The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Master Solvers Forum #1

I always like those in old Bridge Worlds. So, here we go. Answer in the comments.

Problem 1a:

You are Earth’s Lost Colony. [3 Players, the opponents are Epsilon Eridini and Old Earth]. Your opening hand is:

  1. Alien Tech. Institute
  2. Alien Rosetta Stone World
  3. Destroyed World
  4. Drop Ships
  5. Galactic Engineers
  6. Spice World

What do you discard and what’s your first turn plan?

Problem 1b:
As above, but instead of Drop ships you have New Economy.

I’ve uploaded my spreadsheet of card names/effects. Let me know if you see any errors. (For some reason a card or two doesn’t like the sort fuction. I’ve never seen that before.

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Written by taogaming

January 13, 2008 at 3:18 pm

Posted in Race for the Galaxy

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29 Responses

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  1. In both cases Spice World is what I would aim for — the Alien setup is just too speculative (draw no Alien cards and you are really unhappy).

    Galactic Engineers / Destroyed World is second place, and I felt like Rare worlds were likely (or, say, if I saw them during a turn 1 Explore), I might switch to that.

    If I thought someone else was going to Settle I might be daring and choose Produce, otherwise I would Settle.

    Geoff Speare

    January 13, 2008 at 4:27 pm

  2. I’d discard the two Alien worlds. Can’t afford the card flow hit to hang onto them.

    I’d play Produce, and hope that one of the others Settles. If they do, great, play Spice world (keep Gal. Eng.), and then next turn Consume Trade for 4. If they did Explore/Settle each turn you’ll be able to play Galactic Engineers first. Then you can Exp/Trade twice in a row for 10 cards. Great by turn #3.

    If they don’t pick Settle on turn #1 still consume trade on 2 with the plan to play Spice World on this settle. If no settle again you still net two cards.

    Lou

    January 13, 2008 at 7:50 pm

  3. Im trying to think if there is any trick in the opening discards. I dont think there is any choice is ditching the tech institute and the rosetta stone. If New Sparta was in then maybe this would be reconsidered, but the game is shaping up to be a produce/consume prevalent game and with the lost colony you should be in the drivers seat.

    Considering your opponents, my first reaction would be to produce, but I dont think that this is necessarily the correct play. My approach would be to consider what would happen in the event of a develop phase – you would be left out in the cold.

    Id consider:-

    Explore +1 +1 – if you are going the novelty goods production track, you really wouldnt mind spice world and destroyed world down. You probably will be producing and therefore dont REALLY need galactic engineers (which is one of my favourite planets). Therefore, an early explore will allow you to lay down these cards that you need as well as giving you a shot to make use of a develop from your opponents.

    If you kept the rosetta stone you could go a +5 instead, but I dont think this is warranted. Perhaps if New Sparta was about instead of old earth.

    but better:

    Settle Destroyed World ditching galactic engineers (marginal call, but I think drop ships allow you much more flexibility) for a 2nd turn consume/trade. I think this is better than produce/consume because 2 cards at the end of turn 2 is not as good as a rebate at the settle phase of turn 1 and 3 cards at the end of turn 2. Turn 3 should be set up as a produce in all likelihood.

    zzdroman

    January 13, 2008 at 10:02 pm

  4. It’s a tough opening deal. I wouldn’t be too concerned about the other players’ opening worlds, as often as not it seems you don’t get the cards for your preferred strategy, so I wouldn’t necessarily discard the two Alien cards just because the other players might prefer produce/consume if they had that option.

    It’s really hard to let go of the two alien cards. How often do you see such a powerful base to build a strategy on? How often do you get a 6 and the key supporting card on turn 1? There are a decent number of Alien cards in the deck. It’s a gamble, but the whole game is a gamble, and this seems a pretty reasonable one. If you go Explore +1/+1, you can leech a settle to get down the Alien Rosetta Stone on turn 1, then go Explore +0/+5 in search of Alien worlds to play for free. You give up on Develop until you can get and cycle an Alien Tech good or can do enough free Settles to get the cards, but you’ve got a built-in produce/consume leech. I think you can just barely bootstrap it, with the risk being you may miss out on develop. Best case is, everyone else does explore on Turn 1 as well, you then do a Settle turn 2 and are then in good shape to do an Explore on turn 3 and then take advantage of whatever else everyone else is doing. Worst case, someone else ends up playing a super-fast luxury goods strategy, but everything has a risk.

