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Subject: Some Thoughts about the Strategy rss

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I-Sheng Yang
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Finally got enough experience to say something about its strategy.
Since I plan to share this with my usual opponents, I'll also post it here to get some comments.

The beauty of Le Havre strategy is that it can base on very simple value calculations.
As long as you are not too blind to short term opportunities, maintaining an overall efficienty usually wins the game.
So it is important to correctly evaluate each move to know whether you are being efficient enough.


(1) Demand: 10F per move.

In a 3er, you have to feed about 152 food and 280 is often a reasonable score.
You have 7*6+1 = 43 moves.
So aiming to make slightly more than 10F per move is a simple rule to think about the strategy.
Of course, late moves should worth more than early moves.
That's why 10F per move will lead to a final score of 230 in a 4er, which is probably too high.
Also the overall score can fluctuate quite a lot depending on how the players shape the game,
but it is a good guideline when you are evaluating your moves.

Example:
Use that Construction Firm!
Pay 2F (and maybe 1~2 wood) to save a move is always worthwhile, since a move should worth 10F.


(2) Supply: 2-3-4-2-1-1-1

Every round the game will replenish 2F, 3 fish, 4 wood, 2 clay, 1 iron, 1 grain and 1 cattle.
That means taking 2 cattles = taking 2 rounds supply, while taking 4 woods is only taking one round of supply.
Well, of course, you need to more or less make sure the things you are taking will be useful.
But in the early part of the game, they are all going to be useful and this is a good guideline to compare the relative value.
If you are consistently taking "less of a round value" of goods than your opponents, then you are in trouble.


(3) The power of cash!

If you just use cash to feed, then the 2F/3fish supply rate makes no sense!
Cash is more powerful than food because it can buy things!
And don't forget you can sell things for cash, too.

Examples:

(3a) Taking 3F is probably the best move in the first round, because when its your turn again and the supply sucks,
you can buy that marketplace or hardwarestore and use it immediately! (sometimes guarantees that you can build the Sawmill)
(3b) When Coillery is under Court, you have 2F to spare and can only build Court, you may try to build it --- sell --- buy Coillery.
As long as Coillery gets used more than 4 times (and it will), you are really gaining from this bargain.
(3c) When you build a key building, the next player will be the first one to use it.
If you buy it, you will be the first one to use it.
(3d) Buy that Steel Ship! With the last 2 of them you only lose 10F/6F,
which instantly pays back if it feeds you or ship at least once.
This also hurts your opponents when they are preparing to build it.


(4) Don't forget to count the shipping move!

Taking 5 cattles worths 15F, really?
Don't forget that you'll have to ship them.
If doing that in a late shipment of total capacity 12, it's really (1+5/12) move for 15F.
So it is really 10.6F per move.
More preferably you should try early shipping at capacity 8, it's 9.2F per move.
And this is not counting the energy you spend.
Of course, if you have to ship anyway and don't have enough goods, a 5 cattle grab is solid 15F.
But that is not very common and not always a good situation.


(5) The value of foods.

If you do not prepare food, the alternative is taking loans which you have to pay back 25% more.
So the value of foods eaten should be multiply by 125%.
I am not counting the loss from interests, since taking loans are supposed to give you flexibility in your actions.
For an approximation I will cancel the interests with the flexibility, but that 25% is real!

(5a) The value of an early Wooden Ship.

In a 3er, a wooden ship feeds you 3 food per round until round 13 or so.
At that point you should get start to get steel ships, and that usually means "over feeding."
So you can't really count the wooden ship as really feeding you after that.
(3 food * 10 rounds * 125%) is about 36 food, plus 2F value = 38F.
Assuming you spent 4 actions: 2 Clay --- 1 Iron --- Sawmill --- Fishery, then sell both plus 2F to buy the first ship.
( other alternaive ways to buy an early ship also usually takes 4 moves effectively )
That means those 4 actions worth 9F each, that is pretty awesome in this early stage of the game.
In a 4er this drops to about 7F per move, which is weaker but also nice.

(5b) The value of smoking 6 fishes.

When you have a wooden ship, the fishes you take will not be immediately eaten.
A trip to Smokehouse gives you 6f+3F, really decent in early game.

(5c) The value of a mid game Abattoir visit.

Slaughtering cattles is frowned upon by some players for many reasons.
1. A cattle ships for 3F and a meat is 3 food, doesn't feel like gaining anything.
2. Abattoir has no limit so it seems killing more at once is better, but late game food has no use.
3. 2F entry fee is so expensive.
However, I would like to argue that around round 10, killing 8 cattles when you have 10+ can be a really good move.
(also very possible with an early breeding pair and a few visit to Marketplace/Grocery Market)
An early food eaten is worth 25% more.
True, you'll probably eat the meat for 2 foods once in a while, so let's call it even.
However, remember you have to ship the cattles and that is an action.
An early shipping action with 3 ships can turn 8 cattles into 3F each.
Killing 8 cattles has exactly the same effect, with about the same cost. (and no energy!)
AND, you get 4 hides = 8F extra!
You also gained access to Tannery, which is a 12F move!
(you had to ship those hides anyway so don't count an extra shipping move)


(6) How many Coals before hitting the Cokery?

