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Subject: Strategy Guide I: General Tips rss

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Francisco Pizarro
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Hi folks,

This guide, written by designer Dirk Knemeyer, is available in PDF form (will submit the file in a sec) but I wanted to post it here in various sections for those who wish to read via the forum.

Road to Enlightenment is modeling how, in real-life, Louis XIV so adeptly combined the various and complex aspects of being an absolute monarch that France in general and their culture in particular came to be seen as the exemplar for which future rulers should strive.

During the 18th century French became the sophisticated language of the continent and in ways large and small the great leaders of that century strove to emulate the great Louis XIV.

As in national diplomacy of the time, in Road to Enlightenment an active balance of power should be on continual display. You must keep a keen eye out for other players who are positioning themselves to run away with the game. You should view the forging of informal alliances each turn with other players as being every bit as crucial as marshaling your luminaries and preparing successful actions. Do not miss this essential part of the game!

To achieve Louis’ real-life success in Road to Enlightenment, you cannot simply pursue one single path to prestige.

There are four possible paths:

i. Conquest. For each new territory you conquer and hold you gain one prestige point. However for each territory you lose that you began the game with, you lose two prestige points. As such military is essential for defensive purposes if nothing else, but certainly can be key to a
proactive, winning strategy.

Unlike other paths to prestige, conquest comes with a cost. Every turn, each territory you control that you did not have at the start of the game costs you one coin in upkeep. No other path to prestige carries with it this sort of an ongoing “tax”; however, so long as you invest properly in military, it is hard for another player to conquer your holdings without the assistance of allies. As such, this is the path to victory that is ultimately easiest to protect for yourself.

Pursuing a conquest strategy more-or-less requires having, at minimum, one steady ally. Not only can they provide timely assistance when you are attacking or being attacked, the very presence of the two of you as a committed unit can convince your antagonists to try and expand in a different direction. As in real warfare, the threat or appearance of power can be far more effective than the power itself.

ii. Religion. At the end of the game, if the Christendom marker is on the Catholic side, all Catholic leaders receive two prestige points. If it is on the Anti-Catholic side, all Anti-Catholic
leaders receive two prestige points. This is a significant amount of prestige and – at least in the narrow context of religion – it forces cooperation between players on both sides of the fence.

Without question, the perfect religious strategy is to convince the other players who are on your side religiously to work hard and invest in religion. After all, if you can gain prestige while doing very little for it, there is indeed nothing finer! However, it is more likely that to get these points, if they are important to you, you must get some religious luminaries and spend precious actions in service of the goal.

In the early game, the important thing is to not fall way behind. You cannot afford to see the track swing over to the far extreme side in favour of the opposite religion. This tends to demoralize those on the “losing” side and, in some cases, make them give up on the religious
aspects entirely. Unfortunately, those players often find that, by the end of the game, this has cost them a chance at victory because religion is the easiest way to get a big swing against multiple
key antagonists – four points! – to close a deficit.

The other two options are to go for a dominant lead yourself in the early game, or just keep it close. The former approach requires a significant investment of resources but also has the potential to essentially close the issue in one fell swoop. The latter approach is designed more to put you in the position to make contextual tactical decisions later. For example, in the late game, if you are a Catholic nation and second in prestige, but the player ahead of you is also Catholic, you can ignore religion and focus on other things. After all, any religious gains you enjoy would be shared by your antagonist. On the other hand, if the player ahead of you was an Anti-Catholic, not only can you pursue a four point swing, but you can get other players to help you. Meanwhile, the other Anti-Catholics on the leader’s side might be far less eager to simply help him continue to win. This is why the diplomatic and relationship aspects of this game are so important.

iii. & iv. Science & Art. While handled independently of one another their mechanics are identical. There are two different ways to get prestige via these cultural aspects:

a. Being first or second on the track at the end of the game. The former is worth a fat three prestige, the latter is worth one. The challenge with this as a means for gaining prestige is that, first, it is a long climb up the tracks. Additionally, the only thing that matters is who is on top at the end. So you can spend a lot of your actions trying to climb, taking a while, and still at the end get bumped down and receive nothing. Of course, the three prestige you receive for being at the top of one of these is the single largest chunk of prestige you can gain in the game.

b. Quickly advancing up the tracks to claim the “medals” which are each worth one prestige at the end. Crucially, the first person to get to each spot claims the medal and, once claimed, it cannot be lost. This is the only means of gaining prestige in the game that cannot be taken
away from you. The challenge here is that, typically, at least half of the game’s players and often more are trying to make progress on these tracks in the early game. This results in frustratingly inefficient actions, where you take the literal “two steps forward, one step back”. Of course the rewards are magnificent. Pocketing two prestige for getting both medals on a track is like conquering and holding two new territories on the map all game but with no upkeep and no way to
lose it.

Often the Favourites you have working along with the unique benefits of the ruler you are playing help push you in one direction or another. But as a player who likes to be efficient with actions I will typically take a wait-and-see approach to these cultural tracks. If a lot of other players are trying to run up these I will hold back and work on something else. If other players are focused on expansion or religion, I’m going to try and assert our national will in science or art. It is
really a question of your play style, and how the rest of the board is playing.

***

Each of the four paths have their own strengths and weaknesses. For a beginning player, as a general rule of thumb, here are my suggestions for making decisions about which path to pursue, and when:

Conquest

Don’t come right out of the gate fighting. It makes players think you are aggressive and in most game groups puts a target on you. Also, taking territory requires paying upkeep. While that is certainly manageable for ascendant eastern powers like Russia and Poland, England in particular can be quickly choked by early upkeep. Better is to get a lay of the land: who else is attacking quickly? Shift into the role of puppet master and use their aggression against them. What does your
financial system look like? If you have the right luminaries to generate a lot of taxes and trade, then having conquest as a key aspect of your path to glory is sensible.

Religion

Don’t ignore it. If you can get a coalition of all players who share your religion, do so and try to move the needle substantially early. This has proven in some groups to be psychologically crushing to the other side and banks you easy prestige. However, what you must make
sure is that at worst you keep it close, within two or at most three of the middle. In the late game this can be a valuable lever to use in your quest for victory!

Science and Art

A worthwhile approach for new players is, depending on your favourites, leverage the assets you have to focus on just one specific track – science or art – and do whatever you can to get both medals. Those two prestige that no one can take from you are hugely valuable. Then,
assuming it is turn 5 or 6 in the game, you can completely change gears and begin building prestige in other ways. For example, holding two medals and conquering the maximum five territories can be enough to lead a player to victory. And, because in order to get both medals you need to get to the top of the track to begin with, by the last turns of the game you are likely still on top or just one or two away. So with some luck and good science or art you can grab three more points that will likely win you the game.

Next we'll take a look at each nation individually...

--bill
 
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