Michael
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The HH has been discussed quite thoroughly on- and off-site. However, it did not become apparent to me from the discussions, how serious the less outspoken people think the existence of a winning strategy is for the game. Should the game be trashed or should it be fixed? I am also wondering, how people found out about the winning strategy? Did basically every serious player discover the HH by him- or herself, or was it only in the wake of the hype that the awareness was drawn to this possibility of playing the British side in AFAoS?

These questions are what prompted me to start this poll. (Actually, the following is more a series of polls, because I only figured out how polls *can* work after having started the third one. Please forgive the newbie blunder...)

Poll
How did you first find out about the Halifax Hammer?
What is that?
I read/heard about it (e.g. on BGG, at the game store...).
I got hammered repeatedly by someone who knew it.
I figured it out all by myself.
      257 answers
Poll created by grey_wolf

The following questions are obviously only for those of you who know what the HH is.

Poll
How many times had you played A Few Acres of Snow before you found out about the Halifax Hammer?
0
1-5
6-10
11-15
16-20
21-30
31-50
51+
      201 answers
Poll created by grey_wolf

Poll
Before you knew about the Halifax Hammer, what side did you think had an advantage?
strong bias towards a French victory
slight bias towards a French victory
both sides about even
slight bias towards a British victory
strong bias towards a British victory
      168 answers
Poll created by grey_wolf

Poll
What was/is your opinion of A Few Acres of Snow?
  agree strongly agree indifferent disagree disagree strongly
I enjoyed playing A Few Acres of Snow before finding out about the Halifax Hammer.
I enjoy playing A Few Acres of Snow even after having found out about the Halifax Hammer.
      162 answers
Poll created by grey_wolf

Poll
Do you still play A Few Acres of Snow?
No, I don't. What's the point?
Yes, I still play AFAoS with the 1st edition rules.
Yes, I still play AFAoS with the 2nd edition rules.
Yes, I still play AFAoS with the Random Rules Generator.
Yes, I still play AFAoS using pick'n'play from the RRG.
      154 answers
Poll created by grey_wolf

Poll
What is your opinion of A Few Acres of Snow, taking the Halifax Hammer into account?
It is a fire sign of bad game design for all to behold.
It is deeply flawed game not worthy any further consideration.
It is the sad case of a good game that turns out to be broken.
It is an entertaining game that should be fixed.
It is an excellent game that will overcome all antagonism.
      178 answers
Poll created by grey_wolf
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Tim Seitz
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Your poll only left one answer, but I play all variations (except 1st edition), although I don't really care for the RRG generator. I prefer to pick choices and let the opponent choose a side.
 
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Michael
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Yes, I realized too late that I could have done a "multiple answers" type of question for the last one, sorry about that. Please take it as a "preferred way of playing the game".

Also, the "How many times had you played A Few Acres of Snow before you found out about the Halifax Hammer?" should perhaps have been differentiated between "found out myself", "got hammered" and "heard about it"... I guess I didn't want my first poll to get too vast.

Edit: It would be great if those of you who discovered the winning strategy on your own would perhaps write a few lines how long it took you to see it, how many games you spent confirming it, and perhaps if you have a strong background in strategy games for two players, old and new school deck building games and/or cosims.


The question that drives me is whether the game should basically be condemned as utterly useless/broken as it is on a matter of principle or not - even for the casual gamer. In other words: How likely is it for a casual gamer looking for something slightly more challenging every now and then to stumble over the HH strategy?

I, for one, enjoyed the game for a long time, playing it maybe once a month for about half a year. Consequently, my skill curve was pretty flat, but nonetheless I enjoyed the game tremendously. I actively decided to ignore all that buzz about some "HH" killer strategy, which gave me about six more enjoyable games on that level, before I was confronted with more information on the subject. Now that I know about the HH, I can't help but still liking the game, and, Tim, from your contributions to the discussions and (despite?) your role in supplying empirical substantiation to the thesis of HH being a winning strategy you also seem to still like the game. On the other hand, there are some people who condem the game on a matter of principle. Thus, I was wondering how other people see this. A poll seems to be the best way of condensing opinions... so thank you all who contribute to the poll!
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Rick Hatch
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Michael-
I discovered the strategy myself over this long weekend. I don't deserve full credit... I had heard there was a "broken" strategy, but didn't know which side it was on. In fact, I was suspecting it might be French.
First game for both myself (age 50) and my brother Jeff (age 37) was Saturday evening/Sunday morning. He was randomly assigned French. He has extensive Dominion experience, I have a little. I played chess as a kid and played Avalon Hill wargames solitaire in my teens. I don't really enjoy combat much in games, whether fantasy or civ or wargame or whatever, but can tolerate it when it's simple and I have other interesting things to do.

