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Subject: Faction Selection from PBF#6 (Dwarves Rule) rss

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Dave Eisen
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Interesting strategy discussion around faction selection from PBF#6, a game and discussion involving what are the closest Terra Mystica has to experts this soon after release.

The Dwarves killed. 161 VP in a 4 player game winning by over 50 VP.

Jesse Dean, Dwarven Liaison,

Jesse Dean
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started it off by saying:

doubtofbuddha wrote:
To be fair dwarves are one of the two factions that I typically kill with and this set-up was made for them. In fact the dwarves have seemed strong in some of the other games I played in, but I am tired of playing the dwarves so much, so I have not been picking them...

I was actually pretty sure I was going to win after the set-up, and win by a significant margin after the first round.


This raised questions and I'm going to copy the discussion here. For those who want to follow along, the game final state and all history is at: http://terra.snellman.net/game/6.
 
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Dave Eisen
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jhagen1908 wrote:
Can you elaborate on what made this such a good setup for Dwarves? This is the kind of analysis I'm still having a lot of trouble putting together, even though I have almost 10 plays done.
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Dave Eisen
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dkeisen wrote:
I'm not sure I see it (re: setup being natural for dwarves).

The removed bonus tiles look relatively value neutral for the dwarves. I suppose losing the dig one is a positive because they are less likely to flat out need a dig than some other factions because they can just hop where they want to go, but most of the times they hop they want a dig as well.

A real positive is that turn 1 rewarded 4 spots on earth, a natural for dwarves who just need to pick up the very useful FAV7 tile to make it because of their start on that track.

And I like their board situation with halflings and swarmlings in play. Their two start locations are both very good, near potential starts for other players, and not likely to be completely jammed up. Plus close together so they will do well in final area scoring.

On the other hand, I would be suspicious of the SH not scoring until round 5 though. They don't need it round 1, of course, but I would have thought spending 2 workers per tunnel would be too expensive. Maybe this is a useful lesson.

By the way: they do much less well if Jimmy chooses a different faction. Auren might have been an interesting choice. Or the ever popular Chaos Magicians.

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Dave Eisen
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jhagen1908 wrote:
dkeisen wrote:

On the I would be suspicious of the SH not scoring until round 5 though. They don't need it round 1, of course, but I would have thought spending 2 workers per tunnel would be too expensive. Maybe this is a useful lesson.


I remember thinking sometime around round 4-5: "How odd, the Dwarves haven't tunnelled yet. What are they waiting for?"

Then Round 6 happened.
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Dave Eisen
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doubtofbuddha wrote:
Dwarves do very well with a fortress -> into scoring lots of points through tunneling and expansion set-up. I usually try to pull that off during the final phase of any game I play with them and it is usually enough to clinch the win, particularly if there are a few key indicators.

These indicators are:
1) Two earth cult bonuses. This rewards their specialty and the bonus terraforms and money can be quite useful.
2) The 5 VP for stronghold/sanctuary + 1 cube/2 air cult bonus on the penultimate round.
3) A dwelling scoring bonus on the final round.

All of these are very good, and will individually make me perk up. However, when they are all together it makes for a dynamite set-up for a high scoring dwarf game as we saw this time, particularly since I got the favor tiles I needed when I needed them.
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Dave Eisen
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jsnell wrote:
So my feeling is that SH scoring is one of the two things in the setup one should pay least attention to, regardless of when you're looking to build the stronghold. 5 points is totally insignificant. The main effect of a SA/SH scoring is that it gives a breather between the really lucrative scoring opportunities.

(The runner up for least important aspect is the scoring, as opposed to color, of the round one scoring tile. It happens too soon to be of any consequence).

Having Bon6 in the game is also beneficial for the dwarves in general. More worker sources -> more opportunities to abuse tunneling.
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Dave Eisen
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doubtofbuddha wrote:

It is extremely unlikely that I ever tunnel until after I build the fortress. I am also okay with not tunnelling until much later in the game, as I see it as more an opportunity for expansion than anything else. The earlier game is focused on towns and setting up for an end-game big scoring tunnel push.

I was surprised that neither the Witches or Auren were selected. I figured both of them were very good for this set-up and would have made my game much tougher (thus the assumption after set-up that I would probably win.)
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Dave Eisen
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jhagen1908 wrote:
If any of us had taken a cult faction, that probably knocks the Dwarves down to the 140s just in itself, right? Their cult points seemed enabled by the other three factions being even worse at cult scoring rather than anything intrinsic to the Dwarves.
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Dave Eisen
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doubtofbuddha wrote:
I also always take cult scoring seriously. If I am not building my Fortress round 1, then I build a temple round 1 and use my early priests and favor selections to push my cult agendas. If I am doing my job, even cult-specific factions will have trouble getting a gigantic cult score.

