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Subject: A brief strategy guide to playing Oregon rss

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Jason Lott
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I was discussing with a few of my geekbuddies about the relative merits of Oregon, and whether there was much strategy involved. I maintain that there is, despite the randomness of the card draw. So I promised to write up a guide, and here it is.

Quick disclaimer: I by no means would consider myself an expert on this game. But I have played it over a hundred times either at the table or on Yucata.de, so I have some experience to back up my opinions. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive guide – if anything, I hope it will spark more discussion. Lastly, I’m writing this with the assumption that you already know how to play. If not, review the rules and try it a couple times before reading any further.

Strategy Tip #1: Work those bonus tiles.

The basics of Oregon involve placing your farmers with a combination of landscape tiles, or placing buildings with a single landscape tile. That alone will not win you the game. You must make sure to use your bonus tiles (the Joker and the Extra Turn) as often as possible to maximize your points. And the way to make that happen is to keep the possibility for recovering them open through the Train Station or the Warehouse.

As an example, if I haven’t used my Extra Turn tile and I see there is a way I can place a farmer adjacent to a Train Station, then what I should first do is place a farmer somewhere else that will give me the most points I can get. Then I use my Extra Turn to place a second farmer next to the Train Station (preferably in a way to pick up another point or two) and thus immediately reclaim my bonus tile. Similarly, if never hurts to use your Joker when you know that your farmer placement will be adjacent to a Warehouse, so you get the tile right back.

These methods won’t always be possible, as sometimes the necessary buildings won’t come up until well into the game (especially with 2 players). But when they do, make the most of them. You know players are working their bonus tiles well when every Train Station and Warehouse is completely surrounded.

Strategy Tip #2: Mines are quite valuable and their value can be estimated.

Oregon is a game where your points are generally visible to other players, but the exception is your total of gold and coal points gained from the mines, which are kept hidden until the end of the game. Picking up as much coal and (more importantly) gold is a key to victory and also keeping your total a secret from your opponents. But there’s a way to think about their relative value during the game.

Let’s look at gold as an example. All the gold tiles have a value of 3, 4, or 5 points. So when considering if I might want to pick up a gold tile vs. a farmer placement to another building, I estimate the mean value – 4 points. I might get more or less, obviously. I can do the same estimate for coal – 2 points.

I can use that same estimate when considering how many points an opponent has as we approach the endgame. If John has 56 points on the board, 3 gold tiles and 2 coal tiles, I can estimate his final total as being around 72 points = 56 + (3 x 4) + (2 x 2). That may help you determine if you have enough points to win, and thus are ready to place your final farmer on the board.

Strategy Tip #3: Group your farmers to sow a victory.

The biggest points you can get in this game are from forming groups of farmers – 3 in an orthogonal pattern to score 5 points. It’s important to use your cards in a way that you are opening up the possibility of scoring a group at some point, even if it’s not right away. The ideal situation is to end the game with 4 complete groups and a couple of extra farmers elsewhere.

That means getting your farmers into an open area if possible, so even if an opponent blocks you in one direction, you can still form a group in another. Creating a group on the edge of the board or along the side of a lake is tough, so avoid those placements if possible.

The other reason forming a group is helpful is you have the option to place a scoring building adjacent to your group so you can get 2 or even 3 times the points. An ideal situation is to have your group of farmers in an L-shape and then you tuck a high scoring building (Gold Mine, Harbor, Church) in the crook of that shape. That gives you triple points! Just be cautious about also giving points to an opponent who is nearby, although sometimes it’s worth the sacrifice (think about net points gained).

Strategy Tip #4: Draw the best cards for the moment.

When choosing what cards to draw at the end of your turn there are a couple things to consider. First, ask yourself what you really need right now. The typical hand arrangement is 3 landscape cards and 1 building card. But what if you’ve set up a nice group arrangement, and already have the landscape card necessary to plop a building next to it? In that case you’re wise to draw an extra building card (or even 2), hoping it will fit the terrain you need (e.g. a mine if that spot is a mountain square).

Also think about times where your whole hand is not helpful – if you have your Extra Turn available, this might be a good time to flush your hand. I don’t do this often, but it’s handy if your second move could get you a farmer adjacent to a Train Station.

Strategy Tip #5: Don’t play in a vacuum.

The easiest trap to fall into with Oregon is to focus on your own farmers and gameplay and ignore your opponents. Paying attention to what everyone else is doing is essential to your survival.

First and most importantly, watch for other players setting up groups of farmers. If there’s a way to block a group in a way that will also benefit you – do it! Conversely, don’t open yourself up to the same problem. That’s also key when placing buildings – if you want to keep control of that Gold Mine, then play it on the edge of the board where you can surround it more easily.

The other key is to watch your opponents as you approach the endgame. Estimate their point totals so you know not to end the game prematurely. And be wary of when someone else can end the game. Remember – a player with just 2 farmers left has the ability to play them both with an Extra Turn!

