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Subject: Hunting hypothesis, the value of food, and the point eating strat revisited rss

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Todd McCorkle
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I don't claim to be an expert, but I've had some thought bouncing around my head. Hopefully they make sense (for once) when I write them down...

The Hunting Hypothesis
I have this idea that the player who hunts/gathers the least wins the game. I measure this by the number of meeples sent to the hunting grounds. If you want to get fancy, you could add a number of turns modifier as well since 2 guys sent in 1 turn is slightly more efficient that 1 guy sent 2 separate turns due to the lost pips to rounding. I feel each guy sent hunting is a lost opportunity to grab something that generates points. Thus whoever loses the fewest point scoring opportunities, scores the most points and wins.

There are 3 ways to avoid hunting.
1. Increase farm level.
Easier said than done, but if you have a high enough farm level, you'll never have to go hunting again. Also worth noting, 1 guy on the farm space equals 1 food * #remaining turns. 1 guy hunting = 1-3 food (not counting tools obviously.
2. Receive food from cards.
Most notably, the 7 food and 5 food card. I don't remember if there's a 6 food card. Anyway, snagging these cards can allow you to avoid hunting for several turns. Plus, you earn end of game bonus points. The hard part is correctly valuating the card. Should I pay 3-4 resources for that food? The answer is highly situational and I doubt I could begin to answer it here.
3. Successful use of a point eating strategy.
Successful being the important word here. It's very easy to just ignore food altogether and never go hunting and just accept the 10 point loss every turn. The hard part is being able to score enough points doing other stuff to offset it.


The Value of Food
Food is the easiest "resource" to get in the game. It is the hardest to turn into points however. All it is useful for is to avoid losing 10 pts at the end of the turn. You can't spend it on huts, cards, or even stockpile it for end of game points. I don't recommend stockpiling any of the "real" resources for end of game points, but at least they are worth something if you have leftovers, unlike food (where the term 'leftovers' is more apt).

As noted above, food can be acquired through farms, cards, and the hunting space. Even when rolling dice, food is easier to get since you only need 2 pips and at most will only lose 1 pip to rounding (and only need 1 tool max to avoid even that). Assume for a moment 1 pip = 1 point and food=2 pips regardless where it comes from. With 5 meeples, 5 food = 10 pips = 10 pts, and you didn't even have to take another action for it (like placing a guy on a card or hut). Pretty sweet. With 6, 6 food = 12 pips = 10 points. 2 pips suddenly disappeared, however, we still didn't have to take another action. If we consider placing a guy on a hut as spending 3.5 pips to convert stuff into points, we still come ahead, but barely.
7 food = 14 pips = 10 points
8 food = 16 pips = 10 points
9 food = 18 pips = 10 points
10 food = 20 pips = 10 points
Once you have 7 mouths to feed, food becomes worth less than the other resources (although just barely). The value of food keeps declining as population grows (take that Econ majors )

The Point-Eating Strategy
I wasn't planning on giving my standard rant against the name "starvation strategy", but I have to mention that certain members of my game group refuse to purposefully take the 10 point loss regardless of what's going on in game. I've read similar sentiments here on the geek. I think totally ignoring this possibility severely hamstrings a player.

Given the above section, I would think the switchover from eating food to eating points would be 7 meeples (assuming 0 farms). My gut instinct tells me this is wrong though. My rule of thumb is, if I have 8 meeples and 0 farms, I'm eating points. I hate being at 7 meeps and 0 farms. It takes too much effort to get enough food for 10 points, but I can't do enough other stuff to make up for the 10 point loss. The longer a player is stuck in this situation, the worse their game. If I think someone is trying a point eating strat, I'll see if I can block them from getting an 8th person for as long as possible. Conversely, if I think I'm going to pursue a point eating strat, I try to get my 7th and 8th person as quickly as possible.

