Recommend
15 
 Thumb up
 Hide
6 Posts

Beowulf: The Legend» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Analysis rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
John Farrell
Australia
Rozelle
New South Wales
flag msg tools
Averagely Inadequate
badge
Buster Keaton from 'Go West'
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
This article was originally published on my blog:

http://sologamer.blogspot.com/

It is not a full review of the game, instead it is an analytic view which helps players assess risks and rewards.

I played Beowulf: The Legend for the second time on Saturday, and understood it somewhat better than the first time, and I think it's a decent game. Of course, the first time I was completely frazzled from spending all day downloading the English rules from the FFG web site and then trying to convince my printer to print them for me. The kid managed to win that game, and the assessment from the gamers was that it was extremely random. I now disagree.

Consider the goal of the game: to get the most VPs (OK, so Reiner calls them fame). We always play advanced rules, because they are barely more complicated than the basic rules, and let you use all the cards and all the episodes. Weighed up against the goal to get VPs is the almost required subgoal of not getting 3 wounds, because if you do, you will lose 15 VPs straight away, and that will substantially interfere with the main goal. The risk mechanism of the game allows you to gain wounds in order to attempt to gain VPs. Thus wounds are resources which you accumulate to pay for the chance to get VPs.

Nothing else matters. It doesn't matter whether you get symbol cards, special cards, gold, or whatever, they are all just currencies that you trade in to get to the VPs. The episodes are the mechanisms by which that trading is done. Obviously to determine the best way to proceed in an episode, we need to be able to compare the values of the various results, and so need to determine the relative values of the currencies.

The scrolls have a random value between 1 and 3 gold or VPs. That, and the basic rules that equate gold to VPs make a strong case that 1 gold is equal to 1 VP, and so a scroll is equal to 2VPs (on average). The selection episodes, where a player may choose a scroll, 2 gold, 2 VPs, 2 cards or lose 2 scratches suggest that cards are worth 1 VP, and that scratches are worth -1VP. The Peace Returns episode at the end of the game reinforces the suggestion that 1 card is worth 1 VP. However the rule that each wound is worth -5VPs at the end of the game suggests that scratches might be valued at -1.7VPs. In any case, that gives us some basic values to compare rewards.

The episodes are obviously designed to, on average, increase a player's net wealth in VP equivalents, otherwise people would end the game with about as many VPs as cards they started with. In each major episode, a player pays a price determined by the auction, for one of the rewards which can be very valuable (7VPs) or very expensive (2 wounds and 2 cards is worth approximately -8 VPs). The art of the game is to get better value for money, on average, than the other players.

Given this philosophy, what then is the value of a Risk episode? You have a 16% chance of getting 2 cards, a 48% chance of getting one card, and a 36% chance of taking a scratch. That's an expected return of 0.16 * 2 + 0.48 - 0.36 * 1.7 = 0.188. If you value scratches at -1, the return is 0.44. So a Risk episode gains you between 0.2 and 0.4 VPs.

What about Selection? The gold, scroll, VPs, and cards selections are basically equivalent (as we assumed above) but the scratches are potentially worth more. If you've had bad luck with risks and taken scratches, this is a way for you to catch up.

How about King Hrothgar's Hall? All of the rewards are positive, although I am not going to try to put a value on the special cards today. The maximum reward is the 2 scrolls, worth about 4VPs. Hence it's not worth bidding more than 4VPs to win that auction. In Grendel's attack, the rewards vary from 5VPs down to about -3VPs for the wound. Hence in that episode, players are bidding on an 8 point turnaround in fortunes. The other major episodes can be analysed similarly, with obviously the climax of the game being the Fight with the Dragon, where the whole 15 point swing is available.

Of course, by this late stage in the game, the values start to become very rubbery. You can determine whether the value of any scratches you hold is going to be 0 (because you didn't reach 3 wounds) or negative. Any cards you have left after the Fight with the Dragon are worth only what you can get for them in Beowulf's Death. Depending on how much money you have compared to other players, you might want to save it for Recover Treasures, or you might want to try to spend it on the Iron Shield in order to help you win the Fight With the Dragon. From the Dragon's Rampage onwards, it's really a tactical exercise to maximise your VPs by spending all of your resources, and the approximated values of the resources give way to the old adage "it's worth what you can get for it".

