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Subject: Yet Another Strategy Guide rss

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Andrew Hardin
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Since apparently strategy guides are the newest thing I figured I would post my own strategy guide in the desperate attempt to achieve fame and fortune.

I am going to try to avoid repeating some of the excellent ideas found in other strategy guides. Dominion literally changes each game as the Kingdom Cards are changed. It is fine to talk about what to do if Lab/Chapel is in play but as more and more cards are added individual combinations (or even individual cards) will become less and less part of the game. At that point very high level strategy considerations will dominate.

The Goal

When I play games I work backwards from the victory conditions. The victory conditions define the heart of your strategy. In Chess the victory condition is checkmating the opposing King. You can get caught up in capturing pieces with glee only to discover that your opponent has focused on the victory conditions and beaten you.

The victory condition in Dominion is extremely simple. Accumulate the most VP in your deck when the game has ended. The traditional way this happens is you buy lots of Provinces, a few Duchy and Estate cards and call it a day. Sometimes you buy other types of VP cards. But the key thing to keep in mind is that winning almost always involves buying VP at some point, hopefully a lot of VP.

The victory condition is closely related to the ending conditions. The common way to end the game is to buy the last Province. The game is then over as soon as that player's turn ends. The less common way to end the game is to empty three piles. This second condition is important because it can provide a means of thwarting players trying to win by ‘catching up’ at the end and it helps end games that are otherwise stuck in Curse hell.

Golden Rule of Dominion

When the game begins there are 17 piles available, 10 of which are Kingdom Cards. My suggestion to a beginner is to look at all those cards very carefully. If the card has no VP (most Kingdom Cards) then purchasing the card has done nothing to improve your immediate VP situation. If you keep buying nothing but Action Cards you will never advance towards the victory condition.

This frames my ‘Golden Rule of Dominion’ which goes:

Never buy an Action Card unless you absolutely must.

At first this might sound like I am advocating the (in)famous Big Money strategy. In point of fact I am not. The key point here is that to win the game against good opponents you must buy Action Cards. Many Action Cards provide benefits essential to gaining more VP than other players. But don’t buy an Action Card unless it helps to do so. Your goal should be to buy as few Action Cards as you need to win the game. The reason is because Dominion is fundamentally a very fast game.

The Speed of Dominion

A very fast Dominion game can take less than 12 turns. Most games will take longer but many will end in under 20 turns. You can’t expect the game to go much past 25 turns with good players unless there are many Attack cards slowing the game down. The better your opponents the faster they will be accumulating those critical VP.

The key thing to recognize is that Big Money alone hits 4 Provinces right around the 17th turn. The game is not over at that point but in a 2 player game Big Money has bought half the available 6 VP cards. In a 3 or 4 player game this is only 1/3rd the number available but that means Big Money has already matched the ‘average’ number of Provinces per player. Since most good strategies are better than Big Money it is difficult to win if your strategy requires more than 17 turns to get to 4 Provinces.

Speed is paramount in Dominion. You need to be building up to acquire VP as quickly as possible. Everything you do should be directed to speeding yourself up, or slowing the opponents down. If your purchases are failing to do one or the other then your purchases are wrong. Never think you will have plenty of time to get your strategy rolling.

Deck Efficiency

I have read a number of good articles on this topic so there is only so much to add that hasn’t already been said. The key idea to keep in mind is you start with a very weak deck. In the starting cards there is no way to draw more than 5 Coin and that will happen only 16% of the time. To win the game you need a deck that is more efficient at generating Coin or buying good cards.

The starting 10 cards are weak, and adding Silver, Gold or most of the Actions Cards will make the deck stronger. Buying VP will usually make the deck weaker. Since it takes VP to win you have to balance the need to improve the deck to buy VP with the loss in power that comes from buying VP. There are a few VP cards that improve a deck even when purchased.

As your deck grows larger the impact of any one card is lower. For this reason as the game goes on individual buys have less of an impact on the game. This is good when buying VP but bad when buying Action Cards or even Treasure. Using up your limited buys to purchase cards that have little impact on the game is wasteful.