As I get better and better in this game, I find it acceptable to turn less and less Coals into Cokes.
The minimum record is 4: 1 for baking and 3 to power my ships.
So, doesn't the unlimited nature of Cokery mean the more the better?
Let's say you use Coillery 6 times then turn the monstrous 24 Coals into Cokes.
With that many Cokes, you'll end up shipping many of them.
It does work out as an awesome 15F per move.
But note that it is quite rare, and with less visits to Coillery or less capacity, the value gets lower pretty fast.
The value also decreases if you ended up not shipping some of your breads and cattles to make rooms for Cokes.
So, consistently hitting Coillery + not gethering grains/cattles = fat supply for your opponents.
15F/move is not really as attractive as it seems.
If you use Coillery only 3 times and still ships most of those cokes,
the value drops to around 10F per move which is just standard.

My advice is to rush to that Cokery as soon as it comes out and you have 5+ Coals.
That's enough for baking + 2 Steels + 3 shipments!
Shipping Cokes is an option but seldom the best one.
Cokes are great for their energy.
Turning merely 5 Coals into Cokes gains you 35 energy that no other moves can match.
Baking 20 grains turns 1 Coke into 10F, which doubles its shipping value.
Turning 2 Iron into Steel increases their shipping value by 12F.
Those and powering 3 ships are the major purpose for Cokes, and 5 is quite enough.
In case you have any extra, their best function is to turn more iron into steel.
That is to say if you have too many iron, don't wait to accumulate the matching number of Coals.
Just use them to build some late game buildings.
If you have too many Cokes and not enough iron to make steel, you did not use that Cokery early enough.

If you are the first one to use that Cokery, remember two things.
1. Sit there for a while. People after you are more anxious than you are.
2. Don't immediately go to Steelmill. Being the first energy rich player, you can already bake or ship.
After your opponent uses Cokery, then you go to block that Steelmill.
Again, don't immediately go to Wharf for the Steel Ship.
Opponents behind you hurts more from the delay.


(7) Ship Early!

It is a good idea to start meeting the upkeep in the middle of the game, which means 3 ships.
In that case if you get a Coke, don't hesitate to send out a small shipment with Cattles/Leathers.
That should earn you slightly more than 20F cash, which you can (not immediately)
1. Buy buildings that everyone eventually will use (like Bakehouse).
2. Buy Steelmill to be the first one using it.
3. Buy a Steel Ship.
4. Buy buildings with the correct symbols for bonus points.
When there are not many left for purchase, your opponents are less tempted to compete Bank/TownHall with you.
The same thing applies to the special buildings that allows to turn goods into francs.
Try to take the advantage of early cash.

Also late game shipping is very crowded and it sucks to dump goods under the bridge.


(8) Get a Hammer.

Not having a hammer early only hurts your clay income, which is not too big a deal.
But you should eventually get a hammer for Coillery!
If you are the only player who bought an early ship, your opponents are usually able to deny your early hammer.
Don't forget that BusinessOffice and IronWorks both have hammers, so do some special buildings.
(and god forbids it, the StoreHouse has a hammer, too)
If shouldn't be hard to build or buy one of them if you plan ahead.


(9) Avoid Pitfalls.

The biggest threats to overall efficiency are some particular moves which just suck.
The supplies are low, good buildings are occupied, you cannot pay the entry fee,
and not enough resource to build even one meaningful building.
I won't be able to cover thoroughly how to improve this (and I probably need some improvements, too).
For entry fee, you have to calculate the upkeep, loan and interest.
Calculate the supply/action sequence to estimate what you will get next turn.
Sometimes you have to take "less of a round value" resouces, usually wood instead of clay,
so that your next move may build the topmost buildings when you foresee a barren supply.

Also, try to think about how every building might be useful.
If you only care about a few "important" buildings, of course you will often find nowhere to go.


(10) When to pay back loans.

Unless you are 100% sure you will not get loans again and all buildings are gone, the later the better.
You almost always gain more buying buildings instead of avoiding a few bucks of interest.
Also, keeping loans means you always have a 10F visit to the court as a backup move.
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Kerrin Addis
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Thanks for the great summary.
I am going to get a couple of my friends who have just started to play read this. Great reminders! :-)
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Andrew Brown
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Jingking wrote:

(2) Supply: 2-3-4-2-1-1-1

Every round the game will replenish 2F, 3 fish, 4 wood, 2 clay, 1 iron, 1 grain and 1 cattle.
That means taking 2 cattles = taking 2 rounds supply, while taking 4 woods is only taking one round of supply.
Well, of course, you need to more or less make sure the things you are taking will be useful.
But in the early part of the game, they are all going to be useful and this is a good guideline to compare the relative value.
If you are consistently taking "less of a round value" of goods than your opponents, then you are in trouble.


Your conclusion assumes that "one round" of each resource is approximately equivalent (i.e. 4 wood is approximately equal to 1 cattle). I don't think this is the case. Just because 4 wood tiles come out each round doesn't mean each wood is half as valuable as a franc (which comes out twice each round).
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Richard Shay
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Sure, Kerrin, but you didn't tell me about it!
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Michel Decre
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I really like your analysis, but re. (1) I have some benchmarking issues.

The single player game is the one where you have most freedom and efficiency, since noone blocks you and you have to pay noone for any action (except the occasional Town building if you don't manage your game well), but 400-points-solo-game shows that the most efficient gaming produces a little above 400 points in 49 moves...

That is 8F/move...

So how come 10F/move would be realistic as an average in any game ?

If one does the economics of the most efficient trading cycle, one sees that it requires 4 visits for iron at ironworks, 2 at the colliery, and to convert the whole lot into 12 steel and 8 coke and trade on 4 ships spread over 9 actions, for gross earnings of 104F minus visit costs at buildings you don't own...

Without counting the cost of building the ships, that "optimal" production engine produces between 10,1F and 11,5F/action... based on the whole game built up already ...

If you found better ways to produce value, please share !
 
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