I hope this analysis has presented this game in a more positive light. I don't think Reiner designed a bad game, I think he designed a game whose mechanics don't match what people would expect in a game about Beowulf. Armed with this analysis, I'm prepared to take on all comers...
5 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jay Little
United States
Eden Prairie
Minnesota
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Karate Chop!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
This is an excellent review of the core concepts of Beowulf -- in fact, I'd argue you can't really assess or review the game without addressing the valuation of cards or the nuance of the Risk mechanic.

This offers one interesting way of analyzing the different episodes, but it looks at it strictly from a single player's perspective... While determining the net VP effect of an action to yourself, you need to be able to keep in mind the position of the other players.

You don't need to necessarily worry about making the best net VP move in an episode where the biggest perceived threats were forced to bow out early with suboptimal rewards... Perhaps you drop and conserve cards rather than press for a better reward, etc.

Thanks for posting this. It's interesting and good food for thought... But one thing is missing -- do you like the game for what it is, or think to enjoy it, you need to better understand and accept the foibles of the Risk/Reward structure?
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Olivier REIX
France
Grenoble
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Friendless wrote:
(...)
The scrolls have a random value between 1 and 3 gold or VPs. That, and the basic rules that equate gold to VPs make a strong case that 1 gold is equal to 1 VP, and so a scroll is equal to 2VPs (on average). The selection episodes, where a player may choose a scroll, 2 gold, 2 VPs, 2 cards or lose 2 scratches suggest that cards are worth 1 VP, and that scratches are worth -1VP. The Peace Returns episode at the end of the game reinforces the suggestion that 1 card is worth 1 VP. However the rule that each wound is worth -5VPs at the end of the game suggests that scratches might be valued at -1.7VPs. In any case, that gives us some basic values to compare rewards.


I have done a small analysis by myself (in french, sorry). You can get it here (in 4 parts, for the moment) :
http://reixou.free.fr/ptitsjeux.php?p=469&more=1&c=1
http://reixou.free.fr/ptitsjeux.php?p=474&more=1&c=1
http://reixou.free.fr/ptitsjeux.php?p=492&more=1&c=1
http://reixou.free.fr/ptitsjeux.php?p=504&more=1&c=1

My evaluation is diffrent than yours.
The scrolls are between 1 & 3 but there are more "3 VP". On average, you will get 1.5 VP & 0.66 treasure with an Alliance (scroll) which is on average a little bit better than 2 PV or 2 treasure.
In selection, obviously the scratch removal is the best option if you already have 2 scratches.
Each wound is more than -5 VP as you also lose an additonal 5 VP for the first. Assuming you can not get more than 4 wounds (you can, but you really did bad), this means than 1 wound = -5 VP, 2 wounds =-5 VP, 3 wounds = -20 VP and 4 wounds = -25 vp.
So I like the value Wound = -6 VP and Scratch = -2 as a rough evaluation.
For the cards the evaluation is even more difficult as obviously :
- 2 symbols on a card are much better than 1
- Fighting or Courage are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more useful than, say, Friendship.

But I agree that, as a basic and general evaluation, 1VP = 1 cards is acceptable.

Quote:
The episodes are obviously designed to, on average, increase a player's net wealth in VP equivalents, otherwise people would end the game with about as many VPs as cards they started with. In each major episode, a player pays a price determined by the auction, for one of the rewards which can be very valuable (7VPs) or very expensive (2 wounds and 2 cards is worth approximately -8 VPs). The art of the game is to get better value for money, on average, than the other players.


I have evaluated the episodes by what I call "Amplitude" which is basically the evaluated difference in VP between the winner of the auction and the loser. For some episodes, this value is as few as 3. For the Battle against the Dragon, it is around the big 17 and around 9 for the other 4 major episodes (Grendel, Sea Hag, Friesland and Dragon's Rampage).