So in game one as British I had fun settling, but did it slowly because I was just learning how the cards operate and discovered when time ran out that was a terrible idea due to the French point advantage. And yeah, I also discovered that Kennebec was a bad place to settle. Also in Game 1, I had settled Halifax and was easily knocked back out of it. What with learning the rules and all, the game took about 5 hrs.

Second game, 1:00 AM, Labor Day morning, we again chose randomly, and I was British again. This time I focused my settling strategy. Gunshy, I didn't want to go back to Halifax. I also didn't realize yet that the French had a slight military advantage due to the 2-point starting infantry and British with nothing to start but one-pointers. Thought my wealth was keeping me safe, but he had a bit of luck, and combined with me misunderstanding a rule (I thought only the attacker could withdraw from a siege, based on the badly worded player aid card), he beat me with a quick Pemaquid-Boston. Game time 35 min. I was ticked, because it seemed unfair that the French had a huge settling advantage, and since Kennebec didn't work, they also had a two-turn to Boston advantage, whereas I had to go through Albany or "way around" the coast which appeared to be so dang far.

Couldn't sleep when I tried to go to bed at 2AM. Seemed unfair the French had such an advantage. Was I missing anything? Went to the rules FAQ and discovered my withdraw from siege misunderstanding. But that didn't help much. It was only when I started examining cards and realized that Louisburg was one step from Quebec instead of my assumed several that I sensed a chance. Then it was a matter of playing out an opening several times by myself, knowing he would play very well (because he already was) against my idea. It took a while before I figured out how fast I needed to do it, to tie him up and prevent him from building a fur/money engine. I wasn't confident I could win with this strategy against someone who plays strategy games extremely well from the start and has played tons of Dominion, but it seemed like my only hope or else this game favored the French.

So Labor Day evening, I insisted on being British with the argument that "It seems to us the French have the advantage, and if we're wrong, you've already won twice with the French, so I want to be the one that finds a British way." He agreed this seemed fair, and I even admitted I had been playtesting my strategy. I opened at about 11 PM with a settle of Halifax and purchasing Home Support. He resigned at about 2 AM just as I was about to lay siege to Quebec. As newbies, we both made mistakes, though for the first half, he played almost perfectly. It took me two attempts to successfully besiege Louisbourg and at about the halfway mark around 12:30 AM, Indian raids had me almost back at square one with both Halifax and Louisbourg empty of both players. But I learned from my mistakes how to better pull off the strategy, and he started making some mistakes so I finished it off.

At this point I felt fairly confident that this must be the "winning strategy", feeling that it would have been a lot easier to win against an average player, and that even against a player who had played a lot and was even better than Jeff, I could have a very good chance if I played it right. He debated, pointing out some of the mistakes I'd seen and even mentioning another couple of things he thought could have stopped me better. We were both burned out on the game a bit, so we said, well, let's look it up now. He took out his phone and a moment later said, "Congratulations! You found it!" and gave me a high-five.

My response to your poll question "Do you still play...?" was "No, I don't. What's the point?" only because that was the only "No". My answer really is more "No, I don't. Because I'm not into combat heavy games, or games that are a highly-skilled, highly-focused, long, chess-like mental slugfest." If I was into that, I'd love this game. As a puzzle to figure out, it was awesome. From what little I've seen since we played... about 2 hrs. ago... I've been reading threads since then, the second edition rules seem to make it much tougher for the British, but thus even more of a mental slugfest. Again, great fun if I was into that, but I'm not. I also loved the game because I love history, especially military history, ironically. Even though I don't see myself likely to play it ever again, I still answered your final question with "It is an excellent game..."

Perhaps I might like some future scenarios if they are a bit less confrontational. Who knows?

