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Subject: Siege stalemates rss

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Alex N
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This is a commentary on sieges based on my short experience with A Few Acres of Snow.

After playing 1.5 games, it seems to me that the game can go on for a pretty long time if both players max out their military capabilities (draft all of the empire cards with guns [and ships, for sea battles]) and use all of their guns in every siege.

Eventually, the British will prevail in a siege because they have a bigger military. However, if the French contest them to the last man on every siege, this has the potential to drag the game out for quite a while. The British player could try to convince the French that their cause is lost and they should just succumb to the inevitability, but the French player might not want to surrender (because they consider that city important, they don't want to lose an empire card, pride, etc) and there is always a chance that their draws will be better than the British and they might win the siege in the end.

Perhaps with more experience, the French player might get better at picking which battles to fight and which to give up easily, but at least for new players, the risk of having a long and tedious game full of stalemates is a real concern.
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Eugene
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terrasect wrote:
the game can go on for a pretty long time if both players max out their military capabilities (draft all of the empire cards with guns [and ships, for sea battles]) and use all of their guns in every siege.

Yes, this is why the Halifax siege rush strategy is so dreadfully dull.
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Tim Seitz
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The problems for the French are that:

1. The British have more total military, so they are going to eventually win a maxed out siege.

2. British have fewer fluff cards with no military benefit - meaning with random draws, they are going to have more military in hand. Typically, Philadelphia (and L-burg after that) will be the only card in the British deck with no military strength. I'm not counting Home Support, since it can draw more cards for a free action.

3. British have a denser military deck, more of their military is concentrated in fewer cards (Regular Army). So for a random set of just military cards, it is more likely that British will have more strength.

The obviously intended counter to that is ambushing, but as victims of the Hammer can attest, that doesn't work out the way it was supposed to.

 
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Derek McKay
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I don't think the OP was talking about the HH, but thanks for bringing it up again.
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Matthew Rooks
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What the OP is talking about is the very core strategy of the HH.
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Alan Paull
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out4blood wrote:
The problems for the French are that:

1. The British have more total military, so they are going to eventually win a maxed out siege.


The military is a problem for the French, but the second part of this statement is not correct. The 'raw' balance of military (including ships) in all the cards, not taking into account captures, is 26 to 22 in favour of the British. With no fortification, garrison or neutral fortification cards, the British will win a maxed out siege - but that's a very important caveat.

I've been quite surprised that very few players seem to have added up the military. If the French fortify Louisburg and buy a neutral fortification card, then the balance of forces in a maxed out siege of Louisburg is 26 to 28 in favour of the French. If the British first take Halifax, then the balance is 27 to 28 and the French still win.

I offer this comment merely at its face value. I explicitly don't imply any strategic significance to this comment for either side.

BenthamFish
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Matthew Rooks
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Good points BanthamFish.

I think one of the key differences is the Brits' ability to generate income faster and also recover from successful/repelled sieges faster. This gives them a larger margin of error, while the French have higher chances for poor draws and slow recoveries.
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Tim Seitz
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Alan Paull wrote:
out4blood wrote:
The problems for the French are that:

1. The British have more total military, so they are going to eventually win a maxed out siege.


The military is a problem for the French, but the second part of this statement is not correct. The 'raw' balance of military (including ships) in all the cards, not taking into account captures, is 26 to 22 in favour of the British. With no fortification, garrison or neutral fortification cards, the British will win a maxed out siege - but that's a very important caveat.

I've been quite surprised that very few players seem to have added up the military. If the French fortify Louisburg and buy a neutral fortification card, then the balance of forces in a maxed out siege of Louisburg is 26 to 28 in favour of the French. If the British first take Halifax, then the balance is 27 to 28 and the French still win.

I offer this comment merely at its face value. I explicitly don't imply any strategic significance to this comment for either side.

BenthamFish

Alan, I posted how your math is wrong the last time you argued this.

1. You can't count locations under siege to use in defense, so that's minus one off the top. The raw balance in a siege will actually be 26-21 - this wins every unmodified siege. The relevant locations in the game are Halifax, L-burg, Port Royal, and Quebec. All of these have military/ship symbols for the French, so they cannot be used to defend themselves, and losing them loses a symbol.

