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Here's a game I played recently. It's notable, not because of spectacular play on my part, but simply because a potential disaster was, by good fortune, turned into one of the prettier tableaux I've seen. There's at least one HUGE error on my part, and I'm still not sure what I was thinking. We'll chalk it up to the fact that often I multitask when I play, games span an entire day or two, and I check in on a game for about 30 seconds at a time. Enough about that. Here's the game:
I like New Sparta for the REBEL Goal, but it offers no source of card flow and I have only Prosperous World I can settle. Prosperous World and Free Trade Association have obvious synergy, but offer little for the price this early so they both end up in the garbage. Explore/Explore with New Sparta and Settle/Trade Deserted ALIEN Colony Turn 2 if nothing better shows is a viable option, but it's not what I do. The potential synergy of Ancient Race, Pan-Galactic League, REBEL Pact, Clandestine UPLIFT Lab appeals to me and Ancient Race is currently my best source of card flow so that's what I keep. In retrospect, I probably should have kept Deserted ALIEN Colony and dumped Clandestine UPLIFT Lab.
He reveals REBEL Cantina for his start world. Well, Trade/Producing just went out the window. I've seen REBEL Miners come out first turn way too many times. I choose Explore+1+1/Trade. I've got one of the Pacts. I suppose that's a good sign. But still, he could do anything. He goes with Settle/Trade.
On my Explore I find more green stuff and the other Pact (which I chuck). A Contact Specialist is looking really good right now.
With nothing I can afford to Settle, I miss it. He plunks down Smuggling Lair and we both Trade. I find expensive stuff and junk.
I like Lost Species Ark World, but I'm being greedy and defensive (again). Instead of the better Settle/Produce (which is a phase pair I generally don't like to call), I go with Explore/Settle. There's always a chance that he'll call Produce for me. He doesn't. He Settle/Trades again.
My Explore doesn't offer too much in the way of direction. I keep SETI and R&D Crash and pull Prospecting Guild on my Settle bonus after dumping all the garbage from my last Trade plus Clandestine UPLIFT Lab. I've got some nice cards, but with the REBEL goal in play and his Cantina start, I really don't like the idea of Producing a lot to generate the cards necessary to get them out. And again, I've got no worlds I can Settle.
Here I definitely should have Explore/Produced or Dev/Produced. I don't even know what I was thinking, but I go with Explore/Develop. He calls Dev/Settle.
I was going to play Pan-Galactic League, but my Explore shows 2 XXXX UPLIFT Races and UPLIFT Gnarssh! That's when I decide to go for broke. I am going to get one of those 3 Contact Specialists, darn it! I Dev R&D and again I am forced to skip a Settle. He puts down some military and ALIEN Rosetta Stone World.
I finally bite the bullet and call Dev/Produce. I'll snag the 6-dev Goal (at least share it), gain 4 cards, and I'll be able to Trade the next 2 turns if I need to. I know I'll miss the guaranteed ALIEN Settle, but I need to be more aggressive than I have been.
Another Settle/Trade from him. That's annoying, but I deserve it.
He skips my Dev and gives me a little hope that I might still be in the game. Then he Trades off of Lost ALIEN Warship and I Produce on it for him. Meanwhile, my Produce gives me junk. Again. Merchant World has potential, I suppose, but not enough to make me happy.
I need to see some new cards here. I at least need to find some military. So I go with Explore+5/Trade. He's got a hand full of fresh cards and could do whatever. I expect a big Dev or Settle and Trade. He Dev/Trades.
My Explore is not good. I keep ATS just for kicks.
On his Dev I put all hope in a Contact Specialist and put REBEL Pact in my tableau. He Develops a less-than-threatening Diversified Economy. If he hits Galactic Exchange he'll have a good scorer, but I don't plan on Producing for him anymore anyway. We both Trade.
On my Trade, I finally see the card I've been hoping for all game, the card that will put me in business. Well, I know I'm Developing next turn.
I'm not sure why I don't choose Settle here, but I choose the big Explore instead. He's got a mitt full cards and could do anything. I expect builds. He Dev/Settles.
I see a bunch of junk on my Explore+5 as well as Gene Designers and, more importantly, UPLIFT Code.
I Develop my Contact Specialist and he puts down TERRAFORMING Robots. I Settle an UPLIFT Race while he manages REBEL Colony.
He's got 9 cards in a relatively directionless tableau and I've finally got the key to the city in play.
I call Dev/Trade. If he leeches my Dev and Settle/Settles the game will end, but I'll play both my UPLIFT Races and that's fine. If the game goes another turn, I'll need some new cards. He Dev/Settles. Fine by me.
I put down the Code while he Devs Trade League. It's a nice leech, but way too late in the game for him to really benefit from any such tricksiness. XXXX UPLIFT Race enters my tableau giving me the UPLIFT Goal while he puts down Pirate World for a Trade of 6 cards. I find REBEL Alliance on my Trade and am fully satisfied, but it would have been awesome to score Galactic Genome Project here.
So here it is. Game end. I'm guessing Settles from him because he's got the military and wants the REBEL Goal. I choose Explore/Dev so I can afford Alliance and leech them. He does choose Settle/Settle and that's that.
With an Improved Logistics or TERRAFORMING Guild he might have come close, but he puts out Galactic Advertisers and I start to genuinely feel bad. I haven't bothered to look back at his cards, but it seems he must have had quite a few bad draws.
I Settle my 8 point XXXX UPLIFT Race while he puts down REBEL Base. The second Settle is REBEL Miners for me (the card I was so worried he had back at the beginning) and ALIEN UPLIFT Center for him.
Maybe I should have Settle/Produced just for fun.