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Merchants of Amsterdam» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Tactics vs. Strategy rss

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Chris Kings-Lynne
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I've now played this game a couple of times. Probably not enough to truly understand everything about it, but enough so that a few post-mortem chats about the game have lead to some interesting thoughts.

First: this game is awesome because you think it's a tactical game, but then you realise that it truly is a long-term strategic endevour. REALLY long term.

Let me explain.

When you first try playing this game, it's natural to treat each auction independently. If you're smart, you'll look at the board and try to figure out what it's worth to you. So, you might figure out what your money increase is for the rest of the game's scoring rounds, plus what it costs your opponents. Then you'd think that you'd successfully valued it. What happens is that you get thrashed

The reason for this is because the auctions are not independent and they're usually worth far more than you think. If you pay "too much" for a colony in Africa, then you can set yourself up to pay "well under" what the NEXT colony is worth to you in Africa.

For example, imagine your are third in Africa with one counter. You might look at that and think that if you win the auction to place in Africa, then you'll still only be coming second, so it's worth 60 to you or something. However, by paying 160 for that second counter, you set yourself up to next time pay to become equal leader, and then after that clear first!

The problem is, the further you get behind everyone else, the less future auctions are worth to you, and the more they're worth to everyone else, so greater is your apparent loss on every auction. You need to lose money early to make money later.

It's like thinking "well I'm coming last, so there's no point me winning the auction to come second last since I still won't be earning anything". That's generally wrong. The idea is that you win this auction to come third, then win the next to share second and get some points.

In a typical game that I've played, people start with 400 and end with say 1000. This means that every dollar you have at the start is worth say 2.5 dollars at the end. So, should you or should you not take out a loan? You sure do take out a loan! If you for instance use the 120 from the loan to pay 20 extra on 6 auctions (so that you in effect get to win 6 more auctions than you otherwise would have), then what's winning 6 auctions worth to you - a lot!

It's the same with your non-loaned money. Imagine at the very end of the game you go into the final scoring phase with 300 cash. What a waste! Imagine if you went back over the game again, but paid 30 extra for 10 auctions. ie. You won TEN more auctions in the game than you did. Would you do it? Yes you would, because 10 extra auction wins would guarantee you hundreds and hundreds more income in the final scoring round.

It is this effect of taking a short-term loss to come out ahead over the very long term that makes this game difficult and interesting. It's when you realise why you can double the costs of items in the auctions. It's why in real life you should buy a house rather than keep cash lying around.

So...

1. Auctions are worth a lot, especially early. Don't be fooled by what you can apparently value something at by looking at the board.

2. Taking out a loan is a BIG advantage, so long as you use it to win more auctions - early!

3. The earlier you buy things, the better.

4. It is possible to have the least cash going into the final scoring (say 200) and still win with 1100 - easily.

5. Don't forget tactical play. If you need to make a decision, look ahead to what's coming up. Especially don't forget the maluses you experience in the decline of Amsterdam.

6. Since auctioned items are worth so much (due to the long term growth effect) even when you don't have an immediate large gain in income from them, they are worth even more when you DO have an immediate large gain in income.

That's my thoughts so far - I'll update the article as I play it more.
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Martin G
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Quote:
If you for instance use the 120 from the loan to pay 20 extra on 6 auctions (so that you in effect get to win 6 more auctions than you otherwise would have), then what's winning 6 auctions worth to you - a lot!


I know this article is years old and no one replied to it, but this just seems wrong to me. If you win 6 auctions more than you otherwise would have, you have to pay the full bid for those 6 auctions, not just an extra 20 for each! So winning 6 extra auctions would cost you more like 1000 than 120.

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Martin G
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And once again I won a game this weekend by barely winning any auctions while the other players continued to spend 180 or 190 on them.
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