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Subject: Dilmun & Military Strategy rss

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Michael Longdin
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Only played this once but I have two initial comments. [They are both related and I could have posted them under the thread entitled "after pass - should paying with army be allowed" http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/357963/page/1 but I have started a new thread as the OP of that thread seemed to want to keep it specific to the question that was asked]

Firstly, there are a few posts on here that talk about securing the trading areas in the north (with some debate about whether this is better to do with Workers or Armies). Other than the only area where Lapis can be traded, I cannot see any reason why these should be of any concern at all from a trade perspective - Dilmun can supply everything that those other areas can and this cannot be blocked. Indeed, just placing one worker in Dilmun allows you to spread this trading out over a number of turns thereby supporting the 'pass as late as possible' strategy that the other thread talks about. So to me, a worker in Dilmun is essential and caters for 80% of your trading needs without any worry. The other trading needs are tools which must be got from the tool maker anyway and Lapis which I accept is a problem if (and it's a big if - see second point below) you decide you need to get 4 resources to expand your city. Anyone care to tell me why you wouldn't make sure you had at least one worker in Dilmun?

Secondly, the military strategy alluded to in those other threads was simply all powerful in our game - certainly in the last two or maybe three turns. Put simply, you stick one worker in Dilmun and then slowly (one per turn) trade in your grain & textiles for more expensive goods (preferably tools if you can establish a few tool workers) and eventually, after everyone else has committed themselves, you turn these goods into a very large (15-20 units) and strong army. This is particularly the case in the 4th turn where all the armies are of equal starting strength so it doesn't matter too much which one you get.

The key thing here against the city builders is that expanding your city for vp's doesn't happen until after all the actions have finished. By this time your chances of having a city to expand (at least in the last 2 turns) is pretty small because the person who has adopted the large army approach has stomped all over the place. The city builder is therefore left with plenty of resources which can't be utilised and a number of victory points equal to a British Eurovision song contest score. The Military guy on the other hand is sat there with maybe 20-30pts from his conquests.. Now this may indeed be group think but if it is then at the moment I am a little blind to how this strategy can be countered.

Having said all that I really enjoyed the game but it's possible that the concerns above may mean it has no lasting value value to me. Anyone care to reassure me?
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Pierce Ostrander
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I've subscribed to this thread to see what other folks are concluding as they play this game more. I've posted most of my comments on the other thread and don't have a lot to add to that, except this:

It may be that what we are all realizing is that this is NOT a Euro-wargame hybrid... it is a wargame with a bit of worker placement and economic management built in. All players must compete vigorously for territory with their armies... There is no such thing as a "worker/trade" strategy. This isn’t Agricola!

Empire building and conflict are the heart of the game. Timing when / where / how to do it may be where the most important decisions lie.

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Christopher Dearlove
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100%Blade wrote:
Lapis which I accept is a problem


Not really. Even if on your first turn you put workers down to start an empire, I can respond with two workers in the Lapis area (game not to hand to check name). You then start your empire, and I trade for one Lapis. That's all I need in Turn 1. I lose one of my two workers to decline, but turn 2 and 3 I have a worker ready to trade for Lapis which I can do before I can be stopped - even if you carefully set up your workers to start an empire on your first action of the turn.

That's two workers will get me all the Lapis I need for the first three turns. I'll set myself up for Turns 4 and 5 by adding a final one in Turn 3. You can stop me on Turn 4 by starting an empire with your first action (having pre-set up the workers in Turn 3) in that area. But you will be competing with me for workers, so you'll need at least three. And I'll probably manage with only four Lapis all game.

Of course that's not the only way, just one - but one that works if you need it.
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Dave Heberer
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Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean that really got out of hand fast.
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I've played 3 times now, and I find that keeping your military bottled up and waiting for everyone else to pass is amazingly strong. People have been starved of cities with which to build any improvements, turn after turn. But even more devestating was the last game I played in which the leader by a good 25 points was overtaken in the last round by being denied both a city to expand and any empire with which to even try to get a new city. In the last round, she basically scored no points as both me and the other losing player placed workers to deny her any empire that she tried for.

Going last is extremely powerful. There has been some talk of modifying the combat system and maybe making the empire expand action take an action per expansion, thus not allowing the person waiting to go last the possibility of quickly expanding their empire out and placing workers to edge out others in production.

As it stands now people don't seem to think losing goods to be better equipped is worth it. The last player to claim an empire might throw away a grain or a single good to up the ante, but why not just get more guys? Is the difference between 7/12 (less equipped) and 9/12 that great when you could get two more tries (two more guys) by trading the metal in for guys instead of an edge in combat?

