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Subject: Action selection advice for new players rss

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Graham Dean
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I’m about to play only my second ever game of Steam against some very experienced players. I was looking for some advice on how much to bid during the auctions for action selection, which will obviously be very situational, but couldn’t find anything, so I thought I’d start a strategy thread, and hope that some of the experienced players out there would contribute some advice.

The aim is to produce a thread full of short sentences with entry-level advice on what constitutes a ‘fair’value for each action, and how the usefulness of each action changes over time.

How useful are the different actions at different stages of the game? Which are good to start with in the early rounds, and which become more useful later on? How much should the buyer be made to pay?



1 Turn Order: Will be the first in turn order next turn
2 First Move: First to move goods in each round of Move Goods
3 Engineer: Build up to 4 track tiles during Build Track phase
4 First Build: First to build track in the Build Track phase
5 City Growth: Add cubes (from Goods Supply) to a city during Build Track phase.
6 Locomotive: Immediately increase locomotive Level
7 Urbanisation: Convert town into city (plus add cubes from Goods Supply) in Build Track phase

Many thanks.
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Richard Dewsbery
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IIRC, if you're playing the standard rules, where you bid for the right to take a tile, tile #1 does not mean that you go first next go, only that you get to use the tile to "pass then re-enter" an auction next round. Personally I've never been able to use it remotely competently.

The big value tiles tend to be Urbanization and locomotive; the move/build first tiles are usually only needed by one or two players, so tend not to attract such aggressive bidding.
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Graham Dean
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RDewsbery wrote:
IIRC, if you're playing the standard rules, where you bid for the right to take a tile, tile #1 does not mean that you go first next go, only that you get to use the tile to "pass then re-enter" an auction next round.

Thanks - I'd forgotten this. So basically you could pass and wait to see who else was left in when it came round again? It doesn't sound very good. Am I missing something?
 
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Anthony Simons
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Uncle G wrote:
RDewsbery wrote:
IIRC, if you're playing the standard rules, where you bid for the right to take a tile, tile #1 does not mean that you go first next go, only that you get to use the tile to "pass then re-enter" an auction next round.

Thanks - I'd forgotten this. So basically you could pass and wait to see who else was left in when it came round again? It doesn't sound very good. Am I missing something?


It's fairly useful when you have been locked out of an auction and end up in last place (as long as there's nothing better to take this turn).
 
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Scott Roberts
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Check out the strategy articles in Age of Steam. They are close enough.
 
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Kris Johnson
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Uncle G wrote:
Thanks - I'd forgotten this. So basically you could pass and wait to see who else was left in when it came round again? It doesn't sound very good. Am I missing something?


Time the pass right, and you may end up in 2nd place, paying less for it than the person who got third.

Try it sometime if none of the remaining action tiles look interesting to you. You'll see how it works.

Edit: Forgot the quote
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Richard Young
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The turn order auction in Steam/Age of Steam is one of the most brutal there is. The winning bidder is not the only one who will end up forking over some cash for his pains. Passing without making a bid is the only way to escape unscathed but the first one to do so will get last choice of the roles. Plus, once you've passed, you may not re-enter the bidding.

- In this game there is nearly always something worth bidding for so you don't see a lot of passing (except in disgust). The ability to pass, as a temporizing move then coming back in later, can be very, very powerful. But, as has been suggested, the Free Pass tile usually looks best in the absence of anything better.

- The Locomotive tile starts off useful and maintains its value until near the very end of the game. Not having to miss a delivery in order to upgrade your choo-choo is very important. Naturally, once you have a six train, the tile is no longer any good to you, nor is it if you already have a five and you can see you won't be making any six link deliveries (oops!).

- The Urbanize tile is a close second. It starts off a little slower but soon becomes very valuable and maintains its value until all the "new city" tiles are gone and/or the goods cubes on the production track have all been exhausted. It is essentially a free tile build in addition to your normal builds (unlike Engineer), it provides a known set of new goods cubes and gives you a city of the colour you want where you want it. Heck of a deal!

- The Goods Growth tile gives you cubes taken from the production track and almost always can give you key cubes where they are most useful. Seldom a bad pick until the choices start to narrow to where they are no longer of any value to you. But even then (assuming nothing better is available), denying key cubes to others may be worth examining.

- The Build First tile may be useful at specific times in the game. If there is a spot on the board where you really want to be at the beginning of the game for example, this will ensure that for you. It might be useful late in the game as well when those last few links are being pursued. Not a tile you will always want to bid on however.

- The Deliver First tile is similar to the last in that it is quite situational. When you see a hub where there is bound to be a fight over cubes of a similar colour, this will give you first dibs. Could be key at times but rarely a tile you would fight for every turn.

The Engineer tile, which allows you to build (and pay for) an extra tile during the build phase, can be useful if you are stuck on an area of the board where the distance between cities or towns is wider. But, if you are bidding on it, and paying for an extra tile build, you better have a great plan to capitalize on the extra expense. The least useful tile in my opinion - again, very situational.