A common solution to this problem is cards that trash. When you trash cards the impact of each remaining card is correspondingly greater. Generally speaking trashing your starting cards is a beneficial play. The Estates in particular are very weak for the VP gain. But you do need to recognize that if you trash your Estates you are 3 VP behind any player who does not. And as you trash cards the impact of VP buys is larger.

The Big Four

Dominion has four basic effects that are commonly given by cards. These are +Action, +Card, +Buy, +Coin. Each of these four effects benefits you in a specific way and each is important. However, some tend to be more important than others.

The most basic effect is +Coin. Treasure essentially gives you +Coin and requires no Actions. This makes Treasure, particularly Silver and Gold, very efficient. Many Action Cards give +Coin, emulating the buying power of Treasure but requiring you to consume 1 Action. Since you start each turn with 1 Action this is expensive.

I would personally argue that +Coin is the most important effect in the game. It is very difficult to win the game without acquiring Provinces or at least cards costing 5 Coin. One reason the Gardens strategy is so powerful is that it is really the only practical strategy that doesn’t require regularly having 5 or more Coin in your hand at the end of your Action phase. Pretty much every other strategy either relies on getting 5 or more Coin regularly or else has some way of getting cards at reduced price.

The second basic effect is +Card. This effect increases the size of your hand. Increasing your hand size has four strong benefits. The obvious benefit is that as you have more cards you have a higher probability of a hand with high Coin since you have more cards. The other obvious benefit is that you have access to more Action Cards (though you have to have the Actions available to use them after you draw). There are two benefits that are less obvious and I will touch on them individually.

One subtle benefit is an increase in the speed at which your deck reshuffles. As you buy cards you put them in the discard pile. These cards should either provide VP or else strengthen you deck in some important way (sometimes both). This is especially true after you have just used up your best cards. This produces the counterintuitive observation that it is possibly better to get a reshuffle after you buy a Province because your draw pile is so weak.

Another subtle benefit is an increased variability as you draw more cards then a steady shift towards lower variability. The math is a bit interesting but the key idea is that your deck is finite and you are drawing more Coin as you draw more cards. As you draw more cards you also get more variability in the sum of your Coin per draw. The obvious way to think about this is that if you have 5 Cards in your hand you can have between 0-15 Coin but 8 Cards can have between 0-24 Coin (excluding special Action Cards that change these numbers). As you draw cards you start having a higher average Coin and a higher variability per draw. Your chances of buying a Province go up considerably. Then, as you draw a higher and higher percentage of your deck the variability actually goes down (the finite population correction). This is typically a good result because by that point you are drawing very close to your maximum Coin. If you can draw all your cards your Coin draw literally has no variability.

The third effect is +Action. I find that +Action can be the downfall of new players. Any card that gives +1 Action has the benefit that it can be safely played. This makes these cards very valuable but this ability is limited to certain cards. It is notable that it is fairly rare for cards costing under 5 Coin. I find that pairing +1 Action with +Coin or +Card (or both) is a very strong interaction.

The key to being able to play a lot of Cards is +2 Action. The ability to chain Actions is powerful if used correctly. The thing to keep in mind is that Actions alone do not produce VP. To get VP you typically need +Coin and lots of it. So +Action is really about facilitating the necessary interactions to get you +Coin, +Card and whatever other effects you need to win.

The fourth effect is +Buy. I am a bit of a pessimist about this ability in far too many situations. +Buy is either worthless (and expensive to buy) or critically important. The key issue is the range of situations in which +Buy is helpful. If you go back to the statements above it should be clear that increasing your deck size decreases the importance of any one card. So buying a 2 weak cards is much worse than buying 1 good card. You not only dilute all the other cards you have but you also put 2 weak cards in play.