    The other good thing about keeping the Alien cards plus, say, the Spice World is that you can see how things develop on turn 1 and jump one way or the other. If you do Explore +1/+1, and see what everyone else does, role-selection-wise, you aren’t quite committed. Then if you get a good Alien world, and everyone else is doing Settle, or if everyone is doing Explore, you can go the Alien path. If the cards suck, or if there are lots of Develop actions, you can keep the Alien Tech, buy the Drop Ships, and hedge your bets.

    Chris Farrell

    January 13, 2008 at 11:26 pm

  5. 1. I think you are on the money with your last paragraph. I like to explore a lot on the first turn so i can take advantage of a settle/develop or both.

    2. The Alien proposal does not attract me. I have played a number of games where I had a rapidly expanding base of alien worlds but with no economy – consume powers are conspicuously absent and I just see many hail marys with consume trades thrown in to fill up on cards. I have not got this to gel, but maybe others have been luckier/smarter.

    3. Put it down to noobness, but I really dont like 6 cost developments in my opening hand unless they are galactic federation.

    zzdroman

    January 13, 2008 at 11:59 pm

  6. 1. I think you are on the money with your last paragraph. I like to explore a lot on the first turn so i can take advantage of a settle/develop or both.

    2. The Alien proposal does not attract me. I have played a number of games where I had a rapidly expanding base of alien worlds but with no economy – consume powers are conspicuously absent and I just see many hail marys with consume trades thrown in to fill up on cards. I have not got this to gel, but maybe others have been luckier/smarter.

    3. Put it down to noobness, but I really dont like 6 cost developments in my opening hand unless they are galactic federation.

    zzdroman

    January 13, 2008 at 11:59 pm

  7. Problem 1a:

    The Safe play (Keep Spice World and Galactic Engineers and either the Alien cards or DS/DW):
    Turn 1: Produce
    Turn 2: Consume/Trade

    Two chances to get a Settle and Spice World out before the Trade.

    The Agressive play (keep Destroyed World and Spice World and Alien cards or DS/GE):
    Turn 1: Consume/Trade
    Turn 2: Consume/Trade (if it didn’t work turn 1) or Produce (if it did).

    If I’m feeling aggressive and since Alpha Centauri isn’t in the game I might go Consume/Trade on the first turn hoping for the Settle to place Destroyed World. That would give a half step advantage and ideally would net a decent card for a turn 2 Develop. I don’t like this play too much in a three player game where the odds of a Settle aren’t as good as in a four player.

    The Alien play (pitch Galactic Engineers and Destroyed World):
    Turn 1: Explore/+1,+1. If Settle play Spice World.
    Turn 2: Produce, assuming no one else Produced first turn. 🙂
    Turn 3: Consume/Trade

    By far the riskiest option, but worth trying. If decent low military worlds are drawn early go Drop Ships before Alien Rosetta Stone World. If a lucky Alien World shows up go for Alien Rosetta Stone World or (if enough explores happen) Alien Tech Institute.


    Problem 1b:

    This reinforces the production route and makes me more likely to go Produce, Consume/Trade first two turns, pitching the Alien cards. Definitely hold onto New Economy, Spice World, Destroyed World, GE.

    frunk

    January 13, 2008 at 11:59 pm

  8. Although I love galactic engineers (and not spending it would be my initial decision), does it really do much for your tableau with Earth’s Lost Colony and in all likelihood a spice world and one windfall world?

    I have a fear if you had destroyed world and galactic engineers out you would have no chance of ever leeching production phases from your opponents (assuming you are going the novelty consume/produce route that E’sLC and Spice World suggest). I would like to keep drop ships to keep a formidable military option open, even if it is terribly expensive in the early game.

    Very enjoyable thread!

    zzdroman

    January 14, 2008 at 12:12 am

  9. The problem with going for Alien or Military strategies is that you are more at the mercy of the draw than usual. Both require larger up-front investments, and can get on big rolls. But both can also be hamstrung if the cards dry up.