Edit note: I've evaluated the tiles as tho' you were bidding on them individually, which of course you don't - you bid to determine where you will be in the order when it comes time to pick. I've used this approach to show what I think is the relative value of the tiles - I hope it hasn't caused any confusion.
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Chris Rudram
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The growth tile is much better in Steam than AoS, and in some situations (when you have a corner of the board and can wait to increase your loco size) can be worth more to you than Loco or Urbanize.

This fact makes the auction slightly less brutal than AoS where Loco is a big step better than everything else. AoS can create a dollar auction, which personally I don't like, but other's think is a wonderful thing (the trick is avoid it happening to you, of course).

Turn order can sometimes be worth more than the tile. Being able to ensure you go before someone else is useful to know (I'll sit in some auctions to make sure I go before my rival), but slightly tempered as they can always using a deliver/build first gazumper.
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Richard Turner
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My advice would be not to pay too much attention to the bidding and just act kind of dumb. This may get you helpful hints from the other players and they will probably ease off any negative track building. You will probably win with this tactic.
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Graham Dean
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RCTurner wrote:
My advice would be not to pay too much attention to the bidding and just act kind of dumb. This may get you helpful hints from the other players and they will probably ease off any negative track building. You will probably win with this tactic.

Wise words indeed. You should never underestimate the power of acting dumb.
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Richard Young
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While the original question was posed as a new player to the standard game, it didn't tell us how much experience this player had with the basic game where there is no auction for the tiles. My advice to anyone who is completely new to this sort of game is to play the basic game first. It is a very good game - almost as good as the standard version and some will prefer it even after trying both. But what it will do is give you a good insight as to the relative value of each of the tiles (they work almost the same - only the method of obtaining them differs).

When it then comes time to try the standard version, you will be familiar with the tiles and what their various uses are in all the stages of the game. This should equip you quite well in deciding when to bid actively, and when to let the others get carried away. Even then, however, establishing a rough bidding guide is difficult being so dependent on the group dynamics. Experience is the best guide...
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Matt Tonks
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Uncle G wrote:
RCTurner wrote:
My advice would be not to pay too much attention to the bidding and just act kind of dumb. This may get you helpful hints from the other players and they will probably ease off any negative track building. You will probably win with this tactic.

Wise words indeed. You should never underestimate the power of acting dumb.


Graham & Richard,

You should also never underestimate the power of actually being dumb

Matt...
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Damen Parker
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So how did you get on?

Who won and what were the typical bids?

My Dad always issues 5 shares in turn 1 so that he can get the urbanisation tile. He has yet to win a game. Infact he always comes last but the margin between last and 4th is getting smaller and the overall scores are trending upward.

For a 5 player game a typical winning score is around the 50-55 mark. How does this stack up with other player's experiences?

Cheers
D.
 
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Graham Dean
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Hi Devious,

DeviousDamen wrote:
So how did you get on?

Who won and what were the typical bids?

Oddly enough I won, which was a bit of a surprise. There were a few factors involved in this.

1) The other players gave me some helpful advice from time to time when I got stuck - especially the opening turn when I was last to go and couldn't spot a good opening build spot on my own.

2) They didn't play ultra competitive against me. There was at least one occasion when Richard could have built to block off my future expansion plans but chose not to. There may have been other occasions as well which I missed.

3) David (experienced Age of Steamer playing his first ever game of Steam) focused more on Richard as his main challenger until later on in the game.

4) My first build gave priority access to two blue cubes where all the blue cities were on the other side of the board. I thought this was a bad thing, but actually it was very good, and game me some excellent long deliveries at the end.

5) Modesty aside, I did quite a good expansion of a city to purple with some purple cubes around turn 5 which game me two good deliveries during mid-game, which were longer than anyone else's.


DeviousDamen wrote:
My Dad always issues 5 shares in turn 1 so that he can get the urbanisation tile. He has yet to win a game. Infact he always comes last but the margin between last and 4th is getting smaller and the overall scores are trending upward.

For a 5 player game a typical winning score is around the 50-55 mark. How does this stack up with other player's experiences?

Winning score was only about 40, so it sounds like we have some way to go to match up to your high standards. Does that mean we played badly, or are 4 player games lower scoring than 5 player?

As for the bidding, I started off bidding quite conservatively, as I didn't have much of a plan. I figured I was better off doing stuff which seemed sensible without busting my finances. After a bit I began to get a feel for why having cubes which could only be delivered to the other side of the board was a good thing, and started building across the board towards a blue city. My bids basically stayed around nil-four in the early game. In the last round I bid a lot higher to get Urbanisation - I think I won it with 13.

So on the whole, while actions are obviously important, I think a far bigger determinant is cube allocation on the board. I was lucky because I was forced into a position where I had cubes from turn one which were tucked away in the corner, and therefore were harder for other people to get access to, and could only be delivered to the other side of the board. I was able to pick up useful shipping cubes to get the finances ticking over as I built across the board, and then shipped for 6 three times towards the end. More experienced players might have done better, but I was pretty pleased with it.

All in all, a very enjoyable game - I look forward to playing again. Any chance you could write a strategy article on assessing the cube layout?
 
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