So, under what conditions would you use the extra buy? If you have 0-1 Coin you can’t buy anything except Copper or Curses. With the notable exception of a Gardens game or a few special situations this is not something you want. Your buys should increase the power of your deck and Copper tends to simply dilute your deck. The ability to buy 5 Copper isn’t all that helpful. If you have 2 or 3 Coin you can buy 1 card costing up to 3 and however many Copper you want with your extra buys. Once again, that Copper isn’t that useful. If you have 4 Coin you can split your buys between 2 cards costing 2 (or you can get more Copper). One quirk of Dominion is that many of the 2 cost cards are more useful in a deck than a 4 cost card but even then you rarely want to add 2 more of these cards. If you have 5 or 6 Coin you have few situations in which you want to split your Coin since the 5 and 6 cost cards are typically very good. If you have 8 or 9 Coin you usually want to buy a Province. So it is when you have 7 or 10+ Coin that you have need of the extra buy.

My argument in general is that these situations are often not viable enough that you would base your strategy around them. The Gardens VP card does change this situation but that is a special case where you want plenty of +Buy. So the situation in which you want many +Buy is when your deck is building towards buying several VP cards at once. This is a very specific type of strategy that has only recently become viable in practice.

Attacks

The purpose of an Attack is usually to slow down your opponent, either by causing the loss of VP (through Curses or trashing VP cards) or by reducing the effectiveness of the opposing deck. Since few Attacks improve your own position it is important to pick attacks that truly do slow down the opponent. Some attacks are very weak and need to be used carefully since you slow yourself down using them. Simply buying the Attack Card typically slows down your own development and attacks aren’t helpful if you don’t gain more than you lose.

Since each Attack is fairly individual in how it works the best ‘high level’ strategy is to focus on the general flavor of attacks. Curses are very powerful and generally worth the trouble of putting in the opposing deck (if for no other reason than to keep it out of yours). Forcing the opponent to discard is typically a good way to slow down the game while trashing cards tends to be a bit random and has to be used carefully.

Buying 1 versus 2 or more Provinces

In a previous article I suggested what I call the Simple Game. The Simple Game is essentially a strategy that emphasizes building up to buy 1 Province and not worrying about +Buy.

Go back to the Big Money situation. Big Money is fairly quick. After 17 turns (and 17 buys) the strategy is usually at 3 or 4 Provinces at worst. At this point Big Money is in great shape to continue buying Province and Duchy cards to win on VP. And Big Money isn’t even close to the fastest strategies. If you play any of the known 1-Action strategies you will be at 4 Provinces in 16 turns (and only 16 buys).
So any strategy you create will have to be faster than this, or else it will have to slow down Big Money enough to get ahead. Under what conditions will this typically be true?

First, it helps to be able to attack the opponent enough to slow them down. If there are not a lot of attack cards then your opponent can basically play something faster than Big Money and your strategy needs to be very fast indeed to win. The time window for your strategy is very low.

Second, your strategy needs to have a very specific growth curve. If your strategy quickly grows strong and then continues to steadily climb then you would almost certainly do better to just buy 1 Province at a time. Getting to 16 Coin is considerably harder than getting 8 Coin and if you can’t do it in 2-3 turns then you have given up 2-3 Province buys. You have to buy 2 Provinces 2-3 times to catch up to a strategy that only buys 1.

What is needed is a situation in which the growth between 8 and 16 Coins is very fast. The curve can develop slowly (averaging under 6-7 Coin and then suddenly hitting 16) but this growth has to fit this profile. Getting 16 Coins and buying 2 Provinces typically requires several things at once. First, you have to draw quite a few cards, often 5+ Cards. That requires Action Cards which requires drawing more Cards.

The magical combination is usually a set of cards that gives +Buy, +Coin, +Card and +Action combined. When you can produce this situation efficiently you can reasonably expect to buy 2 Provinces or more consistently. The number of situations in which this strategy was not already doing better buying 1 Province at a time is not that common.

An alternative is a strategy that is willing to buy 1 Province but which is aiming for 2. There is nothing wrong with this approach and several cards will support it. In general you can expect this strategy to have more 1 Province than 2 Province buys but it can be useful for getting ahead of a fast strategy since you can always buy 1 Province and 1 Duchy.