This is not always true with fortress-focused factions, but I have been doing less well with them and I may need to reconsider my strategy with them as a result.
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Dave Eisen
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jsnell wrote:
So my feeling is that SH scoring is one of the two things in the setup one should pay least attention to, regardless of when you're looking to build the stronghold. 5 points is totally insignificant. The main effect of a SA/SH scoring is that it gives a breather between the really lucrative scoring opportunities.



I'm going to disagree with this.

Once the game has started, you certainly do not let the 5 VP override the best timing for building your stronghold. Maybe let you move it one round earlier or later than you would otherwise prefer, but no more than that.

But ignoring it during faction selection? That seems to cost you 5VP for no good reason at all. Choosing between two factions, one of which naturally builds the stronghold turn 1 and one which does not, I'm going to go with the one which does if the game gives me 5 VP for this all else being equal, or even close to equal.

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Dave Eisen
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jhagen1908 wrote:
Can you elaborate on what made this such a good setup for Dwarves? This is the kind of analysis I'm still having a lot of trouble putting together, even though I have almost 10 plays done.


Neither here nor there, but I think I have a pretty good handle on faction selection and while might not get it right all the time, I believe I'm thinking along the correct lines.

I think most experienced players are comfortable here.

But initial placement of Dwellings is still a mystery to me. It's hard and I believe it has more impact on final result than any other decision made in the game. I mean choosing the clearly wrong faction will be worse, but no one does that. I do think we're all still making subpar initial placements.

That's probably the subject of a different strategy article.
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Dave Eisen
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doubtofbuddha wrote:
I also always take cult scoring seriously. If I am not building my Fortress round 1, then I build a temple round 1 and use my early priests and favor selections to push my cult agendas. If I am doing my job, even cult-specific factions will have trouble getting a gigantic cult score.

This is not always true with fortress-focused factions, but I have been doing less well with them and I may need to reconsider my strategy with them as a result.


This somewhat points out how brittle the dwarves situation was when Jesse selected them. He based it on building many dwellings on turn 6 for 8 VP each. Great work if you can get it.

That relies on there being lots of grey hexes available then, which is fundamentally the result of their being no red or green faction in the game. If they had to do some terraforming, no doubt he would have prepared for that by upgrading his digging technology earlier in the game. But this would have cost exactly the priests he is referring to here as a key part of his strategy on the cult tracks.

Dwarves were potentially huge, but needed a few things to go right. As he said, once initial Dwelling placement was complete he was very confident of getting a high score. More power to him for seeing this as it is not obvious, but he could not know this was going to work out this way when it was faction selection time.
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Jesse Dean
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Agreed. While the scoring itself is only a tiny fraction of the whole, it is very much worth considering for the purposes of determining the overall flow of how your game develops. This is particularly true if the SH/SA scoring is in the game, as suddenly the bonus for 2 cubes has a very strong upside.
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Jesse Dean
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dkeisen wrote:

Dwarves were potentially huge, but needed a few things to go right. As he said, once initial Dwelling placement was complete he was very confident of getting a high score. More power to him for seeing this as it is not obvious, but he could not know this was going to work out this way when it was faction selection time.


Well, I picked third so I already knew there was a good chance that I would have a pretty good ability to hit the spots I wanted to hit. Even if Jimmy had picked one of the factions to cut me off, the dwarves tend to be in a much better position to limit Green or Red faction opportunities then they are to limited the Dwarves. Doing so would have cost me resources though, and I probably would have ended up more in the ~140 range then the ~160.
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Jesse Dean
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dkeisen wrote:

That's probably the subject of a different strategy article.


I am working on that, in my head at least. Some of the faction decisions and placements I have made are based on trying to explore what configurations work effectively. Unfortunately I can't play in enough games to make it truly scientific. I also still haven't played all the factions... So we will see when or if the article ever happens.
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Dave Eisen
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doubtofbuddha wrote:
dkeisen wrote:

Dwarves were potentially huge, but needed a few things to go right. As he said, once initial Dwelling placement was complete he was very confident of getting a high score. More power to him for seeing this as it is not obvious, but he could not know this was going to work out this way when it was faction selection time.


Well, I picked third so I already knew there was a good chance that I would have a pretty good ability to hit the spots I wanted to hit. Even if Jimmy had picked one of the factions to cut me off, the dwarves tend to be in a much better position to limit Green or Red faction opportunities then they are to limited the Dwarves. Doing so would have cost me resources though, and I probably would have ended up more in the ~140 range then the ~160.


Agreed. A look at the board points this out, something I had not really noticed. Several of the grey hexes are just flat out difficult to take out from under you.

