On saturday night at the local games group night, we played a 3 player game of Linwood. 3 of us, me, my GF and W have played a few games together already and have seen some interesting strategies. Most of the time we have had plenty of tiles left at the end.
W's general strategy is to go as far as possible in 1 direction on the basis that he'll find an element stone and make it difficult for the other players. This strategy is brutal if he finds the wind stone (allows the player to roll 2 dice instead of 1) and can make things difficult if its the forest stone and he can block the path to it with the robber.
Depending how well W is doing, I'll either head in the opposite direction, or follow along but then branch off. GF's strategy is to have a tight search in a specific area and then move depending what is found.
In this particular session W 'won' without any element stones at all!
He ran off in 1 direction while the GF and I went in different directions. 1 tunnel came up close to the start point so finding fire was definately going to be important. However, despite a lot of exploring not much else came out.
W found a tunnel, and then shockingly the fire element, so he could easily get back to the start point if he had to. On W's roll he got a 6 and slightly oddly he decided not to go into the fire pit to grab the stone, but continued searching. Another big roll and he found another tunnel, and 3 turns later he found the forest but didnt claim it either.
At this stage there were roughly 12-14 tiles left and unfortunately both me and the GF then found the last 2 tunnels. Down to 8 tiles left, and we know there is a wind and a water left in the pile. My GF was just close enough to W's area that if she found the wind and rolled very very well she might have been able to get to the fire and tunnels before W could use the robber effectively enough. As for me, I'd need to find the wind and the water to have any hope.
Unfortunately the GF found the water and I found the wind. At that point I was atleast 10 good double rolls from getting any the other elements and W just needed to get the fire (about 6 average single rolls away from fire and then unless he rolled 1s he could use the tunnels on each of his next rolls. We declared W the winner despite him not picking up any of the element stones at all!
In hindsight its difficult to tell if both the GF and I searching stuffed us or not. With ~14 tiles left W might have found the wind and had it locked up even quicker, or he might have triggeredd the last 2 tunnels and made them useless. With 8 tiles left tho, W would have kept searching and if he found the Wind it would have been the same result. If GF found the wind she would have had to have made a mad dash for the other 2 elements, and it would have dragged things out a bit.
Definately a more tense game than we were used to and definately shows that there are some deep strategic considerations in later stages of the game.