But I would strongly hesitate for any beginner or even intermediate player to try this strategy unless there are cards that have +4 Cards effects in play. In many ways it is fairly advanced and requires a strong understanding of the situation in which it works. But that shouldn’t keep you from working on improving your game by trying it. Just expect to lose against good players until you get it worked out.

Duchy Buys

A Duchy buy is half as efficient in terms of VP as a Province buy. This alone should raise questions about when Duchy buys are important. It takes 2 Duchy buys to match 1 Province buy. However, if you have 2 Duchy cards you DO have as many VP as 1 Province. Getting 3 Duchy cards puts you ahead of 1 Province.

The classic situation in which to buy a Duchy is when the game is nearing the end. At this point the impact of buying VP is fairly low since you will only reshuffle your deck once or twice (so the card rarely shows up) and the VP can decide the victory.
Duchy buys are also easier than Province buys. Getting 5 Coin is much easier than 8 Coin and late in the game if you have been buying Provinces that may be your only option. Don’t hesitate to buy a Duchy late in the game.

The harder question is when to buy Duchy cards in the middle game (I am ignoring the Duke game here). My advice on this is to recognize if you are playing a fast or slow game. If the game is going fast then the Duchy buy is probably right. Sure, your deck is weaker, but then you buy another Duchy in the late game and it equals out. A couple of early Duchy buys can give you an advantage and the game is going to end quickly. But this needs to be a fast game, typically one involving lots of trashed cards and highly efficient strategy. If the game is going slow then you need to reconsider. That Duchy is going to get in your way often and you will wish you had bought a good 5 Cost Action Card instead.

The Duchy is also a reasonable second buy with 13 Coin. Buying a Province plus a Duchy gives you the tiebreaker against other fast strategies and won’t cost you much. You just keep buying Provinces and win the tiebreaker.

Final Considerations

The final thing to keep in mind is that Dominion is a different game depending on what cards are available.

First, check to see what Attacks are available. The presence of certain Attack Cards (particularly ones that put Curses in play) will slow the game down. This can make certain strategies viable that otherwise are impossible. Enough attacks will weaken strategies that rely heavily on Treasure for victory.

Second, check to see if +2 Action is available. If it is, then you can use strategies that involve combinations that need plenty of extra Actions. But if you want to go the Action Card heavy route take a good look at the availability of +Buy and +Card. If the game is short both I would strongly recommend just sticking with simple strategies. If the game is a little short of either +Buy or +Card then you should consider why you want more Actions. If your strategy is designed around getting 10 or more Coin then you are going to have trouble if you can’t draw more cards or get more buys. You will need to incorporate the effect into your strategy and depending on what is available that can be hard. Otherwise that leaves you using +2 Actions as the basis of a heavy attack strategy or other gimmick. Make sure that makes sense.

Third, check to see if +3 Cards or +4 Card is available. If so, use these cards as often as you can but pay attention to your Action Card count. Unless +2 Actions is available these cards will draw dead if they pick too many Actions Cards. Still, these cards are very powerful and you should seriously consider getting them.

Fourth, check to see if trashing cards are available. If so, seriously consider making these a cornerstone of your strategy. Your rarely need more than 1 or 2 such cards and they are great as opening or early buys. Trash cards make your deck efficient and generally speed up your strategy.

Fifth, accept the impact of luck on your game. If you draw your 2 first buys on Turn 5 you probably won’t win and it isn’t your fault. This happens and you can’t do anything about it. Because of random luck complex strategies are usually a failure. The best strategies usually do one or two things and do them very well. These strategies are usually good even with a large range of potential draws and are designed to operate without require a lot of things to happen at once.

And finally, don’t take anything you read here as gospel. Develop your own strategy that relies upon your strengths. I do best in games that are low on +Card and high on +Coin. Your style will probably do better under other conditions that I didn't cover here.

-Lex

(Edit: Corrected a few references to the # of turns Big Money requires to achieve 4 Provinces. A later edit corrected a few minor points that need clarification and a few spelling issues.).
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Brandon Richards
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I really am enjoying all the strategy articles surfacing of late. You always put some good insight in your posts. Here are just a couple things we may see a little differently.

