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1960: The Making of the President» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Early Game Strategy (Votes per cube philosophy) rss

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R Ogaki
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Main Philosophy: Votes per cube (VPC)
Early in the game, should a player focus on large states? Spread out to small states? To what extent? Other than in the West, there's a high likelihood at some point your opponent will try to dislodge you from a region you spent time securing. Given that once you leave a region, it is costly to return to it makes it so that giving a region adequate 'protection' is crucial to winning the game. Insuring that your opponent must expend maximum CP to take over the region is paramount (NOTE: this is a general philosophy to keep in mind. In a real game, you must consider cards like Gathering Momentum, various region specific cards for placing cubes i.e. Compact of 3rd Ave into your decision-making).

My core philosophy in this game is to place a cube where the cube would offer the highest Votes Per Cube (VPC). What I mean by vpc is relative to the # of cube investment in a state compared to how many electoral votes am I getting/protecting?

VPC = Electoral Votes/Cubes

For example:

Kennedy in the Midwest (assume no preexisting cubes)
6 CPs to spend
Illinois(B) 27 votes
Missouri(B) 13 votes
Michigan (B) 20 votes
Minnesota (B) 11 Votes
Wisconsin (R) 12 Votes
Ohio (R) 25 Votes
Iowa (R) 13 Votes
Indiana (R) 13 Votes
Kentucky (R) 10 Votes

Ignoring factors of endorsements or other cards for now--how can one maximize his protection of the midwest from a later move by Nixon into the midwest? Does it make sense to focus on the high value states of Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan? To spread out thinly?

the answer to this question is: figure out how to maximize your vpc.

EVERY TIME, place a cube in the region which would give you the highest possible vpc.

if you place all 6 cubes in the most valuable region (illinois), this is obviously not a good play--but the key here is why? IF you place all 6 cubes in Illinois, your vpc is 27 votes/6 cubes = 4.5 vpc. On the hand, if you place 1 cube each in the highest value states, it would only take a single Nixon CP to take back Ohio--a whopping 25 votes for a single cube.

So how many cubes SHOULD you place in Illinois?

First, we count our 'phantom' cubes--cubes we have due to the color of the state and/or endorsements--assuming no endorsement in the Midwest, all the D states start with effectively 1 cube of 'defense' (Note: if you control the endorsement in the region, you get 1 phantom cube in all regions. Alternatively, you start out with 0 in each region if your opponent takes the endorsement).

6 cubes available (effective cubes in parenthesis)
Illinois(1) 27 votes: 13.5 vpc)
Missouri(1) 13 votes: 6.5 vpc)
Michigan (1) 20 votes: 10 vpc)
Minnesota (1) 11 Votes: 5.5 vpc)
Wisconsin (0) 12 Votes: 12 vpc
Ohio (0) 25 Votes: 25 vpc
Iowa (0) 13 Votes: 13 vpc
Indiana (0) 13 Votes: 13 vpc
Kentucky (0) 10 Votes: 10 vpc

With our first cube, we start by placing a cube in the area which would give us the highest vpc--in this case Ohio, which offers a 25 vpc for the cube placed. This is because Ohio would receive its 1st cube, so vpc = 25 votes/1 cube = 25 vpc

On the other hand, placing that cube in Illinois would yield:

27 votes/2 cubes = 13.5 vpc.

Thus, we know we should invest first in Ohio.
5 cubes remaining
Illinois(1) 27 votes: 13.5 vpc)
Missouri(1) 13 votes: 6.5 vpc)
Michigan (1) 20 votes: 10 vpc)
Minnesota (1) 11 Votes: 5.5 vpc)
Wisconsin (0) 12 Votes: 12 vpc
Ohio (1) 25 Votes: 12.5 vpc
Iowa (0) 13 Votes: 13 vpc
Indiana (0) 13 Votes: 13 vpc
Kentucky (0) 10 Votes: 10 vpc


Next: we go to our 2nd cube-->where should we place? Illinois!

