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Subject: To play or to be played (negative playing experience) rss

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Bastian Winkelhaus
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I am not sure if this is suited as a review or should be posted as a session report, so forgive me if you don't find what your looking for.
I am not gonna expain all the rules of this game in detail, there are better reviews on this site already, but will sum up the important details:

The game consists of 60 cards divided into 4 differently coloured families of 15 cards each. Each of this families consists of 5 cards of strength 0, 4 cards of strength 1, 3 cards of strength 2, 2 cards of strength 3 and 1 card of strength 4.
At the start of the game, both players get 4 different family members of strength 0 each. The remaining cards are shuffled together, the top 6 cards are laid out as the starting street, the rest is laid aside as the deck.
The game is played until the deck is exhausted two times.

Before the first exhaustion, whenever there is no card with strength 0 in the street at the beginning of a turn, the active player may discard a card from the street and draw a number of new cards from the deck equal to the strength of the discarded card and add them to the street. If there still is no card of strength 0 in the street, he may repeat the process and so on.
This guarantees that there will always be a card to recruit during the first stage of the game, because you can always just take a 0-strength card.
To recruit a card with a higher strength (of value= n), you need to have 2 identical cards of value n-1. That means that at the start of the game you can only recruit cards with strength 1, since you start out with cards of strength 0 and only after taking a second cards of strength 0 of the same colour. Cards with strength 2,3 or 4 are meaningless to a starting player.
Also normally, you will need a pyramid of family members to reach the higher strength cards. After having 0-0 turn into 0-1 you cant go any further in that colour since you dont have two identical values anymore. So you would need to add another 0 for 0-0-1 which can turn into 0-1-1 which can turn into 0-1-2. And so on.
But of course the families have different special abilities and the most important is the green family. They can turn into jokers for any card with a lower strength. And with that ability you dont need a broader base anymore. So you can turn 0-0 into 0-1 into 1-1 into 1-2 into 2-2 into 2-3 and so on. And with a green 3, you can turn a single yellow 0 into a yellow 1 into a yellow 2 into a yellow 3. Without needing any other yellow card.


And here comes my major, MAJOR gripe with this game. I have played this game a couple of times online now and had this situation come up multiple times:

Imagine a starting street containing a green 0, a yellow 0, a green 1 and 3 other cards.

As my starting play, i recruit the green 0. Thats my whole turn, no choices yet.
On your turn, you recruit the yellow 0. Again, no choices yet.
On my turn, as there is no 0 on the table, i can discard a card from the street to draw new cards and add them to the street. First, if there is a yellow 1, i will discard that because you could play that if i dont. Then I will discard any non-green card, preferably of value 2 or 3 and add some cards until another 0-strength card will turn up. Then i will recruit the green 1 and be done.
On your turn, since there is no yellow 1 in sight, you will recruit the 0 card. You cant discard anything because there was a 0 to start with. Lets say you recruited a blue 0 this time.
On my turn, i will try and discard any yellow 1 or blue 1, again discarding till there is a 0 in play. If i cant discard all and have to leave one yellow 1 or blue 1 on the table, i will recruit that. Else i will try to recruit another green 1.
On your turn, you will again take the 0 card. Without any choice.

And thats how the game continues. I will discard all 1-strength card that might be useful to you and that i dont need. Once i got two green 1-strength cards i can recruit green-2 and so on.
I play the whole game for the both of us. I get all the "fun". Because all you can do on your turn is take whatever 0-strength card there is.
I play, you get played.
And that advantage is impossible to overcome in the second phase, until the deck is exhausted the second time.

If your somewhat familiar with the online site of yucata.de, [HERE] is a link to a prime example of such a game to look at. At the end of stage 1, my opponent has a total of 14 cards of strength-0 while i have green-3, green-3, blue-1, red-1, yellow-1 and blue-0. Thats 26 points against his 4.
In stage 2, i start to recruit cards worth 6 or 10 victory points while he starts taking cards worth 1 or 3. The final score was 99 to 42.
Another example [HERE], same story.

I am sure that even if both players know this procedure it wont happen in every game. But it happens often enough. And i certainly prefer to play a game then spending my time being played.
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Larry Levy
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I will take your word for it that something like this happened in a game you were in. But the odds of it occuring for more than a few turns are truly astronomical. The first few turns of Famiglia are set-up turns, so you shouldn't expect great strategic moves at that point. But most of the game is filled with interesting choices and occasionally some very clever moves. It's one of my top 10 games from last year; I'm sorry if it didn't work for you.
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Fraser
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I'd agree with Larry. The game does start slowly and both players will probably both remove cards that will benefit your opponent. The first few turns are very mechanical but you usually are then setting up future move or trying to destroy them for your opponent as you build your machine.