Quote:
As your deck grows larger the impact of any one card is lower. For this reason as the game goes on individual buys have less of an impact on the game. This is good when buying VP but bad when buying Action Cards or even Treasure. Using up your limited buys to purchase cards that have little impact on the game is wasteful.


This is not entirely true. If you purchase cards that give both a +1 action and +1 card, it is basically an invisible card than doesn't really affect deck size.

Quote:
Dominion has four basic effects that are commonly given by cards. These are +Action, +Card, +Buy, +Coin. Each of these four effects benefits you in a specific way and each is important. However, some tend to be more important than others.


I enjoyed reading your interpretation of the four basic effects. However, much of the time a card will offer two or even three of the basic effects. This changes the dynamic of their effects. For instance, Festival has three of the basic effects. The +1 buy of Festival now takes on significantly more power when paired with money. Even if you only use the +1 buy once during the game, it may garner an Estate at end game that gives a victory.

By the way, at one time I was going to try to show statistics for each card in Dominion. The first one started with Adventurer (first alphabetically), but life seemed to get in the way. I am halfway done with Baron. Hopefully within the next week I will have some tips for it as well. Since I will probably never get around to them all, I would like to see others post some card specific strategies. Not combo specific strategies because there are now too many cards to hope that two come together in the same game.
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Andrew Hardin
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filovirus wrote:

This is not entirely true. If you purchase cards that give both a +1 action and +1 card, it is basically an invisible card than doesn't really affect deck size.


Good point and one I probably should have made (though had I discussed every caveat it might have taken too long to read). It isn't exactly the same because you can draw it dead and it protects your deck against certain attacks and is still vulnerable to effects like the Spy.

filovirus wrote:
For instance, Festival has three of the basic effects. The +1 buy of Festival now takes on significantly more power when paired with money. Even if you only use the +1 buy once during the game, it may garner an Estate at end game that gives a victory.


Another good point. I didn't get into interactions because I didn't feel that was critical but your point is sound.

The Bazaar and Festival are interesting because they can be directly compared. The Bazaar trades +1 Buy and +1 Coin for +1 Card compared to the Festival. In my view this is actually stronger in most situations since I find it better in most situations to draw 1 more card than get 1 more Coin specifically because drawing 1 card averages better than 1 Coin.

However, I recently had a game where late in the game I wished I had that +1 Buy. What I could never determine if that was because earlier in the game I had made more use of the +1 Card. I just think +1 Buy tends to be a little pricey for what you get, but I still consider it important when you need it.

- Lex
 
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George Leach
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Through no particular strategy I usually find I buy either 1 or 2 +buy cards. I find them occasionally very useful but otherwise expensive so I find this to be a nice balance.
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Sterling Babcock
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Nice, overall strategy.

LexH wrote:
Fifth, accept the impact of luck on your game. If you draw your 2 first buys on Turn 5 you probably won’t win and it isn’t your fault.
I assume you mean Turn 3 here?
 
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David desJardins
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Solamar wrote:
LexH wrote:
Fifth, accept the impact of luck on your game. If you draw your 2 first buys on Turn 5 you probably won’t win and it isn’t your fault.
I assume you mean Turn 3 here?


No, the worst case in Dominion is to draw your 7 Copper and 3 Estates that you started with on turn 3 and turn 4, and then your last two cards before reshuffling are the cards you bought on turn 1 and turn 2. It's bad because these are your best cards and if they are at the end of your deck then it's effectively drawing them one less time over the course of the game, and they aren't doing anything to jumpstart your growth either.

Drawing those two cards on turn 3, even if they are both action cards and you can only play one of them, is still better.
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Kirk Monsen
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filovirus wrote:

Quote:
As your deck grows larger the impact of any one card is lower. For this reason as the game goes on individual buys have less of an impact on the game. This is good when buying VP but bad when buying Action Cards or even Treasure. Using up your limited buys to purchase cards that have little impact on the game is wasteful.


This is not entirely true. If you purchase cards that give both a +1 action and +1 card, it is basically an invisible card than doesn't really affect deck size.


