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Subject: Five Automobile Lessons rss

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Jesse Dean
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Last night we played Automobile for the first time at Coolstuff Games (http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/44109). I had received my copy on Friday and had played it that day with 4 people (at a 4th of July party, oddly enough) and again on Sunday with 3 people. So I was looking forward to playing it with five. I was also feeling pretty confident about the game since I had won both on Friday and on Sunday. Of course, that bit of confidence would prove to be unfounded as I made a series of mistakes that resulted in me failing to get anywhere close to first game.

I went into this game wondering what would happen if I did not close any factories over the course of the game. I knew this would accrue a potentially large amount of loss cubes, but I wondered if the saved actions and saved money would end up being worth it.

Lesson One: Maximize the Automobile Barons
The first round I took Chrysler. I figured that with five players this would allow me to get into either the middle or lower markets early, and set me up to build in the other two markets a little bit later in the game. I spent my first move putting down two distributors. In hindsight this was my first mistake, as I should have put down all three leaving me with more flexibility to produce up to three cars in either market. The worst thing that could happen was the loss of a distributor and a loss point, which I could easily deal with by using Chrysler. As it ended up, I didn’t get any loss points during the first turn and part of Chrysler’s utility was wasted. The others (Will, Mike R, Mike D, and Bryan) built on the first four spaces. During the second round there was a mixture of other actions, but the only one who built another factory was Mike D, who built a luxury factory on the National 40. He had no distributors (but did have Howard), so I decided there was not a lot of potential competition for distributor spaces and went ahead and established myself on the Crane-Simplex spot. This is where I made my second mistake.

Lesson Two: Don’t Waste Your Parts Factory
I went ahead and built my Parts Factory with my luxury car factory. I was already kicking myself for not putting down three distributors, and thus allowing myself to sell three high-end cards, so I decided to save myself a little bit of money by building a parts factory. The parts factory is much, much more useful if you are building a much larger number of cars than the Luxury Cars produce so this was a waste of time. However, at the time I thought it was a splendid idea, due to the "Never Close a Factory" strategy that I was pursuing. I did not find out the reason this was a big mistake until a little bit latter.

Lesson Three: Know the Rules
So we were well into turn 2 when I decided to use Ford to build two factories and a parts factory on the Dodge Four. I noticed that we seemed to be running low on parts factories and started to flip through the rules to see what happened when they ran out. That is when I noticed that each player only got one parts factory. Whoops. I pointed this out and replaced my parts factory with a regular factory. I then realized that building three factories in a market that looked like it was going to be very bloody was a bad idea (it was). So not only had I wasted my parts factory (by using it with a single luxury factory)I had also failed to properly utilize Ford. Luckily, I ended up selling all of my cars unlike most of the others. Mike R got particularly butchered, and a large number of his cars did not get sold.

Lesson Four: Be Flexible
So with my parts factory tied up into luxury cars, the logical thing to do would be to close the luxury factory and the parts factory and redeploy it into something that was more likely to have mass production. Unfortunately, I ignored that and continued to pump 2 cars out from it every turn. I did get into the medium market by building a Willys-Knight factory, but I lacked the money required to build more than a single factory. The second round was a bit of a slaughter two, with Mike D and Will taking the brunt of it. Mike D did, however, make a large profit from middle cars though, as most of the others had vacated that market after the slaughter of the second turn. Also most of the cars he lost were discounted Ford Model Ts, so he did not lose that much money.

In the fourth round, the low-end market looked to be saturated again. I had the option of building into the mid-size market to take advantage of the fact that only three of us were producing cars for it, or I could max out my luxury cars and take advantage of the parts factory that I stupidly built during the first turn. So I went all-out into the luxury market.

This was not as crazy as it could have been. I took Howard for my character choice this turn, and had sufficient distributors that it was unlikely that I would suffer for my choice.

Lesson Five: Do Not Give A Market To One Opponent
It was still the wrong choice. By doing this, I left the middle market wide open for Mike D, and he was able to produce a large number of middle market cars again (12), and was able to sell them for a large profit. It didn’t even master that he got killed in the low-end market again, because of how much he was making in the middle market. The loss cubes did not end up mattering that much either, because he was able to cut out most of them through the combination of closing a factory and using Sloan to get rid of the rest.

As the game ended though, I was not sure who had won, but I strongly suspected that it would end up being Mike D. I was right. The final scores were:
Mike D: 3880
Bryan: 3500
Jesse: 3330
Will: 2900
Mike R: 2560

So I lost. I went in trying to determine how a particular strategy was going to work, and ended up messing up badly enough that I am still not certain how good it is. I guess I will have to try it again next time, to get a real feel for it. Still it was beneficial because I learned some important lessons, and hopefully I will be able to turn them into a win the next time we play.
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Marshall P.
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Nice report.