    But I think you have to do what your cards are telling you to do. In this case, you’ve got some very powerful Military and Alien cards available to you. I don’t think you can walk away from those and try to go for a prototypical Luxury goods produce/consume strategy just because you have your homeworld plus one planet. The highest score I’ve ever seen was notched by a player who went the Alien route.

    So, on reflection, I think I’d keep the two alien cards, the drop ships, and the destroyed world. Explore +1/+1 on turn one. Then either drop the Destroyed World and Consume on turn 2 if a Settle is available, or do Explore +1/+1 again, depending on how things develop and what you get. You’ll have early-game risk if things go against you, but that’s OK. It’s a short game. I’d rather bet on something I’ve got in my opening hand than take a flier.

    Chris Farrell

    January 14, 2008 at 1:34 am

  10. I drop the two alien cards and Explore +1/+1 on turn 1.

    It’s true, the two alien cards are nice, but they do very little in terms of economy. If you go that route and don’t manage to find any alien windfalls, you’re sunk — it will take at least 6 more cards to just get those two out, and where are you making those 6 cards from? Selling your wimpy novelty?

    So, now that I’ve decided to drop the two alien cards, what do I play? Choosing Settle in order to get Galactic Engineers seems ludicrous, but the other three are viable. But the drawback with choosing either Develop or Settle is, what are you doing to do if one of your opponents chooses the other one? If that happens, you’re almost certainly losing a tempo, and it’s not clear if the card you’re putting out is worth the tempo loss. You’re going to be feeling pretty unhappy if you bring out Drop Ships and then can’t find any small military worlds to conquer. Better to pick Explore; that way, you have a reasonable play if only one of Develop or Settle is chosen, and if both of them are chosen, at least you get to look at three cards in an attempt to find a cheap Military World.

    To put another way, let suppose you know that the best possible cards for your hand (I would guess Pirate World and Consumer Markets) are somewhere in the first 10 cards in
    the draw pile. What maximizes your chance of getting one of them while still retaining something to go with it? I think Explore +1,+1 is best for that.

    Wei-Hwa

    January 14, 2008 at 3:27 am

  11. I agree with Wei-Hwa: I would be scared of missing out on a develop phase on turn 1 – +1+1 assists with this.

    zzdroman

    January 14, 2008 at 3:47 am

  12. My concern with going Explore +1/+1 is that it is too conservative. Sure, if they go Dev/Dev you are losing a chance to Develop, but you will have the only good, and your C/T on the next turn has a high likelyhood of producing 4 cards (with Spice World) since after Dev/Dev a Settle is extremely likely on turn two.

    If they Exp/Dev on turn 1 you are much better off having produced, unless you are relying on the extra explore card being a perfect development for your hand.

    Lou

    January 14, 2008 at 12:12 pm

  13. I think you have to go with the Military/Alien in 1a, not least (although not most) because if you end up with 3 people trying for produce/consume and you fall behind it can be very hard playing catchup or trying to change strategy. With that, +1/+1 seems the best bet, hoping to either grab a couple of helpful cards or get fodder for putting down other things. Hard decision though, because you lose tempo that way.

    For 1b, though, there’s not enough military to get Alien worlds without another booster, so I’d go production.

    Phil

    January 14, 2008 at 1:51 pm

  14. The alien stuff is too expensive to get out early without an income source. When you eventually get it out youll be too far behind.

    However, I’d hold onto at least one alien card, though its likely youll throw it away early if your opponents arent exploring (or if you get something better in an explore).

    The spice world combines very well with your homeworld, it lets you sell for +2 and gives you 2 novelty production,

    The best way to go is turn 1 produce, turn 2 trade. If an opponent settles in either of the first two turns you’ll get 4 cards from this. If they dont, you gained +1 card per role choice just like them. The worst thing that can happen is they’ll just develop, but probably youll get a settle early on, or they’ll explore.

    So I’d hold:
    Spice World (our planned play)
    Galactic Engineers (very versatily, works with any windfall world you draw).
    Alien Tech Institute (its just money probably, if an opponent settles)
    Alien Rosetta Stone World (also probably just money)

    And Discard:
    Destroyed World (its normally decent but here you want to trade with spice world instead)
    Drop Ships (or maybe keep this instead of an alien card)

    Turn 1: Produce, Turn 2: Trade.