Except when drawn from a terminal +card, then they become very visible and painful

-Munch "village, followed by drawing smithy is nice ... smithy, followed by drawing village is ouch" Wolf
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Richard Anderson
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Nice article, thanks for taking the time to post it thumbsup

HH
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filovirus wrote:
This is not entirely true. If you purchase cards that give both a +1 action and +1 card, it is basically an invisible card than doesn't really affect deck size.


Even ignoring the obvious problems with this - the invisible card being drawn with a terminal +Cards, or wasting one of the Scout's four hits, and so on - the fact remains that the +1 Card/+1 Action card still has an opportunity cost. Even if its presence in your deck isn't actually hurting you, it might not be helping you as much as something you could have bought instead would. Sure, maybe you never draw your Village with a terminal +Cards and maybe it never blocks your Scout and so on, but maybe a Silver would have been able to help you where the Village is just being neutral.

This opportunity cost seems to be what LexH was getting at by saying "Using up your limited buys to purchase cards that have little impact on the game is wasteful" - the problem isn't "your deck is getting worse" but "you're wasting buys and your deck isn't getting better".
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Andrew Hardin
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salty53 wrote:

This opportunity cost seems to be what LexH was getting at by saying "Using up your limited buys to purchase cards that have little impact on the game is wasteful" - the problem isn't "your deck is getting worse" but "you're wasting buys and your deck isn't getting better".


This is one of the things I was getting at. I avoid using the term opportunity cost because that has a specific meaning. Every buy has both an opportunity cost and an impact on the efficiency of your deck.

This is one reason I haven't purchased a Great Hall yet. Though the card has little impact on the efficiency of the deck I find the opportunity cost of individual buys to be greater than 1 VP per buy until very late in the game.

- Lex

(Edit: Corrected an error in my post stating the Estate was had a better return than the Great Hall. For some reason I had it my head the Estate was 2 VP)
 
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Brandon Richards
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LexH wrote:

This is one reason I haven't bought purchased a Great Hall yet. Though the card has little impact on the efficiency of the deck I find the opportunity cost of individual buys to be greater than 1 VP per buy until very late in the game (at which point an Estate has a higher return).


I agree. I don't think I have ever bough a Great Hall early. But I have no problem using Upgrade/Remodel to turn Estates into Great Halls early game. Or I purchase Workshop/Ironworks for the sole purpose of getting Great Halls.
 
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LexH wrote:
This is one reason I haven't bought purchased a Great Hall yet. Though the card has little impact on the efficiency of the deck I find the opportunity cost of individual buys to be greater than 1 VP per buy until very late in the game (at which point an Estate has a higher return).


I don't understand what this means. If you have $3 or $4, toward the end of the game, how can an Estate have a "higher return" than a Great Hall? The Great Hall strictly dominates the Estate.
 
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Andrew Hardin
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DaviddesJ wrote:
LexH wrote:
This is one reason I haven't bought purchased a Great Hall yet. Though the card has little impact on the efficiency of the deck I find the opportunity cost of individual buys to be greater than 1 VP per buy until very late in the game (at which point an Estate has a higher return).


I don't understand what this means. If you have $3 or $4, toward the end of the game, how can an Estate have a "higher return" than a Great Hall? The Great Hall strictly dominates the Estate.


You are right. For some reason I was thinking of the Estate as a 2 VP card when I wrote that. The Great Hall is simply better.

- Lex
 
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Matt E
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If you have a well-trimmed deck with no Copper and a lot of Gold, a Great Hall may be a better value than a Silver. This is of course not to mention Great Hall's useful interactions with Scout and Conspirator.
 
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Brandon Richards
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salty53 wrote:
filovirus wrote:
This is not entirely true. If you purchase cards that give both a +1 action and +1 card, it is basically an invisible card than doesn't really affect deck size.


Even ignoring the obvious problems with this - the invisible card being drawn with a terminal +Cards, or wasting one of the Scout's four hits, and so on - the fact remains that the +1 Card/+1 Action card still has an opportunity cost. Even if its presence in your deck isn't actually hurting you, it might not be helping you as much as something you could have bought instead would. Sure, maybe you never draw your Village with a terminal +Cards and maybe it never blocks your Scout and so on, but maybe a Silver would have been able to help you where the Village is just being neutral.