here is a tricky situation which is not obvious at first glance. Most players would prioritize either Iowa or Indiana in this case, because you are taking 13 votes from your opponent and adding 13 votes to yourself. This would be true ONLY IF you believe your opponent will not later try to dislodge you from your position. If you think that is likely, the optimal play here is instead to place a 2nd piece in Illinois--imagine yourself as Nixon arriving later to take back the Midwest and the value of this play is more obvious:

imagine if you had the choice (as Nixon) of playing 2 CPs--would you rather spend 2 cubes grabbing back Iowa & Kentucky (for 26 total votes), or would you spend it removing 1 blue, then adding your own in Illinois for 27? The answer is obvious--Nixon goes for Illinois. Instead, you are better off spending 1 cube shoring up your position in Illinois, then taking Iowa, and the math reflects this.

the next 4 placements would be played as followed:
4 cubes remaining
Illinois(2) 27 votes: 9 vpc
Missouri(1) 13 votes: 6.5 vpc
Michigan (1) 20 votes: 10 vpc
Minnesota (1) 11 Votes: 5.5 vpc
Wisconsin (0) 12 Votes: 12 vpc
Ohio (1) 25 Votes: 12.5 vpc
Iowa (0) 13 Votes: 13 vpc (PLAY HERE!)
Indiana (0) 13 Votes: 13 vpc
Kentucky (0) 10 Votes: 10 vpc


3 cubes remaining
Illinois(2) 27 votes: 9 vpc
Missouri(1) 13 votes: 6.5 vpc
Michigan (1) 20 votes: 10 vpc
Minnesota (1) 11 Votes: 5.5 vpc
Wisconsin (0) 12 Votes: 12 vpc
Ohio (1) 25 Votes: 12.5 vpc
Iowa (1) 13 Votes: 6.5 vpc
Indiana (0) 13 Votes: 13 vpc (PLAY HERE!)
Kentucky (0) 10 Votes: 10 vpc

2 cubes remaining
Illinois(2) 27 votes: 9 vpc
Missouri(1) 13 votes: 6.5 vpc
Michigan (1) 20 votes: 10 vpc
Minnesota (1) 11 Votes: 5.5 vpc
Wisconsin (0) 12 Votes: 12 vpc
Ohio (1) 25 Votes: 12.5 vpc (PLAY HERE!)
Iowa (1) 13 Votes: 6.5 vpc
Indiana (1) 13 Votes: 6.5 vpc
Kentucky (0) 10 Votes: 10 vpc


1 cube remaining
Illinois(2) 27 votes: 9 vpc
Missouri(1) 13 votes: 6.5 vpc
Michigan (1) 20 votes: 10 vpc
Minnesota (1) 11 Votes: 5.5 vpc
Wisconsin (0) 12 Votes: 12 vpc (PLAY HERE!)
Ohio (2) 25 Votes: 8.3 vpc
Iowa (1) 13 Votes: 6.5 vpc
Indiana (1) 13 Votes: 6.5 vpc
Kentucky (0) 10 Votes: 10 vpc

Final result:
Illinois(2) 27 votes: 9 vpc
Missouri(1) 13 votes: 6.5 vpc
Michigan (1) 20 votes: 10 vpc
Minnesota (1) 11 Votes: 5.5 vpc
Wisconsin (1) 12 Votes: 6 vpc
Ohio (2) 25 Votes: 8.3 vpc
Iowa (1) 13 Votes: 6.5 vpc
Indiana (1) 13 Votes: 6.5 vpc
Kentucky (0) 10 Votes: 10 vpc

So in total, we placed 1 additional cube in Illinois, 2 cubes in Ohio, 1 in Iowa, 1 in Indiana, and 1 in Wisconsin.

When should you stop? How much 'defense' is enough? This is a much more subjective question then which may depend on the cards you are seeing, how your opponent is playing etc. I GENERALLY keep placing cubes till I no longer have any region to place in where I won't get 9-10 vpc, but I'm not convinced this is the best rule, but I think its in the ballpark. I ofc will move on to a different region if the event cards pull me in that direction, but this is a general guideline.

When going to try to take another region, you can use the same guidelines--how many cubes does it take to take over the region? So its still Votes/cubes, but now its how many cubes it would require to receive the electoral votes of the state.

EX: Nixon in the Midwest
Illinois (D)(27 votes) 2 Blue
Iowa (R) (12 votes) 1 Blue
it takes 3 cubes for Nixon to take over Illinois (removing 2 blue, adding 1 red cube), but only 1 cube to retake Iowa--a natural red state. Thus taking Illinois requires 3 cubes at 9vpc each, Iowa requires 1 cube at 12 vpc--thus Iowa should be prioritized.