Once you have got some decent cards in your hand there are plenty of choices about which way you progress, do you generalise, or do you specialise in one of the families as you go?

That said it is a card game and sometimes the cards are going to fall in a way that one player is going to suffer, but since it only takes 20-30 minutes it doesn't really matter in the long run.

Also I have found it to be very much a love it or hate it game. Personally I am in the former camp, however my wife is in the latter, but luckily Daughter the Elder is with me meeple
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Friedemann Friese
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zlorfik wrote:
I am not sure if this is suited as a review or should be posted as a session report, so forgive me if you don't find what your looking for.
I am not gonna expain all the rules of this game in detail, there are better reviews on this site already, but will sum up the important details:

The game consists of 60 cards divided into 4 differently coloured families of 15 cards each. Each of this families consists of 5 cards of strength 0, 4 cards of strength 1, 3 cards of strength 2, 2 cards of strength 3 and 1 card of strength 4.
At the start of the game, both players get 4 different family members of strength 0 each. The remaining cards are shuffled together, the top 6 cards are laid out as the starting street, the rest is laid aside as the deck.
The game is played until the deck is exhausted two times.

Before the first exhaustion, whenever there is no card with strength 0 in the street at the beginning of a turn, the active player may discard a card from the street and draw a number of new cards from the deck equal to the strength of the discarded card and add them to the street. If there still is no card of strength 0 in the street, he may repeat the process and so on.
This guarantees that there will always be a card to recruit during the first stage of the game, because you can always just take a 0-strength card.
To recruit a card with a higher strength (of value= n), you need to have 2 identical cards of value n-1. That means that at the start of the game you can only recruit cards with strength 1, since you start out with cards of strength 0 and only after taking a second cards of strength 0 of the same colour. Cards with strength 2,3 or 4 are meaningless to a starting player.
Also normally, you will need a pyramid of family members to reach the higher strength cards. After having 0-0 turn into 0-1 you cant go any further in that colour since you dont have two identical values anymore. So you would need to add another 0 for 0-0-1 which can turn into 0-1-1 which can turn into 0-1-2. And so on.
But of course the families have different special abilities and the most important is the green family. They can turn into jokers for any card with a lower strength. And with that ability you dont need a broader base anymore. So you can turn 0-0 into 0-1 into 1-1 into 1-2 into 2-2 into 2-3 and so on. And with a green 3, you can turn a single yellow 0 into a yellow 1 into a yellow 2 into a yellow 3. Without needing any other yellow card.


And here comes my major, MAJOR gripe with this game. I have played this game a couple of times online now and had this situation come up multiple times:

Imagine a starting street containing a green 0, a yellow 0, a green 1 and 3 other cards.

As my starting play, i recruit the green 0. Thats my whole turn, no choices yet.
On your turn, you recruit the yellow 0. Again, no choices yet.
On my turn, as there is no 0 on the table, i can discard a card from the street to draw new cards and add them to the street. First, if there is a yellow 1, i will discard that because you could play that if i dont. Then I will discard any non-green card, preferably of value 2 or 3 and add some cards until another 0-strength card will turn up. Then i will recruit the green 1 and be done.
On your turn, since there is no yellow 1 in sight, you will recruit the 0 card. You cant discard anything because there was a 0 to start with. Lets say you recruited a blue 0 this time.
On my turn, i will try and discard any yellow 1 or blue 1, again discarding till there is a 0 in play. If i cant discard all and have to leave one yellow 1 or blue 1 on the table, i will recruit that. Else i will try to recruit another green 1.
On your turn, you will again take the 0 card. Without any choice.

And thats how the game continues. I will discard all 1-strength card that might be useful to you and that i dont need. Once i got two green 1-strength cards i can recruit green-2 and so on.
I play the whole game for the both of us. I get all the "fun". Because all you can do on your turn is take whatever 0-strength card there is.
I play, you get played.
And that advantage is impossible to overcome in the second phase, until the deck is exhausted the second time.