This opportunity cost seems to be what LexH was getting at by saying "Using up your limited buys to purchase cards that have little impact on the game is wasteful" - the problem isn't "your deck is getting worse" but "you're wasting buys and your deck isn't getting better".


I am not advocating purchasing a +1 card/+1 action card just because they are there, nor was I commenting on opportunity cost. I was mearly pointing out that not every card contributes a one to one ratio in percieved deck size. +1 card/+1 action cards many times (most times if you play right) pass through your hand as if not taking up any space.
 
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If you've never bought Great Halls early then you probably haven't played enough with Conspirator. A deck of Conspirators and Great Halls can hit 8 to buy frighteningly fast.

The other case for Great Hall is when you're building a Gardens deck and/or Scout is on the table. All of those situations make Great Hall potentially better than Silver as early as turn 3 (IMO).
 
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Andrew Hardin
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laxrulz777 wrote:
If you've never bought Great Halls early then you probably haven't played enough with Conspirator. A deck of Conspirators and Great Halls can hit 8 to buy frighteningly fast.

The other case for Great Hall is when you're building a Gardens deck and/or Scout is on the table. All of those situations make Great Hall potentially better than Silver as early as turn 3 (IMO).


I haven't bought it mostly because it hasn't come up that much. We always play with all the cards in the mix (now 78 cards IIRC) and it hasn't been drawn that often. I have waited for a Conspirator, Great Hall deck but it just hasn't happened.

My point about the card is that it carries a high cost for the return by itself. What you are properly pointing out is that it mixes well with other cards.

My own analysis is a card of that type is almost always a weak buy unless your strategy is workable with 3 and 4 cost cards. I am not a big fan of most of the 3-4 cost strategies. They take time to ramp up and are vulnerable to 3-pile depletion losses.

It is only with Seaside and the inclusion of +Action duration cards that I have changed my view on the viability of this type of strategy.

- Lex
 
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That concern is probably largely dependent on whether you're playing in a 4 person game or a two person game. I find that 3 pile depletion is rarely ever a problem in a 2 person game or even 3 people. So a Conspirator/Great Hall/Festival/Smithy strategy is probably a winner in a 2 person game whereas it would really struggle to consistently win in a 4 person game.

Action chains can be very, very ineffective if you don't occasionally buy silver but, in my experience, the difference between a "good" action chaining deck and a "bad" one is usually just 2 silver buys early on.
 
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Brandon Richards
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laxrulz777 wrote:
If you've never bought Great Halls early then you probably haven't played enough with Conspirator. A deck of Conspirators and Great Halls can hit 8 to buy frighteningly fast.

The other case for Great Hall is when you're building a Gardens deck and/or Scout is on the table. All of those situations make Great Hall potentially better than Silver as early as turn 3 (IMO).


With so many cards now in the mix (with 13 more coming soon) it is getting increasingly more difficult to get certain combinations of cards to come together in the same game. But I can see how Conspirator would work well with Great Hall.
 
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filovirus wrote:
laxrulz777 wrote:
If you've never bought Great Halls early then you probably haven't played enough with Conspirator. A deck of Conspirators and Great Halls can hit 8 to buy frighteningly fast.

The other case for Great Hall is when you're building a Gardens deck and/or Scout is on the table. All of those situations make Great Hall potentially better than Silver as early as turn 3 (IMO).


With so many cards now in the mix (with 13 more coming soon) it is getting increasingly more difficult to get certain combinations of cards to come together in the same game. But I can see how Conspirator would work well with Great Hall.


That's certainly a fair point. And since Great Hall doesn't really combo with (any?) Seaside cards, I can see why you'd be unimpressed by it. Perhaps one of the things for Donald to keep in mind is more "cross expansion" interactions.
 
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laxrulz777 wrote:
I find that 3 pile depletion is rarely ever a problem in a 2 person game or even 3 people.


