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Subject: On the use of the selection cards rss

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Allen Doum
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I have put off writing this article, preferring that players discover strategies themselves. If you would like to do that, skip this thread,

If you are not familiar with the game, the complete rules can be viewed or downloaded from the Victory Point Games website.

Background

The game did not have selection when first designed, but it was added pretty quickly. Without it, it was just a game of luck, with the winner determined by the random draw. Since the game was conceived as a multi-player game, writing the selection rule proved to be next to impossible. I knew how I wanted it to work, but finding the wording and examples didn't come, not without taking the equivalent of several pages of rules, longer than the entire game takes now. This problem was just sidestepped by making the game two players only.

The (More or Less) Obvious Use

While the game first appears to be about building rivers, it actually is a game about claiming territory. Once an area no longer has any spaces in doubt, it becomes a waste of a turn to place a tile there. So the selection cards for that area can be made Passive, so as not to waste a players one tile per turn.

Of course, if there no point for one player to play in an area, there is usually no point for the other player to play in that area either. So both players can make the area Passive without effecting the outcome of the game.

Opening Selection Uses

A player can use selection from the beginning of the game, before any areas are resolved. If the goal is to build a wall across the five central areas, the East and West edge areas can be made Passive increasing the probability that a player will be able to place a "wall" tile. Since there are only 18 tiles for the edge areas, and 48 for the central areas, on most turns the player will not be giving the opponent extra plays

Tiles drawn for the opponents edge yield only one point, a small cost for the increased speed of building the wall.

The players own edge is a trickier question. If it too is made Passive, the wall can be be built even faster, but at the risk of losing the entire board. If the tiles for that edge aren't drawn, there is no problem, but if a number are drawn early, the players opponents can attempt to claim the board. The player can make their own edge Active before any tile draw, but the trick can be in deciding when to do this. Too early, and the wall will be delayed. Too late and the board is lost. There is enough chance in the game to make this a critical judgement call. This even happens to the designer. I recently lost a game to player I was teaching, when he was able to draw the remaining edge tiles even after I made my edge Active.

Another tricky situation is if both players are attempting a wall. A player will not be able to make the areas where their wall is complete Passive if the opponent's wall is still being built in those areas. There will also come a point where one player is winning the wall race. At that point the opponent will have to decide when to suspend wall building to disrupt the the player's wall.

Even more aggressive selection strategies are possible. But the more aggressive the strategy, the greater the risk.

Middle Game Uses

The middle game provides the toughest selection decisions in the game. Even though several areas may be unresolved, some may be more important than others. Often there will be one area where a 15 to 20 points can be decided, but there will be other areas where lesser points can still be claimed. Once again, a judgement call is demanded of the players.

It is not uncommon for the game to be decided by the play of a single tile. Ideally, player will be able to create a situation where the opponent will need several tiles to claim a large area, where the player needs only one of those spaces. The player can then still keep other areas Active to contest for the smaller points, Where the opponent will have to make only the critical area Active. Once again, the player has to decide when to restrict play to the critical area.

End Game Uses

When most of the board has been resolved, the claiming of the remaining points can decide a close game. This leads to tactical use of the selection process. The player who can recognize whether a given play will decide multiple points or only just one. Selection is part of being able to play the more valuable tiles.

If the "5" has not yet been played at the end, it can even be useful to make all of the areas Passive, so as to insure that the player will be the one to draw the "5". This usually is not a good idea, since the "5" is really only worth the same as two regular tiles, and causes a player not to play a tile on their turn.

Conclusion
All of this means, IMHO, that there is as much judgement in playing the selection cards as there is in placing the tile. The chance factor presents the element of risk against which the players judgement will be tested.
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Alan Emrich
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All the details about THE GREAT DIVIDE can be found here:

http://victorypointgames.com/details.php?prodId=78

Allen had done a terrific job supporting his game, and we look forward to his next game design!

Alan Emrich
 
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