The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Archive for February 2009

In which I get pedantic

Larry (in his 2008 Designer of the Year article) writes:

Age of Scheme’s reception can’t really be easily determined, due to the firestorm over its extremely unfortunate name, but again, there are mostly positive reviews.

Earthquakes are unfortunate. Snake eyes are unfortunate. It’s tough to evaluate competing legal claims. But the designer/publisher named Age of Scheme, not random chance.

As for Larry’s pick for DoY (Martin Wallace), I haven’t played any of his recent games…

Written by taogaming

February 27, 2009 at 8:38 pm

Posted in Rant

“The Claw is our Master!”

Pick and Pack is another two person complete information abstract. I played it anyway. It has a clever idea, both players control a claw to grab apples. from a grid. One player gets to move it horizontally, the other vertically. Besides taking the item on the grid where you land, you can take one of two special action abilities tied to that row/column.

Another cromulent abstract that seems playable. If you like that kind of thing.

Written by taogaming

February 24, 2009 at 8:10 am

Posted in Reviews

Tagged with

Nothing … I haz it.

So your discussion question for the weekend is: Given recent history and releases, Tao needs to use his additional spare time playing [BLANK].

Written by taogaming

February 20, 2009 at 8:03 pm

Posted in Open Thread

Year in Review — Secondary Thoughts

You know, since I was happy to play BSG multiple times this week, I may as well call it my game of the year.

Written by taogaming

February 11, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Posted in Battlestar Galactica

Tagged with

Others writing so I can sleep in

Hey, I played in that! Which saves me from writing a session report. Not that I was going to.

Written by taogaming

February 8, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Posted in Session Reports

Le Havre strategy

Finally getting around to answering some comments in the last thread

One thing that I touched upon, but that Alexfrog explicitly called out, is that having a loan provides a cash infusion (if you manage your entry fees). This is definitely troubling. I agree that the cokery is where to aim. You only need to go there once, and then you have plenty of energy, a nice income boost (15-25 can happen, 10 is pretty easy).

[In fact, my flirtation with the courthouse last game was me trying to delay the cokery for as long as possible and see what happens. Since I was playing for no cokery to show up, I spent 5-8 coal on energy early, which narrowed my margin of victory].

Regarding Larry’s question (“Is the player the one who always takes out lots of loans?”) I don’t have enough data to answer. So far, every game I’ve played the winner had lots of loans. But … it’s been me.

I can see Uwe’s point … if two players are taking out loans then the 3rd player should be able to get food cheaply … but just because I’m taking out loans doesn’t mean I’m giving up on fish. (Among other things, fish pay entry fees), just that I’m not desperate for it. I won’t take 3 or 4 fish (unless there’s really nothing to do, which sometimes happens on the first round or two). I’ll happily take 6+ (until the late game). But that’s not because I’m worried about loans; Taking 6+ fish is efficient. Just like taking 6+ wood. Or 3+ Iron.

The lack of various routes to efficiency is somewhat disturbing. Take a luxury yacht. It’s 30-38 points. But it costs 3 Steel + 3 Energy (call it a coal). Well, you could use that coal to ship 3 Steel for 24. And you could ship other goods (if you had more goods, energy and boats) for more money. In other words, depending on what you’ve got, shipping may be more efficient than a yacht (but since you can’t ship twice in a row, it may be best to ship/yacht/ship). That’s the thing about the cokery …. it provides energy (for shipping, processing steel, etc) and a good commodity to ship, and income. Whereas building steel is strictly limited, costs energy. and often doesn’t get money. You’ll need some steel for steel ships, but it’s a definite limited thing.

When I said

I’m not positive there’s a dominant path to victory in Le Havre, but I wouldn’t need much convincing.

I was thinking about shipping coke. Seems like I’m not the only one.

Slaughtering cows gives you furs, but you can only process them a few at a time. [And cows ship for more than meat, which saves actions]. Ditto fish. Baking bread isn’t bad, but costs energy. Maybe some special buildings mitigate, but the base buildings practically force you towards coke. And you can’t stop people from getting into buildings.

(Consider a variant where the harvest rounds that build the cheapest building just remove the cheapest building. Now suddenly something might not get built and be missing for the whole game! Or that each special building also had a building it removed from the game (unless already owned by a player. Now in this case you’d have to worry that the cokery wouldn’t be built. But even if it’s buried at the bottom of a stack, it will probably still show up early enough …)

Alex’s discussion of the Coal strategy is here.

Written by taogaming

February 5, 2009 at 7:20 pm

Posted in Strategy

Tagged with

Spidering Around

I’ve got some real life happening, so a quick look around the web…

I’ve been meaning to mention that Linnaeus has some Race strategy articles [1, 2, 3] …

The inside scoop behind the Wii Fit.

Some free online courses that may be of interest.

Written by taogaming

February 3, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Posted in Misc

An open letter or two

Dear NFL,

As someone on record as hoping the Cards would get blown out, I think I have some credibility when I state that the football game played today was the worst officiated game of any sport I’ve ever seen, and I’m counting the time I watched Victory. I’ll give the refs the early touchdown that was recalled, but the later “fumble” some rinky dinky personal fouls when a defender shoves (and avoids helmet contact) as compared to when the Steelers pile-drive Warner. But even my cynical self was stunned when you didn’t even bother to review the last “fumble.” I sincerely hope you gave the MVP to the refs, but it was a team effort, after all.