2. Also, of course British are going to have Halifax; it's the opening move! So the maximum totals for a British siege (ignoring neutrals for a moment) is 27 for British and only 21 for French. This is sufficient to win every possible siege, Quebec not being possible yet. Fortified L-burg would have only 25 defense (+2 intrinsic, +2 for fort).

3. Once L-burg falls, French lose another symbol, and are down to to 20. British only need +7 to take fortified Quebec, so 27-20 is sufficient.

4. Now, French can modify these max totals by scooping up the neutral fort cards - this is why when playing as both French and British I will generally draft the neutral fort instead of the free one. This would add 2 points to French military, 27-22.

5. However, the British response to this will be to just capture Port Royal, losing another symbol for the French and gaining one for the British, putting the new max totals at 28-21. (The net action cost for this is zero since it will cost 3 actions for the French player to draft both neutrals, and the Port Royal siege can be launched immediately by keeping Boston in hand.)

So the British are going to eventually win maxed out sieges.

Note: It's worse if the French try to counter with a military strategy because they lose 1 in raw military (fort), while the British net 0, because the fort card can counter the location card loss.
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Alan Paull
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Warning: long post.

out4blood wrote:
Alan Paull wrote:
out4blood wrote:
The problems for the French are that:

1. The British have more total military, so they are going to eventually win a maxed out siege.


The military is a problem for the French, but the second part of this statement is not correct. The 'raw' balance of military (including ships) in all the cards, not taking into account captures, is 26 to 22 in favour of the British. With no fortification, garrison or neutral fortification cards, the British will win a maxed out siege - but that's a very important caveat.

I've been quite surprised that very few players seem to have added up the military. If the French fortify Louisburg and buy a neutral fortification card, then the balance of forces in a maxed out siege of Louisburg is 26 to 28 in favour of the French. If the British first take Halifax, then the balance is 27 to 28 and the French still win.

I offer this comment merely at its face value. I explicitly don't imply any strategic significance to this comment for either side.

BenthamFish

Alan, I posted how your math is wrong the last time you argued this.

1. You can't count locations under siege to use in defense, so that's minus one off the top. The raw balance in a siege will actually be 26-21 - this wins every unmodified siege. The relevant locations in the game are Halifax, L-burg, Port Royal, and Quebec. All of these have military/ship symbols for the French, so they cannot be used to defend themselves, and losing them loses a symbol.


I quite accept this. However, you'll notice a leeway of a few points v Louisburg.

out4blood wrote:
2. Also, of course British are going to have Halifax; it's the opening move! So the maximum totals for a British siege (ignoring neutrals for a moment) is 27 for British and only 21 for French. This is sufficient to win every possible siege, Quebec not being possible yet. Fortified L-burg would have only 25 defense (+2 intrinsic, +2 for fort).


I was trying to head off this comment by saying: I offer this [my original] comment merely at its face value. I explicitly don't imply any strategic significance to this comment for either side.

out4blood wrote:
3. Once L-burg falls, French lose another symbol, and are down to to 20. British only need +7 to take fortified Quebec, so 27-20 is sufficient.


That's completely irrelevant to the point I was making, which was simply about doing the adding up (and I admit my adding up hasn't been great!).

out4blood wrote:
4. Now, French can modify these max totals by scooping up the neutral fort cards - this is why when playing as both French and British I will generally draft the neutral fort instead of the free one. This would add 2 points to French military, 27-22.

5. However, the British response to this will be to just capture Port Royal, losing another symbol for the French and gaining one for the British, putting the new max totals at 28-21. (The net action cost for this is zero since it will cost 3 actions for the French player to draft both neutrals, and the Port Royal siege can be launched immediately by keeping Boston in hand.)


Again, irrelevant to my original point, which was that the initial adding-up doesn't mean the Brits automatically win sieges - they have to do a bit of work (admittedly possibly not a huge amount), hence your comments (quite right) about taking Halifax and Port Royal and so on.

out4blood wrote:
So the British are going to eventually win maxed out sieges.