My favorite place to be to try this is the 3rd starting seat. If player 1 and 2 skip the baby action, I'll take it with the hopes that 2 will skip it again turn 2. On turn 3, I'm the start player and can take my 8th person as my 1st action. Unfortunately, I feel it's forced and I sometimes miss out on a good card, but that's better than being stuck at 7 for 4 turns. I don't actively take my 9th and 10 person at this point since I need to start counter acting the 10 point loss right away. I try to use my superior numbers to grab 3 huts+cards. I also like the flexibility of going, people need wood/brick/stone/gold a lot. Hmmm, 7 guys on [resource]. I still have 1 guy for a card or hut too. Hopefully I can make up for the missing 2 huts+cards on the next turn since I should be getting a good number of resources.

Random Ending Thoughts
I consider Stone Age a "path of least resistance" game. Ie, Figure out what the other players aren't fighting over and grab them for cheap.

It seems most everyone here considers farm>tool>baby. I've read the articles and admit it's a compelling argument, but I'm just not convinced yet. I think they are even enough that it's entirely situational.

Lots of complaints about the luck of the dice. Counter-argument of the luck of the cards/huts out weigh it. I want to add the luck of seating arrangement. Sit on the left of someone who always grabs the yspahan cards. Or sit left of a tool fetish to get more farms. Or sit left of someone who refuses to ignore food to better eat points yourself. You get the idea. Not exactly fool proof, but all it takes is 1 extra card/hut that someone else should have grabbed to get an advantage.

Thank you for reading and happy gaming!
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Steven Metzger
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Just played my first game of this - I was the one reading the rules, so that might have had something to do with why I won by 50 points, but I also identified hunting as a low-value action. I tried to pick up cards that had just enough food...in fact, I never got penalized for not having enough food for my workers, but only finished the game with 1 unused food.
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J. David Koch
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Fantastic overview my friend.
Well worth the read.

kusinohki wrote:
I don't claim to be an expert, but I've had some thought bouncing around my head. Hopefully they make sense (for once) when I write them down...

The Hunting Hypothesis
I have this idea that the player who hunts/gathers the least wins the game. I measure this by the number of meeples sent to the hunting grounds. If you want to get fancy, you could add a number of turns modifier as well since 2 guys sent in 1 turn is slightly more efficient that 1 guy sent 2 separate turns due to the lost pips to rounding. I feel each guy sent hunting is a lost opportunity to grab something that generates points. Thus whoever loses the fewest point scoring opportunities, scores the most points and wins.

There are 3 ways to avoid hunting.
1. Increase farm level.
Easier said than done, but if you have a high enough farm level, you'll never have to go hunting again. Also worth noting, 1 guy on the farm space equals 1 food * #remaining turns. 1 guy hunting = 1-3 food (not counting tools obviously.
2. Receive food from cards.
Most notably, the 7 food and 5 food card. I don't remember if there's a 6 food card. Anyway, snagging these cards can allow you to avoid hunting for several turns. Plus, you earn end of game bonus points. The hard part is correctly valuating the card. Should I pay 3-4 resources for that food? The answer is highly situational and I doubt I could begin to answer it here.
3. Successful use of a point eating strategy.
Successful being the important word here. It's very easy to just ignore food altogether and never go hunting and just accept the 10 point loss every turn. The hard part is being able to score enough points doing other stuff to offset it.


The Value of Food
Food is the easiest "resource" to get in the game. It is the hardest to turn into points however. All it is useful for is to avoid losing 10 pts at the end of the turn. You can't spend it on huts, cards, or even stockpile it for end of game points. I don't recommend stockpiling any of the "real" resources for end of game points, but at least they are worth something if you have leftovers, unlike food (where the term 'leftovers' is more apt).

