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Subject: Unfair Advantage of Lighthouse for Corn Starter? rss

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Jared Heng
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My friends and I (4 players) have been playing PR for over a year now.We don't claim to be experts but everyone is pretty good with normally a difference of only 5 or less VPs from the winner.Recently,someone (player 4 with corn started using a lighthouse+harbor strategy and won the game with a difference of 20-plus VPs over the starting indigo producers.The difference with that of the other corn producer was really close.

Out of curiosity,I tried a similar stategy on myself at home and everytime the corn producers outmatched the indigo producers when player 4 takes the lighthouse early in the game.During this experiment,I kept the usual strategies of my friends in mind because I know their style of play.As player 1,I started the game by taking settler+corn or settler+quarry if there was no corn in the first plantation draw.Player 4 would normally choose sugar over tobacco/coffee to make an early sale.Player 2 took builder and Players 3 and 4 got small markets.Player 3 took mayor and player 4 prospector.Note that now player 4 has $3.Player 1 (me) got a small indigo plant to allow flexibility in strategy and $2 to spare.

Player 2 starts the 2nd round by taking mayor in order to start production.Player 3 crafts and player 4 sells the corn for $2(Occupied small market+trader).Note that player 4 now has $5 while players 1 & 3 have $2 and player 2 $1.

Player 3 starts the 3rd round by taking builder to get a tobacco storage.Player 4 builds a small sugar mill for only $2 leaving him with $3.(This assumes that no more sugar plantations appear during the first 3 draws and hence an early sugar monopoly) From this point,players 1 & 2 are limited to a mass production strategy because there are no cash boosting violet buildings left to buy with $1 or $2.(both small markets taken by corn producers)They could save the cash for a lighthouse but that would likely be unwise because their production would suffer.Not long after,either corn player gets the lighthouse/library first and starts earning the cash for a harbor/wharf.By this time the indigo producers may have bought a lighthouse/harbor but that would be too late to stop a cash crop+lighthouse+harbor
combination.Is there any way the indigo producers can get around this starting disadvantage or at least neutralize the corn player's early advantage?Please help!Thanks!
 
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Golden Lotus
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Re:Unfair Advantage of Lighthouse for Corn Starter?
prgeek (#486492),

The first thing that struck me is that if the trouble is that the cash boosting buildings (i.e. Small Markets) are going to seat 3 and 4, player 2 should build one of them 1st turn, at least preventing player 4 getting one. Sure you want the small indigo plant as well but that will still be there next builder phase and those early craftsman phases will hopefully be loaded onto a ship, so all you miss out on is a few VPs whereas the boost to player 2's economy is significant.

David
 
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Nick Boyd
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Re:Unfair Advantage of Lighthouse for Corn Starter?
As player 1,I started the game by taking settler+corn or settler+quarry if there was no corn in the first plantation draw.

Many players, including myself, consider settler/quarry better than settler/corn in first seat. And if you're trying to beat heavy shippers you're going to have to outbuild them.

Player 2 took builder and Players 3 and 4 got small markets.

In most cases, if Player 2 builds he should take a small market. I've had some success by skipping it but more often than not it hurts. In your case, if you know Player 4 is having an easy time of getting to the lighthouse don't let him get a market.

Player 2 starts the 2nd round by taking mayor in order to start production.Player 3 crafts and player 4 sells the corn for $2(Occupied small market+trader).Note that player 4 now has $5 while players 1 & 3 have $2 and player 2 $1.

Right here is where you're biggest problem lies. Under no circumstances should you hand a $2 corn trade to someone on the second turn of the game. Many people like for Player 2 to take trader to start the second round to keep this from happening. Either way, neither Player 2 or Player 3 should craft before trader is taken.

Player 3 starts the 3rd round by taking builder to get a tobacco storage.Player 4 builds a small sugar mill for only $2 leaving him with $3.

Doing what I said above also allows Player 1 to take builder to prevent a tobacco storage coming out this early to Player 3.

From this point,players 1 & 2 are limited to a mass production strategy because there are no cash boosting violet buildings left to buy with $1 or $2.

When going against heavy shippers building is the answer. Don't try to outship them cause you'll probably help them more than yourself.

These are just a few suggestions to help your play but I don't know if it will ever get very easy for Players 1 and 2 in the set. You mentioned having lighthouse/harbor/wharf all being in the game and obviously that is going to help the shippers (I consider Players 3 and 4 to be the better shipping seats). Normally, heavy shippers are going to be cash poor but the lighthouse negates that. Adding in more shipping buildings just makes that even worse.
 