Finally: some players may protest--what about control? In my opinion, early control is a siren's call which misleads players. There are no fewer than 9 different cards which impact NY (for example) without need for a support check which would allow Nixon to break Kennedy's control (or vice versa). There are so many cards which allow you to bypass control in the game, that getting preoccupied with placing at least 3 cubes in states can throw your game off--not to mention the danger of an early investment in Media for issue manipulation paying further dividends for your opponent. Sometimes its a good play--the 5th cube in NY does, afterall, pays a respectable 9 vpc. However, its good to ask yourself, whether the cube might be better spent going for North Carolina (14 vpc), or a 2nd cube in Michigan (10 vpc). You must take into account travel costs, but VPCs gives a helpful guideline in where best to spend your CPs.

*edit*
Note that this is a discussion of EARLY GAME strategy--the further on the in the game you get, the fewer cards which would allow a state control to be broken w/o a support check are left in the deck, and the value of control goes up significantly. Furthermore, on the last turn, since the chances of the opposing player arriving to capture wayward states goes down, the calculation value of vpc goes down SLIGHTLY (protecting high value states based on vpc is still not a bad idea on the last turn imo, because your states may be attacked during the election phase by support checks, and ESPECIALLY if your opponent is Nixon w. Recount on the board)
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Steve Bauer
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To me it feels exactly backwards.

VPC is more how I think in the last two rounds, not early in the game.

Most of the early game is fighting over issues, I will typically only campaign if I have a good campaign event or to avoid/setup a gathering momentum.

When I do campaign, my first consideration is not to get swept by gathering momentum, my second focus is controlling the large states. Yes control can be easily broken but this is what you want your opponent to have to focus on, breaking control with an event always takes at least two rounds, this frees you to respond or attack somewhere else. Toward the end of the game, control is less important as your opponent will not have the time to worry about breaking your strongholds as they will grab the easier states an all those extra cubes spent on a state will be wasted.

 
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R Ogaki
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I agree with some of what you have to say, but i disagree on a few points, and some of it depends on which side you're playing.

I agree that early on campaigning is very card dependent, and concerns about gathering momentum and issues should be #1. I was writing about the cubes you DO place (and i mean not just the ones during campaigning, but also your event-placed ones) should follow the rules of VPC. Whether you're taking over a region or not, whether placed by event (such as New England, etc) it makes no difference, VPC principles still apply.

I disagree with you about control--control is more powerful later in the game than earlier. You main point seems to get at the waste value of having 3 cubes in a state when only 1 in necessary to win the state--I completely agree UNLESS you believe your opponent still has a chance before the end of the game to add cubes in that State. Then, control obviously adds CONSIDERABLY to your hold over a state above and beyond the 3 cubes, since he has fewer chances to draw a card which allows him to circumvent control of that state. VPC only applies where your opponent still has a future opportunity to gain control of hte state--otherwise, obviosuly the minimum (0 or 1) suffices.

While the add'tl value of control has a lot of variables (% of cubes in bag that are yours, etc), the 2 biggest factors in determining its value is:

% chance opponent eventually enters region

&

% chance opponent draws card circumventing control

Obviously, the earlier in the game it is, the more likely it is that at some point your opponent will enter the region to try to take your state. However, this likelihood is circumvented by the fact that there will be more opportunity for your opponent to DRAW a card which allows him to circumvent control (media, non-campaign cube placement in state)--and its likely a good player will wait for just such an opportunity.

Therefore, the effectiveness of control is largely governed by OPPORTUNITY--opportunity to circumvent the support check. Later in the game, the less chance there is your opponent WILL enter the region--but he has much less opportunity to circumvent control. Therefore, control is more powerful, since it dictates how your opponent must play.

As I said earlier, if your opponent cannot/will not return to a region to try to take a state, VPC won't apply (unless he put in a support check there), and you should just leave enough to win the state... but if your opponent CAN reach the state, you should use VPC to determine your cube placement.

As you mentioned, you rarely spend much time campaigning in the early game--so its important that you spend those cubes wisely. And the best way to do that is by using VPC principles, and ignoring control as an issue.

Re: issues

For reasons discussed here: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/226971/endorsement-strategy
I believe the Issues are more important to Nixon than they are to Kennedy.

therefore, I am more willing to allow Nixon to overinvest in the Issues, and play more campaign events. I would tend to focus on 1 issue (usually the 2nd place issue) to prevent being swept in the issues.