As noted above, food can be acquired through farms, cards, and the hunting space. Even when rolling dice, food is easier to get since you only need 2 pips and at most will only lose 1 pip to rounding (and only need 1 tool max to avoid even that). Assume for a moment 1 pip = 1 point and food=2 pips regardless where it comes from. With 5 meeples, 5 food = 10 pips = 10 pts, and you didn't even have to take another action for it (like placing a guy on a card or hut). Pretty sweet. With 6, 6 food = 12 pips = 10 points. 2 pips suddenly disappeared, however, we still didn't have to take another action. If we consider placing a guy on a hut as spending 3.5 pips to convert stuff into points, we still come ahead, but barely.
7 food = 14 pips = 10 points
8 food = 16 pips = 10 points
9 food = 18 pips = 10 points
10 food = 20 pips = 10 points
Once you have 7 mouths to feed, food becomes worth less than the other resources (although just barely). The value of food keeps declining as population grows (take that Econ majors )

The Point-Eating Strategy
I wasn't planning on giving my standard rant against the name "starvation strategy", but I have to mention that certain members of my game group refuse to purposefully take the 10 point loss regardless of what's going on in game. I've read similar sentiments here on the geek. I think totally ignoring this possibility severely hamstrings a player.

Given the above section, I would think the switchover from eating food to eating points would be 7 meeples (assuming 0 farms). My gut instinct tells me this is wrong though. My rule of thumb is, if I have 8 meeples and 0 farms, I'm eating points. I hate being at 7 meeps and 0 farms. It takes too much effort to get enough food for 10 points, but I can't do enough other stuff to make up for the 10 point loss. The longer a player is stuck in this situation, the worse their game. If I think someone is trying a point eating strat, I'll see if I can block them from getting an 8th person for as long as possible. Conversely, if I think I'm going to pursue a point eating strat, I try to get my 7th and 8th person as quickly as possible.

My favorite place to be to try this is the 3rd starting seat. If player 1 and 2 skip the baby action, I'll take it with the hopes that 2 will skip it again turn 2. On turn 3, I'm the start player and can take my 8th person as my 1st action. Unfortunately, I feel it's forced and I sometimes miss out on a good card, but that's better than being stuck at 7 for 4 turns. I don't actively take my 9th and 10 person at this point since I need to start counter acting the 10 point loss right away. I try to use my superior numbers to grab 3 huts+cards. I also like the flexibility of going, people need wood/brick/stone/gold a lot. Hmmm, 7 guys on [resource]. I still have 1 guy for a card or hut too. Hopefully I can make up for the missing 2 huts+cards on the next turn since I should be getting a good number of resources.

Random Ending Thoughts
I consider Stone Age a "path of least resistance" game. Ie, Figure out what the other players aren't fighting over and grab them for cheap.

It seems most everyone here considers farm>tool>baby. I've read the articles and admit it's a compelling argument, but I'm just not convinced yet. I think they are even enough that it's entirely situational.

Lots of complaints about the luck of the dice. Counter-argument of the luck of the cards/huts out weigh it. I want to add the luck of seating arrangement. Sit on the left of someone who always grabs the yspahan cards. Or sit left of a tool fetish to get more farms. Or sit left of someone who refuses to ignore food to better eat points yourself. You get the idea. Not exactly fool proof, but all it takes is 1 extra card/hut that someone else should have grabbed to get an advantage.

Thank you for reading and happy gaming!
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Jim bo
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good write up.

kusinohki wrote:
I wasn't planning on giving my standard rant against the name "starvation strategy", but I have to mention that certain members of my game group refuse to purposefully take the 10 point loss regardless of what's going on in game. I've read similar sentiments here on the geek. I think totally ignoring this possibility severely hamstrings a player.

ignoring the starvation strat doesn't necessarily hamstring a player, it's just one less string in their bow. having said that i really can't understand the arguments against using it. it's not imbalanced and can be countered quite easily and is an intended part of the game. it's like saying i refuse to use my knight in chess in a move that jumps over another piece because whoever heard of a horse clearing a castle wall?

if the knight wasn't intended to move in that way the rules wouldn't allow it and same goes for starvation in stone age. it wouldn't simply be a 10 point penalty, it would be mandatory to use up all your resources to make good the shortfall or something along those lines that would make it unviable.

