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Colonial: Europe's Empires Overseas» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Openings For Colonialism: Europe's Empires Overseas rss

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Jesse Dean
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First, lets take a look at the potential colonizable locations in the world:



Name Difficulty Native Power Good Categories Good Names
Levant 2 6 1 Fine Fabrics
Egypt 2 5 1 Cotton
Barbary 2 4 1 Salt
West Africa 3 3 3, 10 Slaves, Gold
Angola 4 2 10 Slaves
South Africa 4 3 1 Agriculture
Mozambique 4 2 10 Slaves
Ethopia 4 2 1 Agriculture
Congo 6 N/A N/A N/A
Arabia 4 2 1 Coffee
Persia 4 5 1 Rugs
India 4 7 6, 7, 8 Opium, Silk, Tea
Indochina 4 4 7 Silk
East Indies 4 2 4 Spices
China 4 8 1, 6, 7, 8 China, Opium, Silk, Tea
Japan 5 4 9 Precious Metals
Australia 7 2 9 Precious Metals

The New World:
Canada 5 2 5 Furs
New England 5 2 5 Furs
Wild West 6 2 5 Furs
California 7 2 9 Precous Metals
New France 4 3 2 American Cotton
West Indies 3 1 2 Tobacco
New Spain 4 3 3 Gold
Guyanas 4 2 9 Precious Metals
Brazil 4 2 2 Sugar Cane
Peru 5 4 3 Gold
La Plata 5 2 10 Precious Metals
Amazonia 6 N/A N/A N/A

Circumnavigation 6 N/A N/A N/A


So, based on this information and those items previously mention in my Strategic Glossary thread I think there are at least three primary early strategies in this game. I am sure that there are a few more that I am missing, but these are the ones that stand out based on an early look at the game.


Early Technology
During the early game you should take the Scientist action pretty much every round: the benefits provided by researching technologies are too high and the number of useful roles is too low not to do so. The question is what technologies do you want to research? Economy Technology, while useful later does not provide much of an advantage in the early game and is generally not worth the cost, both opportunity and financial to do so. Naval technology, while potentially useful for some strategies I have not examined, seems like more of a trap that will leave you a bit behind in your economy. So like Economy technology, it seems like it would be better a bit later on. This leaves Logistics and Seafaring technology as good early buys.

Implications of Technological Research – Pure Seafaring
Researching exploration technology during the first two rounds is fairly cheap. You can get to level 2 with your starting money, leaving you in a good position for what I consider two primary strategies: The New World Gambit and the East Indies Colony.

Both the New World Gambit and the East Indies Colony have a similar first round. On the first round with this strategy your probable action selection will be: Scientist (Exploration Technology), costing 1 treasury; Explorer to grab something fairly easy, perhaps one of the 2 difficulty locations automatically, or one of the 3s or 4s if you want a slight bit of risk, and then Merchant/Trader in order to get some treasuries. Potentially someone else will have also established a trading post at the same time you take Merchant/Trader allowing you to get some additional resources into the market and then treasuries at the cost of also helping them along. I am not sure how optimal it is to do so, as you benefit them along the way, but the early money can definitely be very valuable. Alternatively, if you are willing to take a little bit of risk and go after Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, or Arabia you could use your second and third first round actions to place a viceroy and establish a colony, this has the advantage of immediately giving you a locked in source of income, at the price of their being a 34% chance that you fail to gain a first round location.

The next round depends on your strategy. The first action of the second round for both will be to spend 2 treasuries in order to increase your Seafaring technology to level 2. The second action will vary. For the East Indies Colony you want to immediately go for Exploration, you have an 83% chance of getting to the Spice Islands, and those are good enough to take some slight risks. The third action for this strategy is to Viceroy in order to put one more treasure disk on the Spice resource, and the fourth one will be to claim it with Conqueror. Your final action of the round is going to vary depending on whether anyone else was nice enough to merchant some of your resources. If they were, you should trade, if not you should merchant.

For the New World Gambit, you only have a 50% shot of success, so it is probably a good idea to try to minimize the risk of a wasted action. So your second and third actions of the round should be something safe like merchant or trade. The fourth action should be Exploration, with the goal of getting the West Indies and your fifth action, if you succeed should be establishing a colony there. If someone else beats you there, and it is quite possible that someone will decide the risk of losing actions is worth the bonus of getting the West Indies and the bonus prestige of new world discovery, you now have an entire continent of delicious goods open for exploring, and a number of useful locations you can go to establish yourself.