I agree, but only once they've done the work of whittling down the French. The point about all this is that the British don't win just because their total military is greater. It has to be 3 greater, *and* it has to be 3 greater than the total French defence including any neutral fortification cards purchased.

I should point out that I have no problem with the calculations you make in this post - after all, I've known about this strategy for a very long time, so I'm convinced it's a dominant one. And I'm quite aware about not counting besieged locations, etc, etc, which was why I was just doing it as an arithmetical exercise. I'm also completely aware that Port Royal and Halifax can also be taken by the British, which increases their strength, which is why I haven't anywhere said that the British won't eventually win maxed out sieges, as long as they play it right.

The initial statement was "The British have more total military, so they are going to eventually win a maxed out siege." This is incorrect (still!). If the British besiege a fortified Port Royal (for example), their max military (off the top without Halifax or any other captured location) will be 26. The French will have 22 minus 1 for Port Royal, plus 1 or 2 for neutral fortification cards, plus 2 for the fort, giving 24 or 25, which is only a difference of 2 not the required 3. The situation is similar for Louisburg (plus 1 for the French garrison, plus 1 for the inevitable British possession of Halifax).

Let's just calculate against an optimum French Louisburg:

French win on 1, British on -2.

French start at 2 (initial 1 plus garrison)
French locations (Montreal, Quebec, Port Royal; Note NOT Louisburg) 3
Siege Artillery, Reg Inf, Militia 14
Coureurs, Leader, Ship 3
Fort 2
Fortification cards 1 to 3

Total: between 25 and 27

British
Locations 5 (including Halifax)
Siege Artillery, Reg Inf, Militia 18
Rangers, Leader, Ships 4

Total: 27

So the Brits win Louisburg straight after Halifax only if the French don't take at least 1 neutral fortification card. That's my first comment about play, rather than just adding stuff up.

I would, on this basis, revise the Halifax Hammer as follows for the British (which interestingly goes back to my original strategy a few days before publication of the game):

The main route to victory is Halifax, then Port Royal, then Louisburg, then Quebec, but make sure you buy one of the neutral fortification cards before the French get them both - you only want one, because 2 may clog your deck. Halifax increases the British maximum by 1; Port Royal reduces the French by 1 and increases the British by 1. At this point the max British is up to 28, but the French max at Louisburg is down to 25, and 28 v 25 is -3, so the British are guaranteed to win.

There are two other observations I would make. One is that the French often beat themselves - they know they're likely to lose so play badly. The second and more important point is that the siege of Port Royal may be more important for the British than at first glance. If it's fortified, then I suspect the French ought to be able to hold it, if they make best use of the neutral fortification cards. Port Royal is worth 2 in the military balance (whereas Halifax is only 1, and insufficient).

Many apologies for the length of this post - I've obviously got far too much time on my hands :-).

BenthamFish
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Matthew Rooks
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Interesting stuff, thanks for posting. I think we're actually seeing a few new points being added to the discussion. A French counter is still nowhere to be found, however. If the French grab two fortifications, they may be able to stop the British assault -- but what do they do next? If they start to expand, that again opens them up for attack, no? They certainly can't go on the military offensive, forts don't help there.
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Christopher Dearlove
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Calculations on maxed out sieges tell you something, but it's hard to get all of your contribution into the siege. Even if the French had the theoretical capability to stall any siege that would do them no good if they couldn't get it all in at the right time. And if they did then the British could withdraw and try again. What would be necessary if this approach worked would be for the French to make progress (in some sense) while the British stalled, but while still maintaining a tight enough deck to be able to keep beating the British off. It remains a possibility, but no one has yet demonstrated the ability to do it.
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Tim Seitz
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Alan Paull wrote:
Again, irrelevant to my original point, which was that the initial adding-up doesn't mean the Brits automatically win sieges - they have to do a bit of work (admittedly possibly not a huge amount)