    If opponents settle: Get spice world.
    If opponents explore: If you see something helpful keep it, discard alien stuff, if you dont, use it as money.
    If opponents develop: Thats bad, but at least you are going to get some trading income, hopefully they also settle by turn 2.

    1b: New Economy is a better thing to hold than the alien stuff. I’d hold it instead of an alien card and then not discard it. Its going to score well with a production strategy.

    Alexfrog

    January 14, 2008 at 2:37 pm

  15. I like Produce first turn as it seems like a win/win to me. If another player Settles I get Spice World out, if they don’t nobody else gets anything out of Produce. If I don’t have a Production World to play first turn I’m less excited by the first turn Produce.

    The only reason to go Explore first turn seems to be to hold onto the cards you have or to get something better. If I’m holding I’d rather keep the Alien cards/Drop Ships than the less ambitious DW/GE. Besides Spice World is effectively DW/GE all wrapped up in a single card. The only advantage of DW is you can get the Consume/Trade a turn earlier and if going for diversity it’s not Novelty.

    frunk

    January 14, 2008 at 3:01 pm

  16. I’d go with the cheap stuff. If I aim for the alien combo, I need at least 11 cards to get started (9 for costs, plus the three cards themselves minus one for the dev discount). Where am I going to get the other 7? If I’m real lucky, I can explore +1/+1, find an Alien world, drop the Rosetta stone on someone else’s Settle, settle next time for free, Turn 3 consume/trade, and T4 develop. I’m now broke with three cards out there after four turns and my economy produces 5 cards every two turns, using my actions. I’m doing OK, but not great, and I’ve needed to find a 2 cost alien within three cards, and to have had someone else settle for me. On the other hand, someone else may have explored to get me a card or two, and if others are producing, I don’t have to.

    But—I very much do not want to throw those two cards into the discard pile together. The discards are rarely well-shuffled, and I don’t want someone’s getting that pair together, so I’d save one of them and use it as money early on.

    JeffG

    January 14, 2008 at 5:30 pm

  17. As other people mentioned, I would produce the first turn and play spice world if someone settles.

    I’d throw away both alien cards. In the words of Admiral Akbar ‘IT’S A TRAP!’ Alien Rosetta stone world is rarely good early on, unless you can play something like Alien Robot Sentry.

    New Economy isn’t great early on. You’d do better to improve your production capacity first.

    Chris Esko

    January 15, 2008 at 11:57 am

  18. Jeff’s unwillingness to throw the two alien cards into the discard pile on top of each other takes the game onto an entirely new plane for me. I thought I was playing the game on a fairly high level, but clearly I was deluding myself and there is much more to learn.

    What else am I missing by not thinking deeply enough? What level am I actually on? For example, if I draw the Avian Uplift World (2 Mil) and a Expedition Force in my opening hand as Old Earth, what impact does that have on the odds of the New Sparta player playing Settle on turn 1. In fact, I don’t know the odds in general, horrors, of New Sparta having a 1 or 2 defense non-Novelty windfall world in their opening draw. [Okay, I now know. It’s 37%…and 33% if I have one in mine.]

    Brian, I blame you. You clearly need to post much more often on Race, and start addressing these higher level strategies in more detail. I expect to see posts on the application of Bayesian statistics, shuffle tracking, semi-bluffs, and card counting to Race.

    Lou

    January 15, 2008 at 4:25 pm

  19. I seem to be in the minority, but I’d hold on to both alien cards, plus Galactic Engineers and Spice World, and choose Explore +1/+1. I’m not thrilled about not holding an alien world, but unlike others I really appreciate holding my potential 6 development from the start, and I’m willing to see if it can work.

    If I get cards aligned with novelty, I use the alien cards as money (separately, as Jeff suggests) later. If I get alien worlds – particularly the robot sentry – I’ll aim down that path.

    Of course, I’m way too fond of exploring…

    Joe Huber

    January 15, 2008 at 4:27 pm

  20. Joe’s approach is sensible. I’d pick it if we were playing 5-handed. I like exploring when my hand can send me in different directions and this hand certainly can. And I agree that it’s great to have one’s key 6-point development in hand. I just don’t like the economics of an early alien strategy, plus I think that the plan won’t really work until I get the Tech Institute onto the table. On the other hand, if this were a top-notch 5-player game, the rest of my hand isn’t all that good, and if I did get the alien strategy working, I’d have a really good chance to win. If I didn’t, well, everyone loses most strong 5-player games anyway. In a 3-player game, I don’t think I need to go for such a high variance approach; even if I’m a little behind now, I ought to have a decent chance to catch up. With 5, someone is going to power through the whole game often enough that my goal is to be one of them, so I’ll go for the brass ring.