Dear New England Patriots,

It has come to my attention by the actions of referees that the tuck rule does not, in fact, exist. Please return your lombardi trophy and rings ASAP. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Dear Arizona Cardinals,

I still don’t think you deserved to be in the playoffs, but you got jobbed. I assure you if you say “The referees boned us” that your fine will be covered. If the NFL has the balls to levy it.

Dear advertisers,

You suck. Can we admit that the “Superbowl commercials are great” thing has been dead for five or so years? The best commercial I saw was by Mamacitas, a local restaurant.


You know, competing against porn is a mugs game. But competing against porn on the Internet? Really? That’s your great idea?

Dear Half-time show,

Great! Please make next years 10 minutes longer, we didn’t quite finish the set in Rock Band. We were playing tight, though. Thanks for asking.

Dear Trent Dilfer,

You’re still the worst quarterback to win a superbowl, but I guess the fact that it’s debatable now means you are allowed to smirk.

Dear John Madden,

At some point in the fourth quarter, the words “I agree with John Madden” were uttered for the first time in history (re: ejecting Harrison).

Dear Announcers,

Regarding calling Rothlesburger’s “rushing” touchdown (overturned). Rushing has vowed that the insult will be avenged, and challenged you to pistols at five paces. “Falling” was also insulted, for not being mentioned.

Dear everyone else involved,

Frakkin Toasters.

Written by taogaming

February 1, 2009 at 10:53 pm

Posted in Non-Gaming, Rant

Tagged with ,

Le Havre, Agricola and the One True Way

I’ve now played Le Havre half a dozen times. (Which means that everyone who said I should get it was right).

So, expanding on my initial thoughts

I’m not positive there’s a dominant path to victory in Le Havre, but I wouldn’t need much convincing. Perhaps it would be better to say that there’s a dominant failure path — worrying about food for your people (and/or loans). Avoiding loans cost actions; and actions are worth much more. An extra endgame action is usually worth 20 florin, and holding a loan for the entire game costs less (1 florin extra payback, 15 florin interest, a few florin from loans caused by followon interest). If you only needed one loan, it would be close, but you’ll need to take several actions in the first half of the game (until you get enough ships to cover the bulk of your food costs). Your 2nd (and subsequent) loans only cost 1 florin each (if we tack the cost of interest and ‘loans to cover interest’ onto the first loan), and 1 Florin is worth a lot less than an action.

Debating an action’s value is interesting. Arguably, action values rise during the game. An early food action isn’t worth much, but an early action that gets non-consumed goods compounds into better endgame action that’s worth 20. Perhaps it only contributed to a fraction of that, but how to value it?

This is one issue with the marketplace … it provides coal that will usually be worth 1 Florin (when you convert it to Coke) and then provides enough energy to power 3 ships or can be shipped for 5 Florin … and it provides other goods. Any reasonable use of the marketplace should be valued at 6 florins for the coal alone. If you also grab your first grain (or second cattle) you can assign a few harvests of value to that.

Thematically, this doesn’t bother me. But I’d have liked it to be a bit closer. Agricola suffers from the opposite issue — each begging card is a huge penalty (3 VP when a winning score is 40-50, so call it 1/15th of a winning score). Presumably for invoking that penalty you got a great action and didn’t just mess up), but that action would have to be amazing. Whereas in Le Havre carrying 5-10 loans and paying them back if it frees up a few actions then you come out ahead. [All of this neglects the benefit of loans of providing cash flow to pay entry fees, which is often worth a few actions by themself!]

Now, the rest of each game is interesting, but wouldn’t the balance have been better off if the decision were a bit closer in each case? For Agricola, make each begging card worth -2 VP each (or even -1). For Le Havre, charge interest on each odd Loan (or say that if you take out a loan to pay interest you get no change!) Now the number of “obviously better” paths is muddled.

In each case you have a different game. Would it be better? I think so.

What got me started on this line of thought is that I went to the Courthouse building to get two loans dismissed free and clear. (A 10 Florin benefit). Normally I don’t like this action; those 10 Florin can’t compound. But here I deliberately trying to slow the game down, so I decided to flip between that and other buildings. [My opponents buildings avoided any delay I caused was wasted, so I abandoned the idea].

Le Havre and Agricola are solid games; I’m just tantalized by the costs Rosenberg assigned to starvation. Defendable on theme (Agricola moreso), but out of balance with actinos saved. It seems like a deliberate design decision, but goes against the idea of making tough choices.

I expect to get more plays out of Le Havre, so I’m not complaining.

[If I were tinkering with Le Havre, I'd also consider making the Marketplace not be building #1, but perhaps #4-6. Low enough that it comes out early, but that in some games it may be blocked for a while...Actually, I'd considered making some buildings cost X, where X just means "don't reorder." They sit in the place they get dealt in the column; and you reorder the numbered buildings].

Written by taogaming

February 1, 2009 at 10:54 am

Posted in Agricola, Ramblings

Tagged with


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