I'm going to try my next game with allowing each action (military included) be your entire turn. People seem to be moving toward an least optimized strategy for winning and I think that making actions cost more would really mitigate that.

*****EDIT****
I have been playing incorrectly, and my proposed house rule is actually somewhat in the rules already. I wonder if all the other talk about the waiting game being so strong is being talked about by people making the same mistake.
 
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Paolo Ciardulli
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i7dealer wrote:


I'm going to try my next game with allowing each action (military included) be your entire turn. People seem to be moving toward an least optimized strategy for winning and I think that making actions cost more would really mitigate that.


I am not sure to follow what you mean. If you repeat an Expand Empire action (i.e. the military action) you have to expend one army piece.
 
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Pierce Ostrander
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Too many competent-sounding people are coming to the same conclusions. So, I've posted a rules variant here:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/362186
 
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Michael Longdin
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fubar awol wrote:
Too many competent-sounding people are coming to the same conclusions. So, I've posted a rules variant here:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/362186


Actually, it's still only a handful (and at least one of us would not describe himself as competent!). I trust Martin's playtesters enough that I don't think it needs a variant after such a small number of plays by a handful of people.

What I would like is someone to explain to me why my initial perception is wrong and that it is possible to still be in a position to build cities in the last couple of turns.

Also, the first point I raised basically said that trading for anything other than Lapis was far too easy because of Dilmun. Why is this not true.
 
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Pierce Ostrander
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100%Blade wrote:
fubar awol wrote:
Too many competent-sounding people are coming to the same conclusions. So, I've posted a rules variant here:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/362186


Actually, it's still only a handful (and at least one of us would not describe himself as competent!). I trust Martin's playtesters enough that I don't think it needs a variant after such a small number of plays by a handful of people.

What I would like is someone to explain to me why my initial perception is wrong and that it is possible to still be in a position to build cities in the last couple of turns.

Also, the first point I raised basically said that trading for anything other than Lapis was far too easy because of Dilmun. Why is this not true.


Michael - I'd also like to see someone explain why your "initial perception is wrong" and "Why is this not true." I think you are right - so I'm not the guy to do it.

Until someone does, I'll fix it with house rules (see link to a discussion above).
 
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Dave Heberer
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Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean that really got out of hand fast.
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I'm sad to admit that I learned the game incorrectly, and the expending of an army piece to take the extra army action was not taught to me. I only confirmed that taking multiple actions in a single turn was possible, I didn't check to see what cost was available.

I think I'm not the only person playing this incorrectly. I think it would make a large difference on the perceived balance of going as slow as possible.
 
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Pierce Ostrander
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Dave - we got that rule right and still had the issues. That would be a big oversight.

It's also pretty clear from the other thread that the other guys talking about this issue got that rule right too.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/2910167
 
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Camp Mora
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i7dealer wrote:
I'm sad to admit that I learned the game incorrectly, and the expending of an army piece to take the extra army action was not taught to me. I only confirmed that taking multiple actions in a single turn was possible, I didn't check to see what cost was available.

I think I'm not the only person playing this incorrectly. I think it would make a large difference on the perceived balance of going as slow as possible.


I made the same mistake in the first game, absolutely ruining the gameplay.

In fact, I don't think a player with 15-20 soldiers and best equipment can destroy all the cities on the board once some other player has passed. Too many actions, and you have to pay for each action and for each city to be destroyed.
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David Tomic
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Also, the first point I raised basically said that trading for anything other than Lapis was far too easy because of Dilmun. Why is this not true.[/q]

Ah, found the quote mechanism? Let's try...

I have a thought on this comment. Seriously I can't believe that Martin Wallace and his playtesters let such a thing pass through that you should/could trade as slow as possible, i e, that it is good to trade one resource only for each trade action???
When you read the rules, my impression is that the underlying message is "make your trades as efficient = with as few actions as possible"?

Should "quick trades" be efficient, then certainly not only Dilmun makes sense and perhaps you don't want more than two workers there due to the decline sweeping away all of them?
That way if you have some different areas you could trade in 2 grain and 2 textile for 2 wood, 1 gold and 1 Lapis Lazuli.

I am sure there is a way to beat the delaying strategy and one of the keys must be an efficient chain of merchants. It is not good to pass too early, but if you can do that before the other players finished their trading and other necessary actions, an early pass will cost them "something" that could have been used better?
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Joe Wasserman
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I don't think he would like that.
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I know I'm coming way late (over 1.5 years!) to this discussion, but I have an alternative potential strategy to propose, with the caveat that I've only played After the Flood once so far...