    JeffG

    January 15, 2008 at 6:23 pm

  21. Joe’s approach is sensible. I’d pick it if we were playing 5-handed. I like exploring when my hand can send me in different directions and this hand certainly can. And I agree that it’s great to have one’s key 6-point development in hand. I just don’t like the economics of an early alien strategy, plus I think that the plan won’t really work until I get the Tech Institute onto the table. On the other hand, if this were a top-notch 5-player game, the rest of my hand isn’t all that good, and if I did get the alien strategy working, I’d have a really good chance to win. If I didn’t, well, everyone loses most strong 5-player games anyway. In a 3-player game, I don’t think I need to go for such a high variance approach; even if I’m a little behind now, I ought to have a decent chance to catch up. With 5, someone is going to power through the whole game often enough that my goal is to be one of them, so I’ll go for the brass ring.

    JeffG

    January 15, 2008 at 6:23 pm

  22. Brian, this is a great idea. Hearing everyone else’s thinking about this is quite illuminating.

    JeffG

    January 15, 2008 at 6:32 pm

  23. Among other things, I know have the Admiral Akbar dance from Robot Chicken running through me head. Which I didn’t expect.

    Brian

    January 15, 2008 at 7:18 pm

  24. I’d postpone my decision; calling Produce and hoping for a Settle on T1 or T2, intending to play the Spice World and paying for it with the Alien cards, unless an Explore occurs that tells me differently.

    Spice World is among the best opening cards for ELC IMO. It allows you to both trade for lots of cards for a quick ramp up and gives you two producers to head for a Novelty produce/consume strategy long-term. So, I’m just not that interested in the DW and GE. I’d have to put down two windfall worlds, if I go the produce/consume route, before GE becomes interesting. So, they’re an easy discard.

    The Drop Ships could possibly be useful if I draw the 4 or 5 military Alien windfall on another player’s explore and no one settles on turn 1…

    Mostly, I agree that expensive/long-term opening cards are a distraction; so I would be repeating the mantra of “cards are money, be willing to spend them early” to myself. But given how powerful Spice World is for ELC and how weak DW and GE are in this position, why not leave open the Alien possibility?

    Especially since explores on both T1 and T2, with no T1 Settle and a T2 settle, could happen. If the cards you draw are useless, pay for Spice World with them, sell for 4 cards, look at them, and decide whether to go for an Alien strategy or not at that point. OTOH, if the cards you get in the explores (under this line) are useful, spend the Alien cards for the Spice World and drive on…

    Tom_Lehmann

    January 16, 2008 at 7:59 am

  25. More Master Solvers Please!

    zzdroman

    January 16, 2008 at 8:25 pm

  26. More Master Solvers Please!

    zzdroman

    January 16, 2008 at 8:25 pm

  27. I like how Jeff comments how the discards are rarely well-shuffled. I guess that didn’t occur to me as I tend to be the shuffler in my group, and I try really hard to mix them up. That’s where most of the time in the game is spent. 😉

    Wei-Hwa

    January 16, 2008 at 10:06 pm

  28. Tom did the same thing I chose! 😀

    He’s right on discarding the destroyed world/galactic engineers too, I shouldve dumped those and kept the drop ships, in case I get more things to go wit hit later.

    Basically the plan is spice, and if you have to discard the alien cards to afford it you do, but if you dont have to discard them then you hold them in case you later get stuff to go with them.

    Alexfrog

    January 17, 2008 at 4:15 pm

  29. I think people have covered nearly everything already. The one thing that would concern me that hasn’t been mentioned is missing out on a first turn develop, so I might be tempted to explore for that. I can’t see that Drop Ships is any good, it’s too expensive for a first turn speculative play. I’m not sure what the odds of getting something useful would be to figure out whether it would be worthwhile.

    Kester Jarvis

    January 18, 2008 at 2:04 pm


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