After this both strategies have quite a bit of flexibility. It is quite likely you will have a monopoly with the New World Gambit, and you will definitely have one with the East Indies Colony, as there is only one category 4 resource on the board. Continued exploration and establishment of hard to get colonies is probably a good idea, but you could also get level 3 in Seafaring and take a shot at Circumnavigation of the world for another big prestige boost.

Implications of Technological Research – Pure Logistics

Pure logistics, researching Logistics on both of the first two rounds, provides you with a lot of options, some of them offensive and the other ones a bit more innocuous.

For the first round of the game your probable actions are Explorer (to grab Egypt, Barbary, or West Africa before anyone else does), Scientist (Logistics) increasing it to 2 and costing 2 treasuries, and Financier in order to have 10 treasuries to play with, as this is a cash-intensive strategy. This is where things become rather interesting. It is possible at this point that more exploration-focused players will have explored a location that only has two native power and thus is open to seizing. You could quite possible then spend a Viceroy action to place 2 resources in one of these territories, and finish off with conqueror in order to cap it off with a Conqueror to finish the round. If not you can easily just use your last action for a merchant in order to put items into the market for later. Unfortunately by doing this, you leave yourself vulnerable to losing the colony you established yourself in at the beginning of the round and you make yourself more vulnerable and less able to wage war.

The second round is very similar to the first. At this point you have enough logistical power, thanks to purchasing the second level of logistics, that you can easily establish a 1 Viceroy action colony in many of the parts of the world and also have a strong potential to be able to make an eventual play for either China or India. For the time being you probably should try to get a pay-off for one of the high native power colonies that I recommended for the first round (the Levant, Egypt, or the Barbary) in order to get an immediate cash re-infusion. You can also continue with your predatory ways, and try to seize further territories from the exploration focused characters. You should be careful however. As these players are also going to be likely taking the Viceroy/Rebel action in order to establish their own colonies, if you take these options away from them then they will probably have enough motivation to go for the more destructive side of Viceroy/Rebel and throw a rebellion marker on both your newly seized colony and your home board. This will force you to either take a largely suboptimal Sovereign action, as you are unlikely to have any good targets to launch a war against, or get drowned in debt and face a potential revolution.

Implications of Technological Research – Hybridization
Taking one level of Seafaring the first round and a level of Logistics the second round also leaves some delicious options on the table, but requires you to accept a slightly higher amount of risk in order to play it optimally. The nice thing about this strategy though is that you have a lot of flexibility. It is quite easy to play the first round functionally identical to the pure exploration strategy and not decide until round 2 if you want to go for Logistics level 2 or Seafaring level 3 due to their identical prices.

So as stated, your first round will end up being fairly similar to that of a pure exploration strategy. The difference is that your primary targets are going to be the locations that have 2 or 3 native power, in other words, locations that you can claim a first round or early second round colony. If you go for one of those locations that have 2 native power, you leave open the temptation for a Pure Logistics player to attempt to seize the territory you explored. However, you can do so with the expectation that if one of those Logistical brutes takes it you will move towards a pure Exploration strategy, fleeing for the new world after sparking Rebellions in their homeland, and if not then you have some flexibility. Alternatively, if you go for a location with 3 native power than there is much less of a temptation for them. It is unlikely that they will seize it from you before you get your colony and it is probably not worth the diplomatic impact of fighting you for it. In the second round, if you stick with this strategy, you probably want to start by researching Logistics. However, you want to save your Explorer for the third or fourth action as this allows you to potentially seize some opportunities provided by someone succeeding at the New World Gambit. Once someone gets into the West Indies there are a number of attractive territories you can get to in one round, with New Spain being the most valuable and the one most suited for your particular combination of early Technologies.


The Later Game
As I have not yet played the game, it is tough to see how exactly the game will progress from this early canvas I have presented. I suspect there will be a bit of diversification of technologies after this, with people either diversifying onto the Logistics or Seafaring lines, or perhaps adding some Economic Technology, particularly if they want to make a play for India or China, or Naval Technology to their mix.