It involves blitzing the city areas, using your first action to place your first city on Shurrupak. From there I'd probably place my cities to get bonuses like a free scribe and/or toolmaker. Or maybe placing the second in Sippar (if it's still available) to shrink incoming empires a little bit. Basically, though, the point would be to have so many cities on the board that the cost for a given player to destroy all of them is too high in comparison to the cost (particularly now that each city costs 3 armies to eliminate!). And if the other two players are competing for the "waiting game," I think it's unlikely that they would be able to effectively cooperate to destroy all 4.

Just my first impression, though, I haven't been able to test this!

Does anybody think this could work?
 
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Maarten D. de Jong
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Mymil wrote:
Does anybody think this could work?

The point is rather that playing the waiting game in itself is silly. In my opinion, a lot of confusion stems from that sentence of Martin's in which he describes After The Flood as a game of efficiency. That should not be read as 'be efficient in time with your actions', i.e., doing extensive 'trade throughs' in a single action, or using the repeat action when expanding your empire. If you do that, you run out of actions to take much quicker than the others, with the obvious result that it makes sense for them to play the 'waiting game' and trample your sorry efficient ass. Martin even warns, in a roundabout way, for this scenario. In my opinion, one should read that infamous line as 'be efficient in turning resources into points', in other words, don't squander them on things which don't deliver. Say, for example, placing oodles of workers in the Tool Makers Box, or in provinces without trade capacity after an empire has started there, or in vastly overequipping your army. Instead think about how much points you can obtain, and what, given the position on the board (especially that), would net you the most of them relative to the others.

The point to it all is that while playing this game you cannot really operate independently and think 'I'm going to try the city expansion strategy today'. It is very, very important to keep an eye out to what the other players are doing, and act accordingly. If one player makes no attempt to conserve resources for cities, instead pouring them into tool discs; grain and textile workers; and strategically placed workers (for example, inconspicuously placing them in Assyria in rond 2 or 3 already), then the other players should realise there is going to be a huge fight on the board, and that they should not sit still and expect to get away with it by not chosing an army for themselves. (Fortunately, switching resources from city embellishment to increasing army size does not really cost points—as I said earlier, the efficiency is in deciding how to get the most points for your resources, not in being the quickest.) Alternatively, pick city sites which are far away from the horde of barbarians, defend these heavily, and using what is left of your army to harass the stronger force. If one player starts to make slow trades, then everyone should make slow trades. Two players fighting over an empty city building area is cool for player three who can now do a few moves elsewhere unopposed. You should have a very good reason to get behind on resources in the grain and textile boxes: if anything they represent your action potential, and you want to keep as close to the others as you can here. Thus, the city of Ur becomes interesting. And so forth.

The disadvantage is, of course, that the game's pace slows down. Armies encroach rather than sweep in for the kill, unless there is a key piece of opposition to take out right now. Workers are only added in large groups if there is a pressing need to obtain a majority somewhere right now. Doing quick trades? Well, only if there's a real risk of a soldier coming in with a big stick to show you the error of your ways. You cannot really set your own path: there's two other rats in the cage, and they should not let you do that without a fight—which sees you changing your way of doing things just the same. Whether or not this is a Good Thing is up for debate; fact is, the dynamics of this 3 player only-game are unlike those of many others. There seems to be a subtlety to this game I hadn't expected; that said I can imagine the game becoming a bit stale as the empires always start in the same turns, in the same places. (As I write this I wonder how the game would change if I were to print out the rows of empires on cardboard strips, and laying these out randomly next to the turn number column prior to the start of the game.)

All in all, don't worry too much about waiting strategies and how to combat them: instead keep up with the others, and you should mostly be fine.
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Pat McLaughlin
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Excellent commentary Maarten. I just played my first game of AtF tonight. All 3 of us are pretty experienced gamers and familiar with a lot of Martin Wallace's games. We all enjoyed the game and found the 'rhythm' of it new and interesting. I think you are absolutely right about keeping pace with and a keen eye on your opponents.

Passing early can indeed be dangerous if one or both of your opponents still has a large number of armies to deploy - or even a few armies with some workers to spend as the fees for their late deployment. But if the timing of the first pass is made not too early and not too late it can be nasty for the other players.

I'm really looking forward to playing it again soon.
 
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Kirk Thomas
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cymric wrote:


All in all, don't worry too much about waiting strategies and how to combat them: instead keep up with the others, and you should mostly be fine.


Being new to the game, and to this discussion, this is exactly how my first few (online) games have gone - "waiting" is only relative to one another, and the 3-player dynamic keeps it all moving. Worst case is that the game does slow down sometimes, when there is nothing urgent to accomplish, so having later moves is the most advantageous thing to try for in one's turn. A lot of the time, there is something that is more beneficial (urgent), so you go for that. But you really have to watch each other's free worker / army / resource counts, because where you stand in relation to them is what matters.

 
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