If your somewhat familiar with the online site of yucata.de, [HERE] is a link to a prime example of such a game to look at. At the end of stage 1, my opponent has a total of 14 cards of strength-0 while i have green-3, green-3, blue-1, red-1, yellow-1 and blue-0. Thats 26 points against his 4.


You are absolutely right, that your opponent had no other chance to get this 14 cards, because of the way the game went (and you played).
Maybe he was just convinced that he cannot win anymore, but he gave you at least the red-3 and red-4. He could have exchanged both cards. This were 25 points.

If you have to take only zeros in the first round, which means he had 14 cards and you only had 6 cards, he could have used a lot more combos than you, without running out of cards. So if he had played right, he would have been so fast in collecting better cards than you and you had to speed up the game.

Maybe he would not have won, but I've seen people winning from such a situation, because you had not enough zeros for the rest of the game to use a lot of combos.

The point is, he should have had played more against you (not possible in round 1, but in the beginning of round 2) and you would have had a more interesting game. I'm convinced.

friedemann


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Andy Andersen
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Do not give up on this game. You would regret it.thumbsup
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Bastian Winkelhaus
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friedemann wrote:

Maybe he was just convinced that he cannot win anymore, but he gave you at least the red-3 and red-4. He could have exchanged both cards. This were 25 points.

So if he had played right, he would have been so fast in collecting better cards than you and you had to speed up the game.


friedemann


The problem is that by exchanging the red 3 and red 4, my opponent would have speeded up the game himself. Its a dilemma. If you got so many resources (all the 0-cards) you need time to use them effectively. But by exchanging high cards from the street you shorten the time of the game yourself.
Thats why i am very sure that a comeback is impossible. Either you dont have enough time to use all your stuff or your opponent is getting far better cards than you.
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Charlie Chuckle
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I haven't seen any decent counters to this move yet. I'll post here if there is...

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Eric Brosius
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zlorfik wrote:
But by exchanging high cards from the street you shorten the time of the game yourself.


Why is this true? Do you know that when you exchange cards during the second run through the deck, you place the removed card under the deck?
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Bastian Winkelhaus
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Thats why i said by exchanging high cards.

If you exchange a 1 then nothing happens to the length of the game. You put the 1 under the deck and draw 1 new card.
But if you put a 3 or 4 under the deck, you draw 3 or 4 new cards, therefor making the deck smaller and thus shortening the time until the deck is empty.

I am still collecting more data to support my case, but so far i would say that about 50 % of my games were decided during stage 1 the way i described it. And thats way too much to call it an irregularity in my eyes.
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Fraser
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zlorfik wrote:

But if you put a 3 or 4 under the deck, you draw 3 or 4 new cards, therefor making the deck smaller and thus shortening the time until the deck is empty.

Unless I have the rules horribly wrong, there are three differences between the 1st time through the deck and the 2nd time through the deck:
d10-1 The 1st time through you can keep burning a card until there are one or more 0 cards in the street
d10-2 The 2nd time through you can only ditch one card from the street regardless of what cards you draw and
d10-3 The card ditched in the 2nd time through goes under the deck so the cards are either in the street or in the deck waiting to come back (sometimes many times).

In pretty much all of the games I have played it is still quite competitive right through the second deck, unless somebody flukes are really good engine early on.
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Cristian Cano
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The first time I played Famiglia I thought it was an OK game, that was in December. But now, after few plays on yucata, I have to admit I couldn't resist to buy a copy. I don't agree with zlorfik's theory. You forgot to say that your opponent also thinks and he's not forced to play along with that game flow. He could react against your playing style and put you against the wall.

I think in this game, experience is quite important... well almost in every game experience is important but one of the Famiglia hits is that even being a filler it's full of interesting decisions.

Famiglia is an amazing game I want to play everytime!
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The Steak Fairy
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I am the sort of gamer who falls into bad patterns as described in the review, and after only a couple of plays at Yucata I realized that there is so, so much more to this game than what I have brought to it thus far. I ordered my copy today and then, and only then, did I seek out reviews. (Actually linked to one from the store site at the moment.) Obviously my shopping strategy is as bad as my card strategy, but this game seems like absolute genius so far to me.

Slight update: This game, as implemented on Yucata.de, seems like absolute genius. I much prefer to play it was a game of almost entirely open information, as is the Yucata set-up.
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Charlie Chuckle
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Charliechuckleberry wrote:
I haven't seen any decent counters to this move yet. I'll post here if there is...