Jeff and I have a question for experienced players. Under first edition rules is the Halifax Hammer unbeatable by a perfectly played French side if played perfectly by the British? Or is it just a big advantage, so that the Brits win 60/40, or something like that?
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Chris Berger
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rickhatch wrote:
Indian raids had me almost back at square one with both Halifax and Louisbourg empty of both players.


Not sure if Louisbourg was empty because he besieged it back and didn't have a Settler handy when he won, or if you let him Raid it - but Louisbourg can't be raided. There are no paths leading to it, and raids can't cross the ocean/bay.

Quote:
Jeff and I have a question for experienced players. Under first edition rules is the Halifax Hammer unbeatable by a perfectly played French side if played perfectly by the British? Or is it just a big advantage, so that the Brits win 60/40, or something like that?


If the Hammer is played perfectly, it is unbeatable - IMO this has been proven to my satisfaction by out4blood's perfect record on Yucata with the British over 254 games. Note that "played perfectly" doesn't mean just following a simple script, it also involves reacting to your opponent's play. If I played the British against out4blood with 1st or 2nd edition rules, I might win, but I might not.
 
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Richard Young
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rickhatch wrote:
Jeff and I have a question for experienced players. Under first edition rules is the Halifax Hammer unbeatable by a perfectly played French side if played perfectly by the British? Or is it just a big advantage, so that the Brits win 60/40, or something like that?


Something might be learned by examining the AFoS tournament held recently at WBC. A buddy of mine was in it and he encountered a number of entrants who were confident that the HH would dominate the field. One particularly confident player found himself eliminated early from the competition.

"Balancing" was accomplished by a commonly used mechanic there of bidding for the side you wish to play. In this case, if a player really wanted the British side, he would bid by offering a number of "free actions" the French player would get which could be taken at any time during the game. Bruce's take was that a reasonable bid appeared to be 2 or 3. Whether that represents a badly unbalanced (aye, broken) game or not I leave to others who have more experience with this approach to side selection.

I think something in the order of 32 players started the competition - so a small sample size and whether the best AFoS players as measured by Yucata De were there or not is not known, so this first outing by AFoS on the tournament scene may not be all that revealing - but it could be interesting. If there is a link out there to a WBC report on the AFoS tourney, I would like to see it.
 
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Tim Seitz
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Bubslug wrote:
If there is a link out there to a WBC report on the AFoS tourney, I would like to see it.

http://ziggyny.blogspot.com/search/label/A%20Few%20Acres%20o...
 
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Is there a poll whether we give a monkeys about the HH or anything to do with it?
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Bubslug wrote:
rickhatch wrote:
Jeff and I have a question for experienced players. Under first edition rules is the Halifax Hammer unbeatable by a perfectly played French side if played perfectly by the British? Or is it just a big advantage, so that the Brits win 60/40, or something like that?

Yes. It's 100% win rate. But you have to really understand the game. I play a lot of people who "know" the HH and still lose to my French.

Quote:
Something might be learned by examining the AFoS tournament held recently at WBC. A buddy of mine was in it and he encountered a number of entrants who were confident that the HH would dominate the field.

Nick (Ziggny) won using the Hammer on every opponent--so in that sense it did dominate--and he said that most didn't really know how to play it. Most had heard of it, and thought they knew, but really didn't. And certainly even less had put any thought into how they would play the French side of that with free draw actions. So while interesting, it doesn't leave any indication of what a good balanced bid ought to be to give French a chance. Maybe it's 20?!
 
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Rick Hatch
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arkayn wrote:
rickhatch wrote:
Indian raids had me almost back at square one with both Halifax and Louisbourg empty of both players.


Not sure if Louisbourg was empty because he besieged it back and didn't have a Settler handy when he won, or if you let him Raid it - but Louisbourg can't be raided. There are no paths leading to it, and raids can't cross the ocean/bay.


I'm 90% sure he beseiged it back, and didn't have a settler in his hand when he won, but not 100% sure. I'll see if he remembers next time we talk. IIRC, he started stocking up for raiding after I was "back at square one". I definitely remember pointing out to him as I resettled Louisbourg that I was pretty sure it couldn't be raided. He argued against that, but my counter-argument was strong, so he confirmed my position via iphone.

arkayn wrote:
[q="rickhatch"]
If the Hammer is played perfectly, it is unbeatable - IMO this has been proven to my satisfaction by out4blood's perfect record on Yucata with the British over 254 games. Note that "played perfectly" doesn't mean just following a simple script, it also involves reacting to your opponent's play. If I played the British against out4blood with 1st or 2nd edition rules, I might win, but I might not.