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Jim Campbell
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I agree with Nick, there are some sub-optimal moves being made by the first two players. Indigo players need to keep their nerve and carefully maintain parity or a lead in the cash race. It does come around eventually, but only if they stay even or ahead in money and buildings. Read Alexfrog's article about PR opening strategy to understand why the main line works the way it does.

The lighthouse is simply too strong. I only play with it occasionally as a non-serious variation. The problem with it (especially if the black market is also available) is that one can use the craft/captain cycle to simultaneously build a VP lead while also making as much or more money than the other players. The tension between those two efforts early in the game is supposed to be a tradeoff; the lighthouse makes doing both of them simultaneously very effective.

Jim
 
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Jared Heng
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Thanks for the feedback.I tried it out again and this time player 1 takes the builder and gets a small market.Player 2 does likewise.Player 2 then takes the settler and a corn (if available),otherwise a quarry.This forces the corn producers to take the mayor and craftsman/prospector respectively to start production while denying them easy cash at the start.I think the delay in indigo production is not significant at this point and things evened out a little.
 
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Jared Heng
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And if you're trying to beat heavy shippers you're going to have to outbuild them.


I think your view is that from a corn producer's standpoint and I also employ a similar strategy as a corn producer.However,I also think that it depends on the playing style of the players and the seating arrangements.I present my evaluation here from an indigo player's standpoint.Most of my wins were as a corn starter and not as an indigo player and my hope was to improve on my indigo production skills!Corn starters normally employ a cash crop+building rather than a heavy shipping strategy unless they somehow manage to get hold of lots of corn and a wharf which is unlikely against seasoned players.Indigo players normally employ a heavy shipping strategy to outmatch or at least even the scoring with cash rich corn producers.It is thus a race to end the game on their own terms,either by heavy shipping (no more VPs) or building on the last city space. Having said that,I have not yet tried out the new suggested starting moves and this may prove critical to delaying any early cash advantage of the corn producers or perhaps even influence them to re-think their tried and true cash crop+building strategies.

Right here is where you're biggest problem lies. Under no circumstances should you hand a $2 corn trade to someone on the second turn of the game. Many people like for Player 2 to take trader to start the second round to keep this from happening. Either way, neither Player 2 or Player 3 should craft before trader is taken.

I agree that is a great idea in evening things out a little.But I think if player 2 is not me,the challenge is to convince him to take the trader and delay indigo production for 2 consecutive governor rounds!I have not tried it out yet in an actual game but I hope it works!

About the lighthouse,(THE)player 4 in that game usually employs a diversified rather than a specialized production strategy.This combined with his seating arrangement to player 1's (my) right means that it may be unwise for player 1 to employ a similar diversified strategy because player 4 on his right would normally ship before him.However,the lighthouse favors a diversified strategy and this may be incompatible with player 1's specialization strategy even though he needs a cash boost to even out the cash advantage of the corn producers.Still,in the hands of player 4,it seems more as a defensive move by player 1 to acquire the lighthouse first even though it is still useful for his cash needs.In any case,I welcome all feedback from any such game experience.

 
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Yehuda Berlinger
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prgeek wrote:
I agree that is a great idea in evening things out a little.But I think if player 2 is not me,the challenge is to convince him to take the trader and delay indigo production for 2 consecutive governor rounds!I have not tried it out yet in an actual game but I hope it works!


If there is a flaw in Puerto Rico, this is it at its most glaring. If player 2 does not take Small Market in round 1, and especially Trader as his role in round 2, the game is handed on a silver platter to player 4. This doesn't mean that player 4 will necessarily win, but he has been given a huge advantage.

If people play the game concentrating only on what happens to them during a phase, e.g. player 2 takes Mayor because "I want to man my indigo", rather than considering the advantages their selection gives to other players, they will lose. When playing with that type of person, you have to adjust your strategy and hope to be the one he is handing out gifts to.

In any case, player 2 loses almost nothing and gains a great deal by delaying indigo plant until round 3. He is never going to trade that indigo, and the measly 1 VP he gets for shipping it in round 2 or 3 is nothing compared to the 5 or 6 gold pieces he is going to earn from taking a role with a dubloon in round 2 (Trader) and the benefit of Small Market.

Yehuda
 
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Robert Birks
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Builder small market does not appear to me to be a good first choice. While the small market is good building, it will be several rounds before player 1 is in a position to use it (at least 1 more build phase followed by 1-2 mayors). In contrast, settler - quarry becomes active as soon as a mayor phase happens. During the game, you might get to use the small market 4-5 times if you are lucky. In contrast, the quarry will save you 1 gold on as many as 10 buildings, a far better proposition.