I've also stupidly put my parts factory on a luxury space. It wasn't so bad for me because I ended up building three factories there and selling a lot of luxury cars with Howard and distributors (low competition in the luxury market that game), but it's definitely not ideal.

I also went a whole game without closing factories. That didn't work out so bad either because I came in a strong second. So it seems viable to me. You almost have to start with Chrystler if you're not going to close one though.
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Jesse Dean
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Yeah, that is the main reason I went with Chrysler. I did end up with three factories on the space by the end of the game, but I was not comfortable doing that any earlier in the game for fear of unsold cars.

I think/thought that failure to sell cars, more than anything, is what causes people to lose more than anything else, but Mike D was able to get away with not selling a bunch of cars and still pulled out a victory. I am not sure if it is because everyone else made big mistakes that caused that to happen or if it is actually viable, however.
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Twice now in 5-player games I've seen one player do quite well in the mid-range market on the last turn after everyone else practically abandons mid-range production. I don't think it will necessarily win you the game, but it is a solid option for one or two players to stay in during the migration to economy (provided they're doing several other things right).
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Greg Schmittgens
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First, I've got your button ready for WBC. (Your starting this thread - http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/402482 - got me interested in making buttons for all the BGGers.)

Second, I'm having some trouble following the session report. Maybe it's just be a problem with terminology (what's a round?, what's a phase?), but it sure seems to me like you weren't using the R&D cubes correctly.

You said you first placed distributors, and "The others (Will, Mike R, Mike D, and Bryan) built on the first four spaces." (presumably Duryea, Olds, Franklin and Maxwell). Then, in the 'second round' (still of the first turn?), the only factory built was the National 40. How did he get there? This space is four spaces ahead of the Maxwell and would require 10 R&D cubes to reach. No one could have 10 R&D cubes by round 2 of turn 1.

Later on, you said you built on the Willys Knight space. That's 11 spaces ahead of the Dodge 4. That's either a helluva lot of R&D cubes (66 cubes required to build in WK if the most advanced factory is the Dodge 4), or several players were spending multiple phases building new factories (which doesn't leave a lot of money to produce cars).

As I'm writing, I wonder: are you counting R&D cube costs by class (low, medium, high-priced) or total spaces? It's supposed to be total spaces. (The example only shows mid-priced cars, but the rules are pretty clear.)

For example, assume the most advanced factory is the Maxwell Model L (mid priced). To build the Sears Autobuggy factory (low priced) requires 1 R&D cube. To build the Thomas Flyer (mid priced) requires 3 cubes (1 + 2). To build the Ford Model T (low) requires 6 cubes (1 + 2 + 3). To build the National 40 (high) requires 10 cubes (1 + 2 + 3 + 4).

I wonder if you were playing it as: The National 40 is the first high-priced model, so it only requires 1 R&D cube.

If you were playing that way, it's wrong.

If you weren't (and I just can't figure out your math), NEVER MIND!!! blush

(But I will say, we never reached the Willys Knight in any game we've played.)

See you at WBC.
 
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Jesse Dean
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I think the more likely response is that I misremembered what happened in the first part of the first turn of the game. I know that he ended up purchasing the first luxury model, and that I ended up on the second one by the end of the turn. We didn't get the R&D cubes cost wrong, I think what happened is that I forgot that Will built on one of the low end car spots.

I built on the Willys Knight spot in round 3. It was not the only late spot built on. People ended up building on the Chevrolet Six and the Packard Eight too. There was a lot of factory building going on.

I was pretty surprised that we go to the Willys Knight too. It was the first time I had seen anyone get that far on the board, much less to the Chevrolet Six or the Packard Eight.
 
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Greg Schmittgens
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Mea culpa. I forgot to allow for the details of memory. That's why most of my session reports/AARs are a variation on the theme 'Something happened, then something else happened. . .' wow

Plus local style of play may enter in. People here rarely pass to get cubes and tend to keep cubes for the executive decisions.

I'm bringing my copy to WBC and expect (hope for) a lot of play. Maybe we'll get in one together while we're there.
 
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Jesse Dean
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Sure! I hope to be competent enough in the game by then to NOT make the sort of mistakes I made in this game, and I would definitely be up for some Automobile. Geekmail me at some point before then and I will give you my cell phone # so that we can get a hold of each other at the convention.

Mike R ended up passing several time to get R&D cubes during the final round, but that is because he had no good options. Which is probably why he ended up coming in last. shake
 
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