Ok, I've played a bunch of games and I don't see this pattern happening at all. Maybe I'm just not good enough to shut out my opponent early game, or maybe my opponents are not good enough to use this strategy.

Somehow, the OP is playing as an ahaucan or whatever is the highest possible rank. That does make games like connect 4 a bit less fun to play since these games can be solved.

Anyway, my point is that the randomness of the cards does offer a chance to dominate with the greens(clearly the most powerful), but it is highly not likely to happen if both players know about this strategy.
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Manuel Correa
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I also find that the existence of this strategy is a very important drawback in such an otherwise excellent game.

Maybe the rules should be revised, making it possible to always allow to discard one street card in the 1st phase, even if zeros are in the street.

It seems to me that would fix the problem, giving an efficient counter move.
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Bastian Winkelhaus
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bravucon wrote:
You forgot to say that your opponent also thinks and he's not forced to play along with that game flow. He could react against your playing style and put you against the wall.


That was my whole point. That the opponent IS forced to play along with that game flow. If theres just a 0 to take, you have to take it. Theres no other reaction.

Anyway, i collected some data, as promised, and i am here to present the results. I am just as curious as you:


Since posting this i finished a total of 17 games of Famiglia on yucata.de. My opponents were of very different skill levels, i would say 3 games against experts, a few against newbies and some more against medium experienced players.

In the games against the experts, both players were following the strategy i complained about (without me telling them beforehand, they knew it themselves).
In most other games, only I tried to force that flow of the game.

[Game 1]: I start, starting street is green 0,1,1 , red 1, blue 1,2. I take green 0. My opponent discards blue 2 and the following red 4 and takes the appearing blue 0.
Since he did not discard the green 1s but leaves them to me, i follow my game plan and when he gives up, i have green 4,3, yellow 2, red 1 and blue 0. My opponent has 13 0s.
If the starting blue 2 would have been a blue 0, i think the game would have been the same against any other player, even an expert.
NEGATIVE PLAYING EXPERIENCE, but opponent might have prevented it at start.

[Game 2]: I start, have to take a blue 0. My opponent is able to discard a few cards i would have been able to take but draws no matching cards for him. After i get a yellow and green 1 i get going. At end of stage 1, i have taken 3 0s and my opponent had to take 9. I have green 1,2, yellow 1,1, blue 1,0 and red 0. My opponent has 12 0s (as has to take the 13th 0 shortly after). My opponent does not discard during stage 2 to have more time. I win 74-41.
NEGATIVE PLAYING EXPERIENCE, no chance to avoid.

[Game 3]: In retrospect i dont understand my early play of not taking a yellow 1 when i could. After stage 1, i had taken 5 0s and my opponent had taken 6.
NORMAL GAME

[Game 4]: I start against an expert player. Starting street is green 2,3 and yellow 1,1,2,3. I discard yellow 3 and draw yellow 0, green 4 and red 0. I take yellow 0. He takes red 0. I discard green 4 and draw green 0 and blue 0 (and something else). I take green 0 and thats my last 0 i take. At end of stage 1, i have green 3,3, blue 2, red 3, yellow 0,1. My opponent had taken 10 0s and has blue 1,1, red 1 and 11 0s. Score is 45-9. He gives up shortly afterwards.
NEGATIVE PLAYING EXPERIENCE, no chance to avoid.

[Game 5]: After stage 1, i had taken 5 0s and my opponent had taken 7.
NORMAL GAME

[Game 6]: After stage 1, i had taken 5 0s and my opponent had taken 7.
NORMAL GAME

[Game 7]: My opponent starts, starting street is blue 0,1, red 2, yellow 2, green 1,3. My opponent has to take the 0. I discard blue 1, then the following red 3 and green 4 and draw another green 1, a red 0 and a blue 0 and 1. My opponent gets that blue 1 but not much else except 0s. In the end, i took 2 0s and my opponent took 9. At the end of stage 1, i have green 3,3,0, blue 2, red 2 and yellow 0. My opponent has red 1,1, blue 1,1 and 9 0s. Score 37-12 for me. End score is 118-37 for me.
NEGATIVE PLAYING EXPERIENCE, no chance to avoid.

[Game 8]: My opponent makes a mistake early on, maybe a misclick. He passes on his first turn instead of discarding or taking a card. He gives up when i have green 3,3, red 0,1, yellow 1 and blue 9 while he has 10 0s.
NEGATIVE PLAYING EXPERIENCE, but opponent might have prevented it at start.