-------------------

And I think that about does it. Oregon is a strategy game that appears light but has some depth if you look for it. Please feel free to add your additional thoughts on good gameplay below.
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DuckOfDeath V
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You have good timing as I have just been learning the game over the last few days buy playing on yucata.de.

I even considered asking if there was ever a situation where it would be useful to draw more than a single building at a time. I haven't done it even once since I learned how to play because it seems like having three landscape cards is much more important when trying to keep my options open. I see your point though, but it still seems like it would be rare that I would want to have more than a single building.
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Eugene
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I rarely hold more than one building card during the early and mid game.

Not falling behind in the cowboy rush is crucial in this game. Remember, the game ends during the round when a player puts down their 14th cowboy. Losing momentum by using turns to place just buildings can often spell doom.
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Jason Lott
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Agreed - and I really have only found it's worth drawing the extra building in the case I mention above - when your set up is perfect, you've got the right landscape card, and just need a building that matches the terrain. (Actually you don't even need the right landscape card if your Joker is available.)
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Get up, get up, get up, get down, fall over.
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Great strategy article Jason. You nailed it.

I agree that you would very seldom go above 1 building in hand, but sometimes you want to where you have a load of meeples on the board and can either use your first building with the landscape card you have, or you really need to get the specific building to lay (usually a church or a hotel). The point about big scoring when you play next to a group of your meeples applies exponentially to churches.

To illustrate both points, in the game you and I have just finished on Yucata, I had to draw 2 buildings to find a church, which I then laid amongst 5 meeples, one of yours and 4 of mine.
Boltongeordie: +20 points
DancerInDC: +5 points
KSensei: 0 points

Given you ended only 8 points behind me, that was probably the game-winning move.

JoeC0 - if you want to join the three of us (me, Jason and Ksensei) in a game of Oregon on Yucata, just send an invite.

Chris
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Andy Andersen
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Thank you. In almost all of our games, the player who has received the most gold tokens usually wins. Card draw plays a big part in this. Are the gold tokens overpowered, and if so, how do you balance it out.

Great post, Jason.
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Jason Lott
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Orangemoose wrote:
Thank you. In almost all of our games, the player who has received the most gold tokens usually wins. Card draw plays a big part in this. Are the gold tokens overpowered, and if so, how do you balance it out.


Good question, Andy - my first few games I assumed the same thing, that gold was the on key to victory, and perhaps the game was broken.

The truth is that while gold adds up quickly, it's not the only way to win. As Chris just pointed out, a Church is huge points if you get to it later in its scoring cycle (i.e. not when there are just a couple farmers next to it). Harbors can be just as good as gold if you can nab them.

The other key is just to remember not to let other players control gold mines. Sometimes you just will have rotten luck with your card draws, but if you can get near a mine, make sure to play there before all the spots fill up.
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Eugene
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Orangemoose wrote:
Are the gold tokens overpowered, and if so, how do you balance it out.

It's not that gold is so good as coal is so bad. So don't draw coal. If you do, consider dumping it in the boondocks just to get another building.
 
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Peter Mumford
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garygarison wrote:
Orangemoose wrote:
Are the gold tokens overpowered, and if so, how do you balance it out.

It's not that gold is so good as coal is so bad. So don't draw coal. If you do, consider dumping it in the boondocks just to get another building.
that was one of the reasons I sold my copy of Oregon after a few plays. Coal just sucks. There is no reciprocating factor to compensate for drawing coal.
 
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Eugene
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All things considered, I think I scorn stations even more.
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除名山 蔵芽戸
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boltongeordie wrote:
Great strategy article Jason. You nailed it.

I agree that you would very seldom go above 1 building in hand, but sometimes you want to where you have a load of meeples on the board and can either use your first building with the landscape card you have, or you really need to get the specific building to lay (usually a church or a hotel). The point about big scoring when you play next to a group of your meeples applies exponentially to churches.

To illustrate both points, in the game you and I have just finished on Yucata, I had to draw 2 buildings to find a church, which I then laid amongst 5 meeples, one of yours and 4 of mine.
Boltongeordie: +20 points
DancerInDC: +5 points
KSensei: 0 points

Given you ended only 8 points behind me, that was probably the game-winning move.

JoeC0 - if you want to join the three of us (me, Jason and Ksensei) in a game of Oregon on Yucata, just send an invite.

Chris


That was my crappiest game of Oregon ever. The cards I was drawing were pathetic.
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Eugene
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DancerInDC wrote:
Oregon is a strategy game that appears light but has some depth if you look for it.

I prefer the 2-player game, as aggressive blocking plays become a viable tactic. With more players, the game becomes more chaotic, with little opportunity to plan for future turns.
 
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Get up, get up, get up, get down, fall over.
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KSensei wrote:
That was my crappiest game of Oregon ever. The cards I was drawing were pathetic.
You always say that when I grind you into the dust.

arrrh devil whistle etc.
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