kusinohki wrote:

Given the above section, I would think the switchover from eating food to eating points would be 7 meeples (assuming 0 farms). My gut instinct tells me this is wrong though. My rule of thumb is, if I have 8 meeples and 0 farms, I'm eating points.

it's an interesting aspect of the strategy and one that's hard to balance when you're performing it. you're right in that it's somewhere around the 7-9 level but exactly where depends very much on what else you can do with your meeples during that turn. if there's relatively low value choices or i can grab a decent food culture (green) card then i'd be more inclined to go on the hunt to save myself the 10 point penalty that turn. but if there are some very good VP conversion choices (like securing a 1-7 hut as an example) then it's much more likely i'll starve that turn.

kusinohki wrote:

I consider Stone Age a "path of least resistance" game. Ie, Figure out what the other players aren't fighting over and grab them for cheap.

that's the key to the game.

kusinohki wrote:

It seems most everyone here considers farm>tool>baby. I've read the articles and admit it's a compelling argument, but I'm just not convinced yet. I think they are even enough that it's entirely situational.

the farm>tool>meeple valuation generally speaking holds true throughout the early and mid game. interestingly it's the starvation strat that's the only thing that prevents farms followed by tools becoming the dominant strats and actually provides an opportunity where meeple can be valued higher.

take starvation away and meeple will always be bottom of the food chain which limits gameplay variety and runs the risk of the game becoming more predictable because you just removed an avenue for a 'path of least resistance'.
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Mitchell Quinn
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Surely taking a 10 point hit is the same as giving everyone else in the game 10 points? I suppose it's a judgment of "Can I make more than 10 points with the meeples I would use to generate food for the turn?", which is highly situational. However I can't help but feel that the developers didn't intend for this to be a valid strategy.
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Everett Scheer
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rabidbob wrote:
Surely taking a 10 point hit is the same as giving everyone else in the game 10 points? I suppose it's a judgment of "Can I make more than 10 points with the meeples I would use to generate food for the turn?", which is highly situational. However I can't help but feel that the developers didn't intend for this to be a valid strategy.


I feel the opposite. If the developers didn't intend for this to be a valid strategy, why isn't the cost higher?
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If I recall correctly, the designers favored a -4pt per unfed meeple rule and it has been changed based on suggestions from publishers, not whim of designers.

It is how we ALWAYS play and I would never play -10. Period.
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Todd McCorkle
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chris1nd wrote:
If I recall correctly, the designers favored a -4pt per unfed meeple rule and it has been changed based on suggestions from publishers, not whim of designers.

It is how we ALWAYS play and I would never play -10. Period.
I've been checking the way back machine, and still working through this thread:
Solved by Starvation Strategy

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/2249584#2249584
According to this post, it was the Czech publisher who changed the -10 rule to -4 because he didn't like the ill-named "starvation strategy".


http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/2265754#2265754
This post had a response from Jay:
galfridus wrote:
From a geekmail to Jay:

Quote:
I spoke with the designer and he tested the game several hundred times
including with the use of starvation as a strategy. He feels it is a useful,
but not broken strategy. He would not want to change this under any circumstance
as he feels it is important to leave it as a strategy for those who want to use
it. In his playtesting, he found that when a player used the strategy and others
were aware of it, it did not guarantee victory.

Thanks

Jay M Tummelson
Rio Grande Games


So far, that's my best evidence about the "designer's intent". I was tempted to bold the section "Useful, but not broken strategy", since I agree with it completely.
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Neil Christiansen
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Okay, but I still think it doesn't improve the game and resonate to the Czech publisher. I think it is just plain silly to penalize not providing resources for 1 worker the same as 7.

And the only people who argue about the name are those who like to have the strategy available.

But as I said, we have played 30+ times with -4. I have also played 10+ times with -10. I prefer the -4 per by a wide margin.

