Wow, so this is what you get for 100 pieces of gold.
We have came to the conclusion that trying to make a shipping strategy work is a seducing but ultimate failing strategy. That is, if you try to take those Trajan tiles with 3 VP and allow you to draw 2 cards from the facedown deck of cards, and try to ship till Marcus Antonious comes home isn't going to work. For starters, you are drawing random cards, and those cards you ship, you have to match with bonus tiles to get a good payoff. Not only that, a shipping action only allows you to gain 1 card which is a slow way to gain cards (unless you play 2 and draw 2, but you aren't shipping). Don and I have tried the shipping strategy, and have the receipts of defeat to show for it.
This game was one game where everyone was thinking the same thing. Get early Trajan tiles that meet people's demand, compete in construction and army.
Player order was Jean, myself and Don. Jean chose the 9 VP, two in construction and bread as his Trajan tiles. I chose one in army, religion, and 2 in construction. Don chose two in army, 9VP and bread. I was seeded with the bonus tile of 2 VP per legionnaire. In my draw of cards, I got a pair of cattle, and a fur. I was the first one to go into construction. I went as close as possible in the middle, in the second row, third column. Don placed a worker directly to the left of me, while Jean was able to seal me off from the bottom and right, forcing me to eventually go up to the first row.Jean got off to a good start, since the people were demanding two gladiators, and he was the only one with gladiator tokens. I couldn't meet 2 of the demands, while Don couldn't meet all 3 demands.
Scores: Jean 19, Don 11 (-15 for people's demands), Norbert 5 (-9 for people demands).
2nd quarter: There were two wild construction tokens in the forum. When I went in first, I took a double forum action, hoping to be able to swipe both wild construction tokens in one go. But Don would not have any of that taking one wild construction token. I used my double forum to take the remaining wild construction token, and a double army action. I won the bonus tile that gives you 1 VP per worker in the construction.
Scores: Jean 62, Don 45, Norbert 24.
3rd quarter: Nothing eventful to report here. We were competing equally in construction, army and in the senate. I got second place in the senate to get a flipped over goods bonus tile.
Scores: Jean 67, Don 63 (-4 for people's demands), Norbert 53
4th quarter: I made a big shipping move, shipping three pairs for 15 pts. Two of these pairs were cows and arches, which was a bonus tile up in the senate. The biggest votes on the board was 3 votes, so I made a double move in the senate to put me at 3 votes. I also used an army movement to pick up 2 votes, in case anyone wanted to compete. So I won that bonus tile. Jean also had 3 bonus tiles, so it was going to be close. I scored 5 pts for workers in consrtuction, 4 pts in army, 15 for the cow/arch tile and 2 pts for the flipped over bonus tile. Jean scored 9 pts each for his three bonus tiles for 27 pts: 9 for 3 tiles, 9 for religion, and 9 for shipping).
Scores: Norbert 122 (82 on board, 4 misc, 10 sets, 26 bonus),
Jean 117 (87 on board, 3 misc, 27 bonus),
Don 101 (86 on board, 2 misc 10 sets, 13 bonus)
Game end: I am brown, Jean is blue and Don is green. We have similar numbers of workers in the army and construction. The bonus tiles were shared equally between Jean and myself.
Even when I had a double shipping move late in the game after my big shipping move, the best I could do was pick up a face down card to match my flipped over bonus tile, then use the play 2 cards, draw 2 cards to lip it up to earn 2 pts, then at the end of the game get 2 pts for the unplayed cards. So shipping is hard to earn points, especially if you don't have a lot of cards in your hand. But I was lucky that 4 of my shipped cards matched a bonus tile in the fourth quarter.
Fernando Robert Yu
Just had a 3P game a while ago where it was quite competitive for the shipping cards. The game had a funny abbreviated feeling in that it SEEMED to end early, but I guess that came about since there were still a ways to go in the construction and military sections since a lot of time was spent on shipping...
A shipping strategy is a perfectly valid strategy. I don't usually pursue the Trajan tiles for it though unless it happens to work out in the original Trajan tile placement.
It works best if you have the extra action chits and +2 modifiers for shipping. Then a single visit to the docks can get you an additional three cards... but more importantly, you can switch out any bad cards from your hand when you return the one card each time. And it's not so much about getting a lot of cards so much as getting a good set of cards. 20 pts for a set of four is great.
My best advice is spend most of the game building up good sets and then ship towards the end of the game. If you are shipping earlier then that you are just being inefficient.
Also, your shipping strategy needs to work in conjunction with your senate strategy. Having the bonuses for playing certain goods is huge with a shipping strategy. Playing a set of four cards is 20 but having the right bonus makes that 32.
Finally, you can't rely on a shipping strategy alone, it's got to be part of a bigger plan. But then again I think that's true of any of the actions.