But it's hardly the strength of the card, not something to be relied upon.

No, the real power of the Pottery is in the clay-eating. I've been a clay-eater, and so have you. The Mill is basically the same effect. You're turning 1 food into 3, for a net +2 food. Indeed: you're getting a *free* +2 food, as opposed to the Pottery which costs you 1 clay each time. So arguably, this card is more efficient, engine-wise, than the Pottery.

This all assumes that you've gone with a grain strategy of some sort. But you really only need one sown grain field to leverage the Water Mill, since you do not have to Bake Bread. Personally, I find that pretty interesting. A single sown Grain ends up being harvested for 9 food total. Let's count the actions:

Plow
Take 1 Grain
Sow
Collect Clay
Collect Stone
Collect Reed
Collect Wood
Build Water Mill

There, done! Piece of cake! Heh. Obviously, Water Mill is going to be a mid-game card of some sort, since it'll take a while to do most of that. Naturally, we'll be collecting many of those material types over the course of the game. And Plows are always efficient actions; 2 VPs net is 2 VPs net. If you go with a planting strategy of some sort and Plow and Sow some more, that'll fold nicely into the Water Mill as well.

Consider for example a mid-game environment in which you have four workers, one or two plowed fields growing grain, the Clay Oven, and the Water Mill. Building the Clay Oven gave you +5 food; the Water Mill gives you +3, for 8, exactly as much as you need. Sowing again later on -- vegetables, for example, or more grain -- will let you activate your Oven for another +5, and the Water Mill will give you +3 again. Yes, a sowing and planting strategy could work quite well with the Water Mill.

The "detriment" of allowing others to convert 2 food to 3 doesn't really worry me too much, either. Aside from them getting a whopping 1 food per harvest -- big deal -- you get the food yourself. So in fact, it's a wash: they get +1 food, you get +1 food. Irrelevant, in abstract; no one has gained over anyone else.

I'm certainly not thrilled by the card; the thought of dumping 6 resources into a Minor Improvement always makes me shudder. But it does seem like it can be used in combination quite interestingly, if given a chance. I think the next time I get one, I'll give it a spin.

- Xaxyx
 
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Chris Linneman
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Xaxyx wrote:

So aside from the extra 1 wood (no big deal) and 1 reed (ouch), this actually costs the same as a Pottery, and doesn't require a Major Improvement action to put out.


The extra cost above Pottery is actually significant. Reed can be pretty scarce, especially when you're still in the stages of the game where you are worried about feeding your family. Saving the Major Improvement action is nifty, but usually you can't get by on just Pottery from the Major Improvement rack. Same goes for the Water Mill; it has to be a supplement to something else.

Xaxyx wrote:

No, the real power of the Pottery is in the clay-eating. I've been a clay-eater, and so have you. The Mill is basically the same effect. You're turning 1 food into 3, for a net +2 food. Indeed: you're getting a *free* +2 food, as opposed to the Pottery which costs you 1 clay each time. So arguably, this card is more efficient, engine-wise, than the Pottery.


I dunno, I don't often eat a grain for one food. It's a last resort. So at best you are gaining 2 food, often it is much less than that as grain is valuable for scoring, or can be worth more than 1 food with the proper improvements.

It seems if everything works out perfectly the Water Mill is okay...as good as a Major Improvement. That seems underpowered to me.
 
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Jason Sallay
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We played a 4 player game the other night with the I deck.

We used the "through the seasons" expansion.
We used the 10-3 optional rule (take 10 discard 3)

With one player using the market crier (take 1 grain = 2 grain & 1 Veg AND 1 grain for other players) the watermill ended up seeing a bit of use in our game.

It was a crazy game with final scores of 59, 59, 48, 42.

Family growth on round two without room? CRAZY!

We had a great game and everybody played about 90% of thier cards. (only 2-4 cards left in each players hand at the end of the game).

Let me assure you when one player has gardener/grain cart/market crier everybody has LOTS of grain!
 
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B C Z
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If the person persuing a baking strategy finds themselves unable to bake (because someone kept taking the sow/bake action), they're probably going to be looking for ways to convert that grain to food.

1 grain -> 2 food (and give mill owner one) isn't a bad deal if your other option is -6 points.

As a mill owner, one would of course encourage an opponent persuing a grain/bake strategy to frequent the mill by blocking their access to the bake space.

That, and it's 2 VP, and YOU can use it instead of baking bread at 'no cost'.

Ovens cost 4 resources. The Mill costs 6.
 
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sonny sonny
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it's a VP improvement, and it might help you out a little in the last or last 2 harvest(s) (don't forget that you can use it too). usually i wouldn't build it, but when you happen to have some spare resources it might be nice for the VPs.

byronczimmer wrote:
1 grain -> 2 food (and give mill owner one) isn't a bad deal if your other option is -6 points.

the other option would be -3 points because the grain itself is worth 1 food. you only gain 1 food and the mill-owner also gains one food.
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Philip Thomas
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The Pottery is much better because it gets you food from a Resource no one else can use for food*- and Vps for having some left over. A lot of people will be competing for Grain... and eating Grain loses you points as well.

This is one of the Improvements Thatcher and Ladder give a Reed Discount on- but even then I wouldn't be keen on playing it.

*Which makes it likely to be avaialable when people need food, at Harvest.
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