Usually, I will seek to dominate Defense, which has a whopping 6 cards which give a bonus for being the defense leader. Nixon has 3 cards which give a bonus to his defense issue, but only 1 grants a 2-point issue boost, and the other 2 only 1 point (so it can be countered easily if going 2nd, and worst case you get a tie in the issue). I play 2-3 CPs into media (in the east) on the first or 2nd turn to allow me to manipulate the issue track to keep defense #1 and civil rights #2 if necessary. If Nixon drives hard into Defense early, then I may switch it up and invest in Civil rights & economy in an effort to win both categories, but let Nixon win some of the issues while getting a few extra cubes on the board is a winning strategy for Kennedy. Note that if you are placing cubes in 3 issues, you lose 3 cubes during the momentum phase, whereas if you are involved in 1 issues, you only lose 1. As nixon it may be worth the 3 cube loss/turn, but as Kennedy, I'd much rather take a cheaper 1 cube/turn loss.

This also means Kennedy has more cubes to shore up states with early.
 
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Steve Bauer
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Control is powerful because it limits the ability of your opponent to apply VPC. If campaigning in the east you want New York and Penn, if these are denied you by control then your options become much less attractive. This is just as true on round 1 and on round 7. The fact that the user might get an event on round 2 that helps them break control is irrelevant. It still limited his options in round 1 and when he broke your control it does not penalize you, going from 4 to 2 points is just the same as going from 3 to 1 or from 1 to -1. The event was going to happen and it's effect would be just as strong, the only way to mitigate the event would be to have avoided the state all together which is not what VPC would have you do and not a viable strategy for most of the big states.

As for issues, If Nixon benefits more from endorsements than Kennedy then denying Nixon the endorsements is just as beneficial to Kennedy as obtaining them is to Nixon.


 
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R Ogaki
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I did the math, and I agree with you re: control.

I at first was looking only at whether your opponent will AT SOME POINT DURING THE GAME draw a card which helps them break control. I didn't take into consideration the chances of control affecting their options:

I looked at NYC--which at 4 cubes has 12 cards capable of breaking control, and only 8 cards if you make it 5 cubes.

4 cubes: On any given pre-debate turn (drawing 6 cards) your opponent has a 57% chance of drawing a card breaking control

5 Cubes: 36%

thus, we see that there is a substantial likelihood of disrupting your opponent's move to that region is high.


re: Endorsements

sbauer9 wrote:

If Nixon benefits more from endorsements than Kennedy then denying Nixon the endorsements is just as beneficial to Kennedy as obtaining them is to Nixon.


This is incorrect. In order for Kennedy to deprive Nixon of a beneficial endorsements, he must either draw a major endorsement or the same endorsement Nixon draws. For example:

Kennedy draws: Endorsement in South
Nixon draws: Endorsement in East

Kennedy benefits less because the South is already predominantly blue.
Nixon benefits because the East is predominantly blue.

Thus Nixon is sucessful if:
He draws an endorsement in the East, Midwest, or South

Kennedy is sucessful if:
He draws an endorsement in the west (of dubious value)
Draws THE SAME endorsement Nixon does, or ALREADY HAS.

IF Nixon already has endorsements in all 3 areas of value, sure Kennedy's importance of securing an endorsement goes up substantially (because in addition to whatever Nixon draws, any region already owned by nixon benefits kennedy).

However, at equal board position, Nixon without a doubt should value issues more highly than Kennedy.

*edit*
Its true that if at SOME LATER POINT, nixon draws a southern endorsement that Kennedy's earlier draw becomes valuable again. However, this relies on Nixon drawing that card, which is not necessarily likely. Additionally, it may force Nixon NOT to use a major endorsement in that region, which again is beneficial.

In further review, perhaps I undervalued the value of Issues for Kennedy--that said, since Nixon actively benefits from gaining endorsements, where has Kennedy usually only gets POTENTIAL PREVENTATIVE value, I would argue that Nixon still should value endorsements higher. That said, the disparity may not be as much as I initially believed.
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Jason Martin
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What I have found is that you should soend your cubes to get the beswt you can for your money.

For example, why fight for New York, when you can spend less time, energy, and resources to take two states which combined are worth MORE than New York?

I feel the "battleground" states are best taken via debate wins/action cards, at least to break the carry.
 
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