Board design was subtle and the choices made by the design team impressive.
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Juho Snellman
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dkeisen wrote:
But ignoring it during faction selection? That seems to cost you 5VP for no good reason at all. Choosing between two factions, one of which naturally builds the stronghold turn 1 and one which does not, I'm going to go with the one which does if the game gives me 5 VP for this all else being equal, or even close to equal.

Sure. I'm not saying to ignore it completely, just that the location of the SA/SH scorings should be the last thing on the priority list when evaluating the setup. If everything else is equal, take the 5vp. The margin of victory or loss is almost certainly going to be higher than that, but it's still free vp. It's just that things are rarely equal.

There are half a dozen much more important factors that should go into the decisions. And many of them are much harder to evaluate than the simple heuristic of "does this faction want to build a SH on round 1?". Somehow players then end up assigning way too much weight to the simple factor, and ignore the complicated ones. It's some kind of cognitive dissonance (and certainly not one I'm immune to).

It's a bit like the "single cult-heavy faction automatically wins, while two cult-heavy factions automatically lose"-rule Aliza mentioned. It makes intuitive sense that it's better to be the only player concentrating on the cults than to have competition. But again since it's such an intuitively correct heuristic, it tends to get assigned way too much weight in the decision making process.

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Dave Eisen
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jsnell wrote:
If everything else is equal, take the 5vp. The margin of victory or loss is almost certainly going to be higher than that, but it's still free vp.


This is a very interesting comment and one which lends itself to easy data analysis, once we are good enough that games are not just basically the experienced crushing the newbies.

Are games generally won by more or fewer than 5VP? I've seen both my share of routs and my share of games which come down to 1 or 2 VP.
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Chris Linneman
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By the same token, do you ignore town scoring if it appears in the first two rounds? It is highly unlikely one would be able to build two towns in such a short time period, so it is almost always going to be worth 5VP if it shows up early.

I think I tend to look at the bonuses and see that 5VP is more than 2 or 3 VP and tend to focus on them, ignoring the fact that the 2 and 3VP can be scored many more times if you set up for it.

Good analysis from Juho, and I'm beginning to see that the late game scoring opportunities are much more important than the early game ones. Seems elementary, and I'm baffled that it's taken me something like ten games to realize it.
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QBert80 wrote:
By the same token, do you ignore town scoring if it appears in the first two rounds? It is highly unlikely one would be able to build two towns in such a short time period, so it is almost always going to be worth 5VP if it shows up early.

I think I tend to look at the bonuses and see that 5VP is more than 2 or 3 VP and tend to focus on them, ignoring the fact that the 2 and 3VP can be scored many more times if you set up for it.

Good analysis from Juho, and I'm beginning to see that the late game scoring opportunities are much more important than the early game ones. Seems elementary, and I'm baffled that it's taken me something like ten games to realize it.


I mostly ignore town scoring period in a 5 player game. Easy for most factions to build 2 towns and difficult for anyone to build 3 when there are 5 players. Too much risk here to make paying a lot of attention to it worthwhile.
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Jesse Dean
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The late game scorings opportunities are absolutely the ones to gear up for. I feel pretty comfortable ignoring the first two or three rounds of scoring (sometimes the first four) and instead focus on building for late game gigantic scoring. This can frequently result in me being in last place (or near last place) in victory points up to and including the round where I start making my big victory point push. It works even better if you can orchestrate the last few rounds to work in a synergistic manner, and have the constructions of each round logically lead into the following ones.
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doubtofbuddha wrote:
The late game scorings opportunities are absolutely the ones to gear up for. I feel pretty comfortable ignoring the first two or three rounds of scoring (sometimes the first four) and instead focus on building for late game gigantic scoring. This can frequently result in me being in last place (or near last place) in victory points up to and including the round where I start making my big victory point push. It works even better if you can orchestrate the last few rounds to work in a synergistic manner, and have the constructions of each round logically lead into the following ones.


This makes our double SH/SA in 5 and 6 PBF a little awkward, I would say.
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Jesse Dean
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Indeed. This game will be a weird one for a number of reasons.
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Dave Eisen
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doubtofbuddha wrote:
Indeed. This game will be a weird one for a number of reasons.


Agreed, and will be happy to discuss that once it is completed.
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Matthias Reitberger
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I would say the Dwarves won because they were played well, while the others made big mistakes.
The swarmlings initial placement was bad, they got themselve out of competition for largest Network.
The Halflings got sacked in round 1 by the swarmlings, which terraformed their terrain twice with two shovels each. That's simply over aggressiv and leads to nothing. They need Fav10 and a Stronghold as soon as possible and not over expensive Dwellings.
Instead of passing in Round the Halflings could have used 3 Power to get a Priest and send him to the earth cult for end round bonus.


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