[Game 9]: We both get to discard cards during the whole game and do so cleverly. I only took 4 0s and my opponent had to take 7 0s during stage 1 but it was still a
NORMAL GAME

[Game 10]: My opponent gets a few choices but i go into stage 2 with a clear advantage. I only took 4 0s and my opponent had to take 8. At end of stage 1 i have green 2,3, yellow 3, blue 0 and red 0. My opponent has blue 1,2, green 1 and 9 0s. Score is 27-10. At the end, its 83-39.
GAME WITH ELEMENTS OF NPE BUT SOME CHOICES TOO.

No time to finish this, will deliver the remaining 7 games later.
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Steve Duff
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I'm still unclear why this is going on, seems too weird, like something isn't being done correctly.

I notice the web page says "Note: This online implementation uses slightly changed rules!".

What rules did they change? Perhaps this is the source of the problem.
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Bastian Winkelhaus
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The only different rule is that your opponents cards are not hidden but open to see.

This is done because a game can be played over multiple days if both players are not online at the same time and its easier that way than have to remember everything.
Its easy to remember what your opponent took in a live game. It aint easy if your playing 10 games at a time over multiple days.
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Cristian Cano
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There is another change, in yucata you can recruit a x+1 green card with a x green card and a x,x+1,x+2,x+3 or x+4 green card.

In the original game, green cards can't be activated in order to recruit another green card, at least I understood that, and I like that rule.

I prefer the original game rules because that maintains the power of the mercenaries more or less at the same level as the other families.
 
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Sean Tompkins
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bravucon wrote:
There is another change, in yucata you can recruit a x+1 green card with a x green card and a x,x+1,x+2,x+3 or x+4 green card.

In the original game, green cards can't be activated in order to recruit another green card, at least I understood that, and I like that rule.

I prefer the original game rules because that maintains the power of the mercenaries more or less at the same level as the other families.


Actually, online Friedmann clarified that green's power CAN be used to recruit green - the English translation of the rulebook made it sound like you couldn't, but was incorrect.
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Sean Tompkins
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I have to say I've attempted the strategy online at yucata and found that it's pretty effective. I've had it used on me and it's pretty effective as well. I'm experimenting currently trying to figure out if there's a way to combat it.
 
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Albert Hernandez
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Couldn't player two just pass intead of taking the 0 cards? If he keeps passing, you might get some non-0 cards but sooner you'll have to take that 0 and it should re-open the game for him.
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Fraser
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If player 2 passes, then player 1 makes the calculation whether or not he or she has more points and may also choose to pass and end the game (if I am remembering the rules correctly). I have never seen somebody risk passing cool
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R. Sangalang
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Any update on how to combat this phenomenon?
 
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Charlie Chuckle
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I've played about twenty games so far, and 90% of the games this strategy failed (or never happened). They only worked because the opponent was terrible to begin with. Most opponents countered this easily. Also, 100% of the time, the opponent failed to use this strategy against me or never used this strategy verses me.

There is a counter to this strategy thou. It is to grab a variety of the yellow/green cards and prevent the opponent from grabbing any yellows. Holding the yellows works similar to the greens, and it will come down to luck thou. You can easily grab the red 4 before the opponent, and prevent the opponent from grabing any huge points later game by discarding and grabbing them first.


My final verdict? You cannot be played if you are a good player and you cannot play a good player. This scenario is horribly rare if both players are equally skilled.
 
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Charliechuckleberry wrote:

There is a counter to this strategy thou. It is to grab a variety of the yellow/green cards and prevent the opponent from grabbing any yellows.


From the above posts, it seems that the first half of the game is forced, and then after the reshuffle, you are proposing that the counter is to grab a variety of yellow/green cards. Is this correct?

I guess I'm more concerned about the first half of the game being forced due to this strategy. If it was easily beatable, then that would discourage a player to start the game off this way. If it's not easily beatable, then I'm wondering if it gives enough advantage to attempt it every game.

Charliechuckleberry wrote:

Also, 100% of the time, the opponent failed to use this strategy against me or never used this strategy verses me.

I'm not sure what you mean by this statement. It seems to me that 100% of the time an opponent used or didn't use this strategy, and failed at using it when they did? At what point did they fail? Was it after the reshuffle? Was it after you drew a decent number of zero's already?

 
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