I am particularly interested to see how the more conflict-prone parts of the game will play out. The Viceroy/Rebel dichotomy is particularly interesting because by selecting the card you have a bit of an implied threat: “Prevent me from establishing the counters required for me to create a colony and you will get have to deal with some angry rebels.” I am not sure if this will be enough to stymie a lot of aggressive actions, but it should at least cause someone to think twice before being completely predatory, otherwise they will be stuck in a situation where they lose precious actions.


The trajectory of the game is such that it can be over in as few as five rounds. If a player is able to successfully explore and establish a colony every round, then that is how long it will take to hit the magic 10 prestige number. I suspect that it will turn out that this is a theoretical minimum than an actual one, as it requires luck and lack of interference from other players, but it should give you an idea of what to expect.

Conclusion
So there you have it. Just reading the rules and thinking about it a bit leaves you with a good idea of the strategic potential of this game. The designer has created a pretty broad environment upon which we are going to be able to explore and I am particularly looking forward to see what will come of it. Late October/Early November can’t come soon enough!
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Siegfried Steurer
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Ingo Griebsch
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Thanks (again), Jesse. Reading your articles about the game want me play the game even more...
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Tim Seitz
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I am particularly concerned by the effect of Domestic Revolution.

Quote:
4. Domestic Revolution: if a player has 4 or more Unrest markers on his Nation board at the start of the Endeavour phase, he must discard his entire Treasury, and is only allowed to play the Last Chance card.

Seems like if a player is perceived to get even a slight lead, the other players should just knock him out of the game with Rebel.

You can only get rid of at most 2 unrest tokens per turn: 2 by Conquering and sending pariahs or 1 by using the Sovereign.

Once you get 4, that essentially shuts you down since you lose all your treasury and can only take 1 action.
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Jesse Dean
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I can see very few situations where that would be in everyone's best interests. Also: there are a lot of games where if everyone teams up on a single player, that player will lose. This game is no different in that regard.
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Tim Seitz
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doubtofbuddha wrote:
I can see very few situations where that would be in everyone's best interests.

I dunno, I can see this happening every game. If someone is about to win, it's in everyone else's best interest to stop them. This has the double effect of shutting down the leader AND prolonging the game so someone else can win. The times that it would be less likely to happen were if everyone were really close so that they all felt like they all still had chances to win.

Quote:
Also: there are a lot of games where if everyone teams up on a single player, that player will lose. This game is no different in that regard.

Even in a political game like Dominant Species. The other players can attack you, but they can't eliminate your actions.

I think the impact in this instance is quite a bit more severe. It wouldn't surprise me if the rule was intended that after your domestic revolution, your unrest tokens were removed.
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Jesse Dean
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Ah. Yeah I just assumed they went away afterward. I take it that is not actually in the rules?

I do see your point how if everyone is very far behind in the game it may end up being in their best interests to just hit the leader, though.

The question is how frequently will people be so far behind that that will happen?
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Tim Seitz
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doubtofbuddha wrote:
Ah. Yeah I just assumed they went away afterward. I take it that is not actually in the rules?

I searched every reference to "unrest" and did not find anything about it. And I was specifically looking for it!

doubtofbuddha wrote:
I do see your point how if everyone is very far behind in the game it may end up being in their best interests to just hit the leader, though.

The question is how frequently will people be so far behind that that will happen?

Well, I am perhaps more acutely sensitive to this because I am a priority target in our local metagame. "Get Tim," is a commonly used phrase around here.

It also depends on the degree that open negotiation is allowed. I don't mind it, so our games would probably entail more cohesive, organized attacks on a perceived leader.

If the unrest went away after the Revolution, or if Sovereign and Conqueror were not on the same card (so you could use them both to combat Rebel attacks), then I don't think it would be as big of an issue for me. Of course, all of this is purely theoretical. (But not for long!)
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Jesse Dean
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Ah. Well that is something I feel comfortable house ruling, if it turns out it is not simply an oversight in the rules. Frankly, I can't see how that isn't an oversight in the rules since not removing all the unrest counters simply takes someone out of the game.

How did the rules look to you otherwise?
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doubtofbuddha wrote:
Ah. Well that is something I feel comfortable house ruling, if it turns out it is not simply an oversight in the rules. Frankly, I can't see how that isn't an oversight in the rules since not removing all the unrest counters simply takes someone out of the game.