Settler - corn is a bit closer to settler-quarry, but while corn is valuable, I still would never choose it over a quarry as player 1.

As other people have pointed out, the bigger mistakes came in Round 2. By choosing mayor, player two is gaining precisely nothing. Sure he gets to produce and sell 1 indigo for 1 gold, but he could get that gold by taking trader or propector (trader a better option), without giving other players money.

In many of my recent games against experienced opponents, it has been very hard to make any significant trades early in the game. In many of the games, no trade at all has been made in the first 4+ rounds, due to good defensive play by opponents. This definitely devalues the small market, and boosts a quarry in value.
 
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Jared Heng
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Builder small market does not appear to me to be a good first choice. While the small market is good building, it will be several rounds before player 1 is in a position to use it (at least 1 more build phase followed by 1-2 mayors). In contrast, settler - quarry becomes active as soon as a mayor phase happens. During the game, you might get to use the small market 4-5 times if you are lucky. In contrast, the quarry will save you 1 gold on as many as 10 buildings, a far better proposition.

I think there are two issues that were highlighted through all the feedback.One is the issue of role choice for the indigo producers and the other the power of the lighthouse.PR is a very dynamic game with many different variables and some randomness as well in the plantation draws.You are right that building a small market does not seem to be a useful first choice for player 1.I think of it more as a defensive early game move to deprive one or both corn players from making an easy sale.I tried it out as an experiment and it worked reasonably well for me because it resulted in one or both corn producers having to save up for their tobacco or coffee roster (assuming this is their normal playing style as it is in my group)Also,the victory points and cash earned were fairly equal in the early game.However,as time passed,one or both corn producers somehow end up with more cash to purchase a lighthouse first.The effect of early defensive role taking is only to delay the corn player's sale for as long as possible until the indigo players are able to evolve a suitable strategy for the situation.

While a quarry is definitely useful,games have been won without even the use of a single quarry.Quarries are useful when you have some cash and only require that $1 or $2 more to purchase that needed building.On the other hand,I have seen players do massive selling (even with defensive play involved) with their markets and office combined and this more than makes up for any lack of quarry.

While taking the settler at the start grants you a quarry,it also means that the other players may get another corn or even a sugar plantation.This happened in quite a few games I playedlayer 4 to the right of Player 1 (me) gets the only sugar plantation,gets a small sugar mill running and sells even without the small market!That alone rakes in the cash and if he had the small market,no one else would be able to match his early cash boost.It seems that the best thing player 2 in round 2 can do is to take the trader and delay indigo production.This in effect will limit the cash earned by player 4.

As other people have pointed out, the bigger mistakes came in Round 2. By choosing mayor, player two is gaining precisely nothing. Sure he gets to produce and sell 1 indigo for 1 gold, but he could get that gold by taking trader or propector (trader a better option), without giving other players money.

As both Yehuda and yourself have pointed out,player 2 should not take the mayor in starting round 2.I agree that should be so.My group have been playing in this manner for a long time and giving the corn players too great an advantage at the start.Of course,they don't always win but their advantage was significant.I guess the only concern is for the other indigo player besides myself to re-think his role taking during the first 3 rounds.

About the lighthouse issue,after many games,I think it is too powerful a building and should be replaced by a factory instead.
 
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Nick Boyd
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After reading your most recent comments I have to say that I think your group is in the stage of heavy groupthink. No, quarries are not necessary to win but if you think they are not that useful then your group is problably doing a lot of crafting and selling and not as much building.

You should try to play games against some varied opponents. I think you'll find out with different opponents that things aren't going to play out the same way every time.
 
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Jared Heng
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You should try to play games against some varied opponents. I think you'll find out with different opponents that things aren't going to play out the same way every time.

I think my group is pretty varied with 2 players normally pursuing a mass production strategy while the other 2 engage in a building strategy.I have also played with different people outside my group and they have their own unique strategies.I think what my group really needs to improve upon is not to focus too much on our own strategies and not paying enough attention to how one's role choices can benefit other players more than oneself especially during the early game.Sometimes,taking a role may be beneficial and logical to the player but this very same choice could benefit the opponents even more.In a sense,ours is more a problem of self-think rather than group-think!
 
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Jim Campbell
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prgeek,

One very excellent and persistent source of opponent variety is the Brettspielwelt server at www.brettspielwelt.de. Probably more than half the games played there feature openings built on the "main line" of optimal moves, which is a necessary adaptation there in order for players to remain competitive.

Jim
 
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Jared Heng
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Thanks,Jim.Maybe I'll give it a try.
 
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