Thanks. Yes, I definitely understand that "played perfectly" doesn't mean a simple script. It took me a few hours of practice (and damn good prediction of how he'd play against it, if I do say so myself) before I was even willing to try it on Jeff. Sure, he's a newbie, but he's also among the handful of most intelligent people I've ever met, probably among thousands, and even including groups consisting of top people. He's told me he's pretty highly rated in the couple of games he plays online, though he doesn't play as much as most, being a business owner with little free time and amazing self-discipline. I'm no dummy, but where it took me two games of losing badly and then several hours to work out how to beat him with the British, if roles had been reversed (and assuming I played the French as well as he did, which I probably wouldn't have), he probably would have figured out the concept of the Hammer in the first or second game and implemented it decently by the third.

A few more hours, with some of them being much needed sleep, away from the play of this, I could see myself maybe wanting to play more online and try the 2nd edition rules. Tim's post below that even in tournaments a lot of people aren't playing the Hammer or aren't playing it well is interesting. I seriously doubt I could compete at his level, but it might be fun to see how well I could do.
 
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Rick Hatch
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out4blood wrote:
Bubslug wrote:
rickhatch wrote:
Jeff and I have a question for experienced players. Under first edition rules is the Halifax Hammer unbeatable by a perfectly played French side if played perfectly by the British? Or is it just a big advantage, so that the Brits win 60/40, or something like that?

Yes. It's 100% win rate. But you have to really understand the game. I play a lot of people who "know" the HH and still lose to my French.

Quote:
Something might be learned by examining the AFoS tournament held recently at WBC. A buddy of mine was in it and he encountered a number of entrants who were confident that the HH would dominate the field.

Nick (Ziggny) won using the Hammer on every opponent--so in that sense it did dominate--and he said that most didn't really know how to play it. Most had heard of it, and thought they knew, but really didn't. And certainly even less had put any thought into how they would play the French side of that with free draw actions. So while interesting, it doesn't leave any indication of what a good balanced bid ought to be to give French a chance. Maybe it's 20?!


Fascinating. It sounds like the number of experts at your and Nick's level is still relatively small compared to many strategic games. This makes it really, really tempting to jump in, learn more, and see how well I could do. (See, when I think of it as a tough chess-like combat game or a mental slugfest against someone of equal or superior intelligence, the effort involved turns me off. But when I'm just figuring out a puzzle or when I'm testing myself to see how well I can do, it suddenly seems fun. I wonder why that is? )
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rickhatch wrote:
out4blood wrote:
Bubslug wrote:
rickhatch wrote:
Jeff and I have a question for experienced players. Under first edition rules is the Halifax Hammer unbeatable by a perfectly played French side if played perfectly by the British? Or is it just a big advantage, so that the Brits win 60/40, or something like that?

Yes. It's 100% win rate. But you have to really understand the game. I play a lot of people who "know" the HH and still lose to my French.

Quote:
Something might be learned by examining the AFoS tournament held recently at WBC. A buddy of mine was in it and he encountered a number of entrants who were confident that the HH would dominate the field.

Nick (Ziggny) won using the Hammer on every opponent--so in that sense it did dominate--and he said that most didn't really know how to play it. Most had heard of it, and thought they knew, but really didn't. And certainly even less had put any thought into how they would play the French side of that with free draw actions. So while interesting, it doesn't leave any indication of what a good balanced bid ought to be to give French a chance. Maybe it's 20?!


Fascinating. It sounds like the number of experts at your and Nick's level is still relatively small compared to many strategic games. This makes it really, really tempting to jump in, learn more, and see how well I could do. (See, when I think of it as a tough chess-like combat game or a mental slugfest against someone of equal or superior intelligence, the effort involved turns me off. But when I'm just figuring out a puzzle or when I'm testing myself to see how well I can do, it suddenly seems fun. I wonder why that is? )

Well, with this game you have your pick. You can solve the puzzle portion, which is how to play a proper Hammer, but for that you need competent opponents who know how to play French (even rarer!)

Or, you can also play using the pick 'em rules where you choose the rules, and your opponent chooses the sides. Great metagame - who knows the game the best?!
 
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