So, you see where I am coming from. At least we're in agreement on the potential fix.

I'll admit that this is momentarily theoretical, and as I said earlier, rules can be deceptive, so I don't want to completely judge a game based on that. It may be that the game moves too fast for people to worry about Rebel, since Viceroy is on the same card. Of course, it may also be just the opposite.

doubtofbuddha wrote:
How did the rules look to you otherwise?

Well, apart from this unrest business, I liked the abstraction of everything down to the counter level. A wooden counter = treasury/merchants/navies/goods/trading posts, purely depending on where they are. It appears very elegant. If this were an FFG game, we'd have unique tokens and minis for everything! It would be very cumbersome.

The economic cooperation model appeals to me. You benefit from having a colony and controlling the resources, but you benefit more if there are other folks in the territory with you.

I like how wars are conducted on all fronts. But honestly, they appear so potentially destructive across all of those fronts that I can hardly imagine it being a path to victory. The rules suggest that you should ensure you are ahead of your victim in every area.* But if you are so far ahead of them, then why would you ever bother declaring war? Granted it's a 2-prestige swing against them, but it looks to severely weaken your position.

Loans seem very dangerous, though. If someone took a loan, I could easily see players throwing down Rebel on them. This makes it very difficult to pay the loan back and potentially knocks them out.


* I predict it will actually be wisest to declare war when you have nothing in certain areas (e.g., no treasury and no goods). This way you do not have to fight in those categories and won't suffer losses. Then it's just territory and Navy.
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Jesse Dean
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Yeah, I don't see wars happening that often, due to their great risk, and when they do occur they will be in the circumstances you describe, when you have strong advantages in two areas and nothing in the other areas to perform. It is neat how elegant the wars are. They are impactful without having a gigantic number of rules subsystems added to the game to deal with them. They seem like they will be tense without taking the game over.

I think loans are kind of required for certain strategies, but it may end up being just as you say: taking loans are so dangerous that those openings are not really viable because of the danger. However, I think that taking Rebel vs. Viceroy is something you will only do when forced into it. Viceroy advances your position vs. all players. Rebel only helps you against one. So I would generally only take Rebel if someone is at a tipping point, if another player made me unable to take Viceroy, thus the implicit threat of that particular role, or if a planned Exploration roll failed to occur.

I really like how that in order to be aggressive you need to give up on expansion. It seems like a very deliberate, and interesting, trade off.

I also love the counter abstraction, with the counter being defined by its game position. I have become increasingly tired of the billion of counters and cards model of FFG, so this is like a breath of fresh air.
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Tim Seitz
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I am mocking up a playtest copy this week using my round tokens from Steam, so hopefully, by the weekend, my impressions can be less theoretical.
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Jesse Dean
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Wow. Now that is dedication. You should write a session report.
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doubtofbuddha wrote:
Wow. Now that is dedication. You should write a session report.

+1
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It's done! And it wasn't that hard. I had a lot of this stuff leftover from my Merchant of Venus build.

• One 86 x 55 cm world map - it's low resolution, but sufficient for playtesting - blown up and blockposter printing.
• One six-sided die - check!
• 5 special six-sided dice - just roll d6 with hits on 5+
• 6 x 40 15mm wooden counters (value 1 each) - using the parts from Steam (my version came with 2 packs of different colored discs - 10 colors in all!)
• 56 Prestige tokens - using pennies, since they do not require any art
• 35 Unrest/Mission markers - I made some of these with bingo chips, but they could be white and black cubes or chips
• 7 x 7 Colony markers - colored bingo chips, plain, although I may pimp them out with stickers
• 24 x 5/10 value cardboard counters - I made some of these out of wood discs and stickers
• 5 Booming City markers - I made some of these out of wood discs and stickers
• 1 First player token - I used a resin disc and a sticker for this
• 6 sets of 6 Character cards - paper mockup, sleeves, and hoyle playing card for backing
• 5 Nation cards - not needed for playtesting
• 6 players’ Nation boards - printed on cardstock
• One rules booklet

It looks like crap, but it's better than nothing until real copies are available.

We might play tonight if I can gather the peeps! (And yes, I will post a session report if we get to play.)
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