I'll just say this, with NO action on the part of either side, the British (26) can win every maxed out siege against the French (21). Now, you seem to think it's fine to add in French actions that enable them to defend better - such as fortifying and buying neutral cards - but not add in the equivalent British counters that nullify those actions, such as capturing locations with military symbols, and I disagree with that analytical approach.
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Alan Paull
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Dearlove wrote:
Calculations on maxed out sieges tell you something, but it's hard to get all of your contribution into the siege. Even if the French had the theoretical capability to stall any siege that would do them no good if they couldn't get it all in at the right time. And if they did then the British could withdraw and try again. What would be necessary if this approach worked would be for the French to make progress (in some sense) while the British stalled, but while still maintaining a tight enough deck to be able to keep beating the British off. It remains a possibility, but no one has yet demonstrated the ability to do it.


I totally agree. I was simply trying to get a bit closer to the heart of the problem. I think that a French counter depends on being able to do some actions towards victory while not succumbing to British military power. I doubt it's possible against good British play, and it may not be possible against average British play.

BenthamFish
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Matthew Rooks
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Alan Paull wrote:
it may not be possible against average British play.


I am living testament to this.
 
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Alan Paull
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out4blood wrote:
Alan Paull wrote:
Again, irrelevant to my original point, which was that the initial adding-up doesn't mean the Brits automatically win sieges - they have to do a bit of work (admittedly possibly not a huge amount)

I'll just say this, with NO action on the part of either side, the British (26) can win every maxed out siege against the French (21). Now, you seem to think it's fine to add in French actions that enable them to defend better - such as fortifying and buying neutral cards - but not add in the equivalent British counters that nullify those actions, such as capturing locations with military symbols, and I disagree with that analytical approach.


As I've continually stressed, my initial analytical approach was purely arithmetical. I had no intention to say that HH can be defeated in any particular way, and for the purpose of this exercise I was only interested in the adding up, in order to refute the original statement that "The British have more total military, so they are going to eventually win a maxed out siege". My initial comments were in no measure a strategic critique. Having more military is palpably not sufficient to win a maxed out siege; for example the British would still have more military (in an offensive siege) if you took away two of their regular infantry (22 vs 21), but they ain't going to win many sieges that way.

I believe I have demonstrated that it is possible, arithmetically, for the French to hold Louisburg - but that it requires a fort and at least 1 (preferably 2) neutral fortification cards and for the British NOT to take Port Royal first. As Mr Dearlove has mentioned, the French would also have to get the stuff in the right order. I personally have found it a useful exercise in understanding why the Hammer works, and I wrote so that perhaps others might too. I quite understand if you don't find it useful in that way.

And you are quite right that the British can win any maxed out siege with no actions on either side.

BenthamFish
 
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Alex Serban
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Hi everyone,

I'm new to the discussion here, and admittedly still relatively new to the game. I played a 2 hour game last night that just slogged and slogged, and neither of us achieved a victory condition before having to hang it up.

Both of us made mistakes concerning our deck management, which surprisingly really screwed up our strategies from the get-go. I expect that with more experience, the games will be shorter.

However, I really want to add my 2 cents concerning all the math that everyone is doing on this thread, counting up the British and French total military symbols. So far I have not seen anyone take into account how the speed/tempo of a turn factors in to the success or fail of a siege. If you can add strength to a siege faster than your opponent, then it doesn't matter what his deck's full military strength adds up to. If he can't match the speed at which you are reinforcing the siege, then he will lose. The speed at which you can reinforce a siege has to do with your skills in deck management.

Furthermore, french have a great tool for deck management that the British don't have: the Intendant. As french, you can purchase an empire card that you need, then intendant it right into your hand for you to play on your next action. This gives the French a unique tool for speeding up their tempo.

Another thing the French have going for them is their affinity for native Americans. They have 1 loyal NA card that can never be stolen, and they have 1 additional indian thief card over the British, which means their ambushing and raiding capabilities can certainly outpace the British. With a strong ambush deck, you can make it difficult for the British to reinforce their siege.

My friend gave up last night because I kept sniping his expensive military cards out of his hand

Anyway, I love this game even though it can drag and slog and be tedious much of the time.
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