Quote:
Given this philosophy, what then is the value of a Risk episode? You have a 16% chance of getting 2 cards, a 48% chance of getting one card, and a 36% chance of taking a scratch. That's an expected return of 0.16 * 2 + 0.48 - 0.36 * 1.7 = 0.188. If you value scratches at -1, the return is 0.44. So a Risk episode gains you between 0.2 and 0.4 VPs.


My calculation : for every risk you "gain"
* 0.425x1 + 0.225x2 + 0.055x3 + 0.005x4 = 1.06 symboles
* 0.29 scratches (= a wound every 10 risks)

We agree on the conclusion that on average Risking is a good idea (but watch out for your scratch count).

Quote:
What about Selection? The gold, scroll, VPs, and cards selections are basically equivalent (as we assumed above) but the scratches are potentially worth more. If you've had bad luck with risks and taken scratches, this is a way for you to catch up.

Yes removing 2 scratches is much more powerfull and should always be your 1st choice, without almost no exception. Early in the game I will now tend to take treasures if not everybody does it or else draw an Alliance token.
Taking 2 cards seems to me to be the worst choice, except if you really have short of.

Quote:
How about King Hrothgar's Hall? All of the rewards are positive, although I am not going to try to put a value on the special cards today.

I have tried to do it, see the links.

Quote:
(...)

I hope this analysis has presented this game in a more positive light. I don't think Reiner designed a bad game, I think he designed a game whose mechanics don't match what people would expect in a game about Beowulf. Armed with this analysis, I'm prepared to take on all comers...


After 6 or 7 plays now, I am in love in the game. Explaining what is behind the mechanism really seems to help the newcomers who now seem to enjoy it (first reactions where ahem).

Thank you for the discussion.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Sim
Singapore
Singapore
flag msg tools
Thanks for this very erudite review of the game. Your analysis clearly shows that there is more to the game than initially perceived.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Farrell
Australia
Rozelle
New South Wales
flag msg tools
Averagely Inadequate
badge
Buster Keaton from 'Go West'
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ynnen wrote:
do you like the game for what it is, or think to enjoy it, you need to better understand and accept the foibles of the Risk/Reward structure?


I don't mind it how it is, but I think a deeper understanding will help me play better and appreciate the game. If you've read mrraow's article on Zertz (in the Zertz links, I think), you'll appreciate that a bit of thought can turn an OK game into a great one. I don't know whether this sort of analysis will achieve that with Beowulf, but I trust Reiner enough to think that it's worth the effort to find out.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Maciej Teległow
Poland
Gdansk
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Hello
Sorry for English. My first post on the forum here. Yesterday played Beowulf first and second time. I bought the game after reading Chris Farrell analysis (i like similar games).
I do not want to write about all that percentage/chances/strategic stuff here, just want to say i like it very much, as the game. Rather i would like to say about all the mess about risk element and unballance of the game it evokes. My opinion is that in Beowulf luck influences game as much as Settlers of Catan or even Ra. In majority of plays the winner would be player who plays best (strategic and tactic). But off course the bad player with a lot of luck can win the game. The problem is do You like it or not. The same situation is between Basketball and soccer. I am european so i like soccer very much (named here football ) In the basketball the better team is very likely to win, becouse of many points to score during a match, so one or two lucky actions cannot decide. In soccer the better team should win, but is much more likely that the worse would. Thats becouse becouse the points to score are much less and one lucky action can change the outcome of the match. So the luck factor is much more important in soccer then in basketball. Thats why i prefer soccer. You never know which team win.
The same situation here. In Puerto Rico (which i like) the best player wins in 100% games (off course saying that there are reasonable differences between players). In Beowulf he would win in 70 maybe 80 or 90% of plays (maybe more, i am not sure, i write about major trend). I like it very much. Off course i am sure that good strategy is a key factor in Beowulf and thats why i appreciate analysys. But still if You prefer games like basketball You would prefer Puerto Rico and such games, if You like the luck factor in reasonable amount You would like Beowulf.
Have a nice play
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.