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Todd McCorkle
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chris1nd wrote:
Okay, but I still think it doesn't improve the game and resonate to the Czech publisher. I think it is just plain silly to penalize not providing resources for 1 worker the same as 7.
Trading 10 pts for 1 food = stupid, you goofed (actually happened to me in my last game blush)
Trading 10 pts for 7 food = kind of smart
Trading 10 pts for 8,9,10 food = rather smart

chris1nd wrote:
And the only people who argue about the name are those who like to have the strategy available.

But as I said, we have played 30+ times with -4. I have also played 10+ times with -10. I prefer the -4 per by a wide margin.

Play however you want.

Of course I want to have the strategy available. More strategies = good. Taking away point eating would be equivalent to taking away queen pawn openings in chess. You can still play, and it might be fun, but a lot of choices got removed.

In all those games of -4, how often did the start player NOT take farm as their first move?

Any -pts per food rule just rubs me the wrong way. I like the "all or nothing" aspect of the -10 rule. It causes me to play a little risky on the food front, sometimes sacrificing resources to preserve the 10 points if I roll badly. Getting a farm doesn't guarantee points. You have to collect enough remaining food still.

My biggest problems with the -4 rule:
1) A farm is worth 4 points per turn for the rest of the game. No ifs ands or buts. That first farm is 28 pts minimum (someone drills a hut stack in 7 turns). Is there any other move that even comes close?
2) Food, 2 pips to collect, but worth 4 points and you don't even have to place another guy on a hut. Or to put it another way, "Food - worth as much as a brick for less than half the effort" and food can't even be blocked!

I'm undecided how the -4 rule would affect the breeding hut. At first I thought, 'why would anyone want to increase their potential loss of points'. Then I thought, 'wait, it increases your ability to use food'.
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Steve Duff
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kusinohki wrote:
In all those games of -4, how often did the start player NOT take farm as their first move?


How often does the start player NOT take farm as their first move with the published rules of -10?

The answer is already zero, for any player who's experienced.

I still don't see why this one question keeps getting asked. At worst, the farm gets taken the same amount first move as it already does.
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chris1nd wrote:
If I recall correctly, the designers favored a -4pt per unfed meeple rule and it has been changed based on suggestions from publishers, not whim of designers.

It is how we ALWAYS play and I would never play -10. Period.


So you play an inferior game with a major first player advantage, got it.
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UnknownParkerBrother wrote:
kusinohki wrote:
In all those games of -4, how often did the start player NOT take farm as their first move?


How often does the start player NOT take farm as their first move with the published rules of -10?

The answer is already zero, for any player who's experienced.


Wrong.

A good card is better if you aren't going to be clobbered by being behind in a farm race.
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Todd McCorkle
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UnknownParkerBrother wrote:
kusinohki wrote:
In all those games of -4, how often did the start player NOT take farm as their first move?


How often does the start player NOT take farm as their first move with the published rules of -10?

The answer is already zero, for any player who's experienced.

I still don't see why this one question keeps getting asked. At worst, the farm gets taken the same amount first move as it already does.

I guess I should have asked the additional question of:
How often does the start player each turn NOT take farm as their first move.

With the -4 rule, there has to be 3 or less turns left in the game for something else to be worthwile.

With -10, a farm is not automatic points. Also, food inherently becomes worth less points as your tribe grows.

A big part of the game is figuring out when a card or hut placement is better than a village spot. Having a '4 pts per turn for the rest of the game' spot rather eliminates that aspect.



I wish I could write my thoughts down more coherently...
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Neil Christiansen
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Trust me, with -4pts there are still lots of turns where a card or hut is better than a farm.

Also, after the first turn when one HAS cards, the cards one has might make tools or meeple more valueable.

Because no one ever intentionally does the -4, food is NOT worth more than wood. The valueing is the same based on pips.

Finally, I do not believe that "more options" or "more strategies" automatically means better games. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. In Stone Age, there are already at least an equal number of strategies as players without eating points.
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