I admit it isn't that common with less than 4 players and is fairly rare with 2 players unless certain cards (Remodel/Workshop/Ironworks/Smuggler/Swindler) are in play. But it is an interesting situation with 3 or more players if several players try for the same combo.

The 3-pile depletion is yet another brake on the effectiveness of complex combinations. If your strategy is Action Card heavy it will begin to drain piles and with 2 or more players going the same direction this can be chronic. An opponent can sometimes end the game before your strategy kicks into gear on pile depletion.

This kind of thing may be more of a threat than a reality but it is worth keeping in mind that you might be able to do it and that it might be done to you.

- Lex
 
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laxrulz777 wrote:
I find that 3 pile depletion is rarely ever a problem in a 2 person game or even 3 people.


I find it is rarely a problem in 3 player games, but often a feature.

If you aren't ending 3-player games on piles then you aren't taking enough advantage of the times when that's right. Particularly when one player is building a deck with better long-term potential.
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DaviddesJ wrote:
laxrulz777 wrote:
I find that 3 pile depletion is rarely ever a problem in a 2 person game or even 3 people.


I find it is rarely a problem in 3 player games, but often a feature.

If you aren't ending 3-player games on piles then you aren't taking enough advantage of the times when that's right. Particularly when one player is building a deck with better long-term potential.


While I think that statement is true for 4 players, I'm not certain how often a "normal" card pool results in that for 3 players. You've got to have pretty high demand stacks of Kingdom cards for their to be 3 piles that everyone wants 3-4 of.

I haven't really paid attention to exactly how often this happens but I'd say (anecdotally and from memory) 10% of the time. Maybe as much as 40% in 4 player games (although it feels more like 25-30%).

It might end that way more frequently if we were diligent about counting points (often times a person who is "close" but not winning ends it with a province buy when they probably should have bought a Duchy and gambled).
 
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laxrulz777 wrote:

While I think that statement is true for 4 players, I'm not certain how often a "normal" card pool results in that for 3 players. You've got to have pretty high demand stacks of Kingdom cards for their to be 3 piles that everyone wants 3-4 of.


The phrasing of that statement makes it sound as if you're missing the point. I'm not sure that you are, but just in case:

The idea isn't that some significant percentage of games will end because 3 piles just happened to run out because they were in demand, or even that someone will deliberately end the game by making a couple of last turn buys to run out some stacks that are already almost gone. The point is that it is a deliberate strategy that starting sometime in the midgame you spend every turn trying to make the game end as soon as possible by making multiple buys of certain stacks.

For example, last night, I was able to cycle through most of my hand every turn, but because of a wonky card mix had almost no coins. I hadn't gotten lucky with my Pirate Ships, and an opponent had, so he was going to be affording Provinces and Duchies way more often than I was. By using cards that let me make multiple buys, I purchased Villages (so they wouldn't stop my hand from cycling, plus they're cheap) and Estates every turn, as many as I could buy, for the last 5 or 6 turns of the game.

[Edited multiple times for typos because I'm a moron.]
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You're right, I hadn't considered a mid-early game decision to buy up stuff. I'm still skeptical that that happens with any regularity. It seems to me that you've got to be buying 3 estates per turn to even breakeven with someone that's buying a single Duchy each turn. Perhaps against some unobservant opponents you could pull off such a feat but it doesn't seem likely unless you ALSO got lucky enough to buy an early province.

So in a 3 person game figure each person has 1 Village and you've got 3. That's still 5 more buys in which you need 5 coins and a +Buy. You're giving up 2VPs per turn (you could have bought a Duchy) to try to exhaust two piles simultaneously. And you still need to get a third pile empty.

It seems like this is only going to come up once in a great moon (perhaps when there's a 3 cycler like Village/Great Hall etc and a 2 cycler like Pawn, Haven etc).

Out of curiosity, what was the third pile you managed to exhaust? Duchy? Maybe you were hitting 7 with some regularity and buying Duchy/Estate? But if that was the case surely it would be better to buy a single gold and then have a significantly increased chance of hitting 8 and provinces?
 
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